Since the extraordinary rivalry of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took hold in 2005, ushering in a mini-golden era in the sport, men's tennis has been far more exciting, dramatic and compelling than women's tennis. In fact, the women's game has been, overall, tiresome and dull as it's suffered from a paucity of compelling rivalries and inconsistency at the top - as even Serena's dominance has been spotty. But perhaps this is all about to change.
One of the more underrated stories in all of sports for 2009 was Kim Clijsters' triumphant return to tennis as she won the US Open - as a Mom no less. In a sport dominated by young divas, to see a mother hold the trophy was refreshing indeed. And now the Belgian born Clijsters will have a countrywoman on the comeback trail to deal with again. Former world #1 Justine Henin has returned to the tour and in her first tournament back - the Brisbane International - she reached the final against Clijsters where the two played a riveting match, barely eked out by Clijsters.
If Henin can shake off a mild injury suffered in Brisbane and return to her previous form - after all she suddenly retired while still the #1 player in the world - it'll make women's tennis that much more consistently watchable in 2010. As there would be a quartet of players at the top who are fiercely competitive; Serena, Henin, Clijsters and - if she herself can fully recover from shoulder problems - Maria Sharapova. Not in years have the women been able to generate half as much drama as the men. Perhaps this is about to change and the women will once again become compulsory viewing.
These four women also form a square of contrasts showcasing clearly varied athletes, both in personality and playing style --- the smiley and likeable Clijsters, relentless and glamorous Serena, the compact power and flair of Henin and overpowering Sharapova. It's about time the women attempt to give then men a run for their money when it comes to entertaining tennis fans. I doubt it'll come close to matching the men but I'd guarantee it'll still be a hell of a lot more entertaining than in prior seasons.