Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: ASB Classic highlights vie with disappointments

The early departure of Serena Williams disappointed fans. Photo / Nick Reed
The early departure of Serena Williams disappointed fans. Photo / Nick Reed

On the surface, the 2017 ASB Classic didn't provide too many highlights. It won't be looked back on with fondness, especially in comparison with the brilliant tournaments of 2014 and 2015, which featured big names competing in dream finals.

This year was overshadowed by dramas off the court, wretched weather on the first two days and then scheduling issues on Wednesday which led to dissatisfied punters waiting for hours as the "day" session stretched on deep into the night.

The early exit of Serena Williams - though part of the sport - was a huge blow, especially as it was followed by some ill-chosen comments by the 22-time grand slam winner. It was all quite disappointing, especially as the weather cleared on Thursday and Friday, which would have provided the perfect platform for Williams to display her talents.

Venus Williams was also an unfortunate withdrawal, two matches were also cut short by illness and injury, and Kiwis Marina Erakovic and Jade Lewis failed to progress beyond the first round, though Lewis' effort against Venus turned heads.

But dig a little deeper and there are some highlights.

Serena's visit will be talked about for years to come, and when all is said and done Serena Jameka Williams played two matches at Stanley Street. She also brought the sporting nation to a standstill for a couple of days and put the tournament on the map.

And what about Lauren Davis? What a truly amazing feat. In an age when athletes are getting taller in every sport - including tennis - the 1.57m Davis defies the odds.

She is the smallest player in the top 100, and even shorter than previous pocket rockets from history, such as Justine Henin (1.67m) and Billie Jean King (1.64m)

"There were one or two [coaches] here or there," said Davis, when asked if there were people and coaches when she was growing up who told her she would never make it. "But I decided to tune them out and listen to the still, small voice inside my head that said I could do it."

Some of the ball kids this week have been taller than the American - and even holding the trophy on Saturday threatened to block out most of her frame. But she's got spirit and fight by the bucket load.

"I've been blessed with a [fighting] personality - you kind of have to being my size," said Davis, who added that Henin was her role model. "I work hard, I run for every ball."

Davis might not match up to some of the big name champions of the past, such as Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Lindsay Davenport and Elena Dementieva, but the Ohio native has created special memories for the Auckland tennis public.

- NZ Herald

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