Serena is missing from Beijing through illness, but would you like to see her playing more than the minimum number of events each year?
You can’t help getting ill but she’s on a bit of a roll at the moment and really enjoying her tennis so I’m sure she’d have liked to have played in Beijing. That’s what she’s always done (played the minimum number of tournaments); you can’t really change her. I’m sure the Tour would like her to play more events but maybe that’s the reason she’s still playing at her age. I think it’s good that she’s still playing; her and Venus. She’s more into her tennis at the moment than she has been for a long time. The things she’s saying like: ‘I’m really enjoying my tennis at the moment’ are not things you hear her say very often. When she’s playing at her best she is the best player so all other players are judged by Serena. If she’s playing and people are beating her, then it gives more credence to the Tour.
It looks like Azarenka will hold on to the No 1 spot now at the end of the year?
I just thought Serena might be able to take it from her. It’s weird that Serena is still ranked fourth when she’s won two grand slams and the Olympics, you do wonder at that. But Azarenka is a consistently good player and that’s exactly what Serena said. She said that the other players play more than her which is that’s they’re ranked higher. But she still thinks of herself as the number one!
What did you make of the Tokyo tournament?
It’s been interesting in that Azarenka has been feeling dizzy and unwell. Unfortunately at this time of the year there are a lot of bugs around that get passed around the circuit. It’s sad for her that she had to stop and pull out. I’m amazed with Radwanska, I thought she’d really struggle despite having won Tokyo and Beijing last year. She hasn’t played that well lately but then she gets to the final. I think Kerber is an interesting one as well in Beijing because she’s piling on the points and it will be interesting to see where her ranking ends up.
Petra Kvitova’s has had an up and down season. You’d expect her to do well indoors later this season but is there anything she’s lacking?
I think it’s very typical of Kvitova, she’s very up and down. When she’s playing well she’s almost unbeatable but when she’s playing badly almost anyonecan beat her. So where’s the middle ground with her? That’s something she searches for continually. So it wouldn’t surprise me if she popped up in Beijing and won the tournament, but you never know with her.
Who’s been the biggest surprise for you this season, on the women’s side?
It’s phenomenal how Kerber has risen up into the top 10. Almost every tournament she’s a threat and I think she has the most number of wins this year. It’s absolutely amazing how she turned herself around into a different person on the Tour because she was struggling with herself. I saw her a few years back playing challenges and lower ranking events but she’s completely changed herself and wow, what a difference.
How can a player change her game so drastically?
With her she made up her mind that she needed to be fitter for a start. She needed more discipline so her coach has obviously helped her. But it was her decision; she made her mind up to do it. I don’t think she’s changed her tennis particularly at all. She’s just using her tennis with better mental discipline.
It was a great week for the British girls. What have you made of their progress?
It’s been very exciting. It’s great for every tournament to be thinking that I could be commentating on them and that’s a really nice thing. Heather Watson must have got a lot of confidence from qualifying and beating Lisicki and then running Sharapova so close. She’s a great bubbly character who wants to improve and fights so hard. She’ll really use that to her advantage. Laura’s doing well too. They’re sort of pushing each other, it’s absolutely fabulous.
Jo Durie will be commentating for British Eurosport at the WTA events in Beijing, Linz and Moscow as well as the WTA Championships in Istanbul at the end of October.