Saturday, July 19, 2014

This Week in the ATP

by Savannah

When Lewis Carroll wrote the phrase "Curiouser and curiouser!" he was not referring to tennis, not the tennis of his time and surely not today's game or any of it's players. Still the phrase is apt to describe what is going on in the ATP, more specifically at Gstaad where a WC was denied one Viktor Troicki for the Qualifying tournament but granted into the Main Draw.

You remember Viktor? The player who told drug testers that he wasn't going to give a blood sample the day they requested it but that he could comply with their request the next day? The person who then said he thought he could do it because the lead tester told him he could, something the lead tester denied ever saying? The same person who enlisted the current ATP #1 player to argue his case in the press and to anyone who would listen? Yeah that guy. The good people who run the Gstaad tournament denied Troicki's request to enter the Qualifying draw as a WC. That made sense. He's been away for a year and there are many other players who abided by the rules and worked hard to be able to get into Qualifying so give a drug cheat a pass? Let him play a Challenger or two. It's not as if he were lighting the tour on fire with his play before and paying customers deserved to see someone who could play at the current pro level. So you can imagine my surprise to see he got a Wild Card into the Main Draw at the tournament. If they were going to do this why didn't they say that was their intention from the beginning instead of appearing to hold the moral high ground and all that?

Someone named Ravi Ubha wrote a pretty sympathetic to Troicki article in CNN's International edition that fans of Serbian tennis are using to justify their "outrage" at the suspension. When it first happened I said that if they gave Troicki a pass after refusing to take a mandatory test everyone would be telling the testers to come back the next day or the next week for that matter. That a top player would even defend someone in this situation is stunning in my opinion. But as I always say I can say what I want because I'm not beholden to anyone. If the current top player in the world, the person who represents men's tennis to the world, can't see why his friend was wrong and should've done what Marin Cilic did and take his punishment like a man instead of whining about it then I question that man's dedication to sportsmanship. Then again Troicki's best friend was caught using a non hyperbaric hyperbaric chamber and nothing was done so I guess he should expect the same treatment for his close friend.

Another ATP story of interest is IMG dropping Bernard Tomic with two years left on his contract with them. I guess when your father goes around beating people up and you're unable to sever your business relationship with him you're willing to pay that price. In a terse statement posted on Twitter and reported in Australian media IMG said the following.

"IMG and Bernard Tomic have mutually ended our relationship. We wish Bernard great success on and off the tennis court."

There was also this incident involving Tomic the younger reported in Tennis.com :

Tomic was also reported by Australian newspapers to have attended a party in February where underage girls were offered drugs, but he was not linked to illegal activity by police. In November, he was photographed partying with high school girls at a nightclub.

Tomic’s father, John, resumed coaching him in May, having been banned from tournaments for a year by the ATP following an assault on his son’s former hitting partner that left him with a broken nose and neck injuries.

No mention was made of the younger Tomic's naked wrestling with a male friend in a hot tub but boys will be boys.

Then there's Fabio Fognini using an ethnic slur against a Serbian player during his loss to said player last week. I found it ironic that after I responded to a reader's post with a comment about staying out of European ethnic disputes while acknowledging I know they exist this incident occurred. Some have responded by detailing a history of the Balkans while others argue that because the player involved has light colored hair it's impossible for him to be considered a member of the ethnic group Fognini referenced while others say it was the heat of battle. Still others point to the current issue of immigration and how it's being played out in Italy at the moment. I'm sticking to my guns and staying out of it. He said it. He admits he said it. And he gave a somewhat halfheared apology. Maybe he should stick to posing in his swim trunks no? That will give people a lot to talk about.

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Photo via the ATP

I almost giggled myself silly this morning watching the match in Hamburg between seventeen year old Alexander Zverev of Germany and David Ferrer of Spain. What was so funny? That's Zverev pictured above. The commentators focused on the great week he had in Hamburg and how there was almost no way Ferrer was going to want to lose to a 17 year old kid who is still growing into his body. They also talked about how there have been plenty of good junior players who looked poised to make noise on the Main Tour who didn't pan out. Their conclusion was one good week does not a career make. Ferrer handed the kids ass to him and afterwards Zverev said that his loss today was a lesson and showed him how far he has to go to be a top player. I'm paraphrasing of course but I was glad to read his comments.

I'm sorry I said I was laughing to myself. I was because all I could think about was what Stacey Allaster would be doing to make this kid the face of the ATP. Come on. You know she would so do it.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Rear View Mirror: The Championships Wimbledon

by Savannah

I realized earlier in the week that I hadn't done a post Wimbledon column. I wasn't really in the mood to do one but I figured since it was on my mind to do one I should.

Long story short is that not much has changed. The top players are on vacation. Lower ranked players are trying to pile up points before they have to come to the United States and Canada. So what is there to talk about? Come on people this is tennis. There's always something to talk about.

I'll start with the news that Nick Kyrgios has split with Simon Rea of New Zealand the coach who got him to #66 in the world and will now be coached by a TA team of Josh Eagle ( his highest singles ranking was #219 in 1994), who will be his traveling coach, and Todd Larkham. The spin is that this split was going to happen no matter what happened in the French Open and that Kyrgios himself, not Tennis Australia, made the decision. Shrug. I believe that as much as I believe those pics of Maria Sharapova supposedly sharing an intimate vacation with Grigor Dimitrov. I mean they had to do something after tongues began wagging about Pova's best friend, a Communications person for the WTA sat with her in Dimitrov's friends box at Wimbledon.

But back to the TA team kicking the Kiwi out. Then again, let's move on. The move speaks for itself.

There was another coaching change by the way. Ana Ivanovic kicked Nemanja Kontic to the curb for no apparent reason. Maybe she wants a celebrity coach now. It's all the rage you know.

Tennis Twitter was all aflutter when it was announced that Sloane Stephens was holding a press conference. Was Paul Annacone out? That was really the only thing people were interested in finding out. I mean if Annacone had so much success with Pete Sampras and Roger Federer he should be able to work miracles with a woman player hyped as the next big thing in US tennis. I'm not even going to talk about Shelby Rogers (!) defeating Sara Errani and getting her self into the Final at Bad Gastein. Or Grace Min getting into the semi finals of the same event. I mean what's there to say?

Nothing big was announced though. The most newsworthy quote was Sloane saying the following:

Tennis View Magazine ‏@TennisViewMag
More from Sloane: “In Europe, no one cares about an American player. In the US...you want to do well. You don't want to let the fans down.”

I find this statement amazing. Is she saying that because American tennis players aren't cared for in Europe that's an excuse to not do well? What does that statement even mean? Does she mean that she's more motivated to do well in the States but that the Slams, three of which are played outside of the United States, namely the Australian Open, The French Open and Wimbledon don't matter because Europeans don't care about Americans? I know Australians aren't Europeans in the strict sense of the word but really Sloane? That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard an athlete say, especially one who plays an International sport. I guess she's going to romp through the US Open series and make the US Open final this year. I mean Shelby Rogers and Grace Min? And Jack Sock winning the doubles in London. I should mention that no? And that he and Sloane were supposedly an item? Yeah. See the beach in Mexico comments above.

On a more disturbing note two time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova has been receiving death threats from people unhinged by the fact she lists Monaco as her official residence. From the article :

(Police Spokeswoman) Holcakova said the man, who was not identified, was arrested as police considered the threats serious.

The incident follows criticism of Kvitova, including from a member of parliament, for moving from the Czech Republic to Monaco to avoid higher taxation.

The full quote from the Czech politican shows the depth of feeling on this topic in the Czech Republic.

''I think that we should all have a long and hard think about the fact that if someone leaves the Czech Republic and becomes a member of another state, then they should lose their Czech citizenship,'' said Social Democrat MP Stanislav Huml.

There's been a lot of talk about marketing (who is marketable and who isn't) in tennis and this does the Czech Republic no good. In fact Eastern Europeans aren't considered very marketable at all (with one, maybe two now, exceptions) according to a US magazine . Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova also have official residences in the tax haven but no one has said whether or not they've been threatened with loss of citizenship.

As for the men video of Juan Martin del Potro has surfaced showing him hitting the practice courts after his wrist surgery. There's been a wedding, a vision in pink, and some interesting results in such far flung outposts as Stuttgart and Båstad. A lot of the weird results have to do with players commitments to tournaments next week. That's my opinion anyway. In Europe they're playing on clay. In the US the action is on grass this week.

Viña del Mar, an integral part of the Golden Swing, is gone and will be replace by a tournament in Quito, Ecuador at an elevation higher than the mile high city of Denver, Colorado in the US.

The US Open series officially gets under way July 21 in Atlanta. The big boys and girls will be in Canada for the Rogers Cup beginning August 4th. The men will be in Toronto and the women will be in Montréal.

The Chamionships 2014 - Full Winners List

Men's Singles
Serbia Novak Djokovic
Women's Singles
Czech Republic Petra Kvitová
Men's Doubles
Canada Vasek Pospisil / United States Jack Sock
Women's Doubles
Italy Sara Errani / Italy Roberta Vinci
Mixed Doubles
Serbia Nenad Zimonjić / Australia Samantha Stosur
Boys' Singles
United States Noah Rubin
Girls' Singles
Latvia Jeļena Ostapenko
Boys' Doubles
Brazil Orlando Luz / Brazil Marcelo Zormann
Girls' Doubles
Indonesia Tami Grende / China Ye Qiuyu
Gentlemen's Invitation Doubles
Sweden Thomas Enqvist / Australia Mark Philippoussis
Ladies' Invitation Doubles
Czech Republic Jana Novotná / Austria Barbara Schett
Senior Gentlemen's Invitation Doubles
France Guy Forget / France Cédric Pioline
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
France Stéphane Houdet / Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Japan Yui Kamiji / United Kingdom Jordanne Whiley



End Note

There's been a lot of interest in the posts I mad re Petra Kvitova's win and the marketing surrounding Ms Eugenie Bouchard. I hope some of the visitors hang around and become followers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Champion and The WTA

by Savannah

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Photo via CliveBrunskillGettyImagesEurope

It's been awhile since a women's match meant so much to so many people. Petra Kvitova ran the WTA's favorite and new golden girl Eugenie Bouchard out of London. She did it using old school big babe tennis. Early on Ms Bouchard tried to take advantage of Petra's inability to move well but in the end it was Petra who won the two long rallies that commentators had been saying Bouchard needed in order to defeat her opponent showing that she does know how to hit winners on the run. Petra also got off some cross court shots that left vapor trails. When her game plan didn't work Bouchard may as well have thrown in the towel and said "no mas". The match was over. She had nothing to counter the power and yes, skill, thrown at her by Ms Kvitova. Her vaunted game (vaunted by some anyway. I'll get to that in a few) was exposed for what it is: ugly technique, lack of ability to think her way out of a jam, a game still based more on a junior game than on a pro level, top ten one. Bouchard's comment after the match, that winning her Junior Wimbledon title meant more to her than making a Wimbledon Final was shocking to me.

"I still think my junior title was better than this. I think winning a tournament without losing a match is always something special. That was a big moment for me," said the Montreal native.

"But I appreciate what I've done these past few weeks, though and this whole year. I think it comes close."

Appreciating what she did at the tournament seemed more of an afterthought than a true expression of being proud of getting to a Wimbledon Final at 19.

There was also the way she had to be prodded into making a circuit of the court showing off her trophy. I'm guessing I had turned away by then because I didn't see that happen although it was mentioned on #TennisTwitter.

I think before I move on I should say something about the much commented on Carlos Rodriguez style coaching done by Bouchard's coach Nick Saviano. ESPN's Chris Evert did get in a snide remark about Saviano talking to himself and his player but that was the extent of comment on it. If he was doing the same thing today no one was talking about it. Did chair ump Marija Cicak let it be known she wasn't having it? Did it get so blatant that they spoke to Saviano about it? Thursday Bouchard had all the answers. Today she had none. What changed between then and today?

I can segue into my main points by citing the abysmal, one sided ESPN coverage. A casual fan tuning in for the match could be excused for thinking Bouchard was dominating woman's tennis. ESPN aired what could only be described as a feature film feating the Canadian and showed her in a kimono during one of her post match interviews. I thought for a minute that Bouchard was playing herself until they showed Petra in a two or three minute clip and pawned her off on Hannah Storm for a short in studio interview before they went back to all Eugenie all the time. It was a horrible display of corporate cheerleading by a network that is able to cover other sports with much better fairness. It's why I feel that ESPN is one of the big losers today.

The biggest loser today though was the WTA and its CEO Stacey Allaster. One tennishead posted a joke after the match that Allaster had stepped down as CEO. A lot of people didn't get the joke. The people who founded the WOMENS Tennis Association did not intend to found a pep squad. The WTA was founded to advance the visibility of women who play tennis and give them the recognition they deserve. Recently though the organization seems to have become cheerleaders for the type of player it seems to favor. Everyone else is relegated to soft porn photo sessions or invisibility. As has been pointed out this blonde obsession started with Chris Evert but it seems to have become worse under the current administration. First we had Caroline Wozniacki nicknamed "Sunshine" by Ms Allaster. Now we have the second coming Eugenie Bouchard. Allaster hasn't given her a nickname yet. It's getting to the point that you have to be an afficionado of women's tennis to know anyone outside of Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard. The excuse was that the woman who has really been the most consistent, Simona Halep, isn't known much outside of her native Romania and those of us who like to follow women's tennis for, you know, the tennis. They said that Halep didn't speak English well. I understand her very well. When fans can make jokes about the CEO resigning behind a single loss by a single player and have people believe it, when a player is openly called "WTA Favorite" and the title isn't challenged there is a problem.

I've been tracking a thread on a fan forum that asks why Bouchard is hated so much. What fans (not trolls) are saying is stop shoving this person down our throats. You tried to sell us on one mediocre player and now you're saying we should all be in love with a player who thinks her junior achievement ranks higher than her senior tour achievements, a player who needs to have media training beyond being "pretty and blonde", who needs to understand she's done nothing worthy of worship yet. I understand Canada's excitement but remember a guy named Milos Raonic who was going to decimate the big shots of men's tennis? That guy who can talk shit but can't put his money where his mouth is? Yeah him. The one who lost 4, 4 and 4 to that player he said was an old man standing in his way. He's not in the men's final by the way.

Sorry for digressing. When a hard fought for organization descends to the level of laughing stock it's time to revisit your mission. ATP players have gone back to heaping scorn on WTA players the way they used to back in the day. The joint tournaments that the WTA so values rarely feature women's matches even between top players. Instead of taking advantage of the dominace of Eastern European players with tournaments in that part of the world everything is being moved to Asia. I've read all about the potential audience but right now that potential seems a long, long way off. At the most hundreds of fans show up to tournaments held there (except for Japan which is also losing a tournament) and I'm being kind about how many show up. The WTA has become a side show, and no one is afraid to call it that to its face.

It's also interesting how after Kvitova disposed of Bouchard in 55 minutes all of these people came out of the woodwork saying women's matches should be best of 5 instead of best of 3 in majors. Why is that a thing now? Would it have made a difference today? I don't think so. Many of these same people were also praying for rain to give Bouchard time to "collect her thoughts" or whatever. Whatever. The gods rained their blessings down on Petra after the match was over.

So congratulations to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic for winning her second Wimbledon title in three years and for showing what she, and many others, think about hype and those who are its recipients.

A Sad Note

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photo via Amy Fetherolf TPN News

I first wrote about Victoria Duval when she was a child. Even then there was a bit of noise around her potential. I saw her take out Samantha Stosur last year at the US Open and was so glad to see her starting to put herself firmly on the road to being a major factor in women's tennis. You can only imagine how I felt when I read the announcement about her illness. I'm glad it was caught early. I'm glad that both of her parents are doctors. I'm very glad she is young and fit and has a great support system around her. Wishing you a speedy recovery Vicky. Stay strong.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Final: Petra Kvitova(6) vs Eugenie Bouchard (13)

by Savannah

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via Blesk.ck

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via Getty Images

So the WTA's favorite, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada,has made her first WTA Grand Slam Final. She'll face Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Saturday.

What is wrong with that first statement? Everything. It's a statement of the sad truth about the WTA as it is currently administered. The WTA as an organization should have no favorite other than the sport of women's tennis. Instead we've had Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and now Eugenie Bouchard. All that's missing is the nickname Stacey Allaster will give fellow Canadian Bouchard.

There seems to be a surprise among WTA officials about the depth of dislike for Bouchard. I mean she's 19, she's blonde, she speaks unaccented English despite being from Québec. What's not to like right?

I can only speak for myself. The first time I heard Bouchard do an interview my reaction was "who the hell does she think she is?" She spoke as if she is the only woman to every play at a highly competitive level. She makes no apologies for her abrasive manner and we fans are being encouraged to love her. She's already said that the tour is not the place for friendship echoing Sharapova, and when asked how she feels about her success this year in effect says it's her due after working hard. No "I'm happy to have been so fortunate to do well", or my team and I have worked hard for this. Nope. It's what she's supposed to achieve. She's entitled to the success. Aren't you charmed? I know I am.

You know I've been following tennis for a long time, much longer than I've been writing about it and I remember other brash, confident young women, sisters. In fact the younger sister was more verbally self confident than the older, more willing to speak the truth about her abilities on the tennis court. She said that if she loses the fault lies with her, not that her opponent played better. She was vilified in the tennis press and among tennis fans. There was no head of the WTA to try and brand her brashness as charming even if it was the truth. The younger sister has become more media savvy and says all the right things in her pressers now no matter how painful it is for her. I wonder what the difference is between that younger sister and Ms Bouchard, a difference that makes one charming and the other "arrogant" or "uppity".

There will actually be another blonde taking the court Saturday. Her name is Petra Kvitova and she's already won a Slam. She admitted that going from the hunter to the hunted wasn't easy for her. I watched her play her countrywoman Lucie Safarova today and after a tight first set she ran away with the second set. Kind of like what happened in the second semifinal but for different reasons.

Readers know that I've always said a soft draw does not a champion make so let's look at the path Bouchard and Kvitova took to the final.

Bouchard's path to the Final: Hantuchova (Unseeded) Soler-Espinosa (Unseeded) Petkovic (20) Cornet(25) Kerber(9) Halep (3)

Petra Kvitova's route to the Final. Hlavackova unseeded. Barthel unseeded. Venus seeded #30. Peng unseeded. BZS unseeded. Safarova #23.

If I follow my own belief it'll be Bouchard who'll hoist the Rosewater Dish Saturday. With the exception of Cornet the seeds she played increased in ranking as she moved into the semi final where she faced the #3 seed. The highest seed Kvitova faced was #23 Safarova.

I don't see Lucie achieving much more in her career. She's stuck being the player with a lot of talent but unable to maximize it. Simona Halep has been playing a lot of matches and her ranking can be said to be artificially high because of that. Her performance in today's semi echoed that of her appearance in the FO final. Mentally she's not able to stay with the big hitters. It's as if she gets intimidated and crawls into a safe place in her mind. Bouchard may have an ugly style of play but on grass and hardcourts she will do well because she hits the snot out of the ball from the baseline. I'm not going to talk about how the same people singing Bouchard's praises from the roof tops profess to hate that style of play. I'm not writing that long a piece here. I do think that if Halep continues to plug away and gets a real draw instead of a cupcake draw, a draw that will challenge her to sharpen her skills, she'll win one of the semifinals or finals of majors that she makes.

This Final will say a lot about where the WTA is heading. We'll even have the modern replacements for Justine Henin and Carolos Rodriguez in terms of blatant coaching. IT seems to be true that the more things change the more things stay the same.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Existentialism of A Champion

by Savannah

Scott Heavey/AELTC/Getty Images Europe) photo 509e76fa-66db-4ed7-b196-b5d5685cdf85_zpsdd1ca4f9.jpg
Scott Heavey/AELTC/Getty Images Europe

ex·is·ten·tial·ism (gz-stnsh-lzm, ks-)
n.
A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.

In the end the athlete is alone. It doesn't matter whether you play a team sport or an individual sport. In team sports an individual can outshine his or her team members like Michael Jordan who continues to overshadow an entire sport. Then there's a sport like golf or tennis where the individual is held responsible for his or her own performance. Some say the coach is important but if the player can't or won't implement the coaches vision the relationship will crumble and the athlete has to make different decisions about their career.

After losing 4 and 4 to Jana Cepelova at the Family Circle Cup earlier this year Serena made the following statement:

“I’m really just dead,” said Serena, who was coming off a title-winning run in Miami where she defeated world No. 2 Li Na in the final. “I need some weeks off where I don’t think about tennis and kind of regroup. I’ve had a long couple of years, and I’m really a little fatigued…I just need to take a deep breath and regroup. I think actually it’ll really help me for the rest of the claycourt season.”

I think that Serena, the one who needs time off from tennis showed up yesterday to play Alize Cornet who, to her credit, has been trying to live up to her responsibilities as the French Number One. She had never beaten Serena though and while Serena had appeared to be, let's say disinterested, during the run up to Wimbledon most, including me, thought that her competitive juices would kick in and that she'd romp through her draw towards the Final. Yes I believe that Serena would've beaten Maria Sharapova. But she had to get to that round first and she didn't. Instead of her facing WTA favorite Eugenie Bouchard she'll hopefully get to spend some time with herself and not worrying about tennis.

That said you can blame lots of things for Serena's lackluster showing on Saturday. She didn't play a warm up event. Was that down to confidence, maybe arrogance, about her ability to play on grass or was there an underlying injury that made it necessary for her to rest after crashing out of the French Open early?

Watching her take the first set 6-1 against Cornet yesterday there were troubling signs. When she missed her balls were landing in Wales and that was happening a lot in the first set. Her normal serving precision was off, her movement wasn't what it needed to be. The rains came just in time it seemed. It would give her a chance to speak with her coaching team and settle down, be SERENA, Terror Fabulous. By the third set her court sense had deserted her completely and it was obvious she had nothing, not even her famous will, to make her rise to the occasion and overcome a now confident Cornet, who celebrated as if she'd won the Championship.

In the end I think Serena, who played a very heavy schedule last year and the year before, needs a rest. I for one won't blame her for taking most of the summer off and return to the tour at Stanford maybe. She needs to find her motivation again and I'm not sure she needs to play herself to it. Serena turned pro in 1995. She's had some breaks in there, and especially after last year it looks like it's time to take another one. When she spoke very honestly about lesser players playing her "like the ATP" it showed that the filter between her brain and her mouth was lowered, a sure sign of fatigue. Maybe she felt that the press often ignored that fact and that she needed to say it.
In my opinion I think they're going to go right on ignoring it pursuing instead the latest WTA fantasy story line.

Serena was raised on the principal "your word is your bond". She has committed to Båstad and will feel some personal pressure to honor that committment I'm sure. Despite her undeserved reputation she is very loyal to the WTA and tries to do the right think at all times when it comes to her profession. The WTA has never made her it's "golden girl" and has never marketed its product with her in mind though. It's always been someone else who got all the hype.

Take some time off Serena. Find your motivation. Or not. You owe it to no one but yourself.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sloane Stephens Quandary

by Savannah

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Photo via AFP

Nineteen year old Madison Keys of the United States won her maiden WTA title at the prestigious Wimbledon warm up tournament at Eastbourne. She won by playing tennis. That sounds silly but stop and think a minute. The women's game is marred by the idiotic adoption of on court coaching but in the final analysis a player has to know how to think while playing tennis. It's not enough to have wonderful shots or a monster serve. It's what you do in your return game. It's point construction. It's adapting to the tactics of the woman playing across the net from you. So much goes into winning a match let alone a tournament that those who end up hoisting a trophy have a confidence those who haven't don't.

There are those who will say that winning Eastbourne is small potatoes, that the big prize is played for at SW 19. Every tennis player, male or female, wants to win Wimbledon. But not everyone is willing to go through the pain, the social isolation needed to become a champion in an individual sport like tennis. On the men's side look at players like Joao Sousa of Portugal or Ernests Gulbis of Latvia. Both men, now in their late twenties, have woken up to the fact that they want to have something to show for playing tennis. They've gotten themselves in shape both mentally and physically and in Gulbis case have actually won a title or two (or six).

American tennis players are not what their predecessors were. But the modern game of tennis isn't what their predecessors played. The modern game requires peak physical condition. It requires knowledge of how to play on all the surfaces the sport is played on. It sounds simple but it requires you to be able to think. All the practice, all the conditioning is for nothing if you get on court and do nothing more than make pretty shots. It's a lesson the European players seem to have learned. American players, not so much.

If you haven't already read Christopher Clarey 's excellent article on American tennis I suggest you take a few minutes and do so, especially since play begins on Monday June 23 on the lawns of Wimbledon. Here's an excerpt:

(Jim)Courier and other coaches and former players see a lack of world-class work ethic and toughness in too many of the young Americans.

“There are plenty of talented players who are not getting the most out of their talent,” Courier said, declining to name them.

(...)

Jose Higueras, Courier’s former coach and the director of coaching at the United States Tennis Association, would not argue.

“We try to show them what it takes, but they are not really that interested, at least for now...

The other issue is the desperation of the US tennis establishment for a big star, someone to show those uppity foreigners what's what. They're not alone in that belief (the countries that form what I call the Tennis Axis all feel that the current state of affairs is not the best for tennis) but I'm focusing on the United States right now so I'll stick with them. I hate to always pick on Lauren Davis but to me she's the symbol of what's wrong with American tennis. She's listed at 5'2" (1.57m). She holds seven ITF titles and is currently ranked #58. Let's compare her to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. She is said to be 5'3" (1.60m). Dominika has won four WTA titles and is ranked #10 in the world. How does a small in stature woman from Slovakia get to the top ten? Like her or not Justine Henin was also small in stature but made a name for herself in the upper echelons of women's tennis during the Big Babe era. I'm not going to get into how Henin did it. I'm talking about what a person who wants to be a champion does and how she carries herself.

We have to go back to Higueras comment that American players "are not really that interested" in what it takes to be at the top of the sport. The days are gone when you could show up on court with no muscle definition and nothing but your good looks and win. I was stunned to see the shape Sloane was in when she took the court this year. She was by no means fat but she was lugging a gut around that at least made me wonder where her head was. By comparison look at Madison Keys. She is beyond fit at the moment and it shows. Her movement has improved and she gets around the court very well for a tall woman. She's also worked hard on her game. All of her work resulted in her defeating a top ten player and winning her first title. I was surprised to find that Madison's coaches are from the USTA but that's not being fair to all USTA coaches. Madison listened where some of her peers haven't. Lauren Davis has a nice game. She makes nice shots. But she's not going to be the American version of Cibulkova unless she pushes herself the way Domi has.

I know I've taken the long way to get to the subject of this post, Sloane Stephens. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again. Her Australian Open win was a fluke. Serious fans know that it's only recently that either of the Williams sisters acknowledge when they're injured. Serena Williams has a sense of loyalty to women's tennis that has seen her play when maybe she shouldn't. A top player always has something wrong physically and as the saying goes if you take the court you're fit to play. When Sloane defeated her you would have thought the skies opened and angels descended to place a crown on Sloane's head and that the era of Serena Williams had come to an end. We all know that isn't what happened. Serena took that loss and decided that it wasn't going to happen again. Sloane took the win and decided she had made her bones and had nothing else to achieve. It appears as if there was no one in her camp to tell her that she hadn't done jack, that her game needs to improve, that she needs to study and train. I say appears because as is said "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". And to be honest I can't say all of the fault is with Sloane. She was given the full star treatment by the USTA and US media. Anyone's head would be turned. She's apparently still on a star trip though and doesn't seem to realize she's not all that, that she's just another underachieving American player who came on the scene with great fanfare and promptly settled into the middling ranks. Madison Keys, unheralded Madison Keys, if she continues her hard work and sacrifice, has the potential to be a real star on the women's tour. She's not getting the media hype Stephens got and that is a very good thing. Fans have begun to pay attention though and that is also a good thing.

Meanwhile Sloane remains the only woman in the top thirty who has not won a title. She's yet to even make a final. And what's amazing is that she doesn't seem to care. No matter the failings of the USTA in tennis the fault will always be that of the player. Organizations protect themselves. Individuals have a much harder time of it. She wants to be treated as a champion because of one match. Maybe she should sit down and look at what has happened to her since that match and what has happened to the career of the loser. Maybe then she would realize that one match does not a career make. The Williams sisters, both Venus Williams and Serena Williams, are legends. As of now Sloane is destined to be a footnote. She can turn it around but it's going to take more work than she seems to be willing to do at this time.

UPDATE

Maria Kirilenko defeated Sloane in straight sets 6-2, 7-6(6). Keep in mind Sloane's goal was to make the quarter finals. Not to make the Final or even the semi final. Just the quarters. It's time for her to take a step back and reevaluate her approach to tennis. Enter and win a few low level tournaments. Then worry about the big dances. You have to win to know what it takes to win. The US press carrying on about your streak of always making the second week of a Major isn't complementary. It's called desperation to try and bolster what is now your sagging career. There are lots of lower level events you can enter now. Do it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Draws

by Savannah

The Ladies Singles Draw

TOP HALF

WILLIAMS, Serena USA [1] v TATISHVILI, Anna USA
SCHEEPERS, Chanelle RSA v MCHALE, Christina USA
JAKSIC, Jovana SRB v CETKOVSKA, Petra CZE
SCHMIEDLOVA, Anna SVK v CORNET, Alize FRA [25]

PETKOVIC, Andrea GER [20] v PITER, Katarzyna POL
BEGU, Irina-Camelia ROU v RAZZANO, Virginie FRA
SOLER-ESPINOSA, Silvia ESP (W) v GOVORTSOVA, Olga BLR
HANTUCHOVA, Daniela SVK v BOUCHARD, Eugenie CAN [13]

KERBER, Angelique GER [9] v RADWANSKA, Urszula POL
WATSON, Heather GBR v TOMLJANOVIC, Ajla CRO
MARTIC, Petra CRO v DOMINGUEZ LINO, Lourdes ESP
PASZEK, Tamira AUT (Q) v FLIPKENS, Kirsten BEL [24]

PAVLYUCHENKOVA, Anastasia RUS [26] v RISKE, Alison USA
CADANTU, Alexandra ROU v GIORGI, Camila ITA
BACSINSZKY, Timea SUI (Q) v FICHMAN, Sharon CAN
MURRAY, Samantha GBR (W) v SHARAPOVA, Maria RUS [5]

HALEP, Simona ROU [3] v PEREIRA, Teliana BRA
PFIZENMAIER, Dinah GER v TSURENKO, Lesia UKR (Q)
BENCIC, Belinda SUI v RYBARIKOVA, Magdalena SVK
DUVAL, Victoria USA (Q) v CIRSTEA, Sorana ROU [29]

VINCI, Roberta ITA [21] v VEKIC, Donna CRO
ZVONAREVA, Vera RUS (W) v MOORE, Tara GBR (W)
DIYAS, Zarina KAZ v MLADENOVIC, Kristina FRA
ZHANG, Shuai CHN v SUAREZ NAVARRO, Carla ESP [15]

IVANOVIC, Ana SRB [11] v SCHIAVONE, Francesca ITA
BECK, Annika GER v ZHENG, Jie CHN
PLISKOVA, Karolina CZE v KNAPP, Karin ITA
GLUSHKO, Julia ISR v LISICKI, Sabine GER [19]

KOUKALOVA, Klara CZE [31] v TOWNSEND, Taylor USA (W)
KEYS, Madison USA v PUIG, Monica PUR
PLISKOVA, Kristyna CZE (W) v SHVEDOVA, Yaroslava KAZ
KANEPI, Kaia EST v JANKOVIC, Jelena SRB [7]

BOTTOM HALF

AZARENKA, Victoria BLR [8] v LUCIC-BARONI, Mirjana CRO
LARSSON, Johanna SWE v JOVANOVSKI, Bojana SRB
SMITKOVA, Tereza CZE (Q) v HSIEH, Su-Wei TPE
VANDEWEGHE, Coco USA v MUGURUZA, Garbine ESP [27]

SAFAROVA, Lucie CZE [23] v GOERGES, Julia GER
HERCOG, Polona SLO v ORMAECHEA, Paula ARG
NICULESCU, Monica ROU v VAN UYTVANCK, Alison BEL
WOZNIAK, Aleksandra CAN (Q) v CIBULKOVA, Dominika SVK [10]

ERRANI, Sara ITA [14] v GARCIA, Caroline FRA
PIRONKOVA, Tsvetana BUL v LEPCHENKO, Varvara USA
DOI, Misaki JPN v SVITOLINA, Elina UKR
DATE-KRUMM, Kimiko JPN v MAKAROVA, Ekaterina RUS [22]

KUZNETSOVA, Svetlana RUS [28] v LARCHER DE BRITO, Michelle POR (Q)
VOEGELE, Stefanie SUI v GAJDOSOVA, Jarmila AUS (W)
KONTAVEIT, Anett EST (Q) v DELLACQUA, Casey AUS
MITU, Andreea ROU (Q) v RADWANSKA, Agnieszka POL [4]

KVITOVA, Petra CZE [6] v HLAVACKOVA, Andrea CZE
BARTHEL, Mona GER v OPRANDI, Romina SUI
NARA, Kurumi JPN v FRIEDSAM, Anna-Lena GER
TORRO-FLOR, Maria-Teresa ESP v WILLIAMS, Venus USA [30]

STEPHENS, Sloane USA [18] v KIRILENKO, Maria RUS
KONTA, Johanna GBR v PENG, Shuai CHN
DAVIS, Lauren USA v KLEYBANOVA, Alisa RUS
CEPELOVA, Jana SVK v PENNETTA, Flavia ITA [12]

WOZNIACKI, Caroline DEN [16] v PEER, Shahar ISR
BROADY, Naomi GBR (W) v BABOS, Timea HUN
KONJUH, Ana CRO (Q) v ERAKOVIC, Marina NZL
WICKMAYER, Yanina BEL v STOSUR, Samantha AUS [17]

VESNINA, Elena RUS [32] v MAYR-ACHLEITNER, Patricia AUT
KUDRYAVTSEVA, Alla RUS (Q) v ZAHLAVOVA STRYCOVA, Barbora CZE
KING, Vania USA v MEUSBURGER, Yvonne AUT
KANIA, Paula POL (Q) v LI, Na CHN [2]

Before we talk about either draw let's talk about the chatter around them both.

Why don't we start with Sabine Lisicki opening women's play on Day 2, the role usually played by the previous years Ladies Champion. As we all know Marion Bartoli retired after her win over a tearful Sabine Lisicki last year. Many thought, at this most tradition bound of the Slams, that Serena Williams would be opening play on Day 2 since she is the reigning women's number one. Many thought wrong. In their seemingly incessant pursuit of drama and since they didn't veer much from the WTA rankings (although some would argue that five time winner Venus Williams could've been seeded in the top twenty and not #30 is meddling and wouldn't happen in the men's draw) the Committee chose to have Lisicki open play in that honored position. Of course Lisicki has had stunning results since making the final last year right? Again you would be wrong. In a serendipitous turn of events I see that ESPN is featuring Lisicki in it's Wimbledon commercial instead of Bartoli. I'm not even shaking my head because I'll have to call the medics for shaken brain syndrome. Marion won last year. Lisicki cried. As is usual with the WTA the advertising is deceptive.

Then there is the boast by Tennis Australia that all but a few of its players are avoiding seeds in their opening rounds. Who are the ones facing seeds? They are Marinko Matosevic, Matt Ebden and Sam Groth on the men's side. Tennis Australia goes on to characterize Samantha Stosur's opening round match against an "up and coming Yanina Wickmayer" as "tricky". I'd think they'd talk about her not having a coach going into Wimbledon as her biggest challenge but they decided to call Wickmayer "up and coming". Okay.

Then of course there's the new WTA darling Eugenie Bouchard. She's in the top half of the draw and will open against Daniela Hantuchova. The other seed in her section is Andrea Petkovic who had a pretty decent warm up season and looks to be trying to come back from injury. I don't think Bouchard's game is mature enough to take her deep into the tournament but she can have a good start with the other players in her section easily classified as head cases.

Someone who does have a mature game is Simona Halep. She's also in the top half of the draw and opens against Teliana Pereira of Brazil. Fellow Romanian Sorana Cirstea is the other seed in her section. Halep fell apart mentally against Sharapova in her grass warm up so she can play badly. I don't think Pereira will trouble her though.

I can't talk about the Ladies draw without mentioning how well Madison Keys is playing right now. She's coming into Wimbledon unseeded but has blown her opponents away in Eastbourne. Saturday's match against Angelique Kerber will go a long way towards showing if she's ready for prime time. She opens against Monica Puig, another young player with a lot to prove. With Keys making the final at Eastbourne Puig has a chance at what to me would be an upset. If Keys gets a few days rest before her opening match making the final could become a non issue.
It's interesting that Taylor Townsend is in that same section of the draw and opens against veteran Klara Koukalova. If both women win their opening round matches they would play each other, an interesting match up indeed.

Sloane Stephens, seeded #18, opens against Maria Kirilenko. For all the hype Stephens has done almost nothing since that infamous Australian Open win. She's never made a final, and is the only woman in the top thirty who has never won a title. Flavia Pennetta is the other seed in her section. Sloane has been showing some life in her play of late but when it's time to step up she doesn't. She has a lot to lose this tournament.

Victoria Azarenka, seeded eighth, opens against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. She moved well in her grass court warm up but I'm still surprised she chose to come back during grass court season. She's the professional though so you have to think she knows what she's doing.

I'm not going to say much else about the Ladies draw. Are there soft spots? Yes. Overall the WTA doesn't have much depth so that is bound to happen. For me the focus will be on the younger players, the new generation. We all know the strengths and weaknesses of the old guard.

Gentleman's Singles Main Draw

TOP HALF

DJOKOVIC, Novak SRB [1] v GOLUBEV, Andrey KAZ
STEPANEK, Radek CZE v CUEVAS, Pablo URU
KRAVCHUK, Konstantin RUS (Q) v SIMON, Gilles FRA
HAASE, Robin NED v POSPISIL, Vasek CAN [31]

YOUZHNY, Mikhail RUS [17] v WARD, James GBR (W)
WANG, Jimmy TPE (Q) v GONZALEZ, Alejandro COL
KLAHN, Bradley USA v QUERREY, Sam USA
MELZER, Jurgen AUT v TSONGA, Jo-Wilfried FRA [14]

GULBIS, Ernests LAT [12] v ZOPP, Jurgen EST
STAKHOVSKY, Sergiy UKR v BERLOCQ, Carlos ARG
CHARDY, Jeremy FRA v COX, Daniel GBR (W)
MATOSEVIC, Marinko AUS v VERDASCO, Fernando ESP [18]

CILIC, Marin CRO [26] v MATHIEU, Paul-Henri FRA
HAIDER-MAURER, Andreas AUT v EDMUND, Kyle GBR (W)
TOMIC, Bernard AUS v DONSKOY, Evgeny RUS
HANESCU, Victor ROU v BERDYCH, Tomas CZE [6]

MURRAY, Andy GBR [3] v GOFFIN, David BEL
ANDUJAR, Pablo ESP v ROLA, Blaz SLO
KAMKE, Tobias GER v HERNYCH, Jan CZE (Q)
JOHNSON, Steve USA v BAUTISTA AGUT, Roberto ESP [27]

ANDERSON, Kevin RSA [20] v BEDENE, Aljaz SLO (L)
VOLANDRI, Filippo ITA v ROGER-VASSELIN, Edouard FRA
GABASHVILI, Teymuraz RUS v PUETZ, Tim GER (Q)
KUZNETSOV, Alex USA (Q) v FOGNINI, Fabio ITA [16]

DIMITROV, Grigor BUL [11] v HARRISON, Ryan USA (Q)
SAVILLE, Luke AUS (Q) v THIEM, Dominic AUT
YOUNG, Donald USA v BECKER, Benjamin GER
GROTH, Samuel AUS (Q) v DOLGOPOLOV, Alexandr UKR [21]

SEPPI, Andreas ITA [25] v MAYER, Leonardo ARG
BROWN, Dustin GER v BAGHDATIS, Marcos CYP (W)
KUZNETSOV, Andrey RUS v EVANS, Daniel GBR (W)
CARRENO BUSTA, Pablo ESP v FERRER, David ESP [7]

BOTTOM HALF

WAWRINKA, Stan SUI [5] v SOUSA, Joao POR
LU, Yen-Hsun TPE v NEDOVYESOV, Aleksandr KAZ
RUSSELL, Michael USA v REISTER, Julian GER
ISTOMIN, Denis UZB v TURSUNOV, Dmitry RUS [32]

LOPEZ, Feliciano ESP [19] v SUGITA, Yuichi JPN (Q)
FALLA, Alejandro COL v PAVIC, Ante CRO (Q)
NIEMINEN, Jarkko FIN v DELBONIS, Federico ARG
SMETHURST, Daniel GBR (W) v ISNER, John USA [9]

JANOWICZ, Jerzy POL [15] v DEVVARMAN, Somdev IND
HEWITT, Lleyton AUS v PRZYSIEZNY, Michal POL
RIBA, Pere ESP v MANNARINO, Adrian FRA
LACKO, Lukas SVK v ROBREDO, Tommy ESP [23]

GRANOLLERS, Marcel ESP [30] v MAHUT, Nicolas FRA
GIMENO-TRAVER, Daniel ESP v GIRALDO, Santiago COL
MULLER, Gilles LUX (Q) v BENNETEAU, Julien FRA
LORENZI, Paolo ITA v FEDERER, Roger SUI [4]

RAONIC, Milos CAN [8] v EBDEN, Matthew AUS
HERBERT, Pierre-Hugues FRA (Q) v SOCK, Jack USA
KUBOT, Lukasz POL v STRUFF, Jan-Lennard GER
LAJOVIC, Dusan SRB v GARCIA-LOPEZ, Guillermo ESP [28]

KOHLSCHREIBER, Philipp GER [22] v SIJSLING, Igor NED
ITO, Tatsuma JPN (Q) v BOLELLI, Simone ITA (L)
ILHAN, Marsel TUR (Q) v KUDLA, Denis USA (Q)
DE SCHEPPER, Kenny FRA v NISHIKORI, Kei JPN [10]

GASQUET, Richard FRA [13] v DUCKWORTH, James AUS (Q)
KYRGIOS, Nick AUS (W) v ROBERT, Stephane FRA
VESELY, Jiri CZE (W) v ESTRELLA BURGOS, Victor DOM
JAZIRI, Malek TUN (L) v MONFILS, Gael FRA [24]

KARLOVIC, Ivo CRO [29] v DANCEVIC, Frank CAN (L)
SELA, Dudi ISR v KUKUSHKIN, Mikhail KAZ
PAIRE, Benoit FRA v ROSOL, Lukas CZE
KLIZAN, Martin SVK v NADAL, Rafael ESP [2]

All the the shenanigans in the Gentleman's draw were done to make sure Andy Murray was seeded in the top four.
He's safely ensconced in the bottom half of the top of the draw and opens against David Goffin. Grigor Dimitrov is in that same part of the draw and if he wins his opening match would face Dominic Thiem, another press favorite.
Thiem opens against Australian Luke Saville. The potential early round clash of these two would make a television court for sure.

I'm sure Nishikori Kei is looking to have a good tournament. Philipp Kohlschreiber is the other seed in his section.

Both David Ferrer and Stan Wawrinka were sick during this week and some thought one or both would withdraw. Both are in the draw. It's ironic that Canadian Frank Dancevic, who bitched and moaned about the horrible conditions he was made to endure ends up in the Main Draw as a Lucky Loser isn't it? He opens against Ivo Karlovic.

Winners and losers? Not my game. There are players who have a chance to make or break their reputations during this tournament. Someone like John Isner making Week 2 would be huge for the United States. For Thiem and Dimitrov to potentially meet so early in the tournament is a shame for both men.

The Championships Wimbledon are the crown jewel of tennis. A good run here will make or break a reputation especially for a young player but especially for a young woman who is used to on court coaching. No fathers or coaches will be allowed to hold a players hand.

Let's hope for a good clean tournament.