Sunday, August 10, 2014

Past, Present and Future: Venus and Serena Williams

by Savannah

 photo a9a07ae2-b84e-4433-ae02-e0c122c5517f_zpscb9427e6.jpg
via STREETER LECKA / GETTY IMAGES

Venus Williams has been playing great tennis for the last three weeks. Serena Williams is visually thinner than she was when she played Wimbledon. The sisters faced each other for the 25th time today, the first time in Canada, at the Rogers Cup in Montréal, Québec. Anyone who saw the match will agree that it's the best match the two have played against each other, ever.

It was clear from the beginning that both women came to play. There was no holding back, no pulled shots, nothing to indicate that either one of them had any angst about playing their sibling. Venus was standing inside the base line daring Serena to hit one of her monster serves. Serena, never one to back down from a challenge, did just that. It was by becoming a servebot that she pulled out the first set 7-6(2). But Venus continued to challenge Serena's game not only continuing to challenge her serve but with her movement. Venus covered the baseline like a big cat, getting to balls in two or three strides other women wouldn't have ever reached.

Then there were the spectacular rallies. Lobs. Slices. Monster forehands. Beautiful back hands. Moonballs. They played the match people always knew they were capable of playing against each other. Against a still weak, in my opinion, Serena Venus shut down her sisters game and came away with the three set win.

So why are supposed fans of Venus and Serena arguing about whether Serena should ditch her coach instead of looking at how she's updated and modified her game? Why is no one talking about Serena being too thin right now? Why is no one talking about Venus spectacular play over the last three weeks culminating in her victory today? Why are people instead dragging up the old canard about their father fixing their matches?

Let's be frank. Richard Williams and Oracene Price changed the game of tennis. Not women's tennis but tennis as a whole. The US tennis establishment mocked their beginnings, where they came from, how they looked, how they wore their hair. The said they were "mindless ball bashers" and praised players like Martine Hingis for her "cerebral" approach to the game. Even now, when it is obvious that scouting and mental fortitude are part of both womens repertoire there are those who continue to say that they don't think on court, that they don't adjust, that they haven't changed as they've matured.

Anyone with eyes to see knows that it's the imitators of the Williams who have not changed, who fell into the trap of thinking all they did was hit hard and haven't been able to change their games. By the time the haters catch up to what Venus and Serena are doing now they'll be on to something else.

Remember last year when there were calls for Venus to dump David Witt? Now they're screaming that Serena should dump Patrick Mouratoglou. When you ask why they say he's changed her game. Well, she wouldn't have hired him if she wanted to become a one trick pony. If and when the time comes for Serena to move on to another coach she will. She is the sun and everyone, trainers, coaches, hitting partners, nutritionists, all of them revolve around her. Oh, and David Witt? He's still on the sidelines being the quiet strength behind his boss, Venus.

Serena had a record breaking year last year. She could not physically keep playing like that ad infinitum. She needs to preserve herself. We know Venus has been ill for years and is working her way back into the conversation, the retirement watch over for her. Both will have good days. Both will have bad days. Both will lose to people they shouldn't. Of course fans would like to see Serena play like she did last year and Venus back in the top ten. We can't predict what will be. We know that players some consider scrubs will play the matches of their lives to try and be able to say they beat a Williams.

Venus and Serena will leave the stage when they're ready. Until they decide it's time they will continue to evolve, to tinker with their games and work on their bodies to keep themselves in top shape. There's a long line of people standing to the left who underestimated the intelligence, the athleticism, the will of these two elite athletes. That line will only get longer. They're the biggest draw in tennis and there is no reason to pretend otherwise.

Friday, August 8, 2014

She Said What She Meant & She Meant What She Said

by Savannah

I apologize to the late Dr. Seuss for paraphrasing one of the most famous lines he ever wrote but unlike Horton the Elephant who kept his promise the CEO of the WTA got caught out by fans of women's tennis and anyone who has a passing knowledge of the English language, written and spoken.

Ms Allaster gave an interview in Montréal about women's tennis. Well it was allegedly about women's tennis. It was mostly about her latest obsession but that's not where the controversy comes in.

 photo ff61db63-df5d-48b8-bd05-134d0b295a7d_zps56610801.jpg
photo via Amanda Rykoff espnW

It had already been widely reported that the PR stunt known as "Genie's Army" was flying from Australia to Montréal to cheer on their favorite. I'm not breaking any news here about them being a PR stunt. That's been widely reported too. So what was the controversy? In case you've been on vacation or only pay attention to what's going on when the US Open comes around here is the transcript provided by ASAPsports , an organization that makes its living providing accurate transcripts of press conferences.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC

STACEY ALLASTER: Bienvenue. It's always incredibly special for me to return home to the Coupe Rogers, to Tennis Canada. I must say as a Canadian, this is a dream come true, to have Canadian tennis and to have such ambassadors like Milos, Vasek, and Eugenie Bouchard at the top of the game.
To see the passion and the energy, this event is going to break a record. It's the largest single week women's event on the WTA Tour. It's phenomenal what they've accomplished here. It really is special for me to be home.

Q. You're already aware it's going to be a record broken?
STACEY ALLASTER: Yeah. Eugene and the entire Tennis Canada team do a fantastic job at presale. The tickets for 2005 Coupe Rogers are on sale.
When I was at Tennis Canada, we were doing about 25% to 30% of next year's sales during the event. Hopefully with the success of this year's Coupe Rogers, both in Toronto and Montréal, it will even go even further.

Q. How much do you think Eugenie has made a difference in tennis in Canada?
STACEY ALLASTER: Massive. You have to look at the TV ratings. Three Grand Slam semifinals. I'm inundated during the French, Wimbledon. I could feel the buzz from afar. Then I had all my family members saying, How cool is it having Eugenie Bouchard on the WTA?

Q. She's mature for her age, a great ambassador.
STACEY ALLASTER: She's a very mature, very confident, smart young woman. When we think of the world that we live in ‑ the sports/entertainment world ‑ there's a lot of pressure, a lot of media attention. To be a star, it's not just about her on‑court performance, it's how she's handling herself off‑court.
What I love the most about Genie is she understands at the end of the day is that we're here for the fans. She really engages with the fans. We just have to look that the Genie's Army has flown here from Australia to support her here at home in Montréal. They'll do the same if she makes it to the WTA Finals in Singapore.

(...)

Q. There have been some players who have been popular. But this is a bit of a phenomenon.
STACEY ALLASTER: I think the Australian Open is one of the funnest slams. We can see that with the Genie's Army here. But they're here. If Genie makes it to Singapore, we want to bring the Genie's Army there.
This notion of fan clubs I think is really a good dimension to add to our sport. It's an individual sport. We don't have teams. But you can almost create your teams within it.
As for Singapore, we're going to go to eight different schools or clubs and we're going to have a fan team associated with each of the eight athletes who qualify. That makes for great engagement in the stands, good ambience, and us making that close connection with the local community and the local fans.

If you want to read the newspaper report please Click Here

There was no need for a follow up question for clarification. Allaster said not once, but twice, that "Genie's Army" will be in Singapore and that the WTA would be involved in bringing them there. What else does "...we want to bring the Genie's Army there" mean?

This story was half way around the world with fan anger running along with it before the WTA got itself together to make a response.

WTA @WTA · Aug 6
On flying Genie's Army - it's nonsense & not what was said. Stacey said WTA wants fans to travel. She never said we're paying/sending them.

Just my humble opinion but the denial, to be real, should've been longer. It should've gone on to say that the WTA doesn't favor one player over all the others, that it represents all women who play the sport of tennis in singles and doubles, regardless of land of origin. It should've gone on to reaffirm the principles of the WTA, the one Billie Jean King helped to form. Instead we get this half assed sentence. It's hard not to believe that the WTA had every intention of flying these kids, sports marketing majors in Australia as I understand it, to Singapore. Once the cat was out of the bag they had to deny it no matter how weakly.

I think that the heads of the WTA and ATP have become so used to weak press coverage that repeats whatever meme it wants to put out there that they've forgotten how to do a real interview where they have to parse their words so that fans, and players, don't get the wrong idea. Apologists have continued to say that Allaster didn't mean what she said but if she didn't mean it why did she say it? Why does the CEO of the WTA come across as a besotted fangirl over this one player? This is what you get when you're not used to real reporting.

If you haven't done it yet please read the entire transcript. It will help you understand why there are calls for Allaster's resignation despite the fact that her contract has been extended to 2017. We all have our favorites, that can't be helped but it's unseemly for the person representing a sport to publicly lose all sense of perspective and gear the entire sport towards one player.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shenanigans Tennis Style

by Savannah

All eyes are on that huge country that spans the northern border of the United States. Canada, home of Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA, hosts the Rogers Cup every August. It marks the real beginning of the run up to the US Open because the European players come across the pond to begin their preparations for the final Slam of the year. It's still bizarre to me that the tournament is split between Toronto and Montréal and that the WTA and ATP switch cities every year but somehow it works. If you're a tennis fan you have to get used to weird things otherwise you'll end up confused and maybe lose interest in the sport.

When it comes to tennis many fans turn to the rulebooks for guidance. That doesn't always work though because in tennis some tournaments are more important than others. Look at what happened in Nan Chang, one of the $125k tournaments the WTA invented that take place mostly but not always in Asia. Player's like Peng Shuai and Zheng Jie are supposedly ineligible for this kind of event but the rule was waved to allow their participation in this specific tournament. And don't forget how Angelique Kerber was allowed to play an event she technically shouldn't have to make sure she had enough points to make the YEC last year. Apparently when it comes to desired results the rules don't apply.

But back to the Rogers Cup. I usually only post the draws for the Slams but I was struck by the type of comments surrounding both draws.

Let's start with the ATP Draw.

[1] SRB Djokovic, Novak/BYE
CZE Stepanek, Radek vs FRA Monfils, Gael
FRA Chardy, Jeremy vs ARG Delbonis, Federico
[13] FRA Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried vs FRA Roger-Vasselin, Edouard

[12] FRA Gasquet, Richard vs CAN Pospisil, Vasek
CRO Karlovic, IVO vs QUALIFIER
COL Giraldo, Santiago vs. WC AUS Kyrgios, Nick
[8] GBR Murray, Andy/BYE

[3] SUI Wawrinka, Stan/BYE
COL Falla, Alejandro vs QUALIFIER
RSA Anderson, Kevin vs QUALIFIER
[16] ITA Fognini, Fabio vs RUS Youzhny, Mikhail

Robredo, Tommy vs GER Kohlschreiber, Philipp
FRA Simon, Gilles vs AUT Thiem, Dominic
WC CAN Dancevic, Frank vs QUALIFIER
[7] BUL Dimitrov, Grigor/BYE


[6] CAN Raonic, Milos/BYE
WC USA Sock, Jack vs AUT Melzer, Jurgen
AUS Hewitt, Lleyton vs FRA Benneteau, Julien
[11] LAT Gulbis, Ernests vs POR Sousa, Joao

[14] ESP Bautista Agut, Roberto vs. ESP Lopez, Feliciano
ESP Robredo, Tommy vs QUALIFIER
TPE Lu, Yen-Hsun vs ESP Granollers, Marcel
[4] Berdych, Tomas/BYE

[5] Ferrer, David/BYE
FRA Mahut, Nicolas vs QUALIFIER
ITA Seppi, Andreas vs QUALIFIER
[10] USA Isner, John vs. CRO Dodig, Ivan

[15] CRO Cilic, Marin vs. UZB Istomin, Denis
ESP Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo vs QUALIFIER
WC CAN Polansky, Peter vs POL Janowicz, Jerzy
[2] SUI Federer, Roger/BYE

I took a second look when I started reading comments on Twitter by his fans that Roger Federer should be very happy with his draw. So I took a second look at the H2H between Federer and Marin Cilic. What do you think I found? Right. Cilic is 0 and 4 against Federer. Tomas Berdych? Federer dominates the H2H 12 to 6. At least there is the potential for Berdych to win right? David Ferrer? HA! Federer is 14 and 0 vs David. John Isner has won once. Forget Milos Raonic. He's 0 and 5. The only one with an even head to head is Ernests Gulbis at 2 all and we know Ernests can be very very good or simply awful in a match depending on what alternate universe he's in when the match starts. So unless something drastic happens Federer has a clear route to the Final. Of course it's just the randomness of the draw right? Rafael Nadal would've been the second seed. I wonder if he'd have been given such a cakewalk? That never happens to him though.

Then there is the WTA Draw. Li Na withdrew from everything and won't play until Wuhan. As a side note if you think I'm avoiding the whole discussion about the WTA in China specifically and Asia in general I am. No matter what you say the word "racism" becomes a valid part of the discussion. I've done several drafts and ended up not posting them because I sounded like a tea bagger and that's pretty hard for me to do.

So back to the WTA draw.

[1] WILLIAMS, Serena USA/BYE
QUALIFIER vs STOSUR, Samantha AUS
RISKE, Alison USA vs RYBARIKOVA, Magdalena SVK
CIRSTEA, Sorana ROU vs [15] SAFAROVA, Lucie CZE

[11] WOZNIACKI, Caroline DEN vs HANTUCHOVA, Daniela SVK
QUALIFIER vs KOUKALOVA, Klara
WC TOMLJANOVIC, Ajla CRO vs QUALIFIER
BYE/[5] BOUCHARD, Eugenie CAN

[4] SHARAPOVA, Maria RUS/BYE
MUGURUZA, Garbiñe ESP vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs NARA, Kurumi JPN
JOVANOVSKI, Bojana SRB vs [14] SUAREZ-NAVARRO, Carla

[12] PENNETTA, Flavia ITA vs Qualifier
PAVLYUCHENKOVA, Anastasia RUS vs WILLIAMS, Venus USA
GARCIA, Caroline FRA vs Qualifier
BYE/[6] KERBER, Angelique GER

[8] AZARENKA, Victoria BLR/BYE
QUALIFIER vs CORNET, Alizé FRA
QUALIFIER vs QUALIFIER
WC ABANDA, Francoise CAN vs [10] CIBULKOVA, Dominika SVK

[13] ERRANI, Sara ITA vs LISICKI, Sabine GER
KUZNETSOVA, Svetlana RUS vs KEYS, Madison USA
VINCI, Roberta ITA vs ZAHLAVOVA STRYCOVA, Barbora CZE
BYE/[3] RADWANSKA, Agnieszka POL

[7] JANKOVIC, Jelena SRB/BYE
WC WOZNIAK, Aleksandra CAN vs STEPHENS, Sloane USA
ZHANG, Shuai CHN vs QUALIFIER
QUALIFIER vs [9] IVANOVIC, Ana SRB

[16] PETKOVIC, Andrea GER vs GIORGI, Camila ITA
MAKAROVA, Ekaterina RUS vs OPRANDI, Romina SUI
DELLACQUA, Casey AUS vs FLIPKENS, Kirsten BEL
BYE/[2] KVITOVA, Petra CZE

WTA darling Eugenie Bouchard has Caroline Wozniacki in her section. The two have never faced each other so if they face each other they both have something to fight for. Meanwhile Maria Sharapova will potentially face Carla Suárez Navarro.
Victoria Azarenka is safely in the bottom half of the draw and should face Dominika Cibulkova to get out of her section. The potential of the two Serbian women facing each other will probably excite some fans. That's all I got re the ladies. The top half is a bit more competitive and some have said either Sharapova or Bouchard will make the semi final from that half. I'm just reporting what I read folks. I don't do predictions.

The Viktor Troicki Mess

After being shoe horned into Gstaad last week Troicki was back where he should have started, playing a Challenger event. Troicki himself was talking about how the ITF tried to destroy his career with the ban. Many of his fans feel the same way and one of them penned a blog post laying out what she feels is the most pertinent part of the case - Troicki's alleged needle phobia. You can read the entire post HERE . The only question I have is if he is phobic - I have my own so I get it - why was he not going to be afraid the next day? How would he know he was not going to pass out the next day when he did take the test? I get it, his fans feel strongly about what happened, but in the end he was responsible for what happened to him and blaming the person who was trying to do her job is disingenuous at best.

Plagiarism by Any Other Name is Plagiarism

Maybe it's the pompous accents. Maybe it the pompous ego's that go with the accents. Whatever it is the British always act "shocked and appalled" when one of their own is caught red handed doing something he or she shouldn't have been doing. That was the general reaction from British "journalists" to the news that Neil Harman, President of the International Tennis Writers Association or ITWA, was exposed as being a man who it seems had never read a fellow journalists work he didn't want to copy. Mind you the good men and women of the AELTC knew about the charges in January. Not June, January, and did nothing. He remained the lead tennis writer for the Times of London, and his books on Wimbledon were still being sold. I don't know what happened but I'm guessing one of the plagiarised writers had had enough and threw a shit fit. Harman resigned from the ITWA but posted supporting Tweets until someone must have said resigning and still defending himself was a bit unseemly and he closed his Twitter account. Will those plagiarised sue for royalties? What will happen to the books themselves? Will someone else be hired to write the books who didn't steal other people's work? Who knows? Wimbledon itself has been busy posting about resodding the courts and things like that. To my knowledge they haven't said a thing.

This however was posted today by a man named Norman Gillers in defense of Neil Harman. He's writing as a member of the Sports Journalist Association in Great Britain.

AS THE TIMES continues to consider the future of suspended tennis correspondent Neil Harman, my thoughts and sympathies are with a sportswriter I’ve always admired and respected in the 30-plus years I’ve followed his career.

Neil agrees he was guilty of extreme stupidity in lifting great lumps of tennis match reports from the works of other writers to pad out his Wimbledon annuals. It was at best lazy and, at worst, a theft of sorts.
But those of us who know Neil well will confirm that it’s completely out of character for him to sink to such depths. He clearly lost judgement when chasing tight deadlines. I cannot believe that anybody who has worked with Neil wants him kicked off the tennis circuit for his moments of madness. Let he who is without sin serve the first ball.
The young American journalist who has gone into depth with his research revealing the unpardonable plagiarism seems to think he is in the Woodward and Bernstein class as an investigative reporter.

He has made his point and should now get on with trying to build a career half as successful as that enjoyed by Neil Harman.

It’s been a hard day’s night. New balls please.

Poor Neil. He was just pressed and did what anyone would do, copy from others without attribution. If I can take the time to source quotes and sources of pictures I'd think a professional would do the same. He was getting paid.

The Best WTA Matches of 2014

bbc.co.uk photo bdafea30-3a66-4bcd-95ab-97702e87fe64_zps1809ae47.jpg
via BBC.CO.UK

So Venus Williams played Victoria Azarenka the other night. It was always going to be a tight match since both women had a lot to prove. What I didn't expect was a match featuring strategy, out of this world shot making, and all court play, things you usually don't talk about when it comes to the WTA. Those in attendance were on the edge of their seats. Those of us at home were on the edge of our seats. I've been a bit rough on Victoria Azarenka in this space but it was a joy to watch her play against Venus who was channeling her self from years past.
If you get a chance to watch it do so. You will love it.




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.

 photo e0a69976-af41-4ccc-b3a5-953f7e0ca6ae_zpsb60735a8.jpg
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.