Sunday, March 25, 2007
The Power of Perception
Sam Querrey is being touted as American tennis next great male star. At nineteen he’s been taken under the wing of the best minds the American tennis establishment can offer. Training at Andy Roddick’s place in Austin with Jimmy Connors sometimes in attendance has occurred. He could be playing for Stanford but has opted to go pro instead. He’s been doing well and playing as well as can be expected at this stage of his career.
Vania King is a young American who has opted for the tennis court choosing it over a career in the concert hall. A fine singer she would rather use her body than her vocal cords. She turned pro towards the end of last year and also has a bright future ahead of her.
Chan Yung-jan from Taipei is seventeen and despite her age is now ranked at number 93 in the world. She is a fierce competitor and there has been some buzz about her on the women’s circuit.
What do these young people have in common? Ms Chan beat the Spanish woman Nuria Llagostera Vives to move into the second round and a chance to play Maria Sharapova. Vania King beat Sun Tian-tian in the first round for a chance to meet Justine Henin. And Sam Querrey won his first round match for the chance to meet Roger Federer in the second round. Vania lost to Henin 6-4, 6-1. Chan lost to Sharapova 6-3 and 6-2. And yes Sam lost to Roger 6-4, 6-3. I didn’t see Vania King’s match against Henin. I did see parts of Chan/Sharapova and Querrey vs Federer.
One of my guilty pleasures on television is the TLC show “Moving Up” which features people moving from smaller homes or apartments to larger ones or people leaving the nest for the first time and striking out on their own. Last night’s edition featured a couple who bought a home from an older couple who were moving out of the house where they'd raised their children. When the new owners started in on the kitchen which had a sloped floor the previous owners claimed was a figment of their imagination they found that there was a flaw their inspection hadn’t turned up. When they pulled up the floor they found that they’d been deceived and that at any time they, or one of their children, could fall through it to the crawlspace. Even worse, electrical wiring had been jury rigged and was not shielded, a fire hazard. It cost them twelve grand to get the hazards fixed. The previous owners swore up and down they had not known about the hazards. We see the contractor the couple had hired telling them the wiring was jury rigged to put the dishwasher in and that if they noticed the cabinets were painted white so that the visible now visible water damage could be concealed. The previous owners wife swore she spent all of her time in the kitchen and had not noticed the sloped floor or that there was any water damage. They just happened to paint the cabinets white to hide the water damage the viewer is forced to conclude.
So what does this have to do with tennis? For some reason TTC is not showing the WTA matches during it’s regular schedule. This isn’t a column about that but I should mention that fans of the WTA are mad as hell and want to know why. After Fed’s match late last night suddenly a woman’s match appeared on TTC. Did we see the Kuznetsova match which ended after one in the morning with Sveta pulling out a gutsy win? Did we see Venus match against Maria Kirilenko one that had fans salivating? Did we see Serena’s match against up and comer Anastasia Rodionova? Nope. We saw Maria Sharapova vs Chan Yung-Jan. It should be mentioned that this is an IMG sponsored event and that it should come as no surprise that they’d go with the Sharapova match over any number of matches available, including a live one that had gone to a third set. I should mention in passing that I was watching Star Sports. My cable provider doesn’t provide TTC. I send begging emails every month or so but they’re busy doing other things. I can get Gol TV, the Golf Channel, and bass fishing but no Tennis Channel. But I digress.
It is the job of a tennis commentator to comment about the match in front of them. The best at this are the BBC announcers who have this quaint notion of discussing the match at hand. I know about them again because without TTC I have to rely on internet live feeds. MastersSeries TV doesn’t work for me. But again I digress. This young woman, I never got her name, who was one of the commentators for the Sharapova match did nothing but try and sell us on the product named Maria Sharapova. Maria works so hard. I played against her when we were younger and she would be out there all day hitting balls and playing harder than anyone else she said. She’s dedicated to tennis. She’s really a champion. She’s worked hard to get everything. Even the male commentator jumped in from time to time to say that while Maria is truly beautiful she is really a competitor. All of this while double faults were flying off of her racquet left and right. I didn’t hear any discussion of what was going on in the match. I have to say I didn’t hear it because I didn’t make it through fifteen minutes of commentary before turning the sound off which meant I turned the match off since I wasn’t watching television I was watching an internet feed. If Ms Sharapova had been playing someone like say Maria Kirilenko she would probably have been out of this event. Instead the young and still inexperienced Ms Chan was thrown under a bus and allowed the commentators to declare Maria Sharapova was a world beater last night.
From what I heard of the Federer/Querrey match the same form of commentary was being used. No one who follows tennis thought that Querrey had a snowballs chance in hell of beating Roger. Instead of showing the much more exciting conclusion to the Guillermo Canas/Juan Carlos Ferrero match and cutting back to show how badly Roger was dismembering Querrey we got Roger beating up on Sam. I do have to say they weren’t totally stupid on the men’s side. Once Roger’s match was over they switched to Canas/Ferrero and fans got to see Canas pull out a win over a determined Ferrero. Every tennis fan knows Canas kicked Roger to the curb at IW in the first round. Canas next opponent is Richard Gasquet. I should mention that Roger’s new BFF, Tiger Woods, and his wife were in the stands. There were lots of shots of Tiger and his Missus just in case you forgot these two are now BFF. (Best friends forever. I have a teenager.)
The commentators did their equivalent of painting the cabinets white. IMG as a sponsor has every right to showcase their talent. What bothers me is that there are plenty of stars in the tennis universe and they are getting short shrift. As a fan I wanted Juanqui to do well even though I wanted Willy Canas to win if that makes sense. I wanted to see Sveta fight through fatigue to win her match. I wanted to see Venus, serving at 42% on her first serve win every one of them. I wanted to see Serena play because of the rumors floating around that she was going to withdraw. I want to see the Mattek’s, the Bondarenko’s, the Larcher de Brito’s of the tennis world. Henin is the woman’s number one. I’m not a fan of the woman but I like her tennis. Didn’t she deserve some air time? I want to see Marion Bartoli play because somehow she keeps winning. I want to know how long it’s going to take for the light bulb to go off in her head that if she gets fitter she can go deeper in events like this and maybe hit the top ten. I would love to have seen Schnyder go down to Kaia Kanepi in straights. What about Haas losing to Falla? None of this made television except for Juanqui and Willy and they made it because Willy managed to beat the men’s number one, the man some are declaring the greatest of all time.
There is talk of John McEnroe becoming some kind of tennis commissioner, the Paul Tagliabue of tennis I guess. In view of the moves the ATP and WTA are making which seem to favor American tennis over tennis played anywhere else I don’t think this would be a good idea at this time. The players haven’t gone for the okey-doke and the fissures that are being created threaten the sport of tennis which has always been an international sport. Tennis fans keep world clocks to give the time in London, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne, Tokyo, Dubai and Shanghai. Favorite players can come from any part of the globe and be of any nationality or ethnic group. And this will continue to happen. Personally I'd love to see former NYC Mayor David Dinkins take on this role. He's a fan and has been known to move heaven and hell to give tennis it's due. And after being mayor of New York City I think he's ready to tackle some of the issues facing tennis with a much cooler head and fewer ties that bind than a former player would.
The tennis powers that be can keep painting the cabinets white. Someone is going to come along and pull up the floor and see the mess underneath. And they’re not going to eat the cost of the repairs.