Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Too Much Tennis?

Ana Ivanovic, who won the WTA Los Angeles tournament last Sunday and was defending Rogers Cup champion crashed out in the first round at Toronto to Zi Yan of China. Her post match interview was quite revealing. Here are excerpts.

Q. What happened out there?
ANA IVANOVIC: Well, she played extremely well today. She had amazing match, and I wasn't kind of prepared for that.
I expected a tough match, but from first point on she started playing very aggressive, and she was dominating. And for me, it was very hard to adjust, because the court is much faster than it was last week. And it was also windy out there.
So I needed some time to get timing and to get into the match. But she didn't give me that. She played very well from the first point on.

Q. One of the other players told us she was tired and there may be too many tournaments. You just won in Los Angeles and flew right here. Is that a possibility that you may have been tired?
ANA IVANOVIC: It's very tough. Especially coming from Los Angeles, because it's three hours time difference. And Monday and Tuesday I had days off, so I didn't practice. And today, first time I hit before my match and it was completely different. I didn't really expect that.
It was also tough out there mentally. Because I had a good tournament last week, and it was very hard to start, you know, again to focus from the first round on.
So it's obviously very disappointing for me, because this is one of my favorite tournaments. And I'm really sorry I couldn't hang around for a little bit longer. But still she's a very good player, and she played amazing good today.

Q. Can you just discuss a little bit maybe the difference in pressure that one would feel coming back to try to defend a title? You didn't get to defend it for very long, but the difference in attitude that you might have coming into that kind of tournament when you're looking to protect your title?
ANA IVANOVIC: It's definitely different coming into tournament as a favorite or as defending champion. So I enjoyed it, really, as much as I could. But it was ‑‑ it was a little bit different. I was first time in that situation. The tournament I won in Canberra, I didn't go back there, so this is the first time I'm facing this situation.
And she was a tough opponent to play. This is my first match here. But definitely something I can learn from, and next time will be different...

Q. Anna Chakvetadze had to withdraw today. In a tournament that had already been hurt by withdrawals or no shows, how much does someone who is the defending champ going out, and Chakvetadze might have been the hottest player on the tour this year, how much do you think that hurts the tournament?
ANA IVANOVIC: The tournament is very good. All of these players are young and upcoming. There are many good players. There is still Justine, she's No. 1, and many other players from top 5, top 10. It's still very good tournament.
But personally speaking, I'm very disappointed I couldn't stay a bit longer here because, as I said, I really enjoyed my time here.

Meanwhile at the TMS event in Mason, Ohio Nadal and Djokovic are both out, Rafa to injury, Novak courtesy of a straight set beat down by Carlos Moya who left Montreal in an early round. As I type this Roger Federer is playing Julien Benneteau and Juan Ignacio Chela just fought his way back from 6-3 down in a first set tiebreak to have win the first set against Marcos Baghdatis.
Richard Gasquet retired with a nasty blister in his hand.

The argument has been made that the United States penchant for back to back Masters Series events, all on hardcourt, is asking a lot of the players, male and female. The last time anyone won the Canada/Cincinnati back to back marathon was Andy Roddick back in 2003. There were no "byes" back then as Craig loves to point out. Roddick went on the win the US Open that year (I didn't use the word "controversial" but that is another discussion.)

The talking point on ESPN is that today, 15 of the top 20 men in the world played. Darren Cahill made the point that the "bye" is a good thing for the top eight so that they don't flat withdraw from Cincinnati, the only major tennis event in the upper Midwestern United States. Of the eight men who got a "bye" five are gone. This event has now become a showcase for "everyone else" in mens tennis. It's not a bad thing. It just didn't have to be like this. Toronto had already become about "everyone else" with Serena, Amelie and Maria and Venus all withdrawing.

And that has been the problem with the US Open series this year. The European men won't come over until Canada. The women seem to have a phobia about Canada. How else to explain the lack of star power on the courts of Toronto?

I have said before that I am a fan of the US Open Series. Actually it was Andy Roddick back in 2003 who made me a fan. But what is happening now is not what was happening four years ago. This doesn't happen earlier in the year when Indian Wells and Miami are back to back some will say. But a lot of tennis has been played since then and the last Slam of the year is less than two weeks away. Do you beat your body up on the fast hard court in Mason Ohio or do you take a rest and come into the US Open fresh?

I think it's time for the Grand Poobah's to rethink the Canada/Cincy TMS events. The US Open series is a good idea, it showcases a lot of young American talent (John Isner, Sam Querrey) and should probably be marketed that way, but when that young talent meets the Big Boys they quietly leave the scene. John Isner got a lesson from David Ferrer the other night, one he won't soon forget. I know I'm beating a dead horse but Ferrer showed what good tennis basics can do. Point construction, knowledge of the game, all were on display during that match. And it was all being done by David Ferrer. Our players, even our top players, can't do that.

There are still bright lights in the draw: Andy Roddick is still there. So are Sam Querrey and James Blake. Carlos Moya, David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Nicolas Almagro of Spain are still playing. Juan Monaco is playing. Oh, and that guy Federer is playing his second round match this evening.

I've often said that if the changes both the WTA and ATP want to institute take place you will end up with an "A" and "B" tour with the big stars always playing in "A" events and when forced to, putting in perfunctory appearances at "B" level tours. I said that this would be a disaster for tennis.
But I think the two tiered world is already here. And as a fan, there is nothing I can do about it.


Craig Hickman said...

Unfortunately for Andy and fans of his, the US Open Series didn't exist in 2003. I also want to point out that Roddick won Queen's, made the Wimbledon semifinals, won Indy, and made the quarterfinals of DC before winning the big three. That's a lot of tennis in a condensed timeframe.

Oh, youth.

I concede that back-to-back TMS events in the summer is grueling. But the byes are supposed to help. If Federer wins (and with who's left in the field, it would be a huge upset if he doesn't) he'll probably defend the calendar. I could be wrong.

We'll see.

I think Ana's schedule was silly. She played a Tier II the week before she's scheduled to defend her first Tier I title? Not a lot of compassion for her here. And as she said, her opponent just didn't let her breathe.

As for Rafa. Hubby thinks that his topspin forehand is going to kill his left arm because the wrist whip is so extreme. According to him, Rafa is suffering from tennis elbow, which can occur no matter how much or little tennis a player plays. But he also chose to play Stuttgart, which I must say puzzles me. Last year he took a break and played pretty poorly in the US Open Series. This year he played (apparently) to keep his rhythm and still played poorly in the US Open Series. He's a proven commodity on hardcourts, so I think it's fair to suggest he might need another hardcourt event to adjust before the two TMS events and the US Open.

Albert said...

Could it be that Rafa deals poorly with high heat and humidity? He has never done well in Cincy or USO... He has won Montreal, but perhaps it wasn't hot that year?

Savannah said...

True it wasn't called the US Open Series back then but Andy, playing with no fear, was the best player coming into the Open which is why it is unfortunate there will always be the question in many fans minds about whether he would've won without all the extra help.

Ana learned her lesson. She is young and hungry. But she needs to pace herself better.

I'm not sure how I feel about Stuttgart yet. I was surprised he played it, yes, and it remains to be seen what happens the rest of the year going into the TMC.

He's also going to South America next year Craig so we'll see how he defends IW.

Savannah said...

As someone who deals poorly with high heat and humidity there is a chance that is the problem. There is speculation about it on some message boards.

Mallorca's temperature this year has been averaging about 30c. I think it's usually a little cooler there in the summer.

We'll see how he does in New York. The long range forecast doesn't call for it to be that hot the first few days but that can change of course.

Craig Hickman said...

Funny how I never thought of Rafa not being able to deal with heat and humidity.

It certainly could be a factor.

Most clay events are played in fair weather.

Craig Hickman said...

I should mention, though, that I truly believe Rafa's arm is injured. I don't think he's saving himself for the US Open per se.

He's trying to be No. 1 and defending 125 points would help given that Raja lost early in Cincy last year.

Returning to South America also tells me he's interested in winning titles, not just playing on hardcourts.

Let's see what NY brings.

Tristann said...

I think the heat and humidity may have played a big part in Nadal's troubles. The description he has given of how he was feeling (dizzines, cramping and numbness of extremities) fit the symptoms of heat exhaustion, a condition which precedes heat stroke. Another symptom is profuse sweating, and many who were watching the match were remarking how drenched in sweat he was, more than usual. I am really hoping that he is not really injured, but that may just be wishful thinking on my part. I guess we will have to wait until the US Open and see how he plays there.

Savannah said...

Craig Cahill implied that Rafa had to really be ill and hurt to retire since in the Race he is about 100 pts ahead of Raja and going deep in Cincy would have increased his lead.

Rafa has played himself into exhaustion before so it wouldn't surprise me if he's overdone it in Mason.

I have to check the points in the race.

Savannah said...

Rafa 981
Fed 871
Djokovic 661