Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

I guess the biggest news of the day is Novak Djokovic going out in the first round to Ernests Gulbis at Brisbane. Many of Ernests fans saw this match as a set up for Djokovic and there was a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth on fan boards.

I watched the match and all I can say is that Gulbis played well. There were no lapses in his concentration and he wasn't at all intimidated by Djokovic. He said later that he focused on winning the next point instead of thinking about winning the match. I guess he knows a lot of people will be watching to see how he progresses through the tournament. Meanwhile Djokovic has been awarded a wild card at Sydney where he'll again be the number one seed. He also said in a prematch interview that his family will not be traveling with him this year.

In a match I didn't watch all that closely Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia played a match that set new lows for on court behavior. I was watching the Hopman Cup play between France and Italy on another laptop and missed all the hystrionics and bitching. Even fans thought the ladies were out of control. Azarenka won the throw down.

The reason I wasn't watching the drama at Brisbane was because it looked like Alize Cornet of France was about ready to pass out on the court during her Hopman Cup match against Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Cornet was gasping for air and at one point sat down on the court to try and get herself under control and it looked as if she would have to forfeit the match. Alize had already admitted that she got to Perth late and watching one had to wonder how a seemingly conditioned athlete ends up laboring for breath like a beached whale. Alize said after the match - which she won - that she forgot to breathe during points. Looked more like Ms Cornet hadn't worked on her cardio much during the off season. Guess it was the night for the ladies to bring the drama.

Simone Bolelli took Gilles Simon out in their Hopman Cup match last night by the way. The score was three and three. Gilles doesn't look too happy about that.

Oh, and because no one wants to let this go yet here's a close-up of Dinara Safina's brother from the other night.

Elena Dementieva had to wait for Chan Yung-Jan of Taipei to realize she was about to take out a top ten player and choke to end up winning her opening round match at Brisbane. Ms Chan, who prefers to be called Latisha by Westerners who regularly butcher her name played an almost perfect first set and was up 5-1 before she fell to earth with a thud and never recovered her form.

Venus is in Hong Kong. She's wearing long braids. She looks healthy.

The Trouble with Juniors
Colette Lewis who chronicles the play of the girls and boys who may become household names one day has posted a rather disturbing post about the state of junior tennis in the United States. The remarks are made by none other than Robert Lansdorp who is revered in US tennis circles. I usually try to end on an up note but since I'm one of the people always whining about the state of tennis in the US I'll end with this as food for thought for those of us who love the game of tennis. Based on the behavior of some tennis parents I don't think this problem is restricted to the States.

Enormous Cheating has to Stop Now!
By Robert Lansdorp

Recently I was asked to become a member of a special advisory council for USTA player development, so apparently I am now officially entitled to share my opinions about what is happening in American junior tennis.

So let me start by making a few comments about a topic no one ever talks about publicly: the enormous amount of cheating now going on in junior tennis. Maybe the most shocking thing is that it’s so prevalent in the younger divisions, the 14 and unders, and even the 12s.

I’m not talking about an occasional bad call here and there. I’m talking about a culture that almost sees cheating as part of the game, almost as a strategy to use at certain times to win matches. Somehow that is now ok.

Here’s an amazing and shocking example from a national tournament in Florida in the girls 14 and under division.

Like most tournaments today, at this tournament there were scorecards on the court. If you’ve seen them, you know that the kids are supposed to flip the cards on the changeovers so the spectators and officials can see the score. The kids are also supposed to turn the cards so that the card with each player’s score points to his or her side of the court.

So here is what happened. At 4 all in the third set, one of the players holds serve to go up 5-4. As they change sides, the player who held serve flips the scorecard to show that she now has 5 games and the other girl has 4. But she neglects to turn the scoreboard so that the 5 is pointing to her side of the court.

So the girl that is behind 4-5 serves and wins the next game. The actual score is now 5 all. But the girl that just held serve claims she has now won the match. She claims that since the 5 was pointing to her side, she was the one who was ahead 5-4, and that she just won the third set 6-4.

Of course the other girls says no way, it’s 5 all, and calls the official to the court and explains the situation. And guess what? The official looks at the scorecard, sees which way the numbers are pointing, and awards the match to the girl who just cheated on the score. The referee probably didn’t know the rules. So here you have a young girl, whose family traveled all the way to Florida to watch her get cheated out of a match at 5 all in the third.

But the problem actually goes beyond incidents like this that are just between players. More and more the families are getting involved in the gamesmanship. They are clapping and cheering on every point, including clapping when the opponent kid chokes or makes a bad error.

Here’s another horrible story. In a first round match in another national tournament, the family of a younger player who upset a seed in the first round ran on the court and carried her off on their shoulders. Carried a 12 year kid off the court after a first round match! What’s going to happen if this kid wins a match in the junior French Open?

Sometimes you see the adults in the families yelling at each other from opposite sides of the court. I won’t go into details but I even know of some incidents that have ended up in physical confrontations with the dads exchanging blows.

The entire post is located on Bob Larson's Tennis News
Thanks to Colette for bringing this important issue to our attention.

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