Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

Poor misunderstood Novak. Matt Cronin posted this piece.

Novak Djokovic is controversial, but he doesn't want to be.

The world No. 3 has a strong desire to be his sport's superior player, but he can't yet stomach everything that comes with it — to be in the spotlight every waking moment, good and bad.

In public, the 21-year-old Serbian can't be the funny guy anymore. There will be no more hilarious impressions of his friend Maria Sharapova's serve, of his rival Andy Roddick's twitches, and especially of his locker room nemesis Roger Federer flicking his hair or clapping his racket in celebration.

"I'm in the transition," Djokovic told FOXSports.com. "It's not easy because I'm very emotional. Some things really hurt me, and maybe I express myself a little bit too much — people didn't get used to that. But at the end of the day, you sit and think to yourself, 'I've reacted the way I felt that's right.' Maybe it's wrong, but you learn from your mistakes. That's why life is testing us all the time."

The third seed at this week's Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Djokovic has gone from being the tour's boy wonder after winning his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open to the most vulnerable member of the sport's so-called Big 4, which also includes Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray

Whatever. How convenient to forget the Monfils incident, the antics of his parents at Melbourne in 2008, the sore throat retirement, the real reason Roger Federer told his parents to stfu, etc., etc.
Still waiting to read a piece on Andy Roddick's behavior Sunday morning by someone in the US tennis press. I'm not holding my breath.

Breaking News (not so much)

Remember Elena Dementieva'scomments a few years back about the Williams Family and that Richard Williams decided who would win and who would lose when his daughters had to play each other? It seems the Russian sports writers are still focused on that innuendo.

This quote is said to be from an article printed last Wednesday that focused on Dinara Safina's chances of obtaining the number one ranking:
"Of course, it has to be taken into account that it is possible that in semis Serena will happen to play her sister Venus, and then the outcome of the family match will not be difficult to predict"..

In the wake of Dinara's early round loss that was followed by Elena Demetieva's yesterday this quote is found in the same journal:
"Let us remind you that Venus Williams is in the same half of the draw ( as Serena ) and in case she plays Serena in the semis, the result will not be difficult to predict"..

Source 1
Source 2
The sources are in Russian.
Dementieva has by her own admission played a lot of tennis and may need a mental health break from the sport. It's worth discussing whether Dinara will suffer the same fate as Ana Ivanovic if she reaches the number one ranking after Miami. I just don't see her as being ready for the responsibility that goes with being HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) but I could be wrong. I think the Russian press should be more concerned with why Dinara has played so poorly during the first half of the season and not engage in idle speculation about things they know nothing about. Vera Zvonareva in the meantime has been playing excellent tennis making good showings at the YEC, winning Indian Wells, and garnering a lot of talk about what she can achieve at Roland Garros.
Of course the articles could mention Vera. I don't read Cyrillic so I'm at a disadvantage. If one of you reads it please feel free to let me know if they do talk about the women's game in an honest fashion and if the quotes are taken out of context. The last thing women's tennis needs right now is for this sort of thing to become the main focus of attention.

End Notes
I hear that Fernando Gonzalez got a tad annoyed at Radek Stepanekfor taking too long to receive serve and hit the Czech player on purpose. It's also said that Fena offered an apology as the two men went to their respective corners, uh, seats during the next break. Radek got the last laugh winning their match in straight sets. He who laughs last laughs longest no?

So once again coverage of a woman's match, this one between Serena Williams and Zheng Jie was seen on tape delay on Tennis Channel in the States and that technical difficulties stopped the match from being seen by some in Europe. I don't know if the TennisTV feed worked since I had to go out for the evening. Serena had to fight to win the match going down a break in the third before pulling herself together. I did see Li Na win her match. There was a lot of on court coaching used. I hate it. I really do.
By the way guess who plays Serena next?

How could I not try and catch some of the Fernando Verdasco vs Feliciano Lopez match which Verdasco won? Neither man is my type but hey, I want to be able to say in a few years I saw the match of the pretty's.

Who would have predicted that the match of the tournament so far would be between Marat Safin and Gael Monfils? The standing room only crowd was treated to high quality tennis and a bit of drama. The crowd was pulling for Gael and he didn't disappoint. Great match.

Sharapova Inc

by Savannah

While the tennis world debates the state of women's tennis and whether another WTA player who hasn't won a Slam will take over as number one the good folks at Sports Business Journal choose to publish this piece about Maria Sharapova and her selling power. I'm going to post the article in it's entirety so you can understand what lengths the WTA has gone to to promote one player while it's best players are denigrated and presented as not worthy of promotion world wide. I would find this article amusing except that I understand the innuendo. In my very humble opinion this is the first salvo in marketing Sharapova beyond tennis by emphasizing her appeal beyond that of a female athlete. Does this mean Sharapova is not going to be playing much tennis going forward as some have speculated and that her agent is trying to make sure she doesn't suffer the same fate as
Anna Kournikova who saw her endorsement revenue drop significantly about two years after she stopped playing?
This article proves she has a damn good agent at IMG.

Read carefully, make your own decision and please comment. All highlighting is mine.

No slowdown at Sharapova Inc.
Blue-chip sponsors spend big to promote ties to her
Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2009 : Page 01

It's just shy of five years since an obscure 17-year-old from Russia named Maria Sharapova stormed the global sports stage by winning Wimbledon. The victory sparked a commercial explosion unprecedented in women's sports, and neither the current economic slowdown nor an injury that's essentially sidelined the star since July has slowed Sharapova Inc.

The three-time Grand Slam champion was scheduled to make her return to singles action this week at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., but she is still hampered by a shoulder injury and will make only a brief appearance.

Three of her sponsors -- Tag Heuer, Cole Haan and Sony Ericsson -- unveiled in recent weeks marketing campaigns around Sharapova, notwithstanding the decline in the luxury goods market. Sharapova also just signed a new, $2.5 million-a-year deal with a shampoo maker.

From Sony Ericsson display ads in cell phone stores in India and China, to Cole Haan billboards in New York City, Sharapova's image resonates across the globe and cultures. All told, the business of Maria, including her take as well as sponsors' advertising and promotional spending, approaches $150 million annually.

Sharapova herself earns between $26 million and $30 million a year, mostly from endorsements. Prize money contributes only a small slice of her income. Since turning pro in 2002, her winnings total $10.2 million.

The media and the public have long assessed Sharapova's commercial success through an endorsement lens, and she's indeed the world's top-paid female athlete. Less inspected, however, are the expansive lengths her 10 sponsors take to promote their ties to the star.

Sharapova's appeal is built in part on her success
on the court. She has won three Grand Slam titles,
including the 2008 Australian Open and
Wimbledon in 2004, her first.

"Maria is as integrated throughout Cole Haan as anything we have ever done before and as much as anything I have ever done," said Michael Capiraso, the upscale apparel firm's chief marketing officer and who previously held marketing posts with the NFL and WPP sponsorship agency Prism. "If you go online, if you go in-store, if you look at advertising, if you go into any of our partners -- Bloomingdale's, Macy's -- you will see Maria."

Canon spends roughly $30 million annually promoting its ties to Sharapova, sources said. The company's ad agency, Dentsu, did not reply for comment, but Canon's spots featuring Sharapova and her interactions with a little white dog have fueled a multiyear, high-profile campaign.

And then there's Nike.

"There could be 10, 15 things going on around the world at one time, and that's just with Nike," said Max Eisenbud, Sharapova's agent at IMG who has represented her since she was 11.

The company spends so much money around Sharapova, sources said, it's one of the reasons why Serena Williams, currently the world's top-ranked player and whom Sharapova upset to claim her landmark 2004 Wimbledon win, has not found a suitable renewal offer for her own deal with the sneaker power. Nike declined to make an official available for comment.

Sharapova's sponsors are so active Eisenbud hosts a summit every two years in part to ensure they don't launch campaigns simultaneously. How serious a problem is sponsor conflict? Eisenbud estimated he spends 80 percent of his time managing this issue. Sharapova chose Sony Ericsson over LG Electronics in part because LG's U.S.-centric plans could have collided with the offerings of some of her other sponsors.

But it's not all separating kids in the sandbox. Nike and Tiffany & Co., whose only endorser is Sharapova, are cooperating to match her trademark, dangling earrings with tennis apparel at Grand Slams.

Eisenbud copiously schedules each year down to the hour, parsing the 14 to 16 days Sharapova commits to her sponsors. For appearances at sponsor parties, he bestows each company a single hour annually with her before one of the four Grand Slams. Photo shoots are limited to Saturdays between 1 and 8 p.m. in the offseason, four days next week following the Sony Ericsson Open, two days after Wimbledon and one day after the U.S. Open.

Beginning April 6 in Los Angeles, Sharapova will cram in photo shoots for Nike, its subsidiary Cole Haan, Canon, the shampoo company (whose identity could not be determined) and the cover of ESPN The Magazine. She returns to her home in Florida after April 10 to resume training, and leaves April 30 to compete in Rome.
Why Maria?
Cole Haan says its Sharapova campaign
produced 13M media impressions in a week.

Davie Brown, the Omnicom unit that ranks celebrities, places Sharapova's popularity in the United States in line with "A-list Hollywood 'It' girls, including Keira Knightley and Rihanna," according to a February study. That report does not track overseas, though, where Sharapova is arguably a far-greater celebrity.

Cole Haan's Capiraso said that in the first week after its campaign started in mid-February, there were 13 million global media impressions of Sharapova and the brand. In February, Sharapova was the eighth most-searched-for person on Yahoo! en Español's Pop page, and the only athlete in the ranking, despite her absence from tennis.

To many, the reason for Sharapova's popularity is obvious. Even her agent doesn't discount that a good measure of her fame boils down to the fact that she is a pretty blonde from Russia's Siberia.

But winning Grand Slam events and playing with a ferocious on-court style are also pluses, and U.S. residency allows her to straddle cultures. Her life story of emigrating impoverished to Florida at age 7 with her father, Yuri, gaining entry to the Bollettieri Tennis Academy at age 9, and winning Wimbledon eight years later is the fairy tale marketers clamor for.

"I left my mom and my country at the age of 7 to follow my dream," says Sharapova in a one-minute radio spot for Tag Heuer (to listen to the spot, click here). "At age 9, I was practicing tennis six hours a day in the Florida sun. I lived out of a suitcase for three years, traveling everywhere, competing in the middle of nowhere."

Then, after recounting her successes, she asks, "What are you made of?" the watchmaker's catchphrase.

Ulrich Wohn, president of the North American division of Tag Heuer, which boasts three other global ambassadors -- Tiger Woods, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and actor Leonardo DiCaprio -- said Sharapova speaks to the pursuit of living life and taking chances.

"What we get out of Maria is we get inspired," Wohn said. "Maria came from very humble beginnings and she was able to rise."

"Real" is another word Sharapova's companies and agent toss around. Consumers, they argue, react to her because she had a hand in designing many of the products she markets, including Cole Haan bags, Nike tennis dresses and a new phone Sony Ericsson planned to unveil last week.

"Tennis is a unique sport in that it bridges fashion and design and style," said Calum MacDougall, Sony Ericsson's head of sponsorship who, like many of Sharapova's backers, expressed little concern that, other than one doubles match, she has not played in eight months. "What is most interesting for us is not so much Maria the athlete, but the person. Her success on court helps, but we don't use Maria as a tennis player in any of our advertising. She is never dressed as a tennis player."

Name Comment
Nike Her biggest sponsor in terms of exposure and dollars; uses her mainly outside the United States.

Sony Ericsson Ran a sweepstakes for 18 fans from 10 global markets to win a trip to the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami to party with Maria; scheduled to launch an ad last week featuring Sharapova selling a new phone.

Cole Haan Sharapova is the face of its spring campaign.

Tag Heuer - Running a campaign with a strong Sharapova focus.

Canon - Ubiquitous ads with Maria and a little white dog.

Tiffany & Co. - Designing a Grand Slam collection of earrings that she showcases at the four Slams.

Parlux - Has a Sharapova-branded fragrance line that pays her royalties.

Prince Made Sharapova one of the top-paid racket endorsers in tennis history.
Land Rover - Mainly an event-based deal; no ads.

Shampoo company - Ads being shot in April in a deal that will pay her $2.5 million a year.

Sources: mariasharapova.com, SBJ sources

That's true of all of her commercial backers with the exceptions of endemic sponsors Nike and Prince. The ads take it for granted consumers recognize Sharapova and see her not as a tennis player but, rather, as a global, cosmopolitan woman who reaches eclectic audiences.

While there are several male athletes who transcend their respective sports and can tap into disparate corners of the globe -- Woods, Hamilton and David Beckham, to name a few -- Sharapova is one of the few women.

In the United States, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are better-known names, owing to longer careers, success and their own inspirational backgrounds. Neither has the number of deals as Sharapova, though, and in fact, each is without a sneaker and apparel contract, even as Venus continues to sell her own line, EleVen, online. Serena recently signed with Gatorade and Mission Skincare, and the sisters earlier this year were featured in an Oreo cookie ad with the NFL Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.

"Let's say you want a global female athlete," Eisenbud said. "It's really just Maria. She is global because tennis is global, [and add] the fact that she is Russian, so she is not American but Americans think she is American. It makes her more appealing. Not to take anything away from Venus and Serena, they are great champions, but they don't mean as much, say, in Korea as Maria does."

What's next

The Davie Brown study predicted Sharapova's popularity is rising, with awareness of her up 31 percent between 2005 and 2008. The Williams sisters commanded the spotlight while Sharapova recuperated from her shoulder injury -- Serena winning at the U.S. and Australian opens, and Venus rising to No. 5 in the world rankings -- but it's clear the women's circuit missed the Russian's buzz factor.
When HBO last year bought the TV rights to a March 2 women's tennis exhibition at Madison Square Garden, the cable giant assiduously courted Sharapova to compete. Even before the extent of her injury emerged, she refused despite a plea from HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg. Instead, the Williamses were featured alongside fellow top-10 players Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.

Greenberg is hardly the first person to hear no from Sharapova, who was not available for this story. She's also butted heads with Sony Ericsson WTA Chief Executive Larry Scott over her time committed to promote the tour, an age-old conflict on the circuit but one that is more pronounced with Sharapova.

Still only 21, Sharapova now is branching into other endeavors. She will serve as the executive producer of a weekly drama series loosely based on her life that MTV has agreed to run. Eisenbud is also planning an animation series portraying her as a tennis player by day and a spy/superhero by night who uses the global tennis tour as a cover. Sharapova plans to do voice-overs for both series.

For every new project or deal, there are dozens, if not more, she rejects. Alluding to Anna Kournikova, the Russian player who famously cashed in on her looks to the detriment of results, scoring tens of millions of dollars in endorsements but no tournament wins, Eisenbud characterized one of Sharapova's finest qualities as her willingness to forgo ever-more glamour. She's historically rejected comparisons to her compatriot, and not only because Sharapova boasts three Grand Slam and 16 WTA titles.

"She understands accepting a private jet to host the Kids Choice Awards means a bad week of practice," Eisenbud said of his client. "She has this unbelievable ability to say no."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seen and Heard Around

by Savannah

WTA News

Samantha Stosur
Gisela Dulko d. (3)Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 7-6(5)
(25)Agnes Szavay d. (7)Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
Samantha Stosur d. (2)Dinara Safina 6-1, 6-4

Agnes Szavay
Good thing WTA coverage will start in earnest tomorrow when all the top players will be in action. And no I'm not going on a rant about the idiocy of starting the women's coverage so late. I think the above results make my case. What fan wouldn't have wanted to see those matches as they were played instead of scoreboard watching?
Is someone going to make the argument that this shows the depth of the women's game as opposed to the weakness of the top ten with a couple of notable exceptions? Probably. Looks like Dinara is not yet ready to assume the mantle of Number 1 and all that it implies.

The State of American Tennis

Neither Justin Gimelstob nor Andy Roddick made any friends for American tennis this weekend. I turned the sound off on The Slob Saturday after he whined about what would happen if a certain player made it to the Finals saying that it would ruin ratings for CBS so I missed this wonderful exchange.

Gimelstob: It’s interesting that for the first time ever at our last ATP player meeting, some of the clay court players asked for some of the clay court tournaments to be switched to hardcourts. That’s how much they’re enjoying playing on hard courts.

Ted Robinson: Clay courters …. asked for more hard courts?[Laughter] I wish I had been there. [Laughter] I can’t fathom that Rafa was one.
Gilmelstob: Rafa was definitely, adamantly, against it. But players like Nalbandian, Del Potro, and Gonzalez were arguing for it.

Robinson: Really? … Was the subject of player longevity, player health, raised since clay is the least difficult surface for the players’ bodies?

Gilmelstob: Well, that’s how we countered it --- beyond the fact that clay needs to be protected as an important historical part of tennis, we need to protect their bodies as hard courts are the most abrasive and physically damaging of all surfaces. Rafa was quick to point that out as well. But in a classic Rafa way: “I want to walk when I’m 27, no? I like play with my kids some day, no?”


I admit I was skeptical that even the Slob would divulge statements made during a player meeting especially since he is a member of the ATP Board but not one person has disputed what he said.
So what is wrong with the statement?
  • Since when are David Nalbandian, Fernando Gonzalez and Juan Martin del Potro clay courters? All three men play their best tennis on hard and/or indoor courts. I guess in the Slob's mind if you come from South America you are automatically a clay courter. Abysmal ignorance at the very least from someone who is supposed to be a tennis professional and an expert commentator.
  • Apparently he did a very bad imitation of Rafael Nadal's accent when he speaks English when allegedly quoting what he said during the meeting. This has also not been disputed by anyone.
  • Since when does an ATP board member reveal the goings on at what is supposed to be a private meeting between players and the ATP? Not that information hasn't ever leaked out before. Usually the reporters who divulge the information make sure to hide the source of it.

Andy Roddick and Tournament Referee Alan Mills

This morning Andy Roddick continued to enhance the reputation of American tennis by going into a profanity laden and infantile rant against chair umpire Cedric Mourier because Mourier didn't stop play when Andy thought play should be stopped. To put things in context rain is threatened for most of the afternoon. A brief shower started and before Mourier could say anything Roddick had picked up his racquets and announced he was leaving the court. Mourier asked that he stay on court since the shower was going to be brief. Andy left and no sooner was he off the court than the sun reappeared and the court deemed safe to play on.
After being broken by his opponent a few stray drops fell and Roddick again demanded that play be stopped. Mourier refused to be bulled and Roddick threw his racquet and said the following of Mourier:
"What the fuck are you doing?"
"(You're a )fucking asshole"
"You're sitting on your fat ass doing nothing"
Unfortunately I heard this with my own ears and couldn't believe that Andy was not given a warning or a point deduction. I understand that he was upset at being broken but the chair is in control of the court and all Andy had to do was ask Cedric to check the lines. If Mourier refused then be upset and no one will blame you.
I recall Serena Williams being called out for using an f-bomb to berate herself yet nothing has been done to Roddick. The umpires say they know it's not personal and don't take offense. If that's the case a guy ranked in the 80's should be able to get away with that behavior as well in my opinion since it's not personal.
Andy Murray tends to go on profanity laced tirades as well. In fact he went on a couple of them yesterday but no one says a word. Double standard much?

Photos of the Week

Elena Dementieva

Serena Williams

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heard Around

by Savannah

Kim Clijsters Returns

BREE, Belgium (AP)—Kim Clijsters will return to professional tennis after two years in retirement, saying she has regained the competitive hunger that led to the No. 1 ranking.

“I still have that craving,” the 25-year-old Belgian said Thursday. “I look forward to the challenge.”

Clijsters, who retired in May 2007 to get married and start a family, announced her comeback at the tennis facility where she has been practicing. She plans to enter the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 31—her first competition at Flushing Meadows since winning her only Grand Slam singles championship there in 2005.

She asked for a wild card into the U.S. Open, along with WTA hard-court tournaments in Cincinnati and Toronto earlier in August.

“I want to be back at my peak as soon as possible, but I know that is not logical to ask that,” Clijsters said. “I will have to take it match by match.”

I have to admit I was never a big fan of Clijsters. For some reason she always got the softest draws possible and ended up in a disproportionate amount of quarter's and semi's. When she did get to a final she usually lost. She did win that US Open though and that made fans like me have to give her some credit. In my mind though she will always be "Cupcake Kim".
What are her chances? Here is another quote from her press conference.
“I am not coming back to lose in the first rounds,” she said. “Otherwise, I might as well go on holiday.”

People are looking at how far Martina Hingis got when she returned to the tour after a long layoff getting as high as number six in the WTA rankings. No offense but Hingis was a better player than Clijsters. I know the WTA is weak right now but I can see Victoria Azarenka wiping up the floor with Cupcake Kim. With Larry Scott gone I'm not sure Kim will have a sympathetic ear at the top.
I know her fans are ecstatic and I don't begrudge them their joy. I just don't see her beating Elena Demntieva in her present form let alone Venus Williams or Serena Williams.
Time, and match play, will tell.

Where My Girls At?

Serena Williams (seen above at the Miami player's party) wants to spearhead a revival of women's tennis in the United States.

MIAMI, March 25 (Reuters) - Serena Williams believes the United States needs to get more tour events if it is to address the lack of American women in the top 100 -- and she could be willing to play a role in bringing about that change.

The world number one is followed by her sister Venus, number six in the rankings, but the only other American women in the top 100 are Bethanie Mattek (37) and Jill Craybas (85).

The anticipated flood of talent following the emergence of the high-profile Williams sisters has no happened with the rankings dominated by East Europeans -- or as Serena puts it: "It seems like there are 12 Russians in the top 10".
The 27-year-old Williams said she could be interested in a role, after her playing days are over, trying to entice tournaments back to the U.S and developing young talent.

"That could be interesting it would be fun to get a lot of support back -- that is the only way we will get the players," she said.

Williams though has not completely given up hope on the next generation of players making the breakthrough.

"There are a few American players coming up, they are really, really young and haven't got attention yet and you never know.

This is an expansion of comments Serena has made in the past about the state of women's tennis in the United States and with all due respect I think she needs to look through different lens at the issue.

There may seem to be "twelve Russians in the top ten" but that is the result of their system. I don't see new tournaments being played in Russia. The new tournaments are in China and Spain not St Petersburg or Moscow. I don't pretend to be an expert on Russian tennis but I do know that none other than Elena Dementieva was turned down by one of the top clubs and went on to play for another one. If there is no "farm system" to use a baseball term the options are limited for a girl who is not to the manor born.

If Serena means what she says she will have to widen the net and look for girls not only in the cities but in the rural areas of this country, girls who would be more than willing and able to make the sacrifices necessary to play professional level tennis. Instead of worrying about what Russia, Spain or China is doing the United States tennis establishment needs to look high and low for girls who want to play tennis. It does the United States no good to complain about the number of women coming out of Eastern Europe and Russia when the more dire emergency, who will step into the shoes of Venus, Serena and Lindsay? Right now there is no one on the horizon.

End Notes

Australian Davis Cup Officials want to move the upcoming tie between their country and India moved to safer environs. Indian tennis officials say Chennai is perfectly safe. The ITF says it will make a decision soon.

Why are so many of Maria Sharapova's fans convinced she's had work done on her face? The lighting in this picture is horrible but she just looks glammed up here. Her face looks the same as it did in those other pictures where she looked like a rock star coming off an all nighter. As for the outfit? Meh. I don't like the necklace or whatever that is around her neck. I'm sure it's visible from the Space Station.

Seventeen year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova can't blame the lighting for this horror. Lack of mirrors maybe?

And if this is what the mack daddy's are wearing this year I have nothing to say. Not that I miss the wide brimmed hats with ostrich feather trim or the crushed velvet leisure suits but is this what it's come to? No wonder Radek Stepanek is taking the court wearing a table cloth for a shirt.

I would like to address those who think it's funny to throw Justin Gimelstob's name into contention for Larry Scott's vacated position. It's not funny. Don't forget the Slob has support in the upper echelons of American tennis. They just might take you seriously.

And finally why are some of Roger Federer's fans floating the idea of his working with Antoni Nadal? Has it come to this?

I'll end with this great picture of Venus Williams from a photo shoot she did for Marie Claire. Love it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Will It Be?

by Savannah

What are fans looking for in a new leader for the WTA? There are the expected "ding dong the witch is dead" posts but there are also fans of women's tennis who are giving a lot of thought to what type of person should take over the reins from Larry Scott. Here are some of the people being mentioned.

Chris Evert
Martina Navratilova
Monica Seles
Stefani Graf-Agassi
Billie Jean King
Mary Jo Fernandez
Chanda Rubin
Pam Shriver
Zina Garrison

Scott is scheduled to meet with the press starting at 12:30p Eastern Time USA.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Larry Scott Resigns

by Savannah

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

· Six-year tenure as CEO highlighted by unprecedented growth for sport and business

· Tour Board to determine selection process for next Chairman and CEO in due course

MIAMI, Florida – The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced today that Larry Scott will step down as the Tour’s Chairman and CEO to become Commissioner of the NCAA’s (National Collegiate Athletic Association) PAC-10 Conference, effective July 1, 2009. Scott will work with the Tour Board on the selection process for the next Chairman and CEO.

“With women’s professional tennis more popular than ever, the Tour in the strongest business position in its history and a fantastic senior management team in place, now is the right time for me to embrace a new challenge consistent with my family and personal goals, and leave room for the next generation of Tour leadership to take on new responsibilities,” said Scott.

“Under Larry’s leadership, the Tour and our sport have grown over the past six years beyond anyone’s wildest expectations,” said Steve Simon, Tournament Board Representative and Chairman of the Tournament Council. “As an organization and sport, we are positioned for continued success. We wish Larry the very best in his new role, and are looking forward to beginning the process of selecting a new CEO for the organization to lead us into the future.”

“Players have always appreciated Larry’s understanding of their issues and his sense of fairness, and the results over his tenure in terms of player prize money increases, equal prize money to the men, promotion and player health initiatives are major achievements,” said Lisa Grattan, Player Board Representative and Chairperson of the Players’ Council.

During his six year tenure as Chairman & CEO of the Tour, Scott is credited with having engineered a remarkable turnaround for the sport, with the Tour and women’s professional tennis in a stronger position today than ever before in its history. Milestone achievements under Scott include: (i) passage of the Tour’s Roadmap plan, the most sweeping reforms to the Tour calendar in history to enhance the women’s tennis product, (ii) achievement of equal prize money at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, with the top 10 events in women’s professional tennis now featuring equal pay, (iii) signing of the largest sponsorship deal in the history of women’s sport and professional tennis with Sony Ericsson at $88 million over 6 years, along with inking deals with a host of other major partners including Whirlpool and Dubai Duty Free, (iv) signing of the largest television deal in the history of the Tour with Eurosport, (v) signing of the largest year-end Tour championships deals in Tour history, with the event hosted by Doha, Qatar from 2008-2010 following a successful two year stint in Madrid, and by Istanbul, Turkey from 2011-2013 at a total value of $84 million, (vi) significant global expansion of the sport into new markets, including establishment of the Tour’s first ever Asia-Pacific headquarters in Beijing, with the Tour poised for major growth in the world’s fastest growing market, (vii) launch of the Tour’s largest ever global marketing campaign, “Looking for a Hero?”, (viii) leadership role in the introduction of more innovations to the sport than in its prior history, including electronic line calling, on-court coaching, pre-match players interviews, interviews with coaches during matches and a new doubles scoring format, (ix) unprecedented lifestyle and fashion coverage of the Tour’s players, and (ix) establishment of the Tour on its strongest financial footing in history, including a 500% increase in sponsorship revenues and two and one half times increase in overall revenues, a 40% increase in prize money and $710 million in new stadium investments.

What does the future hold for the WTA? I don't know what the suits will decide. Here's what I think.

  • Scrap the RoadMap
  • No Mandatory tournaments. Set up a system like the ATP where you have "Masters" events where everyone is expected to attend. Otherwise players can play where they want when they want.
  • Get Rid of on court coaching.
  • Realize that there is a demand for women's tennis and expand media coverage for the Tour, not just one designated "face of the WTA".
  • Better Internet and broadcast television coverage of tournaments.
  • Better promotion of up and coming players.
  • A more fan friendly approach to women's tennis. This would include early and accurate information on tournaments including Challengers and Exhibitions.

Will this be when the tours merge? With Scott at the helm of the WTA it was something I was against. Now that he's gone maybe this is back on the front burner.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Western Winds

by Savannah

The wind arrived during the match between Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal. It so enjoyed the Coachella Valley and and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden it hung around dropping temperatures to the seventies and wreaking havoc with those tennis balls flying through the air. It had a ball, pun intended. The women of the WTA would have preferred the zephyrs take their games someplace else.

I missed the live play between Ana Ivanovic and Vera Zvonareva (more on that later) and watched the replay late last night. I felt that Vera had a better than average chance of beating Ana since she had been playing the better tennis coming into the match and seemed to have banished her demons. She did have one racquet bashing moment, one that equalled Fernando Gonzalez efforts earlier in the tournament, but after that Vera settled down and began hitting winners. Ana meanwhile seemed totally upset with what was happening to her outfit in the wind and appeared to be totally discombobulated.

As you know I saw Ana at the BJK Cup in Madison Square Garden earlier in the month and that while everyone is going on about her serving woes I felt that her game was lacking, that she'd lost something in her mental approach to the game. That was obvious yesterday.

Some fans have said the match was the worst ever because of the wind. I think the wind exposed the hit hard and harder approach many of the women have now. Most of the women hit a hard, flat ball. This approach made it more difficult for Vera and Ana to play well during their match. A ball with more "work" on it could carve it's way through the at times 50 mph gusts.

After Vera's racquet bashing there was no doubt who was going to win the match. Ana could not keep her focus and ended up being outplayed by the woman she was once up 2-0 on during the first set. WTA matches these days are usually won by the player who keeps the ball between the lines and has less UFE's than her opponent. The wind just added to the problems.

It was the best match the women who made the final could play given their approach to their games and the windy conditions. That is not an excuse. WTA play has been subpar for some time now. The wind just blew away any illusions fans of women's have about what is going on in the sport.

The Unseen Final

If the final of a WTA Premier Mandatory event is held and there is little or no live coverage on broadcast or internet television has it really happened?

Fans of women's tennis found themselves tuning into tennisradio.com to hear live commentary on the women's final yesterday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Why? Because in some parts of the country regular television broadcast both the men's and women's final on delay. In my area coverage started at 8p. The internet option? This is when it got interesting.

TennisTV was inoperable. It wasn't available. Now you know there was a feed somewhere and that someone online had to be streaming it right? Wrong. The usual sources were all on lockdown thanks to the ever vigilant WTA gnomes who made sure the sites knew that if they were streaming the match they would be slapped with cease and desist orders. The only source that worked was a Russian satellite subscription service. Thank the gods for those people.

So what happened? I have no idea. My email to the tech support folks at TennisTV has gone unanswered. I didn't even get one of their "it's your fault" responses. There were fears that the ATP feed would suffer the same fate. Not. The ATP feed came on just fine and played with few if any problems.

I'm not a techie but one would think that since Masters Series TV, the precursor to TennisTV, worked fine for so many years the WTA would use the same technical set up as the men's tour does. Apparently the geniuses at the WTA didn't think so.

What happened in parts of the United States was a blackout of the women's final. I have no idea whose interest that served. It certainly didn't get Vera Zvonareva the exposure deserved. It didn't give Ana Ivanovic a chance to be seen by her fans.

Where do we go from here? TennisTv coverage of the ATP begins Saturday, March 28. WTA coverage begins Monday March 30. Deja vu all over again.

End Notes

Lindsay Davenport belongs in the broadcast booth. Her approach is no frills. Want fangirl hype of the latest hot thing on the WTA tour? You won't get if from Lindsay. When coverage started she would discuss Player X serve and Player Z's return. At one point after a terrible point she said that it wasn't as if Player Z was returning a ball hit by Venus Williams or Serena Williams. She said it more than once. I think they told her to stop mentioning they who must not be named.

During yesterday's women's final she said up front that conditions favored Vera. They also showed a clip of eventual men's champion Rafael Nadal warming up on center court in the brutal wind before the start of the women's final. Lindsay said he was frustrated with his serve but she said that she was sure that by the time he took to the court he'd be fine with his game.

She deserves better than Gimelslob, friend or no friend. Pair her with Darren Cahill and lock PMac in the locker room where he'll be free to gush to his hearts content. She'd even work well with Cliff Drysdale.

Speaking of the Slob did anyone see him manhandle actress Kate Walsh in the broadcast booth? And did anyone hear Sam Gore's polite snark about the way the men's final was going when it became obvious the "efficient" Andy Murray was not going to win?

Gore is a good broadcaster and while he sounds eerily like PMac he avoids the fanboy raving and just talks about the tennis. I'd like to hear more of him on the airwaves.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We Are The Champions...

by Savannah

Rafael Nadal 2009 BNP Paribas Open Men's Champion

Vera Zvonareva 2009 BNP Paribas Open Women's Champion

Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka 2009 BNP Paribas Open Women's Doubles Champions

Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish 2009 Men's Doubles Champions

Congratulations to the men and women who won over the last two days. My rant about TennisTV and it's non delivery of service during the Women's Final will come tomorrow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What's Wrong With the WTA?

by Savannah

From the fans:

I think that if what is supposed to be one of the WTA tour's most prestigious and important events, a Premier, mandatory event for the top players, and it can pass by with so little spectators viewing the womens matches, so little fan interest, and frankly, so little good tennis, then there is a problem somewhere.


...and for the fans that are at home, WTA should be desperately doing something to encourage better coverage on the TV........coverage of Indian Wells and WTA in general this year has been the worst ever!! How do they expect to get new fans to the game when so little of it is actually being shown.

And as for the rest of us, the die-hard fans who travel the world for tournaments, stay online for hours on end just to follow the livescores, or desperately searching the whole of the internet for a livestream....what is WTA doing for us? Nothing - just making it more and more difficult to find out commitments info, pathetic livescore coverage at some tournies, giving out inaccurate info for other tournaments, late releases of draws and that's just for starters......so many things about the management of the Tour is bugging me at the moment.


The ATP has a much more better product, with a higher level.
Half of the WTA top 10 is UEs machines.


Saying best or worst can be measured only in terms of the overall quality of matches not by the perception that a tournament is bad when top seeded favorites lose, some even very early. That is irrelevant. Only the quality of the matches matters.

Having said that, I must admit some of the matches had dismal quality, and not one -- quite a few, including the last match of my own favorite.


All of the above are from the fan site dedicated to Women's Tennis.

The WTA is... badly led and Scott is too arrogant and stupid to adopt measures or ideas that work for the ATP. As long as that dude has his position the WTA will not grow, be marketed well etc.

From ESPN Tennis Board

I've been talking about the state of women's tennis for a long time. I don't think the powers that be give a rat's ass about what I think but when the top women's fansite has not one but several threads discussing the woeful state of the women's game from all aspects someone in the ivory tower needs to begin to take notice. These fans are not bashing individual players they're talking about three general areas:

Overall quality of the sport
When your potential number one player can barely keep a return inside the lines something is wrong. It's coming down to whoever makes the least amount of unforced errors wins the match. Is it the style of play, the mentality of the players or lack of support from their association? When twelve people are in the stands watching your "best" on Stadium Court while they're hanging from the rafters watching a men's doubles match something is very very wrong.

The anonymity of most of the players
I'm sorry but who are these people? That seems to be the question most fans have about the current crop of WTA players. Only dyed in the wool fans have heard of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to mention one up and comer while I'd be willing to bet most tennisheads know about Grigor Dmitrov and Bernard Tomic. Ernests Gulbis and Marin Cilic are also players that ATP fans know about and follow. Why are the up and coming ATP players better known than up and coming WTA players? Does the WTA think that it can skate on it's past glory when players like Evert, Navratilova and Seles dominated? Has the WTA concentrated on promoting a "face of the WTA" instead of the WTA? The top junior player is from Thailand but I bet more people have heard of Yuki Bhambri than Noppawan Lertcheewakarn. If she takes the tour by storm the casual fan can be excused for saying "who?" It seems that if you don't fit a particular mold you're not worthy of the hype machine.

The lack of media exposure in print, broadcast and internet.
It is very difficult to find accurate information on WTA tournaments. Official sites are usually inaccurate and the draws, when they come, are late. Try finding information on WTA challenger events. Try finding entry lists that aren't weeks old and have no bearing on reality.
I'm still stunned at the complete blackout of women's play in Memphis. Why did WTA coverage start on Monday March 16 at Indian Wells instead of over the weekend like the ATP? Why does the biggest story out of IW continue to be the Williams Sister's boycott and not what is going on in the matches?

Some fans have suggested that the mens and women's finals are being held on the same day to avoid the sea of empty seats and the lack of fan interest that would imply for the WTA. I have news for you. There is a lot to do at a tournament besides watching matches. If you're not interested in a particular match you can shop, eat, or just wander the grounds until it's time for the match you are interested in. You can also time your arrival to make sure you avoid some if not all of a match you don't want to see.
Fans buy tickets way in advance and with prices so high they come out to see match play. Let's see how full the stands are for the women's final. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Breaking News - Financial Penalties for Venus and Serena?

by Savannah

Serena and Venus Williams hit with financial penalties for not playing Indian Wells
From correspondents in Indian Wells, California
March 21, 2009
The WTA will take a hard financial line with the Williams sisters, who have boycotted the Indian Wells Masters since a booing incident in 2001.

Tour boss Larry Scott says Venus and Serena will pay the price for their continual absences from the required event.

"There will be sanctions despite the personal issues of the Williams sisters," said Scott.

"They will pay significant consequences."

In the pocket, those will include the loss of $A438,00 for world No.1 Serena from the $A2.77 million year-end bonus pool, while Venus will forfeit $A219,000.

The stubborn sisters, who claim that racism was responsible for the crowd jeers near the turn of the century, will each have to make promotional appearances for the WTA - Venus in July in conjunction with the ESPY sports awards in LA and Serena in the autumn to promote the year-end championships in Doha.


Notice the source of this news. When the official WTA statement comes out I will post it.

Seen and Heard Around

by Savannah

Amazing how light shone on a situation corrects it. I've been advised that the security situation regarding the practice court where both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had to run a gauntlet has been corrected.

I'm sorry for the delay in posting comments. This tennis match had me up until after five in the morning and by the time I wound down it was after six. One must get her beauty sleep.

That five in the morning East Coast USA match had me wound up for a number of reasons. One was that my TennisTV connection crapped out at 3-5 Nadal in the second set. I tried to reboot. I tried logging in and out. Nada. I emailed tech support. They said it was running and never responded to my subsequent email giving more details. To their credit someone there responded the next day saying that I may have been having a "cache" problem. I had cleaned out my cache. I had also had frequent audio problems while watching both WTA and ATP matches. Forget about the buffering. I never had these problems when there was just Masters Series TV. I miss it.

The other reason was that during my search for alternate means of viewing a feed I'm paying for I came across a thread that stated Nalbandian had won the match. Needless to say I was downhearted and stopped my search. Thank goodness I scrolled down and found out that the match was still going on and that the thread should be deleted which it was. I ended up watching a teeny tiny screen and missing almost all of the drama of the second set rejoining the telecast in time to see the end of the tiebreaker.

The New York Times Weighs In

The Gray Lady as the NY Times is called has one of the best sports sections in the country. This is not acknowledged most of the time since the NYC tabloids get all the publicity but their writers deliver a consistent product all the time.
After the Nadal/Nalbandian match this article appeared on its sports pages.
Nadal Shows Why He’s No. 1, and Safina Shows Why She Isn’t
It features an excellent analysis of the Safina/Azarenka match and ends with the following:

The tournament, one of only two, aside from the four Grand Slam events, that runs two weeks and features both men and women, is splitting into two tournaments of diverging interest.

The women’s competition is filled with young and little-known teenagers like Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who meet in the quarterfinals Thursday, and Azarenka. The only players left in the tournament with any appreciable history are the fourth-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva, who gets Azarenka in one semifinal, and the defending champion and No. 5 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, who faces Sybille Bammer.

Meantime, the men’s quarterfinals boast the top four seeds, Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, as well as No. 6 Juan Martín del Potro, No. 7 Andy Roddick and No. 10 Fernando Verdasco of Spain.

There's not much to say after that is there? If you can read the article.

When Hawk Eye Isn't...

I was mostly auditing the mens match between Ivan Ljubicic (above) and Andy Murray yesterday. Ivan seems to have returned his attention to the tennis court full time leaving ATP politics aside for awhile and was having a good run here. I was also trying to tune out Justin Gimelstob. More on him later.
The chair umpire was new to me since I hadn't seen him before this tournament. An argument broke out and I looked up to see Ljubo, the chair and the lines person in a discussion about a ball that apparently landed outside the singles lines and hadn't been played by Ivan. For some reason known only to him Andy Murray decided to have the lines call checked. When Hawk Eye showed the ball hitting the line both the chair ump and Ljubo went ballistic. The chair umpire said that he had to go by Hawkeye even if he knew it was wrong. Meanwhile the geeks in the truck quickly figured out what had happened. Hawkeye registered the second bounce of the ball which was indeed on the line and not the first one which was out by 3-4 inches, a country mile in tennis. If the production geeks figured that out in no time why couldn't the Hawk Eye geeks? Why didn't the chair umpire show intestinal fortitude and over rule the call? Why didn't Ljubo ask for a senior tournament official to review what had happened?
I've often wondered if the images we see are the right ones but I figured that was just me seeing conspiracies under every rock again. Yesterday proved that mistakes can, and probably have happened. The last thing we need is for human error to affect the technology that was supposed to end human error. Ljubo has said that he doesn't think it affected the outcome of the match. Really? I thought you'd left the politics behind Ivan.


There's a reason so many print articles are posting the incorrect official age for Maria Sharapova. It seems the WTA Media guide gave her birthday as February 1985 instead of April 1987. The Media Guide has been corrected.

Speaking of Maria she is now said to be ready to make a comeback at Rome. The self described "cow on ice" clay player is going to make her return on the physically demanding surface. Some fans think this is a good idea since she will not feel the weight of expectations. I'm thinking about all the clay on those fuzzy little balls and how it would affect her shoulder.

Camilla Belle and Jose Verdasco (lower right)
Camilla Belle was sitting in Fernando Verdasco's family box last night. Really Camilla? I thought she was now the platonic friend of one of those non singing brothers the tweens are all gaga about.

The Trouble with Justin

During last nights telecast of Fernando Verdasco vs Roger Federer Lindsay Davenport made the observation that Fernando has really bulked up. His chest and legs are noticeably larger. Gimelstob always quick on his feet said "I'll take your word on that Lindsay," in a tone that implied "only a woman would notice something like that". I don't think I heard another word out of her the rest of the night. A few minutes later Sam Gore, the other announcer on FSN/MSG+ said "just to back up Lindsay's comment..." and went on to say that Verdasco is noticably bigger than he was. Just remember that Lindsay is Gimelstob's friend and stood by him during the recent fiasco surrounding his call for his brother to sexually assault Anna Kournikova.

Earlier in the day Gimelstob interviewed Andy Murray after his win over Ivan Ljubicic. During the match he had been praising Andy to high heaven and the reason for that praise came during the post match interview. Gimelstob advised his listening audience that he and Murray had gone out to dinner. Fine. Then he asked Murray "Did you like that?" Murray had the class to look uneasy about the subject coming up at all and said something totally unintelligible in reply.

We're grown ups. We know that various talking heads have relationships with the players. Mirka playing with Mary Jo Fernandez children is a prime example of that. A couple of years ago Mary Carillo said on air that she had had lunch with doubles specialist Lisa Raymond. But Mary was in the booth and Mary Jo has never traded on her personal relationship with Mirka and Roger on air. Gimelstob apparently has no qualms whatsoever about trading on his off court relationships.
And yet this man still sits on the ATP board representing American tennis. Surely there are other people available to fill that role in a professional manner. The same can be said about his on air work which is mediocre at it's best and clueless at it's worse.

End Note

Sometimes a great picture is just a great picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Seen Around

by Savannah

Indian Wells Security
For those who thought I might be exaggerating about the mob scene when Rafael Nadal left the practice courts the other day here's the YouTube video.

Still makes me shudder.Roger Federer ran the same gauntlet.

When Fans Vote...

Ana Ivanovic
So the men's match featuring Andy Roddick against Nicolas Kiefer went on before the women's match last night. It was a good match. The women's match featured Ana Ivanovic playing Flavia Pennetta. I'll be generous and say there were about fifty people in the cavernous stadium to watch what was a good WTA match. My first assumption was that people went home but that's why they say never assume.
The fans were hanging from the rafters to watch doubles between Mike and Bob Bryan and the team of Rafael Nadal and M. Lopez.
I read yesterday that the reason you rarely see a WTA night match follow a men's match is the fear that the fans won't stay around. I felt bad for Flavia and Ana who didn't let the empty stands affect their play.

First Sighting

Miroslava Vavrinec at Indian Wells. I'm so glad she has the class to wear maternity clothes and not a tee shirt.

End Notes

Is John Isner playing his way onto the US Davis Cup team?

I could ask the same question about Sam Querrey. Stan Wawrinka won their match but Querrey played well.

I watched the Caroline Wozniacki/Urszula Radwanska match yesterday. Caro won but there were a lot of mental mistakes coming from her side of the court. She's still got quite a way to to but she's only eighteen. I could go on and on about why Fernando Verdasco was in her box but I won't. That's her business. In the end it was a good match. I didn't get sleepy once.

Yahoo Sports reports that the July Davis Cup Tie between Pakistan and the Philippines will not be held in Pakistan as originally scheduled. The Philippines will choose the new site.

Dinara Safina ended Jill Craybas nice run at Indian Wells. Jill played well but couldn't deliver on the chances she created for herself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Be Careful What You Ask For

by Savannah

I apologize to all of you. I've been bitching and moaning about the almost total blackout of women's tennis these last few days/weeks and I was glad that finally tennis was going to be shown not only on TennisTV but on broadcast television as well. So who were we going to see? The woman who knocked Elena Demetieva out of the tournament, Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic against the veteran player Daniela Hantuchova. Somewhere the tennis gods are laughing in their green beer. Ms Cetkovska is an attractive young woman and many male tennis fans loved watching her. Unfortunately Ms Hantuchova, another attractive woman, was on the other side of the net.

I have seen Daniela play before. I've seen her play relatively quickly. Last night I wanted to stick pins in my eyes. I have to say I am rarely bored by a tennis match. If I'm not interested in who is playing I can find other things to occupy my mind until a better match comes on. Unfortunately last night there was no other game in town. If it wasn't for the music of the Buena Vista Social Club and an unintentionally funny video from "Phantom of the Opera" I would've been in lala land and totally missed the men's match that came afterwards.
More on that later. I sincerely hope that match was not some poor unfortunates introduction to women's tennis. The match should've taken less than an hour. Instead it ending up lasting about two hours. Now when I mention the worst tennis match ever I have to use the plural. The first was the moonball match between Conchita Martinez and Amanda Coetzer. This match last night is number two on my list. Simply horrid. I would like to see Cetkovska play again as long as it's not against Hantuchova.

Let me say now that the WTA coverage from Miami will be the same as it was at Indian Wells. The sisters Williams will be playing. And you will not hear one peep from me about the unfairness of it all.

It was hard to regain my focus when the women's match was finally over. I have rarely seen an entire match of Igor Andreev's and I was looking forward to it. He was playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who as we all know brings the fire when he's on court.

Like all Frenchmen he plays with both skill and flair. He is in constant motion and a fan favorite. There are times though when the flair gets in the way of the skill and last night was one of those nights.

Jo was trying to get points over quickly. Igor wasn't. It was obvious before the end of the first set that Jo was not going to beat Andreev. Because of the length of the women's match there weren't many fans left - it was a work night - and maybe that's what Jo missed. I don't want to make excuses. Igor totally outplayed Jo last night. Tsonga's camp was glum from the beginning of the match. Was there a problem with his back? At any rate Andreev, with an upset win, moves on and will play Ivan Ljubicic who has to be happy about his win over Gilles Simon.

Fernando Gonzalez of Chile totally destroyed James Blake. Fernando never allowed Blake into the match playing the best tennis I've seen from him in awhile. He's gone back to his hard hitting but incorporated what he learned from Larry Stefanki. The commentators were talking up a grudge match between the two after what happened in the Olympics but if anyone proved anything yesterday it was Gonzalez. Blake, out of the top ten for the first time in a long time, has to be wondering if that's all there is.

Meanwhile the other Fernando, surnamed Verdasco, from Spain, made mincemeat out of France's Richard Gasquet. Gasquet seemed to be out there as the foil for a newly energized and confident Verdasco who proved his showing in Melbourne was no fluke. At times Gasquet looked as if he was wondering where he was as Verdasco chewed him up and spit him out.

It was not a good day for French tennis.

Meanwhile these two men played doubles and seem to have quietly settled a feud that had tennisheads enthralled. If you don't frequent fan boards (or are a newcomer to this blog) you may not know about the telenovella that had dominated Argentine tennis for the last few months. Let's just say David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro weren't playing golf together. On the way to California it just so happened both men and their entourages were on the same flight and it was decided that it was time to bury the hatchet and reconcile the warring factions. I'm sure the Argentine press ate this up. I wish we could've seen some of the play here. The only doubles news that was deemed worthy of coverage in the States was the meeting between Bob and Mike Bryan and what would've been the Swiss doubles team of Yves Allegro and Roger Federer. Do I have to tell you the results? I didn't think so. The Bryans moved on in the draw.
By the way Nalbandian and Del Potro knocked out the number four seeds Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 7-6(6) and 7-6(5). They will face the team of Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish next.

Monday, March 16, 2009

This and That

by Savannah

For those of us with TennisTV there will be coverage of WTA matches starting today. Too bad we didn't get to see Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Sugiyama Ai and Amelie Mauresmo before they crashed and burned. Too bad we didn't get to see Nicole Vaidisova begin over with her stepdad back running things. I would like to have seen Angela Haynes play before today.

Dinara Safina
But who cares? It's just women's tennis right? The sad thing is the quality of tennis is very low. Holding serve is an event worthy of a floor show these days. Be that as it may I was sad to hear the commentators say yesterday that while men's matches were well attended even on outer courts at Indian Wells the women's matches weren't. I really don't understand what the WTA is trying to accomplish with their recent actions.

Speaking of commentators when does it go over the line? I missed it but Craig reports on Doug Adler's statements re Novak Djokovic during his match yesterday. I missed what Adler said since as is well known I'm not a fan of Djoker and wasn't watching or listening to the match. If anyone has ever heard a Masters TV broadcast of a Djokovic match the other commentators, Jason Goodall and Robby Koenig literally fight to see who has first go at Novak's gonads. They are fanboys to the nth degree. Maybe Doug was sick of it and just vented. Who knows? Maybe something had happened behind the scenes that got on Adler's very last nerve and this was his way of letting tennisheads know something is rotten. Professionally speaking Adler may have been out of line. As fans we'll have something to chew on for some time.

Nicole Vaidisova and her step father
It's being reported today that Robby Ginepri's appendix burst and that he will miss Miami. Get well soon Robby.

I didn't watch all of Andy Roddick's match against Austrian bad boy Daniel Koellerer last evening. Instead I watched Nicolas Massu, whom I haven't seen play in a long time, play Marat Safin. Massu went ballistic and Safin won.

Daniel Koellerer
Biggest upset of the day was John Isner's victory over Gael Monfils. I was in and out of the match but stayed long enough to wonder what the hell was going on in Monfils head. I'm sure Roger Rasheed was not amused.

In between matches and during breaks TennisTV has been doing a yeoman's job bringing fans the sights and sounds of the Coachella Valley. The scenery is spectacular and the white picket fences around practice courts are cute. Really cute. But I'm used to the US Open where the practice courts are better protected from random fans and players don't have to slog through a mob to get to wherever they want to go after a practice session is over. My daughter said this to me a while ago and I always keep it in mind when out and about: Individuals are intelligent. Mobs are stupid.
In 2007 I was watching Rafael Nadal practice less than twenty feet in front of me. The crowd kept growing and when he left the court he stopped to sign autographs. We're talking a tennis player here not some rock star. The surge of the crowd was unbelievable and if it hadn't been for the police barricades the surge would've overwhelmed and possibly injured the player. I saw both Roger and Rafael have to run the gauntlet of fans at IW. The fan surge during both players exits could have resulted in injury to fans and players alike. Interesting.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Quotes of the Tournament
Elena Dementieva after her loss to Petra Cetkovska.

“I think I shouldn't come here," she said, sounding annoyed at herself for making the trip. "I didn't have enough time for recovery after playing so many matches in the beginning of the year. I need a break and to start over."
"I just think my mind wasn't there," Dementieva said flatly. "I was not really excited about this match. Just didn't play at all."

Elena Dementieva
Jelena Jankovic following her loss to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

“I’m struggling in this moment to find my game overall and find the confidence on the court,” she told reporters.

“I’m not at my level. That’s the case. I’m trying to find that game and trying to come back into the form. But I’m struggling at the moment.”

Jankovic said there was not a single part of her game that did not need work.

“I don’t feel some of my shots that were my weapons before (are now),” she added.

“Overall I think the whole game needs some adjustments and some kind of finding the rhythm and finding the way to construct the points and just find the timing back.”

The Serb also complained of ‘feeling too heavy’ following weeks of intensive training during the off-season.

“In the beginning, I felt really different with my body because I got a little bit of muscles and I felt heavier on the court,” she said.

“I was always a certain weight and always my best weapon was my legs. I always moved and I had the anticipation and I was always on the ball.

“Now. I just cannot do that. I’m one step too slow or one step too much into the shot. And then all the strokes break down and I don’t have the timing and my accuracy is not there.

“I mean, overall everything is wrong. I need a lot of work. I wish I had a magic wand and could just fix my game and just play awesome tennis again. I would like it to be that way, but sometimes it’s not.”

Jelena Jankovic

End Note
I wanted to post pictures of the ladies at work since we weren't allowed to see them play anywhere this past week. Daniel Koellerer is the only man to make the cut because I've been reading about this guy for years and he's just now playing well enough to make the main draws at ATP events.
Here are a few more.

Kaia Kanepi

Petra Cetkovska

Alona Bondarenko

Vera Zvonareva