Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Weekend That Was

by Savannah

Murray Wins Miami
There was very little charisma and ho-hum tennis on the court as Andy Murray of Scotland took advantage of Novak Djokovic's second set choke to win the SonyEricsson Open in Miami. Actually it's in Key Biscayne but it's always been called Miami so why change it now. It's kind of like both football teams that call themselves New York teams are actually playing in New Jersey. Whatever.
Tennisheads have been complaining about the low quality of WTA matches but today's ATP final was as dull as they come. Even the announcers, Mary Carillo and Bill McAtee, both veterans, couldn't keep the ennui out of their voices. Their conversation wandered to the upcoming clay court season, the state of Roger Federer's game, Serena's match the day before and probably where they were going to eat dinner later off mike.
This match shouldn't have been yawn inspiring. Djokovic is presently ranked #3 in the world and Murray is breathing down his neck ranked #4 with a bullet. Former favorite Roger Federer is being thrown aside like an old shoe with some, Jim Courier among them, calling Murray the virtual number two. In fairness to both men they were playing at the ungodly hour of 1p in one of the heat and humidity capitals of the world. There was no respite from the sun to be found on court and we all know how hard it is to play in those conditions.
But there was no doubt who was going to win this match. From the opening game Andy Murray showed he was in it to win it. At one point it looked like Djokovic was going to withdraw but even he knew better than to do that. Reports are he was breathing heavily during the awards ceremony which CBS didn't bother to air. I wasn't interested enough to put on TennisTV.
It did look as if a showdown third set was coming when Djokovic raced to the lead in the second set (after looking as if he was about to pass out) and actually served for the set at 5-3. He didn't win another game as Murray came back and took the set 7-5.

This and That
“DON’T feel too sorry for Roger because none of us do. He’s spent far too long getting right into our heads, now let’s see if he’s going to be subjected to a little anguish and self-belief problems.” The words were those of Andy Roddick, somebody who has suffered more than most at the hands of Roger Federer.

Just a day earlier the Swiss had been subjected to such an emphatic French Open final annihilation by Rafael Nadal that many who witnessed it admitted to a sense of sympathy for a player revered as a legendary champion and potentially the greatest player to pick up a racket.

Roddick may claim to be many things but prophetic is not one of them. However, his lunchtime conversation in the players’ restaurant as the first balls of the main grass court season were being struck outside at Queen’s Club in London have a distinct resonance today. Ten months on and Federer is undeniably locked in a crisis of confidence that has left him tantamount to powerless against the trio of young challengers who have thrust repeated daggers into his greatness.

The amazing quote by was made almost a year ago. That we're just hearing about it now (Thanks HelenW) is also amazing. Why so long? Wouldn't this have been great to read during the 2008 French Open, Queens, Halle, Wimbledon run instead of now when it may be seen by some as sour grapes? As Craig points out Andy isn't using "we" in the Imperial sense so I wonder where all those sportsmanship awards have come from? Actually the entire article is a breath of fresh air in the ongoing debate about the state of men's tennis. If you have the time read the entire thing.

The New York Times Saturday edition carried an article by reporter Neil Amdur about the state of tennis at the junior level. This is a subject I've spoken about often so it's nice to see the subject finally being broached for the general public. Here are some excerpts.

Officials of the United States Tennis Association say junior development has never been more organized, with national and regional training centers, dozens of former pros as salaried coaches (with Patrick McEnroe as the general manager of elite player development) and a serious commitment to finding future champions.

“There’s no secret formula, and that’s our strength,” says Martin Blackman, a former touring pro, college coach and now the senior director for talent identification and development with the U.S.T.A. He acknowledges a “paradigm shift in the late ’80s” that opened opportunities for players in Eastern Europe and in Latin America.

“What we’re doing at the national level now is complementary and inclusive,” Blackman said.

But critics like Robert Lansdorp, the California stroke guru, and Pete Fischer, who developed Pete Sampras’s serve and his tactical all-court game, say the focus is misguided.

“Everything is fragmented,” Fischer said during a recent telephone interview from California, citing conflicting coaching techniques and different competitive priorities as inhibitors to producing champions. “I don’t see one vision. The U.S.T.A. is graded on how their players do in I.T.F. events. Who cares about that? Short-term goals get in the way of long-term goals.”

Lansdorp, who prefers one-on-one coaching to academy and training centers, said he talked to (Patrick) McEnroe recently.

“He has the right ideas,” Lansdorp said, “but you don’t get a champion out of a group. You have to find talent. And then you have to develop that talent.”
Of the top 100 ranked players on the WTA Tour as of March 23, only four were American, and two were in the top 10, the Williams sisters, Serena (No. 1) and Venus (No. 6). (The other two were No. 37 Bethanie Mattek-Sands and No. 85 Jill Craybas.) By contrast, 14 Russian women were ranked among the top 100, including 10 in the top 50 and five among the top 10.

The situation is little better on the ATP men’s tour. Spain has 14 players among the first 100, including Rafael Nadal at No. 1. France has 13. Of the seven Americans in the top 100, only one, Andy Roddick (No. 6), is in the top 10.

Ten years ago, four American women were in the top 10, and 15 among the top 100. Three men from the United States were in the top 10, and 12 in the top 100.

Historically, American tennis champions have developed through a combination of player skill and drive, parental pride and persistence, and the technically sound acumen of a dedicated coach.

For all of his eccentric off-court pronouncements, Richard Williams recognized his daughters’ natural gifts and work ethic, and extracted mechanical refinements and support from a number of quality coaches (Rick Macci and Nick Bollettieri, to name a few). The result: the Williams sisters have combined for 17 Grand Slam singles titles in the last 10 years.
The notion that young Americans won’t pay the same price for success as Russians, Serbs or other Europeans — long hours on the court, weeks away from home, fighting through competitive qualifiers or satellite events in less-attractive places — is as much a topic for debate as whether United States tennis is losing the biggest and best athletes to college scholarships in basketball, soccer and even lacrosse.
Pancho Segura...seems more skeptical. Too many young Americans, Segura said, are using extreme Western-style grips, which yield tantalizing topspin but inhibit an ability to slice, volley and adequately cover low balls.

More important, he added, “They don’t know how to win tennis matches.”

My thoughts are these:
If you're recruiting from the ranks of the privileged, those boys and girls who feel that if they lose what difference does it make since they can simply pick up their Louis Vuitton, get in their Porsche and go on about their business? That's not to say that the competitive juices don't flow in the ranks of the privileged but when someone like Patrick McEnroe says that he and his team already know who the talented kids are it makes you wonder just how wide a net has been cast in trying to find that kid who doesn't mind the literal blood, sweat and tears it takes to make it at the top level of the sport. Maybe there's a kid in West Virginia or rural Kentucky who loves the sport but doesn't belong to the local club. How do you find this kid? We won't even talk about the dearth of after school programs or community centers that might be able to promote the sport in these areas.
I don't think the Times article goes far enough in it's critique. It does expose the rose colored glasses many in the USTA are wearing right now though. The United States, after the Williams Sisters and Andy Roddick are gone, is going to be in a lot of trouble. There are some youngsters coming up but they're a good five years away at the minimum. I wish the USTA well with their new program, I really do. I just wish they'd cast a wider net to find potential players.

Double Winners

Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo Winners Women's Doubles SonyEricsson Open

Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram Winners Men's Doubles Sony Ericsson Open

End Note

This Explanation has been released by the people who run the Hawkeye system in response to the erroneous call made at Indian Wells during the match between Andy Murray and Ivan Ljubicic . I wonder how Ivan feels? Hell, I wonder how often this has happened in the past?


vw said...

Djokovic already has won this. I think the fact that he finally beat Tsonga again, beat Fed again and saved his number 3 ranking was enough to satisfy him today. His next projects are probably to beat Roddick and Murray at some future date. Stay tuned...

love40 said...

Savannah, spot on about the ho-hum tennis this past Sunday. Novak has quite a few points to defend this coming clay season. Let's see if he can hang on to his number 3.