Craig politely pointed out that I haven't posted in a few days. Hate when life slips up on you just for shits and giggles but it happens. I have been posting things on Twitter from time to time but I slighted last weekends winners by not giving them any recognition. Their pictures will be interspersed throughout this post.
Sex and the ATP
Every sport needs a sex scandal I suppose. When the news broke that two non Swedish players were busted for soliciting in Stockholm suspicion immediately fell on the Spanish surnamed players but that didn't prove out. There was a lot of talk about an Italian player who had pulled out of the event but he had never travelled to Stockholm so that boomlet died.
By the end of the day speculation was focused on Ernests Gulbis, whom it actually turned out to be. Gulbis and his unnamed friend were given a small fine and allowed to continue playing. In Sweden they arrest the johns not the ladies (or men) providing the services. Apparently they were busted in a hotel. I'm sure the ATP will be updating it's players manuals next year.
Yanina Wickmayer 2009 Linz Champion
Tennis Through American Eyes
Last week it was Andre Agassi. This week it's Pete Sampras. The men who formerly dominated tennis seem to be speaking out about their sport and where they see it going every time a microphone is shoved in their direction. Are we supposed to treat each of their pronouncements as coming from Mount Olympus or as pronouncements from the Oracle at Delphi?
The American tennis establishment has a very unique view of the tennis world. It's no secret that they are not happy with the European domination of tennis (except for the Monogram. Some of them have to be pulled away by the hair from his shrine) and are dreaming about the day a Brit, an American or an Aussie "restores order" to the tennis world.
But since opinions are like anal apertures and everyone has one they're entitled to theirs. It's when you see articles like the following one on James Blake that you wonder if the Americans have taken leave of their senses.
Franklin L. Johnson gives the following analysis of James Blake.
Here's why James Blake can return to the top five:
1. He has a top five forehand. There are few with a bigger stroke in the game. He has to learn how to use this massive shot more selectively. Coach Jones can help him graduate from a shot maker to a match taker.
2. JB possesses blue streak speed, quickness and agility. Only a handful of players can match this dazzling combination.
3. Blake's first serve is underrated. With a little work and a little more consistency, it could become fearsome.
These three gifts alone are sufficient to boost Blake into the top five and don't need much improvement. Here are parts of his game where Kelly Jones can make a big difference in turning James into a champion:
4. JB's backhand needs work. He allows his weight to fall to his left when he runs left, which makes it hard to recover to the center of the court. He tends to play the shot more to his back foot which results in floaters beyond the baseline. And he catches the shot a bit late which reduces his power and control. Consistently transferring his weight forward and playing the ball out front would solve all these problems.
5. Blake is a poor strategic thinker. It appears he rarely enters a match with a solid game plan nor does he consistently appear to recognize his opponent's strengths and weaknesses. He seems to rely completely on his shot making skills to win. While this approach pleases the fans with the occasional super shot, it's not enough to win with on a regular basis. Coach Jones can help him "see" the match from start to finish. Better match management and learning to make mid-match adjustments is the key to regaining a place in the top five.
6. James is a lover, not a fighter. He loves the fan adulation and star status. If he wants to get serious about his tennis, he has to forget the adulation when he steps to the baseline. He has to want it more than the guy on the other side of the net. For this, he needs to read chapters from Rafa's biography every day. If it doesn't exist, he should help Rafa write it.
7. Blake sometimes has trouble letting go of a poor shot or game. He lets the negativity linger at times — you can see it on his face as he stares up at the sky after an error. The top players press the delete key and do not carry one poor point over into the next nor do many of them show the negative body language he does. Blake must channel his emotion and energy in more positive and productive ways. Coach Jones will help him become more efficient in winning points on his serve so he can use most of his energy to attack his opponent.
8. James doesn't mind losing. He's a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow who likes to keep his life simple and uncomplicated. If he really wants to become a champion, he has to change his attitude both on and off the court. Champions hate to lose. This is what drives them to improve their great games. For the best, winning and losing matters. Coach Jones takes his job seriously. Maybe, some of his desire for excellence will inspire Blake.
You see what I mean? I could swear I heard Grace Slick singing "White Rabbit" while I read this.
Nikolay Davydenko 2009 Shanghai Masters
A big shout out goes to Andy Roddick for reaching the ATP year end final for the seventh straight year. People (including me) have dogged him about some of his play in the past and said that he has underachieved but once again he's proven that he belongs in a discussion of modern tennis. He's done great work with Larry Stefanki and has even played doubles this year making it to a final on the Asian swing. Congratulations Andy. Keep showing that Americans can play the modern game so that the players who come after you are not wed to the mindless ball bashing school of tennis.
Shahar Pe'er and Bali
Drama once again surrounds Shahar Pe'er. The Israeli's visa has not yet arrived and there are reports of concern in her camp. The island of Bali is populated by a majority Hindu population but Indonesia is one of if not the largest Muslim country in the world. In 2006 they pulled out of Fed Cup rather than play an Israeli team.
By winning two tournaments in South East Asia Shahar qualified for Bali. New WTA CEO Stacey Allaster faces a huge problem if the visa is not granted. Does the WTA pull out of Bali so late in the game and play the event elsewhere? Does it stick to its guns and make the authorities there grant the visa? Once a country agrees to host a WTA event doesn't it have to abide by the rules of the WTA?
It's reported that Shahar's agent Amit Naor (who is also Novak Djokovic's agent) and who usually deals with all of those issues for the Israeli players said he was promised the tournament would be canceled if Shahar won't get the visa.
I can't believe the crappy coverage of the Kremlin Cup. There is almost a total blackout. I know, I should reup my subscription to Russian Television but it's amazing that this once great tournament has been reduced to what would have been a Tier III for the women. The men have a few big names but it's nothing like it used to be.
As I type this there is still one spot open for next week's YEC in Doha. The following women have qualified.
Dinara Safina 7652 1**
Serena Williams 7437 2**
Caroline Wozniacki 5570 3**
Elena Dementieva 5365 4**
Svetlana Kuznetsova 4773 5**
Victoria Azarenka 4371 6**
Venus Williams 4317 7**
Jelena Jankovic 3660 8
Vera Zvonareva 3301 9
Flavia Pennetta 3060 10
Marion Bartoli 2715 11
Samantha Stosur 2691 12
Agnieszka Radwanska 2690 13
Maria Sharapova 2680 14
Na Li 2402 15
Samantha Stosur 2009 Champion Osaka
I'm glad to read that Martina Hingis has decided not to come back to the Main Tour. She's had a chance to live life and see that there is indeed life after tennis. In this time of "retirements" that look oddly like suspensions for one reason or another it's nice to see her stick to her guns.