Monday, August 16, 2010

Bring on the Vuvuzelas

by Savannah
Andy Murray, coachless(if you don't count his mother who was doing a great job imitating a coach), finally showed what he is capable of by winning the ATP Masters 1000/Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ontario, Canada despite the howling of a hostile crowd. They weren't as bad as they were when their fave played Tomas Berdych but the Scottish fans in the audience were no match for the mob determined to "will" their man to victory as the commentators said over and over. Once again Lars Graf was in the chair and if I recall correctly he did mewl out a warning or two to the crowd. Murray kept his personality under wraps and his focus on the match and didn't let the rain delays bother him. Murray, less rusty than the other Europeans who were coming off of long post Wimbledon vacations, played the best tennis this week.
Kim Clijsters managed to pull out a win over a hobbled Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati. From what a frequent contributor here posted there was another mob in Mason, Ohio cheering her on while doing everything to break the spirit of Sharapova. If Maria had not suffered from a foot injury requiring heavy taping she may have done better in the third set. The rain delay didn't help her focus either.
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan won the doubles crown in Toronto. The top seeds Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor were defeated in an early round. Nenad Zimonjic, not known as a hot head complained about the scheduling of his teams matches. They played a night match and were first on the next day. I could go into the whole muscle/lactic acid thing but I'm sure you all know about it.
This is my favorite picture from this weekend. Maria Kirilenko and Victoria Azarenka won the doubles at Mason and just looking at this picture I'm thrilled for them. Congratulations ladies!

About the vuvuzela's...

There is a reason I don't go to night matches at the US Open. After this week I may never attend one ever again. It was at a night match that I felt sympathy for Roger Federer who was taunted relentlessly by the J-Block. It was at a night match that I was disgusted by the drunken court level yuppies who shouted obscenities at Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams and Serena Williams. True this wasn't all in the same year but it's disgusting when drunks who know nothing about the sport are the ones within camera range while the real fans are relegated due to ticket prices to the upper reaches of Ashe stadium.

There have been two incidents this summer involving mob think and tennis matches. One was the incident involving Victor Hanescu at Wimbledon and the other one was the match Tomas Berdych played against Roger Federer this past week. In both cases the players who could barely hear themselves think complained to the chair umpires. In both cases the chair umpires ignored them.

Anyone who watched the World Cup knows the controversy that surrounded the use of vuvuzela's by the fans. Wimbledon issued an announcement saying the instruments would be confiscated if brought onto the grounds of the AELTC. If drunken sots are going to affect the outcome of matches why can't vuvuzela's be used by the same fans? I really don't see the difference in some drunk blowing a vuvuzela incessantly and one shouting obscenities and insults at a player trying to serve.


TennisAce said...

Savannah, I love your writings and I really love your blog, but I am sorry, I have to disagree with you here on the issue of crowd support.

There is a story that says that when Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena were growing up, their fathers let them play amidst boos and jeers etc to toughen them up and to prepare them for what was coming when they made their debuts. It made all 3 into singular champions.

During all the years that I have watched Venus/Serena they have played before hostile crowds. Who can forget this year's Wimbledon match when Venus, a 5 time champion was not only placed on Court 2, but was booed by the hooligans at Wimbledon because she was late (not by her own fault). Did Venus spit at the crowd? Did she bring the sport into disrepute, no? What she did was what she always did, buckle down and win a match.

Fans will support whomever they wish and players have to learn that regardless of your performance, some fans will just not root for you (Nadal at the FO anyone?). You have to learn to block it out.

Federer is on his last legs. People love to see him play. Murray has not endeared himself to the sporting community as yet. Maybe one day he will and fans will cheer him on. No one knows how much longer Federer has in the game and many fans the world over will be pushing him to one more title as his career winds down. That is what is done to all great champions of the sport.

Helen W said...

TennisAce, again I agree with you when you say that handling hostile crowds goes with the territory. But to me anyway, the boundary is crossed when the actions of the crowd affect a player's ability to play the ball -- not because of their words, but because of their timing or other actions that interfere with a player's ability to play.

As an example, play is usually halted until fans take their seats. What if those same fans started to jump up and down in front of a player trying to serve? Trying to return serve? Would that be OK with you?

TennisAce said...

HelenW, that is different. Usually when that happens, i.e. fans jumping up and down, the player will stop their service motion, walk away from the service line and motion to the umpire. I saw it in the Novak/Fed match when both the server (Novak) and the receiver (Fed) both stepped away from the line in order that order can be restored and play resumed.

How can the same players perform in hostile environments in Fed Cup and Davis Cup and cannot do it in individual tournaments. Last year the Czech team were hosted by Spain in Spain. They played in the Bullring. You cannot get more hostile than that. And did Stepanek not use every tactic in the book to thwart every effort by Ferrer to go up 2 sets to love. He lost the match because Ferrer gutted out the win but he played without abandon. He took the crowd out of the equation.

Same thing happened when the US went to Spain. Faced a hostile crowd, but they competed, even though they lost.

Berdych performed credibly in the 3 DC matches that he played and I cannot recall hearing any discussions defending poor old Berdych or anyone else. If you are able to compete in as hostile an environment as Davis Cup and not lose your cool, then why can you not bring that same mentality when your own personal pride and glory are on the line?

TennisAce said...

And finally, finally ... last night I watched a ladies' match out in Montreal. The local girl Dubois was playing Zakapolova. Now, if anyone here watches women's tennis, Zaka is not the toughest opponent out there mentally. She destroys herself every single time.

The crowd was pro Dubois. No doubt about it. at 5-4 first set, Zaka is serving to stay in the set. Score is 15-40. She serves and it is a fault. The crowd cheers. The umpire quietens them down. She serves again, this time a double fault. She loses serve and the set. The crowd is like Fed Cup.

Zaka would go on to win the match in 3 tough sets but not before staring down her opponent, having fellow player Groth (her designated coach last night) and fighting her inner demons to finally pull out the win.

She was frustrated, angry, hurt, upset, crying. Everything. Until she pulled herself together and played the tennis we all knew she can play.

Berdych and other players should look at the tape of that match the next time they are complaining about playing in a hostile environment.

Craig Hickman said...

Serena Williams is my favorite player. I love when she's cited for her mental strength in the face of all sorts of nonsense.

No player is as mentally tough as Serena Williams, though.

And yet, when Serena Williams plays in Paris, she's as mentally fragile as anyone. And she can choke, collapse, undo herself better than all the rest.

Tennis is mental. Crowds know it. If they can prey on someone's mental frailty in order to try to lift their desired player over the finish line, they will.

It doesn't always work. But when it does, we mustn't blame the player who failed for not being tough enough.

It happens to the very best, with or without the crowd.

But when it works, we must simply give the crowd the credit it deserves for pulling their desired player over the finish line.

TennisAce said...

I totally disagree Craig. At the end of the day you are not playing the crowd, you are playing your opponent. If that was the case then Wimbledon 2009 would have been won by Andy Roddick. The crowd was squarely in his corner. They were backing him all the day through that match and the cheers for him were resounding. It is up to the player to block it out.

As for Serena and the French, a lot of it is the crowd, most of it is Serena. She needs to let go of the FO of 2003. She needs to if she ever wants to win another FO title.

Berdych and many others have been on the tour for many years. Many years. It is not only now that he and many others have been like this. They have been like this their whole careers. How many times have we seen him and many others of his ilk lose matches when they are ahead?

You are right, Serena Williams is the toughest player out there on either men's or women's tour. She is tougher than even Nadal. Do you know what makes her so tough.

I watched a short interview on TSN (in Canada) recently and she said that her biggest weapon is her ability to get into her opponent's head. She is so secure in her game that she can use that mental power to overcome her opponents. She said as a child growing up her mother gave her tests to overcome mental frailities in her game. She said her mother taught her how to be tough.

Now if Serena as a 7 year old could use lessons learnt since she was 7 year old and still apply it at the age of 28, I see no reason why others who say that they are professional players cannot do the same.

Nope, they get no pass from me. I have seen my favourites booed many times. Get insults hurled at them and even have umpires and officials rob them of points and they have always overcome all that to win matches.

As Serena said, when you are playing the home town favourite, the first thing you need to do is take the crowd out of the match. She did it against Stosur at the AO and she will continue to do that until she hangs up her racquet.

Craig Hickman said...

Serena is special.

The crowd can matter in the outcome of a match.

Just because it doesn't always matter doesn't mean that it can't.

You may not agree with that, but it remains true.

We'll just have to agree to disagree. Totally.