Friday, October 1, 2010

This and That

by Savannah

It's amazing what you get in your e-mail inbox relating to tennis these days. American tennis is obviously in a state of flux (that's better than saying it's in the shitter right?) but as the following show there is really trouble in River City.

The first mailing I received was regarding Ms Coco Vandeweghe. Her prior appearances on the main tour were underwhelming to say the least.
Yes Ms Vandeweghe is playing well right now but is it time for the USTA to send breathless out media alerts?

Playing arguably the best tennis of her young professional career, American teenager Coco Vandeweghe today advanced to the quarterfinals of the Toray Pan Pacific Open, a $2 million WTA Tour event in Tokyo. Vandeweghe’s straight-sets win against world No. 42 Julia Georges today was her fifth victory over a Top 100 player this week. Ranked No. 172 entering the qualifying tournament in Tokyo, Vandeweghe defeated No. 75 Tathiana Garbin and No. 41 Jarmilla Groth to qualify, and has knocked off, in order, No. 37 Klara Zakopalova, No. 18 Aravane Rezai and Goerges in the main draw. She faces world No. 11 Victoria Azarenka tomorrow for a spot in the semifinals.

Vandeweghe, the 2008 US Open girls’ singles champion, has taken significant steps forward in her professional career this year. The 18-year-old from Rancho Mirage, Calif., won a USTA playoff to earn a main draw wild card into the 2010 Australian Open, posted a 10-match winning streak on the USTA Pro Circuit while claiming her first two professional titles—at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Carson, Calif., and the $25,000 event in El Paso, Texas this spring—and reached the quarterfinals of the Olympus US Open Series event in San Diego, defeating 2010 Wimbledon and US Open runner-up Vera Zvonareva en route. Vandeweghe’s mom, Tauna, was an Olympic medalist in both swimming and volleyball, and her uncle is former NBA star Kiki Vandeweghe.
Is the United States tennis establishment this desperate?

Then there was this eye catching headline It's Time to Stop Rafael Nadal's Cheating
from The Bleacher Report by Greg Couch.

What is Greg talking about?

Time to crack down on Rafael Nadal's cheating. That's right, he's cheating. Everyone knows it and no one seems to care.

Now, it's so openly accepted and forgiven that he apparently has even admitted to it. The Spanish newspaper El Pais asked him about looking to his coaches box during the final of the U.S. Open, when he beat Novak Djokovic, and Nadal reportedly said this:

"It was in the last game, when I was serving for the match. ... I didn't know where to serve. Down the center, to the middle or to try the classic play of the wide serve and then try to hit the forehand. They told me to serve wide and that's where I served."

They told him? It is against the rules to receive coaching during a match. Nadal knows it, too.

"The rules are the rules," he said at Wimbledon, when Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, was fined $2,000 for coaching Rafa in a match. A few years ago, too, Roger Federer grumbled that Uncle Toni was trying to give advice from the stands.

It might not seem like a big deal, but it is. You see players doing it all the time in tennis, as this is its open secret. But it's still wrong.

I don't accept it, and neither should tennis' governing bodies. It is time to suspend Uncle Toni, boot him from a major tournament. And hit Nadal with a big fine.

Plenty of people, even within the game, think the better plan is to simply dump the rule. They are wrong. This is not the jaywalking of tennis rules. It is a basic tenet of the game, the guts of what tennis is about.
The coaches have their time, and it's before the match. At some point, the players have to be able to think on their own.
I have two words for Greg. Justine Henin. When he shows me a blog post of similar outrage about her then I'll say he's being consistent. Otherwise to me this just sounds like someone saying "we can't beat him on any surface so let's make sure we find another way to make him lose."

To be fair he mentions the coaching received by WTA players in non majors and the coaching received by Darya Gavrilova who won the Junior Girls US Open.

I won't be a real bitch and talk about Maria Sharapova. Just because Yuri isn't in her box so much anymore doesn't mean that the blatant coaching never happened. Remember the little brown bottle and the banana? I hope Greg was similarly outraged about that incident.

Like I said, show outrage about Justine then talk about Rafael.
Tennis.Com is reporting that Martin Damm of the Czech Republic will become the coach of American tennis hopeful Ryan Harrison. The report features comments by a variety of top men in the United States tennis establishment. These are the ones that stood out for me.

Lame duck U.S. Davis Cup captain Pat McEnroe recently told me that Ryan is a bit of a rarity among today's ball-banging youngsters in that he's a "student of the game." And Harrison, who's 18, talks—and acts—like he belongs on the main tour. He's astute, mature and confident, so the relationship with Damm is mostly likely to be a partnership, rather than a mentor-apprentice engagement.

Pat Harrison (Ryan's father) believes that the challenge for Ryan lies less in mastering specific strokes or strategies than in continuing to sharpen up his considerable and manifold skills. "He needs to be able to make six quality shots in a row in a rally, and then move on and get to the point where he can make eight, and so forth."

For his part, Bollettieri thinks Harrison could benefit from an improved understanding of "situational" tennis—what to do or avoid when he's in a position to win, or in danger. Remember that Harrison had a 6-3 lead in the fifth set tiebreaker in that epic second-round U.S. Open meeting with Sergiy Stakhovsky, but failed to close it out and ended up absorbing a heartbreaking loss.

I'm sure Martin Damm appreciates all the coaching from the stands given by these " éminence grises" of American tennis as to how to coach his pupil. I know I would. (Sarcasm alert)

End Notes

I'm going to have to bite the bullet and turn my life around to watch the tennis from China the next couple of weeks. Both the men and women will be in Beijing, (the women start Saturday 10/2/2010) and the ATP Masters in Shanghai is the following week.
I've been resisting watching live tennis up to now but next week I'll be up at some God forsaken hour watching as much as I can. Fortunately what usually happens is some boring match comes on and I get a chance to take a nap or two until someone I want to see is on court.

I also want to say that I miss the European indoor season. It got thrown under a bus as the tours followed the money to Asia where it's hoped tennis will grow as a sport. I read an account of how the ATP players in Kuala Lumpur are feted like demi gods and that the players enjoy coming there. I'm sure the same is true at all the Asian events where the governments spare no expense to show the players how welcome they are to their respective countries.

The thing is I rarely see sold out or even three quarter full stadiums. I'm used to seeing empty seats at WTA events but it's odd to see that at ATP matches. And I'm not talking matches between low ranked players either. I'm guessing that the money these venues pay the tours is enough to decimate the fall European season. It just looks bad when you can fire a shoulder held missile through a stadium and not hit a soul. Someone is making money somewhere but it's not quite clear to me where.

How are the players reacting? Kim Clijsters, when asked about playing in Beijing basically said that it was a long way to go for one tournament. She is skipping Beijing due to foot surgery. Serena Williams, still recovering from her accident, is not playing in Asia. Venus Williams, who used to play the Asian swing, is out of Beijing and it's rumored that she will have knee surgery.

With Serena out maybe for the rest of the year (she is supposed to play Fed Cup and may play the YEC) Caroline Wozniacki can become the WTA number one. Chew on that for a while.

All of the top men, with the exception of Roger Federer, are already in Asia and all will have played at least one warm up tournament leading up to Beijing and Shanghai.

I'll be paying attention to the butts in the seats during the tournaments coming up to see if the attendance improves. I'll also be looking at the quality of the tennis. I watched the match between Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka last night, early this morning from Tokyo. It's on the list for worst match of 2010. No one would believe this was professional tennis played by two of the top ten women. It's got to get better.

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