Friday, May 27, 2011

The Selling of Tennis

There are some interesting ideas here but I wonder how the hell Mats Wilander got to speak for the players perspective.

Eurosport debates the future of tennis
Fri, 27 May 12:42:00 2011

What is the future of tennis in the digital age?

Tennis needs to innovate, become more interactive and even reduce the number of games in every set, according to an expert panel of speakers at the Eurosport 3.0 debate into the future of the sport in Paris on Thursday.

During a heated discussion, there were also suggestions to scrap Hawkeye, enhance tennis’ integration with social media and overhaul the structure of historic tournaments such as the Davis Cup.

Free-to-air viewing figures for tennis have declined by 30% in recent years, while an ageing audience has led to increasing concerns from stakeholders about the long-term health of the sport.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander kicked off the discussion by saying: “The same two or three guys are making finals every week.”

Michel Grach, Media and Sponsorship Director at the French Tennis Federation, insisted that Roland Garros is probably increasing its audience figures, but added: “We don’t know how to measure those platforms.”

Gerard Tsobanian, General Managing Director of the Madrid Open, underlined the importance of free-to-air TV coverage. “It is important to keep tennis accessible to the masses,” he said.

Speaking more broadly, Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent at the Times, called for changes in the structure of some of the sport’s leading tournaments, such as The Davis Cup.

“People don’t understand how the system works and the respective leaders of tennis have to make it more understandable,” he said.

For Julien Codorniou, Head of Platform Partnerships, Facebook, France and Benelux, the challenge for tennis is to become more “fun and social”.
“Tennis has not embraced the social revolution,” he said. “We see big activity on Facebook during sports events, but we haven’t seen very good integration (with social media) and most of the players are not leveraging Facebook.”
Codorniou added that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have seven million ‘friends’ on Facebook, but the gap to third-placed Novak Djokovic, with 300,000 friends, is significant.

Tsobanian said he believes tennis has “innovated less than any sport in the past century”, and then tabled the most eye-catching suggestion of the debate.
“I think tennis matches are too long – people want to get to the drama more quickly,” said Tsobanian.
“I would have shorter sets, and I think the 4-4 proposal is reasonable.”

Wilander then suggested that one of the sport’s innovation, Hawkeye, should be withdrawn from the sport.
“You take away from the personalities as they can’t argue with Hawkeye,” said Wilander.

Tsobanian countered by saying: “Just because there isn’t Hawkeye, that won’t turn the players into rock stars on the court.”

The discussion then turned towards the impact of social media in tennis, but the topic sharply divided the panel, with Harman and Codorniou supportive of such platforms and Wilander questioning the importance of Facebook and Twitter.

“There needs to be more interactivity between before, during and after games,” said Codorniou.

Wilander, speaking from a player’s perspective, was more wary of social media.

“I think it can dilute the players’ personalities and I’m not sure about putting players up to celebrity status,” he said.
Grach defended tennis’ record of innovation.

“We were the first sport to have 3D and first to have live streaming eight years ago, but I think we should be careful about some changes, like reducing the number of games,” he said.

“Players need time to build matches, and you just have to look at the recent finals between Nadal and Federer for examples.”

Tsobanian concluded the discussion by asking whether there was a collective appetite for change within the sport.

“We have been having this debate for 20 years, but there are too many different opinions and too many people involved in the decisions to make changes,” he said. “Someone needs to step up and take action, but who’s that going to be?”

I'm a traditionalist and don't see the need to change the way the sport is played.
Funny how there was a discussion of social media and nothing about Transcriptgate. And for the life of me I can't understand how someone like Mats Wilander got to be the representative of the players perspective. Twitter is a great way for fans to get to know their favorites. Facebook is a way for changes in schedule and other information, professional and personal, to be announced. There is no going back to the days before the internet and social media which is what Wilander is proposing in my opinion.

Live streaming has now grown to include Challenger tournaments and there is talk of creating some kind of playoff for them. Gimmicks and a back to the future attitude will not increase tennis popularity. Good marketing and an emphasis on the greatness of the sport and the men and women who play it is what is needed.

Speaking of marketing I'm still trying to sort out my feelings on the WTA's new campaign. I'll talk about it after the French Open.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 French Open Day 5

by Savannah

Wasn't I ranting about American tennis commentators not being familiar with their sport? They always say better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove you are. Unfortunately Lindsay Davenport opened her mouth today and proved my statement to be true.
FO 2011
Arantxa Rus has been on the ITF and Junior circuits for some time now. She's one of the juniors I've been keeping an eye on for a few years. Yet Lindsay said that she'd never heard of her. Really Lindsay? It's just amazing to me that the American tennis establishment is so wilfully ignorant. I'm not saying that they should know every junior but a briefing on the non American qualifiers should be part of production meetings.

Then again I doubt too many people thought that young Ms Rus would not only disrupt Kim Clijsters timing - the key to beating her as I've said here ad nauseam - but played without fear and defeated Clijsters in straight sets. Clijsters looked flustered and totally confused by the attack mounted against her but if you listened to the commentators Clijsters failed to play well and Rus coming out and executing her game plan to perfection had nothing to do with it.

I'm not predicting that Rus will make the final or anything. I'm just saying that more objective commentating would increase viewer's knowledge and enjoyment.
FO 2011
The pensive young woman pictured above also got people to sit up and take notice of her today. If you follow the ITF and Junior circuits you've seen the name Caroline Garcia. She is French and while she doesn't play every week she plays enough for her name recognition to be moderate. For a set and a half today it looked as if she would repeat Arantxa's feat and eliminate Maria Sharapova. Sharapova, unlike Clijsters, did get some clay court play in prior to coming to Paris. Unlike Clijsters Sharapova is more than a glorified pusher. She was better able to pull herself together and play offensive tennis. Unlike Rus Garcia, who is three years younger, got tight. Sharapova, seeing that, was able to do something about it.

After today I wonder why Clijsters came back so soon. She had little to no preparation and it was going to be difficult for her. The commentators were saying it was the injury but she showed no evidence of discomfort. It is possible that she experienced some discomfort but that isn't what she said in her post match presser. Peons like me were lucky enough to see clips from it. For more detail we'll have to wait for the grand poobahs to tell us what was said.
Keep in mind both Rus and Garcia were wild cards.
Lukas Rosol is another surprise. He defeated
Jurgen Melzer.
Jeremy Chardy and Gilles Simon completed their match in darkness. Unless you had access to a livestream or ESPN360 you were shit out of luck if you wanted to see it. ESPN2 ran reruns from earlier in the day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 FO Day 4

by Savannah

Ah the arrogance of mediocrity. The number one ranked WTA player Caroline Wozniacki was getting a huge fight back from Canadian qualifier Alexandra Wozniak. The Canadian had already suffered a bad line call but was holding her own when the World # 1 hit a ball long. The ball wasn't could've caught the line long but about three or four inches long. According to @MiguelSeabra World#1's breathing was "heavy" so what to do in that situation? Throw a hissy fit. The chair ump had already come down to verify the mark and was barely back in her chair when the World#1 demanded she come down and check again because the mark she'd checked was wrong. The chair ump refused. Word#1 then went on to demand that the head umpire come out. That request was denied. Wozniak, left to watch all this, was taken completely out of the the match and World#1 won the tiebreak and the match.

Martina Navratilova and Mary Carillo went to great lengths after the match to show that the Canadian woman played some sketchy tennis and that that was what caused her to lose. No mention of the shit fit and the role it played in clouding her opponents up to then pretty solid judgment. I'd love to know what questions were asked and what answers were given at World#1's presser but I'll have to wait until the "journalists" decide what we peons should know. I'm guessing that there won't be one question asked about what Craig Hickman rightly called gamesmanship.

A Simple Question...

Why is Brad Gilbert commentating on Nishikori Kei's match? Isn't he working with Nishikori?

Response of ITWA to Transcript Gate

I wrote to Sandra Harwitt of the ITWA. She gave me a very fulsome reply, and I thought it right that her points should be added to the debate:

“Our organization has requested this on behalf of all journalists — not just ITWA members. The truth is that most of us are having to fight with our editors to still be covering the Grand Slams and tennis at all. Times are tough in the media and cutbacks are dramatic.

“The truth is the first outgrowth of transcripts continuing to appear in full will be more editors pulling trips to tournaments — their writers, at least temporarily, will be made to writer the tournament off of the TV and he transcripts from home base.

“The second outgrowth will be even more shocking to fans. The lack of journalists on-site — even more stunning this year here at the French and will be for Wimbledon as well — is that tournaments will stop hiring the costly transcription service as there’s no need to provide the service to just a handful of journalists — the price of the service has been an ongoing subject for a number of years.

“And thirdly, if there aren’t many journalists around at tournaments there will be no one asking the questions. That will make transcripts a moot point.

“This might seem dramatic to you, but I can assure you it is a serious situation — At least one major U.S. newspaper, located in a warm weather area with a great many tennis fans, has surprisingly followed the lead of other papers and has pulled the Wimbledon trip from their tennis writer. But even more shocking, they’ve also pulled the U.S. Open — and this writer is not the only one going through this situation. In South Florida, the Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post has stayed home for years.”

I was very grateful to her that she made these points honestly.

Almost everyone knows that news bureaus that once had National and International desks in almost every corner of the country and the world have now cut back to the point where most "reporters" get their news from the Internet's. They wouldn't know how to pound the pavement to save their lives. Sports coverage outside of the big team sports (I'm talking about the US now) is reported in short one paragraph pieces at the bottom of the sports page. Therefore her argument is disingenuous at best. The truth is that the "journalists" whose names are synonymous with tennis have grown fat and lazy. When they attend a Grand Slam instead of "walking the beat" and going to outer courts and watching actual matches they sit in the air conditioned comfort of the media center, take handouts from the IMG's of the world and regurgitate them as fact. This is why commentators can say with no shame that they've never heard of someone playing in a Grand Slam. It's why their columns are filled with inaccuracies and opinion presented as fact. It's why they're just getting around to talking about the problems with American tennis and are reduced to cheerleading for a player instead of being able to present a coherent analysis of why matches are unfolding the way they are.

One prominent tennis writer got so pissed off at being called out by someone he referred to pejoratively as an "intern" he said he was staying off Twitter for a day and not releasing some information on World #1 to show just how peeved he was. I didn't know we were dealing with third graders.

What they can't stand is that bloggers who get credentialed are more versed in what is going on in the world of tennis than they are. They go out and actually watch matches. They take the press releases with grains of salt and go out and find out for themselves what the hell is going on. This includes post match pressers. The most dangerous thing to the hegemony of these "journalists" is the availability of post match interview transcripts. They can't take one quote out of context and use it to smear a player, support some PR firms claims about it's client, or forward their own biases. If bloggers had been around in the numbers they are now when Venus Williams and Serena Williams first came on the scene I sincerely believe that the noxious attitudes they faced in the press wouldn't have been perpetuated. There would've been someone sitting in the room or reading a full transcript of their presser who would report fairly on what was asked and how the question was answered.

The prevalence of bloggers also means that the tours don't have the control they used to have over what gets reported about not only the players but the tours themselves. This is what Craig was talking about when he said certain players don't fit the narrative. There is good and bad about the ATP, WTA and the ITF. In today's environment all of it gets reported.

The bottom line is that organizations like the ITWA are fighting a losing battle. The more they try to herd the kittens the more difficult it's going to be for them. Get used to it guys. We ain't going anywhere.

Were They Too Harsh?

I have to say that I was surprised to read that some "fans" were taken back and upset at the questioning of World #1 by Mary Carillo and Martina Navratilova live on the air after her win today.
The two former players asked really hard questions like "Why do you play so much?" "Why don't you play more aggressively?" "How do you deal with the WTA's policy of mandatory tournaments?"
I didn't see Caroline Wozniacki as being upset but maybe she was surprised she wasn't being asked the usual bullshit she's asked at her post match pressers but she answered the questions. This is what should be happening at post match interviews. They shouldn't be laugh fests. They're press conferences and interviews, not a conversation between friends.

End Note
Germany's Sabine Lisicki was taken from the court on a stretcher after the end of her match with Vera Zvonareva. Lisicki played until the end after having her blood pressure checked on the sidelines. After the match was over she collapsed on court sobbing loudly. Pam Shriver reported that the doctor told her the problem seemed to be cramps and that Sabine's father, who is a physician, said his daughter had no preexisting conditions.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 FO Day 3 - This and That

by Savannah

I have to keep reminding myself that I have a life that goes on even when a Grand Slam is taking place. Even though I'm living on Paris time my reality is New York time. Pain in the ass isn't it?
I can bitch and moan all I want though. Before I go any further I have to salute Virginie Razzano of France. As many of you kow Virginie lost her fiance and coach to a brain tumor about seven days ago but she insisted on playing. I don't know if she won or lost and I really don't care. She was a winner simply by taking the court.

Now on to the usual mayhem.

Once again I have to start with the talking heads. I'm not singling out ESPN this time. All of them are simply amazing in their ignorance of the sport they get paid to comment on and explain to viewers. Keep in mind viewers can be casual, viewers who are curious about the sport and are looking for intelligent explanations of what is going on between the lines or they can be fanatics, people who can talk intelligently about Steffi Graf's last match. Both groups are done a disservice by tennis announcers. Instead of intelligent discussion we get a lot of bullshit, inside jokes and conversations about the NBA playoffs.
What set me off? Johanna Larsson of Sweden took the court against commentator favorite Ana Ivanovic. At some point early in the match one of the women on Tennis Channel said that she'd never heard of Ms Larsson. After it was obvious the heretofore unheard of Ms Larsson had enough game to send Ana packing the discussion turned to something or another.

I have to explain why I get so annoyed at know nothing announcers. I live in the States. I grew up watching baseball with my father. No baseball announcer would dare say on the air that he never heard of some guy that just came up to the main team. Whether the support staff supplies the information or not he or she must come across to the viewer as being totally aware of everything that has to do with Player X. For an announcer to say they've never heard of tennis Player Y and not be able to recoup and cite their history annoys the hell out of me.

Many tennisheads now follow Challenger tournaments and players the same way they follow main tour players. I'm one of them and it's a good thing I am. I can't rely on the "expert commentators" to provide me any information on players who miraculously appear in Grand Slam draws can I? Besides, you can watch Challenger tournament live streams now. Maybe someone should tell the experts that huh?

I'm sure Kim Clijsters fans were happy to see her running around showing no ill effects from her foot injury or lay off. She said she'd been practicing for about a week.

Vania King got a big win today over self professed party girl Dominika Cibulkova. I would like to have seen that match since for once both women were not fighting someone a foot taller.
Young Heather Watson of Great Britain won her match yesterday. There's a lot of talk about her in some tennis circles. I can't say tennis circles in general because I'm sure the American commentators haven't heard about her.
I didn't see Patty Schnyder's match today but there were tons of comments from fans saying she should hang up her racquets. Readers of this space know why she will continue to play as long as she can.

End Notes

I'm a Bag Check whore. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's is sooo cute. For an athlete Victoria Azarenka doesn't even try to hide her junk food jones.
Nice ink. I believe this is Lukas Rosol.

The war between bloggers and tennis "journalists" continues.

We are very sorry, we have been asked by the International Tennis Writers Association not to release transcripts of post-match interviews this year, so as not to disadvantage reporters here at the French Open. You can find many of the relevant quotes in the articles posted on our website.

Scroll down for the quote from the FO officials.

I guess now the "journalists" can take a players comments out of context and distort questions and replies to their hearts content. Bastards.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The 2011 French Open Day 1 Sunday May 22

by Savannah


A lot of idle chit chat today.

It's just after 6a on a Sunday morning in NYC and if you're not a lunatic like me and are waking up at a more normal time you missed a very interesting discussion between Mary Carillo, Martina Navratilova and Justin Gimelstob about Sunday play and the Babolat balls which are being used at Roland Garros for the first time.

First about Sunday play. Gimelstob talked about how the top ATP players were adamantly against playing on opening day because it would disrupt their preparation and the rhythm of playing a tournament where to win you play seven matches. Gimelstob talked about his idol Roger Federer putting his foot down and saying "no" but I get the feeling the top men all had the same thing to say. Most of the French players will be showcased today the commentators said.

Leave it to Martina to throw fuel on the fire by saying the women were not given an option and had not been part of the conversation at all.

The other conversation was about the Babolat balls. The first thing I noticed when I put the television on was that the ball was flying through the air. The commentators said that the Babolat balls are lighter and Gimelstob said that this will favor the big servers. The complaint about the French has always been the terre battue itself and how the balls would get so heavy favoring a slower paced game. The implication is that with these new balls hard court specialists will have a chance.

Gimelstob said that the damp conditions in Rome aggravated Andy Roddick's shoulder. He also said that Roddick is very aware of his ranking and wants the US #1 ranking back. Right now Mardy Fish sits in that position by virtue of his top ten ranking.

So He's Been Operating Under Alies...

New York Times sportswriter Christopher Clarey wrote what I thought was a fluff piece on Caroline Wozniacki and I was quickly skimming through it when all of a sudden things got a little deep.
Ask Wozniacki why she made it when so many others in Denmark and elsewhere have not, and she points to her family first and to the work ethic they emphasized. Her coach and father, born Piotr Wozniacki, had a traumatic childhood in Poland. In an emotional interview, he said he was sent to live with his grandparents as an infant and did not realize that until he was 8, when his parents came to retrieve him and he discovered that he also had a younger sister.

“Very big shock,” he said.

He said he left home at 15 to go to a sports-focused high school. He eventually became a professional soccer player, moving to Denmark at 23 in 1985. In Denmark in the early 2000s, he said, he changed his name legally to Victor Krason to honor his grandparents.

“It might have been a mistake; it made confusion,” Krason said of the name change, which has generated speculation in Denmark. “I may need to make it Krason Wozniacki.”

The Wozniackis’ oldest child, Patrik, plays soccer professionally in the Danish second division as his father did. But tennis is the sport that occupies the bulk of the family’s time.

Krason travels with his daughter, describing himself as a coordinator even though he is officially her coach. Like many a tennis parent, he learned about the game as his child developed her talent and felt confident enough when she was 11 to change the extreme grip on her forehand shortly before the Danish championships. He said he knows that some view him as hard-nosed and overprotective but views his role as that of a “shock absorber” for his daughter.

He said his childhood experiences had made him all the more determined to preserve his family’s unity, but he focused on empowering Wozniacki as well as developing her talent. Wozniacki said that when she was as young as 11, he would sometimes require her to make the travel arrangements for the family. (He said it was partly because her English was better than his.) He also made her contact sponsors like Adidas in search of support.

Three things. What name is on Caroline's birth certificate? If her father legally changed his name to Victor Krason shouldn't her birth certificate reflect that fact? You know how sensitive we Americans are to birth records. (Joking people). She was born in 1990 so I guess that is why she is Wozniacki but with a legal name change don't all legal documents get changed?

Two, until or unless he legally changes his name back to his birth name instead of saying "Piotr is charging down from the stands" we should be saying "Victor" is the man charging down to his daughter's side no?

Lastly, what is the controversy in Denmark?

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Why are the American commentators still so bent out of shape about the French Open starting on a Sunday? They're still carrying on about it late in the afternoon. Is the USTA afraid it might be pressured to do the same thing or something? I mean get over it.
Upset of the day has to be Varvara Lepchenko defeating (18) Flavia Pennetta 6-3,2-6,6-3.
Prior to that Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeated Arantxa Parra Santonja 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. I'd say those are pretty big wins by Americans on European clay but if you were looking to see the matches on ESPN2 you were shit out of luck. After delaying tennis to show a football(soccer) award ceremony ESPN2 spent a good half an hour on intros no one wanted to see because there was LIVE TENNIS being played ESPN2 started from square one with the Stosur vs Benesova match. Someone needs to tell the suits over there that this is the 21st century and that tennis fans, after years of neglect, have found other ways to see the sport we love. We don't have to take your shit. I'm just saying. Once again Craig Hickman gets it right. These two women don't fit the narrative. Whose narrative? Have you been paying attention to women's tennis lately?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday's Children

by Savannah

The preliminary tournaments wound up today. The Big Show starts tomorrow at 5a in the Eastern United States. The winners today deserve credit for supporting their respective tours.

Andrea Petkovic won at Strasbourg after Marion Bartoli, citing a quad injury, retired down 4-6, 0-1.
Team Germany defeated Argentina to win the Power Horse World Team Cup in Dusseldorf.
Caroline Wozniacki battled for two hours and thirty five minutes to defeat Peng Shuai to win the initial WTA Premier event in Brussels.
Nicolas Almagro won the ATP tournament at Nice. He defeated Victor Hanescu.

Friday, May 20, 2011

2011 French Open Men's Draw

Rafael Nadal ESP (1) v John Isner USA 
Santiago Giraldo COL v Pablo Andujar ESP 
Pablo Cuevas URU v Qualifier 
Qualifier v Nikolay Davydenko RUS (28) 

Sam Querrey USA (24) v Philipp Kohlschreiber GER 
Ivan Ljubicic CRO v Somdev Devvarman IND 
Dmitry Tursunov RUS v Xavier Malisse BEL 
Juan Monaco ARG v Fernando Verdasco ESP (16) 

Mardy Fish USA (10) v Ricardo Mello BRA 
Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP v Robin Haase NED 
Jeremy Chardy FRA v Grigor Dimitrov BUL 
Michael Russell USA v Gilles Simon FRA (18) 

Marcos Baghdatis CYP (27) v Frederico Gil POR 
Qualifier v Dustin Brown GER 
Qualifier v Qualifier 
Benjamin Becker GER v Robin Soderling SWE (5) 

Andy Murray GBR (4) v Qualifier 
Qualifier v Qualifier 
WC Arnaud Clement FRA v Filippo Volandri ITA 
Michael Berrer GER v Milos Raonic CAN (26) 

Alexandr Dolgopolov UKR (21) v Rainer Schuettler GER 
Andreas Haider-Maurer AUT v Ryan Sweeting USA 
Tobias Kamke GER v Olivier Rochus BEL 
Julian Reister GER v Viktor Troicki SRB (15) 

Nicolas Almagro ESP (11) v Qualifier 
Carlos Berlocq ARG v WC Bernard Tomic AUS 
Potito Starace ITA v Qualifier 
Igor Kunitsyn RUS v Florian Mayer GER (20) 

Kevin Anderson RSA (32) v Nicolas Mahut FRA 
Juan Ignacio Chela ARG v WC Tim Smyczek USA 
WC Edouard Roger-Vasselin FRA v Qualifier 
Qualifier v Jurgen Melzer AUT (8) 

Bottom Half

David Ferrer ESP (7) v Jarkko Nieminen FIN 
Julien Benneteau FRA v Rui Machado POR 
Kei Nishikori JPN v Yen-Hsun Lu TPE 
Qualifier v Sergiy Stakhovsky UKR (31) 

Michael Llodra FRA (22) v Qualifier 
Philipp Petzschner GER v Mischa Zverev GER 
Adrian Mannarino FRA v WC Guillaume Rufin FRA 
Qualifier v Gael Monfils FRA (9) 

Stanislas Wawrinka SUI (14) v Qualifier 
Qualifier v Maximo Gonzalez ARG 
Florent Serra FRA v Igor Andreev RUS 
Jan Hajek CZE v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (17) 

Janko Tipsarevic SRB (29) v Brian Dabul ARG 
Ivan Dodig CRO v Pere Riba ESP 
WC Vincent Millot FRA v WC Maxime Teixeira FRA 
Feliciano Lopez ESP v Roger Federer SUI (3) 

Tomas Berdych CZE (6) v Qualifier 
Fabio Fognini ITA v Denis Istomin UZB 
Tommy Haas GER v Qualifier 
Robert Kendrick USA v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ESP (30) 

Marin Cilic CRO (19) v Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo ESP 
Lleyton Hewitt AUS v Albert Montanes ESP 
Daniel Brands GER v Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ 
Go Soeda JPN v Mikhail Youzhny RUS (12) 

Richard Gasquet FRA (13) v Radek Stepanek CZE 
Qualifier v Marcel Granollers ESP 
Teymuraz Gabashvili RUS v Andreas Seppi ITA 
Andrey Golubev KAZ v Thomaz Bellucci BRA (23) 

Juan Martin Del Potro ARG (25) v Ivo Karlovic CRO 
Ernests Gulbis LAT v Blaz Kavcic SLO 
WC Benoit Paire FRA v Victor Hanescu ROU 
Thiemo De Bakker NED v Novak Djokovic SRB (2)

2011 French Open Women's Draw

by Savannah

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (1) v Kimiko Date-Krumm JPN
Junri Namigata JPN v Qualifier
Christina McHale USA v Sara Errani ITA
Shuai Zhang CHN v Daniela Hantuchova SVK (28)

Shahar Peer ISR (19) v Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez ESP
Rebecca Marino CAN v Kateryna Bondarenko UKR
Aravane Rezai FRA v Irina-Camelia Begu ROU
Magdalena Rybarikova SVK v Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (13)

Marion Bartoli FRA (11) v Anna Tatishvili GEO
Agnes Szavay HUN v Qualifier
Kirsten Flipkens BEL v Lucie Safarova CZE
Mathilde Johansson FRA v Julia Goerges GER (17)

Tsvetana Pironkova BUL (32) v WC Casey Dellacqua AUS
Gisela Dulko ARG v WC Irina Falconi USA
Alla Kudryavtseva RUS v Simona Halep ROU
Iveta Benesova CZE v Samantha Stosur AUS (8)

Vera Zvonareva RUS (3) v Lourdes Dominguez Lino ESP
Qualifier v Akgul Amanmuradova UZB
Angelique Kerber GER v Edina Gallovits-Hall ROU
Anastasia Rodionova AUS v Nadia Petrova RUS (26)

Alisa Kleybanova RUS (23) v Qualifier
Renata Voracova CZE v Alize Cornet FRA
Sybille Bammer AUT v Qualifier
Yaroslava Shvedova KAZ v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS (14)

Jelena Jankovic SRB (10) v Alona Bondarenko UKR
Jelena Dokic AUS v Vera Dushevina RUS
Arantxa Parra Santonja ESP v Bethanie Mattek-Sands USA
Varvara Lepchenko USA v Flavia Pennetta ITA (18)

Shuai Peng CHN (29) v Tamira Paszek AUT
WC Olivia Sanchez FRA v Polona Hercog SLO
Anne Keothavong GBR v Vesna Dolonts RUS
Melanie Oudin USA v Francesca Schiavone ITA (5)


Na Li CHN (6) v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova CZE
Qualifier v Elena Vesnina RUS
Patty Schnyder SUI v Sorana Cirstea ROU
Laura Pous-Tio ESP v Alexandra Dulgheru ROU (27)

Dominika Cibulkova SVK (22) v Vania King USA
Elena Baltacha GBR v Qualifier
Sandra Zahlavova CZE v Jie Zheng CHN
Greta Arn HUN v Petra Kvitova CZE (9)

Kaia Kanepi EST (16) v Sofia Arvidsson SWE
WC Stephanie Foretz Gacon FRA v Qualifier
Ekaterina Makarova RUS v Romina Oprandi ITA
Johanna Larsson SWE v Ana Ivanovic SRB (20)

Roberta Vinci ITA (30) v Alberta Brianti ITA
Evgeniya Rodina RUS v WC Iryna Bremond FRA
WC Pauline Parmentier FRA v Ksenia Pervak RUS
Andrea Hlavackova CZE v Victoria Azarenka BLR (4)

Maria Sharapova RUS (7) v Mirjana Lucic CRO
Zuzana Ondraskova CZE v WC Caroline Garcia FRA
Jill Craybas USA v Qualifier
Qualifier v Klara Zakopalova CZE (31)

Yanina Wickmayer BEL (21) v Monica Niculescu ROU
WC Kristina Mladenovic FRA v Ayumi Morita JPN
Sania Mirza IND v Kristina Barrois GER
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner AUT v Agnieszka Radwanska POL (12)

Andrea Petkovic GER (15) v Bojana Jovanovski SRB
Anastasija Sevastova LAT v Lucie Hradecka CZE
Qualifier v A. Medina Garrigues ESP
Virginie Razzano FRA v Jarmila Gajdosova AUS (24)

Maria Kirilenko RUS (25) v Coco Vandeweghe USA
Viktoriya Kutuzova UKR v Chanelle Scheepers RSA
Qualifier v Arantxa Rus NED
Anastasiya Yakimova BLR v Kim Clijsters BEL (2)

Great draw. There are little tricks and traps set for every one of the seeds. Of course some got off easy that's inevitable but two weeks is a long time and there could be some surprises.

Kim Clijsters surprised me. I didn't think she'd come back in time for the French. As it is she's playing with a heavily taped ankle/foot and hasn't played a lick on clay, her least favorite surface despite the splits and all that.

Still a rested Kim is a dangerous Kim. I don't see her making it to the Final but you never know. I say this because this is going to be the biggest test for Andrea Petkovic and Jarmila Gajdosova. We're going to see just how mentally and physically tough these women are over the next two weeks. Virginie Razzano, playing despite the death of her fiance/coach a few days ago, can get hot and emotion could carry her farther than anyone suspects.

The Big Dog in the bottom half is that newly minted clay courter Maria Sharapova. She's coming in confident and while I don't know if she'll win it all if she makes it through to the second week she will be the one to beat.

Li Na vs Petra Kvitova? That can happen. Ana Ivanovic vs Victoria Azarenka? Eh. Maybe. Ana has won it all here before and I'm sure wants to prove that it wasn't a fluke but I don't know. Her collapse was pretty amazing the last time I saw her play and came out of nowhere. Elena Vesnina vs Alexandra Dulgheru is also a distinct possibility. Vesnina could surprise us all.

Moving to the Top Half it's possible that Peng Shuai, who just made the final at Brussels, could take out Francesca Schiavone who is also playing Brussels. Did I ask why the WTA would put a Premier event before a Slam? If I didn't I'm asking now. Really WTA?

Anyone can come out of the Jelena Jankovic/Flavia Pennetta section. Anyone. And whose bright idea was it to put Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alisa Kleybanova in the same quadrant? These four ladies will battle it out on the terre battue.

Without Venus Williams or Serena Willams across the net from her
Tsvetana Pironkova may not show up giving Casey Dellacqua an opportunity to make it to the second round. I don't know what to think about Samantha Stosur.

Marion Bartoli and Svetlana Kuznetsova can wreak havoc in the top half of the draw depending on which of their incarnations shows up. We'll either be saying WTF for their victories or WTF for their bowing out early. Julia Goerges may feel the pressure at a Slam where she is expected to do well and could turn out to be a non factor.

The top seed is playing hard in the semis at Brussels as I type this. She's playing the defending French Open Women's champion. Way to go WTA.

I know people will be stunned that I see this draw as being fair. I think it is. A Grand Slam is not meant to give anyone a cake walk. While some appear to have them there are nice challenges for them built in.

Is it going out on a limb to say there will be a new French Open women's champion this year?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Axis Failure

by Savannah

As you know I'm always railing about what the USTA needs to do so that it doesn't wind up like the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association). As if on cue David Ornstein of the BBC has posted this story about a young woman, born in the British city of Leeds, who is now playing for Australia.
Talented young tennis player Naiktha Bains has reluctantly turned her back on Great Britain after claiming the Lawn Tennis Association showed little interest in aiding her development.

The Leeds-born prospect emigrated to Brisbane shortly after winning a 2005 UK-wide talent search aged eight, and has since enjoyed prolific success.

Naiktha wanted to represent Britain and her family urged the LTA to take note, but by the time it reacted she was already being heavily supported in Australia.

The 13-year-old is now an Australian citizen and - despite also holding a British passport - she intends to remain faithful to her country of residence.

"I'm happy where I am," Naiktha, whose situation is a reversal of that which saw Laura Robson move to the UK aged six having been born in Melbourne, told BBC Sport.

"My coaches are really pleased with how I'm going at the moment and we'll stay with Australia if it keeps going this way."

Her father Gurnake added: "The plan was always for Naiktha to train in Australia and stay British for tennis, but we didn't get any support from the LTA.

"We pushed really hard to get them to look at her and would certainly have stayed loyal to Britain. They have since come forward but it's a bit late. At the moment, she's representing Australia and is Australian.

"Britain does still have a special place in our hearts but Australia would have to do something drastically wrong for anything to change. It's disappointing, but it's the LTA's loss."

Naiktha has won four Australian national titles at various age groups over the last 13 months and boasts a 100% record from six singles and doubles matches against British opponents.

She benefits from full scholarships with a private academy, the National Academy and a top Queensland school, and recently wowed leading coach Darren Cahill during a specially arranged training week in Las Vegas.
Naiktha first started hitting at the David Lloyd club in Leeds aged six, and was swiftly taken under the wing of then LTA coach Steve Mcloughlin.

The following year she emerged from a field of almost 10,000 to win the Ariel Tennis Ace competition, catching the eye of Boris Becker and Tim Henman in the final at Wimbledon.

That earned her a year's free coaching, but Naiktha only used about six months of it before the family uprooted to Australia for lifestyle and business reasons.

Although news of the move disappointed the Yorkshire LTA, Gurnake promised to stay in contact, provide updates on his daughter's progress and fly her over to play when possible.

He kept to his side of the bargain and she competed for Yorkshire in the County Cup during a trip back to the UK in 2006 - but it was not long before LTA correspondence dried up.

"Maybe they felt it was impractical, maybe they wanted to focus more on home-based players, maybe there was a change of staff or maybe it was just too hard," suggested Gurnake, an Indian-born property investor who moved to England aged two and has applied for Australian citizenship.

Before long, Naiktha was flourishing under the guidance of Gary Stickler, Pat Rafter's former coach and founder of the worldwide LifeTime tennis programme.

By 2008 Naiktha was turning heads in Australia, so Gurnake emailed Mcloughlin offering to fly her over for assessment, thus keeping her on the LTA's radar.

But after being told he would have to foot the bill for any court time and testing, which she was receiving at no cost in Australia, Gurnake decided against the visit and Mcloughlin suggested they instead enter her for the summer 2009 Junior Nationals.

As advised by Chris Peet, the LTA's talent performance manager for the North, Mcloughlin passed Naiktha's details to the governing body - yet heard nothing back for almost five months.

Mcloughlin urged it to review her case "as a matter of urgency" and head of talent Andrew Lewandowski eventually informed Gurnake that Naiktha would not be eligible to take part.

She had contravened LTA Rule 39, which states that entrants must not have competed in another country's national championships in the preceding 12 months.

"They were basically telling us 'we'd love to have you back here but you're going to have to stop playing Australian Nationals for a year'," Gurnake explained.

"She obviously can't do that when we're living here because she needs to compete at the highest level and it's bad for her development if she doesn't.

"We asked if they would make an exception given that we were trying to do something that may ultimately benefit British tennis, but they said 'no'."
The LTA finally made their move as Helen Reesby, national girls junior coach for 12-16 year olds, emailed Gurnake to compliment Naiktha on her progress and organise a meeting at the January 2011 Aegon Junior International in Bolton.

"We met with Helen and she explained the support options available," Gurnake commented. "I said 'wait a sec, do you not think you're a little bit too late? Naiktha's already getting all of that and more in Australia - and everything's free'.

"Helen replied, 'oh, is it?'. I said 'no disrespect but where have you been for the last three or four years?'. She didn't have a clue.

"She also said she was going to watch Naiktha play but I didn't see her courtside once. [Global management company] IMG were watching but the British lot were nowhere to be seen."

...the only way she can now represent Britain in an ITF team competition - such as Fed Cup or the Olympics - is if she avoids playing for Australia in the 36 months preceding that event.

"If the LTA had fulfilled what it said at the beginning and continued to keep an eye on her, without a shadow of a doubt she would have been playing WJTs for Britain," Gurnake insisted.

The 36-month rule applies solely for ITF team competitions, so Naiktha will always be free to pick which flag she plays under in tour events - but as things stand, Australia is her choice.

Mcloughlin admitted the "utopian dream" would be for Naiktha to evolve into a top player and decide to play with the letters 'GBR' next to her name, yet he conceded "it might be too late".

"Naiktha's case has shown us that some talents can fall off the radar," Mcloughlin added. "The LTA should be leaving no stone unturned to engage all foreign-based players and keep in regular contact.

"We need to adopt an umbrella approach - accept that many players will face different scenarios and make sure we are still covering them in one form or another."
The LTA told BBC Sport it does not comment on individual cases, and provided the following statement:

"The LTA is committed to supporting our most talented players irrespective of where they are based, and all British players are eligible to receive funding and support.

"The funding structure is the same for players training in Britain and abroad. Players based overseas are also invited to national player camps and can be selected for official trips and touring teams if they have the relevant results to support their selection."

I could go into what I think the reasons are that the LTA passed on this girl but took Laura Robson but I think the reasons are clear for those who care to see. I don't want to speculate about other potentially good players being passed over by the LTA since I'm based in the States and know very little about what they do unless something like this gets published by the BBC or other British press outlets.

That said I can easily see this happening in the United States. I know Patrick McEnroe is working hard to change the mentality of the tennis establishment here but if he's having such a hard time getting them to see the need for our youngsters to learn to play on clay I can only imagine the fight he'd have to get more Naiktha's on board. He has invested in Andrea Collarini though and we'll see how that works out in the years to come. It's the same with this girl. She is thirteen. I know I will keep looking out for her on the ITF circuit and see where she is at eighteen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's Always Something

by Savannah

Fans of American tennis looked forward to the all American doubles final that was to take place in Rome yesterday between the team composed of Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish and the team of John Isner and Sam Querrey. This was Rome, a clay court, the surface American players are seemingly born allergic to. It was going to be an epic battle and good news for tennis in the United States.
As you know by now Andy Roddick pulled out of the tournament citing a shoulder injury giving the crown to the team known as "Quisner". Pretty straight forward right?

Actually, it wasn't. Later in the afternoon and early evening reports began to surface about Roddick leaving Rome in a snit. Didn't make sense at first but Here is an account of what happened.

Andy Roddick was prowling the corridors at the Rome Masters on Sunday, incensed that he and Mardy Fish were going to be docked $42,800 — a share of the prize money they earned for their unexpected arrival in the doubles final because he was unfit to play.

An ultrasound on the right shoulder of the former world No. 1 and three-time Wimbledon finalist showed a buildup of fluid, which required a few days' rest, but Roddick was told that unless he and Fish fulfilled their commitment, they would be paid only what they would have received for reaching the semifinals. Roddick officially withdrew at 5 p.m. local time Sunday.

That at least gave Fish, as well as John Isner and Sam Querrey — their opponents in an all-American final — an opportunity to catch the only flight Sunday night from Rome to Dusseldorf, where the three players are representing the United States in the ATP's World Team Cup on Monday and where the organizers were threatening sanctions if they did not turn up in time to play.

Roddick was talked out of convening a news conference, but he asked The (London) Times to be present in the ATP office when he rebuked officials over a rule that reads, "Should a doubles match be uncontested or fail to be completed, the losing team shall only receive points and prize money from the previous round," which contained three provisos, none of which was applicable in this particular case.

No one was prepared to bend, which meant that the world No. 12 had to decide whether to play, which seriously could have undermined his French Open prospects, or take the prize money deduction and docking of ranking points on the chin and then appeal against the rule.

"We're going to have to beg for the money we've earned," Roddick said. "Why should Mardy be punished when I can't play? Mardy has played the (semifinal) match, he won the match, he earned the money, you can't take away something he has already done. This is embarrassing for the tour.

"The ATP people said they could not make a unilateral decision, so I either take a chance with the appeal process or I played with a shoulder that didn't give us much chance of winning and had a risk for the future.

"I would have had to play the full match. I asked if I played a point and then withdrew what would happen and they said the same thing, so it would have been an hour mockery as opposed to a five-minute mockery. The ATP stands for Association of Tennis Professionals; it should be the Association of Tie People."

The ATP said that it has to govern for all and that the rule was brought in a few years ago to deter players who were abandoning official doubles events without good cause to go off and play other lucrative matches.

There are some who will argue that Andy is arguing the principle of the issue and side with him. I'm not one of them. There is a rule on the books that was adopted just for situations like this. Apparently Andy feels that it doesn't apply to him. Yes he framed the argument in terms of it being unfair to Mardy but in the end didn't he want to break a rule that as an ATP player he is bound to abide by? I wonder if Andy is used to throwing hissy fits like this with the USTA and getting his way? He's been top dog in the States since forever and I'm sure whatever Andy wants Andy gets.
I guess the suits in Europe pissed him off so he went public. He asked the media in and that is why this all became public.

Everyone jumped on Donald Young's case when he publicly cursed out the USTA. The silence is deafening about this incident. Young posted on Twitter. Roddick called in the Times of London. Not much difference to me.

Since Roddick chose to do this in such a public way I hope that the public is allowed to know the outcome of any appeal if one is filed.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Deja Vu All Over Again

by Savannah

I was in Niagara Falls, Ontario last weekend and on my way back home when I checked the Madrid score on the ATP/WTA app on my Smartphone (no it's not an iPhone) and got seriously depressed for obvious reasons. Since I felt that my fave shouldn't have even played Madrid I was doubly depressed.

You can imagine how I feel today especially since regular readers know my feelings about Novak Djokovic. They're not new and they haven't changed. I will say this though: he has changed his game and the ATP tour will have to adjust. How long can he keep it up? Who knows?

I rarely get personal here but I have to ask you all to indulge me in this. That is the extent of my whining/fangirling folks.

On to the weekend results.

With the withdrawal of Andy Roddick from doubles play at Rome citing a shoulder injury John Isner and Sam Querrey are the ATP doubles champions in Rome.

If anyone of you says you knew Maria Sharapova, self proclaimed "cow on ice" when it comes to her claycourt play, would win it all in Rome you're liars. In a victory that has to be called mind over matter, or maybe mind and will over matter, Sharapova dispatched the WTA #1 and proceeded to totally dismantle Samantha Stosur. I'm still waiting to see Stosur play up to her hype.

Meanwhile love her or hate her (I'm meh at the moment) it was good to see a tour veteran decide she was going to win and do just that. No one will claim she has a great clay game, she doesn't. I mean Twitter lit up when she actually slid into a point so that tells you how her clay play is, but she played her game and won on her terms.

Novak Djokovic won Rome. He was the best player this week.

Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai won the ladies doubles over Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova.

This and That

It should be mentioned in passing that Petra Kvitova, one of the hottest players on the women's tour, skipped the Premier 5 in Rome to play an ITF event in Prague. She lost in the final to Magdalena Rybarikova. There was some controversy about her skipping Rome but apparently there is some loophole that allowed her to do this. She has now pulled out of the newly minted Brussels Premier event. Why is the WTA putting a new Premier event in place the week before a Grand Slam?

Come to think of it how serious is the WTA about marketing their product? The only way you could see WTA play the past week was via live stream. I'm talking about the United States of course. Eurosport covered all of the play live. We afterthoughts in the States got television on Saturday. I hope someone explains the logic of this to me. I'm serious. If you want to build the American audience for a women's tour dominated by non American players you have to let people see them. Sharapova's win today is a triumph for the American way of playing tennis but that irony was lost on all except tennisheads.

When Italian press reports said that the men's final would happen before the women's final many found it plausible. Why? Most of the week the women were given the worst courts and horrible scheduling. Fans of women's tennis were appalled and made a lot of noise about it. When the rumors surfaced this morning the feeling was that so few people sat to watch the women play anyway and putting them second would guarantee an empty stadium.

Needless to say the order of play wasn't changed and everyone was able to calm down.

The lack of coverage makes me wonder about the financial situation of the WTA. Instead of hating on the ATP fans of women's tennis need to start asking the really hard questions.

Kind of like the American tennis press finally taking its collective head out of its ass and asking, timidly, but asking the same, about the real status of American tennis. With both Serena Williams and Venus Williams out with injury there are no American women in the top ten. All but two of them, Samantha Stosur and Li Na, are European. In the ATP everyone in the top ten is European.

Andy Roddick said last week that basically he's carried the load for awhile now and it's time for others to step up to the plate. I can't blame him. He's got a wife and other interests now and he's been the sole American hope for years now. That's a large burden to bear.

I have to give Patrick McEnroe credit. He's trying to change the anti clay court tennis culture of the United States tennis establishment but right now he's shoveling manure against the tide. It's a difficult fight he's undertaken but it's one that has to be fought and won if the United States plans to reclaim it's role on the worldwide stage.

If the powers that be don't change their attitude we'll end up like the LTA living on reflected glory with our players used as practice partners by the rest of the world.