Thursday, September 22, 2011

Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

Jon Wertheim reports via Twitter that the Brazil is in negotiations to bring the ATP WTF to Rio for 2013-2015. Brazil isn't sitting still after getting the World Cup is it? Wertheim has walked this back a bit saying there was a meeting but not about bringing the WTF to South America.

Sam Querrey suffered another setback to his return to the ATP main tour. Seems he got an abdominal infection near his navel. Minor surgery was needed to correct it.

Czech Press is reporting Tomas Berdych, who recently parted with long time girl friend Lucie Safarova is dating a...hold your breath for this...model. There are lots of pictures of the woman, none with Tomas. If you must see what she looks like here is the LINK .
There are also pictures HERE and HERE . Two are in Czech but it doesn't matter does it?

Andy Roddick held his annual charity gala last evening in Austin. Serena Williams was spotted at James Blake's event.

Lots of sturm und drang about Andy Murray's comments regarding a possible players strike, most of it centered on the effect it would have on lower ranked players - read this as meaning players not in the top four. Main stream tennis media taken by surprise that Martina Navratilova has come out in favor of the players taking some kind of action. If this doesn't prove that these people spend most of their time picking lint out of their navels nothing else does.

Anyone who was paying attention during the action taken by the Gang of Three saw no less a lady suit than Chris Evert get emotional about what the players have to put up with. I'm guessing they also didn't see John McEnroe's impassioned history of the bad relations between players and the tennis hierarchy. I'm pretty sure they dismissed Serena's supportive tweet to Rafael Nadal while the meeting was taking place with Brian Earley.

You can't have it both ways guys. If the lower ranked players were rabble rousing the top four would be castigated for not wanting to take the risk and loss of income. Instead, because they are taking a stand they're being accused of not caring about how a strike would effect their lower ranked brothers. Let's just report on the issues behind what the players are saying instead of trying to cast aspersions on the men speaking out. I know that's wishful thinking but it's early and I'm just waking up.

What continues to bother me is the silence of the WTA players. Sure we got pictures of them milling about on court and the de rigueur meeting with Brian Earley at the BJK National Tennis Center did take place but right now it's crickets. I'm guessing the WTA runs a very tight ship. Just keep those beauty shots coming.

Serbian press is reporting that Jelena Dokic has reconciled with her father Damir and has arrived at his estate in Serbia with her boyfriend Tin Bikic.
Link to translation is HERE . Dokic has been playing for Australia. Will this change? Time to make some popcorn?

Australian Davis Cup Captain Pat Rafter is urging enfant terrible Bernard Tomic to put in more hours training if he wants to play with the Big Boys. We'll see.

Speaking of Davis Cup the United States is still in the World Group. We'll start DC play in 2012 away at Switzerland.

Confusing medical reports about Novak Djokovic after his DC retirement that handed Argentina the victory in their DC tie. Anyone watching saw that the problem appeared to be his back. Later reports say that it's a tear in a rib muscle that will require four weeks off the tour. Guessing that will mean he'll mis the Asian swing but so far no withdrawals yet. Keeping in mind all the negative comments about Serena William's being out and about while she recovered from her documented foot injury Djokovic and his girlfriend were seen partying at a club in Serbia with Janko Tipsarevic and his wife. I'm just saying.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Objects In the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

by Savannah

The United States Tennis Association stands exposed. The organization that gets high marks for putting on a major sporting event in New York City that actually turns a profit has a decision to make that will require all of it's financial acumen.
The rains that forced the schedules to be readjusted did not sneak up on anyone. I have a weather widget that is remarkably accurate and it showed rain for most of what was going to be the second week, crunch time, at the US Open. Not showers. Rain from a tropical system that was slow moving and wreaking havoc on the east coast of the United States. If anyone with a computer could see the second week was going to be shot to shit why did the USTA officials appear to be caught off guard and not have plans for when the inevitable happened?
Instead of a well oiled machine we got the Keystone Cops - a scramble to assign courts and make schedules that wouldn't cause accusations of favoritism to enter the collective psyche of tennisheads like the 2003 US Open, and that would allow the players to get some rest during the crunch time that is Week 2 of a Grand Slam.
The player protests about being made to play in unsafe conditions are historic. The Gang of Three - Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and
Andy Roddick, spoke up for the men's tour.

The United States chooses to play tennis on concrete slabs. It also chooses not to cover said slabs during light drizzles or torrential downpours. I swear someone must get a really kinky cheap thrill watching the Zamboni's accompanied by ball kids on their knees sopping up the moisture on those courts because I have yet to read any credible reason as to why tarp's aren't used to cover at least the show courts. Instead we get to watch the farce as the make shift court drying crew goes into action taking 45 minutes to dry a court. Forty five minutes is a long time and very often the rain starts to fall and we go through it again.
To add insult to injury water began seeping through a heretofore invisible crack in Louis Armstrong Stadium causing the USTA to lose the use of that stadium. Andy Roddick's match was moved to Court 13. Court 17 is the new, and roofless addition to the NTC. It's round and a bit sunken and is called The Bullring after the famous clay court at Roland Garros. Notice I used the word "new". It's just opened this year. Did I mention it's roofless?
And that is the story of the US Open and the shortsightedness of the USTA.
Tennis Australia, recognizing the danger to fans and players alike sitting in the broiling heat of an Australian summer has already covered two of it's show courts and will soon have a third one covered. Wimbledon, where there are more sticks up more arses than anywhere else has covered it's Centre Court. The French had a huge debate about whether to keep the French Open at it's current location or move to another one. The word "roof" was included in all of the conversations about whether or not to move from the historic Roland Garros tennis complex in the Bois du Boulogne.
From the USTA all we get is whining about what can't be done. Arthur Ashe Stadium is too big we're told. The decision to not put a roof on it came because the water table under the National Tennis Center is too high and the weight of a roof would make the Stadium sink into the marsh.
We know, thanks to the water seepage in Armstrong, that the argument about the water table is legit. Still as a fan I have to wonder why, back in the not so distant day, the decision was made to build on the marshland instead of on more solid ground. The answer given is that the weather patterns at that time didn't indicate that it would rain the way it has over the last few years and that Ashe wouldn't sink into the ground.
The USTA can be forgiven if it didn't heed the cries of the wild eyed fanatics who were talking about climate change and global warming back then. What can't be forgiven or explained away is the monstrosity of a center court they built. Anyone who has ever been there knows that Ashe wasn't built for tennis fans. It was built for the suits who will pay top dollar to be seen at a sporting event they know next to nothing about.
Tennis fans tend to be found from the loge area to the nosebleeds. When I first started going my daughter and I would sit in the nosebleeds and watch the jumbotrons. The live tennis was taking place in another zip code far, far away.
I should note that this year I bought a grounds pass and didn't step foot in Ashe once. I had a ball. I spent a lot of time on the Grandstand, the best bang for the buck a tennishead could ask for, and on Armstrong.
I was with first time visitors and they enjoyed themselves and are already talking about next year. Buying the grounds pass and not feeling that since I had spent big bucks for a decent seat in Ashe I had to stay there I got to see tennis with all it's quirks up close and personal. I rarely go during the second week but I am thinking about it for next year.
But this post isn't about my experiences there. It's about the dilemma facing the USTA.
Tennis fans have been complaining about Ashe almost since it opened. It's outdated and needs to be replaced. Do you tear it down, move the Open to the Left Coast where the chance of rain is much less and the temperatures are lower? You can't go south because of the heat and humidity not to mention the random hurricane or tropical storm. Same goes for Texas.
And if the decision is made to replace Ashe how big a stadium are we talking about? How long is the lease on the land or was it purchased outright? Do we go with something the size of Philippe Chatrier? In case you haven't noticed that is one huge stadium. Do we go with something along the lines of the Caja Magica in Madrid, ultra modern, a good size, and roofed? Would the plan be for a complex like Melbourne?
The weight of Ashe is supported by pilings drilled deep into the marsh it sits on. Any new stadium is going to have to be built with that in mind. There was already talk of tearing down Armstrong and I presume the Grandstand since the two courts are linked and building something new. As a fan I would hate to see those stadiums go since they're the most intimate and fan friendly of the show courts but the water problem that arose this go around may have sealed the fate of those courts.
People save up for years to be able to come to the US Open, to walk its grounds, buy the expensive merchandise and enjoy the sport they love in person. There is nothing like seeing the racquet head speed of the top players up close. There is nothing like seeing the beauty of Serena William's serve in person. Canceling days of play is not only a tragedy for the networks and sponsors. It's a tragedy for the regular guys, the folks who make a trip to the US Open their end of summer vacation.
I for one hope that whatever the USTA decides to do will be in the best interests of it's bottom line, and takes into account the fans who pay for the shitty seats and swarm the practice courts because they love tennis. Whatever decision the organization makes has to be soon though. No amount of "We Survived the 2011 US Open" press releases will cover up the need for quick, intelligent and decisive decisions that take into account all of its constituents.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011 US Open Women's Champion

by Savannah


Samantha Stosur finally played the tennis I'd heard so much about. Under threatening skies at the National Tennis Center she unleashed her forehand with lethal consequences for her opponent, Serena Williams.

Serena can be a slow starter. She can also be flat. She was both yesterday and it was Stosur who stepped up and took control of the situation. Only when Serena got in a dispute with the chair umpire over what she (and I) thought was an incorrect call did anger spur her to begin to move the way the tennis world has grown accustomed to seeing her move. Unfortunately that didn't last long.

I could say I was surprised at the tennis heads on Twitter coming out of the woodwork to insult Serena's angry outburst. I'll never understand why an angry African American scares so many people. Serena, who never uttered one word that could be said to be a curse word, was called "classless". Someone said she's always in touch with her "inner brute". It's comments like this that inspired one person to post that the comments show why tennis will never become a big time sport in the United States calling the comments, a bit euphemistically, examples of the country club mentality. Andy Roddick has said and done worse on court. Ryan Harrison, following in Roddick's footsteps, has already, at 19, said and done worse on the court. Mardy Fish directed the epithet "dumbass" at whoever was listening. But these American's are said to be "passionate" while Serena, who at her worst called the chair umpire a "hater", is seen by some as their worst nightmare. I should mention that one idiot said that the word "hater" is the catch phrase for the "classless", "unthinking" lesser educated. I guess they haven't been listening to their children.

But this is a column about Samantha Stosur's victory. She overcame the bias of the crowd, a US Open crowd that for once was behind Serena, and kept her cool and played her game, a game that yesterday was better than the WTA #1 player.

Does Stosur beat a fit and totally rested Serena? Probably not. For about five minutes of yesterday's match we saw that she doesn't have the weapons against Serena.

It can't be said enough that the scheduling by the USTA did a lot to determine the outcome of the Women's Final. Stosur, who was publicly unhappy about her semifinal match being put on an outside court with a starting time that put her up against a men's semifinal, in the end got the better deal. She was back in her hotel and resting by the time Serena took the court late Saturday night.


I don't think tennis fans should overlook the importance of Stosur's second set tiebreak against Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round, a tiebreak Kirilenko won 17-15. After losing a tiebreak like that many players would've mentally packed their racquets and gone home. Instead Stosur, again overcoming a hostile crowd, came back and won the third set. She followed that win with another one over the WTA #2 Vera Zvonareva, another confidence boosting victory.

Fans should also keep in mind that Stosur has played Serena well and that no matter what this was going to be a match Serena would've had to bring her A game in order to win. She didn't and that was all she wrote.

Much is being made about the fact that Stosur, formerly known mostly for her doubles, is the first Australian to win a major in dog years. They're already comparing her to Australian Davis Cup Captain Patrick Rafter.

So congratulations to Samantha Stosur on her victory. It was well earned and well played.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still Standing

by Savannah


It was a night that the WTA couldn't have wanted to happen. One women's semi final was shunted off to the smallest of the show courts at the National Tennis Center and the other one was scheduled to take place after the men's semi finals.

An argument could be made that the women, who will play their final on Sunday, September 11, had been royally dissed by the USTA. The men, led by the Gang of Three, got an off day built into their schedule. Their semifinals ended up lasting a combined 7 hours.

But this is about the women and the importance of the match that took place between world #28 Serena Williams and world #1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Serena has been playing glorious tennis during the United States summer hard court swing. Her opponent, not so much. Most unbiased observers expected a blood bath.

In the end the result was respectable.

The final score was 6-2, 6-4. Serena didn't play her best. She seemed anxious to finish the match and even double faulted serving for it. Who could blame her? It was close to 10p Saturday night Eastern time when she and her opponent took the court. It was close to midnight when the match ended. Don't forget that there was still cooling down and press to do.

But I digress. With the final score 2 and 4 the WTA can say it's #1 played well. If a bagel or breadstick had shown up anywhere in that score line it would've been a disaster for women's tennis. As it was the world #1 finished the first set with zero winners. That's zero. Zip. Nada. Her first "winner" came in the second set and was a gift. She ended up with four winners I believe.


Serena will face Samantha Stosur in the final this afternoon. It should be a competitive match.

There will be excuses made about why the #1 ranked woman in the world could play an entire set and not hit one winner.

There will be excuses made about why the four top ranked women will feature only one who has won a Slam and that was in 2008. In case you don't know who they are they are, in no particular order, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva.

There will be denials that there is pressure on Kim Clijsters to come back and "save" women's tennis.

There will be numerous mentions of Justine Henin's "unfortunate" retirement, none of which will reference her admission of cheating.


There will be references to Serena's time away from the sport she loves. Few of them will say flat out that she almost died and that for her to be playing the kind of tennis she is playing is nothing short of a miracle.

They will not say that, as the world saw tonight, she is playing on one foot.

Some on Twitter are calling Serena a living legend. I know nothing about Serena that would prove them wrong.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We Are Not Protected

by Savannah

Being a tennis fan means being a student of nuance. Take a look at this picture. Take a good look. Notice anything wrong with it?

Okay I'll spill. Is Serena Williams dressed to play tennis? I mean yeah she has her kit on and all that but where's the bling? Serena let the world know she'd gone to Graff jewelers and purchased a pair of earrings to wear during the US Open. Just so you know Graff diamonds ain't Zales diamonds. See them? Neither do I.

I explained to my daughter that before Serena stepped on the court a group of WTA players gathered on the same court. All of them were set to play last evening. But when it came time to play only Serena and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova appeared. All of the others were in a meeting in Tournament Referee Brian Earley's office, Vera Zvonareva being the last one to enter. We were also allowed to see Samantha Stosur, Flavia Pennetta and Caroline Wozniacki conferring just before they went into Brian Earley's office. In the on court huddle Serena's agent was there representing her.
My daughter said "Serena wasn't going to play anyway and she knew it."
"Why?" asked the old person.
"No earrings."
In a day at the US Open that saw ATP players Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and importantly Andy Roddick doing the tennis equivalent of storming the Bastille a lot was made of why no noise from the WTA players who as the day progressed looked as if they were going to be sacrificed to the tennis gods. Were they perceived as more compliant, more malleable? Apparently not. Was a deal struck that saw Serena and Pavs come out on court to test the waters so to speak? Serena was standing up and ready to go a few minutes before the night was officially called.

In the end it doesn't matter if Serena participated in charade or not. The USTA was caught with it's pants down and there is no other way to describe what happened. They've managed to skate by for a long time with no real plans for putting a roof on the monstrosity that is Arthur Ashe Stadium, a stadium where if you have to sit above loge level you may as well stay home and watch television. I understand that some apologists were saying there are plans but in the end it was admitted that any talk of plans is pure speculation at this point. There aren't any.
In a day that saw EVERY former player contracted to ESPN expressing anger at how players are treated, that saw John McEnroe give a history of the struggles tennis players have had to endure over the years and Mary Jo Fernandez recount how she was injured in a bad fall on a wet court, it was an amazing day.

The weather report this morning is saying the heavy stuff will arrive from eastern Pennsylvania around 2p. Let's hope they're right.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Once Again - The Pod

by Savannah Photobucket Tennis journalist Jon Wertheirm linked to this Blog Post on Twitter this morning. It makes a lot of the same points made in this space by me and others. I thought for clarity and fairness it would be a good idea to post another blogger's thoughts.
The $75,000 CVAC pod device, which is one of only 20 devices in the world, is different from the $5,000 hyperbaric chambers that are commonly used by athletes. Hyperbaric chambers serve to “saturate the blood with oxygen and stimulate healing.” The CVAC pod device, “is a considerably more-ambitious contraption. It uses a computer-controlled valve and a vacuum pump to simulate high altitude and compress the muscles at rhythmic intervals.” According to the WSJ article,
The company claims that spending up to 20 minutes in the pod three times a week can boost athletic performance by improving circulation, boosting oxygen-rich red-blood cells, removing lactic acid and possibly even stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis and stem-cell production… CVAC Systems chief executive Allen Ruszkowski says the treatment seems to have many of the same effects on the body as intense exercise. He claims that the technology may be twice as effective at helping the body absorb oxygen as blood doping—a banned form of performance enhancement.

...Now why the CEO of CVAC systems would try to market the device as being twice as effective as blood doping, is beyond me.


If you go to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) website, you can find their anti-doping code. According to the comment to Article 4.3.2 of Version 3.0 of the World Anti-Doping Code (pg. 32-33): A substance shall be considered for inclusion on the Prohibited List if the substance is a masking agent or meets two of the following three criteria:

It has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance;

It represents a potential or actual health risk;

or It is contrary to the spirit of sport.

None of the three criteria alone is a sufficient basis for adding a substance to the Prohibited List. Using the potential to enhance performance as the sole criteria would include, for example, physical and mental training, red meat, carbohydrate loading and training at altitude. Risk of harm would include smoking.

Notice the WADA code specifically states that none of the three criteria is sufficient on its own for inclusion to the Prohibited List. That’s why red meat and carbohydrate loading, while they are considered to be performance-enhancing under criteria #1, are not on the Prohibited Substances list, because they do not represent a health risk to the athlete (at least not in the same way that recreational drugs would) and are not contrary to the spirit of the sport.

Altitude training, whose effects the CVAC pod is supposed to imitate, meets criteria #1 of performance-enhancing measures. So if I were to treat those two as equal, then the CVAC pod device meets criteria #1.

WADA has already commented that the CVAC pod device, unlike altitude training on its own, is against the spirit of the sport. So the CVAC pod device meets two of the three criteria for inclusion on the Prohibited List and should be on that list.

Now, I’m sure there is more research that needs to be done on this device before WADA makes a ruling, but it seems if you put #1 and #3 together, use of this device should already have been prohibited by WADA. From my understanding, the CVAC device is different from a basic oxygen tent because the pod increases barometric pressure on the person to more effectively deliver oxygen to the blood.

My guess as to why WADA hasn’t outlawed the CVAC pod device is that the device is not an actual substance that can be ingested or injected into the athlete’s body. You can ban drugs but can you ban an athlete from using a device? This is clearly new territory for WADA and they are treading cautiously.

Note that as part of heightened efforts against blood doping, the International Olympic Committee has instituted a no-syringe policy for the 2012 Olympic Games. The no-syringe policy was already implemented by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in May 2011 this year.

But anyone who looks through the history of doping in sports knows that as soon as new anti-doping measures are adopted, more advanced techniques are soon found to skirt the rules. Use of these devices is clearly new ground for anti-doping authorities. Yet it seems like only a matter of time before WADA will have to confront matters related to ‘non-invasive’ techniques.


Note that for blood doping, autologous blood doping (transfusing one’s own stored blood) is undetectable. There is not yet an accredited test that can show that an athlete has received an illegal blood transfusion of his/her own blood. Tests only exist for homologous blood doping (tranfusing someone else’s blood).

As you can imagine, homologous blood doping is nowhere near as prevalent as before. So how do anti-doping authorities in cycling, a sport that’s had many high-profile doping cases, monitor autologous blood transfusions in the sport? The UCI and WADA monitor the percentage of red blood cells (hematocrit level) in an athlete. The normal hematocrit level for an adult male is between 41-50. The UCI sets the upper level at 50% for cyclists (anything above 50% is illegal and requires an immediate suspension). Even under these rules, there is room for athletes to continue blood doping (so long as their hematocrit level stays just below 50%).

Whether or not the CVAC pod device can increase an athlete’s hematocrit level to above 50% should play an important role in determining its legality. So there is in fact a way (not a fool-proof way, but still effective) to test for unfair advantage through use of the CVAC pod device, by looking at the hematocrit level of the athlete. The same method that’s currently used to monitor blood doping in cycling.
This blogger takes what one fan already posted here in comments and expands on it. I will say what the blogger doesn't say. It's because of who has used the Pod that the United States tennis establishment has been silent in public. The United States tennis establishment has a vested interest in the player who sits on top of the rankings right now and has for several years.

Not to mention that two of it's rising stars, John Isner and Christina McHale, have publicly acknowledged using the device. If the device is banned I'm wondering when the ban will become effective. Will it be retroactive? I think it should be but it won't. The ATP and WTA have to save face and will pressure WADA not to.


 I've seen one source cited by a fellow blogger saying that Caroline Wozniacki has apologized for her "joke" about Rafael Nadal's cramping in front of the press. Damn bloggers trying to cover a story the Grand Poobah's of tennis journalism won't touch and that TPTB at the WTA just wish would go away. I doubt they'd protect any other player the way they're protecting Wozniacki here.

 It must have galled the USTA to have to call yesterday's schedule. It cost them beaucoup bucks. We'll see play today come hell or highwater something that can no longer be said lightheartedly given the fires in Texas and the flooding affecting the east coast of the United States.

Tennisheads have been highly critical of Chris Evert's commentating on ESPN2. I for one don't find her any worse than the usual crew. Chris does seem to be taken aback by some of the idiosyncrasies in the modern game but when allowed to talk tennis she is very good. She also looks askance every time Hannah Storm opens her mouth. That shows she is aware of some things no?

 What is it about Feliciano Lopez that drives former tennis players and commentators wild? Are they pissed because Judy Murray wasn't lusting after them in public? Why did former great Boris Becker post comments that many considered homophobic on Twitter? I've never quite seen the attraction of F-Lo but he drives people other than me to distraction including Andy Murray's mother. Who is she supposed to lust after? Brad Gilbert? One of the McEnroe brothers? Really?

End Note

I need to understand the logic behind not covering hard courts. When it rains it takes at least forty five minutes to dry and prepare the courts for play. In a dicey weather situation like the one in NYC right now that is valuable time lost.

Apparently the official line about no planned roof for Ashe has expanded. The main line of reasoning is that the stadium is too damn big and has been for some time. The added reason, one that's been around for awhile but that's been whispered but not emphasized is that Ashe and Armstrong are built on a swamp. The stadiums are already sinking and if any refurbishing needs to be done it would involve tearing down and rebuilding new show courts.

If they've known this for years why is it that only now, with the embarrassment of an entire day of Grand Slam play being cancelled Topic A in tennis circles is this now being thrown out for public consumption? I'm sure engineering techniques have advance since the NTC was built and that solutions can be found. The time is past for the USTA's blather. It's time to bring the showcase of United States tennis into the 21st century.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Of Rain Delays, Double Standards and Greed

by Savannah


***All Play for September 6 has been cancelled***

I've been at the NTC on a rainy day. Martina Hingis was one of the few players practicing in the rain and it was all around miserable. The announcement that day session play had been suspended and that tickets were good the next day was made at 5p. The USTA did all it could to try and avoid having to honor the tickets for the rain out.

I bring that up because the forecast in NYC is for rain and lots of it until Sunday. That's right, Sunday. This is the USTA's worse nightmare for several reasons. Davis Cup play starts next weekend for one. People who have saved to come to the second week of the US Open will be forced to return home to jobs and families. It also highlights the fact that not one of the NTC's showcourts has a roof.
Not even the new Court 17.

I expect any minute now some suit from the USTA will say no one could've anticipated a week of rain. I hope tennisheads call bullshit since the remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Lee have been steadily making its way to the North East and New York City. Sporting events make regular use of long term forecasting so when some intern is forced to go before the cameras to read a statement saying "no one ever expected" pity the intern and rail at the USTA for shortsightedness and stupidity regarding it's show courts. The official line is that Ashe is too big and it's borders too irregular to make adding a roof cost effective. What about the Ashe/Grandstand complex folks?

I know. I'm beating a dead horse again. But it has to be said by someone.

Double Standards

"Golden Girls" fans are familiar with these words.
"Picture this, New York City, 2011". A top tennis player suffers a severe cramp during his post match presser with the Spanish language press. He slides to the floor to help ease the pain. Twitter goes wild as the initial reports say only that there was an "incident" following reports of the player collapsing and speculation that he'd suffered a seizure in some quarters.

Now picture the WTA #1 ranked player coming into her post match presser last evening and mocking the player who had suffered the cramp. That would never happen you say? It did.

Now let's get real. If another player, say Serena Williams for example, did something like this the tennis media would be up in arms. What if, as James LaRosa asked, gasp, Maria Sharapova did what "Sunshine" did? I'm not saying she'd be dragged through the streets like Serena would be but there would be an uproar.
Instead apologists are saying that mystery reporters egged Wozniacki on. This point of view assumes that the egging on was done by those damn bloggers again (forgetting that the US Open rarely if ever gives accreditation to bloggers) or that the WTA #1 is a simpering idiot who does whatever she's told to do and doesn't know when she's being led into a trap.

Side by side with this is Mardy Fish' behavior during his match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tom Perrotta reported the incident in the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier in the match, Tsonga had complained that someone in the crowd, seemingly near Fish’s guest box, was screaming at him. As the match got away from Fish, he complained to chair umpire Carlos Bernades about noise in Tsonga’s box. Fish was blunt about why he couldn’t make out what they were saying.

“I don’t speak French, you dumb—,” he said to the umpire.

Tsonga and Fish shook hands and spoke at the net after the match, and both said there was nothing between them.

“I probably shouldn’t have said that,” Fish said. “We were fired up.”

“With Mardy, it’s all the time friendly,” Tsonga said. “It’s good.”
I guess being the top ranked American player means you can say whatever you want to whomever you want and pay no consequences. Again, picture the outrage if Serena had said this to a chair umpire. Incandescent would be the proper word to use about press reaction.

I'm trying to avoid saying anything about the scheduling for this US Open but they're making it hard not to. The best matches of the tournament have been on Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand. The gyrations that went into not putting the Samantha Stosur vs Maria Kirilenko match on Ashe make a game of Twister look like nothing. Yet fans were tweeting that people were high tailing it out of Ashe to see the match.

Then there's the schedule for today, September 6. First up, Donald Young's match. Third on Ashe is - wait for it - the Mixed Doubles semi final featuring the team of Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock. Yep. The women's quarter finals are on - I give you one guess. And the USTA wonders why it's so hated. All national tennis organizations try and favor their own players but the USTA goes out of it's way to insult and demean the stars of the sport who are not named Roger Federer. Some of his fans were screaming for his match to be moved to Armstrong last night. As if. The man himself wouldn't have agreed to that move. I've always found that fandoms know their beloved. I was really surprised that The Monogram's fans thought he'd deign to play on Armstrong.

End Note

Still no commentary on air about the CVAC other than to mention that John Isner and Christina McHale have used it. If you haven't please read the comment by "readyplay" about WADA rules. I agree with the conclusion. The Pod meets 2 out of 4 criteria for being banned. I'm going to leave it at that.

Caroline Wozniacki was using some kind of gizmo during her match against Svetlana Kuznetsova last night that no one in the booth had ever seen before. I understand that on ESPN Deportes the comms were saying it was a cell phone like device to receive messages on. ESPN2 comms said it was something to measure string tension. Little brown bottles, mysterious devices? CVAC's? Insulting chair umps? It's not what's done it's who does it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Day At The Open

by Savannah


I made it out to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this past Thursday. It was the first time I was going to the US Open without having paid for a seat in Ashe. For some reason the matches on Ashe weren't compelling enough for me to pay a king's ransom for the privilege of being baked alive watching a match with a fore drawn conclusion. Even Serena's match wasn't enough to get me into that cavernous stadium. Instead I brought a grounds pass. Since you never know with tennis I wanted the option to go into the nosebleed section in Ashe but all of those were sold out  so I got a regular pass that lets you into everywhere but that stadium and off I went.

I should mention that I had newbies with me this trip. This was their first time out to the Open. It's interesting seeing things through a first timer's eyes.

We went to Armstrong first and got seats during the Gael Monfils/Juan Carlos Ferrero match. I'd never seen either man live before and was anxious to see them square off. I figured if Monfils was on it would be at most four sets. Apparently several thousand tennis fans felt this match was compelling enough to sit and bake in the sun for. By the end of the first set there wasn't a seat to be had. I wondered how the talking heads were taking that. Armstrong was packed to the rafters while I had a feeling that Ashe was fairly empty. I found out after I got home that it hadn't gone unnoticed by those whiz kids working for ESPN. A comment was made about the crowd during Roddick's opening match and how it had helped him. It would've been different if it had taken place in a half empty stadium the talking head intoned.

I bore rather quickly these days and after a set and a half I concluded Monfils was not going to beat Ferrero. My friend said that Ferrero was hungrier. He was enjoying the match though and when we left taking his seven year old daughter with us to go watch Andrea Petkovic vs Zheng Jie he went back to watch more of the Monfils match.

Zheng is very small. Smaller than Dominika Cibulkova I'm guessing. That made me appreciate her achievements even more. While Petko is not in the over six feet club it was clear who was going to win the match. Zheng's fighting spirit wasn't enough to prevail and while she did force three sets it wasn't her day.

Have I mentioned I love the Grandstand Court? If I have I'll say it again. It and Armstrong are the best show courts. You can actually see the tennis and that is why you go to Flushing. Whatever decision they make regarding a new stadium at the NTC I hope they make it fan friendly. The monstrosity that carries Arthur Ashe's name is an ode to corporate greed and not to tennis. They should also leave Armstrong and the Grandstand alone. I understand that suits and the corporations they work for help the US Open to be the only profitable sports operation in New York but the other Slams take care of them and understand that fans who save up to make a trip to see their favorites deserve to be able to see the men and women they idolize. They shouldn't be treated like pariahs and banished to the upper reaches of a place like Ashe. The joy of live tennis is seeing the grips, the footwork, the shotmaking up close. You can stay home and watch television.

The next match I saw was one between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Sergei Bubka. Bubka is pretty much a one trick pony. He hits the ball hard but he doesn't do anything else very well. Tsonga wasn't flying high during this match and he didn't need to. There were moments when he played up to his abilities though and when he did it was a glorious sight to see. I kind of soured on him when he did his "no mas" routine a couple of weeks ago but he is one to see live if you can.

There was no need to stay for the third set so we, along with my daughters friend Gian, headed out to Court 7 to see Aleksandr Dolgopolov. This gave my friend and his daughter a chance to see the US Open in all it's jam packed glory. Mind you the Monfils vs Ferrero match was still going on and wherever there were jumbotrons there were people standing or sitting in front of them watching. We found a table calling our name at the Food Court and while Gian and his friend went on to Court 7 we had a few bites to eat. Seven year olds love chicken nuggets and fries and my daughter got ribs. Neither one of them complained about the food so I'm guessing it was edible.

I should mention that I'm glad the US Open doesn't make you hide the water you bring in from the outside. When I was there last they made you remove the labels from your non Evian water and you had to hide your food. They don't enforce that nonsense anymore. Judging by the lines at the food court and beverage carts I don't think they lose any money. Then again people buy the large Evian bottle - the one with the red top - and refill at the water fountains.

They went on to Court 7 while I stopped and watched the jumbotron outside of Ashe along with several hundred other people. It was the fifth set and Gael, who had waved off a concerned trainer once, got another visit from him a few minutes later and this time he didn't wave the man off. There was little doubt who was going to win at that point but I got distracted by Tennis Channel's Cari Champion and her film crew walking by. She is tall and was wearing wedgies that were at least four inches. She looked cool, calm and collected in the late afternoon sun and once she was past me I headed for Dolgopolov's match. He was playing Flavio Cipolla. There is always a lot of churn on the outer courts and oftentimes you end up watching players you're not that interested in because you can see the mechanics of their games and why some will never be the superstars they dream of being.

But back to Dolgo. He is very slight, much slighter than I thought he was. The thing that struck me about his game was his service motion. I never noticed how odd it is. He twists his body and unwinds into it. That's the best way I can describe it. His ground strokes are good though and he won the first two sets against a totally frustrated, racquet throwing Cipolla. Figuring Dolgo had this match in the bag we turned to Court 6 where Melanie Oudin and Jack Sock were playing. Of course they'd drawn a decent crowd. Melanie is small. And she knew enough to let Jack Sock carry their team. I'm through slagging on Melanie though. She was thrown to the wolves by a United States tennis establishment fiending for the next blonde thing. It's a hell of a lot to ask a seventeen year old. I wouldn't want that kind of pressure on myself and I'm old. We watched for a few minutes and then headed back towards the Grandstand to see Sloane Stephens who had won her first set in spectacular fashion.

We never made it. My friend got distracted by the music and we sat down. Sloane didn't appear to be doing so well in the second set and with a bone tired seven year old in tow it just didn't make sense to join the line to get into the Grandstand. We were all stunned to find out Dolgo had managed to lose two sets to Cipolla. He won but that must've been one hell of a walkabout. We were also quite pissed at ourselves when Sloane pulled out the second set.

I don't graze like I used to so while my daughter got a frozen Cosmo from the Gray Goose stand - she loves their product - my friend got an expresso and a brownie and we listened to music.

My other regret was that I didn't get to see Court 17. God willing, and barring earthquakes and hurricanes I hope to get over there next year. I hear nothing but good things about watching matches there.

The US Open is still a fun, and expensive, tournament but as a tennishead I wouldn't dream of being anywhere else for at least a day at the end of August. As my friend said when we were leaving "This isn't a tennis tournament. It's a festival."
Indeed it is.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Don't Know What My Path Will Be...

by Savannah


The news that Venus Williams withdrew from the US Open minutes before her match was set to begin sent shockwaves through the tennis community. Venus had warmed up, was dressed for her match and all seemed well before she withdrew.

Shortly after her withdrawal her publicist issued a statement that gave the reason, Sjogrens Syndrome. Like many who had never heard of the condition I Googled it and found out that it is an auto immune disease that affects four million people in this country, mostly women, and that no ethnic or racial group is exempt from it.
I also read that it takes up to seven years for the proper diagnosis to be given.
Many first reactions were that due to Venus being a top athlete her diagnosis had to have taken less than seven years but when everyone had calmed down some were talking about Venus diagnosis of anemia a few years back and realized that the diagnosis may have taken longer than we initially thought.
There is no need to guess about how long the diagnosis took though. That most private of persons gave an interview to Good Morning America where she explains her symptoms, how long the diagnosis took, and how it's too soon for her to know how she feels about it.
I thank tennishead Omess for directing me to the video of the interview
There is no cure for the syndrome and doctors can only treat the symptoms. Venus sounds optimistic about returning to tennis and as a long time fan I hope that she can. I'm sure that since she wants to return to the sport she loves there is no need to counsel her to follow her doctors counsel. I look forward to the day when Venus symptoms have subsided and she can come back to her sport.