Saturday, December 31, 2011

And So It Begins...

by Savannah

It seems that the tennis "off season" is getting shorter and shorter. Why not since I dare anyone to say 2011 dragged. When young people are saying the year flew by it did. Back in the day I remember the years seeming just the right length, not as long as when I was a child but not as fleeting as an image in a rear view mirror.

Spain closed out the season winning the Davis Cup and starting this past Wednesday the draws, qualifying and main, started appearing for what is called the 2012 Australian summer hard court season. Amazing.

We've also had our first tennis media generated tempest in a teapot as well. Rafael Nadal announced he's taking February off to rest his shoulder. The Grand Poobahs seem to believe he should've kept that to himself or waited until after the Australian Open. Why? Rafa doesn't make the spring South American clay court swing, hasn't in years. And the USTA has two Masters Series, back to back, in March. On hard courts. My guess is that the big media boys wanted a chance to break some news. I say good for Rafa. In this digital age it's stupid to sit on something. Rafa broke his own news. More power to him.

Serena Williams has posted the first of her bikini pictures series proudly showing off what brings grown men, and young boys, to their knees. What is she supposed to wear a burkha? Please. If you're not ready for that large a serving of boo-tae the salad bar is to the left.

I'm still waiting for an explanation as to why Caroline Wozniacki's romance is headline news. I guess I missed a memo again.

And while I'm at it why does the WTA set up photoshoots of it's top, and not so top, players in soft porn poses? If I was inclined to like to look at sexy half naked women there are places on the interwebs for that. I mean it's nice to show the players off as attractive women but the idea that all women tennis players moonlight at tractor pulls is long gone isn't it? Now if there are shots of half naked sweaty men around I'm all in. I mean there are but those are usually taken after a warm up, practice or match. I do have my standards though. I mean clothed or not Marat Safin is one hot piece of manflesh no?

I was watching a match at the annual Abu Dhabi money grab and the British announcers gushed about new ATP CEO Brad Drewitt's cherished goal of instituting a time clock similar to what they use in the NBA. I narrowed my eyes so hard I fell asleep. I mean is that going to help the Americans or Brits win a major? I.Don't.Think.So. Just saying. By the way I'm glad I double checked his name. I was trying to name him Adam. I guess that's because "The Young and the Restless" was on in the hairdresser the other day. I mean that has to be it. I barely knew the name of the guy who preceded Adam, uh, Brad. Yep. Has to be Victor Newman's spawn that caused me to misname Mr. Drewitt.


Do I have to go into the spiel about how special 2012 is because it's an Olympic year? No? Good. For those who need to hear about it here we go: blah, blah, blah, Olympics, blah, blah, blah, Fed Cup, blah, blah, blah, Davis Cup, blah, blah, blah, heavy playing schedule, yadda yadda yadda etc., etc., etc. Capiche? Good.

I wish all my readers a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. If you wake up under a table and it feels like you've had a sock in your mouth while you were passed out or there are unexplainable wet spots over what's left of your clothing just roll over and go back to sleep. Oh, and watch out for that pool of, well, whatever it is.

And if your New Year's celebration includes shooting a gun out of your window please remember that bullets don't have eyes and while you don't intend to hurt anyone there's a chance you will.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

by Savannah

Danielle Rossingh of Bloomberg News reports the following:

The women’s tennis tour will lose its biggest sponsor after mobile-phone maker Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB said it won’t extend its agreement when it expires next year.

Sony Ericsson signed a six-year contract worth $88 million in 2005, the largest sponsorship in tennis history and women’s professional sports, to become the WTA Tour’s title sponsor. The company, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and Ericsson AB, dropped the naming rights last year when it signed a two-year extension until Dec. 31, 2012.

“After seven years partnering with the WTA, we have decided not to renew the partnership,” Sony Ericsson spokeswoman Graciela Pineda said in an interview today. “We feel that after seven years our brand has evolved and our business as well.”


Australian Tennis is trying to inoculate young indigenous player Ashleigh Barty from Oudin-Young Syndrome.

Esteemed coach David Taylor has urged Australian tennis fans and officials from burdening teenage sensation Ashleigh Barty with unfair expectations.

Taylor on Friday hailed the 15-year-old junior Wimbledon champion as not only the hottest talent in world tennis, but also potentially even better than the great Martina Hingis.

“She’s the real deal. She is amazing,” Taylor told AAP.

The legendary Evonne Goolagong Cawley agreed, lauding Barty’s “fantastic” all-round game, but Taylor said it was critical the youngster was allowed to develop before being over-hyped.

“We have to be careful with her,” he said.

“People are excited because she is such an outstanding talent and we haven’t had one like that for so long.

“But she’s still got a long way to go and so many things can wrong before she becomes a top-20 player.

“She’s not even close to that. The distance she has to travel to get there is way off so let’s just be excited about her potential for now, eh.”

Yeah comparing her to Hingis takes the pressure off doesn't it? Seriously though I wonder if they're saying she's shorter than many of the top women players? Neither the WTA site or the ITF site gives height and weight information. Then again she's only 15.


Vladimir Kamelzon, a top Russian coach is speaking out about Ksenia Pervak's decision to play for Kazhakstan so that she can play in the Olympics, a goal of hers. Pervak's father is said to be quite wealthy so money isn't her reason for changing country affiliation. Some are also asking what Russian tennis guru Shamil Tarpishev expected when he told Pervak that he would not even name her to the squad dashing her hopes to play in London.

"I'm upset and angry about Pervak's switch to the Kazakhstan national team," Vladimir Kamelzon, head coach of the Russian team, told RIA Novosti on Friday. "I just can't understand Pervak's decision, and I will never accept it," he said.

Kamelzon said Pervak was "the personification of the Russian tennis method of developing top-class players," and lamented that she would depart despite spending all of her formative years in the hands of the country's finest coaches.

Brad Drewett and the ATP

The appointment of Brad Drewett as ATP Chairman has drawn applause from the Tennis Axis establishment and Roger Federer issued a statement of approval but on Twitter, where players post everything from their public (and sometimes private) lives the silence has been deafening.

Tennis X made the following observation:

Rafael Nadal, Mahesh Bhupathi, Ivan Ljubicic, Rohan Bopanna, The Bryans, Dustin Brown, Ryan Harrison, Jack Sock, Tommy Robredo, Juan Monaco, Juan Ignacio Chela, Jamie Murray, Milos Raonic and others were too busy tweeting the last 10 hours about the holidays, their Australian Open fashion and other mildly interesting memes than to even mention their new boss.

Ljubicic did retweet the ATP Drewett press release, but added nothing.

Amer Delic did comment on Twitter but his posts were less than a ringing endorsement.

That there were other candidates for the position including perennial candidate John P. McEnroe came as somewhat of a surprise. The ATP held its cards close to the vest and the tennis media proved the term journalist only applies to them in a tangental way by not airing any of the behind the scenes debate for the edification of fans. If there had been an open discussion rumors about parents of some players also having their hats in the ring wouldn't bubble to the surface and disappear back into the ooze.

The more I read the more convinced I am that all of this drama was orchestrated, that it was always going to be Drewett. I remember back in the summer when Drewett's image flashed on my screen and the talking heads verbiage was very favorable. I don't remember ever seeing or hearing about the other guy who was allegedly in the running. The powers that be made it clear that they did not want Krajicek and are now going out of their way to try and give Drewett player cred by repeating over and over that he was a player rep back in the day. Back in the day isn't now. There were no mandatory tournaments. Sponsor demands were nowhere near what they are now. The game was less physical. There were more tournaments on the natural surfaces of clay and grass. And the USTA had not yet gone to the extremes it would later to try and stop and stifle the true internationalization of the sport.

I don't know if Drewett's "mandate" will allow him the room he would need to address the issues at the heart of player protests that boiled over at last years US Open. His support comes from the USTA, Tennis Australia, the LTA and the FFT - the Tennis Axis, the ITF and the TD's of major tournaments. Will he allow more joint WTA/ATP events? Will he allow the players to be able to take control of their careers again and choose what tournaments they want to play?

It's going to be interesting to see how his address to the players in Melbourne goes over. Then again the tennis media will only present what TPTB want them to.


Swedish 19 year old Lucas Renard has been given a six month ban for corruption. Four months of the ban have been suspended conditional of his attending anti corruption training. Renard, ranked #882 was found to be in violation of the rule against a player trying to“contrive or attempt to contrive the outcome” of a match.

Revenge? Sour grapes? Bad form? The USTA is supposed to be bigger than this right?

Patrick McEnroe apparently has a lot to say about Alex Bogomolov Jr's decision to play Davis Cup for Russia.

"He has received quite a bit of support, it's an ITF decision and at the USTA we are exploring our options," he stated. I'll leave it at that."
"I certainly believe… I have no issue with Alex personally. From the USTA standpoint, he was born in Russia, he has family there, he should repay the USTA. He's actually signed something saying that and we'll see what happens."

I followed up asking if the USTA is continuing to explore options and McEnroe said, "that is correct."


Really Patrick? Alex was not ever going to be part of the United States Davis Cup team was he? Like Pervak, its a dream of his to play in the Olympics. He found a way to play and he took it. Sad that Patrick doesn't see the irony of his position and what it says about the American tennis establishment.


Happy Holidays to everyone who celebrates at this time of year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Australia's Drewitt New ATP Chairman

From the ATP World Tour:


Brad Drewett, former player and current ATP senior executive, has been named as the organisation’s new Executive Chairman and President, it was announced today. He begins his role on January 1, 2012, and will be based in the ATP's London office.

The 53-year-old Australian’s 3-year appointment was voted unanimously by the ATP Board of Directors with Drewett considered to be ideally qualified to take on the multi-faceted role with his extensive experience at the ATP. Drewett currently serves as CEO of the ATP International Group, where he has overseen operations in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific regions since 1999. Prior to that, Drewett served as an elected member of the Player Council and an ATP Player Board Representative (1993-1999). He has also been Tournament Director of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and formerly the Tennis Masters Cup since 2001, and has been instrumental in the event’s tremendous success.

During his 12-year professional playing career, Drewett reached a career-high ranking of 34 in singles, winning two ATP World Tour titles, and represented Australia in Davis Cup competition. The Australian Open Junior champion (1975, 1977) reached the quarter-finals in his first Grand Slam in Melbourne in 1976.

“I am honoured to have this opportunity to lead the ATP, an organisation that I am proud to have been a part of since the beginning of my professional playing career,” Drewett said. “The ATP World Tour and men’s tennis are stronger than ever and it is my intention to continue to lead the organisation on this successful path, working hand in hand with our players and tournaments. I am very excited about the opportunities ahead.”

ATP Player Council President Roger Federer said, “Brad is a very experienced executive and has been an effective leader within the ATP for many years. He understands the global nature of the business as well as the complexities of dealing with all of the Tour's stakeholders. I am confident that Brad's work ethic and leadership will help contribute to the continued success of the ATP World Tour.”

ATP Board Representative Gavin Forbes said, “Brad has the perfect combination of proven business abilities and understanding of player and tournament perspectives to oversee the continued growth of the ATP World Tour. He has been an integral part of the Tour’s success over the last decade, and will be able to get straight to work in January thanks to his deep relationships within the sport.”

If anyone is surprised by this you haven't been paying attention. The running of the ATP is safely in the hands of the Tennis Axis. Drewitt is the first Australian to be named to the position. None of that crap about players having more of a say.

Since there were public reports of a bitter split in the player ranks it's going to be interesting to see how Drewitt handles all of the issues raised by the Gang of Four at the US Open.

I don't know anything about the man so I could only speculate about what positions he will take and I'm not going to do that. I suppose I could make a guess given what has been published about his background but I won't at this time. I will say that I'm sure the USTA, LTA and FFT are raising celebratory toasts.

Congratulations Mr. Drewitt and good luck.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Rearview Mirror - A Look Back at 2011

By Savannah

There is no doubt who the ATP player of the year will be: Novak Djokovic. He won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, and for that alone he will win that accolade.

However at the end of the year the names on the lips of tennisheads were Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Federer set the bar high for himself winning his home tournament in Basel and the Paris Masters at Bercy, and came into the 2011 ATP WTF on a roll. Playing on a surface that appears custom made for him, Federer was the last man standing at the end achieving an emotional win over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Nadal, who never plays well at the WTF put in a decent showing but went home early. All of the tentativeness and seeming distraction that he showed in London disappeared on the red clay court of Sevilla. Even when it looked as if he were going to falter - falling behind and losing the first set of the fourth rubber, he climbed back into the match and for the first time in his career played the match that won the Davis Cup championship for Spain.

With the top two draws in men's tennis closing their respective years with impressive displays on favored surfaces fans are wondering if this momentum will carry them into 2012 on a high.

Nadal has already said he will not be playing DC for Spain in 2012 due to the Olympics. Federer on the other hand has confirmed that he will play the tie between Switzerland and the United States in February. I haven't read if he will play if Switzerland wins and moves on in the Davis Cup.

Djokovic on the other hand has played lackluster tennis since the US Open. Andy Murray, who had a tremendous Asian swing also petered out during the end of the year.

Let's be real here. A lot of what happens after the US Open depends on what is best for the top players. They've come through a long and grueling season where they have to balance personal goals against national goals, physical and mental needs against the demands of the tour. With the institution of mandatory tournaments the players have lost control over their years. The US inspired downgrade of Monte Carlo during the spring European clay court swing and back to back hard court Masters events on US hardcourts in the spring and summer take their toll. Let's not forget the French Open/Wimbledon swing. It's not back to back but takes a toll mentally on players who wish to excel at both events. And just for shits and giggles let's add the Olympics to the pot. Something had to give and it will probably be Davis Cup for the men.

Many of the Europeans are still pissed about what happened to both Monte Carlo and Hamburg. Just as with Davis Cup the ATP seems to want to cow tow to the needs of the United States tennis establishment and forces players to play tournaments they can only opt out of due to injury. Could this be the reason Richard Krajicek is a favorite to take the reins of the ATP? Could this also be why no announcement has been made as to whether he, or someone else, has gotten the job? What does it mean that Roger Federer is one of the players (I'm assuming there are others) against Krajicek? As a fan I could speculate about personal ties and friendships that may be affecting the selection but I'd be doing nothing more than gossiping, something I don't do here.

For the ATP 2012 is going to be a barn burner. The fight between the top four men is going to be as vicious as a knife fight in a back alley.
I'll be the person in a dark corner watching with a feral grin on my face.


Last evening Serena Williams posted a video on YouTube showing her trying to recreate serving the ball off of a person's head. Her hitting partner Sascha was the victim and needless to say hilarity ensued. I can't tell you where exactly Serena hit Sascha. I can tell you that Serena is lean and mean. I always measure Serena's fitness by her waist. It's almost non existent. Two weeks ago Serena and her sister Venus Williams played an exhibition match in Colombia that Venus won. Venus, who is struggling with an auto immune disease, has vowed to be relevant in 2012. Serena has said that she'll play Fed Cup for the United States. Does this mean that the Williams women will take the WTA by storm, depose wannabe greats and resume their reign over women's tennis? I think we should all take a deep breath and look at what is going on in women's tennis.

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, won Wimbledon and the YEC and deserves whatever accolades she receives. Is she going to take over the top ranking from Caroline Wozniacki? Statistically she can.

There were four different Slam winners for the WTA in 2011: Kim Clijsters won the Australian Open and then pretty much took the rest of the year off. Li Na won the French Open. As mentioned Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon and Samantha Stosur won the US Open. None of the Slam winners showed much ability to win anywhere else though and only Kvitova had enough functioning brain cells left to put her game back together and win the YEC in Istanbul.

Of the four Slam winners the most consistent, based on how she ended the year, was Kvitova yet her performance between Wimbledon and Istanbul was abysmal. There is a legitimate argument to be made that for the new Slam winners the increased demands from their Federations coupled with those made by the tour and sponsors probably blind sided and distracted them. I hate to compare the men and the women but it only makes you appreciate more what Federer and Nadal have done with their careers. The only active women players accustomed to dealing with success on and off the court are the sisters Williams, Maria Sharapova, and to a lesser extent Kim Clijsters.

Maria Sharapova is, in my opinion, the woman to watch. Fans know what Serena is capable of. She's won in Australia where Venus has always struggled. Those struggles may be related to her health issues as we now know but Venus puts enough pressure on herself without me piling on. Unless the Kvitova who showed up at Istanbul shows up in Australia, and can sustain a level of play high enough to take her to the seventh match of the Australian Open the war will be between Serena and Pova. I don't think Kvitova moves well enough to hang tough for two weeks and that lack of movement will cause her thought processes to break down as balls whiz past her.

I will stick by my opinion that Victoria Azarenka doesn't have the temperament of a Grand Slam champion. There will be so much pressure on Li Na to do well in Melbourne that she may crash and burn at the start of the second week.

And new coach or not Caroline Wozniacki will continue to do what she's been doing - beat up on lower ranked players and get out played by her betters at majors. If Ricardo Sanchez somehow succeeds in changing her game and making her more of an offensive player more power to him. I can only see him bringing a new level of clowning to her matches. Just as what Djokovic did to Gael Monfils at the US Open a few years back defined him for me Sanchez bullshit with that stop watch he borrowed from Flavor Flav against Venus was his defining moment. If he thought it was a good idea for Wozniacki to mock Serena during a recent exo then I rest my case. Wozniacki is poised to lose the top WTA ranking and only her hardcore fans will shed a tear. When the men's tour has multiple Grand Slam winners at the top of it's ranking system it kinda looks bad for the WTA to have a woman who can only beat lower ranked players at lower tier events sitting on top of theirs.

Looking Forward - The Olympics

Everything in tennis is going to be affected by the Olympic Games. It's a rare mix of personal achievement and pride of country for tennis players, a chance to be all for yourself and throw in a little patriotism on the way. I also expect that outside of the Slams. Masters 1000 tournaments and Premier tournaments for the women there are going to be some wacky results. No one wants to show up in London on one leg and dragging an arm behind them. Every country wants it's tennis federation to send its best and brightest except France when it comes to it's female players.

Marion Bartoli is appealing the French rule that forbids her to have her father along as coach for the Olympics. It's the same beef she's had with them seemingly forever and that has kept her from playing Fed Cup for her country. It's obvious Marion wants to play. It's obvious she's their best player. I get that the French want to ensure a team spirit for it's Fed Cup and national teams but it boggles the mind that there is no way a compromise can be reached so that their top female player will compete for them in the Olympics. I seem to remember seeing the men having their personal coaches along with them during Davis Cup competition and no one was pitching a bitch about it. What is it then with the women?

It should be said that Marion's coach Dr. Walter Bartoli reached out to the powers that be back in July to try and work something out but was rejected.

As for the United States I don't know where to begin. Our Fed Cup team was relegated for the first time ever and with Federer playing Davis Cup in February will our Davis Cup team follow them? I've said it before and I'll say it again. Andy Roddick, hate him or love him, has done what was asked of him. Until 2011 he was a mainstay in the top ten. He played the big dogs as well as he could. He tried to make some changes in his game. It's time for some of the young guns to step up and make some noise. Will it be John Isner? Sam Querrey? Donald Young? Ryan Harrison? A lot of money has been invested in these players and I'm sure the USTA is looking for some return on its investment.

But hey at least there are names on the men's side. Who does the US look to as far as women players are concerned? Melanie Oudin imploded due to the pressure put on her. Irina Falconi had a good run at the end of the year but I haven't heard from her since. Lauren Davis? Tiny. On a good day the big babes - Kvitova, Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva, even Wozniacki, will eat our current crop of young women alive.

Again being clear Venus is a big maybe. It's clear what she wants to do but she needs her body to go along with the program. Serena is fit but will she be crucified for putting what is best for her career and longevity ahead of what the so called tennis media feels is her duty to her tennis association? After them there is no one folks. No one.

I've gone on long enough so I'll end with Sam Querrey's comment to the effect that it's possible for six or seven American men to be in the top twenty by the end of 2012. I guess he's looking at the possibility of some really flukey results on the tour. But like I said at least I can name some American men who are legitimately part of the conversation even if they are asides at this point.

2012 looks to be a year that will bring achievement and change. I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Is It 2012 Yet?

by Savannah


In the wake of Spain's Davis Cup team's crushing defeat of Argentina followed by statements from Feliciano Lopez, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer that they will not play DC in 2012 and rumors that Albert Costa will not be DC Captain there was a lot of speculation about the role that Nicolas Almagro will play in 2012. Almagro, aware of the speculation, answered in a series of Tweets and a long blog post.

To summarize it seems he's saying that even if the top 400 Spanish players declined to play he doubts he'll be considered due to his total inability to play well on hard courts. The blog post is of course in Spanish and in the shit Google translation (no idioms) appears to be very introspective and philosophical.

With Spain seemingly out of the running for 2012 it's very possible one of the bridesmaids of the World Group will be singing and dancing at the end of next year. Who? I have no idea.

The 2012 World Group is as follows:


1. Spain
2. Argentina
3. Serbia
4. France
5. Czech Republic
6. United States
7. Croatia
8. Russia

The seeded nations will play against the following countries:


While typing this I wondered if Russia is cheating by having two teams but I digress...

What I am happy about is that the spectacle in Seville has probably shut down the bitching of the "lets change Davis Cup" crowd for now. I'm sure there'll be sniping from the sidelines about eliminating the choice of surface option among other things once play gets underway but that's another column for another year.

While the drama about who will carry on the winning tradition in Spain goes on the drama in the United States is about who will reestablish the tradition in the axis countries. I've been ranting about the feeling of entitlement among the axis countries when it comes to Davis Cup play but I recently read some statistics, maybe I should say misuse of statistics, that go a long way in justifying their feelings.

Consider the following:

No nation other than the USA, Great Britain, France or Australia won the Davis Cup between 1900 and 1974. That's three-quarters of a century. And the next nation to break through was still strongly Anglo-European South Africa (although they won by walkover, when India refused to play because of South Africa's official embrace of apartheid). 
Since '74 though, eight new nations have been added to the honor roll. All that is, to some degree, the result of the dramatic shift to "Open" tennis, which arrived in 1968 and abolished the historic separation of players into amateurs and professionals...
Until 1972, when the present-day World Group format was adopted, the ITF used the "Challenge Round" approach. That is, the winner each year sat out the competition until the other nations of the world played at intervals over must of the next year for the right to "challenge" the holder in a final.
...the ITF ought to make a significant effort to draw a bold, thick line between the Challenge Round and World Group eras. It has not done so to this point, and while that lessens the complications, it doesn't help the game appear of-the-moment, representative, or credible. If we're so happy and eager to separate the amateur and Open eras, why not do the same for Davis Cup, now that we have enough World Group history to call on? 
That would make 1972 the first year of the professional era. Now you would have the U.S. with 8 titles, Sweden still with 7, Australia with 6, Spain with 5, France and Germany with 3, and one apiece for Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, South Africa and Serbia — and Great Britain with zero. That seems to me a very accurate reflection of tennis geopolitics and something very much like an accurate power ranking of tennis nations.
Please click the above link for the source.

I agree 100% with this proposal. I don't think it's going to happen in time for next year but it could and should be implemented. That way we'll be comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges. I think the Brits will fight the concept tooth and nail though. I'd like to be proven wrong but I don't think I will be.

End Notes

There are reports out of Britain that Judy Murray, mother of Andrew Murray, is going to be the next Fed Cup captain for that nation. I wonder who will coach her son?

I'm still not quite sure why Brad Gilbert got his panties all in a bunch about Sports Illustrated passing over Novak Djokovic for recognition as Sportsman of the Year. I'm also not sure why he posted his rant on Twitter. I'm thinking he must have a blog or something somewhere where he can vent his feelings. Then again maybe not.

Okay I lied. I know exactly why he did it, or I think I do. I've written here before about the close ties between the American tennis establishment and Djokovic. I guess Djokovic's American connections thought that they could get him something players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, hell, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf never got from SI as the magazine is called here.

Most ot the tennisheads pointed this out to Mr. Gilbert saying that the bigger slight, the one he can legitimately rant and rave about, is to tennis.
Later in the day Mr. Gilbert Tweeted something to the effect that yes the bigger slight is to tennis not an individual he happens to think a lot of. How gauche for him to let the facade slip so badly.

From now on he's Deputy Marat to you all. I mean he's already wearing leather...just saying.


All the pictures of WTA players in gowns with make up slathered all over their faces that are used to promote the women's game pale in comparison to this photograph of Svetlana Kuznetsova. In one picture you have beauty, athleticism and grace. The powers that be should hire this person as official photographer no?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sevilla Mi Corazon...

by Savannah

Midway through the second epic match of the 2011 World Group Davis Cup Final every fan in the stadium was on their feet singing the fight songs of their respective countries. For this viewer, and for the commentators on Davis Cup Television the sight raised goosebumps. It was such an electric moment I don't think I'll ever forget it even though I was watching on my laptop at some god awful hour on a Sunday morning. The electricity was palpable.

One of the comms said, and I quote "To change the event to two weeks and make it the fifth Grand Slam you've got to be kidding." Soon after that I either read or heard someone say that the United States has a problem with Davis Cup and that no one else does.

I had read about a conference call held by Mary Joe Fernandez and Jim Courier, the respective Fed Cup and Davis Cup captains for the United States but hadn't read it. I did some looking around and found a full transcript HERE
I will excerpt the following from what seems to have been a pretty decent call.

Q. Obviously we're coming into the finals weekend here. There's been a little bit of grumbling at the ATP World Tour Finals in London from Nadal and the likes about the format. Any new thoughts or insights on where that should go or where it could go at this point?
CAPTAIN COURIER: I'm sure we've had this discussion before. I'm pretty clear on the record as to what I think should take place. Do you want me to regurgitate that?
Q. Sure.
CAPTAIN COURIER: I think it's pretty clear that the Davis Cup format, which was built quite a while ago, is no longer as popular or as powerful as it could be. It certainly should be condensed into, in my opinion, a two-week format for at least the big boys. I think it should be combined with the Fed Cup, for that matter, so it becomes in effect the fifth Grand Slam, not only from an attention standpoint, but a player-attendance standpoint.
The system is broken, clearly, from my standpoint. It's not broken from the ITF's standpoint, because they still make money. What I would contend is they could make a lot more money than they currently do and that would allow them to help spread the growth of the game with the extra funds they would receive.
Let's be clear. Compared to what the Grand Slams make, taking two weeks out of the calendar each year individually, that dwarfs clearly what the ITF would make on the Davis Cup.
So it's simple economics from that standpoint. If you want to grow the game, you need money. You get more money if you have a powerful event. It's better for the sport if it gets more attention.
Give you a clear example. I don't care one bit about women's soccer. Never watched a women's soccer game outside of the Olympics and the World Cup. When the World Cup took place last year, I actually tuned in because it was building over a couple-week period. That's what the Davis Cup and Fed Cup can do if they're put in that scenario. They can build interest outside of the core base. No one in America is going to be aware that great tennis players are playing in Spain this week, outside of us on the phone. That's a shame. It should be building into something.When we played in March in the first round, now we're in December, two ties in between, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that that doesn't make sense as far as building interest.
It's nothing new. I've been taking about it for years. I'm not the only one. I don't have ownership of the idea. It's clear they're leaving a lot of money and interest on the table and that Davis Cup and Fed Cup are two of the most under-valued assets in the sport. 
When I first started doing this blog I would post Davis Cup and Fed Cup results from countries outside of the axis to show that Davis Cup and Fed Cup are not events that Australia, England, The United States and France play. Countries from Haiti to El Salvador to Iran field teams and the results are followed closely there. The bitching about the Davis Cup schedule seemed to grow louder in the US once there was no denying that the age of axis domination was over. It seems to have grown louder in the last couple of years.


When I saw the fans in that stadium singing chanting and waving flags I realized part of the problem here in the States. We don't have a soccer tradition. Football is played all over the world from Asia to Africa to South America and we are johnny come late-lies to real international competition. Only the NBA has a truly world wide following and that is becoming more and more evident in the make up of NBA teams. Don't get me wrong we know how to raise a ruckus here but nothing equals what I saw Sunday in Sevilla.

And the tennis. There was some glorious tennis played on that semi indoor court. Some tended to dismiss the first rubber between Rafael Nadal and Juan Monaco. The final score was one sided but for those of us who saw it Monaco didn't play badly at all. He played to win. It was just that Rafa was not going to lose. David Ferrer, who played the second singles rubber against Juan Martin del Potro came out of the gates with the same fire his countryman showed in the first match and after the first set it looked as if Argentina would have to worry more about winning the doubles match the next day instead of the second singles match.

Instead, four hours and forty something minutes later David Ferrer stood triumphantly on the court while Del Potro wiped away tears of frustration.
The match went down to the wire and Ferrer was fresh enough at the end to take advantage of a physically depleted Del Potro.

The next day Argentina fielded the team of David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank. Schwank is a newcomer to Davis Cup final play but you would never have known it watching him work with Nalbandian. The two played well together and a casual fan would never have known that that was the first time the two had played together.

That same casual fan would've wondered if Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco had ever seen each other before taking the court. They were like strangers with each other and with Nalbandian directing traffic across the net they were dispensed with in a very efficient three set match by the Argentines.

That meant that both reverse singles matches could mean something. I have to say I was amused by all the calls for the Argentine Captain Tito Vasquez to play Nalbandian against Nadal. Nalbandian, while rested and fit for Nalbandian, was in no way ready to go four hours in a singles match. No matter what Vasquez may have wanted or wished to do Del Potro was going to be the player across the net from Nadal. After seeing the way he played on Day 1 I'm sure Nalbandian, who has never been concerned with fitness, wanted no part of the Spanish star.

He may have had second thoughts when Rafa proceeded to lose seven of the first eight games and looked as lost on court as he ever has. As Rafa proceeded to get back into the match one shot, one point, one game at a time I thought about what Emilio Sanchez Vicario calls the Four C's of Spanish tennis - head (cabeza), conditioning (condicion). the heart (corazon) and the balls (cojones). You saw those principles in action in David Ferrer's gritty match. They were on display in both of Nadal's matches. Neither man thought he would lose and played that way. This is what is missing in the approach of many tennis federations. Potentially great players are treated like demigods and fail to make the cut when they hit the pro ranks. The world is supposed to bow down before them. Instead someone they never heard of is hitting balls past them with reckless abandon.


Argentina wanted this win badly but it was fitness, or lack thereof that assisted in their defeat. David Nalbandian and David Ferrer are the same age. Ferrer reportedly smokes. Yet he outlasted a very well, maybe too well rested Del Potro. Rafa, playing injury free and fairly well rested, had no issues with his fitness either.

After the Final Feliciano, David Ferrer and Rafa all announced that they will not be playing Davis Cup next year. Keeping in mind that 2012 is an Olympic year many of the top players probably won't be playing Davis Cup leaving the door open for others to claim the huge cup. But right now there is no denying that Spain, where competition and camaraderie work side by side, has become the dominant force in tennis.

End Notes:

As I type this I'm not aware of who will comprise Spain's Davis Cup team next year. Someone mentioned in passing that Costa may not be back. I have seen some rumors/wishful thinking but nothing from reputable sources.

Courier was on a roll at the above mentioned conference call. He not only wants to scrap DC format but he questioned a top player's commitment to DC by putting the wife of said player's agent on the spot. I for one think it's about time her conflict of interest was given the attention it's due.

TIM CURRY: We'll take some comments from Jim about his first year as captain and the road trip to Switzerland.(...)I don't have any information for anyone yet as to who will be on the team. That will be determined as we get a little bit closer to the tie. We'll see who is going to be healthy and playing the best as we get closer to it.
The Swiss team, they have Stanislas Wawrinka, who is a great player, very solid in singles and doubles. They have one other guy, I keep forgetting who it is...Federer, that's who it is, a very talented player in his own right. If he chooses to make himself available, which I expect he will, and I'm expecting Mary Joe Fernandez, whose husband manages him, to tell us whether or not he.
As of now, MJ, I'm operating under the assumption with Roger Federer playing the week after in Rotterdam, he'll be available for Davis Cup. Any light there?
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: Not 100% sure. But I know he loves Davis Cup and went all the way to Australia after the US Open.
CAPTAIN COURIER: I'm not sure I could concede he loves Davis Cup. Based on the fact he hasn't attended a first round since 2004, I think that's a question.
CAPTAIN FERNANDEZ: He loves it. I think he's attended every year, if I'm correct.
Anyway, he does love it and I'm assuming he will be there, but you have to call the hubby for that one. 

Caroline Wozniacki announced that her new coach will be Jelena Jankovic's old coach Ricardo Sanchez. Good luck with that Sunshine.

No decision has been reached about the new ATP CEO. It is known that Richard Krajicek is favored by some and that Roger Federer would prefer someone with more CEO experience.

With the Exhibition Season about to get underway there could still be some interesting tennis news. We'll see.