Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Juniors - And of American Tennis

by Savannah

One is born November 30, 1995. The other is born February 17, 1995. Both have played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Madison Keys, the February baby, made a nice run at the 2011 US Open at the tender age of 16 and many saw her as one of the bright lights of the junior circuit. She plays the American power game and has powerful ground strokes the way most American's do. She is tall and fit and while her movement could stand some improvement, although lack of movement hasn't hurt Petra Kvitova, she appears poised to make the transition to the main tour. She plays fast and isn't afraid to go for her shots, exactly what you'd expect of an American player.
The latest meme among American commentators is first strike tennis and Madison is in that mold.
The other teenager is named Victoria Duval. I posted about her back in 2007 and ironically the link is still available. Victoria was 12 at the time, a long way from her Main Tour debut on Arthur Ashe Stadium, at night, against the pro Kim Clijsters who has said this is her last US Open.
Ironically I kept missing her interviews but from what I understand she has a high pitched voice that many find adorable. What I find adorable is her tennis.
Victoria has been on a mini winning streak coming into the Open and while I didn't expect her to win - Clijsters is too wily to let a 16 year old defeat her on Ashe - I wanted to see what her attitude was. Long story short, I liked it. She didn't come on court with the attiude of "woe is me". She came with the mind set every player should take onto the court - "I'm here to win this bad boy and I'm going to fight to the best of my ability to do so". Victoria played well enough to have a 3-2 lead in the first set. Clijsters picked up her game after that and since Clijsters likes to play quickly it was over quickly.

So what did I like about her tennis? She's quick. She's fit. She's intelligent on the court. As an American she has the groundies but her game is much more than hit hard and harder. She showed potential for a subtlety I don't see in Madison's game yet, a court sense that some of the more highly touted and/or older young American women currently on the main tour.

I found an interview with Victoria on Tennis Panorama News that gives insight into teenager. I hope you enjoy the insight as much as I did.

There were several tennis heads who asked last night why Madison, who had done so well last year, was forced to play Qualifying and not given a Wild Card directly into the Main Draw. I wondered the same thing while I was watching her qualifying play. "Politics" was the answer given by one wag, and no one asked any questions about why not after that.

Whenever you have a large organization politics rears it's head. The women who received wild cards are Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin, Nicole Gibbs, Mallory Burdette, Victoria Duval, Julia Cohen, Casey Dellacqua,and Kristina Mladenovic. Gibbs and Burdette are NCAA champion and runner up respectively so I understand them getting wild cards. Julia Cohen is a stalwart of the Challenger circuit. Case Dellacqua showed a bit of potential but has been injured I believe. Kristina Mldenovic also got a lot of hype a year or so ago but has yet to make an impression on the main tour.

Then we come to America's sweetheart, Melanie Oudin. This is the American Slam so is it so odd that she get a wild card and not have to play Qualifying? I guess. I mean there's always the chance she'll catch fire like she did in 2009 and go deep into the tournament right? As for Bethanie Mattek-Sands she's also suffered from injuries and hasn't played much or well lately.

You can make the argument that if you give Oudin a WC Madison should've been in there somewhere right? Bethanie is old in tennis years and no matter how well she is now her best days can be said to be gone. I don't know. Oudin played well three years ago and hasn't done anything since. Madison played well last year. It's just my opinion that she should've been given a Wild Card. If she lost in the first round, so be it. She's seventeen. I mean they're still trying to flog life into Coco Vandeweghe who from what I've seen will never be a top twenty let alone top ten player. You go with potential from my way of thinking but politics is politics. Madison will have to, like Victoria, suck it up and commit herself to fitness and discipline herself so that next year she won't have to rely on the good will of others to get her into the maid draw.

Speaking of fitness I'm anxious to see how Taylor Townsend looks once the junior tournament gets underway. She's the top ranked junior girl right now but I've yet to see her look even remotely fit. She's young, born April 18, 1996, so she's a full year behind Victoria and Madison but in this day and age there is no excuse for not being fit. I'm old enough to remember Lindsay Davenport's portly days, and how she was the butt of so many of the American men and often cited as a symbol for women tennis players being "fat and out of shape". Lindsay got her act together and we see how she ended her career.

There is one other teen, Samantha Crawford who is getting a lot of interest. I haven't seen her play yet and this is the first time I'm hearing all the talk. I'll have more to say if I get the chance to see her play.

I haven't found any listing of Taylor's height and weight - I looked hard - but I don't think the BMI is favorable for a teen let alone for an athlete. Again, she has time to change her fitness habits. I wish that some of the junior play made it's way into coverage. CBSsportsnetwork would be an excellent venue for that but I'm sure there's more to it than my simplistic viewpoint lets on.

Staying on the subject of fitness I did see Jack Sock play yesterday. Giving the fitness level in the ATP I was surprised to see him lugging a gut around. I mean they've put the hype beast behind this young man and all they kept saying was that he may now be more serious about his tennis and get more fit. One of the comms asked if he's a party animal and his partner hemmed and hawed saying he's a typical 19 year old. I remember the same things being said about Sam Querrey a few years ago. What is it that makes young American women fight like hell to succeed while the men seem to be blase at best? Querrey of course said that if he lost he still got to drive his mother's Porsche so it was no big deal if he lost. Unless Sock loses that gut I don't see him making the elite level of men's tennis.

End Note

I didn't subject myself to the fawning of the McEnroe brothers during Roger Federer's match against Donald Young. In sparing my health I understand that John in particular went on a particularly bitter rant against Young who as hard core fans know went on a now infamous anti USTA rant last year.

If that is the case the rant goes beyond being unprofessional. As was pointed out on Twitter last night lets look at ALL of the young American men who went pro the same time Young did. The picture ain't very pretty. Many of them are now out of the game all together or a coaching at the college level. That is more of an indictment of the USTA system than the failure of one young man isn't it? It's easier to dump on Young than the USTA Player Development organizaiton isn't it? Young didn't blow smoke up his own ass did he?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

This and That: The 2012 US Open

by Savannah

The 2012 US Open begins Monday, August 27th. Of course there is a chance of thunderstorms for both Monday and Tuesday. As of now there is also a thunderstorm threat for Saturday September 1. I'll say it now so I don't have to say it again. Instead of playing musical arena's - splitting up the Grandstand and Armstrong - the USTA should be taking a serious look at either putting a roof on Ashe or building a new center court. Gimmicks are not going to get it anymore. Yes they're spending a lot of money to affect the announced changes but it's more like putting on a ball gown after your morning work out without taking a shower.

Short of a roof hows this for innovation - covering the hard courts during a rain event. The AELTC has found a way to cover Wimbledon's grass courts cutting down on the time it takes to restart play but once again the USTA walks away whistling when the subject comes up. The time when the only way to dry the courts was a bunch of kids using pristine white towels followed by that really new invention - a Zamboni. Usually by the time the court is dry the rain has started again. I don't see why they don't use the British system where the tarp is tented and air blown over the covered court while the water drains off to the sidelines. It's not rocket science people. I don't think that will stop the men's final from being played on a Monday again this year if the weather holds true to form but we'll see.

The Men's Singles Draw

The man coming into the US Open with the most to prove is Andy Murray. Tennisheads saw at Wimbledon what an aggressive and focused Murray can do. Coach Ivan Lendl also has a lot riding on his pupil's US Open performance.

With Rafael Nadal out with injury someone had to get his usually shitty draw. It looks like that person is the above mentioned Andy Murray. He's facing a potential murderer's row this go around while the Monogram gets another cake walk. Roger Federer's soft draws are getting so ridiculous even his most rabid fans are not denying it anymore. Of course draws are random and not fixed and the reason Monogram's draws look so easy is because he's beaten everyone in sight but come on throwing Donald Young under the bus? I can hear Federer's apologists talking about his "dominating" performance agains the struggling American and I'm not talking about his online fans I'm talking about the ones in the broadcast booth.

I'm sure everyone has seen the draw already but here it is in case you haven't or want to give it a second look.

Roger Federer SUI (1) v Donald Young USA
Qualifier v. Bjorn Phau GER
Albert Ramos ESP v Robby Ginepri USA
Rui Machado POR v Fernando Verdasco ESP (25)

Mardy Fish USA (23) v Go Soeda JPN
Nikolay Davydenko RUS v Qualifier
Ivo Karlovic CRO v Qualifier
Michael Russell USA v Gilles Simon FRA (16)

Nicolas Almagro ESP (11) v Radek Stepanek CZE
Nicolas Mahut FRA v Philipp Petzschner GER
Blaz Kavcic SLO v Flavio Cipolla ITA
Jack Sock USA v Florian Mayer GER (22)

Sam Querrey USA (27) v Yen-Hsun Lu TPE
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo ESP v Somdev Devvarman IND
Denis Istomin UZB v Jurgen Zopp EST
David Goffin BEL v Tomas Berdych CZE (6)

Andy Murray GBR (3) v Alex Bogomolov Jr. RUS
Qualifier v Ivan Dodig CRO
Thomaz Bellucci BRA v Pablo Andujar ESP
Robin Haase NED v Feliciano Lopez ESP (30)

Marcel Granollers ESP (24) v Denis Kudla USA
Lukas Lacko SVK v James Blake USA
Paul-Henri Mathieu FRA v Igor Andreev RUS
Santiago Giraldo COL v Milos Raonic CAN (15)

Marin Cilic CRO (12) v Marinko Matosevic AUS
Qualifier v Adrian Ungur ROU
Qualifier v Qualifier
Qualifier v Kei Nishikori JPN (17)

Jeremy Chardy FRA (32) v Filippo Volandri ITA
Tatsuma Ito JPN v Matthew Ebden AUS
Martin Klizan SVK v Alejandro Falla COL
Qualifier v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (5)

Janko Tipsarevic SRB (8) v Guillaume Rufin FRA
Brian Baker USA v Jan Hajek CZE
Qualifier v Qualifier
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe GER v Viktor Troicki SRB (29)

Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (19) v Michael Llodra FRA
Grigor Dimitrov BUL v Benoit Paire FRA
Mikhail Kukushkin KAZ v Jarkko Nieminen FIN
Xavier Malisse BEL v John Isner USA (9)

Richard Gasquet FRA (13)v Albert Montanes ESP
Jurgen Melzer AUT v Qualifier
Steve Johnson USA v Rajeev Ram USA
Ernests Gulbis LAT v Tommy Haas GER (21)

Mikhail Youzhny RUS (28) v Gilles Muller LUX
Tobias Kamke GER v Lleyton Hewitt AUS
Qualifier v Daniel Gimeno-Traver ESP
Kevin Anderson RSA v David Ferrer ESP (4)

Juan Martin Del Potro ARG (7) v David Nalbandian ARG
Benjamin Becker GER v Ryan Harrison USA
Lukasz Kubot POL v Leonardo Mayer ARG
Tommy Robredo ESP v Andreas Seppi ITA (26)

Andy Roddick USA (20) v Qualifier
Carlos Berlocq ARG v Bernard Tomic AUS
Edouard Roger-Vasselin FRA v Fabio Fognini ITA
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ESP v Juan Monaco ARG (10)

Alexandr Dolgopolov UKR (14) v Jesse Levine USA
Marcos Baghdatis CYP v Qualifier
Steve Darcis BEL v Malek Jaziri TUN
Sergiy Stakhovsky UKR v Stanislas Wawrinka SUI (18)

Julien Benneteau FRA (31) v Olivier Rochus BEL
Dennis Novikov USA v Jerzy Janowicz POL
Rogerio Dutra Silva BRA v Qualifier
Paolo Lorenzi ITA v Novak Djokovic SRB (2)

I love that Argentines David Nalbandian and Juan Martin Del Potro meet in the first round don't you? How nice to have one of them eliminated early instead of staying around and wreaking havoc in terms of who gets through to the later rounds. Wonderful.

I think the USTA is going to have a lot of 'splaining to do this Open. I don't see any American man making it to the second week. Thanks to CBSSports Network US Open Qualifying was televised this past week and we got to see a lot of young American prospects especially the men. As usual US television is more focused on the men than the women so I didn't get to see young Samantha Crawford. I did get to see Madison Keys who failed to make the cut. She's got to learn to make better decisions on court and show some patience. She's 17 so there is time.

The Women's Singles Draw

Anyone can win this. The proliferation of headcases in the women's game has grown exponentially and I don't think it's going to get any better. People are talking about Serena Williams being the favorite and if appearance is any indication the way she looked on David Letterman the other night hints that she is ready both mentally and physically. I have never seen Serena so thin. Never ever. Not that she gives a shit about what I have to say but I would tell her keep the hair, leave the glamour in the hotel, tape those feet up and go to work as only you can. She seems to end up in trouble at the US Open as of late but that comes from her competitive spirit and desire to win. Let the haters hate Serena. You know that if you curse, toss a racquet or show a flash of temper you're bringing down the sport. You're not the fair haired boy Andy Roddick who can do all of the above and be called passionate. You're called something else.

As for the rest of the draw I go back to the anyone can scenario.

Victoria Azarenka BLR (1) v Alexandra Panova RUS
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova CZE v Qualifier
Su-Wei Hsieh TPE v Qualifier
Virginie Razzano FRA v Jie Zheng CHN (28)

Julia Goerges GER (18) v Qualifier
Mandy Minella LUX v Olivia Rogowska AUS
Stephanie Foretz Gacon FRA v Anna Tatishvili GEO
Sorana Cirstea ROU v Sabine Lisicki GER (16)

Na Li CHN (9) v Heather Watson GBR
Qualifier v Casey Dellacqua AUS
Qualifier v Laura Robson GBR
Victoria Duval USA v Kim Clijsters BEL (23)

Varvara Lepchenko USA (31) v Mathilde Johansson FRA
Qualifier v Julia Cohen USA
Qualifier v Qualifier
Petra Martic CRO v Samantha Stosur AUS (7)

Maria Sharapova RUS (3) v Melinda Czink HUN
Lourdes Dominguez Lino ESP v Sesil Karatantcheva KAZ
Timea Bacsinszky SUI v Mallory Burdette USA
Lucie Hradecka CZE v Anabel Medina Garrigues ESP (27)

Nadia Petrova RUS (19) v Jarmila Gajdosova AUS
Simona Halep ROU v Iveta Benesova CZE
Alexandra Cadantu ROU v Aleksandra Wozniak CAN
Melanie Oudin USA v Lucie Safarova CZE (15)

Marion Bartoli FRA (11) v Jamie Hampton USA
Romina Oprandi SUI v Andrea Petkovic GER
Kristina Mladenovic FRA v Marina Erakovic NZL
Daniela Hantuchova SVK v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS (17)

Yanina Wickmayer BEL (25) v Qualifier
Pauline Parmentier FRA v Michaella Krajicek NED
Nicole Gibbs USA v Alize Cornet FRA
Polona Hercog SLO v Petra Kvitova CZE (5)

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (8) v Irina-Camelia Begu ROU
Silvia Soler-Espinosa ESP v Qualifier
Tsvetana Pironkova BUL v Camila Giorgi ITA
Ayumi Morita JPN v Monica Niculescu ROU (26)

Francesca Schiavone ITA (22) v Sloane Stephens USA
Akgul Amanmuradova UZB v Qualifier
Kimiko Date-Krumm JPN v Sofia Arvidsson SWE
Qualifier v Ana Ivanovic SRB (12)

Maria Kirilenko RUS (14) v Chanelle Scheepers RSA
Agnes Szavay HUN v Greta Arn HUN
Galina Voskoboeva KAZ v Arantxa Rus NED
Andrea Hlavackova CZE v Klara Zakopalova CZE (24)

Shuai Peng CHN (32) v Elena Vesnina RUS
Ekaterina Makarova RUS v Qualifier
Mirjana Lucic CRO v Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez ESP
Coco Vandeweghe USA v Serena Williams USA (4)

Angelique Kerber GER (6) v Anne Keothavong GBR
Bethanie Mattek-Sands USA v Venus Williams USA
Qualifier v Timea Babos HUN
Olga Govortsova BLR v Tamira Paszek AUT (29)

Christina McHale USA (21) v Kiki Bertens NED
Qualifier v Irina Falconi USA
Vera Dushevina RUS v Qualifier
Garbine Muguruza ESP v Sara Errani ITA (10)

Dominika Cibulkova SVK (13) v Johanna Larsson SWE
Bojana Jovanovski SRB v Mona Barthel GER
Vania King USA v Yaroslava Shvedova KAZ
Urszula Radwanska POL v Roberta Vinci ITA (20)

Jelena Jankovic SRB (30) v Kateryna Bondarenko UKR
Qualifier v Shahar Peer ISR
Ksenia Pervak KAZ v Carla Suarez Navarro ESP
Nina Bratchikova RUS v Agnieszka Radwanska POL (2)

Commentator Rennae Stubbs said that the top of the draw is tough and that whoever comes out of the top half will have been through hell while the bottom half is the softer of the two.
Of course the random draw sets up a potential second round meeting between Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams. Venus has been playing very well of late showing the ability to compete physically. We all know that Kerber is the latest favorite of US tennis commentators. Do I think that some would be happy to see Venus go out early? Yes I do.

And isn't it cute that Vania King will go up against her doubles partner Yaroslava Shvedova?

Meanwhile Petra "I need a bra" Kvitova just expended a ton of energy defeating Maria Kirilenko in New Haven. Petra has to play Monday. She's the biggest threat to Maria Sharapova in that section and you have to wonder about the amount of rest she'll have coming in. If she goes down early Pova should have no problems in her section of the draw.

The thing that amazes me is that so many women are still ranked so high. Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone immediately come to mind but my jaw dropped when Stubbs pointed out that Kirilenko, who hasn't won a tournament all year, is pushing into top ten range. To be honest the ATP isn't much better. There's the top four or five and everyone else. I mean Tommy Haas had a great European swing and is coming into the Open rested and ready to do some damage.

I'm not sure I'm going to make it out to the Open this year. I usually go during the first week and with so much rain around I might try and get out there Wednesday or Thursday.

Equal Pay For Equal Work

The above phrase was the mantra of the women's movement back in the day. It now seems to be the mantra of the ATP and not in the way it was meant when the phrase was first coined.

Several ATP players have spoken out about women getting the same pay scale as the men when they play shorter matches and have less drawing power.

The difference in approach to their product between the ATP and the WTA has been a frequent subject of this blog. The ATP sells it's tour and it's players. There seem to be marketing strategies for geographic areas, a world wide audience, and fan groups which can be multi national in the sense that it's not only Spaniards who like David Ferrer's game.

The WTA has focused on selling a look not it's tour. This goes back to Anna Kournikova, the original long haired blonde. In my opinion this approach is what destroyed her tennis career. Let's look at today's tour. The WTA acknowledges that Serena is great but boy that Sharapova is really beautiful isn't she? And she's mentally strong. And she fights hard. And she's got her own candy. Serena is all of the above (minus the candy line)but Serena's passion is interpreted as something sinister.

And hey what about Angelique Kerber? She's blonde. She has a nice game and hey, she's blonde. Andrea Petkovic never got the kind of hype that's poised to get behind Kerber.
The only blonde who doesn't have the hype beast behind her is Victoria Azarenka. She gets lousy court assignments and is pretty much ignored until the second week of tournaments when they can't avoid her. I'm not sure who she offended but she is the only exception to the blonde rule of the WTA.

As a result of the different marketing approaches when given a choice between a women's match and a men's match fans head for the ATP match. This happens almost all the time. Even if a women's match is featured on a Slam center court unless it's followed by a men's match the stands are pretty empty. This is what the men are griping about and why they feel its unfair that women make the same amount of money as the men. I'm not saying its right but it is what it is. You pay more for a Louis Vuitton bag than you do for a generic no name brand for a reason. Right now the WTA is a generic no name brand.

This is going to change. Tennis is a sport that is always in flux. New players blast their way up the rankings all the time and more often than not come out of the blue for casual fans. Some have called this the Golden Age of the mens tour and say it will start to look more like the WTA going forward. That may be but I'm willing to bet that even when that time comes unless the marketing approach changes fans will still vote with their feet for an ATP match over a WTA match.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Five Minutes & Other Post Olympic Garbage

by Savannah

The Olympics are over. Of course the first nine days where for a change tennisheads in the US had wall to wall coverage for the first time in like, well, forever, were insane since idiots like me were trying to watch other stuff online or turning into NBC's craptastic coverage at night. The tape delays were bad enough but did the viewing public in the US have to miss the British homage to the terrorist attack on their soil to see the first of seemingly thousands of interviews with Michael Phelps?
I know there is a huge segment of the American populace who don't know about Michael's bong smoking, ho-hopping ways since 2008 but many of us do. The big story was how he put the bong down, got rid of the pornstache and the ho's and tried to get ready for London 2012. Of course no one in the States would touch that story. One swimmer who did, Tyler Clarey, was put on the networks shit list and dogged out every time he competed. How dare you ruin this GREAT AMERICAN STORY you douche!

I don't usually watch the closing ceremonies - too sad, but I hear NBC's crack programming people cut over an hour out of what was broadcast to the US viewing public. They must hold us in contempt for thinking that we can't handle seeing the Brits pay homage to their musical tradition. Was there music before Britney Spears? Nah. We gentle souls who dwell in the United States of America can't handle music that speaks to another truth can we?

But enough of that. As I said the Olympics are over so I'll take a look at the post Olympics tennis silly season.

I really hate watching tennis played in the US and commentated by former players. They're acting as if players who won Gold Medals - Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Bob & Mike Bryan and Venus Williams were beamed over by Scotty to play the US Open Series.

Don't get me wrong, I think the US Open Series is a good warm up for not only US players but Europeans who have to get used to having their joints jarred on the colorful hard courts of the United States and its partner Canada. Let's not forget the heat and thunder showers that are also part of the scenery on the East Coast in August. Fun. Fun. Fun.

The thing is this year, of all years, don't front. Don't act as if these players aren't mentally and physically fried and are doing the tennis equivalent of falling on their swords for the sport that has made many of them millionaires several times over.

It's going to be fun seeing what is going to happen to Canada's Rogers Cup and The Western and Southern Open once Wimbledon has implemented it's scheduling change. Hell the US Open would rather play musical stadiums than seriously look at putting a roof over any of them. And while I'm on a rant let me put on Tyler Clarey's shoes for a minute here. What the hell is wrong with putting a cover over hard courts? Why is this suggestion greeted with horror? Is there someone who gets off on all those kids mopping up a court or feels it's a testament to their manhood that those Zamboni's have to come out and get what the kids can't? What's a fan to think? The British, or should I say hide-bound British, have found a way not only to put a roof on the hallowed Centre Court but to cover the grass and keep it fairly dry during a rain storm!!! I thought the United States was the country of innovators?


Oh well. The way it looks now I'll be out to Queens for a day or two of qualifying and another day or two of tournament play.
I'm not spending a ton of money for a decent seat in Ashe. I'll get a grounds pass and visit the other courts while I can, especially Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand. The conjoined courts are going to be ripped apart under the new USTA plan denying fans one of the true joys of the US Open - wandering from one court to another to watch tennis. So what if the final will be held on a Monday again due to lack of a roof on Ashe? The USTA will be damned if fans, for a few bucks, get two for the price of, well, several. We may have rainouts but we have to make money.

About Those Five Minutes...

I started seeing references on Twitter about Something the Monogram said about losing to Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the Gold Medal match. Tweeters were saying he said it took five minutes for him to get over the match. After I picked myself up from the floor after laughing so hard I went looking for said comments. Sure enough he said it. Here's the exchange.

Q. I'm wondering if you have had the time or taken the time to analyze what happened at the gold medal match. It was so lopsided, so out of the character, not what we're used to seeing.

ROGER FEDERER: Honestly it took me five minutes to analyze really. I didn't need to kind of sit down and go in a dark room and cry over it and kind of understand what happened. I think I understood rather quickly what happened.

I thought Andy played a good match. The beginning of the match was very close. I had some chances there. Had some chances in the second set. I think I missed nine breakpoints, I didn't make one. That obviously doesn't work in a big match like this against a great player like Andy. Once he was in the lead, obviously he did really well to keep the lead.

Yeah, I think that was it for me. Maybe I was emotionally drained a touch. Maybe I was a bit tired from the Del Potro match. I thought Andy did really well to put the pressure on me. It was out of character for me to lose nine games a row in the finals. That's obviously something that can happen, but I guess I got myself to blame, and Andy's great level of play.
For me, I moved on really quickly. I was happy for him and disappointed for me. I was still very happy to get the silver and the medal for Switzerland.

I found the complete interview on Talk About Tennis.

Yeah. It took five minutes all right.

End Note

Uncle Toni is saying one thing. Others are saying what Toni says isn't correct. As a fan I hope that Rafael Nadal stays out for the rest of the year and comes back in 2013. He needs to get completely healed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Serena's Dance and Gabby's Hair

by Savannah


So some clown African-American sportswriter from Kansas City wrote a piece that was widely disseminated on the interwebs accusing Serena Williams of disrespecting Wimbledon by breaking out the dance known as the C-Walk. It's been done in public before by such known gangsta's as Brent Barry in 2003 and is a staple in hip hop dancing routines.

I don't pretend to be up on hip hop culture and was taken back when I heard what the dance was. I thought it was restricted to members of the organization that gives the dance it's name and wondered if given a second chance Serena would do another dance in celebration.

But what's done is done and since this dance has apparently been in youth culture mainstream for sometime what the hell is the big deal? Some players give salutes that border on neo fascism in my book but no one has ever debated that. I mean it's just a guy saluting his family's military heritage right?

For many Serena's dismantling of Maria Sharapova on a wider world stage than Wimbledon usually gets is what was offensive. It's easier to focus and discuss the supposed implications of a dance than focus on the miserable state of the WTA without Serena.

Yes I've softened my opinion of Sharapova and give her grudging respect for what she's done with her career of late. But the fact remains that without Serena Williams the WTA is made up of headcases who can sometimes play a good match, and sometimes don't. Depth? Let's not forget "Sunshine's" long hold on the top spot okay?

Commentator @AndreasHale, who has zero street cred - kinda like Ryan Lochte and his $25,000 diamond encrusted grill - puts things in perspective.

...as with most things that have spawned from urban America, the origins of the C-walk are far removed from the dance once it hit the mainstream. It doesn’t make it any better, but it also doesn’t mean that we should allow it to overshadow her complete dismantling of the Russian that has long battled Serena for the number one spot in the world tennis rankings.

Surely, she didn’t say to herself “let me pay homage to the villains from the hood” as she broke into the five second dance. American swimmer Ryan Lochte probably never considered the origins of the grill he flashed after winning the gold medal for the 400m individual medley. Although both the crip walk and the grill have two vastly different origins, the pop culture desensitization of both are the same. When Brent Barry C-walked during the 2003 NBA All-Star 3-point contest, his dance was met with giggles and devoid of criticism. That was obviously because Barry wasn’t crip affiliated nor from Compton. Or maybe it’s because the dance is viewed today as harmless.

But when Serena Williams does it, it’s now serenading a murderer’s lifestyle?

The funny thing is that most observers who have been critical of Williams quick dance had no idea what she was doing until they checked out the explosion of social media. Once they became privy to the dance, they decided to trace its origins and saddle Williams with the unflattering “ghetto mentality” tag. Williams worked her ass off to get herself into a position to dominate the world in tennis. She comes from a city where her and her friends have done the dance without any inkling of being empathetic to gang culture. The dance originated from the inner city and is done by many who have no gang affiliation whatsoever. That’s just what happens when a dance permeates into the mainstream. The next time you watch MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, ask yourself if the multi-cultured dancers are sympathizing with gang culture when they bust out a C-walk.

(African American) Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock suggested that the dance was “premeditated” as a means to show out the “snobs at Wimbledon a taste of the Compton girl they fear.” Williams has already shown the world that she’s the baddest of them all. She was clearly exhilarated by her utter destruction of the then- number one tennis player in the world and opted to celebrate.

And what’s wrong with celebration? Apparently, to many it’s a disrespectful way to show up the competition. To some, playing the game like it was “meant to be played” is the only way to go. No celebrating, no taunting, no dancing, no nothing. But the game is not just a game to the African-Americans that breakthrough in sports that they weren’t allowed to participate in years ago. The game is far more than points and trophies. (...)
She earned the opportunity to dance for a few seconds. Get over it.

But the other side of the coin is that she unknowingly left herself open to criticism the moment that she finished her dance. After all, it is the crip walk and she knew that she may be in hot water the moment she sheepishly backtracked in front of the press during the post-match news conference.

...It was a brief lapse of judgment that doesn’t need Serena to stand in front of a camera and deliver a public apology. Everyone should be aware that Ms. Williams isn’t going to celebrate a lifestyle that claimed the life of her older sister in 2003. No, this was just a moment of sheer joy.

Let’s celebrate yet another African-American first and national victory at the 2012 Summer Olympics, rather than shroud her success in controversy.



As for the non controversy about Gabrielle Douglas' hair I think it shows how far African-American's have to go. Gabby has worn her hair like that for as long as I've been watching her compete. I'm sure many of the haters are seeing her for the first time. The criticism she got is why many African American women do not work out. We spend tons of money on our hair - Google the stats on the amount of money African-American women spend on hair care - and after spending that kind of money we are not going to "sweat it out" keeping ourselves healthy.

While the controversy's are different - I do wish Serena had done any dance but that one - they still allow both Serena's and Gabby's accomplishments to be lost in what are in effect cultural issues.

I really wasn't going to talk about the dance or the hair but as my daughter always says until we step out from behind the veil of secrecy with which we shroud our culture we can't advance. Most non African American's had no idea what the hair controversy was about. That should tell us something right there.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tennis: An Olympic Event

by Savannah


I don't think any tennishead worth his or her salt will complain about the quality of the tennis played during it's nine day run at the Olympics.Well you could but when it got time to put up or shut up the level of play went way up.

Juan Martin del Potro gets a special mention because if not for him the men's Gold Medal match could've turned out completely different. Del Potro, who cried until 3a after his 3-6, 6-7 (5), 17-19 loss to Roger Federer nevertheless kept Federer on court 4h26m. I mentioned the 24h needed for lactic acid to flush out of a persons system in my post on the men's final. I didn't mention that Federer, who turns 31 on August 8, might not recover so quickly. It would look silly if I went into that and he thrashed Andy Murray in three sets wouldn't it snd I'd have to write a mea culpa Olympics review.

Instead the Andy Murray that was rumored to exist showed up on Centre Court on a bright and sunny Sunday in August. That Andy Murray proceeded to demolish a tired Federer in three straight sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. Now I look like the definition of a respectable tennis blogger don't I? Well at least in this instance I do. I showed restraint. That should be worth something in the Book of Restraint.

Murray owes Delpo a dinner. Or something. At the very least.


Murray was so psyched after his singles win that he rushed out to his Mixed Doubles final with about an hour of rest. He was paired with Laura "I AM NOT A SLUT" Robson, a top British prospect. The pair played brilliant tennis the first set. They found all the angles and had Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus back on their heels.

But it was inevitable that Murray would hit a wall and Robson's level of play drop. It did and the pair from Belarus won the Gold with Great Britain taking the silver. Mirnyi and Azarenka were the top seeds and they showed tremendous poise weathering the British onslaught and winning 2-6, 6-3, 10-8.

The women's Doubles Gold Medal Final was played Saturday but the medal ceremony was held Sunday after the Bronze medal match winner was determined.

The Russian pair of Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko(shown here with Maria's boyfriend Alexander Ovechkin) won the bronze over American pair Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Olympic fandom and rooting usually breaks down along nationalistic lines with a few very notable exceptions - Usain Bolt for example. It was amusing to say the least that so many people on my Twitter timeline were saying that "I'm American and I hate to do this but I don't want Huber to win a medal". The sentiment ran so deep that when an apparently injured Huber required medical treatment most questioned that she was even injured.

The men's Doubles Final was won by the usual suspects - Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States. They're aging warriors too and while it's easier to play top level doubles over thirty I wonder how long they'll keep it up. The US has not one team on the horizon to take their place.

The women's singles final got a separate post yesterday so there's not much more to add is there?

The lights at the AELTC have gone dark. The club, considered the Mecca of tennis, rose to the occasion and showed how to stage back to back tournaments on a natural surface. Sure the new sod was worn out rather quickly. Yes there was a lot of slipping in the early rounds. And yes, real tennis fans sat courtside cheering for and against their national or fan interest as well as cheering their favorites on. I'm guessing only wannabe american commentators were upset by this. It didn't seem to bother the Duck and Duchess of Cambridge who had no hesitation in releasing their inner fanboy and girl.

And yes, despite all the shit that's being thrown at NBC, and rightly so, they did tennis the huge favor of giving it it's own broadcast channel, a channel that is part of basic cable. There is no predicting the length of a tennis match and trying to sandwich it in would've brought more scorn on the network with the hashtag #nbcfail. There was wall to wall coverage that ended when the tennis day was over. For this alone NBC gets props from this fan. Since this is a blog about tennis it's not the place to talk about whether this should be done for other sports like swimming and track and field but it deserves a mention.

In the end it was a great nine days. It's on to Rio for 2016.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The 2012 Olympic Men's Final

by Savannah

It occurred to me that I may have been a tad dismissive of the results of yesterday's men's semi finals so I thought I'd talk about what I think instead of what I saw, since all I've seen is a dejected Juan Martin del Potro walking to the net and a triumphant Andy Murray.

I went to a dress rehearsal of the Mostly Mozart orchestra at Lincoln Center. It was supposed to start at 10:15a but musicians being musicians it started about 10:30a or thereabouts. I think everyone had arrived by then. (Insert rolling eyes smiley face here).

Since we were seated at about 9:45a I had time to follow the live scoreboard. There was no video inside Avery Fisher Hall. (Boo Hiss). When I saw The Monogram go up a break and knew the match was over. All Delpo achieved was extending the match to 4+ hours. Will that effect the Monogram? If the Final had been played today I'd say he had a snowballs chance in hell but the final is being played on Sunday. It takes about 24 hours for the lactic acid to leave an athlete's system allowing his/her muscles to get back up to full strength.

I didn't really see what Murray did to win his match - when I got out of the rehearsal the match was over.

The one thing I've never denied is that I'm a fan girl. That means I don't have a dog in this fight. That's where the "whatevs" comes from.

I'm hoping for a competitive match. Does that sound better than "whatevs"? I hope so.

Of Tennis and Golden Slams

by Savannah

It started like this. Like every tennis player who has ever taken a court anywhere in the world Serena Williams walked onto Centre Court at Wimbledon alone. She was on her way to playing a woman who has created considerable buzz around herself of late, a woman who has mastered the surface that was long her nemesis. Maria Sharapova had beaten Serena on this same court in what seems a life time ago. At 17 many thought Sharapova, a player whose game was crafted around that of Venus Williams, would go on to dominate women's tennis. That didn't happen but if you say on thing about Maria Sharapova it's that she has a very strong will to win.


One could say the same thing about Serena Williams. She hit the women's Olympic tennis tournament on fire, steamrolling anyone with the misfortune of standing across the net from her. Having just won Wimbledon a few weeks ago Serena came ready to rumble, her "A" game on display. Still she had to face Sharapova, who was looking for Olympic gold in her first ever Games.

The last thing anyone thought they'd see was Maria Sharapova practically reduced to tears as Serena raced through the first set 6-0.

There is a reason that US commentators are not held in high esteem by tennis fans. Rennae Stubbs had done excellent commentary until today. Working with Mary Carillo the two talked about everything except the beatdown that was taking place in front of them. Yes it was a beatdown but WHY was it a beatdown? Experienced fans could see Serena didn't let Maria breathe and that Maria tightened up. What any fan could also see was that the windy conditions would put Sharapova at a disadvantage. When Maria serves well she can dominate, controlling when and how she moves. With the wind blowing her high ball toss around she was going to be at a disadvantage. Serena, possessor of the best serve on the tour, would be able to adjust her serve in line with the conditions. Serena also kept the ball low until she got her confidence and began hitting shots that should have been impossible in the wind. Once she exhibited that control the only question was going to be whether Serena would serve up a double bagel.

In the end Sharapova won one game.


You can argue about GOATS and the dominance of players gone by but those were different times. Today's women are not out of shape. The top players are physically head and shoulders above their predecessors. There is only one player who, when she is on, can dominate both mentally and physically. Maria did move Serena around a bit but Serena made her move more, and not when it was advantageous for Maria. There were double faults galore coming off of Maria's racquet as well, something she hasn't done much of lately. There were also images of Maria struggling to control the power coming off of Serena's racquet.


Steffi Graf did it: 1987 French Open, 1988 Australian Open, 1988 Wimbledon Championships, 1988 Olympic gold medal, & 1988 US Open adding a Calendar Year Golden Slam by winning her second consecutive French Open in 1988

Andre Agassi did it:1992 Wimbledon, 1994 US Open, 1995 Australian Open, 1996 Olympic gold medal, & 1999 French Open

Rafael Nadal did it: 2005 French Open, 2008 Wimbledon, 2008 Olympic gold medal, 2009 Australian Open, & 2010 US Open

Joining their ranks is Serena Williams: 1999 US Open, 2002 French Open, 2002 Wimbledon, 2003 Australian Open, & 2012 Olympic gold medal

And lets not forget that with her sister Venus Serena has accomplished the Golden Slam in doubles: 1999 French Open, 1999 US Open, 2000 Wimbledon, 2000 Olympic gold medal, & 2001 Australian Open

Serena Williams has had a golden career, one that is the envy of many. She can now add Golden with a capital "G" to her resume.

Friday, August 3, 2012

2012 Olympic Women's Final

by Savannah

The women's Olympic Final is set. Serena Williams of the United States will play Maria Sharapova of Russia tomorrow at 9a Eastern in the United States.

I wish I could post some smart, snarky comments about their matches today but I wasn't home all day so I missed them. I did see both women's quarter final matches - Serena vs Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Maria Sharapova playing Kim Clijsters of Germany. Maria won her match 6-2, 7-5 by playing Clijsters the way I've always said she should be played, aggressively and not letting her control the tempo of the match. Serena destroyed Wozniacki 6-0, 6-3 ending all the talk of Wozniacki returning to her number one form. I'm not getting into what number one form they're talking about but I'm not going to snark. She can change coaches all she wants. Nothing is going to change. She has the will but not the skill at this point. She will beat the players she should but it will be a struggle for her to beat an in-form Serena Williams who, no matter her ranking, is the dominant player of the the WTA. She proved that today by demolishing the WTA #1 Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-2.

There were those who said that Maria Kirilenko would give Maria Sharapova a run for her money in their semi final match. I'm guessing they were smoking the same shit that has Snoop Dogg calling himself Snoop Lion. I don't care how well or how hard Kirilenko plays Sharapova has no intention of losing to one of her fellow Russians. The final score was 6-2, 6-3.

So what do I think is going to happen tomorrow? No idea. But that match is going to be a throw down.

End Note

It's come to my attention that one of the stalwarts of tennis bloggers had penned a column that has gotten a lot of people upset. In it the blogger is questioning Maria Sharapova's full throated Russian patriotism. He says that it is the United States that gave her a Grand Slam winning tennis game and allowed her to put millions in her bank account and that she should at least mention the contributions of the United States. Opinions are like anal apertures, everyone has one. I think it's the tone of the article that has taken people back. The language harkens back to the cold war rhetoric of times gone by. Saying that Sharapova's patriotic utterances are as red as her kit even gave me pause. I'm sure many of you have read the post already.

The US tennis establishment had a shit fit when Alex Bogomolov petitioned for permission to play for the Russian Federation. Mind you the US tennis establishment wasn't doing anything much with Bogomolov but went nuclear when he made his intentions known. Bogomolov had to pay ransom to the United States in order to play for Russian. Meanwhile The USTA did the same thing with young Andrea Collarini of Argentina and when Argentina protested said "What chou talkin' bout?"

I'm not going to link to his post. Just Google "Sharapova Patriotism" and it's the first article that comes up.