Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Asia Swing Part 1

by Savannah

I'm a tennis junkie. There is no Twelve Step Program to help people like me. We get up at ridiculous hours to watch matches played somewhere where the time difference can be twelve hours or more.

Except this year I'm not doing it. I didn't watch any of the ATP matches in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. I watched one match per night from Tokyo, sometimes only one set per night of a match. And I'm not apologizing for it. I understand the importance given to Asia by both tours but from what I see the people of Asia haven't exactly warmed to the sport, at least not enough to fill the huge stadiums where matches are played. The stands are sometimes embarrassingly empty.

Keep in mind that I only watched the WTA event in Tokyo. It could be that more people showed up in South Asia and I'm sure readers will let me know.

That said I have to say that Nadia Petrova played like the player that reached #3 in the rankings in Tokyo. One of the best matches lots of fans never saw was her match against Sara Errani. It went three sets and was a war from beginning to end. Errani will always have to scramble because of her height but in the end Petrova was hitting groundies that left vapor trails.

The match I'm sure most fans heard about was Nadia's match against Samantha Stosur and not because Nadia destroyed her. Stosur, mentally fried and apparently having a problem with her back left the court. The always lovable Ricardo Sanchez, the man who destroyed Jelena Jankovic's career and verbally harassed Venus Williams during a match between the two "forgot" he was mic'd and said something about waiting for this "fucking bitch" referring to Stosur.

Stosur fans are a lot like Roger Federer fans. I said a lot like not just like. No fandom is as, how can I say, fanatical as Federer fans. Still from the reaction on Twitter you would've thought Sanchez cursed her mother or something. Petrova cracked up after Sanchez made the comment. The Tennis TV comm said that the comment reflected real life tennis talk. I saw less of a reaction when it was revealed that Victor Krason counseled his daughter Caroline Wozniacki to throw a match, something that only Polish speakers would understand and that changed betting patterns in Europe among those in the know. As for Sanchez doing a Flavor Flav complete with oversized stopwatch/clock it was basically crickets except for dedicated Venus Williams fans.

But I digress. Calling someone a "fucking bitch" is normal now. It can be a term of endearment. It can be an expletive. It depends on intent. Sanchez wasn't using it as a term of endearment but really people get over it. He could've used the word that starts with "c" that I absolutely hate. Grow up people.

Anyway back to Nadia Petrova. She was the best player in Tokyo and deserved her win over Agniezska Radwanska in the final.

Richard Gasquet won Bangkok.
Juan Monaco won Kuala Lumpur.

This and That

Serena Williams withdrew from Beijing. And the bashing has begun again. How quickly some in the tennis world, fans, writers and comms alike, forget how much tennis Serena played this spring and summer. She won Wimbledon,singles and doubles, Olympic Gold, singles and doubles and the US Open. It's sad that this has to be repeated over and over isn't it? Haters you know where to line up.

Did anyone really think Roger Federer wasn't going to play in Asia to defend his ranking? If you did I've got a bridge to sell you. Or maybe you'd like that beach front property in Arizona? I also never hear any criticism of the long breaks Federer takes between events. I think it's called managing his time well. I guess Serena has no idea how to manage her time well. Or shouldn't. Victoria Azarenka has cited "general fatigue" for her withdrawal from Tokyo. Yet it's only Serena who is called a "malingerer". Go figure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

This and That

by Savannah

Spain will travel to the Czech Republic to play for the Davis Cup.
Somehow I don't think that the final will be played on European red clay. I'm thinking the Czech's might use a hockey rink.

In Other News...

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna will pay for their actions leading up to the Olympics.

NEW DELHI (AP) -- The All India Tennis Association says it will not consider veterans Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna for Davis Cup for two years after both refused to partner with Leander Paes in doubles at the London Olympics.

The association said in a statement Sunday it had "decided not to consider" Bhupathi and Bopanna for selection until June 30, 2014. Bhupathi has been a Davis Cup player since 1995 and Bopanna for 10 years.

Both players were dropped from the squad for a relegation playoff matchup against New Zealand in which a second-string India team completed a 5-0 victory in Chandigarh on Sunday.

The AITA said it would move forward with the young team of Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Sharan and Sanam Singh.


'Wounded' Federer wants break from tennis


Roger Federer has admitted to suffering from exhaustion following his return to the top of the world rankings, saying he is "wounded” and "needs some time off".

Federer, 31, had a fantastic return to form this season, winning the Wimbledon title for a seventh time to retake the world number one slot.

However, he has since suffered defeats in the Olympic final and the quarters at the US Open, and the Swiss master believes his body is paying the price for a run which has seen him play 69 matches so far in 2012.

"I need a holiday badly," Federer said after leading the Swiss to a Davis Cup play-off win over the Netherlands.
"I'm wounded, tired, and exhausted and need some time off right now and see where I go from here.

"Nothing has been decided for the rest of year, even though there is a plan in place, that plan might change. I need to go back to drawing board to see what's important."

Sounds as if there's a chance that Mr. Federer won't be defending all those points he has to defend from last years indoor season. Time will tell.


It's back to work for Rafael Nadal. He posted this picture to his Facebook page.


Young Taylor Townsend Tweeted thanks to Lindsay Davenport, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams for their stands against her bullying by the USTA on Sunday.


Olympic Gold Medalist and US Open Champion Andy Murray was given a heroes welcome in his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. I'm sure he'll be Knighted at the first opportunity. It'll be fun seeing a Knight of the Realm cursing up a storm on court won't it?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Juan Carlos Ferrero Retires & Other Tennis News

by Savannah

“I remember that two years ago, Juan Carlos told me that he thought that with a few little adjustments in my game, I could win Roland Garros. I don’t think many more people thought that. [...] I wanted to come to the Juan Carlos Ferrero – Equelite Academy to rest and share this triumph with them, as they have always treated me fantastically and believed in me, as well as because of my friendship with Juan Carlos. On top of my family and my coach [Thomas Hogstedt], I would also like to thank my physio, Juan Reque, and the doctor Nacho Muñoz for the last few years, in which they have helped me overcome physical issues that threatened my tennis career.”

Maria Sharapova after completing her career grand slam by winning Roland Garros.

The more you think you know about tennis it always turns out that you don't know shit.

The above quote from Maria Sharapova was an "aha" moment for me. It explained why the United States tennis establishment went apoplectic about Maria not giving the American tennis establishment enough credit for the success she's had in her career.


I don't think Sharapova can ever not recognize the hard court training she got in Florida. She's never said she's not grateful to them. But to give praise to Juan Carlos Ferrero, the man who many, me included, think was screwed out of his legitimate chance of winning the 2003 US Open, probably stuck in their collective craw.

But this is not about Sharapova. This is about Juan Carlos Ferrero, a player who got run over by a bullet train out of Mallorca and suffered an adult case of chicken pox, both of which conspired to shorten and overshadow his career. By the time Juanqui returned to full health tennis, now a harder, more physical game, had passed him by.

I have to admit I was not a big fan of Juanqui even when his game was at its peak. Who knows why anyone becomes a fan of a particular player. I do know that his retirement is as big a deal as that of Andy Roddick's . They are from the same tennis generation and both weren't able to adjust albeit for different reasons.

Juan Carlos will retire after the tournament in Valencia. It seems to me he's already gotten started on life after tennis.

The Taylor Townsend Controversy


People are still holding USTA Player Development accountable. The US Open ended last Monday but this controversy has not died. Instead apologists for the USTA, some by paid employees, have now decided to come out with what can only be called laughable defenses of the US tennis establishment.

Serena Williams has a body that is bodacious in all respects. Totally dissimilar to most bodies on tour, men and women.

Williams' physique is shared with Taylor Townsend, a 16 year old African-American and the number 1 seed in the girl's juniors in singles. Taylor lost on Friday in the junior girl's US Open singles tournament, but won the US Open girls doubles title.

Like most of us, you would have thought nothing of Taylor Townsend's weight or race.

But you are not the USTA and Patrick McEnroe, at least as to weight.

We may feel that women are no longer classified differently than men, or that racial sensitivity is now practiced by almost everyone involved. This situation brings us back to reality.


Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's player development program, confirmed that her expenses to and at the US Open were not paid by the USTA. His excuse was not low iron at the time. "Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player," said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's player development program. "We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it's time. That's how we make every decision, based on that." McEnroe also claimed there had just been a miscommunication.


Could you have gotten to the quarterfinals of the US Open girls championship or the semifinals of the doubles if you had the weight of Patrick McEnroe and his USTA on top of you every game you played in addition to your own? Knowing that you were being penalized for your weight if not your race?

Probably not. But Taylor did.

Surely, both racial and sexual sensitivity would have dictated a different approach.

But as the Townsend situation shows us, Patrick McEnroe and the USTA do not share this sensitivity. In fact, their position remains both insensitive and appears indefensible.

So far the only disclosure of a health problem comes from, which claims that Townsend required a doctor's approval to play due to "low iron." And although Matt Cronin, a principal writer for, said that this was the reason, it apparently had nothing to do with the decision to ask Townsend not to participate in other tournaments.

The issue of whether the USTA's player development group run by McEnroe is racist has been raised in the past. The Williams former coach Morris King Jr. has made this claim, including by reference to his inability to get a response from them concerning coaching applications.

As for the USTA’s High Performance/Player Development department, I have been rejected for national coach positions at least a dozen times over the years. How did I learn that I was rejected? Because I am not there. That’s how I have always found out. They have never informed me through any type of communication.

Lest you believe that Morris King is just a nut, read his statements and verify them.

King pointed to the USTA's defense of several suits that have alleged race discrimination as a sign of discrimination at the USTA.

These have included the following: Zina Garrison's discrimination lawsuit for her dismissal as the Fed Cup coach which was settled by the USTA, the settled Cecil Hollins case brought by the one out of thirty or so top chair umpires claiming discrimination against black chair umpires because he had been the only one, and the resulting New York Attorney General investigation that was settled though an Assurance of Discontinuance with the USTA.


But given the way Serena has always looked, how can you successfully apply any weight exclusion on any player? Especially because, despite millions in expenditures to develop any top ranked player over the past five or six years, the USTA under Patrick McEnroe has failed in their task and one success they have had is told to stay home and not compete.

That McEnroe's claim that weight was the reason appears to be a false claim based on Townsend's experience at the Australian Open this year. Taylor Townsend was in both the Australian Open girls' singles and doubles, toiling well into the night, where McEnroe was present as a TV commentator.

Click here for more of Cliff Potter's article. Talk about calling the baby ugly.

And now for the "Ain't Nobody's Business" Files for the past week.

Just a girl and her coach.
Just a girl and her coach celebrating a win

...looking at real estate ads
Just a girl and her coach.

I've read all the rumors. I've read all of the discussion. Both of the people involved are adults. Serena has had an apartment in Paris for a few years now. Am I wrong to think that some are looking for any reason to hate on Serena Williams after that 0 & 1 beat down of Maria Sharapova? All the people screaming at the top of their lungs about the morality of the situation - things like this happen in Europe all the time where Puritanical beliefs don't hold sway, and those whispering about "another white man" may, or may not, have the same agenda. Hence the filing of this under the "ain't nobody's business files." The late French President Francois Mitterand's long term mistress attended his funeral where his wife was also present. The two stood side by side at his grave. What was that statement "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?"
To the left haters. To the left.

The WTA and The Media

I'm used to the Pollyanna-ish statements that come out of the WTA about attendance, depth of the women's tour, etc. The one about the WTA's contract with Eurosport being allowed to expire and the tour's signing with MCSTV is interesting.

The complete press release is HERE

Of course this could affect access to live streams for those of us who suffer regional blackouts from paid service and rely on live streams to see European tour events. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Andy Murray Wins the US Open; Serena Williams Player of the Year

by Savannah


Sir Andrew Murray got his title today by not only winning the 2012 US Open but defeating the 2011 champion in a five setter that CBS surprisingly stayed with for it's entirety. The Scotsman was cheered on by that symbol of Scottish manhood Sir Sean Connery who for a certain generation is the only actor who played James Bond that matters, and Sir Alex Ferguson, another quite famous countryman.

This was Murray's US Open to lose once he reached the semi finals. There was no Rafael Nadal. There was no Roger Federer. The only man standing in his way was Novak Djokovic.

Truth be told Djokovic had played poorly all year. Yes he won Australia in the beginning of the year but after that his play deteriorated. He'll always have 2011 but the true test of champions is that they not only find a way to win but find a way to climb the mountain year after year after year.

There was mild surprise in the tennis world when Murray, notorious for his foul temper and even fouler mouth, hired Ivan Lendl as his coach. Lendl had the reputation of a man who wouldn't take any shit and it was wondered if the relationship would last.

It has. And it has paid dividends. Lendl didn't crack a smile until the end of the match today and that is as it should be. There was no shucking and jiving, no idle chit chat on his part. Much like Antoni Nadal, Lendl was focused on his player and was there to make sure that all of the hard work paid off.


What struck me most of all was Murray's reaction after he won, shown in the picture just above. It was so low key. Yes he was happy. He went over to his box, limping all the way, and then sat down hard in his chair courtside. It'll all sink in tomorrow.

There was a lot going on in the match - the crowd's reaction to Djokovic's gamesmanship in calling for a trainer when Murray, up 5-2, was about to serve for the match for example. Everyone saw clearly what Djokovic was trying to do and expressed displeasure. Djokovic reacted by mocking the crowd, a crowd that had grown to tolerate if not love him. A leopard can't change his spots can it?

And there were Murray tantrums and soliloquies - it wouldn't have been Murray without them. But the big story was that he didn't give up. He fought for this title. He wasn't trying to make it pretty or be a hero. He simply wanted to win and in the end that is what he did.

Congratulations Andy!


The 2012 US Open Women's Final set the tone for the men's final. It was a war.

I said that I thought it would be a close match. It was. Serena Williams came out firing on all cylinders and blew through the first set. The second set was altogether different. Serena went on walkabout. Was it the foot fault call? Who knows. Serena will never say. All we as fans know is that for a set and a half Serena Williams was AWOL.

The woman across the net, WTA #1 Victoria Azarenka, took advantage of the lull and handled her business easily winning the second set and looked to be well on her way to winning her second Slam of 2012 when just as suddenly as it started Serena pulled herself together and began to hit the ball between the lines not outside of them. Serena, keeping herself under tight emotional control not wanting a repeat of what had happened to her in recent US Open's, gathered that tremendous will and eked out a third set victory.

I'm always baffled by Serena haters. Many thought she was being insincere when she said she had begun to think of what her remarks would be as runner up. I don't think she's ever been more sincere.

Serena shouldn't have won that match. She played the worst set and a half of tennis I've seen her play in recent memory (not counting the loss to Virginie Razzano in the first round of the French Open this year). And still when the dust settled Serena was commenting to her public as the winner.

In a year that saw her win Wimbledon singles and doubles, Olympic Gold in both singles and doubles, and now the US Open there is no doubt in my mind who the WTA Player of the Year is. At this point in Serena's career ranking ain't nothing but a number. She's playing for respect, for history. She's already considered the greatest of her generation, just as her father predicted a long time ago.

Congratulations Serena!

Friday, September 7, 2012

"It Speaks of Horrible Ignorance"

By Tom Perrotta

The Wall Street Journal reported in Friday’s newspaper that Taylor Townsend, a Chicago native and the No. 1 junior girl tennis player in the world, was benched from tournament play this summer by her coaches at the U.S. Tennis Association because of her fitness. Townsend lost in the quarterfinals of the junior singles tournament Friday afternoon but advanced to the doubles final with her partner, Gabby Andrews.

On Friday, the Journal spoke with Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova, two former No. 1 players and Grand Slam champions who struggled with their weight as teenagers and as pros. Davenport and Navratilova were sharply critical of the USTA’s decision.

“You cannot punish someone for their body type,” Davenport said.

“I’m livid about it. Livid,” Navratilova said. She added: “It speaks of horrible ignorance.”

The Wall Street Journal: You struggled with weight as a junior and a pro. What was it like for you growing up?

Lindsay Davenport: My dad is 6-foot-8. He blew out his knee in 1973, and after bad surgery, an infection ravaged his knee. He hasn’t been able to bend his knee since then. He was probably 150 pounds overweight my whole life. So all through the 80s, when I was a little girl, my dad was huge. My mom was not. But I had this dad with big genes, and we were never thin.

My first year playing the [12-and-under] nationals in Florida [at age 11], another mom reported me for being too old. And I was standing right there, and my mom was like, “I’ve got news for you, she can play next year, too.” And this woman was like, “Oh my gosh!” I had these big, chubby, baby cheeks and people thought that because I was tall and big, I was older.

Martina Navratilova: I put on 20 pounds in two weeks when I first came on the tour. I was 16, I played in Fort Lauderdale and then Dallas. By Dallas, I had to buy myself new shorts because I couldn’t fit into my shorts. I was playing three hours a day of tennis, or more. It was a change of metabolism and a change of diet. I wasn’t eating junk food, either. I was just eating too much. I was eating pancakes and steaks and hamburgers, I discovered corn flakes. It was just a different diet completely. I struggled with my weight for four years after that. I didn’t lose it until I was 20. And really, it just came off by itself. I was training hard and it started coming off in 1976.

How did your coaches approach your development, and how much of that had to do with fitness?

Davenport: There was a female who was in charge of the [USTA] women’s program in the 90s, Lynne Rolley. Lynne stood by me, was like a mother figure to me. I think she saw it as not only developing these great players, but developing us as people, and teaching us, when you walk into a room, look into someone’s eyes. It wasn’t just about trying to get players on Arthur Ashe. No one ever said to me, you’re fat, you’re heavy. Part of it is trying to figure it out on your own and trying to get the player to realize it. You’re dealing with a really difficult age for girls, and you’re talking about a life-changing, detrimental step. You cannot punish someone for their body type.

Navratilova: No matter what, the kid is 16. It’s baby fat, it’s going to come off. She would have to starve to the point of where she can’t play to lose weight, so then she can’t compete. And she’s the No. 1 junior. It is absolutely insane what they did, so irresponsible. If anything, play more. Don’t go into the gym. Just watch [what you eat], but in a positive and constructive and long-term way. But to throw this on her at 16? I’m trying to be nice here, but they totally blew it on this one.

Were there any fitness requirements you had to meet?

Davenport: When I was growing up, we had these USTA camps and a national team, and we would all go to these camps together. And you had to run a mile and a half in a certain time. I could never sleep the night before, I swear to God. I’m not a runner. I could hit the ball really well, and I liked to play tennis, but it was all getting too serious for me. I’ll never forget the anxiety I would feel the night before a run. And the time, whatever it was, it’s such a doable number now, but I’d be crying and stressed about it. And they would threaten that you couldn’t stay on the team. It didn’t happen, so I don’t know if I made the time, or they just kind of overlooked it.

When were your worst struggles with weight?

Davenport: I won the nationals at 15 [in the 18-and-under division]. My heaviest was more at 18, 19, when my parents were getting divorced. But I was never slim. I had an obese father, and we had a great childhood, but a good diet was not part of it, even though I was an athlete. I was not svelte at 15, and I was not fit at 15. If they had told me I could not play, I mean, that could have ruined my career.

There were definitely people within the USTA who didn’t think I had a chance to make it. I was very fortunate that I had Lynne, who was like, “This girl is doing great, she’s a nice girl, why wouldn’t we help her?” You just can’t turn your back on someone when they’re doing well and they’re a great kid. They’ve helped people with the worst attitudes, and that is way worse to me than someone’s body type.

Navratilova: What really pisses me off about this is, OK, weight is obvious, but what about attitude? Can we talk about other kids who they have been supporting for years whose attitude sucks and they still support them? I’m livid about it. Livid.

Is there a “too early” for off-court training like a pro would do?

Navratilova: Absolutely. Absolutely. I say play other sports, because that helps you become a better athlete, and most of all it makes you happy. I didn’t do core training when I was 16, I was climbing trees. I was swimming in the river, I was playing hockey, I played soccer, I road my bicycle a lot and then I played tennis. I did weight training like two weeks a year.

Davenport: I think the time is in your late teens. If you look at Martina Hingis, that great year she had in 1997, she was a twig, but it was just her tennis. Everyone has started doing things earlier, but that pressure is just exploding, and the long-term consequences of what potentially just happened I think are far worse than the benefit.

How much does fitness matter in tennis, say from your days on tour compared to now?

Davenport: It seems to have gone to where it’s a bit more than in the 90s, but it’s still about hitting the ball well. It’s still, in women’s tennis, about the chance to overpower someone. Certainly it’s a more important component when you get older, but it’s not that important when you’re 15, 16 years old. And I think that we’ve seen cases, Martina [Navratilova], myself, where people get over that, and we’ve seen the opposite where eating disorders occur.

[Taylor] is a baby to me. I couldn’t imagine, if someone did that to one of my kids, that would be the end of it. It’s horrible to put that kind of pressure on someone. I can’t imagine at 16 what my parents would have done.

What does a kid like Taylor, at her age, need most?

Davenport: I might take it the opposite way. They need love and support and good role models, and good role models aren’t people who punish and don’t allow things to happen. What really helped for me to lose weight was to try to have fun in the beginning, and just learning things like, you don’t want to eat bread at dinner. You just need to nurture them and I think that’s how it gets better.

If the goal is developing top pros, is that too narrow, or missing the bigger picture?

Davenport: Their whole goal should be to try to develop this player into the best player they can be, and the best person and try to teach them tools to go through life, and hopefully that includes playing in Arthur Ashe Stadium. If this is the player you’re choosing to help, you think they’re going to be good, it’s up to you to make them get there, to bring out their best as a coach.

Bringing out their best isn’t making them feel bad about themselves and having a horrible self-image. You get it out of them by getting them happy, by getting them excited to play, not by tearing them down.

Navratilova: It speaks of horrible ignorance.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Can We Be Serious?

by Savannah

I was wrong. In looking at the up and coming young American women I criticized Taylor Townsend for being overweight, too heavy to play competitive tennis.

Looking at her without knowing a damn thing about her it was easy for me to take pot shots at a 16 year old girl. I'm posting this article from the Wall Street Journal in it's entirety. It needs to be read by anyone who considers themselves a serious tennis fan.

Thanks to Lindsay Davenport for bringing attention to this article. And thanks to Tom Perrota for writing it.

Teenage girls face so many issues - looks, body image, where am I going in this world. The last thing a girl needs is bullying.

I apologize Taylor. You are ready to step into the top ranks of a very difficult sport. You need to know that there are many people behind you.


As the U.S. Tennis Association continues its struggle to reverse the declining fortunes of American tennis, it seems fair to assume that 16-year-old Taylor Townsend would be welcome to play anywhere she likes.

The Chicago-born tennis prodigy, who is part of a four-year-old USTA-funded development program, is the world's No. 1 junior girls' player, the reigning junior Australian Open singles champion and the junior Wimbledon doubles champion.

Thursday, she won two matches at the U.S. Open's junior tournament, the last a dominating two-set victory over Mexico's Marcela Zacarias in which she pumped her fist after winners and jogged to her chair for every changeover.

But unbeknownst to everyone outside her inner circle, the USTA wasn't happy to see Townsend in New York. Her coaches declined to pay her travel expenses to attend the Open and told her this summer that they wouldn't finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.

"Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player," said Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA's player development program. "We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it's time. That's how we make every decision, based on that."

Townsend's mother, Shelia, who played tennis at Lincoln University, has not discussed the situation publicly before. This week she said she'd been baffled by the USTA's decision. "It all kind of came as a shock to us because Taylor has consistently done quite well," she said. Her daughter, she reminded, "is No. 1, not just in the United States, but in the world."

Before this year's Open, Taylor asked the USTA for a wild-card entry slot in either the Open's main draw or its qualifying tournament, which Taylor had played in last year. Her requests were denied. After the USTA asked Taylor to skip the U.S. Open junior tournament, her mother told them she'd pay her daughter's expenses herself.

The USTA's decision touches on two contentious issues in tennis: the relative importance of player fitness and the best way to develop talent.

Most American tennis prodigies have been developed by private coaches, academies and persistent parents, sometimes with supplemental help from the USTA. In 2008, though, the organization decided it needed to do more about the decline of American tennis and founded its first full-time academy in Boca Raton, Fla., where Townsend is one of 25 select juniors. The USTA also trains 41 juniors in Carson, Calif., and the National Tennis Center in Flushing, the site of the U.S. Open.

By benching Townsend, the USTA seems to be sending a message that developing solid fundamentals (like fitness) is more important for a player's long-term success and longevity than competitive results.

While the sport's top players have taken a noticeable turn in recent years toward greater fitness—a trend typified by lithe specimens like Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka—there's more to winning than subzero body fat. A quick glance around the U.S. Open reveals a fair number of less-chiseled players, such as Marion Bartoli and Stanislas Wawrinka, who both reached the tournament's second week.

On the women's side, former U.S. star Lindsay Davenport became No. 1 while ranking among the largest players on the women's tour at 6-foot-2 and about 175 pounds. And in 2007, Serena Williams won the Australian Open singles title while being in what many experts consider the worst shape of her career.

"You have to be fit underneath, I don't think you necessarily have to look ripped," said former No. 1 Mats Wilander. "Smart players can get away with being a little tired."

It's certainly possible that Townsend's fitness is holding her back, but her results suggest that her current form is more than adequate. In addition to triumphs at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, she made it to the semifinals of the International Spring Championship and won the prestigious Easter Bowl.

After Townsend lost in the first-round of qualifying at a professional event in Vancouver this summer, her coaches asked her to withdraw from the USTA Girls' National Championships in San Diego and return to the USTA's training academy in Boca Raton, where she now lives. She was put on double fitness duty and allowed to play just enough tennis to maintain her timing. "It wasn't my decision," she said. "But they didn't think playing was the best thing, so I went back."

If Townsend had won the San Diego event, she would have received an automatic wild card into the U.S. Open's main draw and with it, a rare chance to be seen by agents and potential sponsors (she currently has no agent). After she returned to Florida, Townsend was diagnosed with low iron during a routine checkup. Shelia Townsend said her daughter is taking iron pills and that the problem is "totally manageable."

Townsend, who possesses a sunny disposition, isn't holding a grudge against the USTA. "I've gotten a lot of great opportunities, great fitness, great coaching," she said. "I'm doing everything that they ask me to do and being professional about everything." Shelia Townsend, who moved to Florida with her daughter and works in the Palm Beach school system, agreed the USTA academy had been good for her daughter. "It has afforded her a lot of opportunities," she said.

Townsend will play Estonia's Anett Kontaveit in the junior Open quarterfinals Friday. She said she was asked to represent the U.S. in a junior Federation Cup event in Spain later this month. Beyond that, however, her schedule is unclear.

McEnroe said his development team still hasn't cleared Townsend for tournament play. "We'll assess when this tournament is over," he said.

2012 US Open Women's Semifinals

by Savannah

The field is set.

Maria Sharapova will play Victoria Azarenka.
Serena Williams will play Sara Errani.

I don't think this is a gimme for Serena. In fact I think this could be a very difficult match for Serena if Errani decides she's got nothing to lose and goes for broke.

The two women have played three times and Serena has won them all, dropping only one set. But the matches took place in 2008 and 2009, before Errani reinvented herself. I wouldn't be surprised if the match goes three sets.

As for Sharapova vs Azarenka I'm thinking it's a toss up. Sharapova lucked out against a tiring Marion Bartoli who really needs to reevaluate all her jumping around. She's older now and all I see is her opponents keeping it close waiting for her to wilt in the third set. Azarenka isn't going to give Sharapova anything.

If Sharapova comes out tentative and spraying balls all over the place Azarenka is going to vamp on her like nobody's business. Azarenka has been playing like she's on a mission and she can see the finish line. This one could go three, but I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't. I'm guessing Pova in three, Azarenka in two.


The following was reported as Roger Federer's reactions and comments on Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon loss.

Federer has an unusual hope for the future: that more lower-ranked players will challenge the elite the way Lukas Rosol did against Nadal at Wimbledon two months ago. “I do hope more guys ranked where Rosol is or even better ranked do believe more in beating the top guys on the big stage,” he said. “It was just refreshing to see that it was possible for a guy like Rosol to come through.”

Full article HERE

I wonder how refreshed he felt Wednesday night in the New York City borough of Queens?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Idle Chit Chat - US Open 2012

by Savannah

I'll start with an Open Letter to Mardy Fish.

Dear Mardy, with friends like Justin Gimelstob you don't need enemies. Sincerely, Savannah

Collective jaws dropped when Justin Gimelstob, ATP board director, doing an on court interview about Mardy Fish having to withdraw from the Open due to health concerns, said that stress is part of the game and that Fish needs to suck it up.

Here's the quote in it's entirety.

“He’s struggling with the stress of trying to reach his potential. This tournament means so much to him. It all just compounded in his withdrawal today.

“Is the physical presupposing the mental or is the mental presupposing the physical? It is symbolic that he’s playing one of the biggest matches of his career against the greatest of all time, where expectations should be at an all-time low and he couldn’t even take the court. So he’s depressed, he’s disappointed, he’s sad, and he’s stressed.

“Pressure is a privilege, and Mardy Fish needs to embrace that.”

Way to go Justin.

Sharapova and The United States National Anthem

Seems Pam Shriver got her panties in a bunch because Russian national Maria Sharapova continued her warm up during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Pammy thought that was disrespectful.

Her position makes no sense unless this grenade lob is related to unspoken anger at Miss Sharapova for not thanking the USTA enough for her success.

Keeping up with a meme that's being promulgated now The USTA is looking at Maria and saying "we built that". Of course they're right. But if they wanted her, as part of the deal, to become a United States citizen that should've been said up front and put in writing no? I remember being surprised that she hadn't given up her Russian citizenship when she pushed so hard to be on the Russian Fed Cup team but I thought what do I know?
People in the States developed her game, developed her public persona, and never, ever spoke about her not being a citizen until she called their bluff. The horse is gone people. There is nothing you can do about it now.

Azarenka and the Media

It's kind of a sports cliche now that any successful athlete be media savvy. Even guy toiling away on the defensive line knows when a mic is shoved in his face he has to smile and face the camera.


Apparently this is not the case with one Miss Victoria Azarenka. If you keep up with the sport you're aware that recently the press has boycotted her post match pressers. No one has shown up to interview her on more than one occasion. She gets lousy court assignments regardless of her ranking - right now she's top dog - and it seems that sometimes the comms look for reasons to disparage her.

People have to keep in mind that tennis players are highly competitive people. They play an individual sport and yes, many of them may see the press as a necessary evil. But they grin and bear it. Azarenka, like several before her, doesn't. Serena Williams had to learn. The above mentioned Maria Sharapova had to learn. Andy Murray has learned. I'm sure Azarenka will too, at some point.

The Big Hitters


The winner of last night's Andy Murray vs Milos Raonic match was determined during practice. Mention was made that Murray, finished his hit, stopped to watch Raonic who was still practicing. Murray then went out and destroyed the young Canadian.

John Isner is also out of the tournament. What happened to these two men? Their lack of a decent return game doomed them. Why is it that players with a big serve rarely develop a good all around game? Pete Sampras, the deity of the big hitters, did have an all around game early in his career. It was towards the end that his serve became all important. Isner is 27. Raonic is younger and hopefully he'll begin to work on a more complete approach to tennis.

Of Rain Delays and BJKNTC

I'm tired of talking about this. It rains in early September in New York City. It rains a lot. It makes absolutely no sense to spend millions on rearranging the deck chairs when the one thing that is needed - a roof - isn't being seriously considered.


On top of that Marion Bartoli was steamrolling Maria Sharapova when the late afternoon rains came. Before the women had even left the court there was talk that the match would be suspended until Wednesday to make sure that Andy Roddick's match went on to start the evening session.

There are a couple of things about that decision.

1. Suspending the day session left the USTA ahead. Since more than an hour of play had taken place they didn't have to refund tickets to fans.

2. The assumption that the rain would end and give the USTA enough time to bring out the groundskeepers in their spiffy white uniforms to squeegee and use the Zambonis to dry the court, something that takes about 45 minutes, and complete at least an hour of play for the night session was ludicrous. A look at the weather map told you that wasn't happening. Of course if the courts had been covered - one wag on Twitter volunteered to go to Lowe's and buy a tarp - it may have taken less time to dry the courts. As it was they dried Ashe before the other courts.

3. Only the women's match was suspended. Did that give one player time to have a long discussion with her father? Who knows. There was also talk that if play wasn't completed for this part of the men's draw they'd be at an unfair advantage.


As we all know night session play lasted 54 minutes and an attempt will be made to resume play tomorrow. Did I mention that rain is forecast for tomorrow as well?

It's really sad that in this day and age the USTA is incapable of making the decisions that will enable it to brag it's the best Slam instead of having to fend off comments that it's the worst.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Time Has Come Today

by Savannah


Andy Roddick told Serena Williams a year ago he was thinking of retiring at the 2012 US Open. She said she had been trying to talk him out of it from then until now.

Contrary to what some of the prima donna's of the tennis press felt it wasn't about them. The whole "oh it's just for his birthday cake" meme that was bandied about Twitter while the French sports press had already gone with the story of Roddick's retirement was kind of funny in retrospect.

Another of the big names had his "goodbye" blog post up less than an hour after Roddick made his decision public. Some felt this meant he was aware of what Roddick would say since a farewell to tennis column with the right sense of gravitas takes time to conceive, write and publish.

This could easily become a column about the tennis press reaction but it won't. I want to talk about Andy Roddick and what he has been to American tennis.

I'll start by getting to the ugly. He has gotten away with antics on court that if another player did them would've resulted in censure. Towards the end you knew how Andy felt about his chances in a match by how soon he'd start fighting with the chair. Audible profanities? Match officials didn't hear them. "Oh that's just Andy," is the phrase that was uttered by officials when asked.

It can be said Roddick was following in the American tradition of John McEnroe from the previous generation of American players, a tradition that should have been retired with McEnroe. It's still a tradition among some of the younger players - well one in particular - and seems to be an admired trait for American men.

The American style of tennis has been much maligned in some corners as "hit hard and harder". They're now calling it "quick fire" or "first strike" tennis. At one point Roddick didn't play that style. He played an early iteration of the modern tennis game, a game that could be played on all courts with adaptations of course, and a style that Europeans and South Americans have made their own. After he won the 2003 US Open that all changed. His European based coach was summarily kicked to the curb and Roddick adopted the serve oriented hard court focused style of play that came to be called American tennis.

I think all of the good and bad with Roddick's tennis can be traced to the USTA engineering of his 2003 US Open championship. It was one of the rainiest US Opens and Roddick's opponent had played back to back matches while Roddick came in well rested. Roddick was never the same after that win.

All of the above is relevant in discussing Andy Roddick's career but a retirement in an intimate sport like tennis is akin to a funeral. We rabid fans are a small part of an even smaller part of the wide world of sports fans and we tend to do what people do when a close friend has moved on - we talk about the good and gloss over or ignore the bad. "Don't speak ill of the dead" is the operative phrase here.

So lets talk about the one thing I think merits Andy Roddick's assured entrance into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Andy Roddick finished the year in the top ten every year from 2003 to 2010, a major accomplishment for a player, especially for a player whose game was more and more obsolete with every passing year.
As long has Andy Roddick was in the top ten American tennis was in good shape. There was no need to change the way juniors were taught to play because Andy Roddick was successful playing American tennis. Despite tennis professionals who said we had to go back to teaching the basics on clay before the establishment dug in its heels and hid behind the back of Andy Roddick.

That can't be done now. No matter what happens at the BJKNTC Andy Roddick will not be carrying the American tennis establishment on his back anymore. It's time to, as my mother, may she rest in peace, would say "fish or cut bait, crab or carry the basket". There is no American man who is even remotely ready to take on the European tennis juggernaut. American commentators may grovel at the altar of a non American player but when all is said and done said player is an all court player. We have no one.

Where do we go from here? American women seem to be ready to step up to the plate. Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens to name a few, look to be able to play a more nuanced game. Madison Keys is a young power player. Victoria Duval has true star quality. But the big wins by this group seem to be a year or so away at least. On the men's side current darlings Ryan Harrison and John Isner don't seem to have the temperament or the game to carry the torch. Mardy Fish is older and playing as well as he can at his age. The other promising men are still eligible to play juniors.

With Andy Roddick leaving the stage there is no one who can give the US tennis establishment cover. The debate over how juniors are developed will become louder now. Patrick McEnroe, the head of USTA Player Development has been arguing for starting kids out on clay - real clay not that green stuff - and has met stiff resistance. I hope that he continues to argue for and implement policies that will allow American kids to be able to become strong competitors on the world stage that is tennis instead of cannon fodder in international, and domestic draws. That topic will keep bloggers like me busy for some time.


So goodbye Andy Roddick. You gave it all and then some to the sport you love. You deserve a time to rest, adjust to civilian life, and to assess your life past, present and future. Getting up late and going to bed late is a beautiful thing.