Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cheatergate and the 2013 Australian Open

by Savannah

No one but die hard fans are accepting the okey doke.

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After admitting on court that she took a ten minute MTO because she was "overwhelmed" Victoria Azarenka changed her tune and said she "misunderstood" the question Sam Smith asked her on court.

The Economist , hardly known for sports commentary, has a major story about the event itself and the aftermath. Below is a summary.

In the wake of Ms Azarenka’s semifinal Pam Shriver, a retired American player, suggested that timeouts should be limited to game breaks directly before the service games of players claiming they are hurt. Since players usually feel greater pressure serving than receiving, the argument goes, timeouts are more likely to disadvantage the next server, which would discourage players from requesting them on spurious grounds. This might indeed reduce the strategic potential of timeouts slightly, but it falls far short of solving the problem. Players feeling nervous may still feel they have a better chance of holding their serves after a timeout, while a player in a dominant position can lose rhythm and momentum following a delay even when scheduled to receive.

Another proposal is to eliminate timeouts for non-acute injuries, and instead allow players access to unlimited assistance during the normal breaks that occur in matches, at change of ends and between sets. However, timeouts were instituted because sometimes players need treatment for periods longer than the normal breaks. This option risks the same adverse consequences as scrapping on-court medical treatment altogether.

Perhaps the most effective solution would be a point-docking system. If players forfeited just a single point per timeout, that would probably eliminate the temptation to cheat the system, since in tight matches, each point is immensely valuable. The ability to remain fit throughout a match is as just much a skill as having a good backhand. Playing poorly loses you points—so why shouldn’t, in a modest way, getting injured?

No athlete competes to come in second. In tennis players learn to smile and accept the plate while someone else gets the cup but natural competitors are never content with second place. The other comments Azarenka made during the Sam Smith interview was "I couldn't lose. I had to win." I'm paraphrasing but that is what she said.

Anyone who reads this blog consistently knows I've never been a fan of Azarenka and have always said she doesn't have the temperament to be a top player. She's moved herself up the rankings and has managed to keep herself at number one for a number of reasons but a leopard can't change it's spots.

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There were milestones at this Australian Open: Novak Djokovic winning his third straight Oz Open, young Ana Konjuh of Croatia assuming the mantle of top junior girl, and Nick Krygios of Australia making a strong showing winning the Junior Boys title.

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With the ongoing train wreck that is Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt in the twilight of his career I'm sure the people at Tennis Australia are glad to have not only Krygios but Thanasi Kokkanakis on the horizon.

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Jarmila Gajdosova and Matthew Ebden won the Mixed Doubles crown, another feather in Tennis Australia's cap.

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Italy could still hold it's head high as the team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won the women's doubles crown.

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Going back to the Juniors for a minute Australian Junior Boys team Jay Andrijic and Bradley Mousley won the title giving TA another feather in its cap.

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As for Junior Girls doubles Canadian Carol Zhao teamed with Ana Konjuh to win.

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There was Li Na not only twisting her untaped ankle but then falling on the court and the sickening vision of her head bouncing off the court and being grateful that her pony tail protected her from really serious injury.

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Li was visibly dazed afterwards but went on to complete her match.
The other injury news was of course Serena Williams not only injuring her ankle during her first match but playing an ill advised doubles match against the eventual champions and who ended up hurting her back and crashing out of the tournament earlier than everyone expected.

Maria Sharapova once again had an easy path to the Quarterfinals beating up on people she should have and once again crashed out at the first sign of resistance from a seed.

There was the spectacle of Roger Federer cursing at a bemused Andy Murray who had to know at that point that he had the match won.

Tennis fans always associate the word "headcase" with WTA players. How else would you describe how Petra Kvitova has performed since her Grand Slam win? The Czech tennis federation has a lot of questions to answer about Petra's off court regimen including not scheduling time to practice in heat and humidity during the "off season" and keeping her in the Czech Republic playing indoor exhibitions. But isn't it time to start applying the word to players like Tomas Berdych, also of the Czech Republic? What about Juan Martin del Potro the Argentine who showed he has the game to beat the top players but rarely does?

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A full list of Wheelchair and Quad winners is posted at the end.

But these are not the things casual fans know about the 2013 Australian Open. Yes Serena smashed her racquet to smithereens and Tweeted a picture of her monstrously swollen ankle making the conversation at my hair dresser quite lively especially when the ladies of the CBS gab fest "The View" talked about it. When a magazine like "The Economist" uses a lot of ink (real not virtual) to talk about Medical Time Outs in Tennis the first Major of the year did not achieve it's objective. When the number one ranked player of the WTA gets booed by the tennis savvy Australian fans every time she makes a mistake the WTA isn't being well represented by it's top player.

When I told Haruka that Azarenka had gotten herself in trouble again the first words out of her mouth were "That woman has no filter".

I'm as susceptible as the next person to being seduced by a charm offensive on behalf of a player. The image makers know how valuable it is for a top athlete to have a positive image not only with the press but with fans. Look at what's been done on LeBron James behalf. There are fans like me who appreciate the work that has to be done not only by the PR people but the athletes themselves to help change the public perception of them. But the athlete has to be aware that as soon as the game or the match is over they have to put the talking points they've been drilled on first in their minds.

There is also this question: If Victoria Azarenka was a man would her naked ambition be treated differently? John McEnroe was an obnoxious boor. So was Jimmy Connors. But they're revered. I ask this question even though I don't think I'll ever be a fan of Azarenka. It needs to be asked even though the criticism she's received is justified.

Was this a memorable Australian Open? The surface is still a problem that will have to be looked at yet again. The difference between the US Open and the Australian Open is that TA, unlike the USTA, accepts that there are always things that can be corrected and works on doing just that.

As I noted there were a lot of positive and memorable things that happened for tennis at Melbourne. The impact these events will have on the upcoming year won't be known for some time. Neither tour came out smelling like roses again lets wait and see what's going on in November.

Wheelchair and Quad winners

Wheelchair Men's Singles
Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Singles
Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Singles
David Wagner
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
Michael Jeremiasz / Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Jiske Griffioen / Aniek van Koot
Wheelchair Quad Doubles
David Wagner / Nicholas Taylor

Australian Open

Friday, January 25, 2013


by Savannah

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I'm starting this post with a shout out to one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Why? Yes I'm being bad. I'm sure you know by now that Monsieur Tsonga stretched the FedGod to five sets in their quarterfinal match before losing 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3, 3-6.

You see this is what Roger Federer fans were afraid of. In my opinion Tsonga could've won - in theory since I haven't stayed up to see any of the ATP night matches which means I haven't seen Federer play - but he doesn't believe that he can win but he can play hard enough to push Federer and that is what he did. He's not going to roll over and play dead but the head to head is now 9-3 in Federer's favor.

So the big deal of that loss by Tsonga is that Federer had to play five sets and then play again the next day. That is a big deal for a man of Federer's age. All the cosseting, all the favorable treatment given by the TD's in the end meant nothing when Federer faced Andy Murray who had a much easier time against a nervous Jeremy Chardy winning his day match in three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-2. And Andy Murray despite being treated like the proverbial red haired step child by the tournament was physically ready for a long match. It's amusing to read about the meltdown Federer had cursing and carrying on while Murray (!) just played tennis.

Once again I'm having a "Bitch Stole My Look" moment. All together now " A soft draw does not a champion make". I know Federer fans think his draw was difficult but there was never any doubt in my mind that he had a clear road to the quarter finals. Tomic? Raonic? Davydenko? Paire? Yeah those players were going to give him a hard time. They've been conditioned to think they can't beat him. Tsonga was the first real threat he faced and right behind him came Murray. He wasn't going to survive both.

As for Murray it seems his work in the heat of South Florida has paid off.

Any long time readers know I don't care for Novak Djokovic as a player since the Gael Monfils incident at the US Open. Still I never doubted that he was going to make the Final. Sure some will say I should get over that incident and that he has made himself into a better person. Sorry. As Maya Angelou said "When someone shows you who they are believe them." Roger Federer dropped the mask a bit in last night's match and Djokovic dropped his long ago.

Who do I think is going to win? No idea. I'm not even going to try and stay up or record the match. I'm sure there will be plenty of the players fans doing that. I hope they get a good match.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Victoria Azarenka: My Bad

Here is the transcript of Victoria Azarenka's post match presser. It was Tweeted last night that per Grand Slam rules Azarenka could have been defaulted for using a Medical Time Out for non illness/non musculoskeletal injury reasons. Thus the emphasis on the "rib injury" making it difficult to breathe. Don't forget that Maria Sharapova claimed she had a collarbone injury of mysterious origin that made it impossible to play any of the tournaments leading up to the Australian Open. Make of this what you will.

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Victoria Azarenka 24-01-13

Thursday, 24 January, 2013

Q. Could you perhaps talk us through the end of the match and what prompted your departure and when you came back.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, you know, I had been struggling a little bit throughout the whole match, from the second set, my back. And it just kept getting worse. I should have, you know, called the trainer a little bit earlier before that when I got to the point that I couldn't really breathe and had to go off court.
So there was a little bit of my bad. But just a rib got locked and kept getting worse. I had to have it adjusted. I really had to go and take that medical timeout.

Q. Can you understand that people perceive that as being gamesmanship at that particular point in the game?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't really because it was necessary thing for me to do, as I said, you know, earlier. I just regret that I didn't take it earlier. That it got to the point that it was pretty much impossible for me to breathe and to play.
It took a little bit longer.

Q. Would you agree the timing was unfortunate?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: The timing, yeah, it was my bad. The game before that when I lost my service game, it kept getting worse. I thought I would have to play through it and keep calm. But it just got worse.
You know, I had to do it.

Q. What treatment did you have?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I had to unlock my rib, which was causing my back problem. You know, the trainer said, We have to go off court to treat that. I just didn't really want to take off my dress on the court.

Q. You said after the match you were overwhelmed, rather than mentioning your back. Is there a reason why you didn't mention it?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You mean the question of the interview?

Q. Yes.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know what, I think I just really misunderstood what she asked me because the question was I had few difficulties and why I went off. I completely thought of a different thing, why I couldn't close out of match, you know, that I had few difficulties.
So I understand the whole situation right now, but it just really simple misunderstanding of a question. I guess it was my bad.

Q. You were also asked on ESPN and you made no mention of your back as well.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I did say that. I did say I couldn't breathe. It was locked. That was came from my back.

Q. In your previous answers, you attributed the not being able to breathe being pretty much directly to not converting the five match points in the game before. You said you had to take some time to get your mind together when you were going off court. This seems like a very different answer that you're giving now.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: What can I tell you after a few seconds after the match? I couldn't really talk about everything what was going on. You know, I'm telling you what happened right now honestly, that my back was bothering me. It took me too long of a time to call the trainer, which was my mistake.
I took it to the point where I couldn't breathe, which was causing from my back problem, and I couldn't really figure out what was going on on the court. When the trainer told me that was the rib that was blocking that, my back, that's what happened.

Q. It was reported there was also a knee that was one of the problems when you went off court.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, but actually I only took one medical timeout. You know, it took a little bit maybe more time because they were evaluating that. But I took only one medical timeout.
And my knee, I slipped. Was it, I don't know, maybe third game of the second set. So it was a little bit bothering me. But it wasn't that big of a deal. It was just my back that caused my ...

Q. Given how bad it was, were you surprised at the speed of your recovery?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, when somebody unlocks and you can breathe, it definitely helps. But I still feel it a little bit.

Q. Do you have any sympathy for Sloane, who had to sit there for 10 minutes waiting to serve to stay in the match?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I haven't thought about it that way because I was trying to make sure that, you know, I can play when I go back.

Q. You were saying, though, that you were choking. That's what you said when you came off court. Did the choking have anything to do with your shortness of breath?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Yeah, it had a lot to do with that, because when you cannot breathe you start to panic. You know, I was really panicking, not because I couldn't convert my match point.
That's not the case. I mean, I'm experienced enough to go over those emotions. But when you cannot breathe, when something's really blocking you, the stress, that was the stress I was talking about. I just couldn't realize what was going on with me.

Q. When you were going up to approach the ball on match points, Oh, my Good, my rib hurts; you couldn't breathe? You couldn't swing?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: I couldn't breathe; I couldn't swing. I think it was pretty obvious that my shots were a little bit different. That's I think the misunderstanding of the situation, you know, what I said that I was stressed out and choked was not because I couldn't finish my shot.
It was just so stressing me out the pain that I had that you know, maybe it was overreaction, but I just really couldn't breathe.

Q. So it didn't feel like a panic attack, that the pain was causing you to panic maybe?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: No. Because as the trainer explained to me and the doctor explained to me after, when the rib blocks, it blocks your diaphragm and you can't breathe. I'm not a doctor to explain that.

Q. So in hindsight, do you think you owe an apology to Sloane just for the timing of it, the medical timeout?

VICTORIA AZARENKA: Apology? I don't know if that's apology. For the timing, I cannot be in control how long it takes to fix my injury, you know.
As I said, they wanted to take two medical timeouts, for the knee and for that, but I wanted to take one because I wanted to go back on court.
So that was it.
The timing that I shouldn't have put myself in that situation to have that pain? Yeah, I shouldn't have done that. I should have done it earlier, for sure.
But I thought I was going to, you know, play through the pain. It was a little bit an issue, but it got to the point that it didn't, you know, so...

Q. Have you ever had that sensation before when you've played?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Actually never. So that was freaking me out, that I never felt, you know, something like that before.

Q. How do you think you would have felt if it was the other way around?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know, I have so many times somebody take a medical timeout. But what can you do?

Q. It was very long one at an important time of the match.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Oh, but what can I do? Is it my fault the doctor took that long to evaluate? I said, I don't want two medical timeouts. I only took one.

Q. Do you think some players are abusing this rule, not yourself, but other players use it as a stalling tactic sometimes that you've experienced?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Honestly, I cannot say about anybody, what anybody do. I can only speak about myself.
I'm being really honest here, what I'm talking about. But about somebody else, maybe somebody does, somebody doesn't, but I don't really care.
When I play and somebody takes a medical timeout, I don't doubt them.

Q. When did you start to feel the rib?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: It was like two days ago a little bit, but it wasn't that big of a deal. It just got to a point that it was really weird, you know. It was very unusual and I didn't know what was going on, so it really made me scared there on the court.

Q. At what point in the match did it get bad?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Was it 4 2 when I was serving? 4 2. It was a long game.

Q. Is it going to be a factor in the final?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I hope not. You know, really need to unlock that, and kind of did after. So we'll see.

Q. You'll play Li Na in the final who has improved a lot technically and mentally. Do you approach that match as you did before against her?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I think she's in incredible form right now really. You know, in the finals anything can happen. It looks like she improved a lot. Will be a tough match, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Q. Is last year's final experience going to be an advantage for you to face her?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I don't know. I don't really think about it. She's been in a final. She's won a Grand Slam also. She has the experience. So that's not such a big factor, I would say.

Q. You seem a little bit stressed. You have two days to recompose. Talk about what you're going to do to get ready for the final.
VICTORIA AZARENKA: Well, right now I just need to calm down with the whole situation, what happened, make sure that my body's right. You know, tomorrow is another day. Try to practice, you know, and the same day, just try to give it my best.
We'll see what happens.

Q. Do you feel like people give you too hard a time over things like this?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: You know what, I feel like it had to be explained, the situation. I understand the point of people maybe not understanding what I said; me not understanding what I've been asked. So I'm just glad that I'm here, you know, to make everything clear, and that's it.
You know, I think you cannot really judge by few words. The situation had to be explained. I'm glad I'm here doing that.

Q. Can you talk about how happy you are to retain the No. 1 ranking given that Sharapova lost and how hungry you are to defend your title?
VICTORIA AZARENKA: I'm really hungry to defend my title. That was my first, you know, goal. Actually, not to defend, to win the tournament. I put myself in the position to give it the best shot there is, you know, being in the final.
So I'm really looking forward to it.
But the ranking, right now I'm not really thinking about it.

Nice work by her PR team wouldn't you say?


Well I Never!!!

by Savannah

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That is all I can say. I mean lets get real here. The reason I don't care for Novak Djokovic is because in my opinion he would pretend to have an injury just to throw people off their game. The tennis press was full of his respiratory issues or his physical condition. Never once was it said he was faking. Still he got the nickname "Fakervic" from tennis fans. Some will say he stopped pulling that stuff but just last year at the US Open when Andy Murray was serving for the match he called a medical time out. New York fans booed, Murray held his nerve and his serve, and won the title. Never once has Djokovic ever said he was faking any of his medical issues.

In fact the last thing you would expect a tennis player, hell any athlete, to do is admit to faking injury, admit to gamesmanship. Well it's a little after 2a Eastern time in New York and a short while ago Victoria Azarenka stood before thousands in Rod Laver Arena and millions world wide and admitted she'd pulled a fast one.

The on court person interviewing Ms Azarenka asked her about the ten minute break she took on Sloane Stephens serve and Azarenka gave an answer that would make Olivia Pope down a few.

"I almost made the choke of the year," she responded. "I was overwhelmed." I think the interviewer was shocked into silence. It's easy to say what she should have asked as a follow up but it's my impression that she was too shocked to ask anything. In fact the follow up question would have had to be along the lines of "Victoria are you saying you took a break because you had just blown five match points and you were stressing out?" I think the woman wants/needs herjob and understood what asking that question to the woman ranked #1 in the world would have meant for women's tennis which is making a bit of a comeback. Azarenka babbled some more inanities and the interview was over. When she got to the ESPN interviewer she realized what she'd said and told him that she really couldn't breathe. Mind you ESPN aannounced that she was being treated for both a rib and a knee injury and that was why she was gone for ten minutes.

I haven't read anything from the presser yet but I'm sure Stacey Allaster is sitting at the bar mentioned above doing tequila shots. Azarenka has been on a bit of a charm offensive of late and even I was starting to cut her some slack. But character will tell and all of the work her PR team has done went out of the window tonight. Oh did I mention she came back after the ten minute break and broke Sloane to take the second set 6-4?

Just an aside. Sloane needs to learn that the best thing to do when your opponent is taking a MTO is to keep moving. Practice some serves. Do some stretches. Don't sit and wait for her to be ready to resume play. I'm sure her coaches will talk to her about that.

But the main story is still Azarenka. What she did was low, and she didn't fool anyone in RLA or viewers around the world. We all called bullshit. There was virtually no applause for her. It was a shameful display and I wonder if she'll ever recover from it.

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I feel like Joan Rivers doing a "Bitch Stole My Look" segment on E!'s "Fashion Police". Repeat it with me. "A soft draw does not a champion make". Got that?
Maria Sharapova, once again "hidden" in the draw, faced Li Na in the first women's semi final match. The hype was such that ESPN's non biased commentators were upbeat and thought that Ms Li would do her usual schtick and lose the plot and then the match. When the dust settled Li Na defeated Maria Sharapova in straight sets 6-2, 6-2. And the match wasn't that close. I thought the comms were going to have a collective nervous breakdown. I am not a fan of Carlos Rodriguez but the Li Na who played this Australian Open was not the same woman who played a year ago. She is more fit physically and much more stable mentally. She played well the entire tournament but of course the talk was Pova vs Serena Williams and revenge for what happened at the Olympics. I'll say it again. A soft draw does not a champion make. At the end of the match the crowd was roaring it's support for Li Na. I'm guessing they'll be doing the same thing during the Final.

Haters To The Left

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You're looking at a picture Serena Williams tweeted at some point this evening. The only word accompanying it was "Ouch".
In case you don't see what it is that is a picture of Serena's ankle, the one she twisted her first day on court. She played up to the Quarterfinals on that ankle. When you look at that picture, and then realize that she hurt her back on top of that injury and still tried to play and almost won, what Azarenka did this evening was doubly insulting. Get well soon Serena. And don't come back until you're physically ready.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

And Then There Were Four...

by Savannah

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There are four women left standing. We started with 128 and are now down to four. Each woman has her own story.
One seems to delight in the companionship of her friend. To make the Final Four of her draw she has had to play women who were determined to beat her but who in the end didn't have the skill set to get past her. Soft draw? She hasn't played anyone in the top 30. Being ranked #1 has its perks.

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You think our first semifinalist had it easy? You haven't seen the biggest cakewalk of them all. This woman has played no one who could threaten her. There was a lot of hype about her third round match but it was just that, hype. Seasoned tennis observers knew her opponent isn't what she was and after that it's been smooth sailing. She hasn't really been tested either.

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Our next semifinalist had a different road. She was cruising right along but it was clear her biggest obstacle would be her round of 16 match with the Sorceress, the player who weaves a spell of deflection and passivity while ensnaring you in her web. When you look up balls are whizzing past you and you're on your way back to the locker room having no idea what just happened. That didn't happen to this woman. She let her opponent know that she was on to her and that she wasn't falling for her tricks.

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And then there's the Kid. She entered the tournament as an up and comer, someone of whom good things were expected further down the road. She was passed over for an award that by rights should've been hers but as they say revenge is a dish best served cold. She stared down the most powerful, and the best female player of them all and didn't blink or wonder what to do when her opponent began to break down physically. She did what she had to do and won. Oh and the one who got the Newcomer award? Long gone.

So the Kid will play the woman ranked Number 1 after beating the woman considered Number 1. The Siberian Bansidhe will play the Realist. Who do I think will win? The only one who has really been tested is the Kid. Readers here know my motto: A soft draw does not a champion make. I don't know who will play the Final let alone who will win. There are two semifinalists who were hardly tested. One made her life difficult but the other one was content to beat up on lesser beings. Maybe I'll be proven wrong this time no?

End Note

Andy Murray just keeps right on making friends and influencing people doesn't he? Anyone who has been paying attention knows that one male player gets soft draws, whatever schedule he wants, and dictates who the next head of his tennis association will be. He routinely skips Davis Cup but is praised for doing so. I'm tired of the whole thing really and wouldn't even mention the fact that he's played exactly one match in the heat of the Australian sun except that Mr. Murray's "camp" has made it an issue.

As many know this special player has never liked playing at night but suddenly he's playing night matches without a word of protest.

So it was with a wry grin that I read in the Daily Mail , a British newspaper, that Murray's "camp" complained about the situation.

Maybe I should say that they brought attention to the fact that one player was being favored over all the others in terms of scheduling and court assignment. It's always amusing to read the excuses the man's Worshippers come up with to explain away these things. Of course they're saying he's the biggest draw and that's why he's playing at night. Every match at night. No broiling summer sun. It's just like that "tough" draw the Worshippers keep talking about. When their deity plays someone he has a 17 and 2 won/loss record against that's tough? Maybe they're hyperventilating or breathing in too much of their own hot air.

The thing is this has been going on for a few years now. I'm glad Andy's team pointed out how unfair the favoritism is to other players. But it's not going to change anything. What is it they say about revenge again?

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Days of Living Backwards Begin

by Savannah


Usually I'm able to ease into living on the other side of the International Date Line. A match here, a match there, maybe break night and stay up for a night match. Sadly that didn't happen this year.

Despite doing all I was supposed to do including getting a flu shot I got sick. Mind you I haven't been sick in ages so I was a totally miserable person. Dragging myself around, moaning, nose leaking, sore throat, the whole nine. Shit if you're going to be sick why not wallow in it? Indulge the illness. Let it take you over, make you into what it wants you to be.

Fortunately the fever broke yesterday just in time for the folks at Tennis Australia to release the Main Draws for the summer/winter Slam in Melbourne, the season depending on where you are located on the planet.

While waiting for TA to post the draws on their website (there was great coverage of Qualifying play there by the way) I decided to peruse Twitter and see what was being said about the draw.

The vast majority of Tweets I read were from outraged - OUTRAGED!!!! - Roger Federer fans. Tough Draw!!! Hard Draw!!! The obligatory O.M.G. I'm sure there was rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth but fortunately no one can see you when you Tweet so I was spared that visual. (I'm still trying to find enough brain bleach to get the image of Tim Smyczek's junk flopping in the breeze out of my head. A tennishead felt it was his/her duty to report this.)

Let's see what all the wailing was about.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] v Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)
Ryan Harrison (USA v Santiago Giraldo (COL)
Qualifier v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
Viktor Troicki (SRB) v Radek Stepanek (CZE) [31]

Sam Querrey (USA) [20] v Unknown
Qualifier v Brian Baker (USA)
Tobias Kamke (GER) v Flavio Cipolla (ITA)
Qualifier v Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) [15]

Juan Monaco (ARG) [11] v Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS)
Kevin Anderson (RSA) v Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)
Xavier Malisse (BEL) v Pablo Andujar (ESP)
David Goffin (BEL) v Fernando Verdasco (ESP) [22]

Jurgen Melzer (AUT) [26] v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
Fabio Fognini (ITA) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)
Qualifier v Guillaume Rufin (FRA)
Michael Russell (USA) v Tomas Berdych (CZE) [5]

David Ferrer (ESP) [4] v Olivier Rochus (BEL)
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v Qualifier
John Millman (AUS) v Tatsuma Ito (JPN)
Albert Ramos (ESP) v Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) [28]

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) [23] v Matthew Ebden (AUS)
Evgeny Donskoy (RUS) v Adrian Ungur (ROU)
Qualifier v Carlos Berlocq (ARG)
Victor Hanescu (ROU) v Kei Nishikori (JPN) [16]

Nicolas Almagro (ESP) [10] v Qualifier
Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP) v Lukasz Kubot (POL)
Bjorn Phau (GER) v Somdev Devvarman (IND)
Simone Bolelli (ITA) v Jerzy Janowicz (POL) [24]

Julien Benneteau (FRA) [32] v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) v Qualifier
Lukas Lacko (SVK) v Gilles Muller (LUX)
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) v Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) [8]

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [6] v Qualifier
Aljaz Bedene (SLO) v Benjamin Becker (GER)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) v Qualifier
Grega Zemlja (SLO) v Marcel Granollers (ESP) [30]

Andreas Seppi (ITA) [21] v Horacio Zeballos (ARG)
Igor Sijsling (NED) v Denis Istomin (UZB)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) v Qualifier
Marinko Matosevic (AUS) v Marin Cilic (CRO) [12]

Gilles Simon (FRA) [14] v Filippo Volandri (ITA)
Tommy Robredo (ESP) v Jesse Levine (CAN)
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) v Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (ESP)
Gael Monfils (FRA) v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) [18]

Florian Mayer (GER) [25] v Rhyne Williams (USA)
Qualifier v Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)
Joao Sousa (POR) v John-Patrick Smith (AUS)
Robin Haase (NED) v Andy Murray (GBR) [3]

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [7] v Michael Llodra (FRA)
Go Soeda (JPN) v Luke Saville (AUS)
James Duckworth (AUS) v Benjamin Mitchell (AUS)
Blaz Kavcic (SLO) v Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) [29]

Tommy Haas (GER) [19] v Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)
Ivan Dodig (CRO) v Di Wu (CHN)
Josselin Ouanna (FRA) v Alejandro Falla (COL)
Albert Montanes (ESP) v Richard Gasquet (FRA) [9]

Milos Raonic (CAN) [13] v Jan Hajek (CZE)
Qualifier v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
Qualifier v Guido Pella (ARG)
Steve Darcis (BEL) v Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) [17]

Martin Klizan (SVK) [27] v Qualifier
Bernard Tomic (AUS) v Leonardo Mayer (ARG)
Qualifier v Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Benoit Paire (FRA) v Roger Federer (SUI) [2]

I'm sure you're outraged now too. I mean Roger Federer is actually going to have to compete to make it to the Final!!! The indignity of it all!!! I mean sure he gets Benoit Paire first round and Nikolay Davydenko if he makes it past Paire but really how can he be asked to have to potentially get past those guys who will not play him scared, who will come out and force His Nibs to play? If I applaud TA for nothing else it's making Federer's potential draw competitive. No thirty year olds who were fed the myth of the FedGod by coaches and Federations for years.

So where did all the Qualifiers and mentally submissive players go? Do you see it? Novak Djokovic has to face them. He is the top seed and the ranking ATP #1 so I guess he's due to be cut some slack right? Whatever. His fans were pretty happy.

And what about one Mr. Andy Murray, OBE? You could say he should breeze through but it's never that simple with Murray is it? Anyone of the seeds in his section, and some who are not, could get it into their head that they have a pretty good chance and do some damage. Lendl is going to have to work hard to keep his charge focused and stop him from looking past some of the players he'll be facing.

And what of Senor David Ferrer? He's not flying under the radar anymore.
He's also got guys in his section who can cause him a lot of problems. His issue is not only concentration and believing in himself. He has to work on conserving his strength. Two long matches back to back could take him out of contention sooner than later.

It always amazes me how some #1 players get relatively easy draws and other #1's get to play murderers row. I'll let that slide for now though.

There wasn't too much sturm und drang about the Women's draw. Why should there be?

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [1] v Monica Niculescu (ROU)
Eleni Daniilidou (GRE) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Qualifier v Sofia Arvidsson (SWE)
Jamie Hampton (USA) v Urszula Radwanska (POL) [31]

Varvara Lepchenko (USA) [21] v Polona Hercog (SLO)
Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Elena Vesnina (RUS)
Mathilde Johansson (FRA) v Qualifier
Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Roberta Vinci (ITA) [16]

Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [10] v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) v Donna Vekic (CRO)
Qualifier v Lauren Davis (USA)
Qualifier v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [24]

Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) [26] v Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino (ESP)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP)
Yulia Putintseva (KAZ) v Christina McHale (USA)
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) v Sara Errani (ITA) [7]

Serena Williams (USA) [3] v Edina Gallovits-Hall (ROU)
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Ayumi Morita (JPN) v Anna Tatishvili (GEO)
Annika Beck (GER) v Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) [28]

Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) [20] v Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
Qualifier v Jana Cepelova (SVK)
Rebecca Marino (CAN) v Shuai Peng (CHN)
Vania King (USA) v Maria Kirilenko (RUS) [14]

Nadia Petrova (RUS) [12] v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)
Shahar Peer (ISR) v Alexandra Panova (RUS)
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) v Bojana Jovanovski (SRB)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) v Lucie Safarova (CZE) [17]

Sloane Stephens (USA) [29] v Simona Halep (ROU)
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Timea Babos (HUN)
Melanie Oudin (USA) v Laura Robson (GBR)
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Petra Kvitova (CZE) [8]

Na Li (CHN) [6] v Sesil Karatantcheva (KAZ)
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Olga Govortsova (BLR)
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) v Sacha Jones (AUS)
Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Sorana Cirstea (ROU) [27]

Julia Goerges (GER) [18] v Qualifier
Romina Oprandi (SUI) v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL)
Yuxuan Zhang (CHN) v Jie Zheng (CHN)
Kai-Chen Chang (TPE) v Samantha Stosur (AUS) [9]

Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [13] v Melinda Czink (HUN)
Qualifier v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK)
Qualifier v Qualifier
Johanna Larsson (SWE) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [22]

Mona Barthel (GER) [32] v Ksenia Pervak (KAZ)
Heather Watson (GBR) v Alexandra Cadantu (ROU)
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) v Arantxa Rus (NED)
Bojana Bobusic (AUS) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4]

Angelique Kerber (GER) [5] v Elina Svitolina (UKR)
Lucie Hradecka (CZE) v Kiki Bertens (NED)
Casey Dellacqua (AUS) v Madison Keys (USA)
Stefanie Voegele (SUI) v Tamira Paszek (AUT) [30]

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [19] v Qualifier
Camila Giorgi (ITA) v Stephanie Foretz Gacon (FRA)
Qualifier v Olivia Rogowska (AUS)
Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) v Marion Bartoli (FRA) [11]

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [15] v Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
Mandy Minella (LUX) v Qualifier
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) v Nina Bratchikova (RUS)
Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) v Klara Zakopalova (CZE) [23]

Venus Williams (USA) [25] v Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ)
Alize Cornet (FRA) v Marina Erakovic (NZL)
Petra Martic (CRO)v Misaki Doi (JPN)
Olga Puchkova (RUS) v Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2]

I'll be frank. I don't think there is anything wrong with Maria Sharapova. For whatever reason she wasn't allowed to pull a Federer and just not play any tournaments leading up to Melbourne so she entered, withdrew, and got the rest she feels she needs. The only potential threat to her is Venus Williams who has been visible all over the grounds, sitting in on one of Sloane Stephens hits. A good tournament for Venus would be to get past her early round opponents who will consider a victory against her important for their self esteem.

If there is to be a Serena vs Victoria Azarenka it will not be in the Final. The good people at TA would prefer a Sharapova vs Serena Williams Final. The powers that be want Maria to redeem herself for that beat down in London. ::Shrug::

Lets get through the first week before predicting finals.

There are some very interesting matches that while they shouldn't have any bearing on who plays in the final are important because they feature the future of women's tennis.

Take the section that features Sloane Stephens (seed), Simona Halep, Kristina Mladenovic, Timea Babos, Melanie Oudin, Laura Robson, Francesca Schiavone, and Petra Kvitova(seed). Sloane gave Serena what for before losing to her in Brisbane. Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos are garnering interest among the cognoscenti. Laura Robson is going to be out for blood proving she deserved that best newcomer of 2012 over the higher ranked Stephens. Melanie Oudin may be the one to suffer. And then there is French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone vs Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova.

To say both Schiavo and Petra have been disappointments is putting it mildly. Most of the top players barely get mentioned for tanking in the run up tournaments but Petra got beaten by Dominika Cibulkova so badly (1&1) at Sydney questions that were whispered in the Czech press were now being asked openly. Is her training appropriate? How does her asthma affect her performance? Is her asthma the cause of her being less than fit? Is she ready for the pressure cooker that top athletes live in? As for Fran I don't think she's stopped celebrating her French Open victory. Fran reached a life long goal in winning the French Open it can be said that was the cap of her career.

Petra's win should've been the start of her reign in the top five. Too much pressure? What is that expression about heat and the kitchen? We know how she can play. If she's able to put her personal demons aside and win in early rounds her name may merit more than a wry grin and a shrug of the shoulders about what could have been.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Year, First Winners, And Already Some Questons

by Savannah

The 2013 tennis season began the end of December 2012. There were tournaments in Chennai, India, Doha, Qatar, Auckland, Shenzen, China and Brisbane, Australia.

Of these tournaments the biggest was in Brisbane. All but two of the WTA top ten competed there and the ones who weren't there, Li Na and Aga Radwanska, were headlining other tournaments. Maria Sharapova never took the court withdrawing with a collarbone injury that has never been adequately explained. This is how ESPN reported the story:

BRISBANE, Australia -- Maria Sharapova has injured her right collarbone and decided to withdraw from the Brisbane International as a precaution ahead of the Australian Open.

The French Open champion pulled out of the Brisbane tournament on Tuesday after feeling pain while practicing before her opening match.

"I still have quite a bit of time to prepare for Australia. I'm on the right track, been training really well, so I just don't want to jeopardize what I've gained in the offseason so far," the No. 2-ranked Sharapova said. "Just have to make a smart move here."

The 25-year-old Russian also withdrew from the Brisbane International last year because of injury but recovered quickly to reach the Australian Open final, where she lost in straight sets to Victoria Azarenka.

She said the latest injury also forced her to withdraw from a recent exhibition tournament in South Korea, but was "not at all" related to the right shoulder problem that has plagued her since 2008.

"I had a bit of inflammation in my collarbone, and I sent (scan results) to a doctor in New York and he told me I couldn't really do much overhead training for about a week," she said. "So to be fair, I haven't really given myself a chance to pretty much hit any serves or anything over my head ... So I just kind of ran out of time here."

Sharapova said she started practicing her serves again on Monday and it wasn't enough time to properly prepare for a tournament featuring eight of the top 10 women. The Australian Open starts Jan. 14 at Melbourne Park.

So in other words she never intended to play Brisbane but the WTA wanted to run with the story that eight of it's top ten was playing to open the season unlike the ATP. Whatever. Sharapova has been milking that shoulder injury for how long now? She can do no wrong.

Victoria Azarenka, the reigning WTA #1 ranked player did play up until the semifinal match. During her quarterfinal some of us on Twitter noticed that she was either grimacing in pain, about to cry, or both. it turned out that a rather aggressive pedicure had injured her toe and she withdrew from the semi where she would've faced someone named Serena Williams. Serena faced Anastasia Palyuchenkova in the final and had a rather easy time of it winning her first tournament of the year.


Serena did not have an easy path to the final despite her walkover. A young woman named Sloane Stephens gave her all she could handle in the quarter finals. I'll get to Sloane in a minute.
I watched my first ATP play during the Brisbane semifinals and final. Both times I watched Andy Murray, currently number three with a bullet (for those of you old enough to remember the old Billboard music rankings). I'm really not a fan of Murray's style of play but he does seem to be managing himself better on the court. He fell behind early in both matches and came back to win them both. His opponent in the Final was one Grigor Dimitrov, who is still predicted by the tennis media to become one of the top ranked players in the world. As we all know opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Murray fans will say Murray woke up to come from 0-3 down to win the first set tiebreak to love and routinely take the second but you could see when Dimitrov began to tighten up and if I could see it you know Murray and his coach could.
I have nothing against Dimitrov but they hype is getting to be a bit much.


Meanwhile in Doha Nikolay Davydenko - you remember him - and Richard Gasquet played a final that is best described as a "pick 'em" match. Davydenko had shown any signs of life for so long you could say no one picked him to make this final. Gasquet has disappointed so many for so long even though he would have to be considered the favorite you could be excused for thinking that Davydenko had a chance here.


But Nikolay is still Nikolay and Gasquet took full advantage of that as you can see by the above photo. I didn't see one match at Qatar.

I also didn't see one ball struck at Chennai. Janko Tipsarevic won the title there. I'm sure his fans are happy.


Aga Radwanska won her first of the year in Auckland.

Li Na won the tournament in Shenzhen.

Newcomer of the Year


In November 2012 Laura Robson was named Newcomer of the Year for the WTA. I wrote here that the award seemed a little odd since Sloane Stephens was ranked higher than Robson and had shown more promise. Whatever. One of the more anticipated women's matches at Brisbane was between Serena Williams and the young woman she is mentoring, Sloane Stephens. I think Sloane should've paid more attention to how Serena plays her flesh and blood sister Venus Williams and not thought that her mentor would maybe cut her some slack. Whoever is across the net from Serena is a stranger and Serena treats them all the same. A lot was made of Sloane's aside to her coach that Serena's "come ons" were a little disrespectful. A joke or a rookie forgetting that her coach was mic'd. Neither woman made a big deal of it in the end but Serena doesn't forget. She especially won't forget how hard Sloane made her work. A more experienced Sloane would've had a real chance of an upset.

So it was with just as much anticipation among tennisheads that Sloane faced off against Laura Robson in the first round at Hobart.

Sloane didn't play with the same intensity that she did in Brisbane and Laura succeeded in pulling Sloane back to the junior level she still plays at. It looked as if Sloane would run away with the first set but she started spraying errors all over the place and hung on for 6-4.

The errors continued in the second set and a tiebreak decided it. Sloane won 7-6(4).

Sloane can't come out like a house on fire every single match but she has to try harder not to let her opponent bring her down to her level on the court. She knew she had to play her best against Serena and did. She needed to make sure she played her best against someone who, in some minds, is a better player than she is. That will come with more matches played on the main tour. She seems to have a great relationship with her new coach and that's a good thing. He is quietly reassuring and that is a good thing.

Idle Chit Chat

I had a moment on Twitter this week that surprised, but didn't surprise me sad to say.

Victoria Azarenka is friends with Stefan Kendal Gordy, known professionally as "Redfoo". Along with his uncle he is part of the group LMFAO. He is also a tennis fanatic. He also sponsors some ITF events.


What I don't understand is the hostility of Victoria's fans to her friendship with Stefan. It was bordering on the insane so I asked them what their problem was with him being friends with Azarenka. I still haven't gotten an answer. I've seen less vitriol directed towards him since then so maybe they're all dm'ing each other. Whatever.


When one of her fans decides to let us all in on why they're so hostile I'll be glad to post a response to their hating.

Last night Darren Rovell of ESPN (!), not one of the bought and paid for tennis journalists broke the news that Maria Sharapova is dating Grigor Dimitrov. Maria is older, and taller, so of course there were the predictable robbing the cradle comments.


Last year Grigor was rumored to be dating Serena who turned out to really be dating his then coach.


I'm assuming there's a Taylor Swift song about this.

End Notes

The ATP seems intent of enforcing a strict time rule this year. I don't have an issue with it as long as it's applied fairly and not just against one player.

Once again Andy Murray is stepping out front on this issue.

US Open champion and Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray has hit out at the ATP's subtle modification in the time rule.

The move - which came into force in the first week of the season - has been made in order to crack down on players who take too long between points, but has already sparked criticism among some top names.

The Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the men's tour, have made the alteration to the rule so that umpires are given greater authority to enforce punishment.

Players who take too long preparing to serve, choosing the right ball and tug at their shorts incessantly are being targeted by the tennis authorities.

Several players have been at the receiving end of the new strict enforcement while British No.1 Murray believes the time allowed to players between points should be increased from 25 seconds to 30.

He said: "I like that there is a time violation in there. I think it'll be good, but I think starting off with 25 seconds at the beginning was a bit too much, because players just aren't used to playing at that pace."

The rule change mean an umpire can now warn a player that gets close to the limit. The penalty for a second and all subsequent violations of the 25-second rule by a server is an automatic fault, and a point penalty for the receiver.

Previously, the penalty for multiple violations was a point, although it was rarely invoked.

"It's the same rule, the 25-second rule. It's just giving the chair umpire a tool to enforce the rule," ATP supervisor Thomas Karlberg said.

"In the first week, we have been helping the guys during changeovers telling them you have to speed up to make it in time and before the match telling them what is going to happen. If they pass 25 seconds, they get hit."

The amended rule only applies to ATP World Tour and ATP Challenge Tour events, but its enforcement is likely to eventually spill over to the four Grand Slam tournaments which have a tougher, 20-second rule.

The change favors hard court play in my very humble opinion and will have a negative impact on clay court play which is supposed to be played at a slower pace. I guess some people want to even the playing field for United States and Australian trained players. I'll leave the British out of this one for now.