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.

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