Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crocodile Tears and Other Tennis Oddities

by Savannah

From Wikipedia:
Crocodile tears (or superficial sympathy) are a false or insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief.
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The tennis tournament at San Jose, California, is no more. It's last champion is Milos Raonic of Canada. The owners of the tournament sold it to people in Rio di Janeiro, Brazil.

This wasn't something that was announced at the end of the tournament. It's been known for weeks. But this is the week the tennis establishment chose to whine about it, to express its collective grief at the loss of not only this tournament but the one in Los Angeles as well.

I found this article about it written by one of the big shots of tennis journalism.

...When the United States was dominating men's tennis and former major champions such as Sampras and Agassi were happy to play at one of their national tournaments, spectator attendances were good.

However, after Agassi retired in 2006 and Europeans began to dominate the tour, the event was unable to draw the very best players to the West Coast in early February when they knew they would have to travel to California for the mandatory Indian Wells tournament in March.

As well as the San Jose Open, California lost another of its events last year when the Los Angeles Open was sold and relocated to Bogota, Colombia.
"I look at France - they hang on to their events. If one city's event is not working they find another place for it to work and it's a wonderful way to keep their players plugging into the highest levels of game.

"In terms of player development and exposure to highest levels of game, I think it's worst possible scenario for the U.S."

I found these comments, one by Justin Gimelstob and the last by Leif Shiras, both former American players, amusing in view of the fact that the USTA set out a few years ago to destroy the Spring European clay court season to protect it's players who had no idea how to play on the slow red dirt of Europe and to try and force the top Europeans to come to the States. The Europeans took a firm stand and while some events got screwed and Monte Carlo was downgraded from a mandatory the Spring, outside of the two back to back hard court Masters in the United States, has remained a clay court extravaganza.

But before I get deeper into San Jose lets look at the farce surrounding Indian Wells. I know it's the BNP Paribas Open but for many tennis fans it's simply Indian Wells.

As you will recall Larry Ellis, the extremely wealthy owner of the tournament and avid tennis fan has worked very hard to make his event world class in coverage and players. It was reported that he was trying to convince WTA #1 Serena Williams and her sister Venus Williams to play the event again. It's obvious that hasn't happened but at least he made the effort.

That isn't what got him in trouble with the tournament director's on the ATP board though. What had them pulling their hair out by the roots was his plan to meet player demands and increase prize money. Feeling that Ellis would open the gates to the pitchfork and fire wielding peasants (read players) making increased demands his request was voted down.

So of course the apologists for the tour are now penning columns taking the position that voting down the pay increase for Indian Wells was the right thing to do.

It’s great that Indian Wells has this money and wants to share it with the players, but there’s a reason the Masters events are set up as as equals—similar prize money (some adjustments for length and currency), the same points, and mandatory entry. That means they don’t have to pay guarantees, which is huge, because it means the cash that would otherwise be thrown at the top players can instead go to prize money and tour payments. On top of that, it creates a series of identifiable events with consistent fields between the Grand Slams.

Generally, the feeling seems to be that this has worked out well. Do we really want to start messing with the Masters? Because if each tournament starts setting its own amounts, there’s going to be competition to see who can provide the most and they might no longer be equal. That might get the players’ prize-money increases to begin with, but could also lead to guarantees returning at this level, and tournaments folding or dropping back to a lower level. And that would mean less money for the average player.

Let's break this argument down.

The first point is that all of the Masters events are organized along the same lines

Secondly there are no guarantees for the top players. That money will continue to go toward prize money and payments to the tour.

The standardization of Masters events ensures that the top players will appear.

Lastly, it seems that competition among Masters level tournaments would increase competition between them and that the dreaded guarantees would become part of the equation.

Now, if you recall Jerzy Janowicz said that it made him feel better that the top players, except for Roger Federer, put themselves out acting for monetary distributions that would HELP lower ranked players not harm them. This article actually misrepresents the players position but it's easy to do that if your sources are middling former players and sources tightly linked to the ATP Board.

An article on ESPN about the legacy of current ATP CEO Brad Drewett who is stepping down due to illness says the following:

Interesting to read that the next stage of his(Drewett's) plan was to boost prize money at the Masters tournaments, yet he abstained from being the deciding vote in approving the Indian Wells prize money increase in November.

Lets be very clear. The USTA, through it's influence on the ATP Board of Directors, did all it could to try and force the top players to come play hard court tournaments by destroying the European clay court season. Instead it is the North American tournaments that are packing their bags and leaving for foreign shores. I dare any tennis fan to look at the Main Draws in Memphis and not wonder if you are looking at Challenger event line ups.

There's an old saying about what happens when you dig a grave for someone. I think the USTA has put itself in that situation.


Quote of the Week via Sloane Stephens
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"Obviously it's really tough week in and week out playing perfect tennis and just really being able to execute," Stephens quoted as saying. I sincerely hope that the United States tennis establishment doesn't ruin Sloane's career before it even starts.
Melanie Oudin Sloane. Think about what the pressure and premature glory did to her.

If a tree falls in the all know that expression. If no one hears it does it make noise is how the expression ends. Both WTA #1 Serena Williams and WTA #2 Victoria Azarenka quietly withdrew from the Premier event in Dubai with injury. The sky hasn't fallen, the earth is still spinning on its axis, and I haven't seen anyone losing their shit over the withdrawals. Both were expected and its understood that both women want to rest. Serena will get a nice long break before she plays Miami and Azarenka will rest before playing Indian Wells.

By the way Azarenka did nothing to improve her cheater reputation in the Doha final when she continually held up her racquet when Serena was ready to serve and the chair, Eva Asderaki, did nothing about it. The crowd was firmly behind Serena the entire tournament and I'm sure it was a welcome change from American crowds for Serena.

Speaking of negligent chair umpires if you didn't see Caroline Wozniacki's father going H.A.M. on the chair here's the video of the incident.

Keep in mind no one suffered any consequences. The father refused to leave and the daughter was being a brat, her frequent on court persona these days. Now imagine if Richard Williams had been present at the Doha final when Azarenka was getting away with murder and jawed like this at the chair. If they have SWAT teams in Qatar they would've been brought in to drag Mr. Williams out by the hair. Instead the TD simply laughs it off and amazingly the chair umpire does what Caroline wanted and orders the point be replayed.

I need someone, anyone, to explain to me why fines weren't levied. Oh, wait, my bad. It was the WTA CEO who nicknamed Caroline "Sunshine". I guess she can do no wrong even when she embarrasses the sport and herself with this display. The only thing I can conclude is that if you're a blonde and a favorite of the WTA establishment you can do whatever you want on court and nothing will happen to you. Not that I think Azarenka is a big favorite but if any other player did what she did during the Doha final she would've been called for hindrance. Both of these women represent the WTA in the wider world of sports. That blatant cheating and intimidation is tolerated when some players do it is a disgrace to not just women's tennis but all of tennis.

To show what happens when cheating is tolerated Sara Errani was playing Sorana Cirstea in Dubai today. Cirstea got herself on a roll and Errani called for the trainer. Nine to ten minutes later she resumed play and that was all she wrote for Ms Cirstea. What can the WTA do to Errani when they did nothing to Ms Azarenka? I'd be willing to bet the only players who won't pull crap like this are surnamed Williams. They respect the game too much to disgrace it in this manner.

I do have a question though: When is the last time Andy Murray played a tournament?


Karen said...

Savannah, I know this is not the first time you have seen Azarenka play. I have been watching her play for going on 5 years now, way before she was NO.1. I have been watching her when she would lose more than she would win. I have always liked her fight and the emotions that she shows. While I do not like certain aspects of her behaviour, i.e. the holding up of the racquet, especially on big points, the fact is that she does this all the time. Every single time. She has not changed. Much like Sharapova turns away. Much like Serena takes her time getting balls. Much like Venus takes a deep breath before receiving server, much like Nadal takes his time, much like Federer does everything quicker than everyone else, every single player on both Tours have their rituals, especially on the big points and sometimes on the not so big points.

I know this is your blog and that you have the right to say whatever it is you want to say, but joining the throngs who are labelling Azarenka a cheater is a low blow, even coming from you.

As you know when I blog or write about women's tennis I always try to spotlight women's tennis in the best light possible. The media, as it is won't to do, tries to do the exact opposite. It takes bloggers such as you and I to show tennis in a different light. We are the fans. We are the ones who pay money to subscribe to expensive online & direct tv access to watch our favourite sport. It does not help therefore when we join the throngs of those labelling a hard working young woman, someone who has sacrificed so much to get to the top of her sport, a cheater, especially when throughout all of last year when she was on top of the sport, no one ever looked to call her that. Just as one incident should not denote Serena's whole career, I don't think 1 incident should label Azarenka a cheater.

Fred66 said...

Karen, I don't think anyone, including myself, is labeling Azarenka a cheat because of this one incident; the reason why everyone came down so hard on her is because she has a long history of questionable retirements, withdrawls and medical timeouts.You cannot show such disregard and arrogance towards the spectators, tournaments, and opponents for years, and not have it come back to bite you in the a** eventually. If another player, say Radwanska, Kerber or even Sharapova had done exactly the same thing I'm 99% sure there would not have been such an outcry. Azarenka brought this on herself.

Savannah, I agree that the strategic medical timeout is something that should be looked at by the tennis officials. But on the other hand shouldn't a player like
Cirstea be mentally stronger and take these things in stride? She's not some 17 year old fresh from the juniors, she's been around for ages already.It still amazes me how easily a lot of female players are thrown off, and I really don't mean to be sexist.

Karen said...

Fred, IMHO I don't think a player withdrawing, retiring or otherwise taking an MTO can be labelled cheating. In that respect, how many times has Serena withdrawn, retired or otherwise not shown up for matches citing an injury. I don't recall ever seeing the cheating label attached to her. While most fans did not believe that she was injured when she withdrew, most just put it down to this is is not a Slam so Serena will not show up.

There were many times in Vika's career when she should have retired either before a match or during a match and she chose to play, earning the wrath of fans & commies everywhere. I am sure you recall her collapse on the court at the USO sometime ago because of a head injury that she sustained during a workout.

Players learn from their mistakes. They now know when to listen to their bodies. Like I said, we are all entitled to our opinions on players but I just think we are doing this young woman a disservice by calling her a cheater.