Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Inevitable Happens

by Savannah

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I've been talking about the decline of American - make that United States - tennis for awhile now. The USTA has become so desperate for someone, anyone - not named Williams of course - to keep US tennis relevant. Well right now the only person keeping Unites States tennis relevant is surnamed Williams and with John Isner, one of the players the US tennis establishment hoped would make its preferred style of play relevant again, crashing out to Lleyton Hewitt yesterday the weight of expectation falls on the shoulders of one Sam Querrey. If Querrey loses today there will be no male player from the United States in the top twenty for the first time ever.

Of course this was whispered about before and after Andy Roddick retired but there was always a ray of hope, maybe desperation, in the build up of players like Ryan Harrison, the above mentioned Querrey, and Isner. There's also a lot of talk about Jack Sock. Let's look at these players.

Ryan Harrison is a small man. In an age of super fit, bigger players there is a place for a smaller player. Look at the Rochus brothers who've been around since forever after carving a niche for themselves. The style of play favored by the USTA isn't suited for a man of Ryan's size. They need a subtler game. All the bombast in the world isn't going to beat a player who is outthinking you at every turn.

Then there's Jack Sock. Sock, who apparently thinks grazing at Chipotle is a way to keep fit, isn't. He can have all the talent in the world but if he's not fit he'll be huffing and puffing like a fish out of water against an elite player. But the hype machine is going full blast.

Until United States men get serious about fitness - something Roddick was lackadaisical about - both physical and mental, and develop games that challenge the thinking and physicality of the top men the top twenty drought will be a long one.

Of course Querrey could win his match and the US will be able to say it's still relevant since he will stay in the top twenty but they'll be blowing smoke up their own asses. Tennis is not going to go back to the big serving and nothing else game of the past. Hewitt won last night because he has more in his repertoire than Isner. And I don't mean physically. Hewitt is six years older than Isner but he outthought and therefore outplayed the bigger younger man.

The US will continue granting WC's to James Blake and hope Mardy Fish will be able to return to form after illness but Blake is past his prime and Fish has serious health issues. The outlook is bleak to say the least.

I'm not forgetting the US women. I was really, really annoyed when a picture of Sloane Stephens arriving at the players party was captioned "American Superstar". Sloane is a good player, better than some in her generation, but she is no where near a superstar. She's still a junior transitioning to the main tour and to put the label "superstar" on a young player still finding herself does her, and your program, a disservice. Sloane has shown her independence by going to Spain to work on her clay court play, but she is still under the control of the USTA, an organization mired in the past.

Truth be told Sloane's win over an injured Serena Williams, who probably shouldn't have played that match, does not make Sloane a superstar. What she should've been was "Newcomer of the Year" instead of the obviously overwhelmed Laura Robson but that's water under the bridge.

Sloane needs to be protected from the desperation of the US Tennis establishment and allowed to develop at her own pace. If her family doesn't do this I'm afraid for her future. Let Melanie Oudin be a cautionary tale Sloane. I don't think I can say this often enough.

Indian Wells

The men will complete their opening round matches today while the women, who started Main Draw play a day ahead of the men are in later rounds. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic play their first matches today, Sunday March 10.

And yeah I know I'm supposed to call it the BNP Paribas Open and all that but BNP Paribas underwrites a lot of tournaments so many old farts as well as some young ones still call it Indian Wells.

The biggest upset so far has been David Ferrer's loss to South African Kevin Anderson. Ferrer just didn't play well and Anderson, who had elbow surgery in February and is wearing a sleeve like an NBA player, knew what to do. The tennis media was running wild with all kinds of theories about why Ferrer was so flat but David, in typical David style simply said "It's tennis."

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There was a time Fila made interesting tennis kits for the pro player. Lately their kits have had the dubious honor of showing boob sweat in the worst possible way and making players look like seniors instead of the young vibrant women they are. The above kit, worn by Julia Goerges, does nothing to modernize their look. It's actually laughable.

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Meanwhile Under Armour is dressing Sloane Stephens very well. The above is her practice outfit. Very sleek, very modern and well fitted.

When it comes to a tournament players are always required to pose for publicity shots. Larry Ellison has taken this to a new level having his starts pose on a construction site breaking ground for new construction at his event. There are lots of these stock photo's floating around but this one is my favorite.

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End Notes

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I've never been a big fan of Jennifer Capriati but no one who follows Twitter or reads the news can not have sympathy for what this woman is going through. Whatever mental health issues she has seem to be spiraling out of control. I hope there is someone in her family who can help her see that treatment is the best thing for her at this time.


Randy Burgess said...

Excellent post. Agree with those things that I can say I know at least a little about (which isn't much, but there you ago). Saw the Anderson-Ferrer match & was a little surprised by the outcome, but pleasantly so - I like Ferrer but I always like to see an underdog win, too.

And damned if I'm going to call it the "BNB Paribas Open," any more than I'd call Miami anything other than Miami. As a (former) basketball fan still makes me sick to think that the Boston Garden was demolished in favor of something called the "FleetCenter" which is now "TD Garden." Excuse me?!

And finally, glad to see someone point out that "Ryan Harrison is a small man." I've made this point several times in the past over on Craig's blog. However I was surprised to learn that Harrison is . . . get this . . . 6'2". He said in an interview a year or so ago that he had grown an inch or two in the last few years and his Wikipedia page is carrying the new height even if his ATP page still has him at 6'. Either way, to me he still seems to play like a guy 5'10" or maybe 6 - only not quite good enough even for that height in today's men's game. So it goes.

Savannah said...

Either way, to me he still seems to play like a guy 5'10" or maybe 6 - only not quite good enough even for that height in today's men's game.
Totally agree.