Friday, August 30, 2013

2013 US Open Week 1 Day 3

by Savannah

In the wake of Victoria Duval's upset of Samantha Stosur Tuesday and the suddenly competent play of Donald Young Tom Perrotta of the Wall Street Journal reports on the phasing out of the USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton. The Center was based at Chris Evert's Academy. Here's the lede.

After years of watching American tennis sink into the shadows, the U.S. Tennis Association decided in 2008 to make a bold move: It would open its first-ever full-time training academy for top juniors. Under the program, the country's best prospects would be invited to Boca Raton, Fla., to live and train, all expenses paid, with the goal of beating back the onslaught of talent from Europe.

But as the U.S. Open gets under way this week, the future of U.S. tennis is still precarious, with few serious male contenders and only a handful of promising young women in the field. And after six years of rapid turnover among players at the USTA academy and many complaints—including one lawsuit—from players and parents who say the program is too harsh, the USTA has decided to change strategy.

Next year, just three players will live in the academy's dormitory, down from a high of 18 in 2009.


There is no consensus on the best way to mold young tennis champions: The process is handled differently all over the world. But in interviews, more than a dozen parents, players and coaches who were associated with the USTA's elite program characterized the camp as a stressful place where players were subject to unreasonable expectations and lived in fear of losing scholarships if their results slipped.

"They are almost training these kids like they are running out of time," said Zaza Corinteli, whose son, Luca, left the program last year. "You have a lemon in front of you, you squeeze all the juices out, then you put it in the garbage can. It just feels like there is very little regard."

It's sad to see a program that started with such high hopes and seemingly unlimited potential turn out to have been so wrong for tennis in the United States.

Perrotta is the reporter who broke the story of Taylor Townsend's problems with the USTA last year. He gives an example in his article about the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Academy.

In June 2012, Julia O'Loughlin a former trainee at the academy, filed a lawsuit against the USTA in Palm Beach County, Fla. In a copy of the complaint reviewed by the Journal, O'Loughlin, who was 14 when the alleged problems occurred, alleges that her coaches knew she had a prior eating disorder, but she was put on a restrictive diet anyhow, subjected to daily weigh-ins and told she needed to lose 20 pounds. In November 2011, O'Loughlin alleged in her suit, she was trained "to the point of exhaustion," running 17 miles in two days in addition to her normal routine before being taken to the emergency room with severe dehydration. She was later admitted to a residential treatment center for bulimia for 30 days.

O'Loughlin's lawsuit was dismissed on grounds of improper jurisdiction, because it was filed in Florida rather than in New York, where the USTA is based. That ruling is currently being appealed.

Collette Lewis who writes the Zoo Tennis and has covered Junior and Collegiate tennis for the past eight years and who is responsible for getting me pointed to this article says the following:

I've never supported the USTA's venture into the academy business, feeling the money devoted to the select few in this circumstance could be much more effective if spread out over a substantially larger number of players. I do think the USTA needs a place with temporary housing to optimize the time spent there by those in town for weekly camps, but running a full time academy always felt unnecessary to me. Some players have thrived under in USTA's academy setting, but a significant number have not, and I believe the move away from this centralization experiment is a good one. And while they're making changes, I'd love for the USTA to consider reviving the Junior Davis Cup (and Junior Fed Cup).

That sounds like a good idea Ms Lewis.

And The Rains Came

To my knowledge there is no threat of a hurricane hitting the New York City region in the next few days but Mother Nature is sending in the rain. I'd like to think that the USTA heeded the wishes of the fans about new roofs for Ashe and Armstrong but I think it has more to do with shame. They were the laughing stock of the tennis world and I guess they got sick of it. Just think. If they'd started building the roof at the same time the folks at Wimbledon did the rainy forecast from Sunday to Tuesday wouldn't be an issue. I'm sure some suit at CBS is raking another suit from the USTA over the coals for not remedying the situation sooner. That makes me smile.

At any rate the USTA was not put in the position of having to refund or make good on tickets for yesterday's play since there was tennis available for the night session ticket holders and some matches from the day session played to their conclusion.

What was outstanding yesterday? I'm sorry to admit that I wasn't that interested again.

Day 4

The match that stood out for me was between Bernard Tomic and Daniel Evans. If you've never heard of Evans don't feel bad. No one outside of Britain had heard of him until he knocked Nishikori Kei out of the US Open in the first round. Then of course the ticker tape parade began. All of the British journalists on my Twitter timeline were talking as if he'd discovered how to cure world hunger. They were so happy to see that young Evans is doing well now that he's committed to training and discipline, the things that go with doing well in tennis. It's amusing isn't it that it's news when a player from the US or Britain starts doing what all those people from countries with funny names or from non Northern Europe do to keep themselves at the top of the sport. If they're not doing the drills, the exercises, the diets then what the hell are they doing? Why are the USTA and LTA spending untold sums of money to "develop" these players, none of whom have come close to winning a major in decades.

Anyway back to the match. Tomic came out like a house on fire taking the first set 6-1. After that he seemed to lose interest. Every now and then he'd hit a nice shot or bestir himself to actually chase down a ball or put together a nice sequence of shots. But most of the time he looked bored shitless.

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Evans, with large tattoos on his arms, woke from his slumber and played as well as he needed to defeat Tomic. He didn't light up the court (unless you're British) and he doesn't seem to have anything special. I don't know what was going on with Nishikori but I could've beat Tomic today. Well almost. You know what I mean.

Is Tomic pining for his Dad's presence on court? Don't know. I do know that the player I saw today has no chance of being top ten if he thinks the hustle, the sweat, and the pain that goes with playing top tier tennis is beneath him. It's hard to think you have to do more than show up when you've been told you're the shit ever since you were old enough to hold a racquet to make a shot.

For example when asked about Tomic's bad boy reputation the Australian commentator gave Tomic a pass. He's young. He likes the toys that making money allows him to have. I mean he's young. Seriously. I'm sure Tennis Australia was not happy with his performance today. Meanwhile the LTA is probably having emergency meetings to discuss how getting tough with a player pays dividends. How much do you want to bet that they threatened to take Evans stipend? photo 840e5687-4a6c-4b13-8467-6652aa1aafa0_zps3572e8c9.jpg

Anyone who reads this space regularly knows that I rarely listen to or watch ESPN coverage. I'm that person who likes to see a match from beginning to end in one sitting. I don't mind being updated on other scores but I don't like being forced to watch someone I could care less about or listen to "neutral" commentators fanboying. It's a quirk I have.

So all day I watched tennis on the USTA App. It's a wonderful thing and gives you live scores as well as live video. A lot of the commentary comes from ITV it seems. Whoever they are (Virgina Wade is one) they're not talking about where someone ate or fawning over a WAG. These comms don't talk during points and keep their focus on the match. Weird right?

I'm getting there. Patience is a virtue.

Anyway after watching the men's match on Ashe I put on ESPNw. the usually sane Darren Cahill was working with the usually sane Chris Fowler. Brad Gilbert was thrown out of the sandbox and was working the sidelines.

Within five minutes of my tuning in everything went to hell. Well at least these three men thought it had. You see the crowd, drunk as they usually are this time of night (the Grey Goose Bar gets tons of action and they're placed strategically around the grounds and of course the beer) and were cheering for Gaël Monfils. As we all know Monfils is a showman and when he knows he can't win a match he begins to do his act. The crowd was eating it up and chanting his name. Fun right? Except that he was playing the United States #1 player John Isner.

I don't know if you've ever watched Isner play. If you look up "servebot" in the dictionary his picture is on top of the pile of American players. Servebot is my new favorite word. I didn't make it up someone else did. It's a quick way to summarize the approach to tennis taken by the USTA, especially it's male players though and as I said Isner is their leader. I'm sure he's a nice man, a good person and treats his mother well. But when it comes to playing tennis you'd get moe excitement from a bump on a log than watching one, two serve. Take a step raise arm serve. Step back to the other side and repeat. Not what a drunken crowd needs to stay engaged.

Well Cahill and his cohorts were upset! Hysterical I tell you about an American crowd cheering for a Frenchman. I mean what loyal patriotic red white and blue American could ever be a fan of someone from another country (Unless he's at the right hand of the Deity of course)?

Their reaction was amazing. They praised some woman who was wearing a Georgia Bull Dogs baseball cap who was chastising the fans in her vicinity for cheering for a foreigner. Brad Gilbert starting raging about how the match should never have been on Armstrong but held in the neatly sanitized confines of Ashe. The fans there would know they were supposed to be urging their fellow American on no matter their state of inebriation. The yahoo's on Armstrong, well, "we" don't accept them as true tennis fans.

The other night when Armstrong rang with the voices of people cheering Victoria Duval there was a kid, a young kid, two rows behind me who, whenever there was a lull (you know, for breathing and other necessities of life) he would shout out his support of Samantha Stosur. No one berated him. No one yelled at him to shut up. He had his favorite and he stuck with her no matter what the crowd was doing. I was surprised to see that he was ten years old at the most.

I'm saying that to say that tennis is an international sport. The USTA, the LTA, Tennis Australia and the FFT all give lip service to that reality but deep down they think that this is still the 1970's when the US, Britain and Australia dominated tennis. If you think I'm exaggerating I read an interview John McEnroe did just before the start of the US Open where he refused to admit that the technology that has made the modern game of tennis possible can't be thrown aside. He really thinks that wooden racquets and the courts that made them effective are coming back. And to think he runs a tennis academy!!

You can find the interview HERE

I have a question for you fans. Does anyone remember how the US Open crowds would cheer Justine Henin when she was playing Serena Williams? No matter who played against Venus Williams the crowd was for her. It was the same when Kim clijsters played against either of the sisters. Do you remember any commentator clutching his or her pearls about it?

Me neither.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 US Open Week 1

by Savannah

Day 1

The USTA needs to stop trying to make Lauren Davis happen. Watching her being dismantled by Carla Suarez-Navarro was painful to watch. Lauren, like fellow American Taylor Townsend, makes beautiful shots. What she needs to learn to do is put them together into a cohesive whole. In other words construct points, have a plan to get from A to B to C. Try to think one or two plays ahead instead of making a beautiful shot only to have it whiz by you because your opponent has positioned themselves not only to return it but to get it past you for a winner.

And it's not just the women. American men are having the same issues. They don't know how to think on court. When they are pressured you see frustration and melt downs not to mention thrown racquets or balls hit in anger. I keep thinking about the woman who was raging to no one in particular after Taylor Townsend lost her last qualifying match. She kept saying that Americans don't have the mental toughness of the Europeans. They don't.

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Venus Williams drew Kirsten Flipkens in the first round. Unseeded and with physical issues that can render her ineffective on court no matter how strongly she wants to play no one knows what to expect from her. Playing Flipkens, who beat her in three sets in Toronto, I know I was hoping that Venus didn't embarrass herself. She didn't.

I would say Venus came dressed as the Pink Ranger but the dress was actually a floral print of the kind that is popular today. It also had a lingerie feel to it, another popular motif being shown for Fall.

For today Venus was her old domineering self. She defeated Flipkens in straight sets. I was glad to see her back to her old self. I hope she hangs around.

One of the bigger surprises for me was Ernests Gulbis loss to Andreas Haider-Maurer. I shouldn't say big surprise because during his hit with Jeremy Chardy the other day he was not happy with himself and was cursing up a storm. I didn't see the match today so I don't know what happened but he was missing stupidly Friday. I don't know if Haider-Maurer played the match of his life or not. I'm sure Ernests was practicing his cuss words again today.

The younger Williams sister opened the night session. As usual there was an opening ceremony which, as usual, I refused to watch. I was watching a food show I DVR'd Sunday so when I got to the tennis Serena Williams was in the process of pounding Francesca Schiavone into the pavement. For a minute there it looked as if Fran would be the second woman to be served a double bagel on Day 1 but she managed to get one game. That only infuriated Serena who closed out the match love and one in an hour. It seems the gods were on Serena's side because as soon as her match ended it began to rain. The second night matches were cancelled and rescheduled for Day 2. I hope people took note that after the match was over Serena didn't jump up and down, shake her fist in her opponents face or disrespect her in any way. Sportsmanship. It's a beautiful thing.

I should mention that there was a lot of talk about Serena's kit too. I'm not a fan of handkerchief hems. Never have been. But the cut of the skirt works on Serena. It's not something I would recommend for anyone else.

Day 2

Victoria Duval 8/27/2013 by Mike Segar/Reuters photo a3878f9a-a048-4de1-8e11-c2d5758fbf2f_zps9e88bef5.jpg
via Mike Segar Reuters

This was my Day at the Open. it almost didn't happen because despite great seats at Ashe there was no one playing on that court we particularly wanted to see. We went so far as to try and sell our tickets back but waited too long to post them for sale and with no buyers we got on the #7 train and headed out to Willett's Point.

I could go on about how hard it is to watch Caroline Wozniacki play live but I won't. The woman she played, Duan Ying-Ying, hits a very hard flat ball. She's also tall like Li Na. Hopefully she'll play more top tier matches and gain confidence in her game and shot making. With more confidence she could've pulled off a big upset.

We wanted to see Gaël Monfils match but we met a friend for a snack so we went to Armstrong to wait for Victoria Duval's match.

Oh. My God.

Before Victoria took the court we suffered through one of the worst matches I've ever seen. Sara Errani took the court against Olivia Rogowska who was playing in place of Ayumi Morita who withdrew due to injury. Errani has no serve. None. And she's in the top five. Rogowska has no game though so I guess that's why the match turned into a romp for Errani.

Not that Rogowska didn't have her chances. At one point she had a chance to break. Or win the game. I don't even remember. All I remember is that Errani won that game and I face palmed. If Ms Duan had played Rogowska she would've won. That's how bad Rogowska was.

Once the stench was cleared from the court Victoria Duval took the court to play Samantha Stosur, the 2011 US Open Champion. People are going to make excuses about what happened, temporary coach and all that, but they'd be missing the point. The match was a war. Stosur had a ton of unforced errors - 56 if I remember correctly - but that is how tough Duval was playing her. Vicky was not afraid to stand toe to toe with Stosur who may have been guilty of looking past her first round opponent.

Vicky, with her father Jean-Maurice standing almost the entire match, played aggressively. She adjusted to whatever Stosur threw at her. An example: Duval tried a drop shot that didn't work and on the very next play made the very same shot. Duval made some nice shots but in context of the match she was playing. She wasn't making shots just to make pretty shots. She was using them as weapons in an arsenal that few thought she had, especially at her age.

I came in a fan. I've been following Duval since she was a young girl. I think I can say I was one of the first to blog about her in the early days of this site. By the middle of the second set Victoria had the Armstrong crowd lifting and carrying her on its back. During the third set it was a sight to behold as the ever swelling crowd lived and died with every shot. There were vocal Stosur fans in the crowd, especially one kid sitting behind me but their voices were drowned out by the shouts, cheers, moans and groans of the now pro Duval crowd.

To be hones I don't think Stosur knew what hit her. They'd set her up with a seemingly easy draw and I don't think she was expecting the teen with the high pitched voice to be able to neutralize her game and defeat her.

I wanted to hold off writing about Mlle. Duval until she played her next match but she deserves the glory she's receiving. She knows how to play and understands tennis at the pro level. She needs some work on her first serve but the rest of her game seems solid.

Along with everyone else I'm looking forward to her next match. I wonder what court she'll play on?

End Notes

James Blake announced that he will retire after the US Open. Wild Cards have kept him playing on the Main Tour, especially in the United States. I don't have much to say about Blake because I've never been a fan. Still he used his modest skills to have what many would call a successful tennis career. He's said that he wants to be Davis Cup Coach one day.

Good luck to James in his future endeavors.

Rain is predicted for Wednesday afternoon. It's likely I will be back out to Queens on Friday.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Day At the Open - 2013 US Open Qualifying

by Savannah

One of the things my daughter and I always look forward to is our trip to the US Open. We don't go every year - for instance we didn't go last year, but with the promise of good weather and the chance to see tennis players in a way you don't see them during a match plus the ability to go to any court with the exception of Ashe, who wouldn't take a chance to roam the grounds of the National Tennis Center for free. Of course the food isn't free and is being sold at regular price but you can still have a nice time.

The one thing about going during Qualifying is that the diversity of the tennis audience in terms of age, ethnicity, race and gender is on full display. There are lots of large families too, families that couldn't afford to buy a seat for themselves and their children during the regular event but can take a subway or drive out and let the kids run around without getting lost in a crowd. Of course if everyone got hip to the deal the Qualifying Tournament offers that may be less of an option in the future but for now it's great.

What's so good about Qualifying? Just think about being able to say that you saw Player X during Qualies and knew he or she was going to be good in a few years? Or that so and so walked right by you close enough to say hello to? Or that you were so close to Ernests Gulbis that you know he's fluent in US curse words? Very fluent.

What did I take away? That Tommy Haas' intensity never lets up? That Angelique Kerber has a quirky service motion that I never saw watching her on television? That Svetlana Kuznetsova is not as bulky as she appears on television? That Tomáš Berdych's legs look like they belong to two different people?

I guess it's best to start at the beginning.

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We walked in to people heading towards the Grandstand so we followed the herd. Richard Gasquet was hitting with Milos Raonic. I'd never seen either man live so we sat for a few minutes. There was another hit going on on Armstrong so we walked across the connection and found Li Na hitting with Svetlana Kuznetsova. Li is taller than I thought she was. I've seen Sveta in person before. In fact we saw her play when she won the US Open in 2004. She wasn't too happy with how she was hitting yesterday. We watched them until they finished and went out to get something to eat and stretch our legs.

Angelique Kerber August 23 2013 photo 92dc1059-255a-406a-8e59-ebfe9470b87e_zps05994d3d.jpg

Gasquet and Raonic were still hitting so we stayed on Armstrong and watched Angelique Kerber hit with Agniezska Radwanska. I never picked it up on television but during her service motion Kerber comes to a full stop before hitting the ball. That gave me my theme for the day and any other matches or hits I watched i was paying attention to the service motion. If you're at the pro level you should be able to hit adequate to excellent ground strokes no?

Aga Radwanska August 23 2013 photo 5cd30f4b-e547-4125-bfa4-22decc91387f_zps6706fc8a.jpg

I also noticed that Aga's serve is really all over the map. Sometimes it's very good. At other times you have to make sure that Ana Ivanovic hasn't dyed her hair blonde. Once she's got the ball in play she does her thing. It's getting it in play that is an adventure.

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The other player we watched was the young US player Grace Min. I don't know when Grace developed her lower body to the extent she has but her legs, specifically her thighs, are almost on a Berdych level. Too bad she spent the first set defending her second serve since her first serve was shit. We left because we thought the other woman would win and were totally surprised that Min won the match. Either she got her serve together or her opponent didn't know what to do with the gifts she was being given.

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Later I saw the end of the Tomáš Berdych and John Isner hit. From his ankles to his knees Berdych's legs look like any athlete's. After his knees these thighs just appear out of nowhere. They're wider than his calves and jut out at a weird angle. I'm sorry I didn't see the whole affair but I did see Isner get mobbed by the kids with the big autograph balls and hang around for a long time.

Fabio Fognini August 23 2013 photo 5efdc527-269a-4604-9230-4462ba56616f_zps99df08d0.jpg

Tommy Haas hit with Fabio Fognini and I don't think Tommy is quite over Hamburg. As you can imagine these hits can take on the intensity of a real match and this was one. Fabio was trying to keep it light but Haas was having no part of it. I kept thinking to myself that Tommy is 35. If he's working this hard during a hit what will he have left for the tournament.

Ernests Gulbis August 23 2013 photo c934826e-a1c9-40dd-8c1c-2de8da7d7914_zpsc38d04f3.jpg

After Haas and Fognini came Jeremy Chardy and Ernests Gulbis. By the end of the hit I knew more than I ever wanted to know about Gulbis thanks to how hard he was sweating. I mean i now know all I need to know about Ernests. I hope I'm being clear. These two didn't play as intensly as Haas forced Fognini to. They were working on certain shots and talked to each other about what they would practice. I wonder why it is that when people learn a different language they learn the curse words first? He's well on his way to learning English.

On our way to see Taylor Townsend Nicolas Mahut walked by with his team. He's a bit taller than I thought he was.

Taylor Townsend August 23 2013 photo b5c4cbf5-3843-4d1d-b36a-085da3b73278_zpsf694f437.jpg

There was a line to get on Court 11 where Taylor was playing Chanel Simmonds of South Africa. Simmonds had won the first set and Townsend the second. We got seats during the beginning of the third set. Townsend was up 4-1 and with the crowd behind her it looked as if Taylor was cruising into the main draw. And then the sky caved in.

Taylor should've gotten a break for 5-1. Instead she was broken and she went to pieces mentally. She also started, as my mother used to say, puffin' and blowin'. Physically she was spent and mentally she was fried. Her play after that made absolutely no sense. She was still hitting great shots but with no rhyme or reason. We saw Katrina Adams leave after the debacle began but before the end of the match and if we'd had any sense we would've left too. Instead we stayed along with most of the crowd hoping that Taylor could pull herself together. It wasn't to be however.

On our way out one woman was ranting about the mental fragility of US players and that until they developed the mental toughness needed to overcome adversity during a match we wouldn't have any players able to compete at the top levels. Sloane Stephens is still struggling with this along with the US men.

I've you're laboring to breathe in a third set you're not fit. Don't get me wrong. Taylor is quick and can chase balls down early in a match as long as she is able to stand still and move side to side or forward as necessary and on her terms. What her opponents have become wise to is that all they have to do is wait her out, get to a third set. Once there it's done and dusted for Ms Townsend. If you add the mental fragility to the lack of conditioning you're a sitting duck for any opponent who has the patience to wait you out.

With that our day was over. We had a great time and got to see players we don't normally try and see once the tournament has begun or that we only see on television during week two.

I recommend anyone who can to come in for Qualifying.

End Note

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Hate To Be That Person...

by Savannah

...but I'm going to be. Let's look at what happened on the way to Maria Sharapova withdrawing from the US Open last evening.

via the guardian photo Maria-Sharapova-on-Court--008viatheGuardian_zps16e17bf9.jpg
via The Guardian

First there was the meh performance in London and the withdrawal from Toronto due to a lingering hip injury.

Thomas Högstedt was fired soon after Wimbledon was over. There was very little sympathy for Högstedt due to two words, Li Na.

Then came the surprise hiring of Jimmy Connors as her new coach, a choice that left many scratching their heads. No one expected the partnership to last long based on the personalities involved. It was also unclear if Connors had the ability to give Sharapova what she needed to improve her game.

The duo made their debut in Cincinnati and to say that was disastrous for Sharapova is an understatement. Connors, presumably paid a nice sum for his days in service to Ms Sharapova, found himself with time on his hands not soon after the debacle.

After that one of the most ridiculous publicity campaigns ever was unveiled. There were breathless reports that Sharapova was going to change her surname to that of the candy she shills for. Anyone with an ounce of sense called bullshit but the speculation went on for two days before Max Eisenbud, Pova's long time agent, said the name change wasn't going to happen. I know, some were really shocked. If you ever wondered why advertising is so successful I hope you'll remember this episode the next time you want to buy some product being used by smiling people on your television screen. Total hype. Total bullshit. But it got tennis people talking about her and not Victoria Azarenka or Serena Williams who had just played one of the best women's matches of 2013. And that's what it was all about right?

While all the candy hype was going on some were asking if Pova was really going to go into the US Open without a coach, the real story that needed to be fleshed out. Oh, I forgot a supposedly irate Pova had her father call Connors to fire him because it had been at his urging that she hired him. Uh huh. I was born at night not last night. Did Yuri fire Högstedt too?

So now that things had calmed down and the focus was rightly on what she was going to do during the US Open Yuri was seen around the grounds at Flushing Meadows.

The suspense was ended when the announcement was made that Maria Sharapova was not going to play the US Open due to shoulder issues.

Now is it wrong for me to ask why the shoulder injury, sorry shoulder bursitis, and not the hip injury that caused her to withdraw from Toronto was the injury of choice? Are they laying the groundwork for her to withdraw from all the Asian events this fall? Probably. Was the hip ever really a problem? Was it always the shoulder? Or was it none of the above?

I haven't seen any tennis "journalist" ask that question. Yet there are "journalists" who still question the extent of Serena's injuries and whether she was really injured based on nothing but an attitude among some that African American's don't really get sick. Yet the idiocy about Sharapova's "injuries" during the last two months are accepted without question.

I also haven't seen any "journalist" cite the following chronology of injuries that were oddly diagnosed before a bad loss. A fan calling themselves "Marlena" posted it on the fan site "Tennis Forum".

Montreal 2012: She pulled out because of a stomach bug... oh, and by the way, she had been dealing with it since the Olympics (where lost the final to Serena); some reports even had that she had picked it up right before the final.

Rome 2013: She played two matches and then pulled out citing a virus... oh, and by the way, she had also been dealing with it the week before in Madrid (where lost the final to Serena).

US Open 2013: Shoulder... oh, and by the way, she had been advised to not play Cincinnati (where she lost her first match to Stephens).

You won't see a tennis "journalist" recite that litany of happenstance either.

And yes I'm going to say it. If Serena Williams had such a history of turmoil, public turmoil, in her camp every one of the so called "journalists" would be writing and Tweeting about it.

I'm very happy to see all fans haven't gone for the okey-doke.

It's also time that tennis be covered by real journalists who know how to go after a story and hold athletes accountable instead of waiting to be spoon fed information from agents and publicists.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Maria Sharapova Withdraws From US Open


August 21, 2013

Sharapova Out of U.S. Open With Shoulder Injury
(Reuters) - Third seeded Maria Sharapova has pulled out of next week's U.S. Open due to a shoulder injury, tournament organizers said on Wednesday.

"Maria has informed us that she will be unable to compete at the US Open this year due to a right shoulder bursitis and has withdrawn from the tournament," tournament director David Brewer said in a statement.

"We wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to her return to New York next year."

(Reporting By Simon Evans, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rear View Mirror - Western & Southern Open

by Savannah

Before we talk about yesterdays matches let's look at stats of the two finalists posted by Bobby Chintapalli

That's what makes yesterdays outcome inevitable. Emphasis mine.

“Entering the Cincinnati final, Williams is 29-2 on hard court so far this season, and Azarenka is 24-1.” This little tidbit is why I’m completely against the tennis habit of not counting withdrawals as losses, particularly when a player has already played a match in a tournament. When you read quote above, you’d think Azarenka has only lost one hard court match all year, right? You’d think she’d have won a bunch of titles, given the sheer number of wins. But no – she’s won only two (one of which is the Australian Open). That hardly equals to 24 wins and just one loss.

Now don't get me wrong. The third set of that match, Serena playing on fumes but still trying to figure out how to get a win, Azarenka, the much fresher of the two, hanging tough and countering Serena's every move with one of her own, was one of the best we've seen played on the WTA tour this year. Azarenka deserved the win and while coach Patrick Mouratoglou had already said Serena had a lot of matches on her Serena would never use that as an excuse.

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Picture via Reuters

But you know what was the best part of the match for me? No on court coaching. Sam Sumyk, Azarenka's coach, was very close and would've come if summoned but he wasn't. Patrick was sitting a few rows up but he knew he wouldn't get the call. This is what tennis is supposed to be. Two people across the net from each other each one trying to out smart the other. No one flying out of the stands to talk to his or her seemingly disinterested charge while she towels off, checks her nails or sips at her water. Two sweaty, somewhat disheveled athletes who happen to be female, battling to win a prize that would be a first for both of them. It was a great match for a tennis fan. It was a great match for women's tennis. Too bad so many fans did not hang around to see it.

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Picture via Reuters

The mens final was a bit different in tone and meaning. John Isner, who will be in the top twenty starting Monday August 19, is the only US player who seems to really, really care about how he plays. He's changed his game from one of just mindless ball bashing and added some subtlety, even some movement into his play. And yes, he shows some emotion.

The only thing that bothers me about Isner is his aversion to playing overseas because he's uncomfortable. He can't eat what he likes. And darn it they speak other languages. Even the British form of English isn't what he's used to. How many times did the comms say that he plays better in the States because he likes it here? How many times did they say he can eat what he likes here? I guess it's me. When someone is college educated I expect them to have a broader outlook, to want to see the world on its terms not on his or her narrow perspective.
I don't think I ever heard Andy Roddick say something so silly. Everyone prefers the food they grew up with but if you travel you know you are going to have to eat the way the natives of the country you're visiting eat. If this is the attitude of United States players we're going to be happy to be in the top 20 for a long time.

For Rafael Nadal can I say winning that match at a venue where he's never played well, on a surface that his detractors said he'd never play well on, can only be seen as a triumph? "They" wanted him to have surgery. He didn't. "They" said he wouldn't play Cincinnati because back to back hard court tournaments would not be good for him. "They" questioned whether he'd ever be at the top of the game again.

But even the commentators had to give him his due. They talked about how he adjusts to what the player across the net is doing. They talked about his patience. They had no choice. For Rafa fans this is nothing new. It's how the man plays. I don't know why comms based in the States always act surprised that Rafa can think. They do the same thing when it comes to Serena though don't they?


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This selfie, courtesy of @Marion_Bartoli, perhaps gives a hint as to why Marion felt she was physically unable to continue to play tennis. But don't weep for the Maiden. She's got a gig commentating for Eurosport and will start next week covering the US Open. Life goes on.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Well That Didn't Take Long

By Savannah

Connors via AP photo 64c1ea1e-dd4e-4c19-97f6-af12c795ccf4_zpse2900a02.jpg
Photo via AP

Well that didn't take long at all. The deal IMG cobbled together putting Jimmy Connors in charge of Maria Sharapova's tennis future has already fallen apart.

News reports out of Britain say she fired the American after her error strewn loss to Sloane Stephens at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

ESPN UK reports the following:

Maria Sharapova has dispensed with the services of coach Jimmy Connors - after only one match and a handful of practice sessions.

The Times reports that Sharapova made the call on Wednesday hours after her second-round loss to Sloane Stephens in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Connors was shown more than once shaking his head courtside as Sharapova lost in an error-strewn performance and he left the venue within minutes of the end of the match.

It will leave Sharapova without anyone in her corner going into the US Open and she is certain to face a barrage of questions as to what went wrong.

Connors' only previous coaching experience came when he partnered with Andy Roddick for a little over a year from 2006 but he found it hard to make an impact in what was essentially a part-time role.

It also seems rumors were floating around Twitter yesterday that Connors was being paid $20,000 a week under the terms of the contract.

Oh well. It was a stunt meant to give Connors some quick cash and, in my opinion was never serious. It's going to be interesting to see whether Sharapova hires someone to help steer her through the US Open or whether she'll fly solo at a major.

Stay Tuned.


The article, by Neil Harman , reporting the firing is behind a paywall. Here is as much of the article as can be had by me.

It seems as if it was not much fun while it lasted. Maria Sharapova’s experiment of bringing Jimmy Connors, winner of eight grand-slam titles, in to coach her is believed to have involved a single defeat and a few practice sessions before the player decided it was not going to work.

It is understood a call was made to the former world No 1 yesterday saying that Sharapova’s loss to Sloane Stephens in the second round of the Western & Southern Open was the first and also last straw.


Lots of folks on Twitter were saying they didn't believe that Pova had dumped Connors and wouldn't until Neil Harman confirmed his own story via a Tweet. I hope this works for them.

Neil Harman ‏@NeilHarmanTimes
Max Eisenbud, Maria Sharapova's agent, confirms story in @TheTimes this morning that Maria and Jimmy Connors have split after 1 match

The bigger question for me is why the story broke in London and not in the United States? Surely there are well paid tennis journalists in this country who still know how to do basic reporting so why have they been silent about this story that broke early on Friday morning London time? Could it be that they're too close to the story, that they wait for their sources to give them the okay to release information and don't do what a reporter is supposed to do, track down a story and publish letting the chips fall where they may?

This is a huge tennis story and one that will continue for a few day's. I'm sure all the "journalists" will start leaking "inside information" momentarily.

Is there irony in this story? You betcha. As I'm sure you recall Pova's former coach dumped the woman he was coaching online. Pova unceremoniously dumped him saying he didn't want to travel while stories surfaced almost at once that he was going to work with Caroline Wozniacki. Then with everything just short of a brass band attending the announcement Jimmy Connors ascended the throne. The choir of angels was otherwise engaged. Heads were scratched. Some called it a sham. And the debut of the new pair was eagerly awaited. If this had been a wedding you could say the bride was left at the altar.

It's not going to be said by too many professional tennis people but fans are already saying that what happened in Sharapova's loss to Sloane Stephens is that she has lost the ability to think her way out of trouble, to adjust. And that, in my opinion, is the direct result of on court coaching. Every time the going gets tough a WTA player, all except one, look into the stands for their guru who makes a beeline to her side to tell her what to do.

Some will argue that Sharapova has never had a Plan B, that all she knows how to do is hit hard and harder - mindless ball bashing - and that is a valid perspective. She's also been prone to the yips most of her career, and her movement, while improved, is not and never will be great.

As it stands right now, as I type this, Maria Sharapova is going to play the US Open without a coach. Will Daddy come back? Will she beg Thomas Högstedt to come back? Would he say yes?
Get your popcorn ready.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

"I Just Can't Do It Anymore"

by Savannah

With those words the reigning Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli of France retired from tennis.

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After retiring from a match in Toronto down 0-5, and losing to Simona Halep 6-3, 4-6, 1-6, 2013 Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli of France walked into her post match presser and after speaking those words retired from tennis effective immediately.

Ben Rothenberg quotes Marion as saying the following:

I’ve been already through a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year. I’ve been on the tour for so long, and I really push through and leave it all during that Wimbledon.”

She continued: “I really felt I gave all the energy I have left inside my body. I made my dream a reality, and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can’t cope with everything. I have pain everywhere after 45 minutes or an hour of play. I’ve been doing this for so long, and, yeah, it’s just body-wise, I just can’t do it anymore.


Her eyes were red with tears when she made the announcement.

I understand.

Marion looked woefully out of shape in Toronto. I won't go so far as to say she was disheveled but she was close to it. She was gasping for air and looked to be nauseous. We can make all the snide remarks we want about her weight, her antics on court, there's a lot of material there but in the end I think it came down to being able to compete.

No one expected Marion to win Wimbledon but she played whoever stood across the net from her and ended up hoisting the Venus Rosewater Dish. She was Marion fit. Not a skinny Minnie but light enough to get around and play grass court tennis. That was not the Marion we saw in Toronto. I can't say much about her match against Halep because it was not on Center Court and the only women's matches with live coverage so far have been on that court in Cincinnati.
But that's another story for another day.

Let's not forget the withering battles Marion and her father Dr. Walter Bartoli fought with the French Tennis Federation (FFT). Or her inability to get a clothing contract until recently. What's sad is that Amélie Mauresmo seemed to be able to mediate between the warring parties and succeed in getting Marion back into the good graces of the FFT.

But with success Marion had to face the fact that she wasn't going to get a draw like she did at Wimbledon again. I won't say never would have, but it was going to be awhile. Marion had also said that it's easier to be the hunter than the hunted, and after winning Wimbledon, as Petra Kvitova has found out, you are the hunted. And everyone, competitor or not, is not able to deal with the pressures that brings.

Earlier this year Marion was casually munching a Twix candy bar during a changeover. That was not going to be tolerated any more. She's 28 now and all the exercises she and her father concocted to help her be as strong as she could with her weight, all the quirks that made Marion Marion, were going to have to be cut back. I'd say that she was already doing less of that.

Then there were the coaching changes. It seemed for awhile there that every couple of weeks she had a new coach. That is never a good sign. To me it means there is instability somewhere, that the player doesn't have anyone around to take on the world for them so that they can focus on their tennis.

There were also signs that maybe some of the problems off court were more personal and involved the man she had leaned on all of her life. To talk about that is speculation though and that is not what this post is about.

Maybe when she's had time to process things, when whatever is stopping her from being the best she can be on court has been settled in her mind she will want to come back to tennis. Some are saying that that is what will happen. I've had no personal contact with the woman so I don't know if she'll want to come back. It would be nice to see a happy, focused woman come back not the one who was so distraught after a loss she retired.

I don't think this was a hasty decision. I know last week she was saying all the right things about belonging on a tennis court and that she wanted to play a tune up or two before the US Open but what was she really thinking? No one knows except Marion and her family.

I wish her well. I hope that she finds some kind of peace within herself. She's got the money and now the leisure time to lay on a pink sand beach somewhere and study her navel. Maybe put that brain of hers to work by going back to school. The world is hers. In today's world not too many 28 year olds can say that.

marion bartoli July 2013 photo 7408e5bb-4d2a-4f9e-811b-f07ef92a3eda_zps2fb9a1ac.jpg

If she comes back, fine. If she doesn't, that's fine too.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Rearview Mirror: Roger's Cup Edition

by Savannah

Where to start?

The hype? The bullshit that was being presented as hype? That's harsh. Wishful thinking maybe? Maybe it's all the same thing.

Let's start with the winners.

Serena Toronto 2013 photo 04d76bc7-64cc-47ab-b9c2-05dedb747f5c_zps72563e37.jpg
Photo: The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette

What is there left to say? As her father predicted years ago Serena Williams has become the dominant woman not only of her generation but of the next one too. She's reduced two of the women she faced finals to tears and proven that your sometime coach may be a tennis player whisperer but if the player he's whispering to ain't got the goods there's nothing he can do.

I mean really did anyone sincerely believe that Sorana Cirstea was going to be led by the hand to the championship? Like Sabine Lisicki before her she found out that hype doesn't win matches. Skill and experience win matches. If you need to be treated like a four year old scared to get on the pony to get through a match at a Premier 5 what the hell are you going to do at a Grand Slam when there is no coaching allowed? In the end Cirstea was the player she's been for the last couple of years. Unable to think clearly on court her play is erratic and ineffective.

During the semi final her sometime coach told her to stop looking at him and to focus on wht was going on on the court. Tennis 101.

Serena lose to her? Not unless, God forbid, she's injured in some way. I mean she was sick and got past Agniezska Radwanska for goodness sake. Did I say she was sick during that match?

I've learned to avoid ESPN's announcers unless I don't have a choice so I missed what was apparently a mind boggling bit of commentary from Ms Pam Shriver. I didn't hear it directly but people I trust were Tweeting that she feels Serena has had a disappointing year, clarifying her statement by saying that not winning Wimbledon had to be a disappointment. I think every one on the tour will take her year, Wimbledon or no Wimbledon.

(I should mention that the Wimbledon Champion, Marion Bartoli, looks like she's back to eating Twix again. She was woefully out of shape looking, and moving, like a beached whale before she took herself out of competition but I like Marion and hope she can get herself back to some level of fitness soon. Petra Kvitova has but she's on the new boyfriend diet.)


Anyway Serena romped through her draw and should be the odds on favorite for the US Open crown. She's played more tennis than she usually does this year but I think it's safe to say that she's on a mission no?

By the way I see some of the hacks, uh, journalists, who cover tennis for pay are whining about the poor attendance in Toronto. Excuse the language but where the fuck have they been for the last five years or more?! Attendance at WTA matches is woeful and has been for a long time. Regular readers of this space know I've been talking about it at forever but now that Serena is dominant and has no one to really worry about on the tour all of a sudden they're worried about attendance. One went so far as to hint that if Maria Sharapova had played attendance figures would be up. Like I said they haven't been paying attention, or they're pretending not to be paying attention. If they really haven't been paying attention here's a news flash for them: NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH WOMEN'S TENNIS BECAUSE OTHER THAN SERENA THERE IS NO ONE THEY FEEL THEY HAVE TO SEE!!!

I know that's harsh but hear me out. As I mentioned before Serena is the top dog. No one can beat her unless she's having a bad day. Okay. Now. Dyed in the wool tennis fans don't like Victoria Azarenka. I know that bothers some of her fans but it is what it is. Aga has no personality on court. If you're not used to watching tennis she'll have you in the land of Nod in no time. Like it or not there are people who will never warm up to Li Na. Sara Errani? That she is in the WTA top ten with no serve worth mentioning is a disgrace. Marion is just not presenting as an athlete right now. Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova have the same problem as Aga. No on court swagger.

Now. I'm going to say this again very slowly. The WTA has to stop selling personality and start selling the women's tour. You know, women's tennis? That thing these women all work hard to excel at? It also has to stop trying to pretend it's racism isn't racism. I don't like to play that card but when professional journalists start saying attendance would've been better if Sharapova had played what are they saying? Is this what tournament officials are saying instead of telling Stacy Allaster to do a better job with promoting ALL of her players not just one? I used to talk about the blonde pony tail brigade being the be all and end all of women's tennis. Looks like I'm going to have to resurrect that meme.

By the way did Sharapova ever make it up to Toronto to do her promotional work for the tour? I kept reading about cardboard cutouts and candles but nothing about her sitting in a booth and signing autographs. I could've just missed it but enquiring minds and all that ya know?

Rafael Nadal Montreal 2013 photo 9a0a1b1e-55e6-47bd-8c8e-7b841ae9cb25_zps08c896ce.jpg
Getty ImagesPhoto By Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Let's talk about the men's draw. After everyone withdrew to rest their weary bones (or fevered brains - take your pick)it was a very strange one indeed. Since Roger Federer wasn't there due to his back the hype machine was in overload about Andrew Murray's return to the hard courts. He had a nice little section of the draw that included Ernests Gulbis, a man who really keeps you guessing about which persona he's bringing to the court that day.

The match I really wanted to see and couldn't was the one between Gulbis and Fabio Fognini. I wanted to see who would be able to mind fuck who. Gulbis, Fognini and Gael Monfils are a subculture on the main tour: guys who like to distract you with their antics and when you look up they've beaten you. Monfils hasn't done much of that lately and we all know how Fognini had big fun in Europe after Wimbledon but it was Gulbis who was standing after disposing of Murray rather routinely. For his part Murray played like he'd rather be someplace else. Of course he always plays like that but this time he was the one getting played. I should've included him in the same group with Monfils, Gulbis and Fognini.

While mini/major upsets were taking place the Canadians were showing they weren't there as cannon fodder. A new star named Vasek Pospisil reintroduced himself to the tennis world while a compatriot showed that he's ready to do whatever it takes to win a match. And it was ugly.

There's an old expression "character is what you do when no one is watching." What does it mean when a tennis player with a preexisting injury, one he's being treated for, walks to the sidelines when his opponent is ready to serve and says he can't grip his racquet returning to the court thirteen minutes later and seeming to be fine. The comm said the medics had already given the player the recommended dose of pain killers and that they couldn't provide him with any more. It didn't matter because he appeared to be fine after the MTO.

Then there was the whole running into the net, seeing that the chair umpire, doing his job, is focused on where the ball landed not you so you twist and turn to make it seem you did everything to avoid the net and succeeded in not touching it. Meanwhile everyone in the stadium and around the world saw you. Your opponent was worn out from a late match the night before and it's more than likely that the match was yours, that you didn't need the point you would've lost had you confessed to running into the net. If that's what you do with the world watching what are you up to when it's not?

Anyway Milos Raonic made it through to the final. One day he'll tell his grand children about a match that he was never in. The big story will be how he responds to the loss.

Don't forget Milos, we can see you when you're on court.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Oh Canada!

by Savannah

 photo Samantha-Stosur-008_zpsb81a5ff6.jpg
via The Guardian

Lets start with Samantha Stousur's win over nemesis Victoria Azarenka in Carlsbad Sunday afternoon.

Better yet lets go to Victoria Azarenka's victory over Ana Ivanovic on Saturday. Azarenka needed three sets to win that match, a win that leap frogged her over Maria Sharapova and into the #2 ranking behind Serena Williams. Victoria had already been seeded #2 in Toronto but after losing to Stosur she withdrew citing a bad back. You don't have to be a match whiz to know why Azarenka would, uh, find her back giving her a problem after that three set win and err on the side of caution. I get it. If Sharapova sits out Cincinnati as well I'd like to be the second seed at Flushing Meadows too.

Sorry for that long aside Samantha. You played well despite your opponent being injured. In fact no one has seen you play that well in ages. Playing to win not playing scared is a good thing.

Granollers Kitzbuhel 2013 photo f024fb0c-f1aa-4455-8166-5f796f2d8618_zps25bcf38a.jpg
via ATP World Tour

Way across the sea Marcel Granollers defeated the King of Kitzbühel Robin Haase of the Netherlands on his way to winning the title there. He faced Juan Monaco in the final.

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Washington DC in the summer has all the charm and personality of the swamp it sits on. It's nasty hot and humid. During the Citiopen they love to show images of a cool stream flowing through nearby Rock Creek Park but those in the know aren't fooled.

There are players who seem to thrive there though. One of them is Magdalena Rybarikova. She won the title last year and repeated this year, defeating Andrea Petkovic in the final.

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The other player who thrives here is Juan Martin del Potro. He defeated American favorite John Isner in three sets after playing his semi final against Tommy Haas into the wee hours of the morning thanks to a rain delay. Isner finished his match before the rains came and got a good rest but you wouldn't have known it by the way he crumbled from the end of the first set to the end of the third set. Delpo blew Isner off the court rendering his aces a footnote to the match. Delpo's forehands coupled with his movement left Isner rooted in place, unable to react quickly. Then again the way Delpo was hitting the ball his racquet would've been knocked out of his hands. Congratulations Juan on your third Citiopen title.

There is something that I heard one of the ESPN2 comms say that has to be mentioned. They were all gushing on how well Isner is doing of late and one said that he seemed to be doing something different the last few weeks asking out loud if it was better fitness and possibly scouting players that was behind the change. POSSIBLY scouting players? Why would scouting players be a new thing for Isner? What he just walks on court thinking he'll blow them away so there's no need to look at an opponent to see what tactics should be used? If that is how he rolls that's not even arrogance. It's stupidity.

Rogers Cup 2013

The Europeans are on North American soil! Play begins Monday April 5 in Montréal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario. Both are of course part of the country of Canada and not a part of the United States.

I should like this event but it's always been "meh" for me. Maybe it has to do with the strong arm tactics the USTA and Tennis Canada used to try and strong arm the top players into coming by messing with the European spring clay court calendar or maybe it's the way they've split the venues so that on a good day you'll need your computer, tablet and television to watch matches.

The tournament(s) are a huge part of the US Open series with the distinction of having the top players in the world on their courts. It's going to be interesting to see who makes the trip from Canada to the normally hot and humid Mid West of the United States.

Still it's tennis, in my time zone, no waking up at some obscene hour of the morning and falling asleep in the middle of the first game of the first set. I'll be sitting at home having a leisurely day of it watching what I hope is high quality tennis.

Idle Chit Chat

Remember when Serena caught hell from the tennis media and some fans for skipping out on a tournament while legitimately injured and showing up at a wedding? Remember that? Well guess what? Maria Sharapova begged off Toronto due to injury sustained at Wimbledon. She was supposed to do P.R. work in Toronto as is the norm when you pull out of a major. It helps fulfill your commitment and avoid a fine. Guess where she was this weekend?

Dancing at a wedding. In some kind of get up with the bride's head dress on. Or something.
Meanwhile all I hear are screams of delight from fans because her image will be in Toronto next to the booth featuring her candy. Rolling eyes. Hard. Oh, I didn't see any pictures of her with her fiancé at the wedding.

If you follow Twitter you know Patrick Mouratoglou is quite chatty. He promotes his players and drops in little personal asides from time to time. I'm trying to picture Ivan Lendl on Twitter. I'd better stop doing that or I'll end up like BMO and fry my circuits.


An interesting interview with Li Na's husband Jiang Shan popped up on a fan site:

Author: Chinese women’s tennis, as a whole, is quite strong nowadays, but what about men’s tennis? What’s holding them back?

JS: The knowledge of how to be successful is there. What’s lacking is someone with enough courage and conviction to go ahead and do those things. Starting young, training abroad, taking losses and grinding out wins in tournaments all around the world – it just takes someone committed enough to take that risk and not give up. I think it’s a cultural issue.

Author: What do you mean ‘a cultural issue’?

If a young Chinese player tried to break through internationally for 2 years, without getting the right results, he will come to the conclusion that he does not have the talent, and give up. A young North American in the same situation will instead think that it is because he is not working hard enough. The North American was brought up in a culture which has always taught him that he can do anything if he sets his mind to it. Not so in China. My generation (on the ATP tour, Jiang Shan topped off at #987 in the world back in 2001) was brought up with a “weak country” mindset. Everything was “beat the US,” or “beat England,” but when they showed up, we might as well have called them uncle. We just didn’t think we were good enough to compete. Nowadays, it’s better. China’s GDP has gone up and there’s more belief in us being on the same level as other global powers. I have a feeling that Chinese kids born after 1995 will not have the same negative mentality as we did growing up. After that, success will just be a matter of time.

Author: What about table tennis or badminton? Is there more success for Chinese players in those sports because the mindset is different?

JS: No. The reason why China does so well in those sports is simply because North Americans and Europeans generally don’t care for them. Outside of China, sports are market-driven. If there is no interest, there is no money. If there’s no money, then there will be less high-level players; the best athletes will go to other sports. If Americans or Europeans decided that they want to be a global power in table tennis, they could do it within a few years. Look at Old Wa (Jan-Ove Waldner He’s been playing at the highest level for 30 years, and beaten all the best Chinese players. But it’s just him. Everyone else in Sweden is playing hockey.

Author: Do you think Li Na winning a Grand Slam title would’ve been possible without the “Fly Alone” strategy (Note: in 2008, Li Na partially broke away from the traditional centralized Chinese tennis program in order to set her own tournament schedule as well as manage her commercial interests and training routines)

JS: You need to take risks and get away from a culture which promotes mediocrity and “just getting by.” The French Open victory would never have happened has we stayed with the Chinese federation. Tennis is an individual sport and you have to do things differently if you want to have an uncommon level of success.

I've been tempted to talk about Chinese tennis but due to lack of familiarity I haven't. Jiang's comments are honest and open, the way he appears to be. I wonder why he wasn't asked if height affects the Chinese men? Nishikori Kei isn't a big guy and he's doing okay but he trained in the States. David Ferrer isn't a giant but it took him years to get where he is today. Until or unless more is known about the Chinese tennis scene Jiang's comments stand as the best analysis to date.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

As The Ball Bounces August 1 2013

by Savannah

This is a post about nothing in particular. Just stuff going on in the wonderful world of tennis. I mean in a week where Stefan "Redfoo" Gordy and Victoria Azarenka went totally public withe their feelings for each other and Andy Roddick is telling people to stop dragging Caroline Wozniacki and her golfer why not? Was it about two weeks ago that Patrick Mouratoglou was posting fuzzy pics of him with Serena Williams in the background after she won Båstad? As that eminent philosopher Bugs Bunny once said "Ain't love grand?"

Then again the poor guy who married Martina Hingis thinking it was twu wuv found out it may be twu luv but a girl gets bored. I mean she married him so he had to be able to scratch her itch at one point right? Maybe it's just a phase for Ms Hingis. Tennis players don't really have lives during their teen years so what did he expect? I'm sure she loves him in some way shape or form. Girls just wanna have fun.

Speaking of Ms Hingis I have a question. I thought you got inducted into the Hall of Fame when your career was done, when you might play an exho here or there but really main draw like stuff is not in the cards.

I find it odd that she's going to play doubles and might accept a wild card into singles after the US Open.

Anyone notice how many seeded players are being upset this week? Boy those under dogs are having a great summer aren't they? No one thinks for a minute that The Rogers Cup in Canada or the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati have anything to do with these odd losses. Nope. Fans are getting to see just how deep the tours really are.

But wait the fans aren't getting to see how deep the tours are because the cameras are off in US Open Series tournaments until Thursday or Friday. I forget which and I don't care. It would be nice to see some of the lower ranked players getting a chance to shine but I guess fans will just have to wait until the cameras go on. Can't have live streams showing such high quality play can we? Damn fans will get to watch when the TD's and US networks want them to see play. That's the trouble with tennis fans. Bitch. Bitch. Bitch. It's not like players or their camps do that right? What's wrong with seeing just the semifinal and final of a tournament? With any luck one of the players will be an American and all the talk about the decline of US tennis will stop.

In this era of players with public images that have become somewhat boring it's nice when someone who should know better pops off isn't it? It can only help your son's popularity if you go public with your opinion that he's being picked on by the mean guys. Everyone will feel sorry for him and like him better right? I get it. So what's everyone all upset about? a parent popping off about how his grown child is being bullied is a gold mine. Just think about it. It's almost as good as the mother of a player going on about one of her sons peers being delicious.

The US Open released its prize money levels yesterday. If you're still trying to figure out if you can afford to step foot on the grounds of the National Tennis Center here's what your faves will be making:

Winner: $2.6 million (a 37% increase)
Runner-up: $1.3 million (a 37% increase)
Semifinalist: $650,000 (a 37% increase)
Quarterfinalist: $325,000 (a 37% increase)
Round of 16: $165,000 (a 38% increase)
Round of 32: $93,000 (a 43% increase)
Round of 64: $53,000 (a 43% increase)
Round of 128: $32,000 (a 39% increase)

Thanks to the ATP Players Association shaming the Slams into spreading some of the wealth around lower ranked players of both tours will at least get a decent pay day. It's a big deal for players to get their air fare, maybe work with a coach, and get gear to play what for many will be one round of tennis.

A lot of people were surprised that Sloane Stephens, ranked #15 in the world, was relegated to the second court at the Citiopen in Washington DC while Melanie Oudin, ranked #123 and Christina McHale, ranked #70, played on the Stadium/Main Court. Surprisingly it was Oudin who won her first round match.

There is one thing that is still bothering me though. Why is the tennis media so excited about Hingis possibly playing singles again? It didn't work that well for her the last time did it? And with her soul sister Agniezska Radwanska getting taken out by Dominika Cibulkova I don't know why they're so excited.