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.
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?
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.