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.


Randy Burgess said...

I don't think Jimmy was ever going to help Sharapova with her most glaring weakness: the yips she's got in her serve. She was way ahead in that match - at the start of the 2nd Stephens was looking absolutely psyched out and offering no resistance - and that's when Sharapova tightened up like a screw being driven through a piece of balsa wood. Golfers, baseball players, tennis players - the yips seem like a disease without a cure.

Karen said...

Even though Pova's tennis is akin to hit the ball harder, I have to confess that it is an aspect of her game that I truly admire. Her ability to clean the lines with those hard flat strokes, takes a certain amount of belief in your game and your strokes to be able to hit lines with such power and consistency.

That being said I do agree with regarding her inability to think her way through matches. I wonder whether she felt that since she had handled Sloane on 3 previous occassions she did not need to sign up for on court coaching. After all, media hound that Pova is, I am sure she must have known that everyone was waiting with bated breath for Connors to come down courtside and give her a pep talk. Mayhap Connors was the one who refused to be mic'd up and told her that she would need to work on her own.

Frankly Pova looked unfit. She seemed to have used her time away to eat her way through her Sugarpova line. If this had been Serena or even Vika or Caro you would hear the calls about them being distracted. Pova has too many irons in the fire and tennis is right now at the bottom of the rung. People think her issue is Serena. I think her issue is she is trying to build and market her brand, coupled with all the other off court drama. This woman needs a break.