Sunday, March 31, 2013


by Savannah

David Ferrer is one of the best tennis players on the planet. On Monday he will be ranked Number 4 in the world - at the age of 30 (He'll be 31 on April 2). His ranking makes him the top ranked player in his country. But I bet he'd trade all that if he could turn back time and not challenge a shot that he saw as in and played what looked like a winner. It was match point in his battle against Andy Murray. But he did challenge. He'd made up his mind to challenge and he did. Murray's shot was good and that was game, set and match for the Scotsman.

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Instead of hoisting the trophy as the first Spaniard to win Miami he made a poignant speech saying to his fans "I'm sorry." Ferrer was blitzed in Acapulco by his countryman Rafael Nadal and played Indian Wells hungover from that loss.

But in Miami he seemed to have put all of that behind him. He defeated fan favorite Tommy Haas to make the Final and with his head to head with Murray close - 6-5 in Murray's favor going into the match - there were a lot of Ferrer fans who thought that David had a chance today.

And all the fight, all the work, came down to one miscalculation.

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It looked to me that Ferrer didn't believe that he could win after that error. Not that he gave up but in a championship match belief is half the battle won. Like the women's runner up Ferrer will have some time to get over what happened during his match. I think the mental pain of Ferrer and Maria Sharapova's must be about unbearable. Both came so close only to run into walls. David's was self made. Sharapova ran into a will stronger than hers. And therein lies the difference.

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I said that Sloane Stephens needed to watch Serena's match against Dominika Cibulkova. She should also watch the final Serena played. I know he won't but David Ferrer needs a look at the indomitable force that is Serena Williams. Serena had no business winning either of those matches but she believed that she should and that she would. And that makes all the difference. When Serena takes the court she BELIEVES that she will win, she believes that the woman across the net from her cannot beat her.

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No one who makes a WTA Premier Mandatory or a M1000 final gets there solely on luck. Sure you can have a soft draw but that will usually get you to the quarters or semi's. Shit gets real in the quarters and semi's and it's win or go home as an also ran. All that came before means squat.

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Let's be real here. Murray didn't play that well but he played well enough to win and become the #2 ranked player in the ATP. The Brits are in 7th heaven for sure but lets see what the rankings are after the US Open. There have been whispers that some of the Europeans didn't play their "A" games because of the looming clay court season in Europe and Davis Cup next week.

But in the end none of that matters.

It all comes down to belief. You can have all the confidence, all the belief in yourself in the world but if someone else has more you're not going to win. You can fight as hard as you can for as long as you can until your body gives out on you but if you don't have self belief you will not win. It's as simple as that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Must See Tennis TV

by Savannah

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Everyone has been hating on Miami to the point that the mere mention of the tournament draws a sarcastic remark.

It's easy for those of us sitting on our sofa's or in bed watching men and women play an individual sport for which many of them are not paid well to say this tournament is garbage. But for every player out there there's a story and they deserve more than our dismissive attitude.

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Even those at the top of the sport, the names that, when the sport is mentioned, even a casual fan can name, are sometimes mentioned with a shrug. Their greatness is taken for granted and it's only when one of the lowly ones gives one of the greats a run for their money that the hard core fan takes notice.

Serena Williams is known world wide. She is the Queen of her Sport, considered it's top player whether she is at the top of the rankings or not. When she takes the court against one of the players no one but the hard core knows about it's assumed she's going to blow them off the court with her power. Not much thought is given to how she thinks on court, how she strategizes, how she plays the person across the net from her. But all of that was on display in her match against Dominika Cibulkova. For me it was the best women's match of the tournament so far. I've already talked about this match but I'm mentioning it here for a reason I'll get to in a moment.

Tommy Haas will be 35 on April 3. He's been on the tour since 1996. That's a little deceptive though because for much of that time Haas was injured. He made several attempts to come back but it seemed that as soon as he did something else would go wrong. He's been playing rather well for awhile now and has notched some big wins against some big players but it seemed that people sat up and took notice this week because this tournament feels so much like the morning after the party is over.

Haas was the man who had to play Novak Djokovic on a cool windy night in Miami. Fifty degrees in Miami is coat weather from what I saw the other night. When the match was over I think I heard Djokovic asking if anyone got the license plate of the truck that ran him over. Djokovic came in a 14-1 favorite. Some folks made some money I guess. I still don't think Djokovic knows what hit him.

Why a separate post for these specific matches? If you have a friend or a relative who doesn't get why you're into this so called "effete" sport show them these two matches. I guarantee you they'll want to hang with you during Qualifying Week at the US Open, or go with you to whatever the major tournament is in your neck of the woods.

We've still got semi finals and finals to be played. There could be more great tennis coming our way. I just want to make sure everyone finds video of these matches and watches them. Both matches represent tennis at it's best.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Whisper's Are Getting Louder...

by Savannah

The debate about the 5th Slam is over, at least for 2013. Indian Wells dropped that mic and Miami's flow is not working.
Is it time to take another look at the two events place in the calendar? Is it time for Miami to think about becoming a clay court tournament so that European players will be more inclined to stay and play? Will IMG give up it's control of the event?

Actually all of the questions are interrelated.

First the IMG story. The players highest in tennis fans esteem, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, left the fold last year. With no pipeline to the inside story I can only speculate and say that the decision was purely a business decision. The controversial head of IMG, Theodore Forstmann, died in November 2011. In doing some research I came across this:

The sale is expected to draw interest from big entertainment players ranging from Creative Artists Agency and William Morris to French media group Lagardere, according to the people familiar with the matter. Large private equity firms and billionaires are also expected to participate, the people said.
Forstmann Little has been holding on to the IMG investment for longer than a typical investment period for private equity, and has for years rebuffed overtures from prospective buyers. Buyout interest increased following Teddy Forstmann’s departure in April 2011 as IMG Chairman and CEO, and his death later that year.

Notable buyers that had approached Teddy Forstmann included former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, who was willing to pay $1.5 billion for IMG in 2008. Sources told Reuters at the time Teddy Forstmann wanted at least twice the amount.

Both men have opted to work with their personal PR people.

Turmoil always opens the door to chaos and that seems to be what is reigning in Miami right now. The tournament admits that ticket sales are down. Indian Wells had record attendance.

Then the issue of so much hard court play came up. Victoria Azarenka, who seems to be the only top rated woman who uses her vocal chords on and off court raised it in relation to her injury. Rafa has been a one man band about it for awhile now.
I guess that's why the idea of Miami switching to clay has been floated.

Now to me clay is red clay, not the artificial stuff used in the United States. Hard court purists decry the slow hard courts of Indian Wells because the big servers don't do well on it. I have to think that for players coming off the South American swing it's a god send. Of course most North American players don't make that swing.

If the slow hard courts of Indian Wells hamper North American players why aren't they well represented in the late stages of Miami? The only American doing well is...Serena Williams. Oh yeah Sam Querrey is still around but if he makes the final I'll be surprised. Very surprised.

I don't think the USTA, after mounting a full court press to get rid of Monte Carlo as an event, will let Miami change to clay without a fight. I'm pretty sure it's loyal press will soon start posting stories about the glories of hard court play. We've already seen the idiotic results of strict enforcement of the twenty five second rule, an emphasis that makes it easy for largely immobile hard servers to stay competitive while those who play a more sophisticated game are supposed to suffer. The most experienced chair umps, after a long rally, give the players time. Steve Ulrich, with the freedom retirement brings, called the rule "crazy". And he's an American.

Then of course there's the issue of top players dropping like flies. Almost every day has brought another player pulling up lame or citing illness as the reason for their withdrawal. That is why Sam Querrey is still around. Milos Raonic said he has strep throat and is unable to play so Querrey got the walkover. I can imagine tournament officials holding the remaining seeds hostage to ensure their appearance.

Lastly if Miami is moved where would it go? The last thing the USTA wants is a player focused TD like Larry Ellison getting control of the event. I'm guessing it'll be some organization that will allow things to go on as they have been.

But the issue going forward will still be hard courts and their effect on players. The game is much more physical, requires much more thought than a fast hard court will allow. There has even been talk of reviving indoor carpet.

I think in the end Miami will stay where it is in the calendar and remain a hard court event. Sorry a fast hard court event.
Of course I could be wrong. Time will tell.


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I think that we will soon be able to add Sloane Stephens to the trash heap next to Melanie Oudin. I'm being so harsh because I watched Sloane play a brilliant set of tennis against Aga Radwanska yesterday on her own, with no coach flying out of the stands to tell her what to do. After that set her new coach, USTA darling David Nainkin, came and talked to her. And that was it for Sloane. She stopped doing everything she'd done well and played right into The Queen Vulture's hands. I didn't hang around for the third set so missed seeing Sloane get served a bagel.

Any player can beat any other player on any given day. Look at what Alejandro Falla almost did to Tomas Berdych yesterday. And let's just forget how hard Serena had to fight to come back against Dominika Cibulkova.

On second thought lets not forget Serena's match. Domi was all over Serena like a cheap suit. Serena couldn't find the court. Her footwork was nonexistent. Her smashes were finding the net. But she took a deep breath and ended up a winner. Her father got so nervous he left the court. Patrick Mouratoglou looked like he was on pins and needles. But Serena sat on the sidelines and fought her way out of the trap she'd set for herself. This is what Sloane is going to have to learn to do. And attitude is not going to win anything for her. The top players see her coming now and be ready for her. Sloane, dearie,(I'm a big OUAT fan), all those people blowing smoke up your ass because you defeated a severely injured Serena in Australia are bullshitting you. You are not a top ten player. In fact you sound as if you'd be content to be a top thirty player. Think I'm kidding? This is what a fiery Sloane said at her post match presser yesterday:

Sloane Stephens: "I'm 16 in the world. I can lose in the first round the next 2 months and I prob would still be top 30. "

The above was posted by @jonwertheim but he wasn't the only one who posted it yesterday. That is not what you want an up and coming player to say. It's not what you want an up and coming player to even conceive of thinking. Unless Sloane has the cojones to go outside of the US coaching establishment I don't see her game maturing much beyond where it is now. That injured woman you played in Melbourne is sitting on top of the rankings Sloane. She didn't get there by being content with a lower ranking.

Ironically Sloane is allegedly seen by Sam Smith as being the only athlete among the younger players. It's something I've noticed but been loathe to bring up after the Patrick McEnroe comments about sixteen year old Taylor Townsend.

But Smith has a point. There is a difference between being slim and being fit. I've seen more spare tires around the waists of women much more mature than Townsend, players considered the top picks from their countries. No one is saying women have to go the Ana Ivanovic route but there has to be a happy medium.

As for the lack of television coverage for WTA matches I'm saying the same thing I've been saying. Improve your product and you will get butts in the seats and television coverage. Right now the WTA is getting what it pays for. It sucks for fans of women's tennis but it is what it is. All the photo shoots and red carpets won't change what happens on court. It says something when two 31 year old women are fitter than the young'uns. It would also help if the WTA got rid of on court coaching. It's a crutch a top player shouldn't want or need.

Friday, March 22, 2013

OOOPs They Did It Again

by Savannah

I thought I'd start off with a picture of a happy baby.

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Little Dylan Williams made his court side debut during his big sister Serena's match. There is nothing more heartwarming than a happy baby.

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Meanwhile his sister was caught channeling Steve Urkel while filming a commercial for Wilson.

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Azarenka Statement on @SonyOpenTennis withdrawal:
“I am very disappointed that I am unable to compete this year in Miami,” said Azarenka. “This is one of my favorite events and the Miami fans are always supportive. I have been working very hard to rehab my ankle this week but unfortunately it is still not fit to play. I look forward to returning next year.”

Via her Facebook page

No one expected Victoria Azarenka to play Miami. No one who saw her pain filled attempts to play Indian Wells that is. But there was no announcement from the tournament, the WTA or Azarenka's management team until about half an hour before she was scheduled to take the court against promising US player Madison Keys. American Lauren Davis took her place.

Why is this a recurring theme with the WTA? And before you go off talking about Rafael Nadal's late withdrawal from Miami the information was out there if you knew where to look.

And that is the difference between the WTA and the ATP. The ATP does everything it can to promote it's product, the men's tour. The WTA still has no idea how to promote it's tour. It can barely promote it's number one player opting instead to promote players who fit a certain physical profile. And that isn't even consistent.

Caroline Wozniacki is still a darling of the tour. Her matches are still hyped and the excesses of her father are tolerated. The same thing can be said about Maria Sharapova. When all is said and done Pova is still the preferred WTA champion, shrieking and all.

Victoria Azarenka is not a tour favorite. I'm saying this from the outside looking in of course, the viewpoint of a fan who takes her time to actually put her thoughts about tennis on cyber paper. Her personality isn't warm and cuddly. She plays to win. All of her excesses stem from that desire. It doesn't mean I've become a fan it's just accepting who Azarenka is. Maybe her relationship with Stefan Gordy and his still image savvy father will smooth out some of the rough edges. Sometimes image repair works, and sometimes it doesn't. People of my generation still either love or hate Diane Ross.

But back to the WTA. Many fans dislike of Serena stems from her apparent capricious withdrawals from events where she was almost guaranteed to appear, withdrawals that happened at the last minute. There are other factors of course but the first line of defense by Serena haters will be that argument, that she doesn't respect the tour.

Is she the only player this happened to? Not really. A couple of years ago Kim Clijsters was supposed to appear at a tournament and at the last minute it was announced that she wasn't going to play. Whatever her excuse was it was accepted that she had to injured just the way she said she was. Curly top blonde Kimmie wouldn't lie would she? But would the WTA?

A lot of people who didn't see Azarenka play in agony in Indian Wells don't think she's that injured. I don't think she should've played more than one round in the desert but she did before withdrawing. I don't think she was ever going to play Miami. I think the WTA and the tournament knew that. But with the top two draws on the men's side out and the women's tour an iffy draw at best maybe someone decided that her name should stay on the list until the last minute.

The tournament has admitted that ticket sales are down. I don't think Azarenka's withdrawal affects sales all that much but it does hurt the image of the WTA. When your top two players are on the premises and your number three is injured what is the big deal in admitting that your number three is injured and won't play for awhile?

WTA fans hate that every little thing the WTA does or doesn't do is magnified but the WTA tour is it's own worst enemy. Azarenka, not a fan favorite, is now under the same microscope that was once focused only on Serena. Has she created some of her image problems? No doubt. But her tour doesn't help. In fact it has probably made it worse.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate...

by Savannah

The first of the Masters 1000 tournaments was held in the wealthy California enclave of Indian Wells, California. This post is not about the city of Indian Wells or the Coachella Valley but about the semi finals and finals of the the WTA and the ATP at the yearly tournament held at this location.

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When Victoria Azarenka had to withdraw due to injury the only person who could've denied Maria Sharapova the title was gone. Samantha Stosur also withdrew at the quarterfinal round due to injury so we ended up with semifinals of Sharapova vs Sara Errani and Caroline Wozniacki against Angelique Kerber.

The semi final of interest was Wozniacki vs Kerber. Kerber has a pretty large bandwagon going at this time despite her game having nothing spectacular to recommend it. She's a good, solid player who seems to, like Stosur, fight her way to a quarterfinal, semi or final, and then implode. There are only three women in the WTA who aren't prone to that type of mental lapse and one of them made it to the final.

I'll get to that in a minute. What I'd like to discuss is the match itself. It's my opinion that this match did more to harm the reputation of women's tennis than anything in the recent past. Why? Moonballs. I don't mind them when they're a tactic worked into a rally but when they become THE tactic it's just not watchable tennis.

This match showed that Kerber has a lot to work on. There is a way not to be caught in moon ball hell - we saw it in Sunday's final - but Kerber couldn't think her way out of that particular brown paper bag. Still there were former WTA champions tweeting that Wozniacki had played attacking, aggressive tennis. In some alternate universe maybe but not in this one. I can be annoyed about the match all I want but in the end it was Kerber who needed to step up and she didn't. All's fair in love and war and we all know tennis has nothing to do with love.

There's not much to be said about Sharapova vs Errani. Sharapova used her height and will to overcome Errani who was overmatched from the minute play started.

So to the women's final between Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki. If the dictionary description of what the word intimidation means leaves you with questions watch this match. I think that Sharapova has been wanting to show that just like she got intimidated by Serena Williams last year she can intimidate as well. And believe me she was all that and more. It was the most brutal match I've seen in a while. Wozniacki tried early to go the moon ball route and the balls came back so fast she abandoned the idea. I expected her at any moment to run off the court and once in the fetal position whimper "Please don't hurt me" in the tunnel so thorough was the beat down. If it had been a street fight the EMT's would've been called. If it was a boxing match the cut man would've had his work, well, cut out for him.

I think Sharapova has been looking to get the anger from her beat down out for a long time. Like her or not she can play tennis and she never, not once, let Wozniacki come up for air. In the end there was nothing to say except "brava" and "whoa". Not even Wozniacki's father could go completely into his act. There was nothing he could suggest that would spare his daughter the humiliation she was going through.

Maria Sharapova showed that she can indeed play the intimidation game. It's going to be very interesting if she ends up across the net from the woman for whom the phrase Terror Fabulous was coined in Miami.

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I don't think too many people saw Rafael Nadal making the men's final at Indian Wells. Sure he loves it there, stays at the home of the tournament director and revels in the desert heat but he's been laid up for seven months with injury and just came back on the tour. Indian Wells would be his first big test on a hard court and no one knew how the knee would hold up. He was tentative at the beginning of his return during the South American Spring Swing and there was fear that he'd be the same here.

Besides the current top four men were there. Novak Djokovic, the top ranked man, Roger Federer, Andy Murray who looked to be poised to make a run for the top ranking, and David Ferrer.

Ferrer came in still mentally reeling from the beat down he took in Acapulco and had none of his usual spark. The ultimate confidence player, he exited the scene quickly. Federer got his usual cake walk to the quarters where he faced his nemesis. Novak Djokovic put on his usual acting display for his his fans and made it deep into the tournament as well.

Andy Murray was an interesting case. He showed up much more muscular that he's ever been, his shirt barely able to contain his upper body. He made it to the quarter finals relatively unscathed despite some slow starts and signs of rust after a seven week lay off.But his lack of match play caught up with him in the end when a very much in form Juan Martin del Potro send Murray back to his home in Miami.

Certain circles within the tennis establishment were salivating at the thought of Roger Federer facing Rafael Nadal in the latter's supposed weakened competitive state. I guess Federer wondered where that enfeebled guy was. The man he faced took him out 6-4, 6-2.

So the final came down to Rafael Nadal vs Juan Martin del Potro. Delpo took out Djokovic by the way. Delpo didn't fall for Djokovic's okey doke and despite the fact Djokovic embarrassed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held on to defeat him. To digress for a minute it can be said that Tsonga embarrassed himself. Many of us watching wondered if the ATP still fined players for lack of effort.

So we get to the final. Delpo and Nadal had faced each other in an exho in New York City's Madison Square Garden and Delpo won it. Dogma is that exho's don't matter but the hit and giggle was brought up by comms several times. In the end it didn't matter. Rafa dropped the first set but fought his way to the win. Anyone who thinks the win didn't mean a lot to him had only to witness his scream of joy prone on the court when it was over.

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Of course haters are saying that the slow hard court helped Rafa. It's a hard court, the surface people say Rafa sucks on. Get over it people.

In the end there are three ATP players who need to take a look at where they are.
Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer. In the WTA everyone not named Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams needs a long hard look in the mirror.A lot of people were picking Kerber to break into the upper reaches of the game but there's no there there. The French system isn't producing champions. They all have distinctive, attractive games but the way Tsonga totally unravelled in his match is cause for concern.

As for Aga Radwanska I guess I'm that person. The minute I saw her in soft flats at the players party I knew she wouldn't do much during the tournament. And she's still wearing flats in Miami. Put this in your just saying file. A glamor girl like Aga doesn't wear flats for no reason. I'm not saying she won't win matches. I just think there's something going on with her.

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Since Indian Wells is working hard to really be a fifth Slam mention should be made of the brothers Bryan who won the men's doubles crown.

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Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova took the women's doubles event.

End Notes

I apologize for this post being so late. I started it right after the last ball was struck and I'm just getting to finish it today. Life intervened. Nothing serious, just busy.

The tour has moved on to Miami, the IMG run event that is always good for strange fields since they use it to showcase their talented youth. Federer and Nadal aren't there. Victoria Azarenka has a bum ankle.

Still already there've been some interesting things going on. Madison Keys, who got a wild card into the event, fed fellow US player Ally Kiick a double bagel.
Victoria Duval, someone I've been watching since she was a preteen won her match against Andrea Hlavackova 7-6(4), 6-4, a huge win for her. Brit Heather Watson lost a match 6-1, 5-7, 4-6 to Ayumi Morita of Japan, a match she had been winning 6-1, 4-1, and said she was taking a break from tennis due to burn out then changed her mind and said she wasn't taking a break. This was Watson's comment after the match:

Asked about losing the pattern of the match after such a dominant start she said: "I was playing really well, probably the best I've played this year, and I think I lost my concentration a bit, but that was enough for her to gain some confidence and step forward, and it kind of pushed me back and I started to play a lot worse.
"I still tried to fight but it just wasn't good enough, I wasn't aggressive enough."

Meanwhile 2012 Newcomer of the Year Laura Robson won her opening round match. I can't imagine the pressure these young women are under from the LTA.

On the men's side Ryan Harrison is already out of the tournament losing what some saw as a winnable opening round match against James Blake. Blake won 2&2. That's not even a fight. Like the French the USTA system is not producing winners. There are some promising Americans but they're women (Stephens and Keys) and everyone knows the mens game is what everyone looks at when it comes to tennis right? There were sighs of relief when Sam Querrey won a match that let him stay in the top twenty of the ATP rankings. That means tennis in the US is still good right?

Congratulations go out to Justine Henin and her partner Benoit Bertuzzo who announced the birth of their first child, a daughter Lalie, yesterday March 20. I like the name.

In a brief return to sanity the WTA has folded its Dallas event that took place the week before the US Open. The tournament's place on the calendar never made any sense and I'm glad someone decided to pull the plug. There is already an event in the Bronx that week. Wonder if they'll upgrade it to International level? Just a thought...

Monday, March 11, 2013

No One Stayed

by Savannah

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Marion Bartoli took the court late last evening to play Svetlana Kuznetsova in a match that could hardly be described as marquee for the casual tennis fan. For hard core tennis heads it was an intriguing match up. Marion had just formally announced that she was now being coached by Jana Novotna and Sveta had begun to show signs of having her mind focused on tennis.

It turned out to be what I can only call an "interesting" match. Sveta raced out to a 4-0 lead and it looked as if Maid Marion was still adjusting to life with out father.

But then Sveta did a Sveta and ended up losing the first set and the match.

It should be noted that the day session ran late and that the first match of the night session could also be called a match made for tennis junkies. That match featured American player James Blake playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. I thought Tsonga would wipe the floor with Blake who is playing here thanks to a wild card. There was a decent sized crowd to urge both players on and a lethargic distracted Tsonga was ripe for the picking. Blake came out on fire but soon embroiled himself in an argument with Fergus Murphy on esoteric points of umpiring, something he wouldn't let go. I wonder what it is about US based players that when they reach the point in a match where they know they can't win they start a fight. Is that the way US players tank matches?

Anyway this post is about who stayed late to watch the women's match.

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The above was posted on Twitter right after the match ended. (I don't know who posted it. It was late when I downloaded it and forgot the poster's name. I apologize for using the picture without accreditation).

There were fans there after Marion won the first set but she took a rather long potty break and that sent everyone home. It's cold in the desert at night and I didn't see fans in the upper deck invited to sit in the expensive seats like they do at the US Open. In no way could it be called a crowd. In fact the attendance at WTA matches has been appalling. Fans will watch lower ranked ATP players or head for the practice courts or the soccer field instead of watching the women play. Neither Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova drew a full house. It's a matter of branding with the WTA as I've said before.

It's the fans loss though. Last night's women's match was a great look at two women, one who has never really lived up to her potential and another, a Slam winner, who had lost her way.

Double Standards

Speaking of potty breaks Tomas Berdych took an epic one the other day. The comms on TennisTV were bending over backwards to explain that the bathrooms are a long way from the court where Berdych was playing and that he wasn't trying to play a head game and psych out his opponent. Yeah, right.
The fans got restless and Berdych reappeared on court just before it started getting really ugly. But as the comms said it wasn't his fault the bathroom was so far away. Uh huh.

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.

Friday, March 8, 2013

BNP Paribas Tennis Showdown - The Men

by Savannah

I'm not sure when ESPN joined the men's match. I don't know if they started with the entrance of the four participants when the roars for Serena and Rafa, especially Rafa, almost brought the roof down.

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Who knew that one of these kids would become the star of the evening?

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The players took their places and normal routines were followed.

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It's hard to capture the great shots that both men made.

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And then came time for the comedic interlude.

We'd spotted Ben Stiller and his wife early in the evening and the crowd cheered as Rafa went into the crowd and handed his racquet to the actor.

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No one thought much of Delpo's choice - one of the kids who'd jockeyed for the spot closest to the star players earlier in the evening.

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There were murmurs when the little girl went right to the proper position on court while Stiller had to be prompted where to stand.

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She was an unexpected star of the evening. With great footwork and nice hands at her age I wonder if she'll be able to fight her way to the pro ranks. She's got a few years to go.

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From my vantage point it looked as if both men had a great time.

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There were on court interviews to give and huge tennis balls to be signed.

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Exhibitions are what they are. Both Delpo and Rafa seemed to embrace the spirit of fun earlier and easier than Serena and Vika but in the end a good time was had by all.

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The players all deserved a standing ovation and got them. They deserved to be on the pedestals they stood on at the beginning of the evening. Three of the four are now in California playing at Larry Ellison's BNP Paribas Open that will always be known simply as Indian Wells to hard core fans. One is presumably in her home state resting and preparing for Miami.

Thanks to all of them for giving fans a chance to see not only their skill sets but their personalities. It was a great night.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

BNP Paribas Showdown Tennis - The Women

by Savannah

I took a lot of pictures the other night - more than I thought I did. Since I'm an idiot and it took me awhile to figure out how to put my signature on said pictures I'm just getting to post them today.

Since I also have a thing about sequence I'm going to start with the entrance of both women and the boyfriend of one. Stefan Gordy did come into the arena before Victoria Azarenka so his pictures come before her entry. They're not the best but I hope you get an idea of how things were, starting with a shot of the crowd.

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