Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Future Is Now

by Savannah

I'm really just dead. I need some weeks off where I don't think about tennis and can kind of regroup. I've had a long couple of years."

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images North America photo f1704834-998a-4f7a-ba6e-a2e5ea98f4f4_zpsbc950392.jpg

Serena Williams said it all during her post match presser April 1 after losing to Jana Cepelova. I pride myself on having heard of most players in the top 100 but I never heard of Ms Cepelova before last night. Serena did not blame the quick turnaround from Miami to Charleston saying she's done it before and she didn't blame the thigh that was heavily wrapped during a medical time out.

"I'm going to go on a vacation, for sure. I need some time off. I just need to take a deep breath and regroup, and I think it will actually help me for the rest of the clay court season coming up."

It took tennis fans to say what Serena didn't. Serena has carried the WTA tour on her back for the last two years. She's played tournaments large and small bringing the smaller events larger audiences and of course more money. But watch the haters come out of the woodwork to criticize her for not playing Fed Cup for the United States. Nothing Serena does is ever good enough for some.

So where is the WTA going now? CEO Allaster sees the future in Asia and is doing everything in her power to set up new events or move existing ones to that part of the world. The WTA has also picked it's new Queen, Eugenie Bouchard. Forget the fact that the player a lot of fans are watching right now is Simona Halep. Halep speaks little to no English so that will hamper her in becoming well known in the immediate future. The German women, who looked to be ready to storm the top ranks of the sport have fallen off and look to be a collection of head cases.
Players like Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Angelique Kerber (yes Kerber plays for Germany but is ethnically Polish and lives in Poland) are the players trying to force Serena, and Li Na out of the top positions. Yeah I'm going to pay big bucks to see these women. I'm not saying this to be a bitch I'm saying it because none of them has the "it" factor. Aga's game is an acquired taste. Domi is a ball of action and a fighter and may be the only one who comes close to that "it" factor, that star factor. Kerber's game is the cure for insomnia. It used to be Aga who would send me to never never land but she's actually been improving her aggressiveness. Halep does a lot of things very well and when focused she will find a way to beat you. But she doesn't light up the court.

I haven't forgotten Victoria Azarenka. She's found a life outside of tennis. She's also been injured and came back too soon trying to meet the demands of the tour. I don't look for anything from her until late spring into summer. And don't forget she is not a fan favorite thanks to the shenanigans that she engaged in early in her career. As for Maria Sharapova I get the feeling the jig is almost up with her. She can intimidate some of the up and comers or those who's time has come and gone but no one in the top five is really afraid of her. Her biggest claim to fame right now is a candy and all of her endorsements not her game.

I'm going to skip the US women. I'm tired of talking about them. Their play speaks for itself.

So with the WTA's major talent pool seemingly centered in Eastern Europe right now it's focus is on Asia. After Li Na who is there? Instead of looking for ways to strengthen European tournaments the WTA is getting rid of them. Too bad. If nothing else the WTA may be forced to promote women's tennis instead of a single person. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either.

The Fed Cup/Davis Cup Crisis

I've always argued that the format for Davis Cup and Fed Cup didn't need changing. Patriots would always turn out and play for their country and all was right with the world. I was wrong. I see that Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic and Nishikori Kei of Japan, both top players for their country, will not play in the tie between the two nations. I don't know any Japanese player who is anywhere near Nishikori's level. Meanwhile the Czechs will rely on Radek Stepanek who is more of a doubles player now. Fed Cup is having similar issues.

What should be done? I have no idea. It seems that both of these competitions are evolving into events featuring the up and coming. The big boys and girls need to be ready for main tour events and may deign to play Davis Cup or Fed Cup when their country makes them an offer they can't refuse. The reason this is somewhat alarming is that players are maturing much later now and their quality of play is much, much lower than Challenger level at times. If fans know they're going to an exalted Challenger instead of an event featuring the best countries have to offer attendance will go down and the stars will feel justified in not playing events that throw off their training schedules not to mention their yearly schedule. Look at what the WTA did after the first round of Fed Cup this year. How do you hold Premier Mandatory events after Fed Cup which every top player is under pressure to play?

The tours are going to have to sit down with the ITF and work something out. Berdych has suggested every two years. That's a nice starting point for discussion.

End Note

My sister is responding very well to treatment. She can follow commands now and is awake large parts of the day. She will be moved to a long term care facility shortly. This is very exciting news. Now if I can get rid of this bug I picked up...