Saturday, July 5, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Champion and The WTA

by Savannah

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Photo via CliveBrunskillGettyImagesEurope

It's been awhile since a women's match meant so much to so many people. Petra Kvitova ran the WTA's favorite and new golden girl Eugenie Bouchard out of London. She did it using old school big babe tennis. Early on Ms Bouchard tried to take advantage of Petra's inability to move well but in the end it was Petra who won the two long rallies that commentators had been saying Bouchard needed in order to defeat her opponent showing that she does know how to hit winners on the run. Petra also got off some cross court shots that left vapor trails. When her game plan didn't work Bouchard may as well have thrown in the towel and said "no mas". The match was over. She had nothing to counter the power and yes, skill, thrown at her by Ms Kvitova. Her vaunted game (vaunted by some anyway. I'll get to that in a few) was exposed for what it is: ugly technique, lack of ability to think her way out of a jam, a game still based more on a junior game than on a pro level, top ten one. Bouchard's comment after the match, that winning her Junior Wimbledon title meant more to her than making a Wimbledon Final was shocking to me.

"I still think my junior title was better than this. I think winning a tournament without losing a match is always something special. That was a big moment for me," said the Montreal native.

"But I appreciate what I've done these past few weeks, though and this whole year. I think it comes close."

Appreciating what she did at the tournament seemed more of an afterthought than a true expression of being proud of getting to a Wimbledon Final at 19.

There was also the way she had to be prodded into making a circuit of the court showing off her trophy. I'm guessing I had turned away by then because I didn't see that happen although it was mentioned on #TennisTwitter.

I think before I move on I should say something about the much commented on Carlos Rodriguez style coaching done by Bouchard's coach Nick Saviano. ESPN's Chris Evert did get in a snide remark about Saviano talking to himself and his player but that was the extent of comment on it. If he was doing the same thing today no one was talking about it. Did chair ump Marija Cicak let it be known she wasn't having it? Did it get so blatant that they spoke to Saviano about it? Thursday Bouchard had all the answers. Today she had none. What changed between then and today?

I can segue into my main points by citing the abysmal, one sided ESPN coverage. A casual fan tuning in for the match could be excused for thinking Bouchard was dominating woman's tennis. ESPN aired what could only be described as a feature film feating the Canadian and showed her in a kimono during one of her post match interviews. I thought for a minute that Bouchard was playing herself until they showed Petra in a two or three minute clip and pawned her off on Hannah Storm for a short in studio interview before they went back to all Eugenie all the time. It was a horrible display of corporate cheerleading by a network that is able to cover other sports with much better fairness. It's why I feel that ESPN is one of the big losers today.

The biggest loser today though was the WTA and its CEO Stacey Allaster. One tennishead posted a joke after the match that Allaster had stepped down as CEO. A lot of people didn't get the joke. The people who founded the WOMENS Tennis Association did not intend to found a pep squad. The WTA was founded to advance the visibility of women who play tennis and give them the recognition they deserve. Recently though the organization seems to have become cheerleaders for the type of player it seems to favor. Everyone else is relegated to soft porn photo sessions or invisibility. As has been pointed out this blonde obsession started with Chris Evert but it seems to have become worse under the current administration. First we had Caroline Wozniacki nicknamed "Sunshine" by Ms Allaster. Now we have the second coming Eugenie Bouchard. Allaster hasn't given her a nickname yet. It's getting to the point that you have to be an afficionado of women's tennis to know anyone outside of Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard. The excuse was that the woman who has really been the most consistent, Simona Halep, isn't known much outside of her native Romania and those of us who like to follow women's tennis for, you know, the tennis. They said that Halep didn't speak English well. I understand her very well. When fans can make jokes about the CEO resigning behind a single loss by a single player and have people believe it, when a player is openly called "WTA Favorite" and the title isn't challenged there is a problem.

I've been tracking a thread on a fan forum that asks why Bouchard is hated so much. What fans (not trolls) are saying is stop shoving this person down our throats. You tried to sell us on one mediocre player and now you're saying we should all be in love with a player who thinks her junior achievement ranks higher than her senior tour achievements, a player who needs to have media training beyond being "pretty and blonde", who needs to understand she's done nothing worthy of worship yet. I understand Canada's excitement but remember a guy named Milos Raonic who was going to decimate the big shots of men's tennis? That guy who can talk shit but can't put his money where his mouth is? Yeah him. The one who lost 4, 4 and 4 to that player he said was an old man standing in his way. He's not in the men's final by the way.

Sorry for digressing. When a hard fought for organization descends to the level of laughing stock it's time to revisit your mission. ATP players have gone back to heaping scorn on WTA players the way they used to back in the day. The joint tournaments that the WTA so values rarely feature women's matches even between top players. Instead of taking advantage of the dominace of Eastern European players with tournaments in that part of the world everything is being moved to Asia. I've read all about the potential audience but right now that potential seems a long, long way off. At the most hundreds of fans show up to tournaments held there (except for Japan which is also losing a tournament) and I'm being kind about how many show up. The WTA has become a side show, and no one is afraid to call it that to its face.

It's also interesting how after Kvitova disposed of Bouchard in 55 minutes all of these people came out of the woodwork saying women's matches should be best of 5 instead of best of 3 in majors. Why is that a thing now? Would it have made a difference today? I don't think so. Many of these same people were also praying for rain to give Bouchard time to "collect her thoughts" or whatever. Whatever. The gods rained their blessings down on Petra after the match was over.

So congratulations to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic for winning her second Wimbledon title in three years and for showing what she, and many others, think about hype and those who are its recipients.

A Sad Note

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photo via Amy Fetherolf TPN News

I first wrote about Victoria Duval when she was a child. Even then there was a bit of noise around her potential. I saw her take out Samantha Stosur last year at the US Open and was so glad to see her starting to put herself firmly on the road to being a major factor in women's tennis. You can only imagine how I felt when I read the announcement about her illness. I'm glad it was caught early. I'm glad that both of her parents are doctors. I'm very glad she is young and fit and has a great support system around her. Wishing you a speedy recovery Vicky. Stay strong.

13 comments:

vw said...

I agree with your whole post. I would like to add Laura Robson as the new 'it' gal but she fizzled out. I heard Evert say Booshar was the same as baby fed on the other side. Both young, talented and marketable. The tennis axis is at it again! How on earth is Dmitrov marketable more so than say a Berdych or Djokovic? Last time I saw a map, Bulgaria was even more east than Serbia. But they put baby in Nike duds, tell the world he LIVES in LA, is 'dating' Sharapova!, speaks wonderful English.I watched breakfast at Wimbledon and saw the whole program devoted to Genie-- Bieber tweets, and some famous guy in her box who is a Genie fan. They even trotted out Fergie's daughter in the box to watch the Eugenie she was named after. It was all too much for me and when that match started I knew Petra was gonna beat some axis azz. At the net the handshake was cool and after they posed for trophy photos and Genie turned to leave I noticed a little ice in Petra's smile. Yes, Czech and Serbia are not marketable but Bulgaria is!! Tennis axis is still spinning....

Savannah said...

vw thank you for your post. There are lots of us who are angry about what the WTA is doing to women's tennis and what the tennis axis powers are trying to do to the image of tennis. Tennis fans, real fans, not those folks who live and die at the discretion of PR agencies and the tours, are all calling bull shit and the spin doctors don't know what to do. The backlash against the latest golden girl is strong.

Bulgaria is smaller and poorer than either the Czech Republic or Serbia but Dimitrov wears Nike. Go figure.

Re Dimitrov and Sharapova you've said all that needs to be said. Those with eyes can see.

Randy Burgess said...

Finally got to watch the final on replay. Man, those crosscourt backhands from Kvitova! I was also struck (even without having read about it beforehand) by how well she was moving: returning, coming forward, and especially scrambling to make some wild saves. She looked a different player than I remember.

FYI regarding the whole media thing, you might enjoy reading Matt Zemek's account of the match over on "Attacking the Net" - including these trenchant observations: "For reasons partly connected to tennis but mostly connected to the workings of the marketing-industrial complex, Bouchard — blond, telegenic, North American — has become an object of media attention, if not affection. The media machinery was waiting to herald the arrival of its next uber-marketable Golden Girl. What it got instead was supremely attractive and sexy tennis… from Bouchard’s opponent."

Savannah said...

Randy I took your advice and read Matt Zemek's piece. He did a great job breaking down the match and the coverage of the match by the media.

One of the analysts on ESPN this morning talked about how Bouchard made no change in her game plan. Believe me it wasn't one of the ladies. That is one of the things that struck me about the match. Was Saviano spoken to after the semifinal? Did Cicak give some kind of warning to him that we weren't shown? I wonder if something about it was said on the BBC coverage since ESPN ignored his antics in the semi final with Evert making only a passing comment about him "talking to himself, talking to his player".

I know that after a big event a post mortem is done breaking down what went right and what went wrong. Since ESPN is still doing damage control from yesterday's disastrous pre match build up I'm guessing they're laying the ground work to say "everybody" thought Bouchard was going to win and it's our job to introduce her to the public that only tunes in to watch the Finals. Yeah, right.

They're already saying Bouchard will "do well" at the US Open.

vw said...

I guess we can't forget that Dmitrov is a client of Roger's and Tony Godsick/Mary Jo Fernandez. Maybe that's why the HUGE PR campaign and the fact he's in Nike duds.

Oh and another thing that seems bogus to me is the Sunshine/Serena friendship which Sunshine mentions whenever she can. Serena doesn't need Caro and I think the spin machine is 'urging" Serena to friend her.

Jmac said yesterday 'Dimitrov really wanted that win and Novak beat that pup at least for another year." LOL

vw said...

I remember Chris McKendry sitting there and saying "these are not Canadians anymore but North Americans" as if a land mass should determine who we sheeple should root for. Shameful. I read that Booshar refused to shake hands with her Fed Cup opponent and she screwed over Laura Robson by stealing her coach.

They are trying to hype Aussie Kyrgios too but I suppose he is too exotic for the axis-Greek/Malaysian.

In defense of Sharapova, at least she has 5 slams and can produce every now and then. She's still Russian though and they aren't well liked. I remember being at the final of Saint Kim/Sharapova at Cincy and as we were leaving some people on the street asked who had won the women's final. When I said Clijsters they all cheered. Crowd also didn't support Maria at Cincy. She's perfect for the axis except she is still a damned and dreaded Russky.

Savannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Savannah,

When are you going to realize your "reverse discrimination" of players just because they're blonde? Get over yourself. You said Wozniacki got to number playing "junior-level" tennis; now you say Bouchard has done the same to get to the top 10. How about you take off your blonde-filtering glasses and open your eyes to look at the actual tennis they're playing.

Savannah said...

Dear Unknown

When the WTA starts promoting all of it's players, short, tall, blonde, brunette, red head, straight hair or curly, Hispanic, Spanish, Central American, African American, Russian, etc. then we can talk about whether my comments about how the WTA promotes/markets tall blondes in an effort to draw in the Asian market that supposedly loves tall blonde women we can talk. When the CEO of the WTA gives a non blonde a nickname, we can talk. When all of this happens come back and we can discuss my "reverse discrimination" on my part. Have a nice day.

Karen Williams said...

Oh man? Some people seriously don't get what the WTA is about do they? You need only look at the HoF last weekend to see what it is about. Look at TC, not one minority commentator on the team and the only time ESPN trots out Granderson is when they want a black face to criticise Serena. I know Unknown and many others like to bury their heads in the sands about tennis, but as a black person who really & truly loves this sport, it sickens me sometimes to see the way how talented black athletes in the sport are treated. Look at the way the media has treated Sloane Stephens. They built her up & they are doing their everlasting best (with lots of help from Sloane by the way) of tearing her down.

Lest people think we are practising reverse discrimination, I am a huge fan of Simona Halep. Big fan. As a matter of fact a lot of people will tell you who follow me on Twitter that it is because of me why they even know of Halep and yet the media continues to ignore her, despite her proving that she belongs in the elite of women's tennis.

I can tell you this with certainty, there is no way Halep was going to get bagelled by Petra or anyone in a Grand Slam final. You need only look at the French Open final to prove my point. I like Genie. I love her focus & her intensity & I love her don't give a shite attitude but there are a whole lot more talented players in the WTA that tennis fans know & love and for whom the WTA could do a much better job of marketing. It is not reverse discrimination Unknown, it is the truth about women's tennis.

Savannah said...

Thank you Karen.

People like us are very familiar with racism in it's many forms. What we don't encounter in our every day lives are the issues, I'll use that word, between the different European ethnicities. It's those issues that affect the WTA's stance towards Halep. Do you remember when the Eastern European women first burst on the scene? An American commentator said, on the air, that they're so driven because they come out of dire poverty (actually the person implied the Eastern Europeans all crawl out of hovels in the countryside) and don't want to go back to it. Nothing much has changed. The WTA ignores Kvitova, Halep, Hantuchova (yes) and is ignoring the fact that Czech women are dominating Fed Cup.

I don't like to talk about these things since I'm a mere observer and not a paticipant in them. I saw it first hand at work so I do have an idea how it works. That's why it's amazing that a Bulgarian man is being touted as the next big thing commericially and other wise while a Romanian woman and a Czech woman are virtually ignored. There is also a large amount of animus towards Spaniards (and I'm not talking about HIspanics) and I'll leave it at that.

I'm sorry for Sloane. She doesn't yet realize that she, to quote Bob Dylan, is "only a pawn in their game".

Karen Williams said...

Poor Sloane. If only she had listened to Venus and Serena when she had the chance. Poor girl.

Unknown said...

I see you all are still on your high horse that is the anti-blonde campaign. Talk about crying over spilled milk. Have you ever thought about, say, ignoring all this media advertising by WTA and other sources like normal people do? Do you also pay attention to every mediocre, hackneyed commercial that you see on TV? I don't know if you've noticed, but the WTA has been promoting Halep and Kvitova on their website, Twitter, etc. perhaps after hearing your outcries. I don't see why it bothers you all so much, other than not being able to stand seeing another blonde be successful.

P.S. For the record, I'm not Caucasian, nor am I black. Just setting the record straight