Sunday, October 19, 2014

It's Finals Time! The WTA YEC

by Savannah

Posted by @MariaSharapova

The WTA YEC begins it's first year in Singapore Monday October 20th. The top eight women will compete against each other in Round Robin format before beginning single elimination. The breakdown is as follows:

RED GROUP (Seed):

Serena Williams (1)
Simona Halep (4)
Genie Bouchard (5)
Ana Ivanovic (7)

WHITE GROUP (Seed):

Maria Sharapova (2)
Petra Kvitova (3)
Agnieszka Radwanska (6)
Caroline Wozniacki (8)

On Monday Serena Williams will start things off playing Ana Ivanovic at 7:30p Singapore time (that's 7:30a Eastern US Time)
The second match will feature Simona Halep vs Eugenie Bouchard.

Tuesday will feature the White Group with Caroline Wozniacki playing Maria Sharapova at 7:30pm followed by Petra Kvitova vs Agnieszka Radwanska.

Why am I always surprised that Aga ends up at this event? She's not fooling too many people any more and has been trying to increase her aggressiveness but she still comes off as the weakest link in both groups. Each woman has had time to rest and no one is limping into the event this year. Yeah there were reports of this and that hurting but that was players trying to fulfill their tour commitments without flat out withdrawing and facing fines.

Am I surrpised that Bouchard played well enough to make the cut? Nope. She was going to make the cut one way or another so after Serena, Maria and Petra she was the next shoo-in. The head to head between Bouchard and Halep is one apiece.

To be honest I'm more curious about attendance than the tournament. There's a lot of pomp and circumstance going on around the event, enough to make me think the tennis isn't the feature event. Lot's of former players are going to be there. I'm assuming there's a large expat community in Singapore and that seems to be who they're appealing to. I've been looking to find reports on attendance at the recently completed China swing but haven't been successful. If someone has these figures please post a reply here.

But back to the groups. The White Group could come down Sharapova vs Kvitova. Wozniacki can make life miserable for those two though I don't see her winning the group unless something serious happens. In the Red Group the battle will be between Halep, Ivanovic and Bouchard. Bouchard owns the H2H 2-0 (!) against Ivanovic. Ivanovic H2H vs Halep is 2-1 in Ivanovic's favor.

Who do I think will play for the Championship? Many think it'll be Serena vs Pova but if Kvitova can hold her form I think she romps through the group. Keep in mind I don't do predictions well at all so make of that what you will.

The Tarpishev Incident

So this happened as reported by Merlisa Lawrence Corbett.

Shamil Tarpischev, head of the RTF, appeared on the Evening Urgant, a late-night talk show broadcast nationally in Russia. Sitting next to retired WTA player Elena Dementieva, Tarpischev joked with the host about how difficult it is to defeat the Williams sisters.

However, instead of acknowledging the Williams sisters' talents and skills, Tarpischev decided to degrade them. "The Williams brothers," he called them.

The put-down didn't stop there. Ivan Urgant, the host of the show, instigated more thoughtless conversation. He continued (h/t TennisInfoBlog.com):

Look at our athletes, elegant and beautiful. I have tremendous respect for them [Williams sisters], but once one of the sisters passed next to me, and I found myself in her shadow for about forty seconds. They are so physically powerful. Weren't you afraid to play against them?
Tarpischev and Dementieva smiled and listened to this foolishness. They ignored the fact that Russia's own Maria Sharapova is the tallest woman in the Top 100 and hits with as much power as anybody on tour.

The "Williams brothers" remark and the tone Urgant used seemed to suggest that Serena and Venus were otherworldly, some strange creatures to be feared.

The first reports of Tarpishev's remarks came, to my knowledge, on a fansite known more for flame wars than sober discussions of women's tennis, on October 7th.

On October 17th the WTA announced that it was fining and suspending Tarpishev, who has been Russian tennis for many years and is head of the Russian Tennis Federation. It was also on October 17th that NY Times tennis reporter Christopher Clarey posted an article about the incident. In a tweet responding to myself and several others who commended him on his article he said he'd just found out about the incident. In other words something that fans had been aware of for ten days didn't get reported on by a major tennis writer until the WTA announced it's suspension and fine of Tarpishev. Many fans said non tennis media had been reporting on the comments for awhile.

To summarize the head of the Russian Tennis Federation, who at one time had many women in the upper echelons of the sport, makes comments that are at the very least insensitive about two of the icons of the modern game and not one mainstream tennis "journalist" saw fit to report on the comments or express outrage. Some are saying that they were traveling to Singapore and weren't aware of the situation. I guess that "slow boat to China" is still in operation and has no modern communication facilities. Others seem to be doing their best to look the other way and pretend it didn't happen or that since the WTA has acted there is no need for them to say anything.

If we tennisheads have learned anything from this it's that the men and women who consider themselves "journalists" are nothing more than an insular, self serving clique that only reports on what the tours and PR agencies want them to report on. Meanwhile fans have taken over the function of reporting that these entitled few claim they do. That is why this clique has worked so hard to make sure the rabble - read bloggers who are not under contract to some major sports or news organization - are not allowed anywhere near the hallowed media centers. I'll state here that I'm not interested in traveling all over the world but that's me. There are capable bloggers who love the sport and still do even when knowing some of the uglier aspects of it. And let's not forget there are regular fans who while they don't do formal blogs attend and report on majors and not majors on fan sites with no perspective other than that of a fan of the sport. They don't care what agents or the Tours say. They report what they see and that seems to threaten the "tennis press".

Don't get me wrong. Fandom isn't colorblind and several excuses have been made for Tarpishev's remarks. Some say he's old. Some say Russia is still as insular as it has always been. Some say that Tarpishev was making a joke and that Russian humor is different from that of other cultures. Others were saying that Serena and Venus didn't seem to care about the comments so why should anyone else?

Serena herself put an end to that train of thought with a statement she made yesterday :

"I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying," Williams told reporters in Singapore on Sunday.

"I've done the best that I can do, and that's all I can say. So I just wasn't very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren't happy as well.

"But the WTA and the USTA (United States Tennis Association) did a wonderful job of making sure that -- in this day of age, 2014 for someone with his power, it's really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks."

Then there's Marat Safin who said the following (Google Translation from the Russian)

"I do not even know what to discuss here. This is complete nonsense, and on level ground. Adults and behave like children in a sandbox. I am sure that no one is mean to insult or offend. It would be better leaders WTA engaged so that from tennis to make any product, instead of discussing who said what to whom. Maybe Tarpishchev not understand? We understand that nothing he had in mind. Engaged in such nonsense respected association! Do not even want to discuss "- quoted Safina" Sport-Express ".

I don't speak, read or understand Russian but for those who do here is the link to the original article in that language.

I should mention in passing that Elena Dementieva, the one who half way apologized for saying that Richard Williams fixed the matches for his daughters back in the day was present during the television interview. She did and said nothing but even now that she's retired would she dare go against a man as powerful in Russian tennis circles as Tarpishev is? And in the end what happened isn't about Dementieva and Serena. It's what the most powerful man in Russian tennis said about the two women who made his best players footnotes in the recent history of tennis.



3 comments:

Juhan said...

I would like to add one more side to the Tarpishev story. Russia has currently taken up a crusade against the "American oppression over the world" on multiple fronts and the general anti-American sentiment is incredibly high. In this climate it could be even considered "un-Russian" to pass an opportunity to insult US or the Americans.

The follow-up reaction from the Russians to the WTA action is also very typical. Look, for example, at the statements by the Russian officials regarding the Ukraine situation and the economic sanctions by EU.

Savannah said...

Thank you Juhan. That's an important point you've made and one that is not that well known here in the States.

Also welcome. Don't be a stranger.

Karen Williams said...

How long before Sharapova gives up her Russian passport? She is being killed by the Russians for condemning Tarpishev's comments. How galling must it be for her to actually have to defend the Williams Sisters. This story is the definition of irony. LOL