Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Facepalm to End The Year

by Savannah

I thought that the silly season was just about over. Live tennis, real tennis, not some ginned up exhibition that pays players a ton of money to show up, but real live tennis will be starting soon.

Silly me. I should've known better. The WTA, in its never ending mission to dumb down women's tennis will be introducing an app during Brisbane that will do all the things that make match play exciting. What are those things you ask? Oh, little things like knowing where your opponent is standing. Is she standing way behind the baseline, on the baseline, or just inside the baseline to receive your serve and returns? Simply looking across the net will tell you that.

Is she hitting to your forehand or backhand? Is she taking advantage of your slowness on court to try and make you move? If you know the success of your game relies on you dominating the center of the court and you're constantly trying to catch up to balls that are catching the line you're in trouble.

The WTA has a solution for you. It's introducing an app that will do your thinking for you. Paul Malone a sportswriter for the Courier Mail of Brisbane posted an article detailing just how wonderful and groundbreaking this app is. Forget that the app will only be used by the WTA. Forget that it will not be used during Slams even though some muckety muck associated with Tennis Australia feels it will be allowed to be used during Slams.

And you know ATP players are somewhere laughing their asses off.

The women's game is already disrepected by the men and I think this will make it worse. The whole point of tennis is to figure out what your opponent is doing and adapt to it. The WTA, with oncourt coaching, has already dumbed down the women's game encouraging the spectacle of a coach swanning down out of the stands to hold his charges hand and clear her muddled mind. Now the coaches will have this app so that the poor dear can see how far back her opponent is standing, see where her opponent is hitting returns to her and tell her what to do. I wonder what the player has been doing out there all this time? Filing her nails while balls whiz past her because the heat of competition is too much for her?

There are already people, me among them, who see a drop in the quality of women's tennis coming. It's coming in mens tennis too but they're not doing something as asinine as this. This is only going to hasten the decline and perhaps make it impossible for the sport, as played by women, to return to its glory days. Serena Williams dominates women's tennis because she's always thinking out there. She can change strategy during a match and mentally wears her opponents down. Thinking on court can be done but apparently the WTA thinks its special snowflakes need an app to show them what should be done routinely during match play.

There are many passionate followers of women's tennis out there. I hope that they condemn this further dumbing down of women's tennis. Intelligence will no longer be the deciding factor for a female player. Her coach will do everything for her. That way she can concentrate on magazine covers, fashion spreads and selfies. Oh, and staged photoshoots with boyfriends.


Randy Burgess said...

I wonder, did this app get started in part because Hawkeye-generated data has been provided to commentators, such that during a match they will now tell you all these sorts of stats?

The worst stats are the ones generated by IBM - impressive-sounding but utterly beside the point, as Jeff Sackman has repeatedly pointed out. The Hawkeye stats aren't quite as offensive. It is somewhat interesting . . . well, OK, vaguely interesting for a nano-second during a break in play . . . to be told by a commentator like Robbie K. that the stats show that player X's hit points averaged farther behind the baseline in set 1, which he lost, than in set 2, which he won. But my thinking is, what such numbers reflect is an almost accidental byproduct of the complexity of play. It would be ridiculous to conclude that a stat such as baseline percentages can show something like "Federer realized he was too far back in set 1 so in set 2 he moved up." Or even something like "Federer played more aggressively in set 2." It's the details of play & counter-play that are interesting, not bland aggregates.

So I don't know what such an app could possibly offer a player or a coach in real time. Unless they're being paid by the WTA to use it while the cameras are on them, it's hard to see it happening.

Savannah said...

I agree.

Broadcasters have to assume that some of their audience is accidental and therefore not tennis savvy so a broadcaster has to mention what is easily observable to a tennishead.

Just an aside Robbie Koenig and Jason Goodall, when they're not fanboying, will talk about the finer points of a match. They were the first to focus on Rafa's grip changes during a point for instance. Now even Gimelstob does it.

But back to your main point. All this app is doing is aggregating match stats. It's not presenting the nuances of the sport, the things that make it beautiful. Needless to say it's the nuances that allow a player to win or lose a match. That can't be captured by an app.

If a player is so unconcious on court she doesn't know how her opponent is positioning herself or handling her game no app will be able to help her. I wonder how much money the WTA spent on this?

Randy Burgess said...

Hopefully not much $$. Anyway I just want to add that every time I hear Jason Goodall pompously finish off a sentence with " . . . the best in the business," I think about giving up watching tennis. He says that about 10 times per match. And he has even started repeating some of Robbie's pet cliches as if they were his own, e.g. "early doors." Help!

Savannah said...

LOL so true! I've started using "done and dusted" in my Twitter posts so...

Seriously I think working with Koenig raises the level of his broadcast mates though. I can think of a couple who would make Robbie run screaming out of the booth though. *cough* John McEnroe*cough* or *cough* Gimelstob *cough*

Craig Hickman said...

Hello Randy and Savannah. I hope you both had a Merry Christmas. I do miss talking about tennis, but I enjoy stopping by from time to time to see what's up in the tennis worlds. I see that not much has changed.

Randy Burgess said...

Hi Craig - nice to hear from you! Yes, not too much has changed. A small good thing on the men's side - I just read today that Cilic has had a shoulder problem the last 6 months. Many fans & commentators assumed he had just flamed out and was a one-hit wonder. So if he heals up, maybe he'll make more noise & there will be more of a changing of the guard. Anyway, I miss your iconic voice when talking about tennis, but I know you are doing good & important work so that's OK. Be well.

Savannah said...

Craig!!! So glad to see you! I know you're a busy man but I'm glad you stopped by to see how your protege is doing.

They've changed and they haven't. I think in two or three years we'll be talking about this as a golden age.

Did you read about the plagiarism scandal in England involving Neil Harman? Have you read about the coaching merry-go- round? I mean Isner hired Gimelstob as a coach!

Anyway congratulations on your successful career! Good to hear from you.

Savannah said...

I hadn't read about Cilic's shoulder. That explains a lot.

Randy Burgess said...

Yes, it could. He was awesome at the Open and then fzzt. Everybody figured it was mental and he didn't enlighten anybody, I guess. Stoic type.

BTW, I wish I had remembered to tell Craig that you are keeping up his tradition of a thoughtful tennis space. Though I'm sure he knows that.

Savannah said...

Thank you Randy. I try.