Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tennis Questions and Answers Part Deux

by Savannah

I know many of you probably think I'm a hater. I did kind of rant about the journalistic ethics or lack there of of the so called tennis media. I got on their case about giving Nishikori Kei short shrift after his epic three plus hour match against the ATP #1 and I dragged them about not following up with Maria Sharapova when she was evasive and dismissive of their questions and wouldn't tell them which hip was hurt so badly it affected her match versus Dominika Cibulkova.

Let's fast forward to last night's three plus hour match versus the ATP #1. This time the man playing was one Grigor Dimitrov, the man the ATP is dying to make happen. Was there a difference in the post match presser? You bet there was.

Grigor Dimitrov 22-01-14
Wednesday, 22 January, 2014

Q. Do you think you'll look back on this match as an opportunity that got away or a step forward in your progression?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, there's a lot of mixed feelings right now. I'm a bit shattered. It's tough losing that match, my first quarterfinal. I came out expecting nothing less than to win.

All the credit to Rafa. He's been a tremendous competitor, great guy off the court. We had a great battles the past year and now again, and hopefully in the future more.

The one thing I'm really excited is to actually get back on the court in the upcoming weeks and start working and come up to the same stage and try to do it again.

Of course I'm deeply disappointed. I mean, I'm not going to lie. But, you know, in the end of the day I have to take the positives and the negatives out of the match and just kind of move on.

Happy with the situation at the moment. Again, all the credit to Rafa. I think he played a great match. Also his physicality came over towards the end of the match. He's not one of the best, I think he's the best player right now.

Hopefully we're going to have more battles in the future together.

Q. You exchanged some words at the net with him. What did he say to you?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I mean, I don't want to say what he told me. The one thing is we have tons of respect for each other, again, on and off the court. You know, he just wished me luck and, of course, all those things.

In the end of the day I know I'm going to play him again. We have a lot of jokes here and there with him, but that's great. Of course, congrats to him and I think the team. That's just how it goes in the slams, in matches like this.

You know, he's a good man.

Q. What have these two weeks done for your confidence and belief going forward?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Confidence, yeah, obviously always going to be there in a way. It's one thing you've worked so hard and you kind of get rewarded a little bit, you know, coming to that first quarterfinal to me was, of course, big.

But I had expectations for myself. That wasn't just to go out there and play. So, you know, that's to me the biggest disappointment, the negative part of it, of course.

But in the end of the day, you know, I want to get to that position again, quarters, semis, final, whatever it is, any big tournament. That's my goal. That's why I'm actually excited to get on court in the upcoming weeks.

Of course I shed a few tears, but it should hurt. It should hurt. And it does hurt, so...

You know, I can take a lot of things, but at the moment I'm just a bit all over the place, yeah.

Q. Going into that fourth set having lost the last two tiebreaks so closely, how hard was it to go into that fourth set?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Not easy. Not easy. I felt that he actually stepped up his game a little bit more. Again, his physicality came in even more. He held his ground better in the fourth set.

Even though I felt I had gaps here and there, he was never letting me take a charge of the point or any of his service games. He actually served really good in the fourth. We both struggled a little bit here and there occasionally, but that's in the game.

Again, I think, I mean, it's just different when you play against Rafa than any other players. In a way you know what to expect. Even though you know what to expect, sometimes it still goes his way.

But I'm excited. I'm excited. I think in a way the fourth set could have gone either way. Depends of the start. But, you know, the outcome wasn't very positive for me.

Q. Rafa said after the match that you have all the qualities to become a great champion. Do words like that mean something to you?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: It's nice to hear. It's nice to hear, you know. I'm flattered. But till it actually happens, even if you say it, it doesn't justify the presence [sic]. We know each other, me and him.

Again, tons of respect for each other. I appreciate what he said, of course. But I think I still have a long way to go out there and I need to improve. I need to improve every day. I felt that, you know, those two weeks, even though I haven't played my best tennis throughout the whole weeks, I still felt I've improved.

Actually the work that I've done in the past months, it actually comes in. To me, at that stage, at that point, that's the most important thing. It's good to refresh a little bit and get back.

Q. You mentioned his physicality in the fourth set. Do you see that's an area of your game you still need to improve?
GRIGOR DIMITROV: I think in a way. I think every player, if you just look around, you know, you need your legs. That's basically just what it is nowadays. The game has become so physical throughout all the years. You know only the strong guys are surviving.

You see up in the last eight out here, I mean, all those guys are Grand Slam champions. They're experienced guys. They're strong guys. Of course, everything has to, of course, build up and take its toll until you actually reach that stage.

But of course, I mean, I have areas. I know I have areas that I can definitely improve even more. I think it's just what I have right now is still work in progress. When I come out on the court or in the gym every day, I don't work for the day after. I look in the future.

At the end of the day, tennis is not a sprint. It's a marathon sport. You play five sets here, best of five. You know, it's always nice to see where you're at, especially in events like that.

Q. If you had that forehand again on the set point...
GRIGOR DIMITROV: Go out there now.

Q. Sorry. Would you go the same way? Were you worried about his forehand?

Q. Second set.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: What about the first? I'm more mad about the first one.

What can I say? It hurts. You know, I'm happy that I took the decision. Once you take decision, never look back. Same thing in life: you make mistakes, you make mistakes. It's in the past.

Obviously I got to put that in the past. You know, it's just a tough shot, you know (tearing up). It's a tough choice. I'm sure I could have done something different. I'm sure I could have done something different.

But in a match everything comes down to a split of a second. You know, it's whether in or out.

Amazing how they came up with all those questions for Dimitrov isn't it? Why weren't they asked of Kei? Again I'm not a trained journalist so maybe I'm a bit naīve. A man plays another man for over three hours and only one gets asked about his process, his thoughts? Kei speaks English. They know that. He spent time in the States. But it seems to me that all of the "reporters" have bought into the "Dimitrov is the future" meme so he is more deserving of fans interest and time, because, well, because.

And funny, he wasn't asked about his girlfriend.

Speaking of the ladies...

i.eurosport photo 11e1127c-fc96-4a1c-aded-9dc817591972_zpsa2da616b.jpg

The now old school group Public Enemy warned told us a long time ago "don't believe the hype". Just before her match against Dominika Cibulkova Simona Halep announced that she would be working with Wim Fissette who last worked with Kim Clijsters. I was a little surprised since Halep had been playing so well but I don't follow her that closely and didn't know she was playing without a coach. Her match against Cibulkova showed that she desperately needs one.
A coach isn't there to make hotel reservations and set up your itinerary. He or she is there to help you handle the pressure not only of a Grand Slam Quarterfinal but also the pressure of expectations.

Some of Simona's fans were already putting her in the top three and challenging for the top spot. Cibulkova dismantled her and yes Halep was tight but she was never in the match. I'm glad to see she didn't go for a "name", that she went for someone who stays out of the limelight and works with what his charge has to help get her to where she wants to be.

That said I was already looking forward to the next match, Victoria Azarenka vs Agniezska Radwanska. I was unimpressed by what I'd seen from Azarenka up to yesterday/last night but figured she would up her game now that she was in the quarters. To be fair she did try. But Aga has learned to add aggression to her "now you see it now you don't" hocus locus mind fuck of a game. And she totally destroyed Azarenka's mind in their match neutralizing Vika's weapons and making her look like a rookie on the court.

The women's semifinals will see Agniezska Radwanska vs Dominika Cibulkova and Li Na vs Eugenie Bouchard. What can I say? You can't count any of these women out.

I've been posting about double standards lately but David Ferrer shoving a line judge out of the way so he can put his towel down defines the tennis "media"'s inability to be fair. If you haven't seen it here's a gif someone made.

Now just imagine the firestorm if Serena Williams did that. A hefty fine, banned from the sport, you name it.
So far from the "tennis media"? Crickets.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Questions and Answers Tennis Style

by Savannah

I rag on the so called tennis media a lot don't I? Some of you may think that I envy them their access to players and shit like that.

No, I rag on them because they're a bunch of spineless idiots who do what agents and yes, the tours want them to do instead of covering stories that the average fan may be interested in.

 photo cb7f145b-fa1d-4045-a105-16bdab6ddb03_zps390f6007.jpg
Aaron Favila AP

Exhibit A is one Kei Nishikori, or more properly Nishikori Kei for, well, cultural reasons. At any rate Mr. Nishikori played the match of his life last night. After a physical melt down in a warm up event he's played well in the blast furnace named Melbourne. If that had been, say, Sam Querrey or any of the nameless faceless Brits not named Andy Murray his post match press conference would've been packed with people asking him how it felt to play so well and lose in straight sets. Instead this is what happened:

Q. What do you take away there the match today?
KEI NISHIKORI: You know, first of all it's really disappointed because had some chances to at least get one set, and I couldn't. I mean, both tiebreaks he was playing much better. He raise his level and he was playing good.

But, yeah, a couple points was amazing points. Yeah, I thought I was playing good. Some important points I couldn't get. You know, the games can change completely.

But, yeah, I think I was playing well to not beat them but have some chances to, you know, at least win one set.

So, you know, I think that was best game I have against Rafa this four or five times.

Q. So there's some satisfaction?
KEI NISHIKORI: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I think that was the closest game I had against Rafa.

Think I'm kidding? Here's the link

What a shameful way to treat a man who left it all out there.

Let's look at how these steely eyed members of the Fourth Estate treated another player, one named Maria Sharapova. During her match against Dominika Cibulkova she indicated that she needed a medical time out for what was later revealed to be glute strain, literally a pain in the butt. This is how her presser opened:

Q. What was your health issue there at the end of the second set?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I have a bit of a strain the trainer told me in the hip area.

Q. How much was that troubling you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, those aches and pains are expected when you spend a long time on the court. Just have to play through it.

Q. When things weren't going your way in the second and third set, what were you telling yourself to get back into the contest?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't been playing the best tennis of this tournament, but I found ways to get through to the last two matches.

Tried to do that again today, but she played extremely well.

Q. Is it the same hip issue you had at Wimbledon? Do you think it's the same area?

Do you THINK it's the same area? How many hips does she have? Last I checked like most of us she has two. What the hell kind of soft question is that? And excuse me, non journalist here is asking where the hell was the follow up question? How about which hip was it then?

It goes on.

Q. When did the hip first start giving you trouble?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't know a particular moment, but I think it was just because I played a lot. This is only my second tournament back, so it was those types of things that are expected. Just have to find a way to block them out.


Q. Will you quantify what the hip problem prevented you from doing the last two sets? Was it movement?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don't think it's rocket science. Just when you play a lot of tennis, you're going to get these types of aches and pains and certain movements that you feel it on.


Q. Because you played in such hot conditions earlier on in the tournament, do you think that might have taken a slight toll on your body?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I can't use that as an excuse.

Yes it's to her credit that she didn't use the out the questioner gave her but most of the questions were of the same softball variety.

Personally I would've liked to have heard more about Kei, more than what seemed to be one reporter could ask.

The tennis press routinely decides who is worthy and who is not, who we're supposed to like and who we're not.

Pova's presser ended with this question:

Q. Are you going to stick around Melbourne as long as Grigor is in?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You know what? I hope he stays as long as possible. I'm not sure what my traveling schedule is at the moment.

Ah, love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It Was "Hotter Than July"

by Savannah

As the cliché says we're at the business end of the Australian Open. Sixteen men and sixteen women are all that remain of draws that started out with 128 men and 128 women. It's been a week hasn't it?

There is no doubt what the big story of week one was. Everyone knew it would be the heat. Not just regular summer time high nineties flirting with but not going over the one hundred degree mark. By the way please bear with me. The United States is the only country still using Fahrenheit to measure wire temperature so while I now know that forty degrees Celsius or Centigrade means you're hitting Death Valley day time temperatures I still think in Fahrenheit. But no matter what system you use to measure air temperature the title of Stevie Wonder's song still applies.

Let me digress for a minute. As serious tennis fans we've long known that the men and women who run the Grand Slams are not demigods. They're men and women who put a sport on display to the general public for profit. We get that. What we do expect is that they value their product, the players, over everything else. If they players can't perform at their top level no fans will show up. If you're a member of the Twitterati you're also aware that when a totally lopsided draw is presented by one tour or another the bitching starts as soon as said draw is done. When you have one day of play that leaves most fans underwhelmed and unafraid to say so you have to wonder how the computer could do such a thing. But the draws are random so this kind of thing can happen.

But back to the weather. When the temperature goes over a certain level the body's inner core, our own personal thermometer, goes haywire. When the body's core can't regulate body temperature mayhem ensues.

Here's a brief medical explanation.

Our bodies try to keep an average temperature of around 37 C (98.6F). It does this in two ways: by a process called vasodilation and sweating.

Vasodilation sends warm blood out to the skin’s surface. The warm blood is closer to the air outside, therefore moving the heat away from the body. This is how it tries to cool the body.

Sweating allows the body to get rid of heat by moving water to the body’s surface. The water then evaporates.

But in Australia, the heat is making it much more difficult for the body to cool itself off.

“In the Australian Open, you have a third challenge..the air temperature is warmer than your body… You’re actually not losing heat, you’re gaining it,” Stephen Cheung, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Ergonomics and a professor at the University of Brock’s Kinesiology Department, who studies the effects of temperature on our bodies. ”So the only way to lose heat is through evaporation, through sweating.”

This causes you to lose fluid, which in turn causes dehydration. As well, your heart rate increases, putting your body through a lot of stress.

Hallucinations can also occur. That's why no one was laughing when one player said he saw the cartoon character Snoopy before he fainted. Another player passed out from heat stroke after playing a doubles match, and still another collapsed and vomited on court.

Aijaz Rahi AP photo Frank-Dancevic-lies-on-th-008_zps7ab58c57.jpg
Frank Dancevic passed out. Photo by Aijaz Rahi AP

I sincerely hope the ITF sits the Australian Open tournament officials down and reads them the riot act. Were they callous? Yes. Were they condescending? Yes. It took the former Tournament Director and player Paul McNamee, now working as a journalist to make the current officials say that there was really no heat policy anymore. Here is what he had to say to reporter Leigh Sales .

Paul, today is the first time that the heat policy has been activated. Do you think that it should have been activated before now, as some players and former players have suggested?

PAUL MCNAMEE, COMMENTATOR/FORMER PLAYER: Yes, I do. On Tuesday and Wednesday, being yesterday, the conditions were oppressive and we had the record number of withdrawals, or retirements, mid-match in the history of Grand Slam tennis here in the first round. So I think you could safely say it should have been activated 48 hours ago.

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that the British player Andy Murray's right when he says that it could lead to some really serious on-court consequences, including death?

PAUL MCNAMEE: Well, I think death is very - is probably putting a little bit too extreme, but no-one likes to see anyone in trouble. And we instituted a rule some years ago in major consultation with medical authorities and both the ATP and WTA tours which looked at all the science and came up to a threshold level which was valuable and very useful and giving certainty to players. Unfortunately, that was ditched on the eve of this year's tournament.

LEIGH SALES: And why do you believe that was ditched and does that now mean that activating the heat policy is solely at the discretion of the organisers?

PAUL MCNAMEE: Yes. Well, I've spoken to the WTA tour. They're very concerned that it is left to discretion when the science is there. I think it's irresponsible that the tournament has done this and thank goodness it was instituted today and now we're going to have many matches played in the cooler conditions in the evening, out of the direct sunlight in beautiful conditions with sun - with flood-lit courts. That's the way I think the tournament should happen.

LEIGH SALES: Do you think that the organisers are reluctant to activate the extreme heat policy, and if so, why?

PAUL MCNAMEE: Well they're clearly reluctant because everyone believed it should have happened a couple of days ago. Why? I mean, you'd have to ask the reasons for that. The science doesn't appear to validate their decision. There are very good indications for when the threshold is reached. Perhaps it has something to do with the business model. I hope not. But clearly the policy is about health and safety and the risks not only to players, but to ball kids and to officials, many of whom are older. So, let's hope that it's nothing to do with the business, and I think that finally, we've got a more sensible outcome today.

LEIGH SALES: How disruptive is it to the tournament if you do have to activate this policy?

PAUL MCNAMEE: It is disruptive because obviously matches are suspended. One particular match today, they had to come back and play the fifth set, but the important thing is that the players are able to play in conditions that are fair and the spectators can watch in some level of comfort instead of just being a war of attrition. I mean, we really are turning the clock back here in expecting players to just tough it out in the worst conditions imaginable. So, I think that the players understand if there's a certain threshold and it's clear and it's transparent and it's reached, they understand there's going to be a break in play. They're used to that. It happens with rain. It's no different with extreme heat.

LEIGH SALES: To put the devil's advocate argument, I think it was Roger Federer who said that, "Well, you know, these are the conditions everyone plays under. You've got to have the mental toughness to do it and just get on with it."

PAUL MCNAMEE: Well that's one player's opinion and of course he's the great Roger Federer; he plays on either Rod Laver Arena or the multi-purpose arena where there's shadow at the back of the court that you can kind of escape to. But most of the players who are on the outside courts, they haven't got that luxury. So, many of the players have been very worried about it. I mean, I was in the gym just before some of the matches this afternoon and I can assure you Caroline Wozniacki and other players were so relieved that they didn't have to go out in those conditions. For Northern Europeans, they can't possibly prepare for it. It's not in their DNA. And there was great relief when the policy was brought in today.

Maybe that last statement is what led to the Tournament Doctor Tim Wood to spout some gibberish about ancient humans on the plains of the African continent chasing antelope? Maybe he was having a heat affected moment when he said what he said.

 photo 5315194b-17e2-4e49-8dd8-a40bcf80d4ec_zps0304720f.jpg
Varvara Lepchenko during a break in her match. Photo by Robert Prezioso Getty Images

I also think McNamee, who can now pretty much say what he wants, was right in calling Roger Federer out for his ridiculous statement. It was irresponsible and selfish to say about players who suffered in the heat, most of whom can't afford to train in Dubai or get to Australia a week or two ahead to adjust to the time and climate. Federer's fans have been busy all week trying to say he was misquoted, that his words were taken out of context, and that he was somehow "set up" by the reporter asking the question. This isn't Federer's first rodeo and in my opinion he said what he meant and meant what he said. No amount of explaining will make his words any less harsh. The full transcript is on the Australian Open web site so anyone who wants to can read the comments in context. Their meaning doesn't change.

Andy Roddick joined his nemesis in asshattery. Here's his quote provided by John Wertheim .

"Spoken from the comfort of a television studio an ocean away, but Andy Roddick gave voice to another school of thought when he said dismissively, "I used to hate it when they took us out of the extreme conditions and put us indoors, because I felt like I had worked in the off-season [on my fitness]."

I'll let that statement stand on it's own.

The heat wave has broken and projections show temperatures in the mid to high 20's Celsius for the remainder of the tournament. That means the level of tennis should improve. Fighting your way through molasses like air does not make for good tennis no matter the player.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The 2014 Australian Open Men's and Women's Singles Draws

by Savannah

The draws came out yesterday afternoon in the US so I'm sure everyone who wanted to has seen them. Before I get into how I interpret the draws lets look at them one at a time starting with the Men's Singles Draw.


Rafael Nadal (ESP) [1] v Bernard Tomic (AUS)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v Igor Sijsling (NED)
Tobias Kamke (GER) v Jack Sock (USA)
Ryan Harrison (USA) v Gael Monfils (FRA) [25]

Andreas Seppi (ITA) [24] v Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Robin Haase (NED) v Donald Young (USA)
Qualifier v Lucas Pouille (FRA)
Marinko Matosevic (AUS) v Kei Nishikori (JPN) [16]

Milos Raonic (CAN) [11] v Daniel Gimeno-Traver (ESP)
Qualifier v Victor Hanescu (ROU)
Qualifier v Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE)
Bradley Klahn (USA) v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [22]

Benoit Paire (FRA) [27] v Qualifier
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) v Benjamin Becker (GER)
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) v Tim Smyczek (USA)
Qualifier v Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [5]

Andy Murray (GBR) [4] v Go Soeda (JPN)
Qualifier v Qualifier
Qualifier v Michael Llodra (FRA)
Somdev Devvarman (IND) v Feliciano Lopez (ESP) [26]

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) [21] v Aljaz Bedene (SLO)
Michal Przysiezny (POL) v Horacio Zeballos (ARG)
Qualifier v Federico Delbonis (ARG)
Qualifier v John Isner (USA) [13]

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [10] v Filippo Volandri (ITA)
Qualifier v Julian Reister (GER)
Marin Cilic (CRO) v Marcel Granollers (ESP)
Daniel Brands (GER) v Gilles Simon (FRA) [18]

Fernando Verdasco (ESP) [31] v Qualifier
Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS) v Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)
Radek Stepanek (CZE) v Blaz Kavcic (SLO)
James Duckworth (AUS) v Roger Federer (SUI) [6]


Tomas Berdych (CZE) [7] v Aleksandr Nedovyesov (KAZ)
Di Wu (CHN) v Kenny De Schepper (FRA)
Jan Hajek (CZE) v Qualifier
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) v Ivan Dodig (CRO) [32]

Kevin Anderson (RSA) [19] v Jiri Vesely (CZE)
Qualifier v Joao Sousa (POR)
Carlos Berlocq (ARG) v Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) v Tommy Haas (GER) [12]

Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) [14] v Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
Florian Mayer (GER) v Qualifier
Albert Ramos (ESP) v Pablo Andujar (ESP)
Jordan Thompson (AUS) v Jerzy Janowicz (POL) [20]

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) [29] v Jesse Huta Galung (NED)
Qualifier v Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR)
Steve Johnson (USA) v Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Alejandro Gonzalez (COL) v David Ferrer (ESP) [3]

Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) [8] v Andrey Golubev (KAZ)
Alejandro Falla (COL) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
Nicolas Mahut (FRA) v Matthew Ebden (AUS)
Samuel Groth (AUS) v Vasek Pospisil (CAN) [28]

Tommy Robredo (ESP) [17] v Lukas Rosol (CZE)
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) v Julien Benneteau (FRA)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) v Lukasz Kubot (POL)
Qualifier v Richard Gasquet (FRA) [9]

Fabio Fognini (ITA) [15] v Alex Bogomolov Jr. (RUS)
Dudi Sela (ISR) v Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)
Santiago Giraldo (COL) v Sam Querrey (USA)
Juan Monaco (ARG) v Ernests Gulbis (LAT) [23]

Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) [30] v Michael Russell (USA)
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) v Denis Istomin (UZB)
Leonardo Mayer (ARG) v Albert Montanes (ESP)
Lukas Lacko (SVK) v Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2]

The entire narrative in the ATP revolves around the Top 4 and how they compete against each other especially in M1000 and Slams. So this random draw gives us numbers 1, 4, and 6 in the top half with numbers 4 and 6 in the same section. I know that Number 6 is technically not part of the Big Four but for all intents and purposes he is. I mean he got his own special night didn't he so we have to consider his place in the draw. I also notice that Number 5, the definition of a dangerous floater, is also in the top half of the draw.

And remember that fan research that showed Murray never facing a seed ranked between 5 and 8 in the quarters? He's got seeds number 26, 13, 21, 10 18 and 6 in his section. I guess they want him to face #6.

Meanwhile in the Bottom Half the top seed is number 2 followed by number 3. Number three has been having a rough go of it lately hasn't he? He may be able to pull it together for the AO since they're five set matches. As we all know anything can happen in a tennis match and Number 2 hasn't played a warmup tournament other than an exhibition in Kooyong.

And wasn't it just precious that his newly minted coach Boris Becker was the only person available to analyze the draw? I know inside he was ecstatic but I'm guessing Boris has learned how to put on a professional mien in a situation like this. I guess they could've signed a contract with Boris and had to use him but the announcement of his new position was made in time to say to Boris that it's a conflict of interest for you to do this and I'm sure Boris would've understood but publicly at least nothing of the sort was done or hinted at having been tried. Absolutely amazing move by Tennis Australia. Then again, maybe I should say it's typical of tennis.

Let's look at the Women's Draw now.

Serena Williams (USA) [1] v Ashleigh Barty (AUS)
Vesna Dolonc (SRB) v Lara Arruabarrena (ESP)
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Qualifier v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) [31]

Samantha Stosur (AUS) [17] v Klara Zakopalova (CZE)
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) v Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP)
Annika Beck (GER) v Petra Martic (CRO)
Kiki Bertens (NED) v Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [14]

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [12] v Jie Zheng (CHN)
P.Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) v Madison Keys (USA)
Casey Dellacqua (AUS) v Vera Zvonareva (RUS)
Laura Robson (GBR) v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) [18]

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [30] v Hao Chen Tang (CHN)
Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) v Virginie Razzano (FRA)
Sachia Vickery (USA) v Lauren Davis (USA)
Julia Goerges (GER) v Sara Errani (ITA) [7]

Na Li (CHN) [4] v Qualifier
Qualifier v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)
Donna Vekic (CRO) v Qualifier
Julia Glushko (ISR) v Lucie Safarova (CZE) [26]

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [22] v Venus Williams (USA)
A.Medina Garrigues (ESP) v Qualifier
Shahar Peer (ISR) v Monica Niculescu (ROU)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [15]

Angelique Kerber (GER) [9] v Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Qualifier
Dinah Pfizenmaier (GER) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)
Alison Riske (USA) v Elena Vesnina (RUS) [23]

Flavia Pennetta (ITA) [28] v Alexandra Cadantu (ROU)
Monica Puig (PUR) v Qualifier
Shuai Zhang (CHN) v Mona Barthel (GER)
Luksika Kumkhum (THA) v Petra Kvitova (CZE) [6]


Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [8] v Misaki Doi (JPN)
Nadiya Kichenok (UKR) v Ayumi Morita (JPN)
Kurumi Nara (JPN) v Shuai Peng (CHN)
Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) [32]

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) [21] v Marina Erakovic (NZL)
Qualifier v Bojana Jovanovski (SRB)
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) v Varvara Lepchenko (USA)
Qualifier v Simona Halep (ROU) [11]

Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) [16] v Vania King (USA)
Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) v Qualifier
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Stefanie Voegele (SUI)
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [20]

Alize Cornet (FRA) [25] v Polona Hercog (SLO)
Camila Giorgi (ITA) v Storm Sanders (AUS)
Paula Ormaechea (ARG) v Karin Knapp (ITA)
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v Maria Sharapova (RUS) [3]

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [5] v Yulia Putintseva (KAZ)
Olga Govortsova (BLR) v Qualifier
Qualifier v Mandy Minella (LUX)
Teliana Pereira (BRA) v A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [29]

Kaia Kanepi (EST) [24] v Garbine Muguruza (ESP)
Timea Babos (HUN) v Anna Schmiedlova (SVK)
Christina McHale (USA) v Yung-Jan Chan (TPE)
Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [10]

Sloane Stephens (USA) [13] v Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ)
Tadeja Majeric (SLO) v Ajla Tomljanovic (CRO)
Olivia Rogowska (AUS) v Mariana Duque-Marino (COL)
Elina Svitolina (UKR) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [19]

Jamie Hampton (USA) [27] v Jana Cepelova (SVK)
Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) v Yvonne Meusburger (AUT)
Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) v B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE)
Johanna Larsson (SWE) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [2]

Overall I'd say the WTA's draw is fair and balanced. Sure Sara Errani must be giddy with joy and Maria Sharapova has been tucked away in a nice pretty safe little section way away from that hateful woman ranked number 1. On paper there is no one in Pova's section who should be able to trouble her but there is a reason they play matches isn't there?

Tsvetana Pironkova and Madison Keys are dangerous floaters in the top half. Pironkova has proven to herself that she can play well on grass but will her confidence hold in the heat of Melbourne? Garbiñe Muguruza was on fire last night disposing of her semi final opponent 0 and 1 but has she peaked too soon? We'll soon be able to judge all three women in the heat of battle.

As you all know I don't do predictions leaving that to the experts. I'd like to see Jamie Hampton do well and make it to the second week.

The weather will be a factor. I expect that the roof will be closed on courts that have that as an option. Here's what Accuweather is predicting.

Melbourne Week 1 Weather

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

And I Thought The Silly Season Was Over

by Savannah

Usually the silly season ends when the road to Melbourne begins. It seems that this year the fans are focused on the tennis but the players, and their agents, are still settling scores, some of which were created by them and their agents.

Take this gem from Max Eisenbud, Maria Sharapova's agent, about Serena Williams from an article by Melissa Isaacson of ESPN. The discussion up to this point in the piece had been about Pova's record versus Serena, her shoulder, and why Pova needs to win in order to shore up her legacy "But Sharapova, 26, might want to begin obsessing before she becomes known as one of the greatest players in the game who captured four Grand Slam titles, but was just another in the pack who couldn't beat Williams in her prime."

Isaacson then goes on to quote Eisenbud.

She's also not a fan of Williams, and vice versa, which we learned officially in 2013 when the two engaged in a media sniping match, with Williams first insulting Sharapova in a Rolling Stone article by referring to her as boring and saying Sharapova's boyfriend (and Serena's rumored ex), Grigor Dimitrov, had a "black heart," and then Sharapova one-upping her at Wimbledon.

"If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship, and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids," Sharapova said, referring to Williams' coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, and to a reported relationship not confirmed by Williams.

Eisenbud said neither he nor his client regretted that she said it.

"People know Maria as being a very classy girl, so that caught a lot of people off guard …" he said, "[but] you know how many players and other people came up to her after and told her they loved what she said? A lot.

"She's very real, and there aren't many very real female tennis players and that's what really separates her. … People know what's real and not real. Yes, she's beautiful and plays great, but her realness is why she is such a great partner to her sponsors. There's nobody else like that on tour."

Just the same, he did add, "You're not going to see her getting involved in that much [this year]."

Try and control your gag reflex. Martina Navratilova joined the scrum.

"What she said about Serena, I'm sure she wishes she hadn't said it, but she's one of the most honest players out there," Navratilova said of Sharapova. "She gives you more than anybody, which is such a contrast to Serena, who doesn't give you anything.

"With Maria, I can almost see her thinking through things as she says it. She doesn't have a canned response and I like that from her. But you still have to have a filter, especially in this day and age. If you always say what you really think, you can get yourself in serious trouble."


"[Sharapova] is such a force now that whatever she says, it's magnified, amplified, exaggerated, then they use it to try to bait other players," Navratilova said. "They used to do it with Chris and I until we got together and put an end to it." photo 34845a61-7fec-4b05-84c5-47d04347acd0_zps4ae4d954.jpg

I'm wondering who was among the "lots" of players who came over to Pova and said they agreed with what she said. It's said that Sharapova rarely speaks to anyone of her peers on tour so it's hard for me to believe that these players would sidle up to her and whisper that they liked what she said. If I remember this correctly it was Maria Sharapova who started this by commenting on Serena's alleged relationship with Patrick Mouratoglou, something neither has ever said is more than professional but I'm not surprised at the tone of this article. Anytime a "reporter" starts in with Pova's shoulder you know they're "writing" a press release by Eisenbud.

Meanwhile fans are doing the kind of work real journalists should be doing during the run up to the Australian Open. Someone calling themselves "Federer Fan" on the much maligned fan site "Mens Tennis Forums" posted the following re Andy Murray's opponents during the last three years in Grand Slam Quarterfinals. Notice he has never faced men seeded 5-8:

Australian Open 2011 : Söderling loses in the 4th round. Murray faces Dolgopolov.
Roland-Garros 2011 : Melzer loses in the 2nd round. Murray faces Chela.
Wimbledon 2011 : Roddick loses in the 3rd round. Murray faces Lopez.
US Open 2011 : Söderling withdraws just before the 1st round. Murray faces Isner.

Australian Open 2012 : Tsonga loses in the 4th round. Murray faces Nishikori.
Roland-Garros 2012 : Too lucky this David...
Wimbledon 2012 : Too lucky again this David...
US Open 2012 : Tsonga loses in the 2nd round. Murray faces Cilic.

Australian Open 2013 : del Potro loses in the 3rd round. Murray faces Chardy.
Roland-Garros 2013 : Murray withdraws.
Wimbledon 2013 : Tsonga loses in the 2nd round due to a knee injury. Murray faces Verdasco.
US Open 2013 : Berdych loses in the 4th round. Murray faces Wawrinka.

A British tennis "journalist" would never write such a thing. Neither would a United States based journalist. So it's left to fans to instigate a discussion on what I call "hiding" players in the middle of draws. Much the same thing is done with Maria Sharapova.

The Main Draws for the Australian Open will be done Thursday for those of us in the Western hemisphere. Let's see how the special snowflakes are treated. It should be fun.

And do not get me started about Roger Federer night. Just don't.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

And So It Begins

by Savannah

No more exhibitions. No more shots taken from various and sundry posh vacation spots around the globe. The coaching changes have been made and the players are in shape (some of them are but I digress). The first full week of the tennis season found tournaments in Doha, Chennai, Shenzen, Auckland and Brisbane. The first full week of tennis found WTA players dropping like flies retiring with injuries that seem real enough but seem to pop up at odd times during matches.

As I said most of the returning players are fit if not match tough but that will come. Some have made changes in their games. Some, like Gaël Monfils have started the year with a new, more mature look and a seemingly more mature approach to the sport he plays for a living. Others, like Dominika Cibulkova showed up with a bit of left over relaxation around the waist that a dark kit couldn't hide. I think we've seen the best of Domi but have yet to see Gaël play a full year healthy and able to control his talent.

Brisbane had the marquee match of the nascent season though as WTA World #1 Serena Williams faced WTA #3 Maria Sharapova. Sharapova was one of the players who added a new coach over the off season and Sven Groeneveld seemed to have more coaching advice for her than her previous coach did. Not once did he tell her that her opponent was about to cave to her specialness. Instead he gave reasoned advice that Sharapova seemed to listen to.

Serena Williams 2014 Brisbane Champion photo 736996dc-eb19-4334-af35-ce20e26273d0_zpsb10fb3e7.jpg
Chris Hyde/Getty Images AsiaPac

During the first set Serena romped but the second set was a war and showed just what Sharapova has been up to while "rehabbing her shoulder" the last few weeks. She seems more comfortable coming in. She pulled off a decent backhand overhead and yes for a while it seemed she would win the second set against a Serena who had started off in her usual laconic style and now found herself in a steel cage match.

This was a Premier event for the women and as soon as the draw came out the only match anyone cared about was Williams vs Sharapova. Groeneveld is considered something of a genius by some although I haven't seen any player he has worked with scale the heights of world rankings. As Karen said in a comment the world of tennis is one of the most incestuous in the sports world and I would add especially in the United States so when you hear someone like Groeneveld hailed as a genius despite no visible results you get an idea of what she means. He's popular and of Scandinavian descent so of course he's the bestest ever.

But all of that did nothing to get his charge the win. Serena wasn't playing her best and was down at critical points in the second set but in the end she won the match in straight sets. Since Sharapova had already said publicly that her shoulder was fine the only narrative available was the one we all saw: even playing "meh" tennis Serena is better that Maria. And she has been for some time, shoulder or no shoulder.

Li Na 2014 Shenzen Champion photo 1be2e830-ea96-4f6e-9a91-af3dff923450_zpsf69a3fb5.jpg
via AP

I didn't see any of Shenzen but thought that it would be interesting to see who won the Final between Li Na and Peng Shuai. Li won and thus advances the career of the loathsome Carlos Rodriguez.

Cornet Tsonga 2014 Hopman Cup photo b3439389-1f9e-4b83-bf6a-0bea384bc68f_zpse68ef23e.jpg

I didn't watch any of the Hopman Cup exhibition either. I was disappointed to see Sloane Stephens drop out after so many reports of her playing very well. She was scheduled to play this week but withdrew as well. That would've looked weird even for tennis. I'm glad Alizé Cornet did well in Perth.

Stepping in here to say that Madison Keys, only 18, is playing in Hobart and I thought that her match against last years phenom Simona Halep would be a showcase for where she is at present and where she would possibly go in 2014. It did, but not in the way I thought it would.

Halep started 2014 the winner of six titles in 2013 and predicted by many to make the top five if not top three in ranking. I thought that she would continue her surge against Madison but it was Madison who literally romped to a 6-1, 5-0 lead over the hapless Halep who seemed to have wandered onto the court by accident with only a rudimentary tennis ability. Don't believe anything you read about Halep having a surge in the second set. Keys succumbed to the pressure of the moment and handed her opponent four straight games. I'm not a fan of on court coaching but it was obvious she had no way to make it back without some help and the visit from her coach seemed to calm and steady her. She won the second set 6-4 and that was that. As Marion Bartoli said it's much easier being the hunter than the hunted. Her coach, Jay Gooding of the USTA, didn't come flying out of the stands and berate her and for once a player coached by the USTA didn't make his charge play worse after his visit. It's going to be interesting to see how Ms Keys does down under.

REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah photo 25924a19-e6ec-4822-bfe6-6e612d6c0b8d_zps0cf607cf.jpg
REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

To be honest I had no great expectations for Rafael Nadal in Doha. Monfils was playing well on his way to the Final and since Monfils has owned Rafa in Doha I figured He had a very good chance at defeating the ATP #1. But Rafa did what he had to do and won against a player he'd had trouble with at this venue.

Lleyton Hewitt Brisbane 2014 Champion photo 7b90a4a7-a5f2-4e9e-89d5-9d0a77525820_zps90a5cfae.jpg
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

So what the hell is Lleyton Hewitt doing holding the victory trophy at Brisbane? To understand that you have to go back to the semifinal match he played against Kei Nishikori. Both men were fighting not only each other but the oppressive heat. At one point I thought Nishikori was going to pass out if Hewitt didn't before him. Hewitt is from Australia and to see him suffering drove home how bad the heat was. Watching I was glad Nishikori didn't win because he wouldn't have been able to play well the next day. When I rewatched I saw that Hewitt wasn't in any better shape and thought that the man across the net, Roger Federer, would have an easy time against a physically depleted Hewitt.

Federer reached the Final by defeating Jarkko Nieminen, Marinko Matosevic and Jeremy Chardy. Matosevic did push Federer to three sets but that was the most difficult match he had. Hewitt faced Thanasi Kokkinakis, Feliciano Lopez, and Marius Copil before Nishikori, the only one to push him to three sets.

I wasn't even going to watch but I was awake so I figured I'd use the match as white noise. The first set had just ended when I turned it on and I woke up. What? Hewitt took the first set 6-1? So I watched. I won't lie I did doze off but woke up to see Federer on his way to winning the second set 6-4.

I'm sorry I don't know the names of the TennisTV commentators. They have many new people working this year and since I came in late I don't know who the two men were.

I can say that one of them was outraged about Hewitt being called for several foot faults going so far as to show video that attempted to prove that he wasn't committing foot faults. He even questioned why, at a critical junction, one was called going as far to say that in that situation it shouldn't have been called at all. Y'all know where my mind went. So there are times when something like a foot fault shouldn't be called? Really? Those of us who said the exact same thing about a similar call a couple of years ago were vilified. Maybe it was because of who was called and the perception many had of that player charging at this tiny little line judge. Tellingly they didn't show the line judge who kept calling the foot fault. Sigh. Hewitt did argue with the chair that he was not foot faulting but of course that was no big deal.

Then there was the out right rooting for Federer from the comms. Again one was worse than the other but it amazes me how invested some of the comms are in this one player. Instead of calling the match as it was happening all I heard was coaching advice for Federer. It would've helped if they'd talked more about what Hewitt was doing instead of what Federer should've been doing.

But Hewitt, looking remarkably fit after the previous day's match held on and won the third set and the match. Hewitt has beaten Federer before. He won at Halle in 2010, Davis Cup in 2003, and the Shanghai and Paris Masters in 2002 but Federer dominates their head to head.

Most players who didn't play last week are playing this week in Sydney, Auckland and Hobart. Everyone will be in Melbourne where play begins January 13.

The month of living backwards has begun.