Saturday, July 19, 2014

This Week in the ATP

by Savannah

When Lewis Carroll wrote the phrase "Curiouser and curiouser!" he was not referring to tennis, not the tennis of his time and surely not today's game or any of it's players. Still the phrase is apt to describe what is going on in the ATP, more specifically at Gstaad where a WC was denied one Viktor Troicki for the Qualifying tournament but granted into the Main Draw.

You remember Viktor? The player who told drug testers that he wasn't going to give a blood sample the day they requested it but that he could comply with their request the next day? The person who then said he thought he could do it because the lead tester told him he could, something the lead tester denied ever saying? The same person who enlisted the current ATP #1 player to argue his case in the press and to anyone who would listen? Yeah that guy. The good people who run the Gstaad tournament denied Troicki's request to enter the Qualifying draw as a WC. That made sense. He's been away for a year and there are many other players who abided by the rules and worked hard to be able to get into Qualifying so give a drug cheat a pass? Let him play a Challenger or two. It's not as if he were lighting the tour on fire with his play before and paying customers deserved to see someone who could play at the current pro level. So you can imagine my surprise to see he got a Wild Card into the Main Draw at the tournament. If they were going to do this why didn't they say that was their intention from the beginning instead of appearing to hold the moral high ground and all that?

Someone named Ravi Ubha wrote a pretty sympathetic to Troicki article in CNN's International edition that fans of Serbian tennis are using to justify their "outrage" at the suspension. When it first happened I said that if they gave Troicki a pass after refusing to take a mandatory test everyone would be telling the testers to come back the next day or the next week for that matter. That a top player would even defend someone in this situation is stunning in my opinion. But as I always say I can say what I want because I'm not beholden to anyone. If the current top player in the world, the person who represents men's tennis to the world, can't see why his friend was wrong and should've done what Marin Cilic did and take his punishment like a man instead of whining about it then I question that man's dedication to sportsmanship. Then again Troicki's best friend was caught using a non hyperbaric hyperbaric chamber and nothing was done so I guess he should expect the same treatment for his close friend.

Another ATP story of interest is IMG dropping Bernard Tomic with two years left on his contract with them. I guess when your father goes around beating people up and you're unable to sever your business relationship with him you're willing to pay that price. In a terse statement posted on Twitter and reported in Australian media IMG said the following.

"IMG and Bernard Tomic have mutually ended our relationship. We wish Bernard great success on and off the tennis court."

There was also this incident involving Tomic the younger reported in :

Tomic was also reported by Australian newspapers to have attended a party in February where underage girls were offered drugs, but he was not linked to illegal activity by police. In November, he was photographed partying with high school girls at a nightclub.

Tomic’s father, John, resumed coaching him in May, having been banned from tournaments for a year by the ATP following an assault on his son’s former hitting partner that left him with a broken nose and neck injuries.

No mention was made of the younger Tomic's naked wrestling with a male friend in a hot tub but boys will be boys.

Then there's Fabio Fognini using an ethnic slur against a Serbian player during his loss to said player last week. I found it ironic that after I responded to a reader's post with a comment about staying out of European ethnic disputes while acknowledging I know they exist this incident occurred. Some have responded by detailing a history of the Balkans while others argue that because the player involved has light colored hair it's impossible for him to be considered a member of the ethnic group Fognini referenced while others say it was the heat of battle. Still others point to the current issue of immigration and how it's being played out in Italy at the moment. I'm sticking to my guns and staying out of it. He said it. He admits he said it. And he gave a somewhat halfheared apology. Maybe he should stick to posing in his swim trunks no? That will give people a lot to talk about.

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Photo via the ATP

I almost giggled myself silly this morning watching the match in Hamburg between seventeen year old Alexander Zverev of Germany and David Ferrer of Spain. What was so funny? That's Zverev pictured above. The commentators focused on the great week he had in Hamburg and how there was almost no way Ferrer was going to want to lose to a 17 year old kid who is still growing into his body. They also talked about how there have been plenty of good junior players who looked poised to make noise on the Main Tour who didn't pan out. Their conclusion was one good week does not a career make. Ferrer handed the kids ass to him and afterwards Zverev said that his loss today was a lesson and showed him how far he has to go to be a top player. I'm paraphrasing of course but I was glad to read his comments.

I'm sorry I said I was laughing to myself. I was because all I could think about was what Stacey Allaster would be doing to make this kid the face of the ATP. Come on. You know she would so do it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Rear View Mirror: The Championships Wimbledon

by Savannah

I realized earlier in the week that I hadn't done a post Wimbledon column. I wasn't really in the mood to do one but I figured since it was on my mind to do one I should.

Long story short is that not much has changed. The top players are on vacation. Lower ranked players are trying to pile up points before they have to come to the United States and Canada. So what is there to talk about? Come on people this is tennis. There's always something to talk about.

I'll start with the news that Nick Kyrgios has split with Simon Rea of New Zealand the coach who got him to #66 in the world and will now be coached by a TA team of Josh Eagle ( his highest singles ranking was #219 in 1994), who will be his traveling coach, and Todd Larkham. The spin is that this split was going to happen no matter what happened in the French Open and that Kyrgios himself, not Tennis Australia, made the decision. Shrug. I believe that as much as I believe those pics of Maria Sharapova supposedly sharing an intimate vacation with Grigor Dimitrov. I mean they had to do something after tongues began wagging about Pova's best friend, a Communications person for the WTA sat with her in Dimitrov's friends box at Wimbledon.

But back to the TA team kicking the Kiwi out. Then again, let's move on. The move speaks for itself.

There was another coaching change by the way. Ana Ivanovic kicked Nemanja Kontic to the curb for no apparent reason. Maybe she wants a celebrity coach now. It's all the rage you know.

Tennis Twitter was all aflutter when it was announced that Sloane Stephens was holding a press conference. Was Paul Annacone out? That was really the only thing people were interested in finding out. I mean if Annacone had so much success with Pete Sampras and Roger Federer he should be able to work miracles with a woman player hyped as the next big thing in US tennis. I'm not even going to talk about Shelby Rogers (!) defeating Sara Errani and getting her self into the Final at Bad Gastein. Or Grace Min getting into the semi finals of the same event. I mean what's there to say?

Nothing big was announced though. The most newsworthy quote was Sloane saying the following:

Tennis View Magazine ‏@TennisViewMag
More from Sloane: “In Europe, no one cares about an American player. In the want to do well. You don't want to let the fans down.”

I find this statement amazing. Is she saying that because American tennis players aren't cared for in Europe that's an excuse to not do well? What does that statement even mean? Does she mean that she's more motivated to do well in the States but that the Slams, three of which are played outside of the United States, namely the Australian Open, The French Open and Wimbledon don't matter because Europeans don't care about Americans? I know Australians aren't Europeans in the strict sense of the word but really Sloane? That's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard an athlete say, especially one who plays an International sport. I guess she's going to romp through the US Open series and make the US Open final this year. I mean Shelby Rogers and Grace Min? And Jack Sock winning the doubles in London. I should mention that no? And that he and Sloane were supposedly an item? Yeah. See the beach in Mexico comments above.

On a more disturbing note two time Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova has been receiving death threats from people unhinged by the fact she lists Monaco as her official residence. From the article :

(Police Spokeswoman) Holcakova said the man, who was not identified, was arrested as police considered the threats serious.

The incident follows criticism of Kvitova, including from a member of parliament, for moving from the Czech Republic to Monaco to avoid higher taxation.

The full quote from the Czech politican shows the depth of feeling on this topic in the Czech Republic.

''I think that we should all have a long and hard think about the fact that if someone leaves the Czech Republic and becomes a member of another state, then they should lose their Czech citizenship,'' said Social Democrat MP Stanislav Huml.

There's been a lot of talk about marketing (who is marketable and who isn't) in tennis and this does the Czech Republic no good. In fact Eastern Europeans aren't considered very marketable at all (with one, maybe two now, exceptions) according to a US magazine . Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova also have official residences in the tax haven but no one has said whether or not they've been threatened with loss of citizenship.

As for the men video of Juan Martin del Potro has surfaced showing him hitting the practice courts after his wrist surgery. There's been a wedding, a vision in pink, and some interesting results in such far flung outposts as Stuttgart and Båstad. A lot of the weird results have to do with players commitments to tournaments next week. That's my opinion anyway. In Europe they're playing on clay. In the US the action is on grass this week.

Viña del Mar, an integral part of the Golden Swing, is gone and will be replace by a tournament in Quito, Ecuador at an elevation higher than the mile high city of Denver, Colorado in the US.

The US Open series officially gets under way July 21 in Atlanta. The big boys and girls will be in Canada for the Rogers Cup beginning August 4th. The men will be in Toronto and the women will be in Montréal.

The Chamionships 2014 - Full Winners List

Men's Singles
Serbia Novak Djokovic
Women's Singles
Czech Republic Petra Kvitová
Men's Doubles
Canada Vasek Pospisil / United States Jack Sock
Women's Doubles
Italy Sara Errani / Italy Roberta Vinci
Mixed Doubles
Serbia Nenad Zimonjić / Australia Samantha Stosur
Boys' Singles
United States Noah Rubin
Girls' Singles
Latvia Jeļena Ostapenko
Boys' Doubles
Brazil Orlando Luz / Brazil Marcelo Zormann
Girls' Doubles
Indonesia Tami Grende / China Ye Qiuyu
Gentlemen's Invitation Doubles
Sweden Thomas Enqvist / Australia Mark Philippoussis
Ladies' Invitation Doubles
Czech Republic Jana Novotná / Austria Barbara Schett
Senior Gentlemen's Invitation Doubles
France Guy Forget / France Cédric Pioline
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
France Stéphane Houdet / Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Japan Yui Kamiji / United Kingdom Jordanne Whiley

End Note

There's been a lot of interest in the posts I mad re Petra Kvitova's win and the marketing surrounding Ms Eugenie Bouchard. I hope some of the visitors hang around and become followers.

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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Final: Petra Kvitova(6) vs Eugenie Bouchard (13)

by Savannah

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via Getty Images

So the WTA's favorite, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada,has made her first WTA Grand Slam Final. She'll face Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Saturday.

What is wrong with that first statement? Everything. It's a statement of the sad truth about the WTA as it is currently administered. The WTA as an organization should have no favorite other than the sport of women's tennis. Instead we've had Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and now Eugenie Bouchard. All that's missing is the nickname Stacey Allaster will give fellow Canadian Bouchard.

There seems to be a surprise among WTA officials about the depth of dislike for Bouchard. I mean she's 19, she's blonde, she speaks unaccented English despite being from Québec. What's not to like right?

I can only speak for myself. The first time I heard Bouchard do an interview my reaction was "who the hell does she think she is?" She spoke as if she is the only woman to every play at a highly competitive level. She makes no apologies for her abrasive manner and we fans are being encouraged to love her. She's already said that the tour is not the place for friendship echoing Sharapova, and when asked how she feels about her success this year in effect says it's her due after working hard. No "I'm happy to have been so fortunate to do well", or my team and I have worked hard for this. Nope. It's what she's supposed to achieve. She's entitled to the success. Aren't you charmed? I know I am.

You know I've been following tennis for a long time, much longer than I've been writing about it and I remember other brash, confident young women, sisters. In fact the younger sister was more verbally self confident than the older, more willing to speak the truth about her abilities on the tennis court. She said that if she loses the fault lies with her, not that her opponent played better. She was vilified in the tennis press and among tennis fans. There was no head of the WTA to try and brand her brashness as charming even if it was the truth. The younger sister has become more media savvy and says all the right things in her pressers now no matter how painful it is for her. I wonder what the difference is between that younger sister and Ms Bouchard, a difference that makes one charming and the other "arrogant" or "uppity".

There will actually be another blonde taking the court Saturday. Her name is Petra Kvitova and she's already won a Slam. She admitted that going from the hunter to the hunted wasn't easy for her. I watched her play her countrywoman Lucie Safarova today and after a tight first set she ran away with the second set. Kind of like what happened in the second semifinal but for different reasons.

Readers know that I've always said a soft draw does not a champion make so let's look at the path Bouchard and Kvitova took to the final.

Bouchard's path to the Final: Hantuchova (Unseeded) Soler-Espinosa (Unseeded) Petkovic (20) Cornet(25) Kerber(9) Halep (3)

Petra Kvitova's route to the Final. Hlavackova unseeded. Barthel unseeded. Venus seeded #30. Peng unseeded. BZS unseeded. Safarova #23.

If I follow my own belief it'll be Bouchard who'll hoist the Rosewater Dish Saturday. With the exception of Cornet the seeds she played increased in ranking as she moved into the semi final where she faced the #3 seed. The highest seed Kvitova faced was #23 Safarova.

I don't see Lucie achieving much more in her career. She's stuck being the player with a lot of talent but unable to maximize it. Simona Halep has been playing a lot of matches and her ranking can be said to be artificially high because of that. Her performance in today's semi echoed that of her appearance in the FO final. Mentally she's not able to stay with the big hitters. It's as if she gets intimidated and crawls into a safe place in her mind. Bouchard may have an ugly style of play but on grass and hardcourts she will do well because she hits the snot out of the ball from the baseline. I'm not going to talk about how the same people singing Bouchard's praises from the roof tops profess to hate that style of play. I'm not writing that long a piece here. I do think that if Halep continues to plug away and gets a real draw instead of a cupcake draw, a draw that will challenge her to sharpen her skills, she'll win one of the semifinals or finals of majors that she makes.

This Final will say a lot about where the WTA is heading. We'll even have the modern replacements for Justine Henin and Carolos Rodriguez in terms of blatant coaching. IT seems to be true that the more things change the more things stay the same.