Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And All's Right With The World?

by Savannah

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via @RogerFederer

The above picture was posted by whomever handles Roger Federer's Twitter account about 5:14p Eastern Time. The message? See we're fine. I even let Stan make bunny ears. Nothing to see here. Time to move on.

If you want to understand the power of agents and why they get paid the big bucks this story is an ideal case study.
I've been on a mini rampage this year about the lack of real journalism when it comes to covering tennis. Instead of sportswriters who delve into the nuts and bolts of the sport we have people covering tennis who simply put their names on the press releases handed to them by certain players agents. Some agents are more powerful than others though and it's no stretch to say that Tony Godsick, Roger Federer's partner in their new PR firm that split off from IMG recently, is a super agent. He's so good, so well connected, and dare I say feared, that not one US tennis writer, or any member of the tennis writers guild or whatever they call themselves, has dared mumble a word about what happened during and after the semi final match between Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer.

Instead I've seen the French accused of being shit stirrers (this was by a fan), outright denial by many fans, and insults directed at Wawrinka's manhood.

I have to give credit where credit is due. John McEnroe broke the code of silence when he went live and admitted that something happened. That's a big deal. No one stateside has said "boo" since. And he's been attacked for doing what a reporter is supposed to do.

If you still doubt the fix was in when is the last time a player didn't face the press gathered and waiting to ask questions and instead did a one on one with a single ATP reporter behind closed doors? Imaine an American quarterback after throwing five interceptions refusing to meet the press and talking to one hand selected reporter? A top soccer manager refusing to meet the press after a bad match? The screaming would never end. Only in tennis would this be greeted with total silence by the "journalists".

What I have found disgusting is the rage of Federer fans against his wife. For some reason they've never liked her and now it seems that they blame her for tarnishing the image of the man they worship. Mirka Federer is not some "model" who does nothing but sit and look pretty in a players box. She managed Federer's career until he signed with IMG, in other words when it was too much for her to do on her own. That doesn't mean she's a saint. It means that she doesn't deserve to be insulted for her perceived WAG status. She is more than a WAG and if anything some of those who consider themselves reporters should be talking about the torrent of anger and hate directed at her. I'm not excusing what she's alleged to have done. I'm just saying that if there is anger and rage let's look at the why of that. Sometimes fans buy into a media image and take it to extremes. And agents get paid to help that dynamic along.

The story is not going to go away. Davis Cup starts this Friday. We'll all have to wait and see what happens.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I Have A Question UPDATED

by Savannah

Last night Roger Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka saving four match points. His fans were ecstatic and making up new words to incorporate his name. It's about 1:20 in the afternoon here on the east coast of the United States and fans who paid two hundred pounds or so to see the best of the ATP play a final have been told that it will take 48 hours for the LTA to decide if they get refunds. I hate to be the one to break it to them but since tennis is being played and they're watching they won't get refunds. That's how the USTA would play it.

I watched that match last night. At no time did I see any indication that Federer was having any physical issues. Someone on Twitter said they saw he didn't bend his knees at some point in the match but if that happened I didn't see it. Neither did anyone else including the comms on TennisTV, considered the best in the business.

The drama started when Federer didn't show up for his practice scheduled at 2:30p US time. A British journalist, Barry Flatman, of the Sunday Times tweeted the tennis equivalent of "Houston we have a problem" and said the final between Federer and Novak Djokovic would not take place. By the time he tweeted that the Tennis Twitter meltdown had begun. Rumors saying Nick Kyrgios would play Djokovic circulated. Some wondered why David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez weren't tapped to play. In the end Andy Murray, who was still in town to attend his friends wedding next week, was called on by Chris Kermode to play a pro set with Djokovic and then a doubles exho with John McEnroe against another team that included Tim Henman.

Mr. Flatman just tweeted the following:

Barry Flatman @Barry_FlatmanST · 5m 5 minutes ago
John McEnroe has now made it public: "Something went on in the locker room between Fed and Wawrinka & it extended long into the night."

It was reported that Wawrinka said something to Mirka Federer during the match last night. Inquiring minds and all that.

Since this is an ongoing story I'll stop here. I will ask this: If it was another player withdrawing from a year end final, and god forbid it was a WTA player, would tennis media be so sanguine?

This morning there are two articles in the British press, both by respected sportswriters, on what exactly happened during that crucial patch in the third set.

Here is what the Daily Mail's Mike Dickson reports happened:

According to several eyewitnesses, a vociferous argument developed between the pair in the backstage area. Tour officials decided that the best thing was to push them alone into a private room that had been converted into a gym area, as there is no communal locker room at the arena.

While the dispute is not believed to have become physical, a heated ten-minute row ensued in which both aired their grievances against the other.

Among Wawrinka's complaints is that Federer's wife Mirka made audible comments from his supporters' box – which unlike in many stadiums are right at ground level – questioning in French whether he would have the guts to close the match out.

In what had been an unusually feisty and high quality semi-final Wawrinka had four match points and served for the match at 5-4. According to French television, it picked him up saying 'She did the same thing at Wimbledon.'

Simon Briggs of the more restrained and reliable Telegraph posted the following:

Rumours of a bust-up between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals grew more credible today as well-placed sources attested that the two men found themselves “thrashing out their differences” in the O2 Arena’s gym after Saturday’s semi-final.

Furthermore, the common thread to all the accounts of a hot-tempered match comes back to the role of Federer’s wife Mirka. The Telegraph understands that Mirka’s intense and even provocative support for her husband - which peaked just before Wawrinka served for the match at 5-4 in the third set - caused Wawrinka to complain about her behaviour during the match.

In those late stages, Mirka is understood to have directly challenged Wawrinka, accusing him of whingeing. Wawrinka wasted four match points - three of them in that critical service game at 5-4 - before Federer finally came through by a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6) scoreline.

When he came into the interview room, some time after the match, Wawrinka was asked: “At some point late in the third you seemed upset with someone speaking before points. Can you explain what happened there?” His response was cryptic: “Not much. Nothing special. Tense match. It's never easy.”

New information has now come to light about the aftermath of the match, when Federer and Wawrinka were encouraged by senior tennis figures to put the issue to bed at once. The two men conducted a heated 10-minute debate in the O2 Arena’s gym, in which Federer was understood to be the more assertive party.

Randy Burgess, a long and valued commentator on this blog points out that there are a couple of people who mentioned Federer wincing and not bending his knees late in the match. I was watching the match and didn't see it. I consider the reports of it happening valid though and while I didn't see it happen believe those who say they did.

Tennis journalists seem to have gone silent and when they do speak still act as though the incident and the fall out are rumors despite the two articles referenced above. I understand fans not wanting to believe it happened but journalists are supposed to be non biased and report the facts.

If there are anymore updates to the story I'll create a separate post.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why All The Bother About Andy Murray?

by Savannah

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Photo via Getty Images

It's been humming along in the background since June. The British tennis establishment was beside itself that Andy Murray chose Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach. They kept their upset to a dull roar until now though. After Mr. Murray was bagelled at the year ending WTF in London there was no holding them back and now such great tennis players as Greg Rusedski and multiple Grand Slam winner Tim Henman are going all in criticizing Murray's game and his choice of coach.

First it was Rusedski criticizing Murray's second serve, something has always been a problem in his game. It's Mauresmo's fault.

Now it's Henman talking smack about the Murray/Mauresmo collaboration.

When you reflect on the match, for me his game had no identity,' said the 40-year-old BBC pundit. 'What was the plan out there? (...) 'It's about clarity of thought and that's when you've got to take a step back and look at the whole set-up, the whole team and his whole lifestyle and see whether that is working as well as it can. At the end of the day, he's the only one that can answer that.

I should mention that Marin Cilic, 2014 US Open champion, played like shit but no one is raking his coach Goran Ivanisevic over the coals. He's one of the guys.

What's amusing about all of this shade is that Murray is playing the way he's always played, poor second serve and passive aggressive rope-a-dope tennis. None of the critics are talking about what Murray did to get to the WTF's. He won three tournaments to make it and even with a week off he had to be exhausted. It's as if those wins didn't happen. Instead a bad loss means it's all the new coaches fault and she has to go.

Who do I blame? Ivan Lendl. He's the one who blindsided Murray saying he'd had enough and wants to do other stuff that doesn't involve coaching Andy Murray. There was so much discussion about what effect that dumping would have on Murray right? Of course there wasn't. Instead the tennis "press" turned to who Murray would pick next. John McEnroe was mentioned frequently. Andre Agassi's name came up. So did Pete Sampras. Not one member of the LTA was mentioned if I recall correctly. It's as if it was assumed that the person would be someone from Lendl's generation so that the players from that time could try and bring back the tennis they played and make it work with modern racquets engineered for a different type of game, one they can't play and barely comprehend.

Murray fooled them all. Not only did he go outside of the US, British, Australian tennis axis but he chose - please clutch your pearls - a woman! A French woman! Hold on Elizabeth it's the big one!

With a coaching change the first thing that happens is that you have to unlearn the old system and learn the new one.
Player and coach have to learn what buttons to push and not to push, how far each one can go with the other. The tennis philosophy of the new coach has to fit in and adjust to the mindset of the player. This takes time.

Rusedski's tome seemed to be him saying he wants to become Murray's coach. Henman's comments are supposed to be constructive criticism since he's described as a good friend of Murray. Not every British tennis fan is on the "get rid of that woman" train but as my mother used to say enpty barrels make the most noise.

I don't know what the future holds for Murray and Mauresmo. I do know that he will go to his friends wedding and then probably head for Florida where he trains. Whatever Murray decides it will be his decision.