Monday, December 14, 2015

Serena Williams: Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year

by Savannah

Yu Tsai for Sports Illustrated via AP photo edb58a62-eb8f-4ac5-9d82-1c64143f278c_zps6euibbs5.jpg
Yu Tsai for SI via AP

First tennis player since Arthur Ashe won in 1992.

First solo female athlete since Mary Decker in 1983.

There are human beings Tweeting that a horse should've won the award and directing tweets to said horse.

There are tennis fans who feel another tennis player should've won it.

I'm sure there's weeping and gnashing of teeth in one tennis players camp.

And you know what? Suck it bitches.

Congratulations to Serena Jameka Williams for all she has accomplished not only this year (2015) but in her career. It's about time she got the recognition for all the blood, sweat and tears.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

I Simply Don't Get It

by Savannah

This "off season" resembles a round of musical chairs more than anything else. Coaches are being hired and fired. One pro has hired a guy to travel with him and be his friend (and probably be his road manager). Borna Çoriç has hired Andy Murray's old coach Miles Maclagan. Milos Raonic lost his coach and as I type this I haven't heard of him hiring a new one.

Those changes are not what got me to break my "off season" to post a rant. The change that has pushed me over the edge is the one Madison Keys made. The official line is that she stopped working with Lindsay Davenport, her husband Jon Leach and Lisa Raymond because Lindsay couldn't travel and manage family time and broadcast committments. Surprise surprise. We all know that Lindsay has nannies to handle the children and maids to handle her housework but if they want to make it seem that she and her investment banker husband live like the hoi polloi that is their right.

As regular readers know Madison was my one to watch in 2015 for the WTA. You also know that all she did was tread water during the year, that her game didn't improve and her on court demanor didn't either. When I read she dumped Lindsay I was curious as to who her new coach would be and what it would say about her vision of her career and how she wanted to achieve it. So imagine my surprise and head scratch when I read who her new coach would be. My verbal response was "why"?

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images photo 678d1caf-a4fc-4455-a293-3e535c236f17_zpsvqkt8q5d.jpg
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Jesse Levine, to my knowledge, made no appreciable mark on the ATP tour. There was some snark about him not being able to decide if he was a citizen of the United States or Canada.

Here is a summary of his career via Wikipedia:

Career record 31–64 (at ATP Tour level, Grand Slam level, and in Davis Cup)
Career titles 0
Highest ranking No. 69 (October 1, 2012)

Here, from the same source, are his Grand Slam results.

Grand Slam Singles results

Australian Open 2R (2008, 2013)
French Open 2R (2012)
Wimbledon 3R (2009)
US Open 2R (2009)

As part of the announcement of Levine as coach it was said that he hit with Madison before she went on her run at Charleston where she lost in the final to Angelique Kerber in three sets after beating Kateryna Bondarenko, Andreea Mitu, Lauren Davis and Lucie Hradecka by very comfortable margins. Not exactly a Murderer's Row she beat was it? But that was enough to get Levine a job.

We all know the adage "those who can't do teach" and maybe Levine will turn out to be the one to move Madison's career forward. She can't have been happy with a year that saw her win no titles, unable to defend the one title she had won in 2014. She also had a major emotional break down on court.

Levine's hiring makes me wonder if there is some kind of a USTA plan to have American players paired with American's. John Isner hired the loathsome Justin Gimelstob and now Keys has hired Levine. I guess no top tier coach was available, willing or wanted by US players.

If Levine turns out to be what Keys needs I won't hesitate to say she made the right choice and that my initial misgivings were wrong. As of today though I see nothing he brings to her game and the choice baffles me. I don't see this choice moving Madison to the next level. Instead I see her ranking staying about the same.

Sorry guys. This is a bad choice for a "rising star".

©SavannahsWorld All Rigts Reserved except where indicated

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The ATP At A Crossroads

by Savannah

2015 Davis Cup Champion photo d8644ece-909d-41fc-8dbd-aee302ab22a2_zpsxuxtdyuw.jpg
via Getty Images

Just before the Davis Cup Finals began David Lloyd , former British Davis Cup captain and brother of John Lloyd who was once married to Chris Evert, launched a scathing critique of England's best, and only, tennis star Andy Murray. He was in such a lather that he attacked not only the player but his mother, Judy Murray. What was Lloyd so upset about?

Andy Murray does not give enough back to the sport, while the Lawn Tennis Association has frittered away hundreds of millions without producing a single world-class talent.

‘The British players in recent years who have been good - Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, Andy - they don’t in my opinion put enough back. They would say “Well, we’re winning this and winning that”. But I don’t mean that. I mean putting your heart and soul into it, a passion that is bigger than the person and even bigger than the game.

‘It’s about getting a kid who wants to play for Manchester United to want to play tennis instead. Andy is in such an incredible position with power to do that but he doesn’t. Tim is on the board of the LTA but he’s not out there grabbing people and that disappoints me.’


‘All these top players mask the failings, it is a pitiful organisation,’ said David. ‘They built a National Training Centre for £40million. That is my business, I’ve built lots of them. I know how much they cost and it’s maximum £10m, so where did the other £30m go?’

Lloyd also criticised the top players for not promoting the sport as well as they could.

‘I don’t think Andy does justice in presenting himself,’ said Lloyd. ‘I don’t think he goes out of his way to present the game. I only say things because I cannot believe we’ve been this unlucky

His criticism of the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) is valid and no one is disputing that. What had people up in arms was his attack on the Murray family right before the beginning of the tie. Did he want England to lose? What macabre joy would he get out of that I wonder? Is he upset because Murray, of Scottish descent, came out for Scottish independence? There were many on Twitter who called Murray a hypocrite because he draped himself in the Union Jack and they at least had the balls to say that his stance on independence affected their perspective.

And what about his list of "great" British players. Rusedski, many of you will recall, was born in Canada and became a British citizen because one of his parents was born there. There was also quite an uproar about it as I recall.

Tim Henman's style of play was archaic while he was still playing.

As for the brothers Lloyd the less said the better.

You can't discuss Great Britain - England in particular - without at least touching on its caste system. The Lloyd brothers and Tim Henman are part of the inner circle, the upper class from which most tennis players were drawn. How do they go out to working or lower middle class families to try and convince them that tennis is the way to go and that they should ignore Man United? They barely concede that these people exist. It's one thing to cheer a player on the field. It's quite another thing to sit down with his family to discuss their talented son's sports options. They can't and they never will.

So why does it fall on the clan Murray to do so much? Judy Murray is doing all she can to build up girls and women's tennis in Great Britain yet she is accused of doing nothing. Are the Murray's, because of their ethnicity assumed to be able to reach kids outside of the public (really private) schools?

Needless to say Lloyd's ravings were not accepted by tennis fans, many of whom have been following the sport for years and know that the problem with British tennis isn't that the Murray clan isn't doing enough. It's that they've got no idea how to teach the modern game. If you listen to their commentary you get the impression that they despise it and long for the return of serve and volley as not just a tactic but the only way to play the game.

After Kyle Edmund's dreadful loss in the first rubber there were a lot of posts on Twitter about how well he did and that he is a bright light for the future. Uh huh. There is a British player who could possibly have taken some of the weight off of the Murray brother's shoulders but despite his change of citizenship the LTA doesn't seem in a hurry to ensure that he's eligible to play for Great Britain. It's galling that British superstar Dan Evans (ranked 185) gets credit for being on a winning Davis Cup team that he contributed absolutely nothing to. At least Edmund (ranked 102) tried.

The British reached the Davis Cup Final for the first time since 1936 on the back of Andy and Jamie Murray. They are Davis Cup Champions because of Clan Murray. They know this is the truth, a truth that galls them. What should have them in a panic is that there is absolutely no one ready to step into Andy Murray's sneakers. No one. And that is not Andy Murray's fault.

This post, the last one until summer season down under starts, is about the ATP as a whole though. Why do I say it's at a crossroads? It's widely perceived that it is the better run tour, that the caliber of it's top ten is much, much higher than that of the women's tour, that its tournaments draw more fans and more interest and that it promotes the GAME of mens tennis not just it's superstars or a specific look.

Let's look at the ATP Year End Top 20 rankings:

1 Novak Djokovic 16585
2 Andy Murray 8945
3 Roger Federer 8265
4 Stan Wawrinka 6865
5 Rafael Nadal 5230
6 Tomas Berdych 4620
7 David Ferrer 4305
8 Kei Nishikori 4235
9 Richard Gasquet 2850
10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2635

11 John Isner 2495
12 Kevin Anderson 2475
13 Marin Cilic 2405
14 Milos Raonic 2170
15 Gilles Simon 2145
16 David Goffin 1880
17 Feliciano Lopez 1690
18 Bernard Tomic 1675
19 Benoit Paire 1633
20 Dominic Thiem 1600

What a dominant top player huh? He had a good year and fans should be flocking to him right? Well, no. That is not the way things are going. The tennis press, and some comms, are working very hard to try to rally fans to the number one. They've tried everything: guilt, shame, ethnic bias, you name it, to try and make fans like a player they are intent on not liking. I've often said that tennis fans are like cats. Try and make them go in one direction and they'll go whereever it is they want to go thank you very much.

The truth of the matter is that the current top player is a known quanity. He's been faking his way through matches for years and guess what - fans notice it! And they don't like it, or him. There is a litany of illnesses that have come and gone when it comes to him. His use of the hyperbaric chamber that wasn't a hyperbaric chamber was shoved out of public discussion by what passes as tennis journalism. The full court press is now on to make us like him. So far it's not working. The powers that be at the ATP know that an unpopular top man hurts their sport. I just don't think they can do anything to change things now.

The same is being done for the two spoiled brats from Australia, Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. Just yesterday the head of Tennis Australia said in an interview that the two have now matured, that they've "turned the corner" and that al we can expect from them going forward is qualify tennis.

Here's an excerpt" from that interview:

Both players endured turbulent years with on and off court controversies, including brushes with officialdom and the law, overshadowing anything they did on court.

Despite being the nation's top-ranked players, neither was considered as nominees for the prestigious Newcombe Medal -- which rewards Australia's "most outstanding elite tennis player and ambassador".

But Tiley said Tennis Australia had mended its fences with the pair and he expected them to be on their best behaviour at their home Grand Slam, the Australian Open, next month.

"I'd love nothing more than both Bernie and Nick to have a great 2016, as we all would," Tiley, who is also tournament director of the season's first major at Melbourne Park, told Wednesday's The Australian newspaper.

"There's no rifts; no animosity between Tennis Australia and those two guys. They are making a real go of a professional tennis career.

"They know what our expectations are and when they meet them they get rewarded and if they don't, they don't."

I'm not holding my breath.

There have also been some critiques of the generation of players aged between 20-25. Not one superstar has emerged from that group despite all the hype surrounding many of them. I don't get the point of choosing one player and naming his entire generation after him. That's silly. But I understand the motivation.

We can argue about the top three or four but the truth of the matter is two of the men in that group were winning majors in their late teens and early twenties. They were blowing the older generation off the court and into the broadcast booth. That is not being done by the younger group. Is their skill set less? Are they less competitive than the top three or four? Are they not as mentally tough?

I did a post earlier this year about the premature rewarding of promising juniors. I postulated that it freezes them mentally and that instead of working hard to improve their games they think because they caught a top player on a bad day they're the shit and don't have to do anything but what they've been doing. I made the same point in my year end report cards on Zverev and Keys. No matter how you feel about any of the top three or four you can't accuse any of them of resting on their laurels. They have all worked to improve their game. I don't see that happening with the younger group. I do see the men in their late teens making moves to try and move to the next level though so maybe it won't be such a long wait for another rivalry to appear that equals the Duopoly that still dominates mens tennis rankings be damned. Maybe I should call it the top two plus two.

I also have a bone to pick with ATP marketing. The WTA outdid them with their second tier championship tournament. People were interested in Zhuhai. Did anyone really care about the recently concluded ATP event in South America? If you judge by Twitter mentions no one did. Unless you really follow the Challenger tour many of the players were unfamiliar to most fans. I also think that fans were worn out and unless a fairly big fish was strong armed into playing interest flagged. I know some will say the positive reaction to Zhuhai shows the "depth" of the women's tour. Meh. They had Venus Williams in Zhuhai and that was all the marketing they needed. There was no one comparable in South America. Most of the good fan sites have boards devoted to the Challenger tour now. There is interest. I get why men in the top 20 don't want to play against mostly Challenger level players. Maybe the ATP needs to look at what the WTA did and see if they can work something out that will hold fans interest at the end of a long season.

I should say that I didn't forget US men. There's nothing much to say. I am going to be paying more attention to them next year though. I've decided to keep my eye on Taylor Fritz, the player the USTA is hyping the most. Currently ranked #176 Fritz has won two Challenger titles, won the US Open Junior Boys Title, made the Boys Final at Roland Garros (a big deal for a US player at any level) and the Boys semi final at Wimbledon. His CV is as follows:

Born October 28, 1997 (age 18)
Height 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)
Plays Right-handed (two handed-backhand)

It should be noted that his mother played professional tennis.

The young woman I'll be keeping my eye on is Naomi Osaka, ranked #156

Here's her CV:

Born 16 October 1997 (age 18)
Osaka, Japan
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Plays Right-handed (two-handed backhand)

She's got no main tour or ITF titles but she really impressed me at the Rising Star event in Singapore. She should have lost in the final to Caroline Garcia but she stayed focused while Garcia, the more experienced player, fell apart. It's not too much to say no one had picked Osaka going in.

Will I keep my eyes on my first two picks? Yes I will. 2016 is a crucial year for both Alexander Zverev and Madison Keys. Zverev, the younger of the two, has a few years to grow into his body and hone his game. Keys doesn't have that luxury. She's got to improve her on court focus and demeanor. No one is afraid of her. She's a big deal in the States and nowhere else. I understand managing your schedule but International events are there for a reason. If you think you're a top player but can't get over the hump then you need to play more. She's in danger of being passed by Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic, and others who understand that playing hones your skills. No one likes losing but you learn everytime you play a match. Winning is the cherry on top. Zverev, one of the yonger players coming up, is improving his game. Keys is stagnant and doesn't seem to be making moves to take the next step.

End Note

Unless something drastic happens I will make my next blog post in late December. It's been a very interesting year in tennis, a year that pretty much saw the status quo continue on both tours.

On the WTA side Agnieszka Radwańska, who won the YEC and ended the year ranked #5 in the world has to hit the ground running. She was not expected to do well in Singapore and she did. I think she'll be able to pick off younger and less skilled players but the big girls know how to counter her. I don't see her winning a Slam but I think she can rise higher in the rankings by gobbling up the small fish.

As for the ATP the man on the move is Andy Murray. His wife is due to have their child early next year and I believe he's taking February off. The pressure will be on him to do very well in Melbourne though so he will have to come in ready to play at the level he did in Ghent. He's number two in the world.

I'll end by saying Happy Holidays to everyone. See you in a few weeks.

© SavannahsWorld. All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Alexander Zverev and Madison Keys 2015 Report Cards

by Savannah

Madison Keys
End of Year Rank: 18
Age: 20

 photo 5037f553-cb5c-4fa4-9102-fdf9d191600a_zpsslxva1xf.jpg
Source: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images AsiaPac

Wins: 31

Best Tournament(s):
Australian Open: Semi Finalist
Charleston: Finalist
Strasbourg: Quarter Finalist (W/O to Kristina Mladenovic)
Wimbledon: Quarter Finalist
US Open: Round of 16

Notable Loss(es):
Eastbourne R32 To Belinda Bencic (Defending Champion)

There are huge chunks of the year missing from Madison's stats. I know that she was supposed to be out with injury and I understand that she is entitled to her off time but the images that have really stuck with me from 2015 are those of her at Coachella with Sam Querrey and other friends of hers. She has not accomplished enough to take a sabbatical like the world number one did after the US Open but it seems she, like other young US players, feel they're on the same level as the top players on their tour.

Sadly when Madison did play there was no discernible improvement in her game from 2014. At least in 2014 she won a title. This year she wasn't able to defend that title.

Madison has the potential to be a very good player but she is going to have to show more discipline when her opponent isn't cooperating with her plans and countering her every move. This year Madison seemed to get frustrated and fall apart when this happened. There was no evidence of a Plan B in her repertoire.

In other words she doesn't think well on court. No matter her potential she's got to kick her game up a notch or she is going to end up one of those mid level players with a decent following of fans who will be singing the lament "woulda coulda shoulda".

Grade for 2015: C

Alexander Zverev
End of Year Rank: 81
Age: 18

 photo f2c0d022-7b9e-47b4-b0f9-f267fca9c784_zps9wkskn0j.jpg
via Getty Images

Wins: 14
Losses: 17

Best Tournaments:
Rotterdam: Round of 16
Irving Tennis Classic (CH): Quarter Finalist
Open du Pays D'Aix (CH): Semi Finalist
Neckarcup (CH): Champion
Bästad: Semi Finalist
Citi Open: Quarter Finalist

Notable Achievement:
Winner ATP 2015 Star of Tomorrow Award

Alexander Zverev is right about where he should be for his age. He hasn't won any majors but that is okay. I think winning a major too young (or doing very well at a major at too young an age) makes a young person think there's not much more they have to do to improve their game. After all they beat such and such a great player so what they're doing has to be fine right? It's as if they're not paying attention to what the top players are doing. Male or female their games are constantly evolving, constantly changing. If you're playing the same game you played at eighteen when you're 24 something is wrong. If you're playing the same game you played at 18 at 30 you're playing Challenger level tennis.

I had to laugh when I saw that they gave this award to him instead of Chung Hyeon, who at 19 is ranked #51 in the world but maybe they wanted to make up for the way they treated him during the year. Many of his losses came after he had to play three rounds of Qualifying. I saw this at the US Open. He was playing Qualifying while some questionable players were direct entries into the Main Draw.

I hope that the young man is angry about 2015 regardless of the Award. It would be nice if he can win an ATP 250 during 2016 and be given wild cards into main draws at mid level events but we'll see. In order to do this he is going to have to keep his emotions in check especially during the business end of a match. This year he would start talking to himself, throwing up his hands and go into full meltdown mode. He's got about a year to stop doing that.

Grade for 2015: C

End Notes:

There were several times during the year that I wanted to drop these two as my players to watch and choose others. My choice on the men's side would've been easy: Chung Hyeon had a much better year than Zverev and is ranked 30 points higher. Right now it seems that he is being watched and praised by a small group of aficionados who see that a great tennis mind is being formed. He's not ready to win majors yet but I can see him winning a 250 or two and maybe going to the quarters in a M500. He does get frustrated on court but I haven't seen amy yelling and screaming breakdowns from him. You can almost hear him thinking "I'll do better next time" while going off to scout the top players on his own.

The women's side would've been difficult. Belinda Bencic? Elina Svitolina? Anna Karolina Schmiedlova? Daria Gavrilova? Alison van Uytvanck? I think Louisa Chirico of the US at 19 Is going to have to step up her game. There are lots of people in the States who want her to do well but does she have that steel will to get beyond being a rich girl dabbling in a rich person's sport? She's 5'9" (1.524m) tall, a decent height, and has a decent game. We'll see.

As for the other women named they have decent games but Bencic and Gavrilova can go full diva on you in the blink of an eye. Gavrilova wants her high emotion to distract her opponent and it has worked for her but once players learn to ignore your insanity on court they do and they beat you. I'm not impressed by Svitolina or Schmiedlova to be honest. I don't see great there. I see decent.

The one young woman I'm going to be looking at next year will be Osaka Naomi. Due to her mixed race heritage (her father is Haitian) she does not have the thin body of Asian women. She also has the ability to stay focused and win matches she shouldn't. Yes I'm talking about her match vs Caroline Garcia in Singapore. No one, not even me, saw her having a chance in that match but she won it.

By the time play starts again at the end of December I'll have made up my mind who I will follow in 2016.

My write up on the ATP will come a week or so after Davis Cup.

© SavannahsWorld All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

by Savannah

 photo Attachment-1_zpsjqggcuwd.png

Congratulations to Venus Williams who had a good end of year in Asia and ended the year ranked #7, a triumph over illness and the people who had written her off.

Let's look at the official year end rankings up to #50 for 2015.

1. Serena Williams USA 9945 +1460 points
2. Simona Halep ROU 6060 +1
3. Garbine Muguruza ESP 5200 +18
4. Maria Sharapova RUS 5011 -2
5. Agnieszka Radwanska POL 4495 +1
6. Petra Kvitova CZE 4210 -2
7. Venus Williams USA 3790 +12
8. Flavia Pennetta ITA 3621 +5
9. Lucie Safarova CZE 3590 +8
10. Angelique Kerber GER 3590 No Change In Position

11. Karolina Pliskova CZE 3285
12. Timea Bacsinszky SUI 3133
13. Carla Suarez Navarro ESP 3090
14. Belinda Bencic SUI 2900
15. Roberta Vinci ITA 2785
16. Ana Ivanovic SRB 2645
17. Caroline Wozniacki DEN 2641
18. Madison Keys USA 2600
19. Elina Svitolina UKR 2590
20. Sara Errani ITA 2525
21. Jelena Jankovic SRB 2445
22. Victoria Azarenka BLR 2276
23. Ekaterina Makarova RUS 2201
24. Andrea Petkovic GER 2185
25. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS 2006
26. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova SVK 1875
27. Samantha Stosur AUS 1865
28. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS 1840
29. Kristina Mladenovic FRA 1725
30. Sloane Stephens USA 1715
31. Irina-Camelia Begu ROU 1630
32. Sabine Lisicki GER 1568
33. Lesia Tsurenko UKR 1445
34. Camila Giorgi ITA 1325
35. Caroline Garcia FRA 1320
36. Daria Gavrilova RUS 1300
37. Coco Vandeweghe USA 1247
38. Dominika Cibulkova SVK 1246
39. Monica Niculescu ROU 1245
40. Madison Brengle USA 1238
41. Barbora Strycova CZE 1170
42. Alison Van Uytvanck BEL 1157
43. Alize Cornet FRA 1155
44. Mona Barthel GER 1135
45. Teliana Pereira BRA 1132
46. Varvara Lepchenko USA 1125
47. Johanna Konta GBR 1107
48. Eugenie Bouchard CAN 1065
49. Yanina Wickmayer BEL 1043
50. Julia Goerges GER 1040

For the top ten I've added how many places they've moved up or down from last year.

I've written a lot about the WTA this past season, most of it critical. I don't want to go over ground I've already covered so I'll focus on how the women's tour ended. The word that came to mind right away was "messy".

Why "messy"? The WTA went all in leading up to the US Open and Serena Williams chance to make history. I thought the hype was a bit over the top and would only add to what had to be butterflies as big as bats in Serena's stomach and encroaching brain freeze in her mind. If anyone watched "The Soprano's" the hype reminded me of when Tony brpught a sable coat home for Carmela thinking that it would cover a multitude of his sins.

The oversell brings up what for me has been a consistent marketing issue for the WTA. Under Stacey Allaster's long reign the sport of women's tennis was pushed aside in favor of promoting a "look". She's gone now and I'm thinking that the new guy should be given a chance to start making his own mark. It seems as if he's started with the problematic $125k events. Previously taking place almost exclusively in Asia new ones are scheduled in Buenos Aires, Argentina, San Antonio, Texas, West Hempstead, New York and Bol, Croatia. Keep in mind these tournaments are not part of the main tour, and that top ten players need not apply (see page 15 of the WTA Handbook )so any rumors you hear about a top tenner playing one of these are just folks trying to push ticket sales.

The fact that no new 125k's were announced for Asia gives hope to many fans that the obsessive focus on China may be lessening. I know the company line has been that China is the up and coming market but broadcast deals aren't cheap and I'm guessing only the guaranteed government money is keeping these events going. It's a cliché that Chinese tournament equals mostly empty stadium.

But I digress. After Serena's loss in New York instead of a drone telling the tennis press that Serena was taking an already planned sabbatical she was left hanging once again as fans, and some members of the press, criticized her for taking time off and planning to play some exhibition events later in the year. Only fans who pay close attention knew that the total silence from the WTA meant that this break was planned and was going to happen whether or not she made history.

Then there is the ill advised lawsuit filed by Eugenie Bouchard against the USTA/WTA. No matter how you feel about it the fact remains that the Plaintiffs, instead of trying to quietly settle out of court have hit back hard at Ms Bouchard. In an interview her lawyer described her as being "upset" because the USTA is "being really aggressive" with her. I don't even know how to respond to that. I have no reason to think her lawyer is misrepresenting how she feels but what did she expect? He's talking about her being paid "millions and millions" isn't he? If she gets a jury (in New York for a civil case there are usually six jurors with two alternates) where no one has a clue about tennis and how she was playing coming into the US Open she could end up getting exactly what she, through her lawyers, is asking for. How would having to bestow a large settlement on Ms Bouchard affect the corporation doing business as the USTA? Would it affect it's construction at the BJK NTC in Queens New York? What about the other work it does? Did she expect a champagne reception to be thrown in her honor?

The full USTA filing can be found
HERE . The most interesting thing to me is the following:

Without relieving the Plaintiff of its burden of proof of establishing his injuries or damages, if any, any damages sustained by the Plaintiff were proximately caused or contributed to by the intervening or superseding intentional conduct or negligence of third-parties that the Plaintiff has not named in this action.

So she wasn't alone in the room. There is some pretty wild speculation out there about who the unnamed third party is but wouldn't it have made sense for Ms Bouchard to have mentioned that she and Mr or Ms X entered the room together? Why didn't she name the third party/parties to avoid speculation? Messy business this.

So, where does the WTA go from here?

There was a surprise winner at the YEC. Will she become a Slam contender? Will Serena pick up where she left off when it comes to Slams? Will Venus be able to continue to move up in the rankings? Will Petra Kvitova become a more consistent player in 2016? Will Garbiñe Muguruza be able to push Serena for the top ranking? What about Simona Halep? Will she figure out a way to handle pressure and hold it together enough to really challenge for Slams titles? What about Karolina Pliskova?

We know Flavia Pennetta is retired and will drop out of the top ten. Lucie Safarova has been ill and didn't play at all during the Fed Cup tie just recently completed. Fans don't like to talk about it but Venus health will continue to be an issue. At the present time with Pennetta out the top ten is really Kerber at #9 and Pliskova at #10. We can talk about whether Pliskova - or Muguruza for that matter - deserve their rankings based on the quality of their play over the year. Personally I don't think Pliskova is a top ten player. Her game is still a bit too juvenile for my tastes. Muguruza had a great beginning to and end of 2015. Her collaboration with Sam Sumyk seems to be working well and I'm sure she's aiming for bigger and better in 2016. Sumyk's job appears to be easier than Cahill's right now but we'll only know by the end of the spring hard court season in the US if Cahill has found a way to help his charge deal with the pressure of late tournament play.

Is the style of tennis going to change? Yes. Will it be at a lower level than we've become accustomed to? Yes. Will top players retire after Rio or after the US Open? Who knows?

And not forgetting the mess that led up to the YEC will the new guy try and imitate the ATP and arrange a week off leading into it? That gives time to build up anticipation among fans and the media. This year the YEC didn't stand out and I feel play was affected by people having to fly long distances to and from Asia.

How would I rate the year? It may surprise some but I'd give it a B based on excellence of Serena, the promise of Garbiñe, Belinda Bencic and maybe, just maybe, Madison Keys? I'll give my report card on the young players I chose to focus on this year next time.

I hope next year I can give a higher grade.

©2015 SavannahsWorld All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Sunday, November 1, 2015

And Then There Was One

by Savannah

 photo 3e2564cb-c022-4176-9cb9-af9b0ad7ff74_zpsu296flkj.jpg
via @Jimmie48Photography

Many years ago there was a movie called "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". Well a funny thing happened on the way to the WTA YEC Final. We knew early on that the world number one Serena Williams would not be traveling to Singapore. Despite the scandal that some tried to make of this don't think for one second that the WTA didn't know early on that no matter what happened in New York Serena would not be going back to Asia. There was talk about her "not doing her duty" to the tour from what you could say were the usual sources but it didn't gain much traction. There were also rumors planted about a pregnancy and who Serena was dating. Yes I said planted. If you can't beat her on the court try and destroy her reputation especially after the rumors and papped pictures floating around of a certain player frolicing on the beach with a friend. Diversionary tactics. If everyone was going on and on about who Serena was or was not dating the fact that Maria Sharapova took off from Wimbledon to the YEC would not become a major topic of conversation or discussion. Of all the players in Singapore she was the most rested. I heard a comm making a big deal about Petra Kvitova taking a few weeks off from play but when it came to the Ban Sidhe there was nothing said about that long rest she had.

Add that to the fact that there was absolutely no sign of injury when play began. There were all kinds of rumors about Sharapova being too injured to play Singapore, that she was risking her career in doing so, that she was there but would do PR only. If you saw any of her matches it was obvious that was all bull, an attempt to make it appear she was limping and not striding confidently into the YEC. The sympathy card? I'd say so. Especially after her commetns about her peers lacking competitive fire because they wished Serena good luck in her quest for the CYGS did nothing to enhance her image among the majority of tennis fans. She came off looking petty and mean after that and there was nothing they could do about it.

Am I off topic again? I don't think so. I feel that the atmosphere around the 2015 YEC in far off Singapore needs to be established. The WTA would never admit it but this was the preview of what it will be when Serena retires. Will she retire after Rio? It depends on what her goals are. If she has achieved all she wants by the end of next year we could see her retire. And my goodness what a mess the WTA has on its hands.

The main problem with the WTA is that it doesn't promote women's tennis per se. It promotes individual players. I've said this before and I'll be brief. They wanted a certain look for their brand. Serena isn't it. Garbiñe Muguruza isn't it. Simona Halep isn't it. Agniezska Radwanska isn't it. None of the Czech women are it despite the long limbs and blonde hair. And the one they chose is trying to pull down the pillars of the temple in a shameless money grab.

There was very little publicity around the event. We hard core fans knew who was who but a casual fan? Petra Kvitova? Who is this Muguruza person? Halep? Who can say Radwanska's first name?

But even if you know how to pronounce the names and could find the countries they came from on a map who cared? The thing is none of the women who earned their way to Singapore has that "it" factor, the thing that brings all the fans to the yard. Don't get me wrong, there were many contrasting styles on display in Singapore and fanatic tennis folowers felt that there was a chance to see what the "best of the rest" had to offer. But when you don't promote the sport and instead promote a look you've got a dicey situation on your hands.

But wait! Isn't Maria Sharapova a world wide brand? Isn't she a superstar? Wouldn't the fans come out to see the woman we've been told is the much desired face of tennis in Asia where they're said to worship tall blonde women? After all she's the highest paid female athlete on the planet right?

I think we saw that the hype is just that, that when push came to shove no one was breaking down the doors to see Sharapova. She played the night match for the entire week and the relatively small 10,000 person stadium was as empty as all the other stadia were on the Asian swing. I'm watching a replay of the Final now and the place is full. And Sharapova is nowhere in sight. I'm sure the talk will be people bought their tickets ahead of time expecting to see Sharapova but there are peopel who live in the area who post on fan boards and their on site reports proved that not to be the case. One person said that he bought tickets that put him in the second row courtside on the night of the match so that during the week sales were not good. These people also indicated that the weekend would be sold out because student exams would be over and indicated that the YEC should have been held this week instead of last week. I guess the event at Zhuhai was already set though so that couldn't happen.

Let's be clear. This was supposed to be the coronation of one Maria Sharapova. She cakewalked through her group and owned the head to head against Petra Kvitova. But it was Kvitova who played the final. To a packed house.

I don't know where to start with Agniezska Radwanska. Her coach's comments about her wanting to appear feminine and not look like a female athlete grated. I actually thought she was the weakest player coming in, weaker than even Lucie Safarova who had just gotten up from her sick bed to come to Singapore. She actually had a losing record in her group but through the formula's used to determine things made it to the semi final, final and the winners circle. I've never been a fan, her style bores me to tears. But it was no surprise that she defeated Muguruza. Like Aga or not she is not easy to play and when you allow her to stay focused she can ninja you off the court. Aga's greatest successes have been against up and comers of late, women who haven't gotten to the "how to beat Aga" chapters of the players handbook. Muguruza is a much improved player though and I expect her to come charging out of the gate in January. She will have to better manage her schedule now though, and I'm sure she and her coach Sam Sumyk will do just that.

So in the end we have Aga Radwanska holding the trophy declaring her the best player of 2015. Hard core fans - and I'm guessing they were the only ones braving the huge time differences for Europe and the US to try and watch live matches - know she was not. She was making some changes to her game and it seems that she's more comfortable with those changes now but she was not a factor in three of the four majors this year getting wins in Tokyo and Tianjin before beginning play in Singapore.

The woman whose reputation suffered the most in Singapore was Simona Halep. She fell apart under the pressure, something we've seen her do more than once recently. If as it's widely rumored Darren Cahill will become her head coach once the Adidas program he was part of folds he's got a lot of work to do. I watched him work with her during during Qualie week at the US Open and while she was willing to listen it seemed as if there are things she is not able to do on a court. Yet she is ranked Number two in the world. There is some talk about how small she is compared to many of her contemporaries but I don't know if that is her problem. Is she going to stay in the top ten by playing as many tournaments as she can? Will she be able to get the number one ranking after Serena retires taking us back to the Slamless Number One era?

The WTA top ten is as follows:

[1] Williams, Serena United States
[2] Halep, Simona Romania
[3] Muguruza, Garbiñe Spain
[4] Sharapova, Maria Russia
[5] Radwanska, Agnieszka Poland
[6] Kvitova, Petra Czech Republic
[7] Kerber, Angelique Germany
[8] Pennetta, Flavia Italy
[9] Safarova, Lucie Czech Republic
[10] Bacsinszky, Timea Switzerland

I will say this. The WTA's new leadership has to work harder at promoting women's tennis, especially since there doesn't seem to be a superstar on the horizon. If they don't the outlook is bleak. Push parity. Depth. Whatever. Look at what other sports do. It was not easy to get the powers that be in tennis to take women's tennis seriously. I hope all their hard work and sweat wasn't for nothing.

© Savannahs World 2015 All Rights Reserved unles otherwise indicated

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Final Eight

by Savannah

The Final 8 WTA YEC 2015 photo 16199557-eb2d-4ad7-983f-8ff4b3d1038e_zpsdksrpkjt.jpg
via @Getty

They're all there now. Some of the eight women who qualified for the WTA YEC in 2015 had a "long strange trip" to get to Singapore but I'm sure the WTA wants to let bygones be bygones. Fans of women's tennis shouldn't though but maybe now is not the time to talk about that.

The women have been grouped as follows:

Red Group

Simona Halep
Maria Sharapova
Agnieszka Radwanska
Flavia Pennetta

White Group

Garbiñe Muguruza
Petra Kvitova
Angelique Kerber
Lucie Safarova

Unlike Maria Sharapova who said she didn't understand how potential competitors could wish Serena Williams luck in her quest for the career year Grand Slam I wish all of the women well and hope they bring their best tennis to this tournament.

For fans this will be a chance to get a look at the post Serena era of the WTA. We know that Flavia Pennetta, 2015 US Open Champion, is retiring. I don't think Pova is retiring any time soon no matter what crap her people put out or imply but she is part of the old guard. Eliminating those two from the WTA of the future we have a collection of almost there's, women who have not and will never be superstars inside or outside the world of tennis. Petra Kvitova has won Wimbledon twice and pretty much flopped everywhere else with a few exceptions. Angelique Kerber just doesn't have 'that thing" Aga Radwanska, the most "feminine" of the group just doesn't have a game that is must see for a casual fan. Lucie Safarova is a fan favorite but again her charisma doesn't translate outside of tennis world. Neither Halep or Muguruza score highly on the charisma quotient.

Despite all of that the two most intriguing players in this tournament will be Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza. Halep is 0-5 vs Sharapova, 4-4 vs Aga, and 1-4 vs Flavia. She'll be lucky to get out of her group with "guaranteed" wins only vs Aga, who has a lot to prove here.

Muguruza has never played Kvitova it seems. She's 3-3 vs Kerber and 0-1 vs Safarova. I do think that with Garbiñe her year has to be divided into pre and post US Open. She seems to be thriving under new coach Sam Sumyk and despite the head to heads with others in her group she has a good chance to make it out of her group and into single elimination play. She's not the same player she was earlier this year.

I think you can make the argument that Sharapova has been set up to win this event. Halep forgets how to play tennis when she's across the net from her. Flavia will be a bit jet lagged after her sojourn to Moscow and back to Singapore and has a 2-3 head to head with Sharapova, and Aga is 2-12 vs Sharapova.

There is nothing to say about Kvitova. If the player who shows up at Wimbledon makes an appearance she could dominate her group except for Muguruza. If the player who shows up every where else shows up it could be embarrassing.

In the end this is a lack luster field but they played well enough in 2015 to make the cut and appear at their sports championship event. They may not be the most charismatic group. They may not play a style of tennis that will make a casual fan sit up and take notice, but here they are. How they got there, how the WTA ruined it's image with the shenanigans at the end of the year should and will be discussed in another post. For now I've decided to praise these women for their achievement. There was a women's tour outside of Serena this year and I think it was very gracioius of her to step aside to and let someone else get the lime light don't you? There will be women's tennis after she retires too. Let's all sit back and see what we can expect from women's tennis in the years to come.

© Savannah's World 2015 All Rights Reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Bouchard Lawsuit: An Update

by Savannah

The people at @GenieNews posted the entire legal document relating to the case online. It's pretty straight forward and doesn't require a degree in or knowledge of legalese.

Bouchard Law Suit

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eugenie Bouchard Files a Civil Suit against the USTA and BJKNTC

by Savannah

It was a quiet night in Tennisland. With most tournaments still in Asia and members of #TennisTwitter bleary eyed from late nights or watching replays at a more decent hour for those of us in the West there wasn't much going on. Until this Tweet showed up on Twitter:

USDC EDNY Filings ‏@usdcedny 44m44 minutes ago
Bouchard v. USTA, Inc. et al

via redacted @Hurleytennis

Don't bother to click on the link it's restricted. Thankfully the same person posted the following excerpt:

via @Hurleytennis

There are several things that come to mind about this lawsuit, one of which is personally I only know what is posted above.

So far all we know is what Eugenie Bouchard and her camp have said in their filing. As I type this the USTA has not responded to press inquiries.

The first thing I asked myself is why something like this wasn't settled out of court. I'm guessing the USTA knew this suit was coming - most tennis fans, knowing the litigious nature of the Bouchard family, expected nothing less.
The excerpt above gives no financial details but rumors range from a modest six figure amount to seven figure amounts. How will a lawsuit of this nature affect the USTA which is in the iddle of upgrading the BJK National Tennis Center. Will the roof be completed if the settlement does end up in the seven figure and above range? Will construction of the new Grandstand Court be put on hold leaving the present arrangement in place?

And what about Bouchard's career? Usually when a lawsuit is filed against someone or something the Plaintiff is not allowed to come near the facility or individual being sued. Will other tournaments want someone who would take things seriously enoiugh to put them at financial peril playing at their event? And what will happen at next years US Open? Will she get a WC if needed? With her benefactor gone who will there be to plead her case with tournament directors and tennis federations?

Why ask these questions? Part of the suit blames the accident for Ms Bouchard's precipitous fall in the rankings, something that was already happening before the accident occurred. Does she expect to be compensated for lost wages? How can you know what she would have won if the accident hadn't happened? Since it's a civil suit it's doubtful that jurors would have much of an idea how tennis works and that Bouchard could potentially receive compensation way beyond what her play would have afforded her. Has she been unable to fulfill endorsement committments? From what we've seen of the suit that isn't mentioned. The USTA and the BJK NTC are the entities being sued. Surely she doesn't expect her ranking to be restored to a place higher than it was when the accident occurred.

I wonder how Stacey Allaster felt about this? Now that she's no longer involved with tennis she's under no obligation to say anything. Maybe she'll be called as a witness if and when the matter goes to trial. Maybe Stacey did jump after all.

I'll end with this story by Ben Rothenberg

“In line with our policy, the U.S.T.A. will not be commenting on ongoing litigation,” said Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications for the U.S.T.A.

Bouchard is still troubled by the injury. She had to withdraw from a tournament two weeks ago in Wuhan, China, and retired midway through her first-round match last week in Beijing, citing dizziness. She has also withdrawn from events in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The lawsuit notes that Bouchard’s ranking, which peaked at No. 5 last year, continues to drop. She is now No. 39 in the world, but was No. 25 at the time of the accident.

Bouchard is asking for a jury trial and is seeking damages of more than $150,000. “For sure,” said her lawyer, Benedict Morelli, “we could be talking about millions and millions.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

The New Head of the WTA is Steve Simon

by Savannah

Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun photo c540eef5-9c7c-43b7-ab5c-fbd02d1e4469_zpsoonhreuz.jpg
via Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun

The WTA announced this morning that its new CEO is Steve Simon, best known as the Tournament Director for the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells.

In its official statement the WTA said the following:

“Steve Simon, with his successful career leading one of tennis’ most prestigious tournaments, is the perfect person to run the WTA,” the Board said in a statement. “Steve produced results, pursued excellence and he kept innovating, making the fan experience even better. He has a very clear vision for the sport and is held in high regard by all.”

Simon has run the Indian Wells tournament since 2004. Outside of the Grand Slams, it has become the largest two-week combined tournament and is the most attended WTA and ATP World Tour tennis tournament in the world.

“I am humbled and at the same time very excited about the opportunity that has been presented to me by the Board,” Simon said. “I will be focused on building upon the successful platforms that have been put in place by my predecessors, Stacey Allaster and Larry Scott, with a sole focus on driving excellence and innovation, while creating a premium experience for the fans.”

“Steve Simon is the right person for the job,” said WTA founder Billie Jean King. “His track record is marked by success. He is thoughtful, respectful and he has excellent business judgment.”

Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki each praised Simon.


Simon will begin his duties immediately as he also winds down his role at Indian Wells. It is anticipated he will be fulltime with the WTA effective November 30, 2015.

Simon is also a former collegiate tennis player and competed in 1981 in the Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon.

Ironically just before the announcement Micky Lawler, WTA President, said the following in an interview with blogger Peter Bodo re the Asian swing that has seen disturbingly high withdrawals from fatigued and brain dead playrs.

"We know, the Chinese know, the Singaporeans [hosts of the upcoming WTA championships] know that this part of the year -- it's just too much...
We need to look at spreading things out," Lawler added. "We don't need to call it a 'Road Map' [again] or anything like that, but we need to sit down and work out some significant changes, and we need to start on that soon."

...The Road Map to which Lawler referred was implemented in 2009, in response to concerns that the tennis "season" was too long and insufficiently streamlined. The result was, among other things, a tour featuring the current, post-US Open Asian swing, followed by the WTA Finals and an eight-week, year-ending offseason. The longer offseason was intended to mitigate the toll taken by injuries and the demands placed on the top players by a more rigorous commitment structure.

Simon will have a very difficult row to hoe. Outside of Serena Williams and Venus Williams the tour is dominated by Europeans, many of whom are from Eastern Europe including Russian Maria Sharapova, Romanian Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic and new member of the top five Garbiñe Muguruza, the only top player from Western Europe in that rarified air. Angelique Kerber of Germany and Flavia Pennetta of Italy are the other Western Europeans in the top ten, Ranked #10 and #7 respectively.

European fans, who feel disrespected by former CEO Stacey Allaster's focus on Asia were looking for someone who would be able to make sure efforts were made to reinstate many of the indoor European events that were sent to Asian cities, feel another North American, at a time when tennis in the US is at it's lowest point in many years, will not help them. Lost in this view is that many US tournaments have also disappeared. Simon will have a delicate balancing act to perform trying to reconcile the discontent on both sides of the Atlantic. How he handles the widespread discontent with Asian events held in mostly empty stadiums is going to require a lot of skill as well especially since the public doesn't know how binding the contracts with the Chinese government are.

For now all WTA fans can do is wait. Lawler clearly indicated that something has to be done about the post US Open WTA schedule especially since the ATP doesn't seem to be having similar issues.

© SavannahsWorld 2015 All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This and That 10/5/2015

by Savannah

Venus Wuhan 2015 photo 469bc3b1-41e1-4b2a-804b-58df1cd49830_zpsgbpazdmk.jpg

She's 35. Older than most active players male or female. The tennis world had pretty much labeled her a sentimental favorite, a woman who could make it to the quarters of majors but not much farther. The mechanics of her serve, so many moving parts they said, were scrutinized every time she put the ball in play.

Wuhan is one of the major WTA tournaments on the Asian Swing that takes place after the US Open - more on that later - and it was widely expected that she would not figure in the final as younger women were expected to take the spotlight and win this point heavy event. It didn't help that she had aggravated both hamstrings and took the court for the final with both upper thighs heavily taped and limping a bit.

Garbiñe Muguruza, one of the WTA Rising Stars had been playing inspired tennis coming into the semifinal against Angelique Kerber. It seemed that new coach Sam Sumyk had a willing and able student and that he was poised to win a WTA P5 after being dismissed by WTA darling Eugenie Bouchard.

I was surprised at how well Muguruza was playing and thought Venus would be pressed really hard in the final. Instead it was Venus who dominated the Final. There were no visible signs of her ankle injury from Muguruza during the short match but she looked exhausted and frustrated when she retired down 0-3 in the second set while Venus calmly chatted with her coach David Witt. Sumyk looked ready to explode. The Muguruza who showed up for the Wuhan Final is the one I saw at the US Open, unable to think clearly on court without a lot of guidance.

 photo dd314a74-b783-40a1-bffe-c4632f149ff2_zpstlhbkci6.jpg

The most amazing thing about all of this is Venus has a chance to make the YEC in Singapore.
Yes she's one of many but who saw this possibility at the beginning of the year? Congratulations to Ms Venus Williams.

Speaking of Eugenie Bouchard she's now working with Thomas Hogstedt. Yes that Hogstedt. The one who dumped Li Na via newspaper article (or email)for Maria Sharapova who then dumped him, then worked for a hot minute with Caroline Wozniacki saying he didn't want to travel so much anymore when he stopped working with her. Yet there he is in Beijing working with Bouchard.

In an article posted on Eh Tennis Yahoo the following is reported:

When we reported just before the US Open that experienced coach Thomas Hogstedt was in the mix for a tryout with top Canadian Genie Bouchard, we were told that while he was keen and ready to come on board, Bouchard and her team had reservations.

Those reservations seemed to have abated and Hogstedt is indeed by Bouchard's side, as she (hopefully) prepares for a return Monday in Beijing, China against Andrea Petkovic.


As well, he has the Sharapova stamp of approval, in a sense – which is no small thing in the Bouchard camp. We're told that before she began working full-time with Saviano to begin the 2014 season, Team Bouchard had approached (Michael)Joyce, who also had passed the Sharapova test and worked with her a long time, first as a hitting partner when her father Yuri was her coach, then as coach when Yuri stepped aside.

The thing was that Joyce had a good deal with young player Jessica Pegula, who was going through knee surgery and recovery and was out of the game for an extended period. Understandably, he wasn't going to give that up (Pegula's family owns the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, so you can imagine he was well taken care of ) without some sort of guarantee. And that guarantee wasn't forthcoming.

So if you've worked with Pova you're the person for Bouchard. Interesting that the article points out the financial benefits of Michael Joyce coaching Jessica Pegula and not the financial wherewithal of the Bouchard family.

Bouchard skipped Wuhan due to the lingering effects of her concussion but it looks as if she will play in Beijing. A lot of eyes will be on her.

The Post US Open Schedule - WTA Style

Let's see. In two days of play in Beijing five players retired: Simona Halep, Coco Vandeweghe, Lesia Tsurenko, Alja Tomljanovic and Zarina Diyas.

You can argue that back to back to back tournaments is asking a lot of players, especially the elite, but there is also the fact that if Halep hadn't shown up in Beijing she would've lost $300,000 in bonus money. I don't think the other women who retired had to worry about that though.

Should be Asian swing come right after the Oz Open? The players, even though coming off a Grand Slam tournament, would be fresher. I don't know how the weather is in China that time of year though.

I think the back to back events take a toll because it's the end of the year. Players have been playing with injuries all year that by now have become nagging and annoying. Not to mention being brain fried. Caroline Wozniacki said that the WTA forces injured players to play and was ridiculed by some. Retirements by the likes of Vendeweghe, Tsurenko, Tomljanovic and Diyas don't make much difference to tournament directors. Halep retiring makes a big difference.

There is already speculation about what the YEC will look like if the top six women in the world aren't able to play.
I don't think that'll happen but it's a valid observation at this point.


Here is the leader board:

RTS Player Current Total Points Replaced Adjusted RTS Total
1 Simona Halep 5840 60 5780
2 Maria Sharapova 4322 1 4321
3 Garbiñe Muguruza 3512 1 3511
4 Petra Kvitova 3482 1 3481
5 Lucie Safarova 3222 1 3221
6 Angelique Kerber 3220 105 3115
7 Flavia Pennetta 3034 1 3033
8 Venus Williams 2972 0 2972
9 Karolina Pliskova 3040 100 2940
10 Carla Suárez Navarro 3010 100 2910
11 Agnieszka Radwanska 2955 100 2855
12 Belinda Bencic 2865 30 2835
13 Roberta Vinci 2565 30 2535

Lucie Safarova is out. Maria Sharapova's participation is anyone's guess due to her injury. Muguruza is suffering from injury. Petra Kvitova looked terrible losing to Sara Errani in Beijing committing 49 unforced errors. Then there's this quote from Simona Halep: "I hope I can play. I will see - I need treatment and a break, for sure." posted by @tennis_photos. Those fans talking about players ranked 7-14 playing the YEC may be on to something.

End Notes

There have been a lot of posts on #TennisTwitter about Player X "saving" Tournament Y. What does that even mean? Does it mean that the level of tennis outside of the elite is crap? Garbiñe Muguruza, now a top four player, has only one title to her name this year, Hobart way back in January. You can believe me or not, but the drop in the level of tennis that will come after 2016 is going to be quick and ugly.

Bernard Tomic, who saw charges against him dropped after a set to in Miami was photographed partying with Sydney business man Joe Elias on his yacht. Google Joe Elias of Sydney, Australia. It's an interesting read.

The ATP has made it clear it expects Andy Murray to play at their WTF year end tournament. He's also expected to carry the weight for his country in Davis Cup.

Victoria Azarenka shows her tongue still has a life of its own. This statement was made after her last tournament:

I'm sure that endeared her to many people within the WTA.

The Young'uns

The young players I picked to watch this 2015, Madison Keys and Alexander Zverev have not, in my opinion, shown much maturity in their games. Keys still gets brain freeze when her game isn't working and Zverev has been taking too many wild cards instead of refining his game in the tennis equivalent of the minor leagues.

The one player who does seem to be making the most of his age and using the Challenger circuit to his advantage is Chung Hyeon. You know he's on the right track when there are haters already saying he wouldn't be ranked so high if he hadn't vultured so many Challenger events. Yeah, he's doing the right thing.

Meanwhile Canada has got it's hype machine in overdrive over fifteen year old Félix Auger-Aliassime. Get back to me in three years people.

They're also hyping Charlotte Robillard-Millette, sixteen (born in 1999). I guess they don't think you're ever too young for the hype machine. Richard Gasquet, who was hyped as the future of French tennis at 9, should write a book. So should Donald Young.

©Savannah's World 2015 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, October 1, 2015

She Did The Right Thing

by Savannah

via @AFP photo 0bf81dd1-1129-4f32-9687-f5e0e51b83cb_zpsqm25ikaj.jpg
via @AFP

Patrick Mouratoglou said it earlier this week. Rabid fans jumped all in his shit and took the occasion to call him names instead of dealing realistically with what he said. What did he say that incensed some parts of Serena Williams fanbase? Merely that 2015 is done, that she will not play again until 2016. You have to wonder if it was the message or the messenger that got fans in an uproar.

Let's look at 2015 for 34 year old Serena Williams. She held three of the four Grand Slam titles coming into the US Open. A win there would have given her a Career Year Grand Slam, something no one has done since Steffi Graf back in the day. Everyone, even my non tennis watching family, was talking about Serena. Thanks to a nice endorsement deal from Chase her picture is everywhere in New York City. You couldn't turn on a sports program without seeing her image or hearing a discussion about what she could achieve in New York. The women's final, usually the poor sister to the men's final, sold out long before the first ball was struck in competition at the BJK Tennis Center. Even the WTA, long known for it's blonde obsession got into the act. Serena. Serena. Serena.

And some want to believe that there was no pressure on her.

Everything is not about race but in a still mostly white sports environment where the achievements of athletes of color are looked at by some as anomalies sadly, once again, I have to go there.

The people who want to believe that Serena is some kind of a machine, that the pressure of hearing CYGS over and over and over wouldn't and couldn't get to her represents the myth of the unthinking, instinctual African American athlete. Pain? Nah? Pressure? What? Some, and I'm including some "fans" in this category, conciously or unconsciously accept this meme.

For an African American woman it's even worse. We have to bear the burden of being "strong", of being able to overcome difficulties that would reduce women of other races to tears and anti depressants. "We don't do that" is drilled into many African American women from childhood. So when we see a great athlete, maybe the greatest female athlete ever, admit that she's unable to play her sport just after a bitter and alnost inexplicable loss now some want to see it as a betrayal, an expression of weakness that a "strong black woman" would not give in to. Enough. It's 2015 people. I for one would not want to have lived through the year Serena did. She wants to be away from the madding crowd? Let her be. She's showing, through example, that there are times you need a professional, personal and emotional time out, that there is nothing wrong with admitting that and that "me" time is perfectly okay.

Fans have to get over living their fantasies through athletes or celebrities. Many of the so called "fans" are women, mostly African American or African Caribbean women who have deified Serena. She is not a deity. She's a woman. Sojourner Truth asked many years ago "ain't I a woman?" Stop asking Serena to live up to preconceived notions of strength and black womanhood. Maybe in doing that some of the pressure will come off of you too.

I'm not done people. The haters have also crawled out of the woodwork. I was surprised to see so many, well some, saying that Serena should be fined by the WTA, that she should be punished for daring to put herself first. Newsflash. It's no longer legal to whip black people senseless or throw them in boiling cane syrup because they've done something that affronts you personally. To them I will say this: What makes you think Serena did not discuss this with the WTA? The people who make high handed, often inexplicable decisions to play or not to play, nothing is said about them at all. There are still some who question how near death Serena was a couple of years back but accept that a shoulder injury, said to have been healed many years ago, is still troubling someone. Double standard? I'd say so. Leg injury is it now? No questions asked. Her camp says that's what it is and it is. Period, end of discussion. No outcry about that player withdrawing from a Mandatory that I recall. Did you see any? Nope, because she's injured per her people. I have no idea if these folks are being paid to look the other way or they think currying favor with a particular agent will make or break their career. If you call yourself a journalist, a reporter, how about doing what you say you're doing and report, not just slap your name on press releases. I get the feeling that "they" wanted an injured, brain dead Serena in Singapore so that one of the blondes would be able to eliminate her and tarnish her otherwise outstanding season, CYGS or not. I wonder if the chorus of "she should've cheated" will pick up where it left off if a similar situation comes up between players this year. We'll have to wait and see won't we?

So the race to Singapore, minus Serena Williams, and an ill Lucie Safarova, will showcase the WTA as some have always wanted it to be seen. Let's see how exciting that will be, and how many casual fans brave the time difference to watch.

© Savannahs World 2015 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise indicated

Friday, September 25, 2015

Meet The New ITF President - David Haggerty

by Savannah

Mike Stobe/Getty Images for Usta photo 8e2eecfa-46ea-4acb-b950-0e9ff9ddd185_zpsge3wwqfo.jpg
Mike Stobe Getty Images for USTA Haggerty is on the left

An American man has taken the helm of the ITF, the organization that controls Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Grand Slams at a time when American tennis is at its weakest in many years. The USTA is viewed with some skepticism here because of the USTA's attempts to dilute or get rid of the European Spring clay court season but let's look at Haggerty and see what is known about him at present.

Christopher Clarey wrote this about him in May 2015.

David Haggerty, the former United States Tennis Association president who helped lead the effort to build a roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium and a new national training center in Orlando, Fla., will run for president of the sport’s global governing body, the International Tennis Federation.


...For me, tennis has been my life, and I care deeply about it. It has been my livelihood but also my passion, and I think the I.T.F. should be a leader of the governing bodies, should have a seat at the table. And we haven’t always had that. We haven’t had necessarily the respect that I think we need to have, and that comes through mutual respect.”

The I.T.F., founded in 1913, owns and operates the two leading team competitions — the Davis Cup for men and the Fed Cup for women — along with many lower-tier events. As the recognized international federation, it also oversees the antidoping program and the increasingly prestigious Olympic tennis tournament.

The sport’s fragmented power base makes major, coordinated change complicated. There have been clashes in recent years between the I.T.F. leadership and the WTA leadership over Olympic qualifying rules, as well as grumbling from top men’s players about the Davis Cup’s format and impact.

The Davis Cup remains quite popular in some parts of the world, including Australia and France. Although the United States has won it a record 34 times, the event has lost visibility and prestige in the country. Haggerty, an I.T.F. vice president who described himself as an internationalist, said he thought the Cup needed significant change, which the I.T.F. has been studying.

“Davis Cup and Fed Cup are our most important properties, but they aren’t working the way that they can work,” said Haggerty, who also wants the sport to reach out to fans by making greater use of analytics.


The I.T.F. remains a European-dominated organization. Only three Americans have held the top post: L. J. Carruthers, Russell Kingman and, most recently, Walter Elcock from 1974 to 1975.

When Elcock was the U.S.T.A. president, he made the breakthrough decision to give equal prize money at the 1973 United States Open for men and women. Haggerty, an industry insider, also demonstrated a decisive streak in his two-year term in 2013 and 2014.

A former executive at Prince, Dunlop and Head who began playing tennis at age 6, he led major changes at the United States Open. He and the U.S.T.A. board addressed player concerns by approving a major increase of prize money and by ending the longstanding Super Saturday schedule in which the men played singles semifinals on Saturday and the final on Sunday, with the women’s final sandwiched between the men’s semis. After years of debate, the U.S.T.A. also approved the construction of an Ashe Stadium roof, which is now being constructed at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and other infrastructure improvements. Last month, the U.S.T.A. broke ground on its new training and developmental complex at Lake Nona in Orlando that will include more than 100 courts.

“I was very proud of what the U.S.T.A. board did,” Haggerty said. “We made some very big decisions, and that’s the sort of thing that needs to happen with the I.T.F.”

Here is an excerpt from the official ITF announcement :
David Haggerty was elected ITF President at the ITF Annual General Meeting in Santiago, Chile on Friday. The 58-year old from the United States succeeds Francesco Ricci Bitti, whose 16-year term as ITF President ends today. Haggerty will serve a four-year term from 2015-19.

Haggerty was elected on the second ballot with 200 votes, over Anil Khanna (IND) with 192 votes. Rene Stammbach (SUI) and Juan Margets (ESP) were eliminated on the first ballot.

Haggerty is known to advocate a change in Davis Cup and Fed Cup format which would see the event played in one place over a two week period. Here is a report from Inside The Game about what Haggerty would like to do re the two events.

Haggerty proposed as an example an eight-team format at the end of each season with them all coming together in one destination over a two-week period.

He admitted, though, actually implementing that is not as straightforward as it sounds.

"You can’t bilaterally make this decision," said Haggerty, who is also a former chairman of the United States Tennis Association.

"You need some collaboration to free up the calendar and make sure the players want to play.

"It’s one of the biggest challenges to making the Davis Cup and the Fed Cups the events that players would want to play every time the event is held."

The same day that Haggerty won is also the day that it was announced that Davis Cup will adopt the fifth set tiebreak format effective 2016. Will the three Slams that don't have that rule ( the US Open does) follow suit?

With Stacey Allaster no longer running the WTA what will Haggerty's relationship be with her successor? Will the horrible and sport ruining on court coaching now be available at the Grand Slam level for the women? One shudders at the possibility.

The win is a surprise since Rene Stammbach of Switzerland and Juan Magrets of Spain were the favorites. Both nations are powerhouses in tennis at the moment with Spain having 14 players in the ATP top 100.

So what do I think? I think Haggerty is a stealth candidate for not only the United States but Australia and Great Britain. Many of the "reforms" the tennis axis has sought could possibly be implemented now especially since Haggerty won with 200 votes.

I'm not alone in feeling that changes will come. Here is a tweet I found a few minutes ago from Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal in response to Ivan Ljubicic.
daniel kaplan ‏@dkaplanSBJ 14m14 minutes ago
@theljubicic @ITF_Tennis International sporting orgs, from IOC to FIFA, have long had love/hate relationships with America. no secret

I'm sure there will be more to come with this story. I will update as more details emerge.

©SavannahsWorld 2015 All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stacey Allaster - An Update

by Savannah

 photo 4d9ed3f7-cc7d-4ae4-b871-c243c8e9f220_zpslwovho4y.jpg
via sport-asia

The article below appeared in The Globe and Mail

When Stacey Allaster’s daughter, Alexandra, learned that her mother, one of the most powerful female executives in pro sports, was leaving her job as head of women’s tennis, the 11-year-old said: “Good, now you can drive me to my hockey games.”

That effectively explains the Women’s Tennis Association’s announcement on Tuesday – that Allaster will step down as its chairman and chief executive officer effective Oct. 2, leaving a role she has held since 2009. The native of Welland, Ont., said that 150 days of worldwide travel a year have taken a toll on her, and she wants to spend more time with her husband and two kids.

“I love the WTA, but this is what’s right for me personally and for our family, and if I’m being honest, this has been two years in the making,” said Allaster, reached at her home in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“We always knew that once the kids hit the teenage years, that the international travel wasn’t in alignment with how much I want to be there for them. I turned 50 two years ago and have been on this path.

“I came out of the U.S. Open completely worn down, and I don’t want to wake up and be one of those women who has a heart attack or stroke. The WTA needs someone who is at 150 per cent, and I’m not there any more.”

Allaster was also deeply moved by the recent death of her husband’s brother, and two years ago by the passing of ATP Tour CEO Brad Drewett, saying they “provided a personal wake-up call about life, family and priorities.”


“Stacey has been a visionary leader for tennis this past decade. She brought positive fundamental change while serving as an exemplary role model and she executed our biggest and best financial strategies during a very difficult economy,” WTA founder and legendary tennis player Billie Jean King said in the statement. “Stacey performed her job with tenacity and heart which is what is required for transformational change.”

The news surprised many in the sport, even Tennis Canada’s president and CEO Kelly Murumets, who grew up with Allaster in Welland.


Several current and former players reacted on Twitter to the departure of a CEO who was known for visiting with players at tour stops and asking their opinions.

“What a great leader and role model she was to us! Stacey, congrats on everything you have done for our tour and thank you,” retired star Kim Clijsters tweeted.

“Stacey was truly an inspiring person and did a wonderful job as the CEO of the WTA! We will miss seeing you around,” Monica Puig wrote.

“A very brave decision. Stacey worked relentlessly to bring the game to another level. Respect her family priorities,” a tweet from from Chrissie Evert said.

The WTA said its search for Allaster’s replacement has begun.

The University of Western Ontario graduate says she plans to take a long break, which she never did between previous jobs.

She hopes to stay in St. Petersburg, eventually teach sports business, serve on corporate boards and work with youth sports organizations.

“As a girl at age 12, I was given a racquet, a membership at the Welland Tennis Club and lessons, and look what that opportunity gave me,” Allaster said.

“I achieved everything I wanted to do at the WTA. I felt a great deal of pressure to be successful as a woman in this role, and to give back to the sport that has given so much to me, and I feel I accomplished that.”

The question as to whether she was pushed or walked out under her power and volition wll probably never be answered. The excuse of failed politicians everywhere seems to be what they're going with and that'll have to do for now.

©Savannahsworld 2015 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise indicated.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stacey Allaster Is Gone

by Savannah

In a prime example of corporate speak the WTA released the following statement with not a bit of fanfare.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA - The WTA has announced the transition of its long-term chair and CEO, Stacey Allaster, effective October 2, 2015.

Allaster joined the WTA in January 2006 as its president and in July 2009 was promoted to chair and CEO. Named by Forbes Magazine as one of the "Most Powerful Women in Sports", she has led the WTA through significant growth, marked by fan-friendly improvements to the game, innovative use of data and technology, a focus on global growth with Asia Pacific being the strategic priority, enhancing the health and well-being of the athletes, while also championing gender equality.

Under her leadership, the WTA secured one billion dollars in diversified contracted revenues, including a landmark international media agreement that will maximize fan exposure to women's tennis as the game is broadcast around the world. She also oversaw a record-setting WTA Finals in Istanbul and secured a strategic partnership with Singapore to stage the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from 2014 to 2018. The WTA Finals Singapore is the largest financial partnership ever negotiated in the history of the WTA's season finale.

"It's been a privilege to lead the organization that Billie Jean King founded and to have worked with the world's best female athletes, dedicated tournament promoters and passionate and professional WTA team members. For 25 years I have dedicated my professional life to the sport and I'm proud of the work I leave behind," Allaster said. "But the recent loss of my brother-in-law and the ATP's CEO, Brad Drewett, has provided a personal wake-up call about life, family and priorities and it is time for me to shift some time and energy that way. When I joined the WTA my goal was to leave the organization on a stronger footing and I feel a humble sense of pride in what we have all accomplished here. I have focused on what it means to be a champion and I have tried to be a strong role model for women to encourage success in the sports industry," said Allaster.

"Stacey has been a visionary leader for tennis this past decade. She brought positive fundamental change while serving as an exemplary role model, and she executed our biggest and best financial strategies during a very difficult economy," said WTA founder Billie Jean King. "Stacey performed her job with tenacity and heart which is what is required for transformational change."

Allaster has been an advocate for women and was instrumental in securing equal prize money for women tennis players at six WTA events and all four Grand Slams. She also played an integral role in the development of the Roadmap, the WTA's long-term plan that streamlined the calendar to enhance the overall health of the players while delivering top players on a more consistent basis to fans and tournaments. Since the introduction of the Roadmap, prize money has increased 100%.

"Stacey has been an outstanding leader for the WTA and she will be missed throughout the industry," said WTA Board Member Lisa Grattan. "We will turn our attention now to the future and we are confident her successor will deliver for fans, tournaments, and partners in the outstanding manner that they have come to expect. Our process to hire a new CEO is underway."

Corporate speak. A lot of words that say absolutely nothing. I could've just said Stacey was gone and referenced the post but I thought it important to post the whole thing. Why? It's no secret I've not been a fan of Allaster. I've criticized her on everything from promoting the tour (badly) and her blindness to the fact that there are a lot of good players who aren't blonde.

That said the wording is interesting. In US politics when a politician says he/she is leaving the stage to spend more time with his/her family you know they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar or some other such shenanigans. I don't know if this is true of other cultures but to these jaded ears it sounds a bit suspect.

The other thing that is odd is that there is no interim head, or new head, being announced especially since Allaster is out as of October 2. If this was a "jump or we'll push" situation there is usually someone waiting in the wings rehearsing their speech saying that they are humbled and honored to be ascending to the position and that they will work hard to make sure the high standards set by his/her predecessor will be maintained.

Seriously though the biggest question is the WTA's expansion into Asia. China's economy is in turmoil and since the tournaments there all have government support instead of the support of sponsors I think it's fair to ask openly how the problems affected the WTA. Some were whispering about it but not much had been said openly. Will the $125K tournaments disappear? Will the European indoor season be revitalized? Will the new events in China go away? Will we see more of an effort to promote the tour as opposed to individuals going forward?

As I write this I haven't read any speculation as to who will take Stacey's place. If I do I will update the blog.

US Open Fallout

I didn't watch the US Open Finals this year and I apologize for that disservice to my readers. Am I glad that Flavia Pennetta, a fixture on the WTA tour for many years, won? Yes. After all she's been through if someone had to win I'm glad it was her and that she has some happiness in her life both personally and professionally. From what I've read the tennis wasn't of the highest quality but those who had spent money, lots of money, to attend the women's final showed up and I'm glad for that. We'll never know how many of the attendees bought severely discounted tickets but at least there were butts in the seats.

As far as the ATP is concerned I wish my apology could be more sincere. From the minute the men's draw was released it was obvious who would be playing in the Final. It also goes without saying that the two men who contested the Final are two of the players I least like to watch, one because of his cult following, the other because of his constant bull shit.
So imagine my surprise when I read reports of the match saying that the fans were so pro one player and against the other that it was no longer possible for the professional tennis press to ignore that the current number one's popularity is non existent and to try and find reasons for that.

What did they come up with? There's the "we don't understand why fans don't see he's matured" school of thought that is pretty laughable on the face of it. He has done what his handlers are telling him to do - hug babies, kiss fans on the cheek and do charity work. Oh and smile alot. I guess they feel that if he does these things fans will forget the injury faking, disrespectful player who told fans to "suck his dick" in his native language. Even when that comment was exposed, no pun intended, the professionals ignored it focusing on the cute wife, new baby and the whole kinder, gentler public persona. They also think fans will forget about the hyperbaric chamber that's not a hyperbaric chamber used by the player. It's not working and it seems they don't know what to do. As has been said here before tennis fans have long memories and while the push is on to clean up Nick Kyrgios act five, ten years from now fans will not have forgotten and will judge him by his antics now. The expression "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" still holds.

As for the other player in the men's final his fans have long been obnoxious. Speak ill of the player they worship and they swarm you insulting your brains, heritage and anything else they can think of. That they were so out of control at the final was something that once again the professionals couldn't ignore. What's even more ironic is that the same professionals are also worshippers at the shrine and have never had to face the reality of their obsession head on.

I have to say that while there have been tons of articles about what Novak Djokovic needs to do to improve his image with fans I haven't seen one that addressed the boorishness of Roger Federer's fans. There may be one or two around but I haven't seen any. Then again if some of Federer's followers would go so far as to post a link on an ATP fan site taking a reporter to task for not being adoring enough maybe there is a reluctance to take these folks on.

End Notes

I did make it out to the US Open. I was there once during Qualies and twice, Tuesday and Wednesday of week one, during regular play.

As has become usual I avoided Ashe like the plague, moving between Courts 5 and 6 near where the new Grandstand Court will be, and Courts 11, 15 and 17.

So who did I get to see, especially on the more intimate outer courts?

Standing out for me was Chung Hyeon of Korea. As I said the young man is working his way up the ladder and his game up close is fun to watch. He's not hitting a thunderous groundie on every return and is trying to add a bit of finesse to his play.

The next day I say Dominic Thiem on the same court. His tennis is dull as dishwater and sitting in the blazing sun didn't do much to encourage me to stay awake.

Frances Tiafoe got a full house. Vicky Duval and Alicia Black were sitting one row in front of us. I do hope neither took offense at the lack of people asking for autographs. New Yorkers are too cool for that sort of thing.

As I said before Tiafoe's game has not matured much if at all. He's got to add more to his game. Right now he's at the risk of becoming another US trained Johnny One Note.

Most disappointing was Garbiñe Muguruza. I saw her twice. If her first round opponent had a brain she would've been out that round. Since I saw her she's said to have hired Sam Sumyk who last coached or should I say tried to coach Eugenie Bouchard. Maybe he can get her to play a full match and not stop and wait for her supposedly awed opponent to make a mistake or two.

The Asian Swing

Moving forward I watched Jarmila Gajdosova get taken out by Xu Yi-Fan in Tokyo
early the other morning and was anxious to see how she did in her first round match vs Belinda Bencic. I think Xu is still preparing for that match since she lost love and love and it wasn't even that close. Bencic is bigger and stronger than Xu although I've seen her name mentioned a bit as an up and comer. Xu couldn't come close to catching up to Bencic's shots and movement.

This weeks Tokyo event is the only one I'm watching this week. I'm trying to watch the first match of the day paying particular attention to the crowds, or lack thereof. Center Court at this stadium is huge. It hasn't been anywhere near close to being full. Sadly when the later matches are on I'm asleep so I can only talk about the first matches which are notoriously under attended. It'll be interesting to see how attendance improves or doesn't in the tournaments played on the Chinese mainland.

©2015 SavannahsWorld All Rights Reserved