Thursday, January 22, 2015

So What About The Americans In Melbourne?

by Savannah

I'm sure everyone expected Coco Vandeweghe to take out Samantha Stosur. Or Madison Keys to drop a set to Casey Dellacqua and storm back to win the match like a boss. What about John Isner? Donald Young made it to the second round to face Milos Raonic. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is playing Simona Halep in the third round. And of course there's Tim Smyczek who showed he wasn't raised by wild animals.

We're still in the first week of the Australian Open and we don't know who will actually make it to next week but the USTA must feel it can hold its collective head up a bit higher. Yes there have been losses but the fact that US players are in the conversation this deep in a tournament is kind of surprising. What will happen going forward? That's anyones guess.


There's an old, old saying about chickens coming home to roost. Dictionary.Com says the idiom means "Consequences, although delayed, will happen" and came into common use in 1809 in the United States.

This expression came to mind when out of nowhere some fans were upset about the new WTA "it" girl Eugenie Bouchard was asked to show off her kit by turning around in a circle to let everyone viewing see it. Let's forget that Venus Williams has been twirling after a win since she began her career. Ana Ivanovic added a twirl to her fist pump a long time ago. Serena Williams was asked the same night, by the same correspondent, to show of her spectacular Australian Open kit. So why is it only a big deal when it involves Bouchard?

The WTA has only itself to blame. It has never marketed women's tennis. It has marketed players who look a certain way and made them the face of its product. It started with Chris Evert, moved on to Anna Kournikova and from her to Maria Sharapova. Now it's Bouchard. WTA players are marketed as "sexy", "beautiful", "feminine" not as athletes. If a player doesn't meet the standards set by the women I've mentioned they don't get any publicity.

When you encourage the world outside of tennis to look at the value of your product based on a standard of beauty instead of their on court performance what are those inside tennis, who rely on the tours for access to players going to do? The WTA encourages its players to attend player parties complete with "red carpets" and photographers dressed to the nines and make up troweled on. This doesn't help give the players the respect they deserve, and make some more valuable not because of what they've done on court but because of their looks.

Believe me I understand why some are upset about the women being asked to twirl while the men don't do anything remotely similar but their argument is with the WTA not the people who are just doing the job the WTA seems to want them to do and help to promote the players as objects of desire. As I write this the WTA hasn't made a statement about "twirlgate" and in reality they can't. They're active participants in the objectification of it's players and hence its overall product so how can they complain when it's done by the hired help?

Until the WTA stops promoting some at the expense of all this will continue. No matter how fans feel that is the reality of the situation.

To Seed or Not to Seed: The Follow Up to the Massacre

Of course the furor around twirlgate could be a gift to the WTA since it distracts from the disaster that is the women's draw in Melbourne. While the carnage did hit the top ten a lot of the damage was done to seeds 10 and lower.
I mean Belinda Bencic was a seeded player.

Is it time to reduce the number of seeds from 32 to 16? The change from sixteen to thirty two seeds happened in 2001. Under the new 32 seed system no one ranked that high could play a person in that bracket until the third round. There have been fans advocating for a return to the sixteen seed system for awhile now but in the wake of the carnage in Melbourne their whispers are indeed getting louder.

I'm not sure how I feel about it to be honest. Under the old system the players who lost, with some significant exceptions, would hardly be news. Because these players were seeded the results are big news for tennis.

Somehow I don't think the majors want a return to the old system. The thirty two seed system protects the later rounds ensuring that the big names will be around for the quarter finals and going forward.

As I said I don't know if a return to the old system is a good idea. But I think it should be part of the post Australian Open discussion.


Randy Burgess said...

Regarding "Twirlgate" - I am feeling somewhat more kindly towards Bouchard these days - maybe because she is losing & having some bumpy times despite the WTA marketing machine. She seems to genuinely want to compete. On the other hand I hope at some point she starts to relate to other players a bit more courteously & sympathetically. On the men's side, Nick Kyrigos is also highly hyped (at least in Australia!) & he too could learn some manners & respect for other players during play - not to mention better manners towards the ball kids. However unlike Bouchard, Kryigos is an electric player even in his losses, so I watch him whereas I don't watch her.

Every year the AO destroys my sleep for nearly a month and this year is no different. Fortunately I have terrible insomnia for other reasons, so I get to see more matches than usual. From my sleep-deprived perspective, Azarenka looked much more like her old self, or even better than her old self. However I didn't catch the match where she was knocked out so I don't know how that went other than it seemed a surprise.

I did catch some of Venus/Aga and thought Venus looked quite good except for the overhitting. Aga on the other hand looked awful - her choices seemed very poor. Mostly she seemed to want to trade groundstrokes w/Venus which can't possibly be a good strategy for her. So I don't know what Navrotilova is bringing to the table for Aga. Whatever it is did not seem on display.

What did you think of the various "upsets" on the men's side? To me & I'm sure to many they can't really be called upsets. I did notice that Raonic continues to look much sharper than in past, and I was impressed with Berdych. Sure Rafa was not in form but even when he sharpened up in the 3rd set, Berdych had answers this time around. Murray's former coach is a mystery to me but Berdych really seems to like him.

Savannah said...

I find Kyrgios obnoxious and think he's a throwback to McEnroe et al. He had a lot of hype, yes, but he's still an inexperienced player who needs to show some decorum on court.

As for Aga Martine let it be known publicly how she felt about her charge's on court doings and she was not amused. I wrote about it in my latest blog post.

Azarenka looked very sharp up until she ran into an energized Cibulkova who came out on a mission.

As for Berdych he's been given a chance. Let's see if he uses it.

I've seen Bouchard live. If you think she comes across horribly on television see her live and she's cringe worthy. She's also a topic in my new post.