Sunday, April 26, 2015

From Sunshine to Caroline Wozniacki

by Savannah

Woz vs Halep Stuttgart 2015 photo 131a92d6-d7db-4177-8bbd-cd7ec73a3808_zps8an7kyho.jpg
via Getty Images

She started out in tennis as the third Designated Blonde for the WTA. The template of course was Anna Kournikova who got plenty of hype but never managed to win the big one at the pro level. Since she was Russian the next
Designated Blonde was Maria Sharapova. Groomed by the US tennis mills in Florida to be the answer (read antidote) to Venus Williams who could never be a DB she's managed to continue to be a presence thanks to a very good PR team and pretty good draws.

But neither Sharapova or Kournikova had an official nick name given to them by the CEO of the WTA. It was young Caroline Wozniacki (Karolina to her father and I presume her family) who was nick named "Sunshine". She was soon a slamless number one, unable to generate much offense and quickly earned the ire of dyed in the wool fans of almost every fan grouping.

But then something happened. "Sunshine" fell in love. It became more important to be with her beloved than to win matches. Besides she was getting married and would soon be living another life. Or so she thought. Never underestimate the power of a professional association and Caroline was in the PGA's crosshairs. She was not a proper "golf wife" who knew her place. She was out there in tennis outfits being competitive and getting sweaty. Not what they want a golf wife to be.

I've read a lot of theories about what happened to her engagement, not all of them favorable to Caroline, but it's all rumor and conjecture so in the end what difference does it make? The engagement was broken in a particularly ugly way and Caroline found herself the object of sympathy in her world and smug triumph in his.

Many people, male or female, would have curled into the fetal position and hidden in a dark room for a long time. Instead after a brief time out of the public eye Wozniacki reappeared. She was suddenly being more aggressive, no longer content to be known as a "pusher", the ultimate pejorative aimed at a tennis player. It seemed that after a revolving door of coaches she realized the most important voice in her world was that of her father. Things were going well in Wozniacki world it seemed. Then all of a sudden she went public admitting that she was working with Spanish great Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. ASV had been in the news for all the wrong reason recently and after the obvious jokes about money were made the ultimate question was what could ASV do for Caroline? I think after this weekend we know exactly what she helped Wozniacki with.

The first, and biggest thing, is that Caroline now knows how to slide properly. By that I mean sliding INTO the shot not after the shot. Sliding properly means you can walk and chew gum at the same time, that you can launch yourself into a slide and control the shot you want to make, something James Blake who wanted to be the man controlling the fate of up and coming US players labelled "unnatural".

If you haven't watched the match between Wozniacki and Simona Halep, find a way to watch it. It's an historic match for Wozniacki, a match where she put "Pushniacki" and "Sunshine" to bed and introduced us to Caroline. Good for her.

I was never really a fan of Wozniacki and I admit it had a lot to do with the WTA fawning over her. They should really stop that. You know who else has been playing very, very well this spring? Carla Suarez Navarro, a woman wo is definitely not a DB. Many were surprised to see Halep take the court with lighter hair and a pontail instead of her usual bun. Halep will never be a DB either and I'm sad to see her try. If you're talking about great tennis players of 2015 however there is no avoiding Halep or CSN as she's known to tennisheads.

I'm not going to say I'm a huge fan of Wozniacki now but I will say I applaud her quest to be herself, that she's not afraid of becoming something other than a cute face in a designer tennis kit. That takes a lot of guts. And Ms Wozniacki clearly has them.

Fed Cup

I was trying to avoid talking about the recent round of Fed Cup because it would make me have to discuss someone I don't want to waste cyber ink on. In an effort to put that task off a bit longer let's talk about Barbara Rittner's team that took the court for her country, Germany. Instead of doing the obvious Rittner fielded Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges. I have no idea why she did that but the results were inevitable with both women losing their singles rubbers although Lisicki put up a bit more of a fight. It was left to Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic to force the tie into a deciding doubles match. Petkovic was paired with Lisicki and they lost in straight sets.

Even more puzzling is why Maria Jose Fernandez chose a team made up of Serena Williams and no one else of consequence. A bit harsh you say? Is it? The story bruited about was that Venus Williams withdrew at the last minute and that both Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens declined to play. I call bullshit. The story that Venus withdrew at the last minute harkens back to the days where the WTA would sell tickets using the Williams name knowing full well neither woman was going to play and let the blame fall on the sisters for being "unreliable". I think even John McEnroe knows about Venus health issues and Maria Jose is too smart to not have had a Plan B.

When the last minute story didn't float that well we heard that Madison Keys had been exempted from play because she was going to be in intense training with her coaching team. I guess that field trip to Coachella was part of the plan. As for Stephens, who was originally said to be doing "charity work" I have no idea what she was really doing. At least Madison allowed herself to be photographed at Coachella and released the pictures herself. If she needed a break and wanted to go, fine. I haven't seen any pictures of Sloane's charity work anywhere. There was also talk that Maria Jose doesn't like Sloane's work ethic, or lack thereof.

Be that as it may it was all on Serena's shoulders to win the tie and she fell short. Totally understandable. As usual the now PR savvy World #1 put a good spin on the result and said that she needed to work towards being ready for clay season. That was very nice of her.

As for the women who did go I guess they picked Lauren Davis because she's small like Sara Errani. Surely that would count for something? It didn't and it shows how brain dead the US tennis establishment is. I am no fan of Errani but even with her shit game and non existant serve on real (read red) clay she wasn't going to lose to Davis. Christina McHale has been having a rough go of it lately and being in the pressure cooker atmosphere of Fed Cup wasn't going to help her.

It's not as if Maria Jose didn't have other choices you know. Madison Brengle has been playing very well of late and on red clay in Stuttgart made it to the semifinals. Bethanie Mattek Sands has been playing doubles with Lucie Safarova and they're doing quite well for themselves. I'm not sure why they weren't considered. Politics like in Germany I guess.

Of course the biggest story out of Fed Cup was HandshakeGate. Is Eugenie Bouchard a spoiled, entitled brat? Yes. Does she care what others think of her? Not one bit. The only person she cares about is the one running the WTA and as long as she's behind her she could care less what anyone else thinks. I will end with this YouTube video of her post match interview, one that didn't get as much play as the fake out handshake. You draw your own conclusiions. To say this woman is a PR nightmare is an understatemnt.

Aga and Martina Navratilova Part Ways

When the Radwanska camp announced that Martina Navratilova was going to become part of the retinue the almost universal response was "it'll never work". This week it appears Navratilova bowed to the inevitable and submitted her resignation. Aga's fans and her father have been howling for her coach Tomasz Wiktorowski to resign not only as her coach but as Fed Cup captain. There are strong rumors he's done the latter but it seems that he's still Aga's coach. Why do they want him out? It's said that Aga's support team has become more of a party team. Her boyfriend is her hitting partner and the physio isn't working her the way she needs to be. All of that from her estranged father Robert. Here's the story from a Polish press source .

Watch this space for the continuing saga "As The Tennis Ball Spins".


b said...

Wow - had not seen that Bouchard video. At this point blame for this monster falls squarely on Allaster and Canada Tennis. She clearly does not understand the Team concept at all.

This is why I found it hilarious when Dulgheru refused (post match) to shake the Canada Team Captain's hand.... TWICE

Your theiry that Venus never actually comitted is interesting. I thought that she had said that she was going? I have never recovered from MJF (back in 2011, I believe) kept telling press she was holding a spot for Venus, waiting for a call. Totally dishonest. Venus was not able to play *anywhere*. Unfortunately casual tennis fans had no idea that Venus had injured herself badly at AO and had not played in a while and (unlike Sloane) still did not play for a week or two after the tie.

Savannah said...

I didn't know Dulgheru refused to shake the hand of the Canadian Team Captain!

I don't trust Maria Jose. Never have.

Sadly we tennis nuts don't have the reach that we need. The casual fan, one who watches only Slams, has no idea of all the crap that goes on.