It's been a long time since I've done an Idle Chit Chat post. What does that mean?
Well there will be a lot of, well chit chat but unlike blind items on gossip sites the miscreants will be named. Not that all of them are miscreants. Some are simply playing the hand they've been dealt. But all of them are dealing with the results of actions they've taken. Where do we start?
Let's start with one M. Gilles Simon. Gilles is now on the Players Council and sat down for an interview to discuss the long simmering argument about better pay for those men who are not in the Top 100. It's interesting to find out that while Challenger level players have representation on the Council their position is akin to that of a nation with auditor status at the United Nations. At least that's how it comes across in this interview translated by Mark Nixon whose blog translates pressers and interviews given in languages other than English. Simon looks at the situation in strictly business terms. Here are some excerpts from the L'Equipe interview by Vincent Cognet.
Does the pro tour have different tiers?
“I’d say it has three tiers: there are those who make a lot, those who make enough to live on, and those who are still investing. It doesn’t shock me that there are three tiers. The question is: at which tier do we want to point fingers? Everyone agrees that the ATP number 1000 shouldn’t make a living.”
Because it’s not professional. Every player will give you a different number: one will say the top 200 deserve to earn a living, another the top 300. The only certainty is that there’ll always be a three-tiered tour.
Unless it’s changed in a way that everyone can make a living!
There are more than 2000 guys on the ATP tour. That would be difficult. Of course, I’m in favour of the maximum number of players being able to make a living. But what I find more shocking is that there’s too big a gap between players at the same category of tournament.
The best in the world travel with their coach [sometimes two], their stringer, their doctor, sometimes their hitting partner. On the other hand, you have number 80 in the world who gets there without being able to afford a coach. Those two types of players face each other in the first round of a Grand Slam. To me that shouldn’t be possible. That’s what I was teasing Roger [Federer] with: “Under these conditions, isn’t it a little easier to win?” It’s even worse on the women’s circuit. By not offering enough money, they don’t have a chance to train and improve. So, obviously, the best, who are already stronger, will stay the strongest! They changed that by getting more prize money for the first rounds of a Grand Slam. To clarify, that pays for your coach.
What have you done for the “second tier”, meaning the qualie players?
We haven’t forgotten those who are ranked between 100 and 300. Everyone says that we should increase the Challenger prize money. OK, but how do you do that? In ten years, from 2007 to 2017, their funding has already doubled. The paradox is that we can demand that the Grand Slams double their prize money (which is already huge), but can’t do anything about a Challenger.
Because a Grand Slam generates enormous revenue and a Challenger generates none. Because the players ranked between 100 and 300 generate none. So, logically, the same thing applies to them that applies to a world number 80: how to train and improve. We’ve increased the qualie prize money for Slams 120% in four years. In four years, you’ll make the same for the last round of qualifications as you did for the first round of the draw.
Why doesn’t the system change at the Futures level?
Guys competing there aren’t considered professionals. They’re considered to be players who are investing in their futures. Most importantly, we, the ATP, can’t do anything – it’s run by the ITF. We have zero hold, zero power with Futures. I love my sport, I want there to be competition, I fight for that, but I see how difficult it is.
OK, lets ask the question in a different way: are the top 100 players ready to give up some of their prize money to subsidise the lesser tours?
I may be wrong, but I’d say no. I know this will cause some screaming, but the players reckon that the Masters 1000’s make too much money compared to what they give us. The Slams were reproached for the same reason, though to a lesser extent. Everyone is interested in how much money the players make. No one talks about who’s pocketing the money at the end. Because no-one knows who that is. So, if you have to find money, the players will tell you that’s who should give to the Challengers.
There’s always a worry there …
I sometimes have a problem with players who ask for more money than they generate. Is it in our tour’s interests, seen as a whole, that those guys make more money? I’m pointing out that I use the same reasoning for the women’s tour and for doubles. It’s more of a general reflection than simply a question of money for the rich and the poor.
So you’re not the Players’ Council, you’re the Top 100 Council. And you only look at the problems that concern you.
-We’re the council for the Top 100 because we’re the council for the tour. Because, today, the tour is the ATP 250’s, the ATP 500’s and the Masters 1000. In fact, there is a Challengers section. I went there. We talked for two hours about that. Me, I say: instead of talking about prize money which, in any case, isn’t generated, let’s talk more about the expenses.That might move things along a bit.
...A pro structure costs a fortune. It cost me 250,000 Euros last year.
I've always thought of Challenger players like Triple A players in Major Leage Baseball here in the States. Players move back and forth between the Majors and Minors due to injury, burn out or what have you. I guess I was wrong. Was the Players Council always like this? Was it always only concerned about the Top 100 or was it at one time concerned with all players? I don't know. If it's only concern is the Top 100 maybe the name should be changed? Again I don't know. The issues Simon raises are legitimate but the solutions he's endorsing seem a bit cold hearted to me.
The Co Opting of a Legend
Someone has to explain the purpose of this piece to me. It was obviously dictated by Max Eisenbud. I guess they wanted it to appear that Billie Jean King wrote this herself? Uh huh. I was born at night but not last night.
One member of Tennis Twitter said the piece was PR'y. Hell it's a press release with a legend of the game's name attached. Why would she allow herself to be used in this manner? I could speculate but all of it would be ugly and imply a need for money by Ms King. I have a lot of respect for Ms King and what she's done almost single handedly for women's tennis so I will leave it at that.
The Strange Case of Petra Kvitova
So Petra Kvitova showed up in Australia fitter than she's ever been and promptly declared she was too tired to play when she left the country after a solo win at one of the warmup events. Too tired? She's 24 years old. According to an article in the Czech press she used the word "empty" to describe how she felt after her one win down under. She also admits to having seen a psychologist, I would assume a sports psychologist, to deal with her feelings or lack of feeling about playing the sport that has made her rich. Her coach confirmed that she will pick and choose where and when and how often she plays going forward, and that fitness isn't really part of her overall plan.
If you remember when Petra first came on the scene and won Wimbledon I was among some who said she seemed very uncomfortable with the business side of tennis. Her lack of fitness was talked about as much as her power game. It looked as if a new dominating star had arrived and that if she would get fit she'd challenge for the top ranking of women's tennis.
It now seems that Petra isn't interested in reaching the top level of tennis. Her coach has indicated fitness will not be a big part of her match prep going forward.
I'm summarizing because all of the links are in Czech. Czech fans are calling her a lazy bum. I don't think it's wise to go against what seems to be their consensus.
This and That
US fans were excited about Taylor Townsend working with Zina Garrison and a team out of Chicago. Taylor seemed to be improving her court sense and combined with her movement that is good despite not being in the best of shape it looked as if she might live up to some of the potential she exhibited as a Junior.
During Miami I heard a commentator mention in passing that Zina Garrison was working somewhere that was not Chicago now and I wondered what that meant for her work with Taylor. It turns out that Taylor will now be working with Donald Young, Sr. I'm struggling to find something positive to say about this new arrangement. She's had how many coaches now? And none of them have addressed her biggest problems and I'm not just talking about her weight. Like most young US players she's got all the shots but she doesn't have a coherent strategy when she steps on court. Her attitude seems to be I can hit through my opponent and get to most of what they send my way. All well and good. But what about a player who relies on off speed stuff? Who sees what you've got and counters it?
This is not just a Taylor Townsend problem it's a US tennis problem and I'm not getting into that again. Not this post anyway.
Amélie Mauresmo Is Pregnant
Photo Via Art Seitz
With a low key announcement via Facebook and Twitter Amelie Mauresmo announced that she will become a mother sometime in August this year. Most responses I saw were positive and the negatives were so full of ignorant speculation I was rendered almost speechless. I'll get to that in a few minutes.
For the serious fan a lot of things fell into place, especially Andy Murray, Amélie's charge, adding an assistant coach to his team. If Amélie is carrying the child she is about five months pregnant and in about three months travel will be difficult for her. Murray's new assistant coach will be up on how he does things and the transition will be seamless.
As for the idiocy. It's one thing to suspect that most of the "fans" posting on the two huge sites for the ATP and WTA are twelve. It's another thing to have questions like "How could this happen if she's gay?" and speculation that the whole reason Murray chose her was to donate sperm for her child. Let's not get into the fanfics that have already been proposed. The sadder thing is that when the adults call these children out for the nonsense they're spouting they say they're just trolling and that is supposed to explain everything.
There is nothing more beautiful than a child who is wanted and loved. I say congratulations to Amélie and her partner and hope a safe birth and a healthy child are in their future.
As for those "fan" sites the moderators have to decide between inflated hit counts and a readable, enjoyable place for the young and old to discuss tennis. Just my very humble opinion.