"I don't want to think like I have something I have to do on grass. I have no expectations. I just want to enjoy without pressure."
The lengthened but still short grass court tennis season is heading towards it's crowning glory, the reason for its existence. For many the Grand Slam held on grass is still the crown jewel of tennis - the tournament you must win in order to have your name mentioned along with the greats past and present of the sport. So why do so many players seem to be breaking apart like clay vessels dropped on a tile floor? Why is the woman ranked third in the world changing coaches a week before Wimbledon and making angsty statements about being unable to handle the pressure?
Then there was this statement late yesterday US time by someone many in the old tennis axis want to be the next big thing released re his coaching situation:
It’s never an easy decision to end a coaching relationship and to do so prior to the start of a Grand Slam is even more difficult. But I feel that this is the right decision for me at this time. I
I will work closely with my team and Tennis Australia through Wimbledon and we will regroup after the tournament in order to figure out the best plan for the future.
Then there's Petra Kvitova, the reigning Wimbledon Champion, who can't be arsed (don't you love those British expressions) to play any warm up events because - wait for it - she has a sore throat. Later statements indicated that it wasn't a sore throat - that she has a cold. Serena Williams had a cold during the French Open. She was sick as a dog as the saying goes. I'm waiting to see what shape Kvitova's in when Wimbledon starts since she says fitness training wears her out.
And let's not forget that the USTA and by his own admission Andy Roddick begged for an extra week between the French Open (sorry Roland Garros) and Wimbledon, got it, and almost no US players showed up.
Of the two juniors I chose to watch this year Alexander Zverev has been playing his butt off. He's not winning a lot but he's playing, gaining experience. Madison Keys has either been sick or AWOL since Roland Garros showing up in Eastbourne, a tournament played the week before Wimbledon starts. All of the US players seem to suffer from the delusion that they're so good on fast courts that no warm up is necessary. John Isner has been playing and so has Sam Querrey but I get the impression they're looking to boost their rankings for the summer US hard court swing leading up to the US Open at the end of August.
Meanwhile the real pros, the men and women who are fixtures in the second week of Grand Slams, have been going about theiri business. They're emerging from training now and some are playing exhibitions while others are sticking to their old routine of not playing warm up's leading into Wimbledon even with the extra week. Maybe that's what Kvitova is doing huh? She's a great so why does she have to exert herself before the actual tournament begins? I don't know why I didn't see that before. And I still want to see what her physical condition will be.
Let's be clear. Hype does not win Majors. You have to win seven matches in two weeks (Okay a fortnight. Sheesh. I can't be arsed to say fortnight all the time.) You can have all the shots in the world but if you don't have a game you're not going to do well. You can have all the hype, your Federation fawning over you and declaring you're the greatest thing since sliced bread but unless you have it together between your ears you're in trouble. If you can't handle your business, if the world outside of your birthplace scares you to death, if you believe that you are the exception to the rule that without discipline you're nothing then you're not going to win.
I feel for tennis after 2016. We've got so many divas and little girl losts on the horizon that maybe it will be better if the sports world at large ignores our beloved sport. Tantrums will not bring fans back. Magazine covers on second tier magazines will not bring fans back. Soft porn pictures won't bring fans.
Billie Jean King's statement about pressure still holds and it is still the measure of an athlete, of a tennis player. It's sad that the headlines going into Wimbledon are about entitled brats struggling to "find" themselves instead of steely eyed professionals looking to pound their opponents into the lawns of SW 19. Who is to blame? The Federations, especially in the US, Britain and Australia, are declaring junior players, many of whom are not even finished growing, stars of the sport. I've been thinking about this a lot and will probably post about it after Wimbledon. When you look at the consistency of today's top players it didn't come from partying or believing their own hype. It came from hard work, something the young "hype stars", and their federations, choose to ignore.