Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Rear View Mirror: Roland Garros 2015

by Savannah

Serena's Joy photo Serena Joy byAP Gannett_zpsqzq94sl7.jpg
via AP Gannett

Champions 2015 Roland Garros

Men's Singles
Switzerland Stan Wawrinka
Women's Singles
United States Serena Williams
Men's Doubles
Croatia Ivan Dodig / Brazil Marcelo Melo
Women's Doubles
United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová
Mixed Doubles
United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands / United States Mike Bryan
Boys' Singles
United States Tommy Paul
Girls' Singles
Spain Paula Badosa Gibert
Boys' Doubles
Spain Álvaro López San Martín / Spain Jaume Munar
Girls' Doubles
Czech Republic Miriam Kolodziejová / Czech Republic Markéta Vondroušová
Legends Under 45 Doubles
Spain Juan Carlos Ferrero / Spain Carlos Moyá
Women's Legends Doubles
Belgium Kim Clijsters / United States Martina Navratilova
Legends Over 45 Doubles
France Guy Forget / France Henri Leconte
Wheelchair Men's Singles
Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women's Singles
Netherlands Jiske Griffioen
Wheelchair Men's Doubles
Japan Shingo Kunieda / United Kingdom Gordon Reid
Wheelchair Women's Doubles
Netherlands Jiske Griffioen / Netherlands Aniek van Koot

The Main Tour is on it's way to London for the second natural court Slam of the year, Wimbledon. Since there are so many end of the Slam reviews around (the one I most enjoyed was the one by Jon Wertheim) I thought I'd take a look at where tennis is at this point in time.

Why are some on the management side of tennis concerned about the popularity of the ATP number one for example? It has something to do with whether the face at the top of the heap is marketable they say. To me this is a distraction from the main problem facing not just men's tennis but all of tennis.

Let's take a look at how the French Open, sorry Roland Garros, presented itself this season.

First was the horrendous, and I mean worse than Madrid horrendous, web site. No matter how you accessed it the information you wanted wasn't at your fingertips. You had to go on what could've been called a "magical mystery tour" to find draws, the schedule, player information, anything you expect to be easily available for a Grand Slam event. Some said you had to go to the site map, you know one of the links they put at the bottom of a page that you can barely read? Yeah. Down there. We tennisheads were bitching and moaning from day one. The casual fan? I'm guessing he or she simply went onto some other sport where the staff and management want to make information about their sport easily accessible for fanatics and casual fans alike. By the time many of us figured it out the tournament was well underway and it was obvious that the FFT thought the site, for which they undoubtedly paid millions, was fine.

Then there was the small matter of post match interviews. I don't know why so many just became aware of it this year but for a few years now, thanks to a small group of tennis journalists calling themselves the ITWA, asked the FFT not to make the interviews immediately avail on its site. This was so anyone who wanted to read what Player Y had to say after that tight five set win would have to go through them. But guess what? Did you find any Twitter or Facebook posts by these pillars of tennis journalism leading you to the interviews? Don't stress yourself. It's all an attempt to make sure upstarts aren't able to write blog posts that haven't been pre approved by IMG or any other party interested in maintaining control of a players image. If maintaining that control means no access for the dedicated fan so be it. You can't have Blogger J writing an opinion not sanctioned by some suit based on comments a player made during a post match interview can you? Perish the thought. What galls me is that the FFT went along with this nonsense. It's the only Slam that restricts access this way. It's bad enough that tennis is the only sport that makes tennis interviews publishable after a 24 hour wait. Why? It's also the only sport that doesn't allow the names of who asks questions to be published. What's the big secret?

So what happened? Fans started posting the interviews themselves. You could find them on fan sites, Twitter, and some blogs. As for video from the matches of the day enterprising fans were thwarted as the powers that be removed videos from YouTube. And as the videos were removed fans reported about it on Twitter. Tennis fans will find a way. We have to.

Back to the the issue of marketability. Many of fans feel that there is a bias against the ATP number one by the press. That bias, real or not, is nothing compared to the raw racism that the WTA number one faces. No one uses animal references to describe the ATP #1. No one thinks anything is wrong when the ATP #1 curses at fans asking them to perform sex acts or calls fans "monkeys" or when the British #1 goes on a profanity laced tirade. But let the WTA #1 drop a few f-bombs and suddenly it's a moral crisis and folks begin clutching their pearls because those "fucks" will create the wrong impression for the casual fan. When the media darling of many years standing screams at, curses at and openly questions an opponents medical issues it's her fierce competitive nature not any reflection on her character. But if the WTA #1 lets her frustration using some choice profanity while doing so the entire sport is threatened.

Should I talk about the commentary? I would except that I did everything in my power to avoid the US commentators. I'm sure most of the members of @TennisTwitter know who I'm talking about. Not that British Eurosport was much better. Their "homerism" is worse in a way because they have a top player. When he's not playing they follow the lead of the tours and the PR agencies for the most part and can actually discuss a player's game and what he or she has been doing prior to the match they're playing. With the US commentators they use the matches as "white noise" while they talk about what they had for dinner, who they were hanging out with, tell tired stories of what happened back in the day, and all of this while live tennis is being played. Oh, I forgot the mandatory plug for wooden racquets and the chance of them coming back into favor. I think it's safe to say that the US comms don't watch tennis at all when they're not being paid to watch. I vowed never to watch them again after John McEnroe, on the air, said he had no idea that Venus Williams has an auto immune disease. This after it had been the talk of most of the tennis world for at least a month and a half prior to his making that remark.


So here we are. As a tennis lover I want every one to share in my love of the sport. Sadly, at least in the States, tennis seems to revel in being a country club sport. There are no efforts made to make it a sport that is being played in the 21st century with all that that implies. Instead we get the same insular views common in the 1950's: only certain types of people should be the face of the sport. The game should be played as it was played historically ignoring advances in technology and conditioning that make the sport more athletic. Rules are instituted and used to hinder specific players.

The last decade has been a true golden age for tennis. The level and quality of play improved as the sport became truly world wide and world class as the approach to the game mentally and physically changed. And yet it is a Herculean task to watch tennis on a consistent basis. A fan gets used to "illegal" streaming sites of sometimes questionable quality. We fans are denied interview transcripts that fans of other sports take for granted. Announcers are allowed to commentate tennis matches who are totally ignorant of the modern game and feel that gives them the right to ignore current players and different styles of play because they don't accept the player's approach to the game or like his country of origin.

Don't get me wrong. There are some very good men and women working the journalism side of tennis in print, on the internet and behind the mic. Anyone who has heard Vladimira Uhlirova call a match knows how good tennis commentary can be. It's too bad we don't get that same level of on air commentary during the premier tournaments of tennis. Instead we get the same old tired views recycled in Australian, British or US accents. Tennis deserves better than that.


Ann Blankenship said...

Hi Savannah - Mary Carillo's commentary during the ladies FO final was terrible. She went out of her way to "apologize" to viewers when Serena cursed - evidently during the changeover which wasn't even broadcast. They insinuated she kept on saying the F word when a couple of times I thought she was clearly screaning "fight" instead.

Also, it was absurb how, during the warmups, Carillo said "huge props to Sharapova" for never mentioning that she had a cold during the FO. The remark was just seemed so...out of place. It had no relevance to what was going on during the broadcast. Furthermore, Sharapova's cold was mentioned during her last press conference....she may not have brought it up herself but it made the news. That was how I had known about it in the first place.

Savannah said...

Ann thank you for your comments.

I didn't watch any US coverage of the French Open. As you know one of the pleasures of tennis is hearing the sound of the ball hitting the racquet and with clay the sound of the players navigating the surface. I gave up those pleasures in exchange for my sanity. Eurosport was marginally better.

It would be amazing to me that Carillo said something like that if it wasn't for the fact that Pova's agent holds such sway over women's tennis. I don't think that it's any accdent that there were so many posts on fan sites using the exact same phrasing Carillo did to try and disparage an obviously ill player. The comms on Eurosport did accept that Serena was ill, even Virginia Wade, but it seems people like Carillo will never accept the heart of Serena Williams, her will to keep fighting and to win. Or accept that that everyone ranked under Serena can be called mental midgets.

To anyone with eyes Serena was green, or gray, depending on the filters used by the medium you were watching. She was wobbly. She was vomiting on the side lines. But I guess she faked all of that. There was nothing visibly wrong with Pova other than a slight cough.

Remember these folks think she faked having a pulmonary embolism, surgery on her foot, and knee surgery. You can see the scars from the knee surgery on Serena's knees. I also saw scars from shoulder surgery on another female player recently. I've never seen such scars on Pova. But that shoulder injury is invoked every time she's in trouble during a match.

Is there a double standard? Yes there is. Is it racism? I hate to go there but what other conclusion can be drawn?