Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Report Cards: Zverev and Keys

by Savannah

Readers will recall that I decided at the beginning of 2015 to keep my eye on two up and coming players: Alexander Zverev of Germany and Madison Keys of the United States. I thought I'd look at what they've done since the last time I spoke about them and how their respective careers seem to be progressing.

I'll start with Madison since there isn't much to say. she and her team seem to be continuing down the "focus on the majors" path and as I expected Madison doesn't have much to show for that strategy.

Using ESPN's Results for this year her record is pretty pathetic. Her best tournament was predictably on US soil where she made the final at the Family Circle Cup in South Carolina losing to Angelique Kerber. She was unable to defend her title at Eastbourne losing in the second round to Belinda Bencic after a first round bye. So far this year she has no single or doubles titles with a 21-11 record.

The young lady needs matches. She's still playing the same way she was playing last year. The problem areas are the same and she's shown no mental growth. She's losing to players who while not playing week in and week out have been playing some of the smaller tournaments and who are now able to out think and therefore out play Keys. You can't go out on court thinking your game will prevail no matter what. You have to pay attention to what your opponent is doing to thwart your intentions and adjust. This is why many young players are having so many problems. Yes you have to have faith in your game but your opponent isn't going to be standing across the net letting you do what you want. You have to force them out of their game plan and this is not what I see Keys doing.

Keys is not the only US player facing this dilemma but she's the one I'm doing the report card on. So far this year I'd give her a D. She is capable of much better. It's going to be interesting to see what she brings to Stanford next week.

On to Alexander Zverev.

Again using the ESPN Results page we see Zverev has a 2-5 record with no titles on the main tour. His best was in Båstad where he made the semi's losing to Tommy Robredo. He has been playing matches on the Challenger circuit though. He is in danger of believing his own hype and has been throwing tantrums on court when things don't go his way. He's still a bit too grip and rip for my tastes but if he catches the right player when he's able to impose his will he's formidable. That hasn't happened a lot so far this year though.

Still I give him credit for trying. Suffering is seasoning. No tennis player likes to lose and a smart coach will sit his or her charge down and go over what he or she needs to do when an opponent does A, B, C or D during a match. The fruits of that labor will be seen two to three years down the road for a player like Zverev who is still a growing boy. In my opinion he should be a bit more focused on Challenger level events and win a title or two there instead of trying to become a phenom on the main tour. I'll give him a C- for his work so far this year.

This and That

There was a sneaky little announcement that Maria Sharapova and her latest love Grigor Dimitrov had reached the decision to officially go their separate ways.

Dimitrov's PR people at Tony Godsick's agency put out a picture or two of Dimitrov nattily dressed,beaming and holding a racquet saying that he would now be able to focus exclusively on his tennis. There were also posts on fan sites using the exact same language about how this would be a good thing for Grigor since he would not be distracted by his high maintenance ex.

Of course no one outside of the players immediate circles know the truth of the matter.

Homosexuality and Tennis

So Jon Wertheim got dragged for being straight. Some background. There were rumors of a male player thinking about coming out. There was of course wild speculation but so far nothing has happened and the furor died down. Here is how one fan presented the issue to Mr. Wertheim.

I read your recent column and I think you continue to ignore the homophobia behind the scenes on the ATP tour. Since you are a straight man I am not sure you are aware of the homophobia due to your life experience. You write about homosexuality and men’s tennis yet your comments just prove a straight male reporter should not cover this issue! Jason Collins said he talked to a former ATP player who is gay and thinking of coming out. The ATP tour is anti gay and their comments to the press are PR lip service. The real question is would the ATP tour want a Top 10 player or the No. 1 player to be a gay man? The answer is no! The ATP tour functions on heterosexuality the media always point out the top players’ wives and girlfriends and children. The ATP tour is selling a product to audiences world wide and they do not want gay men to disrupt the product. Do you think the ATP wants one of the younger male tennis stars to come out as gay? On the WTA tour I can name ten lesbians easily. Casey Dellacqua came out as a lesbian a few years ago and it was not big news. I think Sports Illustrated is deceiving tennis fans by just repeating the standard public relations comments. The bottom line is the ATP tour is similar to the NFL—there are high profile NFL players who everyone knows are gay, yet the media protect these closet cases and engender the lie of being inclusive. Please get a gay male reporter to write about this. It is hard to take a heterosexual male journalist such as yourself discussing an issue you have no true understanding about.
—Brampton, Ontario, Canada

• I think the notion that you're disqualified from writing about anything about which you have no "internal knowledge" or life experience gets us to an ugly place very quickly.

We’re always open to dissent. Here, specifically, I’m totally open to the suggestion that the climate is less hospitable than I make it out to be. But I have spoken about this with players. And coaches. And gay employees at the ATP. And ITF. There are openly gay chair umpires. And journalists. The consensus: if a top player were to come out, there would be a few knuckleheads but, overwhelmingly, it would be met with acceptance. (I can also tell you that the top players on the ATP are well aware that gay men make up a not insignificant proportion of their fan bases.)

I actually had a bit of back-and-forth with this writer, asking if he had any evidence—anecdotal or otherwise—to the contrary or was just speaking in vague generalities. He mentioned Sergiy Stakhovsky’s remarks during Wimbledon. My response to that: yes, this would suggest some degree of homophobia in the locker room. It was also a Cannonball-Run style race to who could be first swiftly to denounce Stakhovsky’s comments.

Some day, hopefully soon, this will not be a theoretical discussion. A top ATP player will come out and we can see for ourselves how he will be received.

The Link is here. The link to the referenced article is also there.

Amy Schumerenka

This is the last time I'm talking about this issue (I hope). As long as the WTA promotes looks before talent the non tennishead part of the populace can be excused for thinking this is how tennis really is.

She does hit all the talking points one usually hears when women's tennis is being broadcast doesn't she?

The US Open Series

A few years ago some bold tennis writers were questioning the relevance of the US Open series implying that it was a watered down version of what used to be well attended tournaments featuring top US players. I said at the time that the US Open series was relevant and should continue. How do I feel today? I mean the events still feature top US players right? The series starts this week in Atlanta. Next week the top WTA players will be in Stanford. Then comes the Rogers Cup in Canada featuring both tours, Cincinnati the following week, Connecticult and Winston Salem after that and then the Big Show, the US Open.

Not a bad line up no? So why do I now feel that the US Open series needs something to bring all the top players to the yard? The Europeans still don't come until the Rogers Cup and continue to play clay events while the US Open Series starts. The bad blood between the USTA and the other federations goes back to when the USTA worked hard to get rid of Monaco because US players didn't want to travel to Europe and be forced to eat real food and be surrounded by people who don't feel the need to speak English to make them feel better. As a result the level of tennis is pretty low at some of these events. Add to that the weird broadcast schedule - try to find a television broadcast of Atlanta - and you've got a bit of a disaster on your hands. There's ESPN3 you say? It's the worst. When it works it's fine but more often than not a fan encounters buffering and frozen screens to the point that you sometimes end up five minutes behind in a match. I saw a post by a fan the other day saying he got it to work better by using some kind of a VPN or proxy to watch it. I may be using the wrong terminology but I think you'll understand. Add the commentators who could be anyone dragged off the street and thrown behind a mic for the amount of tennis knowledge they exhibit and it's simply awful for a US viewer. Something needs to be done.

From Jail to A Championship

In my last post I featured the mug shot of Bernard Tomic taken in what I now know is Florida style, shirtless, after his arrest in Florida. I wonder who paid his bail? Anyway he left Florida and flew down to play Bogotá where he was defending champion.

Some of the "we need characters in tennis" crowd must have been thrilled. I mean the saga sounds like something from a demented music video. They must also have been thrilled to see the shenanigans Tomic performed in the third set of the final where a supposed lower back/left hip injury vanished into thin air after a MTO and his win. I bet tennis gained tons of fans!

Will He or Won't He?

There's a lot of speculation about Andy Roddick coming back to the Main Tour. He's been in Atlanta with his friend Mardy Fish who is retiring from the sport after the US Open. If you don't think US tennis is desperate you should now.

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