Sunday, November 1, 2015

And Then There Was One

by Savannah

 photo 3e2564cb-c022-4176-9cb9-af9b0ad7ff74_zpsu296flkj.jpg
via @Jimmie48Photography

Many years ago there was a movie called "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum". Well a funny thing happened on the way to the WTA YEC Final. We knew early on that the world number one Serena Williams would not be traveling to Singapore. Despite the scandal that some tried to make of this don't think for one second that the WTA didn't know early on that no matter what happened in New York Serena would not be going back to Asia. There was talk about her "not doing her duty" to the tour from what you could say were the usual sources but it didn't gain much traction. There were also rumors planted about a pregnancy and who Serena was dating. Yes I said planted. If you can't beat her on the court try and destroy her reputation especially after the rumors and papped pictures floating around of a certain player frolicing on the beach with a friend. Diversionary tactics. If everyone was going on and on about who Serena was or was not dating the fact that Maria Sharapova took off from Wimbledon to the YEC would not become a major topic of conversation or discussion. Of all the players in Singapore she was the most rested. I heard a comm making a big deal about Petra Kvitova taking a few weeks off from play but when it came to the Ban Sidhe there was nothing said about that long rest she had.

Add that to the fact that there was absolutely no sign of injury when play began. There were all kinds of rumors about Sharapova being too injured to play Singapore, that she was risking her career in doing so, that she was there but would do PR only. If you saw any of her matches it was obvious that was all bull, an attempt to make it appear she was limping and not striding confidently into the YEC. The sympathy card? I'd say so. Especially after her commetns about her peers lacking competitive fire because they wished Serena good luck in her quest for the CYGS did nothing to enhance her image among the majority of tennis fans. She came off looking petty and mean after that and there was nothing they could do about it.

Am I off topic again? I don't think so. I feel that the atmosphere around the 2015 YEC in far off Singapore needs to be established. The WTA would never admit it but this was the preview of what it will be when Serena retires. Will she retire after Rio? It depends on what her goals are. If she has achieved all she wants by the end of next year we could see her retire. And my goodness what a mess the WTA has on its hands.

The main problem with the WTA is that it doesn't promote women's tennis per se. It promotes individual players. I've said this before and I'll be brief. They wanted a certain look for their brand. Serena isn't it. Garbiñe Muguruza isn't it. Simona Halep isn't it. Agniezska Radwanska isn't it. None of the Czech women are it despite the long limbs and blonde hair. And the one they chose is trying to pull down the pillars of the temple in a shameless money grab.

There was very little publicity around the event. We hard core fans knew who was who but a casual fan? Petra Kvitova? Who is this Muguruza person? Halep? Who can say Radwanska's first name?

But even if you know how to pronounce the names and could find the countries they came from on a map who cared? The thing is none of the women who earned their way to Singapore has that "it" factor, the thing that brings all the fans to the yard. Don't get me wrong, there were many contrasting styles on display in Singapore and fanatic tennis folowers felt that there was a chance to see what the "best of the rest" had to offer. But when you don't promote the sport and instead promote a look you've got a dicey situation on your hands.

But wait! Isn't Maria Sharapova a world wide brand? Isn't she a superstar? Wouldn't the fans come out to see the woman we've been told is the much desired face of tennis in Asia where they're said to worship tall blonde women? After all she's the highest paid female athlete on the planet right?

I think we saw that the hype is just that, that when push came to shove no one was breaking down the doors to see Sharapova. She played the night match for the entire week and the relatively small 10,000 person stadium was as empty as all the other stadia were on the Asian swing. I'm watching a replay of the Final now and the place is full. And Sharapova is nowhere in sight. I'm sure the talk will be people bought their tickets ahead of time expecting to see Sharapova but there are peopel who live in the area who post on fan boards and their on site reports proved that not to be the case. One person said that he bought tickets that put him in the second row courtside on the night of the match so that during the week sales were not good. These people also indicated that the weekend would be sold out because student exams would be over and indicated that the YEC should have been held this week instead of last week. I guess the event at Zhuhai was already set though so that couldn't happen.

Let's be clear. This was supposed to be the coronation of one Maria Sharapova. She cakewalked through her group and owned the head to head against Petra Kvitova. But it was Kvitova who played the final. To a packed house.

I don't know where to start with Agniezska Radwanska. Her coach's comments about her wanting to appear feminine and not look like a female athlete grated. I actually thought she was the weakest player coming in, weaker than even Lucie Safarova who had just gotten up from her sick bed to come to Singapore. She actually had a losing record in her group but through the formula's used to determine things made it to the semi final, final and the winners circle. I've never been a fan, her style bores me to tears. But it was no surprise that she defeated Muguruza. Like Aga or not she is not easy to play and when you allow her to stay focused she can ninja you off the court. Aga's greatest successes have been against up and comers of late, women who haven't gotten to the "how to beat Aga" chapters of the players handbook. Muguruza is a much improved player though and I expect her to come charging out of the gate in January. She will have to better manage her schedule now though, and I'm sure she and her coach Sam Sumyk will do just that.

So in the end we have Aga Radwanska holding the trophy declaring her the best player of 2015. Hard core fans - and I'm guessing they were the only ones braving the huge time differences for Europe and the US to try and watch live matches - know she was not. She was making some changes to her game and it seems that she's more comfortable with those changes now but she was not a factor in three of the four majors this year getting wins in Tokyo and Tianjin before beginning play in Singapore.

The woman whose reputation suffered the most in Singapore was Simona Halep. She fell apart under the pressure, something we've seen her do more than once recently. If as it's widely rumored Darren Cahill will become her head coach once the Adidas program he was part of folds he's got a lot of work to do. I watched him work with her during during Qualie week at the US Open and while she was willing to listen it seemed as if there are things she is not able to do on a court. Yet she is ranked Number two in the world. There is some talk about how small she is compared to many of her contemporaries but I don't know if that is her problem. Is she going to stay in the top ten by playing as many tournaments as she can? Will she be able to get the number one ranking after Serena retires taking us back to the Slamless Number One era?

The WTA top ten is as follows:

[1] Williams, Serena United States
[2] Halep, Simona Romania
[3] Muguruza, Garbiñe Spain
[4] Sharapova, Maria Russia
[5] Radwanska, Agnieszka Poland
[6] Kvitova, Petra Czech Republic
[7] Kerber, Angelique Germany
[8] Pennetta, Flavia Italy
[9] Safarova, Lucie Czech Republic
[10] Bacsinszky, Timea Switzerland

I will say this. The WTA's new leadership has to work harder at promoting women's tennis, especially since there doesn't seem to be a superstar on the horizon. If they don't the outlook is bleak. Push parity. Depth. Whatever. Look at what other sports do. It was not easy to get the powers that be in tennis to take women's tennis seriously. I hope all their hard work and sweat wasn't for nothing.

© Savannahs World 2015 All Rights Reserved unles otherwise indicated


Unknown said...

I guess all the publicity and coverage about Serena's historic year and her Grand Slam aspirations weren't enough for you. No, you will keep crying about "white blondness" and that will never change. It started (and obviously continues) with Sharapova, then Wozniacki when she admirably was the face of the tour as #1, and then Bouchard. "Shameless money grab" makes me want to puke. You were exposed in your appalling lack of knowledge about negligence and Common Law in your last post, and you obviously have learned nothing. You can keep crying about "white blondness" but when the Williamses are gone, in all likelihood, you won't be watching women's tennis anymore. Good riddance, and don't let the door hit the Williams fan on the way out. You were never a tennis fan to begin with.

Fred66 said...

Savannah, I agree that this event was pretty watered down due to Serena's abscence but I have to say I really enjoyed the matches that I managed to see. There was some high-quality tennis on display, especially on the part of Muguruza who impressed me the most of all the players. Am I a big fan of Radwanska; no. I'm more of a clean ballstriking/shotmaking fan, a la Davenport. Even so I cannot begrudge Aga this win. She saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands, after Kvitova handed it to her in the 3rd set of the final. As I always say, if there is away to lose a match from a winning position you can count on Petra to find it!
Halep's attitude during matches is terrible bordering on unprofessional. The way she threw in the towel in the 2nd set of her match against Aga deserved a fine for tanking. Not to mention how she was tactically and mentally clueless in her match against Sharapova. She's a very weak nr.2 and she'll probably slip out of the Top 5 next year.
All in all I enjoyed the Finals a lot more than I thought i would even without Serena.

Savannah said...

Hi Fred!

As the saying goes I see no lies in your post.

I guess you've heard by now that Cahill and Halep made their coaching arrangement official on Thursday. He's got a lot of work to do with her. She always folds against Sharapova.

You are so right about Petra. You know of her fans call her alter ego P3tra.

I don't dislike Aga but her style, for all she does, bores me. The younger players have problems with it. The more experienced players don't and they're the ones she meets in the second week of a Slam.