Sunday, November 22, 2015

Where Do We Go From Here?

by Savannah

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Congratulations to Venus Williams who had a good end of year in Asia and ended the year ranked #7, a triumph over illness and the people who had written her off.

Let's look at the official year end rankings up to #50 for 2015.

1. Serena Williams USA 9945 +1460 points
2. Simona Halep ROU 6060 +1
3. Garbine Muguruza ESP 5200 +18
4. Maria Sharapova RUS 5011 -2
5. Agnieszka Radwanska POL 4495 +1
6. Petra Kvitova CZE 4210 -2
7. Venus Williams USA 3790 +12
8. Flavia Pennetta ITA 3621 +5
9. Lucie Safarova CZE 3590 +8
10. Angelique Kerber GER 3590 No Change In Position

11. Karolina Pliskova CZE 3285
12. Timea Bacsinszky SUI 3133
13. Carla Suarez Navarro ESP 3090
14. Belinda Bencic SUI 2900
15. Roberta Vinci ITA 2785
16. Ana Ivanovic SRB 2645
17. Caroline Wozniacki DEN 2641
18. Madison Keys USA 2600
19. Elina Svitolina UKR 2590
20. Sara Errani ITA 2525
21. Jelena Jankovic SRB 2445
22. Victoria Azarenka BLR 2276
23. Ekaterina Makarova RUS 2201
24. Andrea Petkovic GER 2185
25. Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS 2006
26. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova SVK 1875
27. Samantha Stosur AUS 1865
28. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova RUS 1840
29. Kristina Mladenovic FRA 1725
30. Sloane Stephens USA 1715
31. Irina-Camelia Begu ROU 1630
32. Sabine Lisicki GER 1568
33. Lesia Tsurenko UKR 1445
34. Camila Giorgi ITA 1325
35. Caroline Garcia FRA 1320
36. Daria Gavrilova RUS 1300
37. Coco Vandeweghe USA 1247
38. Dominika Cibulkova SVK 1246
39. Monica Niculescu ROU 1245
40. Madison Brengle USA 1238
41. Barbora Strycova CZE 1170
42. Alison Van Uytvanck BEL 1157
43. Alize Cornet FRA 1155
44. Mona Barthel GER 1135
45. Teliana Pereira BRA 1132
46. Varvara Lepchenko USA 1125
47. Johanna Konta GBR 1107
48. Eugenie Bouchard CAN 1065
49. Yanina Wickmayer BEL 1043
50. Julia Goerges GER 1040

For the top ten I've added how many places they've moved up or down from last year.

I've written a lot about the WTA this past season, most of it critical. I don't want to go over ground I've already covered so I'll focus on how the women's tour ended. The word that came to mind right away was "messy".

Why "messy"? The WTA went all in leading up to the US Open and Serena Williams chance to make history. I thought the hype was a bit over the top and would only add to what had to be butterflies as big as bats in Serena's stomach and encroaching brain freeze in her mind. If anyone watched "The Soprano's" the hype reminded me of when Tony brpught a sable coat home for Carmela thinking that it would cover a multitude of his sins.

The oversell brings up what for me has been a consistent marketing issue for the WTA. Under Stacey Allaster's long reign the sport of women's tennis was pushed aside in favor of promoting a "look". She's gone now and I'm thinking that the new guy should be given a chance to start making his own mark. It seems as if he's started with the problematic $125k events. Previously taking place almost exclusively in Asia new ones are scheduled in Buenos Aires, Argentina, San Antonio, Texas, West Hempstead, New York and Bol, Croatia. Keep in mind these tournaments are not part of the main tour, and that top ten players need not apply (see page 15 of the WTA Handbook )so any rumors you hear about a top tenner playing one of these are just folks trying to push ticket sales.

The fact that no new 125k's were announced for Asia gives hope to many fans that the obsessive focus on China may be lessening. I know the company line has been that China is the up and coming market but broadcast deals aren't cheap and I'm guessing only the guaranteed government money is keeping these events going. It's a cliché that Chinese tournament equals mostly empty stadium.

But I digress. After Serena's loss in New York instead of a drone telling the tennis press that Serena was taking an already planned sabbatical she was left hanging once again as fans, and some members of the press, criticized her for taking time off and planning to play some exhibition events later in the year. Only fans who pay close attention knew that the total silence from the WTA meant that this break was planned and was going to happen whether or not she made history.

Then there is the ill advised lawsuit filed by Eugenie Bouchard against the USTA/WTA. No matter how you feel about it the fact remains that the Plaintiffs, instead of trying to quietly settle out of court have hit back hard at Ms Bouchard. In an interview her lawyer described her as being "upset" because the USTA is "being really aggressive" with her. I don't even know how to respond to that. I have no reason to think her lawyer is misrepresenting how she feels but what did she expect? He's talking about her being paid "millions and millions" isn't he? If she gets a jury (in New York for a civil case there are usually six jurors with two alternates) where no one has a clue about tennis and how she was playing coming into the US Open she could end up getting exactly what she, through her lawyers, is asking for. How would having to bestow a large settlement on Ms Bouchard affect the corporation doing business as the USTA? Would it affect it's construction at the BJK NTC in Queens New York? What about the other work it does? Did she expect a champagne reception to be thrown in her honor?

The full USTA filing can be found
HERE . The most interesting thing to me is the following:

Without relieving the Plaintiff of its burden of proof of establishing his injuries or damages, if any, any damages sustained by the Plaintiff were proximately caused or contributed to by the intervening or superseding intentional conduct or negligence of third-parties that the Plaintiff has not named in this action.

So she wasn't alone in the room. There is some pretty wild speculation out there about who the unnamed third party is but wouldn't it have made sense for Ms Bouchard to have mentioned that she and Mr or Ms X entered the room together? Why didn't she name the third party/parties to avoid speculation? Messy business this.

So, where does the WTA go from here?

There was a surprise winner at the YEC. Will she become a Slam contender? Will Serena pick up where she left off when it comes to Slams? Will Venus be able to continue to move up in the rankings? Will Petra Kvitova become a more consistent player in 2016? Will Garbiñe Muguruza be able to push Serena for the top ranking? What about Simona Halep? Will she figure out a way to handle pressure and hold it together enough to really challenge for Slams titles? What about Karolina Pliskova?

We know Flavia Pennetta is retired and will drop out of the top ten. Lucie Safarova has been ill and didn't play at all during the Fed Cup tie just recently completed. Fans don't like to talk about it but Venus health will continue to be an issue. At the present time with Pennetta out the top ten is really Kerber at #9 and Pliskova at #10. We can talk about whether Pliskova - or Muguruza for that matter - deserve their rankings based on the quality of their play over the year. Personally I don't think Pliskova is a top ten player. Her game is still a bit too juvenile for my tastes. Muguruza had a great beginning to and end of 2015. Her collaboration with Sam Sumyk seems to be working well and I'm sure she's aiming for bigger and better in 2016. Sumyk's job appears to be easier than Cahill's right now but we'll only know by the end of the spring hard court season in the US if Cahill has found a way to help his charge deal with the pressure of late tournament play.

Is the style of tennis going to change? Yes. Will it be at a lower level than we've become accustomed to? Yes. Will top players retire after Rio or after the US Open? Who knows?

And not forgetting the mess that led up to the YEC will the new guy try and imitate the ATP and arrange a week off leading into it? That gives time to build up anticipation among fans and the media. This year the YEC didn't stand out and I feel play was affected by people having to fly long distances to and from Asia.

How would I rate the year? It may surprise some but I'd give it a B based on excellence of Serena, the promise of Garbiñe, Belinda Bencic and maybe, just maybe, Madison Keys? I'll give my report card on the young players I chose to focus on this year next time.

I hope next year I can give a higher grade.

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