Friday, October 23, 2015

The Final Eight

by Savannah

The Final 8 WTA YEC 2015 photo 16199557-eb2d-4ad7-983f-8ff4b3d1038e_zpsdksrpkjt.jpg
via @Getty

They're all there now. Some of the eight women who qualified for the WTA YEC in 2015 had a "long strange trip" to get to Singapore but I'm sure the WTA wants to let bygones be bygones. Fans of women's tennis shouldn't though but maybe now is not the time to talk about that.

The women have been grouped as follows:

Red Group

Simona Halep
Maria Sharapova
Agnieszka Radwanska
Flavia Pennetta

White Group

Garbiñe Muguruza
Petra Kvitova
Angelique Kerber
Lucie Safarova

Unlike Maria Sharapova who said she didn't understand how potential competitors could wish Serena Williams luck in her quest for the career year Grand Slam I wish all of the women well and hope they bring their best tennis to this tournament.

For fans this will be a chance to get a look at the post Serena era of the WTA. We know that Flavia Pennetta, 2015 US Open Champion, is retiring. I don't think Pova is retiring any time soon no matter what crap her people put out or imply but she is part of the old guard. Eliminating those two from the WTA of the future we have a collection of almost there's, women who have not and will never be superstars inside or outside the world of tennis. Petra Kvitova has won Wimbledon twice and pretty much flopped everywhere else with a few exceptions. Angelique Kerber just doesn't have 'that thing" Aga Radwanska, the most "feminine" of the group just doesn't have a game that is must see for a casual fan. Lucie Safarova is a fan favorite but again her charisma doesn't translate outside of tennis world. Neither Halep or Muguruza score highly on the charisma quotient.

Despite all of that the two most intriguing players in this tournament will be Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza. Halep is 0-5 vs Sharapova, 4-4 vs Aga, and 1-4 vs Flavia. She'll be lucky to get out of her group with "guaranteed" wins only vs Aga, who has a lot to prove here.

Muguruza has never played Kvitova it seems. She's 3-3 vs Kerber and 0-1 vs Safarova. I do think that with Garbiñe her year has to be divided into pre and post US Open. She seems to be thriving under new coach Sam Sumyk and despite the head to heads with others in her group she has a good chance to make it out of her group and into single elimination play. She's not the same player she was earlier this year.

I think you can make the argument that Sharapova has been set up to win this event. Halep forgets how to play tennis when she's across the net from her. Flavia will be a bit jet lagged after her sojourn to Moscow and back to Singapore and has a 2-3 head to head with Sharapova, and Aga is 2-12 vs Sharapova.

There is nothing to say about Kvitova. If the player who shows up at Wimbledon makes an appearance she could dominate her group except for Muguruza. If the player who shows up every where else shows up it could be embarrassing.

In the end this is a lack luster field but they played well enough in 2015 to make the cut and appear at their sports championship event. They may not be the most charismatic group. They may not play a style of tennis that will make a casual fan sit up and take notice, but here they are. How they got there, how the WTA ruined it's image with the shenanigans at the end of the year should and will be discussed in another post. For now I've decided to praise these women for their achievement. There was a women's tour outside of Serena this year and I think it was very gracioius of her to step aside to and let someone else get the lime light don't you? There will be women's tennis after she retires too. Let's all sit back and see what we can expect from women's tennis in the years to come.

© Savannah's World 2015 All Rights Reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Bouchard Lawsuit: An Update

by Savannah

The people at @GenieNews posted the entire legal document relating to the case online. It's pretty straight forward and doesn't require a degree in or knowledge of legalese.

Bouchard Law Suit

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eugenie Bouchard Files a Civil Suit against the USTA and BJKNTC

by Savannah

It was a quiet night in Tennisland. With most tournaments still in Asia and members of #TennisTwitter bleary eyed from late nights or watching replays at a more decent hour for those of us in the West there wasn't much going on. Until this Tweet showed up on Twitter:

USDC EDNY Filings ‏@usdcedny 44m44 minutes ago
Bouchard v. USTA, Inc. et al

via redacted @Hurleytennis

Don't bother to click on the link it's restricted. Thankfully the same person posted the following excerpt:

via @Hurleytennis

There are several things that come to mind about this lawsuit, one of which is personally I only know what is posted above.

So far all we know is what Eugenie Bouchard and her camp have said in their filing. As I type this the USTA has not responded to press inquiries.

The first thing I asked myself is why something like this wasn't settled out of court. I'm guessing the USTA knew this suit was coming - most tennis fans, knowing the litigious nature of the Bouchard family, expected nothing less.
The excerpt above gives no financial details but rumors range from a modest six figure amount to seven figure amounts. How will a lawsuit of this nature affect the USTA which is in the iddle of upgrading the BJK National Tennis Center. Will the roof be completed if the settlement does end up in the seven figure and above range? Will construction of the new Grandstand Court be put on hold leaving the present arrangement in place?

And what about Bouchard's career? Usually when a lawsuit is filed against someone or something the Plaintiff is not allowed to come near the facility or individual being sued. Will other tournaments want someone who would take things seriously enoiugh to put them at financial peril playing at their event? And what will happen at next years US Open? Will she get a WC if needed? With her benefactor gone who will there be to plead her case with tournament directors and tennis federations?

Why ask these questions? Part of the suit blames the accident for Ms Bouchard's precipitous fall in the rankings, something that was already happening before the accident occurred. Does she expect to be compensated for lost wages? How can you know what she would have won if the accident hadn't happened? Since it's a civil suit it's doubtful that jurors would have much of an idea how tennis works and that Bouchard could potentially receive compensation way beyond what her play would have afforded her. Has she been unable to fulfill endorsement committments? From what we've seen of the suit that isn't mentioned. The USTA and the BJK NTC are the entities being sued. Surely she doesn't expect her ranking to be restored to a place higher than it was when the accident occurred.

I wonder how Stacey Allaster felt about this? Now that she's no longer involved with tennis she's under no obligation to say anything. Maybe she'll be called as a witness if and when the matter goes to trial. Maybe Stacey did jump after all.

I'll end with this story by Ben Rothenberg

“In line with our policy, the U.S.T.A. will not be commenting on ongoing litigation,” said Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications for the U.S.T.A.

Bouchard is still troubled by the injury. She had to withdraw from a tournament two weeks ago in Wuhan, China, and retired midway through her first-round match last week in Beijing, citing dizziness. She has also withdrawn from events in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The lawsuit notes that Bouchard’s ranking, which peaked at No. 5 last year, continues to drop. She is now No. 39 in the world, but was No. 25 at the time of the accident.

Bouchard is asking for a jury trial and is seeking damages of more than $150,000. “For sure,” said her lawyer, Benedict Morelli, “we could be talking about millions and millions.”

Monday, October 5, 2015

The New Head of the WTA is Steve Simon

by Savannah

Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun photo c540eef5-9c7c-43b7-ab5c-fbd02d1e4469_zpsoonhreuz.jpg
via Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun

The WTA announced this morning that its new CEO is Steve Simon, best known as the Tournament Director for the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells.

In its official statement the WTA said the following:

“Steve Simon, with his successful career leading one of tennis’ most prestigious tournaments, is the perfect person to run the WTA,” the Board said in a statement. “Steve produced results, pursued excellence and he kept innovating, making the fan experience even better. He has a very clear vision for the sport and is held in high regard by all.”

Simon has run the Indian Wells tournament since 2004. Outside of the Grand Slams, it has become the largest two-week combined tournament and is the most attended WTA and ATP World Tour tennis tournament in the world.

“I am humbled and at the same time very excited about the opportunity that has been presented to me by the Board,” Simon said. “I will be focused on building upon the successful platforms that have been put in place by my predecessors, Stacey Allaster and Larry Scott, with a sole focus on driving excellence and innovation, while creating a premium experience for the fans.”

“Steve Simon is the right person for the job,” said WTA founder Billie Jean King. “His track record is marked by success. He is thoughtful, respectful and he has excellent business judgment.”

Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki each praised Simon.


Simon will begin his duties immediately as he also winds down his role at Indian Wells. It is anticipated he will be fulltime with the WTA effective November 30, 2015.

Simon is also a former collegiate tennis player and competed in 1981 in the Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon.

Ironically just before the announcement Micky Lawler, WTA President, said the following in an interview with blogger Peter Bodo re the Asian swing that has seen disturbingly high withdrawals from fatigued and brain dead playrs.

"We know, the Chinese know, the Singaporeans [hosts of the upcoming WTA championships] know that this part of the year -- it's just too much...
We need to look at spreading things out," Lawler added. "We don't need to call it a 'Road Map' [again] or anything like that, but we need to sit down and work out some significant changes, and we need to start on that soon."

...The Road Map to which Lawler referred was implemented in 2009, in response to concerns that the tennis "season" was too long and insufficiently streamlined. The result was, among other things, a tour featuring the current, post-US Open Asian swing, followed by the WTA Finals and an eight-week, year-ending offseason. The longer offseason was intended to mitigate the toll taken by injuries and the demands placed on the top players by a more rigorous commitment structure.

Simon will have a very difficult row to hoe. Outside of Serena Williams and Venus Williams the tour is dominated by Europeans, many of whom are from Eastern Europe including Russian Maria Sharapova, Romanian Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic and new member of the top five Garbiñe Muguruza, the only top player from Western Europe in that rarified air. Angelique Kerber of Germany and Flavia Pennetta of Italy are the other Western Europeans in the top ten, Ranked #10 and #7 respectively.

European fans, who feel disrespected by former CEO Stacey Allaster's focus on Asia were looking for someone who would be able to make sure efforts were made to reinstate many of the indoor European events that were sent to Asian cities, feel another North American, at a time when tennis in the US is at it's lowest point in many years, will not help them. Lost in this view is that many US tournaments have also disappeared. Simon will have a delicate balancing act to perform trying to reconcile the discontent on both sides of the Atlantic. How he handles the widespread discontent with Asian events held in mostly empty stadiums is going to require a lot of skill as well especially since the public doesn't know how binding the contracts with the Chinese government are.

For now all WTA fans can do is wait. Lawler clearly indicated that something has to be done about the post US Open WTA schedule especially since the ATP doesn't seem to be having similar issues.

© SavannahsWorld 2015 All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This and That 10/5/2015

by Savannah

Venus Wuhan 2015 photo 469bc3b1-41e1-4b2a-804b-58df1cd49830_zpsgbpazdmk.jpg

She's 35. Older than most active players male or female. The tennis world had pretty much labeled her a sentimental favorite, a woman who could make it to the quarters of majors but not much farther. The mechanics of her serve, so many moving parts they said, were scrutinized every time she put the ball in play.

Wuhan is one of the major WTA tournaments on the Asian Swing that takes place after the US Open - more on that later - and it was widely expected that she would not figure in the final as younger women were expected to take the spotlight and win this point heavy event. It didn't help that she had aggravated both hamstrings and took the court for the final with both upper thighs heavily taped and limping a bit.

Garbiñe Muguruza, one of the WTA Rising Stars had been playing inspired tennis coming into the semifinal against Angelique Kerber. It seemed that new coach Sam Sumyk had a willing and able student and that he was poised to win a WTA P5 after being dismissed by WTA darling Eugenie Bouchard.

I was surprised at how well Muguruza was playing and thought Venus would be pressed really hard in the final. Instead it was Venus who dominated the Final. There were no visible signs of her ankle injury from Muguruza during the short match but she looked exhausted and frustrated when she retired down 0-3 in the second set while Venus calmly chatted with her coach David Witt. Sumyk looked ready to explode. The Muguruza who showed up for the Wuhan Final is the one I saw at the US Open, unable to think clearly on court without a lot of guidance.

 photo dd314a74-b783-40a1-bffe-c4632f149ff2_zpstlhbkci6.jpg

The most amazing thing about all of this is Venus has a chance to make the YEC in Singapore.
Yes she's one of many but who saw this possibility at the beginning of the year? Congratulations to Ms Venus Williams.

Speaking of Eugenie Bouchard she's now working with Thomas Hogstedt. Yes that Hogstedt. The one who dumped Li Na via newspaper article (or email)for Maria Sharapova who then dumped him, then worked for a hot minute with Caroline Wozniacki saying he didn't want to travel so much anymore when he stopped working with her. Yet there he is in Beijing working with Bouchard.

In an article posted on Eh Tennis Yahoo the following is reported:

When we reported just before the US Open that experienced coach Thomas Hogstedt was in the mix for a tryout with top Canadian Genie Bouchard, we were told that while he was keen and ready to come on board, Bouchard and her team had reservations.

Those reservations seemed to have abated and Hogstedt is indeed by Bouchard's side, as she (hopefully) prepares for a return Monday in Beijing, China against Andrea Petkovic.


As well, he has the Sharapova stamp of approval, in a sense – which is no small thing in the Bouchard camp. We're told that before she began working full-time with Saviano to begin the 2014 season, Team Bouchard had approached (Michael)Joyce, who also had passed the Sharapova test and worked with her a long time, first as a hitting partner when her father Yuri was her coach, then as coach when Yuri stepped aside.

The thing was that Joyce had a good deal with young player Jessica Pegula, who was going through knee surgery and recovery and was out of the game for an extended period. Understandably, he wasn't going to give that up (Pegula's family owns the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, so you can imagine he was well taken care of ) without some sort of guarantee. And that guarantee wasn't forthcoming.

So if you've worked with Pova you're the person for Bouchard. Interesting that the article points out the financial benefits of Michael Joyce coaching Jessica Pegula and not the financial wherewithal of the Bouchard family.

Bouchard skipped Wuhan due to the lingering effects of her concussion but it looks as if she will play in Beijing. A lot of eyes will be on her.

The Post US Open Schedule - WTA Style

Let's see. In two days of play in Beijing five players retired: Simona Halep, Coco Vandeweghe, Lesia Tsurenko, Alja Tomljanovic and Zarina Diyas.

You can argue that back to back to back tournaments is asking a lot of players, especially the elite, but there is also the fact that if Halep hadn't shown up in Beijing she would've lost $300,000 in bonus money. I don't think the other women who retired had to worry about that though.

Should be Asian swing come right after the Oz Open? The players, even though coming off a Grand Slam tournament, would be fresher. I don't know how the weather is in China that time of year though.

I think the back to back events take a toll because it's the end of the year. Players have been playing with injuries all year that by now have become nagging and annoying. Not to mention being brain fried. Caroline Wozniacki said that the WTA forces injured players to play and was ridiculed by some. Retirements by the likes of Vendeweghe, Tsurenko, Tomljanovic and Diyas don't make much difference to tournament directors. Halep retiring makes a big difference.

There is already speculation about what the YEC will look like if the top six women in the world aren't able to play.
I don't think that'll happen but it's a valid observation at this point.


Here is the leader board:

RTS Player Current Total Points Replaced Adjusted RTS Total
1 Simona Halep 5840 60 5780
2 Maria Sharapova 4322 1 4321
3 Garbiñe Muguruza 3512 1 3511
4 Petra Kvitova 3482 1 3481
5 Lucie Safarova 3222 1 3221
6 Angelique Kerber 3220 105 3115
7 Flavia Pennetta 3034 1 3033
8 Venus Williams 2972 0 2972
9 Karolina Pliskova 3040 100 2940
10 Carla Suárez Navarro 3010 100 2910
11 Agnieszka Radwanska 2955 100 2855
12 Belinda Bencic 2865 30 2835
13 Roberta Vinci 2565 30 2535

Lucie Safarova is out. Maria Sharapova's participation is anyone's guess due to her injury. Muguruza is suffering from injury. Petra Kvitova looked terrible losing to Sara Errani in Beijing committing 49 unforced errors. Then there's this quote from Simona Halep: "I hope I can play. I will see - I need treatment and a break, for sure." posted by @tennis_photos. Those fans talking about players ranked 7-14 playing the YEC may be on to something.

End Notes

There have been a lot of posts on #TennisTwitter about Player X "saving" Tournament Y. What does that even mean? Does it mean that the level of tennis outside of the elite is crap? Garbiñe Muguruza, now a top four player, has only one title to her name this year, Hobart way back in January. You can believe me or not, but the drop in the level of tennis that will come after 2016 is going to be quick and ugly.

Bernard Tomic, who saw charges against him dropped after a set to in Miami was photographed partying with Sydney business man Joe Elias on his yacht. Google Joe Elias of Sydney, Australia. It's an interesting read.

The ATP has made it clear it expects Andy Murray to play at their WTF year end tournament. He's also expected to carry the weight for his country in Davis Cup.

Victoria Azarenka shows her tongue still has a life of its own. This statement was made after her last tournament:

I'm sure that endeared her to many people within the WTA.

The Young'uns

The young players I picked to watch this 2015, Madison Keys and Alexander Zverev have not, in my opinion, shown much maturity in their games. Keys still gets brain freeze when her game isn't working and Zverev has been taking too many wild cards instead of refining his game in the tennis equivalent of the minor leagues.

The one player who does seem to be making the most of his age and using the Challenger circuit to his advantage is Chung Hyeon. You know he's on the right track when there are haters already saying he wouldn't be ranked so high if he hadn't vultured so many Challenger events. Yeah, he's doing the right thing.

Meanwhile Canada has got it's hype machine in overdrive over fifteen year old Félix Auger-Aliassime. Get back to me in three years people.

They're also hyping Charlotte Robillard-Millette, sixteen (born in 1999). I guess they don't think you're ever too young for the hype machine. Richard Gasquet, who was hyped as the future of French tennis at 9, should write a book. So should Donald Young.

©Savannah's World 2015 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, October 1, 2015

She Did The Right Thing

by Savannah

via @AFP photo 0bf81dd1-1129-4f32-9687-f5e0e51b83cb_zpsqm25ikaj.jpg
via @AFP

Patrick Mouratoglou said it earlier this week. Rabid fans jumped all in his shit and took the occasion to call him names instead of dealing realistically with what he said. What did he say that incensed some parts of Serena Williams fanbase? Merely that 2015 is done, that she will not play again until 2016. You have to wonder if it was the message or the messenger that got fans in an uproar.

Let's look at 2015 for 34 year old Serena Williams. She held three of the four Grand Slam titles coming into the US Open. A win there would have given her a Career Year Grand Slam, something no one has done since Steffi Graf back in the day. Everyone, even my non tennis watching family, was talking about Serena. Thanks to a nice endorsement deal from Chase her picture is everywhere in New York City. You couldn't turn on a sports program without seeing her image or hearing a discussion about what she could achieve in New York. The women's final, usually the poor sister to the men's final, sold out long before the first ball was struck in competition at the BJK Tennis Center. Even the WTA, long known for it's blonde obsession got into the act. Serena. Serena. Serena.

And some want to believe that there was no pressure on her.

Everything is not about race but in a still mostly white sports environment where the achievements of athletes of color are looked at by some as anomalies sadly, once again, I have to go there.

The people who want to believe that Serena is some kind of a machine, that the pressure of hearing CYGS over and over and over wouldn't and couldn't get to her represents the myth of the unthinking, instinctual African American athlete. Pain? Nah? Pressure? What? Some, and I'm including some "fans" in this category, conciously or unconsciously accept this meme.

For an African American woman it's even worse. We have to bear the burden of being "strong", of being able to overcome difficulties that would reduce women of other races to tears and anti depressants. "We don't do that" is drilled into many African American women from childhood. So when we see a great athlete, maybe the greatest female athlete ever, admit that she's unable to play her sport just after a bitter and alnost inexplicable loss now some want to see it as a betrayal, an expression of weakness that a "strong black woman" would not give in to. Enough. It's 2015 people. I for one would not want to have lived through the year Serena did. She wants to be away from the madding crowd? Let her be. She's showing, through example, that there are times you need a professional, personal and emotional time out, that there is nothing wrong with admitting that and that "me" time is perfectly okay.

Fans have to get over living their fantasies through athletes or celebrities. Many of the so called "fans" are women, mostly African American or African Caribbean women who have deified Serena. She is not a deity. She's a woman. Sojourner Truth asked many years ago "ain't I a woman?" Stop asking Serena to live up to preconceived notions of strength and black womanhood. Maybe in doing that some of the pressure will come off of you too.

I'm not done people. The haters have also crawled out of the woodwork. I was surprised to see so many, well some, saying that Serena should be fined by the WTA, that she should be punished for daring to put herself first. Newsflash. It's no longer legal to whip black people senseless or throw them in boiling cane syrup because they've done something that affronts you personally. To them I will say this: What makes you think Serena did not discuss this with the WTA? The people who make high handed, often inexplicable decisions to play or not to play, nothing is said about them at all. There are still some who question how near death Serena was a couple of years back but accept that a shoulder injury, said to have been healed many years ago, is still troubling someone. Double standard? I'd say so. Leg injury is it now? No questions asked. Her camp says that's what it is and it is. Period, end of discussion. No outcry about that player withdrawing from a Mandatory that I recall. Did you see any? Nope, because she's injured per her people. I have no idea if these folks are being paid to look the other way or they think currying favor with a particular agent will make or break their career. If you call yourself a journalist, a reporter, how about doing what you say you're doing and report, not just slap your name on press releases. I get the feeling that "they" wanted an injured, brain dead Serena in Singapore so that one of the blondes would be able to eliminate her and tarnish her otherwise outstanding season, CYGS or not. I wonder if the chorus of "she should've cheated" will pick up where it left off if a similar situation comes up between players this year. We'll have to wait and see won't we?

So the race to Singapore, minus Serena Williams, and an ill Lucie Safarova, will showcase the WTA as some have always wanted it to be seen. Let's see how exciting that will be, and how many casual fans brave the time difference to watch.

© Savannahs World 2015 All Rights Reserved unless otherwise indicated