Sunday, February 28, 2016

We'd Better Get Used To It

by Savannah

Sloane Stephens Acapulco 2016 photo 9b9a1ecc-a696-4039-9839-970bb81b9f1f_zpshiaw6cq7.jpg
via TennisTV

I've been dragging Sloane Stephens for a couple of years now right? Her attitude that one victory made her a superstar for life was as annoying as her unwillingness to get down and dirty to win a match. She hired and fired coaches in rapid succession before settling on Kamau Murray as the new person on her team. Murray, based in Chicago, briefly coached Taylor Townsend but is known for his Academy. From what I saw last night whatever Sloane needed to stop playing "do you know who I am" tennis she is now playing focused strategic tennis. No more baffling runs to the net or trying to hit a bomb when a light touch would be more than enough. Watching her play Dominika Cibulkova
last nigt in Acapulco was like seeing a different player. When Domi started pushing her back behind the baseline Sloane didnt'try to blast her way out. Instead she worked her way back in and got shots she could work with. In the end she was just that little bit better than Cibulkova and won an emotional match.

If she wants to stop being another talented US failure she has to build on her win last night. She's ranked around #25 and still gets direct entry into big tournaments like the upcoming Indian Wells. I just hope that she doesn't let last night's win go to her head and set herself back another two years. Murray thought he could get the star he needs with Townsend but the issues there were too deep. He may find his success with Sloane IF he can stop her from making herself a legend in her own mind.

Should We Forget February?

Roberta Vinci Premier Level St Petersburg Champion
Sara Errani Premier Level Dubai Champion
Francesca Schiavone International Level Champion Rio de Janeiro
Carla Suárez Navarro P5 Level Doha Champion
Sloane Stephens International Acapulco Champion

Roberta Vinci believes. After stopping Serena Williams at the US Open she's played with a confidence she didn't display before. Francesca Schiavone is maybe playing her last year, a late bloomer who found herself a Slam champion and who hasn't done much since. Sloane Stephens was discussed above. So let's talk about Carla Suárez Navarro and Sara Errani, starting with their most obvious similarity: they're both small women. Errani is listed at 5'5" (1.64m). CSN is listed at 5'4" (1.62m). We know how reliable these things are in tennis so let's accept the height measurements as fact. That is where the similarity between the two women ends however. CSN has a good game with a decent serve. Errani, well, that she is in the top 10 of the WTA feeds the talk of lack of depth on the women's tour. If you notice there were mostly cheers for CSN winning in Doha. Compare that to the howls of outrage and disgust at Errani's win in Dubai. What does that mean as we plunge headlong into the Post Serena era of the WTA? Are the people bemoaning the upcoming years as weak jumping the gun or are they merely stating the obvious based on what we've seen from the future "stars" of the WTA.

I think that sadly the upcoming years will not be good ones for the WTA. I've said that before but I do like to point out that I was saying it two years ago when rabidly pro WTA fans began calling the weakness "depth". The lack of mental maturity, lack of sound technique and lack of PR savvy (treating your coach as someone beneath your contempt is not a good way to build your reputation among fans, coaches or tennis off court professionals) is glaring. If newer fans wonder why there is so much lingering dislike of Martina Hingis despite her seemingly nice disposition these days check back on some of the things she did and said earlier in her career. How often do you have to say that tennis fans have very long memories and first impressions are lasting. Brattiness and other displays of pique because the world is not conforming to your point of view are not good looks for top players but that seems to be the default position for many of the future "stars" of the sport. Sad.

What's also sad is that there was no way to see any of the WTA tournament unless you were physically in Acapulco until the later stages of the event. That's not a good way to build your brand WTA people.

As for the ATP things are looking a bit shaky too.

First off when your top player retires due to an eye infection after having once retired with a sore throat all of your narratives about a changed man fly out of the window. If said player couldn't see he should've given his opponent the walk over. I watched a replay of the match and it seemed as if he was upset at the crowd lustily cheering his opponent and not him. It was stunning to see how quickly he retired after the end of the first set, almost running off court as if he had somewhere to be. If a woman had done that (Serena Williams) the tennis press would've been up in arms about disrespect for the sport, etc, etc. Instead there was an almost deafening silence from the usual suspects. A leopard can't change it's spots.

The men's tournament at Acapulco, the official warm up for Indian Wells for many, was interesting on many different levels, not all of them positive for the ATP.

Two years ago David Ferrer was making the long journey from South America to Mexico without too many problems. This year the wear and tear showed. Another late bloomer he's not able to get down and dirty consistantly anymore. At times he looked like an old lion prowling the baseline instead of a coiled beast ready to pounce.

The US has its hopes pinned on young Taylor Fritz who aquitted himself well but seems to have lingering physical problems at the tender age of 18. As regular readers know he's my young man to watch this year so I'll cut my comments short for now. My review of what I've seen of him, as well as my young woman to watch Naomi Osaka should be up before the start of Indian Wells.

Australia has two men it hopes will revive it's fortunes - Nicholas Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic. Tennis Australia has spent a lot of money trying to rehab the images of both men. Tomic, threw a hissy fit during the Golden Swing saying, in true entitled brat manner, that he'd rather be in Miami driving his Ferrari. I almost typed Porsche because of Sam Querrey who said almost the exact same thing a few years ago except he said that losing wasn't a big thing since he could go home and drive his mother's Porsche. Is it me or did Querrey, after being dragged on Tennis Channel of all places for being a lazy sumbitch start playing better?

Back to the Australian Golden Children. Kyrgios had a much anticipated rematch with Stan Wawrinka who he'd famously insulted during a match last year. Epic? Great shot making? Kyrgios retired with a back injury. If you remember Wawrinka retire during that previous encounter with, if I recall correctly, a back issue. As for Tomic who had escaped the jungles of South America and it's clay courts and was now playing on hard he found himself in the Final facing press favorite Dominic Thiem.

I've seen Thiem play live. I was sitting on a bench on one of the outer courts at the US Open so I got to watch his game as well as his technique. I'm obviously missing something. I don't see what all the fuss is about. His game is solid, evenly paced and dull as dishwater. There is nothing special about him from what I can see. Favorable draws will go a long way to advance his move up the ranks especially in the weak era that's coming.

Before talking about the Final I have to mention the much anticipated match that came before it in the semi finals: Dominic Thiem vs Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov is another player the press loses its collective shit over. First he was crowned "Baby Fed". That got old real fast so now he's just one of the top up and comers. Has been for awhile now. Watching him play Thiem the other night you could see the point where he went off the rails. It's not that he lost interest he lost focus and couldn't get it back. Racquet tosses, emotional displays, none of that helped. Thiem just had to continue to play steadily and he did, winning a match that should've been a firecracker and instead was predictable after Dimitrov lost his way.

For Thiem the final was more of the same. TA has invested a lot of time and money into Bernard Tomic and his fmily. I was watching TennisTV and one of the comms, an Aussie, was trying to flog Tomic's incipient superstardom. I can't tell you how many times he repeated that Tomic got off to a slow start against Alexandr Dolgopolov in the previous round and went on to win. I'm sure it was obvious to him, and to anyone watching, that Tomic didn't give a damn about the match. Thiem would've won in straight sets except that Tomic realized he had to do something to keep TA off his ass so he pulled himself togther enough to win the second set. By the end of the match I'm surprised he wasn't openly yawnig while hitting returns and glancing towards the parking lot to make sure his wheels were there waiting.

The ATP is going in on promoting the generation born in the '90's and is constantly releasing stats about them. The latest is focused on who has won the most titles.

@ATPWorldTour title leaders born in 1990s:

Milos Raonic 8
Dominic Thiem 5
Grigor Dimitrov 4
Bernard Tomic 3
David Goffin 2

None have won a Slam.

The WTA 1990's babies feature a Slam winner in Petra Kvitova who is showing that being thin doesn't mean that you are fit.
The other 90's babies?

Caroline Wozniacki 23 WTA Level Titles
Petra Kvitová 17 WTA Level Titles
Simona Halep 11 WTA Level Titles
Karolina Pliskova 4 WTA Level Titles
Garbine Muguruza (She did reach a GS Final) 2 WTA Level Titles
Belinda Bencic 2 WTA Level Titles
Jelena Ostapenko 7 ITF Level Titles

I know I'm leaving people out. Both Wozniacki and Kvitova were born in 1990 by the way.

I admit it. I've been spoiled. The last few years have been great tennis wise. Civility, feigned or otherwise, became the norm. The generation of cussers, racquet breakers and pary goers was succeeded by players focused on fitness, mental strength and respect for the sport on and off court. Heaven knows what we're getting now. We're going to have to get used to mediocre, overly emotional, brainless tennis on court and frat boys and brats off court. What a big comedown it's going to be.

© Savannah's World All Rights Reserved

No comments: