It Was a Great Week For Tennis

by Savannah

For the most part. As a self confessed tennis nerd my view of things is going to be radically different from that of a casual viewer.

Sure the ITF created a schedule that no human could possibly play and the rain didn’t help..

Then there was the incredibly soft draw the eventual Gold Medal winner Andy Murray had to navigate.

Let’s not forget the incompetence of the lines people and the ball people (I can’t say ball kids because many of them were obviously adults)

The fact that no points were offered is something that was new in 2016. If the quality of tennis hadn’t been what it was I think that decision would be revisited for 2020. The men and women who showed up played at such a high level I don’t see why points would be offered going forward.

And that is what this post is about.

The Slams, Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory tournaments are supposed to be the pinnacle of tennis. The best in the world come to play and show off their best. Except that hasn’t happened much lately. When the top players are given cakewalk draws while their competition has to battle through tough draws you end up with predictable semi finals and finals that draw mostly yawns from fans. The semifinals and finals in Rio were interesting and dramatic although the drama came in an odd way for some.

People are always whining about the need to grow the sport while at the same time doing everything possible to ensure that doesn’t happen except within a very small demographic. During the Olympic women’s final I noticed people who never, ever mention tennis when it comes to sports were cheering for Mónica Puig. Did they totally understand what was happening? Maybe not but they were sure excited and I’m willing to bet they’ll be looking for her name going forward. I’ll get back to what Puig did on the tennis court shortly.

Chair umpires aren’t supposed to insert themselves into a match and for the most part they don’t. It’s ironic that Carlos Ramos and Carlos Bernardes found themselves in the middle of controversy. Ramos gave Andy Murray a code violation for words that, by Murray’s standards, were exceedingly mild. His rebuke didn’t affect the outcome of the match though.

Bernardes on the other hand should be called before whoever the powers that be are in officiating to explain why he did nothing about a twelve minute potty break that did affect the outcome of the match especially since he had chastised one of the participants in the match for taking too long earlier in the year. I’m sure we won’t know if he was or wasn’t but in reading a paragraph from the Rule Book it’s a monument to vagueness that leaves everything up to the discretion of the chair.

@VRCsports posted the relevant passage

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Like I said a monument to vagueness. I would like to know in what world a twelve minute break in tennis would be okay outside of major injury. <strong>Venus Williams</strong> was called out during these same Olympics for taking an eight minute break during her match but people backed off when it was revealed she was emptying the contents of her stomach during the break. No one knows why it took an in form athlete twelve minutes off court without a wardrobe change.  It saddens me to see Bernardes, who was one of the best for so long, seemingly unable to be fair to both players during a match.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the WTA. I’ve said it before and I’ll undoubtedly say it again; The WTA should know better than to plan a coronation before a tournament is completed. They’ve been doing it a lot lately especially with <strong> Serena Williams </a> about to cement her place in tennis history. According to the tennis press it was a foregone conclusion that <strong> Angelique Kerber </strong> would not only win the Gold Medal in Rio but that she would take the number one ranking from Serena Williams during the Western & Southern Open this week.

The US press was ready to anoint <strong> Madison Keys</strong> as the heir apparent to Serena in US tennis. She bashed her was to the semi finals in Rio and then a funny thing happened. The above mentioned Kerber forced Keys to have to play tennis. You know, the kind of play where you construct points and pay attention to what your opponent is doing, the kind of tennis Keys seems to be less and less able to play. When forced to have to play “real” tennis Keys falls apart mentally.

Ironically Kerber, who had beaten Keys so easily, was beaten in the Final by a woman who plays “real” tennis. Puig beat Kerber with patience and excellent court sense. She was very aware of what Kerber was trying to do and did her best to counter Kerber’s every move. Of course Puig was breathing rarefied air and faltered a time or two but in the end she won the game on the court and between the ears, something the young US trained players seem unable to do. It was a magnificent display from Puig and it’ll be interesting to see what she does at the US Open. No one in his or her right mind would predict her going as deep as she did in Rio but if she wants to be taken seriously going forward she should be aiming for the Round of 16. She showed how well she can play in Rio. Let’s see if she can be in or near the top 30 by the end of the year.

Despite the issues, despite the lack of points, the players who came to Rio showcased their love of the sport of tennis, a love that came through to anyone who took the time to watch.  Favorites won and favorites lost but at the end of the nine days I would rate the Olympic Tennis Event as the best tournament of the year. At times it was like a football (soccer) match and the fans didn’t all know tennis etiquette but that chaos enhanced the experience of this viewer. I miss it already.

 

 

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