All Roads Lead to Paris

by Savannah

I haven’t blogged in a long time. I felt that I had run out of things to say about the sport of tennis, the sport I love, that I haven’t said before. I was going to post something during, then after, the US spring hard court swing but when I looked up again it was European Red Clay Season and what happened in March was now the past.

Long time readers know that clay is my favorite surface. I have several reasons for that. It requires full commitment of body, mind and intellect. For the most part you can’t just ball bash your way to a title. Nuance, skill, and the ability to create points, to innovate, are required of a good clay court player. I’ve said this before. It’s not a requirement that a point end in three shots but many young players, yes from the United States, grow frustrated and can’t function in a long rally. That is not their fault it is the fault of their training, nothing more.

Still stuff has been happening and as usual not all of it reflects well on the sport.

Most recently one of the top female players, Karolina Pliskova, lost it over a blown call by the chair umpire. At the end of the match the on court zen of the player many call “robotic” on court went by the wayside as she first refused to shake the hand of the chair umpire and then proceeded to destroy the chair the woman was sitting on. Thank goodness the chair is seated very high or else the chair umpire would’ve been badly injured. This occurred at a WTA sanctioned tournament so in view of incidents that happened in the recent past of course the question was what the penalty would be and how long a suspension would be imposed. There was never an official announcement from the WTA so it was the Czech press that reported the fine was $4,500 USD and that there would be no suspension of the player. I guess this means going forward that any player can lose their shit at a WTA tournament, bust up the joint, and that the WTA will meekly look the other way or apply a fine barely over the minimum stated in its rule book. Of course it still depends on who you are and how the tennis powers that be perceive you doesn’t it?

The ATP has it’s own little contretemps going on as well. One of the men who has been steadily moving up the ranks of late is Nicolás Kicker of Argentina. As the NY Times reports he was accused of match fixing. He refused to cooperate with the Tennis Integrity Unit that opened an investigation after bettors questioned his actions in two Challenger Level matches in 2015 when he was a much lower ranked player. As of now he can’t play tour sanctioned matches until his punishment is decided.

Match fixing is wrong and should be strongly punished. It still makes you wonder why there are ATP tournaments sponsored by betting houses if they want to clamp down on nefarious activities at the Challenger level and lower. The easy solution would be to increase prize money but if I recall correctly the Players Association is against that.

Pregnancy and the Female Athlete

To be honest I wanted Serena Williams to be seeded at this years Roland Garros but I’m not surprised that she wasn’t. Some things that have been said as a result of her not being seeded are surprising and show how ignorant many are about what pregnancy is and what a high risk pregnancy can mean to any woman but particularly an athlete.

Have there been pregnant tennis players before? The easy and obvious answer is yes. Kim Clijsters gave birth and was back playing well about a year afterwards. Ms Clijsters had, from what we know, a perfectly normal pregnancy and delivery. Ms Williams did not. Li Na retired from tennis after becoming pregnant. Anne Keothavong retired from active play as well.

When Serena came back it was obvious that she was still breast feeding and that her core wasn’t ready for the stress of playing tennis. When this was given as a cause for her obviously poor play some said “But Clijsters!” I’m assuming now that more people understand what Serena went through giving birth and afterwards.

The contrast between the two situations highlights the problems around pregnancy and specifically tennis. With a normal delivery and post-partum period it’s understandable that a female tennis player will want to, and can, return to competition. When a high risk pregnancy results in a C-section more is involved than just “getting back to normal” and being able to play tennis. Muscles have to heal. Blood vessels have to get back to their previous level of operation.

It’s my opinion that rules have to be crafted that take into account the differences between “normal” and “high risk”pregnancy. It would help if women like Anne Keothavong, Kim Clijsters, and yes Serena Williams, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka, have input into what the WTA and ITF decide the regulations should be regarding a player returning from pregnancy. I’m not including women like Chris Evert or Lindsay Davenport because things have changed so much since they had their children it’s almost impossible to discuss what pre natal care is today.

All the factors surrounding an individual player have to be looked at before a decision is rendered regarding how her return to tournament play is handled. Men don’t have babies. I don’t think it’s unfair to ask that the people crafting any new guidelines should be women who have given birth. Knowing how tennis works though I doubt that approach will be taken.

Roland Garros 2018

The draws are out. Almost everyone is in Paris preparing for the most exciting and grueling two weeks in tennis. Some players are still involved in tournaments that will end just before the start of the French Open.

It has to be noted that the Roland Garros site, when initially unveiled, was horrible. Whoever designed the site responded quickly though and added a visible link for fans to access the Draws and Schedule of Play. Personally I’ve found it better to access the schedule of play via the Twitter feed of the tournament. Someone has gone to the trouble to create a very pretty layout for the OoP and this person for one likes that the effort was made.

That said the ITF should make up with IBM in time for next year’s Slams.

You really didn’t think I was going to wade into the muck with the draws did you?

ALLEZ!

©2018 Savannah’s World All rights reserved

Positive Changes Are Coming

by Savannah

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) made announcements on March 30 that will affect tennis in two ways: how it’s governed and how the tours will be organized.

Let’s look at organization first.

One of the problems often cited by those who are deeply into the sport is the fact that many people play at a “pro” level but rarely, if ever, make any money doing so. Some say it’s because of this that match fixing is rampant at the Challenger and Futures levels. Yes those are terms usually used to refer to the lower levels of mens tennis. In women’s tennis you have various levels based on the amount of prize money an event pays out. The ITF, in a press release, said the following:

In order to address..issues, the Board has approved the implementation in 2019 of a new ITF Transition Tour, featuring a new category of interim tournament at entry-level that will better aid the transition from junior to professional tennis and ensure a continued opportunity for players from any nation to join the player pathway. These tournaments will be held within a localised circuit structure that reduces costs and increases opportunity for players, and reduces staging costs for organisers.

Transition Tour tournaments will be created through the repositioning of the existing $15,000 (Level I) tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit that will no longer be held as part of the Pro Circuit in 2019.

Transition Tour tournaments will offer ITF Entry Points instead of ATP/WTA ranking points, with the two systems linked to ensure that the more successful players are able to use their ITF Entry Points to gain acceptance into ITF Pro Circuit tournaments.

The ITF’s proposed restructuring will radically reduce the number of professional players competing for ATP and WTA ranking points. The ITF’s extensive modeling work has led to a recommended professional player group of no more than 750 men and 750 women players. This new approach will
introduce a clearer and more effective professional pathway and ensure that prize money levels at ITF Pro Circuit events are better targeted to ensure that more players can make a living from the professional game.

Some say this is just shuffling deck chairs while others say it’ll make a somewhat chaotic process better. It’s hard to say. The ITF is giving itself, and the tours, two years to implement this new system. I think it’s a good idea. The tours have been unable to regulate themselves around the issue of Challenger/ITF events so it fell to the ITF to try and impose order. All people can offer now is opinions. 2019 will be here soon enough.

Another issue the ITF chose to address at it’s upcoming meeting has to do with the granting of Wild Cards (WC’s) when a player comes back from a drug suspension.

You have to be naïve to think current events have nothing to do with them deciding to look at putting in writing what would in any other sport be common sense. A WC is a reward for a job well done. A player can be given one if they’ve worked hard and achieved certain milestones in his or her career in terms of wins. It’s also given to a player who had achieved a high rank and due to injury or pregnancy had to take time off from the tour. It perverts the meaning of a WC when it’s given to a player coming off of a drug suspension no matter how long the suspension was for.

Needless to say the news didn’t break in the US. It was reported in Danish sports media and quoted Thomas Kønigsfeldt, one of the sixteen members of the ITF Board of Directors who is quoted as saying the following:

He said that current rules allow wildcards to be decided by tournaments without consideration to what caused the players’ absence or loss of ranking. Instead, a period of one year without wildcards should be enforced for players returning from bans for anti-doping rule violations, so that they are not viewed as being treated favorably by the tennis system.

“We need clear rules, and it is clear that this is not the case here. I have a clear sense that the ITF Board of Directors has agreed that we must do everything possible to combat doping.”

He goes on to say players and other board members feel the same way he does.
Good. I don’t understand how tennis can say it’s anti doping then turn around and reward dopers. It’s really not a good look.

At any rate the ITF seems to be stepping up and taking the sport in needed directions. Let’s see what happens going forward.

© 2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved