Somewhat Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

The WTA will crown a new #1 player on Monday, the fifth top player of this year. Let’s look at the previous four women before we talk about the newest number one.

Serena Williams started out the year ranked in her customary number one position. She of course hasn’t played since the Australian Open due to one Little Miss Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Angelique Kerber found herself ranked number one on May 15 after Serena went on maternity leave. She won two Slams in 2016 but had not shown much this year.

Karolina Pliskova took the top spot from Kerber on July 17 and held on to the top spot until September 10.

Garbiñe Muguruza‘s reign began September 11 and ends today, October 8.

Simona Halep‘s time as WTA #1 begins Monday, October 9.

To be fair to Halep the grumbling about Slamless WTA Number One’s began when Pliskova reached the top spot. Was she the best player? Not by a long shot. Did she bring excitement to the sport? That depends on how you feel about laid back personalities and since that is a matter of taste there is no need to dwell on her on court persona. It is fair to look at her game though. She can hit powerful ground strokes and if given the chance she can overpower an opponent especially when she can move around on her own terms. To say that she is not a good mover is putting it mildly. She also seems unable to bend her knees. If an opponent keeps the ball low and places it where she has to run to get it she stands a good chance of frustrating her and beating her. Fans argued about whether she deserved to be number one as fans will do these days. She won three titles in 2017: Brisbane, Qatar, and Eastbourne. The argument raged about her less than stellar game and lack of big wins at majors.

Muguruza was hailed as the best player of them all. She is a decent mover and won a Slam this year. Essays were being written about how she would dominate women’s tennis for years to come. And yet there were the inevitable “issues”. Her temperament on court when she was put under pressure left a lot to be desired. Winning matches isn’t about your opponent letting you win because you’re you. She’s there to win and in order to do that she’s going to do everything she can to stop you from winning. When this would happen Mugu seemed to be taken by surprise and in the end she was just as likely to raise the level of her game as to pout her way to a loss. Not exactly the behavior you expect from a number one ranked player.

While Muguruza and Pliskova were going through their changes Simona Halep was waiting in the wings. She had more than one chance to take over the top spot but always seemed to fall just short. The problem with Halep, as I’ve said here before, is that she simply doesn’t handle pressure well. Her French Open loss is embedded in my mind. She literally slumped her shoulders and hung her head while meekly surrendering to her opponent, Aljona (Jelena) Ostapenko. Yet somehow she was still in the running for the top spot. As of tomorrow she will be the WTA #1. As of tomorrow she has won exactly one title this year. It has to be mentioned that she got enough points to become number one during her semifinal match at Beijing. She promptly lost the Final.

I’ve been arguing for years that the WTA has to find a way to use some version of quality points again. Simona is a good player. She’s not a great player. You can argue that she’s not a number one player and wouldn’t be except for the fact that the WTA’s ranking system allows a player to get to the top spot by accumulating enough points.. I’m aware of the problems with using quality points but a player shouldn’t be able to simply pile up  points over a season and become number one.

To make matters worse there is an outside chance Elina Svitolina can become the top player without even getting near a Slam final.

I don’t dislike any of the women who are competing for the top spot. It’s obvious they’re doing the best they can and being rewarded very well for it. Is it too much to ask that a top player be able to play top level tennis both mentally and physically? That a top player doesn’t need her hand held by a coach or family member to make it through a match? That skill, and not attitude, is the measure of a top player?

I said a few years ago that when the older generation (not just Serena Williams and Venus Williams) leave the stage the WTA would be in trouble. I just didn’t hink it would happen so soon. It’s no accident that older players are coming out of retirement now. If I can see the drop in the level of tennis being played surely ex pros can see it and say “why not?”

The ATP is going to be facing the same problem in two or three years. It doesn’t look like it yet because the older players are still able to compete at a high level and their fandoms still dominate the conversation. When they leave the stage the generation right behind them is not going to play the same high quality tennis ATP fans have become used to. The generation behind those men, barring injury or off court issues, seems poised to step into the large footprints the current leaders are leaving and right over the players who should be next in line. The only hindrance will be how quickly they mature mentally.

End Notes

The WTA has gone out of its way to pretend that a player returning from a doping suspension was away on a break. I think that those chickens are going to come home to roost soon. If a player admits to doping for ten years prior to her suspension how are her records against players valid? Some fans are already raising the issue in regards to Simona Halep’s record against her. Yes it would’ve been messy to take all her titles away. Yes it would’ve been messy to take her winnings away. But would you rather that or the situation that exists now where those impressive H2H’s are going to be questioned and believed to be invalid?

The fall out from the Laver Cup continues. Was it a “real tournament” and not simply an “exhibition”? Since it’s second installment will take place in Chicago in 2018 who will the players be?

It’s not too soon to ask how has the Laver Cup affected the Davis Cup is it? If the top players can make time in their schedules for the Laver Cup why can’t they play for their countries during Davis Cup?

The WTA hasn’t said a word about whether it will or won’t stage its own event or piggy back on the Laver Cup’s already established drawing power. I don’t think any of the current to WTA players has the drawing power of the top ATP players so any similar event would be problematic in terms of sponsorships if it’s not paired with a men’s event. If the WTA did a better job of promoting the SPORT of women’s tennis and not individual personalities there’s a chance the WTA would be able to pull off it’s own version of the highly successful concept.

Speaking of Davis Cup and Fed Cup Spain’s RFET fired Conchita Martinez who was acting as captain of both teams. Sergei Brugera and Anabel Medina Garrigues were announced as her replacements.

Things are going to be very interesting in Sloane Stephens camp the next few weeks. I didn’t see her play in Asia but fans were visibly surprised at her physical condition. I’m not sure why they weren’t surprised at her physical condition at the US Open but since she managed to win I guess the discussion was deferred. With her reputation of being lazy and undisciplined the US Open comms made it clear that coach Kamau Murray would not stay around if she reverted to her old habits. She’s arrogant enough to think that she doesn’t have to do any more because she’ll always be a Slam winner. That’s what I mean about being a tennis great and being great for tennis has more to do with pride in yourself and the sport that is paying you than having an attitude.

We’ll see about Ms Stephens won’t we?

I haven’t done a year end summary of the two players I picked as up and comers for this year. Sadly, I barely remember who I picked. I know the young woman was Louisa Chirico. I’ve seen her name around but she has had an off year.

I think I picked one of the young US men, probably Taylor Fritz. He’s doing okay for a US player his Federation is pushing.

As for next year I haven’t seen anyone tennis hasn’t already seized on as an up and comer to watch. As a result I’m thinking of changing my criteria a bit and picking someone who has already gotten themselves on everyone’s radar and seeing how they perform next year, how they handle the pressure. If that is my final decision I I’ll let you know just before play begins in Australia at the end of December.

©2017 Savannahs World All rights reserved

This and That

The Weekend That Was

I only saw enough of the Laver Cup to know that the broadcast was in true HD, crystal clear and the viewer felt as though they were right there in the arena.

The black court looked gray but it had the desired effect. The players kits – Team Europe in blue and Team World in red – popped on the neutral background. The camera angles were out of this world. Maybe it’s time for the Slams, M1000, WTA PM and P5 events to look at installing netcams? It added a completely new dimension for the fans watching from home.

Usually exhibitions like this are tightly choreographed ahead of time and I didn’t think this would be any different but some tennisheads have pointed out to me that if that was the case why didn’t Tomas Berdych, playing in front of his home crowd, win anything? Some also talked about Nick Kyrgios being close to tears after his loss in the final match. There was no way Roger Federer was not going to win that final match and if Kyrgios had won, perhaps I’d back off my opinion about exhibitions.

What seems to have impressed many viewers was the camaraderie between the teams and that Team World (essentially team USA) despite being the obvious underdogs still supported each other emotionally. I wasn’t surprised about Rafael Nadal‘s reactions the way some seem to have been. He’s always there for team mates. That people were surprised may be a reflection of his not having played Davis Cup in awhile.

That said the Laver Cup creates some interesting challenges for professional tennis. I’m hearing the ATP had little to do with the event and that the exo a vanity project of Roger Federer’s. I don’t know since I wasn’t paying attention because of how I feel about exhibitions. In my opinion, the netcam is only one thing both the WTA and ATP have to look at. The ATP is in perfect position to adopt the broadcast standards of Laver Cup. I wouldn’t be surprised if at the Masters 1000 events we see netcams. The issue will be cost but the ATP is all for innovation.

Fans are also asking if the WTA will create it’s own version of the Laver Cup. At the same time they’re also talking about the things that could make that difficult. Let’s start with the disastrous roll out of WTATV, something I still won’t subscribe to because there is no guarantee my information is secure. There is no reason to think the WTA will be able to pull something like this together even if the roll out was scheduled for 2019.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks would be who the event would be named for? Rod Laver is an icon for most of the ATP but among the women you have Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Stefanie Graf, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters to name just some of the past stars.

Where the event would be held is the next issue. Laver Cup 2018 has already been announced for Chicago, Illinois. Where would you hold the WTA event? Hopefully it wouldn’t be in an out of the way place difficult for fans to see or go to. Manchester in England? South Africa? Buenos Aires? Denver, Colorado? Austin, Texas?

Who would the sponsor be? We’ve seen what type of product the sponsors of Laver Cup were able to roll out. You don’t want to roll out a product that doesn’t at least equal what we just saw.

All of that has to be settled before you can even start choosing teams and captains. I would hope that team world for the WTA would be more representative of the world of tennis and not just a United States and Canada all star team.

It can be done. I don’t think the WTA could get it together for 2018. I’d like to be proven wrong.

End Notes

It’s interesting to me that all of a sudden people are noticing Sloane Stephens is not fit. It’s been obvious since her return that she was carrying a few extra pounds around the waist. Sloane has always liked the skin tight fit of Under Armour kits and all of a sudden she was wearing house coats.

The Asian swing is very important for both Stephens and Madison Keys to prove they’re ready to take their place as permanent threats at the top of women’s tennis. All of the PR in the world won’t matter if you’re losing first round. They’re not at the level of the Williams sisters where they can pick and chose where to show up. There’s talk of them both taking the rest of the year off. That would mean that they would show up for the YEC if they qualify and then the run up to the Australian Open. Not a good strategy in my opinion.

Bernard Tomic is playing qualies now. Maybe Tennis Australia has finally washed their hands of him.

Alexander Zverev is leading the charge of the Next Gen players. I don’t think he’ll play in Milan but that event looks like it’s going to be an exhibition featuring some experimental technology more than a true competition anyway.

Karolina Pliskova says she fired her long time coach because their visions of her game differed too much. As I type this she still hasn’t named a new coach. Ii hope she doesn’t think that someone can turn her into a great mover.

It’s good to see Vera Zvonareva making her way back to the main tour.

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

Teach Your Children Well…

by Savannah

During a crucial fifth rubber between Canada and Great Britain 17 year old Denis Shapovalov became frustrated and hit a ball hard hoping it would just sail out of the stands without doing any damage. Instead the worst happened: chair umpire Arnaud Gabas took the shot right in his face, his left eye to be precise. Young Shapovalov immediately apologized to M. Gabas not once, but several times. He even posted a public apology on his Twitter account.

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 Of course it wasn’t intentional on Mr. Shapovalov’s part and I feel his apologies are sincere. I couldn’t help but think about another player who routinely gets frustrated and hits balls in the direction of officials and into the stands yet thinks it’s part of his gimmick and is not worth his apologizing for. He has apologized for screaming at ball kids and once making a ball kid cry but I couldn’t find anything to show that he has apologized for hitting balls into the stands that had the potential to harm. As anyone who has raised a child knows they often operate on a “monkey see monkey do” basis. If the bigger name player had been publicly censored and fined for his actions maybe young Denis cracks his racquet on the ground instead of getting the bright idea of hitting wildly into the stands.

It was also interesting how many in tennis media were calling for the young man to be seriously fined and given a significant suspension. These same people see nothing wrong when another player does the same thing. The last time they were so upset it was for a lines person getting yelled at by a player for a foot fault.

I’m sure he will be fined. Will he be suspended from Davis Cup for a bit? I’m not privy to behind the scenes machinations between the ITF and probably Tennis Canada especially since Shapovalov has a potentially winning game and look about him that Federation desperately needs.

Let the punishment fit the crime is all I’m saying. It’s never a drivers intention to hit a pedestrian but if it happens there is punishment to be meted out. The infraction was serious. Let’s see if tennis has the cojones to make the punishment significant enough to deter any tennis player regardless of rank from hitting a ball out of the arena.

UPDATE: Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 2h2 hours ago
Denis Shapovalov will be fined $7000 by the referee: maximum fine of $12000 would only have applied had his actions been deemed intentional

Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 2h2 hours ago
ITF confirm no further action is anticipated against Shapovalov, and add there’s no damage to umpire Gabas’ cornea or retina

Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 1h1 hour ago
Heather Watson was fined $12k (& Serena $10k) for smashing racquets into Wimbledon’s turf last year
Potential consequences much greater here

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved except where indicated