The Rear View Mirror: 2018 Roland Garros

by Savannah

The winners have been crowned and tennis is moving on to it’s next season played on a natural surface. Of course there is quite a bit of red clay play after Wimbledon but the powers that be want you to ignore all of that and focus on the US hard court season. The fact that many players opt to stay in Durope and preserve their bodies angers many but it is what it is.

Before leaving Paris lets look back at some of what happened and what it says about the relative state of both tours.

Simona Halep Women’s Champion

via WTA/Roland GarrosaAkFlzj

There was no guarantee that Ms Halep would reach the final. The last time we saw her play on Chatrier she was losing to a member of the WTA Brat Pack, Aljona Ostapenko.

Her head was down and she cut a forlorn and lonely figure on the huge court. Would that all change in 2018? Would Halep, who had come so close, once again hold on to the top ranking in the WTA but be hounded as “slamless”?

There were no big announcements from her camp. Additions to her tam were done in a low key way without the position of her head coach ever being challenged. Everything was quiet when she entered Paris as far as the public was concerned. If you looked at her yes she was fitter than I’ve ever seen her. Yes there seemed an air of determination in how she carried herself but none of that erased what for me was her worst moment last year.

And yet she won it all. There are some who will argue that the French Open is “quirky”, that many win it who never lift a trophy again. I don’t think that will be the case with Halep. The way she wore her opponent down in the Final (more on that in a bit) was impressive. She couldn’t have played worse than she did in that first set and she was on her way to losing the second set when she saw an opportunity and took it. She didn’t need on court coaching. I’m not naive enough to think there was no coaching going on but head coach Darren Cahill did not have to rush down from the stands to tell her to cut the shit and play. It’s going to be interesting to see how she carries herself at Wimbledon. She doesn’t need the crutch. Maybe she’ll be the first of the new generation to put it aside and use her brain.

There was no Ostapenko across the net this year. Ostapenko had done nothing of note after her big win last year and went out quietly in the first round. Instead United States player Sloane Stephens found herself in the Roland Garros Women’s Final. To her credit she played flawless tennis for a set and two games into the second set. It was then that her lack of fitness caught up with her. Of course she denied it later but anyone who watched the match knows exactly when her legs went away. Right after that she began to suck air for all she was worth but Halep, seeing what her physical condition was, began to run her ragged. To Stephens credit she put up a good fight but she had nothing left.

During the NBC broadcast Mary Carillo went on a riff about how Sloane doesn’t practice hard in order to leave it all for her matches. I’ve seen a Stephens practice live and in person and I laughed to myself hearing her compare Stephens practices to those of Pete Sampras. I thought it was a nice way of saying that Sloane is lazy. Not once did her physical condition get mentioned by any of the US comms. I said last year that the worst thing that could’ve happened to Stephens was winning the US Open as out of shape as she was. What can be done on a hard court can’t be done on a European red clay court. You have to be physically and mentally at the top of your game. The terre battue takes it all out of you and if you haven’t worked until your legs are jelly and your arms are about to fall off, if you haven’t changed your diet so that the portions served at a five star restaurant look like a feast to you you can’t win playing modern tennis at Roland Garros. There was not an ounce of fat to be seen anywhere on Simona Halep’s body. Stephens is lugging around at least ten pounds too many.  Comparing her regimen to Sampras’ is not a complement. Sampras wouldn’t stand a chance against today’s top players unless he decided to play the post US Open Asian hard court and European indoor swings when everyone is beat up and resting up for the WTF in London.

I was glad to see Simona win. To be honest I was disappointed to see Stephens in the Final. Then again maybe this will be her wake up call. Kamau Murray has his work cut out for him.

Rafel Nadal Parera Men’s Champion

via ATP/Roland GarrosRafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2018, Photocall, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Dominic Thiem must be wondering what more he could’ve done. He was extraordinarily fit. He’d played almost every week of the clay season preparing himself for the rigors of Roland Garros. He was mentally ready as well. And yet for a large portion of the match he was reduced to standing with his hands on his hips wondering how the hell he’d done everything right and his opponent still won the point. What must’ve gone through his mind when Rafa’s serving hand cramped horribly (nerves) and he barely missed a beat, accepting the time violation and working through his pain until the muscles of his hand relaxed. Instead of being able to maybe steal a set Thiem accepted the runner up trophy with grace.

Don’t let the official picture above fool you. Rafa was a bundle of nerves most of this tournament. For long time Rafa fans Toni not only being there but sitting with his coaches was acknowledgement that Rafa needed that calming influence. US tennis media has often criticized Toni Nadal for being too tough on his nephew saying that he should be allowed to relax and have some fun. The Nadal family ignored that noise and went about their business. When Rafa was coming apart at the seams it was Toni he got to come in and calm the waters.

I’m a jinx so I rarely watch or talk about Rafa’s matches but I’m making an exception in this case because the man I saw playing today is a far cry from the teenager I started watching so many years ago. As he matured so did his game. He is a top player because he’s not wedded to one style of play. Injury led to better care of body, and mind. If he was still playing today the way he played in 2005 something would be wrong. It’s a lesson a lot of players have to learn and why I’m so against young players having success early in their careers. Children become adults and that maturation process should be reflected in how they conduct their lives whether they are pro athletes or not. The maturity, the subtlety, the ability to take the best of your opponent and turn it to your advantage that I saw yesterday was awe inspiring. I felt Thiem’s frustration. Against anyone else he’d have won that match.

The US tennis establishment is still stuck on Sampras and Andre Agassi. We know what secrets were hidden about Agassi so they focus on Sampras because he isn’t perceived to have been “dirty”. If, as Carillo hinted, Sampras was lazy he wouldn’t be doing much in the ATP of today. The fact that he hated the clay created a mind set in US tennis that has still not been overcome.

But that’s a discussion for another day. Rafa wanted to win that match in three sets and despite his opponent’s excellent play he imposed his will on the match and won. He’s been imposing his will for a long time now. It’s how he did it not that he did it that has changed. It is wonderful to see how this boy has become a man.

End Notes

There is a lot of excitement around fourteen year old Cori Gauff and there should be. She is playing with a maturity not usually seen in a player her age and if she stays healthy and grows her game she could turn out to be the young star the WTA needs. She’s working with the folks at Mouratoglou Academy and it shows. She was comfortable on the clay, can already slide, and most importantly has rudimentary knowledge of how to construct points. She’s also not finished growing yet – she still has her baby face – and it looks as if she will be at least as tall as Venus Williams. She also wants it badly and that’s not a problem. My issue is that she’s fourteen. I want to see what she’s doing when she’s in her adult body at eighteen and again at about twenty two. I sincerely hope that they don’t rush her no matter what she wants.

Speaking of height there is a sub rosa debate going on in men’s tennis about big men. It seems as if there are big men and small men with few in between, especially in the United States. When I saw Denis Shapovalov in person both on and off court at last years US Open I was surprised that he is not that big. According to Wiki he is six feet tall (1.83 meters) but he looks to be at least an inch or two shorter. Chung Hyeon is listed at six feet two inches (1.88 meters) and I think that’s about right having seen him play up close on an outer court at the US Open. Lucas Pouille is listed at six feet one inch (1.85 meters). Alexander Zverev is tall at  six feet six inches (1.98 meters). All of these men can move well. They’re not gazelles but they move well enough. There are other big men like Zverev whose movement can best be described as glacial.

I don’t know what the end results will be. The US is looking to push players like Taylor Fritz and Riley Opelka betting that the cycle will turn and serve dominated tennis will come back. Their competition is going to be smaller and faster. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

As for the WTA up and coming it’s sad but most of them have no on court personality. Add to that the fact that they all play alike and you’ve got a bit of a recipe for disaster marketing wise. When you say the names Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Aga Radwanska, a personality type leaps to mind. They play different styles and present themselves differently on and off court. Mention some of the up and comers and I dare you to have an impression other than “blonde” come to mind. Even Simona doesn’t have a riveting on court personality. Sadly those that do are mostly brats. Yes there’s Madison Keys, Garbiñe Muguruza, Caroline Garcia and Sloane Stephens but are they poised to be the superstar mega earners their predecessors are? Time will tell. Arrogance is a personality trait but you can be arrogant as all get out and not be able to sell your sport.

The Complete Winners List

Men’s Singles

Rafael Nadal

Women’s Singles

 Simona Halep

Men’s Doubles

 Pierre-Hugues Herbert /  Nicolas Mahut

Women’s Doubles

 Barbora Krejčíková /  Kateřina Siniaková

Mixed Doubles

 Latisha Chan /  Ivan Dodig

Boys’ Singles

 Tseng Chun-hsin

Girls’ Singles

 Cori Gauff

Boys’ Doubles

 Ondřej Štyler /  Naoki Tajima

Girls’ Doubles

Caty McNally / Poland Iga Świątek

Legends Under 45 Doubles

Spain Àlex Corretja / Spain Juan Carlos Ferrero

Women’s Legends Doubles

France Nathalie Dechy / France Amélie Mauresmo

Legends Over 45 Doubles

France Mansour Bahrami / France Fabrice Santoro

Wheelchair Men’s Singles

Japan Shingo Kunieda

Wheelchair Women’s Singles

Japan Yui Kamiji

Wheelchair Men’s Doubles

France Stéphane Houdet / France Nicolas Peifer

Wheelchair Women’s Doubles

Netherlands Diede de Groot / Netherlands Aniek van Koot

©2018 Savannahs World Tennis All Rights Reserved except where indicated

 

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

The Rear View Mirror – AO 2018

by Savannah

I’m not sure what Craig Tiley was thinking. Then again when a pattern of favoritism has been established it’s hard not to continue the practice. They could not anticipate injury but that is the only concession I’m giving the folks who organized this years Australian Open (AO). When every player but one had to play in temperatures well over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit (somewhere in the 40’s Celsius) under the sun because per the tournament to close the roof would disadvantage players who were toiling on the outer courts, teeth were gritted but there was reluctant agreement. When a player doing commentary for the US market suggested delaying the start of play on the outer courts to help minimize the effects of the heat she was ignored.

The match between Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka was moved because of the chance it would go long and the Pampered One would have to start late.

The AO has said in it’s statement that the Wet Bulb reading was 32.6, .1 over the critical level of 32.5. The tournament’s extreme heat rule has two parts though. To quote: “the ambient temperature exceeds 40C and the WBGT index reading exceeds 32.5.” The ambient temperature did not exceed 40c (104F). If they wanted to be consistent they should’ve closed the roof when the ambient temperature was 43C(109.4F) There were many questions raised about the health risk players faced under such extreme temperatures especially when the on court temperature was several degrees above the air/ambient temperature. Tennis writer Carole Bouchard said that the on court temperature was about 69c(156.2F). The tournament says that the WBGT did not exceed the 32.5 level.

I’m sorry. I was born at night, not last night.

When such blatant favoritism exists there’s no wonder that fans, and many of the people who cover tennis are outraged. Some are trying to gloss over the fact that the winner of the men’s final said he was kept in the loop all day and practiced indoors, while the runner up was not told the roof would be closed until minutes before he stepped on court.

To quote one fan who goes by “Sam L”:

We’re not talking about playing in parking lots. We’re talking about officials INCONSISTENTLY applying the rules they’ve set themselves. They said that only if the wet ball temperature and ambient temperatures exceed a certain mark they will close the roof, that’s why they didn’t close it before but why then did they close it on Sunday night when the ambient temperature didn’t exceed the mark????

When you INCONSISTENTLY apply rules and laws, it’s called hypocrisy…

The people in charge of the AO thought they could get away with this. I guess they forgot that there are fans who, while they can’t stay up due to the time difference will watch replays. I guess they forgot that there was live commentary, on Twitter, about the inhumane conditions players had to endure. And I guess the tennis establishment thought no one was paying attention when a player got a favorable draw, a nice starting time, or other little perks that make it easy to continue to play past the age when many have had to retire in the past. People notice things. People talk about things. Tennis Twitter exists to make sure fans know what is going on. It seems that with its actions during the men’s final the tournament crossed a line and there is no way the AO, and the ITF, can PR it’s way out of the mess it created.

End Notes

Congratulations to Caroline Wozniacki for winning her first Grand Slam title.I said before the match that Wozniacki had better on court mechanics than Simona Halep. Halep looked to her team after every point in her semi final. She got very emotional and her coaches had to figuratively talk her down from the ceiling throughout the match.

The other thing I noticed during the Final was that while Wozniacki used the ice towel after every changeover Halep didn’t use it until I believe the middle of the second set. It was not pleasant for either woman but in the end Wozniacki managed the heat much better than Halep did during the match. I was not surprised that Halep had to be treated for dehydration in a local hospital.

The Winners
via Wikipedia

Champions

Men’s Singles
Switzerland Roger Federer
Women’s Singles
Denmark Caroline Wozniacki
Men’s Doubles
Austria Oliver Marach / Croatia Mate Pavić
Women’s Doubles
Hungary Tímea Babos / France Kristina Mladenovic
Mixed Doubles
Croatia Mate Pavić / Canada Gabriela Dabrowski
Boys’ Singles
United States Sebastian Korda
Girls’ Singles
Chinese Taipei Liang En-shuo
Boys’ Doubles
France Hugo Gaston / France Clément Tabur
Girls’ Doubles
Chinese Taipei Liang En-shuo / China Wang Xinyu
Wheelchair Men’s Singles
Japan Shingo Kunieda
Wheelchair Women’s Singles
Netherlands Diede de Groot
Wheelchair Quad Singles
Australia Dylan Alcott
Wheelchair Men’s Doubles
France Stéphane Houdet / France Nicolas Peifer
Wheelchair Women’s Doubles
Netherlands Marjolein Buis / Japan Yui Kamiji
Wheelchair Quad Doubles
Australia Dylan Alcott / Australia Heath Davidson

Final Thoughts

The end of a Grand Slam is always bittersweet. You watch the orders of play shrink from multi page documents to single page documents reflecting the clearing out of the locker rooms as players scatter to the winds.

Still, there will be tournaments in the Middle East, the South American Golden Swing will start soon, and the spring US hardcourt swing begins in March. There’s a lot of tennis to come.

©2018 Savannahs Tennis World All Rights Reserved

AO 2018 Women’s Final: Halep vs Wozniacki

by Savannah

Number one Simona Halep vs Number 2 Caroline Wozniacki. Not only is the top ranking on the line; whoever wins will have scored her First Slam Win ever. This a critical match not only for the players but for the Women’s Tennis Association. It’s bad enough that women’s tennis is treated like a red headed step child. Its history of crowning Slamless number one players, combined with athletes who played their way into the top spot (remember the jokes about Jelena Jankovic playing $25k events in Nigeria?) the credibility of women’s tennis is at stake here as well.

Both women are known qualities to serious tennis fans so there’s not much left to say about either. Woz has worked hard to up both her physical and mental game. She’s embracing aggression a bit more and it worked for her this tournament. A lot of that improvement took place last year and she’s learned her lessons well.

As for Simona Halep she had no where to go but up at this event after her dismal French Open performance and quick exit thanks to unfortunate scheduling at the US Open. She has far exceeded what was thought of her ability to play Grand Slam level tennis. And yet…

If you watched the match she was constantly looking at her box, specifically her lead coach Darren Cahill, for reassurance, to bitch at, for coaching tips. Her reliance on her team reminded me of Justine Henin’s reliance on Carlos Rodriguez. After every point Halep’s eyes went right to her coaches. She also kept up a running dialogue with her team. To my knowledge Cahill doesn’t speak Romanian and Halep isn’t that fluent in English so I’m guessing a relay system of some kind was being used in addition to the usual hand signals. The chair didn’t have a problem with what was going on so I guess everything was on the up and up. Maria Cicak can’t chair every match.

Despite all of the excitement of last nights match between Halep and Angelique Kerber I saw a Halep unable to close out a visibly fatigued opponent. Kerber had nothing, no legs, and her arms were heavy but it took a third set going to 9-7 for Halep to finally prevail.

Before I go further it’s interesting that Kerber collapsed physically. I wonder what would’ve happened if Madison Keys knew how to play something other than grip and rip tennis? Giving Kerber exactly what she needed – a 51 minute match after her grueling match against Hsieh Su-Wei it looked as if everything caught up with Kerber last night.

But that, as they say, is water under the bridge. For the WTA it’s the top two seeds are facing each other and on paper that is a good thing. Woz leads the Head to head 4-2. From what I’ve seen this tournament she’s the tougher mentally. That could count for something.

End Note

The USTA has really handled the Tennys Sandgren situation well hasn’t it? They’ve had his friends on tour come out in support. He’s read a prepared statement and apologized to anyone he may have offended. All standard PR moves. Except that his apologies were not really apologies and the support he got from his friends dug the hole deeper.

As for how ESPN and Tennis Channel have handled things I can only rely on what I’ve seen on tennis twitter. Long story short: they had no idea what to say. I’ll try and do some listening on my own so I can speak with more credibility.

Naomi Osaka proved that she is no Madison Keys. During her on court interview after her third round win the comm went on and on about her Japanese heritage. Osaka’s personality is a joy to behold. You could see that she didn’t hear the rest of the question after he mentioned, incorrectly, that she was living in New York, and focused on the Japanese part of her heritage. She waited until he was done, told him that she lives in Florida and that her father is Haitian making it clear she is not pushing one part of her heritage over another. Then she said she forgot the rest of his question. Good for her.

And shame on the on air talent for not having done their homework.

© 2018 Savannahs World Tennis All Rights Reserved

2018 AO This and That Part 3

by Savannah

There were remarks made by the men and women ESPN employs to do commentary on tennis that should not be lost in the discussions of who made it through and who didn’t.

Let’s start with the match between Hsieh Su-Wei and Angelique Kerber. First they (Chris Evert) said that Hsieh had come on court with no strategy implying that she was just out there to have a hit with Kerber, who the ESPN team loves. Forget that for a set and a half Hsieh was unplayable, creating angles on the court not seen in many years. Kerber was screaming and “almost” throwing her racquet. None of this mattered though. I guess it didn’t occur to them to point out that Hsieh had been playing both singles and doubles up to last night. She’d upset two top ranked players but naw, she was “winging it” per ESPN. If they’d spoken about how much she’d played up until last night her beginning to miss more mid second set would’ve been noted as the point where Hsieh started to tire. By the third set you could see Hsieh had nothing left in her arms and legs. Despite the moronic commentary if you want to see beautiful tennis try and watch the first set of that match. If you watch more you’ll know where Hsieh faltered.

They also seemed to think that Hsieh played a style often seen in country clubs.
Funny, no one ever said that about Martina Hingis, who played a very similar style.

Then there’s John McEnroe. He’s made some ridiculous comments throughout his broadcast career but there he sits. His lack of knowledge about the sport he talks about would’ve put him in trouble if he were working any other sport but in the incestuous world of tennis no one has a problem with what he says on the air.

For example, he made a comment about a male American player, Tennys Sandgren (more about his shortly) being “our last hope”. Funny, the first match of the evening featured a woman named Madison Keys who, last I checked, was born in the US Mid West. She’d also, playing US style grip and rip tennis, blew a pretty good player, Caroline Garcia, off the court and will face the above mentioned Angelique Kerber next. I assume he was on the grounds when she played but yet Sandgren is “our last hope”. I’m sure they’ll explain it away by saying that he meant in terms of male US players but he said what he meant and he meant what he said. McEnroe always has to be reminded that women’s tennis exists but he’s the top dog at ESPN. Go figure.

I was asleep when Chung Hyeon won his match so I missed any live commentary or comments from Tennis Twitter. I did notice that the banner headline on the Australian Open web site talks about injury and not play. It’s interesting that Chung and not Alexander Zverev is the Young Gun stepping up here.

The Sandgren Problem

When an outfit like Deadspin headlines an article about a US player that asks “What Does Pizzagate Truther Tennys Sandgren Find “Interesting” About The Alt-Right?” you’ve got an image problem.

The other day a member of Tennis Twitter posted a tweet from Sandgren after the US election last year that made it perfectly clear how he felt about the man eventually declared the winner. The person who posted it is not someone I would’ve expected it from either. He’s a staunch fan of Colleen Vandeweghe for example, but it turns out Sandgren has made no secret of his views. That means the US tennis establishment knows exactly who he is. And they’re still trying to rally US tennis fans, a pretty diverse bunch outside of the exclusive clubs and what have you, around him.

Long story short” it ain’t happening.

The USTA is always whining about the lack of support US players receive from fans. There’s a reason for that. Sandgren has a right to make a living playing tennis. I have the right to studiously ignore him and his ilk.

The WTA RAce for Number One

A fan calling himself “suliso” laid out the scenarios of who wins what among the four women still in contention.

Halep

W
RU; Wozniacki doesn’t win the title
SF; Wozniacki no final, Svitolina no title
QF; Wozniacki and Svitolina doesn’t reach a final, Pliskova doesn’t win
R16; Wozniacki doesn’t reach SF’s, Svitolina doesn’t reach finals and Pliskova doesn’t win the title

Wozniacki

W
RU; Halep doesn’t reach the final
SF; Halep loses to Osaka in R16, Svitolina doesn’t reach the final and Pliskova doesn’t win the title

Svitolina

W; Halep doesn’t reach the final
RU; Halep doesn’t reach SF, Pliskova doesn’t win

Pliskova

W; Wozniacki doesn’t reach the final

I’m excited. Aren’t you?

© 2018 Savannash Tennis World All Rights Reserved

2018 AO This and That

by Savannah

Day 3 of the Australian Open ended mid morning in the Eastern United States. There’s been some interesting play no?

Belinda Bencic was finally playing up to her potential they said. She played Hopman Cup and managed not to fall flat on her face so she was going to make at least the quarters if not the semi’s they were saying. When Venus Williams played a sub par match and Bencic won there was figurative dancing in the aisles and there were whispers about her hoisting the trophy. Whoever her next opponent was didn’t matter. Bencic is the real deal and she’ll just roll over anyone else in her path they said.

I think it’s safe to say that Luksika Kumkhum from Thailand didn’t get the message that she was supposed to lose. She came out and played the best she could on that day and guess what? Aw, you all know already. Bencic is on her way to her next tournament. Tennis journalists are upset about the drubbing Bencic took – 6-1, 6-3 from Ms Kumkhum and seemed at a loss to explain her inability to find the court. Long time tennis fans weren’t. There’s a price you pay both mentally and physically when you beat some players. Even with a days rest Bencic wasn’t ready to play the Qualifier from Thailand.

You have to be a real tennishead to know who Jana Fett is. Her name is usually found on entry lists for ITF events or WTA International tournaments. If the crowd on RLA is anything like the folks who populate Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open I’m sure most of them figured Caroline Wozniacki would routine Ms Fett off the court and back to tennis oblivion. Instead Wozniacki had to mount a Herculean effort and take advantage of an epic mental melt down by Fett to come back and win their match after having been down 1-5 to her. Fett came apart after a shot went just wide and the veteran took full advantage.

It was very important for Wozniacki and her father that she win that match. Eyebrows were raised when at the end of last season they let Sascha Bajin go. Yes it was/is standard operating procedure for Victor and his daughter but you’d think they would want to continue their move on Number 1. If Caroline goes out first round the “I told you so” dance would’ve been performed in the stands. Instead Ms Fett’s inability to perform once it hit her where she was cost her the match. That inability to perform by an opponent can’t be counted on as Wozniacki moves forward.

That brings us to what for me was the most important match of Simona Halep‘s career. She faced Australian phenom Destanee Aiava in the first round and Ms Aiava was, like Ms Fett, poised to win the match up 5-2 and serving for it. Then things got really weird. Aiava pointed at her chest and called for the trainer during the changeover. The doctor arrived on the physio’s heels and Aiava was checked for problems with the heat. The comms began talking about Aiava’s lack of fitness and citing her age – 17 – as contributing to her lack of physical preparedness to play at the highest level. It is true that teenagers, who are still growing, can’t be put on the diet of an adult athlete. It’s true that Ms Aiava can, and will, shed a few pounds as she matures. But I’m sorry that MTO was just weird. She ended up leaving the court and Halep, who had been reeling, had time to be talked down by her team and to think about tactics when the match resumed. To her credit she had already started to force Aiava into long rallies that could have contributed to Ms Aiava’s physical issues. There was also a Tweet that Ms Aiava thought the score was 6-2 not 5-2.

At any rate that MTO was the turning point of the match. Halep came back to take the set and the match. It’s bad enough she’s wearing a mail order kit. If the WTA #1 lost in the first round there are people who would’ve literally gotten the vapors.

The other WTA match that is worth mentioning featured Alizé Cornet playing Julia Goerges . I didn’t see any of this match so there isn’t much to say except I’m shocked that Goerges has been playing so well of late, and that she was the #12 seed. Cornet acts nuts on court but she’s crazy like a fox when she’s on.

The other big match for me last night was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Denis Shapovalov . The Canadian had defeated Tsonga in New York in straight sets and it seems as if the much fitter Tsonga was out for blood. It didn’t look as if he’d have his revenge though as Shapovalov looked ready to win the match in four sets. Let me correct myself. Shapovalov looked desperate to win in four. When he started arguing a call with the chair I thought to myself that a veteran player, seeing that, would know he had his opponent on the ropes mentally and take advantage of the situation. Tsonga won the fourth set and cruised in the fifth.

I said after seeing Shapovalov live in New York that there were several things he needed to work on if he wants to be counted among the tennis greats. One is his balls to the wall style of play. He is not that big physically at six feet (I don’t think he’s that tall but he can still grow and may have since I saw him last summer) and being only 18 he can’t be put on a rigorous diet yet but if they don’t start correcting his mental approach to match play nothing will matter. He fell apart the same way Fett and Aiava did. He and Aiava are still young enough to gain the discipline needed to compete at the top levels of the sport. If you remember Alexander Zverev used to throw tantrums on court when things didn’t go his way. He still does but not the way he used to. All the talent in the world means nothing if you have no discipline.

End Notes

I was glad to see the article by Deadspin where the horrid online presence of the Australian Open was discussed. If you’ve had an IT giant like IBM doing your back office work and decide, for whatever reason, that you don’t require their services anymore you’d better have a replacement lined up that can do the job properly. I can’t imagine they thought IBM would leave it’s work in place when they left. I can’t imagine that a firm was hired that rendered the App worthless. It reminds me of the WTA kicking TennisTV to the curb and then being unable to provide a quality product for fans of women’s tennis. The folks in charge can’t be that myopic can they?

Then again, there’s talk that the WTA has chosen Shenzen for its YEC starting in 2019. What can you say?

© 2018 Savannahs World Tennis All Rights Reserved

The Rear View Mirror: Wimbledon 2017

by Savannah

There’s no getting around it. This Wimbledon sucked. There was no “must see” singles match although some are arguing that Gilles Muller vs Rafael Nadal was one I get the feeling those people were rooting for Nadal to be beaten before the semi finals anyway. When Muller lost next round there was no great outpouring of sympathy towards him from those who had been cheering him during his last match. The one riveting match was a men’s doubles match.

Andy Murray‘s refusal to retire even though he was visibly struggling is to be commended. It showed that he respects the sport and his place in it. Still, his remarks defending women’s tennis – read Serena Williams and Venus Williams – drew more comment from the tennis writers who think tennis is the ATP and that the WTA is a side show. That new WTA CEO Steve Simon is working hard to make women’s tennis invisible it is still a major part of tennis with millions of fans, fans who are upset that the only way to see women’s tennis on an ongoing basis is at a Slam. Mixed events don’t count since the WTA has it’s own contract with Premier/BeIn sports which makes it impossible to see female athletes playing on a regular basis.

But enough of that. Why was this Wimbledon disappointing? There was just nothing to hold a casual fans attention. How many casual fans have heard of Garbiñe Muguruza? If you don’t know why see the above paragraph. As I predicted someone out of left field won the tournament. Muguruza has done squat since winning the French Open but as usual, when a Williams is across the net the mentally dead suddenly remember how to play tennis. Venus did not claim injury, fatigue, or age, as a reason for her loss despite the “journalists” trying to get her to do so. Minus that they had to fall back on praising the winner although there isn’t much there to praise. They tried to create some drama around her coach Sam Sumyk not being there but it leaked out that his wife was going into labor and he stayed home to be with her. Some even went so far as to say Conchita Martinez should take over as her coach forgetting Martinez already had Fed Cup and Davis Cup on her plate. To her credit Muguruza said she spoke with her coach every day so the Conchita boomlet faded away. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if she fades back into the pack. Hey remember Aljona Ostapenko?

As for the men’s winner I really, truly, have no words. Let’s look at what he’s done so far this year. He got an extra day’s rest in Melbourne that no other player got. Along the way he admitted to taking an unneeded medical time out. For no reason whatsoever other than that he knew he wouldn’t win the Slam he skipped clay season. After losing to Haas in a Wimbledon warm up he then strolled into Wimbledon as #4 in ranking but seeded third ahead of the #2 player. His draw? I think Cilic was the highest seed he faced and he, unfortunately, couldn’t compete in the Final due to an injury that had him in excruciating pain through most of it. The tennis media reacted as if he’d faced murderer’s row and the paeans rolled off the presses. No mention that of all the players he was the one who had the freshest legs and the cup cake draw.

The one good thing that happened is that other fandoms have had enough and are pushing back against the people who think if you admire someone else somehow you’re a lesser being and don’t recognize someone they see as royalty. I saw less of the usual gloating from fans who react like prepubescent girls in front of the latest hot movie star when it comes to their faves.

The rankings? Numbers 3 & 4 on the ATP side switched places. Karolína Plíšková became the WTA’s newest slamless number one with fewer points and fewer accomplishments than any of the previous slamless #1’s for the WTA. I will throw in a worse game as well. Some have tried but there is no way this woman can be considered among the greats of the game. She’s in the top spot due to the number of points she has now. Simona Halep, who I once thought had Slam potential is a few points behind Plíšková and it’s likely the two will alternate at the top of the rankings for the summer. I don’t think either one has Slam potential. To be hones I think Kristina Mladenovic has a better chance than either Halep or Plíšková.

Where do we go from here? With both Murray and Novak Djokovic injured some interesting things can happen on the men’s side. We may not see either man before Cincinnati. The women will continue to toil in virtual anonymity and before small crowds until the US Open when they’ll be visible again for many fans. Halep and Plíšková rotating as number one is not all that interesting to me. Still I think it’ll be Plíšková who will hold the number one ranking come US Open time and dshe still won’t win it. Someone else will come out of the blue and take that title. And no it won’t be that doper who will get a WC into the main draw.

Champions

Men’s Singles
Switzerland Roger Federer
Women’s Singles
Spain Garbiñe Muguruza
Men’s Doubles
Poland Łukasz Kubot / Brazil Marcelo Melo
Women’s Doubles
Russia Ekaterina Makarova / Russia Elena Vesnina
Mixed Doubles
United Kingdom Jamie Murray / Switzerland Martina Hingis
Boys’ Singles
Spain Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Girls’ Singles
United States Claire Liu
Boys’ Doubles
Argentina Axel Geller / Chinese Taipei Hsu Yu-hsiou
Girls’ Doubles
Serbia Olga Danilović / Slovenia Kaja Juvan
Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles
Australia Lleyton Hewitt / Australia Mark Philippoussis
Ladies’ Invitation Doubles
Zimbabwe Cara Black / United States Martina Navratilova
Senior Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles
Netherlands Jacco Eltingh / Netherlands Paul Haarhuis
Wheelchair Men’s Singles
Sweden Stefan Olsson
Wheelchair Women’s Singles
Netherlands Diede de Groot
Wheelchair Men’s Doubles
United Kingdom Alfie Hewett / United Kingdom Gordon Reid
Wheelchair Women’s Doubles
Japan Yui Kamiji / United Kingdom Jordanne Whiley

©2017 Savannah’s World All Rights Reserved