The One That Got Away

by Savannah

A few years ago someone at the USTA, most likely someone in their Player Development sector, made a decision about a young player named Naomi Osaka. Ms Osaka, her family was told, was not eligible (worthy) of their strong support. Ms Osaka’s father, Leonard François, had a Plan B. His wife, and the mother of his two daughters, was born in Japan. Naomi had an option to play for the Japanese Tennis Federation and took full advantage of that option. The Japanese Association was more than happy to have her. That is why after her huge win – mark my word it’s huge – at the BNPParibas Open (Indian Wells) Ms Osaka posed with the flag of Japan instead of the stars and strips of the United States.

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via Instagram

In hindsight the USTA passing on Naomi was probably the best thing that happened to her. I’m sure it didn’t feel that way at the time. After all Ms Osaka has lived in the United States most of her life despite being born in Japan. She still lives mainly in Florida. However, the USTA hasn’t produced a dominant player in many years. Venus Williams and Serena Williams also came up outside of the USTA’s clutches for many years. Andy Roddick, the last US male player to achieve anything, retired several years ago. Away from the USTA Ms Osaka learned the craft of tennis. How to think. How to play using the entire court. Instead of being a serve bot she has a good serve that her coach, Aleksandar (Sascha) Bajin, will make even better.

Last year Mary Jo Fernandez was saying that Ms Osaka has until she turns 21 to make a firm decision about what country to play for, hinting that the USTA was now interested in having her play for the country she was raised in. I will be very surprised if that happens. The USTA made its decision years ago. Now they will have to live with it.

©Savannahs World Tennis 2018 All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Tennis “Tennys” Problem

by Savannah

How would you handle this situation?

You have a player, lets call him “Ryan Harrison” who has a history of getting into verbal altercations with his opponents all instigated by “Ryan” himself. The list is long: Doubles players Juan Sebastian Cabal & Robert Farah were first, then came Thanasi Kokkinakis, Dudi Sela and his fans were cursed at in January and last night he was at it again starting in on the chair umpire as well as his opponent, lets call him “Donald Young” a veteran US tennis player. He’s not going to win any Slams but he has done what the USTA has asked of him over the years. “Donald” says that after he said “c’mon” “Ryan” said words to the effect of that’s what all black people say. Understandably “Donald” took offense and for the first time ever in his career did not really shake his opponents hand.

A commentator for Tennis Channel, the official channel of the USTA, mewled that “no one really knows what was said”.

Prim Siripipat
‏Verified account
@prim_siripipat
46m46 minutes ago
More Prim Siripipat Retweeted Andrew Jerell Jones
Good interview w/ Ryan Harrison on altercation w/ Donald Young. It’s true, if this happened on the fball field, no 1 would blink an eye. Tennis still seen as a prim n proper sport. Still no word yet on what exactly was said between the 2

Note the deflection that is attempted here. “Mouthing Off” during an NFL game is normal within that context and no one would argue that fact. This reminds me of the deflection that was used during the 2016 election when vulgar comments were brushed aside as representative of “locker room talk” and the media went along with it.

Meanwhile, as has been the case for some time now, tennis fans are doing the best reporting. For instance this was posted by a fan who was there.

Valentina Lee‏
@_valentinalee24
More
Replying to @atkinsonfasho @_Zennifer_ @CCSMOOTH13
Ryan Harrison told DY “That’s what all you black people do” after he was upset that DY cheered C’mon to pump himself up. So who’s the real loser?

(It seems that this Tweet has been deleted)

Odd isn’t it that not one media person who was there heard this exchange isn’t it? and of course “Ryan” denied he said or did anything wrong. “Ryan” is also the player who endeavored to explain racism to James Blake.

With Ms Lee’s tweet deleted the only eyewitness account of what happened is gone so the powers that be can say no one knows what was said. The only video left seems to be one where “Ryan” implies that comments attributed to him are lies.

The USTA and the ATP meanwhile are promoting Tennys Sandgren’s foray into South America as if his racist views hadn’t come to light. Is this his “apology tour”?

I’m pretty sure nothing will be done to “Ryan” and the USTA will continue on its way ignoring the outrage among many long term fans. Ignoring it will only make it worse but in the end they don’t care until you get the spectacle of US fans cheering for a Frenchman against a US player. Then you see the angry columns from tennis “journalists” blossom. Think about that the next time you read a column lamenting that fans in the US don’t cheer for US players.

This and That

I’m waiting for the day to come when female athletes don’t have to turn themselves into soft porn actresses to get men to pay attention to their sport.
That’s all I’m going to say.

An up and coming US player, Patrick Kypson, after losing a college level match, was recorded spitting in his hand before offering it to shake the winners hand.
There is video at the link. I guess he will be the USTA’s next big star.

© 2018 Savannah’s World Tennis All rights reserved

This and That

by Savannah

Just a short post about developments in tennis that might fly under the radar because tennis “journalism” is not what “journalism” is supposed to be.

Sachia Vickery has decided to play for Guyana, the country where her mother was born, instead of the United States. Don’t start yawning yet. Vickery is just outside of the top 100 in the world, and is a product of the USTA’s development program. Back when I first started this blog I wrote about Vickery and Victoria Duval and the struggles they faced as young women of color in a system where their peers families were well off while their parents struggled.

When I read the news I have to say I was surprised, and then not so surprised. Certainly the USTA has more clout in terms of getting WC’s and such but if she can play herself into the top 100 the importance of that fades.

My second thought was that this is the second female player of color who has opted to play for another country. Don’t forget that Naomi Osaka was going to play for the US but her father, citing lack of support from the USTA, opted to have his daughter play for Japan. I wonder if that is the reason- lack of support -behind Ms Vickery’s choice? She’s a bit older than Ms Osaka was when the choice was made for her so she knows what the implications are.

I wish Ms Vickery the best and hope that she does well at the Olympics, the reason given for her making this move at this time.

Then there’s Bernard Tomic. Tennis Australia finally grew a pair and began treating him like the low level player he is so anyone who has been paying attention knew that there would be a reaction from the party boy.

This is the headline that greeted tennis fans today: Embattled Bernard Tomic threatens to expose ‘the many things that are corrupt’ in Tennis Australia – as he reveals he still wants to win matches for the nation

No one should be surprised about this. That a player publicly threatens to expose FIFA like corruption in his own Federation would normally give one pause but not in his situation. Tomic has been coddled by Tennis Australia for years now and as usually happens in this kind of situation petulance and threats ensue when the adults in the room finally start acting like adults. The ball is definitely in Tennis Australia’s court now.

End Note

The Tennys Sandgren situation has not gone away. The USTA wishes it would because it wants to promote him. Good luck with that.

Pam Shriver, an ESPN commentator, has still not apologized to Chung Hyeon for implying his retirement was Punking out” so to speak. Not content with that questionable comment she said the following about Caroline Wozniacki‘s win last night:
Jonathan Newman@Tennis_Jon
More
Pam Shriver making the verrry generous leap that she “wouldn’t be surprised” if David Lee’s height and power hasn’t helped Caroline’s added velocity on serve. This is some next level mess.

Uh huh. I think she was out in the sun too long.

Alizé Cornet missed three anti doping tests but she says she has valid reasons.

©2018 Savannahs World Tennis 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

Well That Was Awkward

by Savannah

Maybe the Monday Night Massacre at the 2018 Australian Openwill finally make the USTA take a critical look at the players it’s developing and placing before the tennis viewing audience. Let’s take a look at who lost. Thanks to @BenRothenberg for the list you see below.

#5 Venus❌
#8 Sock❌
#10 Vandeweghe❌
#13 Stephens❌
#16 Isner❌
Bellis❌
Brady❌
Falconi❌
Kenin❌
K.King❌
Riske❌
Townsend❌

Gibbs✅
Harrison✅
McDonald ✅

I admit that John Isner and Jack Sock losing didn’t bother me all that much. Don’t forget that the Tournament Director at Auckland wanted to take back Sock’s appearance fee of $100,000 because of lack of effort aka tanking. In the age of Bernard Tomic to have a TD threaten to take away your appearance fee is eyebrow raising news.

A lot of people were surprised that Sloane Stephens lost and I don’t know why. There were a few of us – very few – talking about her lack of fitness during and after the US Open where she was the women’s champion. Add to that her attitude which is said to be horrible, and you’ve got a vile mixture. I guess people have forgotten how she coasted on beating an injured Serena Williams for years before finally realizing no one wanted to coach her because she is lazy and is not easy to work with.

When she won the US Open I said here that we’ll know how seriously she’s taking her potential by what she does in Asia. A knee injury was said to be the cause of her lack of results after the post US Open Asian swing.

Yet there she was yesterday with not a wrap in sight not running after balls. She’s actually in better shape now than she was in New York but there’s no cure for laziness is there? You’d think with a newly minted contract with Nike and as a Slam champion she’d want to prove people like me wrong. As long as they keep covering for her she’s got no reason to change. That’s why she could come into Melbourne out of shape and with little or no match play and think that her opponents would fold simply because she took the court. It’s a personality flaw that no coach has been able to fix.

That brings us to Colleen Vandeweghe. Anyone who has seen her live comes away with a bad taste in their mouths. Anyone who had not seen her live felt that those who disliked her were simply haters. It’s amazing what you see when the USTA is not controlling the stream isn’t it? It was late but not late enough for fans in the Americas to all be asleep. Many were simply amazed at how she carried on. As far as I’m concerned it’s about time tennis fans got past all the “softer side of Vandeweghe” crap and saw her for the entitled brat she is. How sad was it that the WTA Insider posted something about Colleen having the flu when everyone had seen her have a long, match delaying discussion about when she should eat her banana and cursing out her opponent with gusto and had been talking about it for over an hour?

And then there was Ryan Harrison in a “hold my beer” moment, curing out fans supporting his opponent. He’d actually been better behaved recently but then again so had Colleen.

As for Venus Williams she had a fantastic 2017. She looked flat and never was able to psych herself up. It’s a long season and at this point in her career she’s got nothing to prove to anyone anywhere.

I’m not that familiar with many of the other US players who lost yesterday with the exception of Taylor Townsend of course and Alison Riske. Frances Tiafoe, Donald Young, Madison Brengle , Tennys Sandgren, Kristie Ahn , Lauren Davis, Tim Smyczek, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson,Christina McHale and Madison Keys play tonight. On paper Keys has the easiest match but one never knows do one?

End Notes

It takes a team to build a website and an APP. The backend, the folks who provide the nuts and bolts of modern day sports sites, are the ones who make recommendations as to how the site works. They’re the ones that determine how much capacity is built into the servers. They recommend where traffic goes in case of demand exceeding capacity. What happened last night to the new Australian Open site was a backend failure. Why the back end failed we don’t know. Did they make recommendations that were ignored? Did some muckety muck make last minute changes? Were corners cut? Was someone’s relative put in charge instead of a bona fide IT professional? We may never know. The site worked until opening night when thousands of fans visited and the site was unable to manage the load. It makes me wonder if there was a stress test performed before Opening Night? It makes me wonder what corners were cut to put out an inferior product? As of now the web site is working. I’m not sure about the App.

Because the AO web site and App weren’t working and the ESPN App on AppleTV didn’t show who was playing on what court it was a bit difficult to keep track of who was playing where. I hope that is not the case tonight.

©2018 Savannahs World Tennis All rights reserved except where indicated

It’s Happened

by Savannah

The US tennis establishment is crowing about four US women making it to the quarter finals of the 2017 US Open. Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Colleen Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens will be facing four women from Europe. It’s a wonderful moment right? Does it vindicate the approach the USTA has made regarding it’s women players? Have US women finally proved themselves deserving of the respect that has eluded them (with two exceptions) for years now?

Short answer: No.

The level of play among the women has been steadily falling over the last five years or so. There is no variety. Achieving the top ranking has become a matter of point counting and not level of tennis. Being number one used to mean you were the best at that moment in time. Not today. The women who have won Slams (Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova) are not contending for the top spot.

As is often said you can only play whoever is across the net from you. When that becomes the rationale for not only Slamless number one’s but for asserting a resurgence in your tennis program that is nothing to celebrate.

By all means celebrate the fact that four US women are contending for the Final. Just don’t make it seem as if it’s a renaissance.

©2017 Savannahs World Tennis All rights reserved