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

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

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

2018 AO This and That Part 2

by Savannah

Things got a bit hectic so I’m just now getting to post Part 2 of my 2018 Australian Open observations.

Am I from a bizarro world? Why do I feel that that long match between Simona Halep and Lauren Davis was more about Halep not being able to close it out than Davis playing the match of her life? Don’t get me wrong Davis played well above her weight class and if it wasn’t for the injury – which I questioned at first – she might’ve pulled off the upset. Instead she got the top ranked WTA player to play an almost four hour match. That’s why Cahill was beating his head against his fist. US players seem to like to play these types of matches. I’ll have to think more about why that might be.

Despite all of the sturm und drang from a certain players stans and PR people (are they one and the same?) it seems that without her special drug cocktail she’s unable to keep her strength up. Or to play thinking tennis. I’m not a fan of Angelique Kerber but to paraphrase a statement she played with the gods on her side.

Who are these women playing on RLA for the WTA these days? I’m kidding of course. I know many of their names from ITF’s and WTA International tournaments but really. I know, I know, it’s the depth of the tour. Right. I’ve never accepted that “depth” argument. The WTA tour is weak right now. Why do I say that? Elina Svitolina (!) has a chance to be WTA #1.

Why is everyone hating on Caroline Wozniacki and trying to compare her “discussion” with the chair to Colleen Vandeweghe‘s cursing out her opponent? There is no comparison. What is comparable is Aljona Ostapenko‘s cursing out of her opponent. I guess because she did it in Russian they’re going to let her slide? As they say film at eleven.

Anyone know what spell Chung Hyeon weaves that traps Alexander Zverev so easily? Then again Zverev may learn how to play five set matches and the rivalry will even up. It’s not that Chung has been playing nothing but five setters either. Watching him calmly wait Zverev the younger out and finishing off the match with a love set was something to behold. There was that bit of drama from Sasha about a light though wasn’t it? Tantrums always lead to no good.

It looks like Agnieszka Radwańska‘s days as a top ten player may be over. I think two things happened to her. One is that players got hip to her “ninja” style of play. I said a couple of years ago that she was starting to only be able to beat newbies, players who hadn’t dealt with her tricks before. Now even they’re beating her. That leads to the question of her fitness. We all know she wanted to maintain a “feminine” look that precluded sculpted thighs and upper body. She is even carrying a bit of a tummy but that could be because she just came off her honeymoon. She’s not fooling anyone anymore and there is really nothing she can do about that.

US tennis is busily hyping Madison Keys after Sloane Stephens predictable crash and burn. Wait until Madison meets someone who won’t let her establish herself on the baseline à la Karolina Pliskova and fire away. There are more similarities between the two players than people care to admit.

Oh yeah. The AO did finally fix their App so at least you can kinda sorta follow the scores in matches you’re interested in but can’t watch for one reason or another. I just don’t get what was wrong with the old style live score format. It takes an extra few seconds to adjust to the new format they’re using and it’s rather tedious.

Cori Gauff, a promising US junior who at the most is 14 years old is in Melbourne. Why? They’re rushing this young woman and we’ve seen the results of that too many times. I feel the same way about fifteen year old Marta Kostyuk. It’s too soon.

As I usually do with ESPN I make sure the sound is off so I don’t hear the shit the comms say. This is a good thing.

End Notes

The WTA is touting it’s multi million dollar deal to bring its YEC to Shenzen, China, a city that fans who self identify as Chinese call dull and boring. The main talking point seems to be that the prize money will total $14 million US dollars, double what the ATP WTF makes available. Big whoop.

As one fan asked where is this money coming from? No one is buying tickets. There will be little to no TV viewership from countries with a strong tennis tradition. Will Western journalists be able to get Visa’s? Yes they’re building a new stadium but won’t it sit empty like all the other’s that already exist? This will be an outdoor stadium so there will be no ability to use lighting to hide the empty seats. Steve Simon has done nothing but continue to make women’s tennis disappear.

Anyway the business end of the tournament, Week Two starts tonight on the east coast of the United States.

©2018 Savannah’s World Tennis All Rights Reserved