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

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

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

The Rear View Mirror – The 2017 WTA

by Savannah

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via wtafinals.com

Caroline Wozniacki finally won a big one. At the WTA YEC she was in the group of counterpunchers. None of the women in her group have what you would call big serves. None of them play “Big Babe Tennis”, even the watered down version that passes for power tennis these days. None of them were expected to win, least of all the woman known to tennis fans as “Woz”. She’s been around for years. She’s been ranked Number 1. And yet when it comes down to respect most wrote her off as “slamless”, a woman who couldn’t win a big title. Like it or not the YEC is one of the “big ones” and when the dust settled Woz was the one holding up the trophy.

Now comes the really hard part for Ms Wozniacki and her team. Will she finally break through at the Australian Open and drop the sobriquet “slamless” from her cv? With today’s WTA who knows? Right now Caroline is playing with confidence and sometimes that is what you need to pull yourself up and roll through draws. If she feels that she can stand toe to toe with the best of the current pack she has a chance.

sloane-stephens-us-open-final-win-madison-keys
via SI.com

Ah Ms Stephens. Where to start? I guess the best place to start is where we are. After an impressive win over Madison Keys at the 2017 US Open I said that the Asian swing would prove whether or not Ms Stephens was ready for prime time. She promptly lost every match she played including an embarrassing 0-5 retirement. Her ranking wasn’t high enough for Singapore although there was a lot of push to get her a WC into the event. Fortunately that didn’t happen, so she played at ZhuHai for the Elite Cup. Julia Goerges, who has seen some hard times, won that one. I will discuss Fed Cup separately but I will say for now she didn’t win any fans with her performance there.

I’m not sure why anyone in tennis expected anything different from her. She made a semi final in Australia and coasted on that win for a few years. Now she’s won a Slam. I don’t think we’ll see top level tennis from her again. She’ll always be a US Open winner, a Slam winner, and if past performance is any indication she will expect players to grovel at her feet in awe of her, they won’t, and she won’t care. I’m waiting to see what her coach Kamau Murray does. Murray got her to focus, to stay interested, through seven matches and I’m sure folks are banging down his door. He’s made it clear he’s not hanging around if “old Sloane” with the sucky attitude and horrible work ethic shows up. She was horribly unfit when she won the US Open and that’s not a good thing for someone like Sloane. Needless to say if she performs the way she has after the US Open in Australia she won’t be “slamless” but her win will be considered a “fluke”. And she won’t care.

WTA Tour Finals
REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

Simona Halep is now the top ranked WTA player for 2017. Let that sink in. Simona Halep, whose highest achievement in 2017 was reaching the finals of the French Open. Halep, who during that Final, hung her head and slumped her shoulders in defeat before the match was over. Halep who lost in the first round at the US Open. She is the woman girls are supposed to want to be, the epitome of the best of women’s tennis.

Of course she isn’t. And that is a problem. Like many of her peers Halep repeated over and over that she wanted to be Number One. Not win a Slam mind you. All she wanted to do was be the top ranked player. And she has achieved her goal with the lowest point total in recent memory.

The year end top ten rankings are as follows:

1 Romania Simona Halep 6,175
2 Spain Garbiñe Muguruza 6,135
3 Denmark Caroline Wozniacki 6,015
4 Czech Republic Karolína Plíšková 5,730
5 United States Venus Williams 5,597
6 Ukraine Elina Svitolina 5,500
7 Latvia Jeļena Ostapenko 5,010
8 France Caroline Garcia 4,420
9 United Kingdom Johanna Konta 3,610
10 United States Coco Vandeweghe 3,258

We now live in a world where players like Jelena Ostapenko, Johanna Konta and Colleen Vandeweghe are top ten players. Sad isn’t it?

We’re mere weeks away from play beginning in Australia. Pressure will be on Halep and Stephens(ranked #13). All of the top ten players will be under pressure of course but I think those two, more than any others, will be under the microscope. With Halep the draw is everything. At the US Open she was pretty much thrown under the bus. Since the Australians, Americans and Brits often walk in lock step it’ll be interesting to see if the same thing happens to her in Australia. Stephens will need a good draw too if she’s to make the second week at the very least.

Garbiñe Muguruza is ranked Number 2 in the world and just missed out on being year end Number One. Is she a great player? No. She’s just a more successful version of Sloane in terms of her attitude. Most players try and put their best foot forward for fans and media when they’re on court. Not our Garbiñe. If her opponent dares to pull her out of her comfort zone she pouts, curses and caves.

Karolína Plíšková wants it bad. She wants Number One. She wants Slams. She wants to be a superstar. More than any of the others she’s shown how much she does care and how far she’s willing to go to get what she wants. The sad thing about Plíšková is that with her physical limitations she’ll need a lot to break her way to achieve what she wants. She still can’t/doesn’t bend her knees. Her movement is horrendous. She has that huge serve and hits very good groundstrokes but if she’s taken out of her spot on the baseline she’s toast. She’s fired her old coach with an eye to making changes that will make take her to the next level. She is almost there. I just think that with her physical limitations she’s always going to be almost there. Then again…

DOdWPUkWsAA4MZ6

So you’re Kathy Rinaldi. Somehow your team has made it to the Fed Cup Final. You bring four women with you to Minsk where a team from Belarus will challenge for the 2017 Federation Cup. You have two players who must be on the team: Colleen Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens. Who will your other two players be because, let’s be blunt, your USO champion is in terrible form mentally and physically and you may have to replace her. If you have to replace her who would you use? Alison Riske, who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, or Shelby Rogers who is a USTA favorite. A battered Venus Williams</strong is not available. Madison Keys, the USO runner up is resting her wrist in preparation for Australia. When the USO champion shows her current form is holding what do you do? Sit her and take a chance with Rogers or Riske or play your US Open champion and hope for the best knowing you’ll have to gut out the doubles if Team Belarus forces the doubles rubber to matter.

Some have commented that in the above celebratory picture it looks as if Vandeweghe is holding the Cup so no one else can touch it. She has every right to be doing just that. Without her team Belarus would be holding that Cup. She won that cup for her country. Shelby Rogers did her best but Vandeweghe was pulling her along. Riske didn’t play and Sloane stunk up the joint.

Being Fed Cup captain is a thankless job no matter how you look at it. It’s going to be interesting to see if the women from the Czech Republic can stop feuding long enough to win another Fed Cup in 2018. Will Rinaldi be able to build a stronger team around Vandeweghe? Will there be another team like Team Belarus in the Final next year? Again, this is the WTA so who knows?

End Notes

For all intents and purposes this year is over for women’s tennis. There are a couple of $125k tournaments coming up but for the main tour players this is a time for beaches, mountains, and reflection.

For me this year ends with more questions than answers. There is no dominant player. The tour itself has become more invisible instead of more visible. What was supposed to provide more visibility, WTA TV, has, from what I’ve been reading, been a flukey mess.

Is the WTA relying more on joint tournaments with the ATP than it should since that seems to be the only way they get good TV coverage? It’s sad in this day and age that the largest sport for women athletes launched a web only streaming service when every other major sport has an APP that works on several devices?
How embarrassing that when WTA TV launched many credit card companies identified it as a phishing scam and would not authorize payment? Shouldn’t an agreement been worked out with PayPal?
And lets not talk about a top player streaming the Fed Cup final using an illegal stream.
Did it make sense to invest so much time and effort (including bending its own rules) to bring back a convicted doper who as of now seems unable to compete without the crutch she’s used for most of her career?
Why is it that fans of women’s tennis rely on Wikipedia for information on the WTA because there is almost no information on the official WTA site?
Why is it that the official site had no information on the year end tournaments and fans had to scramble to find entry lists and draws? It’s true that many fans won’t go on sites based in certain countries but shouldn’t that make it more important for the official site to have that information?
Fans are using Live Ranking sites that have nothing to do with the WTA to get up to date information.
Will there be a women’s version of the successful Laver Cup?
Will the WTA do a better job at marketing ALL of its players and not just a chosen few? Doesn’t it matter that no one outside of tennis knows who any of the top ten players are excepting Venus Williams? I guess for the current leadership it doesn’t.

While all these questions remain the CEO did a “State of the WTA” year end presentation that addressed none of the above. Instead we got a mind numbingly boring presentation about – damned if I know. I’m really tired of writing depressing year end columns on the WTA but unless something changes I think I’ll be writing the same kind of post next year. These women work hard and play to the best of their abilities during a long, grueling season. They deserve better than the half steps being put forth by the WTA.

©2017 Savannah’s World Tennis All rights reserved except where indicated

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhat Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll see about Ms Stephens won’t we?

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

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

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

©2017 Savannahs World All rights reserved

This and That

The Weekend That Was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

The Rear View Mirror: 2017 US Open

by Savannah
Lots to say about this Slam. I think it set a precedent for starting the most misleading narratives about players ever. These misleading narratives started when the USTA, as was expected by me anyway, gave a returning doper pride of place. It was bad enough that they gave her a Wild Card. The USTA, never knowing when enough is enough, went on to schedule her return from doping for Opening Night knowing that there are fans who have a tradition of attending opening night ceremonies and that Ashe would be pretty full no matter what. Of course this was spun as fans dying to see her return by tennis media. If you have never attended the US Open you’d probably fall for the spin. Far more telling were the subsequent matches where fans behaved as they usually do during Week 1 and spend their time on the “outer courts” instead of in the cavernous and unfriendly confines of Ashe.

That leads me to the Women’s Singles Champion Sloane Stephens. Like her or not she does have talent. By the time she went out with injury she’d had a parade of coaches and you didn’t have to be an inside tennis person to realize that coaches didn’t want to work with her. During one of her matches the comms talked about her having the reputation of being “lazy”. The woman who was told as a child she’d never play top level tennis is the one holding the winners trophy. Did she achieve this in a vacuum? Nope. All credit is due Kamau Murray who told her point blank he was not there for her bullshit. Either she behaved as a professional or he was gone. That was why she hugged him so hard after the match. I wonder how Taylor Townsend felt at that moment? And I wonder if Sloane will decide that she’s good enough not to need him. I’m sure he’ll make sure the door doesn’t hit her on the way out if she does. People will be flocking to him now. I hope someone in her circle tells her that all top players have coaches, that no one goes it alone. You can have all the talent in the world but if it’s not being used properly it’s as if you don’t have any.

Of course Sloane was not the one the USTA was geared up to celebrate. They felt that Madison Keys would be the one holding up the trophy. I guess they haven’t been paying attention to Ms Keys and her ways. Whenever Madison gets broken she falls apart. She has absolutely no Plan B and she begins to hit harder and as a result sprays errors all over the place. Also remember while Sloane was out injured she was in the commentary booth and got a chance to observe a lot of players. Her dismantling of Keys showed that under the right supervision she can follow a game plan and defeat an opponent. Still, let’s not call her the new queen of women’s tennis just yet. A lot depends on whether she stays with Mr. Murray and follows his rules. The Asian Swing is also going to be telling. She needs, no must, do well there to be taken seriously as a top player.

Then there was the kerfuffle about Andy Murray‘s withdrawal due to a chronic hip injury that may keep him out the rest of the year. People assumed that with the withdrawal of the man seeded second in the draw all of the seeds would move up a place with the number three seed becoming the number two seed, number four becoming three, etc. Instead they decided to use a formula that shuffled the seeds but left the top half of the draw intact. Sturm und drang ensued. I can say I have never seen such an outpouring of anger about a draw in all the years I’ve been seriously following tennis. To say fans of the number three seeded player were up in arms is an understatement. They accused Andy Murray of waiting until the last minute on purpose to help his friend who was seeded number one. They accused the tennis powers that be of conspiring against their favorite. Fortunately none of that worked. Unfortunately they began talking about the top seed not facing any member of the top four on his way to the Championship. Of course they conveniently forgot the “Murderer’s Row” their favorite faced in London earlier this year where he didn’t face a member of the “Big Four” or any player who could hurt him. They also forgot that they argued vehemently that their favorite should inherit the draw that once belonged to Andy Murray. If they had had their way and number three became number two I think the argument about not facing a top player wouldn’t even be being made. That members of the “impartial” media are making this argument tells you all there is to know about the incestuous nature of tennis journalism.

Was there good news from the final Grand Slam of 2017? Why yes there was. It looks as if tennis greatness is going to skip a generation. Alexander Zverev (20). Andrey Rublev (19). Denis Shapovalov (18). Frances Tiafoe (19). These are the young men fans wanted to see at Flushing Meadows. And let’s not forget thirteen year old Cori Gauff. Or Junior Boys champion Wu Yibing. What about boys runner up Axel Geller who plays a very free wheeling loose style similar to Shapovolov? Gauff is the only girl I saw who is playing a different style from all the pony tailed blondes. Naomi Osaka (19) is also a Next Gen prospect. Osaka has what I call “quiet power”.

All of these young people need work especially on the mental aspect of the game. There is no excuse for sloppy or non existent foot work. There is no excuse for not being able to adjust to what your opponent is throwing at you. You shouldn’t get broken and have as your only option to hit harder and harder.

Is there going to be a lull? I think so. The rankings on the women’s side are like a merry-go-round and are not based on results but on number of points a player has attained. When your top ranked player doesn’t make it to the second week of a Slam after having won one earlier in the summer something is wrong. But that’s another post for another day.

I give this tournament an A- . Yes they stood up to an irate fandom but they get points taken away for reaching the level of track and field where a twice suspended doper is being praised. I was going with a B+ but that would distract from what the men and women, boys and girls, achieved over the last two weeks.

End Notes

I didn’t make it to the Qualifying Tournament this year but I was on the grounds Opening Day and the following Wednesday.

There were the usual snafu’s getting in this year. I think they were compounded by the use of E-ticketing. On Day One if you had a paper ticket you could breeze on through.

The biggest shock was the absence of the Nike kiosk. It was replaced by a Mercedes Benz set up that allowed people to sit behind the wheel and enter a contest I presume. I don’t drive so I could care less. I did care that the only merchandise for sale was for the USTA/US Open. Frankly it sucked. Usually I treat myself to some obscenely priced Nike shirt and one less expensive US Open shirt for the current year. I don’t know what issues caused Nike not to be given the center space it usually occupies but I hope they’re back next year. There are lots of us willing to pay $35 for a hit featuring our fave. There was an Adidas store but I didn’t get a chance to check their merchandise out.

By next year the new BJK NTC footprint should be ready. That would mean the temporary Armstrong Stadium, which was really the old Grandstand, will be gone. The bad part about the temporary stadium was that it was right next to the East Gate. There were good matches scheduled there but if I’m on Court 7 I’m not going to walk all the way to Armstrong and then back to the other courts for more action. If I’m in Armstrong my next stop is the LIRR.

The grounds were much more crowded this year than last year. Keep in mind people bought their tickets in the spring so the surge in attendance had nothing to do with any particular player. The outer courts were jam packed while the bigger courts – the new Grandstand, and the horrific Court 17, were mostly empty. The match where Johanna Konta lost to Aleksandra Krunic was on the Grandstand. Where I was sitting in Court 7 watching Denis Shapovolov you could see into the Grandstand. It as virtually empty. Tiny Court 7 was full. People were willing to stand to watch the kid play. That scheduling shows how out of touch some in the establishment are.

Food? It was as per usual. Expensive. I got my double cheeseburger from David Chang’s “Momofuku” and totally enjoyed it. I also had a steak sandwich from Pat LaFrieda. Delish.

The biggest hit with me was the Chase Center. You got a baseball hat, light refreshments including beer and wine and large screen televisions in a comfortably air conditioned environment. Chase also offered a “charge and watch” thingy which didn’t work.

The American Express center was a huge disappointment. Other than a wrist band and a small gift there was nothing there for fans.

There were also lots of “Fan Pass” centers around the grounds which if you collected enough you got prizes.

If i had to grade the BJK NTC itself in terms of scheduling, crowd control, and amenities I have to give it a B.

I hope to be back next year to see the completed site.

© 2017 Savannah World All Rights Reserved