I Didn’t Go

by Savannah

Qualie’s Week at the US Open is usually a must do for me. There are new players to see and evaluate. Practice sessions to watch. New foods to sample. This year there was also a new layout to walk through with the best 1-2 deal in tennis now gone. The changes were brought about by the new roof which I’ve seen in passing several times now and seeing it in the more relaxed and family oriented atmosphere should’ve been a thing.

And yet I didn’t go.

I looked over the Qualie draw for both men and women and found myself saying more than once “who are these people”? I think I follow tennis pretty well and usually there are one or two juniors, maybe more, that catch my eye and who I’d like to see but this year I have to say there aren’t many who’ve caught my attention.

I thought that maybe it was my fault. Maybe my resistance to hype is too high and I’ve been ignoring some phenom that’s going to set the world on fire. But that doesn’t seem to have been the case. I didn’t see much commentary from the professionals on Twitter about match play the past four days. Most of the commentary came from fans who were getting a chance to see their faves up close and personal. The pictures they posted were a prominent feature of Tennis Twitter. And that was it.

There was no excuse for me not to go weather wise either. It was perfect weather for me. Warm and breezy is my perfect summer day but I opted to stay home. And that worries me.

I write a tennis blog. Can I call myself a professional not professional fan? I guess. Tennis occupies a lot of my time and has for many years but I find myself struggling with boredom these days. It reminds me of when I took a long break from tennis a few years ago. There was just nothing happening for me back then and I feel that situation coming on for me again.

Maybe it’s because I see no inspiring games, no legit stars on the horizon? For it’s US Open issue the New York Times chose to profile Nick Kyrgios on it’s cover. The article is written by someone I’ve never seen do tennis for the Times before and features a photo of Kyrgios with his chain in his mouth, edgy gelled up hair and the sneer that is required of all young men these days who want to be famous.

The WTA? They’re pushing (hoping) Angelique Kerber will find a way to get to the number one ranking. I think if she’d done it prior to the US Open she’d be the one with her face plastered all over tennis oriented media. Their former top pick Eugenie Bouchard is too focused on suing the USTA per the USTA and not on playing her best tennis in New York again per the USTA. Who else do they have? Oh yeah, Petra Kvitova who said she’s not the one for long practices and that an hour is enough for her to prepare for a match, confirming what those who know her best have always said about her – that she’s lazy. Losing badly to Agnieszka Radwanska just before the Open was really good prep Petra.

And who is the above mentioned USTA flogging? The obnoxious Harrison brothers. Sam Querrey. A jingoistic Steve Johnson who dared the USTA to give former champion Juan Martin del Potro because he could beat an American in an early round and that would piss off a lot of American players.

Madison Keys ? After Kerber took her apart at the Olympics? It’s not that she was taken apart it’s how Kerber dismantled her and the fact that Keys had no answer, could not adjust to what was being done to her. But yet I see some picking her to win it all in New York. Amazing. There is also the diminutive Lauren Davis and the rich bitches who seem to be doing as best they can within the USTA system. I will say that Louisa Chirico has shown signs of not being beholden to the US powers that be though. The others seem doomed to ball bashing mediocrity.

But tennis is tennis. Who would’ve thought Rio would be the greatest tournament of 2016? Maybe I’m wrong in being so pessimistic about the future of the sport. I hope I am. My daughter and I have Grounds Passes for Monday and Wednesday.

©2016 SavannahsWorld All Rights Reserved

It Was a Great Week For Tennis

by Savannah

For the most part. As a self confessed tennis nerd my view of things is going to be radically different from that of a casual viewer.

Sure the ITF created a schedule that no human could possibly play and the rain didn’t help..

Then there was the incredibly soft draw the eventual Gold Medal winner Andy Murray had to navigate.

Let’s not forget the incompetence of the lines people and the ball people (I can’t say ball kids because many of them were obviously adults)

The fact that no points were offered is something that was new in 2016. If the quality of tennis hadn’t been what it was I think that decision would be revisited for 2020. The men and women who showed up played at such a high level I don’t see why points would be offered going forward.

And that is what this post is about.

The Slams, Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory tournaments are supposed to be the pinnacle of tennis. The best in the world come to play and show off their best. Except that hasn’t happened much lately. When the top players are given cakewalk draws while their competition has to battle through tough draws you end up with predictable semi finals and finals that draw mostly yawns from fans. The semifinals and finals in Rio were interesting and dramatic although the drama came in an odd way for some.

People are always whining about the need to grow the sport while at the same time doing everything possible to ensure that doesn’t happen except within a very small demographic. During the Olympic women’s final I noticed people who never, ever mention tennis when it comes to sports were cheering for Mónica Puig. Did they totally understand what was happening? Maybe not but they were sure excited and I’m willing to bet they’ll be looking for her name going forward. I’ll get back to what Puig did on the tennis court shortly.

Chair umpires aren’t supposed to insert themselves into a match and for the most part they don’t. It’s ironic that Carlos Ramos and Carlos Bernardes found themselves in the middle of controversy. Ramos gave Andy Murray a code violation for words that, by Murray’s standards, were exceedingly mild. His rebuke didn’t affect the outcome of the match though.

Bernardes on the other hand should be called before whoever the powers that be are in officiating to explain why he did nothing about a twelve minute potty break that did affect the outcome of the match especially since he had chastised one of the participants in the match for taking too long earlier in the year. I’m sure we won’t know if he was or wasn’t but in reading a paragraph from the Rule Book it’s a monument to vagueness that leaves everything up to the discretion of the chair.

@VRCsports posted the relevant passage

cp2dba4wiaa1e0r

 

Like I said a monument to vagueness. I would like to know in what world a twelve minute break in tennis would be okay outside of major injury. <strong>Venus Williams</strong> was called out during these same Olympics for taking an eight minute break during her match but people backed off when it was revealed she was emptying the contents of her stomach during the break. No one knows why it took an in form athlete twelve minutes off court without a wardrobe change.  It saddens me to see Bernardes, who was one of the best for so long, seemingly unable to be fair to both players during a match.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the WTA. I’ve said it before and I’ll undoubtedly say it again; The WTA should know better than to plan a coronation before a tournament is completed. They’ve been doing it a lot lately especially with <strong> Serena Williams </a> about to cement her place in tennis history. According to the tennis press it was a foregone conclusion that <strong> Angelique Kerber </strong> would not only win the Gold Medal in Rio but that she would take the number one ranking from Serena Williams during the Western & Southern Open this week.

The US press was ready to anoint <strong> Madison Keys</strong> as the heir apparent to Serena in US tennis. She bashed her was to the semi finals in Rio and then a funny thing happened. The above mentioned Kerber forced Keys to have to play tennis. You know, the kind of play where you construct points and pay attention to what your opponent is doing, the kind of tennis Keys seems to be less and less able to play. When forced to have to play “real” tennis Keys falls apart mentally.

Ironically Kerber, who had beaten Keys so easily, was beaten in the Final by a woman who plays “real” tennis. Puig beat Kerber with patience and excellent court sense. She was very aware of what Kerber was trying to do and did her best to counter Kerber’s every move. Of course Puig was breathing rarefied air and faltered a time or two but in the end she won the game on the court and between the ears, something the young US trained players seem unable to do. It was a magnificent display from Puig and it’ll be interesting to see what she does at the US Open. No one in his or her right mind would predict her going as deep as she did in Rio but if she wants to be taken seriously going forward she should be aiming for the Round of 16. She showed how well she can play in Rio. Let’s see if she can be in or near the top 30 by the end of the year.

Despite the issues, despite the lack of points, the players who came to Rio showcased their love of the sport of tennis, a love that came through to anyone who took the time to watch.  Favorites won and favorites lost but at the end of the nine days I would rate the Olympic Tennis Event as the best tournament of the year. At times it was like a football (soccer) match and the fans didn’t all know tennis etiquette but that chaos enhanced the experience of this viewer. I miss it already.

 

 

The End Of Tennis? Really?

by Savannah

After coming fully awake part of my morning routine is going on Twitter to see what’s been going on while I was asleep. Lately it’s been a nerve-wracking exercise but I’m glad to say that today’s posts by some on Tennis Twitter were comic relief. The sad part is that one of the posts that made me literally laugh out loud and shake my head was by a tennis journalist who for the most part deserves to be called a journalist. I understand the constraints a paid professional faces in covering a particular beat but sometimes you have to wonder if these folks can look at themselves in the mirror.

Anyone who watches both tours knows that there are myths that have been created not only by fandoms (by their very nature fandoms deal in mythologizing their idol) but by professionals, men and women who are supposed to cast an unbiased eye on what is going on between the lines during a tennis match. A good commentator should be able to find a way to make not only the dyed in the wool fan interested in a match between two players they could care less about as well as pique the interest of a casual fan, someone who may remember the name of a player or see an interesting point and stick around for awhile. It’s not the job of a commentator to do what is now called “stanning”, to put all objectivity aside and root for a particular player. Using an American football analogy there can be all types of hype around a quarterback, a running back, or a wide receiver but in the end the GAME is what’s important so even with all the hype for a particular player or team the commentators do everything they can to make the fans interested in the how and why of what is going on on the field. If US football (or baseball) comms didn’t know everything about both teams on the field they’d be out of a job. Sadly those rules don’t apply in tennis.

Part of the pleasure of watching tennis is the sound of the sport. The ball hitting the racquet. The sound it makes when it hits the court (tennis played on the three major outdoor surfaces sounds different on each one), and the sound or lack of sound the player makes. It’s hard to watch with no sound because you miss so much nuance. But that is what I do 85% of the time when watching a broadcast especially if that broadcast originates in the States. We all know tennis is an individual sport but there can never be a match without two players. Unfortunately for many US or British comms there is often only one man or woman playing especially if that player has been hyped beyond all reason. Keep in mind it’s not a problem if a fandom does this. It’s a problem when the professionals do it.

So yes it was a surprise that Roger Federer is out for the year. It doesn’t mean men’s tennis is no longer watchable. It means that the ATP had best get to stepping and try and promote itself better than it’s had to recently. Men’s tennis has been blessed with two dominant players for over a decade and it’s faltering a bit because no matter how it tries the fandom for the now top ranked player is much, much smaller than the one for the Duopoly. You can say big three all you want. The Duopoly has sustained men’s tennis and made the people in charge of publicizing the sport very lazy. Yes you do need promotable players but as I’ve said many times over the years tennis fans are like cats. We can’t be herded in the direction someone in an office being paid by a player wants us to go in. The Duopoly developed on it’s own. Fans were drawn to one of the other. Some were drawn to both. But it remains true that where fans of either player will go is up in the air. Right now where they won’t go is clear.

You think I’m making this up? Let’s look at the criteria used by most sports organizations at the management level to determine who is the most popular. The following chart shows tennis players Twitter footprint.

aLYzxU2

Weird isn’t it? Yet the word is supposedly crashing down because one man has called it a year. Not a career, a year. Then the drug cheat was added into the “woe is me” dirge making it clear that this weeping and gnashing of teeth was agent driven. Attendance is going to plummet because these two players are out. To see professionals acting as if what the agents say is gospel and not reporting it in the more neutral “some are saying” is disheartening. There are stans who will say they can’t watch tennis ever again because their fave is out but were they ever really tennis fans? No true fan of the sport can ever say that. Tennis is an addiction, an itch that has to be scratched by watching it being played at the highest level possible. Will there be a transition? Of course there will be. It’s just not the end of the world as we know it.

There are reasons I haven’t gone the “celebrity blogger” route. By not doing that I’m able to write about and comment on things the way I want. As I’ve said before I understand the pressures commentators and journalists are under. All I ask is that everyone stop running in circles screaming “the sky is falling” like so many chicken little’s. The ATP has a lot of good young players coming up the rankings. Let’s honor what we’ve been so lucky to have while at the same time pointing out that there is so much good coming down the pipe.

NOTE: The chart comes via a fan posting as “Eric Wang” on a fan site.

©2016 SavannahsWorld All rights reserved except where noted.

 

 

This and That

by Savannah

It’s no secret Taylor Fritz is the current fair haired boy in US tennis circles. He’s tall, with dark good looks, rich and his mother once played at the pro level which automatically gives him an in. Being the chosen one he’s gotten every opportunity to hone his game and develop a following. You can tell by the reverent tones of the comms when talking about him he’s the person the US is tapping for future stardom.

Fritz is playing the CitiOpen in Washington, DC and is scheduled to face Alexander Zverev next round. The match will be a good barometer of where Fritz is at the moment. He won his first round match against Dudi Sela by playing the big points well. It’s a cliché statement but that is what happened. Zverev didn’t look good at all when I last saw him but I’m sure he’ll be up for this match.

Meanwhile Francis Tiafoe, another up and comer,seems to have developed his grown man’s body but he’s still playing Junior level tennis. To say his match against Adrian Mannarino of France was disappointing was an understatement. Tiafoe was up at least a break in both sets and yet managed to lose in straight sets. Every time Tiafoe got a lead he seemed to think his work was done and checked out of the match. Mental lapses like that and his inability to push through to close out sets/matches shows that he needs to play more tennis. He was in the Main Draw via a Wild Card. As someone said a Qualifying Wild Card would’ve been better for him. Of course it’s easy for me to say what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Without the total support of his Federation it would be hard for Tiafoe to travel and play events that would help his game mature. As I said above Taylor Fritz is inhaling all the air and there might not be enough left over for a promising player like Tiafoe. I don’t know. I do know that if Tiafoe isn’t able to lift the level of his play he’s going to join the scrap heap of US mens tennis.

A couple more things about the Citi Open. It seems the women are playing in the hottest part of the day while the men’s featured matches begin after 4p in the afternoon. Does the WTA have no clout at all? Ther were late night women’s matches yesterday because of the weather.

Venus Williams is playing Stanford along with some women who can also be placed in the generation next category.

I watched a match last night between newly minted pro Carol Zhao of Canada and Nicole Gibbs who is popular with the US tennis establishment. I think the phrase du jour is “dumpster fire” to describe a match like this one last night. Early in the first set Zhao had a point she’d set up nicely and came to the net after her shot. The entire court to the right was open. So of course she tried one of those thread the needle passing sots that are so beautiful when they work and horrible when they don’t. It didn’t and despite Gibbs less than stellar efforts it was clear that she would go on and win the match which she did. I know I’m hard on North American players but they lack the one thing European trained players have and that is court sense. They truly don’t know how to construct points (still) or think clearly and consistently on court. It seems adjusting their game if the other player is doing something that stops you from doing what you want doesn’t occur to them. Eugenie Bouchard  inexplicably lost a match to Camila Giorgi this afternoon mainly because she couldn’t adjust to Giorgi’s aggression. It’s really weird to see and makes you wonder if instead of older coaches working with players who have already made names for themselves they’d work with up and coming US/Canadian players. Something is wrong with the level of coaching they’re getting now and no one seems to have a clue what to do about it.

Accountability and Tennis Media

The match presser after a loss has to be one of the worst experiences ever. How would you feel if you were Eugenie Bouchard and someone asked you this question:

“Are you surprised Vika is pregnant? And are you surprised she found someone to be pregnant with?” Actual question to Genie Bouchard in D.C.

Tumaini Carayol posted the question on Twitter without identifying who asked it. The question is insulting on so many levels in my very humble opinion the person who asked the question should be made known. No one ever asked a male player how they managed to romance a woman who looks like a model. Fans may have snarked about how a particular player pulled a particular woman but no one has ever been asked a question with all the assumptions underlying the question about Ms Azarenka.

Tennis is the only sport where there are either no transcripts or transcripts omit the name of the journalist asking the question. Yet tennis wants to be taken seriously. As I type this the “journalist” has not been identified.

©SavannahsTennis 2016 All Rights Reserved

A Look Back and A Glance Forward

by Savannah

A Look Back

Serena Williams won the Ladies crown at Wimbledon. Andy Murray won the gentlemen’s title. One was never in doubt. One was expected but not a sure thing. It wasn’t until after the dust settled that we found out that Serena and her sister Venus Williams were playing through pain and with added determination.

Lakeisha Williams, their father’s wife, announced to the press that her husband had suffered a stroke while his famous daughters were in London. She made it clear that he wanted to be home and that while he had some issues including memory problems he was determined to live as if he were fine and that nothing serious had happened.

Keep in mind it was Lakeisha, not either of his tennis champion daughters, who made the announcement. Left to their own devices the public wouldn’t know Mr. Williams, arguably the best tennis coach of the modern era, had fallen ill. The closest Serena came to saying anything was a Snapchat showing her and chip sitting with her father.

If it had been publicly known that Mr. Williams was ill the women’s title would’ve never been in doubt. Serena dressed and played like the champion she is playing glorious tennis from beginning to end.

 photo 22d24da1-5efb-422f-8803-23eab936753c_zps44kdd4qd.jpg

It’s rare to see someone play with little to no physical let down during a Slam, especially when playing both singles and doubles. There were some sketchy moments during doubles – don’t get me wrong – but watching it was clear the sisters were on a mission, Serena saying at one point that she wanted to win the (doubles) title for Venus.

It seems both women went directly from London to their father. I wish them and their family the best and respect the privacy they’ve always surrounded themselves with.

 photo CnBDPzfWIAAx35i_zpsjwgnxoor.jpg

The winner of the men’s crown was never in doubt especially after the ATP #1 crashed and burned early despite the soft draw he was given. The second softest draw was given to Andy Murray and beating himself would be the only way he was going to lose. He didn’t. The only drama would’ve been if somehow Roger Federer was on his side of the draw and he wasn’t. The US/Canada hype machine wants Milos Raonic to happen but right now he’s not an elite player. He’s not just a serve bot anymore but he’s not a good mover either and he’s not very creative on the court. Can he be? Maybe. He’ll never be as mobile as Alexander Zverev and that could stop he from being truly elite.

It’s for those reasons I didn’t think Murray would lose the final no matter who was coaching him from the booth or court side. In fact one can argue if Murray himself is an elite player or if he would be considered one if he wasn’t a Brit.

Still the Wimbledon 2016 Gentleman’s Final is the first major final I’ve watched in a long time. It was okay. It wasn’t great tennis but Murray didn’t need to be great he just needed to be very good. And he was

A Glance Forward

So where is tennis now? Are there rising stars on both tours?

There is a lot of hype around Dominic Thiem right now. He’s young, photogenic and plays within the parameters that many in the tennis hierarchy find acceptable. I find him incredibly dull but that’s me. I guess I’m missing something especially since when I saw him at the US Open last year he was even duller. I guess that’s an improvement but I don’t think he’s going to set the world on fire although he may play often enough to get close to number one.

Alexander Zverev is also on a lot of people’s radar now. Readers will know that I picked him as one to watch last year. As I mentioned above he’s got movement most big men envy and he’s developed not only court smarts but the ability to innovate that by the numbers players never develop. He’s gotten better if not total control over his emotions on court and that can only be a plus.

Borna Coric seems to be running in place at the moment. To say he’s been unimpressive the last few times I’ve seen him is putting it mildly. He doesn’t seem to have moved his game up a level and at the moment doesn’t seem to know how to. I never advocate coaching changes but it may be time for him to think outside the box and look for another individual who will provide new eyes and thinking for him.

Grigor Dimitrov has become a cautionary tale. If anyone was badly affected by hype it’s him. In my opinion all the “Baby Fed” blather has hindered his development and he’s boxed into a corner that he has no idea how to get out of at the moment. Should he get new a new coaching team? Maybe? I think that he needs to rethink his entire approach to the game and where he fits in as Grigor Dimitrov not as a newer version of Federer.

As for the WTA there is Serena Williams and the rest of ’em. To look at the WTA you have to look below the the top ranked player because as was said during the Ladies Final Serena at her best beats everyone else at their best.

There was a lot of cheering for Angelique Kerber to repeat her Australian Open feat but as we now know Serena was not having it. The last time I saw Kerber live was during a practice session two years ago at the US Open (Qualie Week y’all! It’s FREE!!!) I didn’t like this hitch she had in her serve and to be honest I haven’t paid enough attention to her to see if it’s still there. Also being honest she’s been quiet since the Australian Open.

Agnieszka Radwanska has made no secret that she not only wants but feels she should be number one in the world. She’s dropped to Number Four behind Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza but there point difference between the three of them is small. Aga needs a draw heavy on wannabe’s to go deep in a tournament. The more experienced players know all about her tricks and how to frustrate her. That doesn’t stop her from trying though and while her matches have featured more offense from her side of the net she still doesn’t have the stamina to get through a long physically demanding match. We all know what she and her coach have said about that. It’s their choice and it will continue to be an issue for her.

Muguruza is a different story. She already thinks she’s an elite player and acts accordingly. The thing is she’s come very close (Roland Garros 2016 champion) but hasn’t grabbed the brass ring yet. In terms of marketing she’s attractive, her name is fun and catchy enough to make a casual fan stop and ask themselves who this woman with the odd name is. But thinking you’re the shit and being the shit are two different things. Being publicly nasty to your coach (thank you WTA for micing on court visits) and as I said carrying yourself as if you’re the top of the heap doesn’t make you the one. Despite what she thinks she’s not that mentally strong. She can look awesome in a given situation but as we saw during Wimbledon Bad Garbiñe is still lurking inside of her. Every player has a “Bad” side. Some know how to work themselves out of her grip and others can’t. (this applies to the men too).
I need to see more consistency, more fight not only at majors but at the titles you think don’t mean much. A win is a win. Winning makes you stronger and the more of it you do the better you play.

Then there are Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova.

I watched a Simona Halep practice session last year and came away thinking that Halep is allergic to the net. Coach Darren Cahill tried to work in about five mintues of net play and to say it was disastrous is putting it mildly. You could see that Halep couldn’t wait to get back to the baseline. But today she bagelled her opponent in Bucharest Anastasija Sevastova who was seeded seventh there. I don’t think there’s any secret about why she’s able to play so well in Romania and meh everywhere else. She’s comfortable at home. She’s never made a secret of that. I get the feeling if it was left to her she’d never leave her country. I don’t think there’s much any coach can do about that. She also has a problem with stamina especially in the heat.

Petra? Or “P3tra” as some of her fans call her? I don’t think she gives a shit. I really don’t. She plays well when she wants to and if she doesn’t so what? I really feel sorry for her fans because I think under the veneer of looking fit she’s really not. The gut is gone but the wandering brain isn’t. We all know she can but doesn’t so the only thing this observer can conclude is that she doesn’t care. Shame.

Wedding Season

Congratulations to Ana Ivanovic and Bastian Schweinsteiger on their wedding.
Congratulations to Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini on their wedding.
Congratulations to Tsvetana Pironkova and former soccer player Mihail Mirchev. PIronkova looked beautiful.

 photo 43986d7b-7cac-4088-8054-6c2af2ff8d68_zpsutbqymb3.jpg
via podtepeto.bg

End Notes

It’s amazing how ignorant of female anatomy some tennis fans are. When Victoria Azarenka announced her pregnancy and that she would be giving birth the end of the year (no month given) there was a lot of talk of an unplanned pregnancy. In the 21st century? Really people? I guess it never occurred to these folks that what was announced as injury could’ve been precautionary due to the early weeks of her pregnancy. As it is it seems she played pregnant if the due date is sometime around December as has been speculated.
The person who loses the most in the scenario is Sascha Bajin who left his previous employer because of the chance he could become a coach and not just a hitting partner. He gambled and lost. I’m sure he’ll find employment somewhere.

A lot of the folks whining about how Azarenka’s pregnancy wreaks havoc with the WTA top ten comes from those who want someone, anyone, to dethrone Serena.

Congratulations to Victoria. I wish her a healthy pregnancy and safe birth.

The summer US hard court season is underway with several big tournaments leading up to the US Open. There’s also a little competition known as the Olympics coming in the middle of what is called the US Open Series. Many mid level players have opted out of the Olympics citing health concerns that have mainly to do with the fact the Olympics isn’t offering points. Fans have pointed out that some of the players who are terrified of an insect born disease in the middle of what is winter in South America played there in the summer (February).
Still, it’s their right to decide what’s best for them and their careers and I don’t think anyone has the right to criticize them. Will there be surprise winners at the Open? I think there will be surprise winners in Canada and Cincy. Everyone should be rested up for the US Open.

©2016 SavannahsWorld All rights reserved except where indicated

The Championships 2016

by Savannah

The Yawn, I mean Lawn Tennis season such as it is is drawing to a close. The Championships- Wimbledon begin on Monday June 27. The draws have been released and those who play suicide pools and racquet brackets have made their choices. So it’s okay to look at the draws from a slightly different perspective.

The draw for any tennis tournament is predictive. It tells you that based on prior performance the players are ranked in terms of how they should perform at the event. It’s a simplistic view but that is what a draw is. The implications of a draw are something else again. Bottom line it’s a snapshot not only of where players are at a fixed point in time but also their value to their respective tour(s). Your top player is your most valuable player, the face of your sport. He or she is the person who comes to mind when fans, casual or obsessed, think of the sport. Ironically for both current number one’s, for different reasons, are problematic for their tours.

Now that the woman who has been the face of the tour for several years is suspended for doping you can almost see the flailing in the executive suite trying to find a new face, someone who it can sell to sponsors as the embodiment of women’s tennis. Stung by the all blond all the time critique from many fans it seems as if Garbiñe Muguruza is leading the pack.The woman who was leading for “next” is suing the WTA and has not been playing well at all. Not much has been said about the suit by tennis journalists (of course I could’ve missed it)since when I see some journalists handles on Twitter I relexively move on, but it’s hard to push someone to the front of the line who hasn’t even bothered to hide her sense of entitlement from fans.

Not that Muguruza is any better. She does seem to have become adept at hiding behind a smiling girly public persona and is now being talked about as the next WTA #1 by none other than Chris Evert. By next year her former coaches comments about her ego will only be mentioned in the context of sour grapes from a man who was shoved aside as a player made moves to get the best coaching available.

So what’s the matter with the current WTA #1? She has dominated the tour, is the top earning female athlete on the planet, has been a great ambassador for her sport, and aside from one outburst that caused a lot of folks to over react has maintained an excellent public persona. But “she doesn’t look like a tennis player”. What does that mean? It means she’s not lithe, rail thin, white and blonde so for some that means she can never be the official face of tennis. I think in the face of current politics both in Europe and the United States it’s necessary to speak clearly. Even if she makes history there will always be a mental asterisk next to her name for some. That tennis is willing to help promote a woman who doped for ten years tells you how much the image of a female tennis player is based on nothing more complex than race.

Having said all that let’s look at the WTA draw.

WILLIAMS, Serena USA [1] vs SADIKOVIC, Amra SUI (Q)
MCHALE, Christina USA vs HANTUCHOVA, Daniela SVK (W)
WATSON, Heather GBR vs BECK, Annika GER
SASNOVICH, Aliaksandra BLR vs MLADENOVIC, Kristina FRA [31]

STEPHENS, Sloane USA [18] vs PENG, Shuai CHN
MINELLA, Mandy LUX (Q) vs TATISHVILI, Anna USA
MOORE, Tara GBR (W) vs VAN UYTVANCK, Alison BEL
WOZNIACKI, Caroline DEN vs KUZNETSOVA, Svetlana RUS [13]

BACSINSZKY, Timea SUI [11] vs KUMKHUM, Luksika THA (Q)
NICULESCU, Monica ROU vs KRUNIC, Aleksandra SRB (Q)
PUTINTSEVA, Yulia KAZ vs MELNIKOVA, Marina RUS (W)
HSIEH, Su-Wei TPE vs PAVLYUCHENKOVA, Anastasia RUS [21]

VANDEWEGHE, Coco USA [27] vs BONDARENKO, Kateryna UKR
SWAN, Katie GBR (W) vs BABOS, Timea HUN
PLISKOVA, Kristyna CZE vs DUAN, Ying-Ying CHN (L)
RISKE, Alison USA vs VINCI, Roberta ITA [6]

RADWANSKA, Agnieszka POL [3] vs KOZLOVA, Kateryna UKR
KNAPP, Karin ITA vs KONJUH, Ana CRO
PARMENTIER, Pauline FRA vs SINIAKOVA, Katerina CZE
BUYUKAKCAY, Cagla TUR vs GARCIA, Caroline FRA [30]

CIBULKOVA, Dominika SVK [19] vs LUCIC-BARONI, Mirjana CRO
GAVRILOVA, Daria AUS vs WANG, Qiang CHN
BOUCHARD, Eugenie CAN vs RYBARIKOVA, Magdalena SVK
PUIG, Monica PUR vs KONTA, Johanna GBR [16]

KVITOVA, Petra CZE [10] vs CIRSTEA, Sorana ROU
MAKAROVA, Ekaterina RUS vs LARSSON, Johanna SWE
RODINA, Evgeniya RUS (W) vs TSURENKO, Lesia UKR
KONTAVEIT, Anett EST vs STRYCOVA, Barbora CZE [24]

PETKOVIC, Andrea GER [32] vs HIBINO, Nao JPN
VESNINA, Elena RUS vs PASZEK, Tamira AUT (Q)
BOSERUP, Julia USA (Q) vs MARIA, Tatjana GER (Q)
PIRONKOVA, Tsvetana BUL vs BENCIC, Belinda SUI [7]

To get through to the quarters Serena will potentially face several players who have given her trouble either recently or in the past. Those who have not troubled her in the past(Watson, McHale, Mladenovic) are very thirsty (Beck, Sasnovich). Hantuchova is the odd one out here (her head to head with Serena is 9-1 in Serena’s favor).

Sloane Stephens (Did she play a warm up event? I don’t think so) got a walking Bye facing Peng Shuai in her first round match. Peng is coming bac from injury and while she played a warm up looked rusty. Still the H2H between the two is 2-1 in Peng’s favor.

Wozniacki vs Kuznetova is potentially a good match. The head to head is close (6-5 in Woz’s favor) and both have a lot to prove. Sveta, when she wants to play, is dangerous and has the potential to go deep in the draw. Woz just hasn’t looked ready to me. She’s coming off of injury too and Sveta can either romp or limp off the court.

Bacsinszky runs hot and cold to me. She faces another walking Bye first round in Kumkhun. In fact on paper there is no one in her section that can pose a problem for her until she meets Pavs, who is having a lackluster year.

Coco Vandeweghe has been the big story for US tennis this spring/summer. She’s only shown her butt once during grass court season which is a miracle for her. Timea Babos will be a tough out for her and if she passes that test she could face Roberta Vinci, another tough out.

Aga Radwanska’s section should see her facing either Garcia or Buyukakcay. Should she make it through? Some will say yes. She can beat everyone in that section but someone can also push her hard.

Continuing with the bottom half of the top half of the draw there is Johanna Konta’s section with Domi Cibulkova as the other seed. Bouchard, Gavrilova (I’m not impressed) and Puig (I could be impressed) are in that part of the draw with Lucic-Baroni having the potential to wreak some havoc if she’s focused and keeps her wits about her. Cibulkova just won Eastbourne so her performance will depend on when she has to play.

Will Kvitova face her countrywoman Strycova? Petra has to win her matches in two sets. She’s looked worn out when a match has gone three. Tsurenko and Makarova are the women who could crash the party.

In the Petko/Bencic section anyone can win. Bencic has been struggling with injury and Petkovic just doesn’t seem ready to me. That’s the only section I’d call a toss up from the top half.

HALEP, Simona ROU [5] vs SCHMIEDLOVA, Anna Karolina SVK
SEVASTOVA, Anastasija LAT vs SCHIAVONE, Francesca ITA
KOVINIC, Danka MNE vs BARTHEL, Mona GER
OSTAPENKO, Jelena LAT vs BERTENS, Kiki NED [26]

ERRANI, Sara ITA [20] vs TIG, Patricia Maria ROU
CORNET, Alize FRA vs HERCOG, Polona SLO
GIBBS, Nicole USA vs FLIPKENS, Kirsten BEL
SIEGEMUND, Laura GER vs KEYS, Madison USA [9]

PLISKOVA, Karolina CZE [15] vs WICKMAYER, Yanina BEL
DOI, Misaki JPN vs CHIRICO, Louisa USA
DIYAS, Zarina KAZ vs FRIEDSAM, Anna-Lena GER
ALEXANDROVA, Ekaterina RUS (Q) vs IVANOVIC, Ana SRB [23]

BEGU, Irina-Camelia ROU [25] vs WITTHOEFT, Carina GER
NARA, Kurumi JPN vs BRENGLE, Madison USA
PEREIRA, Teliana BRA vs LEPCHENKO, Varvara USA
ROBSON, Laura GBR (W) vs KERBER, Angelique GER [4]

WILLIAMS, Venus USA [8] vs VEKIC, Donna CRO
ZHENG, Saisai CHN vs SAKKARI, Maria GRE (Q)
ARRUABARRENA, Lara ESP vs GOVORTSOVA, Olga BLR
DUVAL, Victoria USA vs KASATKINA, Daria RUS [29]

JANKOVIC, Jelena SRB [22] vs VOEGELE, Stefanie SUI
FALCONI, Irina USA vs ERAKOVIC, Marina NZL (Q)
GASPARYAN, Margarita RUS vs ALLERTOVA, Denisa CZE
ZHANG, Shuai CHN vs SUAREZ NAVARRO, Carla ESP [12]

STOSUR, Samantha AUS [14] vs LINETTE, Magda POL
LISICKI, Sabine GER vs ROGERS, Shelby USA
SHVEDOVA, Yaroslava KAZ vs GOERGES, Julia GER
BROADY, Naomi GBR vs SVITOLINA, Elina UKR [17]

SAFAROVA, Lucie CZE [28] vs MATTEK-SANDS, Bethanie USA
CRAWFORD, Samantha USA vs KANIA, Paula POL (Q)
CEPELOVA, Jana SVK (Q) vs DUQUE-MARINO, Mariana COL
GIORGI, Camila ITA vs MUGURUZA, Garbine ESP [2]

Halep. Bertens. Barthel(?) AKS was looked at as being one of the next big things but has played like anything but recently. Ostapenko vs Bertens should be a barn burner. Bertens just won a title and Ostapenko, no matter how you feel about her, has shown she can if she wants to and stays focused. Halep should have to face either her or Bertens to make it out of that section but Halep isn’t a sure thing anymore.

I’m looking forward to Keys vs Siegemund. We know the potential Keys has. We also know that if her opponent oesn’t let her do what she wants she falls apart. Siegemund will not let her have her way without a fight.

Angelique Kerber should have no problems making it out of her section.

I always want Venus to do well but she’s not a sure thing anymore. On paper Vekic has nothing to beat her with but Venus health trumps everything else. A loss to Vekic would be devastating but any and everything is in the realm of possibility.

I’d really like to see Duval get a first round win but Kasatkina is a tough out.

JJ/CSN section = tossup

Stosur/Svitolina? Shelby Rogers?

And finally Mugu’s section. She should win her first round and romp over anyone else. If Venus loses early there is no one who can stop her getting to the quarters. If she makes another final here the PR machine will go into overdrive.

I didn’t forget the ATP draw.

DJOKOVIC, Novak SRB [1] vs WARD, James GBR (W)
EDMUND, Kyle GBR vs MANNARINO, Adrian FRA
BELLUCCI, Thomaz BRA vs BEMELMANS, Ruben BEL (Q)
ROSOL, Lukas CZE vs QUERREY, Sam USA [28]

KOHLSCHREIBER, Philipp GER [21] vs HERBERT, Pierre-Hugues FRA
DZUMHUR, Damir BIH vs KUDLA, Denis USA
KLEIN, Brydan GBR (W) vs MAHUT, Nicolas FRA
SELA, Dudi ISR vs FERRER, David ESP [13]

GOFFIN, David BEL [11] vs WARD, Alexander GBR (W)
ROGER-VASSELIN, Edouard FRA (Q) vs GABASHVILI, Teymuraz RUS
ALMAGRO, Nicolas ESP vs DUTRA SILVA, Rogerio BRA
ISTOMIN, Denis UZB vs ANDERSON, Kevin RSA [20]

SOCK, Jack USA [27] vs GULBIS, Ernests LAT
SCHWARTZMAN, Diego ARG vs HAASE, Robin NED
SEPPI, Andreas ITA vs GARCIA-LOPEZ, Guillermo ESP
CARRENO BUSTA, Pablo ESP vs RAONIC, Milos CAN [6]

FEDERER, Roger SUI [3] vs PELLA, Guido ARG
BERANKIS, Ricardas LTU vs WILLIS, Marcus GBR (Q)
EVANS, Daniel GBR vs STRUFF, Jan-Lennard GER
DONSKOY, Evgeny RUS vs DOLGOPOLOV, Alexandr UKR [30]

MONFILS, Gael FRA [17] vs CHARDY, Jeremy FRA
JAZIRI, Malek TUN vs JOHNSON, Steve USA
FRATANGELO, Bjorn USA (Q) vs DIMITROV, Grigor BUL
TIPSAREVIC, Janko SRB vs SIMON, Gilles FRA [16]

CILIC, Marin CRO [9] vs BAKER, Brian USA
STAKHOVSKY, Sergiy UKR vs NISHIOKA, Yoshihito JPN (Q)
LORENZI, Paolo ITA vs LACKO, Lukas SVK (Q)
CORIC, Borna CRO vs KARLOVIC, Ivo CRO [23]

CUEVAS, Pablo URU [29] vs KUZNETSOV, Andrey RUS
GIRALDO, Santiago COL vs MULLER, Gilles LUX
BENNETEAU, Julien FRA vs MARCHENKO, Illya UKR
GROTH, Sam AUS vs NISHIKORI, Kei JPN [5]

Bottom Half

THIEM, Dominic AUT [8] vs MAYER, Florian GER
VESELY, Jiri CZE vs SIJSLING, Igor NED (Q)
SAVILLE, Luke AUS (Q) vs NOVIKOV, Dennis USA (Q)
TURSUNOV, Dmitry RUS vs SOUSA, Joao POR [31]

ZVEREV, Alexander GER [24] vs MATHIEU, Paul-Henri FRA
ZEBALLOS, Horacio ARG vs YOUZHNY, Mikhail RUS
BECKER, Benjamin GER vs BAGNIS, Facundo ARG
DODIG, Ivan CRO vs BERDYCH, Tomas CZE [10]

BAUTISTA AGUT, Roberto ESP [14] vs THOMPSON, Jordan AUS
KUKUSHKIN, Mikhail KAZ vs KLIZAN, Martin SVK
ELIAS, Gastao POR vs ALBOT, Radu MDA (Q)
VERDASCO, Fernando ESP vs TOMIC, Bernard AUS [19]

POUILLE, Lucas FRA [32] vs COPIL, Marius ROU (Q)
YOUNG, Donald USA vs MAYER, Leonardo ARG
ROBERT, Stephane FRA vs DEL POTRO, Juan Martin ARG
FRITZ, Taylor USA vs WAWRINKA, Stan SUI [4]

GASQUET, Richard FRA [7] vs BEDENE, Aljaz GBR
GRANOLLERS, Marcel ESP vs ESTRELLA BURGOS, Victor DOM
POSPISIL, Vasek CAN vs RAMOS-VINOLAS, Albert ESP
LAMASINE, Tristan FRA (Q) vs TROICKI, Viktor SRB [25]

ISNER, John USA [18] vs BAGHDATIS, Marcos CYP
OLIVETTI, Albano FRA (Q) vs BARTON, Matthew AUS (Q)
DANIEL, Taro JPN vs MONACO, Juan ARG
CERVANTES, Inigo ESP vs TSONGA, Jo-Wilfried FRA [12]

KYRGIOS, Nick AUS [15] vs STEPANEK, Radek CZE (W)
LAJOVIC, Dusan SRB vs BROWN, Dustin GER (W)
DELBONIS, Federico ARG vs FOGNINI, Fabio ITA
RAM, Rajeev USA vs LOPEZ, Feliciano ESP [22]

PAIRE, Benoit FRA [26] vs SKUGOR, Franko CRO (Q)
MILLMAN, John AUS vs MONTANES, Albert ESP
LU, Yen-Hsun TPE vs KUDRYAVTSEV, Alexander RUS (Q)
BROADY, Liam GBR (W) vs MURRAY, Andy GBR [2]

The top half of the draw, while not as ridiculous as the Roland Garros draw, is still set up for one result. There are some interesting players in the bottom half of the draw though.

Thiem. Alexander Zverev. RBA. All of these players are in the top part of the bottom half of the draw. So are Berdych and Wawrinka. The bottom part of the bottom half with one exception is pretty soft. Will Murray have to play Kyrgios? We’ll see. Those pics of Kyrgios drinking out of a hip flask don’t instill confidence.

Still this is Wimbledon. The US and English tennis journalists make this, along with the US Open, and a lesser extent Melbourne their raison d’être so every result will be looked at as oracle’s of the future. The US will be looking for decent results from Sock (vs Gulbis first round), Fritz (vs Wawrinka first round), and Isner (vs Baghdatis first round).

Sadly, or some would say purposely, Roger Federer, who is more of a danger to Murray than he is to Djokovic, is in the bottom half of the top half of the draw. The other seed in his section is Dolgopolov. Federer usually gets a cake walk to the quarters but once out of his section there are some men who could potentially do some harm if they weren’t coming off of injury.

The men’s draw is set up for one specific purpose and unless something drastic happens there’s no reason the people who set up the draw not to get what they want.

©SavannahsTennis 2016 All Rights Reserved

Milestones

by Savannah

Two years ago I started choosing two up and coming players, one male, one female, to look out for. The first two players were Madison Keys and Alexander Zverev.  Today both of them achieved milestones in their careers and I’m happy to say I picked both of them as potential stars.

Sky Sports photo e2e14eab-2553-4748-be85-f1e8afb34d15_zpssrlhbvoe.jpg
Sky Sports

Two years ago Sascha Zverev was a gangly seventeen year old whose arms and legs seemed to have minds of their own. I had the opportunity to see him live at the US Open and was impressed with his fight as well as his movement. His court sense was that of a seventeen year old – a very talented but raw seventeen year old. He was a far cry from the player I saw today who was able to hold onto his emotions – he is still an emotional player – and keep his focus on the man across the net from him –Roger Federer. Zverev was not intimidated and was able to win a tough first set tiebreak, drop an equally tight second set and come back to win rather easily 6-3 in the third.

Zverev is not only working hard on court. He is visibly bigger than he was two years ago. His quads, while not Berdychian are much stronger. When he goes after a shot out wide he is much more physically co-ordinated; the awkwardness is just about gone.

Watching him today I thought to myself how dangerous he’s going to be when he really gets himself together. I also thanked the powers above that Zverev was trained in Europe and that the USTA didn’t get its hands on him. He is tall and I’m sure they would’ve turned him into a servebot. Instead tennis is going to have a big, mobile player who can construct a point and stay in a rally. And yes he has a good serve. Some will not know how to handle that.

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe photo b4f04fb5-c49c-4458-9de7-c8f9f95d7087_zpsumcibtuf.jpg
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe

As of Monday Madison Keys will join Venus Williams and Serena Williams in the WTA top ten, debuting at the number ten slot, the first American woman to debut in the top ten for many years. I just wish I could be happier about her ascension.

To say Keys in inconsistent is putting it mildly. A lot of her inconsistency has been blamed on nagging injuries. A lot of it has, in my opinion, been based on an inflated view of herself and a revolving door of coaches. I’m not even sure who her coach is now and don’t want to look it up because I’m willing to bet that she’ll be getting rid of him shortly.

From what I’ve seen of her this week Keys has been serving well and played with confidence. Most US trained players play better on grass because they’re trained to think that outside of a hard court grass best suits their game. Madison has also won a pre Wimbledon warmup before, (Eastbourne 2014) something that would surely have added to her confidence. She also made the semi finals at Rome on European red clay.

So why am I lukewarm to her? I don’t see that she’s progressed in her approach tennis. Her game is the same as it was two years ago. Her win at Birmingham against Carla Suarez-Navarro shouldn’t have been a big deal. CSN won a set off her her before she woke up and realized she could handle her opponent’s game. Like Zverev Keys is an emotional player. When her ball bashing first strike approach to tennis doesn’t work she loses it. Zverev seems to be working on keeping himself in check during the big points of a match. I’ve yet to see Madison play under pressure and not need to have her hand held to try and get herself together.

Still congratulations tare due o both Sascha and Maddy. Here’s hoping the best is yet to come.

©SavannahsWorld 2016 All Rights Reserved