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

This and That

by Savannah

It’s been quite some time since I’ve used up cyber ink to post about tennis. A lot has happened hasn’t it? Where to start? How about with some positives.

A couple of years ago I chose a then virtually unknown teenager named Alexander Zverev as my one to watch. As I write this he’s made his first ATP M1000 final defeating John Isner in three sets. It should’ve been over in two sets but for a bit of a walkabout by Sascha in the second set but there’s no need to quibble. Of course now everyone and their brother is on the Zverev bandwagon and it feels good to say I was one of the first to see his potential. His emotions are under much tighter control now but those diva-ish moments still happen.

Venus Williams is still striding her way through women’s tennis head high and ruining peoples days. She doesn’t win everything anymore but she goes deep enough in tournaments to keep her ranking in the top ten. Good for her.

Speaking of Venus someone asked why Tommy Haas is still playing at his age. I answered this way. Both Haas (never been a fan) and Venus could be thinking the best years of their tennis lives were disrupted by injury and illness. Now that they’re as healthy and fit as they can be they want to do what they love and that is play tennis. Why not? Tennis journalists were praising Andre Agassi to the heavens if I recall correctly. Martina Navratilova played until she couldn’t anymore. There’s precedent for this. If an older player manages their schedule and adjusts their training and diet to keep them in peak form I say let them play.

While senior players are looking after themselves and enjoying their wins it seems the Brits are in a spot of bother about their stars. When I say that of course I’m talking about Andrew Murray who, after losses on his least favorite surface said he felt maybe he should be worried. It’s not that he was losing he was losing early. Murray just turned 30 and is now at the age where back in the day tennis players would be looking for something else to do. That said, I think the Brits need to calm down. Murray’s style of play is, at least in my opinion, an acquired taste. When he’s on he’s on. When he’s not, he’s just not. They’re also trying to downplay that he had shingles, a very painful skin condition and one that takes a while to recover from. I guess they’re freaking out because after Murray there really isn’t anyone. Yes they’re pushing Kyle Edmund and legend in his own mind Dan Evans but really Edmund, if he can find a way to beat his contemporaries on a regular basis, could become top twenty it looks like that possibility is still in the realm of wishful thinking.

As for the British women who is there besides Johanna Konta? It looks as if Laura Robson, once the fair haired girl (and like Konta also an Aussie import) won’t be more than an ITF player. Heather Watson? Again nothing has changed. When she reaches the business end of a shot, let alone a match, her decision making makes you wonder where her brain is. Every now and then she stirs herself to get a good result but for the most part it’s second, maybe third round, and out.

Meanwhile in the US we’re not much better off than the Brits. At least their man is ranked number 1. Diminutive Lauren Davis has been our most consistent player. I don’t see Madison Keys winning a major although with the right draw she could come close. Catherine Bellis, Louisa Chirico, Taylor Fritz, and Reilly Opelka are the ones getting all the hype from the USTA but it was Frances Tiafoe who got a win over Jeremy Chardy and young Ernesto Escobedo who are out there doing the hard work. As always with US tennis it comes down to expectations based on who you are vs talent no matter who you are. That’s why Naomi Osaka is playing for Japan and not the United States. The USTA didn’t want her. The Japanese federation jumped right in and the rest is history. Unfortunately Tiafoe, whose family is from Sierra Leone, and Escobedo, whose family comes from Mexico, have not other rich Federation ready to come in and throw money at them. Both young men are American by birth so it’s the USTA they have to deal with.

I mentioned the ATP top player so it’s only fair to mention the WTA’s top ranked player, Angelique Kerber. She’s not having fun this year at all. She’s ranked number one because Serena Williams is expecting her first child in late summer. Keep in mind the WTA rushed out PR touting her attaining the top ranking before the new rankings were official at the end of last year. There was all kinds of talk from tennis journalists about how she would dominate. Welp. Once again we see it’s easier being the hunter than the hunted. She may fluke her way to another Slam but right now it looks as if she’s running scared. Waiting in the wings is Karolina Pliskova. Her game is still what it has been, one dimensional and if you make her have to move and bend you’ve got a good chance of beating her. But if things continue as they are she could be the next number one player.

If you think I’m talking about everything but the one topic that is dominating the tennis world I am. There isn’t much to say on the subject. I’ve felt from the beginning that the ITF recommendation of a four year ban was the right way to go. The two year ban, while a slap on the wrist in my opinion, was a good compromise. When the CAS threw out the ITF report and decided, based on nothing but PR, that the suspension should be reduced there was nothing to do but throw up your hands.

What’s even worse is that the WTA has pulled out all the stops to try and make it seem everyone, her peers and the press, thought she’d be done wrong and that the doping ban was equivalent to an injury or pregnancy break. It’s not. Thankfully the French Tennis Federation threw a huge bucket of cold water on those who, in my opinion, were leading the charge to destroy women’s tennis with their shenanigans. No Main Draw Wild Cards for dopers. End of story. To avoid a second embarrassment she and her team rightly decided that they would accept what they’ve got and play Qualies at Wimbledon.

Steve Simon, the hapless head of the WTA, has put a lot of effort into trying to rehabilitate a doper. Meanwhile it’s almost impossible to see a women’s tennis match and it doesn’t seem that anything is happening on that front. In the final analysis tennis fanatics are tennis fanatics. If they can’t see the version they love they’ll look at what is available. By the time the WTA get’s it’s thumb out of it’s ass they will have lost many fans to men’s tennis which is easy to see on many platforms.

So many have worked so hard to promote women’s tennis as a sport not a side show. It hurts to see it reduced to its current state. Yes I’ve said this before and I have to keep saying it. I don’t get paid to write this blog so I’m beholden to no one but myself. If Steve Simon is representative of the upper echelon of US tennis no wonder the USTA is in the state it’s in. Maybe if they stopped giving each other awards and focused on marketing the sport and developing talent no matter where it comes from maybe, just maybe, a US player can hold up a trophy from a major tournament.

End Note

Roland Garros. While the clay season continues in Europe and South America this tournament is the official end of the clay court season for much of the main tour. As usual I’m sad to see it come to an end. From the start of the Golden Swing to the last match in Paris I feel you see tennis at its best. The physical and the mental, combined with creativity, all come into play during a clay court match in the way it doesn’t on other surfaces. Each shot is a question or an answer. The ante is raised during each rally until someone makes a declarative statement meant to close out the discussion. It’s beautiful to watch.

© Savannahs World 2017 All Rights Reserved

The Anna Kournikova Effect

by Savannah

Main tour play begins today in Key Biscayne, Florida for the WTA, marking the end of the US spring hardcourt swing. The two tournaments, both more than a Masters 1000/Premier Mandatory but less than a Slam, that make up the swing are places where players, big names and not so big names, can pause and assess how their year is going. It’s also a time for both tours to trot out the best of the up can coming players, the people being groomed to take over not only the sport but the lions share of endorsements, clothing contracts, etc. At this time, just as the spring swing ends and the European clay season is about to begin I think a general review of what is ahead for tennis as a sport played by individuals who garner followings for their desire to win, their style, or way of going about winning tournaments, charisma.

Ah that word charisma. Let’s look at some past greats. Bjorn Borg had it with his long blond hair and business like approach to his game. Chrissie Evert, cute, blonde and feminine, had it. Monica Seles, at that time a pudgy young woman from Eastern Europe was deemed not to have it. Steffi Graf, lately an icon, didn’t have it. Neither did Martina Navratilova.

The one player, the one who has had the most influence on women’s (and men’s)tennis is a woman who barely won on the tour. She was plucked from the many to become the face of women’s tennis. If you look at how so many young women players today present themselves it’s obvious that she’s still the template. There’s even been talk of putting her in the Tennis Hall of Fame. For what? Being cute and blonde? If the effort succeeds instead of trying to elbow its way into being recognized as a major world sport tennis will be doing everything it can to show it’s still a sport bound by the social mores of a bygone era.

I’m sure you all think I’m picking on the women but I’m not. Let’s look at the mens tour and some of its past greats. It’s not all about looks there. With the ATP it’s a bit more subtle but no less toxic.

There are many people in and around mens tennis behind the scenes or in its management who want to return to the era of wooden racquets? Why? Because it’s what they know. They want to return to lightning fast courts as well. They’d like the clay court season to be shortened. That would mean a return to the days when Roland Garros could be ignored by the tennis federations of the US, Britain and Australia, the three countries that have suffered the most by the ascension of modern technology and players who play a style of tennis they can’t (or won’t) understand.

And that is really what this column is about.

A year or so ago I wrote about there being too much money in junior tennis, and that it’s warping the play of those who are supposed to be assuming the mantle of greatness from today’s top players. To long for the past, before this time period that has been described as a golden age, is a bit telling about where tennis is right now..

It’s not only that the young men and women of today don’t score high in the charisma department (with exceptions of course). It’s that for the most part they play mediocre, paint by the numbers, tennis. There are no innovators. No players who present something new for fans. Instead we’re seeing big servers from the US, quick players from Australia, fancy players from France and barely above average from Great Britain.

The fault for this lies with the Federations. Instead of encouraging innovation and creative play they want to roll out players who play the “style” of their country. Germany has found a player who can bring more to the table, a mobile big man, in Alexander Zverev and so has Australia in Nick Kyrgios although he plays great tennis only when he feels like it. Their other great hope is a money pit they can’t get rid of. The US has two big men, Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz. Fritz is the more mobile of the two. That should tell you all you need to know. Great Britain has Kyle Edmund and one other player whose name escapes me at the moment.

Women? Well the US is really pushing Madison Keys who seems to get injured quite a bit but they’re very excited about Kayla Day, who has the Patty Schnyder gangsta walk down but is still developing her game. If it wasn’t for Johanna Konta there wouldn’t be anyone to talk about. The French have Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic. Otherwise there are a lot of long blonde braided ponytails.

What do all these players have in common aside from being boring? They’re getting major clothing and commercial deals without having accomplished much on court. It used to be that you had to have accomplished something before you started rolling in the dough. Now, all you need is the right “look” and the proper management company and you’re rich. Never made it to a final of a big tournament? No big deal. The way you look is enough. By the time fans figure out you’re not even a flash in the pan you’ll be rich in your own right.

Federations need to be supportive of their players. Tennis is an expensive sport and even wealthy parents need some help along the way. When Federations dictate how a player should play the sport is not being advanced but held back and interest wanes even among fans. For example I subjected myself to a match between Taylor Fritz and Jack Sock at last years US Open. I barely made it a set. Forehand, forehand, forehand, forehand, error. Rinse and repeat. Both men made beautiful shots but the tennis was boring.

Who do I think will be a star? I picked Zverev the younger two years ago, before the bandwagon began. Many of the other players seem to be stuck, among them Borna Coric who seems to have no idea how to move his game forward. As for the women I keep hearing names like Ana Konjuh but I’ve yet to see her play an impressive match. The latest blonde is Anastasia Potapova. I’ve yet to see her play but I have seen action shots of her long ponytail streaming behind her as she celebrates a winning shot. The (new) future of tennis.

The best match at Indian Wells/BNPPO 2017 was between two veteran women neither of whom has ever been given the star treatment by the WTA. Svetlana Kuznetsova played Elena Vesnina in a match that showcased court sense, strategy, and good bordering on great tennis. Sveta is 31. Elena is 30. Neither has ever graced the cover of any edition of Vogue. You could tell that people started tuning in during the match by the number of mentions by tennis twitter as it progressed because people were raving about the quality of the match. People have come to expect mediocrity and when they get good play they will watch. For some reason the young players seem to think all they have to do is show up on court in the latest and greatest in tennis gear and headphones and play, no offense, club tennis. Until we get players who want it bad enough to play through pain, in sweat sodden clothes, for hours if need be, we’re not going to see the level of tennis we’ve gotten used to for a long, long  time.

It seems we’re entering another Kournikova era in tennis, where winning doesn’t matter, where image is once again everything, and the future greats toil away in anonymity.

 ©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

 

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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