Idle Chit Chat

By Savannah

I’ve been writing this blog for quite some time. I was encouraged to do so by Craig Hickman who thought I had a unique perspective on the sport.

The blog started out as a sarcastic (snarky) view of the world of tennis but has evolved into something else. I like to think that a critical when necessary, and a celebration when deserved is what a reader will find here. I used to post weekly, but I don’t anymore mainly because the things I brought up when I posted on “BlogSpot” are still going on and while what I say here may be new to some the topics are not new for me. I’m not the best writer on the planet, far from it, but it’s no fun going over topics you’ve been writing about for years.

I’ve been doing this long enough to remember how opposed many “journalists” were to the rise of bloggers covering the sport. They felt that we bloggers were an uncouth lot who showed no respect to players and would drag the level of tennis journalism down. Attitudes like this, influenced Roland Garros’s decision to stop posting post-match interviews on its site.

And yet here we are. Unlike every other major sport tennis, the WTA and the ATP, have not only restricted access to information they’ve stopped posting vital information on their respective websites. Try finding any current information about players on the WTA site. The ATP site, which at one point was vastly superior, has now become almost as bad as the WTA site. It is possible to find the stats of ATP, but good luck. Sadly, if you want WTA stats you have to visit fan sites. Basic info like head to heads or recaps of matches send the average fan to a search engine where more than likely he or she will end up on a fan site.

For example, I was looking for draw information on the Los Cabos tournament. Checking the ATP web site, I got the impression nothing had been released by the tournament. On a hunch I did a search. Of course, there was information out. Where did I find it? On a site that is run by a fan. It’s the same thing if you want to know who will be playing a tournament. For some reason tennis thinks its entry lists and draws are state secrets. The Slams do a better job? Did you try and get any information on the Australian Open and Roland Garros sites this year? Both websites were works in progress with updates being made while the tournaments were taking place. So far only Wimbledon, in many ways the stodgiest of the Slams presented itself on its website as a tournament. There were entry lists. There were draws. There was tournament information that went beyond where and how to buy tickets. They did have to adjust, but the corrections were done quickly as soon as fans began to vent about the problems.

To make a comparison that almost every sports fan will get: the World Cup of Football (soccer in the US) was taking place at the same time Wimbledon was. I usually compare tennis web sites to the websites of sports I’m familiar with like basketball, football, and baseball. It doesn’t matter. The thing is whatever you wanted to know about not only the team from a particular country but the players from those countries was there for the fan who follows everything to every four year fans like me. The NBA, NFL and MLB would be embarrassed to put their names on websites as inferior as the tennis tour web sites. The fans of those sports wouldn’t have it.

Tennis is a great sport with players and fans who want to spread the word about it and get away from the perception of it as a bastion of elitism. It seems that the people who run tennis don’t have the same opinion.

Thank goodness tennis fans have stepped up to the plate (a baseball analogy) and are filling in the gaps left by those whose business it should be to make the sport accessible to all. It shouldn’t be so hard to be a tennis fan.

Conspiracy Theories

Yes, they exist in tennis. It seems that TUE’s (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) are the latest things to be considered controversial. Why? Who knows? Who knows why a player would allow pictures of herself to be published showing a male friend (allegedly) tossing her salad? If you don’t know what that is Google is your friend.

I mean don’t we all wake up in the morning and decide we’re going to be plagued by blood clots and the health issues they cause? And of course, we all plan to go out and step on a piece of glass that goes clear through your foot. Doesn’t everyone? The issue seems to be that the TUE’s were retroactive. I mean if you knew you were going to suffer life threatening medical issues wouldn’t you apply for a course of treatment for something that hasn’t happened to you yet?

Idiots. A TUE has to be granted to an athlete retroactively. The athlete has to be injured or suffer a medical emergency before a treatment plan is decided on, a plan that may include painkillers or other drugs that make the healing process easier.

It’s no secret, and it’s very obvious who is behind this nonsense. It’s not a stretch to compare what’s going on to the “scandal” of those emails. No doctor will prescribe a heavy-duty drug for a disease, or medical condition you don’t have. The people who run WADA were not born last night. It’s not doping if a real accredited doctor prescribes a course of treatment to address proven medical issues. It is doping when you claim that your third cousin twice removed suffers from diabetes, so you should take a heart drug because hey, you never know. Any so-called journalist who promotes this nonsense deserves to be ignored by fans.

This and That

The US Open series is officially under way. Monday July 30 will feature play from San Jose, California. I’ve always liked the US Open Series even though it means having to listen to the nonsense spouted by US tennis commentators, many of whom do not watch any tennis until they step into the broadcast booth or watch a match from a broadcast studio near their homes.

There are strong fields in Washington DC (which is not part of the US Open Series) and in San Jose. With the Roger’s Cup taking place next week expect inexplicable losses.

By the way if you want to see any of San Jose you have to subscribe to WTA TV or check to see if you can watch ESPN3.

I took my own advice and have been watching the tournaments that are being contested this week. There are a lot of complaints about lower ranked players turning up in Finals just before the tour moves to the US. and Canada. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I’ve been seeing some interesting prospects. It’s really not fair to put these men and women down. Five years from now some US comm will be asking who Player X or Player Y is and ask about their road to the top twenty. Or the top ten. Or the top five. And no, I’m not going to talk about the level of tennis we’ll be seeing in another five years. I talked about that five years ago.

©2018 Savannah’s World Tennis. All Rights Reserved Unless Otherwise Indicated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rear View Mirror: 2018 Roland Garros

by Savannah

The winners have been crowned and tennis is moving on to it’s next season played on a natural surface. Of course there is quite a bit of red clay play after Wimbledon but the powers that be want you to ignore all of that and focus on the US hard court season. The fact that many players opt to stay in Durope and preserve their bodies angers many but it is what it is.

Before leaving Paris lets look back at some of what happened and what it says about the relative state of both tours.

Simona Halep Women’s Champion

via WTA/Roland GarrosaAkFlzj

There was no guarantee that Ms Halep would reach the final. The last time we saw her play on Chatrier she was losing to a member of the WTA Brat Pack, Aljona Ostapenko.

Her head was down and she cut a forlorn and lonely figure on the huge court. Would that all change in 2018? Would Halep, who had come so close, once again hold on to the top ranking in the WTA but be hounded as “slamless”?

There were no big announcements from her camp. Additions to her tam were done in a low key way without the position of her head coach ever being challenged. Everything was quiet when she entered Paris as far as the public was concerned. If you looked at her yes she was fitter than I’ve ever seen her. Yes there seemed an air of determination in how she carried herself but none of that erased what for me was her worst moment last year.

And yet she won it all. There are some who will argue that the French Open is “quirky”, that many win it who never lift a trophy again. I don’t think that will be the case with Halep. The way she wore her opponent down in the Final (more on that in a bit) was impressive. She couldn’t have played worse than she did in that first set and she was on her way to losing the second set when she saw an opportunity and took it. She didn’t need on court coaching. I’m not naive enough to think there was no coaching going on but head coach Darren Cahill did not have to rush down from the stands to tell her to cut the shit and play. It’s going to be interesting to see how she carries herself at Wimbledon. She doesn’t need the crutch. Maybe she’ll be the first of the new generation to put it aside and use her brain.

There was no Ostapenko across the net this year. Ostapenko had done nothing of note after her big win last year and went out quietly in the first round. Instead United States player Sloane Stephens found herself in the Roland Garros Women’s Final. To her credit she played flawless tennis for a set and two games into the second set. It was then that her lack of fitness caught up with her. Of course she denied it later but anyone who watched the match knows exactly when her legs went away. Right after that she began to suck air for all she was worth but Halep, seeing what her physical condition was, began to run her ragged. To Stephens credit she put up a good fight but she had nothing left.

During the NBC broadcast Mary Carillo went on a riff about how Sloane doesn’t practice hard in order to leave it all for her matches. I’ve seen a Stephens practice live and in person and I laughed to myself hearing her compare Stephens practices to those of Pete Sampras. I thought it was a nice way of saying that Sloane is lazy. Not once did her physical condition get mentioned by any of the US comms. I said last year that the worst thing that could’ve happened to Stephens was winning the US Open as out of shape as she was. What can be done on a hard court can’t be done on a European red clay court. You have to be physically and mentally at the top of your game. The terre battue takes it all out of you and if you haven’t worked until your legs are jelly and your arms are about to fall off, if you haven’t changed your diet so that the portions served at a five star restaurant look like a feast to you you can’t win playing modern tennis at Roland Garros. There was not an ounce of fat to be seen anywhere on Simona Halep’s body. Stephens is lugging around at least ten pounds too many.  Comparing her regimen to Sampras’ is not a complement. Sampras wouldn’t stand a chance against today’s top players unless he decided to play the post US Open Asian hard court and European indoor swings when everyone is beat up and resting up for the WTF in London.

I was glad to see Simona win. To be honest I was disappointed to see Stephens in the Final. Then again maybe this will be her wake up call. Kamau Murray has his work cut out for him.

Rafel Nadal Parera Men’s Champion

via ATP/Roland GarrosRafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2018, Photocall, Photo : Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Dominic Thiem must be wondering what more he could’ve done. He was extraordinarily fit. He’d played almost every week of the clay season preparing himself for the rigors of Roland Garros. He was mentally ready as well. And yet for a large portion of the match he was reduced to standing with his hands on his hips wondering how the hell he’d done everything right and his opponent still won the point. What must’ve gone through his mind when Rafa’s serving hand cramped horribly (nerves) and he barely missed a beat, accepting the time violation and working through his pain until the muscles of his hand relaxed. Instead of being able to maybe steal a set Thiem accepted the runner up trophy with grace.

Don’t let the official picture above fool you. Rafa was a bundle of nerves most of this tournament. For long time Rafa fans Toni not only being there but sitting with his coaches was acknowledgement that Rafa needed that calming influence. US tennis media has often criticized Toni Nadal for being too tough on his nephew saying that he should be allowed to relax and have some fun. The Nadal family ignored that noise and went about their business. When Rafa was coming apart at the seams it was Toni he got to come in and calm the waters.

I’m a jinx so I rarely watch or talk about Rafa’s matches but I’m making an exception in this case because the man I saw playing today is a far cry from the teenager I started watching so many years ago. As he matured so did his game. He is a top player because he’s not wedded to one style of play. Injury led to better care of body, and mind. If he was still playing today the way he played in 2005 something would be wrong. It’s a lesson a lot of players have to learn and why I’m so against young players having success early in their careers. Children become adults and that maturation process should be reflected in how they conduct their lives whether they are pro athletes or not. The maturity, the subtlety, the ability to take the best of your opponent and turn it to your advantage that I saw yesterday was awe inspiring. I felt Thiem’s frustration. Against anyone else he’d have won that match.

The US tennis establishment is still stuck on Sampras and Andre Agassi. We know what secrets were hidden about Agassi so they focus on Sampras because he isn’t perceived to have been “dirty”. If, as Carillo hinted, Sampras was lazy he wouldn’t be doing much in the ATP of today. The fact that he hated the clay created a mind set in US tennis that has still not been overcome.

But that’s a discussion for another day. Rafa wanted to win that match in three sets and despite his opponent’s excellent play he imposed his will on the match and won. He’s been imposing his will for a long time now. It’s how he did it not that he did it that has changed. It is wonderful to see how this boy has become a man.

End Notes

There is a lot of excitement around fourteen year old Cori Gauff and there should be. She is playing with a maturity not usually seen in a player her age and if she stays healthy and grows her game she could turn out to be the young star the WTA needs. She’s working with the folks at Mouratoglou Academy and it shows. She was comfortable on the clay, can already slide, and most importantly has rudimentary knowledge of how to construct points. She’s also not finished growing yet – she still has her baby face – and it looks as if she will be at least as tall as Venus Williams. She also wants it badly and that’s not a problem. My issue is that she’s fourteen. I want to see what she’s doing when she’s in her adult body at eighteen and again at about twenty two. I sincerely hope that they don’t rush her no matter what she wants.

Speaking of height there is a sub rosa debate going on in men’s tennis about big men. It seems as if there are big men and small men with few in between, especially in the United States. When I saw Denis Shapovalov in person both on and off court at last years US Open I was surprised that he is not that big. According to Wiki he is six feet tall (1.83 meters) but he looks to be at least an inch or two shorter. Chung Hyeon is listed at six feet two inches (1.88 meters) and I think that’s about right having seen him play up close on an outer court at the US Open. Lucas Pouille is listed at six feet one inch (1.85 meters). Alexander Zverev is tall at  six feet six inches (1.98 meters). All of these men can move well. They’re not gazelles but they move well enough. There are other big men like Zverev whose movement can best be described as glacial.

I don’t know what the end results will be. The US is looking to push players like Taylor Fritz and Riley Opelka betting that the cycle will turn and serve dominated tennis will come back. Their competition is going to be smaller and faster. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

As for the WTA up and coming it’s sad but most of them have no on court personality. Add to that the fact that they all play alike and you’ve got a bit of a recipe for disaster marketing wise. When you say the names Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Aga Radwanska, a personality type leaps to mind. They play different styles and present themselves differently on and off court. Mention some of the up and comers and I dare you to have an impression other than “blonde” come to mind. Even Simona doesn’t have a riveting on court personality. Sadly those that do are mostly brats. Yes there’s Madison Keys, Garbiñe Muguruza, Caroline Garcia and Sloane Stephens but are they poised to be the superstar mega earners their predecessors are? Time will tell. Arrogance is a personality trait but you can be arrogant as all get out and not be able to sell your sport.

The Complete Winners List

Men’s Singles

Rafael Nadal

Women’s Singles

 Simona Halep

Men’s Doubles

 Pierre-Hugues Herbert /  Nicolas Mahut

Women’s Doubles

 Barbora Krejčíková /  Kateřina Siniaková

Mixed Doubles

 Latisha Chan /  Ivan Dodig

Boys’ Singles

 Tseng Chun-hsin

Girls’ Singles

 Cori Gauff

Boys’ Doubles

 Ondřej Štyler /  Naoki Tajima

Girls’ Doubles

Caty McNally / Poland Iga Świątek

Legends Under 45 Doubles

Spain Àlex Corretja / Spain Juan Carlos Ferrero

Women’s Legends Doubles

France Nathalie Dechy / France Amélie Mauresmo

Legends Over 45 Doubles

France Mansour Bahrami / France Fabrice Santoro

Wheelchair Men’s Singles

Japan Shingo Kunieda

Wheelchair Women’s Singles

Japan Yui Kamiji

Wheelchair Men’s Doubles

France Stéphane Houdet / France Nicolas Peifer

Wheelchair Women’s Doubles

Netherlands Diede de Groot / Netherlands Aniek van Koot

©2018 Savannahs World Tennis All Rights Reserved except where indicated