2017 Indian Wells This and That

by Savannah

The big guns will begin play over the weekend at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California. Women’s Main Draw play began March 8th and the men began play March 9th. Despite this being early in the tournament there’s been enough news to keep tennis fans not only busy but scratching their heads.

Let’s start with the Wild Card situation. The following players all received WC’s into the Main Draw:

Frances Tiafoe
Stefan Kozlov
Taylor Fritz
Reilly Opelka
Bjorn Fratangelo
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Nicole Gibbs
Taylor Townsend
Danielle Collins
Irina Falconi
Kayla Day
Jennifer Brady
Donna Vekic

The only two who made it through are Bjorn Fratangelo who played a very disinterested  Bernard Tomic, and Donna Vekic, the only non American to receive a WC and the only one to make it to round two in what I assume was a competitive match. By that I mean her opponent was trying her best to win.

And yes it does seem as if she and her boyfriend are a package deal at majors these days. There were signs of relief from some tennis professionals when she made it through to the next round. I guess they were sick of the word “undeserved” being thrown around when she was mentioned.

I’ve been a tennis fan a long time, longer than I’ve been blogging. I’ve also been in the corporate world where a lot of underhanded shady shit goes on. That said I’m well aware that a Federation can grant WC’s to whomever it wants. We saw the same thing in Australia in January where only local talent got Main Draw Wild Cards (MDWC’S). That’s fine. Just don’t bitch and moan when your players are shut out at events in Europe. Sadly, most US players right now are cannon fodder for the top players. Their one dimensional games just don’t cut it against players who can actually strategize and construct points during a match. Let me take a minute to discuss one WC, Danielle Collins.

I’m sure she’s a nice person. She’s easy on the eyes and wears a kit that puts all of her assets on display. She’s been a NCAA champion two times. Sorry USTA, she’s not ready for prime time. Monica Puig made her look like a ball kid getting a hit with a pro player. She had no business in the MD of a tournament this big.

To be fair I did see some of Reilly Opelka’s match. He’s got a hell of a serve.

Random Thoughts

Usually it’s the WTA that’s getting dragged for it’s horrible draws. It seems that like everything else these days the WTA has been out done in that department by the ATP. By now you’ve all seen the mens singles draw. Speaking as someone who’s seen some cakewalks given to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic the one Andy Murray just got beats all of them. Federer must be green with envy. What the hell were they thinking? I know, I know they want Murray to win here. Shouldn’t he have to play some tennis on the way to the Final though? Whoever comes out of the bottom part of the draw will be match tough. Sometimes that’s better than la-de-dahing your way to a Final. We’ll see.

What is the ATP to do about Tomic? Some commentators hinted that ATP brass was court side observing his effort, or lack thereof, against Fratangelo Thursday. I don’t think he gave a fuck. He roused himself to look as if he were trying in what turned out to be the last game of the match and made Fratangelo need five match points to win it. He gave himself away when a shot he made was called out and he challenged just for the hell of it. When it was called in he was visibly annoyed and put his hands on his hips and hung his head. That was the only part of the match I saw. Two things have to happen: Tennis Australia has to stop giving him money and the ATP needs to heavily fine him and start denying him appearance fees if he gets them. The only language he understands is money. He can live large all he wants as long as he does the work that his job requires. Will anything be done? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Thanks to Alizé Cornet the WTA had to remove it’s horrible Tweet regarding an article that supposedly showcased how happy WTA players are to see a convicted doper descend from the heavens back onto the Main Tour. It’s bad enough that the headline bore no resemblane to what was really being said in the article. The WTA was forced to take the tweet, and the article down. Ms Cornet, who is out injured, also deleted her tweet. Of course nothing ever dies in cyberspace so if you didn’t see the exchange here’s a screen shot:

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Right now the doper and her team, along with WTA head Steve Simon, are trying to strong arm the FFT (French Tennis Federation) into granting her a WC into the French Open main draw. More WTA players are ignoring the gag order the WTA imposed and speaking out. Even Angelique Kerber said something against the doper being shoehorned into Stuttgart. ATP players have joined in the fray. They may get what they want but it’s not going to be pretty.

By the way Steve where’s that WTA streaming platform we were promised? Maybe less time should be spent trying to rehab the image of a doper and more time spent making sure your product is visible to the fans you still have? Fans shouldn’t have to resort to low quality betting sites to see women’s tennis. Fans shouldn’t have to miss almost all of women’s play except for one match featuring one of the Blonde Brigade from Canada. What a joke.

Also, don’t think we’ve forgotten that post congratulating Kerber on regaining the number one ranking while Serena Williams is still in place at the top. It was unseemly. Uncalled for. Disrespectful. But hey, keep pushing that doper!

End Note

Francesa Schiavone was never considered marketable by the WTA. She’s not blonde. She’s got an aggressive on court demeanor. Her on court noise was not considered that of a competitor like another players. Until recently, she’s been one of the top ranked players. Age has seen her performance level drop. But fans, including this one, watch her matches. After all the nonsense yesterday this was the saddest thing I read, and a testimony to how low the WTA has fallen and how badly it treats it’s players.

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Many of us tweeted our support to Franny. Let’s see what her tour does.

Is It Incompetence?

by Savannah

Monday, September 26, 2016 the paid subscription site, TennisTV announced that beginning in January 2017 it would no longer carry WTA events explaining that the WTA would be streaming its matches via a different platform. It also provided a Q&A
for users who may want to cancel or amend their subscriptions to the service. It should be noted that earlier in the year TennisTV announced that it would become available on streaming devices – AppleTV, Roku, etc – in January 2017.

There are many fans who prefer one tour over the other and many who prefer the WTA threatened to cancel existing subscriptions or not renew when it became time to do so. There were also a lot of questions about what the new WTA platform would be, what it would be called (WTATV?) and where it will be found.

I remember being upset when what was MastersTV, an ATP only platform, added the WTA to it’s stable and became TennisTV. I’ve gotten used to it though, enjoying the one stop shopping and making it unnecessary to watch dodgy streams where the person controlling the stream might decide he or she wanted to watch something else in the middle of a match causing the viewer to have to scramble and find another one. I didn’t like the geo blocking that became common but looking at the overall picture there were often other options available to watch whatever TennisTV wasn’t showing. Am I upset now? I’d have to say no. Surprised is more like it. I don’t understand why, just when TennisTV is finally expanding to streaming devices, an important move especially in the US market, the WTA would opt out of the service.

I live in the States so I can only talk about the status of women’s tennis in the country I reside in. To say it’s disrespected is an understatement. The top commentators (whether I think they’re the best is another matter) are always reluctant to call women’s matches unless they’ve played women’s tennis and still keep up with it. When someone like John or Patrick McEnroe are forced to call a women’s match the bulk of the commentary ends up being about the ATP tour. They show no shame in not having a clue about what is going on in the women’s tour. During a mixed event like the upcoming Beijing tournament the women get the worst of the scheduling both on court and on television. Even with TennisTV only the top ranked women’s matches would be available during a mixed event. I can understand the frustration of WTA fans about this. I’ve been annoyed about it myself at times. But to pull your already poorly marketed product off of the best streaming platform available, one with a world wide reach, is sheer lunacy in my opinion.

It’s even worse when you realize that millions of people in the States have cut the cord and no longer use television, network or cable, in the traditional sense. Honestly once you have a streaming device there is no need to use broadcast TV in any of it’s iterations. Every network, cable or broadcast, has an APP on these devices and the viewer can pick and choose what they want to watch. Ironically Tennis Channel beat TennisTV to the punch in making it’s content available for streaming. Tennis Channel is a purely US service though. TennisTV has world wide exposure.

I held off writing this column because I figured that the WTA would make its announcement if not yesterday when it should have, then no later then today so that fans would not be left hanging. There’s no doubt that a separate platform will cost money. When you add in production costs, the salaries of on air talent, etc the new service will not be cheap. Some are hoping for day to day or match per match pricing but in the end that is more expensive than buying an annual subscription.

Whatever the WTA decides to do they can’t put off an announcement much longer. To do so says to fans of women’s tennis that WTA officials were either blindsided (I doubt that since a decision like this isn’t taken overnight),that their decision to opt out was made in haste, or that they don’t think the value of their product is equal to that of ATP. If none of that then the only answer left is that they’re incompetent, that they decided to opt out without a definite plan for what the next step would be. I’d hate to think it’s the later.
Fans of women’s tennis deserve better.

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.

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