What’s That on the Windshield?!

by Savannah

It’s almost mid January. There’s a cold snap in the area of the north east United States where I live and it’s summer in Melbourne, Australia. I haven’t written about tennis since the 2018 US Open. It’s not that I haven’t been following tennis it’s just that when your day to day life is lived in existential dread why pile more angst onto the pile of stuff on the bed? The official end of the tennis calendar year has come and gone and the new calendar has started. The people who run tennis want all of us who love the sport to focus on the Australian Open and I will but right now I’m going to start sorting through the pile of stuff and get to what “they” don’t want you to focus on.

Let’s start with the newly unveiled ATP Cup that  will be taking the place of Hopman Cup. I admit I never used to pay attention to the Hopman Cup because in my mind it was an exhibition and all exhibitions are hit and giggle events no? If what I saw this year was what usually goes on at Hopman Cup I’ve been mistaken about what it was and missed out on some great tennis. The powers that be have decided that the ATP Cup is a much more exciting venture and will bring more fans to the sport. I read the announcement by TD Craig Tiley – there will be more on him later – and read it again. I mean it’s called the ATP Cup. What will the WTA players be doing while this fabulous new event is taking place? Tiley said in passing that they would figure something out with the WTA. Figure something out.

Steve Simon has proven himself worse than the person who preceded him Stacey Allaster. She played her favorites – Genie’s Army anyone? – but nothing much got past her on the business side. Yeah I know the whole Asian thing is looking like a bust but I don’t think the ATP Cup would’ve gone right by her. Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel the other day went on a mini rant about how reactive and not proactive the WTA has become. I know that there is a WTA Player’s Council but have they spoken up? Then again why should the players have to carry their own water when there are men and women making pretty decent salaries swanning around the world (I love British expressions. They somehow get right to the heart of things) taking pictures and giving each other awards while the women’s tour sinks into oblivion. The WTA has two marketable stars, neither of whom is a doper, and they treat them like stepchildren with red hair. When they retire who is going to bring the fans to the yard so to speak? (Sorry Kelis). Are people lining up to see the current top ten with one or two exceptions? Is there any player people will line up for the way fans line up for someone like Stefanos Tsitsipas or Denis Shapovalov?

One of the reasons I haven’t written about tennis is because I feel like I’ve been saying the same thing for over ten years. The WTA does not know how to market women’s tennis. I could spend an hour or more talking about why there are no Shapovalov’s or Tsitsipas’ in the WTA but when it all comes down to it it’s poor marketing and homogenization of the sport and the lack of coherent plans to market players people may want to see like Aryna Sabalenka or Maria Sakkari. Who outside of tennis fanatics even knows who they are? Who outside of tennis fanatics knows who Simona Halep is? Someone called Halep a media darling the other day. Really? Not in my neck of the woods. The latest issue of Tennis magazine doesn’t have her as part of its photo montage cover. Instead of promoting these young women they’re spending all their time promoting a doper who should’ve had her Slam wins taken away from her as some advocated for. It’s painfully obvious that without her special medicine she wouldn’t have been able to win them.

When professional basketball became a majority African American sport there were whispers that it’s days were numbered. Instead it became a world wide phenomenon that has players from all over the world clamoring to play. The people behind the marketing of the NBA showed how to turn a potentially bad situation into one that is making money hand over fist. It did not become a league of Harlem Globetrotters, sports entertainment. It became a one of the pre eminent sports leagues in the world right up there with pro soccer and the NFL. Right now it seems that once the older generation of women tennis players retires the WTA will turn into a sports entertainment outfit, an afterthought. I don’t think that’s what the pioneers had in mind when the WTA was created.

A Malign Influence

Justin Gimelstob has been a malignancy on tennis for many years now. From the time he suggested that his brother should sexually assault -rape – Anna Kournikova to now when he faces serious assault charges and will be in court on January 31 after the Australian Open professional tennis has looked the other way. It’s only now coming to light that he’s been a one man crime spree for many of the years he’s spent climbing the ranks from a mediocre, forgettable player to a power behind the scenes. If it weren’t for Simon Briggs of the British newspaper the Telegraph tennis fans would have no way of knowing the role Gimelstob is about to play in controlling who runs the ATP. Briggs article lays out exactly why this dangerous individual should’ve been expunged from professional tennis years ago. Here is a LINK to Briggs update. If you live in the States the so called tennis journalists have been almost completely silent. If they have spoken out they’ve said “let’s wait and see”. These same people have no qualms about trying to destroy the career of the most dominant player in tennis, male or female, though.

While Lindsay Davenport deserves praise for calling out her own Association fans should not forget she defended Gimelstob when he made the comments about Ms Kournikova.

This And That

What does it mean when a man who runs his nation’s tennis association, is tournament director of it’s Slam, is so closely tied to a player and his agent that it’s hard to separate his actions from the wants and needs of said player and that player’s agent? Once again tennis “journalists” are standing on the sidelines while fans are exposing the situation and asking the questions that need to be asked. Yes I’m talking about Craig Tiley. I don’t think he’s the only one but he’s the one who hasn’t bothered to try and cover his tracks. It doesn’t matter that the fans exposing this situation represent a particular fandom. It matters that nothing they have said has been denied or proven wrong. If we had better journalists working the tennis beat fans wouldn’t have to do their own digging.

Remember quality points?  Several years ago now it mattered not that you won but who you defeated. Beating someone ranked #150 in the world didn’t count as much as beating someone ranked #5. I know people will dispute this but the rules changed when Venus Williams and Serena Williams began beating everyone regardless of rank and rocketed up the rankings. The then powers that be decided that a point system based on number of tournaments played and how many matches you won minus quality points would benefit players. The dropping of quality points resulted in the slew of slamless number one players on the women’s tour. I have advocated in this space for some time that quality points need to be reinstated and was pleasantly surprised to see a fan make the same observation a few days ago. Then again if women’s tennis is practically invisible I guess reinstating quality points isn’t the top priority now.

The Australian Open – 2019 Edition

The draws have been released. Warm up events have been played and Sunday night here in the US tennis fans will be glued to televisions, PC’s, and mobile devices watching the sport we love.

The draws are pretty much as expected. Yes Venus and Serena are in the same part of the draw. Yes there are joke sections of the draw. It’s crazy that the bottom of the top half and the top of the bottom half are where the knife fights will take place for the men and that the bottom half of the women’s draw is pretty soft but hey, it’s Grand Slam tennis and given the circumstances none of the above should surprise anyone.

I for one will be paying close attention to the daily schedules and see if any sense of fairness exists after all that’s been said about scheduling here. I doubt it but it’s nice to dream.

My windshield is pretty messed up at the moment though and the windshield wipers aren’t getting all the crap off.

© 2019 Savannahs World Tennis unless otherwise indicated

 

 

 

 

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

Teach Your Children Well…

by Savannah

During a crucial fifth rubber between Canada and Great Britain 17 year old Denis Shapovalov became frustrated and hit a ball hard hoping it would just sail out of the stands without doing any damage. Instead the worst happened: chair umpire Arnaud Gabas took the shot right in his face, his left eye to be precise. Young Shapovalov immediately apologized to M. Gabas not once, but several times. He even posted a public apology on his Twitter account.

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 Of course it wasn’t intentional on Mr. Shapovalov’s part and I feel his apologies are sincere. I couldn’t help but think about another player who routinely gets frustrated and hits balls in the direction of officials and into the stands yet thinks it’s part of his gimmick and is not worth his apologizing for. He has apologized for screaming at ball kids and once making a ball kid cry but I couldn’t find anything to show that he has apologized for hitting balls into the stands that had the potential to harm. As anyone who has raised a child knows they often operate on a “monkey see monkey do” basis. If the bigger name player had been publicly censored and fined for his actions maybe young Denis cracks his racquet on the ground instead of getting the bright idea of hitting wildly into the stands.

It was also interesting how many in tennis media were calling for the young man to be seriously fined and given a significant suspension. These same people see nothing wrong when another player does the same thing. The last time they were so upset it was for a lines person getting yelled at by a player for a foot fault.

I’m sure he will be fined. Will he be suspended from Davis Cup for a bit? I’m not privy to behind the scenes machinations between the ITF and probably Tennis Canada especially since Shapovalov has a potentially winning game and look about him that Federation desperately needs.

Let the punishment fit the crime is all I’m saying. It’s never a drivers intention to hit a pedestrian but if it happens there is punishment to be meted out. The infraction was serious. Let’s see if tennis has the cojones to make the punishment significant enough to deter any tennis player regardless of rank from hitting a ball out of the arena.

UPDATE: Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 2h2 hours ago
Denis Shapovalov will be fined $7000 by the referee: maximum fine of $12000 would only have applied had his actions been deemed intentional

Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 2h2 hours ago
ITF confirm no further action is anticipated against Shapovalov, and add there’s no damage to umpire Gabas’ cornea or retina

Russell Fuller ‏@russellcfuller 1h1 hour ago
Heather Watson was fined $12k (& Serena $10k) for smashing racquets into Wimbledon’s turf last year
Potential consequences much greater here

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved except where indicated

Who To Watch in 2017

by Savannah

This is late. I should’ve done my post about who to keep an eye on in 2017 at the end of December. Sadly I was too busy frazzling over things out of my control and have just managed to calm myself down enough to refocus on tennis. Just in time too. The new season is underway and the Australian Open is next week. So with no further blathering lets see who I think are the teens to watch in 2017.

In mens tennis the young person to watch is Denis Shapovalov. He’s young, born April 15, 1999 which makes him 17 years old. He’s got a very aggressive approach to his sport and showed some promise during last year. Presently he’s ranked #238 but he won the Wimbledon Juniors in 2016 and made the junior doubles Final.

He’s exactly six feet tall which makes him just about right for the modern game.
I read that his focus this year will be Challengers which is as it should be. Occasional forays onto the main tour are good for someone his age since he can still hone his skills playing players who move in and out of the top ranks of mens tennis while at the same time testing his mental and physical abilities on the main tour.

Like Alexander Zverev he has the looks and on court personality to be a marketing dream for the mens tour. Like Zverev he should also ease his way into the main tour. So many who tried to jump right into the thick of things too young see their junior tennis become their approach to the game and they never mature. Let’s see if he can get close to the top 100 and not let his Federation push him to do more before he’s mentally and physically ready.

The choice of who to watch in women’s tennis got complicated for me. My first choice was Louisa Chirico  mainly because she defied the USTA and played a tournament they didn’t want her to play. Being independently wealthy can give you big brass ones like that. She’s 20, born May 16, 1996, and is already in the top 100 at #58.

Then young Destanee Aiava appeared on my radar. Hell she appeared on everyone’s radar with her showing at the Australian Open warm up event in Brisbane where she beat US player Bethanie Mattek-Sands .

Miss Aiava was born May 10, 2000 and despite what it says when you do an online search for her she is not 4’11” tall. She’s about 5’8″ or so, a decent size. What makes her different from some of the other young players? She was really, really pissed off when she lost to the veteran and slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova. She really thought she should win. Of course every sixteen year old thinks they’re immortal too but that is the kind of fire you want to see in a young player.

My only fear is that Tennis Australia will ruin her. I hate to say it but getting a good coach who hasn’t been in that system will be crucial. Of course she has to stay in the good graces of her Federation but Tennis Australia, like the USTA, is full of people there for the money grab not player development.

Oh well. It looks as if I’ve talked myself into keeping an eye on both women and for the same reason. They’ve both got independent spirits. Chirico is financially secure enough to be able to chart her own course. Aiava doesn’t have that luxury but from what I saw she does have the will to possibly chart an independent course. Time will tell.

© 2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved