Somewhat Idle Chit Chat

by Savannah

The WTA will crown a new #1 player on Monday, the fifth top player of this year. Let’s look at the previous four women before we talk about the newest number one.

Serena Williams started out the year ranked in her customary number one position. She of course hasn’t played since the Australian Open due to one Little Miss Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.

Angelique Kerber found herself ranked number one on May 15 after Serena went on maternity leave. She won two Slams in 2016 but had not shown much this year.

Karolina Pliskova took the top spot from Kerber on July 17 and held on to the top spot until September 10.

Garbiñe Muguruza‘s reign began September 11 and ends today, October 8.

Simona Halep‘s time as WTA #1 begins Monday, October 9.

To be fair to Halep the grumbling about Slamless WTA Number One’s began when Pliskova reached the top spot. Was she the best player? Not by a long shot. Did she bring excitement to the sport? That depends on how you feel about laid back personalities and since that is a matter of taste there is no need to dwell on her on court persona. It is fair to look at her game though. She can hit powerful ground strokes and if given the chance she can overpower an opponent especially when she can move around on her own terms. To say that she is not a good mover is putting it mildly. She also seems unable to bend her knees. If an opponent keeps the ball low and places it where she has to run to get it she stands a good chance of frustrating her and beating her. Fans argued about whether she deserved to be number one as fans will do these days. She won three titles in 2017: Brisbane, Qatar, and Eastbourne. The argument raged about her less than stellar game and lack of big wins at majors.

Muguruza was hailed as the best player of them all. She is a decent mover and won a Slam this year. Essays were being written about how she would dominate women’s tennis for years to come. And yet there were the inevitable “issues”. Her temperament on court when she was put under pressure left a lot to be desired. Winning matches isn’t about your opponent letting you win because you’re you. She’s there to win and in order to do that she’s going to do everything she can to stop you from winning. When this would happen Mugu seemed to be taken by surprise and in the end she was just as likely to raise the level of her game as to pout her way to a loss. Not exactly the behavior you expect from a number one ranked player.

While Muguruza and Pliskova were going through their changes Simona Halep was waiting in the wings. She had more than one chance to take over the top spot but always seemed to fall just short. The problem with Halep, as I’ve said here before, is that she simply doesn’t handle pressure well. Her French Open loss is embedded in my mind. She literally slumped her shoulders and hung her head while meekly surrendering to her opponent, Aljona (Jelena) Ostapenko. Yet somehow she was still in the running for the top spot. As of tomorrow she will be the WTA #1. As of tomorrow she has won exactly one title this year. It has to be mentioned that she got enough points to become number one during her semifinal match at Beijing. She promptly lost the Final.

I’ve been arguing for years that the WTA has to find a way to use some version of quality points again. Simona is a good player. She’s not a great player. You can argue that she’s not a number one player and wouldn’t be except for the fact that the WTA’s ranking system allows a player to get to the top spot by accumulating enough points.. I’m aware of the problems with using quality points but a player shouldn’t be able to simply pile up  points over a season and become number one.

To make matters worse there is an outside chance Elina Svitolina can become the top player without even getting near a Slam final.

I don’t dislike any of the women who are competing for the top spot. It’s obvious they’re doing the best they can and being rewarded very well for it. Is it too much to ask that a top player be able to play top level tennis both mentally and physically? That a top player doesn’t need her hand held by a coach or family member to make it through a match? That skill, and not attitude, is the measure of a top player?

I said a few years ago that when the older generation (not just Serena Williams and Venus Williams) leave the stage the WTA would be in trouble. I just didn’t hink it would happen so soon. It’s no accident that older players are coming out of retirement now. If I can see the drop in the level of tennis being played surely ex pros can see it and say “why not?”

The ATP is going to be facing the same problem in two or three years. It doesn’t look like it yet because the older players are still able to compete at a high level and their fandoms still dominate the conversation. When they leave the stage the generation right behind them is not going to play the same high quality tennis ATP fans have become used to. The generation behind those men, barring injury or off court issues, seems poised to step into the large footprints the current leaders are leaving and right over the players who should be next in line. The only hindrance will be how quickly they mature mentally.

End Notes

The WTA has gone out of its way to pretend that a player returning from a doping suspension was away on a break. I think that those chickens are going to come home to roost soon. If a player admits to doping for ten years prior to her suspension how are her records against players valid? Some fans are already raising the issue in regards to Simona Halep’s record against her. Yes it would’ve been messy to take all her titles away. Yes it would’ve been messy to take her winnings away. But would you rather that or the situation that exists now where those impressive H2H’s are going to be questioned and believed to be invalid?

The fall out from the Laver Cup continues. Was it a “real tournament” and not simply an “exhibition”? Since it’s second installment will take place in Chicago in 2018 who will the players be?

It’s not too soon to ask how has the Laver Cup affected the Davis Cup is it? If the top players can make time in their schedules for the Laver Cup why can’t they play for their countries during Davis Cup?

The WTA hasn’t said a word about whether it will or won’t stage its own event or piggy back on the Laver Cup’s already established drawing power. I don’t think any of the current to WTA players has the drawing power of the top ATP players so any similar event would be problematic in terms of sponsorships if it’s not paired with a men’s event. If the WTA did a better job of promoting the SPORT of women’s tennis and not individual personalities there’s a chance the WTA would be able to pull off it’s own version of the highly successful concept.

Speaking of Davis Cup and Fed Cup Spain’s RFET fired Conchita Martinez who was acting as captain of both teams. Sergei Brugera and Anabel Medina Garrigues were announced as her replacements.

Things are going to be very interesting in Sloane Stephens camp the next few weeks. I didn’t see her play in Asia but fans were visibly surprised at her physical condition. I’m not sure why they weren’t surprised at her physical condition at the US Open but since she managed to win I guess the discussion was deferred. With her reputation of being lazy and undisciplined the US Open comms made it clear that coach Kamau Murray would not stay around if she reverted to her old habits. She’s arrogant enough to think that she doesn’t have to do any more because she’ll always be a Slam winner. That’s what I mean about being a tennis great and being great for tennis has more to do with pride in yourself and the sport that is paying you than having an attitude.

We’ll see about Ms Stephens won’t we?

I haven’t done a year end summary of the two players I picked as up and comers for this year. Sadly, I barely remember who I picked. I know the young woman was Louisa Chirico. I’ve seen her name around but she has had an off year.

I think I picked one of the young US men, probably Taylor Fritz. He’s doing okay for a US player his Federation is pushing.

As for next year I haven’t seen anyone tennis hasn’t already seized on as an up and comer to watch. As a result I’m thinking of changing my criteria a bit and picking someone who has already gotten themselves on everyone’s radar and seeing how they perform next year, how they handle the pressure. If that is my final decision I I’ll let you know just before play begins in Australia at the end of December.

©2017 Savannahs World All rights reserved

Who Will It Be?

by Savannah

Jelena Ostapenko
Caroline Wozniacki
Kristina Mladenovic
Timea Bacsinszky
Elina Svitolina
Petra Martic
Carla Suarez Navarro
Simona Halep
Alizé Cornet
Caroline Garcia
Veronica Cepede-Royg
Karolina Pliskova

Prepare yourselves hard core tennis fans. Memorize the names listed above. Bone up on their head to heads and past achievements. Their quirks. Their looks. Their games. The burden rests on our shoulders. No one outside of tennis cognoscenti will have a clue as to who any of these women are. If they’re golf fans they may have heard of Caroline Wozniacki but that’s it. The WTA has done such a fine job of promoting women’s tennis that whoever makes it to the Final is guaranteed the lowest US TV ratings ever. The good people at NBC must be seething that Venus Williams couldn’t do it today. There was a chance she’s make the Final but clay is her worst surface. Still she did very well in Paris. I’m a big fan but I always thought it was a long shot for her to go deep in the second week.

Wozniacki vs Ostapenko and Mladenovic vs Bacsinsky are already set for the Quarter Finals. The remaining women’s matches remain to be played. If the seeding holds it’ll be Svitolina vs Halep and Pliskova playing the winner of Garcia vs Cornet, a match either woman can win.

People  talked alot about there being no previous Slam winner in the bottom half of the draw. Now there is no previous Slam winner in either half. And since the WTA has done such a great job of promoting women’s tennis (Yes I’m saying it again)  people will be tuned in to watch and hang on every shot. I know I will. But then again I’m one of those people who know who most of these women are because I spend a lot of time following tennis. The casual fan will probably pass. And that is sad.

All of these women, household names or not, played their asses off on the most demanding of surfaces. They defeated whoever was across the net from them, household name or not (You can argue that the only real household name left was Venus but this column isn’t totally about that). They don’t deserve their matches going forward being called a “Scrub Bowl”. Whoever wins will have her efforts diminished because “quirky” results often come from Roland Garros.

The players are not to blame for this happening. They belong to the Women’s Tennis Association. It’s the WTA’s  job to make sure their members names are front and center. Women’s tennis is the most successful of women’s sports and yet few outside of hard core fans can discuss any of the women listed above with any knowledge. Add to that the fact the the WTA is virtually invisible on television in any shape form or fashion and you leave sports fans with the impression that women’s tennis is a side show, a lesser part of the tennis world while hey, what about those Next Gen guys huh?

We’ll know more soon. Best of luck ladies.

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

The 2017 Roland Garros Draws

by Savannah

Every tennis head as seen the draws but I’ll post them in case you haven’t starting with the ATP Singles Draw.

A. Murray [1] vs A. Kuznetsov
WC L. Lokoli vs M. Klizan
M. Baghdatis vs N. Almagro
Qualifier vs Jm. Del Potro [29]

J. Isner [21] vs J. Thompson
P. Lorenzi vs R. Berankis
K. Khachanov vs Qualifier
Jl. Struff vs T. Berdych [13]

A. Zverev [9] vs F. Verdasco
Ph. Herbert vs J. Donaldson
D. Dzumhur vs N. Kicker
Qualifier vs P. Cuevas [22]

S. Querrey [27] vs H. Chung
E. Escobedo vs D. Istomin
R. Albot vs J. Chardy
T. Kokkinakis vs K. Nishikori [8]

S. Wawrinka [3] vs Qualifier
A. Dolgopolov vs C. Berlocq
Qualifier vs A. Seppi
F. Tiafoe vs F. Fognini [28]

R. Gasquet [24] vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs V. Estrella Burgos
T. Monteiro vs WC A. Muller
D. Brown vs G. Monfils [15]

Jw. Tsonga [12] vs R. Olivo
K. Edmund vs G. Elias
K. Anderson vs M. Jaziri
P. Kohlschreiber vs N. Kyrgios [18]

D. Ferrer [30] vs D. Young
F. Lopez vs Qualifier
K. Kravchuk vs F. Delbonis
E. Gulbis vs M. Cilic [7]

M. Raonic [5] vs S. Darcis
R. Dutra Silva vs M. Youzhny
Qualifier vs WC Q. Halys
G. Garcia-Lopez vs G. Muller [26]

P. Carreno Busta [20] vs F. Mayer
Qualifier vs J. Janowicz
T. Robredo vs D. Evans
S. Robert vs G. Dimitrov [11]

J. Sock [14] vs J. Vesely
A. Bedene vs R. Harrison
M. Kukushkin vs WC T. Sandgren
J. Millman vs R. Bautista Agut [17]

G. Simon [31] vs N. Basilashvili
V. Troicki vs E. Donskoy
R. Haase vs WC A. De Minaur
B. Paire vs R. Nadal [4]

D. Thiem [6] vs B. Tomic
Qualifier vs N. Mahut
WC M. Bourgue vs B. Coric
Y. Sugita vs S. Johnson [25]

I. Karlovic [23] vs Qualifier
H. Zeballos vs A. Mannarino
Yh. Lu vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs D. Goffin [10]

L. Pouille [16] vs WC J. Benneteau
T. Bellucci vs D. Lajovic
WC B. Bonzi vs D. Medvedev
Qualifier vs A. Ramos-Vinolas [19]

M. Zverev [32] vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs D. Schwartzman
J. Sousa vs J. Tipsarevic
M. Granollers vs N. Djokovic [2]

Here is the WTA Singles Draw.

A. Kerber [1] vs E. Makarova
L. Tsurenko vs Qualifier
L. Chirico vs J. Ostapenko
M. Puig vs R. Vinci [31]

S. Stosur [23] vs K. Kucova
K. Flipkens vs M. Minella
Qualifier vsE. Rodina
J. Boserup vs P. Kvitova [15]

C. Wozniacki [11] vs WC J. Fourlis
Qualifier vs WC T. Andrianjafitrimo
C. Bellis vs Qualifier
A. Tomljanovic vs K. Bertens [18]

S. Zhang [32] vs D. Vekic
V. Golubic vs A. Sasnovich
C. Giorgi vs O. Dodin
C. McHale vs S. Kuznetsova [8]

G. Muguruza [4] vs F. Schiavone
A. Kontaveit vs M. Niculescu
J. Larsson vs N. Vikhlyantseva
WC M. Georges vs Y. Putintseva [27]

M. Lucic-Baroni [22] vs C. Buyukakcay
M. Erakovic vs S. Rogers
Qualifier vs M. Doi
J. Brady vs K. Mladenovic [13]

V. Williams [10] vs Q. Wang
WC A. Anisimova vs K. Nara
J. Jankovic vs Qualifier
E. Mertens vs D. Gavrilova [24]

T. Bacsinszky [30] vs S. Sorribes Tormo
M. Brengle vs J. Goerges
Qualifier vs Qualifier
L. Arruabarrena vs D. Cibulkova [6]

E. Svitolina [5] vs Y. Shvedova
M. Barthel vs T. Pironkova
WC A. Lim vs M. Linette
D. Kovinic vs A. Konjuh [29]

A. Sevastova [17] vs A. Beck
R. Ozaki vs E. Bouchard
K. Bondarenko vs Qualifier
A. Barty vs M. Keys [12]

E. Vesnina [14] vs Qualifier
V. Lepchenko vs A. Petkovic
S. Cirstea vs S. Peng
M. Sakkari vs C. Suarez Navarro [21]

D. Kasatkina [26] vs Y. Wickmayer
Qualifier vs WC A. Hesse
Yy. Duan vs T. Maria
J. Cepelova vs S. Halep [3]

J. Konta [7] vs Sw. Hsieh
Qualifier vs T. Townsend
WC C. Paquet vs K. Pliskova
N. Hibino vs C. Garcia [28]

B. Strycova [20] vs A. Riske
A. Cornet vs T. Babos
N. Osaka vs Qualifier
WC F. Ferro vs A. Radwanska [9]

A. Pavlyuchenkova [16] vs Pm. Tig
V. Cepede Royg vs L. Safarova
M. Duque-Marino vs I. Begu
M. Rybarikova vs C. Vandeweghe [19]

L. Davis [25] vs C. Witthoeft
I. Khromacheva vs P. Parmentier
E. Alexandrova vs K. Siniakova
S. Zheng vs K. Pliskova [2]

 I’m beginning to think more and more of Grand Slam draws as snapshots, a rendering not only of ranking but of what has been happening in tennis in the months leading up to these events that are called “majors” in tennis.

Both tours are coming to this event in states of flux. At the present time neither tour has a dominant number one, someone that everyone wants to beat even if it means they’ve expended so much energy that they lose badly in the next round.

Tennis commentators are always talking about the element of fear in the locker room and how that affects on court play. That player everyone fears and loathes is usually ranked number one. Going by that standard both the mens and women’s tours are afraid but for different reasons. On the ATP side the British finally has a male player ranked number one. Unfortunately talk of illness has dogged him of late and it’s a legitimate question as to whether he’s physically up to a grueling seven match march to the final of the tournament held on his least favorite surface.

Then there’s the somewhat astounding mental and physical collapse of the man who had been dominating the tour before Andrew Murray took over the top spot. It’s as if we’re watching the previous incarnation of the man when he would begin to falter and fade physically during a match. It’s all happened rather suddenly and there is no easy explanation for why it happened. Some are pointing to a self declared guru who now travels with him especially since he fired not only his long time coach but his trainer and everyone else he’s been working with for years. Personally I don’t see what someone like Andre Agassi can do to help him. I know some will argue that people said that about Ivan Ljubicic and Roger Federer. Everyone loves a good story though and in the final analysis this work with Agassi seems to be more about Agassi and his family getting an all expenses paid trip to Paris than him seriously going back to the grind of traveling. It also gives the USTA the chance to brag that’s it’s former champions, who never played the modern game for more than a short period of time, do have something to contribute. We’ll see.

There are some young players who could surprise, among them Alexander Zverev. He’s in the top of the top half of the draw and his immediate section, aside from the tricky Pablo Cuevas, shouldn’t present too many problems for him. If he ends up facing Nishikori Kei that will be his first really big test.

It should be mentioned in passing that the ATP has done a good job promoting the young “Next Gen” players. I don’t think any of them is ready to do major damage at this, the most demanding of the Slams, but they could do enough to ruin some players day.

And now to the WTA.

The only player they’ve been promoting will not be playing at Roland Garros, and rightly so. When she and her agent couldn’t strong arm the FFT or the AELTC for that matter the WTA was left scrambling to get a good PR push going for its other players, you know, the ones who haven’t doped. They could’ve promoted their number one but she’s gone back to being the player she was before winning two Slams in a year. It’s almost by default that they’re now pushing Petra Kvitova who is coming back, I hope not prematurely, from an injury sustained during a home invasion.

So who has a chance? Top of my list would be Elina Svitolina. She’s got the game and if she can hold up has a good chance of going deep. Keep in mind the French Open is about endurance and sometimes those with good games can’t physically hold up.

Garbiñe Muguruza? As I’ve said before I saw her play live a couple of years ago now and she almost lost to Carina Witthöft. Since her French Open win she’s done nothing to write home about. Her opening match against Francesca Schiavone, a previous French Open champion as well, should give her a good work out and give us an idea what her chances are of repeating her title run. I think if she could get it through her head that no one is really afraid of her she would be able to raise her level of play and commit to what she needs to change. She must like having a celebrity coach though. If I were Sam Sumyk I would’ve told her long ago to kiss where the sun don’t shine and gone away although after the crappy way he treated Victoria Azarenka his stock may have gone down a bit. He needs her to do well as much as she needs to do well.

I’m not ready to get on the Kristina Mldenovic bandwagon just yet. The woman wants it and wants it bad. I’m not sure that will be enough to get her through though. She still has those little mental lapses that you can’t afford to have in best of three matches on the premier clay court in the world. You can make corrections in a best of five match. A mental lapse in best of three can break you in more ways than one.

Karolina Pliskova? She may end up in the top spot by default but she has too many problems with her game to be a favorite to win in my mind. She doesn’t bend her legs. She doesn’t like the low ball. Her movement is shit and that’s after she says she’s been working on it. With the weakness of the WTA tour right now she could still find herself in the semi’s or even the Final though. To me she’s a younger version of Daniela Hantuchova, another player who needed to dominate using her serve to control the center of the court.

By the way I read a fan comment saying that Karolina’s legs are too long for clay. The world wide web has room for every body.

The only other name I want to mention is Johanna Konta. I don’t get it. I don’t see it. I can never get past that horrible service motion of hers which for some reason always goes unmentioned by the tennis comms I’m used to hearing. I think that her heart is set on Wimbledon but again, the weakness of the WTA could see her wind up playing in the second week.

I’m starting my French Open with a breakfast of croissants with butter and honey. Or maybe thick cut English marmalade. The sleep deprivation won’t be as bad as it is during the Australian Open but it will be real.

End Note

There’s been a lot of controversy about the latest homophobic comments by Margaret Court, a relic of a bygone era and a fundamentalist preacher of some kind. Ever since her importance to tennis was raised by some who wanted the current GOAT to have another hurdle to overcome she’s been opening her mouth and breathing sulfur all over the tennis landscape. You lay down with dogs you get up with fleas. The tennis world gave her this platform and like any preacher she’s going to shout her message from the rooftops. It’s the height of hypocrisy to act as if you’re shocked and appalled by what she says especially if you’re part of the contingent that opened the door of her cave and let her out. People are calling for the arena named after her to be renamed. They’re asking that she stop being invited to Slams outside of Australia. I doubt if any of this will happen.