Will Lack of Fitness & “Courtsense” Finish Off the WTA?

by Savannah

We’re barely through the first week of the French Open at Roland Garros and already some things are standing out for me as a result of watching both ATP and WTA matches. As you can tell by the title of this post the most blatant things are related to the WTA and it’s crop of new players.

In what was arguably the worst match of the event so far Kristina Mladenovic, as thirsty a player as exists in competition today, played Jennifer Brady on Court Philippe Chatrier that by the end had me screaming “I don’t care who wins get off the damn court! Close it out!” Mladenovic was playing with back issues per the comms and you could see her grimace in pain from time to time. You could also see her desperately looking to the stands for help. She very much wanted to call her coach down but of course the ITF doesn’t allow on court coaching (OCC) so she had to figure it out for herself. It was not pretty.

It also made me appreciate the older generation of players more. They didn’t cry and ask for someone to come down from the stands to hold their hands. They had to think their way through, adjust to what their opponent was doing, and soldier on.

Garbiñe Muguruza was also desperate to call down her coach during her match against Anett Kontaveit but she may have surprised herself by buckling down and eventually winning without her having to not listen to what her coach says while disrespecting him. I’ve railed against OCC for quite sometime now but with the current crop of players, many of whom began playing the main tour when OCC was in full effect the amount of whining and tears and temper tantrums seems to have increased. With it has come a huge drop in the level of tennis, one that will only get worse unless OCC is seen as the detriment to the sport it is and is discontinued.

Fitness? Most of the women are thin so they’re fit right? Wrong. You can be thin without being fit. The rash of injuries are coming about because, in my opinion, they’re dieting but still trying to look “feminine”. Remember Aga Radwanska‘s coach going on a rant about that a few years ago? That’s a nice collection of Slam trophies Aga has isn’t it? If you don’t build up strength – and muscle tone – the exertion of a three set match on clay, or any surface really, will bring you down. When your lungs are burning, your arms are heavy and your legs are jelly it’s hard to focus on what’s happening across the net if you can barely hold it together physically.

Some are nostalgic, and have been for a long time, for a return to the style of play exhibited by Martina Hingis in her day and it seems they’re going to get it if trends hold. I guess it’s been long enough for people to forget how boring that style of play is. It was also a time when women’s tennis was ridiculed for not being “real tennis” and led to the idea that it was “less” than men’s tennis, an idea that is still alive and widespread in the world of tennis.

There’s nothing wrong with strength of mind and body. There’s nothing wrong with being physically able to play a sport that makes so many demands on your body and mind. There’s nothing wrong with being able to adjust what you’re doing without someone dashing down from the stands and holding your hand. Both Muguruza and Mladenovic showed that they can do it. Sadly I don’t think their exhibition of mental toughness will be evident past Roland Garros when it’ll be back to hand holding and tears from athletes who are much better than that.

© 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.

 

The Rearview Mirror: The WTA in 2016

by Savannah

The WTA season ended with a whimper. Its year end Number 1 ranked player Angelique Kerber lost the YEC to Dominika Cibulkova , a player who is looked at by many as a bit of a side show. She’s listed at 5’3″ but that is arguably PR. She plays a high energy game and has been known in the past to run out of steam or ideas. She didn’t in Singapore and soundly beat Kerber who showed adjusting is not her strong suit and that with the right attitude she is easily beaten. The same thing happened to Kerber at the Olympics when playing in a similar fashion Monica Puig defeated her for the Gold Medal.

In addition to the year ending without a dominant top ranked player the last thing the WTA needed was the inability to expose its brand to more fans. Yet that is the situation fans of women’s tennis are facing. Steve Simon, the CEO of the WTA admitted when pressed that there will be no streaming platform for women’s tennis until maybe the second quarter of 2017. He wasn’t all that definite on that.

Add to that the doping scandal it seems to want fans to forget about and the future of the WTA hasn’t been shakier. I’m not talking about the “depth” of competition. I’m talking about marketing. Product placement. And finally level of competition.

So, one at a time.

Marketing has been a total failure for several years now. There are two players who kept the WTA relevant, Venus Williams and Serena Williams . Yes there’s a lot of talk about a doper being the player who put butts in the seats but you have to deal with reality. She is not the one who brought fans to see women’s tennis. I remember many of her matches being poorly attended and fan negatives pretty high. Something to do with screaming. It didn’t help that as she got older her thug tactics against opponents were harder to explain away or sweep under the rug. It also became somewhat of a joke that no matter what she couldn’t beat the woman who sat on top of the WTA rankings for many years. Instead of the WTA taking the opportunity to promote women’s tennis when she was caught doping they doubled down on the her being the “face of the WTA” and became the only professional sport to allow propaganda from a doper to be featured on its official website. The people in charge are also acting as if her return from her doping suspension will see the revival of women’s tennis with both Williams in the twilight of their careers. It’s a mistake of massive proportions. Her people are working very hard to make it seem as if fans are not concerned about the optics of what’s been happening but the proof will indeed be in the pudding so to speak. When given the chance fans voice their displeasure at what the WTA has done in this situation and rightly ask if any other player would be afforded such leniency by their Association.. What happens this summer will go a long way to see if the WTA made a big mistake regarding it’s first real, long term doping scandal.

That leads right to a discussion of product placement. Many casual fans still think that Anna Kournikova was one of the greatest players ever. If that doesn’t tell you how well the WTA has marketed its players, and maybe the greatest female player ever, nothing else will. Their entire focus has been making the casual fan believe the best players all look like Ms Kournikova did back in the day – Young, blonde and “sexy”. Every player out of the US, Canada and Eastern Europe has tried to make herself fit this mold. It doesn’t help that they all play alike. When your top player doesn’t fit what you feel is the “ideal look” for a woman player you’ve got big problems but nothing that a dedication to promoting the SPORT of women’s tennis couldn’t have overcome. When the “look” is more important than the tennis you end up with the Eugenie Bouchard marketing disaster.

One thing that helps promote a sport is high quality play combined with interesting personalities. It’s one thing if all the players look alike. It’s another thing altogether if they all play alike. If that level of play is mediocre no one is going to care what the players look like. If the players don’t have engaging on court personalities (engaging doesn’t mean arrogant) and the tennis is snooze worthy you’ve got a problem. And let’s face it outside of Serena and Venus the current players are DULL!!! DULL!!! DULL!!! I recently heard Tracy Austin trying to say Kerber’s on court demeanor is “calm”. That’s one way to describe it. The other player who has people bandwagoning is Spain’s Garbiñe Muguruza . The team that’s supposed to pull that wagon hasn’t been found yet. After finding a way to win the French Open Muguruza has done nothing to justify the hype around her. She reminds me of Petra Kvitova in a way except that Kvitova, when she wants to, can rally herself and utilize her god given talent and beat people. Muguruza doesn’t seem to want to rally herself at all. Instead she’s laboring under the illusion that her opponents should be in awe of her. So far none of them have obliged her. If it wasn’t for a tired opponent at the YEC she wouldn’t have won a match there.

So, next year?
It’s going to be hard to say since we won’t have a viable platform to watch the WTA until the second quarter, and that isn’t even a given as I’ve already said. Keep in mind that without a streaming platform there won’t be many sources for the people who run illegal streams to use. In the US Tennis Channel is focusing on young US players. If you have money to spare they have Tennis Channel+ which features both mens and women’s tennis. We also have ESPN, the outlet with the rights to all four Slams. But Doha. Dubai. Indian Wells. The Golden Swing. TennisTV used to carry the WTA matches. Not any more. I don’t think TC+ will be carrying them either or Simon would’ve mentioned that there is an agreement with them to defuse the widespread anger and disappointment of fans upset at losing access via TennisTV. Keep in mind most of the contracts for on air talent are finalized early in the year. The best are already signed up.

There are also many fans who only watch the WTA. I have to say I was surprised about that. I’m a fan of tennis and appreciate the differences between the two tours. The ATP is going to hit the ground running with prospective fans able to watch its product on various live and streaming platforms. The potential to keep or add viewers among cord cutters is huge. The WTA is always talking about the billions of fans who will potentially watch it’s product in Asia but I don’t understand them shutting out the millions of potential viewers who will actually pay to see women play tennis live and will look at it when they want to at home. With the time differences between Europe, South America, the United States and Asia being able to watch at your convenience is a big plus for fans.

Most of you know I don’t do predictions but I do have some ideas.

  • I think Serena has one more Slam in her.
  • I think we’ll see a revolving door at the top of the rankings because Kerber will not be a dominant Number 1.
  • Several of the top players from the last ten to fifteen years will “age out” and retire.
  • The stature of the WTA will be reduced due to incompetent management. While Simon hasn’t shown he’s got the right stuff to run women’s tennis a lot of the things he’s stuck with were put in place by his predecessor and are not easily ended or redirected.
  • Sadly I think we’re stuck with on court coaching, the single worst thing that has been done to women’s tennis so far.

I also hope that Simon is unable to implement some of the changes he’s talked about – no AD scoring for one, and eliminating “real” tie breakers. Those changes would turn women’s tennis from a sport to sports entertainment and leave mens tennis as “true” tennis. All the work that the founders put into getting respect for the women who play tennis would’ve been for nothing.

©Savannahs World 2016 All Rights Reserved

Dominika Cibulkova – 2016 WTA Champion

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via AP

One thing the WTA has been working hard at is trying to make fans accept that the woman now ranked #1 will be a dominant champion. Part of that strategy included her winning the Year End Championships held in Singapore. As usual the eight women were divided into two groups. The Red Group included Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Madison Keys & Dominika Cibulková. The White Group was made up of Agnieszka Radwańska, Karolína Plíšková, Garbiñe Muguruza and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Kerber, Muguruza and Kuznetsova have won Slams. Aga has been on the verge of taking over the top spot in rankings. Halep is expected to become a dominant player at some point as are Keys and Plíšková. Radwańska managed to win the YEC last year after going 1-2 in Round Robin play.

Sveta Kuznetsova turned out to be the star of the White Group. Whatever magic Aga had last year wasn’t there this year. Muguruza played the way I saw her play at the US Open in 2015. If Sveta’s marathon trip from Moscow to Singapore hadn’t finally caught up with her there’s a chance she would’ve left Singapore without winning a match. If she stays with Sam Sumyk there’s a lot they have to work on, starting with her attitude. She seems to think she’s a star and that the rest of the tour quakes in their sneakers at the thought of playing her. Yes, she’s delusional.

Plíšková’s technique is still horrible. She’s said she’s working on bending her knees but so far it’s not working well for her. Because her lower body doesn’t help her fatigue becomes a factor over the course of a tournament.

Aga has a similar issue. She doesn’t develop upper body strength. She doesn’t develop lower body strength. It’s not that she can’t she won’t. That’s why her execution is so important. It’s also why she can easily defeat younger players. They go for her feints and tricks. Those who have played her before don’t have those problems with her.

There’s not much to say about Halep anymore. Her issue is her inability to play well under pressure. She’s also allergic to the net . Cahill has done his best but I’m not sure she’s ever going to be the contender so many thought she’d be.

Madison Keys was my “one to watch” a couple of years ago. When I picked her as one to watch she was raw with very little strategy to her game. Several coaches and a couple of years later it’s obvious that she’s got no court sense other than to hit the ball as hard as she can. Some fans have taken to calling her a baseball player and it’s hard to argue against that sobriquet. She swings for the fences no matter what her opponent is doing. Home run hitters strike out a lot. So does Madison.

So we ended up with a final between Kerber and Cibulkova. I was surprised when I saw the head to head 5-4 for Kerber. That was close. I was even more surprised when I woke up this morning and saw that Cibulkova had won the first set and was on the verge of winning the second set. Kerber tried to get herself in gear but little Dominika was not having it. As you see she’s the one who lofted the trophy.

So where do we go from here? Serena Williams will be back next year. At 36 she’s still capable of winning a Slam if things go her way. She played a very limited schedule this year and after the US Open took the rest of the year off because she was “tired of playing hurt”.

Victoria Azarenka is due to give birth and there’s no doubt that she will be back on tour as soon as she’s physically able. Somehow I don’t think she’ll let motherhood get in the way of her tennis. Then again you never know.

As I’ve already mentioned there wasn’t a coherent PR campaign for the YEC. Some fans were calling it a preview of the future of the WTA. There are no big stars among this group. If the spin for the number one is her sense of calm on the court you’re talking boring. Don’t get me wrong, there were some good matches. I was actually awake for some of them. In the end it didn’t matter to me if I was awake or not or if I caught a replay. And I’m the kind of fan who tried to see the Future Stars competition in Singapore.

So congratulations Dominika Cibulkova. You’re the champion of women’s tennis for 2016.

©Savannah’s World 2016 All Rights Reserved Except where indicated

The WTA YEC Final: Who?

by Savannah

Unless you’re a dyed in the wool tennis fanatic you’re excused for having the above reaction when told who will be contesting for the title of best women’s tennis player of 2016. I doubt many outside of us tennis fanatics have ever heard of either Angelique Kerber or Dominika Cibulkova . In fact I’d be willing to bet a casual fan would’ve had no idea who any of the Final 8 were. Ask them.

Angelique Kerber?
Agnieszka Radwańska?
Simona Halep?
Karolína Plíšková?
Garbiñe Muguruza?
Madison Keys?
Dominika Cibulková?
Svetlana Kuznetsova?

Hell Sveta didn’t even know she’d be participating in this years Final until the very last minute thanks to the WTA’s continued lack of concern for its players and the resulting crappy schedule they’re forced to play. To say that the publicity photo’s of happy blonde women were too little to late is putting it mildly. There was no time to do proper photo ops or introduce the women to the public beyond the niche world of tennis fandom. Even for tennis fans Sveta became the main story, managing to run on fumes until the semifinal when she hit the proverbial wall. The WTA has got a woman that Steve Simon called a “representation” of women’s tennis (watch the video of his ridiculous press conference) that is not Serena Williams but at what cost? If no one gives a damn about your product what difference does it make if she’s got the look you want and an acceptable nationality? For the last several years the WTA has chosen not to promote women’s tennis as a sport choosing to promote the look of a now certified doper over the best athlete in it’s ranks. Its attempt to ignore the fact that it’s “face” doped for ten years (the amount of time that can be verified) and act as if her returning to the sport she’s disgraced is something to be cheered is cringeworthy to put it mildly.

So here we are. Dominika Cibulkova will face Angelique Kerber for the crown. Kerber is 5-4 vs Cibulkova in their head to head. I barely care about this final. I can imagine how the generic casual fan will feel especially since the Final is taking place in Singapore. There is a twelve hour time difference between the east coast of the US and that country. Meanwhile the NFL has a game in London that will start at 9a Eastern time in the US and 6a on the West Coast of the US. The NFL has a lot of problems but publicity isn’t one of them. That generic fan in the US will, if he or she is awake, watch that as opposed to two women they’ve never heard of. The fault for that lies firmly with the WTA. Even in his little presser Simon did not touch on potential US viewers choosing instead to focus on the potential in Europe and China, the emphasis being on potential. Citing Europe is kind of ironic since so many women’s tournaments there have been shut down in favor of China where the women play in empty stadiums.

No matter how you feel about the two finalists they’ve both done what they had to do to get to this position. One of them will be crowned 2016 champion. It’s a shame that very few outside of those in the stadium will bother to wake up to watch. They deserve a better Association than the WTA.

And that is truly a tragedy.

©2016 Savannahs World All rights reserved

Finally the Final Eight

by Savannah

With her 6-2, 6-1 victory in Moscow Svetlana Kuznetsova secured the final spot at the WTA YEC in Singapore that starts on October 23. Assuming she’s flying direct the flight time is 10h 30m. She’ll be playing on the 24th. Most of the other players have been in Singapore for a few days, some for over a week.

Then there’s the case of Johanna Konta , who is one of the women who have been in Singapore for awhile despite the fact that her status was unknown. She was featured in some of the publicity shots that were released. She’s now reduced to the level of First Alternate.

What a way to run your year end tournament WTA.

Why is it that everything the WTA does brings the term “Mickey Mouse” to mind.
Fans of women’s tennis still have no idea what the new streaming platform for WTA matches will be after TennisTV announced weeks ago that the WTA will no longer be part of it’s platform which will now feature a streaming App for devices like AppleTV and Roku. I guess it’s more polite to call them incompetent but the other, more derogatory term, still applies.

Anyway here is the list of the Final Eight with their groupings.

Red Group

Dominika Cibulkova
Madison Keys
Angelique Kerber
Simona Halep

White Group

Agnieszka Radwanska
Karolina Pliskova
Garbiñe Muguruza
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Day 1 Order of Play is as follows:

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2016

CENTRE COURT
TIME
17:00 – [3] SIMONA HALEP (ROU) V [6] MADISON KEYS (USA)
19:30 – [1] ANGELIQUE KERBER (GER) V [7] DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA (SVK)

Live streaming will be done on the WTA site and on TennisTV. There are online sites to verify what time play will start in your part of the world.

Good luck to all the participants. They deserve better than the WTA.

©2016 Savannahs World 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.

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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