This and That

by Savannah

It’s been quite some time since I’ve used up cyber ink to post about tennis. A lot has happened hasn’t it? Where to start? How about with some positives.

A couple of years ago I chose a then virtually unknown teenager named Alexander Zverev as my one to watch. As I write this he’s made his first ATP M1000 final defeating John Isner in three sets. It should’ve been over in two sets but for a bit of a walkabout by Sascha in the second set but there’s no need to quibble. Of course now everyone and their brother is on the Zverev bandwagon and it feels good to say I was one of the first to see his potential. His emotions are under much tighter control now but those diva-ish moments still happen.

Venus Williams is still striding her way through women’s tennis head high and ruining peoples days. She doesn’t win everything anymore but she goes deep enough in tournaments to keep her ranking in the top ten. Good for her.

Speaking of Venus someone asked why Tommy Haas is still playing at his age. I answered this way. Both Haas (never been a fan) and Venus could be thinking the best years of their tennis lives were disrupted by injury and illness. Now that they’re as healthy and fit as they can be they want to do what they love and that is play tennis. Why not? Tennis journalists were praising Andre Agassi to the heavens if I recall correctly. Martina Navratilova played until she couldn’t anymore. There’s precedent for this. If an older player manages their schedule and adjusts their training and diet to keep them in peak form I say let them play.

While senior players are looking after themselves and enjoying their wins it seems the Brits are in a spot of bother about their stars. When I say that of course I’m talking about Andrew Murray who, after losses on his least favorite surface said he felt maybe he should be worried. It’s not that he was losing he was losing early. Murray just turned 30 and is now at the age where back in the day tennis players would be looking for something else to do. That said, I think the Brits need to calm down. Murray’s style of play is, at least in my opinion, an acquired taste. When he’s on he’s on. When he’s not, he’s just not. They’re also trying to downplay that he had shingles, a very painful skin condition and one that takes a while to recover from. I guess they’re freaking out because after Murray there really isn’t anyone. Yes they’re pushing Kyle Edmund and legend in his own mind Dan Evans but really Edmund, if he can find a way to beat his contemporaries on a regular basis, could become top twenty it looks like that possibility is still in the realm of wishful thinking.

As for the British women who is there besides Johanna Konta? It looks as if Laura Robson, once the fair haired girl (and like Konta also an Aussie import) won’t be more than an ITF player. Heather Watson? Again nothing has changed. When she reaches the business end of a shot, let alone a match, her decision making makes you wonder where her brain is. Every now and then she stirs herself to get a good result but for the most part it’s second, maybe third round, and out.

Meanwhile in the US we’re not much better off than the Brits. At least their man is ranked number 1. Diminutive Lauren Davis has been our most consistent player. I don’t see Madison Keys winning a major although with the right draw she could come close. Catherine Bellis, Louisa Chirico, Taylor Fritz, and Reilly Opelka are the ones getting all the hype from the USTA but it was Frances Tiafoe who got a win over Jeremy Chardy and young Ernesto Escobedo who are out there doing the hard work. As always with US tennis it comes down to expectations based on who you are vs talent no matter who you are. That’s why Naomi Osaka is playing for Japan and not the United States. The USTA didn’t want her. The Japanese federation jumped right in and the rest is history. Unfortunately Tiafoe, whose family is from Sierra Leone, and Escobedo, whose family comes from Mexico, have not other rich Federation ready to come in and throw money at them. Both young men are American by birth so it’s the USTA they have to deal with.

I mentioned the ATP top player so it’s only fair to mention the WTA’s top ranked player, Angelique Kerber. She’s not having fun this year at all. She’s ranked number one because Serena Williams is expecting her first child in late summer. Keep in mind the WTA rushed out PR touting her attaining the top ranking before the new rankings were official at the end of last year. There was all kinds of talk from tennis journalists about how she would dominate. Welp. Once again we see it’s easier being the hunter than the hunted. She may fluke her way to another Slam but right now it looks as if she’s running scared. Waiting in the wings is Karolina Pliskova. Her game is still what it has been, one dimensional and if you make her have to move and bend you’ve got a good chance of beating her. But if things continue as they are she could be the next number one player.

If you think I’m talking about everything but the one topic that is dominating the tennis world I am. There isn’t much to say on the subject. I’ve felt from the beginning that the ITF recommendation of a four year ban was the right way to go. The two year ban, while a slap on the wrist in my opinion, was a good compromise. When the CAS threw out the ITF report and decided, based on nothing but PR, that the suspension should be reduced there was nothing to do but throw up your hands.

What’s even worse is that the WTA has pulled out all the stops to try and make it seem everyone, her peers and the press, thought she’d be done wrong and that the doping ban was equivalent to an injury or pregnancy break. It’s not. Thankfully the French Tennis Federation threw a huge bucket of cold water on those who, in my opinion, were leading the charge to destroy women’s tennis with their shenanigans. No Main Draw Wild Cards for dopers. End of story. To avoid a second embarrassment she and her team rightly decided that they would accept what they’ve got and play Qualies at Wimbledon.

Steve Simon, the hapless head of the WTA, has put a lot of effort into trying to rehabilitate a doper. Meanwhile it’s almost impossible to see a women’s tennis match and it doesn’t seem that anything is happening on that front. In the final analysis tennis fanatics are tennis fanatics. If they can’t see the version they love they’ll look at what is available. By the time the WTA get’s it’s thumb out of it’s ass they will have lost many fans to men’s tennis which is easy to see on many platforms.

So many have worked so hard to promote women’s tennis as a sport not a side show. It hurts to see it reduced to its current state. Yes I’ve said this before and I have to keep saying it. I don’t get paid to write this blog so I’m beholden to no one but myself. If Steve Simon is representative of the upper echelon of US tennis no wonder the USTA is in the state it’s in. Maybe if they stopped giving each other awards and focused on marketing the sport and developing talent no matter where it comes from maybe, just maybe, a US player can hold up a trophy from a major tournament.

End Note

Roland Garros. While the clay season continues in Europe and South America this tournament is the official end of the clay court season for much of the main tour. As usual I’m sad to see it come to an end. From the start of the Golden Swing to the last match in Paris I feel you see tennis at its best. The physical and the mental, combined with creativity, all come into play during a clay court match in the way it doesn’t on other surfaces. Each shot is a question or an answer. The ante is raised during each rally until someone makes a declarative statement meant to close out the discussion. It’s beautiful to watch.

© Savannahs World 2017 All Rights Reserved

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.

©2016 SavannahsWorld All Rights Reserved