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

This And That: 2017 US Open

by Savannah

For shame.

It’s bad enough the US Open, already considered by many fans deserving of the title of Worst Slam gave a wild card into the Main Draw for a returning Doper. Not satisfied with that they decided to insert her cheating butt right into the race for Number One. If I’m Simona Halep or Darren Cahill I’m under sedation right now. Why? Simona does not do well against the woman she’ll play in Round One. Their head to head is six to nothing in her opponents favor. It’s not just that Halep can’t figure her out. She seems intimidated and plays like an ITF player against her feeding her balls she can easily return for winners. It’s just not fair. But then again the US Open isn’t known for playing fair. Just ask Juan Carlos Ferrero about how he was screwed out of a chance to compete fairly for the US Open title back in the day. Don’t believe the bull that’s being circulated about Halep having a chance because now the doper is off her meds and she probably can’t outlast her. Did I say it loud enough? Bull. Shit.

What’s worse is that if Halep loses, and there’s no reason to think she won’t, she’ll be taken right out of the Race for the Top. If you had to give her a wild card don’t insert her into the race for Number One. The casual fan will only know that she beat the Number Two player in the world no matter what happens after that.

For shame USTA. For shame.

On the men’s side we’ve got one half of the draw that’s pretty tough while the other half of the draw is pretty soft. Again the USTA is being blatant in it’s preferences.

There’s nothing more to say about it.

The Future Is Now

I saw a poll on a fan site asking if the WTA should introduce a Next Gen end of year tournament similar to what the ATP is doing with its Milan event later this year.

It sounds like a great idea until you realize that the WTA is the tour that put out a half done and poorly designed web site that got rid of all the things fans come to sports websites for. Want to know what Chris Evert’s head to head vs Evonne Goolagong was? Better check Wikipedia. They then followed up with a launch of WTA TV. Keep in mind they were supposed to introduce their streaming service last year. Regular readers know what’s coming. I’m always dragging the WTA some will say. Well what should I say about launching a site that credit card companies flagged as a phishing site? A site that can only archive matches for three days? A site that has no presence on devices like AppleTV, Roku or Chromecast? A site that won’t offer fans the option of using PayPal when subscribing? After at least a year?

The WTA notified the ATP that it was leaving their shared platform in the spring of last year but fans knew nothing about that until the ATP announced it was relaunching the site as ATP TennisTV instead of TennisTV. It took the WTA a year to introduce it’s less than state of the art site. And some fans want it to start a new tournament for the top players of the next generation? The ATP started talking about Milan at least a year and a half ago. The introductory ad campaign was slick and professional. The men who are considered the best of the up and comers have had many chances to introduce themselves to fans and if you watch tennis on television the ad campaign has started up again. By this time fans know the players personalities and know what to expect when seeing them play.

If you want to know how bad the WTA is at promoting it’s own product one knowledgeable fan when plugging the names of the Lucky Losers/Qualifers into the WTA draw lamented that he had no idea who any of them are. And this is someone who follows the sport fairly closely. That isn’t the players fault. It’s the fault of their association.

The other thing about next generation in the WTA. I hate to say this but they all look alike and play alike (with some exceptions). They also all need their hands held to make it through a match. The other day I watched a match where the coach of a fairly established moderately successful player was screaming her to look at him while he was talking to her just like a parent does with a recalcitrant child. I don’t think that’s the look women’s professional tennis wants to project. Then again there’s the situation with that returning doper…

The US Open Series

I’ve always defended the concept of the Series. Hard court tournaments for men and women that begin at the end of grass season and take you right up to the beginning of the US Open. The idea was to offer large enough purses to make the tournaments attractive enough to the Europeans and cause them to cross the pond earlier than they usually would so fans and potential fans would get to see the best players. It hasn’t worked out that way.

After the USTA worked hard to diminish the European red clay season and even to eliminate one of the most treasured tournaments any chance of luring the big names was gone. The top men and women come for the events in Canada and Cincinnati. After that they head to New York to prepare for the Slam that closes out the US hardcourt season. Fans in the US are then left watching the best the US has to offer. That’s okay if you’re fiending for tennis and it’s all you can get but many of these tournaments struggle to make a profit.

On top of that there is no longer a sponsor for the Series. Should it still be called the US Open Series if there is no longer a fat paycheck awaiting the winner when it ends? Why not? At least fans in the US are getting a chance to see US talent and measure their potential. Have I seen enough of some players? Yes. But I also got to see a young college player named Christopher Eubanks who was given a Wild Card into the US Open Main Draw. That’s what this Series should be sold as in my opinion.

The Draws

I’m sure by now everyone who wants to has seen the draws. In case you haven’t here they are. I hope to check back in with a progress report after Week One. I didn’t get to the Qualification Tournament for the first time in a long time so I don’t any thing to report.

ATP Singles Main Draw

TOP HALF

R. Nadal (ESP) [1] vs D. Lajovic (SRB)
T. Daniel (JPN) vs WC T. Paul (USA)
Y. Sugita (JPN) vs WC G. Blancaneaux (FRA)
Qualifier vs R. Gasquet (FRA) [26]

F. Fognini (ITA) [22] vs Qualifier
V. Troicki (SRB) vs N. Gombos (SVK)
J. Struff (GER) vs A. Dolgopolov (UKR)
R. Harrison (USA) vs T. Berdych (CZE) [15]

D. Goffin (BEL) [9] vs J. Benneteau (FRA)
S. Darcis (BEL) vs G. Pella (ARG)
Qualifier vs D. Young (USA)
J. Chardy (FRA) vs G. Monfils (FRA) [18]

P. Cuevas (URU) [27] vs D. Dzumhur (BIH)
Qualifier vs N. Kicker (ARG)
A. Bedene (GBR) vs A. Rublev (RUS)
Qualifier vs G. Dimitrov (BUL) [7]

R. Federer (SUI) [3] vs F. Tiafoe (USA)
B. Kavcic (SLO) vs M. Youzhny (RUS)
F. Verdasco (ESP) vs V. Pospisil (CAN)
A. Kuznetsov (RUS) vs F. Lopez (ESP) [31]

S. Querrey (USA) [17] vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs S. Giraldo (COL)
M. Jaziri (TUN) vs T. Monteiro (BRA)
J. Millman (AUS) vs N. Kyrgios (AUS) [14]

R. Bautista Agut (ESP) [11] vs A. Seppi (ITA)
D. Brown (GER) vs T. Bellucci (BRA)
WC P. Kypson (USA) vs Qualifier
H. Laaksonen (SUI) vs J. del Potro (ARG) [24]

A. Mannarino (FRA) [30] vs R. Berankis (LTU)
WC B. Fratangelo (USA) vs I. Karlovic (CRO)
M. Baghdatis (CYP) vs WC T. Fritz (USA)
WC A. de Minaur (AUS) vs D. Thiem (AUT) [6]

Bottom Half

M. Cilic (CRO) [5] vs G. Simon (FRA)
WC C. Eubanks (USA) vs D. Sela (ISR)
Qualifier vs E. Escobedo (USA)
Y. Lu (TPE) vs K. Khachanov (RUS) [25]

M. Zverev (GER) [23] vs WC T. Kwiatkowski (USA)
P. Kohlschreiber (GER) vs B. Paire (FRA)
H. Zeballos (ARG) vs H. Chung (KOR)
P. Herbert (FRA) vs J. Isner (USA) [10]

J. Sock (USA) [13] vs J. Thompson (AUS)
Qualifier vs T. Fabbiano (ITA)
J. Sousa (POR) vs P. Lorenzi (ITA)
B. Tomic (AUS) vs G. Muller (LUX) [19]

K. Anderson (RSA) [28] vs Qualifier
A. Giannessi (ITA) vs E. Gulbis (LAT)
J. Vesely (CZE) vs B. Coric (CRO)
Qualifier vs A. Zverev (GER) [4]

J. Tsonga (FRA) [8] vs M. Copil (ROU)
Qualifier vs D. Medvedev (RUS)
N. Almagro (ESP) vs S. Johnson (USA)
K. Edmund (GBR) vs R. Haase (NED) [32]

A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) [20] vs D. Istomin (UZB)
M. Fucsovics (HUN) vs Qualifier
D. Tursunov (RUS) vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs P. Carreno Busta (ESP) [12]

L. Pouille (FRA) [16] vs R. Bemelmans (BEL)
J. Donaldson (USA) vs N. Basilashvili (GEO)
A. Haider-Maurer (AUT) vs E. Donskoy (RUS)
Qualifier vs D. Ferrer (ESP) [21]

D. Schwartzman (ARG) [29] vs C. Berlocq (ARG)
T. Kokkinakis (AUS) vs J. Tipsarevic (SRB)
R. Dutra Silva (BRA) vs F. Mayer (GER)
T. Sandgren (USA) vs A. Murray (GBR) [2]

WTA Singles Main Draw

Top Half

Ka. Pliskova (CZE) [1] vs M. Linette (POL)
V. Cepede Royg (PAR) vs Qualifier
R. Ozaki (JPN) vs Qualifier
S. Lisicki (GER) vs S. Zhang (CHN) [27]

B. Strycova (CZE) [23] vs M. Doi (JPN)
J. Brady (USA) vs A. Petkovic (GER)
WC T. Townsend (USA) vs A. Bogdan (ROU)
M. Niculescu (ROU) vs K. Mladenovic (FRA) [14]

A. Radwanska (POL) [10] vs P. Martic (CRO)
Qualifier vs Y. Putintseva (KAZ)
O. Jabeur (TUN) vs WC B. Minor (USA)
A. Riske (USA) vs C. Vandeweghe (USA) [20]

A. Kontaveit (EST) [26] vs L. Safarova (CZE)
N. Hibino (JPN) vs C. Bellis (USA)
K. Nara (JPN) vs S. Sorribes Tormo (ESP)
M. Vondrousova (CZE) vs S. Kuznetsova (RUS) [8]

E. Svitolina (UKR) [4] vs K. Siniakova (CZE)
E. Rodina (RUS) vs E. Bouchard (CAN)
S. Rogers (USA) vs WC K. Day (USA)
Qualifier vs D. Gavrilova (AUS) [25]

E. Vesnina (RUS) [17] vs Qualifier
M. Brengle (USA) vs K. Flipkens (BEL)
T. Maria (GER) vs WC A. Kratzer (USA)
E. Mertens (BEL) vs M. Keys (USA) [15]

J. Ostapenko (LAT) [12] vs L. Arruabarrena (ESP)
Qualifier vs S. Cirstea (ROU)
D. Kasatkina (RUS) vs Q. Wang (CHN)
C. McHale (USA) vs A. Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [19]

L. Tsurenko (UKR) [28] vs Y. Wickmayer (BEL)
Qualifier vs F. Schiavone (ITA)
D. Allertova (CZE) vs Qualifier
N. Osaka (JPN) vs A. Kerber (GER) [6]

Bottom Half

C. Wozniacki (DEN) [5] vs Qualifier
M. Barthel (GER) vs E. Makarova (RUS)
Qualifier vs C. Suárez Navarro (ESP)
M. Puig (PUR) vs M. Lucic-Baroni (CRO) [29]

K. Bertens (NED) [24] vs M. Sakkari (GRE)
R. Hogenkamp (NED) vs WC Ar. Rodionova (AUS)
P. Parmentier (FRA) vs O. Dodin (FRA)
Qualifier vs V. Williams (USA) [9]

P. Kvitova (CZE) [13] vs J. Jankovic (SRB)
H. Watson (GBR) vs A. Cornet (FRA)
Qualifier vs E. Alexandrova (RUS)
Qualifier vs C. Garcia (FRA) [18]

M. Rybarikova (SVK) [31] vs C. Giorgi (ITA)
Kr. Pliskova (CZE) vs M. Eguchi (JPN)
Qualifier vs Y. Duan (CHN)
V. Lepchenko (USA) vs G. Muguruza (ESP) [3]

J. Konta (GBR) [7] vs A. Krunic (SRB)
A. Tomljanovic (CRO) vs J. Larsson (SWE)
S. Zheng (CHN) vs A. Van Uytvanck (BEL)
A. Beck (GER) vs J. Goerges (GER) [30]

A. Konjuh (CRO) [21] vs A. Barty (AUS)
A. Sasnovich (BLR) vs J. Boserup (USA)
S. Stephens (USA) vs R. Vinci (ITA)
J. Cepelova (SVK) vs D. Cibulkova (SVK) [11]

A. Sevastova (LAT) [16] vs C. Witthoeft (GER)
I. Begu (ROU) vs Qualifier
D. Vekic (CRO) vs B. Haddad Maia (BRA)
WC A. Hesse (FRA) vs S. Peng (CHN) [22]

L. Davis (USA) [32] vs S. Kenin (USA)
N. Vikhlyantseva (RUS) vs Qualifier
V. Golubic (SUI) vs T. Babos (HUN)
WC M. Sharapova (RUS) vs S. Halep (ROU) [2]

The Rear View Mirror: Wimbledon 2017

by Savannah

There’s no getting around it. This Wimbledon sucked. There was no “must see” singles match although some are arguing that Gilles Muller vs Rafael Nadal was one I get the feeling those people were rooting for Nadal to be beaten before the semi finals anyway. When Muller lost next round there was no great outpouring of sympathy towards him from those who had been cheering him during his last match. The one riveting match was a men’s doubles match.

Andy Murray‘s refusal to retire even though he was visibly struggling is to be commended. It showed that he respects the sport and his place in it. Still, his remarks defending women’s tennis – read Serena Williams and Venus Williams – drew more comment from the tennis writers who think tennis is the ATP and that the WTA is a side show. That new WTA CEO Steve Simon is working hard to make women’s tennis invisible it is still a major part of tennis with millions of fans, fans who are upset that the only way to see women’s tennis on an ongoing basis is at a Slam. Mixed events don’t count since the WTA has it’s own contract with Premier/BeIn sports which makes it impossible to see female athletes playing on a regular basis.

But enough of that. Why was this Wimbledon disappointing? There was just nothing to hold a casual fans attention. How many casual fans have heard of Garbiñe Muguruza? If you don’t know why see the above paragraph. As I predicted someone out of left field won the tournament. Muguruza has done squat since winning the French Open but as usual, when a Williams is across the net the mentally dead suddenly remember how to play tennis. Venus did not claim injury, fatigue, or age, as a reason for her loss despite the “journalists” trying to get her to do so. Minus that they had to fall back on praising the winner although there isn’t much there to praise. They tried to create some drama around her coach Sam Sumyk not being there but it leaked out that his wife was going into labor and he stayed home to be with her. Some even went so far as to say Conchita Martinez should take over as her coach forgetting Martinez already had Fed Cup and Davis Cup on her plate. To her credit Muguruza said she spoke with her coach every day so the Conchita boomlet faded away. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if she fades back into the pack. Hey remember Aljona Ostapenko?

As for the men’s winner I really, truly, have no words. Let’s look at what he’s done so far this year. He got an extra day’s rest in Melbourne that no other player got. Along the way he admitted to taking an unneeded medical time out. For no reason whatsoever other than that he knew he wouldn’t win the Slam he skipped clay season. After losing to Haas in a Wimbledon warm up he then strolled into Wimbledon as #4 in ranking but seeded third ahead of the #2 player. His draw? I think Cilic was the highest seed he faced and he, unfortunately, couldn’t compete in the Final due to an injury that had him in excruciating pain through most of it. The tennis media reacted as if he’d faced murderer’s row and the paeans rolled off the presses. No mention that of all the players he was the one who had the freshest legs and the cup cake draw.

The one good thing that happened is that other fandoms have had enough and are pushing back against the people who think if you admire someone else somehow you’re a lesser being and don’t recognize someone they see as royalty. I saw less of the usual gloating from fans who react like prepubescent girls in front of the latest hot movie star when it comes to their faves.

The rankings? Numbers 3 & 4 on the ATP side switched places. Karolína Plíšková became the WTA’s newest slamless number one with fewer points and fewer accomplishments than any of the previous slamless #1’s for the WTA. I will throw in a worse game as well. Some have tried but there is no way this woman can be considered among the greats of the game. She’s in the top spot due to the number of points she has now. Simona Halep, who I once thought had Slam potential is a few points behind Plíšková and it’s likely the two will alternate at the top of the rankings for the summer. I don’t think either one has Slam potential. To be hones I think Kristina Mladenovic has a better chance than either Halep or Plíšková.

Where do we go from here? With both Murray and Novak Djokovic injured some interesting things can happen on the men’s side. We may not see either man before Cincinnati. The women will continue to toil in virtual anonymity and before small crowds until the US Open when they’ll be visible again for many fans. Halep and Plíšková rotating as number one is not all that interesting to me. Still I think it’ll be Plíšková who will hold the number one ranking come US Open time and dshe still won’t win it. Someone else will come out of the blue and take that title. And no it won’t be that doper who will get a WC into the main draw.

Champions

Men’s Singles
Switzerland Roger Federer
Women’s Singles
Spain Garbiñe Muguruza
Men’s Doubles
Poland Łukasz Kubot / Brazil Marcelo Melo
Women’s Doubles
Russia Ekaterina Makarova / Russia Elena Vesnina
Mixed Doubles
United Kingdom Jamie Murray / Switzerland Martina Hingis
Boys’ Singles
Spain Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Girls’ Singles
United States Claire Liu
Boys’ Doubles
Argentina Axel Geller / Chinese Taipei Hsu Yu-hsiou
Girls’ Doubles
Serbia Olga Danilović / Slovenia Kaja Juvan
Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles
Australia Lleyton Hewitt / Australia Mark Philippoussis
Ladies’ Invitation Doubles
Zimbabwe Cara Black / United States Martina Navratilova
Senior Gentlemen’s Invitation Doubles
Netherlands Jacco Eltingh / Netherlands Paul Haarhuis
Wheelchair Men’s Singles
Sweden Stefan Olsson
Wheelchair Women’s Singles
Netherlands Diede de Groot
Wheelchair Men’s Doubles
United Kingdom Alfie Hewett / United Kingdom Gordon Reid
Wheelchair Women’s Doubles
Japan Yui Kamiji / United Kingdom Jordanne Whiley

©2017 Savannah’s World All Rights Reserved

The View From Here: Wimbledon 2017

by Savannah

Aren’t you sick of predictions based on the draw by now? I mean everyone picked Alona Ostapenko to win Roland Garros right? It’s time to stop looking at draws solely through the lens of ranking and popularity with the press and look at what could really happen in London over the next two weeks – sorry fort night.

Let me back up a bit. Rankings for the top players matter because where they’re ranked determines where they’re seeded and who they face in the early rounds. Then there’s Wimbledon where they tell you up front they can do whatever they want with the men’s seeding but basically leave the women’s seeding’s alone. That’s why the man ranked #2 in the world is seeded #4 and that’s all right because the man seeded #3 is worshipped as a god by some in the media.

Be that as it may I think all of the volatility will be on the women’s side. I read an article today where the WTA #1 Angelique Kerber is pretty much saying don’t expect her to do well. If she does, well all right then but if not, hey, it is what it is.

I still don’t get why people keep picking Simona Halep to do well at a Slam. She doesn’t do pressure people. And Darren won’t be able to come down and give her a pep talk when she’s at the business end of a match as the saying goes. She folds mentally and all her opponent has to do is keep her out there. Still depending on how things break, Slamless or not she has a chance to become ranked #1. Cue the articles praising her “consistency” and talking about how Darren Cahill has done a great job getting her the ranking. Keep in mind she may not win Wimbledon or any other Slam. This kudo would be more for her coach than her.

And that leads to Karolina Pliskova who despite all the shortcomings of her game also has a chance to become number one if Kerber falters. The hype would be a bit different for her though. Halep can move well (as long as it’s not to the net) where KaPlis can’t. As I’ve said before she is an updated version of Daniela Hantuchova. She needs to plant herself firmly on the baseline and come in on her terms. Force her out of her comfort zone, make her have to bend to get a return, and she’s toast. Again, she doesn’t have to win Wimbledon to become Number one but if she and Halep win one match at Wimbledon Kerber will need to make the Final to hold on to the top ranking. Since Pliskova the elder won Eastbourne she’s gained an advantage over Halep in this particular race to the top.

I’d be remiss in not emphasizing the fact that there is no on court coaching here. Some have criticized Ostapenko for constantly looking to her coach. These same people were okay when Justine Henin used to do the same thing. They also ignore Halep’s dependency on Cahill. I guess if the woman’s coach is a man it’s all right for her to look at her coach after every shot. Tennis journalism is so, weird. I use that word. Weird.

Still I don’t think any of the women mentioned above will hold the Venus Rosewater trophy. I think with the WTA the “top” players will do well at lesser tournaments (P5’s and Premier Mandatories) but that at Slams “unknown” will have the advantage, someone like Ostapenko who will put it together for two weeks while the others succumb to the pressure and fall by the wayside. I just don’t think any of the “top” players, regardless of ranking, have the mental or physical toughness needed to hold themselves together for the duration of a Slam.

So welcome back to the era of Slamless Number one’s people. Enjoy Wimbledon. I’ll check back in on Middle Sunday. By that time everything I’ve predicted will probably have fallen apart.

©2017 Savannahs World Tennis All Rights Reserved

RG 2017 – The Rear View Mirror

by Savannah

The ATP and the WTA finish the European spring clay court season in different places. I’ll get to that in a moment. Right now let’s look at what they have in common.

The respective top ranked players for both tours are struggling. Despite her apparent fitness Angelique Kerber has gone back to the player she was before what looks increasingly like her fluke year where she won two Slams. It’s an uneasy place for her to be mentally when so much is wanted from her by the tennis world, especially the world of women’s tennis. As it stands she is not even being talked about except in terms of her not being number one after Wimbledon. Her problems appear to be mental and that is not surprising. The game is changing in front of her eyes and right now she doesn’t seem to have the ability to adjust. This could simply be her annus horribilis.

As for the ATP Number One Andy Murray  I really think he’s feeling the effects of his bout with shingles. Fatigue is one of the side effects of the disease which can last for years (see page two of the link). Watching him play his semi final you could see after that marathon fourth set that he had nothing left.

At the end of the day the ATP presented two of its top players in the Final. The FFT and the ATP were ready with celebrations centered around Rafael Nadal winning his tenth Roland Garros. There were good showings by their highly touted Next Gen players but as is fitting none of them were able to handle the physical and mental pressure of a Slam. I give them another five years to step out of the shadow of the players that are still dominating their sport into their thirties. It speaks well of the professionalism of not only the players but their teams that are more than mere entourages. The families are part of the protective cocoon around a champion and comport themselves accordingly. It’s a testament to these high level teams that a champion player in an individual sport has the ability to focus on nothing more than his or her career.

The story on the WTA side is a bit different. Without a dominant player (and I’m not talking about a doper) a free for all is taking place. I talked about Kerber’s problems but I think the WTA, when it comes to Slams, has a huge issue hanging over it, one the men’s tour doesn’t have. That is on court coaching. I’ve been beating this drum ad nauseam for years but if you watched the WTA Final you saw what happens when a player has become so reliant on it that she has lost the ability to think her way out of problems on court. You could literally see when Simona Halep panicked. She was broken to love and her opponent held to love after Halep had been up 3-1 in the third set. You can even argue that the match was over when she lost the second set. She NEEDED her coach to come console her and give her a pep talk. She didn’t want him to come down she needed him to come down and that, in the end, is what lost her the match and the Number One ranking. Kristina Mladenovic had the same issues. She overcame them in one match staging a miraculous come back but the the need to have her coach tell her what to do led to her downfall.

Everyone is talking about how the level of tennis will rise when Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka return to the tour. Azarenka looks very fit right now. You would never know she’d recently given birth. But match play is an entirely different situation. Both Vika and Serena are strong willed and despite the layoffs want to/will want to hit the ground running so to speak. The body changes during pregnancy and I’m sure both will work on their core but I think both will see that the tour has changed. Will it help them? I can honestly say I don’t know.
I do know that of all the players Serena alone has never relied on OCC. In my opinion this is why she is so mentally tough.

And what about Alona (Jelena) Ostapenko? She’s not a kid. She’s twenty. She’s been around a long time, long enough to develop a not so good reputation behavior wise. She working with Anabel Medina Garrigues (yes, the one who was caught on camera trying to fluff up the balls during a match versus Serena Williams) and it looks as if she’s worked on toning down some of Ostapenko’s bad behavior but we’re going to have to wait and see what Ostapenko does going forward. It’s my understanding that Medina Garrigues was with her only for Roland Garros. If that is the case her first order of business is to get her to stay. Still I don’t think she should be expected to wipe the court with her opponents though. This is a great achievement but I don’t know if she’ll ever have this perfect storm again. There are several women who have won Roland Garros and were never able to win a major, or much of anything, again. That said she will always be able to say she is a Grand Slam winner.

As per usual the WTA was caught flat footed in terms of promotion. They’re now overcompensating (of course) but the over the top reaction proves that they’ve got no clue how to promote the sport of women’s tennis. No matter what happens to the ATP going forward they have a clear marketing strategy not only for their current stars but for their up and comers. The whole situation with Ostapenko’s name for example should’ve been cleared up a long time ago. That way you don’t have the spectacle of her fans berating journalists for not knowing her proper name.

I should mention in passing that a commentator was talking about the Eastern European style of tennis as it relates to the women’s game. I’m sure he wasn’t an American and if he was (I really didn’t get his name) he needs to be calling more matches.

And what about the state of US tennis? It’s still the mess it’s been for some time. It was nice seeing two up and coming US Junior girls, Whitney Osuigwe (her father is an IMG coach) and Claire Liu play for the Junior girls title. It was good seeing Donald Young in a Championship match at a Slam. But Madison Keys is said to have injured herself again. The other players, male and female, continue to be useless on clay although Young and Ryan Harrison should be given props for spending so much time in Europe during the clay season and managing to not publicly whine about being unable to find mass produced, salty and many times fake food in the acknowledged capital of cuisine in the world. Of course all the US players are focused on grass court play hoping to do well there.

What will happen at Wimbledon? Who knows. Many tennis pundits had Halep winning the title which lets me know they have no idea about tennis. No way Halep was going to win in such a high pressure situation.  Still if the draw breaks nicely for her she could find herself in a Final again but that is speculation. Grass court play starts Monday June 12.

Champions List

Men’s Singles
Spain Rafael Nadal
Women’s Singles
Latvia Jeļena Ostapenko
Men’s Doubles
United States Ryan Harrison / New Zealand Michael Venus
Women’s Doubles
United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová
Mixed Doubles
Canada Gabriela Dabrowski / India Rohan Bopanna
Boys’ Singles
Australia Alexei Popyrin
Girls’ Singles
United States Whitney Osuigwe
Boys’ Doubles
Spain Nicola Kuhn / Hungary Zsombor Piros
Girls’ Doubles
Canada Bianca Andreescu / Canada Carson Branstine
Legends Under 45 Doubles
France Sébastien Grosjean / France Michaël Llodra
Women’s Legends Doubles
United States Tracy Austin / Belgium Kim Clijsters
Legends Over 45 Doubles
France Mansour Bahrami / France Fabrice Santoro
Wheelchair Men’s Singles
United Kingdom Alfie Hewett
Wheelchair Women’s Singles
Japan Yui Kamiji
Wheelchair Men’s Doubles
France Stéphane Houdet / France Nicolas Peifer
Wheelchair Women’s Doubles
Netherlands Marjolein Buis / Japan Yui Kamiji

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

Dominika Cibulkova – 2016 WTA Champion

cwdqs6hwcaa9d6_
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