The Rear View Mirror: 2017 US Open

by Savannah
Lots to say about this Slam. I think it set a precedent for starting the most misleading narratives about players ever. These misleading narratives started when the USTA, as was expected by me anyway, gave a returning doper pride of place. It was bad enough that they gave her a Wild Card. The USTA, never knowing when enough is enough, went on to schedule her return from doping for Opening Night knowing that there are fans who have a tradition of attending opening night ceremonies and that Ashe would be pretty full no matter what. Of course this was spun as fans dying to see her return by tennis media. If you have never attended the US Open you’d probably fall for the spin. Far more telling were the subsequent matches where fans behaved as they usually do during Week 1 and spend their time on the “outer courts” instead of in the cavernous and unfriendly confines of Ashe.

That leads me to the Women’s Singles Champion Sloane Stephens. Like her or not she does have talent. By the time she went out with injury she’d had a parade of coaches and you didn’t have to be an inside tennis person to realize that coaches didn’t want to work with her. During one of her matches the comms talked about her having the reputation of being “lazy”. The woman who was told as a child she’d never play top level tennis is the one holding the winners trophy. Did she achieve this in a vacuum? Nope. All credit is due Kamau Murray who told her point blank he was not there for her bullshit. Either she behaved as a professional or he was gone. That was why she hugged him so hard after the match. I wonder how Taylor Townsend felt at that moment? And I wonder if Sloane will decide that she’s good enough not to need him. I’m sure he’ll make sure the door doesn’t hit her on the way out if she does. People will be flocking to him now. I hope someone in her circle tells her that all top players have coaches, that no one goes it alone. You can have all the talent in the world but if it’s not being used properly it’s as if you don’t have any.

Of course Sloane was not the one the USTA was geared up to celebrate. They felt that Madison Keys would be the one holding up the trophy. I guess they haven’t been paying attention to Ms Keys and her ways. Whenever Madison gets broken she falls apart. She has absolutely no Plan B and she begins to hit harder and as a result sprays errors all over the place. Also remember while Sloane was out injured she was in the commentary booth and got a chance to observe a lot of players. Her dismantling of Keys showed that under the right supervision she can follow a game plan and defeat an opponent. Still, let’s not call her the new queen of women’s tennis just yet. A lot depends on whether she stays with Mr. Murray and follows his rules. The Asian Swing is also going to be telling. She needs, no must, do well there to be taken seriously as a top player.

Then there was the kerfuffle about Andy Murray‘s withdrawal due to a chronic hip injury that may keep him out the rest of the year. People assumed that with the withdrawal of the man seeded second in the draw all of the seeds would move up a place with the number three seed becoming the number two seed, number four becoming three, etc. Instead they decided to use a formula that shuffled the seeds but left the top half of the draw intact. Sturm und drang ensued. I can say I have never seen such an outpouring of anger about a draw in all the years I’ve been seriously following tennis. To say fans of the number three seeded player were up in arms is an understatement. They accused Andy Murray of waiting until the last minute on purpose to help his friend who was seeded number one. They accused the tennis powers that be of conspiring against their favorite. Fortunately none of that worked. Unfortunately they began talking about the top seed not facing any member of the top four on his way to the Championship. Of course they conveniently forgot the “Murderer’s Row” their favorite faced in London earlier this year where he didn’t face a member of the “Big Four” or any player who could hurt him. They also forgot that they argued vehemently that their favorite should inherit the draw that once belonged to Andy Murray. If they had had their way and number three became number two I think the argument about not facing a top player wouldn’t even be being made. That members of the “impartial” media are making this argument tells you all there is to know about the incestuous nature of tennis journalism.

Was there good news from the final Grand Slam of 2017? Why yes there was. It looks as if tennis greatness is going to skip a generation. Alexander Zverev (20). Andrey Rublev (19). Denis Shapovalov (18). Frances Tiafoe (19). These are the young men fans wanted to see at Flushing Meadows. And let’s not forget thirteen year old Cori Gauff. Or Junior Boys champion Wu Yibing. What about boys runner up Axel Geller who plays a very free wheeling loose style similar to Shapovolov? Gauff is the only girl I saw who is playing a different style from all the pony tailed blondes. Naomi Osaka (19) is also a Next Gen prospect. Osaka has what I call “quiet power”.

All of these young people need work especially on the mental aspect of the game. There is no excuse for sloppy or non existent foot work. There is no excuse for not being able to adjust to what your opponent is throwing at you. You shouldn’t get broken and have as your only option to hit harder and harder.

Is there going to be a lull? I think so. The rankings on the women’s side are like a merry-go-round and are not based on results but on number of points a player has attained. When your top ranked player doesn’t make it to the second week of a Slam after having won one earlier in the summer something is wrong. But that’s another post for another day.

I give this tournament an A- . Yes they stood up to an irate fandom but they get points taken away for reaching the level of track and field where a twice suspended doper is being praised. I was going with a B+ but that would distract from what the men and women, boys and girls, achieved over the last two weeks.

End Notes

I didn’t make it to the Qualifying Tournament this year but I was on the grounds Opening Day and the following Wednesday.

There were the usual snafu’s getting in this year. I think they were compounded by the use of E-ticketing. On Day One if you had a paper ticket you could breeze on through.

The biggest shock was the absence of the Nike kiosk. It was replaced by a Mercedes Benz set up that allowed people to sit behind the wheel and enter a contest I presume. I don’t drive so I could care less. I did care that the only merchandise for sale was for the USTA/US Open. Frankly it sucked. Usually I treat myself to some obscenely priced Nike shirt and one less expensive US Open shirt for the current year. I don’t know what issues caused Nike not to be given the center space it usually occupies but I hope they’re back next year. There are lots of us willing to pay $35 for a hit featuring our fave. There was an Adidas store but I didn’t get a chance to check their merchandise out.

By next year the new BJK NTC footprint should be ready. That would mean the temporary Armstrong Stadium, which was really the old Grandstand, will be gone. The bad part about the temporary stadium was that it was right next to the East Gate. There were good matches scheduled there but if I’m on Court 7 I’m not going to walk all the way to Armstrong and then back to the other courts for more action. If I’m in Armstrong my next stop is the LIRR.

The grounds were much more crowded this year than last year. Keep in mind people bought their tickets in the spring so the surge in attendance had nothing to do with any particular player. The outer courts were jam packed while the bigger courts – the new Grandstand, and the horrific Court 17, were mostly empty. The match where Johanna Konta lost to Aleksandra Krunic was on the Grandstand. Where I was sitting in Court 7 watching Denis Shapovolov you could see into the Grandstand. It as virtually empty. Tiny Court 7 was full. People were willing to stand to watch the kid play. That scheduling shows how out of touch some in the establishment are.

Food? It was as per usual. Expensive. I got my double cheeseburger from David Chang’s “Momofuku” and totally enjoyed it. I also had a steak sandwich from Pat LaFrieda. Delish.

The biggest hit with me was the Chase Center. You got a baseball hat, light refreshments including beer and wine and large screen televisions in a comfortably air conditioned environment. Chase also offered a “charge and watch” thingy which didn’t work.

The American Express center was a huge disappointment. Other than a wrist band and a small gift there was nothing there for fans.

There were also lots of “Fan Pass” centers around the grounds which if you collected enough you got prizes.

If i had to grade the BJK NTC itself in terms of scheduling, crowd control, and amenities I have to give it a B.

I hope to be back next year to see the completed site.

© 2017 Savannah World All Rights Reserved

It’s Happened

by Savannah

The US tennis establishment is crowing about four US women making it to the quarter finals of the 2017 US Open. Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Colleen Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens will be facing four women from Europe. It’s a wonderful moment right? Does it vindicate the approach the USTA has made regarding it’s women players? Have US women finally proved themselves deserving of the respect that has eluded them (with two exceptions) for years now?

Short answer: No.

The level of play among the women has been steadily falling over the last five years or so. There is no variety. Achieving the top ranking has become a matter of point counting and not level of tennis. Being number one used to mean you were the best at that moment in time. Not today. The women who have won Slams (Venus Williams and Petra Kvitova) are not contending for the top spot.

As is often said you can only play whoever is across the net from you. When that becomes the rationale for not only Slamless number one’s but for asserting a resurgence in your tennis program that is nothing to celebrate.

By all means celebrate the fact that four US women are contending for the Final. Just don’t make it seem as if it’s a renaissance.

©2017 Savannahs World Tennis All rights reserved

Pausing For Breath – Middle Sunday

by Savannah

For some esoteric reason known only to the AELTC elite, there is a break in play on this day, Middle Sunday, during Wimbedon. Is it time to let it go as an anachronism? Player’s today are fitter than they were in the past when exertion was a man or woman lumbering to the net for a return volley after sipping a Pimms. Most of today’s players spend the day practicing anyway so it’s only the fans who claw at the walls and experience existential angst (not to be confused with teenage angst) while waiting for play to resume on what’s billed as Manic Monday. Everyone plays. It’s a fun day. But that doesn’t make up for today where tennis fans have to find mental and physical busy work until play resumes.

Speaking of anachronisms let’s talk about grass courts and their place in the world of modern tennis. Yes it’s traditional, the first surface, but with today’s highly physical game it’s becoming something of a liability. Players have been slipping and falling regularly during the first week, enough so that even tennis commentators who are usually spouting inanities have begun to talk about it. Many players could look at what happened to Bethanie Mattek Sands and think “There but for the grace of God…” Yes she’s injured and had surgery on that knee before but what will it take for the AELTC to try and do something about it?

Ironically some are calling for a return to the faster courts of the past. I mean really? The racquets used today, not to mention the style of tennis, would be insane if played on a faster grass court. People keep whining about the courts being slow but they don’t talk about the matches where you could barely see the ball and scoring was serve serve serve, forehand return, serve. It was dull. The modern era has brought athleticism to a sport where it wasn’t always a requirement. For fans to enjoy the modern game they need to be able to see the way the ball reacts to the player’s style. To do that you need slower surfaces.

Not that I think grass is going anywhere. It’s here to stay and players have to try to escape intact. Part of the reason the adjustment is so difficult was mentioned by Tracy Austin-Holt during one of Tennis Channels gab fests. She talked about the adjustment the body has to make to play well on grass and called it “tush burn” if I recall correctly. Your glutes and thighs are used differently on grass and it results in some soreness. Of course no one followed up on her comment then and haven’t now. I like knowing these things. It helps me appreciate grass court play more.

End Notes

ESPN’s coverage has been very good. The broadcast quality has been excellent, and when I got to watch a top US junior play on Court 5 yesterday I was in heaven. There is the matter of the 30s – 40s delay. Maybe next year. It also helps if you keep the sound level low enough to avoid some of the commentators. There was one who said during a discussion of all the falls this year that until her favorite fell there is no problem.

Yeah, keep the sound down.

I don’t understand how anyone coming off of an injury would think it was smart to play no warm up events and use her Protected Ranking to get into the Main Draw not match fit and think she was going to do well. Talking to you Sloane Stephens.
And the comm who said Petra Kvitova was fit needs to visit their eye doctor stat. She predictably ran out of gas after improbable wins in her run up events. At least she played them although I wonder if it was a wise choice. She can’t make a fist with that hand yet.

John McEnroe continues to prove he is the worst commentator of all. He always shows up uninformed, speaks almost entirely about the past, and has no idea who is who.

Is it time to discuss the domination of the WTA by Eastern European women and why that is? Why have women from Western Europe and the United States not been able to step up to the plate? On the mens side there is European domination but mostly Western European. Maybe that’s an end of year post.

I wonder what time baseball starts today? Maybe there’s a track meet?

©2017 Savannahs World All Rights Reserved

The Rear View Mirror: The 2016 US Open

by Savannah

us-open
via http://www.sportslivenews.com/

 

2016 Champions
Men’s Singles
Switzerland Stan Wawrinka
Women’s Singles
Germany Angelique Kerber
Men’s Doubles
Brazil Bruno Soares / United Kingdom Jamie Murray
Women’s Doubles
United States Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Czech Republic Lucie Šafářová
Mixed Doubles
Germany Laura Siegemund / Croatia Mate Pavić
Boys’ Singles
Canada Félix Auger-Aliassime
Girls’ Singles
United States Kayla Day
Boys’ Doubles
Bolivia Juan Carlos Aguilar / Brazil Felipe Meligeni Alves
Girls’ Doubles
United States Jada Hart / United States Ena Shibahara
Men’s Champions Invitational
Australia Pat Cash / Australia Mark Philippoussis
Women’s Champions Invitational
United States Lindsay Davenport / United States Mary Joe Fernández

Some thoughts:

Not one main tour US singles player made it to the Finals. Serena Williams made it to the semi finals and was barely able to move in that match. Steve Johnson , the man who said former champion Juan Martin del Potro shouldn’t get a Wild Card over what I assume he felt would be a more deserving US player didn’t survive his match vs del Potro. US Wildcards? Pfft. Gone. If you blinked you missed seeing them crash and burn. New US men’s #1 Jack Sock ? he was exposed as being nothing more than a forehand. He was almost the least fit man I saw play.

Despite all of the US juniors getting so much hype in the press it was Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime who took home the boy’s trophy. Kayla Day of the US who doesn’t look a day over twelve, was the only singles player to win a title.

The stadium for the Women’s Final was reported to be about 85% full. Tickets prices for the women’s final fell through the floor going for about $31 each. If there’s a compelling match fans usually storm the gates and grab up any available ticket. That didn’t happen. It’s widely reported that the men’s final was a sell out.

Does that mean the men’s tour is stronger? Let’s look at how the two finalists got there. The ATP #1 spent less than 10 hours on court.

Novak Djokovic

1st rd: bt Jerzy Janowicz (POL) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1
2nd rd: bt Jiri Vesely (CZE) walkover
3rd rd: bt Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 4-2 retired
4th rd: bt Kyle Edmund (GBR) 6-2, 6-1, 6-4
QF: bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x9) 6-3, 6-2 retired
SF: bt Gael Monfils (FRA x10) 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2

Stan Wawrinka

1st rd: bt Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 6-4
2nd rd: bt Alessandro Giannessi (ITA) 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5
3rd rd: bt Dan Evans (GBR) 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (10/8), 6-2
4th rd: bt Illya Marchenko (UKR) 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3
QF: bt Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
SF: bt Kei Nishikori (JPN x6) 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2

There was a lot of talk about the cake walk Djokovic had in Paris. This draw made that one look competitive and he still only played two full matches. In my opinion he didn’t deserve to win and fortunately he didn’t. I’m not a great fan of Wawrinka but at least he had to play tennis to reach the final. Apologists are saying it wasn’t Djokovic’s fault he played a total of four matches including the semi final and final. If any other player, with one exception, had that happen there would be question marks and asterisks next to his name if he had somehow managed to win.

As for the women the Final proved that there is only one draw in women’s tennis and that is Serena Williams. Some want to sneak Maria Sharapova‘s name in there but to be honest that is just not true. Tennis media loves her and she does have stans but when it comes to putting butts in the seats outside of semi finals and finals where people have bought tickets so they can say they were there I’ve never seen a stadium packed to overflowing just to see her. Tennis media of course buys into the hype around her because they need access. Fans don’t have to suck up.

It’s hardly been mentioned that Angelique Kerber played her way into the number one spot. Once again when discussing the WTA we’re talking more about ranking than proficiency. Keep in mind how Kerber was dismantled in the Olympic Final by Monica Puig and how she did almost nothing coming into the US Open. The best that can be said is that she’s not a Slamless number one.

Her opponent, Karolina Pliskova will always be able to say she beat Serena in the semi final of a major. The part about Serena being injured will always be left to fans to point out just like it was with Sloane Stephens who still thinks she’s a super star. Pliskova is one of the worst movers in tennis. It’ll be interesting to see how she does in 2017.

Overall I think tennis came out of the US Open in a holding pattern. The Asian swing will feature heavily in who does and doesn’t make the year end finals of both tours. Will players enter events they normally wouldn’t so that they can stumble into the finals of their respective tours? We’re already seeing some changes in where top players will begin play in 2017. Does anyone think Kerber, without a lot of assistance from her draws will hold on to the top spot especially if she cuts back on the amount of tennis she plays? Will the ATP top player continue to deserve his nickanme of “Fakervic” especially after yesterday’s shenanigans? Will some continue to make excuses for him?

It’s a shame most of the play in Asia will go unwatched by the majority of tennis fans in the West due to the time difference. There should be some exciting results with so much at stake.

© SavannahsWorld 2016 All Rights Reserved except where indicated