Category Archives: WTA Tournaments

Steffi Graf or Pete Sampras, who’s slam record is most impressive?

You might know the actor Hugh Laurie as Dr. Greg House from the U.S. television show House. Or you might remember him as Bertie Wooster, the hapless employer of Jeeves in the British television show Jeeves and Wooster. Maybe you watched him in Black Adder, a British television show that starred Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean.

Laurie is another one of those ridiculously talented British actors. He’s a successful novelist and he’s also a singer/songwriter. If you go to the right side of this page and tune in to Tennis Diary TV you can see Laurie perform the song, “I’m in love with Steffi Graf.” (Click on Channel Guide if it’s not the current video.)

Laurie’s Steffi is an angel who “folds her wings and walks like you and me.” And it doesn’t matter whether it’s clay or grass, “she’ll flay your ass.”

For some reason I had forgotten that Margaret Court holds the record for most slam wins with 24. Graf is second with 22. I consider Graf the better tennis player because her era was more competitive. Graf beat Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis to win slams.

Of course it would have been much more competitive if a crazed fan of Steffi’s hadn’t stabbed Seles in the back but here’s the question: Is Steffi Graf’s record of 22 slams a bigger accomplishment that Pete Sampras’ 14 slams? Go over to the right side of the page and cast your vote.

On the face of it, you might think it’s a no-brainer. Steffi won all four slams at least four times including the golden slam in 1988 (all four slams and the gold medal at the Olympics). Sampras won the gold medal at the 1987 Olympics but he never won more than two slams in one year and he never won the French Open.

But the top women won a lot more slams than the top men. The number five woman on the list, Chris Evert, has four more slams than Sampras. And the women won a whole lot more career titles. Martina Navratilova has 58 more titles than the men’s leader in that category: Jimmy Connors. That’s pretty ridiculous.

Clearly the men’s tour is more competitive. The slams even more so. Steffi won her 1988 French Open final by the score of 6-0, 6-0. Has that ever happened on the men’s tour? Then there is that little matter of five set matches. All of the men’s matches in slams are best of five sets while the women play best of three sets.

Whaddya think?

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Tatiana Poutchek and Mariya Koryttseva played a quarterfinal match at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata, India, last Friday and yet another irregular betting pattern popped up in the world of tennis. The ATP is still investigating an irregular betting pattern on a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo-Arguello at the Prokom Open in early August.

In both cases the irregular betting turned up on, a betting exchange based in England. And in both cases, the pattern was similar: the odds changed significantly before the match started and they continued to change despite the fact that the action on the court did not warrant it.

Koryttseva started the day as the underdog in the Kolkata match but by the time five games had been played in the first set, Koryttseva’s odds were almost even making her the favorite. The problem is that the players were on serve at this point, meaning that neither player had an advantage, so there was no justification for such a big change in odds. If Poutchek had shown signs of injury or Koryttseva had taken a commanding lead, the betting would have made sense.

I understand that Befair contacted WTA officials and the tour doctor to verify that Poutchek was indeed healthy. I left a phone message with WTA’s media contact to check this information but my call was not returned. Befair eventually decided to pay out all bets on the match.

The total bet on the Kolkata match did not equal the $7 million placed on the Davydenko match, but it was over $1.5 million, more than you’d expect on a match in a Tier III tournament between two players both ranked lower than 120.

Koryttseva won the match, 6-4, 6-2.

Betfair made the unprecedented decision to void all bets on the Davydenko match. Since then, gambling had become an open conversation on the pro tennis tour and a number of ATP players have come forth and said that they were offered money to influence the outcome of matches.

It would be tempting to blame the increase in irregular betting on internet gambling. Indeed, gambling on tennis has increased with the establishment of betting exchanges – online betting sites that allow users to offer each other bets. But it’s more likely that internet gambling has uncovered gambling problems that already existed.

Take horse racing for example. In a September 13th article on, Nelson Lardner described three cases where betting rings in horse racing were uncovered by Betfair. Two of the cases resulted in significant suspensions for those caught. In Lardner’s view: “…Betfair and the like are helping to enforce sporting integrity more than any other oversight body in this day and age.”

That’s not true for incidents involving performance enhancing drugs – another ethical problem in sports today – but for gambling it certainly is true.

I don’t know yet whether the WTA will investigate the Kolkata match further but the ATP has been smart enough to consult with the British Horse Racing Authority (BHA). The BHA has a close working relationship with Befair. They have employees who monitor betting patterns on the site.

Knowing what has already happened on the ATP, the WTA would be silly not to take the ATP’s lead by doing something similar.

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Read about the Davydenko match and how the ATP should deal with it.

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Join us for the men’s U.S. Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, September 9th at 4pm EST

We answer the question: Is the US Open faster than Wimbledon? And we make a few booty calls.

Wanna know why I love the US Open? That is besides the drama of opening night, the grueling five set matches and performances such as Justin Gimelstob’s stand up comedy act in the last singles match of his career against his good friend Andy Roddick.

I love it because the US Open is the only time US sports media pays any attention to tennis.

Yesterday, for instance, I listened to Patrick McEnroe on the Jim Rome sports talk radio show. In conversation with Rome, McEnroe said that the US Open is now the fastest slam, even faster than Wimbledon. On the USA network, Patrick’s brother John McEnroe said the same thing.

Must be true then, right? Let’s look and see if it is.

When I want statistical information, I head over to gambling sites because that’s where information equals money. Gambling sites gage court speed by looking at the number of games played per set because the faster the court, the easier it is to hold serve and the more games will be played.

In 2006, has Wimbledon in the top 10% of all tournaments ranked by speed. In that same year, it puts the US Open in the top 30%. Twenty percent slower. doesn’t have US Open numbers for this year yet, but it puts this year’s Wimbledon in the top 2% of all tournaments. Blazing fast. ranks the tournaments by the average number of games played per set going back to 1997.

Wimbledon ranks number 9 out of 86 tournaments. The US Open comes in at number 47. Six clay court tournaments rank higher than the US Open though some of those are at altitude. The thinner air makes the ball fly faster. Keep in mind that this is an average over the last ten years so the Open might be faster now than it was ten years ago.

The US Open is not faster than Wimbledon, not even close. So what’s going on?

In both cases, the McEnroes were talking about Rafael Nadal’s chances of winning the US Open. How could Rafa get to the Wimbledon final two years in a row when clay is his best surface by far. And why hasn’t he gone past the quarterfinals at the US Open? One explanation is to blame the slowdown at Wimbledon.

I’ve done it myself. Wimbledon has switched to a bigger ball and a slower, bouncier court which suits Rafa’s game because he’s all about topspin, I said. That may be true but if it is, then all of the other courts have slowed down significantly too because Wimbledon is still faster than 90% of all tournaments.

Rafa doesn’t do well at the US Open because he can’t play extended matches on hard courts. Grass is easier on the body. It’s softer and the weather is usually cooler. Rafa said as much after his four set victory over Alun Jones today:

Well, the hard surface always is tougher, and the tennis is going to have more and more hard surfaces tournament. And in my opinion is a little bit mistake because for the players and for have a longer career is better play in other surfaces. But the tennis is going like this.

In other words, the ATP just got rid of one of the Masters Series clay events and replaced it with a hard court event over my strenuous objections.

Rafa’s hard grinding style of play doesn’t help either. He retired at Cincinnati with a forearm problem and he already had knee tendonitis from Wimbledon. While practicing for the US Open, he developed tendonitis in his other knee. If he wasn’t playing in a slam this week, he’d have already gone home:

Well, maybe if I am in another tournament, I never go to the court today. But is the US Open, so is very important tournament for me.

Rafa was lucky to win today. He looked terrible. He couldn’t cover the court and he had trouble stopping and starting. He pulled himself together to win the fourth set easily but Jones was a wild card. Rafa won’t get past higher ranked players if his knee doesn’t improve.

Serena’s Booty and Larry Craig’s Booty Call

By the way, I missed this video when I was covering the French Open. Watch Serena shake her booty good. Love it! Thanks to the Magic Jewball for bringing this to my attention.

Speaking of videos, in support of my community – all the queers out there – here is a re-enactment of the arrest of the Republican Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom. Ah, the wonders of modern video. Wide stance indeed!

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Follow the early rounds at the Open, read about opening night, and see our picks.

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The Serbs dominated professional tennis this weekend as Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic both won titles.

Ana Ivanovic knew that Novak Djokovic had already beaten Roger Federer before she took the court for the final here at the East West Bank Classic just south of Los Angeles. “I was motivated to do the same thing, ” she said and she did exactly that.

Except for failing to serve out the first set at 5-4, Ivanovic had few problems winning a straight set victory over Nadia Petrova, 7-5, 6-4. And so we came to the end of a Serbian Weekend.

In Montreal, Novak Djokovic edged his way into the Roger FedererRafael Nadal perennial two-step with a 7-6(2), 2-6, 7-6(2) victory for his second Masters Series title. Not only that but he beat Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal along the way.

Ivanovic said she has known Djokovic since they were both 4 years old and they’re good friends:

As kids we would practice sometimes together and then go play hide and seek for the rest of the day. …It’s nice to know someone for so long and look back at your childhood… I love spending time with him.

The same is not true for Jelena Jankovic, the third member of the Serbian troika. She was not in the same age group as Ivanovic and they do not appear to be as friendly. The weekend started off with a semifinal between the two and it was a battle from beginning to end.

Jankovic was up a break in the first set and serving at 4-3 when Ana put her hand up for a timeout because the ball kids were rolling balls behind Jelena. Jelena stopped for half a second – essentially ignoring her – then went into her service motion. Ana mishit the return and stood there with her hands on her hips. She was not amused.

It was another one of those serving incidents that display gamesmanship. Jankovic should have waited until the ball kids were finished. She was clearly letting Ana know who was in charge.

Jelena was in charge and she stayed that way until Ivanovic pulled even with a break to go up 4-2 in the second set. Ivanovic had to fight off thee break points to serve out the set but she’d evened the match.

Jankovic got two match points with Ivanovic serving at 4-5 in the third set and though Ivanovic won the game, it looked like it was just a matter of time before Jankovic won the battle.

Then it happened:

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. Five straight forehand winners from Ivanovic and she had the break she needed. Jankovic had run out of energy. She’d suffered through a case of the flu last week so she couldn’t practice and her conditioning failed her. Ivanovic won the battle, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Djokovic had his own battle with Federer. He fought off six set points to get to 6-6 in the first set then won the tiebreaker 7-2. He took the third set tiebreaker by the same score.

It’s been a historical day for Serbian tennis and now it’s time to ask if Serbia is prepared to win a U.S. Open title.

Renae Stubbs and Kveta Peschke came into the media room after they won the doubles title today and Stubbs gave us one of the answers. Stubbs is fantastic. They should put her in a commentator booth immediately.

In addition to an excellent comparison of Steffi Graf‘s and Ivanovic’s forehand*, she said that Ivanovic has the skills to win a slam but might not have the mentality yet.

Ivanovic may not be ready yet, but after today, Djokovic is.

*Ivanovic hits harder but then Graf didn’t have current racket technology and, by the way, Graf moved better.

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What dictates a player’s game: temperament or skills?

I wandered over to one of the outside courts yesterday so I could check out Sania Mirza and see what makes that forehand such a weapon. And how the hell does she get those sharp angles? Is it the wrist action that Martina Hingis demonstrated in her belly dancer imitation after she lost to Sania? Or is it something else?

What I found was something else and it doesn’t have much to do with the forehand. Sania fussed and fumed and finally lost to 52nd ranked Virginie Razzano after struggling through a slow start and running into a big problem in the second set tiebreaker.

Sania had lost the first set 6-1 and was down 0-1 in the second set tiebreaker when she hit a backhand approach that appeared to land on the sideline. The chair umpire disagreed and overruled the call costing Mirza the point. She dropped her racked in disbelief. The chair umpire had just overruled a call on the sideline farthest from her chair and she did it in a tiebreaker:

By the time Sania regained her composure, she was down 5-1 in the tiebreaker. She fought back to 6-6 but Razzano hit a winner and Sania sent an angry return flying past the baseline and the match was over.

Did Sania’s temper lose her the match? Here’s what she said afterwards:

I’m a very short-tempered person off the court. On the court I’m not so bad but sometimes I just let it out and today was one of those days when I wasn’t playing well and then finally I was fighting so hard. …I hit a clean winner and she overruled the far sideline so what can you do? I got pissed and I lost.

Now we know. Sania is one fiery being and that’s what I found when I went looking for her forehand. It’s not the technical things that make it a strong stroke – apart from the wicked racket head speed of course. That same fire that undid her today is the same fire that makes her an ultra-aggressive player and no doubt adds some speed on the radar gun to the forehand.

Compare her with Razzano for instance. Razzano is a good, steady defensive player without a big weapon. She’s extremely annoying because she’s good enough to jump on errors and put the ball away but she can’t force her offense on you. She has to be calm and steady because she doesn’t have enough weapons to come back from a deficit

Mirza, on the other hand, tries to end points as soon as possible. Balls go flying all over the place as she tries to hit winner after winner.

What dictates a player’s game: is it temperament or skills?

For instance, does the fiery temperament come first or does a player tailor they’re game to their skills.

Look at Roger Federer. He had a terrible temper as a junior but winning is his first priority and now, as Debra our reader says, you can hardly hear him when he plays whereas other players are grunting and groaning and yelling. Bjorn Borg too. He used to insist on playing games with his father when he was a child then throw a complete fit if he lost.

The answer, then, is neither. The overriding factor for the aggressive play and strong strokes is the desire to win and players who want to win badly enough tailor their temperament to get the best results. If screaming makes you play better – think of John McEnroe – then that’s what you’ll do. If unnatural calmness works, then a player who wants to win strongly enough will become an unnaturally calm player regardless of his or her fundamental temperament.

This is my theory. Feel free to weigh in with yours.

Oh, and about those sharp angles that befuddled Hingis. Sania goes for winners which means she goes for lots of angles. And when she hits an angle, her opponent will often go for more angle. I’m not observant enough to know if her shot is particularly wristy or not but if you create angles, you get a lot more opportunity to hit them.

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To read more about Sania, Martina and Marion, check these out:
Hingis Compares Herself to Chakvetadze
Bartoli is Out of Sorts in Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Montreal, Lego Man and Bud Collins

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