It’s just that it used to be possible to distinguish between advertising and content and it’s not anymore.

Sorry, the server was down so I’m late with this post but here goes.

The marketing firm that chose the opening sequence of the WTA Championships broadcast must also represent World Wide Wrestling and possibly even the roller derby. Check out the lyrics of the theme song:

You’re gonna fall behind me
You’re gonna cry and beg for mercy
Cause you’re not ready baby
And you got nothin’ on me

The song is performed by The Donnas and it’s titled You’re Gonna Fall Behind Me. You can watch the sequence by clicking on the youtube video clip here. Versus Network posted it on youtube as an ad. Youtube is fast becoming the tool of choice for eradicating any remaining distinction between short films and advertising, bless its heart.

Not that I mind particularly, I plan to advertise my new Fantasy Tennis Guide on youtube when I unveil it in January. It’s just that it used to be possible to distinguish between advertising and content and it’s not anymore.

God knows what’ll happen when Nielsen ratings start tracking ads instead of the programs that air ads. They’ll find that many people, including me, never watch sports events live. We record the events then skip ads. When that news hits home, watch for the sitcom to complete its ongoing process of becoming a glorified half-hour advertisement with endless product placements and a story line involving Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Considering that Maria Sharapova should take out Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kim Clijsters should be able to beat Elena Dementieva, the big match today featured Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Here’s the psychological matrix for the match. Sorry for being so analytical, it’s an annoying part of my nature.

Mauresmo +/- Henin-Hardenne +/-
goes to semis if she wins already in the semis
cannot finish ranked #1 can finish ranked #1
grudge match #2 grudge match #2

Mauresmo has more positive motivation because she has to win or she goes home. It’s a dead rubber for Henin-Hardenne which means the match doesn’t mean anything in the standings. She’s in the semis win or lose. And that brings up a very interesting point. Thirteen ATP tournaments will be round-robins next year and that means there’ll be a lot of dead rubbers because anyone with a 2-0 record is likely through to the semifinals before they play their last round-robin match. How do you make a dead rubber competitive? Is the prize money enough? Not to Andy Roddick or Roger Federer or David Nalbandian. And what’s the over and under on how many players wake up and stub their toe the morning of their dead rubber.

I hope the ATP has a rule in place for that situation. For example, if you don’t play all of your round-robin matches, you can’t advance to the semifinals. But that won’t fix everything. In last year’s WTA Championships, Mauresmo’s last match was a dead rubber and she didn’t tank it but she also didn’t play as aggressively as she had in earlier matches. When we asker her, she admitted that it affected her play.

As for the number one ranking, Mauresmo said she gave up on that after she injured her shoulder. I’m still not clear how Mauresmo could have lost the number one ranking if she entered this tournament at number one and can still win the tournament. Super Amelie fan, momofan, doesn’t like the ranking situation either but she thinks it has to do with the number of sets each player wins in this tournament.

Grudge match #1 was the Wimbledon final between Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne. It was a grudge match because Henin-Hardenne retired rather than let Mauresmo earn her first grand slam at the Australian Open in January. That makes today’s match grudge match #2. It’s doubtful Mauresmo’s feelings have dissipated entirely even though they were largely dispelled by winning the Wimbledon title.

You couldn’t exactly say she wasn’t trying but you could say she wasn’t trying as hard as before.

Despite the dead rubber status for Henin-Hardenne and the urgency of the situation for Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne was the more aggressive player in the first set. With Mauresmo serving at 3-3, Henin-Hardenne hit two aggressive shots to get ahead in the game then got a net cord for break point and held on to take the first set 6-4.

Mauresmo was down triple break point at 1-1 in the second set as Henin-Hardenne kept attacking and lost the game at love. It’s not looking good, does Amelie remember she has to win this game? If she loses today, Martina Hingis gets to the semifinals which would be a fantastic result for Hingis after returning from a three year absence from the tour, but it wouldn’t say much about the WTA. First of all, it says that the game is not as competitive as it was during the heydey of Hingis, the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport. Second, it’s a statement that today’s power hitters are as one-dimensional as we think they are if they can’t beat a pipsqueak with smarts and court coverage but precious little power.

Evidently Amelie was paying attention. She started feeding Henin-Hardenne slices and looping balls. It threw Henin-Hardenne off; she hit four errors and gave the break right back. Mauresmo mixed it up again in the next game by going for winners. She has some smarts of her own.

At 4-4, still in the second set, Mauresmo hit three double faults and struggled through seven deuces to hold serve. It looked like she might be sinking fast but she managed to hold on and get to the tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker, Henin-Hardenne hit two double faults, one on set point, and Mauresmo had the second set. Now Henin-Hardenne made a decision: going all out for two sets, that’s o.k., but three, no, that’s too much to ask. She had a semifinal to play tomorrow. She lost her second service game in the third set easily, on one return she didn’t even move to the ball. You couldn’t exactly say she wasn’t trying but you could say she wasn’t trying as hard as before.

Mauresmo won the third set easily and took the match, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2.

Sharapova beat Kuznetsova, 6-1, 6-4, and Dementieva ran her record to 0-9 in the last three years by losing to Clijsters, 6-4, 6-0. Henin-Hardenne will face Sharapova and Mauresmo will face Clijsters in the semifinals tomorrow.

As much as I love the competition here, it isn’t living up to the theme song quite yet.

See also:
2006 WTA Championships: A Year Of Returns
2006 WTA Championships: Last One Standing

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