Monthly Archives: June 14, 2021

In the March issue of Tennis Magazine, there is an interesting entry in a statistical sidebar: the number 10. It represents the number of WTA events in which the winner never faced a top 50 player.

This can only mean one thing. There are too many tournaments. This is bad news for tournament directors because people will not buy tickets if the top players aren’t there. It’s bad for players because they play too many tournaments and end up on the injured list.

It looks like the ATP is finally going to do something about it. In the same issue of Tennis Magazine, Christopher Clarey has written a very good article that covers all of the issues in this complex power struggle.

See what happens when there is no separate players’ union? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The grand slams, the ITF (which runs Davis Cup and Fed Cup), the ATP and the WTA are the combatants. The slams are big and powerful, they make a lot of money. They not only will not shrink or move in the schedule but the French Open is adding a day. And Davis Cup is unwilling to give up any of its four weeks each year.

That leaves the ATP and the WTA and they are in a tough position because they represent both the players and the tournament directors.

What to do then? No one wants to give up schedule time and the ATP and WTA are too timid to take away tournaments from tournament directors. How about paying the top players to limit their playing schedule? Clarey reports that this is the current solution under discussion.

The slams would pay the top players a large bonus in return for playing in a limited number of tournaments and giving up large appearance fees to play in smaller tournaments. I don’t know what Roger Federer got from Dubai to hit balls with Andre Agassi on that helipad in the sky but I do know that Tiger Woods got $3 million to hit a few balls off the helipad and play in their golf tournament.

Now let me get this straight. The top players, the ones making $3 or $4 million a year, are not capable of deciding to play fewer tournaments to reduce the chance of injuring themselves. We will pay them to do it and thereby create an elite class of tennis players. We will reward them for being irresponsible.

See what happens when there is no separate players’ union? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Isn’t the point of a union to protect all of its players?

If the rank-and-file, in this case the group ranked below the elite-irresponsible-upper-class, does not strike or sit down en masse in the middle of the court during the Wimbledon final, they deserve their fate. They will have given up what little power they do have.

Additional changes are under consideration Clarey reports: reduce the number of Masters Series tournaments, contract the fall season, and use a regional tour structure organized around the grand slams and the year end tournaments. We’ve suggested those here before and they are a good idea.

But don’t be surprised if everyone takes the easy way out by paying off the stars and backing out of any significant changes to the schedule.

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I was stuck on route 10 last Saturday afternoon flipping channels on the radio when I came across a gravelly voice attached to a man who acted like he’d injected himself with Starbucks Sumatra Extra Gold. Glass was breaking in the background as, he said, people were trying to break into the recording studio. He followed that with a rant about former colleagues who now hated him because he has a lucrative new gig on satellite radio.

Bricks coming through the window, haters, this guy was paranoid. But he was also very entertaining. He sang a hilarious song to the rhythm of a polka that appeared to be completely adlibbed. I was listening to Scott Ferrell on Fox Sports Radio.

Look, if I listen to sports radio my standards can’t be very high, okay, but the fact that Ferrell can make extremely transparent sexual references and repeatedly refer to lesbians as wannabe men without any fallout is very disheartening.

Next I heard audio of two players grunting during a tennis match that I recognized from the match between Andy Roddick and Andrei Pavel in their Davis Cup match the day before. How sick is that, I now watch so much tennis now that I can identify grunts. This was the introduction to a mock interview with Amelie Mauresmo. The use of men grunting instead of women was part of the plan. Mauresmo is a muscular, broad-shouldered lesbian. Of course that makes her a man.

The interview starts with Ferrell strolling into the locker room where, by the way, no press is allowed. After he enters, Mauresmo asks him to look under her skirt to find the titanium racket that is strapped to her leg. She then goes on to say that she wants to squeeze Ferrell’s balls, his Penn balls, and accuses Justine Henin-Hardenne of quitting “like all my lovers, they quit because of my hairy back, ” referring to Henin-Hardenne’s retirement during the Australian Open and yet more reasons why lesbians either are or want to be men.

It will come to no surprise to you that Ferrell has a regular gig on Howard 101, Howard Stern’s satellite radio show. I have no problem with Howard Stern, he can do whatever he likes and I don’t have to listen to him. I even have a friend who is appearing on his show in the near future. She just released a new book about her life as a professional submissive. You can read about it here. Clearly I’m no prude.

But I have a big problem with ignorance and insulting stereotyping.

You can see why Mauresmo doesn’t encourage questions about being a lesbian and you can see why no active male athlete in a major sport has come out of the closet. I can imagine that there are many more stupid comments about strap-ons in everything from, well, a Howard Stern show to instant messages between adolescent males who are afraid of lesbians because they’re having enough problems as it is getting a date considering their acne and dorky looks and lesbians certainly will not want to go out with them.

Look, if I listen to sports radio my standards can’t be very high, okay, but the fact that Ferrell can make extremely transparent sexual references and repeatedly refer to lesbians as wannabe men without any fallout is very disheartening. Rather than getting into trouble, he’s been rewarded with a regular appearance on satellite radio.

Ignorant comments about lesbians in general are stupid, the same comments about a particular individual, especially one who has carried herself so professionally throughout her career, are totally unacceptable. But I don’t hold out much hope. If Fox doesn’t want Ferrell, Howard Stern does. So we have a two-tiered system: the FCC will continue to censor broadcasts on AM and FM radio and everyone else can go to hel… I mean, satellite.

Someone recently asked Bud Collins for his choice of the best tennis player of all time. He didn’t hesitate: Billie Jean King. Nobody did more for tennis. She spearheaded the women’s tennis tour and thereby did more for women’s sports than anyone else. She beat Bobby Riggs in an event that was a seminal moment in the women’s liberation movement. And she was, unwillingly, the first professional athlete to come out of the closet when Marilyn Barnett slapped her with a palimony suit.

Take one look at Scott Ferrell’s comments above and imagine what kind of psychic grief Billie Jean had to endure as the face of the feminist movement and the gay and lesbian movement. Ferrell’s comments might be tame relative to the comments that ignorance about feminists and lesbians in the 70’s must have produced. Even Arthur Ashe, the bastion of civility, told Billie Jean that no one wanted to watch women play tennis. Still, she won twelve grand slam singles titles and thirty-nine total grand slam titles.

I’d like to think that things have improved since Billie Jean was on the tour. Certainly gays and lesbians have made huge strides in acceptance, they are now allowed to marry in a few selected places.

It’s unfortunate that Ferrell hasn’t been keeping up.

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If you’re a top player on the professional tennis tour and there is a real possibility that you will never reach the number one ranking again for the rest of your career, how do you make peace with that?

Andy Roddick is moving sideways. In the past three years he’s gone from being number one to number two and is now in a holding pattern at number three. He changed his game to attack the net more and it hasn’t worked. Ivan Ljubicic beat him last year in the first round of the Davis Cup and Marcos Baghdatis beat him in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Those players are moving up and he’s not.

If you’re Roddick at this point and you look at your situation, you think that you can win a few more slams, Roger Federer isn’t going to win all of them after all, and bring home a bunch of Davis Cup titles. That would stand as a good career.

Roddick doesn’t need to come to the net, he just needs to get to the baseline.

So this week’s Davis Cup tie with Romania becomes a huge event. You certainly don’t want to flame out in the first round like you did against Croatia last year. You’d much rather use this event to get yourself back on the right track. The pressure might make you nervous and nerves could result in an upset stomach or even abdominal cramps. In an interview with Bud Collins after the match, Roddick both admitted that Davis Cup can give you a case of nerves and insisted that the bout of vomiting during his loss on Friday was completely physical. That about covers it all.

I was one of the people who called on Roddick to attack the net more. I wanted him to be challenger instead of a perennial lose to Federer and coming forward seemed like the best strategy to complement the fastest recorded serve in ATP history. But I was wrong. That’s not his game and now his confidence is suffering. Roddick doesn’t need to come to the net, he just needs to get to the baseline.

In today’s Davis Cup reverse singles match, Roddick played Razvan Sabau, a substitute for Victor Hanescu who had to retire with an injury in the doubles match yesterday against the Bryan brothers. Sabau is a journeyman who’s been on the tour for fifteen years and is currently ranked number 110. In the first game of the match, Roddick hit nine slice backhands in one rally. What was the point of that? If Sabau was a power hitter, you might want to feed him junk to avoid giving him pace, but Sabau is a lightweight. It not only didn’t make sense but it allowed Sabau, a baseliner, to develop a rhythm on his ground-strokes and gave him hope because he knew he could stay in a rally with Roddick. With Sabau down 0-40 and an opportunity to go up 5-3 in the second set, Roddick got a second serve to hit. What did he do? He stood a few feet behind the baseline and hit a return smack dab in the middle of the court. If you won’t attack with three break points, when will you attack?

You might as well roll over on your back and offer up your tummy.

When Roddick lost to Joachim Johannson two years ago and Gilles Muller last year in the US Open, you could say that he just happened to run into players who were having a career day. Johansson and Muller played the match of their lives. It’s more likely that, instead of taking the game to them, Roddick gave them hope by playing behind the baseline. If you’re a power player and you set up behind the baseline, even on second serves, that tells your opponent that you are on the defensive. You might as well roll over on your back and offer up your tummy.

Sabau, by the way, did stay on the baseline and took more than a few trips forward. He was smart, he only came forward when he knew he could put the approach away. He was too inconsistent to be effective and he self-destructed towards the end of the match to lose, 3-6, 3-6, 2-6, (the US won the tie 4-1) but it’s a strategy Roddick should adopt.

When Brad Gilbert took over as Roddick’s coach, the first thing he did was move Roddick behind the baseline on service returns. Gilbert correctly identified Roddick’s return as the weakest part of his game. After Gilbert was fired, the new coach, Dean Goldfine, didn’t correct Roddick’s court position on second serves and seems to have condoned Roddick’s deep positioning during rallies. Now Goldfine is gone too. Roddick just hired his brother John to coach him.

Roddick realizes that he’s at a crossroads in his career and getting back to his game, which his brother is most familiar with, would be a good move. Hopefully Roddick can find a way to attack within his comfort zone. Finding a comfort zone on the court might also help him deal with the huge expectations put upon him by the media and fans. If Bud Collins is questioning your ability to deal with pressure in a big match, then you know it’s coming from all sides.

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What happened in the first round Davis Cup match between Andy Roddick of the U.S. and Andrei Pavel of Romania is bad news for Justine Henin-Hardenne. We’ve been going back and forth about Henin-Hardenne’s default in the Australian Open final with Amelie Mauresmo for a few days now. Was she too sick to keep playing or did she default because she knew she couldn’t win thus taking away Mauresmo’s winning moment? Should everyone just leave her alone and give her the benefit of the doubt since she’s a four time grand slam winner?

What happened in the first round Davis Cup match between Andy Roddick of the U.S. and Andrei Pavel of Romania is bad news for Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Andy Roddick was chugging along against Pavel winning the first two sets 7-6(2), 6-2. The first hint of a problem came in the third set tiebreaker when Roddick called a trainer to treat tightness in his right forearm. Serving with match point in the tiebreaker, he hit a big serve that everyone in the place, including his opponent, took for an ace and the end of the match. But it wasn’t, it was out. After a second serve, Pavel hit a drop shot to draw Roddick in then hit a beautiful topspin lob over his head and held on to win the third set.

In the fourth set, things turned even more desperate. Down 1-2, Roddick sat down on the changeover, pulled over a tall trash can and vomited. Henin-Hardenne evidently did not feel like vomiting when she got an upset stomach in Australia, but maybe it would have been better if she had because then we could have been convinced that she was, indeed, too ill to continue.

Except that players don’t stop for something as trifling as vomiting. Pete Sampras upchucked on the court and won the match. Andy Murray drank too much sports drink and left it on the court. He didn’t win but he did finish the match.

Roddick went down 1-4 before winning another game but he was trying to put every ball away so he could get back to his seat as soon as possible. After losing the fourth set and losing his serve in the first game of the fifth set, out came the trash can again and the trainer too. Roddick had abdominal cramps and the trainer tried to massage them away.

Roddick came back onto the court and promptly broke Pavel’s serve to even the set. Pavel didn’t give it to him, Roddick hit two winners and forced an error with a good low return even though he was moving terribly. Players not only manage to play with an upset stomach, they also manage to win some games.

Roddick lost his serve two more times – by now he had upchucked again and was doubled over between points. But he got one of the breaks back and held serve to get to 4-5. Roddick got to 30-30 on Pavel’s serve before hitting a forehand into the net to give Pavel his first match point.

What is happening here, is the U.S. going down in the first round like they did against Croatia last year? Unpredictable things happen in Davis Cup matches because this is the one time that players work together as a team and the team represents their country. The energy can bring play to a level that is greater than the sum of its parts and it can push a player to raise their game to great heights. Today it’s pushing Andy Roddick to go deep inside himself and find a way to keep fighting despite acute physical discomfort.

Pavel nervously hit an error on his first match point and Roddick passed him down the line to save the second. On the third match point, Pavel came in one more time to put the pressure on and Roddick dumped a passing shot into the net. Pavel had won, 6-7(2), 2-6, 7-6(8), 6-2, 6-4. James Blake and the Bryan brothers will have to take over until Roddick can straighten himself out on Sunday.

As painful as it was, this match might have a positive effect on Roddick. Even though he’s number three in the world, he hasn’t been winning big matches and everyone, including Roddick, is panicking. He lost to Marcos Baghdatis in the fourth round at the Australian Open and got bumped out of last year’s U.S. Open in the first round by Gilles Muller.

If Roddick had any questions about his heart before today, he should not have any now. But the questions about Justine will continue.

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If you are like me, you predicted that Martina Hingis might get into the top ten and could even get to the year-end championships (the top eight players are invited), but she would not fare well against today’s top power hitters. We were both wrong. Hingis took out Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 6-1, in the semi-finals of the Pan Pacific Open. That would qualify as a drubbing. Hingis lost to Elena Dementieva in the final but here she is, beating top five players with an early 21st century game instead of the 2006 version of it. She has more power than she did when she retired but her second serve is still a creampuff. Mark it up as a victory for court intelligence over raw power.

What is up with Sharapova by the way, does she need a new coach as much as Andy Roddick does? She’s been bothered by a pectoral muscle problem for some time but she might be just as bothered by her split with longtime coach Robert Lansdorp.

We have a few choices here. Since we don’t have footage of the women’s play, we could look at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in Florida, or the Movistar Open in Vina del Mar, Chile, both men’s events, or we could watch the 1947 Davis Cup highlights. With a name like Movistar, I can guarantee that Serena Williams would have turned up if it had been a WTA event. As it is, Movistar is a clay court tournament and it’s a little too early in the year for to watch two clay court specialists slog it out on dirt.

Malisse is the anti-Federer. Instead of winning 24 straight finals, Malisse is 1 for 8.

Let’s go to Delray Beach then and watch Tommy Haas play Xavier Malisse. Malisse is the anti-Federer. Instead of winning 24 straight finals, Malisse is 1 for 8. However, that single win was right here in this tournament last year. As for Haas, he’s on a tear. He beat Federer at Kooyong and almost beat him in the Australian Open.

Haas and Malisse have similar games: they both hug the baseline, hit the ball very hard and serve well. Even though Haas has beaten Malisse 8 out of the 11 times they’ve played and Haas has 8 titles to 1 for Malisse, the gap is not so much in their skills as it is in their heads. Both players have bad tempers and lose their way if they get upset. Malisse was actually suspended from the tour for four weeks after throwing a ball at a linesperson, verbally abusing an official and kicking over a chair. And he was ahead in the match! Imagine what could happen if he’s losing. Malisse is more mentally deficient in comparison to Haas and that can make a big difference in match results. If Malisse blows up today, it looks good for Haas.

Malisse had trouble right away; he had to fight off break points in his first service game after missing 5 straight first serves. In his third service game, he was called for a foot fault then hit a ball long in frustration and lost his serve. Uh oh.

In the next game, Haas hit consecutive inside out forehands that, according to Malisse, were out. Malisse turned to the linesman and yelled, “Just tell me, yes or no, do you see that mark?” (referring to the mark left by Haas’s ball). The linesman replied, “No, I don’t see that mark, ” and Malisse shot back at him, “Then you shouldn’t be on the court!” The linesman quietly mouthed the words to himself again, “No, I don’t see that mark, ” as if to convince himself that he was right.

As he walked to his seat on the turnover, Malisse smashed his racket and got a code violation from the chair umpire. Haas was probably feeling pretty good about his chances at this point.

But Malisse didn’t self-destruct. With Haas serving for the set at 5-3, Malisse hit a beautiful running forehand for a winner and managed to get a break point. Haas won the set, 6-3, but only after hitting a number of balls to the corners before Malisse finally popped one up in the air that Haas could put away.

Haas is not immune to blowups but he was smart enough to know that he had the upper hand so he limited his protest to a string of mumbles when Malisse served an ace that he thought was long early in the set. Unfortunately, it didn’t help him avoid another pitfall of mental warfare: the letdown. Serving at 3-4 in the second set, he hit three unforced errors on his usually solid one-handed backhand and was out of position to hit an inside out forehand to lose his serve. The break gave Malisse the second set, 6-3.

In the first game of the third set, Malisse thought another Haas ace was long, and so did I, but he already had a code violation so there was only so much protesting he get away with. That was a good thing because Malisse stayed focused and started retrieving the balls that Haas was sending to the corners. With Haas serving at 3-3, Malisse hit a rocket backhand down the line for a winner and Haas looked at him in shock, “Since when do you smash backhand winners?” Malisse is famous for ending up in the ad court doubles alley to avoid having to hit his backhand.

Malisse broke serve in that game then experienced his own letdown and gave the break right back. I’m tellin’ ya, this game is mostly mental.

In the third set tiebreaker, Haas displayed a mental skill that turned out to be the clincher: he played the big points well. By this time the wind was swirling and both players had trouble serving but Haas made big plays when he had to. At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, he hit a serve and volley to win the point then hit a running forehand to get his first match point. On his second match point, Malisse hit an error after a string broke in his racket and the title belonged to Haas, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).

Malisse is now 1-9 in finals. He can’t do much about broken strings, but the title could have been his if he’d held onto that third set service break. That’s not a big mental adjustment to make but it would make a big difference in his career.

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