Monthly Archives: July 30, 2021

Players today are taught to hit the ball hard and move well enough to get to balls that are hit hard.

The first thing that’s wrong with the women’s tennis tour is that the WTA is trying its best to knock Lindsay Davenport off the tour. Larry Scott, the CEO of the WTA, refused to give Davenport a wild card for and upcoming Tier I tournament in Zurich. In an article in the New York Times this week Davenport is quoted as saying, “He’s trying to get me out of the game, that’s how I feel.”

This is the third time this year that Scott has refused to give Davenport a wild card. In each case Davenport didn’t enter the tournament by the deadline because she had injuries and wasn’t sure she could play. It’s a catch-22 for her because Scott is penalizing players for pulling out of tournaments thus leaving tournaments with weak fields. [blockquote?]If Davenport had entered then withdrew she would have been penalized, if she waited till the injury healed and missed the entry deadline, she couldn’t get a wild card.

Davenport is a three time grand slam winner with fifty-one singles titles who is close to setting the record for career prize money on the women’s tour. She’s in her last playing days and she’d never tolerate an Andre Agassi style retirement tour, so do the next best thing: let her play when and wherever she wants and welcome her with open arms.

As for the rest of the women on the tour, reader Matt eloquently expressed dismay at the poor level of play in the opening round matches of the U.S. Open. He was astonished to watch players hit up to eleven or twelve errors for every winner and it irked Matt who preferred the days when Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles kept the ball in the court and played with “Point-plotting that rivaled that of a Victorian novelist for patience and thoroughness.” See what I mean about eloquence.

I’ve been grousing about the women’s tour for some time and trotted out my reasons for its demise: injuries related to the added power of rackets and the long and increasingly global schedule with a paltry off-season, increased competition due to the astounding increase in Eastern European and Asian players, longevity problems because women turn pro at such a young age. But Matt wasn’t buying it.

He is certainly correct that current players don’t compare with those former queens of tennis when it comes to strategy. That’s why Martina Hingis could come back after a three year rest and land in the top ten within eight months. She still can’t hit the ball hard but she can out-think most players. And women’s tennis at the top today is decidedly inferior. There were, embarrassingly, three bagel sets in the women’s U.S. Open semifinals alone, wow that looks bad.

Matt blames the players for paying attention to their marketing image more than their tennis. Sharapova is the highest paid female athlete in the world and has only one slam to her name. Michelle Wie is sixteenth on the income list for all golfers, male and female, and she has yet to win a tournament. We can probably blame Nike and Michael Jordan for that. But I can’t knock Sharapova or Wie’s work ethic though I would like Sharapova to develop a better all-round game and I might like Wie to win something, anything, before she plays those European men’s tournaments.

No, I have to blame the power game. Players today are taught two things: hit the ball hard and move well enough to get to balls that are hit hard. And if you’re Lindsay Davenport, you don’t even have to move well, you just have to hit a winner before your opponent does. Certainly Roger Federer can be a finesse player but when he plays Rafael Nadal, he makes a lot of errors. He doesn’t worry about them because he knows that he has to go for more winners to get the ball past the speedy Nadal.

Women will adjust to the speed and power in the game and a dominant female player (or players) will eventually come along. Until then, join the rollercoaster ride.

See also: The WTA and Davenport: biting the hand that feeds you.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 247 user reviews.

If I were Andre Agassi I would have withheld permission for James Blake to wear that retro outfit with the dayglo pink compression shorts and loud pink and black shirt. Nothing is worse than looking at a picture of yourself a decade earlier. It’s not just the clothes, it’s that hair. Luckily Blake put on a do rag instead of a hairpiece.

Federer’s between the legs shot facing the net in his match against Tim Henman. When my regular playing buddy Abdul does it, he’s being lazy, when Federer does it, it makes the ESPN Top Ten list.

sometimes I wonder if players study anatomical texts just so they can come up with plausible medical problems to use as “strategical” time outs

Jim Courier and John McEnroe getting in some hitting during breaks from their day jobs. Okay, no big deal. But Jimmy Connors (with his new hip) and John McEnroe hitting, that was something to see.

Speaking of Connors, how about that rain-delay replay of a point in his 1991 match against Paul Haarhuis where Connors returned four straight overheads and finished off the point with a clean passing shot. Tends to make you forget that this was the same tournament where Connors called chair umpire David Littlefield a son of a bitch and an abortion among other things.

The outbreak of competitive dancing during the Blake-Carlos Moya match. The winner was a guy in a pastel jacket who must have been in his 60’s showing a mix of moves that were popular during the Ratpack’s heyday. For a minute there I thought I was at a Laker’s basketball game where everyone vogues for time on the jumbo-tron. Speaking of vogueing, Willie Ninja, a main figure in the New York drag ball circuit featured in the fabulous film Paris is Burning, died on Saturday from AIDS-related heart failure. Madonna is one of a long list of white artists who’ve popularized Black and Latino culture – remember her single Vogue – but trust me, the original vogueing crowd was and is vastly more entertaining.

More tales of medical time out abuse. Marcos Baghdatis took a medical time out in his match with Andre Agassi for a thigh muscle strain. Later in the match he got a medical time out for cramps in that very same thigh. So that’s how you get two time outs for the same problem despite the rule limiting you to one time out per complaint. The first time around you call it a muscle strain and get the area massaged. If the cramp returns, then you call it a cramp and get a second time out. And what’s up with Richard Gasquet? In his five set loss to Lleyton Hewitt he clearly had two medical timeouts for cramps in his legs – thighs first and calves second, how’d he pull that off?

Tommy Haas was either very smart or had a fortuitous medical problem. After a very long point at 5-5 in the fifth set in a match with Robbie Ginepri, he experienced a muscular problem that kept him from breathing deeply. At the end of the game the doctor came over and poked around his chest to evaluate the problem after which Haas took a medical time out for a total of five minutes. Earlier this week I was playing 15-point rally games with a guy who talked me into playing a third game after I’d beaten him easily in the first two. He got out to a 7-0 lead before I game back to cut his lead to 8-7. After that he said he needed a break, sat down beside the court and talked amiably for 6 or 7 minutes then started playing again. By then I was totally stiffened up and couldn’t hit a forehand to save my life. I’d been had, the guy knew I had grabbed the momentum and he’d successfully interrupted my flow. After Haas’s respiratory distress, he proceeded to win his service game easily then take the tiebreaker 7-1 and win the match. Haas may well have had a respiratory problem but sometimes I wonder if players study anatomical texts just so they can come up with plausible medical problems to use as “strategical” time outs.

More medical stuff and the shot of the tournament. I admit it, I get tired of the “heroic” label for players soldiering on with cramps, they’re not heroic, they’re out of shape. Still, the aforementioned Gasquet was down match point in the fifth set to Lleyton Hewitt (what’s he doing here in the fourth round, he has tendinitis in his knee doesn’t he?) and Gasquet’s right thigh was absolutely locking up with cramps, you could see the muscle bulge. Hewitt, of course, did his best to run Gasquet around and make the cramps worse. Hewitt hit a shot to the corner then came in to the net but Gasquet managed to hobble over to the ball and hit a dipping passing shot through the two inch window Hewitt had left him. The crowd was already screaming and now they were beside themselves standing and yelling. The cramps didn’t subside, though, and Hewitt served it out a few shots later.

How about the belly flop by Marat Safin in his five set match with Haas in the fourth round? Haas hit a passing shot then Safin propelled his big body completely horizontal and landed on his belly after, remarkably, hitting a winner. Safin lost the match in the fifth set tiebreaker and it’s surprising he got to the fourth round given his self doubt and verbal self-flagellation, but that was a spectacular expression of desire.

9-0 versus 0-9. Tomas Berdych is 9-0 in five set matches. Blake is 0-9 in five set matches. Blake, though, is a smart guy and he avoided a fifth set, and a fourth set, by beating Berdych easily in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.

I told you I didn’t think Rafael Nadal would play in the final but I couldn’t figure out who would beat him. How could anyone have known it would be Mikhail Youzhny? And so much for Jim Courier’s opinion that Nadal would have been the number one player in people’s minds had he won the Open since he took the French Open title and got to the final at Wimbledon and has a winning record against Federer. For some reason Courier was prepared to ignore Federer’s 2, 670 point advantage over Nadal in the ATP standings. That’s bigger than the point gap between Nadal and Blake, who is ranked seventh. Case closed.

That’s all I’ve got at the moment, I have to take a break, I’m starting to see tennis balls in my dreams.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 281 user reviews.

Title (write this as a spoof): new ATP p.r. initiatives were announced today to accompany the recent changes announced for next year’s tour.

Conclusion of conclusion: there were pips and squeaks from foreign players, in particular a slightly sarcastic comment from Roger Federer hoping he qualified for a night match some time, but hopefully it’s a swan song of the extreme U.S. centric nature of the U.S. Open. What do I suggest then? Well, pump up Sharapova on the screen, not just commercials, feature Nadal – I didn’t see anything about him in between his matches… Also, put the foreign players against U.S. players – if you can find them – and use that p.r. skill to connect them with the things the U.S. likes, a showman…., in conclusion, [put this at the end] entertainment.

It’s like those Geico commercials, not the gecko with the working class British accent but the one where celebrities channel day-to-day people to spice up their story and things more dramatic. It’s brilliant if you think about it. Little Richard manages to “whooooohoooooing” mash potatoes and cranberry sauce for a woman who hit a deer on Thanksgiving day and the latin singer(???) Charo in a red sparkly dress with arm-length gloves and thumbholes(aichhhh, what do you call those) manages to make a song and dance and… out of Stanley Smith’s wrecked car.

Just think what a celebrity could do for Roger Federer. Maybe he needs a celebrity channeler so the U.S. would embrace him. Let’s see, who would be appropriate. George Lopez? Nah. I got it, T.O., Terrell Owens. Love him or not, we want press and T.O. could squat along the sideline then, when Federer hits his next front-facing between the legs shot, T.O. could run over to the other side of the court, pick up the ball then kneel down on Federer’s opponent’s side of the court. You want media coverage, you’d get it in spades.

Or maybe celebrity coaches. Bobby Knight could be Andy Murray’s celebrity coach for his next semifinal slam match. Knight would have no problem getting a word in edgewise against Brad Gilbert. Knight could just slam him to the ground and break his collarbone. I don’t know if this was the exact same technique he used but Knight did manage to break his son Patrick’s collarbone.

If Andre Agassi can be wildy popular worldwide, why can’t Federer or Baghdatis be popular here. [put into the U.S. Open conclusion.

Don’t laugh, they do this in other sports don’t they? They put microphones on football players and coaches, ….

There is a minor league baseball team in the Independent(?) League [look up Reilly’s column the week of Sep. 27?] that is managed by it’s fans. That’s right, the fans can go on the team’s website and vote on the starting lineup. This isn’t great for the players’ careers, of course, they’re trying to make it to the big leagues and they’d rather the starting lineup was chosen by merit rather than whim and it also opens the door to tampering. Reilly reported that one game had the …. at first base and … Presumable an opposing team had logged in as a fans and chosen a deliberately funky lineup. However, that team is making (look up figures) this year than last.

And here’s another reality show, Murray Mutters, a comedy consisting of Andy Murray’s comments during matches. Affix a mic to him then follow him around. During his match with Nikolay Davydenko (did he win) he hit a ball into the net then had the following monologue: “It makes you nervous when you don’t try hitting the ball so hard, it makes you so nervous, focusing on not making errors, you’re so tight every time the ball comes to you.” Notice his use of the third person as if he’s outside his body.

How sweet is that? It’s the Federbear. Oooooh, I’m melting with cuteness. And Pat Tillman, the NFL lineman who left a million dollar contract in the NFL to enlist in the Army Rangers and was subsequently killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, still carried his cat pillow, Keek, and Fluff, his baby blanket with a bunny on it, for overnights and football camp when he was a teenager. I love this stuff.

[celebrity coaches- allow on court coaching, all match long, Jim Carrey cutting up on [game breaks] or Anna Kournikova or Terrell Owens – as a ballboy, he can scoop up the ball and kneel on the ??? Maybe a different celebrity coach for each set] Look, it could be worse. The Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League, an independent baseball leauge, are managed by their fans. Fans log online and choose the lineupe and position of each player. Of course, this could be a problem. At some point in the season, a few fo their opponents logged on as fans and chose a decidedly disadvantageous team to put on the field. The players, who are all trying to get a shot at the big leagues, also probably don’t appreciate it. But, more important, the team’s attendance has improved (check this, si.com) since the fans have taken over.

We already have this except that it’s Michael Joyce and Sharapova, I’m just suggesting that Joyce be replaced by someone with improv skills, holding up a banana for heaven’s sake, anyone would be more creative than that.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 298 user reviews.

The women’s round of 16 concluded last night at the US Open, with a win by Number One seed Amelie Mauresmo over the unseeded Serena Williams. We’ve left the early blow-out matches behind, now the women are getting down to the good stuff.

For Serena Williams, we can say she at least got her finger back into the pie with this tournament. She didn’t deserve to win this match though. She advanced farther than I would have thought she could go, given her spotty play this year and her lack of conditioning and match play. Whether she advanced because some of the old powerful Serena remains, or whether she advanced because the women are typically weaker in the early stages of tournaments than the men, it is difficult to say. Probably both ends were working here. But it is good to see Serena back. Losing this match should be the good swift kick in that rather oversized derriere that could do her good.

Her mind at least is still into competing, even if her body can’t quite keep up yet. On a number of points during her match with Amelie Mauresmo, the physical effort of running balls down cost Serena dearly. Even a week at Nick Bollettieri’s place in Florida before the Open could not fill in the gaps quickly enough in Serena’s conditioning. I found myself saying, “If she were lighter she would get there more easily, ” or “She wouldn’t be breathing so hard” if she were in better shape. As it was, Serena seemed to move pretty well, but it cost her aerobically.

Serena appeared to be playing at about three-quarter speed throughout. She wasn’t crushing the ball like the Serena of old. This is not meant as a criticism. You would expect her to just try and keep the ball in play and see what opens up and not be in such a rush to pull the trigger. Was she hoping she was still facing the old Amelie? The player who would implode under the weight of expectations upon her? After all, Serena practically owns Amelie. Their record is 9-1 before the match last night. If Serena’s game and conditioning could not give her confidence, that record was a friendly reminder that hey, maybe she could eek the win out after all, conditioning be damned.

But on this night, Amelie kept it together perfectly. Conditioning did matter. Amelie covered the court well, came in to net at the right times and kept herself focused mentally when it mattered. The contrast was striking: Amelie is as trim and tanned and fit as we have ever seen her; Serena looks chunky. Do you suppose Serena stared over the net and thought to herself, “I want to look like my old self again?” She could. She is not that far away from it, because anything Serena puts her mind to, she can do. Maybe playing Amelie – and winning the second set in a 6-0 blowout – should inspire Serena. Maybe next time she’ll put in a full month at Nick’s place.

On the other hand Jelena Jankovic of Serbia has been racing through her draw with nothing but inspiration. She polished off two unknown players in the early rounds, then took serious aim at the seeds, climbing over Vaidisova(#9) in three sets, Kuznetsova(#7) in three sets, and today she took care of Elena Dementieva(#5) in a shockingly fast (one hour and two minutes) straight setter, 6-2, 6-1. She is the first woman to reach the quarterfinals here.

For Dementieva, the curse of that wretched serve continues. She was broken in every one of her service games. Ouch. Usually though Dementieva can still win matches. But today she faced a youngster who was not going to let that serve go unpunished. Jankovic played too well off the ground. Her opponent could have served brilliantly and it probably would not have mattered anyway. Elena was off and Jelena was on. It was one of those days where one player is “in the zone” and you’re not.

Jankovic hits a beautiful two-handed backhand up the line. It is practically her signature shot, and Dementieva saw lots of it today, from the first game, which Jankovic won with that backhand up the line. They traded breaks early, and that was the end of that. Jankovic whipped through her service games until the end of the first set, when she gave one of her many breaks back. It took her several tries before she closed the first set out, 6-2, on her serve, requiring three set points before Jankovic closed the deal.

The second set brought more of the same for Dementieva, whose only response to the depth, pacing and consistency of Jankovic’s shots was to try and outhit her. But it was the Serb who was going for more angles, coming into net when she saw her opportunity, and just outsteadying the normally very steady Russian. Her backhand went away today.

Only at the end of each set did Dementieva seem to really mount an effort and get a handle on all those unforced errors, taking her opponent to several deuces before the ducks fell into place. Serving for the match up 5-1, Jelena Jankovic on her fourth match point finally coaxed a forehand error from Dementieva and she is into her first Grand Slam semi-final. Davenport or Henin-Hardenne would be her opponent. She has an 0-3 record against Davenport, and an 0-1 against Justine. The scores, though, were close.

For Elena Dementieva, the curse of being one of the best female players to never win a Slam also continues. She should be flown to a desert island with a million tennis balls and one court. She stays there and work on her serve until she’s ready. Only then do we let her off that island.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 172 user reviews.

how many five setters have finished with a tiebreak? Safin-Haas,

John McEnroe and Patrick McEnroes in the booth together on CBS. They’re even better together than separately and they’re the best even when they’re not together.

If I’d been Andre Agassi I would have withheld permission for James Blake to wear that retro outfit. Nothing is worse than looking at a picture of yourself a decade earlier. It’s not just the clothes, it’s that hair. Luckily Blake put on a do rag instead of a hairpiece. And that’s all I’m going to say about Agassi because, really, hasn’t there been enough?

Jim Courier and John McEnroe hitting in between commentating jobs(yuck). Okay, no big deal, but Jimmy Connors (with his new hip) and John McEnroe hitting, that was something to see.

Federer’s between the legs shot facing the net. When my regular playing buddy Abdul does it, he’s being lazy, when Federer does it, it makes the ESPN Top Ten list.

Speaking of Connors, how about that rain-delay replay of a point in his 1991 match against Paul Haarhuis where Connors returned four straight overheads and finished off the point with a clean passing shot. Tends to make you forget that this was the same tournament where Connors called chair umpire David Littlefield a son of a bitch and an abortion among other things.

The outbreak of competitive dancing during the James Blake-Carlos Moya match. The winner was a guy in a pastel jacket who must have been in his 60’s showing a mix of moves that were popular during the [link]Ratpack’s(capitalized? heyday(sp?). For a minute there I thought I was at a Laker’s basketball game where everyone `. Speaking of Blake, he made yet another weaker player look like a giant. Moya has his lowest ranking in six years but there he was going toe to with Blake before Blake finally put him away in four sets. Very similar to Wimbledon where Blake made Max Mirnyi look like a giant killer. I’m worried about that boy.

[put Baghdatis first then mention Haas]Medical timeout abuse # 3, 654: Tommy Haas preparing to serve to stay in the match at 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 5-6, called a medical timeout because he was having trouble breathing. The doctor came over and poked around his chest to evaluate Haas then, after the poking which already took a few minutes, Haas got a full three minute(?) medical time out. After such (another word pertaining to breathing) distress, Haas proceeded to win his service game easily then take the tiebreaker, and the match, 7-1. Do you think these players study anatomical texts to come up with plausible medical problems for bogus timeouts?

Marcos Baghdatis took a medican timeout in his match with Andre Agassi for a thigh muscle straing. Later in the match he got a medical timeout for cramps in that very same thigh. So that’s how you do it, you say it’s a strain to get the cramp massaged then, if it returns, you get a timout for cramps. That’s how you get two medical timeouts for the same problem despite the rule that limits you to one. And what’s up with Richard Gasquet, clearly two medical timeouts for cramps in his legs – thighs first and calves second, how does that work?

Shot of the tournament: I admit it, I get tired of the “heroic” label for players soldiering on with cramps, they’re not heroic, they’re out of shape. Still, Richard Gasquet was down match in the fifth set to Lleyton Hewitt (what is he doing here in the fourth round, he has tendonitis in his knee doesn’t he?) and his right thigh was absolutely locking up, you could see the muscle bulge but Hewitt hit a shot to the corner then came in after the ball and Gasquet was able to hobble over there and hit a dipping passing shot through the two inch window that Hewitt left him. The crowd was already screaming, now they were beside themselves, standing and yelling. The cramps didn’t subside, though, and Hewitt served it out a few shots later. I’m beginning to think that Gasquet is a drama queen. He is regular five-setter, he had two epic five-setters against Russia in Davis Cup for instance, losing them both. He might want to have a conversation with a sports psychologist, something about feeling comfortable with willing. He is one of the sweetest guys out there, he always pats his opponent on the back and has something nice to say to them at the end of the match no matter what happened. Maybe he should take Jimmy Connors on part-time, the opponent is your enemy, Richard, go it?

Conclusion of conclusion: there were pips and squeaks from foreign players, in particular a slightly sarcastic comment from Roger Federer hoping he qualified for a night match some time, but hopefully it’s a swan song of the extreme U.S. centric nature of the U.S. Open. What do I suggest then? Well, pump up Sharapova on the screen, not just commercials, feature Nadal – I didn’t see anything about him in between his matches… Also, put the foreign players against U.S. players – if you can find them – and use that p.r. skill to connect them with the things the U.S. likes, a showman…., in conclusion, [put this at the end] entertainment.

It’s like those Geico commercials, not the gecko with the working class British accent but the one where celebrities channel day-to-day people to spice up their story and things more dramatic. It’s brilliant if you think about it. Little Richard manages to “whooooohoooooing” mash potatoes and cranberry sauce for a woman who hit a deer on Thanksgiving day and the latin singer(???) Charo in a red sparkly dress with arm-length gloves and thumbholes(aichhhh, what do you call those) manages to make a song and dance and… out of Stanley Smith’s wrecked car.

Just think what a celebrity could do for Roger Federer. Maybe he needs a celebrity channeler so the U.S. would embrace him. Let’s see, who would be appropriate. George Lopez? Nah. I got it, T.O., Terrell Owens. Love him or not, we want press and T.O. could squat along the sideline then, when Federer hits his next front-facing between the legs shot, T.O. could run over to the other side of the court, pick up the ball then kneel down on Federer’s opponent’s side of the court. You want media coverage, you’d get it in spades.

Or maybe celebrity coaches. Bobby Knight could be Andy Murray’s celebrity coach for his next semifinal slam match. Knight would have no problem getting a word in edgewise against Brad Gilbert. Knight could just slam him to the ground and break his collarbone. I don’t know if this was the exact same technique he used but Knight did manage to break his son Patrick’s collarbone.

If Andre Agassi can be wildy popular worldwide, why can’t Federer or Baghdatis be popular here. [put into the U.S. Open conclusion.

Don’t laugh, they do this in other sports don’t they? They put microphones on football players and coaches, ….

I’ll tell’ya something too, the crowd was going crazy during the Gasquet-Hewitt match, a Frenchie and an Aussie. They gave Gasquet a standing O as he faced his first match point. Gasquet jumped in the air, hit a backhand down the line for a winner, then threw his racket on the ground and grabbed his thigh and hobbled across the court trying to unlock his cramping muscles.

And here’s another reality show, Murray Mutters, a comedy consisting of Andy Murray’s comments during matches. Affix a mic to him then follow him around. During his match with Nikolay Davydenko (did he win) he hit a ball into the net then had the following monologue: “It makes you nervous when you don’t try hitting the ball so hard, it makes you so nervous, focusing on not making errors, you’re so tight every time the ball comes to you.” Notice his use of the third person as if he’s outside his body.

Reader Matt’s comments about the women: “My wife and I have been watching the Open in France. We are astonished at the badness of the opening matches on the women’s side of the draw. After a while we began to keep count of the ratio of points won to points lost, and this is what it looks like. In last evening’s match between Serena and Mauresmo, the ratio of points won to those lost on unforced errors was about 1 to 9. In the last Kirilenko match it was closer to 1 to 12. In the Rezai match also 1 to 11. The time was when women like Chris Evert, Martina Navritilova, Monica Seles, and Steffi Graf played tennis as immaculate, as consistent, as nearly error-free as that of the very best male players, but in the last few years the falling off in the quality of women’s play below the very highest level of the game (represented by Sharapova, Clisters (when she is healthy), Henin-Hardenne, and sometimes, though not always, Mauresmo, is very discouraging. I can only wonder what Chris Evert would have found to say of the many matches that were decided not by who played best but by who played worst. I find this a very discouraging development, and wonder what other people have to say on the subject.”

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 239 user reviews.