Category Archives: Coaches

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

If Maria Sharapova is the diva, what does that make Lindsay Davenport? How about inspiring?

Lindsay Davenport just passed Steffi Graf to become the highest career money winner on the women’s tour. She’s currently at $21, 872, 217. That figure is partially due to inflation. You can bet that Graf never made $1.4 million for winning the U.S. Open and that doesn’t include a $1 million bonus for winning the U.S. Open Series.

Davenport hasn’t had heavy endorsement income for a few reasons. She’s not classically beautiful or sexy, and she’s not a self-promoter. Maria Sharapova is both of those things. It’s not a wild guess to say that Sharapova will earn as much in endorsements by the end of her career as Davenport will have earned from prize money by the end of hers.

Sharapova is an intense diva who commands the court and fights to the very last drop. She’s the self assured product of a family which lives for her tennis career. She’s supposed to succeed and she does. And her success is not limited to tennis.

For all the extra curricular activities Venus and Serena Williams involve themselves in – Venus now wears her own line of clothing and Serena consults on her Nike clothing line, Sharapova will probably outdo them both. She just signed a contract with WTA sponsor Sony Ericsson that includes acting as a design consultant for some of their products. Sharapova is, by the way, only 20 years old.

And so we find ourselves in the second round of the Australian Open to watch Sharapova, the present moment of tennis, play Davenport, the past champion. I feel bad about putting Davenport into the past tense because I’m ecstatic that she’s rejoined the tour after retiring to have a baby.

But she is 31 years old and it’s not quite the same as the Martina Hingis return tour. Davenport is a strong hitter and a big server but she never moved all that well. Hingis could always move and she was still a young 24 when she unretired from a three year hiatus with foot problems.

Sharapova isn’t a good mover either so both players tried to end the point as soon as possible once their match started. You’d have to go back to old movies of serve and volley at Wimbledon to watch a match with shorter points. These days Wimbledon courts are much slower.

Davenport was completely overwhelmed in the first set. It’s understandable considering that she’s only played Tier III and Tier IV tournaments since she returned to the tour last September. Sharapova repeatedly hit behind her or too far in front of her. Sharapova was already up 5-0 in the first set when Davenport ran Sharapova deep into a corner. Sharapova recovered with an emergency forehand slice but the angle of the shot was out of Davenport’s reach. Most women players today would get to that ball.

Davenport recovered in the second set, though, and managed to hold her first three service games. Now she was winning some of those cross court rallies. Two consecutive breaks of serve gave Sharapova the match, 6-1, 6-3, but Davenport could probably have made it to the third or fourth round with a bit more luck from the draw.

I think Lindsay can make it into the top ten. She beat number three ranked Jelena Jankovic twice last year and she also beat number 12 ranked Daniela Hantuchova. I don’t think she can get into the top five and I’d bet a lot of money that she’ll never win another slam. What do you think? Am I wrong? Am I more or less right?

[Correction: Davenport beat Jankovic once last year. In fact, until Davenport met up with Sharapova, she was 19-1 on her return tour. Her one loss was to Jankovic. Thanks to Anon for setting me straight.]

In either case, it’s wonderful to have Lindsay back on the tour. Tennis was never the beginning and the end of the world for her and that’s especially true now that she’s a mother. And don’t take my word for it. Serena Williams, who seldom has many positive things to say about her opponents, had this to say on Saturday:

I’m speechless because she looks better than me and she’s seven months out of having a baby. I’m convinced if I had a baby, seven months later I’d probably still be in the hospital trying to get over the pain. She is my ultimate role model. I’m really so motivated … she’s just taken it to a new level.

Tall Tennis

Ivo Karlovic is 6’10”(2.08m) and John Isner is 6’9”(2.05m). There’s no doubt they were the tallest doubles team ever to play a professional tennis match when they took the court in Melbourne today. They lost their match in straight sets but the trend worries me. Sharapova and Davenport are both 6’2”(1.88m) and if tennis continues to go the way of basketball, maybe we should consider raising the net. On the other hand, if people were abusive towards me just because I liked round robins, what will they say about raising the net? They’ll probably come after my head!

Watch out for Richard Gasquet. He beat Feliciano Lopez easily today and is looking good. As long as he doesn’t stub his toe or get a slight fever, I think he can go a long way.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 207 user reviews.

Let’s hand out the Teddy Awards. Tomorrow I’ll look at the contrasting way that Martina Hingis and Roger Clemens are handling their illegal drug use problems.

I’m disappointed that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Iowa presidential caucus – the opening state primary for the U.S. presidential election. But the Teddy Awards votes are finally in and I can’t complain about them.

1. Best Player: Justine Henin and David Ferrer

Both players got the same number of votes and, really, the only surprise here is Ferrer. He deserves the vote even if he was helped along by Federer-fatigue (the state of being tired of talking about Roger Federer).

2. Most Improved Player: Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer

Another tie for this category. Fair enough though Anna Chakvetadze probably suffered because we didn’t have separate categories for men and women. Djokovic shot up like a rocket. He won two Masters series events, five tournaments, and, unbelievably, reached the semifinals in two slams and the final in another. What more can you say about Ferrer? While Djokovic jumped by leaps and bounds in his physical and mental play, Ferrer aged. What else can you call it when a player doesn’t figure out he’s a top five player until he’s 25-years-old?

3. Most Disappointing Player: Marat Safin

I personally am over my disappointment in Safin. I’ve been disappointed for too many years. Besides, he really hasn’t been the same since his knee surgery.

4. Most Surprising Player: David Ferrer

No need for more comment except that David Nalbandian got more than a few votes in this category and Marion Bartoli might have done well if she’s had any good results after her Wimbledon final appearance.

5. Male Centerfold of the Year: Feliciano Lopez

6. Female Centerfold of the Year: Ana Ivanovic

There wasn’t much competition in the centerfold category. There was a little Rafael Nadal and some Carlos Moya in the mix but Ana was the unanimous choice for the women.

7. Player in Most Need of a New Coach: James Blake

Poor Brian Barker. People have been trying to take James Blake away from him ever since Blake hit the top 20. Blake will never leave his coach. Barker has drilled the idea of improving as the main goal into Blake’s head since he was an adolescent. Improving is just nebulous enough that Blake feels comfortable with it. If Barker had set the goal of winning a slam instead, Blake might have fulfilled it by now. As it is, Blake will continue to justify playing poorly in high profile events by coming up with something, anything, that can be counted as improvement. Lose yet another five set match in the fourth round at the U.S. Open? No problem, at least he won his first career five set match in the second round and that’s an improvement. See what I mean?

8. Player Most Likely to Succeed in 2008:

There’s no winner here because I asked the question incorrectly. Some people thought I was asking who’d win the most slams in 2008 – Federer got those votes – and some people thought I was asking who would improve the most in 2008 – Andy Murray got those votes. I meant to ask who would improve the most and I agree with the choice of Murray. I think he can compete with Djokovic in finally taking a slam from Federer and Nadal. Then again, that’s what I said last year.

9. Player Who Should Really Think About Retiring: Mark Philippoussis

Philippoussis won by a landslide and deservedly so. Last year he was heard saying that he thinks his best tennis is still ahead of him. I believe in pumping yourself up but that comment was surreal. Anyway, he reinjured his knee during the competition for an Australian Open wild card so it’s probably the Outback Series for him from now on.

Pollster

Since I botched the Player Most Likely to Succeed in 2008 award, let’s do this. Mosey on over to the poll on the right side of the page and vote for the player most likely to break Federer and Nadal’s stronghold on slam titles. Ferrer is ranked number five in the world but I just don’t think he’s got enough offense to win a slam. You could say the same thing about Murray and he’s only got three titles to his name so far though that might change tomorrow – he’s in the Doha final. But he’s one of my two choices. Djokovic is the other. I just can’t picture Nalbandian doing it.

What say you?

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

In no particular order, here is the first installment of notable events from the year 2007.

Bad Tennis Predictions

I went on the Sports Talk Cleveland radio show early in the year and participated in a serpentine draft for their tennis fantasy league. In a serpentine draft, whoever picks first in one round picks last in the next round. After I won the right to take the first pick in the draft and learned that I’d get the last pick in the second round, I blurted out, “Does that mean I have to take Serena?” Silly me. Serena Williams dropped in to the Australian Open and rolled into the final where she gobsmacked Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Roger Federer won the men’s title but, then, you knew that.

Megamerger Multimedia Disease Attacks Tennis

IMG bought Tennis Week, the venerable tennis publication started by the late, great Gene Scott 32 years ago. Not such a big deal until you realize that IMG also represents Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer (and Nick Bolletieri’s tennis academy). Is this yet another nail in the coffin of independent media? There is hope I suppose. The New York Times owns part of the Boston Red Sox and they still trash the Sox regularly. But it does make you wonder if Tennis Week would get interference from the head IMG guy if they trashed Sharapova for pulling out of Toronto because she stubbed her toe.

The Interview That Wasn’t

The P.R. firm for a wine that Jim Courier endorses offered me an interview with Courier. It started off as a telephone interview, then it was demoted to an email interview, and then it turned into nothing because Courier never answered my email. And that was after I spoke to my friend Bob Blumer, star of the Food Network show Glutton for Punishment, so I could get up to speed on old world wine versus new world wine. That was also after I picked Courier to be Richard Gasquet’s new coach because I thought Gasquet needed one. Gasquet didn’t need a new coach. He made it to the year end championships just fine thank you.

Pregnancy, Cocaine, and the Comeback Mommy of the Year

Anastasia Myskina and Kim Clijsters are both pregnant. That’s a better way to leave the tour than testing positive for cocaine. I’m sure Martina Hingis might have been happier if her engagement to Radek Stepanek had ended in marriage and she was taking a pregnancy test instead of a hair test to prove that she never touched the white stuff. Lindsay Davenport gave birth in June and returned to the tour three months later. So much for retirement. She went 13-1 in her comeback and plans to play in three slams in 2008.

The Media Wars

At the same time that Sports Illustrated laid off 298 employees, it paid $20 million for fannation.com, sports information and fan blogger site. The timing of these transactions made it look like S.I. was exchanging paid writers for unpaid fan bloggers, but the reality is a bit more complex. S.I. was trying to beef up its online presence and narrow the gap between si.com and the hugely popular espn.com. S.I. even poached ESPN radio personality Dan Patrick, but that must have pissed off ESPN because they turned around and stole S.I.’s back page columnist, Rick Reilly, with an unbelievable $3 million per year offer. Hey guys, I’m available and I’d take a lot less than $3 mil.

Back to Back to Back to Back

By the time I reached Indian Wells on Sunday afternoon in early March, Guillermo Canas had already beaten Federer for his biggest win since coming off a 15 month suspension for using a banned substance. He beat Federer again two weeks later in Miami and if that wasn’t bad enough, David Nalbandian raised himself from the dead, or at least from his lethargy, and beat Federer in consecutive meetings at the last two Masters Series events of the year, Madrid and Paris. And Nalbandian had never won a Masters Series event before! Not only that, but because I didn’t pick Nalbandian for my fantasy team in Paris, I dropped out of the top 100 in the ATP Fantasy Tennis Season for the first time all year and lost my subleague title. Serves me right for not believing in the guy.

To be continued…

Teddy Awards

Please go over to the poll on the right side of the page and vote for the player who is in most need of a new coach. I skipped Female Centerfold of the Year because Ana Ivanovic was the only player nominated.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 227 user reviews.

I was watching Allen Iverson drop 51 points on the Los Angeles Lakers last week and I wondered what Iverson could have done as a player if he’d been more willing to play a team game. When Iverson played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the team switched its practices to the afternoon because Iverson slept in late. Not that it helped much.

When his coach at the time, Larry Brown, criticized him for missing practices, Iverson went on a two and a half minute rant about the insignificance of practice in which he mentioned the word practice 19 times in some variation of the following sentence:

We talking about practice, man. How silly is that?

The best NBA player in history was Michael Jordan and he was the first NBA player who was promoted as a global individual star. The players around Jordan were role players, Jordan most certainly was not.

Bill Russell was the second best player in NBA history in my book. He won nine championships as a player and two more as a player-coach. But he was a role player, believe it or not. He rebounded and played defense.

There was no free agency in Russell’s time, the players did whatever management told them to do and the league marketed teams rather than players. Today it’s the opposite: players dictate team moves, individual stars are marketed globally, and it’s the stars who determine what time practice starts.

Is tennis developing the same star syndrome? Tennis is obviously an individual sport but are its young stars dictating their own careers to their detriment?

I’m thinking, in particular, of Andy Murray. He recently fired his coach Brad Gilbert and announced that he has assembled a team of advisors instead of hiring a new coach. Murray is essentially decentralizing the power a coach would have and placing himself in charge:

I wanted to take the opportunity to be in control of what I was doing. I feel much more relaxed about my tennis now, as I feel like I’m in charge of the decisions. The responsibility is on me to sort things out, and that’s the way I wanted it to be.

Is this a good thing? Can Murray continue to improve if his coach has little effective power?

Roger Federer manages without a coach just fine but he is the very, very rare exception and he had already won slams by the time he jettisoned his first coach, Peter Lundgren, and hired Tony Roche to work with him part-time.

Murray is 20 years old and somewhat immature. His tennis isn’t immature, his mind is. He rants and raves at himself and generally gets in his own way. Twice this year he bageled an opponent but lost the match. I’d wonder what goes through his mind but I don’t have to, he spits it out for everyone to hear.

Gilbert’s method of dealing with Murray’s raving was to tell Murray to direct it at him. Part of what the British Lawn Tennis Association got when it was paying Gilbert $1 million was a conduit for Murray’s frustration. As Murray walked off the court after injuring his wrist in Hamburg, you could hear him swearing at Gilbert.

Murray is a pretty smart tennis player and he might make this work. But my guess is that he could use stronger direction than he’s going to get on two fronts. First, he needs strong direction to prod him into maturing mentally. Second, he not only needs to improve his conditioning to play longer matches better but to avoid injuries.

I’ve gotten to the point that I roll my eyes when he tweaks yet another body part on the court but manages to win the match anyway.

What do you think? Is Murray ready to be the master of his own ship at 20 years old?

Player of the Year

Okay, nominations are in. Please go to the poll on the right side of the page and vote away for the first Teddy awards category.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 299 user reviews.