Category Archives: Tennis General

The action this week was all off the courts, not on. Although Roger Federer notched up another win in Dubai, Justine Henin snagged another victory, and Lleyton Hewitt showed up finally in the winner’s column. Somehow these events will all pale beside the brouhaha that wafted out from Las Vegas. By now everyone has probably caught the drift that many folks in tennis are upset with the round robin format. There is a rather large swathe of people like me who think the format frankly sucks. It’s right up there now on my Hit List of things I do not want to see perpetuated in tennis. It has not yet replaced my Top Ten flame subject, the issue of on-court coaching in the women’s game. But this week it came close.

Even my co-writer Nina Rota and I are fighting on this one. She feels tennis needs a few changes; if you twist her arm a bit she might even admit that tennis is, well, a bit boring at times these days. Okay, well, let’s go the source of that problem: can someone just shoot that Federer guy, ‘cause he’s causing a lot of consternation by just being so damn good. But don’t give us a round robin format to make life more interesting. All it did this past week was give everyone a monumental headache.

James Blake nearly ended up in the sauce, looking like a Bad Guy for once. He says there were no hard feelings between he and other players at the Las Vegas event, where the egregious event occurred in the first place. But he should not have been so eager to comply with the ATP’s wishes initially to insert him into the draw over Evgeny Korolev. Fortunately the ATP honchos came to their senses and backed down and decided to follow their own rules, after all. The guys commenting in the TV booth tried to put a decent face on things by inviting Korolev up for a chat. He’s a well-spoken youngster, intelligent enough to realize he was there to smooth over the rough edges, and he did, brushing off any annoyance he might have felt with the ATP decisions, or lack thereof, and analyzing what went wrong for him in his semi-final match against Jurgen Melzer (the Austrian Melzer advanced).

But the whole episode will leave a sour taste for some time to come. How soon do you think it will be before the ATP abandons RR? They can’t do it right away, that would look awkward, like us pulling out of Iraq tomorrow. We could do it if we wanted to, but we won’t. But soon they will abandon it.It’s not that the idea doesn’t have merit; Nina may be right, it could add a pique of interest to the game, and when the round robin was being planned it sounded like a fun idea. As it went along, it has not been so much fun. Now we see the problems that crop up, and it is also very hard to figure out the draws now that use round robin. When Fantasy Tennis season starts soon this format will screw things up and we’ll all be tearing our hair out. Maybe it really comes down to how our lives are so crowded already, all is so complicated, that adding more math on top seems like cruelty in the extreme. I think that is partly why people are flaming like they are, we are all tired and our boats are full already. Terrible, but that’s the way it is. People don’t want anything to come along and rock their boat unless they feel there will be a payoff.

Round robin doesn’t show a payoff. The payoff to this thing was supposed to be that name players would get a second chance in draws, allowing fans to count on seeing them play during an event. But had Las Vegas gone down the path initially suggested by the ATP heads, I.e. keeping Blake in and tossing Korolev out, I would wager the crowd in Vegas would not take kindly to that. In fact, when the initial ruling came out – that Blake would stay in anyway – I felt outraged. I woke up the next day and turned on the match expecting to see Blake and Querrey play, and I was frankly hoping Querrey would blast Blake off the court. I may want to see a top player play, and get to the finals where he belongs. But not this way. If James wanted to advance, he should have played a damn sight better in his opening match. That’s the way it is, guy, you lose, you go home. Or down the road to Indian Wells, which gets under way next week. You don’t get to ride along on the back of someone, namely Korolev, who played throughout like he wanted to get to the final. Tough titties, as we used to say in high school.In this case, keep tennis the way it is, why this eagerness to shove new and ill-conceived ideas down our throats? Every time someone wants to “upgrade” the game, I end up feeling de-graded. So sod off, I say, unless you can slip it to me when I’m not looking, not having to pay attention, and then I wake up and see it and I go, ohhh, that’s not half bad, and the idea gets familiar.Unless you can find a way to do that with round robin, or any of these other crackpot ideas both tours entertain, then don’t bother. Over at Tennis-X, it was reported that someone on Korolev’s management team said, “The ATP says they’re changing the rules to help the fans and if that’s the case, they should pay for some clowns to come and put on a circus.” God, the clowns, why didn’t we think of that before? Isn’t tennis in need of clowns? But the best line of the whole mess came from some wag, I forget who exactly in the midst of all these guided missiles of hostility swirling about: “Wait till Roger hears about this.” We all laughed, because we all know what Roger will think about this. Always the bloody purist. And thank God for that. This week, we should all be so pure.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 278 user reviews.

It was no surprise to see Andy Murray here in the final today, he was my pick to get by James Blake and then Andy Roddick. Blake pretty much shot himself in the foot against Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinals, and Roddick succumbed to Murray yesterday in straight sets in the semi-finals. Roddick seemed strangely muted by Murray’s excellent anticipation on the return of serve. With his power game on hold, Roddick instead tried to play cat and mouse around the court. This was unwise and did not signal any trumpeting calls that Roddick was going to win this match. He needed to force his game more on Murray, and really go after his serve and attack him at every chance. After game three I realized this was going to be Murray’s match to win.

Ivo Karlovic presented similar problems in that Murray had to figure out a way to mute Karlovic’s serving power the way he did Roddick’s. An interesting contrast was provided by how Beni Becker fared in the previous day’s semi-final match against Karlovic. He couldn’t decipher the direction of Ivo’s big serves at all. Sometimes he would guess, a lot of the time he was the proverbial deer fixed in the headlights. Murray, though, managed to get some part of his racquet on many of Karlovic’s serves, first and second. This was the biggest factor in his win today.

Is it the quality of his hands at work? They’re very soft, the way McEnroe’s were, and McEnroe loved to blunt the power of the big servers. He would often be inside the line to return serve knowing he could anticipate and handle it.

Murray took pace off many of his shots and, at least, Karlovic tried to attack more than Roddick. But his execution was poor. A ton of shots ended up in the net when he was in a dominant net position.

The pair traded sets then concluded the third with another tiebreak. At 2-1 in the tiebreak Ivo stepped around a second serve but knocked the forehand long to go down a mini-break, 3-1. Murray hit to his forehand again and this one sailed long too, 4-1. Karlovic wasn’t dead yet and uncorked a second serve ace up the T to crawl back to 4-2. But then he doublefaulted(!) for 5-2. A chip and charge play was next on Ivo’s To Do list but he netted it. Murray closed the tiebreak and the match out with an ace. The final score was 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2).

Good work Andy, Good work Ivo, you had a great week, and welcome back after your knee problems.

As for Andy Murray, I think he is one of the more perfect opponents for Roger Federer. Sure, Roger lost to Andy last summer when he was plainly spent, but Murray has the sort of game that could give Roger Federer more than a few fits. Maybe not this year, but soon.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 224 user reviews.

It was no surprise to see Andy Murray here in the final today, he was my pick to get by James Blake and then Andy Roddick. Blake pretty much shot himself in the foot against Ivo Karlovic in the quarterfinals, and Roddick succumbed to Murray yesterday in straight sets in the semi-finals. Roddick seemed strangely muted by Murray’s excellent anticipation on the return of serve. With his power game on hold, Roddick instead tried to play cat and mouse around the court. This was unwise and did not signal any trumpeting calls that Roddick was going to win this match. He needed to force his game more on Murray, and really go after his serve and attack him at every chance. After game three I realized this was going to be Murray’s match to win.

Ivo Karlovic presented similar problems in that Murray had to figure out a way to mute Karlovic’s serving power the way he did Roddick’s. An interesting contrast was provided by how Beni Becker fared in the previous day’s semi-final match against Karlovic. He couldn’t decipher the direction of Ivo’s big serves at all. Sometimes he would guess, a lot of the time he was the proverbial deer fixed in the headlights. Murray, though, managed to get some part of his racquet on many of Karlovic’s serves, first and second. This was the biggest factor in his win today.

Is it the quality of his hands at work? They’re very soft, the way McEnroe’s were, and McEnroe loved to blunt the power of the big servers. He would often be inside the line to return serve knowing he could anticipate and handle it.

Murray took pace off many of his shots and, at least, Karlovic tried to attack more than Roddick. But his execution was poor. A ton of shots ended up in the net when he was in a dominant net position.

The pair traded sets then concluded the third with another tiebreak. At 2-1 in the tiebreak Ivo stepped around a second serve but knocked the forehand long to go down a mini-break, 3-1. Murray hit to his forehand again and this one sailed long too, 4-1. Karlovic wasn’t dead yet and uncorked a second serve ace up the T to crawl back to 4-2. But then he doublefaulted(!) for 5-2. A chip and charge play was next on Ivo’s To Do list but he netted it. Murray closed the tiebreak and the match out with an ace. The final score was 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2).

Good work Andy, Good work Ivo, you had a great week, and welcome back after your knee problems.

As for Andy Murray, I think he is one of the more perfect opponents for Roger Federer. Sure, Roger lost to Andy last summer when he was plainly spent, but Murray has the sort of game that could give Roger Federer more than a few fits. Maybe not this year, but soon.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 250 user reviews.

It may be heretical but what the hell, get rid of qualifying in hybrid round robins. Choose the sixteen lowest ranked players entered and put them in the playoff round.

It’s a good thing I’m just tuning up for the year because my picks last week were disastrous. It wasn’t entirely my fault. I picked Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic to face each other in the final at Marseille and they both lost in the first round, Ljubicic to a qualifier. I picked James Blake and Andy Roddick in the San Jose final but Blake went out to 6’10” Ivo Karlovic in the second round. The tall one then took out Mardy Fish and our adopted son Benjamin Becker to get as far to the final where he lost to Andy Murray. As for Costa do Sauipe, my co-writer Pat Davis was right and I was wrong. Guillermo Canas got to the final and beat Juan Carlos Ferrero though this was only Canas’ second ATP main draw since coming off a one year suspension for using a banned substance. Call it the redemption effect.

Memphis (indoor hard court)

Murray and Roddick should meet in the semis again. Murray took Roddick out easily in the semis at San Jose. To some degree this match would be a referendum on Roddick’s current return to the top ten. If Roddick loses to Murray two weeks in a row, Murray will have the psychological upper hand and Roddick will lose ground. When these two meet it’s also a referendum on their coaches Brad Gilbert (Murray) and Jimmy Connors (Roddick). Gilbert is a good strategist befitting someone who had weak skills as a player and had to win with guile. Connors is more of a motivator. He not only had skills but he willed himself to titles long after he had declined physically. In that way I suppose they’re perfect coaches for these players because Murray isn’t overpowering but he’s very smart and Roddick is overpowering and emotional. Murray may not be overpowering but he has more skills and will win more majors than Roddick so I’m taking Murray.

I have Haas over Murray in the final because I’m not convinced that Murray’s conditioning is good enough to win two titles in a row.

Rotterdam (indoor hard)

There’s a blast from the past in this draw. Martin Verkerk is ranked 1534 after eleven years on as a pro. He made it to the French Open final in 2003 and reached number 14 before sliding back down. How did he wangle that wild card away from a promising young player?

Gilles Simon won his first title in Marseille last week but I think that was an aberration.

Could someone fill me in? Why did Radek Stepanek, the 19th ranked player in the world, go through qualifying at Marseille? After qualifying he hurt his rib so I have Nikolay Davydenko through to the semifinals. I probably shouldn’t have Ljubicic in the semis with him but it would be a crapshoot to figure out who’d going to knock Ljubicic off.

I have Novak Djokovic taking the title over Davydenko.

Buenos Aires (outdoor clay)

If you’d like to know why I’m a fan of round robins, see the Never-Mets section below. That doesn’t mean I’m a fan of hybrid round robins, however, and that’s what we have this week in Buenos Aires. In this format eight qualifiers meet eight main draw elimination players in a one round playoff to choose the players who advance to round robin play. Round robin play begins before the playoff round ends so I have to guess which eight players will advance.

It’s bad enough for me but imagine what it’s like for fans who want to see their favorite players. It may be heretical but what the hell, get rid of qualifying in hybrid round robins. Choose the sixteen lowest ranked players entered and put them in the playoff round. At least that eliminates one level of guessing.

I expect Agustin Calleri to cool Canas off and beat him this week. I have Ferrero and Nicolas Almagro in the final but it could also be David Nalbandian and Calleri.

Never-Mets

I’m officially dumping the term Zero Counter in favor of “Never-Mets”, Pat Davis’ variation on the theme. Never-Mets are matches between players who have never played each other in an ATP event (that includes Davis Cup, challengers and futures events). This matters because there are so few rivalries on the tour and there never will be if players don’t regularly meet.

There are a number of possible solutions to this problem. Decrease the number of tournaments so more top players will be in one place at one time. If you decrease the number of tournaments you can decrease the number of qualifiers (notice a theme here?) because the draw will be filled up with higher ranked players. Increase the number of round robin tournaments so players get at least two matches per tournament. If you have more suggestions please send them along, the ATP needs help

Among the Never-Mets this week: Tommy Haas and Andy Murray would meet for the first time despite the fact that they are both in the top 15; David Ferrer and Jarkko Nieminen have both been on the tour for seven years, they’re in the top twenty and they last met in a challenger in 2001; Nieminen and Tomas Berdych have never met. See what I mean?

I’m in the process of switching servers so I don’t have images of draws this week. I should have them again next week. See you then.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 209 user reviews.

Sports Illustrated employees just got laid off and Sports Illustrated bought a website whose writers do not get paid and do not require costly outlays such as health insurance and worker’s compensation.

On January 18, Time Inc. announced that they were laying off 298 employees. Advertising Age reported that the layoffs were mainly editorial positions at People Magazine, Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated.

A memo announcing the layoffs to the staff made it clear that Time Inc.’s goal is to catch up to the rest of the media world and establish itself solidly on the web:

While we continue to invest in our core magazines, we are also focused on transforming our work force and broadening our digital capabilities in order to become a truly multiplatform publisher.

“Broadening our digital capabilities” is a good idea because Sports Illustrated’s website, SI.com, lags behind other sports websites. It has far less traffic than ESPN, Yahoo Sports, AOL Sports, and CBS SportsLine. Not to worry. On February 1st, Sports Illustrated bought fannation.com, a website which aggregrates sports news and has original content generated by fans who sign on and start their own blog. This is a similar structure to MVN.com (Most Valuable Network); in fact fannation calls its fan blogs Most Valuable Blogs.

I don’t know how much Sports Illustrated paid for fannation.com but Time Inc. paid $20 million to become a minority investor in fannation.com’s parent company. And that brings up a few interesting questions.

Are paid sports journalists being replaced by unpaid sports bloggers? Was that what Time Inc. meant when they talked about “transforming our work force”? Sports Illustrated employees just got laid off and Sports Illustrated bought a website whose writers do not get paid and do not require costly outlays such as health insurance and worker’s compensation.

Newspapers and magazines are being supplanted by legions of bloggers who do everything from dredge up documents about the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case (smokinggun.com) to high level political reporting from the Lewis Libby trial (firedoglake.com). Libby is the former head of staff for Vice-President Dick Cheney charged with obstruction of justice during a federal investigation into the leak of a CIA agent’s identity to the media.

Firedoglake bloggers do not get paid. Their accommodations during the trial are paid for by donations. MVN, unlike most fan sports websites, does turn advertising income over to its writers though it’s not very much. If an advertiser buys ad space on a specific blog, the writer(s) on that blog get a percentage of the income. At most it’s probably a few hundred dollars a year.

But what if the site you write for gets bought out for big bucks? It’s safe to say that none of the bloggers on fannation got any of that $20 million Time Inc. paid for part of its parent company. Of course, none of the millions of people who uploaded videos to youtube got any of the $1.65 billion google paid for youtube either but I doubt that anyone was put out of work by videos being uploaded to youtube. Especially now that youtube has gone corporate and is taking copyright protected videos off its site left and right.

There are websites that pay for content. The New York Times reported that a series of comic videos called Ask A Ninja made more than $20, 000 for its creator on revver.com last year. The same article says that youtube is looking for ways to pay its users. It’s not a difficult problem. If youtube needs help figuring it out, they can just call me up. You pay the user based on the number of views of their video or you pay them based on the advertising income generated by their video.

As for me, I’ll just keep on tying to generate ad income here and if MVN gets bought out by Sports Illustrated, or ESPN or any other publication for that matter, I’ll be standing in line waiting for a few crumbs to fall my way.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 201 user reviews.