Why I am Not Boycotting Twitter Today

by Karen

A few months ago there was a study that was published that said that young black girls were more likely to be considered sexual beings moreso than their white counterparts.

Earlier this week, Jemele Hill a black sportscaster at ESPN was suspended because she spoke the truth about the current resident of the White House, Donald Trump and his rantings regarding players in the NFL who are protesting police brutality in the US by kneeling during the national anthem.

Closer to home in tennis, Maria Sharapova in her published autobiography described Serena Williams in very caustic terms, relying on the usual stereotyping of black women by talking about her arms and legs and how intimidating she was and how Sharapova felt like a little girl when facing Serena across the net.

Last year, Leslie Jones, an American comedian and actress was the victim of a vicious social media smear campaign organized by so called white supremacists.  It got to the point where Ms. Jones had to suspend her  Twitter account because of the abuse.

Again last year in India there were multiple reports of young women being raped and sometimes murdered, some as young as 9 and 10 years old.

Why am I bringing up all these incidents on a tennis blog?  I am bringing them up because earlier this week it was reported that Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Company had been accused of sexual harassment to the point where he had reached agreement with multiple women as a result of his systemic abuse of them.  Rose McGowan (of Charmed fame) has been on Twitter on a daily basis calling out Hollywood and asking everyone to stand up and be counted regarding Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse.  As a result of Ms. McGowan’s stance, or as Twitter has said, as a result of her abusing Twitter’s terms of service, her account was suspended ostensibly because she had included a telephone number in a tweet.  Her account has now been reopened.

As a result of what has happened to Ms. McGowan, there has been a rallying cry for Women to Boycott Twitter.  As someone has said where was this movement when Jemele Hill was being targeted by the White House to the point where she is on the verge of losing her job?  Where was this movement when Maria Sharapova vilified Serena Williams’ body and where was this movement when young girls were being raped and murdered in India?

Is it the case that the only time that white women (yes I am calling them out by name) see the damage that is being done to the rest of society is when it affects them?  I don’t live in the US but I have friends and family who live there.  The decisions that white women have made have impacted the lives of many people who are not as well off or as educated as white women.  When 53% of white women watch a man speak loudly and clearly as Donald Trump did about taking what women have with no questions asked and still went into a voting booth and voted for him, telling people to boycott social media because you are oppressed makes me want to throw up.

Most of my family and friends are black. Most of them are immigrants.  None of them are wealthy people.  They are all hard working people who see the US as the land of opportunity.  Those of my friends who are born in the USA are proud to be Americans but again they are also oppressed by a system that marginalizes them and makes victims out of them.

From where I sit, white women have not spoken out against what is happening to many other women of colour in the US.  They have not been at the forefront at the fight for equality and they have surely not stood up for those women who are unable to defend themselves.

When Ilie Nastase made his racist joke about the colour of Serena Williams’ baby, everyone from the WTA to journalists all over spoke out definitively about how racist he was.  The WTA and ITF took action and banned him.  When Sharapova writes a book speaking derogatively about Serena Williams’ so much so that Serena had to write a letter to her mother opining about it and thanking her mother to give her the strength to deal with these kinds of comments about her body, I don’t recall seeing many white women (or a lot of other women) in tennis media speak out against that.

I read Joel Drucker’s piece recently where he reviewed Sharapova’s book.  In the almost 5,000 word count article, he did not once call out Sharapova for her racist comments about Serena’s body and why would he when the organisation with whom he works has basically been singing Sharapova’s praises since she returned from a doping ban.

Lest anyone thinks that I do not sympathise with Rose McGowan.  I do.  As a survivor myself I can speak to how hard it is to come out and do battle against those who would do us harm as women.  I have used my voice to give voice to those of us who don’t have a voice.  I have volunteered at shelters for women who are the victims of sexual abuse and I have used my platform at a law firm to secure legal services for women who are the victims of domestic abuse etc.

My preference would be that in the same way that white women can rally around a cause when they can identify with its victims, they should rally around a cause when they can’t identify with the victims.  

When championing a cause don’t wait until you see a victim that looks like you, speaks like you, travel in your own social circles etc.  Look for a victim who doesn’t look like you, whose story is one that you could never imagine relating to and look for a victim whose cause is just, even if you can’t imagine seeing yourself in those shoes.

I will not be boycotting Twitter today.  I did that yesterday. Until every victim is treated equally, and to coin a phrase #AllVictimsMatter then unfortunately no victims will matter.

US WOMEN = US OPEN

The Spin Team

American tennis administrators are celebrating.  Why are they celebrating?  They are celebrating the achievement of diversity and inclusion. They are celebrating women.  They are celebrating the changing of the guard and finally they are celebrating American women’s tennis.

For years when most journalists talk about tennis and especially American tennis, they invariably mean the men.  We have all read about someone taking over from the Sampras, Agassis and Roddicks and reaching for glory at Davis Cup and at the Slams.  This has not materialised as we have seen the one-dimensional one trick ponies in Isner, Harrison, Sandgren,  Sock etc who have not really amounted to much playing the big hitting American style of tennis, i.e. big serve followed by big forehand.

The women however have taken a different path.  They have learned to utilise the big serve and the big forehand, but they have also added nuances to their games.

A few years ago Coco Vandeweghe played a match against Yulia Putintseva which I am sure pushed her to do better.  She lost that match and Putintseva had some harsh words for Coco after that match.  Putintseva noted that all Coco had was a big serve.  At that time Coco was a ball basher extraordinaire with a mediocre backhand and a huge serve.  Fast forward a few years later and after working with Craig Kardon and now currently with Pat Cash, Vandeweghe has worked on her fitness, her net game and more importantly her court coverage.  She moves better.  She is more patient during rallies and while her on court demeanour leaves a lot to be desired she does have an all around game.

Madison Keys, a graduate of the hit hard, and when that doesn’t work hit harder club, has also added a lot of nuances to her game.  Her backhand has become a lot more reliable.  Her mental game and athleticism has improved tremendously.  Her shot selection during rallies has improved in that she doesn’t just go for big winners to end points quickly, but is willing to prolong rallies by using high loopy shots. Her big serve and forehand are still in effect, but they are not the end all and be all of her game.  The addition of Lindsay Davenport, former Grand Slam champion and one of the more even keeled players that I have ever seen has for me  helped Keys to maintain some amount of calm on the court.

Sloane Stephens was America’s answer to the great Serena Williams.  A player who belonged to the group called entitlement suffered a major setback when she injured her foot and had to have surgery.  Out of the game for almost a year, Sloane has fought her way back to relevance with her performance not only during this fortnight but during the US summer hard court season.  She has matured.  She has become patient during matches.  She has expressed frustration, but she has recovered well enough to gut out wins against opponents who are ranked higher.

Last but certainly not least  is the Grand Dame of American women’s tennis, Venus Williams.  Venus debuted at the US Open 20 years ago when she made her way to the final and lost against then No. 1 Martina Hingis.  There are really no words to describe what Venus is doing this tennis season.  From the beginning of the year she has made the finals of 2 Grand Slam finals (Australian Open [lost to Serena Williams] and Wimbledon [lost to Garbine Muguruza]).  Despite those setbacks Venus has been playing very well, managing her matches and playing within herself.  Her quarter final match against Petra Kvitova should be a must watch for juniors about how to manage yourself during tight matches.

Spin’s Picks

Venus Williams v. Sloane Stephens

Coco Vandeweghe v. Madison Keys

Final

Williams v. Keys

Winner:  Williams

The Spin Team

One of the best things that I have found since starting this blog 8 years ago is how hard it is to find the right words to say in articles that let folks who are not huge fans of women’s tennis and those who are fans of the women’s game know how wonderful and glorious the women’s game can be.  Some days I believe I hit all the right notes as the feedback is very complimentary and the hits/views on certain topics is out of this world.  There are days however when I really just mail it in, not because there are no compelling storylines, but because there are so many and I really can’t find the words to express them, and I do believe that the women deserve so much more than just being a footnote on some itinerant blog.

Take for instance Ons Jabeur.  Before her incredible run at this year’s French Open, most of the time when I saw her name in a draw, WC was usually written beside it, and it was usually when she played in Doha or Qatar. This year there is a marked improvement in her fitness and her all around game has improved so much.  I don’t have access to Jabeur, but I do hope that those with access to her can find a story to write about this truly inspirational woman.

To take on America’s so-called Tennis Princess (ask Tennis Magazine how they came up with that one) under the lights on Arthur Ashe stadium and not freeze in the spotlight is a testament to her grit, and confidence.  Jabeur had many chances to take the first set and like so many before her she made poor shot selection choices.  2 years from now if she ever gets another chance.  At 6-4 in the breaker, Jabeur is way outside the doubles alley, rather than take a backhand cross court, she goes for the highlight reel point (down the line), misses long and lets her opponent back into the tiebreaker.  History says she should have gone cross court, trap Coco who was already moving to hit a forehand, get the defensive backhand slice,  and then go down the line, but history does not play tennis matches.

Opportunity knocks and when it does, you don’t just step through the door, you push down the person on the other side and walk all over them.  Gibbs took the first set over the No. 1 seed, Karolina Pliskova.  From that moment, with opportunity staring her in the face, Gibbs retreated to the back of the court (on some occassions she was pushed to play that game) and Pliskova never looked back.  Gibbs has had a tough go at it the past few years and while she may not have won that match, she did show that with a bigger serve, groundstrokes hit with a lot more power and a few forays to the net to take mid court balls, she can beat the best of the best.

Ostapenko, Keys and Svitolina all made short work of their opponents, but for me the match of the day has to go to Naomi Osaka.  It is all well and good to take out a top seed.  How about following it up. Osaka dropped the second set against Denisa Allertova.  She got broken serving for the match, but on her second attempt she made sure to play the brand of tennis with which fans love.  She took her destiny in her forehand and serve and got the win.

Despite what many people think Jelena Ostapenko is a fan favourite.  People love to see her play.  I have never seen an Ostapenko match where the crowds are not 3 deep. Its about time she makes her Centre Court debut (and not as a last resort.

Day 5 Preview

Day 5 sees 8 matches from the bottom half of the women’s draw.  These matches will determine the first set of Round of 16 matches.  Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Ekaterina Makarova vs Carla Suárez Navarro
Maria Sakkari vs Venus Williams (9) (If Venus is not careful, Sakkari may pull the upset.  Fleet of foot around the court, Venus has to ensure that she does not engaged in long rallies.
Petra Kvitova (23) vs Caroline Garcia (18) (The battle of the inconsistent big hitters.  Can Garcia hold her nerve and can Petra keep the ball in play?)
Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Garbine Muguruza (3) (Rybarikova has had a tough go of it but I think she is looking for a little Wimbledon revenge in this one)

Aleksandra Krunic vs Julia Goerges (30) (Krunic lives for these moments.  She is consistent, and speedy, the type of opponent Georges hates)
Ashleigh Barty vs Sloane Stephens (Sloane has been playing well. So has Barty.  A veritable pick em with this one but I am going for the player who has been mentally tougher right now)
Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Donna Vekic (Vekic can run but Sevastova will make her run for miles.  Vekic has to step in and end points early if she hopes to have a chance.  I don’t think Sevastova will allow her to do that)
Sofia Kenin vs Maria Sharapova (The fairytale for cancer survivor Kenin ends here, which is a pity to be honest)

Rise of the Big Hitters

The Spin Team

It started with Monica Seles.  The female player who hit the ball hard and fast.  I didn’t watch tennis during the Seles years.  I knew of  her but back in those days tennis was not shown in Jamaica in the way it is now.  The only time we ever saw tennis on tv in Jamaica was during the Navratilova/McEnroe years.

My first introduction to the big hitters started with the Williams Sisters and it has continued until now.  I know folks will cite players like Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and many others, but the real big hitters in my view started with Venus and Serena Williams.

Over the past few days I am seeing a resurgence of the big hitters of tennis.  Venus Williams has faced 2 of them so far in Viktoria Kuzmova of the Slovak Republic and Oceane Dodin of France.  While both women may have lost their matches, they are showing, at least in my opinion a return to the time when WTA players had huge serves and hit deep and hard groundstrokes.

While Karolina Pliskova has a huge serve and hits big off the ground, for some unknown reason I can’t quite put her into that category. Maybe it as a result of her penchant to slice her forehand or maybe it is because she does not move very well.  Dodin, not a very good mover herself, showed a marked improvement over the player that I saw struggling in matches a few years ago.  One can only hope that she keeps on improving as I absolutely love her game and her on court demeanour is a far cry from the usual helplessness that sometimes permeates the Tour.

Caroline Wozniacki in what I suspected would be a tough match had words about the court scheduling.  I agree with her.  Wozniacki has fought her way back from the depths of irrelevance. She has done all the hard work. She is a former No. 1 and yet she had to wait all day before playing her second round match, whilst a player who is returning from a doping suspension gets another Centre Court assignment.  It stinks to high  heaven.

I know that there are tennis fans out there who are championing the money aspect of this but at some point in time we need to look at the optics of this whole situation.  Are we that willing to make money to the detriment of our sport?  The French Open and Wimbledon did not lack star power (even with the absence of Serena Williams from both events) on the women’s side. The story lines during those tournaments was amazing and especially at the French Open, the crowd size to watch Ostapenko’s matches was something to behold.

Sharapova has been out of action for 15 months.  During that time, fans of the women’s game never even had the opportunity at times to watch regular Tour events.  While the Tour may have suffered somewhat, people still found a way to tune in.  They hunted streams and we even got a fan setting up a brilliant tennis site (Tennis Watchers) so that fans could determine where to watch women’s tennis. Clearly, tennis fans not only have very short memories, but they also lack some amount of credibility when it comes to taking a stand. I would compare them to Trump voters, but that would be mean.

Day 3 Review and Recap

Sloane Stephens in what I suspected would be a tough match overcame Dominika Cibulkova in 3 thrilling sets of tennis. One of the biggest upsets of the day was Bellis going down to Hibino.  Bellis had been playing exceptionally well in the summer tune ups and this loss will be a disappointment to her and her team, especially after she had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third. Taylor Townsend ran out of gas against Ana Bogdan.  I would say more but I am really trying hard here to be nice to Taylor.

Sabine Lisicki got her clock cleaned by Zhang 6-0 in the third.  I did not watch that match but no doubt I will need to see the third set to find out what the hell happened.

Day 4 Preview

Day 4 sees the top half of the women’s draw play their second round matches, with some of the women having to play back to back days.  Spin’s Picks are as usual in bold

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Nicole Gibbs
Risa Ozaki vs Shaui Zhang (27)
Barbora Strycova (23) vs Jennifer Brady 
Ana Bogdan vs Monica Niculescu

Agnieska Radwanska (10) vs Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur vs Coco Vandeweghe (20)
Lucie Safarova vs Nao Hibino
Kurumi Nara vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) (Sveta was very lucky to come out of her previous match.  Nara can be a tough opponent and she hasn’t had consistent back to back wins in quite some time.  Interesting to see how this one turns out.

Elina Svitolina (4) vs Evgeniya Rodina (I think Svitolina escaped the upset bug.  I don’t think she will in this match)
Shelby Rogers vs Daria Gavrilova (25)
Elena Vesnina (17) vs Kirsten Flipkens
Tatjana Maria vs Madison Keys (15) (I wasn’t overawed at Keys’ play in her first match.  If Maria’s backhand slice is working, it could cause Keys all kinds of problems)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs Sorana Cirstea (battle of the young big hitters.  In a tale of 2 players who can be inconsistent, I will take the player who is less inconsistent)
Daria Kasatkina vs Christina McHale (this one is a tough one to call.  McHale did well to take out Pavs, but Kasatkina is consistency herself.  US fans if they are on the ground will help in this one)
Yanina Wickmayer vs Kaia Kanepi (It is good to see Kanepi back in a tennis draw.  She struggled in her match against Schiavone but hopefully she can find something left in the tank after that marathon battle)
Denisa Allertova vs Naomi Osaka (all well and good to pull the upset.  Let us see if young Naomi can back it up)

The Hunter … Hunted

The Spin Team

In late 2015 to early 2016 Angelique Kerber was the hunter.  Fitness, speed, stealth, forehand, mentality.  Kerber became the complete package and in January 2016 she put that package together to do what only a handful of women have ever done, she took down Serena Williams in a  Grand Slam final in 3 very tough hard fought sets. While some would say that that win was a fluke, Kerber not only backed up that win, but she snagged another Grand Slam title in the same year when she came from a break down in the third set against current No. 1 Karolina Pliskova at the US Open.

She further cemented her legacy when she made the final of the WTA Year End Championships by playing consistent intelligent tennis.  While she did not win that event (lost to Dominika Cibulkova), Kerber showed everyone that she not just Wozniacki 2.0 but that she was a force to be reckoned with.

We are now almost at the end of the season and in what can only be called a forgettable year for Kerber, she was ousted in the first round of the US Open by an in  your face rising star Naomi Osaka of Japan.  Hitting huge serves, piercing down the line forehands, backhands that kissed the lines, Osaka was fearless against the defending champion.  The final score was 3 and 1 but it was not even that close.

What next for Kerber?  There have been no news reports that I have seen where she may be carrying an injury and it remains to be seen whether she will once again make a coaching change as she did before again hiring her current coaching team.

As for Osaka, this win was a statement win.  She mentioned during her on court interview the disappointment that she endured last year when she was up 5-1 against Madison Keys and lost that match.  Her sense of self is what has made me very respectful towards this young woman and I can only hope that her team, which looks like a solid one (despite my feelings for David Taylor) is experienced and used to managing player’s expectations, especially after huge wins.

Day 2 Preview

Most of the matches featured on Day 2 have been rescheduled thanks to rain.  Jelena Ostapenko, after losing the second set to Lara Arraburena bounced back to take it 6-1 in the third when her match resumed under the dome on Arthur Ashe stadium.  Someone needs to tell Ostapenko about managing her time on court during these big events.

Madison Keys had a bit of a struggle during her match against the very dangerous Elise Mertens.  While she was able to take the match in straight sets, she struggled mightily on serve and did not seem to be that match fit.

In what I can only term an upset, Lesia Tsurenko went out meekly to what must have been a very resurgent Wickmayer in straight sets.  Karolina Pliskova won in straight sets over Magda Linette and Strycova, Cirstea all won their matches easily.

Day 3 Preview 

Round 2 of the bottom half of the women’s draw will play today, as well as the remaining top half will complete Round 1 of play today.  Matches are below and Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Caroline Wozniacki (5) vs Ekaterina Makarova
Carla Suárez Navarro vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29)
Maria Sakkari vs Arina Rodionova
Oceane Dodin vs Venus Williams (9) (tough one to call as Dodin is on a roll these days)

Petra Kvitova (23) vs Alize Cornet
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Caroline Garcia (18)
Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Kristyna Pliskova
Ying-Ying Duan vs Garbine Muguruza (3)

Aleksandra Krunic vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Saisai Zheng vs Julia Goerges (30)
Ashleigh Barty vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Sloane Stephens vs Dominika Cibulkova (11)

Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Kateryna Kozlova
Donna Vekic vs Shuai Peng (22)
Sofia Kenin vs Sachia Vickery
Timea Babos vs Maria Sharapova

Matches to Watch

Can Sloane Stephens continue her winning ways today.  If she plays like she has been doing all summer long, I am of the view that she takes out Cibulkova, who has been struggling.

Sevastova has lots of points to defend after her very good run at this event last year, and while she has not been winning matches as sharply as she usually does, she has been winning.

Babos struggled in her first round match, but she is a big match player and her second round opponent is also a big match player.  I think this one can either be a straight set drubbing by Sharapova or a long drawn out slug fest taken by Babos

Can Wozniacki continue her winning ways and can Makarova, who seems to have regained some amount of confidence in her game make this a match to remember?

 

Simona Halep … Almost

The Spin Team

SIMONA HALEP … ALMOST

I have been a  huge fan of Simona Halep since her junior days.  I have followed her career. Watched her rise to be in the top 10 of women’s tennis.  I have watched her evolution as a player.  I have been there through the disappointments. I have been there through the victories.  I get annoyed when she plays lights out against my favourites, only to falter against those who are not as good.

This year I watched the French Open and while I had pegged Ostapenko to do very well, I have to confess that I, like many, did not expect her to win.

I don’t know if many people remember this, but Simona Halep used to be a bit of a hot head.  She would throw tantrums on court.  She was “emotional” because she expected so much of herself.  She was fiery and that is what I loved most about her.  One of my faovurite Simona moments was when she made her way through qualifying all the way to the semifinals of Rome, taking out some incredible clay court players along the way.  During that tournament, she played amazing tennis.  Her balance on the court, as well as her shot selection was superb.

Then came the super coaches.

They bulked her up.  They unbulked her up.  They made adjustments to her serve to make it bigger and when that failed, they went for consistency of serve over power.  They tried to take her from playing 10 feet behind the baseline to a player who was coming to the net.  When that failed, they wanted to make her aggressive and when that failed, they sit in the stands with a look of amazement on their collective faces and wonder what went wrong.

Last night (28 August), Simona Halep, in the same way that Katniss offered herself as tribute for her sister Prim (Hunger Games), was put in the lions den of Arthur Ashe stadium as tribute to the return of Maria Sharapova, for a ratings pull and for the narrative of mentally tough opponent overcoming all kinds of obstacles to reach the second round of the US Open.

During last night’s commentary no mention was made that the reason why Sharapova was out for 15 months was due to a doping violation.  The “injuries” which led to her pulling out of 3 tournaments for which she had received underserved wild cards was however used as talking point fodder in order to project that she had overcome challenges.  This is what tennis does.  This is what tennis has always done and this is what tennis will always do.

Anti doping is a joke best left to comedians on Saturday Night Live. There are many who think that those of us who are hell bent on seeing Sharapova run out of the sport do not believe in redemption.  Frankly, there is not a bigger believer in redemption than me.  As someone who has gone through her own struggles and who has benefitted from being redeemed, I am a big believer in giving people a second, third and even a fourth chance.  However, in order for someone to be redeemed that person has to first of all own up to their wrongs.  They have to look everyone in the eye and say without equivocation that what I did was wrong and I am sorry. There is no but, or  however, or attempt to point and/or assign blame. You admit your wrong and you try to move on.  Sharapova has not done this.

I don’t think there is any tennis fan who would ever say that Sharapova has not been a great champion.  She is a fighter and that is what is so weird about this whole doping issue.  If Sharapova had gone the route of qualifying to enter a Major, I don’t think anyone would ever have been of the view that she was not deserving of her place in the draw.  The fact is that she did  not and it just adds to the whole issue of what her PR team puts out (hard worker) to the reality of the situation (willing to get a leg up).

Sharapova and her PR team craft her own narrative with the aid and assistance of the tennis media.  She is without a doubt the Ivanka Trump of tennis and the tennis media have colluded with her and her PR team to the detriment of the sport.

Day One Review

Separate and apart from the Halep match, there were other interesting matches from day one.  Venus Williams struggled through a 3 set affair with a player most folks had never heard of in Victoria Kuzmova.  The youngster played very well, out acing Venus along the way.  However, in the long run, she not only ran out of gas, but ran out of big serves.  She is definitely one to watch for the future and one can only hope that she sticks around.

Alexandra Krunic, Fed Cup stalwart, and forgotten Serbian, took Britain’s Joanna Konta out of the race for No.1 by defeating her in 3 sets.  Konta joins Halep as the first top seeds to exit the tournament.

Dominika Cibulkova struggled mightily against perennial giant killer Jana Cepelova in a tough 3 set battle.  Hopefully Domi will use the day off to fix whatever it is that ails her shoulders.

Sloane Stephens continued her excellent summer run, taking out Roberta Vinci. Sophia Kenin pulled the upset over the No. 32 seed Lauren Davis and Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova had little or no trouble with their opponents.

Day 2 Picks and Previews

Day 2 sees the top half of the women’s draw take to the courts with the No. 1 seed and current No. 1 player Karolina Pliskova opening against a pretty tough opponent in Magda Linette.  Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Magda Linette
Veronica Cepede Royg vs Nicole Gibbs
Risa Ozaki vs Danielle Lao
Sabine Lisicki vs Shaui Zhang (27)

Barbora Strycova (23) vs Misaki Doi
Jennifer Brady vs Andrea Petkovic
Taylor Townsend vs Ana Bogdan (may be a tough one for Taylor to pull out to be honest)
Monica Niculescu vs Kristina Mladenovic (14)

Agnieska Radwanska (10) vs Petra Martic (if Aga is not on her game, she might very well find herself on the next bus home)
Sofya Zhuk vs Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur vs Brienne Minor
Alison Riske vs Coco Vandeweghe (20)

Anett Kontaveit (26) vs Lucie Safarova
Nao Hibino vs Catherine Bellis
Kurumi Nara vs Sara Sorribes Tormo
Marketa Vondrousova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) (may very well be an upset on the cards here)

Elina Svitolina (4) vs Katerina Siniakova (if Siniakova plays like she did against Venus in  Canada, Svitolina could be out the door)
Evgeniya Rodina vs Eugenie Bouchard
Shelby Rogers vs Kayla Day
Allie Kiick vs Daria Gavrilova (25)

Elena Vesnina (17) vs Anna Blinkova
Madison Brengle vs Kirsten Flipkens
Tatjana Maria vs Ashley Kratzer
Elise Mertens vs Madison Keys (15) (this is a tough match for Keys and she will need to stay focused if she wants to pull this out in straight sets)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs Lara Arruabarrena (a very tricky opponent who will take advantage of the deficiencies in Ostapenko’s game)
Lesley Kerkhove vs Sorana Cirstea
Daria Kasatkina vs Qiang Wang
Christina McHale vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (19)

Lesia Tsurenko (28) vs Yanina Wickmayer
Kaia Kanepi vs Francesca Schiavone
Denisa Allertova vs Rebecca Peterson
Naomi Osaka vs Angelique Kerber (6)

USO 2017 – The Farce Continues

The Spin Team

It is the final Major of the 2017 tennis season.  There are lots of storylines to watch for the WTA, not the least of which is who will be No. 1 at the end of the tournament.  There are apparently 8 women in contention to occupy the keys to the WTA Penthouse and as a result the race for the last Major of the season is filled with numerous scenarios, not the least of which is who will be hoisting the trophy 2 weeks from now.

The Contenders

Karolina Pliskova

Angelique Kerber

Caroline Wozniacki

Simona Halep

Garbine Muguruza

Johanna Konta

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Venus Williams

If ever there was a time to be a fan of the women’s game, this is it.  However, in the midst of all of this, many fans are talking about the fact that perennial “I have a shot at No. 1 so let me find a way not to get it” is Simona Halep facing off against Ms. Privilege Wild Card herself,  Maria Sharapova in the first round.  Now I know that there are not a lot of Halep fans out there who think she should ever be No. 1, but when your  Tour awards you with their Ambassador Award for always putting the Tour above yourself, the least your Tour could do  is not have you open against the most privileged athlete to ever play the sport of tennis.

Since her return from a doping ban, Sharapova has received no less than 6 wild cards into WTA sanctioned events.  In all of those events, these are Sharapova’s results:  Stuttgart (lost to Mladenovic), Madrid (lost to Bouchard), Rome (lost to Lucic-Baroni by retirement), Stanford (lost to Lesia Tsurenko), Toronto (withdrew), Cincinnatti (withdrew).  The French Open declined to provide her with a wild card and she chose not to compete at  Wimbledon this year.   The US Open, after signaling its support for Sharapova’s return to the Tour decided that it would be a good idea to offer a wild card to her to compete. As a further slap to clean athletes, she is drawn to play against a player who has a losing record against her, who is held up as an Ambassador of the Tour, in a coveted night match slot, in order to once again have everyone in the booth sing the party  line that her Egg has provided them with.

I am a huge fan of Simona Halep.  I am not in lock step with a lot of her pronouncements (see equal prize money) and I dislike the fact that she seems dimwitted and clueless in matches that she should win.  I don’t like her reliance on a coach who I believe is more name than anything else and who seems to do better as a coach when he is behind the microphone being a Monday morning quarterback.  I think Halep’s game has changed, and not for the better, and unfortunately for her, she is being offered up much like a tribute on the Hunger Games.

Day One Preview

The day’s play starts in a little under an hour and here are the matches scheduled for today.  Spin’s Picks are in bold

Caroline Wozniacki (5) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu
Mona Barthel vs Ekaterina Makarova
Ipek Soylu vs Carla Suárez Navarro
Monica Puig vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29)

Kiki Bertens (24) vs Maria Sakkari
Richel Hogenkamp vs Arina Rodionova
Pauline Parmentier vs Oceane Dodin
Viktoria Kuzmova vs Venus Williams (9)

Petra Kvitova (23) vs Jelena Jankovic
Heather Watson vs Alize Cornet
Anna Zaja vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Tereza Martincova vs Caroline Garcia (18)

Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Camila Giorgi
Kristyna Pliskova vs Misa Eguchi
Claire Liu vs Ying-Ying Duan
Varvara Lepchenko vs Garbine Muguruza (3)

Johanna Konta (7) vs Aleksandra Krunic
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Johanna Larsson
Saisai Zheng vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Annika Beck vs Julia Goerges (30)

Ana Konjuh (21) vs Ashleigh Barty
Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs Julia Boserup
Sloane Stephens vs Roberta Vinci
Jana Cepelova vs Dominika Cibulkova (11)

Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Carina Witthoeft
Irina-Camila Begu vs Kateryna Kozlova
Donna Vekic vs Beatriz Haddad Maia
Amandine Hesse vs Shuai Peng (22)

Lauren Davis (32) vs Sofia Kenin
Natalia Vikhlyantseva vs Sachia Vickery
Viktorija Golubic vs Timea Babos
Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep (2)

Matches to Watch

Garcia v. Martincova

Muguruza v. Lepchenko (potential for an upset)

Stephens v. Vinci

Cibulkova v. Cepelova (who can cause all kinds of problems for top players not on their game)

Vekic v. Haddad-Maia (going with Vekic if only because she has some amount of confidence after winning a title this year)

Golubic v. Babos (could be a quick one for Babos or a long drawn out affair

 

Tennis and Anti Doping

The Spin Team

Tennis and Anti Doping.  More and more we should now be convinced that these 2 things do not go together.

First there was the Pamela defence used by Richard Gasquet. In case you forgot, he went to a club, kissed a girl named Pamela and subsequently tested positive for cocaine.  Then we have the “my mother purchased the wrong medication” used by Marin Cilic.  Let us not forget the “I did not check my emails and even if I had checked my emails, it was a different name than the one I am used to  using” defence that was used by Maria Sharapova and the nail in the coffin “my mother’s cancer drug got into the tortellini soup” currently used by Sara Errani.  The excuses being used by tennis players would be funny if it were not so damn serious.

I don’t know what excuse British born xenophobe Dan Evans will use, but knowing him, he will probably blame an immigrant for his cocaine troubles.

The time has come for tennis to take a stand, but unfortunately, that is not going to happen.  The same ITF that granted a player a TUE to take a performance enhancing drug which was later appealed by WADA, is the same ITF which apparently listens to these ridiculous excuses for doping and thinks that they are at the forefront of the anti-doping efforts.

The ITF needs to finally and conclusively let everyone know that their anti doping efforts are a farce, that they will allow any performance enhancing drug to be used, as long as it is not used during competition or perhaps sets a guideline for the use of performance enhancing drugs.  It is foolhardy for any tennis fan with any modicum of intelligence to actually believe that these so called anti doping efforts are to be taken seriously.

How is it possible that athletes, some of whom have whole teams are able to hire lawyers, are able to stand before a tribunal of apparently sensible people and put forward these ridiculous excuses for being caught using banned substances?

We all know that there is a protocol that has been well established for the use of banned substances.  We saw evidence of this during the period when the ITF was hacked.  We saw from the medical information provided that athletes like Venus and Serena Williams followed the proper protocol in establishing the injury and receiving approval to use substances that are otherwise prohibited.

Whether or not the ITF accepted the tortellini defence, the fact that an athlete could actually think that bringing her parents to the ITF hearing, and proffer this defence, speaks to the disdain in which athletes hold the ITF.  The fact that Errani only received a 2 month doping suspension, again speaks volumes.  The fact that her Federation thought it would be a good thing to stand with her on this says everything you need to know about tennis.  As one of my followers on social media pointed out to me, the Italian Federation granted a WC to Errani, knowing she had failed a drug test in February, and allowed another Italian, Francesca Schiavone to not get the opportunity to play in her home tournament this past May.  The fact that the Italian Federation provided 2 wild cards to 2 players who had been caught doping tells you everything you need to know about this particular Federation.  It is disgraceful and an affront to everyone else who is fighting for clean sport.

WTA TV

WTA TV is up and running.  I have provided my thoughts on the service so far.  While I am happy that the subscription service is now up and running, I am hoping that as time goes on, the suggestions for improving the service that many persons have made will be taken into consideration.

I Watched WTA TV. My Thoughts

by Karen

After months of silence and fans sitting around and waiting to find out where they can watch the WTA product, they were rewarded for their patience with the announcement of the launch of WTA TV.  At the time of writing, I have subscribed to this online streaming service and I am currently watching Mertens and Krunic battle it out in Bastad, Sweden.

A few years ago I wrote a piece in which I called on the WTA to launch its own tv service.  I posited the view then that outlets like Tennis Channel were holding the WTA to ransom by neglecting to show its product and asking fans to pay extra to watch the WTA by subscribing to TC Plus, Tennis Channel’s online streaming platform.  Many tennis fans, especially those in the US not only had to pay extra on their cable or satellite network to get Tennis Channel, but then they had to pay more money just to get to see the women.  To compound matters even more

So as a public service to all the tennis fans out there, I have taken it upon myself to review WTATV.  As part of the review process, I have done the following:-

  • Checked App availability on iOS
  • Checked App availability on Android
  • Checked browsers (Chrome, Firefox and IE)
  • Reviewed the various features on the site itself

App Availability

As at the time of writing this piece (between 27 and 31 July), the WTATV app is not available as an app.  I have checked on my iPhone and my Samsung and it is not available as an App.  I have also asked the question of tennis fans on social media and I can confirm that as of now there is no app.  The WTA website indicates that WTA TV is available on your mobile phone, tablet and computer, however, when you click the images on the site it does not take you to an app. As a matter of fact it takes you nowhere.

Browsers

The big complaint that I have received from many fans is that the WTA TV site has been marked as a phishing site and that you should not plug in your credit card information as it will get stolen.  I have told folks that I got the website by clicking the WTATV link on the WTA website and it took me straight to the web page where I was able to sign up.  Unfortunately, over the weekend, I checked all three browsers and this is what I am getting.

Internet Explorer

 

Firefox

00749802.DOC

 

Google Chrome

00749800.DOC

I note that you cannot just input wtatv.com or https://wtatv.com in your browser window and get to WTATV.  You will either have to search for it and then either enter through the WTA website or scroll down to the site itself, as I did in this test.  Surely, there can’t be that many WTATV sites around.  The WTA should do more to ensure that the site is easily found on all search engines and that it is not blocked as a phishing site to most web blockers.

This leads me to the biggest issue that I have with the service so far, the fact that one cannot access the site via an app.  The WTA has had the better part of a year to get this done.  The WTA surely did not decide to drop TennisTV and launch its own web based service.  It must have had meetings with website designers as well as persons in the know about how to launch a product that would be the face of women’s tennis.  To not even have an app either in development or indeed ready to launch is yet another indictment on Steve Simon and the WTA and its intention regarding women’s tennis.

Features

One of the things that I was expecting to see more than anything on WTATV were historical matches.  It did not need to go back to the start of women’s tennis, but it would have been nice if the WTA had some of its classic matches.  On the TennisTV website, one can watch classic ATP tennis matches that go back all the way to 2001.  It would have been nice if the WTA TV site at least provided classic matches for the last 5 years of the WTA. Some quick pointers on what is available. Under the features tab, there are interviews with the players from various tournaments during the course of this year.

Live

I like the fact that under the matches that are going to be shown live, there is a count down clock which tells you how long until you can watch matches.  For those of us who live outside the US, it is sometimes hard to know when matches starts in the different US time zones.  This is quite helpful.

On Demand

Under the On Demand tab, you can find match highlights for most of the WTA events that have been held this year.

Tournaments

Under this tab is a Q&A on what tournaments are available.  If you have no idea of the various WTA events, this is as good a place as any to get started.

Verdict

All in all I am about 50% happy with the site.  I wish there was more in terms of classic matches, and more archival information.  The Q&A which is posted on the site is as unhelpful as anything I have ever come across.  It would bode the WTA well to look at the spelling errors on the website, especially in the Q&A section.

As one of those people who have always been of the view that the WTA should have its own dedicated television channel and streaming service, I am quite happy that it has finally done so. I know a lot of tennis fans are of the view that they should not be paying 2 different sums of money in order to watch either men’s or women’s tennis, unfortunately, that is the word that we now inhabit.  One can only hope that the powers that be in tennis will at some point get their lives together and realise that at no point should tennis fans have to spend at a minimum US$150.00 per annum just to be able to watch tennis.

Tournaments This Week

The Tour as most folks know kicks off the US Open Series which is apparently without a title sponsor this year.  This week we get to see for the first time matches from Day One at the Citi Open, which features Simona Halep as the top seed.  On the other side of the country, is the Premier level Bank of the West Classic, which sees Garbine Muguruza as the top seed.  Both tournaments have the requisite big names, some of whom will be looking to jump start their seasons with a much a much needed win.

Also returning to the Tour from a hip injury is Maria Sharapova, who will be competing at the BOTW courtesy of a wild card.

Victoria Azarenka who was also scheduled to compete at the BOTW has withdrawn due to a viral illness.

 

 

 

Anyone Up for Some Tennis

by Karen

This morning, I received the below email from bet365.com

“We are contacting you to advise that you have funds in your bet365 account. As stated in our Terms and Conditions, your account will be subject to an ongoing administration fee which will be deducted 28 days from now and every 28 days thereafter until your balance reaches zero. No further charges will then be applied.  To avoid this fee simply log back into your account and place a bet, make a deposit or withdraw your full balance. Please note, we will need to verify your account before you are able to withdraw. The easiest way to do this is to log into the bet365 website, select Services in the top right corner, click on Members, choose My Account and select Know Your Customer (KYC). If you have forgotten your login details, refer to the Lost Login also in the top right corner of the website. If you have any questions regarding this please see our Terms and Conditions, or alternatively Contact Us to speak with a member of our Customer Service team.”

I have had a bet365 account for going on 10 years.  I don’t gamble but I find it to be one of the best ways to watch tennis, especially tennis that is not streamed in the US.  It is a very safe site.  I was referred to it a few years ago by one of my tennis buddies that I met on the old Tennis World chat room (thanks Cracked Gem).

When I first got this account, I deposited my US$10.00 and it stayed there for months at a time with no problem.  Then they started to take administrative fees if they perceive that there is no activity on the account.  As you can see, activity has to include betting or topping up your account.  I will be topping up my account before the expiration of the 28 days and unfortunately, it seems as if I will have to continue topping up my account every 28 days in order not to lose the benefit of the live streaming on this site.

Why am I writing about this?

We are entering the time of the year when the Tour moves from Europe and settles in North America.  There are a great many big tournaments coming up, and while the men’s Tour will have the benefit of TennisTV, the WTA Tour will be languishing in now you see me, now you don’t hell. Fans of the WTA will have to either follow the hot shots from the WTA Twitter handle or log on to illegal streams (if they even exist any more) to try and see the women over the course of this  summer.

Unless I missed it,  I have not seen any statements issued by the WTA and its missing CEO since he came out defending Sharapova for not getting a WC into the French Open.  At some point in time, either Mr. Simon needs to let us know where streaming rights for the sport has reached, or he needs to relinquish what is no doubt a high paying job with lots of benefits.  The consumers, i.e. the fans, have  become disgruntled and it is affecting how fans see the women’s game.  If this were any other industry, surely Mr. Simon would now be out of a job.  Surely, someone, somewhere would be held accountable for what can only be described as a debacle in relation to the disappearance of the WTA product from the airwaves.

The USO Series will be starting soon. The tournaments are currently advertising the big names who will be competing in the various tournaments.  It makes no sense that they are doing this, when fans far and wide, who absolutely adore the women’s game, are left wondering well how do I get to see so and so play if I can’t pull up a stream.  Surely the WTA owes its millions of fans an explanation. Surely the journalists who cover this sport must  force Mr. Simon to come to the table and tell the fans the truth about the lack of visibility of the WTA.  Surely someone somewhere cares about tennis fans.

I did a recent survey amongst tennis fans and one of the biggest concerns that arose from that survey is the fact that people want to see more tennis on tv.  What was even more surprising about that survey is the fact that most people preferred the women’s game over the men and thought the women’s game had better storylines than the men, despite most fans not being able to tell what is the WTA’s current marketing campaign (for what its worth, I have checked the WTA’s website, but I can’t find any evidence of their current marketing campaign).

Women’s tennis is a literal gold mine.  It hurts to see people who have been put in power over a product that sells itself, do so much harm to the product.  I know that folks like David Kane and Courtney Nguyen have done yeoman’s service to get women’s tennis to the forefront of people’s minds.  The WTA has won the social media war as both persons are engaging and have used Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote the women’s game.  The women themselves have also embraced social media and have added their names to issues that affect women, most especially, Madison Keys’ effort against online bullying.

With all the women doing their best to ensure that the Tour is relevant, and popular, it is even more disheartening when you can’t get to see them at all.

Steve Simon it is time to either put up or get the hell out.