SLOANE STEPHENS AND WHEN EXPECTATIONS ARE NOT MET

by Karen

Sloane Stephens

From Serena Williams, to Maria Sharapova, to Eugenie Bouchard, everyone and their mother repeats the well known Billie Jean King quote “pressure is a privilege”.  What exactly does this phrase mean? I went to my favourite research tool, Google and typed in the phrase along with Billie Jean King.  Turns out that the complete phrase is “Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I’ve Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes” and is the title of a book penned by Ms. King herself.  It is available on Amazon and a link to the page is here.

I find it a bit conceited that so many players, as well as fans spout this phrase without a real awareness of the pressure which Ms. King references. As soon as a player who has been thrust into the media spotlight does not perform to tennis fans’ overly inflated expectations, they echo King’s sentiments. Frankly, until you have lived what Ms. King and others of her ilk have experienced, especially in the context of being a female professional athlete, you really don’t get to use that phrase willy nilly. The latest  victim of the pressure narrative is Sloane Stephens;  she has failed to live up to tennis media and fans’ expectations
In 2013, Sloane Stephens, then a young up and comer with loads of talent beat  Serena Williams at the Australian Open quarter-finals.  It was a wonderful performance by the youngster and it shot her into the tennis spotlight.  The last  person to be thrust into the spotlight after beating Serena, was none other than Maria Sharapova. Immediately thereafter,  there was the interview in Rolling Stone where she called out Serena for slamming the door on their “friendship”, one manufactured by the press. As well as comments to suggest that Serena  “was never my favourite player anyway”.  There was the unfollow on Twitter as well as the  unfriending on BBM.  In short, the so-called friendship that was constantly referred to via the press went up in smoke.
While there was some initial sympathy for Sloane, whom many deemed too  immature to know what to share with the press, she no longer gets a pass for her  youth. The shift is directly related to her dip in form in Grand Slams. She has gone  from being celebrated for her exuberance and love of the big stage to a problem child. After making the second week of 6 straight Slams from 2013-2014, Sloane has now been ousted in the early rounds of her last 2 Slams. In her defeat today against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, she made 63 unforced errors.
I admit that I had great expectations for Sloane after she took on Thomas Hogstedst.  I believe, and still do that it is a better hire than Paul Annacone, who really did not  bring much to the table in terms of tactics.  Sloane and Thomas will need time before we can see results. Yet, all I see is criticism of Sloane by tennis media and fans for failing to fall in line with their expectations. They did it to Oudin and are probably about to begin with Bellis.  
Who knows why Sloane has not been able to back-up the promise she showed in her take down of Serena in Australia. Is it about her lack of hunger?
Many of you will remember that part of growing up was moving out of your parents’ home.  If you did not wish to move out voluntarily, your parents made your life a living hell, forcing you to move out.  Once you were on your own you found that you developed a drive and determination to succeed because if you did not, not only would your rent not be paid, but you could never afford that pair of shoes or that vacation that you wanted.  Sloane still lives at home, and that maybe part of the problem.  From Sharapova to Federer to Azarenka, most players who have succeeded in this sport will tell you that part of that whole process was learning to tough it out.  From Federer being sent away by his parents to a training camp to live, to Sharapova leaving Russia and coming to America, to Azarenka leaving Belarus, all these players have had to make sacrifices to achieve their dreams.
I don’t like to compare players, but after watching Azarenka’s match yesterday and seeing her come from behind and win a match that she should have lost, not playing her best tennis, but giving it her all, you see the hunger and determination and the will to succeed.
I believe Sloane still has to find that drive and desire to succeed in tennis on her own terms. It is disappointing that she has to manage others’ expectations as she tries to find her way in the sport. Now, these thwarted expectations have created an unduly negative storyline about a perfectly normal and natural evolution for a young player.  I say give her some time.  Let her try and figure it out.  Remember, Rome was never built in a day and neither were Grand Slam champions.

USO DAY 3 REVIEW AND DAY 4 PREVIEW

by Karen


If you missed it last night, Venus’ match against Timea Bascinsky was must see tv.  Watching Venus in full flight in some of the points played brought many fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and some of us watching from our living rooms on our feet.  The athleticism and ball striking of Venus in that match was amazing.  Who would have thought that this 34 year old wunderkind still had that kind of tennis inside her?  Venus moves on to the third round where things will get a bit trickier for her. Her next opponent is Sara Errani. If Venus manages to pull out that win it will see her through to the round of 16.  How amazing is that?
Alexandra Dulgheru gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in her second round match.  If Sharapova does not get her game together, she will no doubt be ousted in the next round by Sabine Lisicki who seems determined in proving that she can play on surfaces other than grass. 
Aga Radwanska continues her dismal performance at the US Open by losing to Shuai Peng in straight sets.  Sloane Stephens was also ousted by No. 96 Johanna Larsson in an epic 3 set battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The piling on of Sloane has begun and frankly I am sick of it. 
Day 4 features play from the top half of the draw and sees some very tasty match ups. The Order of Play is below as well as Spin’s Picks
Arthur Ashe
Christina McHale v. Victoria Azarenka
Vania King v. Serena Williams
Sorana Cirstea v. Eugenie Bouchard
Louis Armstrong
Karolina Pliskova v. Ana Ivanovic
Aleksandra Krunic v. Madison Keys
Grandstand
Petra Kvitova v. Petra Cetkovska
Court 11
Coco Vandeweghe v Carla Suarez Navarro
Flavia Pennettav. Shelby Rogers
Court 13
Varvara Lepchenko v. Mona Barthel
Casey Dellacqua v Qiang Wang
Polona Hercog v Ekaterina Makarova
Court 5

Samantha Stosur v
Kaia Kanepi
Marina Erakovic v Elena Vesnina
Court 17
Nicole Gibbs v A.Pavlyuchenkova
Catherine Bellis v Zarina Diyas
What to Watch
Can American wunderkind Catherine Bellis follow up her performance against Dominika Cibulkova in her next match.  The hard hitting Diyas has been an up and comer for some time and it is good that all her talents will be on a show court for the world to see.  I think Diyas’ experience will prevail in this one.
Samantha Stosur v. Kaia Kanepi should be a good battle if Kanepi shows up to play.  This will be a hard fought battle as you have two hard hitters with lots of variety in their games. 
Upset Alert
Eugenie Bouchard looked really good in her first round match.  It could be because she is getting her game back together at a Grand Slam, or it may have been that her opponent was held together with kinesio tape and could not offer much in the way of resistance.  That being said, is Sorana Cirstea ready to perform under the lights?  Is she ready to show us that her run to the Toronto finals last year, as well as her epic quarterfinal run to the 2009 French Open was not a fluke.  We wait with bated breath.  This could either be a long 3 set affair or a blow out of epic proportions.  Either way, it should be fun to watch.

Is Victoria Azarenka getting match tough?  Her match against Misaki Doi had her calling upon that toughness, which made her No.1 and the winner of 2 Grand Slam titles to the fore.  Her match against Christina McHale has upset written all over it and while I expect Azarenka’s experience playing on the big stage to prevail, she is playing an American and she will be playing in the heat of the day.  Even though I have picked Azarenka to win this one, I think she will have a tough time of it and may end up losing.

USO DAY 2 REVIEW AND DAY 3 PREVIEW

by Karen 
Whew, what a day.  From seeing Azarenka struggling to win her first round match, to being knocked out of Suicide Pool, to watching Petra Kvitova show us why many thought she would assume the keys to the WTA Penthouse, to having lots of snark from the ladies in the press room, Day 2 of the US Open finally came to an end, when Serena Williams showed off her best tennis in taking out up and coming teenage prodigy Taylor Townsend in straight sets.  The hug at the net was symbolic of the respect that both women have for each other.
15 year old Ceci Bellis pulled the upset of the tournament when she took out No. 12 seed and this year’s Australian Open finalist, Dominika Cibulkova in 3 hard fought sets.  While credit should be given to Bellis for pulling the upset, we should really take stock of Cibulkova and try and find out just what has gone wrong with her since having that wonderful run in Australia and now.  I have watched a few of Cibulkova’s matches this year and I can only assume that she is playing with an injury of some sort, either that or her mental game has completely deserted her in tight moments.  This is the same woman who saved multiple set and match points to defeat Radwanska earlier this season in a match that was must see tv.  The Spin team hopes that whatever it is that ails Cibulkova will not derail her too much.
Day 3 Order of Play is below with the Spin’s Picks in red.
Arthur Ashe Stadium
Sloane Stephens (USA) v Johanna Larsson (SWE) 
Maria Sharapova (RUS) v Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) v Venus Williams (USA)
Louis Armstrong
Shuai Peng (CHN) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
Jana Cepelova (SVK) v Simona Halep (ROU)
Grand Stand
Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB)
Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Court 17
Madison Brengle (USA) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Court 5
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v Alize Cornet (FRA)
Sara Errani (ITA) v Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) 
Court 11
Angelique Kerber (GER) v Alla Kdrayavtseva (RUS) 
Belinda Bencic (SUI) v Kurumi Nara (JPN)
Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Monica Puig (PUR) 
Court 13
Mirjani Lucic-Baroni (CRO) v Shahar Peer (ISR) 
Lucie Safarova (CZE) v Saisai Zheng (CHN)
Court 7
Roberta Vinci (ITA) v Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU)
Match(es) of the Day
Pironkova v Jankovic – how good is Jankovic playing or better question, will Pironkova make her life miserable out there today?  This one should be a good one as if Jankovic is not on her game, then Pironkova can make her life a living hell.  This will be a battle of the backhands as the outcome of the match will be between which player can use her signature shot to finish points.
Radwanska v Peng – Peng has been playing really good tennis and she seems to be healthy.  Is she ready to take her game to the next level?  Only time and perhaps this match will tell. Radwanska did little or nothing in her first round match but Peng is a much better opponent. 
Upset Alert
Is it an upset if Sabine Lisicki goes out to Madison Brengle?  The pro-US crowd will be behind Brengle and this could have either Lisicki playing balls to the wall tennis or fading away.  The other question is whether Lisicki is looking forward to her potential third round match against Sharapova?  That third round match would be a pretty juicy affair if it happens, but Sharapova will no doubt have to get past Dulgheru who can frustrate her into hitting error after error with her dogged defence.

USO DAY 1 REVIEW AND DAY 2 PREVIEW

by Karen, 

What a day of tennis.  As I am writing this, Muguruza has just lost the first set to Lucic-Baroni, Sabine Lisicki is making sure she makes it to the anticipated third round match against Sharapova, Sloane Stephens showed today why she is still being considered a contender and Venus Williams battled her way past a bee and Kimiko Date-Krumm to make her way to the second round. 

No. 2 seed, Simona Halep was given all she could handle against wildcard recipient, Danielle Rose-Collins.  After going down in a tiebreaker in the first set, Halep showed why she is the No. 2 ranked player in the world as she used all her skills to outfox her opponent, winning 4 games in the final 2 sets. Young Belinda Bencic took out 2009 semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets and Camila Giorgi, up a set and a break and served for the match was ousted by Rodionova. 

This evenings matches promise some really good entertainment and I do hope they live up to expectations.   

Tomorrow’s matches features the top half of the women’s draw and sees the debut of defending champion and holder of the keys to the WTA Penthouse, Serena Williams. Williams will mark her defence of her title by facing wildcard, Taylor Townsend.  This one should be good. 

Day 2 OOP with Spin’s Picks in red are below:-

Serena Williams (USA) [1] v Taylor Townsend (USA) 

Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v Vania King (USA) 

Varvara Lepchenko (USA) v Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 

Mona Barthel (GER) v Shuai Zhang (CHN) [32]

Samantha Stosur (AUS) [24] v Lauren Davis (USA) – 3 setter for this one 

Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Kaia Kanepi (EST) 

Coco Vandeweghe (USA) v Donna Vekic (CRO) 

Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) [15] 

Flavia Pennetta (ITA) [11] v Julia Goerges (GER) 

Shelby Rogers (USA) v Maryna Zanevska (UKR) 

Nicole Gibbs (USA) v Caroline Garcia (FRA) 

Teliana Pereira (BRA) v A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [23]

Casey Dellacqua (AUS) [29] v P.Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) 

Paula Kania (POL) v Qiang Wang (CHN) 

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) 

Alison Riske (USA) v Ana Ivanovic (SRB) [8]

Petra Kvitova (CZE) [3] v Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 

Klara Koukalova (CZE) v Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 

Aleksandra Krunic (SRB) v Katarzyna Piter (POL) 

Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) v Madison Keys (USA) [27] 

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [20] v Marina Erakovic (NZL) could be close

Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Yung-Jan Chen (TPE) 

Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) v Christina McHale (USA) 

Misaki Doi (JPN) v Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [16] (if she is not 100% could have problems

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [12] v Catherine Bellis (USA) 

Zarina Diyas (KAZ) v Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) 

Elina Svitolina (UKR) v Polona Hercog (SLO) 

Grace Min (USA) v Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [17] 


B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) [30] v Ashleigh Barty (AUS) 

Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) v Monica Niculescu (ROU) 

Sorana Cirstea (ROU) v Heather Watson (GBR) 

Olga Govortsova (BLR) v Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [7]

Match to Watch
Serena Williams v Taylor Townsend
Samantha Stosur v Lauren Davis 
Upset Special 
Olga Govortsova v Eugenie Bouchard
Fashion Focus

Not much into fashion, but I loved Sloane’s outfit today. Hopefully, I can get a better picture the next time she plays.  Jelena Jankovic channelled her inner Mystique today in her outfit.  Will post pictures in a separate post. 

US OPEN DAY 1 – ORDER OF PLAY

by Karen 

Morning All.  Man, life just gets in the way of tennis sometimes, which can really suck if you have a blog that needs to be updated on a fairly regular basis.  I should have been home on vacation for the next two weeks, but there is this little thing called work which always seems to get in the way of my tennis watching plans.  As the job pays the bills that allows me to actually enjoy tennis and have this little blog, I won’t bitch and moan too much. 

The top half of the bottom half of the draw starts play today and sees the No. 2 seed Simona Halep going up against American qualifier Danielle Collins. I admit that I have never seen Collins play, so I am looking forward to that match up.  Hopefully Halep will have her game together after that really dismal performance in New Haven.  In the night session, Maria Sharapova goes up against Maria Kirilenko in what should no doubt be an early round rout by Ms. Sharapova.  

Venus Williams, the reason for this blogger actually watching tennis goes up against perennial wunderkind Kimiko Date-Krumm.  I have a comment, can we leave the “there are now [insert number of players] now playing tennis who were born since Date-Krumm retired from tennis”.  Rather than pointing out just how old Date-Krumm is, how about we respect her work ethic and the fact that she is beating players who could be her daughters?  Enough of the same old schtick. 

The Order of Play is below with the Spin’s picks in red.

Angelique Kerber (GER) [6] v Ksenia Pervak (RUS) 
Ying-Ying Duan (CHN) v Alla Kudrryavtseva (RUS) 
Belinda Bencic(SUI) v Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Kurumi Nara (JPN) [31]


Sloane Stephens (USA) [21] v Annika Beck (GER) 

Virginie Razzano (FRA) v Johanna Larsson (SWE) 
Karin Knapp(ITA) v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) v Jelena Jankovic (SRB) [9]

Lucie Safarova (CZE) [14] v Timea Babos (HUN) 

SaiSai Zheng (CHN) v Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 
Romina Oprandi (SUI) v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 
Amandine Hesse (FRA) v Alize Cornet (FRA) [22]

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [28] v Paula Ormaechea (ARG) 

Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) v Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 
Shuai Peng(CHN) v Jie Zheng (CHN) 
Sharon Fichman (CAN) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4]

Maria Sharapova (RUS) [5] v Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 

Kristyna Pliskova(CZE) v Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) 
Julia Glushko(ISR) v Madison Brengle (USA) 
Francoise Abanda (CAN) v Sabine Lisicki (GER) [26]

Andrea Petkovic (GER) [18] v Ons Jabeur (TUN) 

Tereza Smitkova(CZE) v Monica Puig (PUR) 
Anna Schmiedlova(SVK) v Aliaksandra Sasnovich BLR 
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) [10]

Sara Errani (ITA) [13] v Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 

Anastasia Rodionova (AUS) v Camila Giorgi (ITA) 
Kiki Bertens (NED) v Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) 
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) v Venus Williams (USA) [19]

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [25] v Mirjani Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 

Johanna Konta(GBR) v Shahar Peer (ISR) 
Jana Cepelova (SVK) v M.Torro-Flor(ESP) 

Danielle Rose Collins (USA) v Simona Halep (ROU) [2]

Remember to do your Suicide Pool picks over at Talk About Tennis as Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated has gifts for the winners. 

Bring it on!!!!!

USO PREVIEW ARRGGGH

by Karen 

Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York
I can’t believe it.  It is almost time for the US Open.  The USO Series is almost finished, I say almost because even though Serena Williams has been crowned for the second year running as the winner of the USO Series, there are still tournaments happening in the Series, i.e. Connecticut Open in New Haven and Winston Salem in North Carolina.
Qualifying has started for the US Open.  There are some really dangerous women in the qualifying draw and I will be watching to see if they make it into the main draw.  It is disheartening to see some of the names who are in the qualifying draw, Tamira Paszek, Ashleigh Barty, Putintseva amongst others are all in the draw.  Should make for some very tasty match ups.
The first 3 Majors have crowned 3 very distinct champions, but most notably they have all been women who have lifted Grand Slam trophies.  What has made this US Open a bit more tasty in terms of trying to predict who will win, is that none of the 3 women who have lifted trophies this year is named Serena Williams.  The World’s No.1 and current holder of the US Open has not made it to the quarter finals of the year’s first 3 Grand Slams.  She has been ousted by Ana Ivanovic (Australia), Garbine Muguruza (Paris) and Alize Cornet (Wimbledon). The one thing that defined those 3 wins was the lack of Serena’s main weapon of choice on the tennis courts.  As many of us who have watched Serena play, if her serve is on, it is game over.  In the three matches that she lost her serve, while hitting in the high 100s was absent for most of the matches in which she lost.  Her second serve, usually the best on the women’s Tour (in my opinion) because of its variety and disguise was feasted on by all 3 women in taking down Serena.  Only one tennis writer has made mention of the serve speed and power on Serena’s serve and that is Kamakashi Tandon.  A link to the article is here.
Most tennis writers are going to pick Serena to win it all in New York.  They all picked Serena as well to win one of the year’s first 3 Majors.  If you are a die hard tennis fan and you really pay attention to the women’s game, and if you really think about it, who else other than Serena can you pick?  It is a lazy pick, but you have to ask yourself the question, if not Serena who? 
  • ·         Maria Sharapova – has not made the final in New York since winning it in 2006
  • ·         Simona Halep – her dismal showing during the USO Series can only be summed up as resting for the big one
  • ·         Petra Kvitova – has never done anything remarkable in New York and it will not start this year
  • ·         Aga Radwanska – will perhaps make it as far as the quarters before she is hit off the court
  • ·     Kerber, Bouchard, Ivanovic round out the top 10 (Li Na is ranked No. 3 but is absent due to injury).  Of these 3 only Ivanovic has tasted success at the Grand Slam level by winning the French Open in 2008.  She has been to 3 Grand Slam finals in her career having a win/loss record of 1-2.  Bouchard is 0 and 1 and Kerber made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam once in her career, losing to eventual champion Sam Stosur in a tough 3 setter. 

A look at the top 10 shows you why journalists are always picking Serena to win it all.  However, the Spin team is going to go out on a limb and leave the top 10 behind.  In a year full of upsets, break out players, mid-match meltdowns and shaking my head because I can’t believe that happened moments, we think that this year’s US Open winner will come from left field to win it all.  We here at the Spin think that if Serena falters (and that first round match is nothing to shake a stick at), we think the following players have a chance at lifting the Billie Jean King trophy. Here goes
Name of Player
Strength
Weakness

Venus Williams
·         Has won here before
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Why not
·         Sjorgen’s

Madison Keys 
·     
    Huge serve;
·         Big forehand
·         Mentally tough
·         Loves the big stage
·         Confidence from winning her first title of her very young career
·        
  • Movement

·         That backhand is either a kill short or will be beaten to a pulp by her colleagues
·         Second serve can go off during testing times


Sam Stosur
·         serve – when was the last time you watched a women’s match where there was not one break of serve.  Even though she lost that match against Serena in Cincinnati, Stosur has shown some remarkable mental improvement during this USO Series
·         forehand – all that top spin just keeps pushing her opponents right where they don’t want to be
·         ability to mix it up with superb slices and volleys
·         she has won here before
·         backhand – it has improved … a lot – see match against Bouchard in New Haven
·         Mentally can go walkabouts
·         If serve is not clicking or she comes up against an opponent on fire she can go away
·          









Svetlana Kuznetsova
·         Confidence has returned in abundance.  That can happen when you win your first title in 4 years;
·         Forehand – is there a bigger forehand in the women’s game when it is on
·         Movement and firepower
·         Has won it all before – champion in 2004.  What better way to cement her legacy than to win it all again 10 years after lifting her first Grand Slam title
·          
·         This is Sveta we are talking about.  Take your pick and you would probably be right, but Sveta’s greatest weakness is Sveta herself.
·          










Lucie Safarova
·         Big forehand
·         Great backhand
·         Variety
·         Too many to mention. Safarova is one of those players that I absolutely love to watch playing.  Her game is compact and when it is on, it is really great to see her play very good tennis, but this year, Safarova has lost many matches from a winning position.  How great would it be if she actually won a tournament that she was slated to lose?

·          
Caroline Wozniacki
·         Single
·         No more Rory

If Rory thinks that breaking off his engagement has improved his game, then it has put a certain amount of renewed focus in his ex-fiancée’s game.  Wozniacki has been playing really good tennis, especially during the USO Series.  She has played incredibly well during this USO Series and has been unfortunate to come upon the buzz saw that is Serena Williams.  The matches have not been easy but her improved serve and the fact that she has more pop on her ground strokes makes me think that Wozniacki could make a push this year for the title.  After all in her lone Grand Slam final, she did push Clijsters to a tough 2 set win in 2009.  Amazing what can happen when you don’t have some man distracting you from your professional goals.
YOUNG UNS
Most of those who I have picked are veterans, but what about those young players who are making lots of noise.  I think Muguruza if she is healthy has a chance, just as much as Sloane Stephens, who is playing really good tennis since teaming up with Thomas Hogstedt.  I like that Sloane is showing that she cares, because for a minute there, we were all wondering if she thought she wanted to be somewhere other than a tennis court. More of that please Sloane.
UPSET SPECIAL
A Grand Slam preview would not be complete without an upset special.  Eugenie Bouchard is in the doldrums.  Whether it is that humiliating loss to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam final, or maybe it was the sandwich bagel that she endured in front of her home town fans, but Bouchard seems to be dealing with her sophomore slump right in the middle of her breakout year.  I don’t see her completing the semi Grand Slam this year. 

FABIO FOGNINI AND THE WTA PLAYER COUNCIL

 by Karen 

I don’t take advertising on my blog.  I don’t solicit, neither do I try to up my numbers on my blog by having people pay to advertise on my blog.  I have a really good job that pays well.  I did think about moving my blog from blogspot over to WordPress or Typepad, but seeing that it would cost me money to do so, and seeing as I really wanted to keep the independence of my blog be my hallmark, I decided not to. 
I don’t get press passes, neither have I ever asked for one. I don’t pretend to be a tennis guru. The only reason why I blog is because sometimes you see a lot of really crap things being said and done to women’s tennis and rather than vent my frustrations on other people’s blogs, I thought it would be a good idea to have my own.
That being said, the fact that I have a lot of people who rely on me for accurate information makes me view my little blog as more than just my personal space in which to air my views.  I take into consideration that not everyone who reads my blog will agree with me.  I also realise that with a blog I can’t really put aside my own personal convictions just to be running with the herd, i.e. developing a sheep mentality.
I have noticed recently that many of the blogs and tennis writers that I follow have developed a bit of a sheep mentality.  If there is condemnation of Player A then everyone jumps on the bandwagon and condemns Player A.  There is a narrative that fits every single player and I wish that bloggers, tennis writers, and commentators would throw the script out the window and just tell us what they really think.  I say this because of what I view as one of the more serious events that have occurred in recent times, and the lack of outrage about it, and I think this lack of outrage stems from the fact that a lot of bloggers and tennis writers out there are answering to people other than themselves. 
Fabio Fognini, that model of ATP consistency, showed us again why some players should never be handed a microphone and should really continue to be ignored.  When people actually started to pay attention to Fognini rather than asking who is he, it was more about his so-called antics on court, rather than his game.  At first everyone was all about bringing character to the exceedingly boring game of men’s tennis.  The consensus amongst tennis people was he is a character and that is just Fabio being Fabio. 
Fognini has proceeded to turn that narrative on its end by engaging in behaviour that in my view should be considered “bringing the sport into disrepute” and therefore either another hefty fine, or a suspension needs to be meted out by the ATP World Tour.  From arguing incessantly with tournament officials, to name calling his opponent a racial slur, to actually threatening an official, to actually carrying out said threat by putting his hand on an umpire, Fognini has showed us exactly what he is made of.
As if that was not enough, Fognini has decided to turn it up a notch by bringing his own brand of character to social media.  During a match between his alleged girlfriend Flavia Pennetta and World No.1, Serena Williams, one of Fognini’s followers tweeted a sexist slur that implied that Fognini should be upset seeing as his alleged girlfriend was playing a man.  Fognini, clearly someone who does not have 2 brain cells to rub together proceeded to retweet said tweet.  If you are not sure what retweeting a tweet is, it means that you either agree with the tweet of the person and therefore endorsing it for the world to see.  
The silence on my timeline is deafening.  The usual outcries that accompany comments by others has been met with virtual silence.  If there has been condemnation by the ATP Tour or by those in the commentary booth, I have not seen or heard it. 
A friend of mine wrote to me recently and said when will the ATP Tour rein in Fognini?  She asked whether he would have to use some type of racist or sexist slur before someone, anyone in authority actually does something.  It seems as if now that the sexist slur has occurred, the ATP has still not done anything.  While the excuse may well be made that Fognini did not actually type the offensive tweet, the fact that he chose to Retweet it, thereby endorsing the sentiment is of itself even worse.  He should have used his position as a member of the men’s tour to condemn the comment by his follower and then ensured that said follower’s sexist slur was not repeated on his timeline. 

I understand that sometime this afternoon Fognini had recalled the retweet.  Clearly, someone who is possibly paying attention informed him that what he had written was inappropriate.  However, what galls me is that none of the usual suspects who cover tennis have deemed it fit to call Fognini out publicly about this type of behaviour.  I have read through the transcripts of his press conferences and I may have missed it but I have not seen where he is being condemned for his very bad behaviour.  He has recently been fined by the All England Club for his behaviour at Wimbledon, but one wonders when will the ATP do something about him. 

UPDATED:   Since writing the above, I have recently seen where SportScribe has written an article condemning the incident.  The article was retweeted by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated and I therefore take that to mean that not only has someone in the media aware of this but they, by retweeting SportScribe’s article is also joining in condemning Fognini’s behaviour.  The link to SportScribe’s article is here

WTA Player Council 

I don’t know how many of you follow ASAP Sports on Twitter, but I do.  I follow them so that I can get links to press conferences to read for myself the exact words.  At the recent Western & Southern Open, after that really good match between Sam Stosur  and Serena Williams, I was interested to read each woman’s thoughts on the match.  Imagine my shock when I read through Stosur’s press transcript and found out that she sits on the WTA Player Council. I thought to myself, well this is interesting, I wonder what the WTA Player Council has been up to.  I was not disappointed because the journalist who asked the initial question, decided to continue with his/her line of enquiry. The link to the presser is here.  The part of the interview that I found interesting is that in the 3 questions that Stosur was asked about her work and the work of the Player Council she does not give any ifnormation as to what it is that the Player Council does.  The fact that the journalist in question started off by comparing the visibility of the ATP Player Council showed the direction in which the journalist was heading, i.e. the visibility/lack of visibility of both Tours’ Player Council.  

Q.  Just a question from left field.  We hear quite a lot about the ATP players council, but we don’t hear much about the WTA players council.  I understand you’re one of the leaders of the council. 

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Well, I’m on the council. 

Q.  So just wondering how you feel about your role in the WTA players council. 

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Oh, I’m glad I got on the council.  I’ve done it for two years now.
Hopefully I will get on it for another two years.  I have enjoyed I guess being part of what is going on.  It is important to our tour, and I think if you can have a little bit of influence and I guess take what all the players feel to these meetings and to discuss it, then I think it’s a great thing.
As for whether you hear more about the ATP or WTA, I don’t know.  I guess maybe they’re a little bit more outspoken.  We just get it done quietly and do what we need to do.
Q.  What are some of the recent things that you have been discussing or working on?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Oh, things are always changing with what’s a, I guess, topic of discussion.  But, look, there’s lots and lots of topics and lots of things that are getting‑‑ you can’t change in one day.  It’s going to take a little bit of time. I guess you guys will be able to see maybe what they are in the near future.

Q.  Is this a type of social activism like where you’re able to be involved?


SAMANTHA STOSUR:  No, not necessarily.  I just got nominated a couple of years ago and thought it would be interesting to be on it.
You know, I love playing tennis.  I like being a part of it.  I kind of thought, Well, you know what?  If you can be involved in other ways…
I often talk about it anyway.  If you’re going to talk about it, why not talk about it in a forum that might actually be able to go somewhere.
Yeah, I think it’s a nice thing to be a part of.  You learn how businesses work and what goes on and, yeah, maybe be able to take some views from other players in there and maybe make a difference. 

I too remain in the dark about exactly what the WTA Player Council does.  I don’t know who are the members. I don’t know when they have meetings and I certainly don’t know when they have elections.  In many interviews that are conducted on the men’s side, you hear questions being asked about what, if anything the Player Council will be doing to address certain issues.  It could be that the women are never asked these pointed questions, but I think Stosur had a great opportunity to expand on the work of the WTA Player Council and she failed and/or neglected to do so.  

The incident above with Fognini is one that should be roundly condemned by the WTA Player Council in the form of a press release and a statement issued that the WTA hopes that the ATP will sanction the player for bringing the sport into disrepute.  


NOTHING TO DO WITH TENNIS

by Karen 

While I have your attention, let me just test this microphone out. 

On Tuesday morning I woke up to the news that there was an incident of domestic violence in Bodden Town.  Bodden Town is a small village located on the Eastern end of the Island.  When I saw the news, I said, oh my God, not another one.  You see we have had a few cases of domestic violence on the Islands in recent times. Most of them end up with the one or both parties either dead or severely injured.  Usually, they become cases of murder/suicide. 

I admit that I read the article and sent a small prayer to both parties who were involved in this tragedy. 

Yesterday, someone came to my desk at work and was relaying the incident to me in all its gory detail.  I again expressed sympathy for both parties and sent up another small prayer that they would both be OK. 

This morning, the issue reared its head again and this time I listened with both ears.  After listening to the rumours of what may have happened, I realised that the story sounded very familiar.  I enquired as to the names of the persons but no one knew.  I guessed the name of a particular individual and unfortunately it turns out that the couple are well known to me. 

I have provided a listening ear to both of them. I have counselled both of them.  I have broken bread with both of them.  The wife is currently battling for her life.  Her husband is currently in the hospital under police guard as he attempted suicide. 

I have no words for this. 

As a survivor of domestic violence, I have always people women to walk away.  Staying in an abusive situation is not helpful to either you or your partner. 

If you are in an abusive relationship, get help.  If you are the abuser and you are reading this, walk away.  If you are the woman who is being abused, turn your back on everything and just walk away.  Ladies you can’t change him if he is beating the crap out of you.  You can’t ever make him stop.  Men, if the woman is abusing you, walk away.  Do not retaliate.  Call the police. 

Domestic violence permeates our society and it is the shame of most neighbourhoods.  People know that the abuse is happening and do nothing.  Pick up the phone.  Call the police.  If it means that your  neighbour never speaks to you again, you did your part in saving a life.  

My only prayer is that both parties are able to survive this. I have no idea what the wife’s condition will be or whether she will survive.  I know only that lives are now broken forever and will probably never be repaired.  

USO SERIES AND OTHER STUFF

by Karen,

Radwansa and Williams courtesy Rogers Cup 
What a performance.  What an inspiration.  What a woman.  If you have no idea of whom I am speaking, then you must have been living under a rock.  From the stick volley in this point and the forehand that finally made its appearance after many years in the land of the dead, Venus Williams, showed the world just how good she can be when illness and injury are made to take a back seat.  Venus showed some of the best tennis of her career during last week’s Montreal tournament and while I am still disappointed with the final result, I could not be happier seeing Venus laugh and smile her way through a tournament, and having fans give her standing ovations during her performances. 

Venus, at 34 years young, battling Sjorgrens Syndrome and with the will to win showed the younger generation on both Tours what it is to compete.  From what I understand, there were players in both Montreal and Cincinnatti who were watching Venus’ perforamnce, especialy her match against Angelique Kerber.  

As a die-hearted Venus fan, I was warm and tingly all over watching her win 3 set match after 3 set match and competing as she used to do in her heyday.  From beating the No. 1 player in the world, to out defending one of the best defenders on Tour, Venus Williams shows what determination and fight are all about. 

Kudos to Aga Radwanska for winning her first title of the season in what was surely turning out to be a disapppointing campaign for her.  

THIS AND THAT 

The WTA’s Stacey Allaster came under fire recently when it was intimated that the WTA would pay for the passage of Genie’s Army to fly to Singapore if Bouchard made the cut for the Year End Championships (YEC).  While what Allaster said could be misconstrued, the fact that tennis fans were in an uproar over this shows how much interest is now being paid to the WTA and the way it markets its players. Allaster has shown little or no objectivity when it comes to marketing Bouchard as the face or new face of women’s tennis.  From having her be among the legends of the sport during the WTA’s celebration at Wimbledon commemorating 40 years of the WTA, to anointing her the next best thing, Allaster has not done much to separate her role as head of women’s tennis as against that of fellow Canadian citizen of Bouchard.  She needs to learn there are 2 roles and unfortunately for her, she can only wear one at this particular point in time. 

Pam Shriver and the talking heads at ESPN need to let certain narratives go.  They should either want on-court coaching to be a staple of women’s tennis, or they should continue to encourage the women to use on-court coaching as a way to problem solve while on court. can’t have it both ways.  On more than one occasion those in the booths have spoken disparagingly of the women who call their coach down court side for coaching.  In the same breath they advocate its use and sing from the mountain tops how this and that player has benefited from on court coaching, while in the same breath stating that this and that player relies too much on the coach coming down.  Hey people, pick a side and stick to it. 

On the same topic, it has been 20 years since Venus Williams joined the women’s Tour.  In all that time she has never once stepped away from the baseline to receive serve. Matters not who the opponent is.  Venus is going to stand on the baseline for the first serve, and inside on the second serve.  When Venus does that, and it works, she is brilliant.  When she does it, and it does not work, she is stupid and should step back.  Again, commentators pick a side and stick with it.  You can’t have it both ways. 

It would seem as if there are people who are upset at ESPN’s coverage of the women’s final from Montreal and moreso the alleged one-sidedness  of it all.  I would take those complaints seriously if but for the fact that this happens all the time. How many times have I sat and watched a tennis match when certain players are on the court and you would swear that that player is playing herself.  A case in point is the one-sided commentary during Bouchard’s match against American Shelby Rogers.  It was not until almost the final game when it was clear that Rogers was going to win that match that Brett Haber and Lindsay Davenport actually inserted Rodgers’ resume into the conversation.  At one point, the commentary became so nauseous that I took to Twitter to air my grouses (as you do these days).  

WTA AND ITS NON-MARKETING MARKETING 

Courtesy WTAtennis.com
Sometimes it seems to me as if the WTA has a type and that type is blonde.  From Tracy Austin to Chris Evert down to Wozniacki, Sharapova and now Bouchard.  I can’t ever recall seeing this much hue and cry being made over Sanchez-Vicario, Davenport, the Williams Sisters and Hingis.  The former have always been classified as the “face” of the sport.  When I look at the Original 9 women who started the WTA, none of them looked like the ones that are being bandied about as the face of women’s tennis.  

Frankly, if I am being honest, the Original 9 looked rather like the latter set of women (barring one or two blondes in the group).  The current WTA leadership would do well to remember what was the mission of the Original 9 women who started the WTA.  It was about empowering every single woman in professional tennis, not just a few.  It was about giving every woman who swung a racquet a chance to have her skills respected, not by what she looked like, but by what she did. It was to see her as society had never seen her before, as someone whose skills were to be compensated, not because of how she looked, but because of what she did.   
OVERHEARD

A little bird has told me that Etienne Dumas who was rumoured to be working with Sloane Stephens before she took on Thomas Hogstedt is set to announce a major development with a top junior player.  I also understand that there are also plans afoot for Mr. Dumas to sign on with a new agent.  This can only mean that Mr. Dumas, long regarded by the tennis community as an exceptional coach, may be on his way to finally being recognised in tennis circles. Stay tuned for more on this developing story.  

WIMBLEDON: THE END

by Karen

2 weeks have come and gone so fast that I think I am still recovering from it, but I am really not.  I have been ill since Friday of last week so have been taking it easy.  On Saturday I collapsed at my doctor’s office suffering the onslaught of full blow menopause.  Never let anyone tell you that hot flashes don’t kill you.  They can.  Anyway, I am feeling a lot better now.  Drugs will do that to you and so I am back, your friendly neighbourhood blogger to dispense my thoughts to the loyal readers of this here little blog.

These are random thoughts, and they are not 50 like our good friend Jon Wertheim over at Sports Illustrated.  There will be no grades. However at the top of my list is a rant, so I guess you could say I am numbering them as I go along:-

1. Serena Williams deserves so much better from the media than what she gets.  In case you missed it, Serena got knocked out in the third round by Alize Cornet of France. She and her sister were sitll in the doubles tournament, and when they took the Court for their second round match, Serena could barely hold the ball, much less hit it.  When she attempted to serve, her serve, the greatest serve in women’s tennis history, never moved the radar gun.  They eventually retired.  The talking heads at ESPN decided that it would be a good thing to speculate about what was wrong with  Serena.  All fine, nothing wrong with that, but then to use that podium to then speculate as to whether she was on some type of drugs, and to then utter the dreaded “testing” word was just as low as you can get.  Martina, never to be counted out of the conversation when ti comes to negative thinking towards Serena, jumped in, and offered her opinion that what she saw was not Serena suffering from a virus (you know because Martina also has a medical degree and has possibly, actually, maybe treated Serena) and therefore was able to speak authoritiavley on this topic.  Give me a fucking break. Did anyone else think that maybe Serena was as she said she was, suffering from a viral illness?  Frankly speaking I think Serena deserves to keep her illness, injuries close to her chest, because even when she fucking discloses what is wrong with her, no one believes her.  I wonder why that is.  Let us take a look at those players who the tennis media beleive when they talk about injuries:-

We believe Petra Kvitova that her asthma is the reason why she sucks everywhere else except at Wimbledon.  We believe Maria Sharapova when she withdraws from touranmnets and sits out 6 months of the tennis season because of her shoulder.  We believe that since he was born Rafael Nadal has had bad knees and that his career is almost over.  How about Novak Djokovic and his gluten allergy and his inability to breathe during points. We believe those people right?  Why is it then that so many journalists did not believe Serena when she said she cut her foot on a piece of glass, it then required surgery, which led to her developing an embolism which nearly caused her death?  Why do we believe that eveyrone else has a fucking injury or defect but that Serena Williams, she of the 17 Grand Slams is not suffering from some ailment or another?  Why?

I will tell you, it is because she is Serena Williams.  It is because she is black.  It is because people like her, as far as the tennis media is concerned should not be injured.  When Serena said last year that she was tired, many in the media were skeptical.  Clearly, she is not allowed to be tired either.  When she won Miami and then lost in  Charleston, she said she needed some time away from tennis.  She got that time, but clearly it was not enough as she lost in the second round of Paris and the third round of Wimbledon.

If I was Serena, here is what I would do for the rest of the year.  I would book myself a ticket somewhere, anywehre, as far away from tennis as possible (you can come see me Serena,  your long lost sister), leave the racquets and tennis stuff behind in the States.  Shut down for the rest of the year.  Treat whatever ailments you are experiencing, be they mental or physical.  Come back in Australia, fresh as a daisy and raring to go.  Fuck tennis.  Fuck the WTA and fuck the media who does not give a shit anyway.  They just want you to sell advertising dollars because let us get it straight, the only reason why they really want you to remain in tennis is to continue to make money.