TAKE A BOW TELIANA PEREIRA



When a player makes a splash in the later years of her career, the Spin takes notice.  I first noticed Pereira earlier this year when she played Belinda Bencic in Fed Cup group play in Brazil.  Even though she lost the match, she played some of the best tennis I had seen from a player of whom I knew nothing in quite sometime.  

To win her first WTA title and the first for a Brazilian woman in 28 years, the 26 year Pereira beat Schiavone, Svitolina and Shvedova in the final. She is without a doubt the Spin’s Player of the Week.   


Honourable mentions: 


Timea Bacsinszky who led the Swiss Fed Cup team to a 3-2 win over Poland which means that Switzerland are now in the 2016 World Group and contenders for Fed Cup. 


The Czech Fed Cup team, with Petra Kvitova as their leader continues to rewrite Fed Cup history.  They performed brilliantly against France and are once again in the Fed Cup finals where they will face Russia.  However in this tie, honours should go to Lucie Safarova who saved 6 match points in her match against Caroline Garcia to secure the first point of the tie

Previous player of week
Week 14: Angelique Kerber – Charleston winner defeating Madison Keys
Week 13: Serena Williams – Miami winner for 8thtime defeating Carla Suarez Navarro
Week 12: Sloane Stephens – Having three solid wins including defeating Madison Keys, AO SF, in process
Week 11: Simona Halep – Indian Wells winner defeating Jelena Jankovic
Week 10: Heather Watson – Getting first Top 10 win of career defeating Agnieszka Radwanska
Week 9: Timea Bacsinszky – Monterrey winner defeating Caroline Garcia
Week 8: Lucie Safarova – Doha winner defeating Victoria Azarenka
Week 7: Karolina Pliskova – Dubai finalist losing to Simona Halep
Week 6: Daniela Hantuchova – Pattaya winner defeating Ajla Tomljanovic.
Week 5: Andrea Petkovic – Led Germany to Fed Cup semifinals
Week 4: Serena Williams – Australian Open winner defeating Maria Sharapova
Week 3: Madison Keys – Defeated two seeds including Petra Kvitova, who was seeded 4
Week 2: Heather Watson – Hobart winner defeating Madison Brengle

Week 1: Venus Williams – Auckland winner defeating Caroline Wozniacki

Fed Cup observations

Years ago there was a group of US Davis Cup fans who called themselves the Net Heads.  They have been around since 2001 and most recently they travelled all the way to Great Britain for the most recent US Davis Cup tie.   They travelled all over the world cheering on the US Davis Cup team.  People are always surprised when shouts of SIMONA ring out throughout stadiums all over the world whenever Simona Halep is playing a match.  People were also surprised that there was such a huge contingent of Romanian fans over in Montreal Canada for the Canada v. Romania Fed Cup tie.  There were many comments on social media and from commentators who likened the atmosphere to a home tie in Romania.
I watched many Fed Cup matches this weekend. The tie in Italy was one of the most eye-opening and troubling for me, especially when compared with the comments by newly appointed USTA President, Katrina Adams.  First of all I am always impressed by the Italians and their love of women’s tennis.  During the European clay swing, it matters not which women are out on court, the stands, especially the secondary stadium is jam packed with fans sitting shoulder to shoulder, cheering and shouting for their favourite player.  During last weekend’s Fed Cup tie, this was no different.  The stadium was small and intimate (a 4,000 seat stadium) and the crowd was as vocal as I have ever seen.  They were on their feet during every point, cheering, singing, and chanting.  The shouts of Sara, Sara, Sara echoed throughout the stadium.  They lived and died with every point.  Meanwhile, on the US Fed Cup bench, not only was it sparse with the number of players who were there cheering on the US Fed Cup team, but the few that were on the benches had the look of a beaten team.  Contrast that to the Germany/Russian tie after Day 1.  Down 0-2, the women on the German bench were still cheering to the last ball.  Over in Poland, despite losing the tie, the fans were still cheering for every point and shouting out as much encouragement as they could. 
Katrina Adams stated that the US needs to be more like their European counterparts when it comes to showing their colours during Fed Cup. She is right.  They need to, however, this is something that the USTA can do and I have some suggestions for how that can be done. 

·         The USTA has millions of dollars in resources.  During away ties, bus members of the USTA junior programme to Fed Cup away ties.  Put them up in hostels/hotels.  Dress them in the red, white and blue.  Give them noise makers and book out a section of the grounds specifically for the US delegation.  They will know exactly what to do.  Think it can’t work.  The Swiss have been doing that for decades. 

·         In home ties, do the same thing. One thing that I have noticed is that the venues chosen for Fed Cup ties (and Davis Cup as well) seem to be in places that bear no resemblance to the thousands of people who end up going to regular Tour events.  Why not have Fed and Davis Cup ties at places like Indian Wells or Miami or even South Carolina.  These 3 places are all tennis meccas.  There are places where fans gather in the thousands to watch matches.  Have ticket prices discounted for the sessions and encourage fans to come and cheer on the US. 

·         I have heard that ticket prices are an abomination for Fed and Davis Cup ties.  You can’t price people out of the market. 

·         Encourage fans to cheer.  It was disappointing to see the looks of defeat on the faces of the players during the US/Italy Fed Cup tie.  While Serena Williams was struggling against Giorgi and Errani, not one of the US players got up off their feet to shout words of encouragement.  The captain, Mary-Jo Fernandez, bless her, looked as if she was being buried alive.  Meanwhile on the Italian bench, Pennetta was doing everything other than get on the court in her zeal.  This is what Fed Cup is about.  It is about cheering on your teammates. It is about shouting encouragement. It is about singing, and cheering after every point won.  It is about groaning when there is a missed opportunity.  The US needs to get that part of tennis right.
John Isner has remarked on it many times about how he wishes that US fans cheered for him when he played in the US in the same way that citizens from other countries cheer on other players. In this I agree with him.  The USTA needs to make contact with fan bases and encourage them to come out.  Offer discounted tickets in group packages.  Encourage hotels to offer discounted rates.  Encourage fans to open their homes to vetted fans.  Make Fed and Davis Cup into a movement.
Finally, once the matches were complete, there was a discussion on Tennis Channel regarding the US’ performance.  Ms. Davenport indicated that she believes that it is time for the USTA to have all the players in one room and have a conversation about the non-participation of so many players from Fed Cup.  Missing in action last weekend were Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Raquel Kops-Jones, Abigail Spears, Lisa Raymond, Varvara Lepchenko and Venus Williams (withdrew due to personal reasons).
In terms of encouragement, even when players were not present due to playing qualifying in other tournaments, or preparing for a tournament, there were tweets of encouragement from countrywomen showing appreciation for the efforts that their counterparts were making.  Unless I missed it, I have not seen a tweet of encouragement from any of the individuals named above.  This is shocking and disappointing in the extreme.  It shows not only a disconnect amongst the ranks of the US women but discontent as well.  It needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed now.  

The Spin will be on the next edition of the always hilarious, inciteful and controversial RealzTennisFans Podcast discussing all things women’s tennis and previewing our dark horses for this year’s French Open.  Feel free to tune in and listen to it here and follow Realz +Realz TenisFanz 

I should also point out that there is a radio programme hosted by the knowledgeable Stephanie Neppl.  If you have never listened to it, you should 





FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING


There is a first time for everything.  After falling earlier this season in her first final to Sara Errani in Acapulco, the young Slovak clinched her first career title by defeating last year’s finalist, Camila Giorgi of Italy in straight sets. It was a career week for the young Slovak as she played smart, focused tennis during the week.  In her match against last year’s champion, Alize Cornet, Schmiedlova used her excellent cross court back hand to full effect. In the final against Giorgi, at no point did she display any frustrations or nerves and her composure in serving for the match has got to be one of the all time displays of composure from such a young player.  


Over in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup, Angelique Kerber snapped her 0-4 losing record in finals to battle from a break down in the third set against Madison Keys to win the Family Circle Cup.  It was a huge win for the German who has been struggling with her mental game for quite some time.  I won’t say she is a dark horse pick for the French Open, but things look a lot more interesting if Kerber somehow finds her game on clay. 


Madison Keys played her heart out and then some.  She battled hard but the German who gets every ball back in play was too much.  The above picture paints a picture of what Keys looked like at the end of a very gruelling match. 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Spin’s Player of the week is Angelique Kerber. She came to Charleston losing 8 of her last 11 matches and having an 8-9 W/L for 2015. In her first match, she was down a break at 4-2 in the deciding set against Evgeniya Rodina but ended up winning. 

Honourable Mention 

Lucie Hradecka – She made the semifinals in Charleston after making the main draw via qualifying.  Lucie would go on to defeat 3 seeded players in Zarina Diyas, Caroline Garcia and Sara Errani.  She also made folks aware of her beautiful smile and really big serve.  One good thing about Hradecka moving up the rankings is that she won’t have to play qualifying any more.  Well done.  


THIS AND THAT 

Players Earnings 
There has been much discussion regarding what professional tennis players earn and that there should be an increase by the Grand Slams and/or the WTA/ATP to assist players in making ends meet.  Many of the articles that I have read speak about what players have to endure in terms of hiring a trainer, coach, physio, doctor etc.  To my mind there are solutions to these issues and it may take players going back to the drawing board and reevaluating just exactly what it is that they really need in order to be successful.
In the real world, one is never expected to spend more than what one earns.  This is simple economics.  For example, in certain law firms, paralegals receive a fixed salary.  Attorneys on the other hand receive a fixed salary, plus commission.   Some might think that this arrangement is unfair as if both the paralegals and attorneys work on a matter then they should both receive a commission.  This seems to be the situation with the tournaments and the players.  The players are of the view that the Grand Slams are making all this money off the backs of players and therefore they deserve more than they are getting.  The Grand Slams on the other hand (though they have not said it openly) are of the view that if but for the Grand Slams, these guys would not have a job and they should be grateful. 
It is in fact a classic chicken and egg scenario.  If there are no tournaments, players can’t play.  If there are no players, tournaments don’t exist.  However, I submit that in this scenario it is the players who need the tournaments and holding the tournaments by the  short and curlies by trying to get increased prize money is not a good solution.
Going back to my analogy above, it would seem to me that what needs to happen is that players need to cut their expenses in an effort to survive.  This means that giving up first class airline tickets, no coaches, no personal trainers, no physio etc., is the way to go, but of course, you are now faced with a situation where you arrive at a tournament not match fit, lose in the first round, and you are back to square one.  The solution.  Organisation. 

It seems to me that if you are not making enough money to keep your head above water, why in the world do you fly first class?  Why do you feel the need to have a personal trainer, a physio and a coach?  If you are unable to break even in your chosen field of endeavour, why would you put additional pressure on yourself to be responsible for the well being of 2 or 3 other persons and their families?  It sounds as if it becomes a case of throwing good money after bad.  Some suggestions:  
1.       We hear talk all the time about players on the ATP being quite friendly, has anyone thought that it may be a good idea to share trainers/physios?  I can’t imagine that either of these folks is happy making little or nothing from a player to whom they are contracted who is barely scratching the surface of existence.  How about all these people coming together and offering their services collectively.  There would be no affiliation to any player, and it would be akin to going to a doctor’s office where everyone receives the same treatment.   A cadre of trainers/physios who are available worldwide to treat players would surely cut down on the individual cost to players.
2.       Airlines – players travel and while airlines are in the business of making money, perhaps having the WTA/ATP arranging discount tickets for players who have to travel on a regular basis would be the way to go.  Perhaps this is a discussion that the WTA/ATP could look into and possibly make it part of a branding/sponsorship deal. 

3.        Coaching, yes everyone needs a personal coach (not quite sure why), but if you can’t afford your own personal coach, how about sharing a coach? Why can’t there be a system where a cadre of tennis coaches (who are barely existing anyway with only one player who keeps losing), form themselves into a coaching studio where various coaches are available for selection.  They travel to all ATP/WTA tournaments and are available by appointment for individual coaching sessions.  

In one of the interviews that I read, Benjamin Becker indicated that he has to sometimes stay with families while he is on the road.  That is great and frankly more players should do that.  While I understand that everyone would like to stay in a 5 star hotel, it is just not feasible, so there is no shame in staying with families. 

On Court Coaching 

In Sunday’s Family Circle Cup match, Pam Shriver was hard pressed to have Madison Keys continually call on designated coach, Lisa Raymond to come on court to give advice.  This is an open request to Pam Shriver.  STOP IT.  JUST STOP IT.  You have anointed this young woman the future of American Tennis. In order for her to be able to do that she has to learn to think on court for herself.  You have all indicated that winning Grand Slams is what matters.  You have insisted that Wimbledon is her best shot.  What would be the point if she somehow gets to a Wimbledon final and her serve has been broken.  She not only has to figure out how to break serve, but she also has to figure out how she is going to win this match.  She can’t call a designated coach at Wimbledon.  All eyes will be on her to watch her try and figure things out.  Stop advocating for women to show weakness at the first sign of adversity.  You are a part of the problem.  Start being part of the solution. 

End Note 

Starting next week Master Ace and I will be previewing our Roland Garros dark horses.  If you have suggestions on players that you think we should be keeping our eyes on for Roland Garros, let us know in the comments.  

UPDATE

Caroline Wozniacki has reportedly hired Sanchez-Vicario as her coach up to Roland Garros.  




WTA: FIRST QUARTER DONE AND DUSTED





By all accounts it has been a very successful spring time for the WTA’s World’s No 1 Serena Williams.  By now everyone has learned that Serena Williams has returned to the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, ending a 14 year boycott.   At that tournament she was slated to face in the semifinals No. 3 seed, and the last woman to have beaten her at an official tournament, Simona Halep.  Williams withdrew due to a knee injury. Halep would go on to beat Jelena Jankovic in a 3 set thriller.   Fast forward to Miami and Serena and Halep were again slated to meet in the semifinals.  This time there were no withdrawals and it was well worth the wait.  It was without a doubt the match of the tournament on either the men’s and women’s side with Serena overcoming Halep 7-5 in the third after serving for the match up 5-3.  It was without a doubt a thrilling affair.

In the finals, Serena met newly minted top 10 player, Carla Suarez-Navarro, who was seeking to become one of a handful of players who had beaten both Venus and Serena at the same tournament.  She had a 0-4 record against Serena heading into this final and the results, as many expected was the same with Serena winning comfortably 6-2, 6-0 for her record 8th Miami Open title and leading the season undefeated heading into the European clay swing.  

Miami Doubles 

Since teaming up at the beginning of this year, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have remained unbeaten.  When you find a good partner, it makes everything seem so simple. 


Spin’s Player of the week is Serena Williams. 

Honorable mention



Carla Suarez Navarro. She made her first Premier mandatory final defeating Agnieszka Radwanska, Venus Williams, rallying from 0-6 to get the job done and Andrea Petkovic. This result also got her in the Top 10 for the first time in her career.  May she reside there for quite some time. 

Simona Halep – Making the semifinals after winning her first Premier mandatory title at Indian Wells. Her fourteen match winning streak was stopped by Serena Williams late in the third set after rallying to tie the match.

Previous player of week
Week 12: Sloane Stephens – Having three solid wins including defeating Madison Keys, AO SF, in process
Week 11: Simona Halep – Indian Wells winner defeating Jelena Jankovic
Week 10: Heather Watson – Getting first Top 10 win of career defeating Agnieszka Radwanska
Week 9: Timea Bacsinszky – Monterrey winner defeating Caroline Garcia
Week 8: Lucie Safarova – Doha winner defeating Victoria Azarenka
Week 7: Karolina Pliskova – Dubai finalist losing to Simona Halep
Week 6: Daniela Hantuchova – Pattaya winner defeating Ajla Tomljanovic.
Week 5: Andrea Petkovic – Led Germany to Fed Cup semifinals
Week 4: Serena Williams – Australian Open winner defeating Maria Sharapova
Week 3: Madison Keys – Defeated two seeds including Petra Kvitova, who was seeded 4
Week 2: Heather Watson – Hobart winner defeating Madison Brengle
Week 1: Venus Williams – Auckland winner defeating Caroline Wozniacki

This and That 

I watch a lot of tennis.  I am currently watching the Katowice match between Alison Van Uytanck and Rybarikova.   It is a pretty good match and the commentator is loving the match.  I suspect that Van Uytanck, a player many had not heard about before she played Serena Williams this year at the Australian Open has a really good game and I am hoping that she is able to move up more in the rankings so that folks can get more looks at her game and her talent. 



The above comment was made by a member of the tennis media after Sunday’s final between Djokovic and Murray.  While I hardly ever watch men’s matches, I tuned in this Sunday to support Murray because unlike others, he fully supports women’s tennis and has defended the sport on many occassions.  For that he gets honourable mentions on this blog.  However, while many lauded Djokovic’s performance over the last few weeks (he remains undefeated on the year), citing the quality of the field, for Serena Williams, the No. 1 on the women’s side, who has also gone undefeated, the commentary is not the same.  Djokovic bagelled his opponent in the third set, as did Serena.  However, the comments about the WTA are more likened to the opinion that she has no rivals.  As a friend of  mine opined recently, if Serena has no rivals, then against whom is she playing?  I submit that we are seeing 2 athletes who are without a doubt the best in their sport.  Serena at 33 years old is dominating the field, using all the weapons at her disposal. Frankly, she should be lauded and fellow players should aspire to be what she has become. Maybe one of the reasons why Djokovic has been able to dominate in the way that he has is because there is little or no competition amongst the ATP.

As Andrew Burton has opined on many occassions, the ATP Dark Ages is coming and this opinion which is being stated as fact that the ATP is a better drawing card in tennis than the women is an opinion which needs to be debunked.  

Grunting in Tennis 


When the media get on their soapbox about the everlasting grunting issue, they need to be told that they are the ones who wield the pens (or in this case the keyboard) and it is up to them to speak about the inequality in covering the grunting debate.  When the men do it, write about them and call them out in the same way that you do the women.  It is only fair. 


Serena the bully 



Words are powerful. Writers know this.  Empires have crumbled as a result of words. There is a proverb that says “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”.  That is the biggest lie.  Words do hurt.  During Serena Williams’ career she has been called many things and over the years she has been likened to things or objects that are not pleasant.  At a time when Serena should now be known for what she does on the court, the words that are used to describe her are still insulting today as they were years ago.  Intimidating, overpowering, smothering and now bully.  Mr. Bryant insists that he was not calling Serena a bully.  That may not have been the intent, but why play into the prejudices of many people who already feel as if Serena is a bully.   Here are a few other words that Mr. Bryant could have used to describe Serena: fighter, competitor, strategic, imposing.  These are all words that have a different meaning than the world bully.  If there was any bullying happening during the match between Serena Williams and Simona Halep, which is when that comment was made, then it was the Halep fans who kept shouting during the points, who decided that chanting Halep’s name during the middle of Serena’s service games and who had to be ask to be quiet on numerous occassions by the chair umpire.  This is not Halep’s fault, but the bullying tactics that were clearly evident during the match was not only disconcerting to Serena but to the chair umpire and to those of us who were watching.   

Women’s tennis has come a long way.  The women have had to fight every step of the way to get where they are now.  The media needs to do a better job of making sure that the right message is delivered where coverage is concerned. 

Next week’s matches are the Katowice Open and Charleston.   Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover will be doing media for that blog and you should give Lindsay a follow @linzsports and follow the Changeover blog here