by Karen

News broke today that Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA was stepping down as head of that organisation after 6 years at the helm of the largest women’s sports organisation in the world.  This news will be met by shouts of don’t let the door hit you on the way out (on court coaching) to the increase in prize money for players and one of the largest media deals ever done by a women’s sports organisation (the WTA deal with Perform). 

As a fan of the women’s game I will be one of those who will be straddling the fence regarding the departure of one of the more controversial and yet non-controversial CEOs in all of sport. 

When Allaster took over the WTA it was a time of transition. The Tour was struggling to attract viewers and most of the talk centered more around the fact that players were sitting atop the women’s rankings who had failed to win one of the sport’s highest honours, i.e. a Grand Slam.  After the debacle of what was Larry Scott’s reign as the CEO of the WTA, where the marketing was person focused rather than Tour focused, women’s tennis suffered.  

I am hopeful that when people focus on Allaster’s tenure of the WTA, they will focus on the following success stories:

  • the growth of women’s tennis in Asia.  
  • the most successful staging of the WTA year end championships in Istanbul
  • the media deal signed with Perform which saw fans of the women’s game being able to watch tennis, from first to last ball and being able to watch matches on repeat ad nauseam
  • the use of social media to promote its product
  • the #WTARisingStar campaign which has allowed drive by fans a chance to meet the next generation of players
  • the Year End Championships that feature players with various rankings competing in an under card tournament 
  • the visibility of women’s tennis in a way that it has never been visible
  • the increase in prize money across all levels of the Tour
  • the mandatory tournaments which ensured that tournaments were guaranteed top 10 players at events
While there have been many successes that I have perhaps forgotten to mention, there have also been failures:

  • the lack of a Tour sponsor at a time when women’s tennis is becoming increasingly more popular is something that Allaster has failed to achieve. I have never been able to figure out why when tennis is so popular, as evidenced by the numbers from events, the women’s tour has not been able to secure a Tour sponsor
  • on court coaching – at a time when the feminist movement was gaining traction, the instituting of this system into the women’s game has been a bone of contention for all fans.  As far as I can see the only people who seem to like on court coaching are those in the commentary booth who believe that it adds to their talking points rather than aids the player who is being coached
  • the plan to institute a grunt o meter to satisfy the chauvinists who seem to be only offended when women grunt
I believe that Allaster has done a really good job in moving women’s tennis into the 21st century.  To have grown the sport in the way that she has done, and without the aid of a Tour sponsor says a lot about her business acumen and her ability to make blood out of stones. 

The Spin team takes this opportunity to wish Stacey all the best. 

At the time of writing the WTA has not named a replacement and the press release has indicated that they will now be doing a search for a replacement.  May I suggest that the following be some of the criteria that the WTA needs to look at for its next CEO:

  • top of the list is that the next CEO should be a former player. The women of the WTA do not need a CEO who is coming from another industry.  They need someone who has been a player and who knows not only the business of tennis, but also the sport of tennis
  • the person must have some experience in marketing.  It can’t be that the person coming in is clueless about marketing, and in particular, the marketing of women’s sports.  
  • Passion – the person must have a vested interest to see this sport and organisation succeed.  It can’t be this is a job. It has to be what the person lives and breathes
In addition to the above criteria, there should also be a committee made up of directors from each country that has a Premier Mandatory tournament, with a place at this table for Europe and South America.  The WTA has to move away from this focus on Asia and bring tennis back to what it was, a worldwide sport that can be seen in every time zone.  At the present time with so many tournaments in Asia, the Tour is losing out on visibility because of the time differences. While I can understand that people in Asia are happy about this, there must be some kind of balance. 

Finally, here is my list of former players who could lead the WTA. In no particular order:

  • Venus Williams – recently graduated with a degree in Business Administration so we know she is qualified. She is a former/current player.  She has her own businesses so we know she knows how to do that, plus more importantly, she is Venus Williams. She can do anything 
  • Chris Evert – now hear me out. She is a former player. She has her own business. She knows the business side of tennis and she has the kind of personality that will make business leaders sit down and listen, plus if anyone can get the Tour a sponsor, it will be Chrissy. 
  • Steffi Graf – while Graf has stayed out of the spotlight since retiring, what better way to get back into the game than to use the poker face that served you well during your playing days to meet with business leaders and give back to the Tour.  She would need help in doing the marketing side of things but that is where her committee would come in. 

Which former player do you think would be best to lead the WTA Tour? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter. 


by Karen 

With rain in the offing today, it is doubtful whether there will be any play today on Ladies Semifinal day.  In any event, like most tennis, optimism reigns supreme and so the previews will go up on the hope that there will be play today. 

The 4 women who have reached this round of the last Major of the year did so by playing fearless tennis.  They have not had it easy as they all had tough opponents in the quarter-finals.  

Serena Williams

What else can you say about the World’s No. 1 that has not already been said.  Take away everything else that Serena has acocmplished and you are left with this understated fact.  Since losing to Stosur at the US Open in 2011, Serena has not lost a match at this event.  She has been the reigning champion here since 2012.  That is 3 years running.  That she has done so during what is without a doubt one of the toughest times in women’s tennis is a testament to her longevity as well as the consistency that she has been able to maintain.  What makes this even more remarkable is that she is doing this at a time when most players have already retired and raising families.  

Her opponent the veteran Roberta Vinci is into her first Major semifinal at the age of 32.  Long considered a doubles specialist, Vinci along with her former partner Sara Errani, achieved something that had not been done by Italians before and that is when they won the doubles championship at Wimbledon.  Vinci does not really have the weapons with which to hurt Serena and in their last match, even though the Italian played well, at the end, the stronger game of Serena put another W in the American’s column.   Look for the same to happen here tonight. 

In the second semifinal, the No. 2 ranked player, Simona Halep overcame a break down in the third set to get past 2 time USO Finalist Victoria Azarenka in a hard fought match.  Next up for Halep is another Italian veteran and someone who is no stranger to this round at the US Open, Flavia Pennetta. 

Pennetta, considering retiring from the sport 2 years ago, made her return to the top of women’s tennis by winning her biggest title at Indian Wells.  How fortuitous that this year Simona Halep won her biggest title of her career also at Indian Wells.  Both women have a lot to play for.  Simona trying to get to her second Major final and Pennetta trying to get to her first.  Both women will come out swinging but I think the wily Italian will no doubt embrace the occasion a lot quicker than her younger opponent. 

Serena over Vinci
Pennetta over Halep 

Final:  Serena over Pennetta 

James Blake 

It is not often that the Spin makes mention of men’s tennis on this blog, but I think what has happened to James Blake needs a mention here, not only because of what happened, but in the greater concept of the at large almost silence that has permeated social media regarding the incident. 

In case you have been living under a rock, the New York Daily News has reported that former No. 4 James Blake was accosted by police, body slammed to the ground by 5 of New York’s finest in front of the Grand Hotel in New York in  a case of supposed mistaken identity.  While there have been articles written about in the mainstream media, and Tennis Channel’s commentators mentioned it this morning during their live show.  

As someone who does not live in the US I can’t identify with the issues that are raised as it relates to racism and the use of excessive force by police as it relates to black people.  However, I can relate to the use of excessive police force as it relates to classism as where I come from police brutality is usually against those who are poor and live in so called low income communities. The outrage that I was expecting from fans of the sport regarding this incident has been low key at best and non-existent at worst.  The same folks who were calling for the head of Nick Kyrgios recently have largely remained silent on this blatant issue of racism.  Maybe I am over analysing the situation and I am sure that someone will point this out to me at some point, but the response from tennis has been nothing short of head scratching. 

In addition to the barely there response from the social activists in tennis, Blake’s idea that what happened to him was not as a result of racism has left me scratching my head.  I suspect he prefers to think that this had more to do with excessive force being used by the police, rather than excessive force being used to subdue him because he was a black man.  I guess whatever makes him sleep at night. 


by Karen 

Dominance is defined as “power and influence over others”.  In terms of tennis, no one moves the needle quite like the sibling act of Venus and Serena Williams.  

The numbers told the tale.  Ticket prices for court side seats were going at almost US$5,000.00.  Just consider that for a moment.  US$5,000.00 for the opportunity to watch Venus and Serena Williams battle on Arthur Ashe stadium in a quarter final match to see who would play Roberta Vinci of Italy.  This was not even the final folks.  It was a quarter final match.  

Separate and apart from the cost of paying so much to see this sister act, for the first time in a long time that I can recall, it seems as if ESPN sold advertising during the changeovers.  At no point during the match was I able to see what Venus and Serena were doing during the change of ends because all I got were commercials.  As they say in the marketing world, ESPN made bank. 

Which is why the Forbes tweet during the Venus and Serena show got the outrage that it deserved from tennis fans on social media.  Sending a tweet about Sharapova indicating that she is the highest earning female athlete in the world.  As I wrote in my previous article on this topic, this is an issue of branding and tennis fans are more concerned right now with watching a living legend of the sport.  They are watching someone who has continued to break down barriers to sport, who has cross over appeal in terms of tennis and who, without even trying, got Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey and Kim Kardashian West all in the same room to cheer her on.  That to me is worth more than any amount of magazine covers selling stuff that no one wants to buy. 


Today’s second set of quarterfinals feature the 4 ladies remaining in the bottom half of the draw.  Victoria Azarenka, 2 time finalist at this event going up against Simona Halep, first time quarter-finalist and Petra Kvitova, 2 time Wimbledon winner going up against Flavia Pennetta. 

The head to heads should be thrown out the window for these matches.  Simona Halep has had to battle tooth and nail and Sabine Lisicki to get to this stage of the tournament.  Victoria Azarenka has not had to fight too much as she has done what needed to be done to get to this stage of the tournament.  Petra Kvitova, for the first time in her career has a chance to get to a Major final that is not on grass.  That she is doing it in the heat and humidity of New York, despite suffering from mono and asthma, is a testament to her fitness, or lack of practice sessions or some such.  Her opponent, Flavia Pennetta is no stranger to this round of a Major in New York.  All 4 ladies have a lot on the line.  The chance to be in a Major semi-final with a chance to go to the big show on Saturday.  Who will prevail?  Whose nerves will hold out in the end. 

Spin’s Picks – Halep over Azarenka and Pennetta over Kvitova 


by Karen 

How do you write about living legends?  I am always amazed at the capacity for words that seem to emanate from the fingertips of some of my favourite tennis writers.  From Steve Tignor to Pete Bodo to Louisa Thomas, these writers are able to put into words the thoughts that go through my mind whenever I think about Serena and Venus Williams and what they have meant to me as a tennis fan and especially as a tennis fan of colour.  There are, in my view, not many of us out there, and the way we have come to this privileged of all sport is mainly due to the arrival of Serena and Venus on the tennis scene, with bravado, braces and beads. 

When they met earlier this year on the hallowed halls of Wimbledon, it was the third leg of Serena’s journey to completing the Calendar Year Grand Slam. Venus had, up until that time, been playing amazing tennis.  There were some in the booth who opined that if but for Serena, Venus would have had a chance to get to the finals of Wimbledon and maybe just maybe she would have one last grasp at glory.  Venus fell on that day and her sister’s march continues.  We wondered after that match whether we would ever see Venus being a contender at a Major ever again and as she has shown on many occasions during her illustrious career, just when you think she has nothing left in the tank, here she comes again, showing us what a true champion she really is. 

Tonight, as her little sister marches towards history, Venus will attempt to stop that march in the quarter-finals under the lights in New York City.  This is the fourth step of that long journey towards history that Serena has embarked upon.  The question is, will she, on her way to legendary status thwart her big sister’s last chance to shine?  Will big sister be able to stand in the way of little sister’s quest to achieve what has not been done since 1988? 

I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am not going to attempt to answer them.  I am going to make sure that I stop at the liquor store on my way home from work and pick up my favourite bottle of merlot, put my feet up, relax and enjoy the two women who brought me to this sport and who I hope will continue to play for as long as they can get the ball over the net and their feet into position. 

However, before night match between Venus and Serena, there will be the first quarter final between Roberta Vinci of Italy and Kristina Mladenovic of France.  What a story from these two women.  After deciding earlier this year to end her very successful doubles partnership with Sara Errani, Vinci went on a losing streak, the likes of which had not been seen before.  She struggled with her game, and her confidence.  It was only after she got to Madrid where she had to fight tooth and nail to win a match against Alize Cornet of France that it seemed as if her season had begun.  The beneficiary of the unfortunate injury to Eugenie Bouchard who had to withdraw from the tournament, will breathe new life into this former US Open quarter finalist.   

Her opponent is the unheralded, at least to folks who only watch tennis four times per year is Kristina Mladenovic of France.  Even for those folks who only watch the Majors, they will recall her outstanding match at this year’s French Open where she took out Genie Bouchard in the first round.  Kiki, as she is called, is truly a French player.  Her game is fun to watch and it is said that if you play doubles with Kiki you are destined to win a title.  She is that good.  

This will be an all court exhibition style tennis match with both players looking to move forward and take control of the net.  There will be drop shots aplenty.  Look for this one to go 3 with Mladenovic making her first Major semifinal. 


by Karen

When I decided to write an article about the issue of endorsement in tennis, and especially as it relates to the Serena/Sharapova narrative, I was of the view that it was important to not just look at the issue of race, (an important issue), but branding and how that might tell the story of the portfolios of both ladies.

Serena Williams – Annie Liebowitz (New York Times) 

Each time that Forbes or some other entity publishes a list of the top earning female athletes in sports, tennis fans become outraged that Maria Sharapova rules the roost ahead of Serena Williams.  They point to the head to head and the athletic achievement of both women and surmise, quite correctly in my view, that the person who has excelled the most should be the one who is earning more money off the court.  However, this is life, and life works in mysterious ways.  

If one looks at the companies with whom both women partner, you can see that each woman is being sold to a specific target audience

Serena – Vogue 2015 
Sharapova’s Endorsement Portfolio

Nike, Sony Ericsson and Tiffany, Porsche, Tag Heuer, Head, Cole Haan, American Express, Evian

Serena Williams Endorsement Portfolio

(Partners) Mobli, Nike and Kraft Foods, Mission, Sleep Sheets, HSN,  (Sponsors) Nike, Gatorade, Wilson  OPI, BeatsbyDre

It is incredibly difficult to obtain information as to which entity is a sponsor and which is a partner.  On Serena Williams’ website it is very clear which is which.  In the case of Sharapova, one can only assume that most of the companies’ listed on her website are sponsors.

Branding is defined as the art of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.  While doing the research for this article, I spoke with Clinton Coleman, a brand manager with GSC Worldwide Management.  GSC are agents for quite a number of athletes, including tennis players.  They represent the one and only Nick Kyrigios.  I reached out to Mr. Coleman to get his thoughts on the issue of branding and sponsorships and what he sees as the difference between what Serena earns and what Sharapova earns.   Mr. Coleman had this to say:

Sponsors are looking for ambassadors that share the same values. Some players are very good at the PR game and get what is expected from their sponsors.”

That led me to start thinking about what Sharapova and Serena are selling.  What are their respective brands? For that, I went and looked at both ladies body of work over the past few years.

Sometimes the best way to tell a brand is to see how the women are portrayed.  I did a search via Google and input the same thing for both women “Maria Sharapova Magazine Cover” and “Serena Williams Magazine Cover”.  The results were telling. 

While most of Serena’s magazine covers focused on her tennis, Sharapova’s magazine covers focused more on beauty and sexiness.  While both women are beautiful and sexy in their own way, they are both also quite accomplished in their respective fields of endeavour, i.e tennis.  Why then does each woman’s branding seem to veer away from their respective fields of endeavour to focus on the beauty and sexiness of one and the dominance in her sport of the other.  This is where the issue of race comes into play and for me, this is not about race, but about the brand that each woman is willing to portray.

As most folks know Serena is a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She might let loose with the occasional  F bomb, but by and large her Christianity is important to her.  I believe this is the reason why, separate and apart from the photographs of Serena on the beach, you will never really see any images, at least paid ones, where Serena is sexed up, as that is not a part of her image and by extension not her brand.  In looking at Serena’s endorsement portfolio we see many brands that tell a tale of a person who is building a career ending portfolio.  She has partnered with HSN to promote her Serena Signature clothing line.  With Mission Care, a company that involves athletes coming together to form a company that provides healthy options to customers. She has also partnered with Sleep Sheets, a company that promotes an organic sleep remedy.

Many will recall that when Sharapova launched SugarPova one of the things that she said was that this was her company.  She used her money to start this venture and there was no input from anyone.  This was her brainchild.  Most of Sharapova’s sponsors are high end companies that pay her to be the face of their products.  They are sold to a certain demographic and I had to do some research on the demographic to which each player is being marketed.

I am told that the average salary of people who watch tennis is US$115,000.00.  I am told that is a salary on the high end scale.  It is to this demographic that Sharapova is being marketed.  The people who buy Porsches, who wear Tag Hauer watches, who drink Evian bottled water and who apparently eat over-priced jellybeans.  Apparently, in order to sell these products to these high earning individuals, it is important to make an accomplished woman look sexy.  Meanwhile, Serena, urban legend that she is, is apparently someone whose brand is not being marketed to the individual(s) who earns US$115,000/annum and this begs the question, why?

This lack of sponsorship dollars catering to a high end clientele could be perceived as racist.  However, it could also be the case that Serena’s branding of herself is in line with her faith, which challenges the market.  Recall that Google search that I did?  For years Serena had issues with her body.  When your body has been mocked for most of your life and when you spend part of your life envying the body of your sister, I can see why the majority of Serena’s body of work does not portray sexiness, but rather the efficiency and dedication to fitness that has now become a hallmark of her brand.  This is not to say that Sharapova does not spend quality time dealing with her own fitness issues, the difference however, is that Sharapova’s brand has never been about tennis, but rather the possibility of whether you can get the person that she is portraying if you buy what she is selling.

Remember that 2004 Wimbledon win over Serena?  As soon as Sharapova had won that match, she took out her mobile phone (a Motorola at the time) and called her mother. Whether that was something that was planned or not, we will never know, but that was the last time that I can recall that Sharapova was marketed for her accomplishment in tennis, rather than for how she looks (2006 Canon power shot is best left forgotten).

Branding is not only something that fixates on the sexiness of the women, but the men as well. Take Roger Federer for instance.  Federer has been marketed as a classy debonair player.  His list of endorsements have him driving around in a Mercedes Benz looking very suave.  Now that he has children, his brand is geared towards the busy professional dad with cute cuddly children in tow.  Djokovic on the other hand is marketed as a more rough and cut version of Federer.  His car sponsor, Peugeot is hardly what one would call a classy vehicle, as it is more geared towards the working class.  A comparison of Djokovic and Federer’s tennis shows the distinction in style, which has transferred itself to their respective brands.

In relation to Serena her brand is all about partnering with companies that promote a healthy lifestyle.  She has invested in areas that are geared towards building an investment portfolio.  

From buying a stake in the Miami Dolphins (a decision I am sure she is probably regretting), to being part of the very innovative MasterClass series of instructional video, Serena’s list of partners/sponsors shows her intent for life beyond tennis.  

My challenge is to look beyond the dollar amounts and focus on the quality and the content of each woman’s respective portfolios.  Each tells a particular story. Serena tells us about an athlete that has always gone against the grain or challenged mainstream expectations and standards of womanhood.  While Sharapova’s hints at her ability to exist within these occasionally limiting constraints for female athletes.

Do you agree with the way how either woman is being branded.  Sound off in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.  


by Karen 

Sorry for the absence over the last few days but this event called work keeps getting in the way of tennis.  

As most of you know both Serena and Venus have worked their way to the quarter-final of the 2015 US Open.  Let us stop for a minute to analyse this remarkable achievement.  The combined age of Venus and Serena is 68.  Venus Williams is 35 years old.  Let us just pause for a moment to consider that remarkable achievement.  She is in the quarter finals of a Major at a time in her career when there are much younger opponents who have not had a sniff of a Major quarter-final in their careers.  To get there she had to play some tough opponents.  She failed on occassion to serve out sets and matches and she was pushed to 3 sets in her first 2 opening round matches.   She took care of this summer’s hottest player, Belinda Bencic, who beat Serena in Toronto and made light work of qualifier, Kontaveit, also in straight sets. 

Her sister meanwhile, reigning World No. 1, Serena Williams, made light work of Madison Keys.  Serena was as close to unplayable as we have seen her since dropping a bagel set on Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the previous round.  The World No. 1 played like a woman on a mission and from where I was sitting there was very little that Keys could do to withstand the tide.  

For years I always thought it was a bit of overkill when commentators said that the best way to beat Serena at a Major was in the first few rounds.  The more I watch Serena play the more I am now inclined to agree with that particular assessment.   

Kristina Mladenovic, long considered a dangerous opponent took out one of the more solid and consistent Slam performers over the last few years in Ekaterina Makarova. Mladenovic was pumped and used her wide variety of shots to up end last year’s semifinalist.  

She will next play Roberta Vinci who received a walk over into the quarterfinal following the withdrawal of Eugenie Bouchard. 

To say that Bouchard’s withdrawal is a disappointment would be putting things lightly.  Word is that Bouchard, after finishing her post match press conference on Friday night, went back to the locker room, was searching for the lights, slipped and fell and suffered a concussion.  She withdrew on Saturday from the women’s doubles and mixed doubles event and there was speculation that she would also withdraw from singles, an event which was confirmed by her withdrawal yesterday.  As many of you know the Spin team is a huge fan of the young Canadian and it was great to see her get some measure of confidence back on the court after suffering so many defeats since that Wimbledon final last year.  The Spin team sends regards to Genie and hopes she recovers and is fit and ready for the rest of the season. 

Thoughts from Week One 

In no particular order, here are my thoughts from Week One of the 2015 US Open:  

  • What has happened to Carla Suarez-Navarro?  Is she playing with an injury or is she just in a slump?
  • What is happening with Garbine Muguruza?  
  • Welcome to Week 2 Johanna Konta and may you continue to dazzle us with your tennis. 
  • Caroline Wozniacki needs to take a break and not worry so much about the rankings.  Wozniacki is one of the biggest fighters on Tour, but it seems to me  that the tenacity and fighting spirit that got her to No. 1 and made her a force to be reckoned with has either left or the Tour has caught up with her game.  In any event, her results at the Majors has been nothing but disappointing.  Perhaps the time has come for us to no longer consider Wozniacki a contender to win a Major. 
  • It was nice to see Petra Cetkovska playing great tennis.  One can only hope that this is not one of those times when she disappears after having a great run at a tournament. 
  • Young American women seem to have stalled somewhat during this year’s US Open.  The results of the US women from this year’s event has been disappointing.  Most notable of those are Sloane Stephens and Coco Vandeweghe.  Kudos to Bethanie Mattek-Sands who seems to be having the best tennis year of her life this year.  
  • Players need to seriously start thinking about their schedules, especially during the latter half of the season.  Karolina Pliskova and Lucie Safarova were two of those women who seemed to have played too much tennis heading into the US Open.
  • For all that Serena has accomplished, her clothing sponsor Nike has really fallen down in terms of providing her with a memorable outfits for her race into history.  Serena Williams is a dominant athlete.  She is a brand. An innovator.  Why then is Serena not wearing an outfit that surpasses anything that Nike could possibly do?  Her outfits for this year’s US Open are so bland that they are indistinguishable from what the rank and file of the other women, also clothed by Nike are wearing.  Serena should be different.  She should be wearing something exceptional.  She should be wearing an outfit that says Grand Slam champion. In all respects Nike has failed Serena and failed her miserably. 
The Real Tennis Fan Podcast reviewed Week One of the US Open in our live podcast last night.  In case you missed us, we reviewed our picks prior to the start of the tournament and see where we fell down.  Listen to us here

Today’s matches features the last eight from the bottom half of the draw.  Below are Spin’s Picks:

Court Assignment
Arthur Ashe
Azarenka v. Lepchenko
Kvitova v. Konta
Stosur v. Pennetta
Louis Armstrong
Halep v. Lisicki


by Karen 

Whew!!! I hope everyone is now breathing after last night’s thrilling match between Petra Cetkovska and Caroline Wozniacki.  It was tennis at its finest with some wonderful rallies and great shot making from both women.  Cetkovska saving match point after match point against one of the best defenders on Tour says a lot about her mental game.  For those who did not watch the match and are perhaps of the view that Wozniacki choked, I disagree.  Cetkovska hit some amazing winners down match point and frankly there was nothing Wozniacki could have done.  However, it was in the tiebreak that I believed Wozniacki lost this match.  After going down an early mini-break, Wozniacki seemed to have lost all her fighting power, despite getting the mini-break back to level at 1-1.  After that, she just did not seem to have anything left to fight on and Cetkovska ran away with the tie-break and the match.

Today’s Day 5 sees the top half of the women’s draw and the highly anticipated match between Venus Williams and Belinda Bencic.  Venus leads the head to head 3-0 with their last meeting earlier this year in Dubai being a lesson from Venus on how to play attacking tennis.  Bencic is a different player since Dubai.  She is more mentally focused and she is willing to stay in rallies a lot longer.  Venus will have to use all her experience, and look to move forward as much as possible to stave off the youngster.  Both players are coming back from playing tough 3 setters in the previous round and so the playing field should be level as regards fitness.  This one is too tough to call but I think Venus will eke out this win.
Below are today’s matches with Spin Picks:
Court Assignment
Arthur Ashe
Williams (S) v. Mattek-Sands
Williams (V) v. Bencic (match of the day)
Svitolina v. Makarova
Kasatkina v. Mladenovic
Kontaveit v. Brengle
Louis Armstrong
Bouchard v. Cibulkova
Keys v. Radwanska
Court 17
Vinci v. Duque-Marino


by Karen 

I love Venus Williams.  I really do.  I enjoy watching her play tennis. She may not have the best results of anyone in the top tier of tennis at the moment, no scratch that, she has had better results this year than many players in the top tier of women’s tennis and she competes better than many players much younger than she is. 
Last night her competitiveness was on full display on Arthur Ashe Stadium against a wily opponent in Irini Falconi.  After serving for the match twice and being blitzed in the tie breaker, Venus as she has done over the span of 20 years as a professional athlete, regrouped and came out guns blazing and never let up.  When asked during the on court interview what drives her, Venus indicated that winning the next point was always her intention and this is what she did.  While many of her fans, myself included, would have preferred if she had won this match in straight sets, it was great to see her competing in the way she did.  Up next for her is Belinda Bencic, who had to stave off 3 match points in the second set against Misaki Doi to run away with the match 6-3 in the third.  Venus is 3-0 against Bencic, with their last meeting being a blitzing of the youngster in Dubai earlier this year.
Other second round matches from the top half of the draw saw Serena Williams struggle against the big hitting qualifier, Kiki Bertens.  Bertens had an opportunity to serve for the set against the World No.1, and she had a chance in the ensuing tiebreaker where she led 4-0, but Serena does what Serena does in the big moments and tightened up her game to take the set and the match.  Next up for Serena is Bethanie Mattek-Sands who dismissed Coco Vandeweghe in straight sets 6-1, 6-2.   Soon after her match Serena was out on the practice courts hitting serves, which is understandable seeing as he hit 10 double faults in the match against Bertens.

Day 4 sees the bottom half of the women’s draw take the court and the matches are intriguing.  Below are what to watch with the Spin’s Picks:’
Court Assignment
Arthur Ashe
Azarenka v. Wickmayer
Bondarenko v. Halep (match of the day)
Cetkovska v. Wozniacki
Errani v. Ostapenko
Giorgi v. Lisicki
Louis Armstrong
Rodina v. Stosur
Kvitova v. Gibbs
Court 5
Petkovic v. Vesnina
Knapp v. Kerber
Court 7
Strycova v. Wang
Court 11
Tsurenko v. Lepchenko
Kovinic v. Schmiedlova
Court 13
Barthel v. Govortsova
Nara v. Rogers
Court 17
Konta v. Muguruza
Pennetta v. Niculescu
Overheard in the Booth

Tennis needs to make up its mind what it wants.  You can’t condemn one player for behaviour that brings the sport into disrepute while at the same time celebrating a player taking her frustrations out on her racquet because a match is not going in her direction.
Yesterday, Coco Vandeweghe, in the midst of being bamboozled by trend setter extraordinaire, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, smashed her racquet to smithereens.  On social media fans celebrated this outpouring of frustration.  They were quick to name it and this morning during Tennis Channel’s highlight show they went to great lengths to celebrate the racquet smash.  In addition, they had Martina Navratilova give an example from her illustrious career as to why a racquet smash is sometimes required by telling a story about her partner smashing her racquet in the middle of a doubles match.  Both Martina and her partner ended up winning the match and the tournament.
If tennis wishes to take itself seriously then it needs to just allow players to vent in whatever way they choose and stop pretending that this kind of venting of frustration somehow demeans the sport.  It does not.  Frankly, I can think of a few players who would do well to smash a racquet in the middle of a match now and again.  It might just help them.


by Karen 

While Day 1 of the US Open was filled with drama with seeds on the women’s side falling like House Greyjoy, on day 2 the most drama that was provided was with Victoria Azarenka querying whether an umpire had played tennis and concluding that even if she did she was probably not very good at it.  I suspect that the charm offensive that had been a part of Azarenka’s persona (and which this writer took exception) has now gone out the window.  It is great to see.  The WTA Tour needs someone with edge and Azarenka provides it like no other.
At the time of writing Simona Halep, the No. 2 seed (and without the possibility of facing her nemesis Lucic-Baroni) was clinical today in her match against Erakovic, who subsequently retired, trailing 3-0 in the second set. 
Day  3 sees the top half of the draw play and below are the match schedules and Spin’s picks
Court Assignment
Arthur Ashe
Keys v. Smitkova
Williams (S) v. Bertens
Williams (V) v. Falconi
Brengle v. Tatishvilli
Bouchard v. Hercog
Louis Armstrong
Mattek-Sands v. Candeweghe
Court 5
Pavlyuchenkova v. Kontaveit
Pegula v. Cibulkova
Court 6
Kasatkina v. Konjuh
Court 7
Svitolina v. Kanepi
Court 11
Allertova v. Vinci
Bencic v. Doi 
Court 13
Jovanovski v. Mladenovic
Duque-Marino v. Dodin
Court 17
Linette v. Radwanska
Davis v. Makarova

Spin Quick Hits 

  • Chris Evert should not opine on the Vekic/Wawrinka kerfluffle.  She has a personal interest in this and as such her opinions, while they may be valid, are not coming from a place of objectivity.  
  • Interviewing a tennis player in the middle of a match is a no-no.  It brings nothing of substance to the sport.  The World No. 1 had this to say when questioned:

Q.  I don’t know if you heard, but CoCo did an on-court interview in the middle of her match after the first set. Did you hear that?

Q. Would you ever think about doing that or trying it?

SERENA WILLIAMS: Being a vintage player from Lord knows what decade — and I’m old school, so I don’t know if I can say that’s something I would do, per se — but I found it quite interesting.

Maybe that’s the future of tennis, the future of where it’s going. You know, hopefully they don’t make that mandatory. So we’ll see.

Q. What do you think the pros and cons of it would be?

SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it’s great for some viewers. Get in the mind of the athletes. But I also think it — you know, for me, I’m really focused the whole time. I’m really trying to think about what I want to do. I don’t necessarily want to answer questions about anything. I just want to be in that moment and kind of focused. That’s kind of the integrity of tennis when you think about it. It’s just you on the court. It’s not a reporter. It’s not a coach. It’s just you in that moment. I kind of love that. It’s the only sport where you have that [emphasis added].
This is why Serena Williams is ranked World’s No. 1 and creating history one day at a time and Coco is Coco. 
  • Caroline Wozniacki needs to stop crashing the press conferences of her colleagues.  


by Karen, 

As most of you who follow me on Twitter know, I am not only a huge fan of the women’s game, but I am also an unapologetic Venus fan.  I laugh, cry and go into a state of depression if Venus is struggling or God forbid she loses a match. 

The highlight of my tennis watching life was finally being able to meet Venus face to face and introduce myself as the Long Lost Williams Sister.  I love Venus.  Passionately and fervently.

When I woke up this morning and logged on to Twitter, I saw the above tweet it brought tears to my eyes.  I shared it with friends and then I went and read the article. The article provided even more evidence that sometimes it is not what you do on the court that inspires, it is what you do off the court that becomes a true testament to who and what you are. 

There were a few anecdotes from the article that accompanied the release that really made me sit up and take notice.  One of those is this:

“IU East and the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association have an agreement that establishes our campus as the primary provider for baccalaureate online degree completion programs for WTA players,” Cruz-Uribe said. “Venus was instrumental in connecting IU East and the WTA in this highly-valued partnership, and we are very grateful for this. [emphasis mine]”

We are told every day that tennis players are notoriously selfish.  We are told that many of them do not give back to the game and we are told that many of them, especially on the women’s side do not get along.  Throughout her whole career Venus’ accomplishments both on and off the court have been compared to her sister Serena.  Serena, on the other hand has always maintained that Venus is her greatest inspiration.  

Many will remember Venus’ stance for equal pay.  Venus it seems has taken this a step further.  She has been instrumental in making sure that tennis players have a second career once tennis is finished. Venus, realising that an athlete’s career can be cut short, Venus went out and secured this beneficial partnership between the WTA and IU East to ensure that WTA tennis players (and now ATP tennis players) can complete their degrees, preparing them for a life beyond tennis.  Rajeev Ram, an ATP player has taken up this challenge and is now doing his bachelor’s degree at IU East. 

For me this is an even more important venture than equal pay.  It is said that you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  Teach a man (or in this case a woman) how to fish and you feed her for life. 

I do hope that at some point in time Venus will take over the helm of the WTA. It would be fitting if she did so while continuing to champion the causes of the women.  

I close with these words from Venus:

“I’ve learned so much.  It was always my dream to have a business degree, and I ended up going to art school so many times, but in the back of my head I felt like I needed the tools to be a better leader, to be a better planner, to be better at all of the things I wanted to do in my businesses because I’m so hands-on.”