Dear WTA Players

by Karen

Dear WTA Players.

What an absolutely wonderful event you staged at Roland Garros over the past two weeks.  You ladies kept me glued to my computer screen and you actually made me late for work a few mornings.  On many occassions while I was at work, I was unable to watch matches, and so, for the first time in a long while, I actually had to go home and watch matches that had already been concluded during the course of the day’s event.

Your tournament was so good that I actually had to subscribe to additional channels because I just did not want to miss one ball during this 2 week event.  And I don’t even like clay season all that much.

However, and this where I am a little bit annoyed at you ladies.  I know your champion is an outlier.  I know that she is not very popular amongst her peers (hello, Judy Murray cheered on Naomi Broady when she went after her). I know she has a temper, but come on, did no one watch the final?  Did none of you get up out of your beds, no matter where you were in the world, and watch the match?  OK, so maybe it isn’t about Ostapenko.  Maybe it is about Halep, her opponent?  Maybe you were disgusted at Halep’s comments about equal pay?  If so, I can understand.  There were 2 of your colleagues playing that you don’t really like and so, you never even bothered to tune in … but … and here is where there is a big but … you ladies don’t even seem to do the same thing for Serena Williams either.

What is about the WTA athletes where congratulating an athlete on an accomplishment seems to go against some competitiveness etc. I know you ladies congratulate people and I know you ladies watch tennis matches.  The proof was the next day when you were all out in your numbers congratulating Rafael Nadal on winning 10 Roland Garros titles. See, this is where I sometimes don’t get the thought process behind who you ladies choose to watch and for whom you choose to show your support.

I have read interviews where some of you say that you don’t watch women’s tennis.  Where you say that you can’t think of having a female coach.  Where you think having a coach coming down court side to provide guidance is a good thing.  I get the mind set, but again, how does that benefit your sport?  There are men on the ATP who don’t agree that women should get paid the same as the men.  I can’t imagine why you would care to support someone whose thought processes are still stuck in the dark ages.  I don’t get it.  Help me out here.

Anyway, your Roland Garros champion is a joy.  She is young, athletic, disarming and very engaging.  Hopefully, you ladies can see fit to show her some love via social media (even if she isn’t on Twitter).

Thoughts

  • how great was it to see Jelena Ostapenko introduce herself to the tennis world.  54 winners, most of them from that huge forehand (and don’t forget her backhand) in the final and 289 winners overall.  She showed more than anything what belief really is.  Congratulations Jelena.
  • Simona Halep needs to rethink her life and her life choices.  Get rid of Darren Cahill.  He is a terrible coach.  There is nothing wrong with you getting emotional.  If it helps you in your every day life, I say go for it.  If smashing a racquet and cursing in Romanian get you through a match, then do it.  You are not a child and your coach is not your parent.
  • Caroline Wozniacki, please take a leaf out of Ostapenko’s book and ditch your dad as a coach.  You are back in the top 10 but you have done so by playing careful tennis. If you want to win that Major, you are going to have to change your mind set when it comes to your game and just go for it.  You did it earlier in the year but you have regressed.  Sort it out.
  • Angelique Kerber  (no words)
  • Elina Svitolina – not my pick to win but you don’t have match points, lose a tight tiebreak and then disappear in the third set.  Not for a place in the French Open.  You don’t do that.

I am sure that many have already put forward their thoughts on Ostapenko being coached by a woman.  What I loved about this is the story behind it.  Ostapenko is/was coached by her mother, also named Jelena.  The team decided that it might be a good thing to get another voice to work with the younger Jelena during the clay season.  The older Jelena took a backseat and allowed the coach that had been employed to work her magic.  The fact that the coach in question, Anabel Medina had no prior coaching history (at least none of which I am aware), and was only available because she has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, is a testament to both Jelenas having the wisdom to actually know their limitations and putting a plan in place to ensure that they brought in someone wiser and smarter than they were (Wozniacki, please take note of this).

All in all I enjoyed this year’s French Open.  My faves never got near the title but I am quite ecstatic at this new generation.  They are hitting fearlessly and cleanly and I for one am loving it.

 

Jelena Ostapenko – Coming Of Age

by Karen

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Jelena Ostapenko (photo credit FFT)

The first time I heard or read about Ostapenko was in relation to a match she was playing against Naomi Broady who was arguing (unsuccessfully) that Ostapenko should be disqualified from her match because she either threw or her racquet slipped out of her hand and connected with an official at a tournament.  Most of what I read about this young Latvian was negative.  Folks on Twitter who had been exposed to the young Latvian had nothing positive to say about her.  I decided a long time ago that whenever there is negativity surrounding a  player I need to first of all see for myself why the outrage and secondly try and see for myself whether there were any redeeming qualities about said player.  I am so happy that I did.

 

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I watched Ostapenko in Doha last year when she got to the final.  She lost but I was impressed by her backhand as well as her on court demeanour.  That little glimmer of a smile when things don’t go according to plan.  The forehand that breaks down under pressure and the on court coaching sessions with her mother, who for want of a better word is a one woman cheering team for her daughter.

During this clay season I watched the young Latvian as she rolled through her opponents, hitting backhand winner after backhand winner.  During Charleston, I posted that she is my dark horse pick to make the second week of the French Open, despite knowing later that she prefers the faster surfaces.

Am I glad that I stuck around.

Ostapenko is talented.  She is fiery.  She is a superb tennis player and athlete.  She is not going to make many friends on Tour because of what they consider to be her volatile personality, but as far as I am concerned, she is exactly what women’s tennis needs right now.  A young player who is confident, who struts between points, who is not afraid to show how joyful she is when winning or the look of dismay on her face when things don’t go according to plan.

Coming from a set down in her last 2 matches against opponents more experienced on these big stages than she is, Ostapenko fought through nerves (if they ever existed) and hit her backhand like only she can.  She next faces Timea Baczinsky who took out French hopeful Kristina Mladenovic in a rain affected 3 setter today.  It will be the battle of the backhands and I am hoping that my young Latvian will make her way to the finals of the French Open on Saturday.  Grab your popcorn.  It is going to be spectacular