You have perhaps seen the complaints on social media. It is Day One of the Championships and as is normal tennis fans knowing that they can’t watch tennis on tv, need to turn to their laptops and other devices in order to watch the tennis. Except, this year, with the introduction of ESPN+ they will have issues doing so.
If you subscribe to ESPN via your cable provider (like I do), you get WatchESPN or ESPN3 or if you are outside the US, you get ESPN Player (Europe and Latin America). It is a valuable tool and it really does allow you to not rely so much on your tv. This year, ESPN has introduced ESPN+ and guess what, if you want to watch Wimbledon, you will basically have to pony up and pay the 4.99 in order to do so. If you refuse to do that you are left watching matches on tv that you have zero interest in, like Sam Querrey and someone named Thompson (both Americans). I don’t even think Americans have any interest in watching a Sam Querrey match.
However, how did we come to this? I opined years ago that with the increased fees that players were demanding, coupled with the increased costs that broadcasters were being made to pay to cover events, at some point, fans would have to foot the bill. This is now coming to pass. The money has to come from somewhere and at the end of the day it is the end users who will end up footing the bill.
It will be interesting to see whether ESPN, who have been having challenges over the last few years, to the point where they have laid off staff, will be able to turn a profit with the introduction of ESPN+
Day 1 Recap
Reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens was ousted in the first round by Donna Vekic. This was not really an upset in my honest opinion. Vekic has been playing very well on the grass, a surface which suits her game. Sloane was playing her first match since her French Open loss. What struck me was that Stephens did not seem to have a Plan B. As a tennis friend of mine said, Sloane was not playing grass court tennis.
Venus Williams struggled in her first round match against Johanna Larsson but eked out a win (6-1 in the third). Five 3 set matches took their toll on Eastbourne finalist, Aryna Sabalenka as she lost in the first round to Buzarnescu. Svitolina, who has never done particularly well on grass was also ousted, this time by Mallorca champion Tatiajna Maria. Aga Radwanska survived 6 match points to get past qualifier Ruse and Coco Vandeweghe lost out to Siniakova, 8-6 in the third.
Serena Williams made her return to Wimbledon, 2 years since her last appearance. Decked out in white, that was where the similarity with other players ended. As someone who is diabetic and suffers from poor circulation (prior to my lifestyle change), one of the items that my podiatrist mentioned that I may have to wear was compression stockings. That is the only reason why I get up in the mornings and go walking. I am told that they come in sheer these days but no matter how you dress them up, they still look awful. The fact that someone as image conscious as Serena is wearing these, it shows in stark terms the difficulties that she has been experiencing since giving birth.
I have never been able to watch any episodes of Being Serena (HBO in my area does not offer this) but I have seen clips where Serena discussed the issue of breastfeeding as a weight loss measure. I looked at her today and to my mind she looks a lot heavier than she did at the French Open. In addition, she does not seem to be as fleet of foot as she used to be.
I know that there are many people who believe that we should not have these conversations about women’s bodies, but I think it does a great disservice to women when we do not have these conversations. I recall when I gave birth, I was told that breastfeeding would make my womb repair itself, it would allow me to drop the baby weight and it would also act as a birth control mechanism. None of that is true (or if it is, it does not work for every woman). Serena, one of the fittest athletes to ever play professional sport, is showing us in more ways than one that every woman is different.
We look at professional female athletes like Misty Traynor or even Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce who have both returned to professional sports after giving birth. They make it seem easy but every woman’s body is different. Serena will have to no doubt play her way into shape. I can’t imagine what her sleep patterns are like these days, because unlike Roger Federer who told us that his kids sleep in a different suite of rooms than him during competition, Serena is a mother in this particular situation and she seems to be a hands on mother. On that basis, she is perhaps the one who is doing the feedings, ensuring that diapers are changed, making sure that Olympia gets everything that she needs and spending quality time with her. The guilt that she is feeling (is what every mother feels), when you have to leave your child and go to work. As the baby gets older and becomes a bit more independent, Serena will find it a bit easier to leave her with caregivers so that she can be more focused on her job.
On that basis, let me reiterate again, what I wrote in a piece earlier this year. If you are a Serena fan, lower your expectations. It is going to be hard for her to lift another trophy, let alone another Grand Slam trophy. She has been gone for sometime and the competition has not wavered. The women are fitter than before and like sharks they are circling the water, ready to notch a win over Serena, or even better, lift one of those many trophies. Serena needs time and we should give it to her and she should give it to herself as well.
Day 2 kicks off tomorrow and of course the trend of tasty match ups is coming your way. The Spin’s matches to watch are: Halep v. Nara, Hsieh v. Pavs, Cornet v. Cibulkova, Ostapenko v. Dunne (or just Ostapenko against anyone), Kenin against Sakkari, if only to see how fast Kenin plays or how slow Sakkari plays. Diatchenko v. Sharapova (just to see if the youngster can pull the upset. Gavrilova against Lucky Loser Dolohide (big hitter against grinder). Kerber v. Zvonreva, if only to see Zvonreva with a towel over her head and Niculescu against Osaka (object and force clash).
Enjoy the tennis folks. It should be good