OH MY GOD IT IS HOT

by Karen

As many of you who read this blog know I am a Caribbean girl. Born and bred on the lovely island of Jamaica.  I am used to the heat. As a child I played lots of sports. Dandy shandy, baseball, cricket, etc.  I could not wait until summer because then I got to go to the country and swim in the river, walk the sugar cane plantation owned by my grandparents and hide under the cellar away from chores just to read the thousands of books that my aunt, a teacher kept under there.

When I got to high school, I played netball, swam, played hockey and football.  I was basically an outdoor type of girl.  As I got older, I took up tennis.  Loved the sport and even though I never made it beyond Level 5 in my local league, I enjoyed playing, whether rain or shine. When I moved to the Cayman Islands 12 years ago, I joined a club and started playing in a Mixed League.   There were times when my opponents in league tennis who were much better and fitter than I was would schedule matches for Saturday or Sunday mornings at 11:00 when the sun was high in the sky.  At those times, I really hated my opponent and wished that they had sun stroke, but I sucked it up and played, and win or lose I would give my best effort.

I recently watched an NFL game where both teams were playing in blizzard type conditions.  At one point, they could not even see the replay of the game because the snow was coming down so hard.  I have seen many pro athletes develop their games in conditions that were inhumane to say the least. From players in war torn Cameroon to women from the Middle East competing in long dresses or with their whole bodies covered in order to compete with their fellow professionals from all over the world.

Professional tennis players though are in a class of their own when it comes to playing through adversity.  From complaining about lighting, to the type of balls used, to whether someone is standing up way in the stands before they can serve, to removing bugs from the service line before they can hit a serve, professional tennis players come across as childish, petulant and full of their own sense of importance.

These men and women are playing a sport that is hardly even recognised as a sport by other professional athletes.  From having their racquets strung by a professional stringer, to having a trainer come on court to massage their bodies, these athletes are doing everything in their power to alienate what little fans they still have who pay attention to the sport.

The latest complaint from the gallery is the never ending discussion about the heat in Australia.  It is Australia.  It is hot because it is summer.  The same thing happens every single year at every single Major.  At the Australian Open it is about the heat, French Open, when are we going to get lights for night tennis, at Wimbledon, is the grass slow or fast and will it rain and at the US Open, when will we get a roof and is there a tropical storm or hurricane on the way.

Tennis fans and the players need to let it go and try and enjoy the tennis. Sit back and relax. Watch someone adapt their game to the conditions and to what the man or woman is doing on the other side of the net.  Yes it is hot but this is what you trained for.  This is what you should have prepared yourself for while you were soaking up all that exhibition money and having  a great old time in what passes for the off season.  How about using that ice towel and ice vest to cool down. Drink more fluids.  Stay focused.  Ignore the heat.  It is hard, but you can do it.  

I love this sport.  I really do, but I am beginning to become mroe and more disillusioned by the players who play the sport.

For once, can we just shut up and play

DAY 5 REVIEW, DAY 6 PICKS AND ACE’S MATCH TO WATCH

Day 5 Review, Day 6 Picks and Ace’s Match to Watch


In our Day 5 match to watch, Ace picked the match between young Americans, Jamie Hampton and Sloane Stephens.  As with most of our matches to watch this USO, this one failed to live up to expectations.  Stephens without a doubt loves a stage.  Hampton not so much. It showed in the tennis.  The grit that got Hampton to the third round was absent today.  The fight that got Stephens through the first round was in evidence today.   The outcome was never in doubt.  American TV now has one-half of the round of 16 match up that they want.  A rematch of the Australian Open match between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens.  Maybe Shvedova will have something to say about that, but I doubt it.


As expected Jheng Jie had nothing left in the tank and bowed out 2 and 4 to Suarez-Navarro.  I watched this match today and I have to say that I was very disappointed in Jie’s play.  The tactics that she used so effectively against Venus were non-existent today.  Her early returns and moving forward into the court to take the ball on the rise was not present and she was run ragged all over the court by Navarro.  All in all as a Venus fan I was disheartened by Jie’s play.  However, how good does Suarez-Navarro look?  I watched her doubles match against the Williams Sister and while she did not maintain her excellent play in the first set, she carried over that play into her singles match against Jie.  Look for her to make the quarter-finals and maybe even higher.


Na Li had her revenge against Robson today.  Li has changed her game and is now much more varied. I wonder though how long before she stops looking up into the stands as her coach tells her what to do or how soon before the umpires start warning her for coaching from the stands.


Aga Radwanska had her hands full today with Pavlyuchenkova.  It was a hard fought 4 and 6 win today, but I am sure that Aga will take it as it gets tougher from here on out.


Ace’s Matches to Watch


Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Flavia Pennetta – Kuznetsova won her first match in 2 tight sets against Burdette then won a three setter against Peng, who got injured late in the match along with having cramps. Believe it or not, she is one of only two champions left in the field. Pennetta has returned from the tour from injury and has lost only 6 games which includes a thumping of Errani in her last match. About 2 to 3 years ago, this would have been a quarterfinal or later match.


Maria Kirilenko vs Simona Halep – Kirilenko is quietly moving through the draw defeating Wickmayer and Larcher De Brito in straight sets. Halep struggled in her first match against Watson coming from a title run at New Haven. Then, she won easily over an up and comer in Vekic. Winner of this match may be the odds on favorite to win the third quarter.


Ana Ivanovic vs Christina McHale – Ivanovic has defeated Tatishvili and Dulgheru in uneventful straight sets. McHale has won two matches in a tournament for the first time since Doha. She needed the wins as she has been struggling to revert back to her 2011 form. Both ladies could use another win to boost their confidence where the winner will most likely face Azarenka on Labor Day Monday.


Spin’s Day 6 Picks


Caroline Wozniacki v Camila Giorgi
Karin Knapp v Roberta Vinci
Maria Kirilenko v Simona Halep
Svetlana Kuznetsova v Flavia Pennetta
Petra Kvitova v Alison Riske
Julia Glushko v Daniela Hantuchova
Ana Ivanovic v Christina McHale

Alize Cornet v Victoria Azarenka

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF SPORT

Way back in the day when I lived in Jamaica, there was a programme that aired on the local tv station called Wild World of Sports. One of the highlights of that show was the narrator talking about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  They also spoke about the triumph of the human spirit in a sporting environment.

I am not the most athletic person, but when I was younger, I played netball, I swam, I played hockey and I did track and field.  As I got older I took up tennis but as with most things when you get to an old age, your body starts to fail you and you can no longer continue.
I enjoy watching tennis, especially women’s tennis. The characters and personalities in tennis are all divisive in their own way and they make for absolutely great story lines.  I strongly believe that one of the reasons why there are so many tennis blogs out there competing for the average tennis fans’ attention is because there are so many wonderful athletes who are out there competing day in and day out.  They all have their little quirks that they do before each point and most people would be able to pick tennis players out of a line up if all you had to do was tell someone exactly what said person was doing, or indeed if all you had to go by was a short snapshot of what each player did between points.  There is the Federer hair toss, the Serena Williams glare, the Azarenka/Wozniacki jumping up and down, the Sharapova/Hantuchova walk to the back of the court to commune.  The list goes on and on.
However, there is one person whose foibles are cast in stone.  From the jumping up and down prior to receiving serve, to the wave of her whole body to and fro prior to receiving serve, to the constant fist pumps to her box, the focus and intensity on every single point, I don’t think there is anyone in tennis who has as many quirks and foibles as does Bartoli.
I have never been a fan of the French woman.  I think sometimes her quirks border on unsportsmanlike conduct.  I think she goes over and beyond in her competitiveness and this sometimes irks me.  However, one thing I have to do is give her credit.  Credit for doing what is/was right to move her career forward and to realise her potential and credit to actually having the guts to do something that she should have done a long time ago.
Last year when Bartoli was unable to compete for France at the Olympics, I was one of the few that sided with the French Federation. All Federations have rules and everyone, no matter who you are, have to abide by those rules.  For the FFT, the rule was that you could not be coached by your personal coach when you played Fed Cup. Bartoli and her father refused for many years to abide by these rules and as a result her dream of representing France at last year’s Olympic was not realised.
Fast forward to 2013 and Marion parted ways with her father/coach.  I cannot imagine that it was an easy decision for her.  Once she had parted ways with him she struggled to find form.  She did not make it past the second round of any tournament at which she played.   Her game suffered.  The double faults, something which has always plagued her. intensified.  When she got to Wimbledon, no one, and I mean no one picked her to even make the second round, much more the second seek.
As she stated, when she started the tournaemtn at Court 14, she had no idea that she would have been the last woman standing. Bartoli, as so many late bloomers have done since Schiavone at the French Open in 2010, seized her moment and never let go.
Bartoli had been down this road before.  In 2007 she faced down then No. 1 Justine Henin and pipped her at the finish line in a wonderful display of grass court tennis.  She failed to make a dent in the game of the Legend that is Venus Williams, but she showed true grit nonetheless.
It took her 6 years to make her way back to Centre Court. 6 years during which time she has not fared particularly well at the Slams, with her best showing being a semi-final finish at the French Open in 2011.
I hope that Marion’s win at Wimbledon will show the other women on Tour, who have the game, but not the mentality to do what is right in their careers.  Caroline Woznaicki reigned for 2 years as the No.1  player in the world.  She has indicated on more than one occassion that she is severing coaching ties with her father but as at the time of writing that coaching situation remains the same.
Marion Bartoli has shown that once you have the guts to do what is necessary to advance your career, you will achieve greatness.
Marion Bartoli, Wimbledon Ladies Champion 2013 

WIMBLEDON DAY 2 PICKS



Spin got slammed yesterday.  There are no 2 ways to describe what happened on Day 1 on the women’s side.  From young Puig slamming the NO. 5 seed, Errani in straight sets, to Sharapova struggling against Krista, to Vika almost retiring against her opponent, to the struggles of Bartoli and Flipkens, the women’s bottom half of the draw saw more drama than anything else.  Of course the day will be remembered for the upset heard around the world with Rafael Nadal, the French Open champion on the men’s side going out in straight sets to Steve Darcis. 

The top half of the women’s draw plays tomorrow and the reigning ladies’ champion, current occupier of the Penthouse and the No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, opens action on Day 2 on  Centre Court.



The OOP for tomorrow is filled with lots of great matches and it took Spin almost 2 hours to really make her picks.  I will therefore advise all readers of this blog to tread carefully when making your picks, because unlike Spin, you don’t want to get slammed in Suicide Pool.  

Spin’s Picks are as usual in red:-

Day 2 Matches

Serena Williams(USA) [1] v Mandy Minella (LUX) 
Q Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Jie Zheng (CHN) 
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) v Q Carina Witthoeft (GER) 
Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) v Tamira Paszek (AUT) [28]

Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] v Francesca Schiavone(ITA) 
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 
Olga Puchkova (RUS) v Arantxa Rus (NED) 
LL Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) v Samantha Stosur(AUS) [14]

Maria Kirilenko (RUS) [10] v Laura Robson (GBR) 
Q Mariana Duque-Marino (COL) v Julia Goerges (GER) 

Ayumi Morita (JPN) v Marina Erakovic(NZL) 

A.Medina Garrigues (ESP) v Shuai Peng (CHN) [24]

Romina Oprandi (SUI) [31] v WC Alison Riske(USA) 
Mallory Burdette (USA) v Urszula Radwanska (POL) 
Kaia Kanepi (EST) v WC Tara Moore (GBR) 
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v Angelique Kerber (GER) [7]


Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Q Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) 
Timea Babos (HUN) v Mathilde Johansson (FRA) 
Heather Watson (GBR) v Madison Keys (USA) 

Monica Niculescu (ROU) v Mona Barthel (GER) [30]

A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [21] v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 
Q B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) v Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 

Anna Tatishvili (GEO) v Petra Martic (CRO) 
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Nadia Petrova (RUS) [13]

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [11] v Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) 
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) v Jana Cepelova (SVK) 

M.Torro-Flor (ESP) v Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 

Q Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) v Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [18]

Klara Zakopalova (CZE) [32] v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 
Nina Bratchikova (RUS) v Annika Beck (GER) 

Olga Govortsova (BLR) v Simona Halep (ROU) 

Michaella Krajicek (NED) v Na Li (CHN) [6]

THE CHAMPIONSHIPS: WIMBLEDON – DAY 1 PICKS

Wimbledon.  The home of tennis.  It is without a doubt my favourite tournament and I really do look forward to seeing and hearing the sounds of Wimbledon.  The music that is played on the television is different than for the other Slams and the calm and serenity that overtakes this tournament transforms the tennis calendar and takes fans back to the days of women playing in long skirts and men in long pants with jackets and waistcoats. 

The draw has been analysed to death and as is the norm on this particular blog, I leave that to those who know how the draws actually work.  As I have done in the past I will feature the day’s play and do my picks. The Spin abandoned her picks mid-match due to the loss of a certain player who shall remain nameless.  

Most persons have picked Serena Williams to win this tournament and I can see nothing in her draw (I looked) that would upset her.  

The off court stuff that is now going on will hopefully not affect play.  Much has been said about those off court comments and these have also been analysed to death.  The Spin will not post any thoughts on this, except to say, let the tennis begin. 

The OOP for Monday has been posted and the matches as well as Spin’s Picks  below which are in red:-

DAY 1 MATCHES


Sara Errani v Monica Puig
Petra Kvitova v Coco Vandeweghe

Petra Kvitova v Coco Vandeweghe
Carla Suarez Navarro v Lourdes Dominguez Lino
Jelena Jankovic v Johanna Konta

Jelena Jankovic v Johanna Konta
Alize Cornet v Vania King

Silvia Soler-Espinosa v Misaki Doi
Lara Arruabarrena v Lesia Tsurenko
Eva Birnerova v Varvara Lepchenko
Sloane Stephens v Jamie Hampton
Pauline Parmentier v Andrea Petkovic
Petra Cetkovska v Donna Vekic
E.Cabeza Candela v Caroline Wozniacki
Marion Bartoli v Elina Svitolina
Christina McHale v Alexa Glatch
Camila Giorgi v Samantha Murray
Stefanie Voegele v Sorana Cirstea
Lucie Safarova v Lauren Davis
Lucie Hradeckav Karin Knapp
M.Larcher De Brito v Melanie Oudin
Kristina Mladenovic v Maria Sharapova
Kiki Bertens v Yaroslava Shvedova
Garbine Muguruza v Anne Keothavong
Johanna Larsson v Ekaterina Makarova

Sofia Arvidsson v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
Eugenie Bouchardv Galina Voskoboeva
Virginie Razzano v Ana Ivanovic
Yanina Wickmayerv Vesna Dolonc
Ajla Tomljanovicv Bojana Jovanovski
Yulia Putintseva v Kirsten Flipkens

Su-Wei Hsieh v Tatjana Maria
Elena Baltachav Flavia Pennetta

Maria Joao Koehler v Victoria Azarenka

French Open Day Results and Day 2 Picks and Pans

Day 1 Results (Spin’s Results are in Blue).  Of the 16 first round matches played today, Spin had a 68.75% accuracy rate.  Good going for the first day of play.

Serena Williams [1] v Anna Tatishvili
Caroline Garcia [WC] v Yuliya Beygelzimer [Q]
Sorana Cirstea[26] v Kiki Bertens
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova [19] v Andrea Hlavackova
Petra Cetkovska v Olga Puchkova
Galina Voskoboeva [Q] v Grace Min [Q]
Mallory Burdette v Donna Vekic
Mandy Minella v Dinah Pfizenmaier [Q]
Venus Williams [30] v Urszula Radwanska
Virginie Razzano [WC] v Claire Feuerstein [WC]
Ana Ivanovic [14] v Petra Martic
Nadia Petrova [11] v Monica Puig
Irena Pavlovic [WC] v Shelby Rogers
Sabine Lisicki [32] v Sofia Arvidsson
Ayumi Morita v Yulia Putintseva
Sara Errani [5] v Arantxa Rus


Day 2 Picks and Pans are below.  Spin’s Picks are in red. 
Na Li [6] vs Anabel Medina Garrigues – tough one but Li should pull through in straights
Su-Wei Hsieh vs Maria Sharapova [2] 
Agnieszka Radwanska [4] vs Shahar Peer – how is the shoulder feeling Aga?
Caroline Wozniacki[10] vs Laura Robson – big match but Woz should pull through
Stephanie Foretz-Gacon vs Roberta Vinci [15] – 2 veterans but Vinci is playing great tennis
Flavia Pennetta vs Kirsten Flipkens [21] – Flavia, if only because Flipper does not do clay very well
Chanelle Scheepers vs Mathilde Johansson – home crowd advantage 
Mona Barthel vs Angelique Kerber [8] – battle of the Germans. Mona has been MIA but is Kerber  healthy?
Julia Goerges [24] vs Zuzana Kucova – how is Julia’s wrist? If healthy should be fine
Melinda Czink vs Francesca Schiavone – veteran battle, but Fran with memories should pull through
Simona Halep vs Carla Suarez Navarro [20] – this was a tough one as both ladies are playing really well
Varvara Lepchenko[29] vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – when Lucic is on she is devastating. this will be a battle
Eugenie Bouchard vs Tsvetana Pironkova – Bouchard has been playing great tennis recently. Should be a good one
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova vs Bojana Jovanovski – this will be a battle to the death or an easy victory for the Serb
Jie Zheng vs Vesna Dolonc – Zheng has been having good results on the clay
Tatjana Maria vs Paula Ormachaea – have not seen the young Argentine since the USO qualies last year.  Should be a good battle
Madison Keys vs Misaki Doi – Keys in straights
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Ekaterina Makarova – this was a tough one as Sveta should have great memories of her victory here 
Pauline Parmentier vs Magdalena Rybarikova – again, another tough one but the French woman will prevail
Karin Knapp vs Sloane Stephens [17] – has Sloane got her head sorted out? We will see
Jana Cepelova vs Christina McHale – Same for McHale?  is she healthy?
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor vs Julia Glushko – the young Spaniard impressed recently in Madrid, losing a tough 3 setter.  Look for her to play lights out here in Paris
Karolina Pliskova vs Garbine Muguruza – the young Spaniard has impressed everyone with her fight on hard courts. She was beaten handily by Sharapova in Rome recently.  Remains to be seen how she does against an opponent who does not have the weapons of Sharapova
Monica Niculescu vs Johanna Larsson – the wily Romanian will outfox the defender
Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs Lourdes Dominguez Lino – this is a toss up as BMS has been playing great on clay, however, Lino will frustrate but BMS should be able to come through
Vania King vs Alexandra Cadantu – Vania came through qualifying and is match tough but I just don’t see her getting past Cadantu
Romina Oprandi vs Elina Svitolina – the wily veteran lost a tough 3 setter in Brussels. Look for her to make amends here
Tamira Paszek [28] vs Melanie Oudin – I am shocked that Tamira is ranked that high enough to be actually seeded. I think Oudin takes her out in straights. 

The Match that Broke my Heart on Day 1 

She served to take a 5-4 lead in the first set and got broken. She was 0-4 down in the second set tiebreak after serving for the second set on 2 occassions and having set points.  She was 5-1 down in the third set and stared defeat in the face. She eventually lost the match 5-4 in the third against Ula Radwanska, but today Venus Ebony Starr Williams showed us that when healthy, or even something remotely resembling healthy, it will take a special player to bring her down, and bring her down without a fight. 

Those of us who watched the match from beginning to end stood and applauded the shots from both ladies.  While I am still upset that she lost, I can only bow down to the younger Radwanska as she never gave up and she continued to fight. 

For her part, the veteran holder of 7 Grand Slam singles titles, too many other singles titles to mention, Olympian extraordinaire and fighter of life and tennis in general showed us why the women deserve to be paid equally with the men.  For over 3 hours she showed why she is a threat despite not being at her best. 

Venus, this fan salutes you.  My only hope is that you continue to play until I get to see you on the green lawns of Wimbledon. You did well. 



TENNIS BROKEN RECORDS

Pete Sampras – 14 Grand Slam titles.  Most of all time. Broken
Roger Federer – 21 straight Grand Slam semifinals.  Most in the Open Era.  Broken
Serena Williams – 46 straight Grand Slam victories in the first round of Majors.  Broken
The third item in this list is one of the most significant and underrated achievements in all of tennis. Much like the story of Serena Williams.  At times glorified, but most of the time vilified by tennis pundits (who wish they could be her). By tennis fans (because of what she has done to their faves) and general disliked because of the colour of her skin, Serena Williams has made her mark in the world of tennis, so much so that today when she lost her opening round match on Court Philip Chartier, it was Breaking News by every major news network in the world.  That is the power of Serena Williams.
I watched this match from beginning to end with points in between when I turned it off as I, like most fans of  Serena Williams, became disconsolate at her performance during this match. Looking back you could tell that something was not right with Serena. 
If you are a fan of this woman you know her history.  You know what she brings to the court of tennis. You know her aura and you know her game.  Every player in the locker room knows it as well. If you want to beat Serena, you don’t listen to the pundits. You don’t listen to the coaches.  You don’t listen to the noise. You listen to yourself.  You close your eyes and you swing for the fences, and you pray to whatever deity that you believe in that Serena is off her game by just a notch, and you will hear your name echoed for all the ages.
The French Open has not been a pleasant stomping ground for Serena.  She won this title in 2002 on her way to the Serena Slam (holding all 4 Majors though not in a calendar year).  Since that victory, she has only made it to the semifinals one time since then where she lost to Justine Henin in a hard fought match, where it was revealed by Henin that yes she did cheat to win that match.
Serena lost that match to a chorus of boos and jeers from the French crowd, and if there is ever any doubt that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a disease or not evident amongst professional tennis player, one need only look at Serena’s career at Roland Garros.
If she wins, it is greeted with a smattering of applause.  If she loses it is met with resounding cheers.
Today, 29 May 2012, in her first round match, Serena, for the first time in her career lost in the first round of a Major.  She lost to Virginie Razzano, a French player ranked 111 in the world and who has herself seen tragedy, having lost her fiancée/coach last year to cancer.
After the match, Serena walked across the net and shook her opponent’s hand. I will not recap the match here as I am sure that everyone in tennis land has seen it, but suffice it to say that Serena could have played a lot better and Virginie could not have played any better than she did.
Is this the end for Serena? I doubt it. She showed an amazing sense of calmness in her post-match press conference.  She did not seem too perturbed by it. It was a bit as if she was almost too accepting of her loss.
Since her return to competitive tennis after her life threatening illness, Serena has seemed a bit complacent in relation to the Majors.  She has taken some hard losses since her return, but what has been lost in the equation is the way how her opponents have played.  The media would like us to think that Serena has lost her aura.  I say that the media needs to stop and take stock of the way in which Serena has lost.  Players have had to bring their A+ games in order to dethrone Serena.
Today, Serena fought and she fought hard.  She was not on her game, but that does not take away the fact that Razzano, with the French crowd solidly behind her did what 46 other women before her could not do.  She defeated Serena Williams in the first round of a Major for the first time in her stellar career.  Does this mean that Serena Williams is done.  No. All it means is that Wimbledon is a few weeks away and by that time Serena’s game should have caught the flight from Florida and made its way to  Europe.
OTHER STUFF
Today, Maria Sharapova had a practice session on Suzanne Lenglen. Alexandra Cadantu needs to join the Futures circuit.  She has no business playing on the WTA Tour. Fans joked on twitter that Cadantu told Sharapova thank you at the net.  Some joked that they were sure that Sharapova passed her $20.00 for the practice session.  I wonder if fans asked for their money back.  They probably should.
Tennis writers really need to chill out a bit.  It is only tennis.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame needs to continue its investigation of Bob Hewitt, and preferably remove him from the Hall of Fame pending its investigation.  If you agree, sign this Petition and make the suffering that these women endured at the hands of a man who “carried a tin of Vaseline” with him whenever he went on coaching sessions with young girls go away. 
Venus Williams is a Legend.  There is no denying that.  She is the epitomy of what a champion of this sport is.  As someone who also suffers with an anti-immune disease I can relate to what Venus is currently enduring.  Stay strong my champ.
I personally find Mary Carillo and Martina Navratilova to be 2 of the most negative and least influential in the sport of tennis, with Pam Shriver running a close third.  Neither Carillo or Navratilova have contributed to the development of women’s tennis in the way that Billie Jean King has done.  Their negative views on the state of women’s tennis leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The constant chattering about the shrieking/grunting etc of professional female athletes, leaves me to think that they have nothing else to talk about, or they just want to be one of the boys.   Say something positive about women’s tennis or shut up.
Venus plays her second round match tomorrow against Radwanska.  That is the only match that I am interested in.  Go Venus!!!

Mutua Madrid Open – Another Nail in Women’s Tennis

The  screen up top is what greeted millions of fans of women’s tennis the world over today when Caroline Wozniacki took the court against rising German star Mona Barthel and Serena Williams started her match against Anastasia Pavlychenkova.

Fans were eager to see how Wozniacki, who injured her ankle on the first day of play would do against the big hitting German star. Pavlychenkova, even though she was currently in a slump, having only won 3 matches this season, pushed Serena hard at the 2011 US Open, so fans were understandably eager to see how these 2 matches would fare. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no coverage to be found of either of these matches.

 Prior to today’s debacle, yesterday, Venus Williams, she of the Sjorgen’s Syndrome, who is trying to raise her ranking to compete at this year’s Olympics at her favoured tennis site, Wimbledon, played another up and coming young German in Angelique Kerber. In addition to that match, 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur was pushed to 3 sets by promising young American Christina McHale. Again, fans the world over were denied access to either of these matches. To compound the situation, I understand from veteran journalist, Matt Cronin that none of the journalists on site in Madrid chose to request an interview with Venus after her loss (but more on that in another post).

 I started this blog in 2009. Since I began writing, the majority of my posts have  been about the fact that the women’s matches at these combined events are usually sidelined in favour of some of the more mediocre men’s matches. It pains me to say this, but there are only 4 men in men’s tennis. The storylines are the same tournament in and out. It gets even worse  during clay season as apart from the anomaly that was Novak Djokovic in beating Nadal on clay last season, the story lines have remained the same. There are 9 Masters events, and no one outside of the top 4 have won any of them dating back to Soderling’s win in Paris, Bercy in 2010. Despite this, at every combined event, from here to eternity, the women are constantly pushed into the background or, even when their matches are scheduled for the tv viewing audience, it is early in the morning to empty stadiums.

 Many fans forget the heady days of the early 2000s when the men’s tour was headed  by a No. 1 who decided that the best way to go about the Tour’s business was to sue a body that was virtually his employer. In those days when Venus, Serena, Martina, Lindsay, Jennifer, Justine and Kim ruled women’s tennis, when ratings for the early rounds of the women’s matches were drawing big numbers, the ATP approached the women’s tour to try and ride on the coat-tails. Today, it is the WTA, who while not riding on the coat-tails of the ATP, seem to not understand that they have an audience of millions who are dying to spend money to watch the women of the Tour play.

 At last year’s Wimbledon, unless you were an ardent fan of women’s tennis, you had no idea who Petra Kvitova was. Commentators were at pains to try and find information about her to relay to viewers. Apart from her semifinal match against Azarenka, Kvitova never made it to ESPN2/NBC’s broadcasts of the early rounds of Wimbledon. Fans knew who she was and of what she is capable. Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open and the commentary that accompanied Azarenka’s her triumph  Melbourne Park had more to do with her emotional and injury meltdowns of the past and not with her maturity and the strength of her game and how she commanded the court in her first Grand Slam final.

 As a result of the negative commentary on women’s tennis, the shrieking, the fist pumping, the so-called WTA Rules as opined by Juan Ignacio Chela (more on that at another time), fans of the women’s game are not being given equal measure. We have been informed that the 4 top men of the ATP met with the organizers of the 4 Grand Slams to discuss prize money increases. They suggested and this was later adopted by all 4 Grand slams that any increase in prize money should be given to the lower ranked players. 

When Venus Williams met with the All England Club in 2007 she spoke eloquently to them in relation to her case for equal prize money. She would later go on to win the whole thing. I would really love if Venus, Serena, Sharapova and the many other women of the WTA who have millions of fans worldwide and who dominate social media with their presence could find a way to approach Tennis Channel, ESPN, Eurosport and any other media entity to have some form of partnership with the WTA in terms of media coverage for matches. Perhaps, like the ATP, the top women, whose matches already receive lots of media attention, could perhaps allow fans to see lower ranked players or even to have some kind of partnership where fans would pay to see the women at these combined events.

 Fans of the women’s game are disgruntled. There were many tweets from journalists, coaches and many others complaining about the lack of coverage of the women at this year’s Madrid tournament. As I said on twitter, it makes no sense for the Darren Cahills of this world to tweet their displeasure at the likes of me. Cahill and others are  in a position to bring their views to the powers that be. I am sure that he, and many others like him were inundated with tweets from many fans today expressing their displeasure at the fact that only 2 matches for the women were shown.

 As to Tennis Channel, why I continue to spend  money to have this channel is beyond me. On some level it is the only way that I get to watch tennis, especially where I am located. As I subscribe via Dish Network, and as I had to install an extra satellite dish just to get the damned thing, I am stuck like chuck.

 I, as an ardent fan of the women’s game am sick and tired of not being able to watch the matches that I know can be shown. It is time for fans of the women’s game to stand up. Perhaps a twition to the players on twitter as well as the media houses on twitter to let them know just how unhappy we are with the lack of coverage of the women’s events at these combined events. Lest anyone forget, women’s tennis is the largest global sport for women. It is time that the women of the WTA recognize their power and start wielding it. In another 2 weeks we will head to Rome, another combined event. Something tells me that if we stand up and fight, maybe, just maybe, things will change. Until then …

LOSSES, LOSSES AND MORE LOSSES

Where to begin. Manic Mondays or that should Mundane Mondays or Muck-Up Mondays. That is the way I am feeling right now after the events at Wimbledon today. Today, 2 of the biggest stars that women’s tennis have ever witnessed were sent packing from the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. It is ironic that they were sent packing by 2 players who have between them 4 WTA titles and 1 appearance in a Grand Slam.

Pironkova, she of the forehand slice, deceptively accurate serve and lethal backhand showed that her win against Venus Williams in the quarter finals of the Championships in 2010 was not a fluke. Having gone 6-15 for this season, Pironkova turned up at the Championships, apparently to defend the points (which according to her she had no idea that points were awarded for going far in tournaments) turned up a deadly performance in ousting the 5 time Wimbledon titlist and WTA Tour veteran, 6-2, 6-3 in what can only be called a command performance.

Earlier that day, Venus’ little Sister, defending champion and 13 time Grand Slammer, Serena Williams was also ousted from the Championships by Marion Bartoli. Fans of women’s tennis will remember that Bartoli was the player who sent Justine Henin packing in the semifinal of Wimbledon in 2007. Today, she backed up the potential she showed by staying strong and serving lights out to take out the defending champion. Serena however showed why she is indeed the toughest woman in tennis as it took Bartoli 5 match points before she could finally put away Serena Williams.

Fans of Caroline Wozniacki will have to wait until the US Open for the World’s No. 1 to win a Major as she was ousted today in three tough sets by Cibulkova. Cibulkova hit winners from every side of the court but especially from her forehand side. She made the world’s No. 1 look pedestrian in her victory today. Cibulkova has now taken out 2 of the biggest contenders for this title and she will now face the woman that many have picked to win these Championships, Maria Sharapova.

The others left in the tournament are Petra Kvitova, Tamera Paszek, Victoria Azarenka, Wild Card Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli. It will be a very interesting quarter final from the ladies and we may very well have a very new Grand Slam champion on the women’s tour.

Today’s round of 16 losses by both Williams Sisters marks the first time that either woman has lost in this round at Wimbledon. The loss does not seem to have affected Serena in the same way that it seems to have affected Venus. In her post match presser Serena seemed almost defiant in her loss as she said that she can only get better and actually threw down a challenge that the rest of the women’s tour should watch out. Venus on the other hand, while sounding stoic in her loss, seemed quite bemused that she could not find a way to get past Pironkova today.

She indicated in her presser that she does not know why she cannot seem to play her best against Pironkova. As I sit here and write this, I am watching the match on mute and I can tell Venus the reason why she does not play her best against Pironkova. Pironkova believes. She has no doubt in her mind that she can beat Venus. Venus, on the other hand knows that Pironkova can beat her and as a result she is not able to play without fear.

I remember years ago when Venus first came on Tour every woman on Tour did not like to play against her. She was as tough as they came. She had to fight tooth and nail for all that she has attained. From media critics about her game, to the anti-Williams sentiment that permeated the Tour at that time. Every player even her fellow Americans did not know what to make of her and her sister, and indeed the rest of the Williams Family. I strongly believe that as a result of having to stay strong during those tough moments early in their careers, Venus and to a lesser extent Serena, became extremely tough and competitive opponents.

Today, after achieving so much, maybe the desire to prove themselves is no longer relevant. Maybe, the fact that they are now acknowledged as being great players in their own right and maybe as a result of their accomplishments both on and off the court, the fire to compete is no longer there. I don’t know but the Venus from even 2005, the Venus who stared down match points on so many occassions, the Venus who would look across the net at her opponent and tuck her weave behind her ears and adjust her Diane von Furstenburg dress was nowhere in sight today.

Today, I saw a woman who gave up and that is not my Venus.

I am hoping that with more match play, less injuries and that bravado that she has where she has ruled SW19 for so many years will return. I know that many of her fans would like to see that again.

On another more humours note, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, winner of zero WTA singles titles, black eye-liner, and who spends more time on her bizarre outfits and who never even made it past the first round is now the top female American player. Even more humourous, Melanie Oudin, she of the “I cannot win a first round match to save my life” is now ranked ahead of Serena Williams.

Take a drink folks, the ride is only going to get better.

WIMBLEDON, SCHEDULING AND OTHER STUFF

Wimbledon. Grass court tennis. The Williams Sisters. The lawns. Rain delays. The roof. All of these signify the return of my favourite time of the year. I love grass court tennis and I love Wimbledon. However, there are days when I do hate Wimbledon. I do hate their out-dated scheduling polices and I do hate that the All England Club continues to pander to the least common denominator in joining those who continue to condemn the women game. I also condemn the professional women of tennis who continue to suck up the type of behaviour that is constantly being meted out to the women’s tour.

Since the commencement of the tournament the standard policy of scheduling one women’s match on Centre Court, along with 2 men’s matches continues. However, the schedule for tomorrow, Thursday 23 June is what has me really upset. Serena Williams, she of the 13 Grand Slam titles, the 2 time defending champion has been shifted to Court No. 2. I don’t care what anyone says. Court No. 2 has been given the name the “Graveyard of Champions” for so long that most fans of tennis will tell you that they hate to see their favourites scheduled for that particular court. The AEC has informed us that the old Graveyard Court has been demolished and this is a new and shinier version of the Graveyard Court. In that case, why not schedule the men’s matches for that particular court?

In what universe is Robin Soderling, a 2 time loser at Grand Slam finals, where he never even won a set, and Lleyton Hewitt, albeit a former champion at Wimbledon (so long ago that most fans don’t even remember) command Centre Court on Thursday’s schedule and Serena Williams gets to go on an outside court. Even worse, how is it that Sharapova, she who has not been to the final of a Grand Slam for going on 3 years, and who has not won at Wimbledon since 2004 gets to play on the Court No. 1 and Serena gets Court No.?

I can understand Na Li playing on Centre Court. After all she is a newly minted Grand Slam champion and one of those who the experts have picked to make it far, or even win this tournament, but again, I ask, why is the 2 time defending champion and the woman who has made the finals 3 years running, playing on Court NO. 2 and not on a main show court?

Interview Transcripts

I am happy that the AEC has saw it fit to prove interview transcripts on their website and not follow the lead of the French Federation in bowing to the journalists’ association in putting a 24 hour hold on these transcripts. I have been reading through the transcripts and I have always asked myself the question, what if you were a journalist and had the opportunity to interview some of today’s big name players, what questions would you ask. I have made up a list of questions and I am hopeful that some enterprising blogger or journalist who reads this little blog could perhaps ask one of our top ladies any of the following questions:-

As a top player, do you believe that the WTA Tour is doing all that it can in promoting women’s tennis?

Do you believe that in this age of equality that the AEC should dispense with its credo of placing 2 men’s matches on the main show courts and relegating the women, despite their records and pedigrees, to the outside courts?

Do you think that the constant criticism of the women’s tour in relation to the issue of grunting is an issue that could become detrimental to the women’s tour, and if so, what do you think the Tour and players could or should do to address this issue?

Do you think that the Players Council should address this issue publicly? If not, why not?

With not so many teenagers coming up through the ranks, do you think the WTA should lower the eligibility requirements, and if so, to what age?

Do you think in order to promote the women’s game more it would be better if the WTA started its own commercial television station and start partnering with the various tour stops in an effort to fully promote the sport?

If you were given the job of CEO of the Tour, what if any changes would you implement in order to benefit the women’s game?

Do you believe that on court coaching has had a negative or positive impact on the younger players? If so, why and if not, why?