Waning Venus?

The Spin Team

As is the case when Venus loses a match, there is the inevitable write up about when she is going to retire and how much longer she can continue.  I reached out to a tennis friend of mine to get her perspective on this loss and where Venus goes from here. Her words presented without edit “I am bummed but she’s still competing hard. I’m not one to tell her what she should do but as long as she’s (on) the court I will support! I’ve seen too much nonsense from ‘fans’ this year who are so critical of nearly every move she makes. Some of my early faves had no choice in when they had to leave the game and so I’m just not here for that kind of attitude towards Venus”

I completely understand her point of view but as a Venus fan, and the long lost Williams Sister and so not only am I going to give my 2 cents, but I am also going to offer some career advice.

My 2 favourite players of all time are Venus and Federer.  I know that Federer takes a lot of heat for skipping the clay season and there are many people who believe that as an icon of the sport he should show up, not only because, it makes tennis a lot more interesting (whether you are a fan or not), but it also offers tournaments the opportunity to make some money as he is without a doubt the biggest name in tennis.

In addition to skipping the clay season, Federer also plays a very limited schedule during the season.  Venus needs to adopt that mindset. Before anyone says it, I know that both players are different and that each player needs to do what works for them, but when your results are beginning to tank, and when you seem disinterested in what is happening on court and are forced to play 3 set matches earlier on in tournaments, especially the big events, then you really need to take a step back and consider your options.

Venus has Sjorgen’s Syndrome.  It is a debilitating auto-immune disease.  It affects her whole body and causes muscle pain.  It also causes fatigue and for someone who plays professional tennis, it is important that you get adequate rest.  Venus is not getting that. In addition to the health issues, let us not forget that Venus is closer to retirement and getting a pension than she is to the start of her career.

We know she plays to win.  We know that she will retire on her own terms, but it would be good if she rejigs her schedule to take account of her issues.

Finally, 2 people who are also big Venus fans have mentioned to me her behaviour during press conferences.  One person has described it as disrespectful and another as sullen and rude. These are people who would never in a million years say a bad word against Venus and for them to mention these things shows that even fans are noticing that something does not seem right with Venus.

Onwards

Bertens played a fantastic match yesterday.  She served well and she played even better. Not known for her grass court tennis, Bertens was amazing yesterday.  Venus was amazing in spurts, but at this level you have to be good every step of the way.

In another match featuring a Kiki, that Kiki started well. She served for the first set but credit to her opponent, Serena Williams, who raised her level when she needed to do so.  Serena is through to the round of 16 and on a 17 match grass winning streak. Take that for whatever its worth.

Tomorrow’s matches (today) feature Halep and Hseih (which will be very good), Ostapenko v. Diatchenko (which will also be very good and the match I am looking forward to watching).  Bencic going up against Suarez-Navarro (the great grass court player according to ESPN) and Osaka against Kerber (which will be good if Osaka stays focused).

Enjoy the tennis.  It will be good

 

What’s In A Name?

The Spin

I could see it coming a mile away. It was the minute I watched the Serena Williams’ video of her post match interview after her second round win. A reporter asked Serena about the All England’s proclivity of using the married names of the women at the time they won events.  Serena, as you know recently got married, and she is now addressed as Mrs. Williams.  Some have opined that this is because she has not taken her husband’s name.  I don’t know when Serena revealed this little tidbit (or if she ever did), but that is the story going the rounds.

The names of players like Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, are engraved on the Wall of Champions.  Their names reflect their marital status at the time when they won their titles.  The Wall of Champions not only provides us with the historical information of who won the trophy, but their names at the time they won their trophies.  It is now 2018 and apparently it is now the thing to go back in time and right all the wrongs of the All England Club, starting with how the names of the players are engraved on the Wall of Champions.

The article written in the New York Times seems to suggest that the husbands of the women who won titles while they were married were being given credit for the women’s achievements.  I had to read the article a few times to make sure that I was not missing the point of the article.

In the Caribbean (where I am from), women are now holding on to their maiden names (and yes until there is a different name for it, that is what it is) even after they are married.  They do so to honour their parents (if their parents were married).  For some women their maiden name has long been their identity.  If you practice law, the name under which you were admitted to practice law does not change once you get married.  As a matter of fact, once you are married, it is a long convoluted process to get your professional name to reflect your marital status, so many women who are professionals have 2 names: professional and personal.

I have always liked that the umpires at Wimbledon refer to the women as either Ms. or Mrs.  Call me old fashioned but there is just something very genteel about that.  If the women had a problem with it, I am sure at some point this issue would have been raised.  By contrast, I find the way US Open’s way of referring to the women just by their last names particularly crass. Perhaps the reason for this is after watching tennis for about 3 months during the European swing, where all the women are referred to as Mademoiselle/Madame (French) and then Ms/Mrs (UK), my ears have become attuned to the way in which the women are addressed.  During the American summer hard court swing, the women are referred to by their last names, which just takes away a little bit of flavour from the whole proceedings (maybe it is just me).

These days as part of the MeToo movement, people seem hell bent on going back in time to try and right all the wrongs.  It started a few years ago with people getting upset over a Dean Martin song (Baby Its Cold Outside).  I like that song.  I have always considered it a song about a man trying to convince a woman to stay with him rather than going outside in the cold.  Unfortunately, once someone had embedded in my mind that this song reflected rape culture, I no longer enjoyed listening to it, because now I listen to the song, and think damn, he is trying to drug this poor woman.

What I find particularly galling about this whole situation about how female players are being addressed is that there are other married women who are playing and I can’t think of any of them who have been asked this question.  Dominika Cibulkova is styled as Mrs. Cibulkova.  Tatiana Maria is also married and she is styled as Mrs. Maria and let us not forget Li Na who was also styled as Mrs.  I don’t recall anyone asking any of these women what they think about being addressed as Mrs. and Wimbledon’s usage of women’s married names on the Wall of Champions.  It seems to me that reporters think that all the hard hitting questions should only be asked of Serena Williams and that she should provide them with content.  Frankly, it would be good if they asked all the women who are currently engaged to be married about how they would like their names to be engraved on the trophy and the Wall of Champions if they win. Isn’t one of the points of the #MeToo movement about giving women opportunities to express and tell their stories? Isn’t it about helping women have a voice instead of creating another box for them to check or fit into to suit our way of thinking?

And while I am on this topic, from scanning through transcripts it seems as if the only player who was asked about whether tennis needs a #MeToo moment is Venus Williams.  Why is this question not important to put to all the players who are now sitting on the Players Council?  Why are these questions only addressed to Venus and Serena? Is it that no one else is qualified enough to answer them or is it something else? Why are they being asked to do the labor for the other women?

Finally, I notice that everyone is celebrating the fact that Wimbledon has placed double the number of women’s matches on the show courts.  It would be nice if ESPN decided that players who are highly ranked deserved more than highlight reels of their matches or a breakdown by some analyst as to what worked and what didn’t.

Upsets Again

The defending champion on the women’s side is out, going down to the very talented Alison Van Untvanyk.  I would say that this is an upset.  While Alison has been playing good tennis for the past couple of months, Muguruza should and could have done more.  She has been here before and it seems as if her champion’s mentality completely deserted her.  I don’t know where she goes from here but no doubt there will be a parting of the ways with her coach Sam Sumyk in the near future.

Moving on today was mini-giant killer Diatchenko, Halep (who is looking really good), Bencic who saved multiple match points against grass goddess Alison Riske and Dominika Cibulkova who played a superb match against last year’s semifinalist, Britain’s Joanna Konta (what has happened to her?).  Also moving on were Suarez-Navarro (who I understand is a great grass court player – Lord help me), as well as Angelique Kerber.

Tomorrow’s matches (or rather today’s matches) feature Madison Keys, Venus and Serena Williams and I am hoping to catch a bit of Giorgi going up against Siniakova. Safarova also plays against Makarova, and one wonders whether Makarova can continue her winning ways.

Enjoy the tennis folks.

 

You Will Pay

The Spin

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).

Day 1 results can be seen here and Day 2 Schedule can be seen here

Enjoy the tennis folks.  It should be good

Parting Shots from Roland Garros

The Spin Team

The 2018 French Open has followed a familiar yet enthralling pattern from the past five years on the WTA tour: the emergence of new champions.

Last year when Jelena Ostapenko was on her march to the title, every single match that she played was jam packed. It was as if the crowd had already chosen its winner. She was blazing winners left and right and moving as if she was born to play on the clay.  The same thing happened when Caroline Wozniacki won her maiden title at the Australian Open and who can forget that the 2017 US Open women’s final sold out when 2 young African American women (not named Venus and Serena) played for the title?

Women’s tennis, in my humble opinion, remains the heartbeat of the tennis tours.  I have been tuning in for over 20 years and while there are times that I will become invested in men’s tennis as my love affair with all things David Nalbandian and Roger Federer will attest, women’s tennis will always be my first love.  Women’s tennis is full of new and emerging characters, while men’s tennis relies on 4 people to keep it going day in and day out. At some point, something will have to give.

In contrast, as much as I love Venus and Serena Williams, they are not women’s tennis. For Americans who just tune into tennis on a semi regular basis they are the epitome of the sport (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), but for those of us who tune in to watch women’s tennis all year long, we are always heartened when we see someone new and different.  We are even more joyful when we see players for whom we have long been cheerleaders finally come into their own.  This is why when Simona Halep lifted her maiden Grand Slam trophy, I was extremely happy for her as I was when Sloane raised her trophy last year.

There is a saying that goes “hardships there are, but the land is green, and the sun shineth”.  These are the words that attest to the meaning of the Jamaican flag.  I find that it is a poignant commentary on players who have persevered through thick and thin and lived to claim the biggest title that their sport has to offer.

Onwards

The Pliskova sisters need a lesson in not only humility but also in what sells.  Destroying an umpire’s chair is the way to get your name listed on the list of players who promised much and never delivered.  When your claim to fame is being the sibling who is not as popular, then when you are given the chance to comment on the outfit of a player whose career you can only dream about, you don’t become that girl.  That girl who no one knows and no one cares to know.  You don’t sit there smirking and offer outfit advice when your own outfit looks as if it was sewn together in a bit of a hurry.  You just don’t.

Karolina Pliskova was absolutely humiliated in her match against Maria Sharapova.  Barely able to hold serve, her lack of movement on the clay was there for all to see.  One can only hope that Pliskova will find a way to recover from this monumental beatdown.

As for Sharapova, no doubt she was gearing up for what was considered to be the match of the tournament, but Garbine Muguruza, herself not a slouch had other ideas.  Surely with maximum points to defend at Wimbledon, Garbine will be able to recover from her loss to the eventual champion at Roland Garros.

Defenders

It must be hard to have points to defend.  A wise person once said, it is hard to be the chaser, but it is even harder to be chased.  Ostapenko had zero expectations last year.  This year as a top 10 player she had a monumental trophy on her back.  She cracked under the pressure.  Elina Svitolina also cracked.  One wonders if Svitolina will be this generation’s Dementieva.  Racking up the big titles but failing at the final hurdle every step of the way.

Daria Kasatkina seems to have lost momentum from the green clay season.  Angelique Kerber seems to have found new life in her bones.  Could we see Kerber raising her third Grand Slam title at Wimbledon or a repeat of her run to the US Open finals?

Victoria Azarenka needs a lot of time and patience to ascend to the top of women’s tennis.  Either that or a serve will do.

Serena Williams needs time and lots of it.  Having a C-section for a normal person is hard.  Having a C-section as a professional athlete whose game relies so much on core strength is going to be even harder.  We should lower our expectations of Serena’s return until at least a year after giving birth.

About the tennis coverage…

I like to remind folks that long before there was talk of sexism in tennis and long before there was any talk of the lack of coverage of women’s matches on TV, this blog, which first started as Women’s Tennis on TV has been sounding the alarm about the lack of visibility of women’s tennis on TV.

In 2009, Kim Clijsters’ return was heralded as a return of the Golden Era of women’s tennis.  That period when you had Davenport, the Williams Sisters, Sharapova, Hingis, Henin and Clijsters (and many more) competing for the biggest titles in women’s tennis.  Every player had a role to play.  The Williams Sisters, and Davenport were considered the power players.  Sharapova the pretty girl with the huge game. Hingis was the crafty one.  Henin was filled with variety and then there was Clijsters, the smiling  bridesmaid.  The player who turned up at every tournament at which there was a net and gave her all to the WTA Tour.  She also made sure to give journalists everything they ever needed at press conferences. At that time, there was barely any coverage of the women’s game on tv.  Many will recall that Indian Wells match featuring Ivanovic and Clijsters that many of us “watched” via scoreboard and updates on message boards.  That was women’s tennis on tv.

These days the articles that are written about women’s tennis remains unchanged from that era. It’s not that women’s tennis hasn’t changed, it’s that the same people tasked with writing about women’s tennis keep trying to cast the current women’s game with an eye towards the past. It’s time to abandon the usual chatter about the lack of variety in the women’s game and focus on telling stories about the new and emerging champions that continues to evolve women’s tennis.

Things I wish I didn’t have to say…

The Men’s French Open Champion

I am not going to jump on the bandwagon of sexism and berate Rafael Nadal for his comments regarding equal prize money.  Nadal for all his accomplishments is a mini dinosaur when it comes to these things.  His views and takes on issues that affect women’s tennis should be given short shrift.  However, the views expressed by the World’s No.1 Simona Halep and Roland Garros winner should get the media’s attention.  If the World’s No. 1 player on the women’s side does not believe that she should be treated equally as her counterparts, it is a problem. If she believes the men’s game is more popular and therefore deserves to have its player get more pay, she just might deserve the vitriol that comes her way.

 

 

 

 

US WOMEN = US OPEN

The Spin Team

American tennis administrators are celebrating.  Why are they celebrating?  They are celebrating the achievement of diversity and inclusion. They are celebrating women.  They are celebrating the changing of the guard and finally they are celebrating American women’s tennis.

For years when most journalists talk about tennis and especially American tennis, they invariably mean the men.  We have all read about someone taking over from the Sampras, Agassis and Roddicks and reaching for glory at Davis Cup and at the Slams.  This has not materialised as we have seen the one-dimensional one trick ponies in Isner, Harrison, Sandgren,  Sock etc who have not really amounted to much playing the big hitting American style of tennis, i.e. big serve followed by big forehand.

The women however have taken a different path.  They have learned to utilise the big serve and the big forehand, but they have also added nuances to their games.

A few years ago Coco Vandeweghe played a match against Yulia Putintseva which I am sure pushed her to do better.  She lost that match and Putintseva had some harsh words for Coco after that match.  Putintseva noted that all Coco had was a big serve.  At that time Coco was a ball basher extraordinaire with a mediocre backhand and a huge serve.  Fast forward a few years later and after working with Craig Kardon and now currently with Pat Cash, Vandeweghe has worked on her fitness, her net game and more importantly her court coverage.  She moves better.  She is more patient during rallies and while her on court demeanour leaves a lot to be desired she does have an all around game.

Madison Keys, a graduate of the hit hard, and when that doesn’t work hit harder club, has also added a lot of nuances to her game.  Her backhand has become a lot more reliable.  Her mental game and athleticism has improved tremendously.  Her shot selection during rallies has improved in that she doesn’t just go for big winners to end points quickly, but is willing to prolong rallies by using high loopy shots. Her big serve and forehand are still in effect, but they are not the end all and be all of her game.  The addition of Lindsay Davenport, former Grand Slam champion and one of the more even keeled players that I have ever seen has for me  helped Keys to maintain some amount of calm on the court.

Sloane Stephens was America’s answer to the great Serena Williams.  A player who belonged to the group called entitlement suffered a major setback when she injured her foot and had to have surgery.  Out of the game for almost a year, Sloane has fought her way back to relevance with her performance not only during this fortnight but during the US summer hard court season.  She has matured.  She has become patient during matches.  She has expressed frustration, but she has recovered well enough to gut out wins against opponents who are ranked higher.

Last but certainly not least  is the Grand Dame of American women’s tennis, Venus Williams.  Venus debuted at the US Open 20 years ago when she made her way to the final and lost against then No. 1 Martina Hingis.  There are really no words to describe what Venus is doing this tennis season.  From the beginning of the year she has made the finals of 2 Grand Slam finals (Australian Open [lost to Serena Williams] and Wimbledon [lost to Garbine Muguruza]).  Despite those setbacks Venus has been playing very well, managing her matches and playing within herself.  Her quarter final match against Petra Kvitova should be a must watch for juniors about how to manage yourself during tight matches.

Spin’s Picks

Venus Williams v. Sloane Stephens

Coco Vandeweghe v. Madison Keys

Final

Williams v. Keys

Winner:  Williams

Rise of the Big Hitters

The Spin Team

It started with Monica Seles.  The female player who hit the ball hard and fast.  I didn’t watch tennis during the Seles years.  I knew of  her but back in those days tennis was not shown in Jamaica in the way it is now.  The only time we ever saw tennis on tv in Jamaica was during the Navratilova/McEnroe years.

My first introduction to the big hitters started with the Williams Sisters and it has continued until now.  I know folks will cite players like Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and many others, but the real big hitters in my view started with Venus and Serena Williams.

Over the past few days I am seeing a resurgence of the big hitters of tennis.  Venus Williams has faced 2 of them so far in Viktoria Kuzmova of the Slovak Republic and Oceane Dodin of France.  While both women may have lost their matches, they are showing, at least in my opinion a return to the time when WTA players had huge serves and hit deep and hard groundstrokes.

While Karolina Pliskova has a huge serve and hits big off the ground, for some unknown reason I can’t quite put her into that category. Maybe it as a result of her penchant to slice her forehand or maybe it is because she does not move very well.  Dodin, not a very good mover herself, showed a marked improvement over the player that I saw struggling in matches a few years ago.  One can only hope that she keeps on improving as I absolutely love her game and her on court demeanour is a far cry from the usual helplessness that sometimes permeates the Tour.

Caroline Wozniacki in what I suspected would be a tough match had words about the court scheduling.  I agree with her.  Wozniacki has fought her way back from the depths of irrelevance. She has done all the hard work. She is a former No. 1 and yet she had to wait all day before playing her second round match, whilst a player who is returning from a doping suspension gets another Centre Court assignment.  It stinks to high  heaven.

I know that there are tennis fans out there who are championing the money aspect of this but at some point in time we need to look at the optics of this whole situation.  Are we that willing to make money to the detriment of our sport?  The French Open and Wimbledon did not lack star power (even with the absence of Serena Williams from both events) on the women’s side. The story lines during those tournaments was amazing and especially at the French Open, the crowd size to watch Ostapenko’s matches was something to behold.

Sharapova has been out of action for 15 months.  During that time, fans of the women’s game never even had the opportunity at times to watch regular Tour events.  While the Tour may have suffered somewhat, people still found a way to tune in.  They hunted streams and we even got a fan setting up a brilliant tennis site (Tennis Watchers) so that fans could determine where to watch women’s tennis. Clearly, tennis fans not only have very short memories, but they also lack some amount of credibility when it comes to taking a stand. I would compare them to Trump voters, but that would be mean.

Day 3 Review and Recap

Sloane Stephens in what I suspected would be a tough match overcame Dominika Cibulkova in 3 thrilling sets of tennis. One of the biggest upsets of the day was Bellis going down to Hibino.  Bellis had been playing exceptionally well in the summer tune ups and this loss will be a disappointment to her and her team, especially after she had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third. Taylor Townsend ran out of gas against Ana Bogdan.  I would say more but I am really trying hard here to be nice to Taylor.

Sabine Lisicki got her clock cleaned by Zhang 6-0 in the third.  I did not watch that match but no doubt I will need to see the third set to find out what the hell happened.

Day 4 Preview

Day 4 sees the top half of the women’s draw play their second round matches, with some of the women having to play back to back days.  Spin’s Picks are as usual in bold

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Nicole Gibbs
Risa Ozaki vs Shaui Zhang (27)
Barbora Strycova (23) vs Jennifer Brady 
Ana Bogdan vs Monica Niculescu

Agnieska Radwanska (10) vs Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur vs Coco Vandeweghe (20)
Lucie Safarova vs Nao Hibino
Kurumi Nara vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) (Sveta was very lucky to come out of her previous match.  Nara can be a tough opponent and she hasn’t had consistent back to back wins in quite some time.  Interesting to see how this one turns out.

Elina Svitolina (4) vs Evgeniya Rodina (I think Svitolina escaped the upset bug.  I don’t think she will in this match)
Shelby Rogers vs Daria Gavrilova (25)
Elena Vesnina (17) vs Kirsten Flipkens
Tatjana Maria vs Madison Keys (15) (I wasn’t overawed at Keys’ play in her first match.  If Maria’s backhand slice is working, it could cause Keys all kinds of problems)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs Sorana Cirstea (battle of the young big hitters.  In a tale of 2 players who can be inconsistent, I will take the player who is less inconsistent)
Daria Kasatkina vs Christina McHale (this one is a tough one to call.  McHale did well to take out Pavs, but Kasatkina is consistency herself.  US fans if they are on the ground will help in this one)
Yanina Wickmayer vs Kaia Kanepi (It is good to see Kanepi back in a tennis draw.  She struggled in her match against Schiavone but hopefully she can find something left in the tank after that marathon battle)
Denisa Allertova vs Naomi Osaka (all well and good to pull the upset.  Let us see if young Naomi can back it up)

PARTING SHOTS FROM THE USO AND RIDING INTO ASIA

Just how great is Serena Williams these days?  She won her 17th Grand Slam title from 53 appearances. To show just how good she has been and still is, Martina Navratilova played 67 Grand Slam singles events and Chris Evert played 56.   They both have 18 singles titles.  Serena is one win away from tying them.  Most people think that it will happen at any of the 4 Grand Slams next year. 

For the second year in a row, Victoria Azarenka has shown that she is worthy to be called a rival of Serena Williams.  I am not minded to call her that having regard to their head to head, but Azarenka makes a very good case as to why she should be called a rival to the woman who now occupies the WTA Penthouse.  She has shown that she has the game and the mentality to stay with Serena come what may.  


Here are Spin’s and Ace’s Parting Shots.  As with most of the Majors, the Spin will focus on the women and in no particular order of their importance. 

  • How great is the WTA product looking these days?  With so many young women coming up from the juniors and so many of them making their names in the Majors this year, I think the WTA is putting itself in a position where it could very well be that they will again draw even bigger ratings than the men.  
  • Caroline Wozniacki.  It was just a few short years ago that she ruled the WTA. I have no idea what has happened but it is remarkably frustrating to see her not even make the second week of a Major. Believe this was her last chance to make a Slam semifinal as she was given a kind draw.
  • Welcome to prime time Camila Giorgi. 
  • What has happened to Julia Georges? 
  • Sabine Lisicki is becoming the next Tsevtana Pironkova and that is not a title that a player with the game of Lisicki should ever aspire to become. 
  • The non-retirement of Marion Bartoli.  Why not just take a break and savour the moment of fulfilling your life’s work?
  • I don’t know if I missed it but it was great to listen to the commentary on a women’s match and not ever hearing anything about the shrieks, grunts, howls etc.  The commentary was about the 2 women on the court giving their hearts and soul in order to capture a Major title.  I am happy. 
  • Venus Williams is a Legend.  She may not have the career of her little sister, but what she brings to women’s tennis cannot be measured in terms of titles or monetary value.  When you become a role model and mentor to young women without having to try very hard, then you know that you have come a long way baby.  
  • Victoria Duval is an amazing young woman, poised, articulate and so focused.  Lots of work needed on her game but taking out the 2011 USO champion, no matter how poorly Samantha Stosur played, says a lot about her mentality.  The fact that she aspires to become something other than a tennis player is remarkable as well. 
  • Sloane Stephens.  She played the first 4 games of her match against Serena like the Sloane that we all know can become the next big thing in tennis. She says that her aim is to finish the year in the top 10.  It seems that Sloane is more about rankings watch than she is about standing on the podium receiving the top prizes. Baby steps are required, but I would have preferred if she spoke about results, rather than the ranking.  If the results are there the ranking will come. 
  • Flavia Pennetta is not my favourite player but how awesome was it to see her playing again and doing so well.  Losing in the semifinals to the second best hard court player this year is nothing to sniff at. 
  • Simona Halep. I think she was very disappointed with her results at the USO.  Perhaps no New Haven and she could make a run for it next year. 
  • Petra Kvitova 😦
  • Andrea Hlavackova – She won the doubles title with her partner and fellow Fed Cup Czech mate Lucie Hradecka defeating Serena and Venus along the way. Also, she won the mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi, who won his first two with Serena and Vika. First player to win both in a Slam since Cara Black in 2008 (doubles with Liezel Huber) 
  • Daniela Hantuchova – She made the quarter-finals which is a good accomplishment after losing in the first round for five straight Slams even though her draw was not difficult.
  • Victoria Azarenka – Despite losing again in the final to Serena, she did well by making the final despite not playing her best tennis.
  • Alison Riske – She received a wild card and made the organizers proud by making the fourth round defeating Petra Kvitova in the process.
  • Until the final, the match of the tournament was between Carla Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber where a third set tiebreaker determined the winner and the raw emotion of Suarez Navarro after winning.

The WTA Tour now moves to Asia and already we have seen some surprising results.  Spin had a chance to watch a few matches from Korea as well as China.  I watched the semifinal match between  Zhang and Meusberger.  It was my first time watching Zhang, a WC recipient play and I was very impressed.  I am thinking from the little that I have seen, plus the fact that her opponent, Vania King, a qualifier had to go 3 sets to take out Jheng Jie in her semifinal, will have Zhang winning her first WTA title from as many starts. 

Ace’s preview of the Japan Open is below

Since the United States Open has concluded, the tour has moved on to the continent of Asia. This week the tour lands in Tokyo, which is hosting a Premier 5 event for the last time as it will move to Wuhan in 2014. Serena Williams was scheduled to play but withdrew due to fatigue. Also, Maria Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, 2012 champion, and Maria Kirilenko has withdrawn due to injury. Top seed is the reigning two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, who has defeated S Williams twice on hard courts in Doha and Cincinnati. Azarenka will be the favourite to win.

 
First quarter – Azarenka leads this quarter but her first opponent could be Venus Williams. Sloane Stephens will be trying to improve her record in WTA tour events in a push to finish 2013 in the Top 10 while Jelena Jankovic will be continuing her good play.
 
First round matchups to watch: Eugenie Bouchard vs Monica Puig
 
Second quarter – Sara Errani leads this quarter but admitted that the pressure of being a top seed got to her during the US Open. Petra Kvitova has the ability to win this title but she can be very inconsistent and will her love for Radek Stepanek, who won the US Open doubles with Leander Paes, linger on every match she plays.
 
First round matchup to watch: Julia Goerges vs Sorana Cirstea
 
Third quarter – Caroline Wozniacki leads this quarter and has won this title in 2010. She has a tough first round match playing the winner of Daniela Hantuchova/Flavia Pennetta. When the media thinks that Roberta Vinci will falter early in draws, she finds a way to make quarterfinals or semifinals.
 
First round matchup to watch: Daniela Hantuchova vs Flavia Pennetta
 
Fourth quarter – Agnieszka Radwanska leads this quarter. If A Radwanska, who won this title in 2011, is playing in Seoul on Sunday, she will have only one day to travel as her first match will be on Tuesday and the further she advances, she may feel the effects.
 
First round matchup to watch: Aleksandra Wozniak vs Francesca Schiavone 

Ace’s Tokyo Predictions
 
Q1: Azarenka vs Stephens
Q2: Cirstea vs Kvitova
Q3: Vinci vs Pennetta
Q4: Ivanovic vs A Radwanska
 
S1: Azarenka vs Kvitova
S2: Pennetta vs A Radwanska
 
F: Azarenka vs A Radwanska
 
W: Azarenka

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

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]

SPIN’S AO DAY 4 PICKS

It is already Day 4 and time for Spin’s Picks.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the top half of the draw seems to have more matches that I would love to see, moreso than the bottom half.  Early days yet though so anything can happen. 


Day 4’s matches features some questions that are high on everyone’s list, namely:-

  1. how is Serena Williams’ ankle; 
  2. is Petra Kvitova really on her way back; 
  3. is Laura Robson the real deal; 
  4. is Svetlana Kuznetsova really working her way back to the top of women’s tennis; 
  5. has Caroline Wozniacki sufficiently recovered from that early round scare in the first round; and 
  6. is Yanina Wickmayer finally beginning to show us what she is really made of?
Below are Spin’s picks for Day 4. 

PLAYER A
PLAYER B
SPIN’S PICKS
RESULTS
Victoria Azarenka
Eleni Daniilidou
Azarenka – while the top seed had some trouble with Nicolescu in her opening match, she should sail through this one with no problems
Luksika Kumkhum
Jamie Hampton
Hampton – the feisty young American should have some trouble but should get through in 3 
Varvara Lepchenko
Elena Vesnina
This is a pick em but I am going out on a limb and picking Vesnina for the win. That title in Hobart seems to be working wonders on her psyche
Akgul Amanmuradova
Roberta Vinci
I would pick the big serving Akgul but Vinci will expose her movement with her slice backhand –  Vinci
Caroline Wozniacki
Donna Vekic
A battle of young guns.  Vekic is young and hungry. Wozniacki is young and tired.  This could be long with Wozniacki winning or short with Vekic winning.  I am going with Wozniacki
Daria Gavrilova
Lesia Tsurenko
Tsurenko has played a lot of tennis this season.  Taking out a seed in her last round, look for her to have a let down here – Gavrilova
Su-Wei Hsieh
Svetlana Kuznetsova
This depends on which Sveta shows up.  If she decides to play behind the baseline, she will lose.  Hsieh can run all day.  Sveta should use her arsenal of shots to win this – Kuznetsova
Yulia Putintseva
Carla Suarez Navarro
Another battle of the tiny tots.  The world got to see Putintseva in her last match against McHale. Look for the steady Navarro to outlast the Russian – Navarro
Serena Williams
Garbine Muguruza
How is the ankle doing?  That is the question the tennis world is waiting on when Serena takes the court for her second round match. Serena in straights
Ayumi Morita
Annika Beck
I have not see either of these women play since the tournament started but I am going with Beck, if only because of her big win in the previous round.
Yanina Wickmayer
Jana Cepelova
Wickmayer to continue her 2013 run of form against the youngster
Shuai Peng
Maria Kirilenko
This one will be a long drawn out affair.  If Peng serves well, she should take it, but I am going with Kirilenko
Kimiko Date-Krumm
Shahar Peer
Peer had to battle hard just to get here while Krumm sent Petrova packing with a bagel.  Look for Krumm to discombolate Peer here.
Bojana Jovanovski
Lucie Safarova
Depends on which Lucie shows up.  Bojana can be steady as well as erratic.  I am going with Jovanovski
Sloane Stephens
Kristina Mladenovic
Battle of the young guns.  Stephens dispatched her last opponent with 2 breadsticks.  Look for her to continue her great run of form here.
Laura Robson
Petra Kvitova
This is the match of the day.  Is 2011 Petra back or will Robson get another top 10 scalp at a Major.  I am going with Petra because of her experience, plus she has to get it right at some point