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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

SIMONA HALEP … FINALLY!!!

Image result for SIMONA HALEP ROLAND GARROS 2018

For those of us who have been fans of the 5 ft 7” Romanian, Saturday 9 June 2018 will be historic

It was on this day that the Halepenos of the world united behind the World No. 1 to watch her lift her first Grand Slam trophy and for her to do this at her beloved Roland Garros.  The same place where 10 years ago she lifted the Girls’ trophy.

It has been a long, difficult and complicated journey for Simona.  She has suffered some agonizing losses, the worst of which was at her first Grand Slam final against Maria Sharapova.  Then she lost a heart breaker last year after being up a break in the third set and then this year she lost to Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open by not only running out of ideas but running out of breath.  To see her lift her first Grand Slam trophy against a current Grand Slam title holder made it even sweeter.

I know most of us tennis fans don’t necessarily agree with Simona Halep and her world views, but for today, can we, as Sloane Stephens said in her press conference, celebrate a player who has, despite adversity, found her light.

For those writers out there who will be doing their recap, can we for once, forget about Simona’s coach and just celebrate the achievement of this particular young woman.

I know I for one will be eating some Halepeno this weekend because I am incredibly happy.

 

More to come …

Simona Halep … Almost

The Spin Team

SIMONA HALEP … ALMOST

I have been a  huge fan of Simona Halep since her junior days.  I have followed her career. Watched her rise to be in the top 10 of women’s tennis.  I have watched her evolution as a player.  I have been there through the disappointments. I have been there through the victories.  I get annoyed when she plays lights out against my favourites, only to falter against those who are not as good.

This year I watched the French Open and while I had pegged Ostapenko to do very well, I have to confess that I, like many, did not expect her to win.

I don’t know if many people remember this, but Simona Halep used to be a bit of a hot head.  She would throw tantrums on court.  She was “emotional” because she expected so much of herself.  She was fiery and that is what I loved most about her.  One of my faovurite Simona moments was when she made her way through qualifying all the way to the semifinals of Rome, taking out some incredible clay court players along the way.  During that tournament, she played amazing tennis.  Her balance on the court, as well as her shot selection was superb.

Then came the super coaches.

They bulked her up.  They unbulked her up.  They made adjustments to her serve to make it bigger and when that failed, they went for consistency of serve over power.  They tried to take her from playing 10 feet behind the baseline to a player who was coming to the net.  When that failed, they wanted to make her aggressive and when that failed, they sit in the stands with a look of amazement on their collective faces and wonder what went wrong.

Last night (28 August), Simona Halep, in the same way that Katniss offered herself as tribute for her sister Prim (Hunger Games), was put in the lions den of Arthur Ashe stadium as tribute to the return of Maria Sharapova, for a ratings pull and for the narrative of mentally tough opponent overcoming all kinds of obstacles to reach the second round of the US Open.

During last night’s commentary no mention was made that the reason why Sharapova was out for 15 months was due to a doping violation.  The “injuries” which led to her pulling out of 3 tournaments for which she had received underserved wild cards was however used as talking point fodder in order to project that she had overcome challenges.  This is what tennis does.  This is what tennis has always done and this is what tennis will always do.

Anti doping is a joke best left to comedians on Saturday Night Live. There are many who think that those of us who are hell bent on seeing Sharapova run out of the sport do not believe in redemption.  Frankly, there is not a bigger believer in redemption than me.  As someone who has gone through her own struggles and who has benefitted from being redeemed, I am a big believer in giving people a second, third and even a fourth chance.  However, in order for someone to be redeemed that person has to first of all own up to their wrongs.  They have to look everyone in the eye and say without equivocation that what I did was wrong and I am sorry. There is no but, or  however, or attempt to point and/or assign blame. You admit your wrong and you try to move on.  Sharapova has not done this.

I don’t think there is any tennis fan who would ever say that Sharapova has not been a great champion.  She is a fighter and that is what is so weird about this whole doping issue.  If Sharapova had gone the route of qualifying to enter a Major, I don’t think anyone would ever have been of the view that she was not deserving of her place in the draw.  The fact is that she did  not and it just adds to the whole issue of what her PR team puts out (hard worker) to the reality of the situation (willing to get a leg up).

Sharapova and her PR team craft her own narrative with the aid and assistance of the tennis media.  She is without a doubt the Ivanka Trump of tennis and the tennis media have colluded with her and her PR team to the detriment of the sport.

Day One Review

Separate and apart from the Halep match, there were other interesting matches from day one.  Venus Williams struggled through a 3 set affair with a player most folks had never heard of in Victoria Kuzmova.  The youngster played very well, out acing Venus along the way.  However, in the long run, she not only ran out of gas, but ran out of big serves.  She is definitely one to watch for the future and one can only hope that she sticks around.

Alexandra Krunic, Fed Cup stalwart, and forgotten Serbian, took Britain’s Joanna Konta out of the race for No.1 by defeating her in 3 sets.  Konta joins Halep as the first top seeds to exit the tournament.

Dominika Cibulkova struggled mightily against perennial giant killer Jana Cepelova in a tough 3 set battle.  Hopefully Domi will use the day off to fix whatever it is that ails her shoulders.

Sloane Stephens continued her excellent summer run, taking out Roberta Vinci. Sophia Kenin pulled the upset over the No. 32 seed Lauren Davis and Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitova had little or no trouble with their opponents.

Day 2 Picks and Previews

Day 2 sees the top half of the women’s draw take to the courts with the No. 1 seed and current No. 1 player Karolina Pliskova opening against a pretty tough opponent in Magda Linette.  Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Magda Linette
Veronica Cepede Royg vs Nicole Gibbs
Risa Ozaki vs Danielle Lao
Sabine Lisicki vs Shaui Zhang (27)

Barbora Strycova (23) vs Misaki Doi
Jennifer Brady vs Andrea Petkovic
Taylor Townsend vs Ana Bogdan (may be a tough one for Taylor to pull out to be honest)
Monica Niculescu vs Kristina Mladenovic (14)

Agnieska Radwanska (10) vs Petra Martic (if Aga is not on her game, she might very well find herself on the next bus home)
Sofya Zhuk vs Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur vs Brienne Minor
Alison Riske vs Coco Vandeweghe (20)

Anett Kontaveit (26) vs Lucie Safarova
Nao Hibino vs Catherine Bellis
Kurumi Nara vs Sara Sorribes Tormo
Marketa Vondrousova vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) (may very well be an upset on the cards here)

Elina Svitolina (4) vs Katerina Siniakova (if Siniakova plays like she did against Venus in  Canada, Svitolina could be out the door)
Evgeniya Rodina vs Eugenie Bouchard
Shelby Rogers vs Kayla Day
Allie Kiick vs Daria Gavrilova (25)

Elena Vesnina (17) vs Anna Blinkova
Madison Brengle vs Kirsten Flipkens
Tatjana Maria vs Ashley Kratzer
Elise Mertens vs Madison Keys (15) (this is a tough match for Keys and she will need to stay focused if she wants to pull this out in straight sets)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs Lara Arruabarrena (a very tricky opponent who will take advantage of the deficiencies in Ostapenko’s game)
Lesley Kerkhove vs Sorana Cirstea
Daria Kasatkina vs Qiang Wang
Christina McHale vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (19)

Lesia Tsurenko (28) vs Yanina Wickmayer
Kaia Kanepi vs Francesca Schiavone
Denisa Allertova vs Rebecca Peterson
Naomi Osaka vs Angelique Kerber (6)

Dear WTA Players

by Karen

Dear WTA Players.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

 

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