Why I am Not Boycotting Twitter Today

by Karen

A few months ago there was a study that was published that said that young black girls were more likely to be considered sexual beings moreso than their white counterparts.

Earlier this week, Jemele Hill a black sportscaster at ESPN was suspended because she spoke the truth about the current resident of the White House, Donald Trump and his rantings regarding players in the NFL who are protesting police brutality in the US by kneeling during the national anthem.

Closer to home in tennis, Maria Sharapova in her published autobiography described Serena Williams in very caustic terms, relying on the usual stereotyping of black women by talking about her arms and legs and how intimidating she was and how Sharapova felt like a little girl when facing Serena across the net.

Last year, Leslie Jones, an American comedian and actress was the victim of a vicious social media smear campaign organized by so called white supremacists.  It got to the point where Ms. Jones had to suspend her  Twitter account because of the abuse.

Again last year in India there were multiple reports of young women being raped and sometimes murdered, some as young as 9 and 10 years old.

Why am I bringing up all these incidents on a tennis blog?  I am bringing them up because earlier this week it was reported that Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Company had been accused of sexual harassment to the point where he had reached agreement with multiple women as a result of his systemic abuse of them.  Rose McGowan (of Charmed fame) has been on Twitter on a daily basis calling out Hollywood and asking everyone to stand up and be counted regarding Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse.  As a result of Ms. McGowan’s stance, or as Twitter has said, as a result of her abusing Twitter’s terms of service, her account was suspended ostensibly because she had included a telephone number in a tweet.  Her account has now been reopened.

As a result of what has happened to Ms. McGowan, there has been a rallying cry for Women to Boycott Twitter.  As someone has said where was this movement when Jemele Hill was being targeted by the White House to the point where she is on the verge of losing her job?  Where was this movement when Maria Sharapova vilified Serena Williams’ body and where was this movement when young girls were being raped and murdered in India?

Is it the case that the only time that white women (yes I am calling them out by name) see the damage that is being done to the rest of society is when it affects them?  I don’t live in the US but I have friends and family who live there.  The decisions that white women have made have impacted the lives of many people who are not as well off or as educated as white women.  When 53% of white women watch a man speak loudly and clearly as Donald Trump did about taking what women have with no questions asked and still went into a voting booth and voted for him, telling people to boycott social media because you are oppressed makes me want to throw up.

Most of my family and friends are black. Most of them are immigrants.  None of them are wealthy people.  They are all hard working people who see the US as the land of opportunity.  Those of my friends who are born in the USA are proud to be Americans but again they are also oppressed by a system that marginalizes them and makes victims out of them.

From where I sit, white women have not spoken out against what is happening to many other women of colour in the US.  They have not been at the forefront at the fight for equality and they have surely not stood up for those women who are unable to defend themselves.

When Ilie Nastase made his racist joke about the colour of Serena Williams’ baby, everyone from the WTA to journalists all over spoke out definitively about how racist he was.  The WTA and ITF took action and banned him.  When Sharapova writes a book speaking derogatively about Serena Williams’ so much so that Serena had to write a letter to her mother opining about it and thanking her mother to give her the strength to deal with these kinds of comments about her body, I don’t recall seeing many white women (or a lot of other women) in tennis media speak out against that.

I read Joel Drucker’s piece recently where he reviewed Sharapova’s book.  In the almost 5,000 word count article, he did not once call out Sharapova for her racist comments about Serena’s body and why would he when the organisation with whom he works has basically been singing Sharapova’s praises since she returned from a doping ban.

Lest anyone thinks that I do not sympathise with Rose McGowan.  I do.  As a survivor myself I can speak to how hard it is to come out and do battle against those who would do us harm as women.  I have used my voice to give voice to those of us who don’t have a voice.  I have volunteered at shelters for women who are the victims of sexual abuse and I have used my platform at a law firm to secure legal services for women who are the victims of domestic abuse etc.

My preference would be that in the same way that white women can rally around a cause when they can identify with its victims, they should rally around a cause when they can’t identify with the victims.  

When championing a cause don’t wait until you see a victim that looks like you, speaks like you, travel in your own social circles etc.  Look for a victim who doesn’t look like you, whose story is one that you could never imagine relating to and look for a victim whose cause is just, even if you can’t imagine seeing yourself in those shoes.

I will not be boycotting Twitter today.  I did that yesterday. Until every victim is treated equally, and to coin a phrase #AllVictimsMatter then unfortunately no victims will matter.

The Spin Team

One of the best things that I have found since starting this blog 8 years ago is how hard it is to find the right words to say in articles that let folks who are not huge fans of women’s tennis and those who are fans of the women’s game know how wonderful and glorious the women’s game can be.  Some days I believe I hit all the right notes as the feedback is very complimentary and the hits/views on certain topics is out of this world.  There are days however when I really just mail it in, not because there are no compelling storylines, but because there are so many and I really can’t find the words to express them, and I do believe that the women deserve so much more than just being a footnote on some itinerant blog.

Take for instance Ons Jabeur.  Before her incredible run at this year’s French Open, most of the time when I saw her name in a draw, WC was usually written beside it, and it was usually when she played in Doha or Qatar. This year there is a marked improvement in her fitness and her all around game has improved so much.  I don’t have access to Jabeur, but I do hope that those with access to her can find a story to write about this truly inspirational woman.

To take on America’s so-called Tennis Princess (ask Tennis Magazine how they came up with that one) under the lights on Arthur Ashe stadium and not freeze in the spotlight is a testament to her grit, and confidence.  Jabeur had many chances to take the first set and like so many before her she made poor shot selection choices.  2 years from now if she ever gets another chance.  At 6-4 in the breaker, Jabeur is way outside the doubles alley, rather than take a backhand cross court, she goes for the highlight reel point (down the line), misses long and lets her opponent back into the tiebreaker.  History says she should have gone cross court, trap Coco who was already moving to hit a forehand, get the defensive backhand slice,  and then go down the line, but history does not play tennis matches.

Opportunity knocks and when it does, you don’t just step through the door, you push down the person on the other side and walk all over them.  Gibbs took the first set over the No. 1 seed, Karolina Pliskova.  From that moment, with opportunity staring her in the face, Gibbs retreated to the back of the court (on some occassions she was pushed to play that game) and Pliskova never looked back.  Gibbs has had a tough go at it the past few years and while she may not have won that match, she did show that with a bigger serve, groundstrokes hit with a lot more power and a few forays to the net to take mid court balls, she can beat the best of the best.

Ostapenko, Keys and Svitolina all made short work of their opponents, but for me the match of the day has to go to Naomi Osaka.  It is all well and good to take out a top seed.  How about following it up. Osaka dropped the second set against Denisa Allertova.  She got broken serving for the match, but on her second attempt she made sure to play the brand of tennis with which fans love.  She took her destiny in her forehand and serve and got the win.

Despite what many people think Jelena Ostapenko is a fan favourite.  People love to see her play.  I have never seen an Ostapenko match where the crowds are not 3 deep. Its about time she makes her Centre Court debut (and not as a last resort.

Day 5 Preview

Day 5 sees 8 matches from the bottom half of the women’s draw.  These matches will determine the first set of Round of 16 matches.  Spin’s Picks are in bold.

Ekaterina Makarova vs Carla Suárez Navarro
Maria Sakkari vs Venus Williams (9) (If Venus is not careful, Sakkari may pull the upset.  Fleet of foot around the court, Venus has to ensure that she does not engaged in long rallies.
Petra Kvitova (23) vs Caroline Garcia (18) (The battle of the inconsistent big hitters.  Can Garcia hold her nerve and can Petra keep the ball in play?)
Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Garbine Muguruza (3) (Rybarikova has had a tough go of it but I think she is looking for a little Wimbledon revenge in this one)

Aleksandra Krunic vs Julia Goerges (30) (Krunic lives for these moments.  She is consistent, and speedy, the type of opponent Georges hates)
Ashleigh Barty vs Sloane Stephens (Sloane has been playing well. So has Barty.  A veritable pick em with this one but I am going for the player who has been mentally tougher right now)
Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Donna Vekic (Vekic can run but Sevastova will make her run for miles.  Vekic has to step in and end points early if she hopes to have a chance.  I don’t think Sevastova will allow her to do that)
Sofia Kenin vs Maria Sharapova (The fairytale for cancer survivor Kenin ends here, which is a pity to be honest)

USO 2017 – The Farce Continues

The Spin Team

It is the final Major of the 2017 tennis season.  There are lots of storylines to watch for the WTA, not the least of which is who will be No. 1 at the end of the tournament.  There are apparently 8 women in contention to occupy the keys to the WTA Penthouse and as a result the race for the last Major of the season is filled with numerous scenarios, not the least of which is who will be hoisting the trophy 2 weeks from now.

The Contenders

Karolina Pliskova

Angelique Kerber

Caroline Wozniacki

Simona Halep

Garbine Muguruza

Johanna Konta

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Venus Williams

If ever there was a time to be a fan of the women’s game, this is it.  However, in the midst of all of this, many fans are talking about the fact that perennial “I have a shot at No. 1 so let me find a way not to get it” is Simona Halep facing off against Ms. Privilege Wild Card herself,  Maria Sharapova in the first round.  Now I know that there are not a lot of Halep fans out there who think she should ever be No. 1, but when your  Tour awards you with their Ambassador Award for always putting the Tour above yourself, the least your Tour could do  is not have you open against the most privileged athlete to ever play the sport of tennis.

Since her return from a doping ban, Sharapova has received no less than 6 wild cards into WTA sanctioned events.  In all of those events, these are Sharapova’s results:  Stuttgart (lost to Mladenovic), Madrid (lost to Bouchard), Rome (lost to Lucic-Baroni by retirement), Stanford (lost to Lesia Tsurenko), Toronto (withdrew), Cincinnatti (withdrew).  The French Open declined to provide her with a wild card and she chose not to compete at  Wimbledon this year.   The US Open, after signaling its support for Sharapova’s return to the Tour decided that it would be a good idea to offer a wild card to her to compete. As a further slap to clean athletes, she is drawn to play against a player who has a losing record against her, who is held up as an Ambassador of the Tour, in a coveted night match slot, in order to once again have everyone in the booth sing the party  line that her Egg has provided them with.

I am a huge fan of Simona Halep.  I am not in lock step with a lot of her pronouncements (see equal prize money) and I dislike the fact that she seems dimwitted and clueless in matches that she should win.  I don’t like her reliance on a coach who I believe is more name than anything else and who seems to do better as a coach when he is behind the microphone being a Monday morning quarterback.  I think Halep’s game has changed, and not for the better, and unfortunately for her, she is being offered up much like a tribute on the Hunger Games.

Day One Preview

The day’s play starts in a little under an hour and here are the matches scheduled for today.  Spin’s Picks are in bold

Caroline Wozniacki (5) vs Mihaela Buzarnescu
Mona Barthel vs Ekaterina Makarova
Ipek Soylu vs Carla Suárez Navarro
Monica Puig vs Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (29)

Kiki Bertens (24) vs Maria Sakkari
Richel Hogenkamp vs Arina Rodionova
Pauline Parmentier vs Oceane Dodin
Viktoria Kuzmova vs Venus Williams (9)

Petra Kvitova (23) vs Jelena Jankovic
Heather Watson vs Alize Cornet
Anna Zaja vs Ekaterina Alexandrova
Tereza Martincova vs Caroline Garcia (18)

Magdalena Rybarikova (31) vs Camila Giorgi
Kristyna Pliskova vs Misa Eguchi
Claire Liu vs Ying-Ying Duan
Varvara Lepchenko vs Garbine Muguruza (3)

Johanna Konta (7) vs Aleksandra Krunic
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Johanna Larsson
Saisai Zheng vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Annika Beck vs Julia Goerges (30)

Ana Konjuh (21) vs Ashleigh Barty
Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs Julia Boserup
Sloane Stephens vs Roberta Vinci
Jana Cepelova vs Dominika Cibulkova (11)

Anastasija Sevastova (16) vs Carina Witthoeft
Irina-Camila Begu vs Kateryna Kozlova
Donna Vekic vs Beatriz Haddad Maia
Amandine Hesse vs Shuai Peng (22)

Lauren Davis (32) vs Sofia Kenin
Natalia Vikhlyantseva vs Sachia Vickery
Viktorija Golubic vs Timea Babos
Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep (2)

Matches to Watch

Garcia v. Martincova

Muguruza v. Lepchenko (potential for an upset)

Stephens v. Vinci

Cibulkova v. Cepelova (who can cause all kinds of problems for top players not on their game)

Vekic v. Haddad-Maia (going with Vekic if only because she has some amount of confidence after winning a title this year)

Golubic v. Babos (could be a quick one for Babos or a long drawn out affair

 

Tennis and Anti Doping

The Spin Team

Tennis and Anti Doping.  More and more we should now be convinced that these 2 things do not go together.

First there was the Pamela defence used by Richard Gasquet. In case you forgot, he went to a club, kissed a girl named Pamela and subsequently tested positive for cocaine.  Then we have the “my mother purchased the wrong medication” used by Marin Cilic.  Let us not forget the “I did not check my emails and even if I had checked my emails, it was a different name than the one I am used to  using” defence that was used by Maria Sharapova and the nail in the coffin “my mother’s cancer drug got into the tortellini soup” currently used by Sara Errani.  The excuses being used by tennis players would be funny if it were not so damn serious.

I don’t know what excuse British born xenophobe Dan Evans will use, but knowing him, he will probably blame an immigrant for his cocaine troubles.

The time has come for tennis to take a stand, but unfortunately, that is not going to happen.  The same ITF that granted a player a TUE to take a performance enhancing drug which was later appealed by WADA, is the same ITF which apparently listens to these ridiculous excuses for doping and thinks that they are at the forefront of the anti-doping efforts.

The ITF needs to finally and conclusively let everyone know that their anti doping efforts are a farce, that they will allow any performance enhancing drug to be used, as long as it is not used during competition or perhaps sets a guideline for the use of performance enhancing drugs.  It is foolhardy for any tennis fan with any modicum of intelligence to actually believe that these so called anti doping efforts are to be taken seriously.

How is it possible that athletes, some of whom have whole teams are able to hire lawyers, are able to stand before a tribunal of apparently sensible people and put forward these ridiculous excuses for being caught using banned substances?

We all know that there is a protocol that has been well established for the use of banned substances.  We saw evidence of this during the period when the ITF was hacked.  We saw from the medical information provided that athletes like Venus and Serena Williams followed the proper protocol in establishing the injury and receiving approval to use substances that are otherwise prohibited.

Whether or not the ITF accepted the tortellini defence, the fact that an athlete could actually think that bringing her parents to the ITF hearing, and proffer this defence, speaks to the disdain in which athletes hold the ITF.  The fact that Errani only received a 2 month doping suspension, again speaks volumes.  The fact that her Federation thought it would be a good thing to stand with her on this says everything you need to know about tennis.  As one of my followers on social media pointed out to me, the Italian Federation granted a WC to Errani, knowing she had failed a drug test in February, and allowed another Italian, Francesca Schiavone to not get the opportunity to play in her home tournament this past May.  The fact that the Italian Federation provided 2 wild cards to 2 players who had been caught doping tells you everything you need to know about this particular Federation.  It is disgraceful and an affront to everyone else who is fighting for clean sport.

WTA TV

WTA TV is up and running.  I have provided my thoughts on the service so far.  While I am happy that the subscription service is now up and running, I am hoping that as time goes on, the suggestions for improving the service that many persons have made will be taken into consideration.

View from the Fans

by The Spin Team

Ever since I started this blog, I have had many opinions.  I have given my views on how to market the sport.  How the No. 1 ranking should be viewed. What the WTA needs to do in order to have more visibility.  How the players should be presented etc. I am not the only one.  There are a thousand blogs, podcasts, tennis journalists and even some players who have weighed in on the sport.  Sometimes I wonder in all the noise, what do the fans think?  What do the Administrators of tennis think?  Do most folks believe that tennis is reaching across the aisle and gaining new fans or has it remained stagnant?  If it is not moving across the aisle, what is preventing it from doing so?

These questions came to me as the ratings for this year’s French Open and Wimbledon finals have shown a sharp decline in viewership, down from last year.  This morning, there were a great many articles in major newspapers all over the world covering Roger Federer’s win, but barely a peep about the women’s champion.  The same applied at the French Open where Rafael Nadal’s 10th French Open title, was met with La Decima, but Ostapenko only seemed to get glowing tributes in her home country.  To make matters even worse, Ostapenko, the reigning French Open champion never saw Centre Court until her match against Venus Williams in the quarter finals.

So, on that note,  I am going to turn it over to tennis fans to give me their views on what needs to improve in tennis.  I have inserted a poll  and I would be very interested to see the responses of tennis fans.

Have at it folks

This post will be updated with views from our readers. On the question of how would you improve tennis, the answers are so similar in nature it is eerie.

  • Make it so viewers could actually watch it
  • Need more WTA coverage on regular cable TV ie Tennis Channel
  • More tv viewership
  • Since most fans’ first introduction is through TV, make viewing more accessible. WTA’s lack of streaming is digraceful and it is a shame that the Grand Slam tournaments are no longer featured on basic broadcast TV. This is why the ratings have gone down. Tennis Channel and ATP TV ain’t gonna cut it! WTA should consider a streaming deal with You Tube or something! Exos and special events like Arthur Ashe Kids Day could be streamed on Twitter or on the USTA’s website, etc. Tennis doesn’t utilize the platforms available well enough. It’s weird that when I was a kid in the ’80s and growing up in the ’90s that tennis seemed way more accessible than it is today.
  • Give the WTA equal pay on all levels and an equal platform to play and showcase their immense talent. After all, the WTA has the GOAT.
  • Improve tennis reporting and commentating, make them more informative. Stop putting the tours against each other. Try to recognize they are separate.
  • the problem with the WTA is coverage and their stupid CEO!! There are so many compelling stories to be told and heard. But the regular people not really watching tennis are not being reached!
  • Get rid of the McEnroe brothers
  • In general, make it easier to follow & consume (simpler tour structure/naming, cheaper & easier streaming services, TV availability etc). In specific, make slams Bo3 first week for both genders, Bo5 second week for both genders (or similar).
  • 3 sets; 3rd set tiebreaker
  • I like it warts and all

 

Venus Williams – #LifeGoals

by Karen

Venus Williams

I thought long and hard about writing about the phenomenal year of Venus Williams.  If anyone had told me when the year began that Venus Williams, at age 37 would win 2 Grand Slam titles, hell if anyone had told me that Venus would actually make it to a Grand Slam final again, I would have run them out of town.  For her to actually reach the final and beat not only her sister, Serena to win her first Australian Open title, but then venture to the lawns of her beloved Wimbledon and raise once again the Venus Rosewater Dish, as a fan I could not ask for more*.

At a time when people in the tennis world are celebrating consistency, I want to celebrate the resilience of a player who many, including myself, from time to time had thought was dead and buried.

A few years ago, Venus had to withdraw from a match at the US Open after she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Sjorgen’s Syndrome.  As someone who suffers from arthritis, and who had to stop playing tennis as a result of it, knowing what Venus has to endure as a professional athlete made me appreciate what she has been doing more and more every day.

Many of us did not think that Venus had a chance against Serena.  After all, Serena was only going for a record 23rd Grand Slam title.  This was Venus’ first Grand Slam final since Wimbledon 2009. 8 long years. In tennis terms that is the whole career of some players.  For her to not only win that event, but follow it up on Saturday by defeating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in a thrilling straight set victory should let people know that at no point should you call for the retirement of players who are struggling either with injuries, motivation or just out of form.

In this day and age of social media, there is a hashtag that goes around that is called #LifeGoals.  To watch Venus raising trophies at the age of 37, after battling for years and having to listen and read articles about the death of her career, I think we can now say, after watching her overcome so many obstacles that this hashtag sums up her life.

As a fan these are now my #LifeGoals

  • never complain when I wake up in the morning with my knee hurting and I don’t want to go for my morning walk #LifeGoals
  • never complain when I have to work late into the night because I am tired and really ready to go home #LifeGoals
  • if it means never eating sweet potato pudding again in order to live a healthier cleaner life, I will do it #LifeGoals
  • I will never complain that life is too hard or that I should give up because others think that my best days are behind me #LifeGoals
  • believe in myself even more (and that goes for everyone) because no one knows what is waiting around the corner #LifeGoals
  • age is just a number.  You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (and you) #LifeGoals
  • block out the noise of the naysayers, they are who they are and who they will always be.  Don’t be a naysayer, be like Venus #LifeGoals

In an age when we are living with mediocrity at the highest levels of government, let us look to Venus Ebony Starr Williams, who at age 37, played 2 of the best matches of her life and showed that despite what everyone else says, she is once again a Grand Slam champion.

Congratulations Venus

 

Children and Tennis

by Karen

I am not old but I have lived a long life.  I recall a time in the not too distant past where you were counselled not to put that you had young children on your CVs (when putting that on your CV was a thing) and if you were a young married woman that was something that was seen as a negative, as it was assumed that you would want to start a family and therefore would not be a 100% effective employee.  This was not the 1950s.  This was the 1980s and it happened worldwide.

I recall as a young woman just starting out with a young child how hard it was to prove to folks that I could do the job that I was hired to do notwithstanding that I had a young child at home.  After all, the same mindset that led me to believe that I could have a career and a family, was the same one that made me put things in place to ensure that I not only spent quality time with my young child, but that I also had the ability to do 10 hours of tough legal work on a daily basis.

My son is now a millenial (30 something) with his own life and I am still in the legal field and now known as an elder.  I am once again faced with the same questions when I have to deal with young lawyers.  I am coveted for my experience, but I am also battered because I won’t stand for foolishness.

You may be asking yourself, why am I writing about myself on a tennis blog?  Its because  it would seem as if most commentators and tennis journalists don’t seem to think that women can walk and chew gum at the same time.  Women are capable of being mothers, wives and working women.  We do, as a matter of course, know how to compartmentalise and we don’t need to look to someone else for inspiration when we decide to embark on certain aspects of our lives.

There is a piece written by Christopher Clarey about Azarenka that speaks about her time off court and watching her mother battle breast cancer.  During all this time Azarenka had to show up for work, then find out she is pregnant and then realise that not only does she have to put her career on pause, but she also has to try and be there for her family.  This is what women do.  We compartmentalise.  We put things in order of priority and we do what needs to be done.

It is become tiresome, tedious and downright ridiculous listening to the commentators during this year’s Wimbledon marvel at Azarenka’s play.  If Azarenka was television commentator would we be wondering if she can speak after having a child?  Would we be wondering whether she became inspired after watching Brad Gilbert return from having surgery?  We would not be asking these ridiculous questions.  It is also going to get even worse when Serena Williams returns to the Tour after giving birth.

Maybe the time has come to remove men from the commentary box, especially when it comes to women’s matches.  I for one have become bored with this whole conversation about Azarenka and her child.  Women have been dropping children and going back to work since time began.  It is what what we do.  Many of us do not have the privilege of  Azarenka (and I am not ragging on her) to have a nanny, a fitness trainer, a dietician or just very good genes, but we make do.  Stop making it seem as if women are doing the impossible by having a child and returning to work.  It may seem impossible to men but it is what we do every single day of our lives.

 

The Championships … Wimbledon

by Karen

Day 1 has come and gone. I was home all day yesterday so I got an opportunity to see first to last ball.  It was glorious.  I loved every ground stroke, every volley, every serve and every argument about whether a ball was in or out.  I loved hearing the umpire saying ready … play.  As you can no doubt imagine, The Championships, Wimbledon is my absolute favourite tennis tournament.

However, there was one dark mark on Day One and it concerned Venus Williams.  I have seen Venus cry before, but they were happy tears.  It was 2005 and she had won Wimbledon that year.  She was at the Essence Awards where she was being awarded the Woman in Courage Award.  In her acceptance speech she broke down in tears when she talked about losing all the time.  She was laughing through her tears but you could feel that this moment and that award meant so much to her.  From time to time I will go back and watch that video on YouTube and renew once again my love for this absolutely extraordinary woman.

A few days before the start of Wimbledon, I happened upon a TMZ article which mentioned that Venus had been involved in a motor vehicle accident.  I shared it with a friend hoping that the news was mere rumour (as in someone driving Venus’ car), rather than Venus herself being involved.  Turns out the article was true.  I was devastated for not only Venus, but also the family who had lost a loved one in the accident.  I do not know who was at fault. That is something for a court hearing arguments from both sides are yet to determine.  Suffice it to say that there will be no winners whatever the outcome.

After her hard fought first round win against a very game Elise Mertens, Venus broke down in her press conference.  It was heartbreaking to watch this wonderful woman break down at the thought that she was involved, through inadvertence or otherwise, through the taking of a life.  I don’t believe that Venus was crying for herself.  I believe more than anything her emotional breakdown had more to do with the fact that someone had lost their life.

There were many folks on Twitter, myself included, who felt that journalists who covered the sport should possibly have not asked that question.  I disagree.  Journalists are there to do their jobs.  As we know they don’t always do that, but in this case, they did have a responsibility to at least ask the question.  I suspect no one realised that Venus’ reaction would have been so emotional.  Here’s hoping that as the Championships continue, Venus will be able to regain her composure and try in some way shape or form to put this whole incident, not behind her, but to not keep it at the forefront of her thoughts.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.

Day One Recap

Maria Sharapova is not absent due to injury.  She is absent because she is not qualified to play in the Championships.  It is not as if she was eligible to play in the first place.

I love Jelena Ostapenko’s game.  I love her fight and I love that all aspects of her emotion is on display for all to see.  After taking the first set 6-0 in her opening round match, her game went off the boil in the second set, but she recovered and took the match in 3.  Tennis has a way of selling everything via narratives.  During Ostapenko’s match yesterday, Chris Evert kept telling everyone that after winning the French Open, all the players will now be doing the same thing that Ostapenko did. That is the same false narrative that was being touted when Muguruza won the French, and when Kerber won the Australian and US Open, when Vinci beat Serena at the US Open and when Pennetta won the US Open.  It is a false narrative.  Each player on the WTA Tour makes their own destiny.  There is no Muguruza, Ostapenko or Kerber effect.

Victoria Azarenka had an incredibly tough opening round match against young up and comer, Cici  Bellis.  It took her 3 sets to see off the young American, but boy was it good to see her back.  She struggled in the first set but once she had found her game, it was like seeing the Azarenka of old.  I have zero expectations for her at this tournament, but a round one victory is a great victory.

Simona Halep and Madison Keys made quick work of their opponents, taking them out in straight sets.  Eugenie Bouchard did not. Carla Suarez-Navarro has never been a grass court player, but she has been playing very well on the surface this season.  Bouchard, a finalist at Wimbledon a few years ago, started strong, but seemed to either run out of gas, or run out of ideas down the stretch.  There is no doubt that there is either a mental or physical reset on the cards for Bouchard.  Surely, she can’t keep blaming the US Open fall for her dismal results?

Better writers than myself have written about Kvitova’s return.  I will not.  I will however say that I am glad that she has recovered from the injuries that she suffered as a result of the invasion of her home.  However, tennis needs to stop with folks wearing t-shirts promoting courage and fight etc.  It is demeaning to what Kvitova went through.  Not every moment deserves a social media hashtag or a t-shirt emblazoned with someone’s face on it or words of inspiration.  The fact that Kvitova is able to once again play tennis and not live in constant fear is a victory in and of itself.

Day Two Preview

Sloane Stephens makes her return to tennis today.  She plays Alison Riske.   This is a tough match for both women.  Stephens is a former semifinalist here and Riske has been having some really good results.  It is a bummer of a draw.

Also playing today is Garbine Muguruza going up against Alexandrova.  Also playing today is Angelique Kerber, Aga Radwanska who has a tough first round against Jelena Jankovic.  That match is no doubt going to be my match of the day.  Also playing today is Karolina Pliskova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kristina Mladenovic and Kiki Bertens (who has already lost to Sorana Cirstea).

Jelena Ostapenko – Coming Of Age

by Karen

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Jelena Ostapenko (photo credit FFT)

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

 

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

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

Am I glad that I stuck around.

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

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

 

Tennis … The Unequal Sport

By the Spin Team

Tennis has a way of blowing its own horn or in this case swinging its racquet.  It has a tendency to push Billie Jean King forward (and for better or worse, Billie Jean usually steps forward) to promote itself as an equal opportunity employer.  It talks about equality, equal pay and treating men and women the same. It often says it’s at the forefront of the fight for gender equality.

Despite its proclamations, tennis often reveals its true self through the individuals it reveres or celebrates. First, the men who cover the sport focus on how the women look, what they wear, and how they scream/grunt or moan. They often speak of the emotional instability or lack of mental toughness of the women and point out the deficiencies of the women’s game rather than its strengths. As someone who watches quite a lot of tennis I can tell you that this particular blog was born out of a frustration of having to listen to male commentators consistently term grown women, some married with children as girls.

Second, the icons of the sport also reveal what concerns tennis. When they speak of the women’s game, it is with pettiness and envy. There is no one who does this better than Margaret Court.  I will not spend time talking about Court and her accomplishments and whether they are justified or not.  For what it is worth, she played in an era where there was competition (perhaps not as strong as today’s) and she won her Majors fair and square.  For that she gets credit.  For everything else that comes out of her mouth, she needs to take a step back and evaluate her life.

Recently, Ms. Court made some disparaging remarks in an Australian newspaper. She stated that she would no longer fly Qantas, the national airline of Australia.  Her reason:  the airline supports the LGBTQ community.  She took it even farther and commented on Australian player Casey Dellacqua and her partner who are currently raising 2 children by stating that they are going against God’s wishes in not having a father for their children.

When these comments broke I took the view that Ms. Court’s views have been around since time began.  There is no doubt that she has held these views for a long time. The only reason why there is so much outrage is because news now travels a lot faster and folks are more aware of what is being said and done by persons who should supposedly know better.  Today, because nothing that is done in the dark stays hidden, an article appearing in The Guardian newspaper of 1970 quotes Ms. Court as saying that the South Africans had got the whole race thing right.  Ms. Court made these comments in relation to Arthur Ashe being denied a visa to play in South Africa during the height of apartheid.

Martin Niemoller is quoted as saying

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I would add to this … when they came for the Negroes, I did not speak out because I was not a Negro.

I have done a search of Google to see if there are any articles, other than the article being circulated via social media, defending Arthur Ashe or condemning Margaret Court for her comments,  but as of the time of writing there doesn’t seem to be any.  I am trying to find a journalist who doesn’t owe his soul to someone else,  and who actually took up the baton and condemned Ms. Court for her comments on racial segregation, which she seems to deem a good thing.

Tennis protects its own.  It always has and it always will.  A few years ago a player who was a member of the Tennis Hall of Fame was accused of rape.  Once the allegations had been proven, many then claimed that they had known this man was raping young girls in his care. More recently, Ilie Nastase subjected Serena Williams to racist comments about her unborn child.  The condemnation from folks far and wide apparently made Pam Shriver recall when he tried to “grab her by the pussy” (or in other words find out if she was a virgin).

Tennis is littered with men (and woman) who have behaved abominably and nothing is done.  Jelena Dokic, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and who can forget that most infamous of coaches, Zelkko Krajan, who spoke to former World No. 1 Dinara Safina as if she was an imbecile. While we are on the Safin bunch, never forget Marat Safin’s comments towards and about women.  Right now we have someone sitting in the commentator’s booth on Tennis Channel who has made remarks about women that in every other situation he would be cast out and left for dead but in tennis that guarantees you a contract and a job for life.

Will tennis ever lead with action instead of pretty speeches about gender equality and equal rights for all? If tennis wants us to believe what it says about itself, it will have to start making smarter choices about who it allows to represent the sport in public.

The French Open

We are into Day 3 of the French Open and we have seen some seeds fall like ninepins.  Angelique Kerber went out to Ekaterina Makarova.  For a player who is slumping in the way that Kerber is slumping, meeting giant killer Makarova, who usually plays inspired tennis against top opponents, this was a hard match.  No doubt Kerber needs to fix what ails her game right now.  It is hard to be the hunted when you are so accustomed to being the hunter.

Kiki Mladenovic, many folks’ pick to win this tournament after her stellar play so far this year had to struggle mightily against American Jennifer Brady.  She suffered from a lower back injury for most of the match and one wonders what effect this effort will have on her for the rest of the tournament.

I won’t be doing much of a recap during this French Open as work is getting in the way of the tennis.  However my surprise picks are still in the tournament and I am hoping that they improve with each match.

If you are just watching women’s tennis for the first time, try and pull up a chair and watch this year’s French Open.  I am convinced that someone will be having a break out tournament this year and I am looking for a real surprise winner at this year’s event.