Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wimbledon 2017: Wimbledon Wrapup

It turned out that working the rare weekend morning at my full-time gig during the Wimbledon women's final was a blessing. I don't know what I would have done if I had seen Venus Williams get clobbered live by Garbine Muguruza. As the draw shook out, this pairing seemed like the one that would produce the highest quality tennis, but it did. For one of them.
After finally having watched the match, I'm torn about what to say about Venus, and not in the way you might think. It's tempting to go with the trusty line of, "This is a good performance ... for her ..." or "Not bad for 37 years old ..." But here's what I saw in the first set of the final, and throughout the entire tournament. Venus is playing better now than when she was winning slams. This is probably not the best time to discuss her improved forehand, given the last set of the final. But it is better. And sure, she still double-faults a lot, but her second serves are deeper when they land. She's still shoring up her weaknesses, is what I'm saying. There's no asterisk besides this performance for me that would even slightly suggest being graded on an age scale. She's playing great tennis. Period. She could win the U.S. Open. There. I said it.
Having said all of that, Muguruza is one of the biggest talents on the WTA Tour. This is one bold soldier. I mean, that first set point against her? Look at this, starting at the 27-second mark:

Whoa. (Worth noting here that I'm not enough of a tech character to figure out the framing on this video. Working on it. JUST WATCH THE POINT.)
I've been saying for a while that Muguruza is one of the best players out there, but after she won the French Open, she kinda went sideways for whatever reason. She has had a very inconsistent year, and now would be a good time to get the wheels straight. No Serena. Victoria Azarenka is still rounding into form, as is Petra Kvitova. So I think this is a time for Muguruza to stand out from the crowd, but I should not diminish the crowd here:

And then there's Roger Freakin' Federer. Again. This guy has won every major he's played in 2017. This is otherworldly and that's all I have to say about that for now.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wimbledon 2017: If You Hear Something, Say Something

Well, here we are, tennis world. Living in a time when Tomas Berdych has just as good a shot at winning Wimbledon as Roger Federer. Except Berdych would have to beat Federer to do that.
Berdych advanced to the semis when Novak Djokovic quit the match with an ongoing elbow issue, which to me begs the question: Why hire a new coach if your issue is injury? I think Federer (and the Williams sisters -- to great criticism) showed that taking an expended break to address injuries can be positive for your career.
Another big surprise was Sam Querrey outplaying Andy Murray in the quarters. I mean. Sam Querrey could win Wimbledon. My brain is speechless.
However, Murray's press conference after his loss must be addressed, specifically this right here.

The reporter and the room laughed at his clarification, which is actually not funny. Murray didn't laugh. Sure, he just got beaten at Wimbledon, but even he recognized that that wasn't funny. It would be funny if there was evidence that it was a minor oversight. But a couple of weeks ago, an American tennis icon made a comment that negated the achievements of one of the greatest athletes this game has seen. So it's not an oversight. Look, if you want to limit your question to men's tennis, that's fine. If you're a tennis reporter without a working knowledge of the history of the game, you're a pretty crappy tennis reporter.
As for Murray, he could have let that phrase go, as many before him have, under the assumption that they were discussing Tennis, not tennis. No one appointed him the official ally of women's tennis. He just did that because it was true and correct. This moment is not some type of game-changer or the thing that's going to lead to the proper recognition of women athletes. But it is not hard to say something that's true and correct. Drops in a bucket eventually amount to a full bucket.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wimbledon 2017: You Don't Just Stop Playing

Couple of observations before Andy Murray takes the court for the men's quarterfinals:

1. True confession time: I have been following the late matches from work this week, and the Rafa Nadal/Gilles Muller match had me a useless mess. I was sitting there, staring at my phone, waiting for updates, thinking about breaking out and hitting up a sports bar to see this match live. The anxiety had me losing my mind. For a second there, I thought I was crazy, that I was going through this all myself. Then I thought about Tennis Twitter and they were going through with me and breaking news, too! Did you know Rafa sustained a head injury just before that match?

2. The Simona Halep/Johanna Konta match was incredible. Everyone's talking about the last point, though, and with good reason. That was a pretty loud scream.

Bush league. Fer sure. But even in rec tennis, you have to play through everything. If you think your serve is out and it isn't called out, you play. Why would Halep, who appeared to just stop playing, think that she would just get bailed out by the umpire? And wouldn't that have just been a warning anyway? Had there been a hindrance from the crowd call before from the chair? It definitely sucks for both women to have their match end that way.
But this is a life lesson. The British crowds are just as bad as the French.

3. I really thought Venus Williams was going to lose to Jelena Ostapenko. But then I keep reminding myself: Who was the other person who made the Australian Open final this year again? And -- my memory fails: Who beat her in that final? And -- where is that person now?And then I ask myself why we keep underestimating Venus Williams.

Later, gang.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wimbledon '17: Musings from the First Week

So that was some week. Let's just dive right in:
  • Here are my draws now. I haven't seen this much red since that one time I checked my bank account in college! 

  • Minor point: Venus Williams has won Wimbledon five times -- and zero-times Grand Slam finalist Johanna Konta is now the oddsmakers' favorite to win Wimbledon. I. Am. Just. Saying. 
  • I kinda can't believe Victoria Azarenka is still in this tournament. Same with Angelique Kerber.
  • I have a pretty strong stomach, but I took one glance at Bethanie Mattek-Sands after she fell, and I closed the browser window. Best of luck to her.
  • What am I missing? Why on earth, if you're Sloane Stephens, would you choose to play your first match in nearly a year at Wimbledon?
  • I just also want to point out Head dropped Bernard Tomic as a sponsor for being honest at a press conference. Head also stood behind one of their sponsored athletes who got busted for taking a banned substance. *shrug*
  • Damn, I hope Heather Watson wins a major in singles one day, for as close as she's come with the heavy hitters. Or at least Indian Wells.
  • It's nice to see the American women step up at a major, not just the usual suspects. Shelby Rogers totally blinked and if she hadn't, she would have beaten the pants off Kerber. Cici Bellis stayed with Azarenka as long as could be expected. 
  • During this tournament, I realized that my in-match tweets age about as bad as the average Trump tweet.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Wimbledon '17: Victoria Azarenka. There. I Called It.

OK, that headline is clickbait. I'm not saying Victoria Azarenka is going to win Wimbledon. But there is a chance. Hang in to the end.
But let's start with the two weakest No. 1 seeds this side of ... well, Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray. Remember last year, when they were just the toast of everything? They both come into Wimbledon with some downwind behind them. Murray himself says he's not 100 percent fit for duty and Kerber recently admitted that there are ups and downs and she is currently experiencing downs. She's played one grasscourt match -- and lost it. So there's that.
Anyway, let's check out the men's draw (as I see it): 

Couple things of note:
If your friend calls you during the first-round match between Thiem and Pospisil and/or Ferrer/Gasquet, she's not really your friend.
I see many of the usual suspects advancing far into the tournament, but you might note some ... uncertainty in the bottom quarter of the bottom half. Sure, Djokovic just had a nice win at Eastbourne. But he didn't exactly come up against any heavy hitters there, unless we're deciding now that Donald Young is a real shot at winning this thing. So I have struggled a bit with him here. I mean. I mean. Like, I kinda think Juan Martin del Potro might have a shot. But then. Yeah. I'm a hypocrite.

THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE WOMEN'S DRAW IS LIT. I guess the better word for this is "quarter." Johanna Konta. (maybe, OK), Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep. Heather Watson. And Azarenka. I'm going with Kvitova because she's returned from injury with a bullet.
We got some asterisks here, too. I can see Azarenka propelling herself out of this side of the draw out of hunger. I would normally think Venus Williams would have a good shot in this situation normally, but the lawsuit. I don't know, guys. What do we think about the draw? What do we think about this accident?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

He Cannot Be Serious ... Right?

Just moments after finalizing my latest post that chronicled the struggles of playing on a court full of men who feel it is their job to fix my game -- while conspicuously ignoring their own issues -- I found out that John McEnroe decided he had something to say about Serena Williams and it might play well into the macro part of that post.
For those of you who missed it, McEnroe said that Serena's a great female player but in terms of how she'd stack up against a man? She'd just be ranked #700. 
No, the male No. 700 player in the world does not happen to possess 23 Grand Slam titles, but I guess it is not really a Grand Slam win if it is won by a woman playing other women. Welp, Serena, welcome to being a woman in America. 
Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was pregnant. Most men can't get out of bed if they have a common cold. Women are paid less for doing the same work as men as standard practice and men get mad if they get kicked out of their company for making disparaging comments about women. I guess I can understand why Uber dude is confused. I mean, if you don't have to pay them equally, why can't you treat them however you want? It's all very confusing.
Did McEnroe just degrade the worth of women's tennis with his comments? Of course he did. No, women aren't as physically strong as men. Williams has won more majors than a man ever has. She's 35 years old. She won her first major at 17. But she's a woman, so that means ... less? 
(Incidentally, John McEnroe wasn't on the pro tour at 17. He won his first major at 20 and when he was 35, he'd been retired from tennis for about two years.)
You know, I will never again whine about having advice doled out to me unsolicited by men who don't know what they're talking about. I mean, it could be worse. You could ascend to the top of the game, do things no PERSON has ever done before and still have someone has hasn't been relevant in the pro game for about 30 years strip your achievements down with barely a second thought. And someone who never did anything about that forehand. 
I mean, come the hell on already with that forehand.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Therapy with TWA: Tennis-ing while Female.

The thing that's great about tennis is that once you get out on that court, everyone is equal. All that matters is the ball and the racquet.
LOL. Just kidding. We're going to talk today about the real terms of play. This post might just be for the ladies. If you're a 2.5 guy, you might perhaps be able to identify with this, too.
So last week, I picked up my racquet for the first time in a month. Just an informal group of folks pairing up for doubles, and usually, I'm the only woman. I expected to be rusty and as a considerate tennis player, I made sure to inform all my partners that I hadn't played in a while, but if I'm being real, I knew how the next two-and-a-half would unfold. It's how it almost always unfolds when I play with men.
First set: Just about the way I'd expect. Missed a few volleys and my serve toss was all over creation. One of the regulars noted this and every. single. time. I. served I heard about my toss. He was on the other side of the court! I botched a volley down the middle, and when I turned to walk back to the baseline, there was my partner with a life lesson, which boils down to this: Let me hit those.
No matter what I did -- if it was a mistake -- there were all kinds of hot takes. This has been going on for years, mostly because I enjoy playing mixed doubles. I consider it a challenge because I know I'll probably be the target and the match will hinge on my performance. But let's be real. There is nothing worse about mixed doubles than the men who are nitpicking you the entire match.
Now, this doesn't happen every time with every man. You know the times it doesn't happen for me? When I played 9.0 and was on the court with 4.5 guys or better. Once, I played with a 5.0, and he said nothing -- not even the standard eye roll or shoulder slump (ladies, you know what I mean). I knew he was obviously far better than me, and I had to ask him what he thought we should do to turn the tide of the match. He told me, and we won the match. See, that's how doubles should work -- as a team effort. But just go ahead and play with the ham-and-eggers of the world, and they have all the answers for the ladies.
One thing I noticed was that when the guys missed a shot, there was no commentary. Partly because I don't feel the need to offer such input. He'll figure it out. (Spoiler: Just like I will!) But even these men who have loads of advice for me don't have it for each other. That's kinda weird, isn't it? It's almost as if the only difference is ... nah. Couldn't be.
Sometimes, we have this one guy who essentially comments on everything. He's our on-court ESPN analyst. He showed up last week, and by the end of the evening, our own Brent Musburger had managed to talk through an entire point, and guess who was serving when it happened? So I miss the first serve (comment about my toss), make the second serve ("Oh, that toss ... oh, you made it anyway!), my next crosscourt (oh, heh-heh, that's a good one), his partner's volley (That's a good one, Jer, heh-heh), my partner's pickup at the net (hey! How'd ya yet that one?"). It was our longest point of the night, in many, many ways.
I'm saying all of this to say that: Mansplaining is real, and it's everywhere. Because I didn't even ask for help and yet here I am, getting unsolicited advice from literally every person on the court. (One of them is my husband, and he's been doing this since we met. I give him a pass because he's actually a coach by trade. He will also shut up when I tell him to.) This involuntary mansplaining is also unintentional sexism. It's a super-micro look at why no one complains about on-court coaching for women only in pro tennis. It's an automatic assumption that every mishit is a cry for help. It's an assumption that if my toss is off, I can't figure out why. (But time out: Why is it so hard to catch a bad toss? This, I know, is a question that vexes both sexes.) This has happened to me for each of the 16 years I've been playing tennis, and it really only took this extreme instance to realize that this assumption is at work. I'm sitting here trying to think of an instance where I assume I need to give advice almost every second during a process -- and I keep coming up with teaching a kid how to read and on-the-job training at work.
This isn't one of those posts with a nice little bow at the end that offers a solution. It's more a challenge to any men who cheated and read this to ask yourself why you trend towards giving a woman advice much faster than you do another man. Also? Ask yourself if you actually think she'll listen to you. If she's looking at your game and it's a hot mess, probably no.