Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Fed Treatment

Some people choose to retire, and they retreat to their home on the hills, read a lot of books, take up bingo and studio dancing. And some people scorch some earth on the way out.
Julien Benneteau chose the latter and his target? Roger Federer. Yeah. He did this interview on French radio that kinda lit up tennis Twitter this week. You should read it.
What Benneteau is talking about isn't necessarily breaking news. Federer is a top-ranked player and top players get all types of perks -- above and below board. And some of this, to be honest, amounts to not much more than spilled tea. Complaining about Fed not wanting to get involved in Davis Cup changes until a decision had been made about the scheduling? Quibbling over Federer's Laver Cup exhibition tournament disrupting the calendar year? Meh.
But Federer apparently paying Nick Kyrgios three-quarters of a million dollars to play the Laver Cup? That is a chunk of change. Still, though. Tea. And the exorbitant fees that Federer nabs? That doesn't bother me so much, either.
Where Benneteau's commentary gets interesting is when he talks about Craig Tiley's involvement in Laver Cup -- and how that can benefit Federer. Tiley is the head of Tennis Australia and the chief organizer of the Australian Open.


The Australian Open, in terms of outdoor conditions, is easily the most brutal among Slams. If Federer is using his relationship with Tiley to get night matches while others are subject to the luck of the draw, that's not cool. And it almost has to be that he's using their relationship, because there isn't another player in any other tournament that I can think of who enjoys such consistently comfortable match conditions and placement. Not Serena or Venus Williams at Wimbledon. Not even Rafa in France. Either Tiley shouldn't be involved in Laver Cup or Federer should quit his involvement in Laver Cup until he retires.
The Frenchman also alleges that Federer's agent, Tony Godsick (and also Mary Jo Fernandez' husband, I believe) put his foot down on Fed playing on Louis Armstrong court at the U.S. Open -- and they listened. I'm pretty sure agents aren't supposed to go around ensuring his player's complete comfort at the expense of everything else. I thought it was to make sure he got paid. 
It's also alleged that the main reason the ATP doesn't do on-court coaching is because of Federer. That one sounds a bit fishy -- I'm pretty sure I've heard Rafael Nadal and others reject the idea, too. Was it because of Federer's influence? Good question. 
So, yes, some of these revelations are troublesome. But here's the thing about tennis. Even if you get the best court and the best time slot and more money under the table than everyone else, the individual player still has to deliver results. Federer hasn't done much of that this year, apart from Australia. Still, the preference-for-treatment issue with Tiley is, to say the least, a problem they might want to fix. 
Of course, Federer is pretty nonchalant about all of this. He was asked about it during the ATP Finals, and basically was like, meh: "I don't really feel in the mood during a World Tour Finals to discuss that topic, to be honest."
Guessing that mood won't change anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

It's Election Day in the U.S. and I Need to Think About Something Else

Yeah, so I've been on Twitter all day trying to figure out what's going to happen tonight. I've flipped off a tweet featuring that *@#*(##@)(#* stinkin' New York Times needle (seriously, eff that guy) and watched videos of hundreds of people waiting to vote because one station has only three functioning voting booths. We've literally been talking about this election for nearly two years, and it seems that the entire country's boards of elections just somehow didn't know about it? We're teetering on the edge of real Handmaid's Tale-level crap shower here. Right now, we're like in Betty Draper in season one of Mad Men territory.
It's time to think about something else. It's time for you to read about something else. We are going to talk about something else.
I'LL START.
Like, honestly, what happened to Novak Djokovic? One second, he's losing to Marco Cecchinato in the French Open quarters, and the next, we're giving Roger Federer the old "college try" applause for taking one set off of Djokovic. He's No. 1 in the world again, just like that. I gotta say, I'm not happy about it. Maybe it's my mood. Maybe it's because I miss Rafa Nadal. I'm not saying he's not deserving. I don't have to like it, do I? Sheesh.
Speaking of things I don't have to like, let's talk about this Coman tiebreaker that you have to do now in USTA matches. Because that's what I want to rant about next, that's why. I have enough trouble switching in an old-school tiebreaker on every six points. Math is just not my thing and I'll apologize to no one for that. But anyway, so this Coman tiebreaker was created so that everyone can keep serving on the side you had been serving on for the whole match. So the first server serves once, then after every four points you switch again. And I just have to say we need to (wo)man up here. Is it worth it, really? To see the same sky for the whole set while you serve? If you've ever played a league match, you know that your biggest fear isn't losing. It's playing doubles with three other people who want to taLK ABOUT THE WEATHER AND GRANDSONS ON EVERY CHANGEOVER. Now, we are giving Nancy more changeover chatter time. And god forbid that you're the person who breaks it up because you want to ... oh, I don't know, play tennis, which is the whole reason we are there to begin with. The rest of them give each other that look, that "we'll talk about her later" look. I don't know who this Coman woman is, but I sure hope she's happy.
Because I am not happy. I haven't seen Venus Williams on a tennis court in about four years now. What the hell, Venus.
And we're gonna put Serena Williams in the WWE now?! Tennis is a real sport and wrestling is fake. Que?!
Why can't Garbine Muguruza ever have a whole entire good season? I need a manager.
Karen Khachanov's forehand looks like a bird in flight and he's one of the best young players out there anyway. Honestly. He played such a smart match against Djokovic in Paris. Why does Paris need two big tennis events? Whatever.
What exactly is the point of Daylight Savings Time, if not to throw off everyone's biological clock? I'm waking up at 4 a.m. now for no earthly reason. And I'm supposed to then function? WTF? Florida voted down Daylight Savings Time LAST YEAR and here we are. It's 5:30 p.m. and I can barely see outside. Whose day is really being saved here?
Why won't Rafa marry his girlfriend?
Why does Wim Fissette keep getting fired?
The more I think about this Coman situation, the angrier it makes me. More than on-court coaching for women. But only women. This is actually making me more anxious than Election Day. I have to go.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Here We Don't Go Again

I've been ranting about a lot of stuff that I can't change, so why not go back to one of my favorite ranting topics of all time?
I am watching Daria Kasatkina's match versus Ons Jabeur. I had seen Kasatkina's coach's inspirational mid-match pep talk, and it was very good. Where was Jabeur's coach, though, to tell her to stop challenging? Just stop, sis.
Anyway, if you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know what's coming. Kind of.
You know, I feel like I've been on this anti-on-court-coaching train all by myself, and I was sure that the controversial U.S. Open women's final would have continued on to this issue, and I would finally have some company. And I was here for it. Waiting to get past this Serena/sexism stuff which has been annoying on about 40 levels, and then we ... got to on-court coaching! Yay! We got to the part where Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou said there should be on-court coaching at majors. (Whoops. We got a mid-rant rant coming: Serena Williams has never used on-court coaching and maintained she didn't receive it during the U.S. Open final. She has never, to date, seen the need for this and has done just OK so far. So it would appear that his own student does not agree with him on a fairly major point that helped launch an insane debacle at one of my favorite tournaments, but OK THEN. My personal favorite part of Mouratoglou's manifesto (say that three times fast) is when he says that on-court coaching is good for social media. I saw Kasatkina's coach's pep talk on social media, but when Coach MacGyver over there can turn social media traffic into tennis fans for life, I will be there watching. Do you think all the authors of those hot-take think pieces after the U.S. Open are still watching tennis?

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And I got really excited because I thought, "Here we go! We are now going to get into how this has only been advanced for women's tennis and not for men. Now people will start asking why that is. They'll call it for what it is -- a sexist policy because it implies that only women need help pulling themselves together during matches, which is, uh, NOT TRUE. Here comes the sexism debate in tennis we've (I've) been waiting for."
Naturally, though, Mouratoglou managed to sidestep this truth in his little statement. Of course, because he is not interested in equality or anything that is "big picture." Unless that big picture is of him.
I think on-court coaching is stupid. But I would almost like to see it instituted for both men and women because there's something I'd like to check out. I would like to know if when Roger Federer comes from behind to win a match after on-court coaching if Ivan Ljubicic will get the credit. Because Kasatkina's coach sure is right now. (Sidebar: She didn't really observe his technical advice and she won anyway. Weird.) Mouratoglou says in his essay that coaching is front-and-center in every sport, and he might be right. I guess he thinks that people don't realize that tennis players are coached when they are not playing matches. But we all know who Bill Belichick is, so yeah. There is that. But does Belichick get the credit for Tom Brady's many come-from-behind wins? Yeah, no. Kasatkina, though? Thank goodness for her coach, who pulled her from the brink of defeat.

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Therapy with TWA: This Moment Right Here

"They say African Americans have to be twice as good, especially women. I'm perfectly OK with having to be twice as good."

Serena Williams said that. I've been thinking about it a lot this month, and it's part of the reason I got mad with her at the U.S. Open. You don't set your standards that high, and then lower them to act like John McEnroe. Yuck.
I've been thinking about it for the last few weeks because we're about to get an irresponsible, dishonest frat boy who likes beer for a Supreme Court justice. That's just the stuff we know about him for sure. He's about to get this job because we lower the bar for privilege so low in this country that all he has to do is have a tantrum, and poof! He has what he wants.
I would suspect that if you're a woman, this week has been tough. If you're a black woman, it's been even harder. It's not just the light treatment of sexual assault accusations by our political leaders. I once had an internship at Family Circle, and the girl I interned with showed up to work one day severely hung over. I'm not exaggerating. She asked me to smell her breath to make sure it didn't smell like liquor. It did. I told her it didn't. Her grandfather owned a printing press. She couldn't even turn on the computer. I'm not exaggerating.
So yeah, this has been a lot. It will continue to be a lot. It's not fair to watch someone get a job they don't deserve because of their privilege.
Still, there is something to having to work for what you've gotten. So maybe he becomes a justice. The career I've had, I worked for it. I endured comments about my race, my clothes, my smile -- and that was before we even got to the quality of my work.
I had to be twice as good. It's not fair. But it's OK. I'd rather be twice as good than half anyway.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

HOMELAND SLAM: The Definitive Wrap

Fourteen years ago, on Aug. 26, 2018, I tweeted the following:


I didn't mean to be prophetic. (but I did ask it for a reason ...)
Man, I've never been so glad to bear witness to the end of a tournament as I was with this year's U.S. Open. It was full of great tennis moments, but also some of the most insane moments -- and that was before the Williams/Osaka final. Questionable umpire conduct took a front seat quite a few times. There were stories that emerged from this tournament that might change the structure of tennis forever. I wrote about some of those possibilities for the, er, WASHINGTON POST. Like I said, crazy two weeks.
That piece, its fallout and other things I had going on caused me to step back a little from the pro tennis scene and although I watched the rest of the tournament, I was mentally fried. I don't have much to say, but here is the last definitive wrap of the U.S. Open you will find:

1. I don't know what happened to Novak Djokovic between Marco Cecchinato and now, but it happened fast. When he came back from injury this year, it was hard to see anything technically wrong with his game -- same dependable groundstrokes, especially on the backhand. But obviously, the confidence wasn't there, and now it is. Maybe it's just as simple as him returning to his original coach. But what we do know for sure now is that Djokovic has as many Slams as Pete Sampras (and I'm old enough to remember when that was the unattainable benchmark) and that just when we thought the order of things was set, Djokovic looks ready to make an all-out assault on both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's records.
(Addendum: What happened to that forehand, Juan Martin del Potro? So tentative! Gah!!)

2. The doubles at this tournament was great. Coco Vandeweghe is not my cup of tea. Having said that the women's doubles final was a nice palate-cleanser on Sunday afternoon. Along with most recreational players, I end up playing more doubles and I wish I better at it. So these doubles matches are always so informative, but this one? I am seriously wondering if Kiki Mladenovich ever plays with Timea Babos again. Yes, they had Slam success this year, but this loss is gonna leave a mark. They held match points in the second and third sets and choked each time, especially Babos, whose level took a severe drop right around the time they should have closed out the match the first time. If you've played tennis, it's happened to you and even as you observe it happening to other people, you alternate between "Timea, how are you letting this happen to you?" and "Well, that dumped forehand looks familiar." You never want to see good players choke a match away, and you definitely don't want to see it them do it against Vandeweghe. 

3. I know that mixed doubles is sort of an exhibition event at Slams, but once again, can we NOT do tiebreakers in lieu of a third set? Especially at a major? Especially in the final match? Please?? Please???? 
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray defeated a team I had never heard of, Alicja Rosolska and Nicola Mektic, but will always remember now for (1) Mektic getting blasted out of his shoes at net by Mattek-Sands and (2) Rosolska's really scrappy play. I shall cheer for you, Pole and Croatian. 
So let's get back into the swing of things here at TWA with Mattek-Sands' acceptance speech (after a bad knee injury at Wimbledon last year):


Saturday, September 08, 2018

HOMELAND SLAM: Serena, Osaka and the Fact that Many Things Can Be True at Once

So here I sit, a few hours removed from the U.S. Open women's final, and I am not going to be able to sleep unless I write this, so here we are. I want to say that there are many things that can be true at once without canceling each other out. Let us talk about those things now, please:

1. Naomi Osaka played some typa match: Six aces -- five more than her opponent, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles. Fourteen unforced errors, seven fewer than her opponent. Seventy-three percent of points won on her first serve. That's a full ten percent more than her opponent. When Serena Williams unleashed her first (only) "KAMANNNNN!" Osaka kept her head down and kept making her shots. When the histrionics started, and continued, she was able to keep her head and remain unbowed by the sideshow. She closed the match on her serve without blinking. She's 20. Naomi Osaka's first grand slam win got sidetracked by another incident, as did Amelie Mauresmo's against Justine Henin (Also bs nonsense, but strictly by Henin) Mauresmo won another, and was able to celebrate -- take in her moment. Osaka will, too, one day. She's 20. Here's hoping we get her for another 16-18 years, and that they are as successful as Williams'.

2. This isn't about women's rights: When an umpire says, "Code violation -- [ insert violation here], that is a code violation. Carlos Ramos doesn't call a coaching violation and then just say, "Oh, my bad!" unless of course, he was wrong. He was not wrong. Patrick Mouratoglou made hand signals to his player, which is known as coaching. It's just as possible that Serena only saw his thumbs, and not his indication to move into the court, or to move Osaka into the court. But he did it, Ramos saw, and it was a violation on her. This might be a thing she talks about with her coach. At any rate, she knew that because he said, "CODE VIOLATION, WILLIAMS." Good god, woman. Ramos did not compel her to smash her racquet. He also was sitting there minding his business when she decided to call him a thief and demand an apology multiple times. Had Serena kept her head down and focused on the task at hand (she was down a set and break), nothing else would have happened. Maybe she loses. Maybe she comes back to win the second set. But if Serena had said nothing, it is clear that Ramos would have been a non-factor in this match. To suggest, as Serena did, that this "struggle" for equal standing in the quest to say whatever she wants to an umpire, and that it will work out for others although it didn't for her? S-T-R-E-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H

3. This is about fair play: We've seen this for years. Some umps are rule sticklers, others aren't. Some give a code violation for racquet abuse, and others don't. Some will give a code violation for backtalk from players (see: Federer v. del Potro at the U.S. Open in 2009) and others let it slide. Others still get down from their chairs and give the trailing player a pep talk. You see what I'm saying, yes? It's like boxing or figure skating. One judge's point-docking would cause another to say nothing. Umpires in tennis need to follow uniform rules. Even the serve clock this year (and indeed, in this match) was observed case-by-case. You shouldn't do that. It's either a rule or it isn't.

4. This is Serena Williams' fault: Listen, when you get a code violation, you don't then smash the living crap out of your racquet in plain view. You don't go ahead to call the ump names and give him a chance to call you out. No one would know this better than Serena Williams because THIS EXACT THING HAPPENED TO HER BEFORE. If anyone knows about violation penalties and poor timing, all she would need to do is take ONE LOOK at Mrs. Kim Clijsters. I mean, damn ... For Serena to suggest that it just seems to always happens to her here is completely neglecting the fact that she has been at fault at almost all those times. Clijsters. Stosur. Osaka. Dammit, woman

5. The fallout from the debacle is the USTA's fault: What the hell, Katrina Adams?! You've got a contentious ending to a match and a first-time Slam winner who is a kid and is already not enjoying the moment on account of the soap opera that unfolded en route, and what does Katrina Adams do? The first thing out of her mouth is, essentially, "You are a GOAT, Serena!" Which is true, but this is not the best time to point this out. After all, she did NOT win the match. Adams is tone-deaf AF on many things, and she should have done better here. This is why Serena Williams, who created this disaster, had to then calm the crowd before it turned into the background of the "This is America" music video. Because Adams, and post-match interviewer Tom Rinaldi, were not the adults in the room and by dint of their inability to read the moment could have led to Osaka having a breakdown after the biggest moment of her tennis life. (Rinaldi to Serena and Osaka during the postmatch, in essence: "So ... how about all of that?" God, man. Good god.)

6. This is not a time when Serena gets to change the game of tennis: I love me some Chris McKendry, but if she, Mary Joe Fernandez and Chrissie Evert didn't just fall in line with Serena's "women's rights" trope ... Now, Serena has had a history at the U.S. Open. Maybe you remember the time when she got screwed over during her match against Jennifer Capriati (you remember. This was the denim and boots outfit, which was as badass as one has gotten at any major. HANDS DOWN DON'T @ME. Definitely better than that tutu.) The horrible line calls against Serena in that match were ... wow, they were bad. Anyway, a few obviously bad line calls went against Serena and really did cost her in that 2004 quarterfinal match. Many people point to this as the birth of the challenge system. This turned out to be good for the game. Now, the ESPN cast is calling for on-court coaching because it happens anyway. What?! Even Serena doesn't want on-court coaching. In what world are we now attributing this disaster to a flaw in the rules as opposed to a flaw in Serena? She needs to cool out when she comes to play in Flushing. FULL DAMN STOP. Plenty of players get code violations, then move on in their lives. We're going to allow on-court coaching at Slams now for everyone (which, by the way, will probably just mean the women which is another injustice unto itself) because Serena lost her temper? What?!

7. Naomi Osaka. I just want to end on her. My god. Keeping your head through Nos. 2-6 to serve your way to a final? What maturity and poise. Most of us can't even stay that calm during a USTA league match. I hope they replay this match without the tantrums, so they can see what I saw early on -- that Osaka was ready. She came ready to play and snatched that title. Also, she's half-West Indian, so you're fam, sis, on these tennis streets. 😉

Sunday, September 02, 2018

HOMELAND SLAM: A Sea of Red

I had a lot of fun filling out the women's draw. Was feeling pretty good about my choices. And then the tournament started.




Anyway, this year's U.S. Open has had a lot going on, which is something of an understatement. On the first day, Simona Halep lost and it turned out that there wasn't a heat rule for men, which is ... something. On the second day, Alize Cornet changed her shirt on court and an umpire, upon viewing a sports bra, was more offended by that than the bare-chested men he no-doubt sees at least twice a week.
We all know about Mo Lahyani's free coaching session by now. This whole episode, which -- don't get me wrong -- is wild, still illustrates something I've been trying to point out for a while. For much of the tennis calendar, women are encouraged to get coaching -- it's actually a feature that is apparently a fan pleaser. (?) But if a man gets a whiff of coaching (also this week, Andy Murray reported to his match ump that his opponent that day, Fernando Verdasco, had been getting advice during the 10-minute break due to heat), this is viewed as very bad.
Yes, I understand that the coaching they were receiving was against the rules, while the women being coached during the year is a rule. But the existence of this rule suggests this notion that women somehow need it, which sort of flies in the face of the idea of equality in the sport. I think on-court coaching is a crutch, but if both men and women were allowed access to it, it would be just another thing I didn't like about tennis, and you wouldn't have Twitter exchanges like this between a male and female pro


where I would be in the unenviable position of agreeing with Nick Kyrgios. (Yes, this is that Donna Vekic. Yikeys.)

Predictions. I hate to embarrass myself and keep making very wrong picks, but I also cannot resist offering thoughts. First, Maria Sharapova's advancement through this draw has been behind some of the ugliest tennis I've ever seen. But maybe also behind some of the luckiest. Sure, when she beat Jelena Ostapenko yesterday, her winners/unforced errors ratio was 11/18, which isn't great. But Ostapenko's was 10/41. Also not great.
Second, I am still unsure of what to make of Serena Williams. But the way she took down her own sister the other day was savage and if she's willing to do that to her own sister, the other players in the draw should be at least aware of that. Now pardon me while I go make some popcorn to watch Williams/Kanepi.