Friday, August 18, 2017

But Are We, Though?

Here's how I found out Maria Sharapova was getting a wild card into this year's U.S. Open:


Blessed by none other.
Sure, she gets butts into seats. Sure, she's pretty and is actually good at tennis. Guess what else is true? The reason her ranking is so low is because she just had to serve a drug ban! Not only that, but for someone who sure looks like she tried to hide that she was taking meldonium for 10 years, she has been awfully unrepentant about her time in the penalty box! I mean, a wild card at a major?!
Ugh. That's all I have to say about that.
OK.
No, it's not. One of my favorite all-time tennis writers, Jon Wertheim, pointed out that, "Wild cards fly in the face of fairness." He noted that Vicky Duval, the young chipmunk-looking (meant in the nicest way) American who had been fighting lymphoma, has to qualify. That stinks. She's an American and it's the U.S. Open!
Yeah, right, I know. She wasn't likely to win the U.S. Open and maybe Sharapova is more likely to do that. If Maria Sharapova wins the U.S. Open off a wild card because her ranking was too low to get in on her own merits because she had to stay off the court for a year and a half because of a drug ban, then I think I am missing how that's good for tennis.

In other news, Rafael Nadal is going to be the world No. 1 next week. It's 2017.

In even more other news, Caroline Wozniacki lost in another tournament final. 0-6 now, and zero sets won. Zero tiebreakers played. I watched this one -- against Elina Svitolina in Montreal and two things:
1. Svitolina's game is effective and super boring to watch. I don't know how that's possible, but here we are.
2. Wozniacki looked fine throughout the tournament until the final. She's down 1-5 and calls her dad down? (Also she appears to have poached Victoria Azarenka's old hitting partner, who was Serena's old hitting partner -- the ever-mobile Sascha Bajin) Her dad's talking, gesturing wildly. Caroline's nodding. Caroline goes out and loses the next game in about five minutes. This on-court coaching is VERY BENEFICIAL.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Azarenka. Listen, this nonsense her ex is pulling is ... not cool, to say the least. Anyone who didn't want to be a petulant jerk would let his ex and her (presumably) very responsible team go to work out-of-state without making it a court issue.
This sucks for Azarenka. I really thought she was in the relationship clear once she got rid of RedFootBlueFoot Foo. Dang.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

ITF: Hold My Beer

In some ways, I wish the Interational Tennis Federation was my mom while I was growing up. My life would have been so different! Because when I was a kid, this is how conversations went:

MOM: Who took my lipstick?
ME: (wearing it all over my face) Not me!
MOM: Go to your room. You're grounded.

Just imagine what you could do with the ITF:

ITF: Who used this lipstick? It's crusted with PEDs.
ME: I did. But it was totally an accident and really it's my team's fault.
ITF: OK. Don't let it happen again, hon.
ME: ok, cool
ITF: But I slit the tires on your car, so

I'm oversimplifying here, I know. But this Sara Errani drug suspension case is bonkers. Let's start right out by pointing out that there is no evidence, based on tests, that she has been a regular user of the drug letrozole, which has been used to increase the presence of testosterone in the body, which leads to a lean body mass. It appears that this ingestion happened once and in low levels in her body.
But how it got there? I ... I ... OK, you can read it for yourself.




That's right. Sara's mom (Mrs. Errani) accidentally apparently gave her entire family a dose of her cancer medication, including Sara, who was home visiting on an injury-related break from tennis. This is pretty unbelievable. Sara's mom is also a part-time pharmacist. 
Yeah. 
Obviously, I wish the best for Sara's mom and her family. She has apparently been fighting cancer since 2005. 
With that said, this is the craziest report I've ever read. We have one doctor saying Errani probably took it to enhance her performance and another doctor with a hair test disputing this. We have the ITF panel trying to determine the level of intention on a scale of "no-blame" to the "five-alarm Sharapova special." 
Ultimately, they determined that Sara is a little responsible and give her a two-month ban. 
This positive test was first discovered in February, which is a bit of a ... problem here. Errani had been allowed to play through much of the year. Why? 
But then the other crazy part is that although they let her play all that time, they are also taking back all her earnings from between February and June on top of the suspension.
In short, this makes absolutely no sense at all. I mean, the ITF has made a lot of ridiculous judgments in the past. As any TWA reader knows, my favorite is cutting short Maria Sharapova's drug ban, even as she testified that she was making efforts to keep the use of the drug from her team. But it's like they had no idea what to do here. 

... um, why??

And I kind of get it because if you are putting yourself in the position where, as the ITF, you're going to go all in on buying this defense (and I would have loved to be in on some of the tests Errani's team conducted), then it probably becomes difficult to figure out a punishment for this -- or if there should be one. They never quite figured that one out, so they went with a slap on the wrist ... and also taking the money they let her earn for several months. 
It's almost as though Errani and her team came up with the craziest possibility for this positive test and the ITF was like, "You want a judgment? Hold my beer." 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

There *Might* Be a Theme Here

Did you know that Caroline Wozniacki has been to five WTA Tour finals this year? Not bad. Not bad.
Did you know she hasn't won one of them?
Although Wozniacki has been No. 1 before, recall that she has done this without having won a major. She has been to a couple of finals and come up short there, too.
Five finals in a season without winning one of them? That's nuts. Especially with a lot of the usual suspects on maternity leave or struggling with a return to form. She's lost to Johanna Konta, Karolina Plishkova (x2), Katerina Siniakova and Elina Svitolina. With the exception of Siniakova, all these women are in the top 10 --- and she's not so much snagged one set. Not a tiebreak.
Still. Wozniacki is No. 6 in the world. That's mainly because there's never been a tournament she won't play. "On the moon, you say? OK. I'll give it a shot."



I'm just wondering out loud whether Wozniacki has missed her window to take a major title. What do you guys think?

In other news, Maria Sharapova has pulled out of her last two tournaments with injuries.
And I don't even know why I mention this, because it's completely unrelated, but did you know that one of the benefits of meldonium is physical endurance due to increased blood flow? Oh, also a heart medicine.
Uh-huh.

The Aussie young guns are under fire. First Bernard Tomic admits he's not really feeling tennis right now, and then Nick Kyrgios defaults a match against a guy named Tennys. He didn't even win a game on Thursday in his first-round match against Sandgren, and the crowd was not impressed. He was booed out of the stadium.
I have been a proponent of giving Kyrgios a chance to be young and figure out what he wants. I'm also about tennis-ing with attitude (see top of page). I wonder, though, if these guys might not benefit from some type of ATP mentorship program. I'm serious. You can't tell me all the top pros didn't go through bouts like this. So why do some go on to be Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray  (who probably could also benefit from some real talk), etc. and others are chronic underachievers with talent and no patience to stick it out? Is it a millennial thing? Or are fans too hard on these players (and they paid good money for tickets -- they have the right), only to find no support in the locker room or close by?
Just a thought.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Andy Roddick Was Good at Tennis. That's It!

Wimbledon might be over, but the tennis world keeps spinning. Let's talk about some things that have happened in the past week or so:

1. Hall of Fame: Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick are the newest inductees into the Tennis Hall of Fame. Let me say a few things about Roddick first, because I've spent a significant amount of time on him in this blog over the past decade. Here's one of my favorite old posts about him. Roddick was the shot of personality that tennis needed in the early aughts. There was nothing better for a while there than Andy Roddick playing tennis at night at the U.S. Open. He was the first significant sign of American male tennis life since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. He won a major. He was No. 1 in the world for a minute.
He totally does not deserve to be in the Tennis Hall of Fame.
You can't (or should not) get into the Hall of Fame if you came in second a lot. You should be great, and not just good to get into the HOF. Think about this: Chris Evert is in the Tennis Hall of Fame. Sampras. Navratilova. Agassi. Arthur Ashe. I mean, really?!
I was a little pissed about this for a few days, until I finally decided to find out exactly who is in the International Hall of Fame. There are more than 200 members -- and this includes not just players, but broadcasters and others who contributed to the sport in other ways than picking up a racquet. Here's the list. I clicked on the first name I didn't recognize that caught my eye: one Mal Anderson. He actually was never No. 1 in the world, but was No. 2 and he won one major -- the 1957 U.S. Open. He was on two winning Davis Cup teams. So Mal Anderson is not great, but good. Like Roddick.
Then I realized that the Tennis Hall of Fame is a lot like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I mean, it used to be a big deal for someone to get a star. And then a couple years ago, Paul Rudd got one. Right. Exactly. It's this guy:


Rudd was pretty good in "Clueless," and is an OK Antman, I guess. H'es good, not great. We have a theme.
So now I get it and my mind is de-boggled. It's worth noting at this point that Clijsters is absolutely deserving of this honor. This woman left the tour to have a baby and then came back and won a Slam. She was a force in women's tennis for a long time and hit a clean ball. I loved watching her play. I still remember when she faced off against Jennifer Capriati in the final of the French Open in '01. Tracy Austin was doing on-air commentary before the match and she actually said these words about Clijsters: "She doesn't have anything to hurt Capriati with." That was when I realized that commentators don't necessarily watch tennis until someone pays them to do so.

2. Agz Radwanska got married. Congratulations! Let's work on that serve now!

3. OK. Let's talk about Bernard Tomic. Everyone else is, and it's not for a good reason. Tomic has been taking his pity party on the road lately. It all started at Wimbledon, when he acknowledged that he was bored and couldn't get himself motivated or interested in winning. He also may or may not have entirely bailed on his match. That lost him his Head sponsorship, which takes some doing, especially when you realize that Head is happy to stand behind an admitted drug cheat. But we've had enough tangents here, so let's push through my heavy eye-roll. Tomic last week said he was playing tennis just for the money, but is still trying to find some joy in tennis.
It is super easy to go off on Tomic and point out that he gets paid to play a game. It's probably true that if someone walked into my house and told me I could play tennis for a living for any amount of time, I'd leave a note for the family and hit the road. Here's what else is true: There are an awful lot of people who feel exactly the way Tomic feels about their own jobs. And a good chunk of those people are not afraid to tell you just how much they hate their jobs. Believe me -- I've worked with them. So I really just feel sorry for Tomic if he hates his job so much. I've been there too, and when you get out, it's like getting rid of a heavy weight from your shoulders. Tomic has a varied game that shouldn't bore him, but if it does, I hope he finds something else to do, because if he doesn't want to be out there, no one is really going to want to pay to watch him, either.

4. Davis Cup: A couple of weeks ago, the ITF announced some potential changes to the Davis Cup and Fed Cup formats. One was having men play best-of-three, because who wants to see five sets of tennis when players are representing their country, and not just themselves for once? So silly.
Whatever on that. BUT there is one other thing on the agenda -- having the Cups play their final ties at the same place and time, starting in 2018. It would be called the World Cup of Tennis.
When I saw this, it made me feel like that homeless person in those crisis movies, the one who stands on the street corner holding a "THE END IS NEAR" sign. Except that instead of everyone ignoring me and throwing nasty looks, someone stops, hugs me and says, "You guys we should listen to her because she is totally right and Davis Cup and Fed Cup have been flawed for a long time and gentlemen we can fix it we can give it a structure and give fans a reason to care about it instead of having it be at random times on the calendar which makes it appear to be an afterthought and if even the sport of golf can make it work surely we can because tennis is much more interesting to watch than golf so let's get this new format rolling like now and someone get her a shower because she stinks."
I'm just saying it's a start.

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.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Frenchy 2017: What the French just happened?

I know that I said the French Open always produces surprising results, and that it is almost impossible to predict at times. But I have also come to realize that I have some incredibly awful prediction abilities. I probably always have. But thanks to social media, now there is concrete evidence.




Y'all should follow me on Twitter, where I make an ass of myself daily!
So, lesson being learned, I was mostly quiet during the final between Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka. Nadal won his tenth French Open title due in some part to me staying off Twitter, meaning now that our fates are now inexorably linked.
Makes sense to me.
OK, but seriously. What happened at the French Open that's worth discussing?

5. I am just saying I'm right about Angelique Kerber: Last year, I paid a shaky tribute to Kerber's ascent to No. 1. There's no questioning how she got there -- she won two slams and beat Serena Williams in the process of winning Australia. I questioned then if her game is built to last at the top, and it's starting to look like the answer is no. Was there anyone who follows tennis who actually expected her to win against Ekaterina Makarova in the first round? Now, I heard people floating around the idea that she was injured, and although she's had issues earlier in the year, she hasn't said recently that she's struggling with injury. What she has said is that she's having trouble handling the pressure of being at the top. That happens a lot (definitely not looking at you, Garbine Muguruza), and really the best time for this to happen is now -- if Kerber can get past the yips. The top four slots in women's tennis are just there for the taking for whoever is bold enough to cash in until Serena and Victoria Azarenka return. Yes, I expect both of them back in the top 5 after their maternity leaves. No, that's not undue pressure.

4. Bagels were served quite often at the French Open: Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Novak Djokovic. Juan Martin del Potro, Fabio Fognini. Genie Bouchard. Anyone who played Nadal. It's sort of funny when you think about this happening so often to men because, as we all know, women's tennis is traditionally considered the weaker variety. Of course, the bagel epidemic has caused proponents of best-of-three matches for men to reanimate. There are far too many high-quality men's matches still going on to make that a solid argument. But ... I am watching the trend.

3. The future is pretty much now: That bagel Djokovic took came from Dominic Thiem. Last month, Thiem beat Nadal on clay. He's beaten all the Big 4 already. All of this as Alexander Zverev still struggles for consistency. Guys, I think Thiem might win a major this year, like

2. Jelena Ostapenko: Like, WHAT.: OK, for the first hour of this match, I fought to keep it on my television. It was that hard to watch. Halep played probably the best I'd ever seen her, but Ostapenko? If it wasn't a winner, it was an error. Sometimes, my husband calls me "Two-Hit Nancy." The first half of this match was like watching me play, and it was pretty horrifying and also reminds me I should call my life coach. Anyway, all of a sudden, Ostapenko's shots began staying in the court, and for all the defense in the world, Halep couldn't keep up. For a 20-year-old kid to come back from a set and 3-0 deficit in a Grand Slam final just defies all logic, and that's kinda what makes tennis great. But also, can we briefly run through some of the people Ostapenko beat over the last two weeks? There's ... Sam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky.

1. My bae Rafa: OK, that forehand down the line in the final was SICK and you know the one I'm talking about. During the ceremony to mark Rafa's achievement -- not done before in the Open era -- they played the stinking thing again with poor Wawrinka standing there! The idea that Nadal's form on clay looked better than ever is not great for the competition. Tennis observers think the grass is playing slow these days, too. Oh, man. I hope he wears that sleeveless white top again.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Frenchy 2017: Tennis-ing is Hard

I've been doing this blog for a long time, and the French Open has always been the outlier-hot mess tournament, so naturally, the top seed is gone by the second round. Annnnd, the person who beat her is also not out of the second round. The sad part is that only one of those results is a real surprise.

What the hell, A. Kerber.: Not only did Kerber lose in the opening round, she only managed to win four games -- and she was lucky to get those. I'm not going to lie, when I filled out my draw, I hesitated at this one. But in the end, I couldn't see Kerber withstanding a stiff challenge in the first round, in this case from Ekaterina Makarova. She needed a break and she got broken. Know what I'm sayin'?
Now for the unexpected part: Makarova takes advantage of this path through the quarters BY WINNING FOUR GAMES ON THE WAY TO DEFEAT IN THE VERY NEXT ROUND. Because of course. Let's move on to better news.

Yes, Petra is back!: Petra Kvitova was attacked in her own apartment by a knife-wielding intruder and was badly cut on her hand in the process of fighting this person off. This week, she came back to tennis. Her stay was brief (second-round loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands). But she's back. I hope she's OK -- physically and emotionally.

... and Serena? ... Not gonna lie -- I saw this photo of Serena and her coach and thought, "I knew it! She's gonna play!" She is allegedly -- "allegedly" here to watch Venus, although I think her true motives were somewhere in here:



What the hell, A. Zverev.: I can't even be mad at Alexander Zverev for blowing up my bracket for frankness like this:



The Cornet-iest quote that has ever lived:


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Frenchy Preview: Good luck, gang.


The French Open is never easy to predict. But this one is bananas. Just take one look at this crazy men's draw:




Thank god Roger Federer isn't in this draw. We got about three favorites cropping up just in time -- Rafa Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic. My heart is with Rafa, but I've got an eye on Andre, er, Novak. We'll see!
Also, a nod to all the really interesting first-round matches in the men's draw. Many of them involve Spaniards, and not Russell Crowe-Spaniard, either. We're talking about David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez and the like. 




OK, I have to freely admit that the first draw I tried to fill in was the women's draw and the first match you see is Angelique Kerber v. Ekaterina Makarova! I stared at that for a few minutes and went to the men's bracket. This has to be the first time in pro tennis history that the top seed is most certainly NOT the favorite to advance out of the second round. Like, if she wins, it will shock the hell out of everyone. 
I also wanted to note here that Pauline Parmentier is still around. 
More later. Filling out this draw was exhausting.













Thursday, May 25, 2017

Red-Dirt Volleys

Really slow time here in TennisLand as we go into the French Open next week. Not much happening at all.
Well, OK. A couple of “minor” developments:

via GIPHY

1. That was me fangirlling it when I checked my phone at work and saw that Novak Djokovic had hired ANDRE AGASSI to be his coach for the French Open. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be yell. I meant to say ANDRE AGASSI. I can't help it. My ultimate tennis crush is ANDRE AGASSI. Let me tell you something. The first year I was a tennis fan, I stayed up until 7 a.m. EST to watch an Australian Open semifinal between ANDRE AGASSI!!!! and Pete Sampras. After ANDRE beat the tar out of Sampras in the fifth set, that was it. He duck-walked all the way into my tennis heart. And now he is joining forces with the struggling Djokovic?! I have one question: Is Gil Reyes coming? He'd better be coming.

2. So for the last month, Rafa Nadal and his fine ass has been tearing up the clay courts, and the tennis talkers-that-be anointed him the French Open favorite soon after he won Monte Carlo. And then ... well, what had happened was Dominic Thiem. Last week, in Madrid, he lost a tight one to Nadal. Then. In Italy, he beat Nadal in straight sets, and advanced to the final against Djokovic, who, until now, had been working diligently on his little molehill of mediocrity. But Djokovic rolled in and beat Juan Martin del Potro and Thiem on the way to the final ... where he lost to Alexander Zverev?!!!! I say all of this to say that the French Open should be ... entertaining.

3. We're gonna call this paragraph SHUT UP JOHN ISNER. OK, so Roger Federer decided last week that he was not going to play the French Open, and naturally, everyone began to think it was because Nadal was killing it. That's ridiculous, but more ridiculous was when Isner got involved. First of all, Isner says that he would never miss a Slam because he was saving up for the next one. Says the guy who didn't go to Rio to save himself for the U.S. Open THAT HE DIDN'T WIN. Secondly, we're gonna need a headline fix on this story:


Oh. OK. Hey, Google, can I get a definition of the word "rival?"


I am just saying. 

4. Maria Sharapova has finally done something I can respect. After being passed over for a wild card of any kind into the French Open (meaning she can't play -- ranking's too low) she announced that she would play in the qualifying draw at Wimbledon. Look, you get busted for doping, don't look for gifts. Play your way in if you think you've got it like that. Does Sharapova have it like that? Could she get through a qualifying draw and then deep in a main? Probably, gang. Probably.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Therapy with TWA: Maria Sharapova

After careful consideration of Genie Bouchard's application for membership to The Official Tennis with Attitude Commission, I have decided to advance it to the second stage. Her first attempt last year was blocked for having all the talk and not the action to back it up. This time, she straight-up called Maria Sharapova a drug cheat who should be banned for life. Just before meeting her in the second round at the Madrid Open.
I couldn't watch the match, but kept a watchful eye on Twitter all day at work, and when I saw that Bouchard had pulled out the win, 6-4 in the third -- all I can say is that I have never been so gleeful at someone's defeat. Especially when I saw what I was waiting for (h/t to @hypotemuse on Twitter):



The cold-fish handshake, accompanied by the dismissive scold-stare by Bouchard. Oh, I tell you, I was gleeful. And that's when I realized I needed help.
I am not at all happy that Maria Sharapova is back in tennis.
I am trying to be a grown-up and be reasonable about this. Yes, it's good for tennis, especially for that green bottom line. She attracts people and attention. The more attention tennis gets, the better. Right. I know. And I get that she served her time for taking a banned substance and that when you do something wrong, you should be allowed to do the time and move on. She's done that.
She's also -- ever since this happened -- been walking around acting as though she hasn't done anything wrong, that this is Someone Else's fault and that she was simply caught in the middle. She has threatened legal action and essentially demanded that people like Bouchard not say bad things about her. She accepted a wild card into an event that had already started before she was cleared to play again. And this is really where I struggle. Wild cards are for people who are not banned for drugs or other illegal activities. She was ranked #262 in the world BECAUSE OF THE BAN, NOT AN INJURY. !!!!!!
Whew. Had to take a minute. I'm back.
But here's the problem I have: Sharapova is not going anywhere any time soon. She's not going to walk into a press conference one day this week and express any real regret for the situation she put herself into, and apologize on behalf of her ignorant agent who chose to defend her by insulting the careers of two pretty good players. So what do I do?
Nothing, basically. Sometime around last November 8, I learned that not everyone plays by the rules, and they still get to play and they still win. Sometimes, you can get banned by your sport,, and go to Harvard, write a book, and get welcomed back to your sport with a wild card that you don't deserve. Sharapova might even win another Slam, and maybe even this year. And she will feel vindicated and everyone will say that this is why she's great for tennis and we'll forget she took a "heart medication" and apparently never told most of her team about this, which is probably why no one told her it was banned for 2017 -- no one knew she was taking it. That woulda helped.
There I go again. I was hoping this therapy session would end with me finding a way to make peace with the way Sharapova has returned to tennis, but nope. Still mad. Except when I watch this;



Heh. Small victories.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Servin' and Volleyin' 'em Up

Where to start? Maria Sharapova? Not today, Satan.
How about Rafael Nadal Parera instead? A fellow tennis fan friend of mine forwarded me a story from Deadspin with the headline: "The King of Clay is Looking a Little Wobbly." This after a tight first-round match in Monte Carlo and with Alexander Zverev on the horizon, this guy figured Rafa was done for. I told my friend then that the story was basically pablum and was utterly useless in a respectful way:



And then Rafael Nadal Parera kilt the rest of the field, even winning Monte Carlo. No, I haven't gotten my apology yet.
Nadal beat Zverev along the way. And then he went ahead the next week and won Barcelona, beating Kevin Anderson and Dominic Thiem in that process. And that three-set match against Kyle Edmund that prompted Deadspin to put on their genie hat? It's the only three-setter he's played since. I mean, damn, who consistently makes it to finals this year, losing mostly to Roger Federer for most of this year and still has to have folks questioning his career?
Hell, he's having a better year right now than three out of the four players ranked above him right now!
Speaking of, so Novak Djokovic! Djokovic has had some issues lately. He beat Andy Murray in a tournament final in January -- and hasn't sniffed the latter stages of a tournament since. The Australian Open didn't go well. He's taken a couple Ls to Nick Kyrgios, which are not bad losses. But Denis Istomin? David Goffin? So yeah, it's been tough. How tough? Welp, Novak answered that for us this week by DITCHING HIS ENTIRE TEAM. All. Of. Them. He revealed the news on his website and one line



kinda made me wonder if he wouldn't have wanted to quote that a little differently.
Seriously, this is a pretty dramatic move and of course, you wonder how amiable this is. You also wonder how long Djokovic will stay on his own. Especially with the French Open coming, and as Nadal and Federer are becoming more of a threat. So this will be interesting ...

By the way, the current average age of  the ATP's top 5 is 31. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My First Fed Cup Tie, in Pictures (Some of Which are Moving)

After playing a lackluster league match to start my Saturday, I wasn't really jacked about driving an hour up the highway and shelling out $50 to watch a Fed Cup tie. But honestly, in the middle of Florida, it's not likely we're getting pro tennis much closer than this, so I got my sweaty self in the car and drove to Saddlebrook Resort to watch the U.S. face off against the Czech Republic.
Verdict: I wish the ITF would figure out how to pimp out the Davis and Fed cups properly because even stateside, there was a lot of energy and excitement that I thought only existed in Spain and Argentina. So, without further adue, a photo tour of my first Fed Cup tie:

I was pretty perturbed about paying $15 for parking until someone handed me a free ticket to the matches. Still, $15 to leave my car somewhere? It's not running or anything ...


  
I showed up at the beginning of the second set. I had to wait to go to my seat until the first changeover at 2-1. Not bad, but the kid next to me was starting to annoy me a little. We all want to get to our seats, Johnny!




In case you couldn't see that, Coco Vandeweghe, who was playing against Marketa Vondrousova, lost the point. I was sitting in the American section, where everyone was rooting for the Americans. Except one guy ...


This one. He was loudly rooting for the Czechs, cheering in a different language. Whenever he did that and someone would look at him, he would return the stare as if to say, "You got a problem, kid? I'll solve it!" I thought this guy really won the section.


My panoramic game is weak.



I'm still not the biggest Coco fan, but still wouldn't want to encounter that game late at night on a street corner.



Apparently, I had missed the part when Coco busted her racquet and hit herself with the flying pieces. But, hey, no fine! Also, that's Martina Navratilova.



Here's on thing I couldn't quite figure out. We got a four-piece band out here making noise and piped in music from the speakers? Why not let the crowd music create some energy? By itself?? This is an American thing, isn't it. Oh, and ALSO. These musicians think they're slick. Several times, while the Czech players were about to hit second serves, one of them would "accidentally" hit their drum, producing just enough sound for everyone to hear. Once, the umpire looked directly at them and told them to stop. Come on, dudes. That's lame.


This American camouflage vomit design has got to stop. Just no


Didn't take too many pix of poor Shelby Rogers, who lost so quickly and with so little pushback that I ended up taking more photos and videos of what was happening in the stands while she was playing. Next time, Shelb. Next time.








Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Quick hits

OK, tennis news was a bit heavy this weekend and there's some things that didn't quite get addressed that we should probably discuss at least briefly:

1. You have got to be kidding me with this Maria Sharapova offensive. I mean, what. WHAT. I have never seen a person take a drug ban and demonstrably deserving of this ban, and yet be so defensive about criticism. I'm talking about Sharapova's agent coming out and insulting the careers of Caroline Wozniacki and Agz Radwanska because they had the nerve to suggest that wild cards should not be reserved for drug ban recipients. WHICH IS A FAIR POINT, by the way. I didn't mean to shout. But between Sharapova saying stupid stuff like this:



... and Max Eisenbud following up with petty nonsense like this:


... and then when you consider that the original ITF report on the ban had suspicious passages such as this:



you wonder what the strategy is here. It's already pretty clear that not everyone on tour is not that stoked about her coming back and ... then you go scorched earth? I sure hope Sharapova's game is going to back up all of this talk. Her comeback is this week at Stuttgart and her first round match is against Roberta Vinci.
(Quick aside regarding Eisenbud's comment about paragraphs 100 and 101, which are:

Here's paragraph 97b, which is also kind of interesting and one that Eisenbud should address as well perhaps:

So I don't understand how both these segments are in the same decision to grant Sharapova a reduced ban time. But hey, whatever, right?)

Anyway, I do believe Sharapova's return is good for women's tennis in terms of visibility, but I really wish she hadn't jumped the line this way by taking a wild card in a tournament that's started before her ban is completed. It's going to rightfully leave a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of fans.

2. While I was at the U.S. Fed Cup over the weekend, I noted some comments about Rafael Nadal, David Goffin and poor sportsmanship accusations about my man Rafa. I have investigated these charges, which are based on this point:



Obviously, umpire Cedric Mourier made a really bad mistake. It's these types of mistakes that make you think it might actually be time to bring the Shot Spot to clay courts, too, because now we can see that a mark can lie. But it's kind of hard to put this one on Nadal's shoulders. Sure, he looked like he was OK with the 'out' call, but is it on Nadal, from the other side of the court, to reverse a call? If the umpire has come down to inspect a mark, you'd think he knows how to do his job. I know there have been times I've hit a shot and thought it was long, only for my opponents to say it was right on the line. It happens. With the type of spin Nadal hits, it probably happens to him more than most. It would be one thing if Nadal was at the net and could see the shot a bit better. Otherwise, let's leave this one square at the feet of Mourier. Which, by the way, was exactly what Goffin did.

3. Ilie Nastase is a mentally depraved old man and even before this weekend's Fed Cup tie, this should have been noted and handled before. He warmed up on his weekend path of suckitude by speculating on the color Serena Williams' baby might have. (I wish I could see the way this question was posed to him, because I would almost bet the questioner knew he'd say something crazy.)
I don't want to waste too much more time on him. But let's just leave it here: He's very bad for tennis. Well, OK. Let me allow Great Britain coach Anne Keothavong to respond to Nastase's weak attempt at an apology by giving flowers to the entire team (God, did really have to go the full 1960s-stereotypical route?):


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Two Months Pregnant Is a Lot Pregnant, OK?

Well, I had to do an extra post this week because Serena Williams won the Australian Open while she was pregnant. I still remember where I was (a couple days ago) when my sister texted me to say that the new World No. 1 (again) was pregnant. I'm not a math person, but when I realized this was April and she was 20 weeks in, I couldn't get much further in my brain. Fortunately, neither could the Internet.


I'm old enough to remember when we thought Serena was on shaky ground because she lost to Madison Brendle before the Open started. Remember that?


OK, that looks like my blog font. I guess just "me." But, OK, I was right! In a way. Kinda.
After I got over my shock, some people noted that Serena was only a couple months in when she won Australia. "Only." OK. When I was eight-ish weeks pregnant, things were not going well. I literally hid a bottle of my husband's foot lotion because the smell was killing me. Same with cigarette smoke. I subsisted on crackers and antacids. Also water. In case anyone wants to act like being first-trimester pregnant is no big deal, let's talk about what that means. This is about the time your body realizes there is an alien in it and it begins to rebel. I was scheduled to play a league match in my first trimester once. I don't bail out of league matches. I had a small problem, though. I couldn't get out of bed because my body wasn't handling its new friend very well and I bailed out of it. Then I stayed in bed from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. There were days I couldn't even go to work -- and all I was doing at work was sitting in a chair!
I'm just saying that Serena Williams having two weeks where she could go play pro-level tennis while she was pregnant is extraordinary. But we got think pieces about how pregnancy will affect her.



These are some of the dumbest sentences I've ever read, and I say that with the full recognition that Donald Trump is the president of the United States.
Couple quick tips for handling Serena being pregnant:
1. If you are a man, put your damned pen down. Just stop. Women, stop asking men to be your source:

This story's main source -- man. Of course.


2. Serena Williams won the Australian Open pregnant and we're talking about what motherhood is going to do to her competitive drive. I'm gonna go ahead and wager it's (a) none of your business and (b) BREAKING: Many women have babies and then go back to slay on the job. Many women decide to dedicate their time and energy to their new families. So just stop.
3. Can we stop talking about Serena like she's Tiger Woods, and her career got derailed by her man beating her down on the street because she had several hundred girlfriends?
OK, Naf, you're trimming the reactions everyone can have, right? Right. Here's the angle we want to pursue. Serena Williams won a Grand Slam when all type of chaos was going on in her body and that is awesome. Now just think of an appropriate shower gift. (Diapers are always good.)


Sometimes, I think Jim Courier doesn't want to be Davis Cup captain.

Yes, Davis Cup was a bit ago, but I refuse to address it in a timely manner on account of that I hate the format. So there.
But I was a bit curious about how it is that the U.S. took such a lopsided loss, so I started watching the matches I had recorded. I though I could try to figure out how some guy ranked 79th in the world beat Jack Sock, who has been playing well as of late. Is Thompson the new hot Aussie talent?
I'm not going to say all of that. But I did notice something about the weekend that made me wonder if Jim Courier had to be compelled by force to take this Davis Cup captain job.
I'm just going to say the following, and then offer video evidence to support my thoughts: OK. You're in Australia and it's Davis Cup. You're not in America for Davis Cup, so the crowd is jacked. Their faces are painted. They're screaming at the top of their lungs. And, you, as the opposition captain, is like:



This isn't a random snapshot. Here is the thing. Davis Cup is the one event where it's OK for the captain to coach the player, and it's the only time I'm cool with that, because it happens for Fed Cup, too. But the really fun thing about it is that the captain isn't really coaching per se. He (or she, Conchita) is a cheerleader. When you're on the road, you're that friendly face that isn't painted yellow and green for your player. You're the energy! You're



Did you know that Jim Courier once just started reading a book during changeovers during a match he was playing? Doesn't that seem like something someone would do if they weren't really into the match? Speaking of not being into a match, here's Courier and Isner during a changeover on day one of the tie:


I deliberately muted the volume because really you don't need it.
I'm not really saying Courier is a poor coach. It might just be that he's not a team coach guy. He probably could drop some serious knowledge on a player one-on-one. Kind of like a Lindsay Davenport. And maybe the only reason this yoga-styled coaching stands out is because of who he was coaching against: Lleyton "C'mon Rock!" Hewitt, who probably pumps himself up just to go to sleep at night. Here he is coaching young Thompson, who has just placed match favorite Sock onto the ropes:





Here is Courier after Sock pulls to 5-5 in the third set against Thompson:


He looks like someone has issued a dire threat against his family pet! What is up with this reaction?!! Here is Hewitt coaching Kyrgios.


After Kyrios won the first set on a drop shot winner, and in the presence of Hewitt, he did this:



He's ... smiling. This guy just gave an interview last fall saying he'd rather be playing basketball and Pokemon Go.
And we got a coach with this going on:



I gotta say, he sets the phrase "hands-off" into a whole new stratosphere in terms of definition.