Archive for July, 2011

27 Jul 2011

Same as below. Wertheim’s still the man. Find his answers here.

I’m excited to be going to the Cincinnati tournament next month to watch the men and women. Can you give me some tips. What should I be looking for?
– Jim S., Chicago

Good question! You might mean “which players should I be keeping on” or “what things should I try and see at the tournament?” Either way, I’ll answer both.

I think it’s pretty obvious to say what you’re looking for with the men: Novak Djokovic, and guys who can beat Novak Djokovic. The chances of him sweeping Cincy/Montreal as well as USO like he did IW/Miami/AO seem small, but this is still a guy who has only lost once all year. As for the other guys, what adjustments has Rafa made? How’s the confidence? What about Fed? Muzz still looking good? You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on your top 3 Americans Fish, Andy, and Tree, and you might want to check out the BryBros too.

For the ladies, definitely try and see some of the youngsters if they make it out, Sabine, Heather, and whoever else. Definitely take a good look at the order of play and check where the good match-ups are. I always prefer the early round matches of the ladies as I tend to find them a lot less predictable and more competitive.

I’ve never been to the Cincy tournament, but I have been to Montreal and Toronto (where I’ll be this year, come say hi!) and I can say this: Bring a printed out draw, and especially a printed out order of play if you don’t have a sweet phone. That way you can keep track of what matches are when and what you want to see (it will never go according to plan). It’s also great to have a good idea of the draw, in my opinion, especially if you’re going to be there for a few days (I’ve always gone for four). If one of your favourites wins, you might want to go check out who they could play next on a different court.

Practice courts and general wandering around are a must. The coolest things about being at the tournament is all the little bonus moments that happen that you don’t normally see. Goofy (or angry) practices, funky outfits, funny things on changeovers, conversations with other fans; it’s all an awesome, geeky tennis experience. So make sure you don’t get stuck on centre court and get out and enjoy!

Oh, and don’t be afraid to bring a backpack with some water, food, sunscreen, and whatever else. They don’t care at the Canadian tournaments as long as you let them check it, and I would assume (hope) they don’t at other ones, either. And don’t be afraid to take a break! Especially if you’re going for the day and night session. It’s a long day. Don’t worry, there’s lots to see.

Simple question, Jon: Fish or Blake?
– Sam, San Francisco

I luckily peaked at Wertheim’s answer because of the chart he had, and overall, the numbers point towards Blake (more prize money, more titles, higher highest ranking). The trick, however, is that Blake is all but dunzo, and Fish seems to just get starting (good, cause I’m starving! Er…) This is probably the best he’s ever played and is crushing his way through easier opponents and racking up the points big time. We’ll see how he does over the summer, he may be inching towards the top 5 at this rate.

I think Ana Ivanovic has fallen into the Anna Kournikova life pattern of being told she needs to focus on her beauty more than her tennis.
– Allan Watkins, Atlanta

The only thing Ana and Anna have in common is tennis, and they’re both pretty. That’s about it. Anna K was nearly destined for “child star”-dom. Being hailed as a great junior out of Nick’s academy and not living up to the hype in singles, moving into a life of modelling and stardom came pretty naturally.

For Ana, the love of the game is still there. She’s been switching coaches and trainers in attempt to find top form. She was also never “told she needs to focus on her beauty”, and I’ve always got the sense that was something fun for her on the side, and never came as a huge distraction (even if the results weren’t great during some of those periods). Also, can was stop using the term “one slam wonder”? C Note from Forty Deuce brought up a great point… why not give some slack to Nails or Fran for being “one slam wonders” and underachieving their whole careers? Silly.

Just a comment on the reason why Roger Federer doesn’t watch the finals. If I’m a surgeon and do heart transplants all the time, do I go running to the operating room every time a heart transplant is done by another surgeon?
– Asif Khan MD, Canfield, Ohio

I… what? I think I know what you mean, and I think I’ve already agreed so… sure…

Jon, let me see if I’ve got this straight: The claycourt season goes from April until early June, ending with the French Open. Grasscourt season starts the next day, and ends four weeks later at Wimbledon. Fine, I guess. Davis Cup action happens again the next week, on the surface of choice for the hosting country. Again, fine, I guess. But then the following week there’s an ATP event in Sweden on … clay??? What?? So David Ferrer goes from playing on clay, grass, hardcourt indoor and back to clay in the span of six weeks??!! Whoa, I’m thinking the dude is probably ready for some R&R.
– John, San Francisco

Indeed. Let’s consider this.

1) The insane schedule mentioned above, not forgetting that he comes BACK to North America (he’s already been here once for Davis Cup) for Montreal, Cincy, and USO

2) He’s 29

3) His grinder style of play usually means he’s playing long points and long matches, which takes a serious toll on the body.

4) He actually wins! With, other than being crazy impressive, it means he’s playing even MORE tennis.

And, while not worth mentioning in the list, he’s only 5’9. The dude can not be worn down, not on the road, not on the plane, and sure as hell not on the court. Did I mention that he’s pretty solid on all surfaces too? A hero for the little man, figuratively and literally.

I was watching Marc Gicquel play in a Challenger event in Sopot, Poland, a few days ago and, as an ardent Federer fan, I immediately noticed he was wearing a white and yellow Roger Federer T-shirt from this year’s Australian Open! Am I the only one who thinks it’s bizarre to see a guy other than Roger compete on tour with an RF logo emblazoned on his chest?
– Marcin Zielkiewicz, Warsaw, Poland

Tennis players are pretty normal peeps, and the ones further down the rankings can be pretty removed from the top dudes. It’s almost more like wearing your favourite team’s shirt while playing. Not too weird.

I’m not sure if you heard about this on Howard Stern, but he made a great point: How long before the WTA has someone grunting corporate sponsor names? Maria Sharapova could do “Nikeeeeeeeeeeee,” Victoria Azarenka might be able to get away with “Sergio Tacchiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”
– Jim M, Pittsford, N.Y.

Well behaved women rarely make history, no? I couldn’t help but peak at Wertheim’s answer because it’s such an intriguing question, and it’s pretty fantastic. And why limit to one sponsor? You could fill entire categories. Forehands could be “EEEEEEEEE-surance!!!!” Backhands could be “Emirrrrrrrrates Aiiiiiiir!” Serves could be “betttt-at-home-dottttt.com!”

Do you know who came up with the line, “Federer plays the game we wish we could play; Rafa plays the game we should try to play”?
– Mark S., Los Angeles

No idea, but I like it. Fed’s play is otherworldly. Rafa always tries to improve, and has a fantastic attitude on and off the court. Indeed.

I’m a little confused. Why do the players in doubles seem to hide their talks when they speak to each other after points? I see that maybe covering the mouths of the coaches in football, but doubles tennis?
– Ray Danganan, Frederick, Md.

It’s a bit like pitchers who put their gloves over their mouths, no? It always cracks me up when a doubles player on an outer court puts the ball over their mouth while they have an intense conversation and then bounce their way back to the baseline. Still, I guess you never know. There are worse habits.

 

Can Novak Djokovic be the next Federer? In terms of everything: domination, brand ambassador, front face for the sport …
– Suresh, Mumbai

I don’t think so. A couple of reasons. Mostly, his age and the fact that I don’t think he can keep such amazing play up forever. His head, his body, his shots… something has to go slightly. Fed also won a ton of slams when he had no real opposition, which allowed him to play a lot of easy matches and continue to keep up an insane level of play. That won’t be true for Novak, who has had to tough out a lot of wins. But hell, if Nole can keep this up for a few years, he might be the only guy worth talking about.

I attended the WTT match that featured Serena Williams of the Washington Kastles vs. the New York Sportimes. Serena played three matches and hardly uttered a grunt. What gives?
– Eric Bukzin, Manorville, N.Y.

I’ll speak entirely from my personal grunting experience (as in when I play tennis), but there’s two things in play. 1) When you really go for a ball, it can increase the grunting (which tends to be important points) 2) As you tire, the grunt factor goes up. For me, at least, when I’ve been playing for a bit, and really want to go for a forehand, I sometimes grunt. It’s mostly because my entire body is clenching, preparing for the shot, and then leans in to it and out comes the grunt (not that it’s very loud). WTT matches tend to be short, and let’s face it, not super important, and the opposition (Hingis) isn’t too scary. So a lot of factors go into it.

I’m planning to donate $1 to charity for every match Nikolay Davydenko wins this year. I have five singles in my wallet. Will I have to visit the ATM before this year is up?
– Brett Davis, Los Angeles

You’re already 9 bucks short, so you’re obviously not doing a fantastic job. Age and injury are a deadly combo. I think Kolya is likely out of the convo when it comes to big time matches, sadly.

Has anyone noticed that Andrey Golubev in the midst of an epic losing streak? He has lost 17 consecutive matches since March. He is only four loses away from tying Vince Spadea’s 21-match losing streak. To add insult to injury, his ranking just plummeted from 57 to 103 after being unable to defend in Hamburg. You have to feel sorry for the guy!
– Eric, Philadelphia

Holy crap! The last full match I watched of his was in Hamburg last year. He was cranking his one handed back hand and looked like a decent scamperer (that’s totally a word, right?) He definitely has the power to outright spank some of the lower ranked players… but apparently not. Messy stuff.

 

 

25 Jul 2011

Once again, Jon always gives fantastic answers, and this is not meant as a slight to him. Also, I don’t read his answers until I’ve given mine. One final note: there were a couple questions that I simply don’t have the answers to. The Courier one was particularly interesting, and I encourage you to check it out and read the rest of his answers as well. You can find the original mailbag here.

What’s your opinion of Andy Roddick these days? If his results keep going the way they have been lately, does he make it to the London Olympics?
– Jeff, New York

Good question. There’s some real concern going around about Roddick right now, and rightfully so. I think it’s safe to say that the end is likely near. After working hard to solidify his backhand, the power is all but completely gone from it. His forehand seems to be lacking some zip, and he’s winning fewer matches on the strength of his serve alone, making it harder for him to go deep into tournaments.

As for him making it to the London Olympics? I think he will be there. Adding in the fact that it is on grass definitely helps, and it’s not like Andy is dropping in the first round of tournaments to nobodies, and he did win Memphis this year. I think the more likely question would be “do we see Andy beyond next year’s US Open?” That, only he knows the answer to.

What do you make of the fact that Federer always says he doesn’t watch the finals if he’s not in it? That just seems poor form, and he never gets called on it. Even if he really doesn’t watch, wouldn’t it be better for tennis if one of the all-time greats says he’ll be watching as a fan just like everyone else?
– Dominic Ciafardini, Hong Kong

In my honest opinion, Fed has said a whole lot worse and hasn’t reeeeeally been called out on it, in comparison to this. I can’t really blame him. If you lost in the ALCS in game 7, would you want to watch the World Series? Or the semis of the Champions League? Just to ponder “what could have been”? I doubt it. I also think it’s a bit silly to think of Fed as a “fan just like everyone else”. Of the game? Sure. But of the players? No way.

I don’t expect this to get printed but want to chime in on Chris Evert’s talent at ESPN. I thoroughly enjoyed her insight. She may have lacked some of the professionalism and wit of seasoned veteran Mary Carillo, but I believe she more than made up for that with her considerable charm, unique insight into the game and the fact that despite being a legend, she still seemed able to speak to the casual player. She did not come across as pompous as some former players turned analysts do. Rather, she was kind of like a more accomplished Mary Joe Fernandez.
– Keith Mainhart, Amityville, N.Y.

Let me start off by saying that being a tennis commentator is one hell of a hard job. They’re often ridiculed for being too boring, talking about the wrong thing at the wrong time, or being too biased. I’ve even seen Robbie and Jason hate (the guys who do the ATP Masters series events) and I thought they were universally loved.

As for Chris, it’s a two way street. I mostly heard her doing the women’s matches, and thought she did a great job. Was insightful, talked tactics and shot making, and didn’t appear biased at all.

On the other hand, I read some of the things she was saying during some of the men’s matches and they were… less than spectacular, mostly her open, blatant cheering of Federer. It’s tough. I think a lot of ex-pros come in to their side of things with a real knowledge and air of professionalism. But when they cover the other gender, they talk about it more from an outsider, fan point of view. I think this is also true of J-Mac and Mary. McEnroe in particular used to be horrible with the ladies because he openly spoke his mind and really added nothing to the match or the conversation, but he’s gotten much better over the years. This might be a similar story for Chris.

Seeing Novak break the stranglehold that Nadal and Federer have had on the No. 1 ranking is certainly impressive, but I’m also impressed and quite nostalgic to see apparel maker Sergio Tacchini return to glory and crack Nike’s hegemony when sponsoring the top-ranked men’s player (no disrespect to Martina Hingis, who wore the label in the late ’90s as the top women’s player.) Makes me think back to a simpler time when McEnroe and Sampras wore the brand before they became part of the Nike machine. Given that Novak has already been part of the adidas stable, do you think Phil Knight is putting together a monster package as we speak to lure Novak away? Will we soon see a Jim Gray interview from the Belgrade outpost of the Boys & Girls Club of Serbia where Nole announces that he’s “taking his talents to Beaverton”?
– Brian U., New York

Interesting. A few things. I think we can all agree that sponsorship, be it clothing or otherwise, isn’t exactly what it used to be. Winning a grand slam will get you set for life, but getting sponsorship deals will set you into the mega-mega-bucks. As for your question, I really have no idea. Novak and his family have done a pretty solid job of turning Novak into the “Nole Brand” if you will, not unlike other stars such as Fed, Rafa, and Sharapova. The clothes are a big part of that. Something tells me the family and Tacchini have something solid going there, so I wouldn’t expect him to jump ship any time soon.

Dude!!! Who said anything about playing Philly BETWEEN Roland Garros and Wimbledon??!!? They just played grass-court tennis in Newport. Why not shuttle down to Philly after that? Why not extend the grass-court season AFTER Wimbledon?
– Helen, Philadelphia

For the same reason there’s likely to never be a Masters grass tournament. Wimbledon is really one of the weirdest things in sports. It’s the biggest tournament in the universe, yet, as I wrote already, grass is weird. In an ideal world for scheduling, Wimbledon would become a hard court tournament, we could push it back a couple weeks, and warm up tournaments could be moved out of England and include places like France and Spain. But I think we all know that won’t ever happen.

Since we’re piling on about women’s tennis, what are your thoughts about the constant fist-pumping toward the player’s box, particularly after “big” points such as 15-15 in the second game of the match?
– Frank, Galisteo, N.M.

I peaked at Jon’s answer, and I agree with both things he said. First off, this is hardly exclusive to women’s tennis. Novak loves his box, so does Rafa. I’ve seen Pico do it when he’s not feeling too confident, and we all know Lleyton loves using the crowd to his advantage. Secondly, always trying to pump yourself does not send a good message to your opponent – it usually means you’re less than confident. In this case, the best players (if we’re talking women, Serena and Sharapova) often smell blood and up their game.

Amelie Mauresmo is only 32. With her one-handed backhand, sweet personality and athletic gifts, wouldn’t it be fantastic if she made a comeback?
– Joe Johnson, Allentown, Pa.

Not really. If you watched Momes near the end of her career, you know that her backhand wasn’t what it used to be, and her head and heart just weren’t in it anymore. It’s one of the reasons why 30 is generally pretty old for tennis players. After 10-15 years of grinding out traveling, long matches, and bad food, their confidence and will to compete go as much as their game.

25 Jul 2011

Hello everyone! I’ve been on a bit of a tennis break mostly due to going on vacation, but I’m back in full this week and am looking forward to a ton of great tennis this week. Let’s do this.

Stanford – WTA (Premier)

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
Vika, Masha, Marion, Sam, A-Rad, Julia, Ana, Domi (oh, and Serena)

As per usual, Stanford plays host to a jam packed, exciting draw. Keeping in mind the top seeds, Serena, and the fact that it’s a 28 player draw, we are going to have some juicy early round matches. Oh, did I mention Sabine (possible second round match with Sam), Rebecca Marino (possible second round match with Marion) and Dani (possible second round match with Masha) are playing too? Delicious. This tournament should be fantastic by Wednesday, I can’t wait. And if for some reason you don’t already know, there is going to be excellent coverage over at Forty Deuce as well.

College Park – WTA (International)

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
Shahar, Petrova, Paszek, Dokic

The inaugural Citi Open in Maryland, while not boasting the same star power as Stanford, should prove to be an exciting one. Highlighted by big hitting veterans Shahar, Petrova, and Dokic, there are also a ton of intriguing up-and-coming young players, such as Bojana, Sloane Stephens, Genie Bouchard, Heather Watson, and the list goes on. Even if it is a veteran who ends up winning the tournament, this could be a great chance for a couple of young guns to rake in some much needed points and squeeze them into US Open qualifying or main draw contention.

Gstaad – ATP (250)

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
Nico, Stan, The Youz, FeVer

The clay season: yes it goes on and on my friends. What guys like Youz and Feli are doing in Switzerland instead of preparing for the hard court season, a surface they should prefer, is beyond me. But hey, it sure is pretty there, no?

Regardless, Gstaad has one squeaky clean looking draw. All eight seeds are in the top 50, and six of them are from Spain. Have fun, you silly clay rats.

Umag – ATP (250)

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
Chela, Dolgopolov, Ljubs, Marin

The most surprising thing about this tournament? Mr. Clean Ljubicic is ranked above Marin Cilic. Dude. Get it together.

Otherwise, it’s similar to the above, minus some of the bigger, more recognizable names. Still, there’s some solid clay players and others of intrigue (JCF, Haase) that make this tournament worth watching.

Los Angeles – ATP (250)

Official Site: Here
Draw: Here
Top Seeds:
The Fishy One, Delpo, Baggy, Thomaz

Unfortunately there isn’t quite the depth to the Los Angeles tournament that we might be used to, but there sure are some sweet match-ups. First round? Dimitrov/Haas. Gonzo is here too, after a pretty fantastic Wimbledon, all things considered. The Tryin’ Ryan American combo of Sweeting/Harrison is also here, taking on Somdev and Berankis in the first round respectively.

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap