First of all, a massive thanks to Karen at @TennisNewsTPN for the oppourtunity to cover Toronto for the second straight year. Life can lead you in strange places, and I originally started my blog with the intention of having a place to put my ramblings that wouldn’t fit on Twitter, and I wouldn’t have believed I would be able to cover Toronto twice in a row like I have. Tennis Panorama truly is the best source on Twitter and the general internet to get tennis news. Not only that, the people who work for her know the game, and know what the fans are interested in. It’s no wonder the account is creeping towards 6,000 followers. Make sure to follow! Lastly, a big thanks to Tennis Canada, all the volunteers and all the people in the media room who once again ran a smooth, clean tournament. Screw the sponsors.
It’s pretty safe to say that this year’s tournament had a much different feel to it than last year’s, the obvious WTA to ATP differences aside. It has to be said, playing directly after the Olympics is an absolute mess, and something desperately needs to be done about it. With Nadal out, Federer pulling out, and players such as Tsonga and del Potro going down easily in their opening matches, it was entirely up to Djokovic to save the face of the tournament, which he did with much grace and class, it has to be said.
It could be argued that Djokovic was largely there to defend his 1000 points from last year, and surprised himself as he took the whole thing. He himself benefited from the depleted draw and won on pure skill and endurance alone. However, if he and other top players had their way with a two year rolling ranking system, Djokovic likely would have pulled out as well.
I’m not sure how much people around the world realize, but Milos Raonic has officially arrived on the Canadian sports scene and will be sticking around for some time. Tennis is typically a third level citizen, falling behind the almighty hockey and then the obvious football, basketball and baseball and falling somewhere in the realm of college football. However, Canada embraces it’s athletes with an incredible amount of pride and hype. Constantly being put up against the United States, we tend to look through a “us versus the world” type of lens, and any Canadian success in big sports is celebrated. The atmosphere for Raonic’s matches, particularly in the first set tiebreak against Isner, was truly outstanding. If he can continue to put in solid performances and improve, he could do a lot to increase the status of the sport here in Canada, which is truly exciting.
For those unfamiliar with general tactics and point construction in tennis, the final between Djokovic and Gasquet was a real lesson in it. Despite Djokovic likely being far more exhausted than Gasquet, his backhand held up and his ability create angles from all over the court was exceptional. Despite Gasquet’s backhand being effective at passing and being largely accurate for a one handed one, it is consistently loopy, and he fails to hit it down the line to open opponents up. This meant Djokovic simply had to handle the spinning backhands cross court before he got a look that he like, and then went to work. Gasquet’s backhand may cause problems for other players who have difficulty doing something with such a loopy ball, but it is one of the main reasons that Gasquet will almost never have a major upset against top players.
Lastly, if you’re a tennis fan and have an opportunity to go see matches live, anywhere, do it. It will change how you view the game. I’ve always equated live tennis to live music events. More popular bands play in larger venues for more money, less popular bands play in small venues for less money. For me, seeing my favourite bands in smaller venues for cheaper is without a doubt an absolute steal. Tennis is the same way. There is so much tennis on hand early in the week for such a cheap price, where as you are only left with the centre court matches later in the week for more money. There are very few sports where you can get as close as you can on an outer court. Whether it’s Isner’s “god dammit”s after an error, quick exhale before a return, Monaco’s self “vamos” before firing an unreturnable serve, or players glancing to their boxes and yelling at themselves in frustration, there are things you can see, hear, and experience that you will never get on the television. It’s dramatic and always fun. Here’s to more great tennis.