Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Right now, men’s tennis is all kinds of awesome

I have been on such a high. My high started with the released photo of the group of men finalists all dressed in suits. Some of them looked as if they had never put on a suit before and couldn’t wait to wrench it off their bodies and go back to being sweaty. Others looked as if they were born to be dressed by Anna Wintour. Either way, they all looked all kinds of awesome, a group of men dressed in their Sunday best, representing the cream of the tennis crop.

I have previously expressed my disappointment in a similar photo of the women. But photos are superficial and do not necessarily represent the quality of the person underneath the veneer of make-up. Except that it turned out that this time, they did. The women looked a group of broken-down depressed floozies. The women proceeded to play tennis like a group of broken-down depressed floozies. What happened in Doha was shameful. What is happening in London is exhilarating, redemptive.

Is it unfair of me to compare? Perhaps. But one can’t help but get the impression that despite all of the background drama and all of the hustling for overpriced paychecks, men’s tennis continues to seem so much better managed. Of course I am not privy to the background shenanigans and the men may in fact be as miserable as the women clearly seemed to be. But if that is the case, it has not at all been affecting their tennis.

In a sense, I do not understand why the women seemed like such a group of broken-down depressives. And yes I know all of the arguments that the season is too long and that the women were exhausted by the time they got to Doha. I think that that argument is complete BS. I think that the same women who are complaining about the length of the tour will turn around and sign on for exhibition matches in all kinds of far-flung places so that they can earn their money at easier cost.

Furthermore, the notion that a group of women will inevitably show up in Doha looking all kinds of broken-down is not at all supported by the research. Research has consistently shown that not only can women endure more stress than men, but when it comes to physical stress, we are not too shabby either. Men may win marathons at faster speeds than women, but it is women who win super marathons. We are built not for speed but for endurance. Not that there was any evidence of that in Doha.

And in hindsight, I think that the problem in Doha was that some of the women who qualified had no business qualifying. Oh sure their ranking qualified them, but mentally there was no readiness to perform on that kind of stage. And then there were the women who were not there but whose presence would have made a scintillating difference. I am thrilled that Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are back. I look forward to Sharapova being completely healed. I wish Sabine Lisicki could remain injury-free for more than two tournaments in a row. These are some of the women who would have helped to make Doha the event it was meant to be.

In the meantime, it’s been a thrill a minute with the men. I was worried that after six weeks off, Federer would show up looking all kinds of creaky and rusty. And to an extent this has been true, but only in the first set. That’s his warm-up set. That’s the set in which those synapses start firing as he is figuring out his opponent and creating his master plan for domination. It’s been wonderful to watch the execution.

Del Potro’s close win against Verdasco surprised me. I had expected him to dispose of his opponent in straight sets. But DelPo seems to be a player who gains confidence as the tournament proceeds, so I am not at all counting him out. And I have developed such a crush on Robin Soderling. There is something so sweet about his persistence. He just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would break Nadal in exactly the same way, twice -- in the last game to close out the set and then the match -- but that is precisely what he did. Soderling plays an unnerving kind of tennis that must piss his opponents off royally.

And what can I say about the doubles? It’s been wonderful to see the level of quality. The level is so high that the chest-bumping Bryans saw their gesture not only get co-opted by the likes of Knowles and Bhupati, but also found themselves on the losing end in straight sets. It’s been glorious tennis all around. I have been enjoying every minute of it. It’s been an awesome season of men’s tennis. I wish it didn’t have to end. 


Karen said...

You know a lot of people may not readily admit to this, but I think the reason that men's tennis is where it is right now, has a lot to do with Roger Federer. He has made the men of the ATP raise their game to a consistently high standard. In addition, he has carried himself with so much suave and aplomb that sometimes you forget that he is still a very young man. He is gracious, treats the fans and the sport with the utmost respect and gives of himself every chance he gets. If someone else coming up in the ranks wants to take that next step,they have to fight tooth and nail and improve every aspect of their game. That is why the level and the standards of tennis are so high. It is a pity that the standard bearers of the sport have suffered from injuries so much (WS) that their games have kind of dwindled, but you will recall that for the period 2000-2003 or thereabouts the standard of tennis was set by the women and not the men. It was only after Larry Scott took over the WTA and instead of marketing the Tour as a whole he started marketing a certain player that people got turned off women's tennis. In addition, the product that the men had during the period 2000-2003 was not a product that could be sold. When you have the top player in the men's game at the time (Hewitt) suing his professional body, and having a personality that drove fans away in droves, then of course anything that comes after that is gravy. Andy Roddick was supposed to be the start that brought back the luster to the ATP and to American tennis, unfortunately, this little Swiss fellow showed up and the rest as they say is history.

tennischick said...

Your comments often read like perfect addenda to my entries! Let me know if ever you want to write a guest column. I would welcome it!

I agree with everything you say. Roger Federer has been great for men's tennis. I don't mean to give Nadal short shrift but he just does not seem as accessible, and the language barrier doesn't help.

I hope that Serena is allowed to pick up the mantle on the women's side. She has the energy and personality to do it. My concern is that she may not have the interest -- she is too keen on pursuing Hollywood. Ugh. And even if she deign to accept the leadership role in tennis, she may not be embraced in the way that Roger has clearly been by all. Serena has unfortunately turned off so many fans that we may end up, yes, having to rely on Oudin after all.

happygeek said...

Oooh!! Look at them in their suits! Sweet!! Djokovich looking suave (Federer always looks like that no matter what he's wearing!) and Nadal looking so stately. I could hug them! :-)

Karen said...

Thanks TC. I will have a think about it. In the meantime, I am sending you a link to a blog that I write now and again. Not many readers just yet as at the time I started it just to air my grouses and posted the link on all the media sites, including TC, ESPN, MSNBC, CNN etc. I had just gotten so fed up with the lack of television coverage that I just felt I had to do something about it. Hope you enjoy my tirades.