Thursday, June 27, 2013

‘A hacker with a big serve’

That’s what I once called Dustin Brown. The date was September 2010; the match, against Andy Murray; and the occasion, the 2010 US Open. At the time, Dustin was in the middle of failed attempts to get himself adopted by England after he fell out with Jamaica.

Three months later, in December 2010, I made the following joking prediction: “After learning of Kiefer’s retirement, Dustin Brown will give up his bid to be adopted by Britain and will instead offer himself to Germany, reminding them that he was actually born there. The Germans will have a good belly laugh.”

Turns out I was both wrong and right. Brown is now listed as German on his official records. Yet he has never played Davis Cup for that country. Indeed, do any random search for German tennis players and his name rarely comes up. This is because for most of his tennis career, Brown was listed as Jamaican, living for years in a camper purchased by his parents, and supporting himself on the challenger circuit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“Anything I could do to support women I have done”

Not being one to waste a moment, Serena Williams has already moved on to her next controversy. (Ugh, doesn’t she find it exhausting?) Her feud with Sharapova has taken on nasty overtones – so nasty that someone seems to have gotten through to Serena that it’s time to shut it down. She now claims to have apologized to Sharapova. As of this writing, there has been no confirmation by Maria.

In a recent interview (Rolling Stone magazine), Serena was recorded bad-mouthing Sharapova on the phone. My sense is that the whole phone thing may have been a ploy by Serena to be able to make nasty comments about Maria without officially going on the record. I say this because Serena did not have to take that call during that interview. Nor did she have to make a point of speaking loudly enough to be heard and recorded. But she did, and she was, and once again she ends up looking like a fool.

The article claims that Serena made a number of petty, mean-girl comments about a certain tennis player who is not invited to the cool parties, who is too tennis-obsessed, and who is dating a man
with a “black heart”. Said woman assumed to be Sharapova. Said man deduced to be Dimitrov. Said passive-aggressive comment leading to Sharapova’s unsheathed, in your face, right back at ya biyatch!

Serena, Steubenville, and the question of complicity

Serena Williams’ off-handed, unsolicited comments about the 16-year-old who was raped and humiliated by a group of Steubenville athletes ended up raising so many hackles that Serena was forced to issue a public apology. During the latter, she went on and on about her long fight for women’s equality: “I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields—anything I could do to support women I have done”.

Really? I had no idea Serena was such a feminist! Since when? I need proof. I do remember her sister Venus sticking her neck out to argue passionately on behalf of women’s equality on the tour while Serena partied her ass off in Hollywood. But Serena has always appropriated that which first belonged to Venus, so her new feminist claims are likely no different.

What forced Serena into an apology was the harsh public outcry over her implication that the 16-year-old victim was complicit in her own victimization. Most disturbingly, Serena even went so far as to query the 16-year-old victim’s virginity: “…It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position…”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The combination of power and finesse

What stood out for me at the 2013 Roland Garros finals between Serena and Sharapova, was that Sharapova played a purely power game while Serena mixed in finesse. For a good portion of that match, Serena returned the ball placidly, measuredly. Power, like finesse, was something she turned on and off, as needed.

But when folks talk about Serena, all they allude to is her power. It’s almost as if some are incapable of perceiving finesse points when the player doesn’t physically look the part.

Which is why I think that it is beyond simplistic to divide professional tennis players into one of two of these narrow categories: They’re either hitting the ball hard like Sharapova or they’re playing exclusively with finesse…like…whom?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Errani, Ferrer, and the re-definition of finesse?

There are so many paths to tennis success, so many different styles of playing and winning. Just think of the top ten women right now and it becomes easy to identify ways in which their games are totally different from each other’s. Radwanska’s style of play is as different from Kerber’s as Na Li’s is from Sharapova’s.

And while the latter’s game probably most closely resembles that of Azarenka, it is in many ways distinct from that of Kirilenko, Errani, and Kvitova. Heck, throw Wozniacki and Serena in the mix, and you have a top ten field that

Friday, June 7, 2013

“It doesn’t have the feel of a semi-final match”

That was the general consensus regarding the blowout of a win put down by Serena Williams on Sara Errani at the semi-finals of this year’s Roland Garros. The actual quote from Chris Evert was, “It doesn’t have the feel of a semi-final match, that’s for sure.” Her words confidently implied that there was no room for disagreement with her opinion.

And part of me gets why the one-sided, lop-sided, 0-6 1-6 Errani loss in no way represented the score-line one would expect of the semi-finals of any Grand Slam event. In the opening rounds, sure. Heck, even Johnny Mac spared us the salary comparisons between Errani’s 6-1 6-2 dominance of Arantza Rus and Federer’s 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Pablo Carreno-Busta at the same point of the tournament.

But as the tournament progressed, the complaints started becoming more strident. Brad Gilbert soon joined the chorus, sounding and looking as gray and crotchety as Johnny Mac. The women were earning too much and playing too little. And Errani in particular had

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A bunch of Old Farts make it into Week Two

I’m sorry but I couldn’t think of a better title. Maybe it’s because I have always been a supporter of Old Farts in tennis. My very first tennis love was an Italian named Gianluca Pozzi. I’m probably the only person outside of Italy who remembers him. Gianluca once won my heart in a five-setter against Marat Safin and I have never looked forward since. I’ve remained addicted to looking back.

For purposes of tennis only, an Old Fart is any player older than 30. Yes by non-tennis standards that is grossly unfair. Go talk to the ACLU. In the meantime, I am throwing a merlot party for the abundance of Old Farts who have made it into Week Two of the 2013 Roland Garros. The number seems unprecedented to me.

For a start, there is my darling Federer. He almost gave me a heart attack today when it looked for a minute like the non-weaponed Gilles Simon might beat him. The only good thing that came out of that match was that I finally gained insight into why I cannot stand Gilles Simon. For the first time I understand why I refer to him in my thoughts