Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why I prefer the first week of tournaments

I’ve never purchased tickets for the semi-finals or finals of any major tennis events. I do this for the lesser events of course, where the cost of tickets doesn’t break my bank. But for Majors and Slams, I always attend only during the first week.

My reasons are two-fold. First, this gives me a chance to see as many players as possible. At the US Open, for example, I have the option of purchasing tickets to the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which gives me access to the grounds as well as to the action at Louis Armstrong. Sure, I occasionally have to choose between matches, but if I attend over several days, I have the chance of seeing as many of my faves as possible. I even get to see some of the newbies on the junior courts.

But there is a second reason why I only attend the first week of major events – I simply can’t afford to do otherwise. Tennis is an expensive sport, for everyone involved. And, as I have written about before, tournament directors would apparently prefer to have empty seats shown on TV than drop their prices. And part of the reason for this may be because they know that the rich folks will turn out in their numbers for the semi-finals and finals. Not an empty seat in the house. So what tournament directors lose on the swing, they end up gaining on the roundabout, as they say in the Caribbean.

Monday, March 17, 2014

When the backstory trumps the tennis

My weekend could have been so perfect. All Federer had to do was dig a little deeper, hold his serve a few more times, believe in himself a smidgeon more. And I would have enjoyed the perfection of a weekend in which both and men’s and women’s tennis finals yielded not just perfect results, but interesting back-stories about how the players got there.

As it was, I had to settle for Panetta. And that is not settling at all because Flavia delivered, didn’t she? And I loved it when her Italian team threw water at her, almost reminding her that just because she had just earned a cool million was no reason to become swellheaded. All in jest and love, of course.

I remember Flavia from the days when I too had a crush on Carlos Moya. He was just so hot, and as his girlfriend, she came in for more than her fair share of my jealousy. But I had no idea that he had broken her heart so terribly, or that she had written a book about it called ‘Dritto al Cuore’ (Straight to the Heart). In it, she says things like this:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The making of a good predator

I’m using the word ‘predator’ here in a positive sense. Not all predatory acts are evil. Some flow purely out of self-belief and are appropriate to the circumstances. Conversely, I can’t begin to describe how important it is to believe in yourself. When that quality is lost, one becomes vulnerable to the predators of the world. And the world is filled with predators – some of whom are professional tennis players.

It takes a particular predatory mindset, for example, to take advantage of another player’s injury. I looked at the match between 20-year-old Lauren Davis and the clearly injured Victoria Azarenka at the 2014 Indian Wells tournament. And despite the 6-0 7-6 (2) score line, I concluded that Davis is a piss-poor predator.

A good predator would have won that match 6-0 6-0. Serena Williams would have won that match 6-0 6-0. Serena is a born predator. She shows no mercy. If you’re injured, that is your problem. She will stalk you and crush you. It takes an exquisitely developed sense of self-belief, as well as a non-empathetic kind of ruthlessness to be so single-minded as you kick someone in the teeth while they’re down.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

ESPN asks: Should Serena still be ranked No. 1?

Or to quote ESPN accurately, “Should Serena Williams still be ranked No. 1 in women's tennis?” This is a current and still active poll question on its website. As of this writing, 26,947 people have replied, with 61% voting ‘Yes’ and 39% voting ‘No’.

I would give anything to be able to have a meaningful, non hate-filled conversation with the members of that 39% group. I would ask them, respectfully, what exactly went into their vote? What led to their desire to skew the results it in a particular direction? 

Was it Serena’s loss to Cornet in Dubai? Do the members of the 39% truly believe that the #1 player should never lose any matches? In that case, should Nadal have retired after losing that glorious match to Wawrinka at the Australian Open?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy World Tennis Day!

Yes I am a bit early – World Tennis Day is tomorrow after all. But in keeping with my habit of opening at least one present on Xmas Eve, I thought that I would jump the gun and get the celebration started.

March 3rd has been designated ‘World Tennis Day’. Coincidentally, March 3rd is also ‘Read Across America Day’. And, according to Dr. Google, it is also ‘I Want You To Be Happy Day’, ‘Peach Blossom Day’ and ‘National Anthem Day’. I guess the special day calendar is getting kinda crowded. But, as a supporter of World Tennis Day, I like my chances against the more nerdy alternatives.

World Tennis Day is the brainchild of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and a sports marketing, management, and event production company called StarGames. StarGames’ part of the deal is reflected by their putting on a number of high profile matches, such as this year’s Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Murray exhibition match at Madison Square Garden. This is just one of the many star-studded events to be held in locations like Hong Kong, London, and New York.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mr. Federer embraces change

I did not see this coming. If anyone had told me that Federer’s New Year resolution may have been to become less of an old fuddy-dud stick-in-the-mud, I would have counter-challenged with “Federer Who?” Because surely they could not have been speaking about my Roger.

Not the guy who resisted the implementation of Hawk Eye technology, insisting that the eyes of the linesmen and women were sharp and beady enough. Not the player who sneered at the use of the drop shot, as if it was cheating, as if that cop-out of a play was way beneath him. Not the buttoned up, tucked down player who has been using the same racket and string technology since the 1990’s?

Honestly, if someone had hinted that Federer had advocated a return to wooden rackets with smaller frames, I would have believed them. Because let’s face it, as much as I adore my Fed and worship at the shrine of his greatness, I also have to admit that there is an old-fashioned quality to him.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Things I was hoping not to have to deal with in 2014

First up, I owe you all – my remaining handful of readers by this point – a huge apology. My life got upended a couple of years ago and I found myself in a situation in which I had very little control over and access to my own office and computer. Of such sacrifices are maternity made. Now I am slowly regaining access, and have finally been able to update my blog, as promised weeks ago.

Thanks to Helen my web designer, for her wonderful work. Shoot me an email if you want her assistance with your blog. She is phenomenal. I could not recommend her more highly. Her prices are reasonable and the product, as you can see, is worth waiting for. Thanks Helen!

Now for some of the things that have been irritating me in the world of tennis since the start of the year. I need to get them out of my system so that I can go on to enjoy the rest of this year, which is already shaping up with much promise. So here we go.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Will 2014 be the Year of Sloane?

I have to tell you that I am becoming slightly fed up with the way Mouratoglou seems to be either aggrandizing himself, or allowing himself to be aggrandized through Serena’s success. It’s as if there was never a pre-existing, loyal TEAM behind her before he entered the picture. From the way people carry on, you’d swear she hadn’t won a tournament until she hooked up with this French dude.

If it is his PR machine that is responsible for fueling his exposure as the man behind Serena, then I can’t help but become suspicious of his motives. Could Serena possibly be being exploited? After all, he has an academy to promote. And he has never been as famous – either as a tennis player or coach – as he is right now.

Which is why I threw caution to the wind and pointed out to my friends that before hooking up with Serena, Patrick had never taken any player to the top. His list of students include Marcos Baghdatis, Grigor Dimitrov, Aravane Rezai and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – all solid players with potential – but not a Slam between them.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Has Paul Annacone ever coached a woman?

I’m truly asking. Because it’s that time of year. The coaching carousel has been set in motion once again. Can’t stand roller coasters myself but I love carousels. All that hopping on and hopping off, breaking up and making up, so much tension and excitement as we wait with bated breath to see who will end up with whom.

So Tsonga has finally gotten rid of Roger Rasheed. Good riddance. But Rasheed, a born survivor like any good cockroach, has already landed in Grigor Dmitrov’s lap. Poor sap. Then Wozniacki hired Hogstedt – which means that her large engagement rock is not going to impede her ability to hold a racket. One can only hope.

But Djokovic won the day when he stunned everyone with his announcement of his hiring of Boris Becker. Boris fricking Becker!!! I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. I mean I think that Becker is a super talented fount of tennis knowledge. But what exactly does he have to bring to the Djokovic stable that said stable doesn’t already have? Boozing? Screwing women in cupboards? Daring to date across racial lines? I am truly scratching my head on this one.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

So Ryan Sweeting got married

To Kaley Cuoco. The 'Big Bang' chick. The one who secretly dated a co-star for two whole years.  And who then, in July 2013, became publicly and obnoxiously paired with Henry Cavill, aka the man who would be Superman. Their relationship reportedly lasted all of 10 days – or the length of a couple of embarrassingly over-the-top publicized trips to Starbucks. A pappy-show, as they say in the Caribbean. As in, entirely for the paparazzi, or for public display.

This is the woman to whom my Caribbean sweetie is now married. It’s a New Year and I want to be positive, so I hope that they are truly happy. But don’t blame me for watching her cokey-eyed (aka, askance). speculated that Kuoco and Cavill were never really together, that his handlers might have wanted him to be paired up with someone other than his girlfriend, Gina Carano. After all, his studio had a big franchise to promote and said brunette perhaps didn’t fit the bill. Never mind the fact that Ms. Carano is a world-ranked professional kick-boxer and one of the stars of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. Maybe they feared that she might be able to kick Superman's ass? I don’t know. All I know is that in came Ms. Cuoco, very, very quickly and very, very publicly. And then, 10 days later, out she went, like someone bolting through a revolving door.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On Serena, Beyoncé, and Britney

I recently happened across the discovery that Britney Spears, Serena Williams, and Beyoncé Knowles are all the same age.  I was stunned to discover that all three women are 32 years old. All three women have of course achieved a whole lot within their respective professions. And yet it seems undeniable that there is a growing maturity to Serena and Beyoncé that you simply do not see in Britney Jean.

I can’t stop listening to Beyoncé’s new CD. Yes, I agree that it is beyond tasteless that she sampled the Challenger takeoff on the song ‘XO’. But that doesn’t stop it from being an incredible song. Nor does it change the fact that this is a game-changing CD, both from the point of view of the daring manner of its release, as well as of its amazing content.

It is the most interesting and risky (dare I say, risqué) that Beyoncé has been in years.  (And I say this as someone who used to refer to her as The Robot). And she acknowledges in the CD that in order to do this, she had to move beyond just being someone’s daughter in order to find her own mature groove.