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.