Monday, July 1, 2019


The Spin

Last year I saw and heard of Cori Gauff for the very first time.  I recall saying that she reminds me of a very young Venus. Today Cori Gauff met her hero, Venus Williams on the first day of the 2019 Championships. It did not go well for Venus. 

At 39 years young and a career that took flight before Cori was a twinkle in her dad's eye, Venus was winning tournaments.  Today felt a bit like the passing of a baton.  The long elegant legs of Venus continued to eat up the lawns of Wimbledon in much the same way that it did when she was winning her 5 titles, however, her opponent across the net, also endowed with long legs was faster, and so much powerful. She hit big off the ground in much the same way that Venus used to dismiss her opponents and tell them to get off her lawn.  She was tougher than Venus and she was not afraid.

Years ago I recall my son saying to me that he liked seeing Venus play because he just knew that no matter what she would hit a shot that would change the match. Today there were glimpses of that Venus.  She battled hard.  She fought. She stayed true to her game.Today was not her day. As a fan I am sad but I am also proud. Proud that at 39 years old when many players of her era have families and are sitting in commentary booths opining on tennis, Venus is still out there battling for all she is worth and never complaining. There were no histrionics. There was no appeal to her box. There was no shaking of her head in dismay, and when it was all over, she walked to the net and smiled that beautiful, gracious Venus smile and she congratulated her opponent. 

Wimbledon Etiquette

For as long as I have been watching Wimbledon it has always been the case that after a match, the players walk off court together. Has this changed?  Clearly it hasn't as the only people who seem to adhere to that tradition are Nadal, Serena and Venus, Sharapova and Federer.  Perhaps the All England Club needs to remind players of this etiquette. 

No more Miss and Mrs.  

I liked that. I liked that all players got that Ms. and Mrs. beside their names. I did not consider it sexist.  I did not think that it took away a woman's accomplishments to be called Mrs.  Some umpires clearly did not get the memo as they continued to title some of the women as Miss and Mrs. Frankly, for Venus and  Serena they should always be called Ms. Williams. 

Upsets and Then Some

Naomi Osaka lost to Putintseva. Sabalenka lost to Rybarikova. Ostapenko continues on her downward trajectory. Vondrousova said that she was carrying an injury which contributed to her loss against Brengle. Halep struggled for a bit but fought her way to the second round, as did Monica Puig. Caroline Garcia got bagelled and I swear she was giving the least effort in her match.   Wozniacki escaped when Sorribes-Toro retired and Yastremska won her first match on grass by ousting Camila Giori.

Day 2 Picks 

Ashleigh Barty vs Saisai Zheng
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Harriet Dart vs Christina McHale
Beatriz Haddad Maia vs Garbine Muguruza

Donna Vekic vs Alison Riske
Lesley Kerkhove vs Ivana Jorovic
Stefanie Voegele vs Kaia Kanepi
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Belinda Bencic 

Serena Williams vs Giulia Gatto-Monticone
Kaja Juvan vs Kristyna Pliskova
Paula Badosa vs Varvara Flink
Elena-Gabriela Ruse vs Julia Goerges 

Carla Suarez Navarro vs Samantha Stosur
Maria Sharapova vs Pauline Parmentier
Kateryna Kozlova vs Lauren Davis
Tatjana Maria vs Angelique Kerber

Kiki Bertens vs Mandy Minella
Arina Rodionova vs Taylor Townsend
Laura Siegemund vs Katie Swan
Barbora Strycova vs Lesia Tsurenko

Elise Mertens vs Fiona Ferro
Andrea Petkovic vs Monica Niculescu
Tamara Zidansek vs Eugenie Bouchard
Vera Lapko vs Qiang Wang
Sloane Stephens vs Timea Bacsinszky
Yafan Wang vs Tereza Martincova
Ekaterina Alexandrova vs Katerina Siniakova
Ana Bogdan vs Johanna Konta

Amanda Anisimova vs Sorana Cirstea
Magda Linette vs Anna Kalinskaya 
Vitalia Diatchenko vs Kristina Mladenovic
Ons Jabeur vs Petra Kvitova

Matches to Watch
Kvitova v.Jabeur
Sharapova v Parmentier
Mertens v. Ferro
Vekic v. Riske
Stephens v Bacsinszky

Upset Special 
Jabeur beating Kvitova
Diatchenko beating Mladenovic

Sunday, June 30, 2019


The Spin

This grass season has been quite challenging for the Spin Team. This was due to the fact that a member of our team had plans to visit Birmingham, the plans got shelved, and said team member went into a downward spiral.  It was made even worst when said team member's faourite player in the world decided to play in Birmingham.  That being said, the team member has recovered from her disappointment and is looking forward to the start of The Championships, Wimbledon.

I have not had a chance to look at the draw but I have listened to the Realz podcast and while every draw has its challenges, it would seem as if Serena of House Williams has a tough ride to 24. Venus, also of House Williams also has a challenge in playing against the young American qualifier, Cori Gauff, the youngest player in the draw.

I happened to watch the video of Serena's pre-tournament press conference and she seemed relaxed and happy. For a quick minute she was shocked that Ashleigh Barty was now No. 1, a fact which Pam Shriver thought was disrespectful.  I guess she has never seen or heard her colleagues misidentify the careers of the women on the Tour. There is no reason why Serena should be aware of who is No. 1.The fact that she knew enough about Barty's year, the fact that she knew what tournaments she had won (Miami and the French Open) is to me a testament that Serena does pay attention to what is happening on the WTA Tour. Compare and contrast that to so many players who will tell you that they do not watch women's tennis and as we have seen on social media, during a very over hyped men's match, the women will be tweeting up a storm. I have always found that to be incredibly disrespectful to the WTA Tour but I guess for Pam and others of her ilk, not knowing who is No. 1 is considered to be more disrespectful. 

Anywho, the ATP has been trying to score headlines so players have been coming out on social media publicly declaring that they have resigned from the Player Council. Dramatic. Intended to draw headlines and possibly ending up as much ado about nothing. A situation symptomatic of the ATP Tour. Unless someone comes out and speaks definitively about why they have resigned, I say we all look to the tennis and leave the men alone with their hormones.

Day 1 OOP and Spin's Picks below

Elina Svitolina [8] vs Daria Gavrilova
Margarita Gasparyan vs Anna-Lena Friedsam
Marie Bouzkova [LL] vs Mona Barthel
Bernarda Pera vs Maria Sakkari [31]

Petra Martic [24] vs Jennifer Brady 
Anastasia Potapova vs Jil Teichmann
Danielle Collins vs Zarina Diyas
Kristie Ahn [Q] vs Anastasija Sevastova [12]

Marketa Vondrousova [16] vs Madison Brengle
Karolina Muchova vs Aleksandra Krunic
Caty McNally [Q] vs Heather Watson
Shelby Rogers vs Anett Kontaveit [20]

Su-Wei Hsieh [28] vs Jelena Ostapenko
Dalila Jakupovic vs Kirsten Flipkens
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova vs Monica Puig
Lin Zhu vs Karolina Pliskova [3]

Simona Halep [7] vs Aliaksandra Sasnovich
Mihaela Buzarnescu vs Jessica Pegula
Alize Cornet vs Victoria Azarenka
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Daria Kasatkina [29]

Madison Keys [17] vs Luksika Kumkhum
Polona Hercog vs Viktoria Kuzmova
Venus Williams vs Cori Gauff [Q]
Magdalena Rybarikova vs Aryna Sabalenka [10]

Caroline Wozniacki [14] vs Sara Sorribes Tormo
Veronika Kudermetova vs Ysaline Bonaventure [Q]
Rebecca Peterson vs Yanina Wickmayer [Q]
Shuai Zhang vs Carolina Garcia [23]

Sofia Kenin [27] vs Astra Sharma
Dayana Yastremska vs Camila Giorgi
Iga Swiatek vs Viktorija Golubic
Yulia Putintseva vs Naomi Osaka [2]

Must see matches

Venus v Cori
Putintseva v Osaka
Rybarikova v Sabalenka
Azarenka v Cornet
Hseih v Ostapenko

Upset Special
Putintseva beating Osaka
Ahn beating Sevastova

Too close to call
Hercog Kuzmova
Yastremska v Giorgi (the poor ball)

Friday, June 7, 2019


The Spin 

Steve Simon spoke.  Finally.  

In case you missed it, the Chief Executive Officer of the WTA Tour had some choice words for the organisers of the French Open.  He told them in no uncertain terms how disrespectful they have been to women's tennis and that they needed to rethink their stance as it relates to court assignments. 

I really did think that after such strong words the organisers of the French Open would have been quaking in their boots and that even one of the women's semifinals would have been moved to Chatrier, but that was not the case. 

I woke up to see Konta losing to Vondrousova and Anisamova serving to stay in the match against Barty.  The Anisimova match was not on tv in my area, but the Konta match was.  As soon as that match was over, and Bartoli came out on court to interview Vondrousova, the tv cameras immediately flipped to Federer walking out on court over on Chartrier.  

That is how tv treats women's tennis.  That is how women's tennis has always been treated. 

One can only hope that the resumption of the incomplete men's semi-final will be relegated to Court 1. 

A few years ago, I finally cut off Tennis Channel because of their penchant of placing most, if not all, women's matches on their premium channels, while showcasing men's tennis on the cheaper channel.  Unless you are a a diehard fan of women's tennis, and could afford a subscription (or lived in an area where you could actually subscribe to TC Plus) you had to be hunting illegal streams in order to see women's tennis.  That happened for almost 2-3 years.  When Tennis Channel lost the rights to broadcast women's matches in the US, there were howls of protests all over, but those of us who have had to suffer for years, felt little or no sympathy for Tennis Channel. 

The WTA TV website has its issues (hello Order of Play and no app), but it brings fans of the women's game much closer to the women and at least you get to see great matches all the time. 

This is why Vondrousova making it to the final of the French Open has not come as a shock to me.  A fighter, it is never over until the last ball is struck.  Usually, in her favour.  I like Vondrousova.  I like her demeanour on court.  I like the variety that she has in her game.  I like that she smiles when she has hit a terrific drop shot or a beautiful winner.  I like that she is shy.  I like that she struggles to articulate her thoughts in English, but mostly I absolutely love her game.  There are not many Czech players that I like, but Marketa (must be that black name) just gives me a different vibe.  Her game is not run of the mill.  It has variety and nuance.  My only issue with her is sometimes her fitness level is not what it needs to be.  I would be absolutely thrilled if she takes the title on Saturday, but ...

It can be hard when you have been classed as a prodigy and then struggle to get wins.  Ashleigh Barty is a lesson for all young up and coming players.  You would never believe from looking at her that she is only 21 years old.  Very mature for her years and with a game that is made for tennis.  

Many may not know that for a short time, Barty was coached by Justine Henin (or at least Henin mentored her).  After suffering a series of setbacks, Barty left the sport of tennis and went to play cricket.  For those of you who may not know it, cricket is to Australia as tennis is to England.  It is in their blood.  A long time ago they were very good at it (as were the West Indies team, but we won't go there).  Suffice it to say Barty is such an incredible athlete that switching sport was never an issue for her. 

She returned to the Tour about 3 years ago, and after winning her biggest title to date (the Miami Open), playing some of the best tennis that I have seen in quite some time, Barty has made her way to the final of a Grand Slam.  I am sure that there has been much celebration in Australia.  

Both women have done incredibly well to get this far.  They are a testament to hard work and perseverance, and of the sacrifices that were made (and still being made).  

The Spin Team wishes them all the best (but will be quietly cheering Vondrousova to victory)

Thursday, June 6, 2019


Image result for 'drop dead diva serena'
I am a Diva and I know it

The Spin

So folks are up in their feelings over Serena Williams and whether she is a diva or not.  My take:  If Serena Jameka Williams is behaving like a diva its because she has earned it.  We see accommodations being made for people who do not have the volume of work that Serena has done.  Who have not achieved the heights of a career that Serena has done. At some point that has to count for something.  The fact that she did not in this instance do what she is alleged to have done, i.e. kick Dominic Thiem out of a press conference room so that she could speak to the media is for some by the way, but let us pause for a moment and talk a little bit about Serena and her career and what she has done for tennis. 

Bursting onto the scene in the late 90s, Serena has played against almost 5 generation of tennis players.  5 generations that were supposed to usher in the end of the Williams era.  Lest we forget but let us pray for them in passing: the Russians, Belgians, Serbians, Young Americans, and the Rising Stars and the list goes on and on.  Yet here she stands, ranked No. 10 in the world and now with a husband and child (and grandchild).  For my money, Serena has earned her place as a diva in this sport.  She should always play on Center Court, as the Australian Open and French Open organisers recognised.  She should always get a choice of what time of the day she should play and frankly if some minion player is in the large press room, he should be booted out so that Serena can take her place at the head of the table. 

If we are honest, who really wants to hear what Thiem has to say about men's tennis?  Seriously?  Is there a reporter out there who is being paid to write 5,000 word pieces on Thiem's thoughts on tennis?  I am sure somewhere in Austria there may be someone who is interested in his thoughts, but I doubt the international press corps is a part of that.  I have never seen an article where Thiem is quoted and it makes me want to go and read it in depth.  Possibly the only time the casual tennis fan (and let us be real here, it is the casual tennis fan that tennis needs in order to survive), knew anything about this Thiem fellow was when this whole make believe, fictitious, click bait article came out on social media that Serena had asked for him to be moved so that she could have her press conference. 

Serena's coach posted recently about the fake sportsmanship that is exhibited in men's tennis.  I agree with him.  Players believe that they need to show that there is camaraderie amongst them, when that is as far from the truth as you can get.  

Serena is a diva.  I love that she is a diva.  I was hoping that she had indeed kicked Thiem out of the press room so that she could give her thoughts on tennis and then go home to her French apartment with her husband and daughter (and grand daughter) and field calls from tournament directors who are hoping that she accepts their wild card offers to play before Wimbledon.  There are also fans out there who are waiting with baited breath to press submit on their ticket purchases hoping that they get the chance to see Serena play at a tournament before Wimbledon. That is what is important to tennis.  The ability to host a successful tournament with a big name player who can at least keep the debt collectors from the door.  Not some run of the mill player who has gotten lucky to be in the semis of a Grand Slam where he will no doubt be mauled by his opponent, and even if he gets to the final, he will once again display, for all the world to see, his inability to take his game to the next level when asked to do so. 

Onwards ... 

People ask me all the time why do I love the WTA Tour so much.  I usually point them to the unpredictability of the women's game.  The fact that no matter who the opponent is, every woman will give of her best on the day to win that point.  Women's tennis is not hierachial in the same way that men's tennis has become.  There is parity.  You can be ranked outside the top 100 and you come across the No. 1 player in the world on the biggest stages of the sport and you realise there and then that this is your moment.  If not now, when? And you go for it.  We saw that 2 years ago with Jelena Ostapenko blasting winners, left and right to win the French Open title, wresting it from the cold dead hands of Simona Halep. 

We saw Sloane Stephens, realising that she had a chance to win a huge title, fought her way back from a break point down in the third set against Venus Williams and literally creamed poor Keys' clock to win the US Open. 

Image: Amanda Anisimova
Amanda Anisimova (Charles Platiau - Reuters)

Many people are in awe of the 4 women who have made the semis of the French Open. Me, not so much.  Maybe with Konta I am a bit shocked and to a lesser extent Ashleigh Barty, but Vondrousova and Anisimova have shown us what they are made of on the regular WTA Tour.  The Spin's preview

Australia's Ashleigh Barty plays a shot against Sofia Kenin of the U.S.
Ashleigh Barty

Anisimova v Barty - this is going to be literally youth v experience.  Anisimova as we all saw this morning in her dismantling of the 2018 champion hits a hard ball.  Apart from that though she serves extremely well, is focused during points, and has a steadier baseline game than Barty.  Barty is going to attempt to mix it up on her backhand slice by trying to keep the ball low and forcing Anisimova to the net where she is not yet comfortable. However, that may not work in Barty's favour as I have seen Anisimova take those short slices and hit them into corners that I did not know existed on a tennis court.  Look for her to do the same in her match. 

Of the 4 semifinalists in this year's tournament, Anisimova has the lowest rating in terms of aces, return games won, break points converted etc., yet here she is with a chance to play for her first Grand Slam title.  I would not write her off at all. 

Johanna Konta has bulldozed through her opposition on a surface that had been by far her worst prior to this season
Joanna Konta

Konta v Vondrousova - again, a case of experience going up against youth.  While I had pegged Vondrousova to do well at this tournament, there is one weakness that she has that I don't think has been addressed and that is her fitness.  She hits a hard deep ball and that may be what keeps her in the match against an opponent who stays on the baseline and redirects off both wings.  

Related image
Marketa Vondrousova
Konta's game is not the prettiest but it it is effective.  The problem lies when you get the chance to move her off the baseline (not something that is easy to achieve) and get her moving on the clay.  If anyone can do that, it is going to be Vondrousova.  A big heavy whipping lefty forehand will give Konta nightmares if used effectively and while the Czech is not the best mover, she has a killer drop shot/lob combo that will get Konta moving forward and backward.  

On a good day, the  Spin would not watch a Konta match, but I am excited to see how this one pans out. 

Spin's Picks

Anisimova v Barty - Anisimova
Konta v Vondrousova - Vondrousova

2019 French Open champion - Vondrousova 

Saturday, June 1, 2019


The Spin

On 31 May Christopher Clarey tweeted that the press box was full during the Sevastova/Mertens match.  He attributed the full press box not to the match that was currently on show but the match that was coming up, i.e. Roger Federer going up against some fellow named Rudd.  

That statement is what ails tennis journalism. 

In case you missed it, Anastasia Sevastova, she of the second career (in case you did not know Ms. Sevastova had retired from the Tour and has now returned) and Elise Mertens, a rising star who previously trained at the Kim Clijsters academy and actually had Clijsters in her box on a few occassions early on in her career, played a fantastic match before a packed stadium.  Ms. Sevastova recently made it to the semifinals of the 2018 US Open and Mertens beat 3 or 4 top 10 players, saving match points along the way, to win her biggest title to date at the Dubai Duty Free tournament.  Neither of these women are unknown to tennis fans.  Frankly, the shouts from the Belgian fans could be heard all over Roland Garros as while I had the Mertens' match on my TV, I was watching the Krunic/Tsurenko match on my computer and I could hear the shouts of ELISE. 

For a renowned journalist like Mr. Clarey to opine that the only reason why the press would come out in numbers to watch a tennis match was because the next match up featured Roger Federer is an insult to the 2 women who were giving their all.  The Sevastova/Mertens match lasted for over 3 hours and I dare say the fans got their money's worth. 

It seems to me that from what Mr. Clarey said, the press would not deign to go and watch a women's match live.  One of the reasons why I love women's tennis is that if you follow the Tour closely, you know who the players are who will have their breakout moments at the Slams and you are never shocked by it.  

I am not shocked that Sevastova and Mertens played such a great match.  I am not shocked that Vondrousova is playing well (I am really looking for her to do big things this year).  I am not shocked that so many players that never get a feature on Tennis Channel or ESPN continue to draw crowds whenever they  play. 

We all love the stars of the sport.  Many people sometimes complain when there is a Serena Williams match and the stands are empty.  It is not that people do not appreciate Serena's game or that they don't like her, but sometimes there are much more compelling matches on the grounds and fans who have planned for the big tournaments for a long time would like to get the whole fan experience so that they can talk about it, and in some cases even write about it.  

From time to time I notice people who are designated as journalists who are at tournaments and who never set foot outside of the press area.  They are never mingling with the crowds to get a feel of what fans are appreciating about a player.  I believe the only tournament I have seen that does this is the Australian Open.  Perhaps Mr. Clarey and others of  his ilk should leave the press area from time to time and go have a chat with fans at a match where he does not even know the names of the players and find out why they are there. 

Tennis is a global sport.  It is not about Federer, or Nadal, or Djokovic or Serena.  The sport is about tennis and the sooner the press realise this, the better off we will all be. 

Now for the tennis, the women as always are bringing it.  If you have no idea who some of these players are, get yourself a WTATV subscription for about a month and watch the tennis that is played on Tour.  I promise you that you too will become as excited as I am by the level of tennis and from the talent that abounds in the sport. 

I have to say that it has been good to watch the tennis without the commentary.  There are times when I miss it as I find that it brings a certain level of engagement with what is happening on the court, especially if its done right.  

The matches have been captivating.  The fight from the players on the big stages has been something to see.  The drama has been something else and you can see from the emotions from the players how much they are fighting for even the smallest points. 

I hope everyone is as excited to see what happens in the second week, as much as I am. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019


by Overhead Spin

Let - Justin Gimelstob

How many lets will it take before tennis finally calls a fault on Justin Gimelstob?  Clearly, as much as it takes. 

In case you missed it, after almost a year of denying he ever assaulted Mr. Kaplan, Justin Gimelsob pled no contest to felony assault which was then reduced to a misdemeanour charge.  He has been sentenced to 3 years' probation and 60 hours of community service.  

At the time when this incident came to light we were told that we should wait until the legal proceedings had run their course as there was more to this story than meets the eye.  Clearly there isn't as if there was Mr. Gimelstob would have had his day in court where he would have called on witnesses to refute the allegations of Mr. Kaplan and his wife.  The victim impact statement from both Mr. & Mrs. Kaplan tells the tale of a man completely and utterly out of control. 

Apparently, Mr. Gimelstob is such a powerful figure that tennis believes that it needs him.  The deafening silence from the people who say that they are tennis journalists is as someone pointed out on social media today, deafening, defining silence. 

Jon Wertheim attempted to put the ball squarely in the court of Mr. Gimelstob.  In a piece of writing that can only be termed cringe worthy, Mr. Wertheim calls on Mr. Gimelstob to put his tennis colleagues and the sport itself, including the governing body of men's tennis, and the ATP Player Council out of its collective misery by doing the right thing and stepping down. 

No Mr. Wertheim.  That is not how taking responsibility and showing leadership works.  I am all about second chances. After all we have just done the whole Lenten journey (and for those who don't there is Passover) where we are called to forgive etc.  However, Mr. Gimelstob has had many chances.  From his nasty, disgusting remarks a few years ago about Kournikova, to his general all around sleaziness, this man should in no way be representative of a sport that has as one of its tenets the promotion of a wholesome, healthy lifestyle for young people, especially men. 

At a time when the world is striving hard towards decency and holding people to account, it would be detrimental to the sport if someone like Gimelstob was given a pass just because he acted in the heat of the moment.  This was not a  heat in the moment situation.  This was an all out attack on someone who had done nothing to deserve it.  To compound matters even more we are being told that the reason for this display of outright aggression had to do with the death of his father. 

I am sorry, but in the same way that we are being asked to sympathise with Gimelstob, where was the sympathy for Serena Williams when the person who killed her sister in cold blood was released?  That was the same year that she had issues at the US Open where she was deducted a game.  If I recall there were many in the tennis booth who did not shy away from expressing their opinion on this topic.  A little closer to home, how about Kyrgios and the constant call for  him to be placed on suspension or probation.  However, the ATP as an organisation tends not to deal with things that bring the sport into disrepute or indeed tends to engage in the whitewashing of bad behaviour. 

This time around though, tennis needs to take matters into its own hands.  It is time to say goodbye to Gimelstob. 

Double Fault - Sorana Cirstea

In case you missed it, Sorana Cirstea went all touchy feely on the chair umpire in her losing match in Instanbul.  The video which is circulating on social media has fans up in arms as it seems as if for physically assaulting an umpire, i.e. putting her arm on the umpire's body without his permission, Cirstea received a code violation. 

Back track to the 2018 US Open and Serena Williams calling the umpire a thief. For that egregious violation, the umpires on the tennis circuit met and decided that they would not be umpiring any matches featuring Serena Williams.  I am sure that all of us are waiting with baited breath for the results of the ongoing umpire's meeting where they are no doubt discussing the fact that they will no longer umpire any matches featuring Sorana Cirstea ... 

Game, Set, Match - David Ferrer

He was one of my first male tennis loves.  I loved his fight.  I loved his tenacity.  I loved his demeanour.  I am sad that my little honey badger (hat tip to Honey Badger) is no longer playing tennis.  May your retirement be as fruitful as was your tennis life.  

Monday, March 18, 2019


The Spin Team

Image result for bianca andreescu
Bianca Andresscu - BNP Paribas Open Champion 2019

There will be many pieces written about the new flavour of the moment on the WTA Tour, i.e. 18 year old Bianca Andresscu.  There will be talk about her mental toughness.  Her fearless tennis.  Her ability to mix up her game etc. etc etc.  However, what I want to talk about are those 4 words that she uttered to her coach during a coaching visit. 

Down 3-2 in the third Andresscu called her coach down courtside for a visit.  During the interaction while he was trying to calm her down and talk tactics she said to him "I want it so bad".  For me those words defined her mental game more than any ground stroke. 

A few years ago there was a documentary featuring Serena and her then hitting partner Sascha Bajin.  Serena was in the gym and she was having a really hard conversation with Bajin.  She was basically saying that Bajin was not going hard enough in practice with her and she found that to be quite frustrating.  Her next words were significant because it showed the mindset of Serena when she goes on the court.  She said to Bajin "these girls hate me".  Now hate might have been a very harsh way to talk about your work colleagues, but this was the mind of Serena.  She believed then that every single player on the WTA Tour hated her and as a result of that she had to go  harder than anyone else.  It may be true but it just showed what motivates people.  Consider then Andresscu who was fighting so hard because she wanted it so bad.  She wanted this win and it did not matter if she had to fight through cramps, nerves and especially her opponent, but she wanted that title. 

For years as people talked about the new flavour of the month on the WTA Tour, I have always been struck by the fact that this new generation of players did not want it that badly.  I look at Pliskova, huge serve, big game and who just can't seem to get out of her way long enough to do damage on the Tour.  There are others: last year's semi-finalist, Daria Kasatkina seems to have just disappeared from view.  Sloane Stephens with all her accomplishments seems to just flit in and out as she feels.  And the list goes on and on.  

Andresscu first came on my radar when she beat Venus Williams at this year's WTA event in Auckland.  I was struck by the way she played against a champion like Venus and of course I wrote her off as a one hit wonder.  The fact that she lost that final in Auckland kind of settled my opinion of her.  I am glad to see that she has continued her meteoric rise and I do hope that she sticks around. 

The one thing that may be her downfall is her lack of fitness. Many will say that she outlasted 2 of the fittest players on Tour in Svitolina and Kerber, but as we all saw, she was able to hit through those players on the slow hard courts of Indian Wells.  It will be interesting to see how she adapts her game to the slow clay of the European swing.  

While many people will talk about Andresscu's win over Svitolina as a turning point, I think her win against Muguruza was for me the turning point.  Up 6-0, 3-0, Muguruza finally won a game and Andresscu seemed quite annoyed at that.  That showed me how much she really wanted this particular title. 

While writing this piece I happened to speak to my editor and the discussion focused around Federer’s loss and Serena’s desire. My editor intimated that the desire for winning that was so a part of Federer’s run to No. 100 in Dubai is completely different than the intensity and desire that he showed in the Indian Wells final. Some folks will say that perhaps Thiem took away his fight by outplaying him, but it could very well be that Federer having achieved 100 titles became complacent.

Contrasting with another champion in Serena Williams.  I finally got to watch Being Serena.  One of the things that jumped out at me (and I believe I mentioned this in previous articles) is the fact that Serena’s mental game seems to have been softened.  Before all the feminists get on my case, consider Serena’s own words in Being Serena “I don’t know whether I have that fight in me any more”. Serena was not giving up, but she was in that place where she was thinking that there are far more important things in life than winning tennis matches. 

I recall saying last year when Serena came back that one of the things that was missing from her game was her inability to finish off her opponent.  Many people believed that this is something that is inherent in tennis players.  It is not.  It is a mind set.  It is the refusal to lose.  That is something that is ingrained in every professional athlete from the minute they take up a sport and decide to play it professionally.  It is the reason many of us who work in advertising or in any field where success is instrumental in how we perceive ourselves tend to fight tooth and nail and breathe a sigh of relief when we accomplish what we first set out to do.

It used to be the case that players would lose their matches from the time they are in the locker room against Serena.  Not so much any  more.  They can sense that Serena is not performing at an optimum level.  That killer instinct is not there just yet.  Will Serena and Federer, 2 champions who have displayed over many years their will to win say to themselves “I want it so bad” and go out there and get it? That remains to be seen but it will be interesting to see how they navigate their desires, because let us face it, what else do they have to or need to achieve.  What is their want it so bad moment and have they already achieved it?