Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coverage of Women's Sports

As most of you know this blog is primarily about the lack of coverage of women's tennis in the mainstream media. However, recently, I have been seeing quite a number of articles being written about women's sports in general and about the paucity of coverage that mainstream media allows.

This article appeared today on twitter. It was the second article in as many days that looked at the issue of media coverage of women's sports. Both articles dealt with the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team's historic achievement of 89 straight wins. This achievement surpassed that of the University of Connecticut's men's basketball team's 88 straight games.

I shook my head when I read the article as for the past year I have been bemoaning the lack of coverage of women's tennis. While I did not get much feedback from the mainstream media, or indeed of many tennis fans, I had to raise my eyebrows now because finally some in the media are waking up to the fact that women's sports is getting short shrift in the media.

One of the problems with the media's portrayal of women's sports, and indeed women's tennis, is the way in which commentators convey the message to viewers. Consider for example the narrative that is written about Nadal and Federer. If Nadal is injured or he has had a very convincing win, he is lauded as being exceptional in his sport, talented, a fighter. Even if he double faults on match points, it is mostly stated that he was going big on a second serve which is why he missed. When Nadal loses a tennis match, the media attributes the loss fairly or unfairly to injury or tiredness because of the long season etc.

However, put Dinara Safina, a former No. 1 on the women's side who has been sidelined since the Australian Open this year with a bad back (matter of fact it was a disc in her back that has gone terribly awry), she double faults, and what you get in the commentary booth is her lack of technique, lack of mental toughness, inability to actually hold serve, or taken over by the occassion.

Women in sports are being compared to men. I cannot recall watching a football match and seeing Tony Romo fail to throw the football in a way that his receivers can make a play, I have never heard the commentators talk about his lack of mental toughness, but if there was a woman who has had the seasons that Tony Romo has had in the past few years, people would have been calling for her to go and that she is not fit to lead the team.

The double standards that exists in our world have permeated all of sport for the longest time. Men are given endorsements despite their dismal performances. Women are given endorsements not because of their achievements on the court, but whether they are able to sell the product or not. Female athletes are glossed up and shown to be sex kittens, rather than athletes.

Now don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in women who are athletes showing that they are not only feminine but tough as nails, but apart from Serena Williams, I cannot recall any of the current female players in the WTA being portrayed as kick ass, tough or other attribute that they actually have to display on court in order to win a match.

The clothes that are being made for today's athletes leave little to the imagination. Perhaps the way to raise interest in women's sports like basketball, softball etc is to have the women play in itty bitty pieces of clothing and air it just before the latest outdoor fishing competition or poker game and maybe that will generate interest.

Also, it may behove those female athletes who insist on being photographed in full stripper mode, put their foot down and insist that while they realise that wielding a racquet with a fierce look may not sell the latest handbag or shoes, perhaps at some point, some enterprising photographer could perhaps take a chance and try. You never know, you may be surprised at the results.

After Serena Williams won the Australian Open in 2007, Nike launched a http://www.nike.com/nikewomen/us/v2/media/downloads/wallpapers/serena_1.jpg campaign that said everything fans of this great player already knew.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Just taking this opportunity to wish everyone out in tennis land a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

Let us hope that our upcoming 2011 season brings some new story lines.

Here is my wish list for 2011

A Grand Slam title for Roger Federer
A Grand Slam title for Venus Williams
A healthy Serena Williams - the Tour is just not the same without her
A new star on the ATP
A Grand Slam title for Caroline Wozniacki
Can we please stop with the over-hyping of certain players
An end to on-court coaching on the WTA
The end of FeDal rivalries. Both men get along really well as we saw in the Match for Africa. Fans should learn to do the same
An end to the constant GOAT debate. Only idiots think that there is one GOAT

Take care everyone and enjoy the holidays with your friends and loved ones.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Long Lost Williams Sister

This post shall be about pictures. I had one thing crossed off my bucket list on 12 November 2010 when I met my favourite tennis player in the world. Venus Ebony Starr Williams. It is an occassion I will never forget. Enjoy the pictorial

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Real No. 1

Today Caroline Wozniacki played in her first Year End Championship in Doha. She lost 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to current USO Champion and in case you did not get the memo, Mommy, Kim Clijsters.

As a long time fan of women's tennis, I think Wozniacki is an able No. 1. There have been arguments made for or against her being No. 1 without winning a major. 2 years ago I was one of those who looked at Jankovic and Safina and said 'how can you be No. 1 when you have not even won a major'. At that time, as is the case now, Serena Williams held 2 majors and had beaten both players rather handily in Grand Slam finals.

Wozniacki however is a different kettle of fish. The first time I saw her play was in an ITF event in Las Vegas. She was playing a Japanese veteran and she won that tournament rather handily. I felt at the time that her game needed more power as well as quite a few other things and I have to say that since that initial title when she was about 16 or 17 years old, Wozniacki has performed exceptionally well since playing a full season.

When Safina and Jankovic held the No. 1 rank, not only had they been in Grand Slam finals, but they had won Premier events as well. The difference for me is the way how Wozniacki has held up under the glare of the media spotlight and the way she has gone about her business on Tour. No drama. No crying to the heavens when her game has gone awry. No breaking down in tears during trophy ceremonies and no berating of herself when she loses a point. She is 20 years old and she is poised, confident, a smile on her face as she goes about her business. At times she is ice-cold in her temperament, especially when it comes to bagelling her opponents. She shows absolutely no mercy.

However, there is one thing about Wozniacki that I do not like, well 2 things really. I hate her forehand. I absolutely hate it. I play tennis and my forehand is my shot of choice. If I can run around my pathetic excuse for a backhand and rip a forehand, then I am one happy woman. As such I am always drawn to those players who can hit winners from the forehand side. Wozniacki needs to use the off-season to learn to hit through the ball on her forehand side. Most players have found a way to beat her (at least the good ones with forehands) and they go to that wing relentlessly until they inevitably get a short ball and she is dead to rights.

Another thing I do not particularly like about Wozniacki is her constant reliance on her father to come out and coach her. I think going into 2011 she should try her hardest at Tour level events not to call her father down court side. You cannot use it at the majors, and I think that is the main reason (and her forehand) why she has not been able to get to any more Grand Slam finals since her debut at the 2009 USO.

Wozniacki wears the mantle of No. 1 very well. She has received the blessing of the first family of women's tennis, Venus and Serena Williams. She is articulate, employs good sportsmanship on the field and apart from a few instances of racquet throwing (something she really needs to stop) she has worn the mantle well.

I am not sure what the future holds for Caroline Wozniacki come 2011 but from where I sit she should at least make it to the final round of a major come 2011 and who knows she may just strike it rich and get one. After all, many before her who did not have half the talent that she has and did so, and I see no reason why Wozniacki cannot do the same.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

WTA Year in Review - January

This is a review of the WTA’s 2010 Season. A chance to look back with fondness, a smile, a smirk, a shake of the head and see just what we missed and if there is anything worth looking forward to in 2011.

The 2010 season of the WTA started very much like how 2009 ended. Questions being asked as to who would be the contenders coming into this season. Who was injury free and would make an impact and even more talk of impending retirements.

2010 also saw the continued troubles of various marquee players in women’s tennis. Ivanovic, Sharapova, Jankovic, Venus and Serena Williams, Dementieva, Kuznetsova, Zvonreva and the list went on and on. The injury issues were not only for those players who were singles specialists but ran rampant throughout the doubles tour as well.

The biggest news to greet fans of women’s tennis however was the announcement by Justine Henin, former World No.1 and holder of 7 Grand Slam titles that she would be returning to the WTA Tour. She made this decision after seeing Roger Federer finally accomplish his Career Slam by winning the French Open. Fans of the Henin’s game were thrilled at this announcement as it was felt that her return would bring back some added competitiveness to the Tour and perhaps do away with those pesky also-rans who were occupying the WTA Penthouse. However, the reality was far different than what many dreamed.


The season started off as usual in Sydney with the AO tune up event. This event announced to the tennis world, one Aravane Rezai. I have to confess that I had never heard of Rezai. I perhaps saw her name in the draw but had never seen her play. She played Serena Williams in a match that is as compelling now as it was then. She was fiery. She was passionate and she had no regard for the woman standing across the net. 11 time Grand Slam champion and at the time World No.1, Serena Williams. The match had its ebbs and flows but at the end of the day, Serena gutted out the win, went on to the final where she lost in a lackluster match to her nemesis at the Tour level, Dementieva.

January also saw for the first time, the new Justine Henin, or as fans have christened her, Henin 2.0. She was more aggressive than we had seen in her previous career. She was more attacking, playing more in the forecourt and rushing the net at every given opportunity. She played her first match upon her return at a tournament in Brisbane. I saw her play against Ana Ivanovic and she properly schooled Ivanovic. It was as if she had not left the Tour.

I saw the final of her match against Clijsters and while many commentators proclaimed it the best match of the year, what I saw were 2 players who could not hold serve or put a serve in court on a continuous basis to save their collective lives. Numerous breaks of serve, tons of double faults. The only redeeming quality of the match was the drama that it elicited in the saving of match points and the rallies where were a joy to behold, especially when they ended in winners and not UFEs (which they mostly did).

January also saw the Australian Open and some big upsets and questions being asked about the longevity of some players in the game.

The biggest upset of the tournament saw Maria Kirilenko taking out Maria Sharapova in what has to go down as one of the ugliest matches ever played on a Centre Court at a major by two of arguably the best looking women in women’s tennis. Double faults, check. Unforced error, check. Screaming, check and check. The screaming and screeching by both women and the length of time between serves made this match one of the most painful I have ever had to watch. It was a disaster. Needless to say women’s tennis lost for me that night.

However, January also saw the rise of Chinese tennis at the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific. Li Na and Jie Zheng both got to the semis of the Australian Open. Na by taking out Venus Williams in a tough quarter final match and Zheng by taking out Kirilenko. They would both go on to lose to the eventual finalists, Henin and eventual champion, Serena Williams.

I was able to finally see Petra Kvitova at this year’s AO when she played Serena Williams in a second round match. She has game but absolutely no consistency. She would show us later on in the season just what she promised at the beginning of the year.

During the year’s first major, players who seemed to be on form coming into the Open and who were early round picks to do well bombed out in inglorious fashion. Dementieva went down in the second round to Henin. Clijsters in the third round against Petrova with a score that still have people scratching their collective heads, including Clijsters, who said after the match that she could not feel the ball.

Early signs of some players who seemed to be making very good improvements and would be players to watch were Stosur, Schiavone, Na, Azarenka, Zheng. There were some players who snuck upon us early in the season and announced their arrival on the scene. Players like Petkovic, Semastova, and Pavlychenkova.

One would not know it but Wozniacki would prove to us later in the year that she is as tough as she looks. In January however, the name Pushniacki was coined and she was dismissed as a Tier IV player who would never win a major or indeed make it to the top. How wrong we were?

Dinara Safina, the finalist at 2 majors in 2009 began her slump to the bottom of the rankings in spectacular fashion by retiring in her fourth round match against Kirilenko. That back injury would basically put paid to one of the Tour’s brightest stars.

Zvonreva also announced that she was more than a pretty face in January and would go on to do wonderful things as the season progressed.

The match of the month was no doubt the Australian Open final between Justine Henin and Serena Williams. It was a match with ebbs and flows. There was considerable gritting of the teeth and toughing it out in the tough moments, but at the end of the day 2 of the Tour’s most polarizing figures came on stage to show the youngsters just how tennis should be played at the Grand Slam level.

There was no calling to the coach. There were no tears. There was no shouting. There were no arguments with the lines persons and tournament officials. The fans in Rod Laver Arena got their money’s worth and then some. The match started out with Henin playing the newest version of her game, attacking and putting pressure on Serena. Serena for her part does what she does best. She held her ground, held her nerve and never backed down. It would go 3 sets and until the middle of the third set, no one knew who would win, although fans of Serena would say differently. It was a match for the ages and it has without a doubt made its way into the annals of those matches that can be considered Best Match Ever.

Prior to that final though Serena had to get through a red lining Victoria Azarenka, a player that I believe has so much potential but does not seem to have what it takes to finish off the top players. Up a set and a double break at the quarter final stage, Azarenka came across the woman that is Serena Williams. Big serves, huge groundies, fist pumps, snarls, defence, offence. Serena came out with her every arsenal to win a game at 4-0 and never looked back. Going into the tie-break Azarenka was up a mini-break up but that meant nothing against the woman who would not be denied a chance to defend her title from the year before and finally win the Australian Open in an even year.

Serena would take the second set 7-6 and move on towards the third set where champion Serena came out. Azarenka looked lost and hopeless and showed us once again why it takes more than a serve, a forehand and a backhand to beat the best.

Further on in January we would see another contender for Best Match of the Year. This was the final between Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams in Dubai. From the start of the match until its ultimate conclusion, both ladies showed that when Big Babe Tennis is on, there is just nothing quite like it. Forehands, backhands, thumping serves, and even more, beautiful skills at the net. It was a match for the ages. Venus won that match, defending her trophy from the year before.

All in all January proved to be a fantastic month for women’s tennis. We had the return of marquee players like Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters. The resurgence of the ever present Williams Sisters. The improvement of players like Zvonreva, the Tour was shaping up to be a wonderful place to visit and sit and relax and enjoy good tennis.

Matches of the Month:

Serena Williams vs. Justine Henin
Kim Clijsters vs. Justine Henin
Aravane Rezai vs. Serena Williams
Victoria Azarenka vs. Serena Williams

Up Next… February

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Future of the WTA

This blog is predominantly about women's tennis. It is usually about the lack of respect shown to women's tennis by the media in terms of how women's tennis is covered. However, today, I am going to talk about the diversity of women's tennis.

A few weeks ago the WTA took time out to celebrate the commencement of the WTA. Players from all over the world paid their respect to the 9 women who sacrificed their careers and their future in establishing the Women's Tennis Association by signing a contract for $1.00 and starting what would become one of the most successful and viable franchises in sports history.

Since that time, we have seen the growth of women's tennis on a par with most sports that are more focused on men. Why then does the growth of women's tennis is not tied to the performance of the athletes but rather tied to how they look. Even worse, why is that it is only a certain demographic of women's tennis is represented by advertisers.

We are constantly being told that Hispanics and African Americans are the biggest growing markets in North America. We are told that Asia is the fastest growing region for the sport of tennis. Yet, when we look at the players who are getting the multi-million dollar contract, there is hardly a Na Li or a Serena Williams out there raking in the big bucks.

Even worse, a look at the top 100 rankings of women's tennis and the paucity of minorities who are embracing this sport leaves people like me, who are a minority, and who were drawn to the sport by two of the biggest stars to ever play the game, Venus and Serena, feeling quite disconsolate.

I listen and I watch lots of women's tennis. The feedback I get from commentators is that tennis needs people like Ivanovic, Wozniacki, Sharapova, Clijsters, Azarenka and the list goes on and on, not because they are great players, but because of their looks and personality and what they bring to women's tennis. In the same breath, the strength of character, the will to fight, the competitiveness and drive of a Serena Williams, the longevity of a Venus Williams, the artistry of a Justine Henin are laid by the wayside.

These veterans of the Tour may not have the looks that the Ivanovic's and Wozniacki's of the tennis world, but they are 3 of the most accomplished players in this generation of tennis players.

What really galls me more than anything else is that the 9 women who were recently celebrated for having the initiative and drive to buck the system are not what we would call celebrated beauties. In their own way they are beautiful women, but would Madison Avenue consider them women who could sell phones or tennis clothes, handbags, shoes etc. I don't think so.

Sania Mirza is one of the few women of ethnic origin who has garnered a great deal of sponsorships based on her looks. If you have never seen Sania Mirza, here is a picture of her.

This is a call for minority women from all over the world to go out there and let your face be seen. Let your racquets start doing the talking. Give us the next Serena and Venus Williams. Let us see the next Na Li. The next Sania Mirza.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Injuries, Injuries and More Injuries

It is that time of the year when the injury roll gets called in women's tennis. Already we have seen numerous withdrawals and the list of those players who have called it a season is a virtual list of who's who in women's tennis.

Since Wimbledon, we have multi-slam champions like Justine Henin and Serena Williams nary hitting a ball in competition. Justine due to hurting her elbow in her match against Clijsters and Serena after cutting her foot on glass in a restaurant, which required her to have surgery.

Since the USO Clijsters has not played a tournament, tweeting a picture of her foot showing that she had had work done to remove a mole. Safina, Kuznetsova, Sharapova and Venus Williams have all called it a season for various reasons. Safina due to her back, Kuznetsova cited an undisclosed illness, Sharapova to rehab her shoulder and Venus because of her knee.

Serena was slated to play Linz but has had to withdraw as a scan of her foot determined that her injured foot had not fully healed.

The news of so many withdrawals of marquee players at this time of the year has been met with some amount of commisserations for some and raised eyebrows for one withdrawal. The only player whose absence drew howls of protest or was met with sceptcism was that of Serena.

Now a case could be made that people love to see Serena play or it could be that she is the face of women's tennis, contrary to what others have been saying for years. However, this post is about the injury situation that seems to befall the women's tour at this time of the year.

For most of this year Serena has been on the benched list more than she has been on court. She has only played 6 tournaments this year and even those tournaments that she played she came in with some form of bandage on various parts of her body.

The tennis season is long and gruelling and it is up to the players to maintain a schedule that is compatible with what they can physically manage. However, there is also this issue of the Roadmap which compels players to play premier tournaments in order to either maintain a ranking or indeed to partake in a year end bonus. At the end of the day a player needs to determine whether it is worth it to play tournaments while injured in order to get a bonus at the end of the year which may just end of up playing doctor's bills in any event.

I have no idea what the solution is to the chronic injury situation that now besets the Tour. Many of the players who are now on injured list and who have shut down for the season are players who have played a pretty limited schedule this year or who have been knocked out of tournaments at the early stage. Players like Safina need to think long and hard as to whether it is the right thing for her to be playing tournaments with her back being the way it is. Perhaps a sabbatical to allow her injury to heal may be the best thing for her to do.

One issue that keeps coming up amongst fans is the issue of the equipment that is being used by most of the players.

I will be doing some research on this during the off season and scouring the internet to see whether I can find any relevant articles to support a theory that I have had and which has been posited by John McEnroe regarding the string and racquets now being used on the pro tour.

Until then I can only hope that the players who are now on the injured list take the necessary time to heal the various aches and pains in their bodies and come back stronger in 2011.

Friday, October 1, 2010

ESPNW and Women's Tennis in General

So ESPN has decided that they will be starting a new version of ESPN. This version will be dedicated to women's sports and all of a sudden advocates of equality etc are up in arms and have taken over twitter.

Jessica Wakeman, of women’s pop culture blog The Frisky, is quoted as saying that “If they were truly inclusive of women, they would try to integrate women into their programming, rather than secluding them off in a ‘pink ghetto.’”

Now I must be missing the point or something but what is wrong about women having their own. Is that not a sign of our independence and a step forward in the great race for equality. I grew up in a culture and environment where the man was king and there was no doubt about who was the head of the household. Even though things have changed, and the reality is that women have most of the responsibility in relation to being head of households etc men are still considered king of the hill.

For years I have been advocating that the women of the WTA and indeed the WTA itself should seriously think about establishing its own network to broadcast women's tennis. Whenever a Masters Series event is being aired, you get coverage on Tennis Channel and ESPNI from the first ball is played until the finals. In some cases you even get doubles coverage. In terms of coverage for the women, you will be lucky if you get coverage from the quarter finals onwards.

In terms of cost cutting, many of the premier events for the women are now being combined with the men's events. In these situations women's tennis gets short shrift. A case in point is this year at Indian Wells and Miami. Both events are premier/mandatories for the women and MS 1000 for the men. I saw every ball that was struck in the men's events but marquee names such as Henin, Sharapova and Clijsters who played these events, especially Indian Wells, their matches were never aired.

It gets even worse. During this year's US Open Series, we saw matches from early on in Washington and lesser events, yet established big draw events featuring the big marquee names in women's tennis, we only saw matches from the quarters on. This was not only for tv but for live streaming as well. It took bloggers on the ground to provide us with updates via twitter and their blogs as to what was happening on the ground.

If ESPN, the world leader in sports marketing can establish a channel dedicated to women's tennis, and it proves profitable, as I think it will, then perhaps they will then get the message that women's sports is a very valuable commodity.

Women cannot be considered equal until and unless they can show that they can perform with men on an equal footing. That means that while it is all well and good for people to shout equality from the rooftops if a channel that is dedicated to women's sports fail, then that would give credence that we are not all equal.

The proof of any pudding is in the eating. I saw bring on the women's sports channel. Feature every kind of women's sports. Offer it at a reasonable price to women and let us see where advertisers put their money.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

USO Women's Competition

So another USO has come and gone, or at least the women's portion of the event is over.

Kim Clijsters defeated Vera Zvonreva 6-2, 6-1 in a manner reminiscent of another player defeating a Russian almost 3 years ago in Australia. I watched the match in between changing channels. It took 1 hour exactly. Clijsters' family had numerous watches in the stands. I guess the whole point of that was to set a record for the fastest women's final in US Open history. I wonder if she got it?

It is funny to see how the Tennis Establishment has embraced Kim Clijsters' return to tournament play. In her first career she was known as a head case. A player who could never give it up to the better players. 2 years, a baby and a husband later, she now has 3 Grand Slams, a chance to become No.1 and finally she will perhaps get into the Hall of Fame. I guess she will get there. I wonder though when the questions will be asked as to Clijsters' penchant for only winning majors at one event in the same way that Venus Williams is being written as only being able to win on grass. Somehow I will not hold my breath for that one.

This USO has been a bit of a disappointment for me. Neither of my faves will be lifting a trophy at the final major of the year and for that I am truly sad. Life will go on once again and all I can do is hope that as their careers wind down they will find that last little step to be able to get one more major. I am rooting for that one player, Venus Williams to be able to do it one more time, but alas I am thinking that her time is surely passing her by, but I do believe in miracles and I am hopeful that one day it will happen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So here we are again, the beginning of the USO Series. The time of the year when fans of tennis in North America and elsewhere suffer at the hands of tournament directors and television networks by being deprived of watching live tennis on the internet, or indeed on the expensive cable channels for which they pay. All for the privilege of not getting any tennis on tv.

This is especially so for the women.

This week we have a number of tournaments being played. For the men we have Gstaad and Umag, both on clay and Los Angeles on hard courts. For the women we have Stanford and Istanbul. Both tournaments are being played on hard courts.

Stanford has a bigger and stronger field than Istanbul. The field in Stanford includes Stosur, Dementieva, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Radwanska, Peer and many other notables in the field of women's tennis. In Istanbul we have Larsson, Schynder, Kvitova, Petkovic and a whole host of other players ranked outside the top 20. The difference between both fields is not in the fact that there big name players at one event and not so much big names in Istanbul. It is the coverage.

From the first ball was struck in Istanbul, fans of women's tennis could actually get to watch ball by ball play. There was also excellent commentary from the first ball was struck until close of play. We even got to see doubles. Doubles at what is really a Tier IV event.

Stanford on the other hand. Not even radio tennis. Not even radio coverage. This is the beginning of the Olympus USO Series and not even as much as radio tennis coverage you can get. Why you ask? Well, bloggers who are on the ground have informed us that there is actually live streaming of the event, but it would seem as if the organisers have decided that fans who live in Timbuktu, or even closer Russia, or even Serbia or Poland and who are fans of the players who are playing in Stanford may not actually want to see their players play.

What the organisers have done is provide a live stream of the event to the media personnel who are currently on the ground providing coverage. Apart from Forty Deuce and Global Village Tennis News, I have not read any news accounts about what is happening in Stanford. Chris Oddo from On the Baseline has provided some blogging but they have been centered around individual players.

Forty Deuce and Global Village have been doing a terrific job in providing live match scoring commentary via twitter. Is this the level to which the WTA has allowed women's tennis to wallow. Fans should check out twitter or look at the scoreboard to see who is winning and who is losing.

For years Stanford had a live stream that was 300 feet from the court, had no commentary and barely any sound but fans appreciated it every year until we got tv coverage. This year nothing. Stanford is a well attended event as Californians love their tennis. There is no reason why the event should not be livestreamed until it is available on television. As it is by the time Friday rolls around, we would be lucky if most of the marquee names have not already been sent home and all we are left with would be a list of players similar to those playing in Istanbul. That might not be a bad thing.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

US Open Series

Hello fans of tennis. It is that time of year again when the women of the WTA begin competing in the US Open Series, culminating in the last major of the year, the US Open.

To those who do not know, the USO Series is a series of events during the US hard court season which traverses the United States. There are usually 4 events, Stanford, Los Angeles, Cincinatti and Toronto/Montreal. The winner of the USO Series gets US$1M and if said winner wins both the USO Series and the US Open, they are guaranteed to double their prize money. Financially it is an incentive to players to play these events. The problem though is that these events happen at the tough end of the tennis season and it usually finds the top players all banged up and bruised. Withdrawals are a part of this time of the season.

In checking the preliminary tv schedules for both Tennis Channel and ESPN, we find that most of the events that feature the women will start airing at the quarter final stage. I believe the same will obtain for the men, save and except for their Masters Series events in Montreal and Cincinatti.

I am aware that there is not a lot of sponsorship going on right now in tennis, and usually when tennis gets to the States for some reason that is when all live streams on the internet go dark. Someone needs to tell tournament directors that whether they live stream their events or not, if people want to come to these events they will come regardless. Nobody likes sitting in front of a computer screen watching tennis, but for those of us who do not reside in the US, would it kill these people to provide live streams for those of us outside the US?

This week, (16 July) I have been fortunate to watch some matches in places like Portoroz (Slovenia Open) and Bad Gastein. Bad Gastein is a clay court event and while I was quite happy to watch the live stream, my experience was not pleasant as the camera angles were set in such a way that it made for poor viewing. Portoroz was a very good event and I now have a new fave in Polono Hercog.

One thing that I noticed from those 2 events that I have been watching this week is the lack of grunting/screaming. However, would it kill the announcers to stop referring to these grown women as girls. I cannot recall hearing the men being described as boys. It kind of galls me to hear them talking about married women who are currently on Tour and playing as girls.

There are some intriguing story lines coming up during this summer hard court season and I will have a post about that showing my list contenders and floaters.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Anti-Fan

What is an anti-fan? An Anti Fan is for one thing not a fan of tennis. An Anti Fan is for want of a better description a troll. An Anti-Fan are the ones who come out from under the bridge when the following people have won a tennis tournament:

· Roger Federer

· Rafael Nadal

· Novak Djokovic

· Juan Martin del Potro

· Andy Murray

· Serena Williams

· Venus Williams

· Kim Clijsters

· Justine Henin

· Maria Sharapova

· Caroline Wozniacki

· Victoria Azarenka, and

· Dinara Safina

· Jelena Jankovic

· Ana Ivanovic

Now you may be saying, but these are all top players, why would there be anti-fans when these players win tournaments. These are the big names in tennis. Well for starters the anti-fan will usually come out after a victory by any of the above players by stating a few things about the victory. These statements can cover a whole host of things but are usually along the following lines:

· Surface

· No top players faced

· Ugly game

· It was because so and so was not in the draw

· It was because so and so lost and so he/she did not have to face him/her

· It was a lower level event

· Schedule

· Injury

· Had no match play

I am sure that any of us reading the above excuses have at one time or another made these comments on message boards the world over. We may think we are contributing to the discussions but what we are really doing is becoming a virtual anti-fan. For each victory that we celebrate for our favourite tennis player we have to remember that some other fan somewhere is despairing over another loss. For every vamos, come on, adje, allez and fist pump that our faves celebrate, somewhere another fan is holding a towel, a flag or a piece of tissue while wiping away tears as their favourites suffer another defeat. As such, when we visit message boards sometimes to find commiserations or to celebrate with our virtual friends, we need to remember that there are those amongst us whose sole purpose in life is to come out and rain on the parade.

Today, 3 tennis professionals who have not won a title in quite awhile were successful in doing so. Rafael Nadal, won his 16th Masters Shield today by beating Fernando Verdasco. There are stories floating around the internet that have some folks saying well “Nadal did not beat a top 10 player”, well guess what, there was a top 10 player in the draw and Verdasco took him out in straight sets. As a matter of fact the victory by Verdasco over Djokovic was what you would call an old fashioned thumping. Today, Sam Stosur got a win over Vera Zvonreva in Charleston in a Premier event. This was Stosur’s second title. She served well, kept her focus and finished the match with 36 winners. Her opponent had 4. If you think there were a lot of unforced errors, think again. Vera had 8 while Stosur had 11. The first set was over in 18 minutes.

In Barcelona, Francesca Schiavone won over Roberta Vinci, the defending champion 1 and 1. I saw that match and it was a fantastic display of clay court tennis. Schiavone played well within herself and deserved to win that match. The anti-fans were all over the place just raining on the parades of both Stosur and Nadal. The claims being made by the anti-fans were that neither player beat any top players to win the title. Does not matter. A victory is a victory. If that is the case that we are going to put asterisks against the wins or losses of every player then we would be writing articles like this every day.

Last year some alluded to Roger Federer’s wins at the French Open and Wimbledon was purely due to Rafael Nadal’s injuries. Foolishness. By the same token Rafael Nadal’s wins over Federer could be attributed to all sorts of injuries of his opponents. When we attempt to justify our arguments by belittling the accomplishments of what we consider are not our favourite players we do a disservice to this game that we all claim to love so much. A victory over any opponent, no matter where he or she is ranked is a victory. Does Federer’s Roland Garros triumph less remarkable because he did not beat Rafael Nadal? Or is Serena’s Williams victory over Justine Henin at this year’s Australian Open not significant seeing as Justine was only playing her second tournament since her return from sabbatical? We have to start ignoring the anti-fans when they come out spewing this type of nonsense because at the end of the day, when our faves win, there will be anti-fan out there somewhere ready to pounce and say “well, he/she won because …”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Internet, Tennis and Tennis Fans

Tennis has this reputation of being a very genteel sport. There are so many rules attached to this game that sometimes one wonders how the game got a chance to evolve in the way it did because there were so many restrictions placed on players. As a matter of fact there are still restrictions placed on players especially at the majors, and in particular Wimbledon. The all white dress code, the curtsey (think that is no longer required by the women) and the standard of referencing each gender of the draw as Ladies and Gentlemen. I love Wimbledon. It is my favourite tournament of all tournaments and it is my dream to visit there one day and perhaps visit Centre Court, but for now I will just continue to enjoy the tournament from the comfort of my living room.

You may be wondering we are hardly even out of the Spring hard court season, have yet to touch clay, and you are already thinking of Wimbledon, but this post is not about Wimbledon. This post is about the Internet and tennis fans and the rules that govern the behaviour of fans of this sport.

Have you ever heard of a FeDal war? No. Well, a FeDal war is an Internet phenomenon that can be found on many message boards around the Internet. They are discussions that border on the insane between fans of Roger Federer, the current No.1 on the men's side and Rafael Nadal, the current No. 3 on the men's side. Roger and Rafa are good friends. They have practiced together, played together and both have said in press conferences how much respect they have for each other and what each has done to grow the sport of tennis. It is clear that in the beginning there was some animosity between both the Federer and Nadal camps as a result of the behaviour or alleged behaviour of the Nadal camp during matches (on court coaching) and comments attributed to Federer after yet another loss to Nadal (one dimensional springs to mind).

However, as the years have progressed and with each player carving their own little niche in tennis and making their own history and have made up, it would seem as if the fans have not yet made up. The viciousness of the posts of many bloggers and those who post comments on them would make you marvel at the fact that both sides describe themselves as fans of Federer or Nadal. Both sides will state how much they respect their player's humility, his sportsmanship and all the other attributes of their faves, yet they will then go on a message board and threaten, perhaps not in so many words, to decapitate someone that they have never met, will perhaps never meet just because that person may have posted something that they consider to be in bad form against their favourite player.

Recently, the FeDal wars have taken a turn for the worse and we now have the women getting in on the act. There are the fans who are for the pushers (you know those defensive players who frustrate the dickens out of you on a tennis court until you give up in frustration) and the fans of the ball bashers (those who hit the ball hard and when that does not work they hit it even harder). The ball bashers are also known to either shriek or grunt as they hit the ball which has made them a tennis phenom. There are varying sides on message boards these days who take arguing these points to a level that I have never before seen in all my days of following tennis.

I write this blog about tennis because I am a fan. I have to say within the past year I have been visiting many blogs and have been giving my opinions on various topics. I try not to get involved in virtual wars with people, but last night during a match between 2 players (WTA) that I do not particularly care for I had occassion to say that I felt that one player was exhibiting poor sportsmanship in terms of her use of the challenge system. A poster took offence to that and proceeded to state that "I could post things but I wont". Now I did not know how to take that comment, so I decided that for my peace of mind it may be a good thing to just take my leave of that particular message board for a short while.

It could have been that the poster meant that they could post some examples of unsportsmanlike behaviour that one of my faves has exhibited in the past, but I was genuinely astonished and afraid that the poster was about to go personal on a subject that was being discussed freely on the board.

It just made me realise that while the sport that we support has genteel roots, the fans these days are less so.

It is clear that we have not learnt from the damage that was done to Monica Seles by a rabid Steffi Graf fan all those years ago. Fans are wondering now why they cannot get too close to their favourite player to get autographs or go down and perhaps touch the arm that can do so much damage on a tennis court, but in these times when fans have taken fandom to a level that is downright scary, one has to wonder how long before some idiot decides that he is tired of seeing his favourite player lose to a Serena or Federer or Nadal and decides to harm either one of these players.

Without fans the sport will die. It is essential however that we as fans try and curb our enthusiasm and vitriol.

I am trying to figure out what has made us all become so invested in our favourite players. Is it because all the information on Roger and Rafael and Serena and Caroline is but a click away? Do we believe that we know them because we can go on their websites or join them on twitter or facebook and write little notes to them and they respond we feel like they are our best friends? I think we need to give ourselves a reality check. These people do not know us. Some of them really do not even care to know us. I am a fan of Serena, Venus, Federer, Wozniacki, Radwanska etc., Apart from Serena and Venus I do not think that I have visited a player's website to get updates or left a message. I believe the only message I have left for either Serena and Venus is to ask them to reconsider the whole Indian Wells situation. I am yet to get a response.

I have no interest in heading to a tournament to see a Roger Federer "Genius at Work" banner, neither am I inclined to sign it. If I was a Rafa fan, I would not scour the Internet and spend hours of quality time discussing the clothes that he wears. Matter of fact I do not even do that with my faves. Does that make me a bad fan? No, it makes me a reasonable thinking person. I wish that all fans were like that. Reasonable, thinking people.

On that note, I will be taking a break from posting for a couple of weeks. Will perhaps be back after Miami.

Take care all and remember, please behave reasonably on message boards.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Indian Wells

Well, well, well. Should I do it? Yes, I think I will. So yesterday we had approximately 48 matches scheduled at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Of those 48 matches, approximately 40% of them (or roughly 19) were women's matches. Of those approximately 19 scheduled women's matches only 2 were thought to be worthy of broadcast to the tennis watching public. That was Kuznetsova who went down to Navarro and Clijsters who beat Barbara Strylocova. The Tennis Channel has been regaling us with the fact that they have almost 90 hours of broadcast from IW. All fine and good but the only match that TC considered worthy to air was that of American Sloane Stephens against Vera Z. Now, it did not help that many people who had the tennistv.com feed were not able to see that particular match as the feed was giving all sorts of trouble.

In addition to not seeing many more women's matches, we also had to suffer the indignity of having men's doubles matches being aired. Now these doubles matches were not doubles matches featuring the top teams in doubles, but make up doubles teams of some top players. I have no issue with that as the crowds for that particular match were standing room only. What annoys me is that this match got tv coverage and the women's matches are not getting any coverage at all.

One of the problems that I have with television coverage of women's events is that we as fans never get to see the up and coming players and so when they finally hit it big questions are being asked well where did she come from. Last night the defending champion on the women's side played a young up and coming American called Sloane Stephens. I have never seen Stephens but from what those on the ground were saying on twitter, a few more years and experience and she will be one to watch. Last year's losing finalist Ana Ivanovic went out in the first round to Semastova, a talented young Latvian who a few weeks ago took out another Serb, Jelena Jankovic in Monterey. I know this because I saw it on a live stream. Yes, a tournament in Monterey Mexico had a live feed of their event.

The week before Monterey there was a little known tournament in Acapulco, Mexico won by Venus Williams. It was a combined event. There was daily coverage of the men's events. Not one single pixel of the women's events were shown however. Not even as much as a highlight reel. Pathetic.

I have said it before and will continue to say it. The WTA needs to start addressing the issues that women's tennis faces in terms of broadcasting of women's matches. 2 of the stars of the game who are being touted as the next big thing played their matches in virtual obscurity as there was no coverage of IW until this Saturday. In addition Maria Sharapova played her match in which she struggled to even win points on her serve did not get shown. This year's Australian Open finalist as well as a former No. 1 played her second round match in which she got beat by Gisela Dulko in obscurity as her match was not televised.

Indian Wells is a Masters Series event for the men and mandatory for all the top male players. Indian Wells is a Premier Mandatory event for the women and the women will get fined, suspended (with obvious exception clauses) and lose out on bonus money and points if they do not play. Clearly, this is an important tournament for both tours. Why is it then that the men get full coverage and the women are only given a half hearted attempt at coverage by the media.

I think it is time that the WTA looks long and hard about establishing its own network. I am sure that there are many fans like myself who will be only too willing to pay the money to subscribe to this particular channel. Before the WTA began its journey to what it is now, Billie Jean King and Rosie Casalas realised that there was no way that the women could continue to perform in tournaments and not get paid for their efforts. I think the same thing applies here now. The women are being ignored in their tournaments. I think if the WTA gets a contribution of 10% of each player's yearly earnings and puts it towards the establishment of a network, I am sure that there would be many investors who would be willing to provide backing for this venture.

You only have to look at the number of message boards and how they light up at nights when a women's match is being played. People from all over the world searching the Internet trying to find a live feed of an event.

I will continue to write about this issue until someone at least starts to do something.

The next combined event will be the Sony Ericsson Open. I know it will be more of the same and perhaps even worse as it comes on the heels of March Madness in basketball, TC is not advertising that they will be providing coverage and we all know that Fox Sports sucks at providing decent tennis coverage. In addition people like me in the Caribbean do not get Fox as part of our sports package so we are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Foot Fault Gate

I know my little blog is not getting many readers but if for some reason someone should see it and want to share the contents with the powers that be, i.e. commentators etc., I will be very happy. This blog entry is specifically directed at the following people: Patrick McEnroe, John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Dick Enberg, Mary-Jo Fernandez, Martina Navratilova, Bill MacAtee (sp?), Chris Fowler, Pam Shriver and Cliff Drysdale. Have I forgotten anyone, no, yes, whatever, if I have maybe one of the others will forward it to them.

Foot Fault Gate is over. The fans, you know those people who pay good money to watch tennis players hit a ball over a net, scream their lungs out, sweat, argue with chair umpires and smile and wave at the crowd, yes those folks, we have moved on. We do not on any given day turn on our television sets (and I tell you us tennis fans pay a lot of money to watch tennis on HDTV) do not wish to sit and watch you go on and on and on about an incident that happened almost 4 months ago. We don't care. In addition, the person to whom it happened, Ms. Serena Williams and her colleagues with whom she has to work, they don't care. Lest we forget one of the people that the player on whom the sun rises and sets called was Serena Williams. She, of the infamous, "I will shove this ball down your fucking throat" was called upon to play an exhibition match, even though she is the devil incarnate, should have been banned, has brought the sport into disrepute, has tarnished her legacy, will have sponsors and fans keeping away from her in droves. Yes, she was the one who was laughing while players made fun of her Foot Fault Gate and the fans, yes those folks, who paid money at the spur of the moment to watch an exhibition match, doubled over in laughter as they found it quite funny.

Leave it alone. You are doing a disservice to a great champion. She has already done a disservice to herself and she has to live with that everyday. One of the reasons why the American justice system fails people is the fact that you are never fully rehabilitated. You are always being watched. Serena did not kill anyone. She lost her cool for a split second and she apparently will be crucified until the day she steps out onto the Newport grass to accept her Hall of Fame plaque.

And Ms. Navratilova. We do not care whether Serena does not weigh 150 lbs. We really don't. Every single woman on the planet lies about their age. We lie about our dress sizes etc. In case you have forgotten, we live in a Mary Kate Olsen world and as Serena has pointed out she will always have a big ass and big boobs. That is what makes her a woman. She is also an exceptional athlete, despite the ass and the boobs and despite her allegedly lying about her weight. We watch tv and attend tennis matches to see her play because of her play. She is competitive, full of fire, and guess what she knows how to play tennis. She does not quit like some before her have. She has weathered the storms in her career and come back fighting. She should be the player on which most youngsters should model their games, but all the tennis world seems to be concerned about is Maria Sharapova's dress and how much money she is making for Nike, forgetting the fact that had it not been for a walkover she would be going almost 2 years without a title.

I close by saying, let it be about tennis commentators. The fans have moved on from Foot Fault Gate. Is it not time you guys move on as well.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I live in the Caribbean (Jamaica to be exact). I get ESPNI, ESPN2 (the Latin version or some other version, have no clue) and TSN (a Canadian channel which really is the Canadian Americanized version of ESPN). Whatever. I do not have Tennis Channel. Anyway, last night I got ready to watch the first of 120 hours of tennis on ESPN. First of all I had to wait until the football game which had 5 minutes in the fourth quarter to finish. You should all know that 5 minutes in the fourth quarter of an American football match can last 30 minutes. Just saying. In the meantime I watched as many matches as I could on the livestreams that are to be found on the Internet.

Finally, at about 8:10 p.m. I finally saw tennis on my tv. Sharapova v. Kirilenko. The battle of the babes. Whatever. During the match when things were heating up and Sharapova was struggling to break Kirilenko in the 7th game, 4-2, ESPN took the opportunity to interview Sam Querrey. Yes, Sam Querrey who stood on a glass table and cut himself and who has never been a factor in a major, all of a sudden Sam Querrey gets to be interviewed on ESPN. Needless to say I muted the tv and went back to watching the livestreams.

During the whole broadcast it came back to me why I really do dislike some of the ESPN commentators. I have heard it said over and over again but I never believed it. Mary Carillo really and truly dislikes the Williams Sisters, and in particular, Serena. It galls her so much that players and fans have put the USO incident behind them and moved on. She is still so caught up with that thing that you can see it on her face whenever she talks about it. I have only one thing to say to Mary. LET IT GO. IT IS OVER. MOVE ON ALREADY.

While listening to the Eurosport commentators last night, a gentleman said that it would be bad for the tournament if Sharapova was ousted in the first round. Really. It would. I thought that 128 women came to play a tournament in order to win. I did not realise that players were supposed to kowtow to players because of who they are. Kudos to Kirilenko for coming out to play a match and try her very best to win it, and actually win the darned thing.

Another thing that really galled me last night was the ever growing discussion about Sharapova's off court exploits. The money that Nike is paying her over 8 years (US$70M if you live in a cave and have not heard about it) as well as the fact that she now has her own collection that other Tour players will be wearing. In addition to all that she has her own production company, has a tv series in the works and basically is what is termed a one woman stimulus package. And everyone is happy with that.

Go back circa 2003 and Serena and Venus Williams who want to do a little acting, go to fashion school and do other stuff, including grieving for their murdered sister and all you could hear is this ... if they paid more attention to their tennis they would be better off. How come they did not play any warm up tournaments. Do they really think that they still have that aura or that invincibility factor. They need to focus more on tennis.

Now we have someone who has not played a Tour event since October 2009. She only played the Hong Kong exhibition and apart from Pam Shriver (bless her) no one has spoken out about the fact that Sharapova has not participated in any Tour event and that she actually needed the match play. Poor Mary-Jo was left to stutter her way through excuses etc. Poor thing.

Vera Dushevina. I cannot believe that the girl that I saw this morning playing Dementieva is the same person that pushed Venus Williams to 3 sets in last season's US Open first round. She also played credibly in her match against Serena at Sydney this year. Today, she could not even keep the ball in the court. Is there anything in the rules about tanking matches?

Anyway, I hope everyone has enjoyed what little of Day 1 that ESPN deigned to show us. Heres hoping that we will get to see more tennis and less tennis commentators in the coming 2 weeks.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 - New Year - Same Crap

Hello All. It is a new year and I am back. I promise that this year I will be blogging more than ever to bring to the eyes of the world all things tennis all the time, at least that which I can get on tv. I have now relocated to Jamaica and one of the things I do not have is Tennis Channel. Now that may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing. For right now it is a bad thing as Tennis Channel usually has good coverage of MS events, but little or no coverage of the women's events, you know the ones, Mandatories, Premiers etc. Anyway, I now have TSN (that is Canada's response to ESPN). I also have a ESPNI as well as a host of other ESPNs. The only problem is that because I am in Jamaica all of these channels are geared towards the Latin American market. Now I have nothing against that if but for the fact that I get to watch football (soccer to you North Americans) all the time. That would have been great except I do not particularly like soccer, so there you go.

Anyway, the new year has started and already message boards are abuzz with tennis being played. Live streams seem very hard to come by these days as folks over at tennis.com were visibly frustrated last night and early this morning with the Hopman Cup streams. I see from the tv schedule that Hopman Cup should be up on the tv by 4 January so I will be looking out for that. Oh, I am in Cayman now and back in front of my HDTV and Tennis Channel, so hopefully I will catch a little bit of it before I have to head back to Jamaica.

In December I watched via a livestream the playoffs for the Australian Open wildcard. I have to say that I am sorry a player that I had never seen much except for that one match against Dinara at the USO (Olivia Rogoskwa) but I like the mentality that she displays on court. In addition there was no drama to her, no fist pumps, no grunting, no smashed racquets. She just stepped up to the line and did her thing. What I liked about this match was not the play of the players themselves but that a Federation thought it would be a good thing to livestream their wildcard playoffs for all the world to see. Kudos to you Tennis Australia. I hope that other Federations take a leaf out of that book as it would be good to see the up and coming talent before it hits the big time.

Brisbane is on right now. I have not seen a ball being hit just yet but this is only the third day of the year. Tennis Channel is showing Davis Cup and WITC matches from days gone by. I would have thought they would have shown Classic AO matches in order to generate interest in the upcoming AO, but that would have been too easy. Anyway, maybe there are plans to do so. I will write them and enquire as to whether fans of tennis will be able to see Classic AO matches. Will keep you informed if I get a response but please do not hold your breath.

Until then have a happy new year and all the best for 2010 and beyond for tennis.