Thursday, November 21, 2013


by Tournament Junkie 

Social media is in an uproar. It is in an uproar because of an article on CNN Open Court in which the above headline was used to describe the partnership of Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy outside of Paris. As most people have said, and it is a point in which I agree, Serena did not need rescuing. She was a multiple Slam champion and a cultural icon, with influence outside of tennis. To posit her return to the top of tennis as being rescued by someone that most people outside of tennis had never heard of is really an affront to Serena, her accomplishments and a slap in the face of Richard Williams and Oracene Price, the parents who molded her into a champion.

However, what leaves a bad taste in my mouth is that if Serena was not the subject of this article, tennis’s paternalism would never have been addressed. The term "rescue" was used earlier this season when Sorana Cirstea, a player with a solid game but unspectacular results had an incredible run at a Premier Mandatory event in Toronto. During the coaching sessions, Darren Cahill, noted ESPN analyst and part of the Adidas Player Development Program would come down courtside to "coach" Cirstea. The commentators in the booth could not get enough of it. Every single time Cirstea won a match, it was not about her efforts and how she held her game together to win but about the effectiveness of Cahill's coaching. Ever since on court coaching has been introduced in women’s tennis, the work of the coach has received an inordinate amount of the attention, often to the detriment of the player. Perhaps now that the face of women's tennis has been subjected to paternalistic journalism, the WTA will realize that on-court coaching has shepherd in an era of men leading their charges.

I suspect if these women were open to considering having a woman as a coach, we might see coaching characterized as a partnership as it often is in the men’s game. There have been some very successful female coaching partnerships just this year alone.  Bartoli, winner of the 2013 Ladies Singles Title at Wimbledon severed coaching ties with her father prior to entering the lawns of Wimbledon. She partnered with former No.1 and winner of 2 Grand Slams, including Wimbledon, Amelie Mauresmo.  Bartoli would go on to win Wimbledon with none other than Mauresmo sitting in her box. 

Eugenie Bouchard, current holder of youngest teenager in the top 50 of the WTA and winner of the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year Award was coached this season by Natalie Tauziat, a former WTA player.  Unlike many others in her age group she had a very successful season. Lucie Safarova, with the huge lefty game won her first title in 5 years with a female coach in her corner. Finally, and one of the most important coaching changes that I saw this year was Samantha Stosur severing her longtime coaching relationship with David Taylor and had Alicia Molik, Fed Cup captain and former WTA No. 5 coach her for the rest of the season.  She won 2 titles, her first since her US0 2011 title and qualified for the Tournament of Champions.  It is a pity that she has hired a male coach for the 2014 season (but more on that in another post). 

It may be so obvious that they don’t see it but these women could do with getting a female’s perspective on their games. Here are some coaching relationships I would like to see on the WTA Tour:

Petra Kvitova and Martina Navratilova - may not be the best fit seeing as they love each other so much, but they have mutual respect and admiration for each other and maybe Martina may have Petra believe in herself, especially when things get tight in a match. 

Agnieska Radwanska and Martina Hingis - similar game styles and similar disposition on court.The difference is the mentality that they both carry on court.  The Swiss Miss was legendary for her on court demeanor. Radwanska seems to be fall apart when things get tough.

What other female coaching relationships do you think would work?  Sound off in the comments

Thursday, November 14, 2013


2-1 First Set 
Pat Cash has been known for taking controversial erroneous stances on tennis in the past but for the first time, I have to agree with his point about the state of the men's game. Cash stated in an article for CNN that men’s tennis is boring. According to Cash, it’s boring to watch the “same tactic in every single match of every single grand slam for the last five or six years. Nowadays they all settle down and say OK, this is going to be two hours of baseline rallies. The guy who outlasts the other one wins. It’s taken a lot of the skill out of tennis”.  While, some will retort that it was no fun watching Sampras serve bombs across from his opponents in the 90s, we must admit that the pendulum has possibly swung too far to the other side.  Like Cash, I believe that “human beings love variety.” We come to tennis to see not just an endurance contest, but to see individuals who can make use of the breadth of the tennis court. While “we rightly celebrate these great matches between Nadal and Djokovic, but [sic] we need to look at the bigger picture”. Instead of simply celebrating another long drawn out Grand Slam men’s final, the ATP might do well to heed the cries of Cash and others or face the disdain of fans who are slowly venturing to the WTA to see the variety and personality that the ATP is sorely lacking. 
The article immediately caused a hue and cry in the tennis community with many people saying that Cash was an idiot. While his comment about Serena in the past have proven to be false, she has since won nine Slams since 2007, Cash may be on to something with the ATP. Despite the rhetoric from tennis journalists, most of whom are men, proclaiming a golden age of tennis in the ATP, tennis fans do appear to be turning from men’s tennis to the ladies of the WTA.
One of the things that I search for diligently after the completion of a Grand Slam tournament is the results of the ratings for the men and the women. Over the past few years, I believe that the women’s game is slowly becoming a force within tennis, particularly as the range of personalities on the WTA re-capture the public’s imagination as they did in the heyday of Hingis, Davenport and the Williams Sisters. This shift has happened without the consent of tennis pundits, who have been content to harp on the shrieks, grunts, slam-less No. 1’s and the lack of variety on the women’s tour.
Data mined from various sources since 2008 shows an uptick in the ratings for both men’s and women’s Grand Slam finals since 2008.  However, the chart below shows a consistent improvement in the ratings of the women’s finals while the men’s have remained stagnant. In 2013, all of the women’s finals outpaced the men’s in viewership.

Average Ratings

*not available for the Australian Open

Unbeknownst to them, a subtle shift was taking place on both tours towards the end of 2008 and the start of 2009. On the WTA tour, Caroline Wozniacki became its face. Commentators and advertisers loved her; she was pretty, happy go lucky, willing to give interviews, respectful of her opponents and non-threatening. Yet, her game bored tennis fans and her opponents. While she never won a Slam, she did amass a tremendous amount of points from the regular WTA tournaments, forcing fans to tune out these tournaments. Yet, fans would often turn their gaze to the WTA as Wozniacki faltered at the Slams and new and old champions rose to take the prize with compelling storylines: Serena vs. Dementieva semi-final at Wimbledon in 2009; Serena vs. Clijsters (the new mommy) at the USO in 2009; Serena vs Henin (the comeback) in Australia in 2010; Zvonareva’s 2010 run to the Wimbledon and US Open final; Stosur vs Schiavone at the French Open in 2010; Sharapova returning to the winners circle in 2012 with her French Open win to complete the career slam and Serena Williams’ dominant run in 2012 through 2013. All of these matches with their respective personality clashes and drama have caused people to start to pay attention to women’s tennis. In addition, young brash players have emerged to try to challenge the old champions.  Players, whom tennis fans have talked about on message boards for years, were finally showing mettle and making new fans amongst the casual tennis viewer. We have Petra Kvitova, the young Czech lefty with the all court game;   Victoria Azarenka, known more for her theatrics and her hooting than her tennis and Radwanska, with a game style being compared to Hingis. These women aided by the WTA’s marketing efforts which include an All Access Hour at the start of each tournament have generated interest, conversation, and most importantly viewership of WTA matches.

Meanwhile, the men’s game is stuttering along, redeeming itself only through the length of its matches and its increasing physicality. While the emergence of Djokovic and Murray has now shifted talk of the Big Two (Federer and Nadal) to that of the Big Four; we have not seen an uptick in ratings to suit their ascendancy. While Murray’s run to the Wimbledon title did generate high ratings within the United Kingdom, none of the men have succeeded in nurturing an audience for their matches without Federer and now Nadal.
While some are quick to say that women’s tennis is similarly blessed to have Serena Williams who has crossover appeal beyond tennis; I suspect the stagnant ratings of the men’s finals is due to what Cash suggests: the boring, one-dimensional nature of the encounters. Consider this – until 2009, the last man outside of Federer, Nadal or Djokovic to win a Slam was Juan Martin del Potro. Yes, Murray has come into his own to now earn 2 Grand Slam titles but leaving Federer out of the equation; there is absolutely nothing to distinguish the game styles of Djokovic, Nadal or Murray.  They play the same style of grinding tennis which for a real tennis fan can only capture your imagination for so long.

Matches amongst these men can last for hours, becoming wars of attrition rather than about the court craft of tennis. However, the women have raised the level of competitiveness amongst each other. Yes, Serena has emerged as the dominant champion but the other women have also stepped up to provide intriguing matches as well. While some say that the WTA itself has become a war of attrition especially in matches involving Serena, I would argue that this is definitely not the case.  The variety that is used by the women on Tour, especially in light of the homogenous nature of today’s courts, in winning matches boggles the mind.  Who can forget the skills and tactics that Bartoli used in winning her maiden Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year, or indeed Serena’s play at the French Open when the drop shot and lob combo was used extensively throughout her matches during that 2 week period?

On average a best of 3 set match involving the top women can last approximately 1.5 hours.  On the men’s side, 1.5 hours will get you the first set, especially when it is a match being played by one of the Big Four.  In reviewing matches played this year on the men’s side, nothing springs to mind in terms of memorable tactics. Like Cash suggests, it has all come down to mercilessly grinding your opponents into the ground.   Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the ATP has failed to see a young man enter the top 100. Who will those who love the ATP look forward to in the game’s future?  
We see this daunting scenario as we come to the end of another year, and there are various awards that are being presented by both tours.  It is noteworthy that while the WTA has a Newcomer of the Year Award and has an abundance of talent on which to bestow that particular honour, the ATP has had to disband that particular category.  The WTA is in good shape right now.  Its emerging stars are taking their place at the table.  Unfortunately, the ATP is entering a period where fans will continue to tune out their matches in favor of the variety and court craft they seek. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

WTA CHINA OPEN - 中国网球公开赛前瞻

The China Open is the third stop on the WTA’s Asian Tour. 

During the first week of the Asian swing we saw first time finalist and eventual champion Zhang, a Chinese Wildcard win the Guangzhou title over American qualifier Vania King.  In week 2 the top ladies started to make their presence known with No. 4 ranked Aga Radwanska and No. 1 seed winning in a hard fought 3 set battle over Anastasia Pavlyenchkova  to win the Seoul title.  Next stop was Tokyo and this tournament saw some of the better tennis being played during the Asian swing.
The ultimate veteran Venus Williams proved to us why she should never be counted out as she made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Petra Kvitova, who beat Angelique Kerber in a very entertaining if no doubt frustrating match.  It would not however be a Kvitova match if there was not at least 1 bagel or breadstick.
Victoria Azarenka, the No.2  ranked player and No. 1 seed fell to Venus Williams in a very entertaining match if you are a Venus fan, but there was no doubt that Azarenka was not at her best.  One can only hope that she has recovered from whatever ailed her in Tokyo. 
 The WTA is now having the last mandatory tournament of 2013 in the city of Beijing where all players play in the first round except for Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber. These players got the byes due to making the semifinals at Tokyo. Serena Williams is the top seed in this star studded field. Maria Sharapova, due to injury, and Marion Bartoli, due to retirement, are the only players in the Top 18 not playing.

Serena Williams will be aiming for her 10th title this week as she is playing for the first time since United States Opem. Sloane Stephens will be trying to improve her position for the final 8 to Istanbul but she must play well especially losing a heartbreaker to Eugenie Bouchard in Tokyo. Caroline Wozniacki will try to keep the momentum from a strong semifinal appearance in Tokyo.
First round matchup to watch: Sloane Stephens vs Aleksandra Wozniak (update: this was a really fun match to watch with Sloane winning in straight sets).
Agnieszka Radwanska leads this quarter but based on play in Tokyo, I would say the favourite is Angelique Kerber.  Shuai Zhang has performed well recently winning a title in Guangzhou and losing in the final to Bojana Jovanovski in Ningbo in consecutive weeks.
First round matchup to watch: Madison Keys vs Dominika Cibulkova
Na Li leads this quarter which is a tough one with Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams looming. Bojana Jovanovski has played well in the last 3 weeks winning titles in Tashkent and Ningbo and losing in a three setter to Vania King in Guangzhou. King went on to make the finals losing to Zhang in Ningbo.
First round matchup to watch: Bojana Jovanovski vs Sorana Cirstea
Victoria Azarenka leads this quarter. Azarenka suffered a surprise first match exit to V Williams, who made the semifinals, in Tokyo. She will be defending her title and if she succeeds, this will be the 3rd time in 2013 she has defended a title after Australian Open and Doha.
First round matchup to watch: Jelena Jankovic vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Q1: S Williams vs Wozniacki
Q2: A Radwanska vs Kerber
Q3: Kvitova vs Li
Q4: Pavlyuchenkova vs Azarenka
S1: S Williams vs Kerber
S2: Kvitova vs Azarenka
F: S Williams vs Azarenka

W: S Williams

Friday, September 20, 2013


Just how great is Serena Williams these days?  She won her 17th Grand Slam title from 53 appearances. To show just how good she has been and still is, Martina Navratilova played 67 Grand Slam singles events and Chris Evert played 56.   They both have 18 singles titles.  Serena is one win away from tying them.  Most people think that it will happen at any of the 4 Grand Slams next year. 

For the second year in a row, Victoria Azarenka has shown that she is worthy to be called a rival of Serena Williams.  I am not minded to call her that having regard to their head to head, but Azarenka makes a very good case as to why she should be called a rival to the woman who now occupies the WTA Penthouse.  She has shown that she has the game and the mentality to stay with Serena come what may.  

Here are Spin’s and Ace’s Parting Shots.  As with most of the Majors, the Spin will focus on the women and in no particular order of their importance. 

  • How great is the WTA product looking these days?  With so many young women coming up from the juniors and so many of them making their names in the Majors this year, I think the WTA is putting itself in a position where it could very well be that they will again draw even bigger ratings than the men.  
  • Caroline Wozniacki.  It was just a few short years ago that she ruled the WTA. I have no idea what has happened but it is remarkably frustrating to see her not even make the second week of a Major. Believe this was her last chance to make a Slam semifinal as she was given a kind draw.
  • Welcome to prime time Camila Giorgi. 
  • What has happened to Julia Georges? 
  • Sabine Lisicki is becoming the next Tsevtana Pironkova and that is not a title that a player with the game of Lisicki should ever aspire to become. 
  • The non-retirement of Marion Bartoli.  Why not just take a break and savour the moment of fulfilling your life’s work?
  • I don’t know if I missed it but it was great to listen to the commentary on a women’s match and not ever hearing anything about the shrieks, grunts, howls etc.  The commentary was about the 2 women on the court giving their hearts and soul in order to capture a Major title.  I am happy. 
  • Venus Williams is a Legend.  She may not have the career of her little sister, but what she brings to women’s tennis cannot be measured in terms of titles or monetary value.  When you become a role model and mentor to young women without having to try very hard, then you know that you have come a long way baby.  
  • Victoria Duval is an amazing young woman, poised, articulate and so focused.  Lots of work needed on her game but taking out the 2011 USO champion, no matter how poorly Samantha Stosur played, says a lot about her mentality.  The fact that she aspires to become something other than a tennis player is remarkable as well. 
  • Sloane Stephens.  She played the first 4 games of her match against Serena like the Sloane that we all know can become the next big thing in tennis. She says that her aim is to finish the year in the top 10.  It seems that Sloane is more about rankings watch than she is about standing on the podium receiving the top prizes. Baby steps are required, but I would have preferred if she spoke about results, rather than the ranking.  If the results are there the ranking will come. 
  • Flavia Pennetta is not my favourite player but how awesome was it to see her playing again and doing so well.  Losing in the semifinals to the second best hard court player this year is nothing to sniff at. 
  • Simona Halep. I think she was very disappointed with her results at the USO.  Perhaps no New Haven and she could make a run for it next year. 
  • Petra Kvitova :(
  • Andrea Hlavackova – She won the doubles title with her partner and fellow Fed Cup Czech mate Lucie Hradecka defeating Serena and Venus along the way. Also, she won the mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi, who won his first two with Serena and Vika. First player to win both in a Slam since Cara Black in 2008 (doubles with Liezel Huber) 
  • Daniela Hantuchova – She made the quarter-finals which is a good accomplishment after losing in the first round for five straight Slams even though her draw was not difficult.
  • Victoria Azarenka – Despite losing again in the final to Serena, she did well by making the final despite not playing her best tennis.
  • Alison Riske – She received a wild card and made the organizers proud by making the fourth round defeating Petra Kvitova in the process.
  • Until the final, the match of the tournament was between Carla Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber where a third set tiebreaker determined the winner and the raw emotion of Suarez Navarro after winning.

The WTA Tour now moves to Asia and already we have seen some surprising results.  Spin had a chance to watch a few matches from Korea as well as China.  I watched the semifinal match between  Zhang and Meusberger.  It was my first time watching Zhang, a WC recipient play and I was very impressed.  I am thinking from the little that I have seen, plus the fact that her opponent, Vania King, a qualifier had to go 3 sets to take out Jheng Jie in her semifinal, will have Zhang winning her first WTA title from as many starts. 

Ace's preview of the Japan Open is below

Since the United States Open has concluded, the tour has moved on to the continent of Asia. This week the tour lands in Tokyo, which is hosting a Premier 5 event for the last time as it will move to Wuhan in 2014. Serena Williams was scheduled to play but withdrew due to fatigue. Also, Maria Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, 2012 champion, and Maria Kirilenko has withdrawn due to injury. Top seed is the reigning two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, who has defeated S Williams twice on hard courts in Doha and Cincinnati. Azarenka will be the favourite to win.

First quarter - Azarenka leads this quarter but her first opponent could be Venus Williams. Sloane Stephens will be trying to improve her record in WTA tour events in a push to finish 2013 in the Top 10 while Jelena Jankovic will be continuing her good play.
First round matchups to watch: Eugenie Bouchard vs Monica Puig
Second quarter - Sara Errani leads this quarter but admitted that the pressure of being a top seed got to her during the US Open. Petra Kvitova has the ability to win this title but she can be very inconsistent and will her love for Radek Stepanek, who won the US Open doubles with Leander Paes, linger on every match she plays.
First round matchup to watch: Julia Goerges vs Sorana Cirstea
Third quarter - Caroline Wozniacki leads this quarter and has won this title in 2010. She has a tough first round match playing the winner of Daniela Hantuchova/Flavia Pennetta. When the media thinks that Roberta Vinci will falter early in draws, she finds a way to make quarterfinals or semifinals.
First round matchup to watch: Daniela Hantuchova vs Flavia Pennetta
Fourth quarter - Agnieszka Radwanska leads this quarter. If A Radwanska, who won this title in 2011, is playing in Seoul on Sunday, she will have only one day to travel as her first match will be on Tuesday and the further she advances, she may feel the effects.
First round matchup to watch: Aleksandra Wozniak vs Francesca Schiavone 

Ace's Tokyo Predictions
Q1: Azarenka vs Stephens
Q2: Cirstea vs Kvitova
Q3: Vinci vs Pennetta
Q4: Ivanovic vs A Radwanska
S1: Azarenka vs Kvitova
S2: Pennetta vs A Radwanska
F: Azarenka vs A Radwanska
W: Azarenka

Thursday, September 5, 2013


We started with 128 players. We had qualifiers, wild cards and direct entrants.  At the end we are left with 4 women who could walk away with the title of US Open Singles Champion 2013.

First up is Flavia Pennetta.  At this time last year Flavia was home in Italy recovering from wrist surgery.  At the beginning of the year she contemplated retirement at the end of this season because her results were so poor.  At 31 years young, Flavia is into her first Grand Slam semifinal.  Her road to the semifinal included wins over 2 time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, countrywoman Roberta  Vinci and the hottest player of the latter part of the season, Simona Halep.  Flavia goes up against the World No. 2 and 2 time Major champion and last year's beaten finalist,  Victoria Azarenka.

Azarenka has not had an easy time of it.  She has struggled throughout this tournament, playing back to back 3 set matches against inspired opponents Alize  Cornet and Ana Ivanovic.  She had a routine win over Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals but again her serve, which has never been her biggest weapon failed her when called upon to do duty.  Azarenka has got to the semifinals through grit and just plain cussedness.  She just refuses to lose.  She will have a battle on her hands with Pennetta who will be playing as if she has nothing to lose.

The head to head is 1-1 with Azarenka winning on clay and Flavia on hard courts.  They have not played since 2011.  I think this is going to be an exceptionally tough match for Azarenka just because Flavia did not know  she could get to this point in her career.  Now that she is here, she will want to go one step further.  If she is ever going to get to a Major final, now is her chance.  However, with the grit that Azarenka has shown this tournament, she will be battling long and hard to ensure that she makes another US Open final with hopes of walking away with the trophy.

Spin's Pick - Azarenka in 3

The second semifinal features the No. 5 seed, Azarenka.  She looks fit and focused and her game has taken on a new dimension.  She is playing much closer to the baseline, her serve has improved and she has been coming to net on almost every point.  She battled hard in her match against Makarova and her lapses during that second set cannot happen against the player that she is going up against, that would be Serena Williams.
Na Li .  By all accounts Li has not had a successful season.   She made the final of the Australian Open and won a small tournament in her native China.  However, for most of the season she has been battling an ankle injury that she suffered during the Australian Open final against

Both ladies played recently in Cincinatti with Serena coming away with the win.  During that particular match Li showed off some of her serve and volleying skills but as the match wore on she abandoned that particular strategy and went back to basics.  Neither strategy worked effectively against Serena.

Serena Williams has looked unbeatable during this tournament.  However she is doing doubles duty this tournament and her play the last two times I have watched her in doubles seemed a tad lacklustre.  It could be that she was conserving energy, but Venus has looked the more formidable of the two on the doubles court.  That being said, in her round of 16 match against Sloane Stephens, especially the second set, as well as her quarterfinal match against Suarez-Navarro, we saw vintage Serena when her game is firing on all cylinders.

Serena does not underestimate any opponent and I am sure she will be reminded of her match against Li a few weeks ago.

Spin's Pick - Serena Williams in straight sets

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


For 5 years he ruled New York City.  From 2004 until his last title in 2008, Roger Federer made the final of the US Open.  During that stint Rafael Nadal, then World No. 2 and winner of the French Open more time than they have actually held the French Open never posted.
In 2010 during his magical year, Nadal made the final of the US Open, defeating Novak Djokovic in the final.  It was a great year for Nadal, not so much for Federer.
In 2011 Novak Djokovic would win the US Open, defeating Nadal in the final and Federer in the semis.  In 2012 Andy Murray would win his first Major at the US Open defeating Djokovic. 
Most Federer fans will agree that 2013 has not been the best year for Roger Federer.  He has not posted very good results at the Majors and this has been due to a lower back injury which has affected his game for most of the season. His season at the Majors ended with a fourth round loss to Tommy Robredo out on Louis Armstrong stadium in hot and humid conditions.  Federer had never lost before to Robredo.  If he had won that match, he would have, for the first time, finally met Rafael Nadal in New York City. 
I am glad that he lost.
One argument that fans make in relation to the stupid GOAT debate is the head to head between Nadal and Federer.  Federer fans say that the head to head is skewed having regard to the fact that the majority of Nadal’s wins have come on clay. Fans also say that if Nadal had met Federer on surfaces that favoured Federer’s game, then the head to head may not have been skewed in Nadal’s favour.  One of these surfaces before they slowed it down was the US Open.
Fast forward to 2013 and the US Open now plays like any other surface.  Filled with sand and lots of grit, the US Open no longer plays like the fast court tournament that it was.  It was interesting to see as a Federer fan, how many Nadal fans were on social media hoping that Fed would pull out the win just so that they could get the long awaited FeDal match.
I am glad that he lost.
For years when Federer was in full flight in New York, winning back to back to back tournaments, Nadal would either bow out in the early rounds, or he would just skip the tournament.  Now that Nadal is healthy and full of vim and vigour, and is now once again a contender for the US Open title,  everyone is clamouring for this match up.  I for one can do without that particular match up especially at this point in Federer’s career.
Nadal has the French Open as his stomping ground.  Every year like clockwork, no matter what his condition, you can put your money that he will walk away with the trophy.  Federer has been beaten by Nadal in Australia, Paris and Wimbledon.  I say let him keep New York. Let that be the one place where his record will remain unblemished by the fact that he lost to Nadal. Federer has beaten Nadal everywhere except in Paris.  Let it be that New York is the one place that Federer has never lost to Nadal 


Wow.  That is all I can say.  The World's No.1, Serena Williams, threw down the gauntlet to the other women left in this year's US Open by stomping on poor Carla Suarez-Navarro 0 and 0.  One would say that Serena was avenging Lauren Davis' opening day rout by Suarez-Navarro, but I prefer to think that the World's No. 1 was showing her next opponent, Na Li that she better come prepared or this is what she too will get. 

In other news, Victoria Azarenka survived a spirited challenge from Ana Ivanovic who seems to be finding her 2008 form under the tutelage of the Adidas programme.  I have seen this resurgence before and unfortunately I am not impressed. It is the norm for Ivanovic to make a resurgence whenever she changes her coaching team.  She did so under Nigel Sears, winning her one title at the beginning of their partnership.  Since then she has done nothing.  I am hoping for the sake of her millions of fans that the way she played against Azarenka is a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. 

Today sees the bottom half of the women's quarter-final.  The matches feature 2 Italians in what should be a battle and Azarenka v 2008 Australian Open semifinalist, Daniela Hantuchova.  

Roberta Vinci vs Flavia Pennetta – Vinci ended the magical run of Giorgi in straight sets rallying from a 4-1 first set deficit to get the job done. Vinci's backhand slice played a role but she also made another slight adjustment and that was to attack with the forehand getting Giorgi to run. The tactics led to a slew of errors from Giorgi, who had no answers for the tactic. Pennetta defeated Halep, who may have been the favorite to reach the semifinals out of the third quarter, in straight sets for the second time since Wimbledon. Vinci is playing a player from her home country for the third consecutive match while Pennetta is playing her fourth United States Open quarterfinal. The winner of this match will make their first ever career Major semifinal. The key to match is will Vinci's crafty game be effective against Pennetta.

Daniela Hantuchova vs Victoria Azarenka – Hantuchova ended the surprising run of Riske in three sets. She could not have asked for a better draw beating players (Sanchez, Duval, Glushko and Riske) that you would not see on a consistent basis in WTA tour events. For the second consecutive match, Azarenka had to rally from a set down to win as Cornet and Ivanovic played inspired tennis. However, her “street” fighting mentality kicked in and she was able to keep her run for her 3rd Slam alive. Key to match is can Hantuchova continue her effective serving and shotmaking while Azarenka needs to be efficient on her serve and expose Hantuchova’s mobiity.

Spin's Picks 

Vinci over Pennetta
Azarenka over Hantuchova 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Quick Post 

We are getting down to the business end on the women's side and this is usually where the World's No. 1, Serena Williams would sometimes falter.  I don't think that she will falter this year and neither does  Ace.  

The final match in the women's bottom half of the draw featuring World No.2, Victoria Azarenka going up against Ana Ivanovic is first up today on Arthur Ashe Stadium.  I think Azarenka will be tested by Ivanovic who seems to have found a winning strategy at this year's Open, but I think Azarenka will prove to be consistent and will walk away with the win in 3 tough sets. 

Ace's Top Half Quarter-Final Preview 

Serena Williams vs Carla Suarez Navarro – S Williams ended up making the CBS afternoon primetime match into a statement match against Stephens losing only five games. Shots that were winners for Stephens against U Radwanska and Hampton were coming back with interest and the formula Stephens used at the Australian Open did not succeed as S Williams was healthier and determined for some people to say that Stephens win at Australian Open may have been a fluke. Suarez Navarro rallied from a set deficit to win a deciding tiebreaker to eliminate Kerber, who has not meet her 2012 expectations. In the process, Suarez Navarro became the first Spainard to make the quarterfinals since 1998. However, she is not a stranger to a Slam quarterfinal as this is the third time making one. Only quarterfinal she has not made was at Wimbledon. Key to the match is for S Williams to play freely while Suarez Navarro needs to play a career match and hope S Williams is a little flat emotionally after getting revenge on Stephens.

Ekaterina Makarova vs Na Li – When Makarova lost the first four games against A Radwanska, most people were thinking that A Radwanska big match experience would win but A Radwanska started to make unusual errors that let Makarova get into the match and Makarova capitalized by winning eight straight games. Once A Radwanska got even in the second set, Makarova was able to break once again and came up with clutch shots saving five break points in the process to consolidate the break. In her final service game, Makarova held her nerve and closed out the match without facing a break point. Li came out blazing hitting forehand, backhand and volley winners and kept constant pressure on Jankovic throughout the match. In the last 4 hardcourt Slams, Makarova has made the quarterfinals and this is the second United States Open quarterfinal for Li. Key to the match is the first strike as both players like to hit their shots.

Spin's Day 9 Picks 

Serena Williams Carla Suarez Navarro 
Ekaterina Makarova v Na Li 

Monday, September 2, 2013


As we go through an extremely long rain delay, and as it is Monday here in Cayman and I have become quite bored with the humdrum of the law office with which I work, I thought I would jot down some thoughts that have been going through my head recently.  They are in no particular order and are in no way connected.

1.                  Legacies and Inspirations – I read Jon Wertheim’s Mailbag where he spoke about legacies and inspirations and I agree with his take on this 100%.  Venus and Serena are not about leaving a legacy for just African Americans, or indeed players of the same ethnicity, they are about inspiring everyone.  Recently, I read where Nadia Petrova, no lover of the Williams Sisters indicated that seeing Serena be so successful at this age and stage in her career has inspired her to continue fighting. Many young players say in interviews how much they love watching Serena play and those who play World Team Tennis look to Venus and her fight against inequality and look at the strength that she portrays in playing against the odds while fighting a debilitating disease like Sjorgen’s Syndrome.

2.                  Tennis Narratives – Commentators really need to change the narratives that they continue to force on viewers.  If tennis ever wants to grow in the United States, those that sit in the booth really need to take a closer look at the narratives that they continue to dish out to viewers, most of whom are knowledgeable tennis fans.  People like the McEnroe brothers really need to find a way to let those who are channel surfing stick to the tennis on tv rather than droning on and on about “when me was a boy”.  If you are from Jamaica, you will get that particular reference.

3.                  Tennis Channel – Either Tennis Channel wishes to be taken seriously or it does not.  There is absolutely no way that whomever is manning the Twitter site for this company did not feel the brunt of displeasure from tennis fans when Smyczek’s match which was going down to the wire was completely ignored until he was losing so that we could see Djokovic putting the screws on poor Sousa.   It got even worse (if that is even possible), but once the Smyczek match was finished, there were 2 women’s matches which were going on, one featured a contender for the title, Na Li, and the other featured the No. 4 ranked player in the world.  It was not as if it was some unknown players out there.  Tennis Channel decided that it would be a good idea to have Djokovic, Courier & Tracy Austin all smothered together on one couch, while Ted Robinson looking quite uncomfortable in another couch, interviewed Djokovic.  It was must see tv. Meanwhile Li was playing absolutely brilliant tennis.  After the Djokovic interview, rather than segue right into the match, nope, Tennis Channel decided that a few commercials would be appropriate and so they did that and then to add fuel to the fire, they decided that their opera segment was also must see tv.   Like many viewers I pay good money to get Tennis Channel here in Cayman and so I just consider it an affront that I have to pay all this money just so that I can listen to people talking about stuff that I, and many others like me,  don’t care about.

4.                  Court Schedules – on Sunday, the day when most tennis fans are at home, and the time when CBS gets coverage of the US Open, the only women’s match that was shown on tv was that of Serena v Sloane.  They did not even bother to show highlights. Even worse, they had the CBS Network up and running showing tennis.  They never even gave the women’s matches that were being played as much as a highlight reel.  It was embarrassingly sad.  I watched Kerber v Suarez-Navarro on a stream, as did many others.  I am not sure what the reason is, oh yes I do, they are women so no one wants to see them playing tennis.  I guess we should be thankful that Serena Williams is still playing and that she is an American because I can’t imagine what would happen when she finally puts up her racquet.  Today, 2 September is Labour Day in the US.  All of the women’s matches were scheduled for the start of play. I guess the logic behind that was no one wants to see the women play.  Well God, who is a woman, decided that She had had enough and so the rains came.  So CBS which dissed the women’s matches today were left to show their viewers rain delay coverage featuring a whole host of tiebreaks, many of which ironically featured women. 

5.                  Generation Next (ATP Edition) – I don’t really write much about men’s tennis, simply because aside from Federer and a few others, I don’t really enjoy men’s tennis that much.  There was an interesting discussion on Tennis Channel (yes it happens from time to time) and the conversation surrounded when will the next great young player in men’s tennis emerge.  Courier was the only person who felt that that young player was just around the corner.  The other analysts were of the view that today’s game is just too brutal and built on power and strength for that to happen.  James Blake made the point that perhaps if there were different surface conditions, then maybe someone with some amount of diversity would emerge.  He said as it is now all surfaces played the same so there was no one out there with a different game, built for a particular surface, who could perhaps have a breakthrough.  I agree with him wholeheartedly.

6.                  Generation Next (WTA Edition) – the list is long and full of talented young women. Giorgi, Vekic, Konta, Keys, Stephens, Hampton, Townsend, Robson, Watson, Nara, Bouchard. I could go on and on.  They are everywhere.  They have a lot of work to do on their games, but the future for the WTA is bright. 

7.                  USO Outfits – Nike failed miserably this year.  From Bouchard who looked like someone spray painted her, to Azarenka who wore an ill fitting dress, to Serena whose doubles top looked like something out of Dobby’s Finest, Nike just did a horrible job of outfitting the ladies this year.  Adidas and Lotto were not much better.  From Wozniacki in a dress only a milkmaid could love, to the confusion that was poor Robson’s kit, I wonder to myself if maybe it is not time for these outfits to perhaps hire independent designers or seek fan requests.  Fila did Jankovic well as did ElevenbyVenus, which as is the norm was different. 


It was billed as the Changing of the Guard.  Serena v. Generation Next.  As soon as the draw was published everyone pencilled in the fourth round encounter between supposed Mentor and Mentee (because they are black).  For the first few games it did live up to the hype until "that is why she is No. 1 for a reason" showed everyone that Serena Jameka Williams is not ready to step aside to allow the USTA hyped Generation Next to take her tiara. 

Serena did not serve big.  She served well.  She did not try to overpower Sloane, she simply showed why there are many facets of her game for which she gets absolutely no credit. People talk about Serena's power, but they never talk about her athleticism or her court sense, or her awareness of where the next ball is going to land.  They never talk about her finesse (hello drop shot/lob combo), her volleys or indeed her transition game.  They never talk about her mental acuity, that je ne sais quoi that separates her from the rest of the Tour.  No, all they talk about is power. 

Serena showed in her match today against Sloane why there is so much difference between her and Generation Next. 

As for Sloane, I only have one word "footwork".  On the backhand side, moving up to shortballs, transition game, on the run, her footwork was the death of her.  Sloane botched every single short ball which required her to move her feet and get into position to take care of a short ball. Serena realised this early on and kept dragging Sloane forward on short balls.  The balls were spinny, loopy, and required a great degree of manoeuvring around the ball and Sloane missed every single one. 

Aga Radwanska does not like the US Open.  That is all. 

Tennis Channel needs to disappear.  Last night in one of the most anticipated matches at this USO (Li v Jankovic) we were treated to the most awkward interview ever of Novak Djokovic who had simply demolished his opponent.  I get that IMG wants its athletes out there front and centre.  I also get that IMG co-owns Tennis Channel, but it would be nice if IMG realised that not everyone wants to see its players at every given opportunity shilling for them.  There were many complaints on social media last night about Tennis Channel's abysmal coverage, especially having regard to the tight match that was being played on the Grandstand by the last American male standing.  Tennis Channel thought its viewers would be better served watching interview of Djokovic.  


Ace's Matches to Watch today on Day 8

Camila Giorgi vs Roberta Vinci – Giorgi has won six matches at USO capped off with a 3 set win over Wozniacki by taking the match. Despite not having a good summer, Vinci has done nicely defeating solid opponents. We will have at least one Italian in the quarterfinals and this is a match with contrasting styles. Giorgi goes for her shots while Vinci is crafty especially with her backhand slice.

Simona Halep vs Flavia Pennetta – After playing a tough three setter against Watson, Halep has lost only 4 games pummeling Larcher De Brito and Kirilenko in the process. Pennetta has returned from injury and has created the magic of 2009 defeating Errani and Kuznetsova in the process. Halep has turned out to be the favorite in the quarter to make the semifinals while Pennetta is trying to make the next round like she did in 2009. Since the French Open, Halep has lost 5 matches while winning four titles. However, Pennetta won their last meeting in Bastad.

Alison Riske vs Daniela Hantuchova – Riske has made the USO organizers proud with the wild card given to her. In her last two matches, Riske has defeated two seeded players capped off with an easier than expected win over Kvitova. Hantuchova should have lost in straight sets to Glushko but found a way to win the match. In the past, Hantuchova would have lost this match easily. Can Riske continue her unlikely run in the tournament giving ESPN2 something to talk about or will Hantuchova experience eliminates a third American player.

Ana Ivanovic vs Victoria Azarenka – After cruising in the first two rounds, Ivanovic had to break McHale late in second set to stay alive and once in the deciding set, her experience in big matches took over. Azarenka had to rally from a set against an inspired Cornet to continue her run to her first Slam that is not located in Australia. This is a matchup that CBS may have secretly hoping for Labor Day Monday and hope it is not disappointing like the American blockbuster on Day 7.

Spin's Day 8 Picks 

Camila Giorgi v Roberta Vinci
Simona Halep v Flavia Pennetta
Alison Riske v Daniela Hantuchova
Ana Ivanovic v Victoria Azarenka 

Enjoy today's matches