Saturday, January 26, 2013


What do champions do when the world turns against them.  They win

Congratulations to Victoria Azarenka.  2013 Australian Open Singles Champion. 

You did well. More later

Friday, January 25, 2013


Imagine this.  You are a young woman.  You have trained for years in your native land to play a sport.  This sport is tennis.  Many fans of the sport have watched you develop from your junior years.  Many have mentioned your game and remarked upon your abilities for years.  However, there was one thing holding you back and that was your mentality. 

You went through numerous coaches before you finally met the man who would virtually help you to harness your talents and make you into a champion. 

While your coach is remaking your career, every time you enter an interview after a tournament you are being questioned repeatedly about one issue relating to your game and that is not about your game.  Everyone wants to know about your grunting or shrieking or whatever it is that you do when you hit the ball.
Imagine having to endure that every day of your working life.  Just imagine that for a minute.  OK what would your attitude be after that?  Azarenka became defensive.  She would enter interview rooms with a rock on her shoulder.  No longer was it about Azarenka and the opponent across the net but it became Azarenka against the tennis community.

I have often wondered why, with so many of the top women grunting, shrieking or making some form of noise while playing, why it is that the media has decided that the person to whom the big stick should be whacked would be Azarenka?  There are a fair number of women on Tour who have grunts that are guttural in nature that even someone like myself, who is a big fan of women’s tennis, has to put the tv on mute whenever these women play. 

There is Schiavone with her deep throated guttural growl.  Venus with her shrieks that, even sometimes I have to mute it.  There is the other big blonde offender, Sharapova, who has stated publicly that “no one important has spoken to her about her grunting”.  I don’t recall Sharapova getting flack for that comment, or indeed read any interviews where she has been put on the defensive regarding her grunts.

But back to Azarenka, it did not matter that she was making improvements and was stepping up the rankings ladder.  Despite everything that she had done, no longer were her matches must see tv just to see what mental breakdown would happen next, but she had grown into her game and had learned to manage her emotions and to still her mental demons. Despite all of that, all the media and commentators focused on were her grunts, and for good measure remarking on her emotional stability. The only time that I can recall where her abilities were remarked upon was when she took down the great Serena Williams in Miami in 2009 in a straights set win.  Back then, for a minute it was all about her tennis and how effective it was and nothing about the grunting and the shrieking.

Let me stop for a minute and talk about Azarenka’s game.  Whenever I watch tennis, I am always fascinated by the feet of the players.  As someone who used to play the game, I have incredibly lousy footwork.  I am quick to the ball, but when I get there, I usually end up making an error.  As a result, I always watch the pros to see how they get into position and get ready to hit the ball. For that reason, the first time I watched a match with Azarenka, I was fascinated by her feet.  I was fascinated by it, not because she was winning, but I thought, she is getting to the ball quickly, why is she making so many errors.  Turns out that her forehand, which was a liability back then was always late.  Her takeback used to be longer, but now she has shortened it somewhat and she takes the racquet back much earlier. 

In any event, I watched the feet of tennis players and apart from Roger Federer, Azarenka is one of the few players that I see that moves her feet in time so adeptly.  I always think that they are dancing to a music. I find it fascinating to watch.  And yet, commentators never talk about that.  They never talk about what makes her so effective on the return of serve.  They never talk about her excellent hand/eye co-ordination that allows her to get returns back in play hard and deep and make even the biggest servers think twice about not hitting their spots.

One of the reasons why she has become No.1 is because of her return of serve.  It is one of the best in the game. While Serena and Sharapova will hit winners off the return, Azarenka gets the ball back hard, and deep and she takes it so early.  She is always in an offensive position.  And yet, hardly anyone mentions this.
What does Azarenka have to do to get the tennis media, a field that is populated by old white men.  A field that is increasingly filled with not objective journalists, but bloggers who have their own allegiances.  No longer are sports writers people who attend tournaments and know the game and the players, but it is increasingly filled with people who are getting their per diem paid by some large conglomerate that is  owned by another large conglomerate.  Everyone is in it to push Player A and belittle and begrudge Player B.
A friend of mine asked a question, what box has Azarenka not ticked with the media why she has not managed to endear herself to them?  I don’t have the answer to that. 

It must be increasingly difficult for a young woman, a woman who is the face of the largest professional sport for women, a young woman who is made to feel as if she needs to conform to society’s expectations of what a professional athlete should be.

Funnily enough Azarenka is following in the footsteps of another woman who was also made to feel as if she did not matter. Another woman who had to fight tooth and nail to be accepted by a bunch of old white men.  Her name is Billie Jean King.  I hope one day Billie Jean will speak out in support of Azarenka. 

On the day that she takes the court to defend her Australian Open title, her accomplishments should be shouted from the rooftop.  She should be held up to young girls everywhere of what you can accomplish via hard work and dedication.  And yet, when she takes the court tonight on Rod Laver Arena she may very well be met with a chorus of boos.  She may very well hear so-called fans in the stands hooting every time she hits the ball.

I am all the way in the Cayman Islands, but I can tell you that this is one fan who will be cheering on Vika from my living room and hoping that she is able to raise the Daphne Akhurst trophy in triumph. 

PS - Prior to writing this article, my fellow Fed fan and blogger extraordinaire wrote this piece on Azarenka. She wrote it not because she is a big fan of  Azarenka.  She wrote it because this is what now passes for journalism as it relates to women's tennis. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines a mentor (n) as an experienced and trusted adviser as in “he was her friend and mentor until his death” or as an experienced person in a company or educational institution who trains and counsels new employees or students” as in regular meetings between mentor and trainee help guide young engineers through their early years.

In the situation of Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens much has been made of the fact that Serena mentored Sloane.  If one follows the definition of mentor above, Serena has not mentored Sloane.  However, there are more ways in my view to define who or what is a mentor.

I work in the legal industry and I have been involved in mentorship programmes for about 4 years.  These programmes are not designed to assist young people to enter the legal industry, but they are designed to help young people achieve their goals by keeping them focused on what is important, namely:

The above principles, while they may seem easy to look at are very hard to achieve especially when you are dealing with teenagers. 

When Serena Williams decided to play Fed Cup during the 2012 season, she not only made herself available to country, but she also made herself available to the younger members of the US Fed Cup team. These young women were able to be practice partners for one of the true legends of the game.  There were reports that seeing Serena’s work ethic, the way she prepares for practice sessions and the way she approached her matches gave insight to the younger players about how to deal with expectations and pressure.

In some ways then you could say that Serena’s association with not only Sloane, but with other members of the US Fed Cup team was that of a mentor. How then does the media narrative seems to be that this mentoring never happened, or that the friendship that ensued from playing Fed Cup is not one of the reasons for Sloane’s improvements in her game and in her demeanour and in fact, may have contributed to her win over Williams in their quarter-final match at this year’s Australian Open?

When Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock became practice partners for the great Andy Roddick, the media were quick to point out how much influence Roddick had on these young American men.  Both Harrison and Sock have gone to Roddick’s home in Austin to have practice sessions with him and the media, as they are wont to do, have indicated just how much of a mentoring process this is and have played this up for all it is worth.

It was interesting reading through the various tweets from noted journalists and bloggers who are now back stepping and basically saying that there was never any mentorship of Sloane by Serena, and they have even gone so far as to say that there is not much of a friendship there.  As a matter of fact, comparisons are now being made of Stephens’ demeanour and attitude to one Maria Sharapova.  I mean you just cannot make this stuff up.

The Sharapova comparisons are even laughable in that because after her win Stephens went to her phone to check messages, a la the same thing Sharapova did after defeating Serena at Wimbeldon in 2004. I guess a phone endorsement is coming soon to Stephens.  Someone should tell Sloane that it has been 9 years since Sharapova got a win over Serena.  I doubt if it will take Sloane 9 years to get another win, but it is probably not going to be good for her the next time she meets Serena.

The media has even gone so far as to discount Madison Keys’ interest in tennis.  Ever since I have heard of Madison Keys, the story has always been that she wanted one of Venus’ dress that she saw her playing in, asked for the dress, and her parents indicated that she would have to play tennis to get the dress.  Whether Keys was inspired by Venus or by the dress, we will never know because soon the story of the dress will also be discounted.

Jennifer Capriati

After last night’s match, Capriati who makes it more in the tabloids than she does in any way related to tennis, took to Twitter last night to basically remind us all of why she is a bitter woman.  One wonders how she ever got into the Hall of Fame.  One would think that neither Venus or Serena have any plans to ever retire because they surely would not wish to be included in a place that purportedly honours champions when the likes of Capriati have been inducted.

Sexism in Tennis

When I first started this blog, it was to comment first of all on the unfavourable comments that broadcasters made during women’s matches, and it was only to bring to light the inequality when it came to featuring women’s matches, especially at combined events.  There were many times over the past 4 years that this blog has been around that I have become so disconsolate at the media and how they portray women’s tennis.

Things have gotten a lot better since I started, but I still hear instances of negativity and stereotyping when it comes to commentators and how they deal with matches featuring women.  Most of the commentary is always centered around the mentality of the women and their emotions, as if it is only women who are affected by their mental and emotions and indeed their hormones when it comes to playing tennis.

In case there was any doubt, men do suffer from hormonal issues as well.  Men do have emotional breakdowns during matches and men do find it hard to compete mentally when things are not going their way.  There is a reason why 47% of men suffer from erectile dysfunction and 90% of the sufferers are not old men on medication.  They are young men in the prime of their lives who are unable to deal with the pressures of the modern world and the first thing that goes is their ability to perform sexually.

That being said, reading through Tsonga’s take on why the women are not as successful as the top 3 in men’s tennis seems to have missed the bit of irony altogether. 

In case he has not realized it, Tsonga has basically said what those of us who have followed women’s tennis for years have known.  The men are afraid to step outside their comfort zones and take down the men at the top.  If they could, there is no reason in the world why 3 men and Andy Murray should be dominating Masters Series events and the Grand Slams in the way that they have done. 

On the women’s tour many women have made the leap from journeywoman to Grand Slam champion.  Since 2009 we have had 16 Grand Slams played, from this amount, here are the winners:-


Apart from 2012 when Murray finally had his breakthrough win, the last time a player outside of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won a Grand Slam was 2009 when Del Potro had his big win. Since that time the depth on the women’s tour speaks to the variety, consistency and mental toughness. 

I guess those hormonal women know something the men don’t.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Well, it is coming down to the nitty gritty of the tournament. Who has peaked and who are still yet to reach their top level.

Last night saw the ousting of the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska at the hands of former French Open champion and World's No. 6, Na Li, 7-5, 6-3.  Sharapova continued her dominance of her side of the draw by beating Makarova 2 and 2.  While everyone has been saying how dominant Sharapova has been this tournament, one only has to look at the rankings of her opponent to determine whether she is playing exceptionally well, or whether she is playing those that she should beat.  The true test will come at the hands of Na, and if she gets by her in the same dominant fashion, then I will say that she is heads and shoulders above everyone on her side of the draw.

Day 10 sees the defending champion, Victoria Azarenka taking on resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Kuznetsova had a fairly tough match against Wozniacki in the previous round and while Kuznetsova was able to get by Wozniacki, I don't think she will be as fortunate against Vika.   Azarenka in 3.

The other ladies quarter-final sees the betting favourite Serena Williams going up against tennis' newest darling, Sloane Stephens.  They had a pretty tight match in Brisbane a few weeks ago with Williams coming through in 2 tight sets.  Look for the same thing to happen here.  Williams does not under any circumstances want another young player making her name by beating her in a Major.  That happened in 2004 and has not happened since.  Look for Williams to come out dialed in, especially after losing a tough 3 set battle in doubles yesterday.

The only concern that I, and many others have is whether Serena's ankle is fine.  I think it is.

Monday, January 21, 2013


Whew, what a day of tennis it was yesterday.  Day 8 picks did not go as planned as my  Wozniacki pick got me kicked out of Suicide Pool.  For a minute there I thought I would prove everyone wrong, but that was not to be.

Here are the results from Day 8 of the Australian Open

Serena Williams over Maria Kirilenko - is there a more off putting loser in tennis than Kirilenko? I doubt it.

Svetlana Kuznetsova over Caroline Wozniacki - the usual mid-match meltdown by Kuznetsova, and the lack of aggression by Wozniacki was the outcome of this match.  It was a very well played match by both women that I found totally enjoyable.

Sloane Stephens over Bojana Jovanovski - I am not surprised that this match went 3 sets.  Bojana is a fighter and Sloane, when under pressure tends to play very defensive tennis.

Victoria Azarenka over Elena Vesnina - the World's No. 1 was in her element, dealing out 2 breadsticks to Vesnina.

Today's matches and picks for Day 9 are:-

Maria Sharapova v. Ekaterina Makarova - these 2 played in the same round last year with Sharapova winning in 2.  Makarova has pushed Sharapova before, but look for Sharapova to pull out this win in straights.

Na Li v. Agnieszka Radwanska - Radwanska served 7 aces in her last match against Ivanovic and saved every break point.  She is playing like a woman possessed.  Li, on the other hand hit 6 aces and made 4 double faults in her previous match against Georges.  These 2 played as recently as Sydney, where Radwanska came out the victor.  I think the same thing happens here. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Sorry about the delay.  Having friends over for dinner today and struggling with a leg of lamb.

Day 7 Results:

Sharapova over Flipkens with the loss of 1 game.  Do we really know how good  Sharapova is playing right now?

Na Li over Julia Georges - as expected the newly confident Li had a bit of a struggle in the first set but went flying down the stretch

Radwanska over Ivanovic - despite playing superb tennis, Ivanovic just does not have it right now to beat the top women.  However, she fought hard so that is a sign that things seem to be back on track.  Maybe a meal or two and the real Ana will return

Makarova over Kerber - as someone said, Australia is to Makarova as Wimbledon is to Pironkova.  A very good win by Makarova over Kerber. 

Spin's Day 8 Picks 

Victoria Azarenka v Elena Vesnina - the top seed had her wobble in the previous round.  I just don't see her going out to Vesnina - Azarenka in straights 

Caroline Wozniacki v Svetlana Kuznetsova - Sveta has the weapons but does she have the legs for a best of 3 tussle with Wozniacki.  I don't think so.  I think Wozniacki takes this in straights. 

Serena Williams v Maria Kirilenko - how good is Serena's serve right now.  How good is her movement.  She said that she was happy that she got to test out her cardio in her previous match and she looked devastating in doubles yesterday.   I think she will announce to the field just how strong she is and ready for battle as we head into Week 2 - Williams 

Bojana Jovanovski v Sloane Stephens - battle of the young ones.  From match reports it would seem that if Robson's shoulder was not  hurting in her previous match, then Stephens would have been sent packing.  I think Bojana has the game but she is not as consistent off the ground as is Stephens.  I think Stephens takes this in straights. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


We are approaching the end of the first week of the Australian Open and here is what you missed when you decided not to tune in to watch the many wonderful women’s matches that were on show:-

1.                   Kimiko Date-Krumm, 42 years young, ousted No. 12 seed Nadia Petrova.  Granted Petrova was carrying an injury from Sydney, but she ended her 2012 season on a high, beating Agnieska Radwanska in Japan and moving up the rankings and earning the No. 12 seeding.  It was the shock of the first week.

2.                   Madison Keys is the real deal. 17 years old and playing tennis beyond her years.  Keys’ match against Tamira Paszek was something to behold.  A 6-2, 6-1 drubbing of Paszek.  She serves big and she hits even bigger.  One to watch in 2013.

3.                   Victoria Azarenka is on a mission. She is playing like a No. 1 should.  The in your face brazenness, which is sometimes offensive, shows that she is not afraid of what being No. 1 is and has sent out a challenge to those below her in the rankings.  If you want me, come get me.

4.                   Sabine Lisicki played an unbelievably messy match against Caroline Wozniacki.  From 3-0 in the third set, Lisicki would not win another game, losing the match in a flurry of unforced errors that left people’s mouth on the floor.

5.                   Laura Robson dealt a death blow to former Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.  Kvitova, leading 4-1 in the third set, would go on to lose the match 11-9 in the third. Robson, showing poise way beyond her 18 years, served the match out to love.

6.                   Compelling storylines.  While the organizers are trying their hardest to sell the ATP No. 1’s quest to win the Australian Open 3 times in a row, (no one is buying that), the lack of depth in the men’s game shows just how much above the rest of the field the top 4 in the men’s tennis truly is (and I am not talking about Ferrer). It makes you wonder the real reason for the men constantly harping on equal prize money.

7.                   Which brings me to the early round matches on the women’s side.  We have had 3 double bagels dished out, 2 of these by Maria Sharapova in her first 2 matches.  The other double bagel was dealt by Serena Williams. While the score lines may say the opponent did not win a game, the fact remains that the intensity and focus of both women in accomplishing this goal tells a different story.

8.                   The WTA product is alive and well.  There were lots of new faces   for fans of women’s tennis to watch, below is a list of those young women who will be playing in big matches in a few years.

·         Donna Vekic – Croatia – 17 –
·         Eugenie Bouchard – Canada – 19 –
·         Karoline Pliskova – Czech Republic – 21 –
·         Krystina Pliskova – Czech Republic – 21 –
·         Caroline Garcia – France – 20 –
·         Timea Babos – Hungary – 20 –
·         Camila Gorgi – Italy – 22 –
·         Yulia Putintseva – Kazakhstan – 18 –
·         Kiki Bertens – Netherlands – 22 –
·         Monica Puig – Puerto Rico – 20 –
·         Irina-Camelia Begu – Romania – 23 –
·         Alexandra Cadantu -  Romania – 23 -
·         Daria Gavrilova – Russia – 19
·         Bojano Jovanovski – Serbia – 22
·         Aleksandra Krunic – Serbia – 20
·         Jana Cepelova – Slovakia – 20
·         Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino – Spain – 21
·         Garbine Muguruza – Spain – 20
·         Luksika Kumkhum – Thailand – 20
·         Johanna Konta – United Kingdom – 21
·         Laura Robson – United Kingdom – 18
·         Heather Watson – United Kingdom – 21
·         Madison Keys – USA – 17
·         Sloane Stephens – USA – 20

Even though she has all but been forgotten and is now the butt of every first round loss, Melanie Oudin deserves special mention here.  She has 1 Tour title to her name, beating Jelena Jankovic in Birmingham last season.  That is a lot more than a lot of Tour veterans on either Tour can say.  She all but seems to have disappeared and one only has to wonder whether that dream run to the USO quarter finals in 2009 basically destroyed her career.

There is lots to look forward to in Week 2 of the Australian Open.

·         Caroline Wozniacki for all that has been written about her has made it to the second seek of this year’s first Grand Slam.  She seems to have gone back to the game that took her to No.1 and she and her team looks like they have decided to abandon any thoughts of changing things up.
·         Elena Vesnina is in the second week of a Major.  That deserves a standing ovation.
·         Sara Errani – is this the beginning of her fall after that breakout 2012 season?
·         Carla Suarez-Navarro seems to be picking her game up, even though she always plays well in Australia.  Hopefully, she will not disappear as she usually does.
All in all I think this first week of the Australian Open has been superb for the ladies.  The top 3 in women’s tennis (and Radwanska) have shown that if you want to beat them you have to come prepared to win.  


Quick update:


Azarenka v. Hampton - This was the match to end all matches and would have resulted in the upset of the tournament.  Azarenka was pushed to 3 sets but pulled out the win in the end.  The question that is asked by fans is this … what if Hampton was not injured?

Vesnina v. Vinci - Vinci had MPs and ended up losing the match.  Seems as if that Hobart win has pushed Vesnina to new heights

Wozniack v. Tsurenko - Wozniacki

Svetlana Kuznetsova v. Carla Suarez-Navarro - Svetlana fought long and hard for this match and even at the end you still had no idea who would win, but credit the 2 time Grand Slam champ for pulling out the win.

Williams v. Morita - Quick and efficient by Williams in the first set.  A bit complicated in the second but Williams as expected  pulled out the win. Lots to like with Morita’s game.  Very attacking game. 2 hands on both sides.  Moves very well.  Needs to serve better, but lots to like here.

Wickmayer v Kirilenko - As expected the quicker Kirilenko forced so many errors off the racquet of Wickmayer.  Good to see Wickmayer looking like she is playing better than she has done through last season.  Here’s hoping that she has turned the corner mentally and physically.

Date-Krumm v. Jovanovski - Battle of the difference in age with the younger playing coming out on top. 

Stephens v. Robson - Stephens

 Day 7 Picks 

Li v. Georges - Li 
Kerber v. Makarova - Kerber
Flipkens v. Sharapova - Sharapova
Ivanovic v. Radwanska - Radwanska 

Friday, January 18, 2013


It has been incredibly hard to get up the fight to do a picks and results thread today.  Seeing Venus losing so miserably against Sharapova made my blood boil. I was even angrier at the post match celebration of Sharapova.  As someone said, clearly she  mistook beating Venus for beating Serena.  Onwards.

Of the 8 matches played yesterday, Spin had a win rate of 75%.  Bartoli served to stay in the match in the third set but got broken and Zheng, channelling her inner Stosur, served for the match at 5-4, got broken and would not win another game, losing 7-5 in the third.

Na Li
Sorana Cirstea
Na Li – too much firepower from Li. Cirstea, if she plays well and cuts down on the UFEs could take a set, but I doubt it

Julia Georges
Jie Zheng
Giant killer Zheng up against one of the most inconsistent players on Tour.  I take Zheng in 3.

Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Battle of the Serbians.  If this is not a pick em I don’t know what is.  Neither player is consistent.  Both ladies have struggled during this tournie.  I am going with Ivanovic, if only because she will have more crowd support

Heather Watson
Agnieszka Radwanska
Radwanska – the 4th seed will have too much tricks in her arsenal to be swayed by Watson, who is coming off a brutal 3 setter

Angelique Kerber
Madison Keys
Kerber – this is where the journey ends for the young American.  While she has served and played well through her opening rounds, Kerber’s get the next ball back will prove to be too much for her to handle.

Ekaterina Makarova
Marion Bartoli
This should be a very fun match to watch, if only to see Bartoli jumping around during Makarova’s serve.  Bartoli in straights

Valeria Savinykh
Kirsten Flipkens
Flipkens – if only because Savinykh has to face reality.  She has played a lot of matches this AO, having qualified into the main draw. The journey ends here.

Venus Williams
Maria Sharapova
While this blog will sentimentally pick Williams to win this one, on form alone, I think Sharapova will win this one.  The Russian is on a no games lost win streak for 2013, but look for Williams to at least win a game each set.

Today’s picks are below.  Have fun

Victoria Azarenka
Jamie Hampton
Azarenka – the World’s No. 1 will be too consistent for the youngster

Elena Vesnina
Roberta Vinci
Vesnina – I believe the euphoria of winning her first title will end here as the Italian veteran will work over Vesnina to frustration

Caroline Wozniacki
Lesia Tsurenko
Wozniacki – a pick em if I ever saw one.  Is Wozniacki on her way back or is she just reaping the fruits of her lucky escape from Lisicki?

Svetlana Kuznetsova
Carla Suarez Navarro
Navarro – Navarro will frustrate Kuznetsova into errors if Sveta cannot find a way to hit through her

Serena Williams
Ayumi Morita
Williams – a red flag has been raised.  Unless Williams has done something new to herself on her day off, I see this one being a beatdown

Yanina Wickmayer
Maria Kirilenko
Kirilenko – the consistent Kirilenko will frustrate Wickmayer. The 2 have never played before, which I find surprising.

Kimiko Date-Krumm
Bojana Jovanovski
Krumm – the veteran will give the youngster all she can handle. 

Sloane Stephens
Laura Robson
The battle of the young ones.  The 2 played a reasonably good match in Hobart with Stephens coming in straight sets.  Whether Robson has recovered from her long 3 set match against Kvitova will play a role.  Stephens has sailed through her first 2 rounds here.  Look for  Stephens to continue her march to the second week