Saturday, December 13, 2014

Coaching Merry Go Round

I hope everyone had a very Happy Christmas and that the New Year will bring you and your favourite much joy during this 2014 season. 

As with every new tennis season there are always changes. Addition of new tournaments, retirements, etc. However, nothing is looked forward to as much as the ever present coaching changes. There have been some high profile hires and fires in the latter part of the tennis season on the WTA Tour and the Spin Team will be taking a look at each of these coaching changes and give our thoughts on which of these high profile coaching changes we expect to be successful. 

Before we get into the discussion of the coaching change, I have to say that the success of a coach depends entirely on the player. If the player is any good, the coach will not have much in the way of work to do. See Serena Williams and Moragotalou. However, in some cases, the coach will have to break down and rebuild a player's game, as in Victoria Azarenka and Sumyk.

For me, it is all well and good to say that you have coached Serena Williams to Grand Slam glory, but Serena Williams was already a hugely successful athlete before Patrick came along, ditto for Maria Sharapova when she hooked up with Thomas Hogstedt.  In my view, in order to prove your coaching chops, you will need to take an unknown player and turn that player into a dominant, consistent champion.  To date, only a few coaches have been able to do that.

With the coming season, there are a few coaching relationships that I will be taking a look at and the Spin will be running a poll to get readers’ comments on the effectiveness of certain coaching situations.  At the end of each Grand Slam, the Spin will tally the total number of votes for each of the various coaches and we will look to see what, if any, gains have been made to their respective players’ games.

First up is the recent announcement of Sloane Stevens and Paul Annacone.  Annacone has his work cut out for him.  From the research that I have done, Annacone has never really taken a player such as Stevens, one who has never made a final of any tournament and turned him or her into a champion at whatever level.  Yes he coaches Sampras and more recently Federer, but these 2 men were already household names and had achieved remarkable things in their respective careers.  Sloane is another matter.  I would consider the partnership a success if Sloane gets to the final of any tournament.  He would be a contender for Coach of the Year honours if she won a Grand Slam.

Next up is Caroline Wozniacki and Thomas Hogstedt.  It may be a bit unfair but Wozniacki really should not have anything to prove to anyone, but unfortunately she does.  A few years ago she ruled the WTA Penthouse, these days her game and her psyche seems to be in tatters.  Her father has allegedly taken a backseat and  Thomas Hogstedt, rejuvenator of Sharapova’s career and the man who was formerly in the corner of Li Na will undertake the task of reinventing Wozniacki’s career.  I would consider it a success if Wozniacki makes it to another Grand Slam final.  

Samantha Stosur and Miles McLaghlan.  This one is a head scratcher.  I am not quite sure what McLaghlan, formerly with Andy Murray and latterly with Laura Robson can bring to the table for Stosur.  The question for me with Stosur is what are her career goals as she approaches the twilight of her career.  Does she want to win another Slam?  Does she want to make it to the top of the WTA rankings?  I don’t believe I have read anything from Stosur that tells us her career plans or maybe no one has ever asked her.  In any event, the singular goal for  Stosur next season, do well in  Australia.

Laura Robson has announced that she will be working with Nick Saviano.  Saviano is a veteran coach who either previously worked with Eugenie Bouchard or is currently working with Bouchard (depends on where you get your information).  In any event, Saviano will be working alongside former ATP pro Jesse Witten. I think the best coach that Robson had was Zelko.  He got her fit, improved her ground game and from all accounts he was a hard taskmaster.  He got her to her first WTA final and even though she lost, she would go on to have a pretty good year in 2012.  Pity that she regressed so much in 2013, mainly due to a shoulder injury.  That being said she has a huge game and if she continues to work hard with Saviano she should replicate her 2012 season.  I would consider it a success if she won her first WTA title.

Under The Radar

There are a few other coaching relatiosnhips that I will be keeping my eye on.  One that I think has been overhyped is the Li Na/Carlos Rodriquez relationship.  I actually think that this has been a very unsuccessful partnership so far.  The fact that you have been successful in coaching one player (Henin) as an all court player, does not necessarily mean that it will work with all players (Li).  I found it amusing that the game that is now being played by Li was what Henin played in her first career.  Once she retired and came back she was playing the way Li played in her first career.  All the beauty and elegance that made Henin such a joy to watch was pushed out of the way for a style that was just mindless baseline ballbashing.  

Maria Sharapova and Sven Gronefeld If this is true, I am not confident that this will be a partnership that will be as successful as the one that Sharapova had with Thomas Hogstedt. While the Hogstedt relationship ended on a losing note and its very own hashtag, I can't think off the bat exactly what it is that Groneveld will bring to the table with Sharapova, but as with the other coaching changes, the Spin will watch and see what happens next.

Female Coaches

I think the women above are missing the boat completely when it comes to coaching relationships.  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.

Finally, and most importantly in my mind, Samantha Stosur severed 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.  

Lucie Safarova, she of the  huge lefty game won her first title in 5 years and she had a female coach in her corner.

I think if a lot of these young women think about it, they will realise that perhaps getting a women’s perspective on their games may actually be beneficial to them.  Here are some suggested 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 demeanour. Radwanska seems to be falling apart when things get tough.

Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport - they both hit some of the cleanest groundies on tour, plus they are fans of each other.  Davenport was never known for her mentality but she had variety in her game and maybe a different way of looking at things may help Sharapova (then again maybe not)

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


by Karen

As many of you who read this little blog know I have been advocating for years for the WTA to not only produce its own content but to actually have its own network that would deal exclusively with women’s tennis.  As a fan of the women’s game, I believe I have been tireless in my efforts to have the WTA and indeed even players think about what it would mean if the women had their own broadcast network.  It would mean greater accessibility for fans of the game and it would grow the sport in a way not seen since the ATP had its Masters Series TV.

News broke today that the WTA has signed a US$525M contract with Perform to produce and air its content on all matches that are featured on the WTA Tour.  This is being hailed as an historic achievement for women’s tennis and for women’s sports in particular.  

While I have for many years been touting the WTA product as being exceptionally better than the men (even though it is my own biased opinion), I am glad to see that a media giant like Perform has also seen the benefits of partnering with an organisation that has only an upside to it.  The new faces on the women’s tour, coupled with the strength of its current top 10 has assured us that Perform will, for many years, get more bang for its buck than many other sports. 

Credit needs to be given to Stacey Allaster for brokering this deal.  I am sure that there were many out there who were calling for her resignation after the debacle of not being able to see many marquee women’s matches, and this accomplishment is a significant milestone for Ms. Allaster and her team. 

Not bad for an organisation without a named sponsor. 

I am a strong believer that the more people who are exposed to women's tennis, either via social media (and the women are doing a great job at this by the way), the more people will turn up to tournaments that feature the women.  As the old adage goes, if you sell it, they will buy it.   If fans of the sport are unable to see the matches being played by the women on the regular Tour, then when the sport gets to mainstream media, i.e. via the Grand Slams, then the casual viewer who tunes in will not only have an idea as to who the player with the terrific serve blasting her way to a title is, but they will start rooting for said player.  

Thank you Stacey for listening to the voices of the masses.  Well done. 

Coaching Changes

The off season coaching changes continue.  To recap the most recent coaching changes:

Nick Saviano is no longer coaching Eugenie Bouchard.  Rumour has it that Sloane Stephens will be partnering with Saviano.  As of today (9 December) this has not been confirmed, except that there have been pictures circulating in social media showing Stephens hitting at Saviano’s academy.

Agnieszka Radwanska has partnered with Martina Navratilova for the upcoming season.  My instincts tell me that this is not a good hire.  If it is that Radwanska has developed the mind set that she needs to be more aggressive during match play, then it will be, but as we have seen during last season, even though Radwanska has done something about her serve, a lot more needs to be done if she expects to bag that elusive Grand Slam title, or indeed to be able to compete with the top tier of women’s tennis.

Simona Halep has parted ways with Wim Fissette and is now working with a Romanian coach as well as Thomas Hogstedt as consultant.

Madison Keys is working along with Lindsay Davenport in relation to local tournaments (North America), but will be travelling with Wim Fissette (Halep’s former coach) on international assignments.

As of today’s writing, Eugenie Bouchard has not announced a new coach.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I think by now everyone and their mother (and father) has done a WTA Year in Review.  The Spin team has taken a bit of a hiatus and chose not to do a wrap up of either the US Open, or the Year End Championships.  However, the Spin team thought it would be fun to have its own Awards to the players who inspired the writers on this blog and who inspire tennis fans to really get up at half past zero just to catch their matches.

So without further ado, here goes:

Player of the Year  

Without a doubt this award goes to Serena Williams.  Separate and apart from taking some embarrassing losses, Ms. Williams showed what toughness is all about by storming back during the latter half of the season to bag Grand Slam No. 18, and win her third consecutive Year End Championship title. 

Most Improved

This was a hard one by any stretch of the imagination.  From Madison Keys with her triumphant performance at Eastbourne to Eugenie Bouchard for making it to the top echelons of women’s tennis, to Ekaterina Makarova showing us that even though she flies a lot under the radar she is a force to be reckoned with in women’s tennis.  There is also Casey Dellacqua.  A player who had virtually disappeared from women’s tennis. As a matter of fact, she had disappeared from women’s tennis as she studied for, and qualified to be a beauty technician.  Even though Casey did not win any titles this year or make any finals, I believe this award should go to her for sheer determination and effort.  This is even more remarkable seeing as Casey welcomed a son into this world with her partner. 

Almost Award (dedicated to Lucie Safarova) (singles)

Has there ever been a player who confounds tennis fans as much as Lucie Safarova.  Such a dangerous opponent when she is playing well, Lucie’s career for 2014 can be summed up in that one word “Almost”.  There were many “Almost’s” this year on the WTA (Shuai Peng and Dominika Cibulkova I am looking at you both) but the award goes to none other than Angelique Kerber.  0-4 in WTA finals will get you that ignominious award.  The Spin team hopes Kerber will retire this accolade in the new season.

Almost Award (doubles)

Up match points, served for the set, almost there, this doubles team of Hseih and Peng.  Peng and Hseih could not lose and for whatever reason they just did not seem to get it together this year.  Theirs would have been an exceptional story line if they were able to get their act together.  However the “Almost” award in doubles will go to the matching pair of Martina Hingis and Daniela Hantuchova.  What started out to much fanfare ended in dull whimpers and glaring looks between 2 players who have partnered with other people for success.  This was not a marriage made in heaven.

Newcomer (singles)

Even though many could claim this prize, I think for all intents and purposes there is really only one person who could claim this title.  While Jana Cepelova did exceptionally well in taking down Serena Williams, she virtually disappeared from the radar after the tournament in Charleston.  Her impressive defeat in Fed Cup after serving for sets, coupled with her inability to even register interest amongst tennis fans showed how much of a fluke her win over Serena Williams was.  However, the Newcomer award goes to Belinda Bencic.  Despite being double bagelled by Caroline Wozniacki (ouch) in Istanbul, Bencic showed why she has captivated the minds of tennis fans all over.  We wait to see how she develops as her career moves forward.

Newcomer (doubles)

The excellent team of Cara Black and Sania Mirza in their one and done season did what many doubles teams have never been able to do.  From saving numerous match points at the season ending championships to bagging a few titles, this team showed what true teamwork is all about.  Such a pity that they will not be playing together again next season.

OMG Moment (singles) – she lost?

Serving for the set.  Serving for the match. Had match points.  Lost.  This could be the epitaph on many a career, but no one does this as much as Camila Giorgi.  For someone who stands at 5 feet nothing, Giorgi plays above her height.  She hits the ball with everything in her and while she had some truly remarkable highlights this year, her inability to keep the ball in play during the tough times hands her this award.

OMG Moment (doubles) – they lost?

Peschke and Srebotnik.  Had multiple match points at the Year End Championships and lost to the team of Black and Mirza. 

Is she still playing (singles) – you swear this person had retired

A question many asked about Dominika Cibulkova. What happened Domi?

Are they still playing (doubles) (dedicated to Liezel Huber and Martina Hingis)

Liezel Huber seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.  Since her partnership with Cara Black ended in lots of recriminations, Huber has been having a hard time finding someone who befits her talent.  Methinks she will have to clone herself.

Crowd Pleaser (singles) – people come to watch this player

This award is not going to go to who you think.  This is not for Rena’s Army, or Shara Family or even Genie’s Army.  This award goes to the Halepeno Hoppers, i.e. fans of Simona Halep.  Never has a player captivated the minds and hearts of tennis fans the world over as Simona Halep has.  From the resounding rounds of applause wherever she plays to the fans who voted for her as Player of the Year, a title some say she won, and that the only reason Serena Williams won was because the journalists who cover tennis voted for her. From the resounding shouts of SIMONA that resounded around Roland Garros to the screams of delight when she played her home tournament in Romania, Simona Halep has proven that brunettes do have fun.

Crowd Pleaser (doubles) – they really love this doubles team

Without a doubt the Williams Sisters

This award would not be complete if we did not hand out awards to the people who bring us the blow by blow account of what is happening on court, and in some cases, not even happening.  To our commentators, we salute you.  Without further ado:

Are you kidding me (male) - for the commentator who spends half his time discussing things other than what is happening on court. 

This is a toss up between John McEnroe and Kevin Skinner (TennisTV).  However, while Kevin will run his mouth a mile a minute and has some of the more colourful ways of describing what is going on during a match, no one beats John McEnroe in the are you kidding me department.  From opining about who will never be successful at the Grand Slams again, to telling us what his career was like, while a women's match is being aired, John McEnroe has no peer in this department. 

Are you kidding me (female)

Pam Shriver.  Just because she is so messy with her on court interviews and interviews from the stands. Honourable Mention to Navratilova just because of the haterade.

The Jon Snow Award “You know nothing”

Again, John McEnroe

I would put Chris Evert here but she has evolved as a commentator, so I am going with Tracy Austin. As clueless as they come.

Mute Award
John McEnroe
Martina Navratilova

Stupidest question asked at a presser?

Does matches like this where you lose make you want to retire? (to Venus Williams after losing to eventual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 7-5 in the third set)

Best response to the stupidest question asked at a presser?

Venus' response:  "I’m not getting outta here,”. “They don’t encourage you to stay around in tennis. But I want to win grand slams. "No one is going to give you one. You have to snatch it, growl. I did the best I could out there. It was a shame that there had to be a loser. And even more of a shame it had to be me. Totally figure out how that feels like.”

Worst narrative in women’s tennis?

The Caroline Wozniacki break up story.  This beat out the Kim Clijsters had a baby story which was retired when Clijsters retired, as well as the Sharapova shoulder.

Worst commentary overheard during a women’s match

The commentators really show their true colours during Wimbledon.  Nowhere else do you get gems like these:-

"It helps that they are both beautiful as it helps with marketing them ..." (during match between Sloane Stephens and Maria Kirilenko)

Virginia Wade during the Venus Williams/Maria Teresa-Flor match “the Williams Sisters used to win matches based on hitting with so much power. Now all the women hit with power and are able to outhit the Williams Sisters.  Now, the Williams Sisters are winning by using brute force”.

Worst article appearing in the press about female tennis players:

Just read the Daily Mail.  They just can’t get enough of women’s tennis. 

Most over-exposed couple

Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki 

Have your own special award, sound off on Twitter or in the comments. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


It has been a long time coming.  It has been simmering away for quite some time.  There have been hints, innuendoes and sometimes allegedly misinterpreted comments.  However, the truth, as they say is out there, and it is coming to the fore in a way that makes tennis fans, at least those of us who do not have our heads buried in the sand, that tennis not only has a sexism problem, it has a racism one as well.

There has been a subtle insidiousness creeping into tennis.  From the rise of Fabio Fognini and his penchant for misbehavior both on and off the court, to getting into altercations with tournament officials, to finally calling a fellow player a racial slur, the men’s tour has seen its representatives fall out of favour with fans.  Alexander Dolgopolov incurred the wraths of tennis fans when he made fun of the LGBT community as well post several overtly sexist pictures of scantily clad women on his Instagram account.  Sergei Stakohsky has never been far away from giving anyone with the misfortune to hold a microphone to his mouth his views on women’s tennis and the fact that the women should not be paid the same as the men.

However, none these men can be construed as leaders within the tour. When the head of Russian tennis goes on a popular night time show and demean 2 of the greatest female athletes that the sport of tennis has ever known by referring to them as the Williams Brothers, it’s time we take notice. Up to the time of writing this blog post, Shamil Tarpishev has not apologized for his misogynistic and hateful comments. 

Tarpishev made his comments while on a show with none other than Elena Dementieva, who has made demeaning comments about the Williams Sisters in the past, most notably her claim that they fix matches.  Tennis fans far and wide have said Elena handled the situation with class.  I disagree. She did what many in the WTA have done for most of their careers: they stay silent in the midst of nasty, hateful comments against one of their own.   Frankly, this is not the first time that a WTA player has remained silent when one or the other of the Williams Sisters have come under attack.

Why was Flavia Pennetta not questioned when her ‘rumored’ boyfriend, Fabio Fognini (him again) retweeted a claim by one of his Twitter fans that he must feel jealous to see his girlfriend on the court with another man? Compare Flavia’s silence to Venus’s staunch defense of Dinara Safina when journalists challenged Safina’s place as #1 after Venus beat her soundly at Wimbledon 2008? How about when Venus condemned the United Arab Emirates’s rejection of Shahar Peer’s visa application? Would any other members of the WTA take the time or effort to adopt such a stance now?  

I don’t know why I am expecting another Billie Jean King from this generation of players.  These are the same set of women who can’t even do their jobs without a man holding their hands down courtside, so I am not sure what I am expecting from them. I guess I am of the view that as colleagues we women would stand up for each other, no matter what. 

A fellow tennis friend of mine has made the observations that as tennis becomes even more global, we will be seeing more of this type of behavior from not only the players but from the fans themselves.  Gone are the days when tennis players acted with some amount of propriety and made sure not to bring the game into disrepute.  As the sport becomes more global, nations that were not previously tennis havens will have their racial and ethnic histories come to the fore.  They are coming with all of their racial and ethnic baggage.  We will continue to see more disparaging comments being made about minorities, be they sexual or gender oriented. 

What can tennis do to stop this? 

Both Tours have been relatively silent on the recent issues that have permeated tennis.  I think one of the reasons why the Tours have remained silent is because the journalists who cover the sport have largely remained silent on this issue.  Apart from Courtney N’guyen and Ben Rothenberg, who wrote recently that the ATP Tour needs to step up in regard to Fognini, there has been a deafening silence from the media on this type of behavior.  One wonders why the ATP Tour is unwilling to go after Fognini with the full force of the ATP Handbook, in much the same way that the ITF/USTA went after Serena Williams a few years ago.

If you can threaten someone and be fined US$92,000.00 why should you continue to bring the game into disrepute and keep getting a slap on the wrist?  Lest we forget, when Serena was fined US$92,000 she had not laid a hand on the line official.  Compare that to the fact that up to the time of writing, we are yet to hear what has happened in the case of an alleged incident which occurred with one of the Bryan brothers, which was hardly reported in the media, where he reportedly put his hand on a tournament official at the US Open.   We have also not heard about a fine, if any, that was imposed on Fognini (again that fellow) when he allegedly put his hand on umpire Lahyani and invited him outside to finish an argument.

Tennis is allowing itself to be railroaded by people who fans are not even paying money to go see play.  Maybe that is the reason why tennis is turning a blind eye to what is happening in the sport.  However, it is all well and good for the Fognini’s and Dolgopolovo’s of this world to go about their business bringing the game into disrepute.  It is quite another when the captain of the Russian Davis and Fed Cup teams makes disparaging comments about fellow players and nothing is said or done.

I think it’s time for tennis to move beyond a focus on threatening language and include the creation of a toxic environment within the purview of behavior worthy of fines or even suspension from the tour?

Future Face of Tennis

I saw a tweet earlier about Eugenie Bouchard being the future face of tennis.  What exactly does that mean?  Is it because she is blonde and good looking? Can she fill the seats in any stadium in the world?  Do we see longevity in her?  Is she a future No. 1?  What makes her the Face of Tennis? If you read this blog you know that I am a Genie fan, however, this constant hype of a player whose only claim to fame is being pummeled in a Grand Slam final by winning 3 games has become weary.  Lest we forget, Simona Halep also made it to a Grand Slam final and has won more titles than Genie.  Last year at this time we were saying that Sloane Stephens was the Future of Women’s tennis.  This year, it’s a case of we hardly knew you Sloane.  My point, let these young women play their careers out.  It is hard enough being on the world stage in a demanding profession.  We need not pile on additional pressure by making any one player the face of anything.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014


For years I stayed. I stayed through the emotional and physical abuse.  The beatings.  The condemnation.  Being told that I was not good enough.  Being told that he did not want me and that no one ever would.  I stayed. 

When I had finally had enough was when I had the broken ribs and the gun shoved up my vagina.  That is when I realized that I had a child that needed me and that I valued my life even more than I wanted him, but it was not as easy as typing that sentence. 

There are many of us survivors of domestic violence out there.  What pisses us off more than anything is people sitting around thinking that they know why we stay.  Some blame us for staying.  Some think they know but they really don’t.  Many survivors like myself come from a long line of victims.  We were either abused physically and emotionally as children which makes our very existence, one filled with low self esteem, or we are just fucked up so much psychologically that we are not even aware that we are fucked up psychologically.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I look in a mirror and all I see is a fat ugly woman.  It does not matter how many times people tell me that I am beautiful, in those years (and even now at times)  I never saw it. All I saw was a fat girl that was lucky to have a man and therefore I had to put up with whatever I got. 

When Janay Rice posted on Instagram that the media had intruded on her life, she was not being delusional.  This is her truth.  Don’t you think she asks herself every day if this is love?  Why do you think she apologized for what happened?  Domestic violence and those who suffer in these type of relationships have a whole host of issues going on that many of the so-called defenders of these women (and men) have never experienced. We don’t wake up in dread every day thinking that today is going to be our last day on earth.  We wake up every day thinking that today is going to be different.  Today, I am going to make sure that I do everything the right way and all will be right with the world.  We are sometimes delusional, but it is our delusion and it is how we keep from going crazy.   The constant deriding of the men in our lives does not give us a wake up call.  Constantly pitying us in the media does nothing to help with our self-esteem.  If the truth be told, some of us hate it.  We already know that we are powerless.  We don’t need you to constantly throw that in our faces. 
You ask us why do we stay?  We stay for many reasons.  The main reason we stay is we don’t know how to leave.  We are constantly bonded to our abusers.  We don’t see that open door and even when we do see that open door and put one foot through it, we will go back because we are so bonded to our abusers, that we really and truly believe that going back will change things.

I don’t know Janay  Rice.  I don’t pity her.  I don’t feel sorry for her.  I don’t know Ray Rice.  I don’t pity him.  I don’t feel sorry for him.  Janay and Ray Rice are living their truth.  Whatever you think of their situation, that is their situation.  You don’t get to condemn it.  You don’t get to condone it. 
The only reason why we are feeling like this is because we all saw the video, but how many other women out there that don’t have their abuse being broadcasted 24/7 do we stand up for?  How many of those women who live in shelters, or on the streets do we help out?  Did you hear the screaming next door?  What did you do when you heard that?  Did you call the police?  Did you intervene? 
The people who perpetrate abuse in relationships do so because society does not do one fucking thing to help.  Governments the world over spend little or no money to enact legislation to protect women who are the victims of abuses.  In Jamaica, where I am from, it took decades of lobbying efforts to actually get shelters established and domestic violence legislation enacted in order for women to be protected.  In the Cayman Islands where I work, the facilitator of the Crisis Centre, was herself raped and murdered in the most vicious way possible.  It took years of lobbying by Estalla to actually get domestic violence legislation on the books.  Even worse, there are people who don’t even want a crisis centre in their communities. 

The Rice situation is not the only high profile case of domestic violence that has made its way into the mainstream media.  Earlier this year, Nigella Lawson was photographed being choked by her now ex-husband who then later on accused her of using cocaine.  The downside of Nigella Lawson’s situation is that she was refused entry into the US because of the drug abuse allegations.  Not only did Nigella get screwed by her husband, she got screwed in her professional life as well.
That is the downside of women like us, survivors and victims of domestic violence.  We usually get fucked by the system because we stay.  I can give you  hundreds of situations where women who lost everything, including their children, as a result of domestic violence.  As a result, women will stay in these situations because the law is just not on their side.  Thank goodness things have changed, but even more needs to be done. 

Finally, to those concerned persons out there who want to help out.  Here are some tangible things you can do to help. 

  • Offer assistance.  It does not have to be monetary, but a kind word goes a long way;

  • Buy her a cup of coffee or tea or just offer to help out around the house.  She will not leave until she is ready.  Your job is not to judge.

  •        Volunteer at a shelter.  That extra money that you are going to spend on an iPhone6, how about donating it to a women’s shelter.  You will feel better for it.

  •      In the middle of the night you hear a woman screaming for help, you don’t need to put yourself in danger, use that iPhone5 and call the police.  If they don’t get there in 5 minutes, keep calling them until they get there. 

  •      If the woman has no place to go, offer her and her children a night’s rest. 

If you  have read this far, let me tell you, it is very hard to see a woman or children being abused and not want to intervene.  Don’t play a hero.  A domestic violence situation can escalate in a heartbeat.  Always call the police.  If you really want to help, volunteer at a shelter or a domestic crisis hotline.  It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories, but just knowing that if I pick up the phone there will be someone on the other end who cares enough to listen is all that separates a victim from a survivor.  Remember domestic abuse starts in the mind and ends in the morgue.

Thank you for reading.

Karen (Survivor) 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


by Karen 

If you had Sara Errani, Victoria Azarenka, Ekaterina Makarova, Belinda Bencic and let us just say it, Serena Williams in your bracket to make the quarter-finals of the United States Open, you my friend should be picking the ponies at Belmont.

What a fantastic line up heading into the final days of what has been an exciting tournament for the women.

From the giant killer that was CiCi Bellis, to the young upstart Belinda Bencic, to the fighting spirit of Sara Errani and Alexandra Krunic, the WTA offered up its best and brightest to the millions of fans tuned in from all over the world to watch.  Who needs an IT girl, when everyone else does such an amazing job of showcasing their talents.

The quarter finals start off today with a match between Belinda Bencic of Switzerland going up against Shuai Peng of China.  I have said it before, but how great is it to see Shuai Peng, a doubles specialist who has been ranked No.1  in doubles, and winner of Grand Slam titles finally have her name up in lights.  In the absence of Li Na (knee injury), Peng has really worn the mantle of Chinese star  very well during this tournament.  For many of us who have seen Peng play, we are always amazed at her abilities and always wonder about her inability to win matches that she should be winning.  It will be interesting to see how she pairs up against a young lady who has grown into her game and who holds herself very steady under pressure.  Belinda Bencic beat 2 top 10 opponents en route to making her first Grand Slam quarter-final and I am looking for her to repeat that feat and make her way to the semifinals.

The winner of Peng/Bencic will get to play the ever resurgent Caroline Wozniacki or Sara Errani.  This match is the last match for Arthur Ashe stadium.  It remains to be seen whether Wozniacki with her new found aggressive mindset will blow Errani off the court, or whether Errani will continue to confound opponents with her slow deliveries and off pace balls. For those of us who grew up in cricket loving countries, there are certain types of bowlers.  There is the fast bowlers, medium pace and spin bowlers.  Each of these bowlers have their place in the 11 man line up.  The fast bowlers are the ones who really threw batsmen off their games, the medium pace bowlers, confound you with the off pace of their deliveries, but there is just none like the spinners.  Their balls, as the name implies, usually spins away from the batsmen causing them to either go after the ball leaving their wickets exposed with the potential that they will be stumped.  In reading Errani’s press transcript responses especially questions regarding her serves, I would think that Errani is a spin bowler.  She throws in those slow, short deliveries, that make the returners not only wait for the ball, but when they do decide to go after it, it has so much spin on it that they invariably can’t do much with the ball.

If Wozniacki steps in like she has been doing since Istanbul, then she will take care of Errani in straights.  If, however, she goes back to her uber defensive, retrieving game, we will be in for a long, drawn out battle.

After winning her round of 16 match against Kaia Kanepi, Serena Williams celebrated by saying how glad she was to make the quarter-final of a Grand Slam for the first time this season.  That line alone shows us just how much Serena has been wilting under the pressure of expectations.  Should this free her up now to play her best tennis.  I would think so.  Her opponent is the always dangerous Flavia Pennetta.  These 2 have played 5 times before with Serena getting the better of the Italian on all 5 occassions.  This one should be no different. 

The last quarterfinal pits the resurgent Victoria Azarenka, 2 times finalist of this event, up against Ekaterina Makarova, who took out the WTA’s Golden Child, Eugenie Bouchard in straight sets.  Azazrenka had a tough battle against Alexandra Krunic in the fourth round in a match which brought out her competitiveness and her willingness to survive.  Will Makarova have enough in the tank to take down the 2 times finalist, who knows, but you can bet that she will give her all in that match up.  After all her potential opponent is someone she has beaten on a big stage before.


Bencic v. Wozniacki
Williams v. Azarenka


Williams over Bencic 

Thursday, August 28, 2014


by Karen

Sloane Stephens

From Serena Williams, to Maria Sharapova, to Eugenie Bouchard, everyone and their mother repeats the well known Billie Jean King quote “pressure is a privilege”.  What exactly does this phrase mean? I went to my favourite research tool, Google and typed in the phrase along with Billie Jean King.  Turns out that the complete phrase is “Pressure is a Privilege: Lessons I've Learned from Life and the Battle of the Sexes” and is the title of a book penned by Ms. King herself.  It is available on Amazon and a link to the page is here.

I find it a bit conceited that so many players, as well as fans spout this phrase without a real awareness of the pressure which Ms. King references. As soon as a player who has been thrust into the media spotlight does not perform to tennis fans’ overly inflated expectations, they echo King's sentiments. Frankly, until you have lived what Ms. King and others of her ilk have experienced, especially in the context of being a female professional athlete, you really don’t get to use that phrase willy nilly. The latest  victim of the pressure narrative is Sloane Stephens;  she has failed to live up to tennis media and fans' expectations

In 2013, Sloane Stephens, then a young up and comer with loads of talent beat  Serena Williams at the Australian Open quarter-finals.  It was a wonderful performance by the youngster and it shot her into the tennis spotlight.  The last  person to be thrust into the spotlight after beating Serena, was none other than Maria Sharapova. Immediately thereafter,  there was the interview in Rolling Stone where she called out Serena for slamming the door on their “friendship”, one manufactured by the press. As well as comments to suggest that Serena  "was never my favourite player anyway”.  There was the unfollow on Twitter as well as the  unfriending on BBM.  In short, the so-called friendship that was constantly referred to via the press went up in smoke.

While there was some initial sympathy for Sloane, whom many deemed too  immature to know what to share with the press, she no longer gets a pass for her  youth. The shift is directly related to her dip in form in Grand Slams. She has gone  from being celebrated for her exuberance and love of the big stage to a problem child. After making the second week of 6 straight Slams from 2013-2014, Sloane has now been ousted in the early rounds of her last 2 Slams. In her defeat today against Johanna Larsson of Sweden, she made 63 unforced errors.

I admit that I had great expectations for Sloane after she took on Thomas Hogstedst.  I believe, and still do that it is a better hire than Paul Annacone, who really did not  bring much to the table in terms of tactics.  Sloane and Thomas will need time before we can see results. Yet, all I see is criticism of Sloane by tennis media and fans for failing to fall in line with their expectations. They did it to Oudin and are probably about to begin with Bellis.  

Who knows why Sloane has not been able to back-up the promise she showed in her take down of Serena in Australia. Is it about her lack of hunger?

Many of you will remember that part of growing up was moving out of your parents’ home.  If you did not wish to move out voluntarily, your parents made your life a living hell, forcing you to move out.  Once you were on your own you found that you developed a drive and determination to succeed because if you did not, not only would your rent not be paid, but you could never afford that pair of shoes or that vacation that you wanted.  Sloane still lives at home, and that maybe part of the problem.  From Sharapova to Federer to Azarenka, most players who have succeeded in this sport will tell you that part of that whole process was learning to tough it out.  From Federer being sent away by his parents to a training camp to live, to Sharapova leaving Russia and coming to America, to Azarenka leaving Belarus, all these players have had to make sacrifices to achieve their dreams.

I don’t like to compare players, but after watching Azarenka’s match yesterday and seeing her come from behind and win a match that she should have lost, not playing her best tennis, but giving it her all, you see the hunger and determination and the will to succeed.

I believe Sloane still has to find that drive and desire to succeed in tennis on her own terms. It is disappointing that she has to manage others' expectations as she tries to find her way in the sport. Now, these thwarted expectations have created an unduly negative storyline about a perfectly normal and natural evolution for a young player.  I say give her some time.  Let her try and figure it out.  Remember, Rome was never built in a day and neither were Grand Slam champions.


by Karen

If you missed it last night, Venus’ match against Timea Bascinsky was must see tv.  Watching Venus in full flight in some of the points played brought many fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and some of us watching from our living rooms on our feet.  The athleticism and ball striking of Venus in that match was amazing.  Who would have thought that this 34 year old wunderkind still had that kind of tennis inside her?  Venus moves on to the third round where things will get a bit trickier for her. Her next opponent is Sara Errani. If Venus manages to pull out that win it will see her through to the round of 16.  How amazing is that?

Alexandra Dulgheru gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in her second round match.  If Sharapova does not get her game together, she will no doubt be ousted in the next round by Sabine Lisicki who seems determined in proving that she can play on surfaces other than grass. 

Aga Radwanska continues her dismal performance at the US Open by losing to Shuai Peng in straight sets.  Sloane Stephens was also ousted by No. 96 Johanna Larsson in an epic 3 set battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The piling on of Sloane has begun and frankly I am sick of it. 

Day 4 features play from the top half of the draw and sees some very tasty match ups. The Order of Play is below as well as Spin’s Picks

Arthur Ashe

Christina McHale v. Victoria Azarenka
Vania King v. Serena Williams
Sorana Cirstea v. Eugenie Bouchard

Louis Armstrong

Karolina Pliskova v. Ana Ivanovic
Aleksandra Krunic v. Madison Keys


Petra Kvitova v. Petra Cetkovska

Court 11

Coco Vandeweghe v Carla Suarez Navarro
Flavia Pennetta v. Shelby Rogers

Court 13

Varvara Lepchenko v. Mona Barthel
Casey Dellacqua v Qiang Wang
Polona Hercog v Ekaterina Makarova

Court 5

Samantha Stosur v
Kaia Kanepi
Marina Erakovic v Elena Vesnina

Court 17

Nicole Gibbs v A.Pavlyuchenkova
Catherine Bellis v Zarina Diyas

What to Watch

Can American wunderkind Catherine Bellis follow up her performance against Dominika Cibulkova in her next match.  The hard hitting Diyas has been an up and comer for some time and it is good that all her talents will be on a show court for the world to see.  I think Diyas’ experience will prevail in this one.

Samantha Stosur v. Kaia Kanepi should be a good battle if Kanepi shows up to play.  This will be a hard fought battle as you have two hard hitters with lots of variety in their games. 

Upset Alert

Eugenie Bouchard looked really good in her first round match.  It could be because she is getting her game back together at a Grand Slam, or it may have been that her opponent was held together with kinesio tape and could not offer much in the way of resistance.  That being said, is Sorana Cirstea ready to perform under the lights?  Is she ready to show us that her run to the Toronto finals last year, as well as her epic quarterfinal run to the 2009 French Open was not a fluke.  We wait with bated breath.  This could either be a long 3 set affair or a blow out of epic proportions.  Either way, it should be fun to watch.

Is Victoria Azarenka getting match tough?  Her match against Misaki Doi had her calling upon that toughness, which made her No.1 and the winner of 2 Grand Slam titles to the fore.  Her match against Christina McHale has upset written all over it and while I expect Azarenka’s experience playing on the big stage to prevail, she is playing an American and she will be playing in the heat of the day.  Even though I have picked Azarenka to win this one, I think she will have a tough time of it and may end up losing.