French Open thoughts (cont.)
Last week I did a radio interview to talk tennis and was asked: How good is that Russian girl who beat Kim Clijsters? Confused, I answered the question generally. ("She's fine. An athletic player who had a strong junior career. But Clijsters has to find a way to win that match.") When we got off the air, I gently noted that the player in question is Dutch.
Host: It says RUS next to her name.
Me: What? Oh wait. Rus? That IS her name.
No one pegged him win to win. But it was a bit disappointing to see Milos Raonic leave the party so unfashionably early. We expect bigger things come Wimbledon.
Nice to see two cancer survivors in the doubles draw. Lucas Arnold Ker and Sandra Klemenschits. Speaking of the doubles, the runner-up team of Schwank -Cabal sounded like nothing so much as a trendy putsch. Voguish rebels and all.
Roger Federer has won at least 50 matches at each of the four majors.
Hate, hate, hate that players can take an injury timeout for cramping. This rule needs fixing. Cramping is not an injury; it's a manifestation of fatigue. Including this as an injury punishes a player for superior fitness.
Group A takes Elena Dementieva, Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo. Group B gets its choice of any four active players in the 2011 draw. Who wins the team title?
More over Anna Smashnova, Sabine Hack, Jack Sock, and even you Tennys Sandgren (who plays for Tennessee). Here's the new best tennis name.
Surprised at how little mail I received -- good, bad or indifferent -- about ESPN. A few of you have complained that the coverage felt a bit stale. I think that's overstating it, but the loss of Mary Carillo is still conspicuous, the coverage windows were sometimes problematic and the absence of Americans didn't help the cause. I think ESPN is in a tricky spot, too: there are ratings pressures and they need to appeal to a broader audience. It can't be all niche and insider talk. At the same time, the folks watching tennis at noon on a weekday don't need to be told, and retold and re-retold that Nadal is a converted lefty, Kim Clijsters is a mom, Juan Martin del Potro is returning from injury, etc. Maybe the Wimbledon addition of Chris Evert livens things up.
A couple of you were offended by Brad Gilbert's abuse and neglect of the English language. No sale here. I'm squarely in Gilbert's box. He makes it fun, his analysis is often terrific, he's well-meaning. Do I want him as my SAT tutor? No. Do I want him on TV? Absolutely. And if I'm his agent, I'm negotiating his next ESPN deal to include more than tennis.
The usual disclosure that I have lack objectivity regarding the Tennis Channel. But the network is simply at its best during the French Open. Strong effort all around. It's the grounds pass of TV coverage; not the luxury suite. But that's how real fans prefer it.
Nice to see Daniela Hantuchova put it together and play a near-flawless match against Caroline Wozniacki. Was hoping she could ride the surge a bit more.
Some -- how put this? -- infelicitous remarks from Robert Radwanksa after his daughter lost to Maria Sharapova. "You have to ask the rhetorical question -- can you collapse in a match more than Agnieszka did today -- you cannot. ... She will never win anything big if she plays like that." Asked about a solution, Robert remarked: "A psychiatrist, psychologist ... something like that." Nice.
Keep an eye on Sabine Lisicki, still another member of the German tennis renaissance. She had Vera Zvonareva on the ropes before wilting on account of cramps/nerves. (Did Martina Navratilova, otherwise so insightful, really call Lisicki a drama queen? Ouch.) Julia Goerges lost to tricky Marion Bartoli. But I like what I see from her game. Watch for her at Wimbledon.
Another blah effort for the Americans on clay. Some bright spots included Sloane Stephens (clay is her favorite surface), John Isner taking two sets off Nadal, and Mardy Fish and Vania King reaching the middle weekend. Some nice results in doubles. But overall, nothing to Skype home about.
A keen reader suggests we give major props to Caroline Garcia. Not just for her effort against Sharapova. But after being lauded for her talents, she still played the juniors. She became a de facto favorite there, with very little positive that could happen, and a lot of potential negative or embarassing results. Indeed, she almost lost early on, and did eventually succumb in the semis. Not sure if she made the decision on her own, or was pushed into it by the FFT, but it will probably be good for her in the long run to experience competing in an event as a favorite.
At a minimum Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova have forfeited their right to complain about spectators' cell phones ringing during play. I love your idea of fans organizing to wear noise-canceling headphones to their matches. Also, one of you gave the WTA some pro bono marketing advice: use this as an opportunity and print up t-shorts festooned with the message: "I'll have what she's having."
A clap of the racket to Colette Lewis at Zoo Tennis for her reportage on the NCAA tennis event, including the bizarre mid-match retirement.
Two years ago, Alexa Glatch thumped Flavia Pennetta -- no slouch of an opponent -- 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the French Open. Last week she was playing in the finals of the $50,000 USTA Challenger in Carson. We can save a discussion about the state of American state for another time. But from Glatch to Brian Baker to Donald Young to Scoville Jenkins to Marcus Fugate, it's remarkable how many young American players have looked like real prospects up through the juniors and then -- for any number of reasons -- struggled to make the transition to the ATP.
A few days after losing in the singles draw, Patty Schnyder called it a career. It was always nice watching a lefty who won points with funk and spin and shotmaking rather than brute force. And, to traffic in understatement, the WTA "outré factor" goes down in Schnyder's absence.
Look for the HBO Borg-McEnroe documentary, Fire and Ice to air these next few weeks. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, it's quite good -- especially if you're a sucker, as we are, for Liev Schrieber, HBO's answer to Morgan Freeman/Hary Kallas. But, again, I wish there were a bit more attention paid to the CURRENT crop of players and a bit less to the previous generation. It's nice that tennis honors its elders, but less so when it comes at the expense of the athletes competing today. We'll say it again, four words: Hard Knocks: Novak Djokovic.
Daniel Koellerer has been banned from tennis for alleged match fixing. A quick YouTube romp will suggest that his absence will not diminish the sport. Nice work by the Integrity Unit. When will the next shoe drop?
A junior player -- who will go nameless because of his minor status -- was allegedly defaulted from the event after he was caught trying to scalp tickets outside the venue.
Another reminder that Pete Bodo's Courts of Babylon is available as a Diversion eBook.
Full disclosure: I crashed and burned in the French Open suicide pool. I can live with Kaia Kanepi letting me down. But how does Nikolay Davydenko not beat Antonio Veic? In any event, if the winners want to contact me, I'll fire off some prizes.
Only two weeks until another major.
Have a good week everyone!
Jon Wertheim is the author of Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games are Won, now on sale for Father's Day.