Monday, 26 June 2017

'I WOULD BACK HIM IN'

Sometimes the great John McEnroe is a little misunderstood. He is definitely not bad mouthing Serena Williams here even though some would say that he is. If Mac put some work in on the fitness side, well I would give him a serious chance against Serena even now days, no risk.
You only have to watch him play the Seniors Tour to see that he has still got the goods.....

Retired tennis great John McEnroe describes Serena Williams as the best female tennis player in the world in his new memoir, “But Seriously,” but during a Sunday interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, the seven-time major singles champion suggested Williams wouldn’t stand a chance if she competed on the men’s circuit.
“Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world,” Garcia-Navarro challenged McEnroe on the subject of Williams, whose 23 Grand Slam singles titles are the most in the Open era (since 1968). “Why qualify it?”
“Oh!” McEnroe replied. “Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?”

“Yeah, the best tennis player in the world,” Garcia-Navarro said. “You know, why say female player?”
“Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe said. ” … That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”

The 35-year-old Williams, who is six months pregnant, was asked about the possibility of playing an exhibition match against Andy Murray during an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman” four years ago.
“For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely, almost, two separate sports,” Williams said. “If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes. No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder, it’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

While McEnroe and Williams have never played, President Trump approached McEnroe 17 years ago about playing a $1 million, winner-take-all match against Venus or Serena Williams at his Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. McEnroe, 58, told Jimmy Kimmel two years ago that he believed he could still beat Serena Williams. McEnroe sounded confident about his chances against Williams during his interview with Garcia-Navarro as well.
“I mean my kids don’t think I can beat her anymore,” McEnroe said. “Maybe I should get her now because she’s pregnant.”

Saturday, 24 June 2017

' THE CHOOK RAFFLE'

Enough cannot be said of the format for Mens Doubles on the ATP Tour, it is nothing short of brilliant in my opinion as it leaves all matches open to imagination and daring play.
Nothing is a certainty and no teams are safe despite a high ranking or a reputation that once made a difference.
The current Ageon tournament in London just proved that Mens Doubles is in fact a chook raffle of sorts as any team can win against anyone and the scores reflect just that fact.
The following scores are from the Quarter Final stage where just one seeded team now remains in the hunt for the title;
Bopanna/ Dodig def Kontinen/ Peers 7-6, 4-6, 10-2
Murray/ Soares def Harrison/ Venus 7-6, 4-6, 10-6
Benneteau/ Roger-Vasselin def Bryan/ Bryan 7-6, 4-6, 10-6
Cilic/ Matkowski def Daniel/ Demoliner 7-6, 1-6, 10-8

When was the last time Marin Cilic troubled the score board in Mens Doubles ?
There is no doubt about it, Mens Doubles is now nothing short of fascinating because of the fact that it is never a foregone conclusion as to who will win a match or a title. Will it ever happen in singles ? Well apparently the answer is no if you listen to the 'traditionalists' as they are adamant that singles is a no go zone as far as tinkering with the rules is concerned.
What I do not understand is this, tennis is not owned by anyone in particular yet the rules have been tinkered with now for many years as best of five sets in singles have been replaced by best of three in all Masters 1000 Series events. Back in the day all of the huge events such as Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Miami, etc were all best of five sets, now they are three set matches.
As far as Grand Slam events are concerned Wimbledon is now the only Slam to still play best of 5 sets in Mens Doubles, all others play best of three. The surface at the All England Club allows for a longer format no risk at all and the players, particularly the guys who rely on doubles for a living would relish the opportunity to play the longer version of the game.
So how do the two formats compare or should I say THREE formats ?
A guy like Marin Cilic can partner anyone and be successful in the cut throat type of current format that sees a third set super tie breaker decide the match plus short deuces because there is a certain amount of bravado involved in the new system plus a lot of luck. There is not one team that can dominate a chook raffle.
So who stipulates that doubles is to be changed though singles is not ? The two on two format is more like a curtain raiser to singles now days and singles players play it for a bit of fun, a bit of fitness and a bit of extra prize money but it does this, it takes the piss.
Why ? Because singles players have no right to win consistently at doubles.
Can you imagine if the rules were tinkered with and a guy like Leander Paes or Nenad Zimonjic started to win singles events ?  What if the Bryan brothers started to claim singles titles ?
There would be an outcry of epic proportions as the traditionalists would arc up and cry foul, 'Who is messing with our sport ' ??
Yet it is accepted with doubles.
If a player can win at doubles then he should be able to win at singles but now the two formats do not permit that. John McEnroe, as brilliant as he was would not dominate in today's doubles format and he won over 70 doubles events as well as over 70 singles titles.
So I ask you this, is the future of tennis in the lap of the Gods so to speak ? Is tennis history tainted in a way as formats are no longer the same as they once were ?
If tennis formats continue to change then how can you compare todays players to yesterdays ?
The ATP is happy to turn Mens Doubles into somewhat of a Circus as far as the rules are concerned yet are not prepared to do anything to singles except prolong the careers of players by changing from best of 5 to best of 3, apart from Grand Slams.
That is as far as they will go. They are more interested in the history of singles than the future of doubles which will continue to dish up new champions as often as the Big 4 will win at singles.
The ATP is under obligation to be fair to both formats, singles and doubles, yet it looks after one and wants the other to finish as quickly as it can as it seems to get in the way of the 'Main Event'.
One is a grind, the other is a chook raffle, it lacks consistency........

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

'THE DIRT'

Around three years ago I posted a chapter on this site called 'Mr Topspin', in reference to a Swedish Tennis Champion by the name of Kent Carlsson, former World number 6,( 1988 ).
Carlsson played with a style not unlike Rafa, plenty of loop from both sides and a big kicking serve.
The Swede owned the distinction of dropping possibly the least games ever recorded in a 'Grand Prix' tennis event, as it was known back then. The tournament I am referring to is the now defunct Bologna Outdoor Grand Prix held in Italy from 1985 to 1998.
One name stands out from the rest as far as past Champions of Bologna are concerned. It was in 1990 that a fellow by the name of Richard Fromberg from Australia won the event from Olympic Champion Marc Rosset of Switzerland, 7-6 in the third set.
The rest of the champions from the Bologna event were made up of Europeans which leads us to believe that 'Frommy' was a rather unique Aussie tennis pro who's game was modelled on Borg's, no doubt about it.
I saw Frommy play in Queensland and New South Wales in the 80's and he hit a two handed backhand like Borg complete with the one handed follow through, not many players could do that but the Tasmanian obviously modelled his game on the Swedish champion.
I vividly recall watching Richard when I was 12 years of age at a resort in Tasmania when I holidayed there with my Mum, Dad and sister.
While waiting for a hit on the resort court we watched in awe of the scruffy, skinny kid who hit the ball with a brilliance I had never seen before. I saw his profile in an Australian Tennis magazine perhaps a year or two later as he was ranked in the first handful of Aussie kids nationally for his age.
Frommy was a talent and I saw him play one particular tournament on clay in Sawtell, NSW, perhaps 1987 when he was a teenager, he was born to play on the dirt. He barely missed a ball.
Back to Bologna, Italy.
Kent Carlsson 'owned' that tournament in 1987 when he lost just ten games for the entire tournament and five of those were in his first match. The Swede's style was almost impossible to attack as the height of his shots were ridiculously uncomfortable.
If I were to rate clay court players of the last 30 years I would place Carlsson right up there because if he had stayed injury free he may have won a record amount of titles on that surface. As it stands he won nine clay court titles between 1985 and 1989.
Carlsson was only 22 when he retired due to a knee injury, a 'travesty of justice' in any mans language, a waste of a career that could have seen him talked about in the same breath as some of the all time greats of clay court tennis.
Anyone who knows the sport in detail no doubt would hold him in high esteem regardless of his short but brilliant career on the European dirt.
My heroes Borg and Wilander who I have written about in great detail on this site won nine French Open titles between them however there were a few smaller events that raised the eyebrows as far as their domination was concerned on a surface that tames the big servers yet looks after the rally ball exponents.
In 1977 Borg played Eddie Dibbs, former World number 5 and a man who won 22 singles titles between 1973 and 1982 in the Barcelona Grand Prix semi finals, the event that Rafa has won on ten occasions. In that particular event Borg won 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 against a man who won 14 clay court titles.
Does that defy logic ? Probably, though Rafa just won 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 against Stan in the 2017 French Open final and Stan owns a Paris title, work that discrepancy out.
In 1983, a year after Wilander won the French Open Mens Singles title as a 17 year old he beat Guillermo Vilas 6-0, 6-3, 6-1 in the final of Barcelona but what makes that result even more remarkable is the fact that Vilas, back in that era owned the record for the most consecutive clay court wins, 53.
( Rafa eclipsed that record with 81 consecutive wins on the dirt ).
How a teenager can beat a man of that knowledge on a surface that netted him that many consecutive wins is beyond belief. Wilander though was a Borg clone who played the same way and seemingly thought the same way and Vilas won just six matches in total against the two Swedes out of 30 matches played ( Borg 5-18, Wilander 1-6)
Perhaps Stan Wawrinka should not be so disappointed about his French Open loss to Rafa this year because history shows that the dirt can produce some amazingly one sided matches despite rankings, past titles and winning streaks.
It seems that there are a handful of clay court champions that owned a thought process and game to match that put them so far ahead of their opposition that they were quite literally lonely.
Carlsson, Wilander and Borg quite possibly gave Rafa a view on how to play on European clay as their records were quite brilliant considering Carlsson retired at age 22 and Borg at 26. Put another five years onto their relatively short careers and could you imagine just what they may have achieved on their surface of preference ?
The dirt is a tennis surface for the thinker. Why it is not trained on in every Country in the World and not just Europe is one of the Tennis World's great mysteries that may never be solved.......

Monday, 12 June 2017

'MANY SIMILARITIES'

There was something that caught my attention while watching the highlights of the French Open Mens Singles final more so than any shot that was struck by either player and it reminded me so much of the great man from Sweden, Bjorn Borg.
Forget the brilliant hitting of Rafa, that was always going to happen but if you haven't already seen the highlights do yourself a favour and take a look at where Rafa stands to receive serve. It's a throw back to the 70's and early 80's where Borg used to give himself so much time to receive serve that it was almost like receiving an underarm serve each time as he would wait for the serve to drop.
I have often wondered why more players do not employ this tactic or is it an egotistical type of thing to receive a serve at the baseline as Agassi did so well in the 90's ?
But not every player owns Agassi's returning qualities.
The Las Vegas showman definitely started a trend with his ability to meet the serve early though it takes a remarkable eye to be able to meet a 200km per hour delivery from either on or inside the baseline.
Borg and Agassi were Worlds apart with their tactics on the return of serve yet both owned a Rock Star type of appeal as far as their looks and flair were concerned. It is no surprise that at certain stages of their careers I found them to be both larger than life type of figures and it had everything to do with the way they played as well as the way they looked.
Any sportsman who shows up with long flowing locks is asking for trouble from the Media in particular though that is easy to put to rest if you win regularly as Borg did from the outset, not so with Andre Agassi.
To openly take part in a television commercial and say 'Image is everything' and then not win regularly is more or less taking the piss......
It's sort of like Anna Kournikova making millions as an 'image' but not as a tennis player as she didn't really win much despite a couple of Grand Slam Doubles events, not bad all the same but she couldn't win in singles, that's a fact.
Sorry I do get side tracked when I start talking tennis, back to Rafa at this year's French Open.
Why does a receiver stand so close in ?
This is word for word from Bjorn Borg.....
" Why do receivers stand so close in ? Mostly because it's macho to face a cannonball next to the barrel. Sort of like the gladiators in the olden days chasing each other with axes or swords at close range.
Me ? I want my macho moment in the winners circle rather than for a few isolated points during the match".
Bjorn Borg.
If a server slides a ball wide every single time particularly from a lefty serve then yes it requires a stance closer to the baseline to counter act the angle. If not, why stand close ? If someone kicks a serve as high as Safin used to wouldn't it be a smarter option for the ball to take its kick and then return it ?
Surely Rafa's tactic at this years French Open as well as his previous 9 titles in Paris needs to be studied by many coaches and players looking at just why the Spaniard is so effective in Paris on the dirt. It's because he has worked it out, time, tennis is all about time. You can't play 'ping pong' on a tennis court and expect to win consistently.
Rafa has a forehand that gives him so much time when he requires it due to the height and the bounce that he can vary at will yet if you watch the modern day 'clone' most clear the net by a 'bees dick', no time to think.
Rafa has it all over 'em no doubt about it when it comes to technique, tactics and time on the clay.
Cilic won just seven games against Stan in the Quarters yet Marin only lost around 30 games in four straight sets wins in his march to the quarters. So how did Stan beat Marin so easily ? Variety. Stan has won the French Open, he knows what is required on the clay as he can hit big, slice, loop and drive but Cilic, well he just drives it. That style will never win on the dirt consistently.
That fact goes back to the 70's, at least. ( I am only 48 )
So what happens when a man of Stan's ability comes up against a man of Rafa's ability ? Well according to my prediction it was going to go 4 sets. Yeah right, in every tennis expert's tipping book, the 'safe' tip. So did we miss something in the lead up ?
Possibly.
Stan beat Novak a few years back in Paris which was rather surprising given Novak's record on clay which isn't bad when you take it into account that he has made it to the semis on 4 occasions, the quarters on two occasions and the final on 4 occasions, winning once. I believe that nerves beat Novak that day. He only required the French title to complete his resume.
Rafa lost the final of the Australian Open this year to Roger in 5 though Rafa can't stand as far back on hard court as he can on clay, Roger worked that out. Rafa won three events in the lead up to Paris this year but could you really pick the score line in the final this year in Paris ?
That's outrageous.
It seems that Rafa is at age 31 by far the greatest exponent of clay court tennis that the sport has ever seen though Borg is a close second and the Swede did not play one year due to politics so perhaps a seventh was a definite possibility though he did not play in 1977.
Vilas won the year Borg did not play, the next year Borg beat Vilas 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in the final so you tell me whether Borg should have seven French Open titles or not ??
There are many similarities with Borg and Rafa, particularly where they stood to receive serve and particularly with the way they hit the ball, with a high uncomfortable loop that pinned their opponents way back beyond the baseline.
Not too many players have ever lost on the dirt with those type of tactics.
Is the modern game too flat ?
Borg and Rafa will tell you just that........


Thursday, 8 June 2017

USTA BUSINESS CASE TO HELP USTA - LONG VERSION





I was going to write about my thoughts on the shortened version of this subject until I just listened to the long version and I think that honestly it is one of the most remarkable things I have ever heard in relation to the way tennis is run.
The USTA is no better than Tennis Australia as we all search for the 'needle in the haystack', the champion tennis player that is as rare as rocking horse sh..
Javier Palenque is quite frankly a genius and if you have any time spare I would strongly recommend listening to his views on the sport in the US which mirrors that of the sport here in Australia where we 'threw' $4000,000,000 apparently at Bernard Tomic. 
How many players missed out who could have benefited from a share of that type of funding ???
It's all about supporting the 'elite' or that 'needle in a haystack' yet the future of the game does not get a dime because the module is broken beyond repair. The money is not evenly divided, just as it isn't at the Pro level either as say the Big 4 have put away anything up to a Billion dollars in both prize money and more so endorsements over their time at the top of the game.
Is that fair ? It is reality.
Anyone outside of the top 100 won't make a living yet the top 10 are looked after like royalty because apparently they 'need' up to $4000,000,000 ( Bernie's funding figure ) for a Slam win. In all seriousness how many players in their career will win a Slam ?
Tennis in all aspects looks after the top players yet does not look after the potential future of the game just as my post titled 'Tennis, A Rich Persons Sport' documents in detail. It's all about making the rich richer, it's not about anything else and it's why tennis has exclusiveness written all over it and it starts with coaching.
Why does it cost up to $100 per hour to 'learn' a sport that has a success rate of nil as far as making money out of it is concerned ?
If tennis lessons were half that cost or even lower then surely the sport would attract the 'everyday' parent and not just the ones who go to Madrid for their annual holidays.
Would a tennis coach still make money do you think ? They would make more, they would have people knocking the door down to learn the game instead of, 'Hey Jonny, tennis is a bit too expensive for Mum and Dad to pay for, how about we look at a team sport' ?
Instead we are faced with the dilemma that is currently in place, a sport that Javier Palenque seems to know a whole lot better than most as he dissects the issues in detail and with the precision of a Doctor using a scalpel.
I do hope that the USTA listens to Javier Palenque because it may just pave the way for tennis in Australia to also follow the same lead though I doubt it very much as we are too obsessed with looking after the 'already rich' and not the players who could potentially be the future of the sport.
Tennis, all about self importance and self indulgence, just as long as the bank account of those 'important' ones keeps growing.
Glad my kids play team sports.......

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

USTA BUSINESS CASE SHORT VERSION




This is fascinating. Take a read if you have a spare 7.5 minutes. I will elaborate on it later tonight but I believe this hits the nail on the head and outlines some of the issues surrounding the sport of tennis.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

'THANKS MARTY'

To my fellow tennis 'addict' in the US, Marty, thanks for taking the time to read my posts buddy, it means a lot to me and thank you for your views also.
A sport that now has 35 year olds winning Slams as to my heroes of the past Borg and Wilander winning Roland Garros at age 18 and 17 respectively is indeed a sport that is changing.
I think it's fair to say that we may never see those ages win again on the big stage due to the physical demands of the sport plus the mental toughness required. It seems that a guy like Verdasco was not prepared to be pushed aside by the new breed ( Zverev ) just yet.
Whether it's a pride thing, experience or simply talent it makes for some entertaining tennis to say the least though in the end the youth will win through, it's just a case of how long it will take until the 'Dinosaurs' become extinct........