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by anyone in particular yet the rules have been tinkered with now for many years as best of five sets in singles have been replaced by best of three in all Masters 1000 Series events.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........

Monday, 5 June 2017

'IS IT NOT COOL TO PLAY TENNIS' ?

As the tennis off season is now in full swing it is that time of year to do other things in life but as usual we reflect on the past season, the what if's, the missed opportunities, the glory ( if there was any ) and the improvement or inability to deliver. Tennis is like that, we always analyse, if we didn't we may be called a 'robot'.
My biggest question to the sport in my home town here in 'sleepy hollow' is this, 'Is it not cool to play tennis anymore' ?
The following examples are what makes me think just that......
I played a Doubles event in March and this is who we played.
Round 1- A combined age of approximately 60
Round 2- A combined age of perhaps 65
Round 3 - A combined age of 50 ( getting better )
Round 4- A combined age of 90 ( yes that is correct )
Round 5 - A combined age of 90 ( no that isn't a misprint )
Final Round - A combined age of around 80.
As far as our team was concerned, I am 48, my doubles partner Matt is 24, there's a few more years of tennis playing experience as well as old age all rolled into one. So let's break all of that down into simple terms.
There was around 500 years of combined age playing that event and quite possibly 350 years of tennis playing experience if each player picked up a racket at around ten years of age. That's an awful lot of experience in one tennis tournament but what is most ridiculous is the amount of guys who are actually 'allowed' to still be competitive at their current age.
I believe that there was in fact one teenager playing Mens A Grade, ONE, so why is this ?
I have often thought that tennis is a rather expensive sport to play due to equipment, coaching and travel, just to name a few issues that surround the sport yet is there more to it ?
Team sports seem to own the lions share of the numbers when it comes to popularity as far as the youth of today is concerned and tennis is nowhere near as popular as Soccer, AFL, Hockey, Basketball or even Cricket so if a kid decides to play tennis seriously is it not considered 'cool' by his or her mates ?
Are kids being pressured into playing team sports due to the nature of the mentality of youth and the desire to feel part of a team as opposed to the feeling of isolation of playing individual sport ? The numbers tell the story.
In the final event of the year locally here in 'sleepy hollow' it wasn't a whole lot better as far as ages were concerned though there was perhaps two or three more teenagers involved but the 'Dinosaurs' still made up the numbers.
In my event I actually only had to play three matches due to one team not fielding a singles player, I find that disheartening. I played two teenagers plus another 'Dinosaur' who told me that their club did not own any youth either. At 48 and 47 we were both the 'youngest' players available to play singles for our club.
So is it just here in my home town that struggles to find kids to play the sport of tennis ?
I believe that tennis is now an 'older' persons sport and it seems that there are some facts to back this statement up but it still does not help the sport to grow, no matter where you live or what standard you play.
If you are looking at heading to your local tennis club for the first time upon your retirement and put your experience into good use against the youth of the game, well you may be a little disappointed.
Here is an article that backs up the claim that tennis may in fact be a sport for the 'Dinosaurs'........

'GREAT ARTICLE BY CHRIS CHASE'

By: | August 20, 2015 1:15 pm
The what I love about these tennis players, man, I get older and … so do they.
It’s no secret that the game of professional tennis has skewed older in recent years, with Roger Federer and Serena Williams staying at the top of their games into their mid-30s, teenagers hardly making a dent on the ATP and women frequently breaking into the WTA’s top 10 around age 28, almost double the age when such breakouts used to happen.
In the days of Chrissie Evert, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, it was routine for girls who didn’t have their driver’s license to occupy spots in the top 10. Men always tended to skew older, but still had young stars, such as Boris Becker winning Wimbledon at 17 and, somewhat recently, Rafael Nadal winning the French Open at age 19.

Men’s Facts

1. In 1992 the average age of the men’s top 10 was 23.2 years.
In 2002 it was 24.5 years.
In 2015 it’s 28.6 years.

2. In the latest rankings, only one player (24-year-old Milos Raonic) is younger than the average age from just 13 years ago.
3. On the men’s side, there have been 10 teenage Grand Slam winners (including multiple winners such as Boris Becker and Mats Wilander). Right now there are just four teenagers in the top 100 and the furthest any of them has gotten in a Grand Slam is to the third round. Half of those players either have zero or one wins in a major.
4. There is one teenager currently in the top 75. There were six players ranked that high 30 years ago, including two in the top 10.
5. On the flip side, there were three players over the age of 28 in the top 40 back in 1985. This year, 18 of the top 25 are that old and 24 of the top 40 are over 28.
6. In 1995, the highest ranked 32-year-old man was No. 124 in the world and only eight men of that age were ranked in the top 500. Right now, 18 players that old are ranked higher than No. 124, including five in the top 25 (and the world No. 3, Federer)

7. As recently as a decade ago, there were seven players aged 32 or above in the top 100. The 20th ranked player who was 32+ was ranked No. 676. Today, there are 12 players in the top 100 and the 20th ranked player that old is No. 192.
8. Of the 20 youngest Grand Slam winners, only five have won that major since 2005. The last teenager to win one was Rafael Nadal, who turned 19 while winning the 2005 French Open.

9. In 1992 the average age of the women’s top 10 was 21.7 years.
In 2002 it was 22.0 years.
In 2014 it’s 25.9 years.
10. In the latest rankings, only one player (21-year-old Garbine Muguruza) is younger than the average age of top 10ers from 2002.
11. Serena Williams became the oldest woman to ever win a Grand Slam when she took the title at Wimbledon and of course, she shows precisely zero signs of slowing down.
12. In 1990, half the women in the year-end top 10 were teenagers during that season. Currently, there are only three teenagers in the top 100.
13. Also in 1990, 20 women in the top 30 were under 23 years old. Currently, there are six players in the top 30 who are younger than 23.

14. Eight women have won Grand Slams before turning 19. This year, there is only one such teenager ranked in the entire top 150 (Ana Konjuh at No. 81).
15. This year, there are 15 women over 30 in the top 100. In 2000, there were two such women.
16. This one’s insane: In 2012 — just three years ago — there were three women over 32 in the top 100. This year there are eight.

17. Five of the seven oldest women to win their first Grand Slam have won it in the past decade. Of the 19 youngest women to win their first Slam, only one (Ana Ivanovic at age 20) has done that in the past 10 years.
Okay, so now that we’ve established the old is the new young, what is it? What’s making tennis players get better later and stay better when players from a decade ago were already retired?

It’s a question with a number of answers, all that probably contribute in one way or another. Could it be the combination of added power in the sport (the serve-and-volley is mostly dead), aided by racquet and string technology? Do training methods and diet help keep the top players healthier and in better shape? Has recovery — a key component when trying to win a match a day or seven matches in two weeks — become more of a science and something taken more seriously by players?
Whatever it is, the sport has never been older. Next month, Serena Williams will attempt to both tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slams while becoming the first player since Graf to win the calendar Slam. She’ll be doing that all at age 33.
By the time she was 33, Graf, who twice played Serena, had already been retired for three years.

Monday, 29 May 2017

'THE NOVAK EGO TRIP'

Novak Djokovic can do whatever he likes, hire whoever he likes, he has an endless Bank account, he just looks for the 'little things' to give him an edge. Hiring Boris Becker was one thing but now hiring the great Andre Agassi is a totally different ball game but it gets the Tennis World talking if nothing else.
So why did he ask Andre to help him out ?
Plain and simple, it's an ego boost of epic proportions yet it gives opposition players something else to talk and think about because they all know that Andre was and probably still is one of the greatest ever 'thinkers' when it comes to tennis.
Andre Agassi will definitely give a whole new spin, so to speak, on the sport and it will quite possibly be completely different than Boris Becker who just got the flick from Novak's weekly wage budget.
Novak Djokovic has been suffering mentally since last Wimbledon where in his own mind he probably lost to a tennis 'nobody' in Sam Querrey, even though the American isn't in fact a bad tennis player but he's not really in Novak's league as far as tennis greats are concerned. Sam can hit a ball well but he doesn't really play tennis like the big boys on a consistent basis.
Novak reminds me of Tiger Woods when the great man lost his mojo as far as the game of golf is concerned, when he was 'found out' by not only his wife but the World to be more precise. He went from 'owning' the sport to being a mere 'player' who just made up the numbers all because of a moment or two in his life that if he had his time over, he may have done differently.
No one takes criticism well and it can lead to mental health issues among other things that have a sports person questioning their own immortality that used to be as strong as their game. When the World makes judgement on a sports star it can mean the difference between finding a winner at a crucial time or the timing to be completely thrown out the window due to 'self assessment' that the everyday hacker goes through on a regular basis.
Anybody who owns an ounce of sporting intelligence realises that the only difference between winning and losing from the last 8 or 16 onwards is the mind because if you reach that stage in an event you all know how to strike a ball no matter what the sport may be.
Only the strongest minds have ever prevailed from that moment on in a World class event.
So back to Novak Djokovic. What is his agenda with his current new coach ?
It's obvious he has lost his game, lost his confidence, lost his way in the sport in which he only lost 4 matches in one entire season a few years back. That's not bad when you look at it considering his main rivals.
If you look at the footage of Novak and Andre there actually isn't a great deal of coaching going on, it is more about Novak hitting a tennis ball with one of his biggest heroes within a few metres of him. How could it not inspire him ? Think about it. If we could all afford to place our biggest sporting idol on court next to us while we practiced wouldn't we go up a level or two ?
Around 4 years ago I was fortunate enough to play 12 games against a guy who beat Boris Becker in 1992, a guy who I idolised in Queensland at a training facility. Whilst this former pro was no where near his prime he still owned much of the class that he used to beat a former World number 1.
I was no where near his ability yet I 'scrounged' a few games in an 8-4 loss. Greatest 4 games of my life, no risk.
You only raise your level when you play or gain knowledge from better players or ones that have done it all before you, despite your current or previous ability or results.
Novak Djokovic is quite possibly paying Andre Agassi a fee that most people would be happy to earn in two years of working a 'normal' job but it's 'ash tray' change to Novak as he looks for the one thing to inspire him again.
He wants that domination that he owned in 2011 which was in line with what John McEnroe achieved in 1984 when he only lost 3 matches but Mac didn't have the luxury of a high profile coach, Mac WAS his own coach, a genius.
Novak isn't a genius but he is a bloody good tennis player yet he is lacking something and that appears to be someone like Andre Agassi who if you have taken the time to study his first few sessions with Novak, well he looks as though he is almost overawed himself as he simply looks on as Novak hits.
The 'real' coaching would be going on over dinner as Andre would be offering many thoughts and ideas that Novak has possibly heard all before but with a different type of angle on it, pardon the pun once again.
Yes it would be an ego trip to hire someone of Andre Agassi's stature but hey if you own the funds, the balls to ask and a mind that is in desperate need of something new then why not ?
Egotistical sport tennis, all about self importance.......

Friday, 26 May 2017

'PERSPECTIVE'


I am 48, I am old as far as a tennis player is concerned. I reckon that I have played over 100 tennis tournaments in my time on court since I was 12 years of age. That's a rough guess, I may have played a lot more.
I won a few, lost a lot, gained some friends, played some people who I would rather forget. I have smashed a lot of rackets ( mainly in practice ), I have done a lot of talking both out loud and in my mind and I have sworn on many occasions that I hate the sport.
I can understand where Andre is coming from, tennis makes you question your own intelligence whether it is on court or off it.
One thing I have never, ever done however is own a false sense of who I am, I am no one.
When people walk into my house they see a lot of photos of my kids on the wall and above the fire place, my kids give me perspective in life.
I place one, just one tennis trophy amongst the photo frames. It is a trophy that has the words ' La Valette' written on it. La Valette-du-Var is in fact a tiny town in South Eastern France. That however  was not the town that Peter Gerrans and I won a Doubles tournament in, it was a town called Gareoult which is a six hour drive from Paris. 
La Valette-du-Var is in the same Region as Gareoult.
It is the only trophy that I consider to be worth anything, the only trophy in 36 years of hitting tennis balls. It means something to me because it was won against opponents who could play tennis, not against opposition who for some players are people to rack up your  trophy tally against.
I have seen trophy cabinets and mantle pieces laden with dozens of plastic and metal figurines that depict a tennis player in full flight, usually the one that resembles a server, you know the pose, the 'perfect' serve. That pose I have been trying to master for years but have fallen well short as mine is something that looks more like a 'frog in a blender' type of delivery.
So to those cabinets and mantle pieces full of figurines. I have often wondered why we put them out for people to see and is it to create a talking point of sorts, you know the one where the conversation revolves around your sporting 'expertise' ?
Mine certainly isn't, it's there because it reminds me of a time in my life when I came up against guys who were trying to make a living out of the sport and would play as though their life depended on it. Playing people with that sort of attitude towards tennis can give you an awakening that you have never experienced before. 
I believe it is the ultimate test and one that I would say can give you all the perspective you require if you are searching for perhaps some answers to your many questions as to how good you really are.
Part of me wishes I never took that trip in 1991 because it destroyed my personal view that I was a good tennis player but that's not how life works. If you go through life with that sort of attitude, the one that has you believing that you are a whole lot better than you actually are it will bite you on the arse eventually, no risk.
Remember that story I wrote some time back about a player who couldn't believe that they had finally lost a match after 2 years of glory ? Well that story is typical in a sport such as tennis because many play events that do not test you as a person or as a player.
For the record, my doubles partner and I beat the two that hadn't lost in 2 years by the score of 6-0 in a local Round Robin Doubles event. So where had the 'Super team' won their events ? Do the sums on that one.
I have openly said that I will not charge more than $40 per hour to 'teach' someone how to hit a tennis ball because there is more to tennis than just hitting a ball, we all know that. I will not be responsible for draining anyone's bank account just because I own a piece of paper that says I am 'Qualified' to do so.
The $70 and $80 per hour 'Zen Masters' can charge that price because they are comfortable with their knowledge on the sport, good on 'em. After 36 years I still struggle with the justification of charging a fee that is anything more than a coupla hours work in the 'Real World' just because I know more than the student.
We are all different but self justification and self importance in tennis may just be one of the biggest issues the sport owns.
I don't begrudge anyone who wants to place a trophy in full view but be honest with yourself as to where you won it.
I will leave my 'La Valette' trophy above the fire until the day my kids box it up and write on it 'Dad's Tennis Trophy from Europe'. Between you and me kids, it's the ONE trophy that shaped my silly mind in this silly sport called Tennis.......

Sunday, 21 May 2017

'TRADITION' ( LET IT GO )

I read something just recently regarding the ATP's new rule changes to be used at the Next Gen ATP Finals this November, 2017. The same word keeps coming up, 'Tradition'.
A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. ( Wikipedea )
There you have it, says it all doesn't it ? '....in the past'.
The ATP are endeavouring to make the sport more appealing to a wider audience and don't forget that they are also trying to hold on to a viewer's attention span that can wane after 3 or 4 hours of watching clay court tennis in particular.
I for one believe the idea will take off. Why ? Because it breaks from tradition and spices up something that is as stale as an old beer.
It dares to be different and it dares to challenge a system that has been around since the 12th Century when the palm of the hand was used to strike the ball before rackets were introduced in the 16th Century. Tennis goes back a long, long way and perhaps for that reason alone the ATP is in favour of trying something else. Traditions can get a little dull and uninteresting after a while.
My biggest argument against the current scoring system is that it favours the fitness Zen Masters who are too afraid to have a beer at night for fear they will lose half a step the next day when they play. The current scoring system does not reward bravery, it rewards players who have muscle tone in their eye brows.
The current system of tennis scoring is about as exciting as watching paint dry and grass grow. It does not dare to be imaginative, it asks a player to win by two, everything must be by two but life in general does not have to be won by two, you simply just have to get your nose over the line first to be successful in life.
If you look at a sport such as Golf you will see that there are around a dozen different ways to score including Four ball, Match play, Stroke play, Stableford and even Skins. Now the latter is a ripper though I have not seen a Skins Tennis Tournament for years.
I recall once Ivan Lendl won around $750,000 against Pat Cash in a winner take all Skins event where the losing Semi Finalists went home with around $250,000. I believe Ivan offered to buy Pat tea sometime which received a bit of a run in the Pat Cash book. Back to the main story.
In the 80's the sport of Squash received a much needed facelift which allowed either player to be awarded a point on the score board and not just by the player who served the ball as the original rules stipulated.
Either player was awarded the point whether they were serving or not which I suppose made a lot of sense as the original rule book was obviously written by someone who did not appreciate the receiver's efforts, it simply favoured the server.
Squash and Golf have evolved over time.
I have made mention in previous posts on this site that the new Doubles format for non Grand Slam events is rather entertaining in my eyes to say the least and it is almost an impossibility to 'own' the sport of doubles now as the Bryan Brothers have done in the past with over 100 tournament wins. It will never happen again.
Singles players can now beat Doubles players due to short deuces and third set super tie breakers which now reward cavalier type of play and it also does one very important thing, it actually brings singles players into the World of Doubles. Why ?
Time frame, matches are shorter, players participate now for some extra match play rather than do a boring hour in the gym. It's a win/ win situation now for all players on the tour.
To prove just how even the field is now in Mens Doubles on the ATP Tour you only have to look at this week's matches in Rome. Up to the Semi Final stage there were 22 matches played and no fewer than 11 went to a third set super tie breaker. The ATP would be rubbing their hands together with delight at this response to the new rule changes which I find to be nothing short of brilliant.
It has breathed some life back into a format that was becoming a burden to the smaller events rather than a spectacle.
For a player such as Nick Kyrgios to win a doubles match ( with Jack Sock ) against the Bryan Brothers proves the system is working beautifully. The playing field is now even, hallelujah.
So now for singles.
If the new system is introduced into the main ATP Tour we may never see a 'Big 4' again and we will never see someone like Rafa win 10 Barcelona titles, 10 Monte Carlo titles and 9 ( so far ) French Open titles because the sport will no longer favour the fitness fanatic. It will look after players such as Gael Monfils who lost the third set of Monte Carlo to Rafa two years ago 0-6 because he ran out of gas and let's face it, we all know Gael is good to watch for two sets until he gets tired.
Monfils is just one example, there are scores of shot makers out there who could give a top ten player a real fright on any given day with a 'tweak' in the rules, no risk at all. It will share the prize money around and the $350,000,000 or so that the Big 4 have won in Mens tennis will be a thing of the past as the top 400 players will all be able to afford a night on a bed rather than in the foyer of a Hotel.
The new rule change by the ATP for the up coming November event has more up side than down and who knows, it may even win over the 'traditionalists' of the sport......

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

'RULE CHANGE AT LAST'

The following is part of an article posted on the ATP site and personally, I think it's a ripper.
I wrote a Post just recently titled 'Time to Spice it Up' on this site as I believe that tennis rewards fitness robots and not shot makers, the latter draws crowds in. Fitness robots tend to put the crowd to sleep after 4 or 5 hours of rallying.
Guys like Rafa 'own' clay court events due to their ability to 'stay out there all day'. Watching paint dry can be more entertaining. It's why Rafa has won on that surface an 'obscene' amount of times.
Introduce the new rule and you will see as much variation in singles winners as there has been lately in doubles.
Check the recent events if you don't believe me, no team dominates doubles anymore due to the spice up in the rules.
If it's good enough for doubles then it's good enough for singles, there should be no discrimination between the formats.


ATP Announces Trial Of Rule Changes & Innovation For Next Gen ATP Finals In Milan


'The ATP has announced a series of rule changes and innovations set to be trialled at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan this November. The season-ending tournament will see the world’s top 21-and-Under players of the season competing for total prize money of US$ 1.275 million from 7-11 November.
The rule changes, aimed at creating a high-tempo, cutting-edge, and TV-friendly product, are geared towards attracting new and younger fans into the sport, while at the same time retaining the sport’s traditional fan-base. The following rule changes will be applied in Milan:
Get Tickets Now
-    Shorter Format: First to Four games sets (Tie-Break at 3-All), Best-of-Five sets, with No-Ad scoring
•   Shorter set format designed to increase number of pivotal moments in a match, while the best-of-five set format does not alter the number of games required to win a match (12) from the traditional scoring format. No-Ad scoring will be played (receiver’s choice).
-    Shorter Warm-Up
•   Matches will begin precisely 5 minutes from the second player walk-on, leading to a reduction in down time before the beginning of matches.'

So there you go, just part of an article recently written on the ATP site.
In all other sports you don't have to win by TWO. In tennis, well for some reason you have to win by TWO.
Golf ? One shot is plenty. Soccer ? A goal will do. AFL ? A point will be plenty to claim the match.
You see the pattern ?
Tennis is above all other sports with it's ridiculous scoring system, a system that is in desperate need of change to move with the times, to keep the public interested. Forget the 'traditionalists' of the game, most are no longer with us, time to move on.
At the end of this post I will repost part of an article I published last year .
GT has been on to this idea for a while now.
Seems the ATP is also starting to realise that the sport needs a facelift for the good of the game.
Black and white television is a thing of the past, so is the current tennis scoring system. Do I practice what I preach ?
Ten years ago I 'invented' a new tournament to the local tennis calendar here in 'Sleepy Hollow', went down a treat.
Different scoring, no lets on serve, etc, etc, all the bells and whistles, was easy to see way back then that tennis scoring needed a tweak.
All of a sudden Tennis Australia introduced 'Fast 4' and the ATP introduce this 'new' idea.
'Blind Freddy' could see years ago that this 'new' scoring system was in desperate need of being introduced, finally others have.
Changing my name to 'Fred', I saw it........... 


'28/8/2016'


I wrote this last year, part of a post that had a 'shot' at the current tennis scoring system.....


'Personally I love the format of Mens doubles in World tennis as it takes away the 'ho hum' type of feeling to matches that can drag on to say 15-13 in the fifth set and leave a player as cannon fodder for their next opponent.
Isner and Mahut proved the theory wrong that 'a match has to end sometime'. Their match took three days at Wimbledon to complete which not only stuffs a tournament around but also stuffs a player out.
Tennis needs a bit of a tweak just as they have done in doubles, it requires a spice up, a change of format just as twenty, twenty cricket has revived the sport in general. Tennis rewards the guys prepared to stay out there all day, not necessarily the shot makers who are the more entertaining ones to watch most of the time.
Two sets all in singles, bring in the Super tie breaker, add some life to a sport that needs to move ahead just as other sports have done by tweaking the format.
Remember the crowd also has to go home at a respectable hour....... 

Monday, 15 May 2017

'TENNIS INSIDERS.COM, 2014'


Found this a few years back, worth another post, it's nothing short of brilliant and puts the sport of tennis into perspective.


 Word for word from 'tennis insiders.com';
'Right now there are about 14 US players on the ATP and WTA tours who are earning a net profit. They span about 17.5 years of playing on tour. That means that the US as a Country produces about 8 1/10's of one paying job per year as a pro tennis player. If you are pushing your child for that 8 1/10's of one job then you need to have your head examined.
The pro tennis system is broken beyond belief. It is nothing short of a flat out Business catastrophe perpetrated against our sport .... but it is still our catastrophe. So unless you are going to start a new pro tour ..... you are looking at 80 percent of one paying job per year. 
It cracks me up that the 100's of 1000's of dollars that people spend on their kid's tennis, berating them after their losses, devoting their entire family's live's to the cause ..... only to find out that the average professional tennis player loses money as opposed to makes it.
People look at Anna Dok and Maria as the norm when they should be going to Number 759 on the rankings to give that guy a call. His life is slightly different than limousine's and cheering crowds.'


INTERESTING STATISTICS TO SAY THE LEAST. A sport not for the faint hearted or those who don't own a large Bank account.....





Sunday, 14 May 2017

'THE STRANGEST TENNIS MATCH'

This is part of an article that could be described as one of Tennis's greatest ever conspiracies.....

Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) is a Wall Street Journal correspondent and editor-at-large for Tennis Magazine. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic and Men’s Journal.

What Went Wrong at the Strangest Tennis Match You Never Knew Occurred?

Davis Cup. Pakistan versus New Zealand. In Myanmar. Where a referee’s decision to call off the competition cost Pakistan a likely win, inspired charges of racial prejudice, and caused bewildered Kiwis to fear for their lives.
Perhaps the strangest tennis match in history — the one that began but never ended — happened in Myanmar last year. It was the Davis Cup. Pakistan was up one match on New Zealand when the referee, in a controversial and unprecedented decision, called off the entire contest because the grass courts had become unplayable. The default elicited cries of racial prejudice from the Pakistani side and all-around bewilderment on the part of the Kiwis. It led to changes in International Tennis Federation procedures for the Davis Cup and further exposed flaws in the competition’s format. And still, more than a year later, it’s difficult to be sure what exactly happened that hot afternoon in Yangon.
The tie1 began on a muggy April day. Pakistan hadn’t hosted a Davis Cup tie since 2005, before the ITF deemed the country too dangerous, a view still shared by most every sporting authority in the world. After years of playing on the road, this was Pakistan’s first chance to designate a neutral site. They chose the Pun Hlaing Country Club in Yangon, Myanmar, which is home to a Gary Player–designed golf course and two grass tennis courts.
Aqeel Khan, 34, won the first singles match of the tie against New Zealand’s Artem Sitak. Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, also 34 and one of the world’s best doubles players and the most accomplished Pakistani player ever, split the first two sets of the second match against Daniel King-Turner. Qureshi led 3-0 in the third set when the referee, Asitha Attygala, a Sri Lankan who now lives in Australia, stepped onto the worn court, poked his pen into a deepening hole behind the baseline, and called off the tie. Final score: New Zealand 4, Pakistan 1, with all four of the winning nation’s victories coming by default due to unsuitable playing conditions. It was the first such result in Davis Cup history and one of the lowest moments in the competition’s 115-year existence.
Pakistan plays for redemption this weekend against Thailand. If Pakistan wins, it will graduate from Group II to Group I, the second-highest division in Davis Cup, below the World Group. (Thailand won the first two singles matches of the tie Friday and leads 2-0; Pakistan won its previous tie on the road against Philippines after trailing 2-0.) Pakistan won often enough to remain in Group I from 2003 through 2006; in 2005, the last year it held a home tie, it came within one victory of the World Group. Since 2007, it has fallen as far as Group III and never returned to Group I. But nothing that happens in Thailand will erase the memory of last year’s defeat in Myanmar.
“I never like to use this word, discrimination or racism, even though I have faced it on a personal level many times, being a Pakistani and a Muslim,” Qureshi said. “It has never happened in the Davis Cup history, why did it happen against Pakistan? If it was Australia, England, any other European country, this was not going to happen. No matter how bad the courts.”
Kris Dent, executive director of professional tennis at the ITF, which runs the Davis Cup, denies the charge. “It was a very unfortunate situation and I have great respect and admiration for Qureshi,” he said. “He’s correct that it wouldn’t happen to anyone else, because they wouldn’t prepare such poor courts to be played on. I have huge sympathy for Qureshi on this. He was let down by his association.”
That's possibly one of the greatest farces in modern day tennis history, here's another, courtesy of JAKE CURTIS......


LENS/Associated Press
One verbal outburst transformed Lleyton Hewitt's 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory over James Blake in 2001 from a thrilling second-round match into a racial controversy.
An African American linesman twice called Hewitt for foot faults on critical points in the third set against Blake, who has an African American father and white British mother.  
Hewitt did not like the calls and, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer report that cited a transcript provided by the U.S. Open, Hewitt complained to umpire Andreas Egli: "Change him, change him. I have only been foot-faulted at one end. OK. Look at him. Look at him, and you tell me what the similarity is. Just get him off the court. Look at what he's done." (See video here.)
The crowd jeered Hewitt at the end of the match, believing his reference to "the similarity" was racially motivated.
U.S. Open officials did not fine or reprimand Hewitt, who claimed his comments were not racist. Blake took the high road, saying, "I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt," as per The Telegraph.
AND ONE MORE
A recipe for controversy was served up in 1979 when 20-year-old John McEnroe faced 33-year-old Ilie Nastase in a second-round match scheduled to start at 9 p.m

The match degenerated amid the antics of the two provocative players, and, according to the Bill Scanlon book Bad News for McEnroe: Blood, Sweat, and Backhands with John, Jimmy, Ilie, Ivan, Bjorn and Vitas, the crowd began booing and throwing paper cups and beer cans toward the court.
When Nastase pretended to go to sleep on the baseline in the third set, according to The Telegraph, chair umpire Frank Hammond issued a warning to Nastase. Later, Hammond hit Nastase with a penalty point and then a penalty game, giving McEnroe a 3-1 lead in the third set after McEnroe had won the first two sets.
Nastase still refused to play, so tournament referee Mike Blanchard instructed Hammond to put Nastase on the clock. After about a minute of continued inactivity by Nastase, Hammond defaulted Nastase, which brought on 18 minutes of what the Scanlon book described as "mob rule." The crowd of 10,000 was in a frenzy, fights broke out in the stands and security guards and police were called in.
In an attempt to restore order, tournament director Bill Talbert intervened, reinstating Nastase and replacing Hammond with Blanchard as the chair umpire.
McEnroe won the match in four sets, and McEnroe said in his autobiography Serious, excerpt provided by Tennis-Buzz.com, that he and Nastase went to dinner together afterward.


Entertaining sport it is.....








Friday, 12 May 2017

'YOU DO THE SUMS'

I have always been fascinated by things in tennis that I suppose 'normal' people would simply take for granted. My silly mind dissects certain score lines and circumstances like a Professor might dissect a frog in a Science lesson.
It's something that I have owned since I was a kid though at times I wish I hadn't delved into the nuts and bolts of it all so much particularly when I was playing tournaments. Sometimes the wavering mind can be your own worst enemy on a tennis court.
Now days I look at Pro Tournaments and wonder how on earth did certain things happen the way they did yet I always come back with the same answer most times, ' It's simply the nature of tennis, tough sport'.
The current tournament in Madrid has thrown me a ridiculous amount of dialogue for my strange mind to digest, dissect and spit out, so to speak. There have been story lines aplenty and score lines that defy logic.
At times it doesn't make a whole lot of sense but when it comes to tennis I will ask you the obvious question 'What does make sense' ?
Gael Monfils was seeded 15 and received possibly one of the toughest first round assignments, in more ways than one. Gilles Simon is one of his Davis Cup team mates and is ranked 32. Between them they have won just over 24 Million Dollars in their rather illustrious careers with Monfils a lazy one mil in front of his Countryman but who's counting by this stage ?
Now at a first set score line of 6-0 to Monfils you would have to question whether Simon was simply going through the motions due to the difficulty of playing a good friend in a major championship. Circumstances like this can play on anyone's mind.
At the completion of set number 2 the score card read as follows; 0-6, 6-0. Yep Simon returned the bagel that was dished out to him by his buddy in the first, anything you can do.........
Third set, all the way to a tie breaker, makes sense hey ??! One more twist in this rather strange match, the tie breaker score. You guessed it, bagel to Simon, 7-0. Remember, tennis isn't supposed to make sense.
Borna Coric of Croatia is a bloody good tennis player, in fact he just won an event in Morocco, he is ranked 59. Coric however was not 'good enough' to make it into the main draw in Madrid so he was forced to play the qualifying event where he lost to Kukushkin who is ranked 21 places lower than him. Yes I told you it all makes sense.
Borna Coric though is literally a lucky young man and received a ticket through to the main draw despite his loss to Kukushkin as two players pulled out through injury. Coric initially made just under $4,500 Euros in losing early in the qualifying but hey, what not ride your good fortune while you can and take out World Number 1 Andy Murray while you are at it ?
You see that's tennis for you, it defies logic, guys who are playing qualifying events still own all the shots that a walk up main draw player does, they simply do not own the grey matter to do it consistently until the brain eventually gains the understanding required at that level.
The straight sets 6-3, 6-3 win by Coric over Murray in the Round of 16 was in a way outrageous in it's simplicity but if you own any title on the ATP Tour you own what the game asks of you to be successful. It just goes to show that the gap between 1 and 50 is minimal.
Coric went home with just over $130,000 Euros, not a bad increase from his qualifying loss pay cheque.
Jared Donaldson of the US can also lay claim to being a lucky type of guy as he claimed the other 'Lucky Loser's' position in the main draw after getting beaten at the same stage in qualifying as Coric.
Donaldson is only 20 years of age, born the same year as Coric and is steadily improving his ranking which now sits at 78 and his second round prize of just under $36,000 Euros will go a long way to helping fund the rest of his season.
Two players, same age, similar rankings, similar standard, both were on a plane flight out of Madrid after qualifying losses, instead they both had success in the main draw and picked up a tidy sum of Euros after some luck and some great play all rolled into one.
The good players know how to make the most of their chances in this sport.
For the record Gilles Simon lost his next match, again it went to a third set tie breaker but this time he was not so dominant and Lopez took the points 7-3. In fact if you follow Gilles at all on the tour you would be on the edge of your seat in many of his matches as he usually finds a way to keep you entertained.
His first round doubles in Madrid finished with another nail biting loss, 5-7, 7-6, 10-8 to Baker and Monroe.
Do you need nerves of steel to play Pro Tennis ? You do the sums..........