Posted on: January 16, 2010 12:25 pm

Tennis Channel on the Sidelines. Again.

As a rabid tennis fan, I'm happy to see the first big open tournament of the season in order to see how players are doing after a crazy 2009.

I am even happier that the Tennis Channel and NBC can't ruin it with their sub-par broadcasting.  ESPN and CBS really know how to present sports:  in general I am not inundated with too much fluff or off-topic talk. If I want to know who's dating whom or what kind of fashion the people wear, I can turn to E or pick up a gossip rag.  When I'm watching sports, I want to hear about the sports.  Tell me how they train. That's ok.  Tell me what they eat.  Passable.  Tell me about the issues facing the game or rules and regs that may change.  Good.  DON'T bother me with hair product (Gimmestob's obsession last year with Verdasco.  A line of commentary meant to be a joke that wasn't, and it went on longer than Energizer's bunny.)  Don't tell me about the flavor of the month whom a player is dating.  Not interested, especially during points.  Want to do extracurricular stuff?  OK.  Do it in a pre-game or post game show.  Not during the event.

So, ESPN will be broadcasting most of the event, with the Tennis Channel picking up the slack.  It's really sad.  Tennis Channel had a real opportunity here.  However, unlike the NBA, NFL and MLB channels, they squandered it.  Instead of focusing on tennis broadcasting and providing info on the game, it's turned into a mash-up of racket sport shows.  There's an MTV Cribs knockoff, a travel show (not bad, but why?), documentaries (nice, at least), racketball and squash matches/tourneys (unecessary filler for a channel named after tennis ) and a host of infomercials.  They got some top talent (Connors, Navratilova, for example), and they are on the sidelines.  Maybe they wanted it that way, but it's kind of odd, given their career history and their general proactivity on issues and sports politics.  The NBA and NFL had a lot of original programming and benefitted from films they themselves produce.  MLB has been building itself with similar programming and new shows based solely on the game.  Tennis channel has not.  The "Academy" show aside, it has done little to create original programming on the game or create a niche for programming that already exists.  For example, ESPN is showing last year's Australian Open matches leading up to the event in order to warm people up and give them an idea of what might be this year.  Tennis Channel is not.  It's taken a "Oh, by the way, the Australian Open is on some time soon..."

So, once again, if you want your sports, turn to ESPN or CBS.  They can be dry at times. They can be a non-sports fan's nightmare with how focused they are.  But you are getting sports.  All of it.  From people who like the sports they are broadcasting, know something about the games, and understand a fan's desire to take it all in.
Category: Tennis
Posted on: November 16, 2009 4:25 pm

ATP Rankings: Surprise! 1,2,3= Fed, Nadal, Djoko

OK.  It's been an interesting year.  After all, we saw Federer lose at the Australian Open and declare later that he was happy that the hard court season was over.  We saw Nadal go on a tear until the French Open when he fell due to injury and could not play until the US Open series.  We saw one of the best finals ever (Nadal v Djokovic) which went on for 4 hours in Monte Carlo. We saw both Nadal and Djoko go through some rough patches, but both have come back pretty strongly, as evinced by their performance in Paris this weekend.

We also saw some players whom many pundits saw as contenders NOT do so well.  Murray has been hampered by injury, but he still has a consistency problem.  Simon, too, has had to struggle with knee problems, as had Roddick.  However, some others don't really have an excuse.  Monfils is great when he's on, but he is the not the king of consistency.  Ditto, Soderling.  Verdasco has been around the top 10 like some sort of a yoyo, going from 8 to 15 to 9 and so forth.  Yes, he's been hampered recently, but not to the scale of Nadal or Simon.  The most glaring under performer for me is Del Potro.  I like the guy, but it seems that the hype got to him.  Not in the ego way but in the sense that he seems to be dealing with pressures for which he wasn't completely prepared. 

Regardless, it's interesting that the top 3 last year and for several years now are still the top 3 now.  In spite of all the challenges and setbacks, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic keep defying the critics and the pundits.  It just goes to show you that all of these "professionals" and "analysts" need to do some more studying.  Look, when Johnnie Mac or Mats Wilander speak about tennis and what it's like to be a champion, I'll listen.  When I hear the others talk, I tune out.  Why?  Because unless you've been at the top you have no clue what it's like.  You can try to imagine, but it's not the same as having the mentality and the experience.  Federer knows what it's like to be Number 1 and to stay there.  Nadal knows what it's like to play at that level, and Djoko knows what it's like to be there with them.  And all three are fairly honest about how they feel, what they are experiencing and what they hope to achieve.

So, when I hear that there's someone providing a new challenge, I welcome it, but let's remember this:  Just because others are improving does not mean that the champs aren't also improving.  What?  You think that they stop training? To hear the pundits, you'd think that these guys are complacent men who have nothing to do.  Right.  As Federer noted once, being number 1 is nice, but winning the championships is what you get paid to do.  That brings endorsements.  If you win enough, you'll get to the top. Nadal says being number one doesn't matter as much to him as winning the big tournaments.  Believe it.  He loves to play.  The fire in him is stoked by competition.  He lost sleep over the French Open, not his ranking.  And Djoko will still be around to keep them honest and provide some company for Nadal.  (It was Djoko who was among the entourage of 3 in London for the announcement about his Wimbledon withdrawal.)  2010 is going to be interesting, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see the same 3 in the top spots next year at this time.  They're that good.
Category: Tennis
Tags: ATP rankings
Posted on: October 16, 2009 3:06 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2009 3:18 pm

ATP: Get a Clue! Players Need a Break.

Who knew that Rafa Nadal's injury was a warning cry - not to his camp - but to the the tennis executives who manage the schedule?

I was watching the match between Nadal and Lubicic today, and I witnessed yet another player leave an event due to injury.  How many does that make?  Let's see.  Since October 11, the following players have had to retire from the Shanghai Maters 1000 event due to injury:  Ivan Lubicic (CRO) - Right Hip, Stanilaw Wawrinka (SUI) - Abdomen, Tommy Haas (GER) - Right Shoulder, Gael Monfils (FRA) - Back, Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) - Right Wrist, Tommy Haas (GER) - Right Shoulder, Andy Roddick (USA) - Left Knee, Mischa Zverev (GER) - Right Wrist, Jose Acasuso (ARG) - Left Knee, Brendan Evans (USA) - Unknown.  10 players in one event in one week.  What's going on here?  Andy Roddick at his post-match press conference said, "It's ridiculous to think that you have a professional sport that doesn't have a legitimate offseason to rest, get healthy, and then train."

How did it get this bad?  Simple: when the players' union and tournament operations merged under the ATP umbrella, the players somehow became marginalized.  Their ability to effect change and be a part of the process was diminished, and money became the overriding concern.  No one's knocking the need to make a profit, but if it is done at the expense of the players who are the ones meant to draw in the crowds, that's just boneheaded.  Plus, if players are required to play at tournaments with poor attendance, then what is the point?

Of course, there will be those who argue that there are so many players out there, that there is a need for many events to allow the lower ranked players a chance at moving up.  OK.  But, there is a better way.  If you look at the UEFA model, for example, where you have a host of teams, the countries have a two-tiered system in which the teams are divided into separate leagues.  Consider the UK or Spain.  Higher-performing teams are in the top tier (the English Barclay's Premier League or Spanish Primera Liga), and the rest fall into the 2nd divisions (English Coca Cola league or Spanish Liga Adelante).  The top teams, of course, make it to the top of the first tier leagues, but the lower performing teams of the first tier can be relegated to the second division; whereas the second division teams at the top can be elevated if they perform well.

The same can be done for tennis.  Place the top 50 or 100 into the first division, and the next 100 into the second division. The rest can compete in lower leagues for the chance to enter the second division and move up.  Keep the 4 Grand Slams open for all who qualify, and maintain the standard that the top 30 players must play the slams plus 8/9 Masters 1000 events, but cut the total of mandatory events from 18 to 16 or even 15.  For the second division, they'd have to play the slams plus 9/10 Masters 500 events, and they'd also have 15-16 tourneys a year.  It's just a thought.

No one is claiming that it will be easy to overhaul or modify the system, but it's time to consider that the current system is broken.  Players are falling due to injury.  They are not be considered in the equation, and they are the main chunk of that equation.  How is it that other sports' players are rightly viewed as athletes, but tennis players get short shrift?  There can be as much running with as much intensity as basketball, and they need major core strength. Even baseball players get "athlete" status, and I ask you:  When was the last time you saw a fat tennis player?  Something must be resolved soon, or we risk losing more players and perhaps for good.

Category: Tennis
Posted on: July 2, 2009 2:30 pm

A Tale of Two Champions: Wimbledon W Semis

SO, I was sitting here awaiting the first semi-final between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva and thinking about the Australian Open semi, and I have to admit that I was not optimistic about Dementieva's chances.  Then, they began the match, and it turned out to be one of the best matches in years.  YEARS!  Both women showed tenacity, heart, skill, and will.  Nothing was left to give on either side.  In the end, it came down to nerves, and Serena was clearly more in control, but only by the slightest margin.
After seeing that match, I thought:  "Wow!  Venus and Dinara's match will be close to this good.  I mean, Venus will be ready for a fight, and Dinara will feed the need to assert herself.  After all, very few people in the media (Brad Gilbert among the most vocal) felt that Safina was not truly the number 1 player.  Sure, she had the points, but she choked.  She had the skill, but she'd leave them in the locker room.  She had the desire, but she lacked the heart.  OK, that should change.  Right?
HEADLINE ON WIMBLEDON SITE:  "Venus destroys Safina in 51 minutes"Go to
07021246535434796.html for the full story
Okay, so I was wrong.  It was a sad display by Safina.  The score says it all:  6-1, 6-0.
  1. You need a lot more than statistics and a ranking to play at a major;
  2. Safina is her won worst enemy.  Psychologically, she cannot hang with the big girls;
  3. Damn, Venus is good!
Look, I really like Dinara Safina.  She wants to do well, and she does not want to disappoint anyone.  However, her scream a few months ago:  "Why am I such a chicken?" explains a lot.  If she can't believe in herself, she will not overcome the hurdle of the Big Game.  Of course, Venus played inspired tennis.  She played like the champion that she is.  I expect no less.  However, I'd like her to have an opponent worthy of being across the net from her.... especially if that opponent holds the #1 ranking.
What do you think?
Posted on: June 28, 2009 10:20 am

And Another Thing, Jankovic!

She's been on the WTA tour since 2001.  I expect a lot more from a veteran player than a newcomer 17-year-old. To put down the newcomer's game when she's just starting out (and impressively is in a Major) is stupid and out of line.  Plus, with eight years under her belt, Jankovic has no excuses.  The sense of entitlement this chick feels is incredible.  She has NO Grand Slam title, yet she wants to be treated like Venus or Martina would be.  She'll never get that championship play is usually paired with championship understanding.  Johnnie Mac may have been a pain in the butt, but he understood the game, his competition, and the history.  Buy a vowel, Jankovic.
Category: Tennis
Tags: Jankovic
Posted on: June 27, 2009 5:29 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2009 5:30 pm

(No) Surprise!: Jankovic Out of Wimbledon

Here we go again with excuses and delusion from Jelena Jankovic:
1.  "It's the heat"
2.  "It's the conditions"
3.  "I have a stomach problem"

But wait!  There's more!:

From ESPN:  "She cannot hurt you with anything," Jankovic said. "She doesn't have any weapons from what I've seen. If I felt a little bit more fresh at the end of that second set, I could have won in two sets.... She doesn't make so many mistakes. But she doesn't do anything either, so it's like she's depending kind of on you."  Jankovic attributed her loss to "woman problems.... After the first set, I felt really dizzy, and I thought that I was just going to end up in the hospital. I started to shake. I was losing my -- how you say -- consciousness. I was really going to lose it, you know, to fall down and just, you know, probably go -- call the ambulance and leave the court."

"Woman problems"?  Wait!  Is she blaming her loss on her period?  Are you kidding me?!!  Note to Jelena:  You did get hurt, and by the same person you claim can't do that.  She is only 17; so, not having a game like Serena is forgivable, but she had enough to stay in the match and get you.  By the way, Jelena, I know what it's like to play sports, and I am woman.  I can also tell you: You're pathetic. You play the game in whatever conditions and with whatever issues.  Period.  Did Serena give up while her legs are taped up like barber poles?  No.

Geez.  What happened to the days when people just played poorly?  Once again Jelena Jankovic proves that she does not deserve to be in these tourneys.  Her attitude is poor, and her personality is worse.  What else can you say about someone who is a drama queen by reputation, and who cannot acknowledge that someone got the best of her?  Say what you will about Serena, but she will always grudgingly admit when she screwed the pooch and that her opponent had the better day.  She may be bitter about, but I'll accept that.  At least she cares enough to get upset.

Let's compare apples to apples here:  Do you hear Ivanovic crying foul about how hard it is to be a woman and play?  That's a girl who's had her ups and downs/peaks and valleys.  Did you hear Sharapova blaming her shoulder for her loss, outside of saying that she's on the road back from recovery?  No.  And you won't.  People blame Djoko for his dramatic moments, but at least the guy backs it up with talent.  The only thing backing up Jelena's excuses is another excuse.
Category: Tennis
Tags: Jankovic
Posted on: June 22, 2009 10:21 am

Wimbledon! Yeah!

It's here!  The Championships: Wimbledon has arrived.
So far it has proven to be quite a year in Men's tennis.  At the same time, many things remain the same. We see Federer resurgent, but who called him out anyway?  Perhaps it's all the science and stats that I do, but I firmly believe in and understand waves.  So what that Fed had an off year in 2007? For anyone else, it would be a career high.  Give the guy a break.  He has other things on his plate, and he's allowed to have a life... and have moments of failure and/or doubt.  We don't see Nadal, which is a bummer.  Outside of the friendliest rivalry around, it's just fun to know he's around.  He brings dynamism, excitement, and decency to the game.  It shows that Federer is not alone in being a decent and well-mannered person.  I look forward to seeing Nadal, but I look forward to seeing him healthy; so, I wish him well and hope that his recovery is a full one.  (Note to Rafa:  Call Darren Cahill.  He knows a thing or two about knee injuries and managing pain and your sport.  If nothing else, he'll understand exactly what you're going through.)  Nevertheless, things remain the same.  Everyone still talks about Roger and Rafa.
A nice and refreshing change is to see Murray finally get it all together and live up to his own talent and expectations.  He seems to be enjoying himself now, and he has definitely matured.  There are still moments of impatience, but he still manages to focus at the right times.  With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Novak Djokovic does after suffering disappointment in both Australia - where he was the defending champion - and France - where he just didn't bring the A game.  I know that people have issues with Djoko (I have had them), but he is talented and he does give good game most of the time.  Seeing Andy Roddick with more motivation (of that's possible) and more determination (what?) is nice to see.  I have never been a critic of Andy's.  In fact, I don't get the critics where he's concerned.  He's nowhere near as bad in behavior and manners as Connors (the worst) and Mac (more strategic and - many times - for principle).  [i discuss Americans here.  Ilie Nastase takes the cake in poor sportsmanship and bad manners in my book.  Feel free to offer other names.  This is also about Men's Tennis; so, no Serena haters allowed to comment.]  Regardless, Andy apologizes.  He realizes when he errs, and he admits it, and he doesn't fight the fight in the media.  It's one-on-one.  Remember the misunderstanding with Djoko last year at the US Open?  In terms of decency, I applaud someone who skips a tournament to protest prejudice and injustice and in support of a colleague - especially when the colleague is in another, separate league and you have no stake in the argument except for the moral one.  Very cool.
James Blake has just lost in his opening match.  Again, no surprise.  I like Blake, but the guy underwhelms me on the court. Where is the brilliance we saw with Andre Agassi a few years ago?  Grrr.....  James, find that center!
Even before the tournament started we saw how things change and don't:  Nadal announced that he would not, could not play due to recurring problems with the knees.  Murray had practiced with Rafa before matches to help him out and to hang out with a bud.  Roger - as usual - decided to reserve his comments for Rafa's ears only.  Yes, he made a statement, but he didn't offer anything more.  He knew what Rafa was going through, and this very private man didn't care to involve the press in the personal stuff.  Djokovic stuck around after the news conference and stayed with the Nadal camp until they left the grounds (around 10pm).  He didn't have to do it, but then again - he did.  Decency compelled him to be with his friend.  Cool.  Very cool.
Now, let's see what happens on the grass!
Category: Tennis
Tags: rafa, roger
Posted on: June 17, 2009 5:17 pm

Wimbledon: Tennis Channel/ESPN/NBC Shudders

OK.  We have less than a week to go before the next big tennis tournament.  Once again, I am left wondering if Tennis Channel will bombard us with useless trivia (anyone for more comments on hair products?), or will they actually talk tennis?  More to the point, will we see any tennis?  I shudder.  They did well in Australia, but they've tanked on the others (except those not covered together with NBC).  I'm going to wait and see, but I'm nervous.  PLEASE do better than you did at the French, you guys!!!
Category: Tennis
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