In the absence of any interesting results or news, I thought I would highlight a recent interview with Pete Sampras. Contrary to rumours he hasn’t put on 20 pounds, and sounds pretty happy. <br /><br />Just for fun, I counted the number of times he used the word “Golf”. It was 17.<br /><br /><a href=http://www.tennis.com/ProGame/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=72956&itype=1296>http://www.tennis.com/ProGame/fullstory.sps?iNewsid=72956&itype=1296</a>
Haas beat Kiefer in the LA final yesterday. Haas is due a run back into the top 20 after missing 2003 with injury. In his acceptance speech, he said:<br /><br />”Little titles like this are important to me.” <br /><br />Little titles? OK, it’s not the US Open, but I doubt the crowd in LA appreciated that. Look at who has won the title in the past: Agassi, Sampras, Chang, Courier, Edberg, Becker, McEnroe. Not a bad list. <br /><br />Another Sunday, another bad quote. The Williams Sisters award for ungracious comments this week goes to… Venus Williams. After losing to Lindsay Davenport in a very tight Stanford final 7-6 5-7 7-6 which lasted nearly 3 hours, Venus said:<br /><br />”I know it wasn’t my best match. If I would have played decent, I would have won.”<br /><br />That’s it. Give your opponent some credit. <br /><br />Finally, I hate to criticise other writers, but whoever wrote this about the Williams-Davenport match on the WTA website should be embarassed:<br /><br />”The final matchup at Stanford was a unique matchup featuring two former World No.1s battling for the fourth time in the championship match of the same event, each looking for their third title at that tournament.” <br /><br />Sweet Jesus. Where do you start? Fourth unique matchup? There’s a coherent thought in there somewhere, but a few numbers got in the way.
It’s a shame when a talented player like Marcelo Rios has to retire at only 28. Although not universally liked by the fans, he was certainly outspoken and very lively (by lively I mean partying hard and attacking policemen. Allegedly).<br /><br />You can check out his career profile here:<br /><a href=http://www.atptennis.com/en/players/playerprofiles/default2.asp?playernumber=R286>http://www.atptennis.com/en/players/playerprofiles/default2.asp?playernumber=R286</a><br /><br />A pretty impressive career it is too. The highlight is 1998 – #1 in the world, 7 titles plus the Australian final to boot. He also won 5 masters series titles, which is pretty good going – only Agassi (16), Sampras (11), Muster (8), and Chang (7) have won more (there are a few others on 5 as well).<br /><br />In that Aus Open final, I was rooting for Korda. Now I wish Rios had won: Korda’s legacy to the sport was a drugs story and those stupid scissor-kicks that were horribly unfunny. Rios looked like a bad boy and often behaved like one, on and off court. But I wish he was still playing – he gave the sport a bit of an edge.<br /><br /><a href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/3902041.stm>http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/3902041.stm</a> – good bbc piece on Rios.
Sad to say, this story won’t die. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has rubbished the ATP’s drugs policy in a report about the recent positive tests for nandrolone. WADA think that the recent positive tests are not due to a contaminated electrolyte given out by the ATP.<br /><br />Frankly, this is a shambles. The ATP think they might have given players banned substances. The WADA think this is unrealistic, and have criticised the ATP tribunals and various expert testimonies as hearsay and unscientific.<br /><br />So what are WADA saying? Effectively, the following:<br />1. There are/were lots of players on the ATP tour with higher than normal nandrolone in their system<br />2. Their cases are remarkably similar, in terms of the quantity of nandrolone present<br />3. It’s not the ATP providing them with the stuff<br /><br />Therefore, we are left with a rather unpalatable set of conclusions.<br /><br />Either:<br />- coincidentally, lots of players are taking drugs to improve performance, all of almost identical quantities, on their own<br />- or there is a wide-ranging doping programme run by someone other than the ATP.<br /><br />However – the traces of nandrolone are so low they would hardly benefit performance, if at all. Which makes you wonder what the motivation is to take something with lots of downside but no upside. If you are going to take drugs, you might as well get a benefit. Otherwise, what’s the point?<br /><br />Who do you believe? Players who say they are innocent, the ATP or WADA? Take your pick.<br /><br />For more, see <a href=http://www.wada-ama.org/en/t1.asp>http://www.wada-ama.org/en/t1.asp</a><br /><a href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/3900689.stm>http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/tennis/3900689.stm</a>
Milestone for Andre. Not winning 1st round in LA specifically, but he has notched the 800th win of career. Here is the top win-loss list for singles in the Open era (Source ATP tennis), and it’s a pretty impressive list.<br /><br />Connors 1222 – 269 <br />Lendl 1070 – 238 <br />Vilas 920 – 281 <br />McEnroe 867 – 192 <br />Edberg 806 – 270 <br />Agassi 800(and counting) – 248 <br />Sampras 762 – 222 <br /><br />I’ll blog the tournament wins another time.
Tennis players often use percentages to measure their performance. Unlike football managers, who talk of the “the lads giving 110%”, tennis is more realistic. Agassi, who has scotched any idea of retirement for now, was quoted at the Hall of Fame ceremony about missing Wimbledon and his hip problem:<br /><br />”the other option was to be in pain on the court, moving at 50 percent,” he said. “Between the clay and the grass, I was 30 percent the player that I expect myself to be.”<br /><br />From Agassi, you accept that analysis. But somehow, when it’s the Williams sisters, it’s more annoying. Serena got a lot of flak for saying she was only 20% during her Wimbledon run as she barely lost a game till the semi. And fair enough. It’s a bit disrespectful to the other players to win one-and-one and claim to be playing badly. And now Venus is in on the act. Quoted today in Reuters, she said: “I know that when it comes to the abilities I have, no one on tour can match that.”<br /><br />Really? I hardly think Venus is the best player on the tour. She’s not even the best player in her own family.
I see Wilander has made some interesting comments about the Olympics. His point is that it should have bigger ranking points to attract the big names, and this will build the tradition. If it looks like a 2nd tier event, it is embarassing compared to all the other sports where the Olympics is the pinnacle.<br /><br />It’s a good argument, but only one problem. Wimbledon started in 1877. It’s hard to compete with that kind of tradition. However, as the games com around just every 4 years, you would expect a bit more enthusiasm from the players. As usual, Agassi has the right attitude. He loved winning the Olympics, and rates it as a career highlight. Maybe he got the buzz from Steffi. They are the only players to have won all four slams plus the Olympics (although Graf did it all in one year, 1988).<br /><br />The Olympic title will never mean the same as a slam. But given a better schedule and a bit more thought, it could be just as important as the masters title at the end of the year, or any other so-called “5th slam”. <br /><br />Perhaps the ATP could move the schedule around so that the games is the culmination of a series of events, like a slam is? They could also increase the field to 128 from 64. And if the masters events are a compulsory part of your ranking, why not the Olympics?<br /><br />Give the top 50 or so players auto entry whatever nationality, and allocate the rest of the places according to countries who qualify /apply which is in keeping with the spirit of the games.<br /><br />And allow coaches beside the players, like Davis Cup. It adds to the drama.<br /><br />Either that, or make it an under-21s event (like football does).
First, a quick note on this week’s winners. Federer playing in Gstaad I have mentioned before. This is his first home tournament win, and his 7th title of the year. If he wins the US Open in Sept, it would be his 3rd slam of the year. No-one has done that since Wilander in 88.<br /><br />Rusedski won in Newport, and if he gets a few more points in the next week or two, will get auto entry to the US Open, which means he is back on track. I wrote before that his career might go into freefall, but I am happy to be proved wrong.<br /><br />Now, let look at this week coming up. Is anyone else confused by the schedule? We have the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. And the Mercedes-Benz Cup in LA. After last weeks Bastaad/Gstaad this is getting silly. Plus there is the Priority Telecom Open in Amersfoort (Netherlands), which looking at the draw is hardly a priority for the top players.<br /><br />This is the time of year where tennis loses out. The US Open tune-ups start, and there are two European clay events going on. It doesn’t make sense. These clay events aren’t much use to anybody in terms of preparation for the bigger titles. The draws are fairly empty, the crowds are often small, and the clay season is basically over. It just seems a bit fragmented. You can’t blame the fans or promoters, who want to take tennis to other countries. There are too many events in the US as it is. But in the next few weeks there are also the Austrian, Polish and Croatian clay events. It feels like a separate tour – like the US/European tours in golf. Is that what we want?<br /><br />The overall schedule needs a big overhaul.
another tournament, for Roger F. He does commit himself to playing the Swiss Open after Wimbledon, and good for him. Home country, and all that. He got to the final last year, too. Lets hope he wins this time. And he switches straight back to clay with no apparent problem. Genius.<br /><br />Frankly, I am amazed he has the energy. Most players take a good 2-3 weeks off after winning a slam.<br /><br />On another note, whoever decided to hold events in the same week in Bastad and Gstaad was having a laugh.<br /><br />What on earth have the ATP graphics department done to poor old Roger? Take a look at: <a href=http://www.atptennis.com/en/graphics/audioclips.jpg>http://www.atptennis.com/en/graphics/audioclips.jpg</a> Remind anyone of Sampras at the US Open in 1996, the Corretja match 5th set tie-break? (Clue – he was sick just before saving match point)<br /><br />Apparently the women are all off to play in China in the inaugral event later in the year. I wonder how much cash they are getting thrown? To be fair, China could be a tennis powerhouse in 10 years time. Just think Russia and add a bit.
I suppose the defining image from the 2004 event will be Maria Sharapova. And why not? Her attitude to her matches and the sport in general is superb. She is one heck of a competitor. Her last 3 matches could all have been losses, but Sugiyama, Davenport and Serena all succumbed to her intensity.<br /><br />Now, I thought the rule of thumb money-wise was: what a player earnt on the court, they could expect to double in endorsements. So it’s interesting to see the papers this morning talk about Sharapova’s potential earnings. On Sunday it was �50 million. Today it’s �100m, according to Metro. Now that’s fast. On Saturday, she won just over �500k, taking her career earnings on the court to about �800k. I know she has the talent to win multiple slams, but even Serena has only earnt about �7m in prize money.<br /><br />Elsewhere, Federer was superb. I have no idea how good he can be, but right now he has taken tennis to another level. Amazingly, it’s not by hitting the ball harder than the rest – he hardly broke into the top 30 fastest servers at Wimbledon. It’s his movement, spin and shot selection. Wonderful.<br /><br />Look out for the two finalists from the boy’s event. Gael Monfils is on for the boy’s grandslam, and should make the big time. And the British Miles Kasiri is a hope for the future once Tim retires.<br /><br />Todd Woodbridge won his 9th doubles title, which is a record that should last a few decades at least. Brilliant achievement. <br /><br />Other things that stand out:<br />- Mario Ancic is going to be a threat from now on. He should have a good indoor season later in the year.<br />- Martina Navratilova getting to the 2nd round was an excellent effort. She should keep going.<br />- Sprem vs Venus was a big story. Venus lost, but the most incompetent umpiring of all time will be the legacy of that match.<br />- Goodbye Goran. A fine swansong. He got to say farewell on Centre Court, and lost to Hewitt, which is no disgrace.<br />- Talking of Hewitt, he will be a huge threat to the top guys at the US Open. Actually, he IS one of the top guys again.<br />- Good to see Moya and Coria giving the grass a go. Too many claycourters don’t bother.<br />- In all the hoo-ha about Tim, Greg Rusedski dipped under the radar. Unless he can improve his ranking fast, his career could peter out into total obscurity. His loss to Schuttler was a good effort, but he needed a run to the second week to get himself back. For a player who got the US Open final and has a huge serve, one Wimbledon 1/4 final in a career is pretty small beer.<br />- Mauresmo I have mentioned before, but she is overdue a slam so much it must hurt.<br />- If it is Davenport’s last time, she has had a great career – 3 slams, several finals, and lots of respect.<br />and lastly<br />- Let’s hope Agassi does come back in 2005. The tournament missed him.