It is written Wednesday is mail bag day so here we go….
Good Soldiering: A reminder that Paul Annacone, Genie Bouchard, Steve Weissman and I do pregame shows on the Tennis Channel every morning at 9am ET.
Pandemic year aside, isn’t this the most open US Open for men and women in, I don’t know, ever?
Jason, Austin, Texas
Yes, this is the most open open. My favorite stats from week one: There was one seeded former winner in the women’s race. And it was Emma Raducanu. And there were five unseeded past winners. (And it would have been a sixth had Angie Kerber not been withdrawn, expect murmurs.) Coming outside the top 100 (as qualifiers are) from a year that saw the champion enter the tournament as a qualifier. We’ve had little clarity since then. And for a change, the men’s draw is also a yawning possibility.
Here’s a point to note that we discussed on air this morning: The outlier here is that there are four players with 20+ majors who routinely hit the business end of the majors. This is an unprecedented concentration of dominance. The outlier isn’t: “In a field of 128 players, there are many possibilities and permutations.”
I’ve read your column every week since 2000 and have never written to your “tennis mailbag” before. I just read your US Open tips and you broke your own cardinal rule, not just once but TWICE. “Nobody is privileged to win a major until they’ve won a major,” yet both your women’s and men’s selections are seeking their first slam. I think you came up with this guideline after making this mistake a few times. Short memory or new rule? Thanks very much!
“All norms are suspended in these extraordinary times.” “Former champions/contenders” are a small subset, particularly on the men’s side. If we follow that rule, I assume you vote Nadal, winner as is of every match he’s played at a Major this year. You could also pick Medvedev, the defending champion. On the women’s side? Swiatek is the front runner. Halep is already outside. Rybakina won the previous major. Realistically who else?
I’ve been following all of Serena’s coverage and have come across one word being thrown around: “drama.” Serena loves the drama! She likes drama on the court! Anyone think that’s a compliment? I’m pretty sure “Drama Queen” is an insult. I can’t recall anyone saying Connors was dramatic as he fed on the energy of the crowd on his last run at the US Open, or speaking of Agassi drama at his farewell US Open. It just feels like another gender-biased smack on a champion who’s spent his career trying to overcome comments like that. Am I overlooking too much of seeing that word in every other article?
Paul Haskins, Wilmington, NC
I say this as a middle-aged white man…but I’ve seen worse microaggressions.* A) Because Serena herself has spoken out about her flair for theatrics. If you knew the idea of ”dramatic” was anathema, it would be one thing. But the fact that she alluded to it gives us pause. b) Between/under their matchesher long career her clothesthe fact that her life was literally turned into Hollywood drama…there’s some supporting evidence for the term, too.
Your point is well made. words matter. And we should ask if adjectives we use for one player would also be used for players of a different gender. But I think maybe we’re okay here.
* Here’s my pick for microaggression: I’ve heard player after player – male; Female; American; International; Muguruza most aptly – explain how watching Serena was a source of inspiration and a sign that you can defy conventional tennis wisdom and still become a champion. Yet Serena’s influence is reduced to “look at how many black women are in the top 100!” The idea that Serena only inspired black women — and the suggestion that black women were necessarily inspired by Serena — is sloppy at best .
I always look forward to your seed report, but you usually mention that all past champions deserve credit. If I haven’t overlooked it, Venus hasn’t been mentioned, and while she’s usually kept a low profile in a conversation about her career, I have a feeling it might be her final major as well. I hope she gets a mention in one of your columns in the next few weeks.
TThank you Bob
Fair enough. I have boundless respect for that Venus and how she plays on her own terms, going to new cities and enjoying the competition. But despite her age (42), she hasn’t won a major since 2008(!) and hasn’t progressed past the third round since 2017.
Note that the active Major winner who has gone the longest without a Major is…Venus. But Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009), who is now 37 and not officially retired, also qualifies.
How are doubles teams ranked/seeded when they are two (mainly) singles players teaming up sporadically (or even for the first time) for a particular tournament?
Players can compete at the higher of their singles leaderboards and/or doubles leaderboards.
Disappointed to see Chris [Evert]’s comment that Serena “doesn’t have the most successful career” for a number of reasons. Firstly it seems very inappropriate when there is such a mood of goodwill surrounding a titan who could be playing her last match any day now, secondly because Chris has always spoken affectionately about Serena and also because the remark was direct, after Chris said that comparing generations is complicated and pointless. Of course, Serena hasn’t won 200 titles, but unlike Chris, Serena didn’t have to play a week-long 32-man Virginia Slims or Liptons tournament every week of the year to break even. After all, doesn’t Serena Williams have the most successful career in women’s tennis? If not her, who? Do you think the comment was taken out of context? Can you think of another explanation?
I got caught in the crossfire so maybe we should address that and not ignore it. So the counter taken out of context is pretty low here is the quote. My default is to support Chrissy. Especially in 2022. I find them fair and balanced and reasonable and charitable.
I also reserve a little sympathy for her and Martina and Steffi Graf. Even the USTA introduced Serena as “The Greatest Ever.” If the former champions were pushing back (Say, “Wait a minute. I’ve won 18 of those Majors, and if we’d known the Australian Open was a big deal I would have picked up more of it.”) it’s going to be seen as sour grapes . If not, they remain silent and allow their achievements to be belittled. In contrast to their active days, they are in a no-win situation.
It’s fun to see that Coco Gauff has moved up to first place… in double. She’s still lurking outside the top 10 in singles, but that may not last long. When asked about doubles players and age, note that Coco is 18, the next youngest player in the top 32 in women’s doubles is 24 – and you have to go all the way down to 46 to find another player younger than 23 years. Congratulations to Coco and her team for helping her be a well-rounded player.
Amen. Coco succeeded in doing this the day before Cincinnati. Then Serena played against Raducanu, Rafa returned, Ben (don’t call him Blake) Shelton beat a top-five player, Coco twisted his ankle… and that performance didn’t quite do justice. It speaks for Gauff’s tennis that she has achieved this top placement in doubles. It speaks well for her open-mindedness. It speaks well to her flexibility, both in tennis and in scheduling.
Why do tennis players apologize for net lines (which are always random) but never for drop shots (which are always intentional)?
The least sincere gesture in tennis. Some of it is stupid social convention. It’s easier to play along than to break. But I think your use of “intention” is critical. In basketball, in billiards, in golf, there’s a difference between a shot you intended and one where the lucky gods smiled at you.
Any news on Alicia Black? I haven’t heard anything since her operation. Is Tyra still playing?
Hurricane Tyra is certainly still playing, hitting a $25,000 semifinal in Saskatoon last month and just hitting her WTA career high at 363. I saw her at a youth tournament in spring 2021, where she was coaching a few players. what I learned was to fund her own trips later in the year. I asked about Alicia, was told she still hopes to come back, but obviously she hasn’t. Since then our paths have not crossed; I seem to remember that she might be training a bit now.
Why are there no more Grand Slams? Seems to grow the sport around the world, tennis would want additional Grand Slam tournaments in South America, in Africa, in Asia (Australian Open APAC branding notwithstanding).
Or do we just stick with the four existing slams forever, all of which are played on western soil?
Dominic Ciafardini, New York
Some reasons: 1) This is essentially how monopolies and oligopolies work. They exclude competitors. 2) You could argue that tennis benefits from scarcity. The more majors, the less special they become, both individually and collectively. 3) There are issues with the venue. There isn’t an infinite number of places that can accommodate three weeks of tennis, have the requisite television stations, on-site gyms and practice courts. Etc.
ENJOY THE TENNIS EVERYONE!
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