Sunday, April 7, 2013
The U.S. had not yet become accustomed to being an also-ran in the men's game, and Serbia hadn't exploded into the tennis maven that it currently is, in 1993.
But a lot has changed in twenty years, both politically and with regard to tennis. Nowadays, the American men are floundering. With only one currently ranked in the top 20--and that man (Sam Querrey) by only the hair of his chinny-chin-chin at that--this new, somewhat depressing era of American men is marked by players who are more than powerful enough but unfortunately too oversized to reach elite status in today's global game.
It's a subject that has been beaten into the ground of late, so I'm not going to get into it here, at least directly. What I will get into is the bitter, deflating irony of the Bryan Brothers loss to Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in today's crucial doubles rubber.
It was particularly heartbreaking for American tennis fans because it appeared that the dark clouds were going to lift temporarily. With our best and brightest (the Bryan Brothers are our national tennis treasure on the men's side, and they fought valiantly today, as they always do) out there ready to give the Americans a 2-1 lead against Serbia, all the criticism and bad-mouthing of American men's tennis was about to grind to a halt for one beautiful weekend so that team U.S.A. could revisit its past glory by upsetting the Serbs.
Furthermore, with only the Canadians and Italians left in the American's half of the Davis Cup draw, it was starting to look not entirely impossible that the U.S. could reach the Davis Cup final this year for the first time since 2007. Think what that would do for the confidence of our two oversized Americans (maybe they are destined for greatness, after all?), for the overall sentiment surrounding our men, and for all the young American tennis players out there looking for a reason to believe.
With Mike and Bob Bryan looking like they were about to put the finishing touches on the Serbs in the fifth set of what had become an epic doubles encounter, all was finally looking good on the horizon for American men's tennis. It wasn't exactly a lock that John Isner would beat Viktor Troicki--far from it actually--on Sunday to clinch an American upset, but at the time, as the Bryans were holding serve for the 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd consecutive time on Saturday, everything seemed to be falling into place.
American tennis was looking good. Our Bryan Brothers were exhibiting their trademark grit and toughness, and hope was springing eternal.
Then the Serbs took a dagger to America's best laid plans.
20 years ago, this would have seemed like pure fantasy.
But there it was in living color: the high and mighty Serbs pulling the rug out from under the American's feet.
There's a lot to be proud of, even in defeat for the Americans. And it isn't officially over until tomorrow.
But it's going to take a miracle for the Americans now.
Like the Roman Empire, the Dinosaurs, and the Dallas Cowboys, time does its damage and leaves what is left to sort itself out.
And the miracles don't grow on trees like they used to.
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 12:33 AM
Thursday, February 21, 2013
It's been a very touch and go process, but finally the ATP's Board of Directors and Indian Wells have reached common ground with regard to Indian Wells' proposed (and originally vetoed) prize money increase for the upcoming BNP Paribas Open. You can read a very informative dialog on the subject over at tennis.com, where Steve Tignor and Kamakshi Tandon discussed possible implications of the decision, which was pending at the time.
Tandon made some great points in the piece, and highlighted the fact that there's a lot more to the issue than just boosting prize money. For instance, is it cool to have a rogue tournament that apparently is hell-bent on proving its superiority to all other tournaments, telling the ATP what to do?
In this case, as we learned today upon hearing that the ATP had finally signed off on the increase, apparently it is.
This whole perplexing, convoluted affair, while taxing at times, should ultimately prove to be a very positive development for tennis for two reasons:
1. The players, particularly those players who have historically been underserved by tennis's top-heavy pay scale, are going to get a larger percentage of prize money. You can forget about all the other politics involved and just remember that. A lot of players are going to get a lot more prize money, and that can only be good for tennis. Let's face it, tennis is a sport where the No. 100 player in the world often finds him or herself without enough funds to hire a coach and a physio. That's terrible, especially when you consider that the minimum salary of a Major League Baseball player is 490K. And Major League Baseball is just one of many professional baseball leagues.
To think that tennis can not provide enough income for players around or just outside the top 100 is just ludicrous. This isn't a group of overpaid spoiled babies we are talking about. This is a highly dedicated, highly professional group of athletes who quite frankly aren't getting a fair share of the tennis revenue stream.
2. The clumsiness of the original veto, which was met with consternation from so many current and former players, has served as a platform for many to get engaged in the debate. We were able, through the good, hard work of various tennis scribes, to learn a lot about the process and politics involved with a decision like this. That's good in and of itself, but perhaps the best part of all this was that all the heavy artillery that the ATP took for being so close to depriving its players an additional 860,000 in prize money actually forced them to reconsider, to rethink and to re-vote.
It also forced the ATP to come up with a proactive solution for dealing with similar situations in the future (tennis should be so lucky).
Here's what ATP chief Brad Drewett had to say about that: “The unique set of circumstances generated by the Indian Wells case has prompted us to seek to provide a permanent rule that will account for similar cases arising at ATP World Tour events in the future. For the long term benefit of both our players and tournaments, it’s important to establish a rule that can provide suitable parameters for similar requests to be processed in years ahead. We are always looking for ways to increase prize money for our players and continue to review a number of options in this area,” said Drewett.
So, there you have it. Seems like a win-win for everybody, at least for now.
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 1:14 AM
Saturday, August 11, 2012
I was watching—leisurely, mind you, so I don't have the stats memorized—the Raonic-Isner match and the Djokovic-Haas match late last night from Toronto, so I figured I'd ramble a bit about each.
So, anyway, what is the deal with Raonic and Isner hitting moonballs at each other last night during the tiebreaker? Did anybody else see that? Was it as glaringly obvious to you that both Isner and Raonic need to play riskier tennis (particularly in their return games) as it was to me?
I know: conservative, defensive, scared drivel is not exactly the recipe for potential maximization for a 6'5" to 6'9" player, but for some reason it's what both Isner and Raonic seem to prefer. It's a silly way for gargantuan tennis players to attempt to defeat one another—oxymoronic, don't you think?—but I digress.
I'm not myopic to the point where I can't see that it's admirable of both Isner and Raonic (I'm talking about all 13' 6" of them) to try to become better baseliners, so please don't accuse me of hating. Isner and Raonic should, by all means, aim for consistency and make a legitimate attempt to master the nuances of the game. But when it's crunch time, for god sakes, Isner and Raonic, step on the gas and hit for the hills!
I think that Raonic is far more guilty than Isner of being gun-shy, but they both suffer the consequences of possessing the passive gene.
So many times last night Isner and Raonic stayed in nuetral: reluctant to take on any risk, waiting for the other's mistakes. It's a winning formula more often than not for each, but at its core it fails to dream. When you are one of the top five servers in the game (both Raonic and Isner are) you need to use that serve as a get-out-of-jail free card and TAKE SOME RISKS!
Let's face it, neither of these guys is going to get to No. 1 anytime soon, so each's best bet to make a TRUE SPLASH on the tennis court is to win a Slam. Isner and Raonic should be fine-tuning their high-octane games with the goal of getting hot and staying hot for seven consecutive matches in mind, not trying to keep their heads above water by playing it safe.
Neither should be playing scared like both were last night. Isner won the match, and rightfully so—he is clearly the better big-match player—but he was just as guilty of Raonic of being passive and not embracing the gunslinger mentality.
All I am saying is this: Raonic spent half the match behind the "Toronto" sign which was probably six feet behind the baseline (see above video to locate "Toronto" sign). Djokovic, in his three-set victory over Tommy Haas probably ended up that deep in the court three times during the whole match.
Simply put, Raonic and Isner need to attack and intimidate. If they don't they'll still be fine. They'll earn a good living, but they will never win Slams that way.
As far as Djokovic goes...
He can do whatever he wants. The guy may be more human than super-human in 2012, but he is still elite in every sense of the word when he takes the court. Rumors of personal turbulence may be true, but don't think for a second that Djokovic isn't still ready, willing and able to add to his legend.
Anybody who saw him let out a guttural scream after defeating Tommy Haas in a tense nailbiter has been served the memo. Djokovic is already thinking about winning in New York. The rest of the big four are licking their wounds on different, but real, levels.
With that said, I like Djokovic's chances in New York.
But let's see what he can do tomorrow against Tipsarevic first...
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 12:09 AM