Match Points – April 14, 2015

News from around the game.

No Fed Cup for Sharapova, Venus

For Venus Williams, due to play against Italy on the road, it was a “personal matter.”

For Maria Sharapova, it was a leg injury she first felt in Miami, that hasn’t had enough time to properly heal to allow her to go 100 per cent.

Sharapova-FacebookAnd Sharapova’s not going to jeopardize her clay-court season (she’s the defending French Open champ, as you may recall) over Fed Cup. That’s for sure. She’s too big-picture for that.

The Americans called upon little Lauren Davis to replace Venus on the squad, which does not contain either Charleston runner-up Madison Keys (she skipped the first tie as well, after her adductor acted up on her way to the Australian Open semifinal) or Taylor Townsend, who doesn’t seem to play much tennis any more.

For the Russians, more of a conundrum. Their second-ranked player, Ekaterina Makarova, wasn’t chosen for the tie because of the availability of Sharapova, theoretically slotted in to play the final (there might well be more behind all that but, you know, never trust Twitter as an actual source of reliable information).

Here’s where it gets tricky for Sharapova and Williams. If the official nomination is changed – and it’s been indicated that Team Russia will do just that, and Williams has already been replaced by Davis – the “making yourself available” thing doesn’t apply in terms of counting this tie towards eligibility for the Rio Olympics.

They’ve gotten a lot stricter with this – a player now has to be on the nominations list at the actual Friday draw, and also be present on site. So injuries – real or imagined – no longer give you a pass.

So Sharapova still has to play two more ties – i.e. both ties early in 2016 – to make it. That means, if the schedule remains the same, right after the Australian Open – somewhere – and right before Stuttgart again – somewhere. To bypass the requirements, she’d basically have to have an injury that keeps her out six months or more, per the rules.

It’s hard to imagine the ITF would bar her from playing the Olympics. Then again, if they didn’t, that would set a precedent for every single top player who doesn’t want to fulfill the requirements.


Zeballos unhappy with Sarasota $100K Challenger conditions

Argentine veteran Horacio Zeballos, who is currently ranked No. 141 in singles but who has been in the top 40 in both singles and doubles and has three combined titles, has a big beef with the Sarasota Open.

Here are a couple of his Tweets today. Click on them to see his feed.

Zeballos Tweets


If your Spanish isn’t up to snuff, here’s a summary of his issues:

*With temps up to 35C, no cold water available so the ice cooler got raided.

*The options for lunch were cold pasta and … cold pasta. And no place to sit to eat it. Oh, and no place to sit down and chill..

*The ATP still allows Challengers in the U.S. to NOT offer hospitality (completary hotel rooms). And he says this one costs $500 to enter, even though it’s at the top end of the Challenger chain with a big purse. Add in food, hotel bill and travel costs…

*It’s a high-level tournament, with a bunch of top-100 players, and the conditions are “disgraceful.”

Zeballos wasn’t just Tweeting because he’d lost in the first round. In fact, he’d just routined the teenage phenom du jour, Korean Hyeon Chung.

This happened, of course, on a day the tournament honoured 2010 champion Kei Nishikori, who lives in nearby Bradenton and is home, not competing in Monte Carlo.

James Blake won the Sarasota Open in 2011, Sam Querrey in 2012 and Nick Kyrgios last year.

The tourney is held at a development community called Lakewood Ranch. It’s the first year at that venue, after a long stay in Longboat Key, which would be the chi-chi area in Sarasota. We’ve been there, and it’s quite a lovely place. Lots of tennis courts.

Lakewood Ranch

Let’s hope these are just growing pains with the relocation (although the “no hospitality” thing is obviously unrelated). One thing’s for sure; Zeballos is going to have to go back to play more tennis matches, and the tournament will surely get wind of his thoughts, which presumably he shared with the tournament director before putting them on Twitter.

That’d be the grownup, non-whiny thing to do, right? Zeballos turns 30 in two weeks.


No, Milos, NOOOOOOO!

Say it’s only temporary (even though you have to figure it took him a heck of a lot of time and effort to make this happen).

Milos Raonic stache

Odds on him losing this threadbare thing before the first serve Wednesday in Monte Carlo against Joao Sousa?

Carey Price approves.



Former Tennis Canada development guru also on his way out in the U.K.?

It certainly sounds like Bob Brett, the former coach of illustrious names such as Becker, Ivanisevic and, most recently, Marin Cilic, is in a little deep, from this story in the Telegraph.

Raonic-Bob Brett_newPut Bob in an office and he will go crazy,” said Michael Downey, the former Tennis Canada head honcho who hired Brett then – and then hired him again to head player development when he took over at the held of the British Lawn Tennis Association.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

One complaint coming from the players in the U.K. seem to be that the programs are too rigorous. There is going to be more than the normal amount of bellyaching as Downey aims to quash the system of unreasonably entitlement to funding that has prevailed for so long, in large part because the LTA’s budget is massive. But this is something else).

It’s perhaps no coincidence that this has been a reason given to Open Court why some of the more talented players in Canada have decided not to come to the national training centre in Montreal. (“It’s too hard,” one said).

Maybe, back in the good ol’ 1980s, with grown adults who were already professionals, this work ethic-based program might have been fine. But times have changed a LOT. Plus, there’s far less respect given to coaches from their players then there used to be back then, when it was pretty much unconditional. (That pretty much applies to most authority figures).

Brett, by all accounts, is a terrific fellow, full of lore and congenial in that Aussie way. That, and the list of names on his pro coaching resumé, seem to have combined to get him Cilic-Bob Brett_newa couple of terrific jobs. He was probably (no, CERTAINLY) making exponentially more with his sweet Tennis Canada gig, even though it was only a limited-weeks commitment and he kept his full-time job coaching Cilic.

That was nearly eight years ago. We’re still waiting for a genuine ATP or WTA-level pro who was completely home-grown in the system to make his or her presence known. (Maybe the only pure example is Filip Peliwo, who spent four years at the NTC from age 14. He had those great junior results in his final year, at age 18-plus. But his struggles to transition to the pros have been well-documented. He’s currently ranked No. 435).

Even Cilic, once he traded in Brett for Goran Ivanisevic, finally lived up to his long-heralded potential, beefed up his underpowered serve and won the U.S. Open.

If Brett’s “expertise” stretches to the development side, with his academy in San Remo most often stated as evidence for that – where are the pro players issued from that academy? Are there any? Assuming that is the actual goal of junior development, that’s a pretty obvious benchmark. Those success stories, if they exist, are never mentioned when talking about Brett – only his successes with Ivanisevic and Becker, 25 years ago.

A good guy, with a lot of qualities – obviously. But twice now, it seems possible he was just slotted into the wrong job. And that’s a management problem (and a big-budget-for-a-big-name problem). What it’s not, is a Bob Brett problem.


Sleeveless Rafa

Maybe that’s why Nadal’s been working on the far-too-bitchin’ tan these days. It’s not the first recent appearance of the sleeveless since the pirate days, but is it a hopeful sign for the future?

Please say yes. His Nike attire has been far too aimed at selling it to the guys down at the club than creating a buzz. Not that we want the guys down at the club wearing the sleeveless tops again; that was, at times, quite painful.

(Video by Barbara Grassi via YouTube).



A winning team

This is what team spirit looks like. Despite the quality of their players, obviously, it’s a quality not to be disdained in Fed Cup.

Czech Fed Cup team

Here’s another squad that’s pretty good at it.



Even the Russians have their moments – occasionally. 🙂

Look at that! They got together and it wasn’t even an official occasion or anything – just a group dinner before the start of the U.S. Open.  The French women will do this as well.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of tennis nations in which the “tradition”, or lack of one,  is “everyone does their own thing”.

(No, we’re not pointing a particular finger at Canada, but we’re one of them. Always have been, sadly may always be.)

It’s always nice to see it, especially on the women’s side. Typically it takes one player to be a catalyst – in Germany’s case, it’s probably the irrepressible Petko. With the Czechs, it very likely may be Lucie Safarova, who has remained one of the sweetest people on the planet despite having a very good career, and pretty much LUVS everyone. She’s also been a bridge to the next ones to come – first Kvitova, and now Pliskova).

In the end, most of the ladies only seem to reap benefits from this sorority. There really doesn’t seem to be much of a downside. The old saw about “it’s really hard to play a friend” is balderdash. If you can’t keep your eye on the prize on the tennis court regardless of the opponent, you have bigger issues.

All of which to say, during Fed Cup week, let’s celebrate sisterhood.


Speaking of which – THE ROMANIANS ARE HERE!

One thought on “Match Points – April 14, 2015

  1. In response to your Bob Brett article; at least the LTA is taking immediate action while things are not working in their high development program. It’s about time that Tennis Canada realizes that the Montreal based NTC program is also due for a major overhaul. It’s been operating since 2007 and as you mentioned in your article above, not one ATP or WTA-level pro who was completely home-grown in the system, has come out of this. The ex-NTC juniors are either struggling, are in university or disappeared of the tennis radar. The LTA deals with the issue after 8 months and TC can’t figure it out after 8 years!?! Our top ranked juniors, who declined to join the NTC program, have superior results than the juniors currently in the program. Only half of these “elites” are performing well. Wonder why? Just like Bob Brett, our high performance management was successful many years ago (in France 10-20 years ago), but times have changed. Let’s follow the LTA example, it’s time for a change. Where are we waiting for?

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