Match Points – April 27, 2015

News from around the game.

No Roland Garros seeding change for Rafa

The amazing part of this is that it’s actually a story – that some people are actually outraged that the French Open, as it has done each year since 2001, will seed the players according to the ATP and WTA rankings.

Now, obviously there haven’t been too many nine-time champs in danger of not being seeded in the top four. But … where’s the story?

This guy calls it “baffling and idiotic”, although the logic of his impassioned argument doesn’t really hold up.  But “all anyone wants to see” is a Nadal-Djokovic final. And apparently it will “ruin the tournament”. A little, dramatique, quoi? Simon Briggs find the notion that they won’t adjust the seeds “ridiculous”.

Some of the comments in this one are pretty fun.

Here’s the thing. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that alters the seeds (and even then, usually only for the men). They used to do it via super-secret-probation committee, and magically come up with a list that no one dared question.Then they realized that probably wasn’t a good idea (Wimbledon is, after all, an official ITF event, not an independent entity like, say, the Masters in golf, which can – and does – write its own rules.

So they came up with a mathematical formula everyone seems all right with. It’s a formula that, with every passing year, seems somewhat unnecessary because there is so little play on grass, and as the years go by, the vast majority of the players are nearly equally as good on all surfaces and don’t play all that differently from surface to surface. If anything, Roland Garros might have more of a claim to special seedings, as there remain a lot of South American and European players who are vastly superior on that surface and struggle on the others.

Seeding Nadal likely would be unfair to Kei Nishikori, who has earned his spot.

Seeding Nadal likely would be unfair to Kei Nishikori, who has earned his spot.

But, anyway, it’s dangerous to open that can of worms. Because every time you set a threshold for where an exception should occur, that threshold eventually drops until it becomes meaningless. And, for those who didn’t follow tennis before Twitter, messing with seedings to give certain players an advantage can backfire in a big way.

(Worth noting there were only 16 seeds back then).

In the end, how is it the French Open’s “duty” to do do everything it can to “help” Nadal win another title? And what of the player who, theoretically, would be bumped from the No. 4 seed spot (say, theoretically, Kei Nishikori) that he has spent all year earning with his results?

They obviously did discuss it, because it’s Nadal. And it wouldn’t be right not to at least put it on the table, as they did last year before Nadal squeezed into the No. 4 spot just in time.

The answer is, it wouldn’t really be fair. So they’re not doing it. It’s really not a story.



No selfie sticks at Wimbledon

Caroline Wozniacki is practicing, but these young ladies have their back to her.

Caroline Wozniacki is practicing, but these young ladies have their back to her.

If you’re planning to bring your selfie stick into the All England Club this summer, to enhance your selfie-taking experience, you’ll be out of luck.

They will be a no-no.

“The problem is that the inventor of the sticks has created has created a device that is not only deeply irritating to those not using them but also a handy weapon,” says the Sunday Times. Anyone who’s been whacked in the head with one of them, in a crowd of fans around a practice court at a tournament, will concur.

The Palais de Versailles, The Colesseum and the Smithsonian have banned them (among other places), says the BBC. Along with MOMA in New York, Manchester United.

The Australian Open had a “Selfie Zone” for them – although obviously the two young ladies above, who were paying no attention to a practicing Caroline Wozniacki as they turned their back to her, paid that no mind.

Hopefully it’s a fading fad, and won’t lead to a “Selfie Stick Rights Group”. No doubt the inventor has already padded his retirement fund by now.


First Price, now Nestor sit with Petey


The CBC’s Peter Mansbridge has been sports dude the last couple of weeks.

First, it was Habs goaltender Carey Price. On Saturday, a long interview with Canadian doubles tennis icon Daniel Nestor (can’t believe they put chairs on that beautiful clay court; Mansbridge’s immaculate white sneakers will never be the same again).

Mansbridge called Nestor the “Wayne Gretzky” of tennis.

Here’s the interview:



Nobody actually looks at stuff any more


Roger Federer, making a touchdown in Istanbul this week, walks up on stage. Cue the phone tidal wave.

They’re all staring at their phones – to make a quick, blurry video they can post on social media to show everyone THEY WERE THERE!!!! Even though they didn’t even see it!

But they missed actually looking at … the Fed. I mean, there’s high-quality video available of this event if they want to remember it. Here’s an Instagram clip showing them holding up their phones!!!

No selfie sticks in sight, though.


Abanda and Shapovalov 2014 Juniors of the Year

This is always a funny award, because it’s nearly May by the time they announce it and, well, the juniors have done a bunch of stuff this year and, really, who even remembers 2014 at this point?

But the selection of Shapovalov and Abanda is, well, revealing.

Abanda was 17 last year, so technically, yes, she was a junior. And technically she’s part of the national training centre program in Montreal even though she’s never at the tournaments the other kids compete in and has her own private coach in Simon Larose.

Also – sum total in 2013 AND 2014, Abanda played … three junior tournaments: the U.S. Open in 2013, and the French and Wimbledon juniors in 2014. It would be a little like giving the “Canadian junior figure-skater of the year” award to a junior-aged skater who was advanced enough that she competed at the seniors level. As in, not too logical.

The junior we’d give the award to, mainly because she was the only junior in the entire country who played at the junior Slam level (other than Abanda) and posted some good results, would be Katherine Sebov.

The boys’ recipient is Denis Shapovalov, an Ontario kid who was born in Israel and who is coached by his Russian mom. Neither Sebov nor Shapovalov is at the national training centre, although obviously they must get some help from Tennis Canada. Sebov, for example, got some coaching help from Marie-Eve Pelletier for a period last year.

When he was at the Australian Open juniors this January, we heard from some people that Shapovalov might be the most talented 15-year-old out there. And he’s got a sweet one-handed backhand, which is a bonus.

Here’s Shapovalov in Oz this year:

Shapovalov won two tournaments in 2015: the All-Canadian junior championships in February (a Grade 5 ITF junior event, the lowest grade they have), where he defeated NTC player Benjamin Sigouin in the final. His other victory was the slightly-higher grade Copa Cariari in Costa Rica in June (a Grade 4), where he beat NTC player Alexis Galarneau in the semis and Sigouin in the final. He also won the doubles, with Galarneau, beating Sigouin and another NTC player, Jack Mingjie Lin, in the final.

The national junior training program has been around for nearly eight years now. We’re talking millions and millions of dollars spent sending these chosen kids everywhere on the planet to play tennis tournaments. So to have these two anointed as your two top juniors – when one of them is long past the juniors and the other isn’t in your program – is not much of a statement of return on investment.

Which is not to take anything away from what these two have done and will continue to do.


Djoker taking a pass on Madrid


The guy’s ahead of the rest of the ATP by miles, and he’s probably thinking he’s got his best shot, maybe ever, at the French Open this year. So Novak Djokovic is taking a pass on Madrid.

Nadal, who is the defending champ and has all those points to defend in advance of Roland Garros (see seeding story above), probably isn’t heartbroken.

Djokovic has passed the 600-match and 12-years-pro requirements to skip a Masters 1000 event without penalties – not that penaltie$ would mean that much to him at this point. Doing the Indian Wells-Miami double will take it out of anyone. And then there’s Monte Carlo, which is a home event for him, with all that entails.

So Roger Federer will be the top seed, Murray No. 2 and Rafael Nadal No. 3.


Bad idea much too soon, No. 5653


Young American Reilly Opelka, often compared to countryman John Isner because of their similar height, has decided to NOT do what Isner did, which is go to college for four years.

Opelka has just turned pro and signed with Lagardère, to be represented by Sam Duvall (who currently represents Canadian Vasek Pospisil and repped Genie Bouchard for years and, as it happens, John Isner).

Here’s what he told Zoo Tennis’ Colette Lewis:

“I explored every option pretty well, I think,” Opelka said of his decision. “I had college tennis in mind, no doubt. It’s a great option for Americans, they think about college tennis more. It’s such a high level now, it makes the decision tough.That’s a good thing, but it’s a little more stressful.  I could play Tommy Paul, Chris Eubanks, Noah Rubin, college tennis is such a high level now, it makes the decision even tougher.”

Opelka, who hasn’t even played tennis for three months because of some injuries, is ranked No. 30 in the juniors, and 1,115 in the pros. To say he’s pretty raw and hasn’t yet grown into his body would be an understatement.

All we have to say is, what’s the rush? He seems to be very well supported by the USTA, so you’d have to think it’s not a decision made out of financial necessity.

His countryman Francis Tiafoe approves.


Opelka turns 18 Aug. 28. His last junior tournament was the Orange Bowl last December, where he lost to the younger Stefan Kozlov in three sets. He played a couple of Futures events in January in Florida, but only one match, ever, above that level – a qualifying match at a Challenger in Napa, Calif. last year, which he lost.

Tiafoe, five months younger, was the No. 2 junior in the world at just 15. He’s already at No. 381 in the ATP Tour rankings and beat some established pros at the Challenger the last two weeks in the U.S.

Other than a couple of Futures events in Mexico last year, Opelka has never even been out of the country – never mind to Europe. Mostly, he has played against Americans. It just seems like a massive leap to discard what college could do for him. Certainly, if he looks at Isner, he can see a role model for how waiting until your ready can pay dividends.

But hey, he didn’t consult Open Court. Good luck to him.


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6 thoughts on “Match Points – April 27, 2015

  1. Abanda 2014 Junior of the Year is certainly far-fetched. Katherine Sebov would have been more suitable. Then again, both juniors are not in NTC, so that can’t happen. It was suggested last month ( that the NTC program does not seem to work and now may be a good time to reorganize. I agree with Rod’s comment that widening the pyramid would be a good start. Why not let the U14’s continue at their Regional Centers (NJTP) in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver? Why force these kids to move away from their parents, out of their comfort zone to NTC? Why not keep them at home, with their own coaches and use all 3 centers for regrouping and elite training. More juniors will have the opportunity to make it to the next level. NTC employs 10 staff (coaches, fitness, teacher, manager) for 11 juniors of which only 4 are performing well (based on ranking and results). Others are struggling and seem to be filling the empty spots left by the top who reclined to join.

    • Worth noting, to your point, that I don’t they don’t have the 14-year-olds in Montreal any more. They did at first (Edward Nguyen and Filip Peliwo are examples of that; Khristina Blajkevitch, who lasted a year, also was one). There are a couple of 14-year-olds there now (Auger-Aliassime and Muamba), but they are boys from Montreal and so live at home. And all the boys are so young that they remain longshots at best, even if there is some talent there.

      The cost of that program is completely insane. You’re not even factoring in the massive travel costs for sending these kids to play tournaments all over the world in the chase for ranking points. And I’m not convinced the coaches are the best out there. Far from it. Which is often the case with tennis federations, because they don’t pay enough compared to the private sector.

      • Yes, 14 years is too young, anything can happen within the next couple of years. Do note that all of the current 99’s (Galarneau, Krustev, Mingjie Lin, Robillard-Millette, Sigouin) are second year NTC, therefore started at the center at age 14. (What were their parents thinking?). All of them recently turned 16, except Sigouin still 15.

        Don’t know about the coaching, but it makes sense that the better coaches stay at private clubs where the money is. Inferior coaching could be one of the reasons that the program is not working.

        I can just image the cost; sounds a bit like government spending. Anyone holding them accountable?

        • You’re picking nits there. If they’re 16 this year, they were 15 last year. Or turning 15. Come on, now.

          And they’re hardly the first tennis players in history (or athletes, for that matter) to move away from home at a young age to pursue their sporting goals. So it’s unfair to blame the parents. Tennis is a very expensive sport; even GBouchard moved back from Florida with the offer of all that being paid for.

          A definition of “success” is different for each person you may ask. It’s all, in the end, a total crapshoot, a lottery.

          I don’t think national federations should have as their mandate to “create champions”. It has never worked in the past. I think their mandate is something else entirely. They obviously disagree. Having “champions” makes them look good. Tennis Canada is hardly unique in this regard as far as federations go. They have the cash because they have lucrative tournaments in their country, so they spend it. I think they were swayed by some fancy resumés from people outside the country, not having confidence that they could find potentially competent people internally. And from what I can see, they haven’t done much to create a future generation of coaches – nor have they given them any opportunities at the federation level. Same old faces year after year.

          Astonishingly, countries without top-level ATP/WTA or Slams manage to produce champions anyway. As I said, it’s lottery; sport champions are freaks, in my opinion. And they find a way, without having everything given to them. You just hope they choose your sport. And in Canada, that remains an uphill battle.

  2. Abanda and Shapovalov 2014 Juniors of the Year – so why is it Stephanie that TC continues to cherry pick and not widen the pyramid? There has always been the assumption that the coaching will be better at NTC and that the parent coached kids have some fundamental flaws that only NTC can fix. University scholarships are great but not at millions of dollars per year for a few players ..object is to create pros. I think now that the Genie and Milos buzz/smoke has died down people are back to realizing that NTC played only a minor role in getting them to the top…Would of been interesting to see the state of TC had we not had the success they(eugenie-milos) have had for the past 3yrs

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