Match Points – Dec. 15, 2014

News and notes from around the game.

No Tommy John for Jesse Levine

A brief comeback resulted in more elbow pain for Can-American Jesse Levine, after he missed most of 2014 with the injury.

But when Open Court touched base with him recently, Levine said there was good news, of a sort.

The good news is that the ligament in his elbow isn’t torn, so he doesn’t need ligament replacement surgery (commonly known, especially in baseball, as Tommy John surgery). That’s six months to a year of rehab.

What will Levine, now 27, do? He said there are a few options, and he’s exploring them before taking the next step.

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Steven Diez es un español esta semana

Repatriated Canadian Steven Diez is going back to his roots this week (not that he ever left them, really).

Steven Diez

Diez, now 23 and born in Canada, was a surprise singles starter for Canada down in Colombia at Davis Cup a few years ago, over Vasek Pospisil. Tennis Canada even provided him with a quality coach, Galo Blanco, who went on to work with Milos Raonic and then Filip Peliwo.

But this week, Diez is competing in the Spanish national championships, the Campeonato de España Absoluto Mapfre 2014. So he seems to have enjoyed the best of both worlds.

Diez (or Steven Diez Monge, as the draw includes the full player names) is the No. 8 seed in a field that includes Albert Ramos Viñolas, Albert Montañes Roca, Daniel Muñoz de la Nava, Iñigo Cervantes Huegun and Gerald Granollers Pujol.

There are a few countries holding national championships in December; it would actually be great if Canada did the same – even though, obviously, players like Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic and Pospisil wouldn’t take part. They could even have qualifying tournaments around the country leading up to it – a little like the USTA does in holding regional tournaments with the prize being wild cards into the U.S. Open qualifying, tournaments that are open to all.

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Jankovic beats Townsend in Chicago exhibition

Final score was 6-3, 7-5.

Townsend-Jankovic exho

Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a mention in the Chicago Tribune or the Chicago Sun-Times about this.
They did get a little TV time, though.

And she taught Townsend a few things, too.

Warm up serbian style:) before our exo in Chicago! #fun #silly

Ein von Jelena Jankovic (@jjelicious) gepostetes Video am

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Bester makes 100-spot rankings jump in Mexico

 

Fun way to end the year with a doubles title and still the singles final tomorrow #winning   A photo posted by Philip Bester (@besterphil) on

The Vancouver native, who was once a promising junior prospect but has dealt with a lot of injuries, finished his season off at a $15,000 Futures event in Mérida, Mexico last week.

Bester won the doubles with American Eric Quigley. Unseeded, he reached the final of the singles, losing 6-4, 6-4 to No. 5 seed Dennis Novikov of the U.S.

The previous week in Mexico, he reached the semis in both singles and doubles.

Under the radar in a major way because of his current ranking, Bester has been playing. Before the two weeks in Mexico, he played two Futures in Italy and one in Turkey. He won one doubles title and reached the final of the other in Turkey. He moved up 44 spots in singles (to No. 543) today as the results of the previous week’s Futures were added in. He’ll make an even bigger jump next week when the finals result is added, probably close to 60 places.

Despite the lack of prize money available at the Futures level, jumping more than 100 spots in two weeks without even winning a tournament is certainly worth the trip, as long as you can afford it.

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Extra college credit?

As Canadian Brayden Schnur, currently at school at the University of North Carolina, put it: the beginning and the end of his acting career. This is actually pretty funny. And it’s NEVER a bad thing when a 19-year-old gets familiar with classic Greek tragedy.


 

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IPTL a fail in Dubai

IPTL attendance From Sports360.com, a story about the empty seats in Dubai for the final leg of the IPTL, and what, if any changes might be in stores for Season 2.

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Get all of Bartoli’s tchotchkes in one central spot

2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli’s creations are now available in one place for your purchasing pleasure. MarionBartoli (Is that red leather?) You’ve got the “JustFab” boots and your not-inexpensive tennis bags … boots tennisbags And you’ve got your REALLY not-inexpensive bauble thingies … baubles Perfect holiday gifts!

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Marion hits tennis balls

Bartoli still does this a little bit. Here she is in Singapore in October warming up for her legends match. Still striking the ball as smoothly as you please– except these days, she does it with makeup on.


 

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Gravy train over for British tennis players

Nearly a year into his tenure, former Tennis Canada CEO Michael Downey is the point man for changes going forward at the British Lawn Tennis Association. According to British coach Michael Sammel, all of this (much of it put in motion before Downey got there) is really, really bad.

(From the Telegraph)

(From the Telegraph)

Downey will put forth a “four-year plan” in February – which is one of those things that’s usually like when the federal budget comes down.

“Tough times this year and next, but we PROMISE to (balance the budget/create great tennis stars) by the FINAL year of our plan.” Something like that. Except that with each year comes a her budget/plan, and every year that payoff gets pushed back to the final year of the plan.

So it rarely happens.

Among the concerning things in this is that the junior funding “will be targeted at a small number of the most promising individuals” even though highly successful junior tennis players are long shots to make it in the pros, and many very good players were not great juniors (let’s put Isner, Raonic and Pospisil among those).

The story quotes Bob Brett – whom Downey brought on board after his high-paying gig as the player-development guru at the younger levels for Tennis Canada ended – as believing that “a tougher regime will produce players more likely to thrive in the harsh world of professional tennis.”

Bob Brett and former pupil Marin Cilic.

Bob Brett and former pupil Marin Cilic.

We dovetail that with something the top Canadian junior at the moment, Katherine Sebov – the only Canadian kid who actually played at the junior Grand Slam level this year, Françoise Abanda aside – told Open Court about the National Training Centre program in Montreal, which she has declined to join so far.

“It’s just too hard,” the 15-year-old said.

Given how much money Tennis Canada has spent in the last few years, it remains to be seen how the players not named Raonic, Bouchard or Pospisil “prove they’re more likely to thrive in the harsh world of professional tennis”.

The kids who were in the under-12s when the development guru Brett came on board with the formation of the national programs in Canada in 2007 would just be ready to hit that harsh professional world right now.

Except … there aren’t any, really.

It sounds, from this Telegraph story, that once again the plan is to focus on the 12- to 16-year-olds. Our take is that it’s already too late, at that point. But they didn’t consult us.

Here’s a revealing paragraph from that story (of course, Marin Cilic, under Brett, is a comparison 16-year-old girls should aspire to):

“Juniors are coming to Roehampton’s National Training Centre to take part in ferocious camps led by Brett. He has had 14-year-old boys slogging through four-hour sessions, and 16-year-old girls stringing together six 100-ball drills on the trot. “Marin Cilic does eight,” Brett reportedly announced, as his exhausted pupils fought for breath at the end.

Meanwhile, Brit Heather Watson, who is a Bollettieri Academy product and at this point the only woman in the top 100, had some harsh words last week:

‘The culture (in the U.K.) is very social, lots of people like to go out a lot, especially girls. They see that pressure of having a boyfriend, a social life.  … A lot of British tennis boys I’ve grown up with think it’s a jolly, that you’re going to play some tennis, get all the girls, go out. But if you want to be successful you can’t. It doesn’t work like that and sometimes they don’t realise that until it’s too late.”

Sounds like the mentality of the young British tennis players will dovetail nicely with the LTA’s new action plan, doesn’t it?

The coach quoted in this story just had his contract ended by the LTA. So that has to be factored in to his take on the thing.

But these were his truest words:

“Superstars come from anywhere, whether you have a system or no system. If the system in Switzerland was so good, where are the people coming behind Federer and Wawrinka? Why are we searching for superstars?

It seems this coach’s opinion is that they should aspire to “having a few pretty good players in the top 300.” Which doesn’t sound like it’s worth investing tens of millions in, as a goal.

In other words, it seems to be status quo at the LTA. Except they’re going to shuffle around the money to different places.

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Don’t retire; finish it up

Aussie Sam Groth, a relative veteran, had some Twitter advice for a young countryman

Groth didn’t name him, but he was talking about Harry Bourchier, who had just won the national 18-and-under championship the previous week and was a wild card in the Australian Open wild-card playoff tournament.

Bourchier was down 7-6(2), 6-4, 5-2 to the No. 5 seed, Jordan Thompson, when he called it a day.

2Can’t disagree with Groth there.

Bourchier, who turns 19 during the Australian Open, is ranked No. 815 on the ATP Tour.  He got to a high of No. 24 last March on the ITF junior circuit – good, in another words, but not THAT big a deal.  Certainly not outside Australia, anyway.

His ranking was built on doing very well at some of the Asian ITF events but at the Grand Slam ITF level, a tougher proving ground, he didn’t do much of note.

Groth, now 27, only got to No. 93 in the juniors. But one of the biggest servers on the planet reached his career best last month, at No. 75, on the ATP Tour.

So we wondered: did Groth ever retire in a similar situation?

Well, no. Groth has nine retirements on his professional resumé. Twice, he was two games away from defeat when he called it a day. But never just four points away.

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5 thoughts on “Match Points – Dec. 15, 2014

  1. We actually do have a national championships held this month in Burlington, and it does attract some pretty good players, but it’s light years away from what it could be… Very few people even know about it.
    Now what I would like to see is a prequalifying for the Rogers Cup. There could be regional events similar to the US open sectionals, and with the Vancouver Challenger being moved back there is now an empty week right before the Rogers Cup during which the finalists could battle it out on the actual site. (of course this is never happening)

    • Yes, but they’re “national championships” in name only. I would love exactly what you suggest. You’d think, with all their highly exaggerated claims like “30% more people play tennis regularly than two years ago”, they’d be looking for ways to get this greatly expanded tennis community competing. :-O

      Believe it or not, they actually used to have it. Was usually in early July. Most of my friends who played college tennis in the U.S. played it at one time or another.
      It was called the “SunLife Nationals” and, at the time (20-30 years ago) the prize money was $100,000. Bassett, Kelesi, Rene Simpson, Patricia Hy, Andrew Sznajder, Laurendeau, Pridham, Connell, Karl Hale, Nestor – even Leif Shiras, when he lived in Toronto – everyone used to play it.

      The top four women’s seeds in 1992: No. 1 Patricia Hy, No. 2 Rene Simpson-Alter, No. 3 Helen Kelesi, No. 4 Maureen Drake. Kelesi and Simpson won the dubs together and a few weeks later, teamed up at the Olympics in Barcelona.

      • Strong fields indeed! Couldn’t dream of this type of event nowadays!

        • There’s no reason why not – at least in theory. Make it a condition of your financial support from Tennis Canada, and people will have to show up!

  2. Actually, I’ve always wondered how some Canadian players can maintain a ranking below or well below 100 for most of their careers and still tour the world all year long. They must come from some really well to do families. Although some players like Dancevic and Bester have had some pretty nasty injuries and Polanski fell out of a window, there’s times when they seem to get so close to being at a consistently high level only to fall back to earth soon after and tumble down the rankings again. Regardless of the injuries, they seem to almost be afraid of success on some level. Then there is Peliwo, who seems to be the most intense player out there, who, if only he had the size to go with his mental ferociousness would probably be in the top 100 already.

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