October 5, 2015
October 5, 2015
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon explains a bizarre story in the world of tennis.
A week ago in this space, I wrote about the weird story of a young man who had awoken from an 11-year coma to find out that his favourite Roger Federer was still a dominant player on the ATP World Tour.
It’s not an especially great column, but we can only make the most of what we have. And what we have, in October in North America, is a whole lot of football and, very soon (i.e. this week? Already? It can’t be), hockey.
In the column, I explained that now is the time to revisit some of the ideas I had shelved for later. Except that this year, the post-US Open period has been rather fruitful for relevant and timely ideas.
For example, the following was announced on September 22.
Full statement from the WTA on Stacey Allaster's plan to resign as CEO and chairman pic.twitter.com/VrD4RSCfKA
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 22, 2015
One of the most powerful women in sports—that’s officially, according to Forbes—Stacey Allaster had been chair and CEO of the WTA Tour from July 2009 until this past Oct. 2, 2015.
As has been hinted, notably in the embedded press release, the 52-year-old Canadian resigned for personal reasons and cited the loss of her brother-in-law and also the death of her ATP World Tour counterpart Brad Drewett. In an exclusive interview with The New York Times, she’s admitted to being not ill but «profoundly weary.»
There’s no doubt that the WTA is losing quite an asset. If she was one of the most powerful women in sports, it’s because under her leadership the Tour has secured one billion dollars in something called «diversified contract revenues,» as the press release states.
There’s no real point in discussing what exactly those revenues include, or don’t include; we’ll just mention that one billion dollars just sounds like a whole lot of money. Under Allaster’s guidance, the association became perhaps the most powerful professional women’s association in the world.
She’s fought for, and obtained equal pay for her players at six WTA events and all four Grand Slams. If that sounds admirable, it’s because it is.
If there’s one thing we do find a little odd, it may be the timing of Allaster’s decision. It comes at the end of September and went into effect at the beginning of October; this means that Allaster was foregoing the rest of her contract, which had been extended until 2017. It also means that she was stepping away before finding a main sponsor for the WTA.
Both are fine.
It also means that the BNP Paribas WTA Tour Finals, from October 25 to November 1 and a huge success in their Singapore debut a year ago, would be played without the WTA chair and CEO who has most been associated with the Tour’s efforts to grow the game in Asia. Though, oh well I guess, the heart knows what the heart needs and if it needs a break then so it is, and so on.
All that being said, you might have thought about something else this past week; there’s the news of Allaster stepping down, yes, but that’s not all. There’s also something called Jello Tennis; click «Play» if you must.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
October 4, 2015
Malaysian Open—Kuala Lumpur
Top seed David Ferrer captured his fourth title of 2015 on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, defeating compatriot Felciano Lopez 7-5, 7-5. In a match that lasted one hour and 33 minutes, Ferrer won more first and second serve points than Lopez, while breaking serve on three occasions. Improving to 8-6 against Lopez in lifetime meetings, Ferrer also took home the 25th crown of his successful career.
(1) Tomas Berdych Defeats (3) Tommy Robredo 61 64
(4) Guillermo Garcia-Lopez Defeats (2) Marin Cilic 16 75 63
September 28, 2015
Every year, the time after the US Open typically coincides with a little down period for the tennis world.
I can only speak of the world that I know, of course: there are a few tournaments on the calendar, but because the end of the US Open typically means the return of American (college) football, then too often tennis fades into the background here in North America.
It’s during this period that writers such as myself tend to get back to the well of ideas and tackle one from earlier in the year that wasn’t entirely relevant or important at the time we had it.
But not this week. Because this past week brought three legitimate good story ideas. We’ll start with the quirkiest of the three and keep the other two for the next two editions of this column.
Legend has it—can we agree to call this a legend, because of how improbable it is?—that on Dec. 12, 2004, 18-year-old Jesus Aparicio was involved in a car crash that was severe enough to leave him in a coma.
Believe it or not, Aparicio apparently stayed in the coma until a month ago, when he awoke on Aug. 27. He slowly regained his speech and—well, that’s about where you’re asking what the hell that has to do with tennis.
The young teenager, see, had become a big fan of Roger Federer; it was in 2004 and the Swiss had just begun his ascent to the top of the tennis world, who could blame Aparicio? Naturally, when the young man woke up from his 11-year coma—again, 11 full years in a coma!—he reportedly asked his family about life, etc., but also tennis and Federer. To his surprise, he was told that Federer, now 34 years old, was still very much excelling at tennis.
When Aparicio (maybe we should simply call him Jesus?) went into a coma, Federer had turned 23 years old and was just getting started, having completed a season when he won three Grand Slam titles to put his total at four. In the years since, the Swiss would build a resume good enough to become, perhaps, the best of all time.
And he’s still excelling in 2015 and at 34, an age where most see a sharp decline in their play; that’s probably the lesson too. That at age 34, Federer defies logic and continues to postpone retirement.
Jesus’s story shows how absurd it is that a man can fall asleep one day in 2004 and only wake up years later in 2015, bypassing the titles of Rafael Nadal and the ascent of Novak Djokovic, to find out that the player he loved is not only still playing but is still thriving.
That’s Roger Federer, folks. Put it another way: a writer from Grantland can ponder the twilight of Federer’s career and its meaning in 2011 and write basically an addendum to this same column four years later after Federer lost in the Wimbledon final against Djokovic.
There is a downside to Jesus’s story of course, and it’s not (strictly) that he was in an 11-year coma. Rather, it’s that his coma forced him to miss out on what he would have loved to see most: Federer dominating and cementing his place in history.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
September 27, 2015
September 21, 2015
The question had never really been asked of Novak Djokovic, but it’s started to in earnest after the Serb’s win at this year’s US Open.
Namely, is Djokovic the one destined to become the best player of all time?
And yet, you persist. You think of Roger Federer, the presumed best player of all time and, certainly, the most gentlemanly champion in the sport’s history. You think of the Swiss’s 17 Grand Slam titles and 87 overall titles, his $94 million won in prize money, his seven Wimbledon titles, his 1,047 career wins on the ATP World Tour or his 237 consecutive, and 302 overall, weeks as the No. 1-ranked player.
And you say that this is just for Federer. You think of Pete Sampras and the 14 Grand Slams that he has, including seven titles at the Great Cathedral of Wimbledon. You think of Bjorn Borg too, who won the French Open six times, Wimbledon five times and then decided to call it a day at the age of 26.
There’s Rafael Nadal too, who’s quite decidedly the best player ever on clay with his nine French Opens and also better than Roger Federer, the perhaps best player of all time who has lost 15 times in the pair’s previous 19 meetings. There’s Nadal, his 67 career titles, his 14 Grand Slams, and his $73 million in prize money.
They are all worthy champions, but so is Djokovic.
The Serb currently sits at 10 Grand Slam titles, 24 Masters 1000 titles, 55 career tournaments won and over $86 million in prize money. His winning percentage of 82.14 stands as the third best in history, trailing only slightly Borg and Nadal.
Of course, Djokovic’s numbers aren’t particularly better than his current counterparts in Federer and Nadal, but asking whether the Serb may be the greatest of all time starts by looking at what’s ahead.
And seemingly, what’s ahead is a whole lot of what’s unfolded over the previous five seasons.
You say that Djokovic, while he isn’t the best player in tennis’s history, may one day become just that. Because in 2015 and at age 28, he still very much is in the prime of his career: he’s currently in the midst of a season that rivals his famed 2011 ascent.
You say that Djokovic may become the best player in history, because as he’s become more and more dominant his two main rivals have faded. Nadal has won only one Grand Slam title since the 2013 US Open and has just completed his worst major performance over a season since 2005. The Spaniard is also 29 and seemingly in the nadir of his illustrious career.
Meanwhile, you say that Federer’s last Grand Slam title has come all the way back in 2012—and though he’s still going and still trying things (e.g. the SABR, or whatever)—the end is near at age 34. Most importantly, he’s had a few draws break the right way for him at majors and basically begging for him to emerge victorious; Federer hasn’t managed.
Then consider that 44 of Djokovic’s 145 career losses, or over 30 per cent of them, have come at the hands of Federer and Nadal. Consider, also, that Djokovic has excelled and amassed all the titles and money he has while playing in the same era as Federer and Nadal.
What happens when the Swiss and the Spaniard leave? Who beats the Serb then, if his prime lasts another two or three seasons?
That’s when it becomes a possibility.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
September 18, 2015
WORLD GROUP SEMI-FINALS
GREAT BRITAIN 1, AUSTRALIA 1
Great Britain: Andy Murray, Dan Evans, Jamie Murray, Dominic Inglot
Australia: Bernard Tomic, Sam Groth, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Lleyton Hewitt
A Murray (GBR) d. T Kokkinakis (AUS) 63 60 63
B Tomic (AUS) d. D Evans (GBR) 63 76(2) 67(4) 64
D Inglot / J Murray (GBR) vs. S Groth / L Hewitt (AUS)
A Murray (GBR) vs. B Tomic (AUS)
D Evans (GBR) vs. T Kokkinakis (AUS)
BELGIUM 1, ARGENTINA 1
Belgium: David Goffin, Steve Darcis, Ruben Bemelmans, Kimmer Coppejans
Argentina: Leonardo Mayer, Federico Delbonis, Diego Schwartzman, Carlos Berlocq
D Goffin (BEL) d. F Delbonis (ARG) 75 76(3) 63
L Mayer (ARG) d. S Darcis (BEL) 76(5) 76(1) 46 63
R Bemelmans / K Coppejans (BEL) vs. C Berlocq / D Schwartzman (ARG)
D Goffin (BEL) vs. L Mayer (ARG)
S Darcis (BEL) vs. F Delbonis (ARG
WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFFS
SWITZERLAND 2, NETHERLANDS 0
Switzerland: Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli, Henri Laaksonen
Netherlands: Thiemo de Bakker, Jesse Huta Galung, Matwe Middelkoop, Jean-Julien Rojer
S Wawrinka (SUI) d. T de Bakker (NED) 26 63 46 63 75
R Federer (SUI) d. J Huta Galung (NED) 63 64 63
R Federer / S Wawrinka vs. M Middelkoop / T van Rijthoven (NED)
R Federer (SUI) vs. T de Bakker (NED)
S Wawrinka (SUI) vs. J Huta Galung (NED)
RUSSIA 1, ITALY 1
Russia: Teymuraz Gabashvili, Evgeny Donskoy, Konstantin Kravchuk, Andrey Rublev
Italy: Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Simone Bolelli, Paolo Lorenzi
T Gabashvili (RUS) d. S Bolelli (ITA) 76(2) 61 63
F Fognini (ITA) d. A Rublev (RUS) 76(8) 62 62
E Donskoy / K Kravchuk (RUS) vs. P Lorenzi / A Seppi (ITA)
T Gabashili (RUS) vs. F Fognini (ITA)
A Rublev (RUS) vs. S Bolelli (ITA)
UZBEKISTAN 1, UNITED STATES 1
Uzbekistan: Denis Istomin, Farrukh Dustov, Temur Ismailov, Sanjar Fayziev
United States: Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Donald Young
D Istomin (UZB) d. S Johnson (USA) 61 36 76(5) 67(3) 75
J Sock (USA) d. F Dustov (UZB) 75 63 62
F Dustov / D Istomin (USB) vs. S Johnson / Sam Querrey (USA)
D Istomin (UZB) vs. J Sock (USA)
F Dustov (UZB) vs. S Johnson (USA)
September 16, 2015
Welcome the TennisConnected Podcast for 2015!
Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi are back to review the US Open Tennis Championships.
After the Serena Slam ended in erupt fashion at the US Open, we review the surprising women’s draw and the memorable final between Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer. Will Serena recover from her recent meltdown and will Djokovic and Federer continue to dominate the rest of the 2015 season?
As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.
September 15, 2015
CHICAGO, August 25, 2015 – Wilson Sporting Goods Co., announced today the launch of three new high performance, next generation tennis products designed for today’s modern game. The new products include the Pro Staff 97S, which was developed in collaboration with Wilson Advisory Staff Member Grigor Dimitrov, a line of extreme power rackets called ULTRA XP, and Element string. Wilson and Luxilon developed Element to achieve optimum power and comfort, while offering increased spin potential.
“At the heart of our Wilson Labs innovation program, is the modern tennis player. We are hyper-focused on designing new product concepts that are built against player insights and give our athletes a performance edge,” said Hans-Martin Reh, General Manager, Racquet Sports. “We are a player’s brand. In that spirit, we want to create new ways to help every kind and type of player excel on the court and increase their enjoyment of the game.”
Wilson Labs, the innovation hub at Wilson, and recently re-signed Wilson Advisory Staff member Grigor Dimitrov, worked collaboratively for 24 months to develop a new Pro Staff racket to round out the highly popular Pro Staff franchise. The result is the new Pro Staff 97S, which is a high performance racket designed for the competitive attacking-style, or “Attacker,” player, per the Wilson PlayerID system. The racket offers hallmark features of the Pro Staff franchise including pure, classic, and consistent feel. In addition, the Pro Staff 97S features the Company’s patented Spin Effect Technology. This technology allows players to produce significantly more spin without changing their swing.
The Pro Staff 97S will be available at specialty retailers and via www.wilson.com on October 1, 2015.
ABOUT THE ULTRA XP
The UTLRA XP line of rackets is the most powerful available to players today*. The franchise is comprised of four rackets, the ULTRA XP 100S, 100LS, 110S, and 125. All four rackets are loaded with technologies and constructed with a lightweight design that allow players to hit more powerful and explosive shots with more spin.
Wilson Labs designed the ULTRA XP for the All-Courter, or a player who hits from all corners of the court. The rackets in this franchise feature a fundamentally new, cutting-edge frame design that offers extreme power, while the Company’s patented Spin Effect Technology delivers maximum spin from anywhere on the court. The technology in this line is complimented by a super-premium design and luxury touches, including pearlized paint finishes.
To create this unique racket franchise, Wilson engineers, industrial designers and performance product developers scoured Company design archives for the most successful racket designs in its 100+ year history. The team then evolved and maximized their best wide-body frame geometries to construct the ULTRA XP into a racket that is modern and sleek, while also maximizing power potential and stiffness.
The ULTRA XP 100LS is lightweight and maneuverable, and built for All-Courter players at any level. And like the ULTRA XP 100S, this racket’s technological innovations and cutting-edge frame design, pack a powerful punch and provide versatility for players. The ULTRA XP 110S delivers maximum power and sweet spot size with an oversized head, while the Ultra XP 125 offers a larger hitting area with the ultimate sweet spot.
The ULTRA XP is the first All-Courter franchise to emerge from the Wilson PlayerID system this year. The UTLRA XP 100S, 100LS and 110S, will be available at specialty retailers on September 1, 2015. The Ultra XP 125 launches on December 1 and will be available in the US only.
In order to provide the most advanced string to today’s athletes, Wilson and Luxilon collaborated to create the new Element string. This string is an industry first as it achieves optimum power and comfort, while offering increased spin potential, making it ideal for competitive juniors and club level players.
Element features Luxilon’s patented Multi-Mono Technology. This technology provides greater flex, which is not available in a traditional mono string, while offering spin (resiliency to propel the ball). This added level of flexibility also translates in to greater power.
Element is significantly softer than traditional monofilament polyester string. This places less stress on the muscles and tendons in the forearms, helping minimize play negatively affected by tennis elbow. With Element, players can now experience the added spin and power benefits of polyester strings in a softer string.
Element will be available in the following gauges: 17/1.25mm, 16/1.30. The string will be available at retail stores starting Tuesday, September 1.
ABOUT THE WILSON PLAYERID SYSTEM
The Wilson PlayerID system allows tennis players to easily identify the appropriate Wilson performance racket model based on their individual style of play.
Through extensive player research, Wilson identified three core playing styles in relation to the modern tennis game:
- Baseliner – the player who battles from the baseline with consistency and speed
- Attacker – the player who attacks the ball early to dictate play inside the baseline
- All-Courter – a versatile player, who hits from all corners of the court
After identifying which playing style they belong to, athletes can quickly narrow their racket search by model type and weight. Every performance racket for Wilson will correspond with one of the three playing style segments, streamlining the racket selection process and ensuring a player’s equipment is best suited for his or her style of play.
September 14, 2015
You know what happens next.
You know it because you’ve seen it happen so often that it’s become ingrained in your brain and it’s turned into expectations for most of Serena Williams’s tennis matches. It’s been this way ever since she started her run at last year’s US Open, a run that surely will culminate in a fifth Grand Slam title in a row, and a calendar-year Grand Slam.
She’s done it so often in the past year, and that’s how you know what happens next. Williams has won the first set, or lost it, then lost the second, or won it, and that’s when she usually takes off. Against Roberta Vinci in this semifinal, Williams won the first 6-2 only to lose the second 6-4. Now watch her go.
This should be just about where Williams does it, after losing that set. Surely, she’ll break her opponent’s serve and she’ll take off and win the match because Vinci can’t match her level. From there, it’s the Hollywood ending, with a final over Flavia Pennetta.
Instead, this happened.
— ESPN (@espn) September 11, 2015
Yes, Serena Williams lost against Roberta Vinci in the US Open semifinals. Cancel the parade and the festivities, we had an all-Italian US Open final instead. It’s easy to ascribe meaning and importance to moments after the fact, but here we are and maybe the first sign of trouble for Williams was the fact that she had lost that second set to Vinci, an opponent against whom she had never lost a set in four previous meetings. If Williams were to win, she would have won in straight sets—or at the very least, she would have pulled away in the third set after breaking Vinci’s serve. After the fact, that’s what you say. Because that’s what she had done so often this past year, remember? Instead, she lost.
The victor was a 300-1 underdog in this match. Vinci, when asked if she believed this was possible, says, “No.” (Us either, lady.) — Anna Holmes (@AnnaHolmes) September 11, 2015
The result is a stunning, stunning upset—one that FiveThirtyEight has dubbed «the biggest in modern women’s tennis history». We’ll leave that debate for another time and another day, but we will concede that it certainly was highly unlikely yes.
We even said as much on Twitter, look.
That’s a very, very big upset. Wow. #USOpen
— Charles BlouinGascon (@RealCBG) September 11, 2015
The loss means that Williams will need to wait another year to catch Steffi Graf and win the 22nd Grand Slam title of her career; she’ll need to wait another year if she hopes to complete the calendar Grand Slam too, though the odds aren’t in her favour. (Because the odds of someone accomplishing this are never in your favour.)
That’s the most shocking thing about her loss, too: Serena had been playing so well all year and all summer that, surely, if she were to miss out on the calendar Grand Slam it wouldn’t happen so close to the goal. Right?
Well it did and for now, maybe we get to wait a little bit on proclaiming Williams the greatest of all time. Like so: «Is she the best ever? -Meh. Let’s she where she stands when she’s officially retired.»
All this talk, and we’ve barely mentioned the victorious Roberta Vinci. Though Vinci would go on to lose in straight sets against her countrywoman Pennetta in the final, the 2015 US Open will forever live on as the Grand Slam where the 32-year-old Vinci captured the hearts of everyone.
A Williams win would have been nice, but that is even better.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG