Like or dislike Serena Williams, she is the greatest force in tennis. The greatest intimidator.
She is globally respected and idolized for her great athletic ability on a tennis court.
Nevertheless, going into a racket tirade is not something that should be accepted in any form of tennis, not in juniors and not at the highest level.
NADAL DOESN’T BREAK RACKETS
I guess that’s why I like Rafa Nadal so much. I have never seen the Spanish great abuse a racket.
In league tennis, I don’t see many of my colleagues and foes throwing rackets, and certainly not breaking them. They have to pay for their rackets.
But the stars of the game break rackets at their wish, then go to the bench and pull a new one out of their bags, compliments of their racket sponsors.
If a player at any level in competitive tennis breaks a racket on purpose, the player should be punished in some manner. I would disqualify the player from the match, but I know that’s not going to happen and might be just a little too stiff a penalty. But the loss of a game might be the appropriate penalty for such bad conduct on a court.
RACKET BREAKING ON A COURT IS DISGRACEFUL
I think it’s disgraceful and unacceptable for a player to intentionally destroy a tennis racket during competition. International tennis, as well as the USTA, should start cracking down more seriously on players for such conduct on a court.
If the juniors get away with it, they will continue the trend at whatever level they play.
But about Saturday’s U.S. Open women’s singles final, I don’t know what Serena Williams did or didn’t do other than brutally destroy her racket.
The outburst cast a dark shadow on a shining moment for 20-year-old Japanese powerhouse Naomi Osaka. Of course, the $3.8 million paycheck for her 6-2, 6-4 win over Serena and Japan’s first Grand Slam singles title more than covered the damage.
OSAKA NEVER BUCKLED UNDER SERENA’S PRESSURE
There was remorse by Osaka for her older opponent’s misfortune, but Osaka never buckled under the pressure of Serena. I wasn’t surprised to see Osaka shield herself from Serena’s symbol of greatness and invincibility.
Osaka was quicker, covered the court better and virtually matched Serena’s power without repeatedly over-hitting. When she’s in her zone, Osaka obviously is among the greatest players in the women’s game.
OSAKA WAS A DIFFERENT PLAYER AT VCO
But I’ve seen Osaka when she wasn’t at her best mentally. Most notably, no longer ago than April’s Volvo Car Open in Charleston, Osaka lost it all on the court.
Coming off the second largest payday in U.S. women’s tennis at the Indian Wells event, Osaka might not have fully accepted her place as a rich young woman, and how such paydays could change her life.
At the VCO, Osaka played awesome tennis in the early rounds, then in a round of 16 match against Julia Goerges, she was a different Osaka, even while appearing to be in charge of the match.
It was hot that day out on the Althea Gibson Court at Family Circle Tennis Center when Osaka told her coach that she didn’t want to be there. And she wasn’t a little later when she allowed Goerges to take the victory from her.
OSAKA WAS A PICTURE OF COOLNESS ON SATURDAY
Then, of course, Roger Federer hit the wall in the U.S. Open and Nadal retired from his semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro. It can happen.
Maybe that’s what happened to Osaka that hot day in Charleston.
But Saturday, and throughout this U.S. Open, the explosive and unpredictable Osaka was a picture of coolness. You can excuse her for her tears at the end.
Of course, you can. She’s now one of the stars of the game. Hopefully, she will treat her rackets better than Serena.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic’s Big Four reunion in Cincy
A few years before, there existed a quartet called Big Four in men’s tennis. At certain points in their time-line of dominance, injuries plagued each member of this four-member group. However, the severity of their affliction in one player, Andy Murray, saw his name erased from this elite pocket. Thus, the Big Four was reduced to the Big Three with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer making up the troika.
At the 2019 Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, three of the erstwhile Big Four troupe reunited as they re-entered the circuit’s circus. And each player had a different path leading up to the event, too, underlining how divergent their careers had become despite overlapping scheduling.
The 2016 season was the common catalyst leading to this divergence. From Federer’s injury to him pausing his season to focus on rehab after Wimbledon, to Djokovic pushing his boundary as a marauder and completing the non-calendar Slam, and to Murray ending the season as the world no. 1. The year in consideration also threw up other names – Nadal’s season ended in an agony of injury, while Stan Wawrinka won his third Major at the US Open. In its bounty of giving and taking, 2016 changed how we looked at these players – especially the first four – and the irrevocability of assumption that these guys could get past any hurdles stopping their way.
Juxtaposing with Cincinnati, in the three years since 2016, Federer and Djokovic have vaulted past their share of physical problems. Yet, in the Ohioan city, they have different motivations guiding them. This is the first time that Djokovic has entered the Cincinnati draw as the defending champion. Meanwhile, after having been drawn in the same half as the Serbian, Federer has the proverbial score to settle against him. “I can’t wait for my next rematch with Novak or my next time I can step on a match court and show what I can do,” the 20-time Slam champion said in one of his pre-tournament media interactions in Cincinnati.
There are a few opponents to get past before their slated semi-final meeting occurs. Nonetheless, their sustained competitiveness adds its fervour to the already-hefty top-half of the men’s draw. In the midst of their respectively successful opening rounds, Murray’s first-round defeat to Richard Gasquet in straight sets became a contextual misnomer for comebacks.
Yet, Murray’s was the most stirring return. This was not because of the emotional crossroads that had sprung up at the 2019 Australian Open regarding his retirement. But on account of how farther Murray had leapt to put his physical frailties behind and re-join the singles Tour. And, the Briton’s determination to do so is reminiscent of 2016, all over again. It’s the completion of the circle of how Murray had pushed hard to become the world’s best player and now, he is trying just as much to regain his footing back.
Nick Kyrgios’ Washington win is about good vs bad: Of situations and opinions
The Australian’s Citi Open win brought forth a wave of positiveness about him. But its enduring or lack thereof is a test for his viewers, hereon.
Nick Kyrgios picked up two titles in 2019 – in Acapulco and Washington – in the time it took opinion to swing between “He is not good for tennis” to “Tennis needs him”. And, in the days after his win at the 2019 Citi Open in the latter city, the subject continues to be a favoured topic of editorial conversation vis-à-vis his importance to the sport.
The player in question though does not care for any of these. Yes, after his win in the Washington final against Daniil Medvedev, Kyrgios admitted, “I’ve just been working really hard, on and off the court, to try and be better as a person and as a tennis player. And as I said, I wasn’t exaggerating. This has been one of the best weeks of my life, not just on the court but in general. I feel like I’ve made major strides.” But this came with an addendum of sorts. “And I’m just going to take it one day at a time and hopefully, I can continue on this new path.”
As Kyrgios heads into the Rogers Cup in Montreal, these words need to be stamped onto onlookers’ minds, with their significance getting highlighted each time he steps on to the court, hereafter. Especially, when describing his antics that often tend to be over-the-top.
This past week in Washington, Kyrgios came up with some idiosyncratic behaviour. He shimmied, he put himself in the shoes of the prince while conjuring up an image of Stefanos Tsitsipas as Cinderella, and he asked fans for their opinions about which way to serve on match points, following that with heartfelt hugs after winning the match. All of these were endearing gestures with their enjoyableness magnified by his run of triumph thereby leading to thoughts of why Kyrgios was so important to tennis.
Had these same actions come before a result – in any round – that had not gone in his favour? It is not hard to say, after observing past trends that the reactions would have been about how Kyrgios had disrespected the sport and how he did not do much with the potential he has been gifted. The opinions would have changed that quickly.
It is because of these that the Washington result comes as a timely reality-check monitor. That instead of analysing Kyrgios’ every move, both tactical and non-tactical, the world at large needs to just view him as part of the whole of tennisdom. He is like the others who have taken up tennis professionally. But if his route on the Tour is to be measured by others’ straight-line standards, then, he is not the guy to follow that precedent.
And, why should he? Kyrgios is the way he wants to be, not the way people think he should be. Moreover, if it is that easy to accept him as he is when he wins not being able to accept Kyrgios for who he is when he loses is not his lookout. It’s the viewers who need to pore over their preferences.
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