FLUSHING MEADOWS – What a mess Serena Williams made! Unreal! Williams’ outbursts during this year’s US Open final were extremely disappointing, especially coming from a player with her experience. Since becoming a mother last year, Williams has been very open and vocal about how she wants to be a role-model for her daughter Alexis Olympia. Serena’s behavior during the championship match and her words in her post-match press conference – during which she tried to act like a defender of women’s rights claiming that chair umpire Carlos Ramos would have never inflicted such warnings and penalties on a male player – certainly raised many eyebrows.
First and foremost, we must give credit where credit is due. Naomi Osaka deserved to win her first Grand Slam title against her idol, who is 16 years and 20 days older than she is. The Japanese rising star dominated the first set and kept her composure in the second when Serena was kicking and screaming after receiving three unquestionable warnings from the chair umpire. Serena first received a warning for coaching in the second game of the second set, as Ramos saw Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou giving her signals from the stands. After the incident occurred, Mouratouglou couldn’t deny that he was trying to coach his player and publicly admitted it on Twitter. Was it necessary to do it? His statement certainly surprised Serena, who is probably livid with him. Will he now get fired?
Perhaps when Serena watches the video of the match, she will see how Mouratoglou was clearly trying to give her signals about moving forward in the court and attacking. Up until that point in the match, Williams was being outplayed from the baseline by her younger opponent. Serena said that she wasn’t even looking at her coach when the incident happened, but it is fair to say that Patrick did try to coach her. Perhaps Carlos Ramos was a little too strict in applying the rule to the letter, as both Williams’ sisters don’t even use on-court coaching in regular tour events where players are allowed to receive coaching visits during the match. It was probably a spontaneous initiative of Mouratoglou, who sometimes likes to be at the center of attention. Truth be told, he simply did what many coaches do in different ways and with different signals. He later claimed that all the coaches use signals to advise their players during matches and never get punished, including Toni Nadal.
As soon as Serena received the warning for coaching, she started with her first outburst towards the chair umpire: “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I want you to know that”. She also asked him to remove the violation from her conduct, but Ramos was far from being intimidated by her words. It never happened that a chair umpire would give a warning to a player and then remove it. It is the chair umpire’s job to apply the rules and make sure that players respect them.
Whether Serena saw Patrick’s signal or not, the first incident of the match actually gave her an energy boost as she certainly started to move forward and play more aggressive. Osaka started showing a few nerves and Williams jumped to a 3-1 lead in the second set, while Arthur Ashe Stadium almost turned into a jungle with fans cheering and screaming for Serena.
The following game proved to be a disaster for Williams, as she double faulted twice and missed an easy backhand. Serena furiously smashed and broke her racquet, which triggered a second warning from the umpire: This time it was for racquet abuse. Since this was Williams’ second violation, it resulted into a penalty point. As Osaka was walking back to the service line, the chair umpire announced 15-0. Many spectators seemed to be confused about what happened. Serena started screaming at the umpire again: “You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I’ve never cheated, and you owe me an apology. You will never do another one of my matches”. Then she became even more aggressive towards him: “You are a liar and now you stole a point from me. You’re a thief”. At that point, Carlos Ramos issued a third warning towards Williams for word abuse, which resulted in a game penalty. Serena completely lost her mind as the crowd was loudly booing the chair umpire. The noise level was insane. Serena then called the referee Brian Earlie and the supervisor Donna Kelso, but she accomplished very little. Both the referee and supervisor could only stand by the umpire’s decisions.
Down 5-3, Serena managed to regroup and hold her serve, forcing Osaka to serve out the match. It was very remarkable how the young Japanese was able to keep her focus in the middle of such bizarre events, closing out the match with a great serve that Williams couldn’t get back.
“The spectators were making so much noise that I didn’t hear any of the conversations between Serena and the umpire. When the umpire announced the score at 5-3, I was a little confused, but I kept telling myself to stay focused. She is such a great champion and I thought that she could have come back into the match at any time”, Osaka said in her post-match press conference.
Williams accused Ramos of sexism while talking to the press after the match. Quite frankly, those accusations were ridiculous and inappropriate, and should have not been acknowledged by the press. Instead, a few idiots applauded Williams for her words.
Even if I want to give credit to Serena for regrouping and controlling her emotions during the trophy presentation, I don’t agree with her behavior. Perhaps the chair umpire was a little too strict when he gave her the first warning, but the second and third were absolutely on point. Serena lost her cool for the third time at the US Open after her previous incidents with chair umpires in the 2011 final against Stosur and the 2009 semifinal against Kim Clijsters. The best player on the court wasn’t Serena Williams, it was Naomi Osaka.
Osaka played with the class of a true champion. At 20 years of age, it is safe to say that she will win many more titles in the future. She has a great personality on and off the court and a remarkable sense of humor.
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )
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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