Hey everyone. Let’s start heavy…
• Stu Fraser has this scary story on 21 year-old Tanysha Dissanayake, forced to retire from professional tennis on account of Covid.
• Wheelchair tennis legends Esther Vergeer of the Netherlands and Rick Draney of the United States join seven accomplished ATP and WTA players on the ballot for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023. Draney and Vergeer are nominated for the Hall of Fame’s Wheelchair Tennis Category. In the Player Category, eight-time major doubles champion Daniel Nestor of Canada makes his ballot debut.
The six additional nominees in the Player Category, all returning to the ballot for the Class of 2023, are:
- Cara Black
- Juan Carlos Ferrero
- Ana Ivanović
- Carlos Moyá
- Flavia Pennetta
- Lisa Raymond
• Come for the pickleball chatter; stay for the Ons Jabeur essay at the end
In an official release, Team8 Sports & Entertainment, the promoter of the Laver Cup, stated the following regarding the 2022 Laver Cup: “We are incredibly proud to announce another record breaking year at the Laver Cup in London.” As a proud USTA member and noting that the USTA invested millions, through Team8, to purchase 20% equity in the Laver Cup, we need to know if the (nonprofit) USTA will finally receive a distribution or dividend from Team8 due to the “record breaking” 2022 Laver Cup. The Laver Cup will not be held on US soil again until, at earliest, 2025 and even then, does the event really move the needle on the USTA’s stated mission: “to promote and develop the growth of tennis” in the United States? Therefore, the only plausible benefit from the USTA’s material cash investment in the Laver Cup would be the receipt of profits back from Team8 that can be used to re-invest in the USTA’s single mission. If the USTA does not receive profits from Team8 in the most successful year of the Laver Cup ever, then I believe tennis journalists need to ask USTA Director of Comms, Chris Widmaier, the justification for the millions invested by the USTA in the Laver Cup.
Brian from Brooklyn
I suspect this is from a topic I raised during the U.S. Open. The Laver Cup ought to be looking for investors. But should the USTA be among them, investing in an event like this?
First, here’s Widmaier’s response:
“First off, let me say how much we appreciate when our members show the depth of understanding and the depth of passion that your reader certainly does. The USTA is very comfortable with its investment in the Laver Cup for two main reasons. First, financially we believe the event has been successful, and will remain financially successful for years to come. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we viewed our investment into Laver Cup as an investment into an event that can and does attract new audiences to the sport of tennis. When appropriate, the USTA seeks out innovative avenues for the sport’s growth and supports those innovations. The Laver Cup is a strong example of that approach.”
Again, I think you can take issue with the USTA investment on two counts. One ethical, one practical. First, should the USTA be forming partnerships with individual players? Should it be aligning with a rival event? Should it be aligning with an event that chooses players subjectively? Hypothetical: imagine you’re an American player who wants to play Laver Cup and doesn’t get asked. How do you feel about your federation supporting this event? Too much potential for conflict and bad optics.
Second is simply the wisdom of the investment. Does it really comport with the mission of the USTA—a non-profit, we hasten to add—to sink $6 million into an event that has yet to turn a profit and that, best-case scenario, brings tennis to the U.S. once every 104 weeks? Imagine if that $6 million had gone toward—dare I say it—buying pickleball and folding it under its umbrella. Speaking of….
What’s your take on Sam Querrey and Noah Rubin taking up pickleball—other than what an intimidating poacher Querrey will be? I can’t help but think that will help break down some of the resistance tennis traditionalists have toward PB.
Clint Swett, Sacramento, CA
Or it will only sharpen division? Sam Querrey, racket sport Copperhead.
If I am one of these pickleball leagues, I’m combing college tennis for players. Most of them will never become tennis pros. Take—as an example—the No.2 player at Indiana or Purdue, male or female, and tell them, “You can scavenge for tennis ranking points playing challengers in Tegucigalpa, sleeping on hammocks and spending more in travel than you’ll ever make in prize money. Or you can earn a nice living in this ascending sport.”
This would be a win-win. In a tacit way, tennis would still assert its superiority. Carlos Alcaraz and Coco Gauff ain’t defecting to pickleball. On the other hand, if you can continue making a living from pickleball after you retire from tennis, it’s all the more reason for youngsters to pick up tennis. And in this scenario, pickleball would get players with name recognition and athletic bona fides. That would be another step in the direction of making tennis and pickleball complementary and not competitors.
Meanwhile, want to see real internecine war? Watch how all these various competing pickleball leagues and associations whack each other round these next few years.
I had to laugh at Fernando’s comment about Fed’s “good-bye” ceremony. Does anyone really equate real-life heroes like first responders, teachers, nurses, scientists, etc. with athletes or celebrities??? Of course not. We all know that those folks are underpaid and superstar athletes and celebrities are overpaid in comparison. So making that point is ridiculous at best. But even on the scale of what other athletes have had for their good-byes, I didn’t find Fed’s “over the top” at all. What? There was a short video. An interview with Roger. And some gal sang. That was it. All the hugging and Roger-being-carried by his LC mates just happened. Good grief, it’s not like Roger got some star-studded downtown parade with a marching band for goodness sakes!
As for the other comment about wanting Roger and Rafa to be nominated for ‘SI Sportsman of the Year’. I agree with you… it doesn’t really apply here. Picture of the Year? Absolutely! Moment of the Year? Sure. Or like you said, some award about being an example of a Rivalry-as-Friends. Still, I’ll never forgive SI for not choosing Federer ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in 2006. He deserved it. Everyone knew it. Even Dwayne Wade knew it. After that, I lost all respect for that award.
I beg your forgiveness. (Didn’t giving the Sportsperson Award to Serena in 2015 claw back a little good will?)
More general point: so many people in so many professions and contexts struggle with the decision to retire. The when, the why, the how. Imagine you’re an athlete. Imagine being in the middle of your life and being told, “You’re unlikely ever to be as good at anything else ever again.” Then add the needle to thread before a self-glamorizing ceremony/tour and a quiet retreat, which would deprive fans the opportunity for a celebration. This sounds just as stressful as any sudden death overtime or penalty kick shootout or 6-6 in the decisive set. I think we ought to extend an awful lot of latitude to the retiring athlete.
Saw an article from my all-time favorite American player, John Isner, (A chance five minute conversation at an airport, more than a decade ago, would have me pull the lever that Isner is one of the good guys), that said Novak is the only player who has ever made him feel helpless at times when trying to hold serve.
Made me think about a few serving stats that would be interesting, as Isner possesses the best individual stroke in the history of tennis –
% of Isner service games held, career
% of Isner service games held vs Novak, Rafa, Roger & Andy Murray, respectively
% of all tour service games held , ATP average for a season, as a comparison
% of Isner service games broken, at Love ( Given his serve & all–time career lead in # of aces; this number has to be next to zero )
BTW – I still think a match that goes to all tiebreakers should be called an “Instant Isner”
Bill in NJ
Start here: Isner’s career hold percentage is 91.82. (Note that Ivo Karlovic is tops at an even 92 percent.) This should be normed for quality of opponent, perhaps. A top-20 stalwart, Isner surely faced tougher competitors overall than Karlovic, and thus, it’s expected his rate might be slightly lower. But, yes, even as ATP players tend to hold serve about 77 percent of the time, Isner’s rate is sensationally high.
To your larger point: John Isner is your favorite player of all-time? Really? Just kidding. To your larger point: does Isner possess the best individual stroke in the history of tennis? Or at least men’s tennis? Interesting question. For one, the serve should get special weight here. Players are hitting that stroke—necessarily—in every other game. As the great Paul Annacone once put it (paraphrasing slightly), “You can try and avoid your opponent’s strength. But you can’t keep the ball away from the other guy’s serve.”)
And it’s not simply that Isner wins more matches on account of his serve than player X wins on account of his forehand or backhand (or even return). It’s that it figures so heavily in his career success. Another way to look at it: what is John Isner’s ranking if his serve were merely average?
Two side points. In a way this speaks well of John Isner. If he only had a serve, he would be Ivo Karlovic. Though I’m sure he wishes he had a higher rate of breaking serve, he must be doing something more than squeezing off unreturnable serves if he’s spent 15-plus years at the highest echelon. It also speaks well of tennis. You cannot possess what is arguably the greatest weapon in the sport’s history and still not a win a major, or enter the top five, if you don’t have additional weapons in your arsenal.
What’s the best way to contact Tennis Channel if I have thoughts about its coverage and content that I’d like to share? Is there a specific person to whom I should direct my thoughts? An email address or postal address? This information doesn’t seem to be available—or at least isn’t displayed prominently—on the Tennis Channel website. Thanks.
This wouldn’t be about a certain sport, named after a vinegary, brined cucumber, would it?
• The Credit One Charleston Open, the largest women’s-only tennis tournament in North America, will welcome back three former champions next year to Charleston— Belinda Bencic, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens—for the highly-anticipated clay season kickoff on the WTA Hologic Tour. The WTA 500 tournament is set to return April 1 – 9, 2023 in the renovated and modernized Credit One Stadium on Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina.
• Message from the All England Club: “I am delighted to let you know that Usama Al-Qassab has been appointed to the position of Marketing & Commercial Director and he will be joining the business on Monday 10 October. With recent changes at director level following the departures of Alex Willis and Gus Henderson, Sally has taken the opportunity to review our requirements going forward and made the decision to remerge the marketing, communications and commercial functions into one team. Usama’s responsibilities will therefore include all aspects of marketing, communications, brand, broadcast, official suppliers, retail, hospitality and ticketing.
Usama brings a wealth of global experience within marketing, brand management, digital transformation and innovation in digital entertainment, along with a strong commercial background. He was most recently Vice President Marketing (Disney+) EMEA for The Walt Disney Corporation where he led the launch of Disney+, the fastest growing broadcast subscription video on demand business. Prior to that, as Vice President Marketing EMEA for Sony PlayStation, he was responsible for launching the PlayStation 4 which was the most successful, fastest and best-selling console.
• Lubna Qureishi, take us out:
This past July, I was sitting on the couch, watching the Wimbledon women’s final, drinking a cup of tea (okay, it was coffee but tea sounds more appropriate). Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan was playing Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. I had been following Jabeur, who had broken out just recently as the first Arab to reach the world’s top ten and the first Arab woman to play in a Grand Slam final. Not only that, her game was exciting, with its seething slices and clever drop shots; and her goals were gracious, in wanting to inspire the next generation of Arab and African tennis players. And even though she lost the final, I was impressed that she had a smile on her face, a nod to her country giving her the title, Minister of Happiness. “I just want to wish Eid Mubarak to all Muslims around the world.” she said, wrapping up her speech. What? Did she just say “Eid Mubarak” on live TV to a crowd of thousands at Centre Court and to the millions watching around the world?
When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties in California, I remember during Eid, our Muslim holiday, my sister and I gathered around our aunts who put henna paste on the palms of our hands. When washed off, the henna left a beautiful, temporary design in a deep red color; the darker the color, the longer it lasted. The only thing was, what would the kids at school say? No one knew about Muslim holidays. I was too shy to explain what Eid Mubarak meant and why a henna design would be cool in any way at all? I was among a handful of Indians and one of two Muslims (the other being my sister) in school, and I felt like I was living in two different worlds. Today you can walk into a Starbucks wearing a pashmina shawl and a henna “tattoo” on your hands and order a turmeric latte as if it was the most normal thing. But not when I was growing up.
The only time I saw a person who looked like me on TV was an Indian woman in a show (guest star at that), being rescued by her blonde male…rescuer. The dolls we played with were blonde, the women we watched in sports looked a certain way. I loved the Barbies and admired Chris Evert. But I couldn’t really see myself in them.
Sports bring people together, physically, as they gather to watch an event; emotionally, as they experience the sheer joy of the win or the gutting sorrow of the loss. But success in sports goes beyond victory. Athletes have the power to be ambassadors of understanding and to bring worlds together with their words.
So not only was I happy when Ons Jabeur reached the Wimbledon final, I was ecstatic to hear her tell the millions watching her, Eid Mubarak; fearlessly, without embarrassment. Two words that validated, educated, and celebrated. And though she was a finalist at the 2022 US Open, I’m sure the game and heart of Ons will translate into a major victory soon. But in my mind she is already victorious. AllOns-y, Ons!
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