Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Grass Court Events: A Far Cry Away?

I've deliberately steered clear of discussing or posting any images of Roger and his Waterworks, but have been amazed to see just how greatly the issue appears to have polarised the tennis world.

On the one hand you have those who say that it's great for tennis, great for sport and a measure of the man's love for his craft and reaching it's highest levels. Not at all out of place either here or at the Olympic Games.

The other side (at it's less judgemental) perhaps repelled by the disproportionate levels of Roger-loving in some quarters, says that the episode not only robbed Nadal of a very special moment in his own career, but also of the extensive media coverage it would otherwise have generated. Suffused somewhere in there is also the viewpoint that even if such displays have a place, they have kind of run their course with Roger.

I'm not sure either one of those views are
entirely true, but for my money, prefer it hadn't happened as I really think this was a landmark moment for Nadal (this 'grinder' is now well on course for a Career Slam, and is for some a better Grand Slam prospect than Roger), and much as I prefer his game, feel Roger already gets more than his fair share of press coverage.

It also unwittingly, shifted focus from what the issue here really is: the significance of Nadal's win; from the discussion of whether he now really has matured into a player for all surfaces, to questions of how many Slams he'll win.

Now I know most of us Tennis Heads have analysed and dissected these to bits already - but the man on the street will simply be confronted with images of Weeping Roger alongside a less prominent image of Rafa biting on a trophy. Their conclusion? -- "Oh that Nadal kid continues to trouble Federer. Strangely emotional these tennis playing folk, although I suppose Sampras did it too..." That last Pistol-Pete observation only from the more astute sports fan...

On the other hand, there wasn't anything deliberate or calculated in his actions. Roger was just being Roger. We all know he's a very emotional man. I suppose we should blame the press for, well being the press and trying to sell more papers.


Since his win in Melbourne, Nadal's being making noises about the disproportionately large number of hard court tournaments, focusing in particular on the physical demands the surface places on the body and interestingly enough how he felt that would affect him long after he's left the game.

It reminded me once again of a point I've discussed with 2Hander and that I'm sure has been mulled over again and again. Just why we don't have more grass court events and why in particular there is no Grass court event at the Masters level?

I know the shortage of grass courts has a lot to do with the year long maintenance demands placed on the event holders, but hang on a minute - we are, are we not speaking of a properly sponsored world class event, not the budgetary concerns of my local lawn tennis club!?

As to the second question, I've often thought scheduling difficulties were the main sticking point and it is problematic to have a Master's event with Roland Garros and Wimbledon being only 4 weeks apart. Though even that is not wholly impossible: we could for example have a similar situation to Monte Carlo, by turning Queens into a non-mandatory 1000 level event.

Failing that I just can't see why we don't have more grass court events (at or below the 1000 level) before or after Wimbledon - we do after all have a colossal 15 clay court events before RG and 7 after it. Change can be effected it seems if the suits do business - look at the effort that went into rescheduling Madrid and making it a joint event with the WTA - a very welcome addition to the calendar I think.

I'm not with the purists who demand that each of the Slams be played on a different surface: the year in their world view would culminate in an Indoor Carpet Slam played some time around September. Indoor tournies have their place in the Calendar but they aren't Slams and that indoor-sameiness (just how many times have you truly
been wowed by an aerial - or as aerial as you can get inside - shot of Paris-Bercy, Basel or Shanghai?? ) is frankly light years away (backwards in the direction of the big bang) from anything you might expect at a Slam. The big event feel generated by the Colossus that is the Arthur Ashe Stadium, and the fact that it is played outdoors has contributed equally to making the US Open the momentous and historic tournament it is.

Besides, we have indoor Masters events. We only have a pitiful five grass court events outside of Wimbledon, and none of these are at the Masters *shudders* 1000 level.

Maybe if Rafa cried about it, the suits would take note - he'd certainly get more press...

Nadal image by Chris Taylor under licence

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