Friday, 19 August 2011

Caro parts ways with Piotr.


World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and her father, Piotr, have ended their coaching relationship, Ekstra Bladet reports. The father and daughter apparently discussed her moving in another direction after Dominika Cibulkova upset Wozniacki at Wimbledon. The Wozniackis are said to have hired a new private coach to travel with Caroline, but he/she has yet to come on board, so Piotr went with Caroline to Toronto and Cincinnati.

Wozniacki fell in the opening round of both tournament, to Roberta Vinci in Toronto and to Christina McHale in Cincinnati. Piotr was heard yelling at the slumping Caroline when he came on court during her loss to McHale.
The identity of the new coach is so far unknown but is said to be a former touring pro.

Wozniacki's agent, Lagardere's John Tobias, confirmed to that Piotr is stepping back, but said that no definitive hire of a new coach has been made yet.

Wozniacki has also worked with adidas Player Development coach Sven Groenefeld. Piotr Wozniacki, a former soccer player in Denmark, is said to have encouraged his daughter to try someone else out. Wozniacki, who has yet to win a Grand Slam, has been criticized for playing too defensively.

"We've heard from morning to night how Caroline should play," Piotr told the newspaper. "So now she tries something else. It is intended that she should be a very aggressive player. But as you can see, she cannot win matches right now, because she does not know how she should play. But whatever, I'm Caroline's father, and I will always support her."

She is scheduled to play in New Haven next week.


A few comments:

1) The Cibulkova “upset” at Wimbledon?

These are some of the players Domi’s beaten this year: Goerges at Wimbledon (R32), Sveta at Madrid (R64), Masha at Madrid (R32), Bepa at IW (R32).

Three of those have come in the last four months. You’ll note that the Wimbledon match in which Domi’s purported to have “upset” Caro was preceded by a win over Goerges– was that also an upset?

And here some of the players she’s lost to: Petra in Madrid (QF), Masha at Wimbledon (SF), and Marion in Stanford (SF).

We all know what a nutjob Domi can be and still is. There’s no point in defending her on that front – I think I might even prefer it that way.

But she’s also a top 20 player who’s reached the R16 or better at every Slam playing some of the best tennis of her life. Reading of her “upset”  above you’d think Caro had been routined by Christina McHale.

There’s getting defensive, and there’s putting your head in the sand.

Caro’s problems, whatever they might be, began well before Wimbledon with those consecutive losses she suffered to Goerges. Unless, of course, that too was an upset.

2) Not completely sure this is entirely a good or a bad move.

It’s certainly clear this is the first major crisis of her career. Not responding proportionally wouldn’t be wise. She’ll likely benefit from hearing a new voice. And that’s not even a knock on Piotr.

What’s not clear is what direction that new voice will take her in. Her stated ambition is more aggression. Much as the world has been calling for this, is that even possible? Probably, but to what degree?

Tennis is a game of organic growth –  with very few exceptions, you don’t suddenly wake up one morning and remould your groundstrokes. Doing so usually (and sometimes irrevocably) turns you into a different player and mostly proves counterproductive.

But there’s a bigger issue at stake. Much as aggression is being touted as her Holy Grail (and it is precisely that), the fact remains she was winning these types of matches just six months back. Whatever the issue is it may run deeper than any single technicality can account for. Whilst it’s simply indisputable that Caro will benefit from more aggression, she might still wind up losing matches, whether that’s under Piotr, Navratilova or the Cookie Monster.

3) Piotr’s Piotr..

Whatever your thoughts him (of which there are many) or on her game (of which there are also many), the fact remains she made world #1 under his tutelage.

Personally, I don’t think the very intense image of him hollering at her, comparing her to a “junior”, with her staring vacantly off into the distance during her loss to McHale, did anyone much good.

But they do seem to have a good relationship – and if they don’t, the fact is we simply don’t know any better. She may simply have come as far as she can with him. They may even be parting to preserve/strengthen that familial bond. Easy to forget that during the inevitable snarkfest that this episode will inevitably provoke.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rogers Cup: ‘Excellence’, it’s a platitude

Novak Djokovic has now won 5 Masters titles this season – that's one less than Murray’s won in his entire lifetime. I’m not going to bother relaying the other stats – we already know them too well.


The reaction to this has been the predictable mix of astonishment at witnessing history unfolding before you, to giving him his due…to a particularly benign form of acceptance which I confess I’m beginning to  find completely uninspiring – the journalism, not the streak.

Winning DC, Aus, and the IW/Miami double was “unbelievable”. Following up with a further two MS titles on clay and, of course, Wimbledon was “unprecedented”.

That we’re still talking about it in exactly the same terms over a month later, just two weeks before the last Slam of the year suggests a certain complaisance.

It’s not that I object to giving Novak, or anyone else, his due. Quite apart from how ridiculous or unfair that would be, it’s simply counterproductive – marking you out as little more than a fruitcake with an enormous ideological chip on your shoulder.

And no, I don’t subscribe to the “dominance is boring” school of thought either – nor am I suggesting complaisance on the part of the players.

But there’s only so many times you can sit through breathless essays on the precise nature of excellence. To be honest, it fosters the kind of environment in which its deemed ok to loose to Novak Djokovic – I don’t think he needs any help on that front.

Forgive, therefore, my taking a slightly different tact.

To be honest, the best assessment I’ve seen came from Jo:

"He plays incredible tennis, but he's not an alien. In fact, what he does is doing everything better than the others. He doesn't hit harder, he doesn't hit the ball earlier. But he's always there. This is tiring when you play against him. He does not have the best return on the tour. But on every return, he returns well, and he's always there. So what does it is his consistency, and he has no weaknesses."


No he’s not alien. And that’s probably one of the few times you’ll hear consistency being described, in the current climate, in such glowing terms.

But what I really like about it is how technically astute it is – and how he uses those technical observations in order to find a happy medium between giving Novak his due, and giving TENNIS its due – you really can do both. You really ought to do both.

I’ve yet to see a single tennis writer come up with something as cogent or concise; instead, a player known more for his on court talent and/or fragility took us by surprise in an unrehearsed moment of brilliance.

Not just a pretty face then.



I was one of those who were sceptical of her decision to participate in all three events before the USO, not because I thought she couldn’t win, but because I flinch at the idea of her risking injury.

Once again, it appears she knew what she was doing. Still, I won’t be sorry if she goes out early in Cincy.

The win moves her up to #31 in the rankings which, mishaps, upsets, anomalies and the discovery of actual aliens in the draw notwithstanding, really ought to be enough to secure her a seeding in NY.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cincy: Noticeboard

Cincy last year…

May we NEVER forget





Nole Fed Simon Fish
Gael Berd Murray Rafa





Petrova Peng Sam Dani
Petko JJ Pova Bepa





Sympathy Vote

Ideas above their station



Rogers Cup: Well it wasn’t for want of trying

On the one hand, I can’t truly say I was especially invested in Vika winning this event. Notwithstanding that I root for her almost without fail in every match she plays, like Andy and Caro, I just can’t see the point of winning at this level anymore.


Williams d. Azarenka 63 63

When you’ve won Miami twice or, as in Andy’s case, six Masters titles, winning the same old Premier events simply allows talking heads to continue to bitch about your Slamless credibility.

That said, yesterdays match was, as it seems most everyone in my timeline agreed, just a little special.

My feeling was that Vika had a chance – Serena had played two three setters to reach here, Azarenka had only lost six games. If Zheng could get a set off Serena, why shouldn’t Vika get two?

BOTH WOMEN came out striking better than anyone had all week: Vika was playing as well as she’s capable of and yet Serena seemed to be (and I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice this) taking the ball that little bit earlier.

I’m not sure we can read much more into how the match played out except to say that there’s very few that can maintain the intensity that goes with playing your A-game for that period of time. And even fewer (if any) that can do it against Serena. Vika eventually cracked in the middle of set two – I’m only surprised (and rather proud) she lasted as long as she did.

Let the record, therefore, reflect no blemish, no want of effort from Victoria – she was simply outmatched by a legend. Sure, there were a few service glitches (47% 1st serves in set one), but that was the best I’ve seen Serena time the ball since her return.

No one, as we’ve heard many times since yesterday (and many times over the past decade), can stay with her at that level.

And yet this trivial, uncontroversial statement of fact continues to provoke the kind of hostility I thought we did away with in the pre-Twitter era.

”Unless the women's game loses its inferiority complex where @serenawilliams is concerned, she will win US Open #assimpleasthat

Harman’s a respected commentator – I mostly agree with him. But anyone that saw the match knows how grossly unfair that is. Vika continues to have holes in her game , she may be suffering from many things, but an inferiority complex ain’t one of them. And it certainly wasn’t the problem last night.

Nothing new of course – its the same argument that saw those unwilling (or unable) to give Fed his due when he was winning 3 Slams a year, citing “locker room impotence” in the face of “the aura”. Only, I’m pretty sure Harman wasn’t amongst them back then.

And that’s why this really rankles. Its not that *certain* players haven’t given Fed and/or Serena an easy ride over the years (they have). I don’t even dispute anyone’s right to make that claim even though I think it’s clear that it’s often little more than an ideological hoax – one I didn’t take very seriously then or now.

But it’s only fair to require those professing such a theory to play an even hand, not just against styles of play and/or personalities that don’t “please” you: it may not be his intent, but this simply smacks too much of those antiquated attacks on Serena (and Venus) stemming from an ideological dislike of their, and only their, dominance.

That’s, like, so 2003. 

(Pics: getty)


Saturday, 13 August 2011

Rogers Cup: Noticeboard


Whatever side of the ‘No-Slam’ debate you’re on, its becoming difficult to dismiss the idea that these two have practically NOTHING to gain by winning events like this anymore – worse yet, it will almost certainly see a renewal of those retard assaults on their Slamless credibility so many seem to continue to find so funny. Vika’s on that list too.

All of which is to say I won’t be that put out if either loses early. A good run – one that ensures neither make an utter dick of themselves at the USO – no more, no less.





Nole Tsonga Fish Berd
Gael Nico Wawa Tipsy





Vinci Aga Voskoboeva Safarova
Sam Petko Vika Serena





Sympathy Vote

Ideas above their station


Potential R3 bust-ups: Serena/Kim, Nole/Delpo, Fed/Tsonga. 

I’m struggling to conceive of a scenario in which Fed doesn’t get his revenge over Tsonga. They say lightening doesn’t strike twice – nor, experience suggests, does Jo.

Difficult to know what to make of Ernie’s section: on the one hand it’s the draw from HELL – on the other hand, it’s also a collection of giant-killers rather than giants. And most of them will cancel each other out.

Ana/Venus (R1)….there’s only so much you can go on about “Ana’s troubles” without it sounding like cloying, overwrought piffle; even so, this kind of sh*t seems to happen to her A LOT. Venus out with viral illness.

With R1 exits in Julia’s last two events, now’s as good a time as any for JJ to be drawn against Goerges….she might even spring an upset. Actually, no.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Statement on the recent events in Canada

Can you guess? Can you guess which country, which tournament cannot, will not, be swayed from “doing its own thing”?

I give up. Everything I said yesterday about explaining or not explaining is gunk. We may as well ask the Cookie Monster for his opinion – you could do a lot worse.

The #newrogerscupslogan hashtag (which you really need to look at if you haven’t already)  is total win, so completely expressing the feelings I might have vented had I been conscious. 

The casualty list of Caro, Murray, Delpo, Rafa and Kim, now extends to Li, Pova, Petra, Fran and Fed, who saw fit to win only a single game in the final set of his loss to Tsonga. The funny thing is I don’t know if we can blame any of them.

I said lightening and/or Jo-Wilfried doesn’t and wouldn’t strike twice. I was wrong. Or, at least, it does in Canada. And I bet if you waited long enough, it would strike again…and again…and again…in the same place, several times over. All against the wonderfully resonant backdrop of the blue screen of death and under a hail of broken light bulbs. For that, apparently, is how Canada rolls.

So now we know.

Either we’re in urgent need of updating our Canadian stereotypes, or this is Canada’s most audacious bid for attention since…..yeah.

Even Serena was to lose a set before bringing down Zheng and, one can only hope, the Antichrist along with her.

You’d think Serena and Novak should now, by rights, sleep walk their way to the title. Except Canada don’t deal in rights. Or wrongs. Or pretty much any type of consciously (or subconsciously) imposed order.

For all I know Roberta Vinci will probably win.

All that’s left is to book passage on the fastest plane, train or camper van out of here and on to Cincy.

And to deliver a standing ovation to the only people who seem to have had the foresight to plan against the chaos before the event even began, and wanted no part of it. I think we can all agree that they were on to something.

Well played Venus Williams….Well played Robin Soderling….Well played Andy Roddick.

Your judgement and various ailments do you credit.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Rogers Cup: Bad things happen to good people and to multimillionaire tennis players with high rankings


Losing a few big names in the early rounds is no big deal – it’s almost part of the deal and may even prove beneficial.

Lose Caro, Rafa, Murray, Delpo and Kim in the space of 48 hours and its clear you’re dealing with chaos.

And any post purporting to “explain” chaos is, well, part of the problem.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think there’s any reasons for what’s happening: I don’t think you can dismiss the role of the July layoff, for example – Murray, from what I remember (which is frankly nothing), doesn’t always cope with that type of interval too well.

Rafa losing to a big hitting Croatian on a hard court? Seen that before. Being so horribly predictable under pressure it makes your eyes water? Seen that too. [full credit to Dodig for his muscly double-hander but he shouldn’t have been given so many of them to begin with]  

Injuries, withdrawals? That’s just the fabric of tennis reality.

Perhaps the only real surprise is that it should all happen at once – a statistical anomaly, nothing more, nothing less.

All of which is to say is, the sh*t sometimes hits the fan.

And I don’t even think its that much of a big deal . Nor do I think we should be bending over backwards trying to “explain” it.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Some weeks you get the Milk, Other weeks you get the Vodka


The end of the slump. The 2nd career title. A reminder of his relevance. A reminder of his foolishness. Vodka and Milk. Its all good. And it couldn’t have come too soon.

But it would be a mistake, I think, to expect him to repeat this type of form every week, or every other week, or even every other month. He just ain’t that guy.

Having a breakout week is one thing: he’s more than capable of taking down the biggest names in the game, he may even be capable of stringing together the requisite 7 matches it takes to win a Slam. Hold out for that if you must.

But he ain’t, and won’t likely ever be, about crafting a ranking – top ten or otherwise. That would involve invoking of the ‘C’ word. And, well, whatever else Ernests’ strengths are, CONSISTENCY certainly isn’t one of them. Some weeks you get the milk, but more often than not you get the vodka. You’d think those that liken him to Marat would already know that.

Another thing – as much as I liked this, I’m having difficulty with the necessity some seem to feel of having to “rehab” personalities like Ernests. To do so seems to me to spectacularly miss the point. You think he gives a hoot about what you or I think?

And what makes us think fans or haters will change their view of him even after such elaborate PR surgery?

Those that like talented, chaotic nutjobs given over to recklessness as a form of public service, will continue to appreciate his brand of anarchy, both his vodka and his milk, no matter what.

Those that don’t, will continue to reel in repugnance at the rich kid that can’t be a*sed to make good on his talent, his so-called “sense of entitlement”, no matter what.


If it were any other player beating Masha, Sabine and Marion consecutively, and in straight sets, winning her first title after a year-long outage, more than halving her ranking to #79 in the process, I’d probably take time to gape a little. As it’s Serena I’ll move along and make like there’s nothing to see here.

Still not convinced playing three out of the three events ahead of the USO is the best thing, however. There’s “getting serious” about events outside of Slams and there’s over-compensating.  Am I the only one that thinks that’s, like, a LOT of tennis? Not to mention it opens one up to the risk of injury.



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