• Barry is, of course, referring to "Tennis Night in America," the four-woman exhibition held at Madison Square Garden and televised live on HBO on Monday.
He's right that it's tough to assign much value to exhibitions. If you're lucky, you forget these aren't sanctioned matches; other times they resemble glorified practice sessions. While I didn't think any player went at 100 percent speed Monday night, the psychological stakes were enough to make each player care about the outcome. The Williams sisters have won the last three Majors and are again the dominant forces in the women's game, rankings be damned.
The night wasn't perfect. A snow storm addled schedules. The play was often patchy. There were shaky line calls and a malfunctioning scoreboard. But overall it reinforced the benefit of exhibitions. The tour might be ambivalent about them; but they serve an overall good for the sport.
Here it is, early March, traditionally, a time in the sports calendar when tennis is off the radar. And -- as was the case last year when Federer played Sampras -- tennis not only gets some buzz, but also 12,000 or so fans on the East Coast (and a few hundred thousand with HBO) can watch the sport live. The players get some extra cash, as well as a chance to penetrate the New York market, not insignificant if you're trying to build Ivanovic as a global star. The USTA wisely used the occasion to market the sport nationwide. BNP Paribas gets some value for their tennis investment. Everyone comes away happy. Here's hoping this is an annual event. Maybe next year you combine genders?
• Agreed. Venus, known for playing a sparse schedule, finds time to enter a Tier III event in Acapulco, the week after playing in Dubai and the week before an exhibition in Madison Square Garden. I don't know about her appearance fee, but suffice to say it rivaled, if not eclipsed, the total tournament purse of $220,000. Plus she earned $300,000 in New York Monday night. Now that's a recession-era playing schedule!
I don't want to pick on Venus here. (You could as easily cite, say,
This is a fundamental issue that never goes away. Tell the players when and where to play and they resist. Allow anarchy to reign -- "hey players, go wherever you please." -- and you strip the circuit of credibility. (And sponsors.) It's an age-old tennis riddle and no one has solved it yet.
• A lot of you raised the same issue. Just for the sake of argument, let's say you're right and
• I don't think it's a ritual or a tradition. They were simply moved to hug at the net on occasion A and not moved on occasion B. Again, I have complete sympathy for V and S here. If they're too affectionate, it undercuts the competitiveness of the match. And if they don't embrace -- or Serena blames the loss on her poor play, as was the case in the Wimbledon final -- it can come across as unpleasant as well. It's an awkward, uncomfortable situation all around.
• Great idea,
• More money than most promoters can throw around in this economy.
• No really, Jeff, tell us how you feel. (Ba-dum-bum.) OK, that's a fair request. But I have to pin that one squarely on television. Print/digital media members would ask something far more probing. Like, "How would you grade today's performance?"
• Far as I can tell, it looks like the WTA includes these results and the ATP doesn't.
• I'm pretty sure the logo predates Sampras. But anyone else know? A prize is in the offing.
• If this fictitious Israeli event promised the ATP that no player would be excluded and then, on the eve of the tournament, denied a player a visa, I would expect/hope there would be similar outrage. Again, the issue is reversing promises to the WTA and excluding players for reasons having nothing to do with merit; not whether you agree or disagree with Israeli policy.
Nothing controversial here with respect to the Williams sisters. It is emotionally awkward to compete wholeheartedly against a sibling. Who can summon those competitive juices, usually such a vital part of the Williams arsenal, against your own blood. (And it extends to fans: who among us really roots forcefully for one sibling to beat another?) Much as they try -- admirably -- to outwit themselves into "playing the ball" or "treating my sister like any other opponent," how could it feel natural? I cannot be any more clear on this: I do not believe their matches are in any way rigged or fixed or tainted. But it's clear there's a huge and unique emotional component here. That's all.
• VER-das-co. Make like the second half of "Wizard of Oz," and leave "b and w" out of it.
• New York readers -- and African American readers in particular -- please consider
• A leftover from last week. What are the odds that two pairs of sisters in the Dubai draw, the Williamses and the Radwanksas (Radwanksis?) played each other.
• Tom Ka of Dublin forwarded this link to an interesting interview with
Have a good week everyone!