Tennis' Silly Season enters full swing as Shanghai Masters looms
I'm not sure how many people asked for it -- at last count, I believe it was 18 -- but here we are in the middle of the tennis Silly Season. Just when you thought the U.S. Open was such a fabulous venue for closure, onward we go to Beijing, Shanghai, Venus and Oz.
It's always a hoot to watch the ATP and WTA try to drum up attention for the Silly Season, because only the hardcore fans are paying even the slightest attention. Everyone else plays by a simple rule: You can't fully embrace a sport if it never goes away. Don't believe any nonsense about a "break" in this sport, for it amounts to about 10 minutes between the Davis Cup final and the Australian Open.
The men's tour got particularly silly last week, insulting an entire continent in the process. Listen, if you're going to perform in Asia -- a vastly important market when it comes to sponsorship and the game's future -- at least bring your A game. Give the fans a full-fledged event. Instead, we found
The crowds in Japan were plentiful and energetic, with some fine tennis to match, but organizers of the China Open were less amused. I tuned into the Djokovic-
Still, the Silly Season is looking a bit more promising than usual this year, for two reasons: a test of
This week's Shanghai event is the real thing, featuring all of the top players except
We didn't get Federer-Nadal at Wimbledon. Agonizingly close at the U.S. Open, we were denied the privilege there, as well. Why not Shanghai?
The plain fact about the women's year-end tournament, beginning Oct. 26 in Doha, Qatar, is that is lacks four essential components:
Personally, I'm thrilled that Venus and Serena have ruled themselves out of the Fed Cup. They've been hanging around the perimeter of that event for months, always lending the promise of playing the final against Italy (Nov. 6-7 in San Diego), when they should have acknowledged the inspired play of
Make no mistake, that U.S. team is going to get routed by Schiavone,
You'd like to see more conviction from team captain
Mattek-Sands came the closest to straight talk within the team a few weeks ago, when she said, "They kind of leave everyone hanging. Their decisions are always last-minute. Obviously, we want the best team, they're good friends, and I like them a lot. But it's tough because me and Mel and Liezel got us to this point. They've been my solid teammates. I liked the team we had."
And now they will have it, perhaps adding
Monfils coolly aced himself out of that crisis, and when he earned his own match point at 7-6, he made astounding, back-to-back retrievals of a punishing inside-out forehand and a cross-court forehand volley to clinch the match. Hanging his head (a lamentable trademark) as too many Monfils shots blew past him, Roddick didn't look like a player capable of making a stirring return to the game's elite.
Troicki's inspired three-set performance was yet another example of the depth of the men's tour. The man played out of his mind, with some serious power. It really looked as if Nadal was going down. But with that third-set tiebreaker even at 7-7, Nadal jumped on a second serve and just
Picture this snapshot: Nadal is lining up an overhead smash, the ball about three feet above his racket as the photo is taken. Monfils is inside the service line at the top of a splayed-leg leap -- as if desperately trying to avoid a rattlesnake --
It got even worse, for tennis fundamentalists, in the next game. Serving at 4-4 and 0-15, Monfils inexplicably tried a feathery baseline drop shot and it sank pitifully into the net. Odd as it was in essence, it was even more strange given the fact that Nadal, the fastest man in sneakers, would have raced into position to return the shot, even if it had been struck perfectly. Then came the topper. At 15-all in the final game, Monfils lined up a running, two-hand backhand approach -- right in front of him, no mystery -- and essentially fanned. He barely ticked the ball and it fell to earth at his feet. I'm not sure who was more amazed, Nadal or the British commentators who found themselves at a loss for words.
• And finally, there was a priceless announcement from the ATP. Everyone's aware of the widespread outcry for a longer break in winter, a condensed Davis Cup,
No, it doesn't make any sense to me, either. I guess that's another way of saying, "No dice, everybody. We'd rather count the money."