Sony Open reveals concrete's physical toll and Serena's dominance
? We've been saying for years that the "debate" over equal prize money is silly and self-defeating. Instead of squabbling over nickels and 50-50 split versus a 47-53 split, the players would do better consolidating their powers and going after more revenues at the majors. Last month, of course, the U.S. Open agreed to double prize money to $50 million by 2017. The other Slams will follow suit. This was not only a huge win for labor but it also ought to prove to the players that, if the political will is there, they have real power to bring about change.
Galvanized by this victory, the players should go after "health and safety issues" next. The sport has gotten entirely too dangerous, and -- tennis conflicts being what they are -- the adults have no incentive to change the status quo. The tours want more competition, not less. As we discussed the other day, the tone-deaf marketing of the WTA's "mandatory" events says it all. And is the ATP, sponsored as it is by Luxilon, really going to investigate the physical effects of polyester strings or emerging technology?
The hard-court tournaments pay the tours hefty sanctioning fees. Are the tours really going to fight these partners and demand that their concrete courts be changed to clay? What about the management agencies? Oh, wait, most of them own events as well -- including Miami -- and don't want to see player commitments reduced or invest in resurfacing acres of courts.
The players need to act here. The injured list is intolerable. So is the list of players who have quit the sport entirely. I ran into Tatiana Golovin in New York a few weeks back. She's well into her retirement. And she's 25. That's not acceptable.
There are no guaranteed contracts in tennis. The costs -- the opportunity costs and the out-of-pocket costs -- of missing time are huge. If I'm a player, this is my big issue.
? Yes, we got a ton of email about CBS cutting out before the conclusion of the Miami final in order to get to the NCAA tournament. Sadly, it's another case of TV disrespecting the sport. And it's another reminder of who has the leverage.
In a perfect world, the tournaments don't sign contracts without guarantees that the TV "partners" carry the match to a conclusion. But when the suitor doesn't agree -- "Here's your window. We have a basketball tournament to televise. Take it or leave it" -- what is your choice? As several of you note, if you look at the schedule next year, there's a chance the same issues arises.
This falls into the "vicious cycle" category. How is the sport supposed to grow and deliver strong ratings when it's treated so shabbily by so many networks? And as long as the ratings aren't strong, what's the incentive for networks to improve their treatment?
In X years, we will look back at this laugh. We will watch sports on demand and on devices of our choosing and the notion of "broadcast windows" will be as laughably obsolete as tape delays. For now, though, it's a great annoyance.
? We are sports' answer to the re-gifted fruitcake.
? First, I think you may have misstated my position a bit. I think Federer's head-to-head record against Nadal
I see your point about age. But doesn't this cut both ways? When the two met for the first time in 2004, Federer was the defending Wimbledon champion, had won the Australian Open and was ranked No.1; Nadal was 17. Overall, I think your point is a good one. For as much attention as we devote to "surface," we should also consider "age gap" when assessing a rivalry. But here, the rivalry has spanned nearly a decade and, for most if it, both players were near their primes.
As long as we're in the neighborhood ....
? You know where I stand here. But, yes, this is still another point that cuts in her favor.
? Good call. I remember watching her then. And I remember Kim Clijsters' assessment of the next Belgian prospect in 2003. Read the very end. Clijsters' answer was dead on.
? The same way Andy Murray (one major) is in the same class as Federer (17 majors). No one is saying that Sharapova has equaled Serena's career achievements or has a favorable head-to-head record. But are there three players on the WTA who have clearly distanced themselves from the field, and is she one of them? Yes.
I get that we all have players we like and dislike. And I get that there is a lot of subtext to the Sharapova-Serena "rivalry," such as it. (I'll beat you to the punch and agree that grass has a comparable "rivalry" with a lawnmower.) But, sheesh, she has won four majors, each of them once. A little respect, no?
? But her class participation was outstanding this semester. Several of the points she raised in seminar triggered profound and passionate discussion. Besides, Sharapova has shown tremendous personal growth and consistently makes contributions -- both on campus and in the greater Ithaca community -- that can't be captured with mere test scores.
? I'd change the word "cup" to "schmear" or somesuch. But then your joke kills.
? Until we can administer truth serum, there will never be a way to distinguish legitimate injuries from illegitimate injuries. And, yes, while we've seen the cramping rule abused, we have also seen instances when cramping is legit. (Playing a sport for multiple hours on concrete will do that to even the most well-conditioned bodies.) It's going to be tough to legislate here.
? This is Carillo's gripe. If the technology exists to get every call right, why use it selectively? And why make it incumbent on the players to use "challenges" judiciously?
The first answer is efficiency. Administrators were reluctant to slow the matches by potentially challenging every close call. Not sure I buy this. Watch a match, and you'll note that entire sets can elapse without players issuing a challenge. There are not as many close calls as you might think.
The other answer: The administrators like what Carillo calls "the game-show aspect" of this. It adds entertainment when the participants have to decide whether to issue their challenges. The problem here is that erroneous calls and non-calls are allowed to stand.
? It's a bit of apples and oranges. Different eras, different level of competition, different physical and -- I know I'm obsessed with this -- different logistical demands. Those of us who travel a lot know how it debilitating it can be. Connors was based, of course, in the United States. Here's his tour schedule in 1978: Miami; Philadelphia; Denver; Memphis; Las Vegas; Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Las Vegas, Birmingham, England; Wimbledon; Washington, D.C.; Indianapolis; Vermont; U.S. Open; Sydney; Tokyo; and New York.
All that said, Connors' 109 titles are amazing. ("You're gonna need a bigger mantle.") His 268 weeks at No. 1 is nothing to sneeze at, either. Nor are his 1,243 career match wins. Or his winning the U.S. Open on three different surfaces.
So why isn't Connors front and center in the GOAT discussions? For one, he never won the French Open and won "only" eight Slams. Wait, you say, Australia wasn't held in high regard. Fair point. But Slams are the prime criteria.
Also, I would argue that Connors' legacy suffers from his pugnacious nature and his low profile in retirement. If he'd had John McEnroe's presence/ubiquity for the last 20 years, I suspect that history may have treated him kinder. I don't think it's anything sinister, and I don't think McEnroe is commentating because it improves his legacy as a player. But we like familiarity, and the players/athletes who stay in the picture tend to get it better than those who leave.
Maybe this will change with Connors' new book (plug alert), out May 14.
? As I understand it, they sign the glass. And woe unto the court attendant who inadvertently supplies the player with a permanent marker.
? As a wise man once said: "Yep, these are my readers."
? We'll reprise our trivia question from the other night: Name three ways tennis has intersected lately with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
? Here's the trailer for the documentary
? Tennis Channel will show an encore of the Sony Open men's final on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.