Mailbag: Tsonga's resurgence, the trouble with wild cards, more
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Who is this Jo-Wilfried Tsonga? I've never seen THIS Tsonga before?
-- Erin Bukzin
• That guy? I recall him faintly from the 2008 Australian Open. And a few select dates here and there.
But -- to your point -- Tsonga looked not only terrific, but almost unprecedentedly terrific in Toronto. He comes to this event lacking anything resembling momentum. At 29, he appears to be on the inexorable downslope of a fine career. His coaching situation is uncertain and he recently changed agents. He knee and back aren’t quite right. He recently underachieved at both the French Open and Wimbledon, his ranking drifting downward deep into what we call the Baja Top Ten, the 15-20 range.
And what does Tsonga do? He turns in one of the great weeks in tennis history -- let alone his personal tennis history -- beating Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer in the final to win perhaps the biggest title of his career.
It wasn’t so much what Tsonga did last week, as what he didn’t do. The brute power and the big serving and the heavy shots off the ground have always been there. In Toronto, though, there were none of the mental lapses that, too often, have pocked his game. He didn’t wilt in the heat. He didn’t let the back injury slow him or neuter his risk-taking. He didn’t retreat from big moments. This was happily uncharacteristic for a likable (and liked) player who too often turns in close-but-not-quite performances against the top players.
All this goes to a favorite theme here. Careers are not linear. Nowhere close. The slightest fissure in confidence or the smallest of injuries can be disastrous. The smallest spike in self-belief or improvement in health or equipment adjustment can have great consequences. Two weeks ago, you would have sold your Tsonga stock. Now, you are within your rights to consider him a U.S. Open contender. It doesn’t take much for fortunes to reverse.
I know it's all about TV and money, but the scheduling for one-week tournaments is awful. I've complained about this before, but I just don't see how having a semifinal at 8 p.m. is fair when the final is the next day at 3 p.m.? This happens at many tournaments... Not just Toronto. We'll see it again at Cincinnati. I understand that once a player gets a night match, he pretty much has to have night matches the rest of the way to get similar rest. But the worst is having the SECOND night match. But even with accepting that part of it, there must be something done about the quick turnaround from semifinals to finals. Tsonga and Dimitrov finished their semifinals three hours before Federer and Feliciano Lopez even took the court! That is just awful.
-- Sincerely, CM Taylor
• It's all about TV and money But this is also ultimately about leverage. The tournaments feel--not unreasonably--that a Saturday night semifinal session is a necessity. (Again, the notion of a night session on a weekend seems like an awfully reasonable proposition when you’re in the live entertainment business.)
But as CM Taylor notes, this session is not necessarily in the best interest of the athletes, not when the winner has to come back and play a final the next day. If the players feel strongly about this, they can ask their representatives to fight it—as they did with the U.S. Open Super Saturday format, which led to a Monday men’s final. If the tournament has the upper hand, they will continue to hold a session that generates much revenue and is TV-friendly, even if it comes at the expense of player fatigue.
Tsonga couldn't get a Wednesday start like Federer, even though they both were in the final on Sunday?
• Multiple readers mentioned this and I feel like this point was missed: Cincinnati is a six-round event (64 draw) and Tsonga, as the No. 12 seed, did not get a bye. How would Tsonga have gotten a Wednesday start, without risking the tournament drifting into next week? As it stood, Tsonga, understandably tired from his Montreal run, lost meekly in straight sets on Tuesday. This, of course, is the annual peril of having two big events run in successive weeks.
During the CBC's coverage of the first men's semifinal at the Rogers Cup, commentator Jimmy Arias said that he advocates young tennis players to use two-handed backgrounds rather than one since the two-hander is better suited for the modern game. Naturally he cited Rafael Nadal's dominance over one-handers like Federer as proof. I thought it an odd comment though. For one, three of the four semi-finalists sported one-handers (albeit in a Rafa-less tournament), not to mention I simply love watching the purity of the one-handed stroke. What do you think: does Jimmy have a point, or am I the odd one, favoring aesthetics over the realities of the modern game?
-- John Shoesmith, Toronto
• I stop here to say you should consider yourself fortunate. Jimmy Arias is a top-shelf analyst.
• Alumna of Yale University Class of 1981 will receive the highest honor bestowed by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association when she is presented with the 2014 ITA Achievement Award on Friday, Sept. 5.
• The Statoil Masters Tennis tournament is joining forces with Billie Jean King and Sir Elton John for the annual Mylan World TeamTennis Smash Hits tennis charity event, which will be held outside of the U.S. for the first time in its 22-year history.