by Pete Bodo
Well, well. A lot has come and gone since we last looked at the latest tennis news. We're in one of those periods now when most of the news is being made on the court, with ATP Masters and WTA Premier events leading up to the U.S. Open. In fact, for nearly a full month, the scorelines will take precedence over just about everything else short of a major scandal.
Take a gander at the news ticker on the home page and you'll see what I mean. The headlines about charitable work by this or that superstar, nightclub shenanigans, speculations about retired pros making a comeback or about active pros contemplating retirement are few and far between. The scroll reads more like the log book of an ER or rehab clinic: Radwanska pulls out or Cincy with bad shoulder. . . Venus hoping to be fit for U.S. Open. . .Tsonga retires (what, again? More about that later). . .
Well, the world might not be dying for a commentary on the state of Agniezska Radwanska's right shoulder, but let's acknowledge that it has been doing yeoman's work for a few weeks now. Just when it seemed that Radwanska was going the way of former Top 10 pros Ana Ivanovic, Nadia Petrova and Anna Chakvetadze (that is, downhill) she came up big and won a title (San Diego) and nine matches in a row.
No wonder her arm felt like it was about to fall off by the time her run was ended by Sam Stosur in the Toronto semis. But it was a different arm injury that caught my eye late last week . . .
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has suffered numerous injuries through his brief, mercurial career. I'm not sure of the stats, but he surely must be among the ATP Top 10 in abandoned matches. He quit most recently in the semifinals at Montreal (where, earlier, he again took the measure of Roger Federer), while trailing Novak Djokovic by a set and a break, 6-4, 3-0.
Tsonga was examined by a doctor after he lost his first service game of the second set, after which he decided to stop playing because his arm hurt. Neither the exam nor a subsequent ultrasound examination revealed an injury, which might lead you to suspect that Tsonga just decided to quit in what seemed a lost cause. He defended his decision by explaining that his arm has been aching for three days, the pain growing worse daily and even by the hour. "I don't have the pretension to try to beat Novak without my arm," he concluded.
I wouldn't jump to any conclusions on this one. Readers in the U.S. probably will recognize the term, "Dead Arm Syndrome" and its association with baseball pitchers Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies) and Phil Hughes (New York Yankees). DAS, despite the ominous name, is usually characterized by a loss of velocity (a 5-7 MPH drop in pitch speed) and overcome with a brief rest. Usually, there's no pain involved—which is where Tsonga's case is different and perhaps more troubling.
Given the stiffness of the modern racket, the inelasticity of the wildly popular polyester strings, and the amount that the typical tennis pro practices (as well as the power he generates), the lack of arm trouble on the pro tour borders on the miraculous. We hardly even hear about the once ubiquitous "tennis elbow" these days, never mind more serious, career-destroying arm injuries.
Tsonga is in the Cincy draw, which is a relief—even if it makes you wonder about his degree-of-injury in that semi last week. If his arm is still troubling him, it will bear watching.
O (No!), Canada
We all know about the former colonial relationship between France and Canada and the allegiance some of our friends in Quebec still feel toward the mother country. In Quebec, the locals still borrow much from, or model much on, the French. But they're in danger of emulating the French in a bad way—the performance of their native sons and daughters in the Canadian national championships, or, if you prefer, the Canadian Open, or, if you're into "branding" and marketing, the Rogers Cup.
Granted, Milos Raonic (the brightest of all Canadian prospects) is still unable to play as a result of a hip injury he suffered at Wimbledon. But by the time they turned off the lights in Montreal and Toronto on Wednesday, every Canadian was deleted from the draw. The most disappointing of the losses was No. 39 Rebecca Marino's first-round failure against Ekaterina Makarova.
The closest thing the fans in Montreal got to a local hero was Vasek Pospisil, the British Columbia native who was ranked No. 145 at the start of the tournament, in the main draw thanks to a wild card. Pospisil mounted a first-set fightback to beat tour veteran Juan Ignacio Chela, 6-4 in the third. He then pushed Federer to a 7-5 first set before succumbing in straights.
Still, just the fact that there's an identifiable class of Canadian players (it also includes Frankie Dancevic, Aleksandra Wozniak, Stephanie Dubois and, of course, brilliant doubles specialist Daniel Nestor) is a huge step in the right direction. So my prediction is that a Canadian player—most likely Raonic or Marino—will make big news at next year's Canadian Whatever.
Headlines We Love
Tsonga: Djokovic is not an 'Alien'
So here's the full quote:
"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."
Sorry, Jo-Willy, I'm not convinced. I still say he's an alien. You can tell by that hair.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
As someone once said of Janko Tisparevic, referring to a Dostoevsky quote he has tattooed on his left arm, "Nobody ever got as much mileage out of a tattoo." We know that Janko is less heavy intellectual than free-spirited Tweeter who's always looking for a "sick DJ," or who's sometimes just plain "chillin'" after a loss. Well, the success of Tipsarevic's countryman Novak Djokovic has lit a bit of a fire under chillin' Janko, who now says he's not just playing tennis "for fun" but is serious about remaining in the Top 20 player (he hit that number, a career-high, just this week).
"When you see these guys who are your friends out on the court doing what they're doing, it really makes you think that, if Novak [Djokovic] is No. 1, I can be Top 10," Tipsarevic told reporters after he made the semis in Montreal. "Maybe I will not be Top 10, but just having the desire to be Top 10 really helps you become a better player at the end of the day . . If I see Viktor [Troicki] winning, and I'm losing, I'm feeling: Why am I not him this week? This just creates a better desire to play and be better, but in a great spirit."
True enough. Well, I know it's probably not really cool to have a quote from your dad tattooed on your arm, but perhaps Janko should get rid of that quote from Dostoevsky (It's from his novel, The Idiot, and written in Japanese characters because Janko thought they looked cooler than Cyrillic script) and replace it with the words he says his professor father Pavel once uttered: There is enough points and money and fame for everyone on the ATP tour.
In other words, becoming—and staying—a Top 20 player is about other things. As Janko is learning. Let's see if he can stick with it.
WTA CEO Stacey Allaster knows that the WTA has a grunting problem and claims that while the ATP isn't in the same bind, the greater volubility produced by female stars like Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Maria Sharapova can be put down to the diffrence between the sexes: "Our DNA is different."
How silly of me; and here I though the women are screaming and yelling a carrying on during points for the most basic reason of all—because they can.
Although the WTA has a "hinderance" rule that would theoretically allow chair umpires to penalize excessive grunting, the clause is never enforced. But it's for the best of reasons. Players simply do not step forward to claim that an opponent's shrieks or gutteral declamations (Francesca Schiavone, anyone?) actually bother them. What then, is the problem here?
"I'm very fan-centric," Allaster said. "And if there is a number of fans who are communicating with us that it's an issue, then it's something that we need to look at."
Unfortunately, that particular cat is long out of the bag. I can just image the legal battles that might ensue if you tried to deprive Sharapova or Azarenka of the right to scream as if she were being murdered (instead of trying to murder) while taking a swipe at the ball.
I see only two ways for the shrieking to diminish. Either the women on the other side of the net must start to complain to the umpire, or—more likely—shrieking or screaming must go out of style. The next wave of players simply have to say, "That Maria, eeeech! No way I'm going to go out out there and sound like a lunatic—I don't care how much money or fame is at stake."
Too Much Information
Andy Roddick's trainer recently told Cincinnati.com: "He (Roddick) has a high sweat rate—it is just dripping off him….Everyone is different. You watch Roger Federer and he might leave the court with just a bead of sweat on his face or a little spot on his shirt. Or (former pro) Wayne Ferreira, it didn't matter where he was, he would never sweat. Then there is Andy, who makes a puddle under him when he sits down."
Would You Believe?
This nugget comes to us from a reader, Doug A.: "Kvitova's forehand was clocked at an incredible 81 mph during her Wimbledon run—faster than both men's finalists Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal."
That's it for this week, folks. This last item reminds me to ask: If you come across an interesting or amusing item, fact, or statistic, would you please send it to me via the contact tab at the top of the site? If it seems noteworthy, I'll publish it and then we'll all feel—and actually be—a little smarter than we were before, although that doesn't apply to those of you who don't think you couldn't get any smarter. I'm not naming names—you know who you are. And if you don't, that's punishment enough.