Tennis is in the news here in the States. I’m not talking about John Isner or Serena Williams, I’m talking real news—as in the annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn, which was conducted Monday. This year a few American tennis players, including Andy Roddick and Vania King, were invited to join the festivities and, from the look of the photo at right, promote the USTA’s Quikstart junior tennis initiative. I like Obama’s left-handed backhand volley; even in shoes and khakis, he appears to have touch, if not exactly the right grip. But he would have more credibility with the sport if one of his first acts as president hadn’t been converting the White House’s tennis court into a basketball court.
Blowing His Stak . . . Well, Not Really
When Sergiy Stakhovsky was a top-ranked junior, he struck me as just a hair too cocky for his own good. Maybe it’s the fact that he didn’t achieve the same ranking as an adult, but he’s been likeable and smart during his pro career. The 26-year-old made a few headlines recently with a wide-ranging interview with the Ukrainian website LB.ua, which was translated here.
It’s an open and de-glamorizing look at a lot of current tour topics. Subjective, too: Stakhovsky’s timeline for when "the courts were slowed down" is off—he claims it happened after 2008, when it’s been a constant subject of discussion since at least ’05. But his breakdown of his expenses, including how the players constantly have to buy last-minute plane tickets and how he can lose money in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, is illuminating. Maybe it was mangled in translation, but he also seems to say that throwing matches is part of the game for guys outside the Top 100.
Much of the press around the interview focused on Stakhovsky’s contention that Roger Federer doesn’t support the players’ causes enough. Stakhovsky, like Nikolay Davydenko did in Australia, claims that Federer is “too Swiss,” too neutral for him, that he doesn’t want to get dirty his hands with anything controversial. Stakhovsky supports Rafael Nadal’s idea of a two-year ranking system—mostly, of course, because it would help keep his own ranking more stable. Maybe most interestingly, he says the Player Council is just a “consulting” body anyway, with no real decision-making power. Which seems true, considering that the U.S. Open has talked about going to a Monday men’s final in 2014 without, according to former council member Ivan Ljubicic, asking the players what they think.
Overall, Stakhovsky sheds light on the work-a-day world of the tour, and makes the rank-and-file player’s life sound like that of any other self-employed person’s. Or like any other self-employed person who knows that their earning power is going to plummet in their early-30s, rather than rise. No wonder tennis players are so selfish.
Father Really Does Know Best
Bernard Tomic continues to confound. In Key Biscayne, he could be heard asking the chair umpire to have his father, John, removed from the stands because he was “annoying” him, and eventually had the ump warn him for coaching so his dad would quiet down.
A couple of weeks later, while getting ready for Davis Cup, Bernie claimed that the fact that this heart to heart between a father and his boy made headlines was, and I quote, “a complete load of crap.” Bernie says his dad is the right man to be his coach, and that these things happen in “tricky” father-son relationships.
At first glance, you have to think that this type of volatility won’t help Tomic in the long run, and that he’ll have to find another coach at some point. How consistent can he be if these flare-ups can happen any time? But maybe father and son will be one of those teams, like the New York Yankees of old, that feuds its way to the top.
The Agony of . . .
Remember the fabled Dmitry Tursunov blog from Estoril way back when? Tursunov’s expansive sense of humor is on display again at the Tennis Space, where he plays the role of “Agony Uncle,” offering advice on a variety of subjects. This week he talks about intimidating opponents on changeovers and in warm-ups, as well as claiming that he “always leaves room in the player’s box for an imaginary entourage.” Funny and surprisingly helpful, it also leaves me amazed that Tursunov could be that intelligent and still be a success in a sport where the less thinking you do on court, the better.
Where would Keeping Tabs be without a spin through the U.K.? There’s always something or someone for the tabs to rip. This week it’s Britain’s Davis Cup team, which lost a relgation match to Belgium over the weekend.
The Sun manages the neat trick of bashing the new captain, Leon Smith, and his players for being both awful, and too positive about their awful-ness:
SMITH HAILS GB’S DAVIS CUP LOSERS
Leon Smith tasted defeat for the first time as Great Britain’s Davis Cup captain—but still heaped praise on their players
Never one to leave any British defeat, even a meaningless one, unrecorded, the Sun even brought up the team’s loss in the fifth rubber, which was played after the tie had been decided.
“To add to their misery, Ruben Bemelmans beat Dan Evans 6-4, 6-4 in the dead rubber.”
Finally, Alex Willis at the Tennis Space lists her Top 10 tennis Tweeters. I’m not sure about Serena Williams, but I agree with her on Ivo Karlovic, Andy Roddick, Brad Gilbert, and Judy Murray—mom seems to have overshadowed son into total Twitter silence. Willis doesn’t include any writers, so I’ll put in my own nomination for the London Times’ Neil Harman. Who knew that a journalist, and a British journalist at that, could be so darn cheerful? When most of the tennis world can seem to be at each other's collective throat on Twitter, Neil's sense of perspecitve and good humor are refreshing.