• Guest to last week’s podcast: Mike Dowse, USTA CEO and CEO.
• This week’s guest: Casper Ruud, schedule arranged.
• Nasty self-promotion: the cover of my next book, Glory days: the summer of 1984 and the 90 days that changed sport and culture forever. Thoughts are welcome. The book falls in June. More on this project in the coming months. If you want to reserve a copy, Click here.
• Conflict revealed, a tip of the fedora hat to Tennis Channel. Last week, the network covered five events from four continents, at one point, delivering more than 72 hours straight of live coverage. It’s no wonder it’s Brad Gilbert’s favorite chain.
• We leave next week, but we return the first week of April. Enjoy the first week in Miami.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate Medvedev’s second place finish. He becomes the first non-Big Three player to reach No. 2 since … 2005. What a crazy stat! But it is certainly worthy and deserving of the ranking. Not only is he a fantastic and exciting player to watch, he’s a great personality and can always be counted on for a good date. We hope he’s next in line for a Grand Slam trophy.
• Yes in all respects. Before we get to Medvedev, let’s face it, almost 16 years have passed: one bar mitzvah plus Olympia Ohanian; Coco Gauff was in her infancy, as a player outside of the Big Four hit number 2. That’s preposterous. And, of course, testimony to this golden age.
If any gamer was going to enter this gated community, why not Medvedev? He has reached several important finals. He has won the WTF. Win lots of matches. Plays well on a variety of surfaces. After Wawrinka and Thiem, statistically, I’d say he’s the next best player of the last decade. As you can see, he also revealed himself to be a sympathetic and collegiate guy, an internationalist who is a good mix of confidence and self-criticism. His tweeted last week mocking his unconventional technique it was just an example.
After a cold start to 2020, he doesn’t have much to defend for a while. So even with this wacky ranking system, and maybe because of it, it’ll probably be at No. 2 for many months to come. As Kobi points out, the next question: can he win a major? He will have to play as well as he did during the first six rounds in Australia. And then much better in the seventh.
As a 65-year-old tennis fan, I have been a fervent supporter of the sport since the mid-1970s and I read his column regularly. Ahead of this week’s coverage of the Doha Open, and Basilashvili victory, I hadn’t seen him play much. Imagine my surprise when I Googled the name, checked the news, and saw the domestic abuse allegations filed in court in his native Georgia. Very timely. Any other comments on this? I don’t recall seeing his name in connection with the ATP discussion of the Zverev accusations.
PS: One of my favorite tennis memories is watching Chris Evert’s partner Billie Jean King in the doubles event at the US Open in 1984!
–Bruce McBride, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
• First of all, it’s amazing and I never realized that. At the 1984 US Open, the event that brought us Super Saturday, Evert did play doubles with Billie Jean King. They reached the chambers. BJK was forty years old. Chris reached the singles final, losing to Martina.
Less happily…. yes, Basilashvili, winner of the Doha event last weekend, has been accused of assaulting his ex-wife. A charge is not a conviction. Of course, the usual assumptions are owed to him. However, this is a serious matter, especially in the Republic of Georgia, where it is closely watched, a possible basin case“And we shouldn’t ignore or overlook him when we talk about his tennis.”
One of you asked why, in situations like this, there is no provisional suspension list, as there would be if a player had tested positive for PED. Here are some answers. One is that PEDs undermine fair competition and directly harm colleagues’ opponents. Doping is different from an off-court incident, abhorrent as it may be. It is also essential, especially in an individual sport, without guaranteed contracts, that suspensions are applied with caution, after decisions and not accusations. If a player is found innocent and has given up months of income, isn’t that grossly unfair? Third, this type of discipline (or not) should be collectively bargained. Last week, the NBA fined and suspended a player for making anti-Semitic comments. This power arose from the agreement reached between the players and the league. Which brings us to….
As we saw last fall with the allegations leveled against Zverev, the ATP suffers from not having a credible domestic violence policy. The tour, again, has been remarkably smooth at Basilashvili. We, as a tennis public, are left with the situation, at best unseemly, where a player wins titles while awaiting a trial that could result in his imprisonment. Going back to a topic that comes up all too often: at some point tennis must decide: is it a joint venture sport that allows agencies to host events and awards wild cards to players who break out of bans and rot with conflict? Or is it something more credible? A significant domestic violence policy would fall into the latter category.
Jon … what do you think of the seemingly meteoric rise (at least for me) of the Russian Aslan Karatsev? True contender, or just a few good months?
–Kelly G., Louisville, Ky.
• “Contender” can be too generous. But I would deviate towards that end. He played with lights in Australia, hitting the ball; In his surprise at Diego Schwartzman, Karatsev made more winners at 50-5. And then he went on to pull out a set from Dominic Thiem and win the doubles, with Rublev at the Qatar Open. Now firmly in the top 50, you will no longer need to qualify and can set your schedule, more or less safe in the main draw squares. You will need to balance the urge to gamble, and make money to make up for that decade of struggle, with the wisdom not to overdo it. But this will be a window into the self-perpetuating nature of advancement. In terms of trust, logistics, and financial ease, his life became much easier.
Jon, When do the Indian Wells 2019 points decrease? Any ideas? Is it next week?
—Thank you, Panos
• 2019 Indian Wells points (50%) fell in Monday’s rankings.
Good afternoon Jon. Is there a website where the players expected to compete or attempt to qualify are posted? Thanks in advance for your reply.
• Great idea for an enterprising guy. Right now, the best players often post their schedules on their site. Here it is Novak. Here it is Federer. Other times, the event will publish lists of commitments. But if someone wanted to consolidate all of this, which honestly seems pretty basic, they would be doing a great service.
First of all, Tennis Channel + is a bonus, I can’t remember the last time I watched as much tennis as in the last few months. Find out how they can play the last stages and I will feel like I have won the lottery. Currently watching Alcaraz vs. Zverev and I realize the biggest problem about the advancement of the next generation. The only thing they focus on is the big three and they forget who’s after them. Alcaraz is 17 years old and is giving Zverev a hard time. So the question is, is it part of the problem for the next generation to break the fact that they are spending energy in the wrong places? The big three clean easily in the first few rounds. Next Gen, not so much.
• Man, the standards are going to change. Dominic Thiem wins the 2020 US Open. He hasn’t won a title since. Zverev is about to win the US Open; has 5-4 in the year. The idea of any player under the age of 30 winning double-digit majors is absurd. On the other hand, they will celebrate four of these events each year; and SOMEONE has to earn them. Correct?
A difficult start to the year for Kerber and Pliskova. So, combining WTHIGOW and Buy / Hold / Sell for both.
–Duane Wright, Washington DC
• Before the season, Kerber apparently thought a lot about calling it a (Hall of Fame) career. She has had a few ups and downs before, odd years, but this year has been brutal. And you wonder if, at 33, the will is there. Pliskova is more puzzling / disappointing. Not only is he losing, but he is losing brutally: 6-0, 6-2 last week to Jessie Pegula. No one with his serve should be broken six times and in seven service games. However, he is still 20 years old. And while it is unlikely to go back to number one, I would hold onto those stocks, maybe even buy some now on the downturn, hoping this will be a particularly bad quarter.
• Search for video clips here a 138th consecutive victory that sets a Georgia Gwinnett College men’s tennis record.
• The Volvo Car Open, which will be held without fans April 3-11 at Daniel Island in Charleston, SC, has announced its preliminary player field for the 2021 tournament. The field for the premier women-only professional tennis tournament in North America is run by World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and features some of the best players in the world. The 56-player Volvo Car Open draw consists of 43 direct tournament entries, five wild cards and eight qualifiers. Kim Clijsters has already accepted a wild card for the event. Four additional players will join the main draw via the wild card entry, to be announced at a later date.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.