• Katrina Adams is the most recent guest on the podcast. She is the author of a new book Own the sand.
• This Nadal cartoon it is enough. And consider who did this after a loss.
• Here are the Ritchie Boys.
• I’m on tour this week, so a modest-sized bag.
Let’s start here…. We had a series of questions this week about Sofia Kenin’s announcement that he no longer worked with his father. It was an open secret that this had become a how to say this? – knotty professional relationship that was charging a price for his game and, you can safely assume, his happiness.
This is always a problem area for observers, be it the WTA or other coaches or the media. In the same way that most of us hesitate before confronting the parent at the grocery store who we think is acting objectionable, the same applies here. Different parents have different parenting styles. Your cruelty is his hard love. There is something sacred in the relationship between parents and children. Other than criminal or antisocial behavior, who are we to intervene (or report) simply because we might disagree with someone else’s way of acting? It is even more complicated when the child is 21 years old.
This is not a new dynamic. For centuries, there have been stage parents. (Note that in team dynamics it doesn’t really fly; but in an individual search, parent proximity flourishes.) Even in tennis, in the 1920s, Suzanne Lenglen’s father sparked a debate about her methods and level of participation. And it’s not just the players. Scan the ATP player lounge these days and you will see plenty of intergenerational teams.
We wish Kenin, and Caroline Garcia, and another player we hear about is about to join the ranks of the emancipated, nothing but the best. Don’t underestimate for a second the courage this requires. There is an element of guilt. (“Dad made all these sacrifices for me; now am I supposed to tell him to hand over the reins?”) There is an element of (in) security. (“I admit that this is not healthy, but he knows me and my game better than anyone”). There is an element of trust. (“I don’t have to worry, as I do with other coaches, that he knows the inner core of the personality and the game and shares it with the next players he coaches.”) There is a financial element that militates against hiring someone outside. trainer. There is a simple empathy and sadness. (“I know it hurts to say goodbye, but it’s time for me to fly”).
But here’s a lukewarm take: Imagine being on the other side of the net from an opponent who you know is attached to a parent. They are known to incur training infractions. Instead of hanging out with his peers, the player eats and socializes with the parents. They look painfully at parents when they are losing; they look at them in pain for approval when they win. Inevitably, you hear talks: the father took the phone from him and reads his text messages. The father disapproves of a new love interest and is trying to intervene. The father yelled at them on the practice field.
If you are the opponent, remember this and internalize this. It suggests a certain fragility and lack of self-reliance. It suggests that the player is dealing with some complex emotional problems. When it’s 4-4 in the third set, you’re reminding yourself. I mean, here’s another point in favor of parents cutting the cord with their child: the relationship, and everything it suggests, could put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Hi Jon, we don’t hear much about doubles. Not that we ever did. But how would you assess the status of the doubles without the Bryans around?
• Good question. I think we have to wait until after Covid to measure the full measure of the doubles. The game times are insane. Individual players are notoriously participating in many or notoriously few draws. On the men’s side, we have a team, Nikola Mektic Y Mate Pavic, which wins almost everything in sight. On the women’s side, we still see the best players, Mertens and Barty and Sabalenka, entering doubles draws. Although we will see how long that lasts. Good sector to watch. Let’s wait for any conclusion.
Mr. Wertheim, I read your article. who make Do you think Novak Djokovic and others should lead the PTPA? I think they need a person who knows tennis but not a player.
• There is no shortage of qualified, experienced and knowledgeable sports labor lawyers, men and women. Here’s an unsolicited vote for Ken Shropshire (full disclosure: an old friend and former teacher), who has not only been a prominent sports lawyer for decades, but his wife played on the WTA Tour and whose child he has points as a professional doubles player.
Jon, I saw Naomi Osaka lose (to Muchova) the other day and the commentators kept talking about her adaptation to clay. Doesn’t this go against conventional thinking that all surfaces are the same these days?
–Sam at the OC
• Interesting. In terms of data: tracking the height of the bounce or ball; the duration of the rally; the speed of the ball from the bounce: it is difficult to argue that the surfaces are not becoming more homogenized. A former player recently suggested to me that if Pete Sampras played in today’s era, where “clay plays like grass and grass plays like clay,” he wouldn’t be fourth in the GOAT race.
However … if you look at the results, you will see significant differences. Osaka is an obvious exponent. She has four majors, the most of any player in the last five years. And yet it has not survived the first week of the European majors. (Small sample size, but punctuated). It has been more than 10 years since a male player won the French championship and then endorsed it at Wimbledon. Serena did it in 2015, but she’s clearly better on surfaces other than clay. Venus never beat the French. Henin never won Wimbledon. Point: The surface may have been homogenized, but the results have not.
Here’s a point a former player made to me: It’s less about the courts than everything off the court. Americans do not falter on clay because they are impatient and do not master sliding or court building. It is because they have been away from home for weeks, six (or nine) hours before their friends and family, in a country where they do not speak the language, do not feel the love of the crowd and sleep in small hotel rooms.
In contrast, every year at the US Open, players are asked if they like New York. The implication: your comfort level has something to do with your tennis. Several players (Kvitova, Thiem, Halep, although it is tight) have commented that it is too hectic and chaotic. (Presumably: in Wimbledon, everyone stays in a house and can walk to the courts. In Australia, everyone has jet legs and is displaced and likes a medium-sized city). I’m not saying buy it from me. But it’s worth considering that there are factors at play other than speed and court condition.
What did you think of the recent Twitter showdown between Ben Rothenberg and Justin Gimelstob? I feel like it’s a problem that you mentioned in the past. But he was interested in seeing them do it.
• I had to look for this. Ben tweeted on the shadows in Madrid, both a great band name and a major tennis problem, we can discuss it at another time, noting: “The goal of playing the game is that people can see it.” Justin apparently took offense at this and tweeted a link to Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Sand” speech.
I remember having a similar debate once with a player we’ll call Andy R. He complained about the natterers in the newsrooms. I’m paraphrasing it here, but not much. “I love how these overweight guys who couldn’t walk around the room without gasping are criticizing our conditioning.” I replied something like, “Are you a Hollywood director? No you are not? I guess you just gave up your right to criticize the next movie you’re going to see. “
He was right, of course. At least up to a point. There is something maddening about your work being chosen by people who don’t understand it. That they have never competed. Those who do not understand the sacrifice, the cocktail of stress hormones, the experience. This is not exclusive to sports, much less tennis. Ask the musicians how they feel about the critics. Or have someone who has never written one review your book. Or your outfit criticized by anyone in a denim tuxedo.
The flip side: criticism is the tax you pay for operating in the public domain. (I would also say that criticism is vital for any creative sector / society). In Justin’s case, I would ask him to reflect on the word “sand.” The very fact that there is a physical place implies that what you are doing has an audience. It may be motivated by an appreciation for the purity of competition in the inner circle; but you are not the only ones inside the enclosure. Discount those other people: rudely, customers; but also the audience that gives weight to what you are doing, under your responsibility. He does not remember Teddy Roosevelt but John Maxwell: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is just taking a walk.”
How do you assess Nadal’s chances at Roland Garros with his complicated serve? Over the past two seasons, even his dominance on clay has been reduced (the way he lost to Zverev in Madrid). Was Federer better or worse at 34/35?
• A rite of spring, or a mistake of spring, they might say in dad’s joke, causes Nadal to miss a set-up, sparking the inevitable discussion about whether he’s vulnerable. Then Nadal goes to Paris and treats the competition like Macbeth treated Duncan. We say it every week, sorry, but there is a big difference between the best of three and the best of five. Get hot for an hour and you could beat the big three best of three. It is much more difficult to do that in five series.
• Get us out, Jonathan Scott at Indy:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.