Hello everyone. On the road this week. So a little ‘Bag this week … and a reader rants at the end.
With all the players on tour worrying about traveling to tournaments due to COVID, why aren’t the ATP and WTA Tours hosting a long-term tournament similar to the NCAA basketball tournament? Indian Wells would be a great location for this as it is in the desert and you could have a bubble ready to go. The tournament would be seeded from No. 1 to 100 or so, and there would be parentheses with single elimination plays. It would attract a lot of badly needed media exposure for tennis and eliminate all travel for a month or two. I understand that the tournament system is financially rooted in tennis and players are not interested in quarantining themselves for a month or so, but this could really create a similar or even more stir than the Laver Cup.
–Robert Twomey, Webster, Florida.
• I like the idea in theory. And, to his credit, it’s one that Novak Djokovic, among others, has also floated to. During COVID, tennis has done well in a bubble-like environment. It does well as a traveling caravan, this constellation of events. Last 12 Months Cut and Paste: The international nature of the sport, generally an asset, is a handicap (or at least a significant complication) during COVID. So why not send all the players to one place, NBA-style last season, the NCAA tournament, or tennis in Australia?
As is common in tennis, what seems sensible and pragmatic is structurally impossible to execute. Indian Wells is suspended this year for precautions. But let’s use your proposed idea. They all come for dessert for, say, six weeks of events. On the one hand, there is a question of rights. What do you say to Rotterdam or Charleston or Dubai or Acapulco or any of the dozens of events that have paid a penalty, have their own TV and endorsement deals, etc.?
If we dive into Larry Ellison’s bottomless pockets and complete those events, there are still wholesale problems. Who would pay for this bubble? Prize money, T / E, accommodation, etc.? These are usually media and ticket deals. But the tickets will be minimal. And which streaming sponsor is signing up to stream weeks and weeks of matches from one place? And a sponsor? BNP Paribas will love two weeks of a wonderful event in March. Do you want six? Indian Wells can get volunteers, balls and vendors for 14 days. Can you get these commitments for 42 days?
Then there are the players. Will the stars commit to an extended period in one place, half a world from home? What will happen to the appearance fees, often a draw for top players? And the surfaces? How would, say, Nadal feel with all these hard court weeks replacing the clay weeks?
All of which is to say: legally, financially, structurally, logistically … just not feasible. Tennis is a necklace, not a ring; a traveling circus, not a stationary event. He moves his feet, he talks in tennis.
Nominating Sveta [Kuznetsova] to be considered the best ever to reach No. 1. Two majors, two finals. And the top 10 ended in ’04, ’06 -09 and … ’16!
• Good call. Anyone with multiple careers who never made it to number one (Mary Pierce, Kvitova, Stanislas) has to be high up in the conversation. Before asking the question “Has anyone won three majors and never reached number 1?”….
Re: The “greatest ever …” question: Reminds me of a player who must be considered one of the greatest to ever win a singles slam, Brian Gottfried (No. 3 ranked, 25 singles titles), who perhaps took the all-time beating in the Slam final (0-6, 3-6, 0-6) at the ’77 French Open from perhaps the best male individual player to ever (officially) reach No. 1: Guillermo Vilas. On the women’s singles side, surely Hana Mandlikova has to be considered one of the biggest not to make it to No. 1. And while we’re at it, let’s raise a glass for those who finish on these charts. They had incredible races and should be remembered for more than just these unfortunate stats.
• Good publication. These aforementioned players had tremendous careers, you’re right. And the achievement of the No. 1 ranking can be a combination of luck and circumstances: points drop, a player is injured, a player reduces his schedule. (Venus Williams has won seven majors … and spent 19 weeks at No. 1 … Caroline Wozniacki won a major and spent 71 weeks at No. 1 … One hit to neither player; but two different approaches to programming).
As for Vilas, his reference gives us the opportunity to point out to readers to this excellent Netflix document.
In response to the big winners who never reached number one, a few additional names come to mind. Thomas Johansson, Richard Krajicek, Michael Chang (had to win the US Open final against Sampras to be No. 1), Goran Ivanisevic, Gaston Gaudio, Petr Korda, Conchita Martinez, Marion Bartoli, Jana Novotna, Maran Cilic, Sofia Kenin , Iga Swiatek.
The best player who has never won a Grand Slam is definitely Marcelo Ríos, in my opinion. His effort in the Australian Open final against Petr Korda was regrettable.
–Sunny S., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
• Can someone make the damn documentary of Marcelo Ríos…?
A failure of a final, the 6-5 game in the first set was the only time the match had any drama. The individual games had almost no drama. I think there were only two games of two in the whole game and zero games of “two two”. The game was so fast that the pace of the game didn’t even bother me. Unofficial counting of the rebounds of the ball with Djokovic’s serve, from the moment he is ready on the service line: 334 rebounds with the racket, followed by 1010 rebounds with the hand. Take them out and this game lasted an hour and a half.
What a contrast, I watched the 1975 Wimbledon men’s final on Tennis Channel last night, Ashe vs Connors. Watching them play with Slazenger’s classic rackets and white tennis balls is like watching them in slow motion, but somehow as compelling as today’s “top power” tennis.
–Bill in NJ
• For Bill’s point, the “game time” statistics of previous generations are something to behold. Five sets were played in less than two hours and finals in straight sets that barely lasted an hour. I think Australia, by accident, not by design, solved the problem of pace of play. It is not the bouncing ball, it is the towel. When players had to fetch their own towels, they were much more reluctant to do so; and much more efficient when they did.
Its columns are dotted with references to the Big Three. Even his homage (February 21) to Djokovic’s brilliant final at the Australian Open was peppered with references to the Big Three (“a reminder that the Big Three are not finished aspiring to titles”). I can understand this. The media are always late and Lagging in reality, as are us fans, to be fair. There were many references to the Big 4 in 2017 and 2018, even when Murray was injured and was in his prime. a true reflection of his actual results in the last 12 months, and no one knows exactly what his current state of play is. Would the betting markets put most of the money on Federer to beat Medvedev or Tsitsipas or Thiem / Zverev in a Slam today? Until Federer shows that he is consistently playing at the level of the Big Three (not in the past but today), we must refrain from saying “The Big Three have not finished aspiring for titles.” In my opinion, today there is a Big Two in the slams, no longer a Big Three.
• The Big Three references belong to the block. As is in “The Big Three have won 58 majors between them, which is a joke.” It is a historical and collective reference; it is not a reference to a current power rating. Among the Big Three, yes, Federer is the least likely to deflect another important one.
With all the renewed discourse surrounding Kyrgios after his efforts in Australia, I have a question for you and your readers. Name the most popular player in tennis history who:
1) He has never reached a Slam semi-final,
2) Has not finished more than a year in the top 20,
3) Has not finished more than two years in the top 25,
4) His name is not Kyrgios.
Who do you have?
–Cam Bennett, Canberra, Australia
• Fabrice Santoro?
• Get us out, Marwan Hanania:
I know you just answered a good question about why the new generation of players haven’t been able to challenge the Big Three at Grand Slams. It is the question of our time when it comes to tennis. I have a theory that I have also seen in other places and I would like your opinion that I value very much.
In short, I think the money is too good. At the young age of 23 and with zero strokes under his belt, Alexander Zverev has won nearly $ 24 million in prize money so far in his career. Similarly, at age 25, Daniil Medvedev has won nearly $ 16 million in prize money (according to the latest ATP figures). If we add in presentation fees, sponsorships, and exhibits, I’m sure both numbers would be considerably higher. In contrast, after the conclusion of a distinguished 15-year Hall of Fame career, and despite having won * seven * individual Grand Slams and thirty-three ATP individual titles in total, a legend like Mats Wilander he only won $ 8 million in prizes (which would amount to anywhere between $ 13.5-16.5 million today if we correct for inflation).
I am not saying that new generation players are playing for money. But what I wonder is that perhaps the money is so good that it gives these best players and their teams such comfort that any performance in the second week of a Slam is considered a win. For example, Medvedev was all smiles after his 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 beating at the hands of Novak. Worse still, Daniil didn’t seem at all upset after a horrible performance and a huge disappointment to millions of fans. I was up all night waiting for the final. And yes, Novak was supreme, but come on! Start a fight. Do something. You are the player number 4 in the world. You just won 20 matches in a row. You are in the final. That’s all. Pull a Michael Chang around 1989 against Ivan Lendl in the fourth round at Roland Garros.
I also believe that everyone else in professional tennis is complicit to some extent in the unfortunate state of affairs that is current in men’s tennis. Everyone continued to congratulate him.
Compare that to Federer crying out in disappointment after losing a close and well-fought match against Rafa in 2009 in which both guys performed really well. Or how bad McEnroe felt after losing the final. That’s what it meant to them. I don’t have that feeling about these guys. I have a feeling they are looking forward to a luxury holiday in Ibiza and that no one on their team is going to say, “Hey, this is a match you should have won. And, if they share some harsh truths with these heavily overpaid players, you feel like they will lose their jobs (eg, I still wonder why Sasha got rid of Lendl, who arguably fits in perfectly with any top-tier player looking to get there to the top. ). Lastly, yes, we know that the Big Three are exceptional. But are they really much better than Laver, Sampras, Borg or Lendl? I honestly don’t think so. I think it’s close (correcting the modernization), but the difference is that those guys were up against hungrier, younger players who were competing with them, while the Big Three didn’t to the same extent.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.