Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Special!

With Christmas right around the corner, I think it's time we take a look at who had seasons that put them on the naughty and nice lists for 2013. being the eternal optimist that I am, let's start with the positives.


Rafael Nadal - Was there any doubt he'd be on this list? With a 75-7 record on the year, 10 titles including 2 majors and almost $15 million in prize money; I'd say he had a pretty decent return after a 7 month layoff. Rafa silenced critics by making the final of almost every tournament he played and by adding hard court championships at Indian Wells, Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. He also regained the #1 ranking.

Novak Djokovic - Yes he had some tough losses to Rafa this year ( French Open, US Open). But it's hard to fault a guy who finished the year 74-9 with 7 titles. He also went on a 20+ match win streak after the US Open and beat Rafa in back to back events to close the year. Novak is one of the best at stoking his competitive fire and he demonstrated that with his late season charge.

Andy Murray - First man from great Britain to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Enough said.

Serena Williams - There is simply nobody else on the WTA that opponents fear as much as an in form Serena. 78-4 on the year with 11 titles. She also collected major titles at the French and US Opens. It is a true sign of dominance when you are the tournament favorite by simply entering the draw.

Marion Bartoli - It doesn't even matter what she did before Wimbledon or that she retired immediately after. Marion Bartoli accomplished a life long goal by taking the title in London. She exhibited class in the face of tremendously unwarranted criticism after the tournament as well. Rarely a trendy pick to accomplish big things, Marion showed the world the heart of a champion.


Roger Federer - The Swiss Maestro fell to his lowest ranking since 2003 this year. he finished the year 45-17 with just 1 title. That is actually not a bad year but it falls short of the standard expectation everyone has for Fed. He makes my list more due to the confidence issues he seemed to be experiencing. Racquet testing, coaching change and just generally being defensive all indicate a crisis of confidence in 2013. I am curious to see how he rebounds in 2014.

Bernard Tomic - This kid just continues to be a dumpster fire. He has immense talent and absolutely zero drive to maximize it. He seems perfectly content to be mediocre and live off of his tabloid exploits. He has a tremendous amount of work to do in developing the mindset it takes to be a champion. Oh and to top it off, his father/coach was banned form the tour until the middle of 2014 for after assaulting Bernard's hitting partner. The epitome of class idiocy.

Petra Kvitova - Petra is a very confusing player. She seemed poised to breakthrough after winning Wimbledon a couple years ago. But her best result in a major this year was the quarters of Wimbledon. She just seems to be on a constant roller coaster from event to event. She is a tremendous ball striker when on her game and a stack of unforced errors when she's not.

Victoria Azarenka - She makes this list solely based on the fact that I have to mute my TV every time she is playing.

Who would you put on your tennis naughty and nice lists for 2013?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sliding Into Home

Last week it got announced that the first round Davis Cup tie for the U.S. vs. Great Britain in 2014 will be held at Petco Park in San Diego, the home field of the San Diego Padres. I immediately got excited due to the fact that I have relatives I can mooch off of I I can find my way down there. I went from excited to intrigued when I read that they chose to put an outdoor clay court down for the round. My initial reaction was a bit hesitant but the more I got to thinking about it, it makes sense. Here's why I think it could work:

1. Level Playing Field: In 2013 the team chose fast indoor hard courts to try and take advantage of the big serving of Isner, Querrey, etc. Having seen the Boise round first hand, I can tell you that the strategy appeared to backfire. In suffering a defeat to Serbia, it was the U.S. who looked tentative and not hitting out while the Serbians took full advantage of the court pace (um Ilija Bozoljac playing completely out of his mind anyone?). Nobody on the U.S. or U.K. squads has an amazing record on clay. Y,es Andy Murray has some solid results but he lacks any kind of title on the surface. After him, none of their likely guys have great results. Isner and Querrey, while not naturals on the surface, do appear to have gotten a bit more comfortable in recent years. The Bryans have already demonstrated they are capable on clay. Bare minimum, the surface should possibly play more neutral for everyone. 

2. Training Chaos: Putting a clay court down immediately after the Aussie Open could deter Murray from even making the trip over. Yes, he has said that if he is healthy he is going to play. However, he won't be that far removed from back surgery and rehab if/when he plays in Australia. A quick change of surface could be something that he won't want to do when he could potentially risk his season if he aggravates something.

3. Better Crowd Engagement: The tie is over Super Bowl weekend next year. In 2013, their first round was the same weekend in Jacksonville against Brazil. I watched that round as a nervous wreck because at that point we knew that if they won they were Boise bound. The arena was absolutely empty. The match was still in the air on Sunday and there was just nobody there. Brazil hung in the match in large part due to their small but extremely vocal fan base. For the 2014 match, the plans call for a reduced seating size (8,000 instead of 10-15k seat arenas). This means fans should be in closer proximity to the match overall and it should be more likely to draw closer to a full house. Davis Cup is a competition unlike any other in tennis when it comes to fan involvement. The U.S. team needs to capitalize on this fact and engage the crowd more than they did this past year. A revised seating plan could help them do just that.

I am excited to hopefully get down to this round in person next year and see what happens. I think it could be a big boost if the U.S. can pull together as a squad and make a run to the Davis Cup final next year. The quest will start in the outfield clay (so weird to say!) at Petco Park.    

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are You an Innie or an Outie?

Before we get into way too many personal details, let me be clear that I am referencing tennis in the title and not anybody's belly button. I got to thinking this week while on the court. It has been one of those weeks in Idaho where we are deep into October and it still hits 70 degrees outside. I went to hit on an outdoor court and found myself stunned at the lack of players on the outdoor courts. All of the indoor courts were in use but there was not a single person outside besides us. It was as if everyone was conditioned that since it was October, they must play inside. This thought inspired me to compare what I enjoy about playing inside and outside and try to come up with a favorite.

  1. Power bump. Everybody's shots are a bit bigger inside. I always feel like I can tee off a bit more on serves and ground strokes when I am inside.
  2. No pesky wind. There have been many times in which I (less than silently) curse the windy days here. It always seems that the days are calm except for match nights and then the wind decides to pay a visit.
  3. No sun. There's no strategy about who is going to serve on what side of the court when you are indoors. I don't have to worry about balancing the order of serving with the side I am on. Plus I always have personally enjoyed getting to keep my retinas.........
  4. Climate. Admittedly this one is a bit of a pro and con for me. There are times where it can get insanely humid on indoor courts here. I like the challenge of seeing who is the fitter person on court as the conditions can start to take it out of you. However, I don't really like feeling like I just stepped out of the shower 10 minutes into warmup and then constantly needing to towel off.
  1. More action on the ball. Playing outside seems to allow for better action on topspin ground strokes and kick serves. It might not feel like I can hit as hard but that gets countered with a bit more movement on shots. I think Rafa Nadal would agree with me as his record is atrocious indoors and his ball never seems to have the same jump to it. Granted I am light years away from his spin but I do notice a difference in my game.
  2. Conditions can be challenging. I know it sound negative (and it may be in the heat of the moment), but when I look at it objectively, I appreciate the challenge of being outside. The conditions are not always going to be favorable and you have to be able to adapt. It forces you to perhaps step outside your comfort zone and think about the adjustments you have to make. Plus this is true for every level of play. The 2012 US Open match between Murray and Berdych was completely decided on Murray's adjustment to the massive wind and Berdych's complete failure to manage it. 
  3. It is just plain tough to beat a warm, calm day in Idaho. When the sun is shining, it's 70 outside and there's not a cloud in the sky, I wouldn't want to play anywhere else (ok I'd probably play outside in Fiji instead if that was an option).
As far as picking a favorite, that's pretty tough. It probably depends on the situation for me. Just out hitting or playing a friendly, I'd probably pick outside just to soak up some sun and enjoy the social aspect. In a competition setting, I'm probably partial to indoor. I like the fact that it limits the variables for everyone. What do you think? Would you rather play inside or be on an outdoor court?