Monday, December 10, 2007


I'm tempted to say good-bye to the tennis blogosphere, and I'll tell you why.  Just take a look at this post at "All Court Game Tennis Forum".

At issue here is whether Roger Federer is genuinely a nice guy, or whether he's just being nice to these ball kids in case he has to play them one day.

That's right - he's looking for an edge his game doesn't give him by being (fake) nice to ball-boys.

It's hard to take this medium seriously when you see comments like this, but this is merely the tip of the iceberg. I can take it if someone doesn't like Federer - a lot of champions have been considered to be contrived or pre-meditated in their antics, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that Federer's antics, while cloaked in niceties, is in part intended to make him everybody's the nice guy on tour.

My point:  big deal.

The last time I checked, unless we're talking about figure skating, you don't get points for personality in sports. There's a Nancy Kerrigan-esque phenomenon at play here, because a lot of athletes paint themselves to be more likeable than they really are.

But you still have to hit straight. You still have to have game. And you can't fake it for 4 years. You can get a few victories here and there, but you can't dominate one of the most competitive sports in the world by cheating/cajoling/faking your way to 12 grand slam titles. It just doesn't happen. Eventually, somebody better than you, who just doesn't give a rat's ass about your image, comes along and beats you. And typically sooner, rather than later.

I think the most interesting thing going on here is the common traits of all the Fed-haters out there:
  1. Invariably their favorite player is either Sampras, Agassi or Roddick, and they are motivated either by a disdain for the quickness with which their idol has been replaced in the tennis world as best/favorite player on tour or the iron grip Federer has over their preferred combatant.
  2. Invariably they seek to point out all of Federer's supposed faults - that he's arrogant, selfish, manipulative, etc., in order to (continue to) convince themselves that someone else is a more worthy champion. As if the above three "other" favorites were angels.
  3. This is the kicker: if you don't agree with them whole heartedly, then you're a sap who's been played by the tennis media and the Federer PR machine - they are, in fact, the only keepers of the truth!
I don't think it's an exaggeration to suggest, particularly based on item # 3 above, that this is really a cult. The idea, that only they know the truth, and that anyone who doesn't agree with them is either a gullible stooge, or a part of the conspiracy, laughable at best and paranoid delusional at worst. It's exactly like, thinking that your local minister is Jesus Christ, and anyone trying to convince you otherwise is trying to destroy you and your faith, or are yet to bask in the glorious truth of your knowledge.

Mass suicides have been committed this way.

It's not hard to imagine that these people are little more than mentally imbalanced losers, who have nothing better to do than to commiserate with like-minded losers. But then again, I am knee-deep in the blogosphere that just can't be right!

But I know enough to know that no matter how you cut it, no matter what excuse you come up with, Federer is an extraordinary tennis player, and has been for 4 years. I've always wondered why athletes are always saying, "...they can't take that away from me." Now I know - when you win something, the only thing they can't say about you is that you didn't win - but they can say a hell of a lot more - good and bad - and if you get too caught up in the good, one day, the bad will replace it, and in a sense they've "taken away" the good things they used to say about you.

But if you win, you win, and they can't take that away from you no matter how hard they try. But boy are they trying hard to take it away from Federer.

I like Roger Federer as a tennis player - I learn a lot from watching him play, from his shot making to his shot selection to his movement and versatility. I think he's a great player. And for saying this, I'm castigated in the lunatic fringe of the anti-Federer blogosphere because to appreciate these qualities in Federer is to have been duped by the Federer religion.

I came to the blogosphere to see if I could find intelligent discussion on tennis topics, but it turns out that you have to look carefully, because sometimes what you'll find, in the dark recesses of the internet, where most dare not go, is a collection of anti-Federer enthusiasts, with misplaced energy, and a pathetic dedication to reveling in their own sorry, and deranged view of the tennis world.

I, for one, am done with them.

Monday, December 3, 2007


Despite my joy at the US victory in the Davis Cup, I have to admit it doesn't mean what it used to. There's too much money in tennis, and that money is distributed based on ranking and star power. Too often, the best players in the world avoid Davis Cup, because playing would be at the expense of their own careers. Basically, if they have to choose between their country or their own careers, they choose their own careers.

The fact is that fewer and fewer of the top players have played Davis Cup in the last 25-30 years. The reason most often cited is schedule and the need for rest, yet players continue to play exhibitions for money, so clearly this is not a complete answer. Furthermore, since Davis Cup has no bearing on points, a player is forced to choose between on the one hand:
  1. Earning a better living
  2. Saving themselves for tournaments that count towards ranking
  3. Playing Davis Cup.
Often Davis Cup loses out. Davis Cup is still a compelling competition, but has been diluted over the years as a result. I think it's a shame that the abstract concept of playing for one's country isn't so important to many of the top players, but I think the competition could be improved if there was a way to get players to consider Davis Cup as a chance to do both - represent your country and earn some ATP tour points.

For this reason I suggest counting Davis Cup results in the entry ranking system - just like they consider results in the "official" head to head records. It's not like taking points for something arbitrary - these are tennis matches played in earnest by professional players.

The intent is to ensure more participation in Davis Cup from top players, by eliminating the need to sacrifice tour points by playing Davis Cup.  I would do so by awarding tour points for victories in a Davis Cup tie. The problem is that players not able to play Davis Cup cannot access those points, and thus would be at a disadvantage to those who can/do play Davis Cup.

To rectify that, I suggest ATP sanctioned tournaments scheduled on Davis Cup weekends, for players who cannot play in Davis Cup (either because they haven't been selected, or because their countries don't/aren't participating).  Because in Davis Cup a player might lose one match and still earn points in another - not possible in single elimination tournament play - I suggest a round robin format giving players not playing Davis Cup the same opportunity to lose one match but still have a chance at tour points.

So in the end you have the following:
  1. Points awarded for victories in Davis Cup
  2. Additional points for winning a match in a Davis Cup tie away from home (mitigating the home court advantage)
  3. Points awarded in round robin competitions outside of Davis Cup
  4. These competitions are scheduled on Davis Cup weekends (no scheduling advantage)
  5. Any player (Davis Cup player, or not) can earn points on that weekend (no ATP points disadvantage)
  6. Players can skip those tournaments and rest, but sacrifice the points (just as they would any tournament they skip)