USA Federation Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez with tennis power broker husband Tony Godsick (above), who is part of Roger Federer’s management team.
After three days and 8 straight sets of losing tennis, America finally got on the board, taking the first set in doubles at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, Germany. Too bad for our Federation Cup team, our national pride, and the state of American tennis that by then it was too late and obviously too little, as the team of Liziel Huber and Vania King still lost in 3 sets to cap one of the worst weekends in American tennis history. Needing to win the tie to remain in the World Group of Federation Cup, from which we have never been relegated, Captain Mary Joe Fernandez trotted out an FC squad that did not boast one player of distinction, worthy enough to present a decent challenge to any members of the German squad, including world #156 Sabine Lisicki, who dusted Jersey native Christina McHale in mop up duty yesterday, filling in for Julia Georges, who would have been, at that point, risking her health unnecessarily by continuing to play in a tie that was academic, a glorified exhibition, but one that featured less talent than an actual exhibition.
That’s right. Playing America is now unnecessary. The Americans are irrelevant in the women’s game, led by Captain Mary Joe Fernandez, who not so long ago had her contract extended for another two years. Has the team’s production on the court warranted an extension? It’s debatable, but we certainly do not think so. Fernandez, part of the dazed and confused American tennis establishment, is the first captain to ever preside over a relegated team in the history of the Federation Cup. And we’ll give her little credit for reaching finals in her first two seasons, and losing, but more credit indeed because of the power her husband wields behind the scenes in the game, which in all likelihood, in combination with her profile as an ESPN tennis personality, is what got her the gig. Because she certainly didn’t win the job on the basis of her success as a player or coach. In 2010, we especially fault the American squad for losing the championship tie on “hardcourts” in San Diego to Italy. But in part thanks to Fernandez, California doesn’t have any real hardcourts anymore, and so the ladies played on a track of soft blue foam (the dreaded Plexicushion) that gave the Italians as much of an advantage as the prior year when America could not take one match at Calabria, Italy on outdoor red clay.
How do we get around to blaming Fernandez for everything from California’s putrid tennis courts to the quality of our Fed Cup teams that have failed miserably and continue to do so, to the point that we are out of the world group? Easily. She’s the captain. Not only has she been the captain for 3 years, but before that, she sat at then captain Zina Garrison’s obese elbow for a good year, playing Stan Laurel to Garrison’s Oliver Hardy. We are tired of it all. Fernandez obviously endorsed and worked with a Garrison led group that produced zero in terms of titles and developed no meaningful players. That’s what we mean when call her part of the establishment, for you do not get the captaincy if you do not support the horrid regime that came before you, and the horrid surfaces that big business looks to slap down.
The nonsense about Serena and Venus not playing? We’ve had enough. The Williams sisters, when young, led us to our last two Fed Cup titles in 1999 and 2000. Then they lost interest in the FC, their commitment to it, and the competition. People want to blame the sisters for that, who had been there and done that. Part of the whole ‘Let’s rip Venus and Serena for having fashion lines and enjoying the limelight’ craze that swept the nation and still reverberates in some circles. What people do not get is that the sisters never burnt out on tennis, and continued to play their asses of at majors, in singles and doubles, regardless of any and all outside factors, even when injured. For players who have won the Federation Cup, or the Davis Cup, there is no legitimate criticism that can exist should they have reasons for skipping the competition. And while we have criticized Roger Federer in this space for skipping Davis Cup regularly, despite being coached by Swiss DC captain Severin Luthi, Roger obviously has himself a plan to win majors, and Davis Cup runs counter to that plan.
So our body of incompetent tennis minds here in America, with which even we are associated (proud USTA members, LOL–the deals on tennis tickets are too good to pass up!), chooses Garrison, another loser, to guide our squad. Why? Because they thought that hiring a black woman would give them a leg up on convincing the Williams sisters to play. That’s just plain racist. Frankly, the Williams sisters have a lot more respect for great tennis minds than they do for black women. Just ask Asha Rolle. Instead of blaming the Williams sisters for making choices appropriate for their careers, the USTA should have been working a lot harder on developing talented players like Venus, Serena, and Lindsey Davenport–who aside from the Williams sisters, is the last American female to win a title of any sort, as far as we can recall. And she won it as a ghost, fresh from retirement, further highlighting America’s lack of meaningful young talent.
Yesterday comes news that Venus Williams has withdrawn from Rome and Barcelona, citing her lack of readiness. There’s no real time table on Serena, and while we know she will return, any projection would be optimistic considering the travails she has endured since cutting her foot. At least she is up and about (click on the link above to see her and a friend on South Beach recently). So basically, we are stuck with this piss poor Fed Cup squad and its captain. Mary Joe Fernandez is not a winner, but is a better politician than Garrison. Patrick McEnroe, a much worse tennis talent than both, also owes his job to television, politics, and probably a healthy dose of nepotism (his brother lobbied for his appointment, though John John probably wouldn’t have him on his list if you asked him right now, after seeing the state our game go unchanged for years) . These are the people in whose hands the national tennis program and developmental programs rest in. Thankfully, Patrick McEnroe has stood aside and Jim Courier, a real winner, has taken on the captaincy of the Davis Cup squad, and is off to a great start, defeating Chile in tough conditions. As you can tell, we don’t give Patrick McEnroe any credit for squeezing 1 DC title out of a team that boasted a 1 time #1 in Roddick, 2 perennial top 10 guys in Roddick and Blake, and the #1 doubles squad–a huge advantage in team competition. We should have won more. But at least McEnroe, roundly criticized, even by big brother John, had the sense to pick fast tracks to play on as the host nation that are advantageous to Americans and our style of tennis.
Fernandez gets no credit. She’s been around this team for 4 years and we’ve seen all we need to see of Oudin, McHale, Vandeweghe, and the like. People want to shower MJF with praise for spotting these players, but these players would go unnoticed anywhere else, with good reason. They have no talent. They are grinders who can not even play on clay. Pop gun players who can’t serve and have no true tennis talent. What is the population of Germany? How is it that our top player can’t take a set from any decent German woman? How is it that none of our players could even make the German squad, who was also competing to avoid relegation? This is not a Steffi Graf in her prime led German team.
McHale, for a nice run she made at Indian Wells last month, will get some buzz, but if she is the young face of our game, we need a makeover. Fast. Forget Venus and Serena. Act like they don’t exist. Oudin? Since that summer where she played way over her head, she hasn’t existed. We need new blood, new ideas, new coaches, new courts…and a new captain. Probably the best young American, Alison Riske, who separates herself from her poor pusher peers with her big serve, is not a product of the USTA, but rather, a kid who came up playing in the Pennsylvania high school system. Exactly John McEnroe’s point when he denigrates the work that his brother is doing, the state of the American game, and the homogenization of the American game which is now one dimensional baseline half tennis.
Since Fernandez won’t be fired, especially with a new pact in hand, here’s some advice for her: pick Decoturf, a surface which will speed up her players’ 80 mph 1st serves and slow groundstrokes. It’s the national surface for a reason, and Americans play better on it than any other nation does. And feature the girls with actual potential, like Lauren Davis, Riske, and Sloane Stephens. McHale and Oudin haven’t exactly done wonders for the nation. Riske at least has a bigger game and a bigger frame with which to cover the net, and Davis and Stephens have expectations in place, and are used to dealing with expectations, as they are the only true budding pros we have of note. We’d also probably put a veteran doubles player like Craybas or Mattek-Sands (when healthy) with Huber and work on locking up at least 1 match in every tie.
For future reference, the captain does not need to be a woman, and if it is, it needs to be a woman with a real winner’s pedigree, which means, probably not an American. Richard Williams has produced the two greatest American women of our time. He should be on the short list. As should Monica Seles, who is a fixture in the game and who actually commands the respect of young players based on her merits.
Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)