Bryan brothers


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Down Under, the Bryan brothers won their 6th Aussie doubles crown, with a straight sets win, 6-3, 6-4 over Robin Haase and Igor Sjisling.  On their illustrious careers, they now have 13 major titles, 4 more than the magical American team of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who had 9 major titles with one another.  While we don’t always have the same respect for the Aussie titlist in singles, because of the surface usually, and because we are old school, and we just don’t weight as heavily the Australian Open as we do the majors, as far as the ranks within the majors go.  But doubles is different entirely.  In team tennis, what doubles is, you are not going to have a great chance if you are not synched up and in tune with your partner, and even then, there are no guarantees.  What makes doubles so interesting, among other things, is that it is still very much bang bang tennis–short rallies, true attack tennis, net play–and as synched as you are, the opponents may just be better that day, you lose, even if your name is Serena and that’s it.

Or, you might throw 2 guys together and they might even be baseliners or less bold players, like Bellucci/Paire and they me playing Rojer/Qureshi, 6th seeds who are heavily favored, and for most of the match you are shaking your head at how Bellucci is killing his team, like at the AO 3rd round men’s, and then Bellucci pulls it together for a few games late, and Quereshi and Rojer, a major calibre team, is going home.  Doubles is interesting for so many reasons, and therefore, we must cherish how much doubles we get on those mix channels at major time.  When else is it even televised?  All these tour stops now between the AO and RG, we will be lucky to catch a handful of doubles finals on TTC in all those months, and yet I have just seen TTC air 6 Destination Tennis episodes since last night, all previously aired heavily.  You’d think The Tennis Channel could throw a doubles match in once in a while, but since they aren’t even willing to send a broadcast team to road Davis Cup ties, these reasons come up when one inevitably call TTC a second rate network.

The Bryans have always been good players.  They were both top 100 singles players, if not actually then certainly potentially, but they choose doubles and focused on it, and obviously America is lucky they did.  I thought both played singles very offensively, and with improved conditioning, could have played that way well enough to see some singles success.  For the Bryans to be this good, this in step, well, obviously it has been a labor of love, but yes, a labor.  Nothing gets this good without planning and coordination, and work.  Winning 6 AO’s, more or less the first real high stakes tennis of the year, when it might be even harder to be at your best because of a lot of poor conditions, from heat to surface/injury problems, and because most teams have yet to get in step, and find that groove ultimately necessary for big things to happen.  Even the Williams sisters slipped up Down Under, giving the very good team of Errani/Vinci (one handers holla) life, enough for them to get in step and hand the Williams’ a very rare defeat.  Rarers so is the Bryans losing in doubles in DC, where they are 20-2 in their careers, essentially losing twice now over 2 decades, and providing the true linch pin that America owes at least a healthy amount of whatever success they have in Davis Cup to.

Both the Bryans play one handed tennis, they are expert at net, and really, magicians.  They are the most unheralded athletes perhaps anywhere.  And today they play a very good team of Melo/Soares for Brazil, on a fast American court, in a Davis Cup tie, which is really the truest form of doubles left today, where you must win 3 sets.  Only the French Open and US Open are left as majors where teams need to even win 2 sets out of 3, as now we are seeing, even at majors, these 10 point mini deciding sets.  Puke.  At least Wimbledon is still pure, best of 5 set tennis.

Do yourself a favor and tivo the Bryans today at 2 PM.  There’s no excuse for not doing so if you really love tennis.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Ryan Harrison (above) on the red clay of Roland Garros.  At 19 years and 11 months old, Harrison will be the youngest competitor in this weekend’s Davis Cup quarter-final round.

American “number one” and world #9 Mardy Fish has withdrawn from this weekend’s Davis Cup quarter-final tie in France, citing exhaustion or fatigue.  For the tie, which will be played on outdoor red clay, Captain Jim Courier has called on world #66 Ryan Harrison to fill in for Fish.  This marks the first time that the 19 year old Harrison will compete in live singles for the United States Davis Cup team.  While French Captain Guy Forget said earlier that Harrison is a future prospect at this point, and not an established player, we feel he may be underestimating this weekend’s USA squad.

We can’t fault Courier here with his pick.  You know we like Courier very much as DCC, and we haven’t really criticized him yet.  We’ll make a minor criticism here.  Courier opted to play Mardy Fish in the doubles with Mike Bryan, pulling Harrison when he felt America had best go for the definite doubles victory over Federer and Wawrinka, and they got the win.  But in watching how Fish “hurt his partner”, according to our old friend Fred Stolle, when teamed with Bethanie Mattek Sands at The Hopman Cup, when his lazy play cost America the match, we grew very irritated with Fish as a doubles player as well.  Fish had played earlier that day in Perth, and we guess he was exhausted.  Though that is no excuse.  We thought Courier should have gone for Isner in that spot.  Isner was hot, and he’s the guy that’s won a few doubles titles lately, and not Fish.

Then Mardy Fish goes on and has a pretty pedestrian start to the year.  Then he gets flipped by Juan Monaco in Miami, one and three.  I’m sorry, but that’s a poor effort.  Mardy Fish has got to do better there in that spot.  On hards, in Florida, heavy favorite.  Okay.  We lost a few theoretical units on Fish, so we are perturbed.  But who is surprised?  At any of it?  Fish is not a strong nine.  He comes up small routinely.  And it’s not as if he is so exhausted because he’s been winning titles left and right.  To get grossly abused by Juan Monaco last week, and to have his soft forehand totally exploited, was unimpressive to say the least.  We are happy to see this withdrawal.

Does Fish perhaps have Mono?  Well, we wouldn’t like to see it.  But we’d hate to see even more if Fish, claiming fatigue this week, ends up at Sabadell next week, ready to roll.  Because that would belittle the Davis Cup and mock America.  We think Fish should’ve gone to France.  He has to get ready for red clay by playing on clay, and nothing is better than a good couple of best of five set matches.  We think Fish is setting himself up for a poor clay season, which again, will not be surprising because it’s Mardy Fish we are talking about, and he’s bound to disappoint.

Ryan Harrison is a perfectly scrappy and quick player, and is well suited to the red clay.  We’re comfortable saying this, even though we are having trouble finding any wins of his on European Clay.  He won the Houston championship, upsetting James Blake, another all time dog.  Small time pressure player.  Courier had Harrison on the last squad and had him hitting with the team at points last year, and Courier is very comfortable with the selection.  Harrison is going to be thrilled to get into to this tie, and he is going to do what he does, which is scrap and retrieve and limit the errors, hit the occasional winner, and flash a decent serve game and good hands at net.  We think Harrison is setting up for a nice clay court season this year, and it will start this weekend.  Getting some real big matches in over there is going to do worlds for him, and at #66, he is on the bubble for Masters Series events coming up, and may have to play in to a tourny through the qualifiers.  This type of match play can be just what the doctor ordered for both Harrison and the US team.

Harrison is going to be a very good player, as perhaps Guy Forget is suggesting.  But the kid is a good player now too, and he may be a matchup problem for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who he will play on Friday.  Harrison is going to get a lot of balls back on this damp court.  Tsonga is going to have a long day if he tries to muscle through the court.  And you know Harrison is going to play his balls off.  That’s his nature.  It’s been only by a slim margin that he lost recent matches to very hot players like Federer, Murray, and Raonic.

We don’t think Tsonga or Simon are in that class.  Harrison, yet to have a truly big notch on his belt, will also have a good opportunity in the reverse singles against Simon because they are mirror image players, and grinders sometimes have matchup problems with guys who grind really hard against them, and we feel Simon is that type of player.  Harrison has young legs and a young spirit, and despite his lack of notches, you can tell he’s a true competitor and a smart player.  He has also improved a great deal.

As for Fish, who will ever forget the absolute American nightmare at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where he lost in the gold medal match to Nicolas Massu, losing after leading two sets to one?  Then the problem was that Fish was fat.  Now that Fish slimmed down and got with Stacey Gardner, he thinks he can play rally tennis and hits way more shots than he used to.  He had to improve his footwork and did.  But he still has to go for winners, and we don’t always see it.  The more tennis he plays, the more air seems to creep under that forehand.  Not a good thing.  And if he is tired coming into clay season, how can he expect to survive it and prosper?

Obviously a lot is thought of the French squad.  Vegas has them as the second favorite in the world group at (+400), second only behind champion Spain, at (+275).  But Vegas was counting on Gael Monfils to be the French B player, and with him on slow dirt in France, that is a lot to handle.  As it is, Harrison will go in and start things off against Tsonga in the first match on Friday morning.  We like his chances, and we aren’t as scared of France in this spot as we could be.  Everyone is going from hards to clay in this tie, and since America also did it in Switzerland against Federer and Wawrinka, we think they are in good shape.

It’s also nice to have the Bryans back together.  The Bryan brothers have never lost in the Davis Cup on clay (9-0) and are truly the linchpin of the American squad.

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The Radwanska sisters (above), never to be confused with the Williams sisters or even the Bryan brothers.

We may have given the impression earlier that the field in Dubai was anything but stellar.  How could we not?  The style we favor, if you could even say that we favor that style, has no real entrant in the draw.  No Williams, no Kvitova, no Azarenka, and with what we’ve seen this week, any of them would be waltzing out of here with the big oil check.  It’s hack tennis at it’s worst, or it’s finest, take your pick, with roiling tussles such as Jankovich-Radwanska, 3 set barn burners.

So I’m watching that match and I’m saying ‘now which player is going to do enough to lose this match?’, as that is the pertinent question when 2 masters of the pop gun pusher realm such as these strut out to center court to let their errors do the talking.  And weren’t we so gratified when Radwanska, our favored hack, prevailed over Jankovic, our least favored hack.  In answering myself the question, more questions came to be posed.  Like, which player will convert more overheads to forehands or backhands?  Which will throw in more double faults?  Which will convert more volleys into topspin groundstrokes?  Which will assault the net with half hearted volleys?

Well, we firmly believed that Jankovic would do enough to lose the match and Radwanska wouldn’t, picturing Jankovic, the worst female volleyer on the planet, in all sorts of hijinx.  And then, after the obligatory first set in the grand coward’s tet a tet went to Jankovic, there she was, moving backward on the court, actually approaching and coming in and then receding toward the baseline to lose the point.  Bravo!!  For that requires so much inanity that it must be commended.  Jankovic, the hack of all hacks, made twice as many errors, and Radwanska, who we knew we could count on for at least a bit of instinct and fundamentals, came through, seeing the obvious opportunity that is Jelena Jankovic and capitalizing on it.

Bravo to that, as well.  And as we try to decipher today’s final between Radwanska and Goerges, we are forced to consider our other least favored hack, and how these hacks have fared with Julia Goerges, who, technically, has the kind of game that we can root for in a girl who plays tennis.  A girl with weapons.  An electric forehand, and an at times, very decent first serve game.  In highly technical theory.  In strict actuality, Goerges can not get her act together worse than Wozniacki, who she has ironically beaten three times in a row.  For whatever reason, Goerges does enough to win against Wozniacki who does enough to lose, and yet when Goerges plays Radwanska and Jankovic, two similarly ugly grunts, she can barely get a game.  We think the reason is that Goerges is a terrible head case, and that Jankovic and Wozniacki, two family coached players, do not have the sound fundamental base in their tennis game to take advantage of simple things, like overheads, but that Radwanska does, and so Goerges’ many doubles and bad errors mean a very pricey luxury auto and a fat check are in Radwanska’s immediate future.

In Melbourne, Radwanska pasted Goerges, 6-1, 6-1.  Since Radwanska needs a player like Goerges, or pretty much, all players, to lose the match because she can’t win it on her own, and won in that fashion suggests that Goerges lost that match really well.  As much as I’d like to think Goerges is gonna seize an opportunity here tomorrow, I don’t think it.  I’ll be rooting for her, but with no theoretical units on the line, because we just do not have faith in Goerges at all, in this kind of match on a tacky faux clay hard court, the same as where she lost really well to Radwanska last month.  She’s not a good bet, but that said:

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Ladies Final

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Goerges:  + 220

Radwanska:  – 300

……….

We like Goerges.  Theoretically.  As a player, not as a winner tomorrow.  And we like Radwanska.  She’s kinda like a Polish Wozniacki to us.  Theoretically.  As a player, who we know will not seize the moment in a big match against a decent player no matter what the result of the first set is, and as an actual winner tomorrow.

It really is stellar tennis though, this Dubai quagmire, in its own way.  And we’ll be watching this morning utterly fascinated.  Until we have to turn it off.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

2012 Australian Mixed Doubles Champion, and her war paint, Bethanie Mattek Sands (above).

After a great Australian Championships, where across the board the very best seem to have won things that would rightfully be theirs, America does not go away poorly represented.  Americans won majors in Mixed Doubles and the Juniors with some very worthy play, and very nearly saw the Bryans set the record for most career majors together, further cementing them as an all-time best doubles team.  The win would have given Bob and Mike their twelfth major together, 2 more than the all-time team of John McEnroe and Peter Fleming.  Unfortunately for the Bryan brother’s, who came up with a clutch tie-breaker and fought off a match point in the Semi’s, they did not make the shots and hit far too many second serves in a match that saw Radek Stepanek and Lenader Paes, who we met at the US Open and who was very cool, the career doubles slam.

The Paes team dominated on points and on serve, holding the Bryans to 0-2 on their only break chances.  But the Bryans didn’t play badly, and made only 3 errors in the match.  But they didn’t play well enough Saturday, and that is going to happen sometimes in doubles, because the game is moving so quick that you are not going to see a lot of chances to break, and poor serving better right itself quickly or else you are going to get blown out.  Make no mistake, the Bryans are an elite doubles team.  They have had sustained success, and have been essentially the best team for 6-7 years.  They are no doubt going to go on and get their twelfth major soon enough, and then beyond.

Paes and Stepanek were the better team on Saturday, by a little, but by enough, and by and by, had the better tournament on the whole as well.  Worthy Champions indeed.  And many would say Paes is getting all the credit due to the career slam, but Stepanek was a huge part of this team, coming up with at times brilliant tennis.  Here is a very smart player with a great deal of flair.  This may be a very good team going forward.

The Bryans get this criticism sometimes that they dropped 2 Wimbledon and French Open finals, and that they maybe should have seized those titles, but it would be crazy to doubt the Bryans well earned status as an elite team.  Everyone loses a few finals.  Sure we are disappointed whenever they lose, but in total, they have won 11 majors and been to five other major finals.  Very rarely does a team give us so much great doubles.  That is why real fans of the game have to be satisfied by all the tremendous doubles that we have been treated to by the Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters.  Truly phenomenal. The Bryans have also been the absolute lynch pin in Davis Cup, making the US squad a virtual contender every year, and playing and winning on the winning American team in 2007, also secures them as an all-time team, that may well be, at the end of the day, equal or better to McEnroe/Fleming, who played phenomenal tennis on their way to dominating the early eighties.

Taylor Townsend, the Girl’s Champion, the 14th seeded exciting American lefty, played very collected tennis when she needed to, and dominated at net, which she got to 23 times more than the 4th seeded Putintseva.  Aside from a period where she seemed to zone out, early in the second set, Townsend thoroughly outplayed the the very ill tempered Putintseva, who would not speak to reporters after the match.  Townsend is very athletic, and she plays the right way, which is refreshing.  Hopefully she is now considered a top prospect by the powers that be, i.e. Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez, because she soon needs to be on a very professional training regimen, with a top coach.  Might be fun, considering her style, that she get Tim Gullickson, who would encourage her to use the approach, which she does so well.  As for Putintseva, she has to grow up a bit.  She seemed to develop some kind of beef with Townsend, and the behavior was completely unbecoming on this stage.  The kid simply can not behave that way at a major final.  Good for Townsend, who we want to see more of.  She showed great poise, guts, and touch, and the USTA should now fast track her.

Then there’s Bethanie Mattek Sands, who we’ve, let’s say, assessed rather bluntly at times, but who we have also given her due, seeing her play some very brave tennis over the years, and making the utmost out of the talent she has by playing the angles, playing creative, and playing at net, the most exciting ways to play.  Sands became a major champion Friday, as she and the excellent Roumanian player, Tecau prevailed, with her doing more than her fair share, denying the very solid team of Paes and Vesnina in straight sets.  Sands played sick tennis, making several big crosses, on Paes’s serve, which many men failed to do throughout the fortnight.  This is very nice due for Sands, who has truly maximized her tennis, and who does her best to play an interesting, exciting match every time out, and who always maximizes her talent.  As we said earlier in the week, if you could put her brain into one of the younger, taller up and coming American females, then we might as a nation be taking the right to steps to get some resemblance of respectibility  as singles nation.  We are especially referring to Coco Vandeweghe and Melanie Oudin (though she isn’t very tall), though we must note that we also give due to Oudin for winning the mixed at the US Open.  She’s another one we’ve killed, but frankly, she plays tiny tennis.  She doesn’t try to win, and so, unless she is getting gifted 20 doubles by Sharapova or error upon error by Petrova, she’s not going to win.

Good job by this group to see that the nation had some noteworthy success at this major.  We enjoyed it.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Rafael Nadal (above), who will be sunning and swimming rather than participating in Davis Cup today.

Months back when we mused about the tie that begins today in Austin, Texas between USA and Spain, we predicted that Nadal would ask out, or that he’d be tired from a long season, and either way, would bolster the chances of Courier’s kids in their second tie under the 4 time major champion and 2 time Davis Cup champion.  We also predicted that the match would be played on a very fast track, which would also enhance the USA’s chances.  Everything about the scheduling, it would seem, has come to benefit the stars and stripes, at least in the pre-tie workups.  The selection of Austin as site by the American team was extremely fortuitous, especially if Andy Roddick was on the fence about playing.  Austin is Roddick’s primary home base and is where the Roddick developmental school is located.  A stand-up guy like Roddick would be hard pressed to skip an event like this in his own backyard, so the venue was extremely well selected by Courier.  Roddick is the greatest singles player in the history of the American Davis Cup team.  Wimbledon quarter-finalist Mardy Fish will be playing second singles in the tie, and 2 time and defending Wimbledon doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan will play doubles for Team USA.

The Spaniards will be trotting out world #6 David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco in the singles, as was reported this morning by ESPN, contrary to reports that Feliciano Lopez, fresh off an impressive Wimbledon run, would play in the second singles spot.  Lopez defeated Andy Roddick in a 3rd round upset at SW-19, but it would be hard to imagine the Spanish lefty besting Roddick in successive matches in the same month in best of 5 set tennis on courts that favor Roddick.  As for Spain’s other lefty, Nadal had the following to say about the tie and the ITF:

“The problem is the ITF, my opinion,” said Nadal, on June 27th. “They don’t want to change nothing. They are never able to change nothing on the calendar, nothing in the format of the Davis Cup competition. And some thing they are doing bad, because the best player of the world, a lot of times we are not able to play.

“For me is hard not go to United States and play for my country,” he added. “For somebody can think, ‘Well, he only is think about himself. He is playing his own things. Doesn’t matter about the Davis Cup.’ It’s not my case. … I cannot be in every place. I cannot be competitive every week of the year. My body needs to rest.”

http://espn.go.com/sports/tennis/blog/_/name/espntennis/id/6747099/rafael-nadal-opts-rest-davis-cup

Nadal seems particularly sensitive to criticism regarding Davis Cup, which has more or less organized their schedule the same way since the dawn of time.  Nadal frequently skips this round as it comes so close to Wimbledon, but his rationale about top players not playing would not seem to apply to the top player, Novak Djokovic.  Nadal seems to be talking about Roger Federer, who has hardly played at all in the last 5 years regardless of where and when.

We don’t think Nadal needs to be defensive about his commitment to Davis Cup.  Nor do we think any player who has helped his nation win in Davis Cup needs to explain their rationale for skipping a tie.

By the way, The Tennis Channel just reported that Feliciano Lopez will be playing second singles today at approximately 6 pm against Mardy Fish.  We haven’t looked at the head to head matchups, but we think it’s a bit of a flavor of the month type of decision on the part of the Spanish squad.  Verdasco practices on American hards most of the year, and is the more able player.

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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)

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (left) discussing doubles strategy in Davis Cup (above).

Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka are off to a good start, in their first doubles pairing since taking the gold against the Bryan brothers in 2008 in Beijing.  In the main draw of the doubles together at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the Swiss team obliterated the tested major doubles winners Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, who recently paired after Nestor split from long time patner, Serbian Nenad Zimonjic, with whom he had won 3 major titles.  Zimonjic and Nestor represented the stiffest competition in doubles for the Bryan brothers over recent years and were widely considered no worse than #2 and perhaps even the best doubles pair in the men’s game while together.  Nestor also enjoyed immense success with Mark Knowles, with whom he also won 3 major titles with on the men’s side.  Mirnyi is a 4 time major doubles champion and a 3 time major mixed champion, winning two titles with Serena Williams and one with Victoria Azarenka.

The new team of Mirnyi and Nestor went to the semi-finals in Melbourne at their first major together, and recently in Memphis, they took home their first hardware.  But on the soft as clay slow Plexicushion of IW, the new team was no match for Roger and Stan, who thoroughly dominated on the way to a 6-1, 6-2 victory.  Federer and Wawrinka will face crafty Frenchmen Benneteau and Gasquet in the round of 16, and could possibly face defending champs Nadal/Lopez in the semis, though a matchup with Wimbledon champs Melzer/Petzschner possibly looms for the Spaniards.

As for Federer announcing his first Davis Cup participation since a fairly meaningless go round with the Italians in 2009, we can’t claim that little old us had anything to do with it, but the Fed D.C. word did come a few days after we had taken Rog to task for his lack of participation:

Again, we get it.  Federer is the all time mens singles major champion with the Swiss flag behind him, so what does it matter that he doesn’t have a DC title?  A tennis purist would say it does matter some.  There is no definitive greatest player of all time, and everyone from Borg to McEnroe, Sampras, and Nadal have won the DC, and in most cases, had at least one title they were the impetus behind.  The only greats we can think of that have not won the Davis Cup are the ultra selfish and loutish Jimmy Connors, and Federer. Perhaps Federer, like Connors did, will feel the hole in his immortal resume, and come back to Davis Cup in his twilight years.  And unlike Connors, Federer is great enough to pull off such a thing and win a late DC title, maybe even into his early 30′s.  Maybe Federer has lost a bit of his ‘major edge’ because he isn’t as tested in Davis Cup lately and in the best of 5 set format as the last 3 guys who have beaten him at majors, Soderling, Berdych, and Djokovic.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/dirty-dozenth-dandy-clinches-another-dc-tie-for-usa-federer-kobe-pistol-pete-chilling-staples-center/

Yeah, we didn’t want to make too much of it, but we’ve been quietly directing Roger’s career for some time, if you must know.  The Annacone hire, now the return to Davis Cup and to tour doubles competition…what purist wouldn’t be happy?

Federer needs to keep his head here at IW in the coming days when it comes to his singles draw.  With wins over Andreev tomorrow and then the Chela/Petzschner winner, and if Canadian budding super-star Milos Raonic, holding firm at world #37 and fresh off his first ever Masters Series match win yesterday, can defeat Mardy Fish tomorrow for the 2nd time in 3 weeks and then take the winner of Ryan Harrison/GG Lopez, then Federer and Raonic would meet in the round of 16.

Not that we are worried, but in our honest assessment, Raonic is already a big time player and is definitely the best North American youngster to come up through Canada or America since Andy Roddick did 10 years ago.  Much more on Raonic to follow, and we’ll pay particular attention to a Federer/Raonic matchup, should we be lucky enough to see that come off.

Federer and Raonic will both play in televised matches Sunday on The Tennis Channel.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

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