Patrick McEnroe


Mardy Fish (R.) with Jim Courier on Saturday, with whom his improved standing impart lies.

We’ve always liked the things Jim Courier has had to say, first as a commentator on USA Network, and now as Davis Cup Captain.  Starting with his first major remarks, way back to last year, when he captained his 1st tie in a suit and tie on a horribly kept clay court in Chile.  When asked why he didn’t cheer much, and why he wore the  real suit over the warmup suit, Courier said that his guys didn’t need a towel waver, a cheerleader.  What they needed was strategy, and that was why he was there.

Courier is more than strategy though.  He is a winner, a rock for our squad.  Recall in his first ever tie against Chile when Isner was robbed of a point in a return game in the 5th set of a rubber that would have given him 2 break points, when he had none previously.  But 15-40 became 30 all and within minutes, Capdeville had the break and Chile had the rubber.

Courier showed no emotion at all afterward, and did not so much as question the call that could have spelled out America’s demise.  What he would say was that in a 5 set match, Isner has to return serve much better.  No one, he said, could expect to win a match without earning a break point, calls or no calls.

That has been the difference between the McEnroe and Courier squads.  Courier is honest.  He doesn’t play the buddy game with guys who might need a kick in the ass.  Like Isner, who, on a worse clay court than in Chile, and against a better opponent in Roger Federer, managed 3 breaks of serve on an impressive 12 opportunities on Friday.  Isner is that much better, yes, and his Davis Cup experience has furthered his development.  Hard to imagine Courier’s affect on him in any but a positive light.  For that matter, we think it little coincidence that Mardy Fish has played so well since Jim Courier became captain, making his first ever YEC last year.   Courier was emotionless after Isner’s epic win.  He was almost stoic.  Courier was the person in that horrid muck bandbox who believed in Isner’s ability to win most.  And why would he celebrate any win in a tie that was still in its first day, far from over?

Courier knows winning and understands the urgency.  So when he inserted proven doubles player Mardy Fish, after Fish’s 4 hour and 20 plus minute rubber on Friday, to play with Mike Bryan, the move smacked of USA’s realization of the immense importance of that doubles match.  Very un P-Mac like.  We were never big fans of little brother, ever, whether as a player, a coach, broadcaster or what have you.  We will say that it wasn’t a question of work ethic.  And that P-Mac stepping in to coach Andy Roddick after he and John Roddick split, was also very good of him.  Though, with Roddick’s importance to DC, he didn’t have any real choice.

We think substituting Fish for Harrison was the right move and suggested it here on Friday.  Well, Fish or Isner, for that matter, since the last time Fish played tired doubles he left Bethanie Mattek-Sands hanging out to dry at Hopman Cup.  We also think Courier is the type to have less of a problem making that call than buddy buddy Patrick McEnroe, and that if he thought Fish tired, he’d have used Isner instead.  McEnroe was always very proud of the fact that players played for him, a big problem in DC and Fed Cup.  Part of the reason they played for him, he felt, was because he didn’t really ask them to do too much.  We see that point, knowing full well some top players have shied away from the international team competitions.  Others have played and then thrown their country under the bus.

But if we are to closely examine this, the players want to play and they want to win.  So if Courier facilitates that, then he is a good captain who will keep guys interested.  Let’s be real.  Fish and Isner both just had career weekends playing for country.  And if the Williams sisters were able to be whole last weekend and had it been a hotly contested tie, Venus, Serena, and all of the nation would have wanted them to take part in the doubles, they being the all time team they are.

Obviously this weekend was not a banner one for Federer, whose abilities were limited by the poor quality of the surface.  If you saw the doubles Saturday, you may have seen an absolute rarity: Federer swinging and completely missing on a ball (backhand).  We’ve always maintained and always will that clay is strictly low rent, and tends to work better for lesser talents.  That said, Federer needed to adjust to the court.  The player who did was Isner.  Isner played big man tennis and was prepared to do so from the start.  He stuck with it even after going down a set.

Was Roger unprepared?  We think so.  It seemed like he thought he could roll out of bed and win.  Last year we began to criticize Roger for his lack of participation in DC, and noted that Tsonga and Berdych, who defeated the great man at Wimbledon in successive years, both play a lot of DC and may have been better prepared because of it in a 5 set format.  This year, players who do not participate may find themselves without Olympic eligibility.  Federer, who has never won a DC, should be amply motivated to add the distinction to his otherwise stellar resume.  But he looked listless over the weekend at Fribourg, which might suggest that he was only there to satisfy Olympic eligibility requirements.  In fact, we thought it an extremely poor showing by the entire Swiss Tennis Federation, from planning to execution.  Why would they choose to play this tie on indoor clay?  Surface selection is the responsibility of the home team’s captain.  Severin Luthi, captain and Federer co-coach, put his team at a disadvantage by choosing a surface so incompatible with  its best player.  We do not espouse the logic that Federer would excel on that clay because he is Federer, likely the 2nd best clay courter of this era.

What is fact is that Federer had not played on clay since early June, some 9 months.  Federer went deep at Melbourne, and has been resting.  He hasn’t been practicing on bad clay as Isner and Fish have been, since their early Australian ousters.  Courier knows a thing or two about success on clay, and is the first American in the modern era to win 2 French Open titles, doing so in back to back years.  He is vocal about America and its lack of success on clay in recent years, and has confronted head on the perception that America doesn’t practice on clay enough to be successful, by practicing his guys hard on dirt.  If Federer looked unprepared, then Isner looked completely prepared, hitting several kick serves that bounced up over Federer’s head.  He knew the court and he liked the surface, and said so after the match, citing how slow courts actually work to his advantage because he has more time, tennis’s most precious commodity.

Luthi is a very poor DC captain.  He failed to enlist Federer in DC for so long, and now that he has him, has failed to get anything out of him.  Next to Courier, Luthi looks out of place in his Yonex tennis reds, but that is not the only reason he is looking bad next to Courier.  This tie should have been played in Federer’s home town, Basel, on hard courts where Federer has prevailed as champion 6 times, including last fall.

On a bad court, it takes more than just cursory practice to adjust, especially when switching surfaces.  While Federer has proven in his peak prime that he can go clay to grass without much warmup, he is no longer peak prime Federer and he wasn’t switching over to grass, where he has 6 Wimbledon titles.

Luthi seems to have benefitted much from his association with Federer, but has Switzerland benefitted that much from the association?  Luthi has kept his captaincy we feel, ironically, due to his friendship with Roger, while not even getting Federer out for Davis Cup.  The buddy buddy approach is not one you will see from Courier, and had it really worked best with Roger, we doubt he’d have hired Paul Annacone to do the heavy lifting.

America will play France in the quarter-finals on the first weekend in April.  While Roland Garros may be the venue, we expect the French to choose an indoor hard court.

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)

Has Serena’s week of work out here at Stanford been more a sign of her sterling dominance or has it been yet another testament to the weak state of the women’s game?  While we were happy with last night’s result–a complete dismantling of world #5 Maria Sharapova–we thought it displayed more of the latter.  Aside from the 2 matches she has lost in majors, Masha has been the most dominant woman on the tour since May, and ran into the hotter hand and bigger hitter in a Roland Garros semi and a Wimbledon final, losing to eventual champions in both.

We think Maria ran into another eventual champion here yesterday.  If anyone was about to consider last night’s match a fluke, or to consider giving credence to Maria’s weak ass excuses–she couldn’t get into the match, she was tight, etc.– then what’s left to say tonight, after we have just seen Serena destroy the game’s other hottest player, Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki, taking 10 of the first 11 games out of the gate and wrapping up the first set in 24 minutes?

Lisicki has shot up the rankings to world #26 by winning Birmingham and making her 1st major semi-final at Wimbledon, but this is a girl who was around #160 in the spring when America faced off against and got their asses handed to them by Germany in Fed Cup, who was playing challengers all spring and who had to go through the qualifying rounds at Roland Garros.  These are further indictments on the women’s game, how a hot and able lady can get on a roll and go from the brink of obscurity to being squarely in the mix in the blink of an eye.  Good news for Serena, who is currently world #159 by the hand of the computer, but could anyone argue that she is not really the best player in the world right now?

Serena takes it 6-1, 6-2 in 59 minutes.  She won 69% of the points on serve and 54% of the points in her return game, allowing Lisicki to win only 4 of 17 points on second serve and only 34 of 91 total points.  Serena was not broken in the match, and has lost only 12 games in 3 easy straight sets wins here in which Patrick McEnroe has described her play as “nothing short of phenomenal.”

Tomorrow Serena gets another look at Marion Bartoli who defeated her at Wimbledon in her first action at a major since her return.  Serena is 2-1 lifetime versus Bartoli, and we’d be loathe to think Bartoli had a chance in that round of 16 if not for how little Serena had played in a year.  Though we hate the Plexicushion surface and how California as a state has favored a ticky tack surface that doesn’t favor the American style, we see pretty fast conditions here, and even faster ones tomorrow in the sun.  We don’t like how that bodes for Bartoli and her cumbersome two handed strokes on both sides and her awful, truncated service motion, which is completely devoid of fluidity.

We’ll pop the odds up for you tomorrow, but look for Serena in another walk.  By the way, Serena will move into the top 100 with tonight’s victory, and since she has no points to defend until next year at Birmingham, we’d expect that she will rise dramatically in the coming weeks, even with pedestrian showings in Toronto and Cincinnati, where she will probably do very well.

Of course Serena really shouldn’t have to worry about seedings going into The Open, but then again, the blasted USTA, unlike Wimbledon, does go by the WTA rankings.  We’re sure Mary Joe Fernandez will be watching with baited breath, as no one can be happier than our Fed Cup Captain, who has yet to wow us in any respect, and who will no doubt beg, borrow, and steal to get Serena for the next round of Fed Cup.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/usa-fed-cup-embarrassment-another-losing-referendum-on-our-womens-game-see-recent-serena-bikini-video/

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

Last night during Erakovic/Cibulkova on TTC, Lindsay Davenport, excited about the main event to come on ESPN between Serena Williams (victorious above) and Sharapova, talked it up a little bit over some video of Sharapova ferociously shadow hitting backhand after forehand in rapid fire succession.  Davenport explained that Serena had already been put through some rigorous steps by her people to prep for the match, and now Sharapova was doing the same thing.  When the coverage began on ESPN, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Brad Gilbert echoed the same sentiment.  They said that both players were treating the match more like a “Grand Slam final”, that they uncharacteristically spent an inordinate amount of time in what they called hard warmups compared to their normal routines, and that the atmosphere out at Stanford was completely electric.

Then the match started.  So much for the questions about Serena and where she was in her comeback.  So much for any hype surrounding the match.  So much for Sharapova who had seemed to reclaim her form of old.  Because Serena stormed out of the gate, winning a stunning first 5 games on Sharapova’s serve, and locking up the first set in what seemed like 5 minutes, en route to a 6-1, 6-3 easy breezy victory over the world #5, that might have been even more lopsided than the score line.

Serving to the world #169 (we know that’s outrageous and obviously on the mend), Sharapova’s achiles heel once again became apparent.  Against Hantuchova Thursday, Sharapova threw in 11 double faults, and added another 7 last night.  In a completely embarrassing display, Sharapova won only 12 points on her 1st serve in the entire match.  And what had become a rivalry several years ago when an unexpected blonde 17 year old dusted Serena in the Wimbledon final, is now decidedly far from it. 

Serena is now 7-2 lifetime versus Sharapova and has not lost in the series in almost 7 years.  The ticky tack blue Plexicushion surface which both players have won majors on, played like lightning.  Even on a coolish night.  Finally.  Serena, looking for her 1st final since last year’s Wimbledon, will take on Sabine Lisicki under similar conditions tonight.

Here are the odds for today’s matches:

Serena:  – 320

Lisicki:  + 240

_________________

Cibulkova:  + 140

Bartoli:  – 180

______________________

Fish:  – 600

Harrison:  + 400

______________________

Bogomolov:  + 170

Gulbis:  – 220

…..

From what we saw last night, we love Serena and Gulbis today.

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

ESPN has acquired the exclusive rights to Wimbledon, and will hopefully announce a deal for John McEnroe (above) as analyst on The Championships in due time.

We would think there were a lot of happy tennis fans who rejoiced over the recent news that Wimbledon has ended its long standing relationship with NBC.  We among them.  Our readers know that we have been immensely critical of NBC’s coverage of the tennis championships, and in fact, of all NBC tennis coverage, including the French Open.  It was announced that Wimbledon has signed an exclusive rights deal with ESPN, who had been providing partial coverage on ESPN2 and who coordinated the Mix Channels coverage for the first seven days of action.  The problems often resulted when NBC’s exclusivity kicked in on weekends, rendering the fine mix channels moot, and making the audience slaves to NBC’s ratings whore tactics that leave tennis fans screaming.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/nbc-wimbledon-coverage-shameful-once-again-tomic-takes-first-2-sets-from-soderling/

Not that we are necessarily in love with how ESPN falls into some of the same pratfalls, such as airing matches on delay, albeit brief ones, or their insistance on keeping the ancient Dick Enberg around, who looks like a decrepit Crank Yanker puppet at this point, and who is so obviously senile and out of touch with the current state of the game.  We were personally offended when ESPN cut to a Nadal retrospective on the 2008 Wimbledon final during Federer-Tsonga at the start of the fourth set of their quarter-final match, which caused the audience to miss 2 games and created approximately a 3 minute time delay.

But there are many aspects of ESPN tennis coverage we favor at the major, like the fact that they do not go to commercial in extended fifth sets.  Here’s a snippet from an article on the new TV deal as well as a few links:

As the press release explains: “ESPN has acquired the exclusive U.S. television rights to live action from The Championships, Wimbledon, including both the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Singles Finals, in a 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club beginning in 2012.  Comprehensive coverage from start to finish across a variety of platforms will result in more tennis for fans and all of it live.”

The CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Ian Ritchie, added that, “This new agreement will bring increased live coverage of The Championships and ensure that the huge international audience for Wimbledon can now enjoy all the drama and colour of the Fortnight through a sustained narrative delivered with clarity, continuity and consistency across a wide range of platforms.”

It’s a great day for tennis fans, and if nothing else, that’s a testament to how frustrating NBC’s coverage has been in recent years. Indeed, the “clarity, continuity, and consistency” he mentions will be a breath of fresh air for tennis fans that have been suffocated by NBC’s uneven broadcast schedules.

http://www.sbnation.com/tennis/2011/7/5/2259433/espn-wimbledon-contract-tv-rights

While some are nervous because ESPN has yet to announce whether John McEnroe will be part of their coverage, we would expect that he would be.  McEnroe joined ESPN’s US open coverage, and is a commentator on the ESPN mixed channels at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.  Considering the magnitude of a McEnroe deal, we’d chalk it up as something that will get ironed out in time.  We doubt that the American legend will be looking for anything more than the status quo, and frankly, the collection of second rate ex-players the likes of Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, and Darren Cahill, desperately lacks what McEnroe provides.

http://billionaires.forbes.com/article/09ay3wr9f2eHD?q=Chicago (John McEnroe ESPN Wimbledon article)

If McEnroe can not come to terms with ESPN, we would expect him to join The Tennis Channel’s supplemental coverage, and to still call the feature matches, probably for the BBC, which would be aired in repeats on TTC in perpuity.  All in all, good news.

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

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)

Captain Jim Courier, John Isner, Andy Roddick, and the Bryans (above, from left to right).

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/patrick-mcenroe-resigns-davis-cup-captaincy-courier-declares-interest/

This weekend Andy Roddick finished what he started in impressive fashion, thumping the 2004 double Olympic gold medalist Nicholas Massu on Friday, and then clinched the tie early Sunday with a come from behind four set win against world #165 Paul Capdeville on a very impressive slow red clay court in Santiago, Chile.  Roddick, widely panned for his clay court prowess, was broken exactly once in each match.  That’s not to say he played dominant first strike tennis.  Roddick, who has grown tremendously as a player on clay and as a guy who thinks a match out–2 of his lesser abilities historically–showed off both skills on Sunday.  After dropping the 1st set to Capdeville on grotesque and horribly slow red clay that groundskeepers watered on changeovers, Justin Gimelstob, who The Tennis Channel was too cheap to send to Santiago, said from an LA studio (so low grade!) that Roddick had let his opponent grow too comfortable and would have to change his tactics.  Such a pronouncement 3 or 4 years ago would not have sat too well with the close Roddick observer.

First time captain Jim Courier did not bat an eyelash.  In fact, the proven winner and distinguished major champion, showed nothing but calm the entire weekend, even when Roddick’s opponent Capdeville, in his match Friday versus Isner, seemed to at worst cheat and at best display questionable sportsmanship at a critical stage of the fifth set on a break point which he lost.  Isner hit a winner from the back of the court which Capdeville did not play, claiming he heard an out call.  Right.  We were extremely annoyed.  It was a classless move on the part of the Chilean, an obvious ploy that we’ve seen tried on occasion by the desperate, but which we can’t really recall a big league chair buying.  Enter Friday’s clown show.  The chair called the ball a let, and Isner who couldn’t buy a break point all match, literally, until that point, didn’t get another.  Gimelstob once again provided the dead on commentary, reading our minds by taking the poor returning Isner to task.  G-Stob called Isner’s return game a glaring weakness, noting that the big man could not cry about calls when he generated so few opportunities for himself.  About 1 game letter, Isner began to cramp, and once his legs had tightened up, he was basically done, but he did manage 4 holds in the decisive 5th set, and with the stolen break, would’ve won the match.  In fairness to Isner, the kid shows tremendous promise, has steadily improved since taking the tour by storm out of the NCAA’s, and is the American who most deserves the Davis Cup Singles B role.  Unlike Sam Querrey, Isner shows excellent killer instinct, a volleyer’s touch, and doesn’t shrink from big moments.  Isner has had several breakthrough wins while Samurai Sam has yet to notch any of note, especially at the majors.  America’s only other option, world #15 Mardy Fish, is also someone we aren’t comfortable seeing in James Blake’s B role.  Fish is a very bad big match player.  If he was ever going to beat a Chilean in the big spot, it would have been at the 2004 Olympics where Massu bested a then chubby Mardy for the gold.  We don’t put a lot of stock in Olympic tennis for the sake of its actual tennis importance, but as an American sports fan, we don’t give Fish the option to lose to a Nicholas Massu with gold on the line.

Back to Roddick, who stayed level throughout a tense second set that really was a must win for both guys.  Roddick blew a late break chance, shook that off, went into the breaker and then blitzed Capdeville, getting out to a 5-0 lead which carried him to the set win.  It was all down hill from there.  Roddick dominated the last two sets in uncharacteristic fashion.  He had managed only one ace through 3 sets.  Roddick, who tends to play a passive style too much these days, was on the ‘perfect’ surface for it.  He gave up the net and counter punched to perfection, hitting more winners off of his usually defective backhand wing in one match than we can otherwise recollect.

Roddick has long been due a re-appraisal by the stubborn Andy-can’t-play-on-clay faction.  He’s come through plenty of times for America on the dirt, and more times than any other American in the storied history of Davis Cup, now having clinched 12 ties (5 on the road).  And Roddick has played several fine matches at Roland Garros in the last 2 years, making the round of 16 in ’09, which is something many doubted he’d ever do.  In our opinion, Roddick might be the best player of all time who has only won 1 major, and had a guy named Roger Federer never came around, Andy would probably have several major titles.  Losing 4 major finals to Roger Federer is nothing to be embarrassed about.  Roddick is one of few guys to ever have been #1, to have won a major, a Davis Cup title, and to have been in the top 5 for 5 consecutive years.  And unlike Roger, Roddick always seems to turn out for country. 

You all know of our devotion to Federer, but you should also know we try to tell it as we see it.  It doesn’t sit well with us that Federer abandoned his country’s Davis Cup squad.  We know his arguments, and we understand them.  He needs to pick and choose, he can’t risk too much exposure in a non major setting…we get it.  But Nadal can?  A frequently hobbled Nadal usually doesn’t duck Davis Cup, and to his credit, he has a championship to show for it, as does Roddick.  Federer doesn’t take Davis Cup calls from Severin Luthi, one of his own coaches, and while the rest of the men’s tennis world is sliding around on disgusting mud courts, Federer is hob nobbing with Pete Sampras and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles (below). 

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.  As for the other Jimbo, our new skip, Jim Courier, we are ecstatic to have him (especially over the hack that is Todd Martin), and he must be ecstatic that Roddick takes his calls.   Let’s face it.  Courier is a winner.  He’s been there and done that.  Chile in a mud storm in front of the worst tennis fans this side of France while getting potentially tie deciding bad calls does not phase him in the least.  Not only does Courier play the same style, more or less, as the top American singles players, but he was a better player than all of these guys, and has greater insights about top tier tennis than the former DC coach, Patrick McEnroe, who had less talent than Courier, less desire, a lesser work ethic, less athletic ability, and we think, a lesser mind for the game in general.  We think it’s not a coincidence that the national junior program is foundering with PMac at the helm.

Next up for the US squad will be Spain in the quarters, about one week after Wimbledon concludes.  Before anyone gets around to anointing Spain, let’s all keep squarely in mind that home countries have an enormous advantage in Davis Cup.  In Courier’s first home tie as captain, he will decide the venue and the surface which as yet, is unannounced.  The surface is sure to be a fast hardcourt, and though there might be attendance concerns, in a play from the British play book, we think it would be very wise to consider Flushing Meadows for the tie, the way that Britain tries to play their ties on Wimbledon’s centre court.  America always chooses hards, and for a few years now, have only had the pick off-season, choosing slick indoor surfaces in Baltimore, Birmingham, and Austin.  You can’t really play this thing indoors in July.  Should the Americans opt for a more intimate setting, we think Cincinnati would be perfect.  The Cincinnati Masters Series has long been considered the fastest outdoor tournament in the world.  We can think of no recent Spaniard who’s had any success there. 

Also, we love the dynamic created by forcing the Spaniards to play on fast hards in the shadow of Wimbledon, especially if Nadal goes deep at SW-19.  In fact, we can hear Nadal crying about the turn around and surface switch from here.  Don’t be surprised if he asks out.  If he doesn’t, we look forward to seeing him finally clash with Roddick on a fast hardcourt, and we like our other guys as well versus the Spaniards on the hards with stars and stripes flying.

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

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