Tennis: Sport of Kings & Queens

On January 31, Novak Djokovic (SER) defeated No. 2 Andy Murray (GBR) 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in Melbourne, capturing a record sixth Australian Open title, and tying Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg with his 11th Grand Slam title.

Novak Djokovic

Djokovic, now 5th all-time in career Slams, was completely disrespected by the American sports media led by ESPN, SI, etc… when he wasn’t named Sportsperson-(or at least Co-Sportsperson)-of-the Year, in 2015.  Serena Williams is amazing, but so is Novak Djokovic, and what he does is tougher– playing on the ATP. [1]

Djokovic 2

This is the current career men’s singles tennis Grand Slam top 8 list:

Player                     Career Slams    AUST   FRENCH   WIMBLEDON  USO

1  Roger Federer SUI     17                       4              1                 7                   5
2  Rafael Nadal ESP       14                       1             9                  2                  2
2  Pete Sampras USA    14                       2             0                  7                  5
4  Roy Emerson AUS     12                       6             2                  2                  2
5  Novak Djokovic SER  11                       6             0                  3                  2
=  Björn Borg SWE          11                       0             6                  5                  0
=  Rod Laver AUS           11                       3             2                  4                  2
8  Bill Tilden USA             10                       0             0                  3                  7

Roger Federer

On the women’s side, Serena Williams came to Australia as the favorite, and she lived up to it, until she ran into No. 7 Angelique Kerber (GER) in the finals. Kerber raised her game & persevered 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win her first major title. Afterwards Williams said she’s “not a robot”, and she may be attempting to live up to an impossible standard, at age 34. She’s still pretty good. Here’s the current all-time women’s singles top 8 list:

Player                     Career Slams    AUST   FRENCH   WIMBLEDON  USO

1  Margaret Court AUS         24              11            5                   3                 5
2  Steffi Graf GER                 22              4              6                   7                 5
3  Serena Williams USA        21              6              3                  6                 6
4  Helen Wills USA                19              0              4                  8                  7
5  Martina Navratilova USA  18               3              2                  9                 4
=  Chris Evert USA               18               2              7                  3                 6
7  Billie Jean King USA         12               1              1                  6                 4
8  Monica Seles YUG/USA    9               4              3                  0                 2

Serena Williams

The biggest asterisk on the women’s career list relates to one of the ugliest incidents in the history of modern professional sports. On April 30, 1993, Monica Seles was the victim of an on-court attack in Hamburg. Günter Parche, an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf, ran from the middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games, and stabbed Seles with a boning knife between her shoulder blades.

German authorities quickly ruled out political motivation for the attack, even though Seles was known to have received death threats in relation to the ongoing conflict in her native Yugoslavia. Parche was charged but never jailed for the public stabbing.  He was found to be ‘psychologically abnormal’, and was sentenced to two years’ probation and psychological treatment.

Monica Seles was 19 years old at the time of the assault, and had already won 8 Grand Slams. Steffi Graf, age 24 had already won 11 Grand Slams, but had clearly been surpassed by Seles. Monica Seles rejoined the WTA in 1995, and added a fourth Australian Open title in 1996, but was never the same player again.

Monica Seles spoke about the incident years later, “From the time I was stabbed, I think the security hasn’t changed. What people seem to be forgetting is that this man stabbed me intentionally, and he did not serve any sort of punishment for it.”  Seles has not played tennis in Germany since. “I would not feel comfortable going back. I don’t foresee that happening.” [2]

Monica Seles 1991

For some unknown reason, no one pays much attention to professional doubles, even though it’s the version of tennis that most recreational players enjoy.  On the men’s side in the 2016 Australian Open doubles finals, Bruno Soares (BRA) and Jamie Murray (GBR) beat Daniel Nestor (CAN) and Radek Stepanek (CZH) 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Jamie Murray & Bruno Soares2

The Bryan brothers don’t win majors anymore, but they were the best ever, and they’re still active.  Best men’s Grand Slam doubles tandem (open era)

16    Bob Bryan & Mike Bryan USA
11    Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde AUS
7      John Newcombe &  Tony Roche  AUS
=      Peter Fleming &  John McEnroe USA

Mike & Bob Bryan

In the women doubles final, Martina Hingis (SUI) and Sania Mirza (IND) beat the Czech pair of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6 (1), 6-3 to extend their winning streak to 36 matches, on the way to their third major doubles title as a team.

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza

Venus (age 35) & Serena Williams don’t play doubles at majors anymore. [3]


Here are the top women Grand Slam tandems of all-time:

20  Martina Navratilova & Pam Shriver  USA
14  Gigi Fernández & Natasha Zvereva  USA/USSR
13  Venus Williams & Serena Williams   USA
8    Virginia Ruano Pascual & Paola Suárez  ESP/ARG

Martina Navratilova & Pam Shriver

The No. 1 priority now in professional tennis (ATP & WTA), is to clean up the match-fixing. Evidence of throwing matches needs to be thoroughly investigated, then made public; with those responsible named & punished appropriately. The same goes for PEDs. Tennis is a great game, and a superb alternative to American football & soccer, for those athletes looking to avoid concussion risks, but its competition must be clean & fair at its highest levels to attract young players. Therefore organized crime, gambling elements and dangerous chemical enhancements need to be kept outside of the sport.

Nikolay Davydenko-ATP

All the best tennis players want the integrity of their sport maintained, as a gentlemen’s/women’s game– the “Sport of Kings.” This means clean, hard-nosed competition, with respectful etiquette always observed on the court– win or lose.

Nadal Federer 2


Sony Open Tennis Diary

March 2015 Notes:  This year it’s the Miami Open, with a new corporate sponsor, a Brazilian bank [1].

Have you ever seen a city with so many banks, and so little manufacturing?

Of course, Miami banks are notorious for laundering South American drug money, so the Miami Open presented by Itaú is a synergistic fit.

Clearly, the Miami Open lacks the prestige of Indian Wells, CA; as Roger Federer skipped Miami this time around.

This Master Series 1000 event should probably change its surface to clay; as it would then have the dual-upside of; 1) being valuable for individual ranking points, as well as: 2) being an early French Open tune-up.

Many top players like like being paid to come to Miami, but also don’t mind exiting early; as it is another punishing hard-court, just when everyone wants to transition to clay.

For those who don’t know, tennis on clay is much easier on the body; and both the men’s (ATP) & women’s (WTP) professional tours are a tough grinds. After Miami, there are no professional hard-court tournaments, until after Wimbledon in July.

For those on a budget, the escalating cost of attending professional tournaments makes the Tennis Channel a fan’s best value.  A viewer can watch & learn from the top players, year-round–men & women, singles & doubles; with (mostly) helpful and expert commentary.

As always with television, using the ‘mute’ button appropriately helps.

When you’re ready for any tennis gossip, Mary Carillo (still cute as a button) has it all with a smile.


Night Session Costs Extra

Night Session Costs Extra

Second Round Play  Friday 3-21-14

All matches are best-of-three

This tournament used to be called the Sony Ericsson Open, but is now the Sony Open because big fish eats little fish.

Forecast: Beautiful weather, sunny with a light breeze. Low-mid 80’s. Bring a good hat & sunscreen.


The stadium is full for the first afternoon match, featuring Roger Federer (SUI); probably the most beloved athlete in the world.

No one cheers Ivo Karlovic (CRO) after any of the 20-or-so times [stats not available] he aces Federer. It’s a crowd rule: you can’t cheer the opponent doing anything good against Roger Federer, unless that player is a superstar.  I wonder how Roger Federer feels about that?

There is one break of serve in the entire match, the first game when Karlovic wasn’t quite warmed up. It cost him any chance at the match.

Ivo Karlovic is 6’11” and has a serve that sits at 132 MPH– reaching 138 MPH. Federer stands helplessly as ace after ace go whizzing past him.  Luckily for his opponents, Karlovic has a poor backhand, with even worse lateral movement. It is an interesting match, even though there are only a few rallies. Federer makes only 3 unforced errors [!] and wins 49 of 52 points on his serve, prevailing 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Final thoughts on Roger Federer: I don’t think he can win any more majors, but he’s still beautiful to behold– slipping ever so gracefully. It was a privilege to see him play.

This is followed by Novak Djokovic (CRO)/ Jeremy Chardy (FRA), with the stadium 1/4 full at the start of the match. It never even approaches half-full. I don’t understand why so few people care to see the best tennis player in the world?

The first thing you notice about Djokovic is his conditioning. He is clearly in the best physical shape of anyone out there. In fairness, I didn’t get to see Nadal.

Jeremy Chardy played well until he badly sprained his right ankle at break point to go down 5-3 in the second set. He couldn’t possibly play anymore, but insisted on finishing the match. I thought to myself, “If I was him, I wouldn’t go back out there. He can’t push off his right foot and it doesn’t prove anything to stand out there and get aced/service-winnered four times, then walk off.  He needs immediate ice, compression, elevation and ibuprofen; then an evaluation for a possible MRI.”

It is in the nature of these serious athletes to refuse to quit, even when they are injuring themselves more.  It seems worth considering why this is?  Djokovic moves on 6-4, 6-3.

This is followed by a complete emptying of the stadium for the next match: Romina Oprandi (SUI)/ Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)– the #3 seed and tournament women’s champion in 2012.  The first set went 6-0 for Radwanska in about 20 minutes. Time to find another match.

Sony Open Miami 2014

The men’s field is much deeper, with many exciting & competitive second-round matches on the outer courts.

Alejandro Gonzalez (COL)/ Richard Gasquet (FRA) was hard fought mid-day contest of youth vs. experience. Gasquet withstood the young Latin 7-6(7), 6-4 in a match that had high tension, numerous memorable rallies and great shot-making.  Match of the day for me.

Marinko Matosevic (AUS) /Kei Nishikori (JPN) in the evening was another interesting battle. Neither player has an overpowering serve and both are scrappers, attacking everything with heavy topspin. The difference is consistency & control, with Nishikori completely breaking down the hot-tempered Matosevic in the second set– winning 6-4, 6-1. Skill & physique-wise, these players are fairly evenly matched.  The difference is mostly in what’s between the ears.

Matosevic sent a tennis ball deep into the evening out of frustration during the second set, and then spit on the court after losing match point.  He’s one of those guys you want to like, but keeps acting badly; lots of potential, but needs to find a serious coach and listen to him.

[Late Entry 3-29-13] Kei Nishikori would continue to play well in Miami; beating Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer and Roger Federer. A re-injured groin in the Federer match would force Nishikori to withdraw from his semi-final match-up against Novak Djokovic. Ironically, this time the fans protested not being able to see Novak Djokovic.

21-year old up & comer Sloan Stephens (USA)/ Zarina Diyas (KAZ) was another cool-of-the-evening match.  Stephens displayed good strokes, but needs to improve her focus. Perhaps more importantly, she needs a much stronger first serve if she’s going to step up to the next level.  Only one ace in the match, but it was enough to get by Zarina Diyas 7-5, 6-3.

As a side-note Diyas had (by far) the worst outfit of any women’s player I saw. To be fair, she was a qualifier, but her outfit was ghastly.  Yellow top, black/grey skirt with red & green shoes. Congratulations Zarina: nothing matches.

Day Session passes last until 8:00 PM, after that you can’t access the Stadium Court without a Night Session ticket. This leaves most of the crowd watching the big screen outside as Venus Williams (USA)/ Anna Schmedlova (SVK) play in front of empty seats.

The early rounds of a major tennis tournament are like spring training in baseball.  Things aren’t too serious yet, so fans can get really close to the action. This is a great opportunity for enthusiasts to see the game’s stars, while developing a deeper appreciation of tennis and learning proper etiquette.