• The WTA Finals are underway. Let’s keep in mind that it’s been a year (to date) since Peng Shuai posted her post on social media. One still wonders about her well-being. Among other troubling parts of this fact pattern, you’ll notice the slight trace of her since then. This was a player known for his outspoken behavior; You hardly ever find them on social media or in public anymore. The WTA rightly called for an investigation. China almost laughed at the request. And now the WTA returns to next year’s fall events. Someone has to explain that.
• Good Soldiering: “Rivals” launches November 5 on the Tennis Channel.
How do you explain the recent success story of Felix Auger Aliassime? Does it do something different? Can you continue that with a specialty?
There is an old borscht belt joke about the man who keeps telling the same stories and jokes. To save time, he simply says, “Seventeen!” or “Forty-three” and everyone laughs.
This is how tennis commentary often feels. “The plots in tennis change fast.” (Thirty-seven!) “The margins are slim!” (Eleven). “While sports teams have to rebuild entire seasons and think about how to rack up success, success in tennis breeds success and players can quickly turn the tide.” (Eight!)
As for Felix… two months ago, almost to the day, he didn’t just lose at the US Open. Jack Draper completely outclassed him. It wasn’t even a close game. It was the last major of 2022. The rival was younger. It was easy to doubt that Auger Aliassime, this player on the rise, would not only stagnate but also lose height.
But this is tennis. And FAA has real skills. In the two months since, he’s beaten Novak Djokovic (Laver Cup, but hey, it counts heads-up) and beaten World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz not once, but twice. And oh yeah, he won three events in a row. He is on a 13-match winning streak (as of this writing) and has qualified for the year-end shebang.
What are you doing different? From X and O’s perspective, it serves as well as ever. In Basel he won the title without a break. (Ironically, his Finals opponent, Holger Rune, didn’t break before the match, either.) Not insignificantly, all of these events are held indoors, playing to the FAA’s strengths and allowing it to attack and defend in equal measure. Especially encouraging? For a player who flopped in the final earlier this year, his game on Sunday was sensational. He also speaks highly of his physical and mental resilience that he is putting this series together so late in the season when others (see: Alcaraz) have understandably run out of steam.
The question, of course: can you translate that to the majors? Obviously none of them take place indoors. So these fall results are a limiting indicator in terms of predictive value. But if he can maintain that confidence, that serve, that deciding game, all of which are pitted against each other, he’s a contender for all four in 2023.
I noticed that Rajeev Ram was kicked out of the Davis Cup. He is the number 1 doubles player in the world. What happened here and how can it make sense?
Arkansas, Redwood City
Yes, that was strange. The best player in the world is at your disposal. He has been a Davis Cup champion in the past. He has won an Olympic medal. He is an absolute do-gooder. He is 38 years old. And yes, he is not only number 1, but he has also won a US Open title.
Full disclosure here is that Rajeev and I are friends. We are from the same part of the world, we have several friends in common, etc. I checked to make sure there wasn’t more to this story. A scheduling conflict. There were no injuries etc. Not only did this decision strike me as clearly unfair, but it also sent an unfortunate message about the importance of doubles.
So here’s a little plot twist: I reached out to US Captain Mardy Fish to see if she’d like to share her thoughts. Among other things, she wrote: “I love Raj and his run in DC with me is not over yet… But this time Jack will play with Frances or Tommy or Taylor. As a DC captain, it’s also my job to listen to the players. Ultimately, it’s my choice and I make the calls, but I listen to his thoughts and ideas… I appreciate the question as it’s important for people to be interested in DC. No one wants to win DC more than I do, I promise you.”
Not to make a big deal out of it now… but, especially in this mid-election week, here was a reminder that courtesy and responsibility certainly go a long way. You can agree or disagree with Mardy’s choice (like me). But here is someone in leadership answering a question, without bending over, without a publicist writing a statement, without making a fake news claim or calling someone a clown. Respect.
I liked your response to Jim T. from Portland regarding Coco Gauff, but was surprised that you didn’t set the record straight when you said that Coco hadn’t won any titles (possibly singles titles). In fact, she has won two WTA singles titles and five doubles titles.
My understanding of the line was that he had not won any titles in 2022. For the record, he had won two titles in his career. And in 2022, she enters Fort Worth despite not lifting any trophies, she won 38 games, reached a grand final, finished fourth in singles and second in doubles (with three titles). And she doesn’t turn 19 in March.
I hope you can shed some light on the life of a traveling professional tennis player. Do tournaments pay for players’ hotel rooms? If so, once eliminated from the tournament, will the player seek additional hotel nights? Do all the players get the same hotel or do the qualifiers stay at LaQuinta while the top players get the Ritz? And if the player loses early, does he usually go to the next tournament earlier to start training there (and get a free hotel)?
Thank you very much!
The short answer: it depends. Most tournaments pay accommodation. Sometimes it is a grant. But there is often a hotel designated for players. And players usually get full accommodation for one night after being eliminated. The tournament must meet a certain hotel quality. This is codified in the rules. But it is also in everyone’s interest. No one wins when Des Moines Open players are left off the interstate at LaQuinta.*
Note that this is the touring level. In Challengers, players usually pay for their accommodation alone. Also note that Talent = Leverage. In addition to an appearance fee, a featured star often negotiates special terms. (Serena Williams does not reside at the Cincinnati Marriott.)
*The great Michael Kosta (tennis alumnus from Illinois) has a joke that I will paraphrase: “La Quinta” is Spanish for “Fleabag at the airport.”
I’m inclined to believe Halep didn’t knowingly take any banned substances, but it will be impossible for her to figure out how it got into her system months ago, so due to strict liability, she’s in a situation where they don’t. win can she Even if they accept that she entered her system unknowingly, she still faces a mandatory two-year suspension and a four-year suspension if they find intent, which I don’t think is the case. Halep was already struggling with motivation this year and considering quitting, so at the age of 31, any suspension will likely end her career, which would be sad.
Some of you have written with similar sentiments. Elizabeth G. asked why she “seemed to like Halep.” That seems fine to me. I am unable to weigh guilt or innocence. My points were simple: A) The pattern of events is strange. B) The damage can be thawed by the heat of time. C) She is a Hall of Fame member who has proved many people right. Regardless of how it breaks, the stain doesn’t have to be indelible. In tennis, as in life, reputation counts. People build a record of good manners and decency, it matters when the gavel falls in the court of public opinion. (And vice versa.)
I’m originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so among the tennis heroes at home we have Jennifer Brady and… Jennifer Brady. Any word on if he’ll play again? I know there was an injury last year but you don’t hear about her coming back and she will be missed.
Rob L, Miami Beach, Florida
As for the source: “Hi Jon, I hope it will arrive in early 2023! I appreciate you getting in touch. Thank you very much.”
Here’s a player just two years away from reaching the semifinals of one major and then the final of the next major. If he’s in the market for a 2023 comeback player, he could do worse.
• “Today, New Balance and tennis star Coco Gauff announced a long-term extension of their successful relationship. To celebrate the new chapter between New Balance and Coco, the brand will launch a new colourway called Coco CG1 All in the Bring Family.”
• This week’s unsolicited tennis book recommendation: The Roger Federer Effect by Simon Cambers and Simon Graf, to be published on October 31st.
• This week’s unsolicited non-tennis book recommendation: “Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure” by Alexander Wolff… A New York Times 20th Anniversary Book of the Year Highlight.
• “The best players in the world will unite to compete side by side in the United Cup, an impressive new team event that will open the 2023 world tennis season.
The United Cup, an ATP WTA event organized in association with Tennis Australia, will demonstrate equality at the highest level of the sport, with mixed teams from 18 countries taking place over 11 days from Thursday, December 29 through Sunday. in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney will meet in January. 8, 2023.
The power and passion of team competition come to life as players come together to represent their countries on the line with national pride and a $15 million prize pool. For the first time in the world for a mixed team event, 500 points are also up for grabs in the Pepperstone ATP and WTA Rankings.”