Yesterday Savannah posted this provocative article by Tom Perrotta on her blog. She tried to post it here as well, as she does many of her other entries, but a technical glitch didn't allow it to happen.
Just as well. She alerted me to the article and the post and we began an email conversation that went a little something like this.
Craig: The most balanced argument I've read to date. And Serena is right, American tennis events are dwindling. So much for the notion that the USTA and Americans influence the tour. The ongoing ATP raucous is being revealed for the smoke and mirrors that it is. All the players on both sides of the ocean ought to be slapped for buying into the bullshit.
His points about where the players play is spot on. I've always defended the Americans not playing a full claycourt schedule in Europe because of the length of time away from home they'll spend overseas till the end of Wimbledon, which can't be done away with, unfortunately. But I've consistently defended the European top players for the same tendency to stay in Europe as long as possible after Wimbledon. An argument can be made for what this writer writes, however.
I like this notion of tournaments such as Houston, Umag, Stuttgart, et. al., being off limits to top players. Revolutionary idea, sure. But again, it makes sense.
Savannah: I just don't like the idea of officially making the tour two-tiered. Rafa didn't play well in Hamburg but did well in Stuttgart. Smaller markets get to see the likes of Rafa, Djokovic and the other ATP stars as well as possibly seeing a star in the making. [Steve] Darcis may never win another tournament but there will be people able to say they saw him blow away players many considered their betters.
The argument works both ways IMO. Our guys don't go in the spring and theirs don't come in the summer.
I do think that the USTA needs to bring a better product to the court instead of trying to force people to do something against their own best interests.
Most of Europeans and South Americans play a full claycourt season and then play the grass courts. Coming straight to the States they'd be worn out and not playing at their best. I should point out that would not be the case if the Americans went to Europe in the Spring.
Craig: I beg to differ. If Americans went to Europe for the full claycourt season and played through Wimbledon, how can they then be expected to be at their best when they return stateside for their home tournaments? What's good for the goose...
Still, we're focusing on only a part of Tom's article. The calendar is muffed up, no two ways about it. Your point about the Europeans and South Americans playing the clay and the grass and then coming to the States for a full hardcourt run would be too much is well-taken.
I'm of the opinion, though, that clay events after Roland Garros/Wimbledon are overkill. We all know I don't like clay, but these events seem anticlimactic. Much as the Newport grass event makes no sense after Wimbledon. No sense at all.
What to do, what to do?
Then you have a player such as Chris Guccione making me raise my eyebrows. WTF? He plays Wimby, comes to the US to play a hardcourt event, loses early, then trapes back to Europe to play a clay event, and also loses early. Now what? Will he return to the US for the remainder of the hardcourt season? This is a man from Australia, who must be used to behind far away from home for the entire year, save January. Notice how Lleyton Hewitt isn't making an appearance in North American till Canada?
The notion of too much choice is an interesting one.
I read your blog and I'm not sure I see your take on the where he's coming from. Your point about audiences seeing top players at smaller events is also a good one, though. But I'm not so sure there's an undercurrent of "You better play in the States or else!" in his article.
Savannah: If they go with special seeding based on how you do in the US Open series they're telling players you have to play or else.
I actually think he's laid out his the USTA's argument very well. I just don't agree with it.
Craig: Do you really think Perrotta is suggesting altered seedings for the US Open in this article?
Savannah: Last paragraph. Funny because they're having this discussion about forcing players to play in the WTA Stanford/Gastein thread [on Talk About Tennis]. I want to jump in but I'm holding back because of our conversation.
How can the USTA compete with that? In recent months, Kantarian has kicked around the idea of starting a U.S. Circuit — think professional golf — that would rival the current structure of the tour, though a USTA spokesman said any such move is a long way off and not part of the group's current strategy. There's some talk of seeding players at the U.S. Open according to their performance in the Series, too.
Craig: How could I have missed that? Not awake enough, I suppose. It was a long night.
Anyway, that puts an entirely different spin on things. Again, for the sake of consistency, I always thought Roland Garros would be well-served to seed based on claycourt performance as well. Roddick's perennial early dismissals in Paris mess up the draw. Sure, upsets can happen to any top player at any time, but when a top seed is practically guaranteeing that his quarter will open up, it seems unfair to a lower seed with more claycourt pedigree who might be in the same quarter as one of the other top seeds.
Savannah: I was okay with the article until I got to that. I was actually going to talk about how it was a reasoned look at the situation.
There's an entire thread on MTF about it.
Craig: Seems Andy Roddick has just chimed in on the topic.
"It's not surprising to see us (Americans) here and the Europeans on clay," Roddick said. "But it feels like we're at least building for something while they may be just trying to stack up (ranking) points."
Roddick last played one of the main French Open tune-ups, the Monte Carlo Masters, in 2003 when he lost in the first round.
"I can understand how they might like to stay at home for as long as they can," he said of his European rivals. Yahoo! Eurosport
Okay, girl, fire away!
Continued in comments. Please join us.