Monday, May 12, 2008

Comment of the Week: Karma is a Bitch

About all the retirements during Internazionali BNL d'Italia, tristann said:

Silly doesn't begin to convey what has happened in this tournament. I am hoping that tomorrow Stan wins, but frankly I don't care that much. All I ask is that it be either a blowout either way, or involve a retirement. I feel sorry for the fans in Rome, but if nothing salvages the disaster that this tournament has turned out to be, it will be harder to ignore the truth. That Evans article is a good start. Better late than never.

Nadal has been speaking up a lot, for quite some time now, but it has fallen mostly on deaf ears. He has made some judgment errors, and I ranted on those in an earlier post, but there is no denying that he was facing some very unfair choices. The scheduling has affected many players, but he was the one who stood to lose the most during this clay season. I think that is the reason certain other high visibility players chose to keep silent. The thought of Nadal limping into RG after four weeks of desperately trying to defend points might have been too tempting for some players (and their fans).

Well, karma is a bitch, ain't it? I'll leave it at that, rather than go into another long rant.

One good thing that came out of this, Craig, is that both Roddick and Blake have gained a lot of respect after their performances in Rome.



Helen W said...

FWIW, here is an on-line petition for supporting the players vs the ATP.

oddman said...

So I hear Rafa's going to try and play Hamburg on a not-yet-healed foot. Hope he and his team know what they're doing. I hear a lot of criticism about his choice, but I'm going with trusting his team.

Karma is indeed a bitch. But will anything come out of all the retirements, injuries, etc? You just hit the nail on the head, tristann, about no one else speaking up much. Everybody's in it for himself - TD's, ETDV, players, maybe Rafa too, but I do think he was thinking of other players too. Could be my fan-itis skewing it that way, though.
I won't even feel bad this year if he's out for the FO, sigh. Just feel like he can't keep this up forever.

tangerine said...

tristann said: "I think that is the reason certain other high visibility players chose to keep silent. The thought of Nadal limping into RG after four weeks of desperately trying to defend points might have been too tempting for some players (and their fans)."

Who are the top players are that haven't spoken up about the crowded clay schedule? The only players who stand to gain from Nadal's loss are Roger and Novak and as far as I know they have both spoken up although nobody has been as loudly critical as Nadal has been.

Think about this: the one person responsible for Nadal potentially losing his No. 2 ranking is Dr Evil himself, Etienne de Villiers.

Craig Hickman said...

If Rafa plays Hamburg on a not-yet-healed foot, he's a fool.

There. I said it.

rabbit said...

If Rafa doesn't play Hamburg, it is basically tantamount to conceding his #2 position to Djokovic. This must be a really wrenching decision for him to make.

Helen W said...

At least Rafa's not playing doubles -- Tommy Robredo is playing with Leander Paes and they won their first match today.

It is easy with 20-20 hindsight to question Rafa's decision to play doubles at MC. But he wants to play for his country in the Olympics, so of course he was tempted to get some big-time tourney experience in preparation.

The impossibly-telescoped clay-court schedule is forcing the players to make some very difficult decisions, none moreso than Rafa because he has so many clay-court points to defend.

But in the end, they have to accept the reality of the situation, so I hope hope hope that Rafa withdraws from Hamburg, even if it means losing his #2 position to Djokovic, as I simply don't see how his foot can be sufficiently healed in the short time since his loss to JC.

The big culprit is still ET & the ATP in this mess, at least IMHO.

Savannah said...

The Hamburg suit is still to be heard. ET is threatening to resign (!) because of the no confidence vote rendered by the Player's Council. The official 2009 calendar has not yet been released.

I found it very interesting that the media's anointed he who must not be named winning the jewel that is Rome left most fan sites strangely dead. One site's most active thread on the results was so full of negativity I was taken aback. It looks like the "fans" of he who must not be named took over that board with happy talk when I logged on this morning. All of them singing the same song in almost identical words in order to push the real fan thread off the front page. Try getting tennisheads to agree on anything let alone use the same words to describe something.

The American players did acquit themselves well in Rome but as has been said Monte Carlo's dirt is closest to the terre battue of Paris.

I'm trying to keep my fangirl at bay so I'll shut up now.

oddman said...

rabbit, the chances of Djoke overtaking Rafa are pretty good at any rate, so don't know why he's doing this. But as I said b/f, I'm shutting my mouth about it.

Poor Mallorcan is mad at everyone - ETDV, ATP schedule, Spanish DC decision re: city - a grumpy Rafa is not a good-tennis-playing Rafa, IMO.
Maybe he can channel all that anger against his Hamburg opponents. Go ahead and bagel everyone, my Rafito - wipe their faces in the dust! Vamos!

Beth said...

Craig, I could not agree more with your comment about Rafa playing Hamburg. I love the guy, but personally I'm stunned he would even do this with RG looming. I wonder what his thought process is at this point. I can't understand it....does he WANT to lose RG?

Beth said...

And, yes, oddman, I have been thinking for a while now that Djokovic is points-breathing down his neck anyway so why risk RG as well at this point?

Karen said...

Pride is a helluva thing people. Pride cometh before a fall. I saw to Rafa you are still the best on clay. So what if you lose the No. 2 ranking. So what if Novak becomes No. 2 for Roland Garros. The fact still remains that Novak cannot maintain the No. 2 rank for any length of time. He too has a lot of quality points to defend between now and the USO. Roger, as well, has a lot of points to defend. The fact of the matter is that Roger and Rafa have performed so well for so long that their high level of performance is now contributing to their downfalls. As a fan of Roger, and to a lesser extent, I feel their pain. I think what galls most fans right now is the fact that Novak is not humbly gaining strength, he is being an obnoxious little twit, which is why so many people are having fits about him not only becoming No. 2, but possibly also becoming the next No. 1. His resume, as far as I am concerned perhpaps make him qualified to be No. 1 as he has performed well this season, but his character, or lack thereof, speaks to someone who does not deserve to be the standard bearer for our sport. I guess we have become so accustomed to the quiet humility that is Roger and Rafa that it really galls us that this person is now becoming the next No. 1. A bit like when Sharapova became No. 1 with all the screeching. These people are not truly representative of the sport of tennis and therefore to tennisheads minds do not qualify to hold the post, regardless of what the points say.

Helen W said...

Right on Karen!

If Djokovic was more likeable & had more class, it wouldn't rankle so much.

And you are correct, he has his share of points to defend after Wimbledon, so we shall see at the end of the year.

Maybe its just my prejudice, but it also seems to me that he was lucky in Rome in that he played far less than a lot of the others, and benefitted the most from all the retirements -- another negative aspect of insane schedule.

oddman said...

Yep. The 'Retirement King' earns a Masters shield from others' retirements. The irony is galling.

Helen W said...

oddman I notice in passing that Jon Wertheim put Rafa in his "ad-out" column for losing his first match in Rome. OK, he did lose his first match, but he was injured, so this seems like kicking someone when they are down.

I wish the media would show how hard guys like Roger & Rafa work, outside of their matches, to be able to do the things that they do, instead of dissing them if they don't reach their highest standards every single time they show up to play.

In general I think we fans also fail to understand what it has taken both Roger & Rafa (and other stalwarts like Ferru, Kolya, and Andy) to perform as they have. We are disappointed when they don't play a match at their highest level -- it's like we expect them to always be at their best, which is simply not possible.

cp said...

Funny that the one time Nadal gets hit with an injury in a clay tournament, Federer isn't in good enough form to capitalise.

Tennisfan said...

Come think of it, because of Rafa, Roger has not won French and reached Pete's GS record, and because of Roger, Rafa has never reached #1 for almost 3 years. When Roger is struggling in 2008, Rafa's # 2 position is suddenly threatened even before Roger could lose his. These 2 champions seem to rise together, rejoice together, suffer together, and look as if they are going to leave together. (I just hope not yet, not now.)

Karma is a bitch, huh! It is indeed. Hope all the bad ones ended in Rome.

tristann said...

Wow, I've been busy at work all day, log on for a minute and see my comment up as comment of the week. Thank you Craig.

Tangerine, as far as I have heard Roger has avoided the subject all together and only lately, at Rome I think he briefly addressed it when asked about it. If you know of any other occasions, please let me know. Seriously, I'm not being snarky.

The thing is that the problem with the schedule is not Nadal's problem alone, as has been suggested in some parts. The scheduling for the clay season has been horrible and inconsiderate of the players, not just Nadal and damaging to the tournaments involved.

I am an admitted Nadal fan, so I do not claim to be unbiased, but I do have to wonder about the virtual silence with which Nadal's complaints have been met in many quarters. I do not believe there was an active conspiracy against him, but I wonder whether some though that the situation might lead to a favored outcome.

But as I said, karma is a bitch. It may very well happen that Nadal's misfortunes may lead to Roger losing the #1 spot to Djoko. Nadal stands to lose many points, but there is no guarantee that Roger will pick them up.

I agree with those of you who feel Nadal should retire from Hamburg if not fully fit. I am prepared for him losing his #2 spot, but when not injured, he has been playing well this year, so I'm sure he can recover it.

rabbit said...

In any case, #2 or #3, Rafa is the deserved King of Clay, and I am confident that if Rafa and Novak do meet at Hamburg or Paris, Rafa will assert this fact sort of strongly. I mean the highest seed Novak has beaten on clay this year is Andy Murray...

oddman said...

Yep, I'd love to see Rafa put a spanking on the 'I was in control of the match' Djoker.

Karen said...

Tristann, I am not sure that Roger has addressed the issue of the scheduling during this clay court season, but I believe on more than one occassion he has addressed the issue of the schedule and how hard it is on players' bodies. I am going out on a limb here and say this: at the present time Roger has to be worried about his own troubles and while he and Rafa are admitted friends, they are in fact combatants in a similar sport. Yes, he will express sympathy, but come on people, if Rafa is injured and unable to play, I am sure that he will see it as his best shot at getting an elusive FO title. In similar circumstances, I am sure that AndyR is chomping at the bit. Not only has he beaten Roger this year, but he is playing well, has no serious injuries (we hope), Wimby is around the corner ... insert words here. Andy has to like his chances at Wimbledon this year. Similar situation for the WTA. Every woman must like their chances now that Justine is suffering a crisis of confidence. It is called taking advantage of your opponent's weaknesses. This is what is happening in both the ATP and the WTA, and even in golf. Tiger is out with surgery on his knee, guess what, people are going to try and win tournaments and move up the rankings in order to be in a better position at the next major. I regret that Novak is moving up when these guys are having off seasons, but thems the breaks.

Cate said...

There is no doubt that HE is a good player -- I mean, he bageled several opponents in Rome, winning 7 straight games in the SF.

But what I cannot stand is his attitude. Hubris, if you may.

Sure, he is within arm's reach to #2 but I don't think he could keep it for a long time. Sorta like the WTA rankings, shuffling every week. I hope Rafa is rested enough to do well in Hamburg.

If anything, Roma Masters proved that nobody is really interested to watch if there is no Rafa or Roger in the final.

tristann said...

Karen, I agree with you that Roger was under no obligation to speak out about the clay schedule and that he was fully within his right to attempt to take advantage of the situation, and that is what he did. This decision may cost him dearly though. In your post you make the same mistake that many have made (fans, pundits) which is to view this as exclusively Nadal's problem. Certainly Nadal has made some poor choices and if you were to scroll down to the "Rafa loses in Rome" post you would see that my first rant on this subject was reserved for Nadal and his camp.

But Roger's decision to not speak out may cost him dearly. He's had problems since the start of the year and does not have have the expected points cushion that would have allowed him to ease his schedule as needed. From here on out he also has many points to defend and the schedule does not get much better. Having added Estoril to a packed schedule, I am sure he initially had every intention of withdrawing from Hamburg. Yet there he is, having to play and defend the title. From here on out, Roger has either finalist or champion points to defend at every major tournament until Paris in the fall, and with a schedule which he chose to keep silent about for the most part. Good luck. If there was a year when the players and their fans should have united and protested the insane schedule it was this one.

How things shake out this year is going to be very interesting, that is for sure.

rabbit said...

I think here was the response by Federer that tristann was referring to. Federer sounded a bit more sympathetic when I was watching the video:

Q. Do you feel it was right when he was complaining about the clay court season being so tough?

Q. Yeah.
ROGER FEDERER: I did not hear him.

Q. He was complaining that he had four big tournaments this year in a row every week with no week of rest between.
ROGER FEDERER: Hmm, of course it's tough. It's tough for everyone. I'm playing four tournaments as well, it's just that I placed them differently. I understand he wants to play Barcelona and try to defend his title there. It's a tough year because of the Olympic Games, but I think the problem is more maybe in Miami where they moved because of television, I think. To move, you know, Miami because of television, because I think it was the NCAA, I mean, that is rough on us. Especially on a guy like Rafa who wants to play a lot on clay.
So I agree, it's not right, you know, but it's the way it is this year unfortunately, and hopefully things will be better next time.

Karen said...

Tristann, I am not sure how the schedule and Rafa losing points and Fed not speaking out affects Fed's ranking as well. I think what is happening is that both Roger and Rafa are being brought down as a result of their excellent performances over the past 4 years. Roger has reached the finals or been the champion of almost every major tournament that he has entered for the past 4 years. That is an awesome achievement in and of itself. I cannot imagine what it must be to be him - does he have sleepless nights, does he worry about the next match, the next tournament, ranking points. Of course he does, he is human. To then expect him to defend his greatest rival and to exert energy over the change in the schedule is to me asking a bit too much. All of the players were affected by the schedule - the difference is that Rafa has so much points to defend that he is the one who is most affected. However, what about the fellows that he played to win those tournaments, do they not have ranking points to defend as well - of course they do. Do you hear them or their fans raising a hue and cry over it, not me. Rafa had early season points to defend, he did some and failed in others. Roger has late season points to defend, as a fan I am not too optimistic that he will able to defend all of those points, but he has proven me wrong in the past, and I guess he will prove me wrong again. The fact of the matter in a sport as gruelling as tennis, with the constant travel etc, players sometimes have to make sacrifices for the big picture. Rafa and Roger are feeling the effects of this. If Novak ends the year at No.1, let us see just how long he is able to hang on to it - methinks not long at all

Helen W said...

So there have already been 3 retirements in Hamburg, after only 2 days.

Anyone else read Peter Bodo's inane blog over on ESPN, positing that Djokovic's withdrawals are merely good career management?

Savannah said...

The US press and tennis establishment is in love with Fakervic. When the summer hard court season starts everything that has happened since Miami will be totally ignored or glossed over by them.

Good career management indeed.

Karen said...

helenw, I would invite you to re-read Pete's blog once again. That is the most scathing attack on an up and coming player that I have read in a long while. There is absolutely nothing complimentary about it - as a matter of fact it derides Djokovic for essentially reaching the top of the sport by practicising poor sportsmanship and calls out society for embracing this type of behaviour by forgetting exactly what it is that someone did to get where they are. Note the anology between Novak and white collar criminals viz a viz murderers. That article is not complimentary and like I said I would invite you to re-read it and tell me what you think then.

tristann said...

After I read your post above I went to re-read Bodo's article. I think Bodo is actually trying to compliment Novak. The sense I get from it is that in the big picture, sportsmanship is overrated, and that when Novak reaches the heights to which he is apparently destined, we will all have forgotten what he did to get there.

Now, I sense that you admire sportsmanship, and thus are appalled like most of us who dislike the antics of the Djoker.

Craig Hickman said...

Andy Roddick's itinerary this year takes some beating - just like his body. From Austin, Texas, to Australia, back home via Vienna for a Davis Cup first-round tie, from the West Coast of America to the Midwest, on to Dubai, back to California, across to Florida, a stopover in North Carolina for another Davis Cup victory before last week's return to Europe. He does not want sympathy votes - after all, he does not travel in economy - but some understanding.

One of the more prominent marks on ATP tournament drawsheets in 2008 is “Ret'd”, short for retired. And there has been more than the occasional “wo” - walkover. All of which has happened when those in charge of promulgating next year's calendar are insisting on a stricter level of participation at the leading tournaments, at the risk of fines and suspensions for no-shows or lame excuses.

Roddick was forced to retire during the fourth game of his BNL D'Italia Masters semi-final on Saturday. He did not like doing it, but a tennis player with a shoulder in spasm is not much use and he has returned to Texas for treatment. Such is the physical manner of Roddick's game, it is remarkable that the longest time he has been out since turning professional in 2000 is three weeks - in 2006.

Five matches in Rome were either not completed or did not start at all, an extremely worrying scenario for tournament directors who want to put on a show, while for the welfare of the players, it is simply unsustainable.

Which is why Roddick is a voluble critic of the “eight for eight” rule to be introduced next year, when attendance is mandatory at each Masters Series (to be renamed“1000”) events. Should a player miss one for reasons deemed unacceptable, they will be banned from the next. “Don't we want our stars in the game for as long as we can - surely the fact that Andre [Agassi] was still playing at 35 was good for the game,” Roddick, 25, said.

“Nobody wants to miss tournaments, they lose points, they lose prize-money, the tournament suffers, the tour suffers, but when it comes to fitness, there are many grey areas. I had to make tough decisions in '07. I was banged up in the autumn and I had a big Davis Cup tie coming up. I played five of nine Masters

[Series events] last year and had I been able to play everything, who knows what my ranking could have been. Do you think I didn't want to play? Who gains from fines and suspensions? It makes absolutely no sense.”

Players are in a demonstrative mood. Rafael Nadal had led a chorus of criticism from clay-court specialists, who have long believed they are treated as second-class citizens; Roddick senses a greater unity of purpose. “We can argue the benefits of clay courts and hard courts until we're blue in the face,” he said, “but where we are unified is in looking at the bigger picture and whether the businessmen who have been brought in to make decisions know what they're doing.”

The future direction of men's tennis depends on whether the ATP was within its rights to demote the status of the Hamburg event in the 2009 calendar and move it to Madrid. There is one last shot at mediation in Boston this week. If that fails, tennis has a July date in court that no one wants and one that will have massive repercussions for the sport.


Helen W said...

karen I went back and read Bodo's article, and I do believe that you are correct -- it is indeed a scathing indictment of Djokovic. That went right over my head (blush). But it makes sense -- I don't always like Bodo's opinions, but I confess I was surprised that he would be supporting Djokovic's antics. Well well, he must himself be surprised, as all the commentators (54 at last count) took him at face value, just like I did (at least I'm not alone).

Good catch!

Helen W said...

On the subject of class in tennis, here's a moving article about Jamie Baker (that other Scot) from The Times On-line.

Karen said...

Morning All, as a joke, someone said on another tennis forum - would it not be ironic if Roger lost his No. 1 ranking but was voted by the players to head up the ATP - first order of business - no hawkeye and definitely no 1000 events etc. LOL

tristann said...

Good for Roddick for speaking up. DeVilliers needs to go. Now.