Friday, May 02, 2008

News From the Royal Courts

by Savannah

There's something about age fifteen. It's the age when indulgent parents suddenly wake up and realize the monster their laissez-faire child rearing has created. Now aware that the warnings uncles, aunts and neighbors were giving while the Little Darling went on his or her way were not caused by jealousy mom and dad decide it's time to make Little Darling into a better citizen. No more feet on the table. Parental controls suddenly appear on Little Darling's computer. A curfew is instituted. And when Little Darling talks to his parents as if they're servants he is actually punished for it.

How does Little Darling take this change in his flow? Most Little Darlings I know go from "you can't be serious" to telling his parents where to go and what to do when they get there. There are threats about running away from home. Family secrets are blurted out in public at inopportune moments - the larger the crowd the better. The resolve of the parents is tested. They are in a no man's land. If they back down Little Darling continues to fly out of control. If they stick to their decision Little Darling gets more out of control. It's lose lose until Little Darling realizes their behavior will not be tolerated. The time Little Darling takes to go from "A" to "B," however, may make the parents suicidal.

Why talk about the Little Darlings of the world? I guess because that is what came to mind when I read Maria Sharapova's shots across the bow of the good ship WTA this morning.

Maria took on the WTA over being fined for pulling out of Berlin and for actually demanding that she show up for a photo shoot to promote the WTA!!! The Bastards! How dare they fine Tsarina Maria the way they fine other players!!! And how dare the WTA tour ask Tsarina Maria to participate in a FOUR HOUR photo shoot with those commoners that populate the WTA? Poor dear will have just made a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles and must prepare for her appearance in the Tier 1 event in the Eternal City. Here are the posts from the Tsarina's own official site.

Statement May 1 2008
"As many of you know, the WTA tour makes many players enter tournaments that they know the players will not be playing. I informed the WTA several months ago that if I played Charleston, I would have to pull out of Berlin. Now they are forcing me to give an injury for the reason why I am pulling out or they will give me an additional fine on top of the 125,000 fine already given to me. I am a very giving person, but I refuse to give anymore of my money to the WTA tour.So I want everyone to know that besides getting sick the past few days, I am healthy and I am looking forward to playing Rome. The good news is that the new road map for next year should solve all these problems."

Maria Needs Your Help May 2 2008
I want all my fans to know that the WTA Tour is forcing me and several of the other top players to do a 4 hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. They want me to do this shoot on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday of the Rome tournament after flying 12 hours from LA. I have set my own personal rules when it comes to doing shoots and I never do shoots before tournaments bcause it's mentally draining and I want to just focus on my tennis. Now the WTA is telling me if I don't do this shoot they will fine me over $300,000. As you can see the WTA Tour loves to fine players. To be honest, I would love to do this and help promote the tour as much as possible, but to force me to do this shoot the day before a tier 1 tournament is just not right. I am interested in what my fans think I should do?

1) Should I just do the shoot?

2) Should I NOT do the shoot and take the fine?

3) Should I NOT do the shoot and take legal action against the WTA?

4) Should I contact the other top players and try to boycott the shoot?

5) Other
Needless to say I'm only providing the LINK to the Tsarina's site. If you want to vote go right ahead.

A few things come to mind re reading these.
  • Maria could not be conversant with "Roadkill" otherwise she would not say it will make things better. Mandatories Maria, uh, Tsarina. My bad your majesty.
  • This is an attempt by IMG to try and paint the Tsarina in a more fan friendly light. She is aggrieved I tell you! She's not taking it anymore! They're picking on the poor Tsarina by asking her to live by the rules the rest of the tour lives by. Don't you, her subjects, agree? Of course you do.
  • The Tsarina has gotten away with shit like this before and someone has finally decided they've had enough. I agree with one fan who posted that there must have been some hellified fights behind the scenes for something like this, which is rightly internal WTA business, to see the light of day.
  • Did the Tsarina and her court really think Sony Ericsson was paying her all that money for nothing? Did they never hear the quaint comment "he who pays the piper calls the tune?" or do crude statements like that not make it past the royal gates?

What surprised me to be honest was the outpouring of support for the Tsarina. I don't know if all those supporting her are just enjoying her seeming rage against the system or if they're just of the her shit don't stink school when it comes to the Tsarina. There were a few miscreants who pointed out that Lindsay Davenport had made the same point about the bait and switch tactics used to get fans to come to tournaments a couple of years ago. As thanks for her action Lindsay was then denied wild card entries into events that would normally have granted them to her. Some fans were even bold enough to ask what fan reaction would be if either of the Ladies Williams had aired dirty laundry like this.

What is going to be interesting to watch is the WTA's reaction. Larry Scott, beloved by his family and a few close friends, is like the parents of Little Darling. He created this "golden girl" of tennis. Somehow when she played in the States she always seemed to get cupcake draws. Last years US Open draw was an embarrassment to the tour and a slap in the face to the women who worked hard to get there and deserved nothing more than as fair a chance as a "random" draw could provide. The Tsarina has traditionally had tougher - read balanced - draws in Continental Europe and no one really expects her to do well on the clay. The real test will be the Wimbledon and the US Open Series draws.

I'm sure the last thing Scott expected was for his golden girl to turn on him. But just like the parents of Little Darling he's now got a monster on his hands, one who seems to think she is above the rules of the WTA. I thought that both items, the poll and the statement, would be gone by this evening as cooler heads tried to convince the Tsarina she'd just committed career suicide by biting the hands that have fed her and her court so well the last few years. They've told the Tsarina that she is women's tennis for so long she now seemingly believes it. Like a spoiled and indulged child she's going to need a dose of reality. Let's see if her enablers decide they're not going to take it anymore.

From the Royal Swiss Court
(Oh No He Di'int!)

Roger's been talking up a storm lately. In this
he was questioned by reporter Paul Newman and gave his thoughts on mono, clay courts, his rivals, and whether he would ever coach.

Could Federer ever see himself coaching? "I don't think it would be a problem, though I've realised over the years that it's sometimes not so easy. I can't just tell a guy: 'Do that, do this. It's very simple for me'. For the other guy it might be impossible. I've found this when I'm at a Davis Cup tie and I'm trying to help someone like Stan [Stanislav Wawrinka] or someone ranked maybe 150 in the world. You obviously have to have a different approach.
Note: Stan Wawrinka is a semi finalist at Barcelona this week.

End Notes

  • The Royal Court of Serbia hasn't been quiet. One of the advisors to the Prince is said to have publicly questioned whether King Roger of Switzerland really had mono. The Prince, who recently forfeited a match against King Roger is apparently still suffering from a sore throat that rendered his right arm, legs and the rest of his body useless. The Court Jester, uh, spokesman, Amit Naor, speaking as a broadcaster at Barcelona,went on to say of the Prince of Serbia "Roger is the guy on top, Rafa is the man to beat on clay, and Djokovic is the person to do it".
As soon as he clears his throat I presume.

  • Not all is lost. In the feel good story of the week thirty six year old Younes El-Aynaoui beat Juan Martin del Potro today in Munich to enter the semifinals of that tournament. Glad to see you back, Younes!


kraa said...

Can't you force yourself to say something positive about Maria from time to time?

I applaud her action of taking a stand against bullying of WTA establishment. It was about time for someone to do it. They are not their parents. That comparison is simply preposterous.

Savannah said...

When she doesn't act like a spoiled brat who is finally being reined in I'll stop. Do you blame the actions of a spoiled brat on the parents or "society"? Larry Scott himself named her the "golden girl". I certainly didn't. They're the ones who have told her she is women's tennis not me. If they aren't like the parents of a spoiled brat then what are they?

Does anyone know what happened between Justine and the WTA regarding Moscow last year? Does anyone know if Venus and Serena pay fines for not showing up at Pac Life? No, and we shouldn't. Have you ever heard of any top player bitching and moaning about doing a photo shoot to help advance their tour, ATP or WTA?

Positive things about Sharapova? She's played very well this year.

Craig Hickman said...

When I first heard about this, I thought that she must feel free to reveal the charades of the WTA because Sony Ericsson sponsors them both. Or that she was just being a spoiled brat.

You made a strong argument for both.

Karen said...

Craig, Sav and Kara I have posted on this extensively over at, so will refrain from posting my thoughts here. Suffice it to say that I agree with Savannah even though I had not used the spoiled brat issue. I felt that there must have been a better way for her to deal with this situation rather than going public. There are so many other important issues that have come to the fore recently that you would think she would take a stand against, a photo shoot is clearly her No. 1 priority. Go Maria, you Golden Girl you

jaded said...

I am still in whoops over the 'royal' part of the post!

edma1022 said...

The "someone like Stan" reference is "thinking out loud" as an example. I've seen this interview in depth and discussed it extensively in ESPN. However, I don't see the double entendre. I don't know what you see at all. (Which makes the dynamics between us exciting, though, IMHO)

rabbit said...

The "as soon as he clears his throat, I presume" is just awesome :)

As for Federer's comment about coaching, I haven't seen or heard the interview transcript in full, but I also felt it was in bad taste when I was reading the article. Hopefully, this doesn't sour relations between Stan and Roger. Usually, Roger is very much more diplomatic...

Jason said...

I can't stand Maria and have enjoyed every one of her losses (still have that AO Final from '07 on the DVR and watch it regularly - it doesn't take long!). However, her statement and open candor makes me have a small, painful iota of respect for the girl. Say what you will about her game and her attitude (and believe me, I will listen and join in!), but she does always seem to take her game very seriously so I think if she expresses concerns like this, they should be taken seriously and not dismissed as a diva moment. Rafa has been going public with similar complaints about the ATP, and I think both tours have left themselves open to these criticisms. I am just curious about whether these are the complaints of top players or a general feeling about more players on the tour.

Oh, and to answer your other question, I am sure the reaction would be more negative towards the Williams. I love them both, don't get me wrong, but you do have to actually play a couple of tournaments in order to complain about the schedule.

kraa said...

If it was just about a photo shoot I would agree. But I can't stand WTA bullying top players, lying to fans about this or that player coming to a tournament when they know it's not going to happen and not allowing players themselves to decide where to play and where not to play.

Lindsay expressed a similar opinion few years ago. Why wasn't she attacked on this blog and elsewhere??????

Helen W said...

I agree completely with kraa on the issue of scheduling. It is very alienating for both tournament directors and fans to led to believe that the headline players will be in a tournament, when the WTA and the players themselves know that they won't be there. And forcing the players to claim fake injuries is dispicable.

On to the photo shoot. At first I was quite sympathetic to Maria (and, like Jason I do not like her, probably never will, and find the golden girl appellation nauseating). One of my exes is a photog, so I have been on a bazillion shoots, and I can attest that a 4-hour shoot is extremely draining, and always takes much longer than 4 hours.

That being said, there are a lot of variables here. When Maria says They want me to do this shoot on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday... does she mean that she has the option of which day, or that she should be prepared to do it any one of these days? If the former, than I don't see a problem; if the latter, then it seems a bit inconsiderate. Her mentioning her "12-hour flight from LA" to me undermines her case, as changing flight plans is not such a big deal -- unless she was not given adequate notice of the requirement to do the shoot (I read somewhere that the WTA claims that she was given notice, but they didn't say how much). Also, if the shoot is on Tuesday, and she has to play on Wednesday, then I think it is a bit much.

My problems with what she has done are twofold. First, she has not given us all the facts -- see above. Second, the idea of having a poll for her fans seems to me to be a stroke of low cunning, because (i) her fans will be predisposed in her favour, and (ii) it neatly absolves her of taking responsibility for her decisions -- she passes that responsibility on to her fans.

Savannah said...

Everything possible was done to keep Lindsay's comments under wraps by the powers that be. Tennisheads, especially those who frequented the ESPN board at the time know about them since it was discussed a lot there when it happened. Lindsay has never been pampered by the tour to the extent Maria has and her comments were treated as sour grapes.

To be clear. I think Maria's talk about the bait and switch tactics is long overdue but valid. My only problem is that she chose to go public with a private dispute between her and the WTA regarding fines. In most job environments doing that means your resume had better be updated. Don't forget she skipped out on Miami as well but she went there and did the publicity along with her friend Camilla. Did her doing the publicity get her out of paying the fine? Should we know? No, but now that she's gone public with this we do have a right to know if she was indeed fined for Miami. If she wasn't, and is now pissed that she's being fined for bypassing Berlin as any other player would be we're in spoiled brat territory IMHO. By her own admission she is still in the States so she's not made herself available to do the P.R. work for Berlin. Just sayin'.

If she is so serious about Rome shouldn't she be in Europe already adjusting to the time difference and getting practice in on real clay not that crap they call clay here in the US?

And again, Sony Ericsson paid her a shit load of money to be their official spokesperson. No other woman on the tour got that deal. Sony Ericsson is also the sponsor of the tour. So why shouldn't they be royally pissed that their bought and paid for star is telling them to kiss where the sun don't shine? They've already paid for her services haven't they? I'm sure Larry Scott made sure she was notified in plenty of time about the shoot.

I think she's on very shaky ground on both issues.

Helen W said...

To add to your points Savannah, when I think longer about it, she has had sufficient notice of the shoot -- she knew about it when she blogged, and the women's tournament in Rome doesn't start for another week. How much notice does she need?

Also, from her own words, the problem of the schedule has been addressed by the WTA starting next season.

BeefingFraeulein said...

I love this post mostly for your use of the word "Tsarina" -- gave me a good chuckle.

I recall that Serena had a problem with the WTA during the year-end championships in Madrid (despite the fact that she got injured and withdrew), they more or less made her show up at the player's party, or face a stiff fine. She vented on her blog as well.

Anyhow, IMO it depends on the nature of the shoot. If it is a HUBBA HUBBA check out the HOT WTA CHICKS glamour oriented shoot -- then I'm with Maria.