Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Raymond’

PostHeaderIcon Ten Final Thoughts on My Insider Week at the Bank of the West

I usually reserve these “Ten Final Thoughts” columns for the big events.  However, after spending a week on the ground at Stanford, eating and breathing the sights/sounds of tennis, I think I can muster up some decent observations from this year’s Bank of the West Classic. Let’s start with “buzz”, or lack thereof…

  1. This year’s tournament attendance suffered from a distinct lack of WTA star power. I love Aga Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova, but it’s not the same as having Serena, Maria, and Vika at an event. Even Marion Bartoli would have made a difference because she won Wimbledon. And let’s face facts: “Slamholders fill seats”.
  2. With a solid weekend of line calling under my belt, I have a much greater appreciation for what goes into being a good line umpire. It’s not easy, and those guys do a great job.  For all of you who think you could do better, ask your buddies if you can call lines for them sometime. You’ll change your tune pretty quickly.
  3. Cibulkova-Stanford-13-PB-MALT4580Dominika played a great match in the final to avenge an earlier double-bagel loss to Aga in Sydney. She put fate into her own hands and bravely went for her shots throughout the 2.5 hour match. Many sailed way past the lines.  But more often than not, they found their mark as untouchable winners. That’s saying a lot against a brilliant defensive player like Aga.  She hopes to carry this high level of consistency through to the US Open.  That makes two of us.
  4. agaEven with her loss in the final, Aga is one of the best and most unique players on tour. She isn’t tall or muscular, but manages to stay in rallies with taller and stronger opponents using excellent anticipation, defense, and a thinking game that you need to see to appreciate. Dominika rarely saw the same shot twice in the final because Aga used every trick in the book to keep her from teeing off on the ball. (Roger Federer often utilizes the same strategy.) It might not work against Serena, but it can against both Maria and Vika. And how about those mind-boggling deep knee bends on her backhand?
  5. Jamie Hampton had a great week at Stanford, but clearly wasn’t up to the task in the semifinals.  The gap between her and those at the top of the game was laid bare against Aga: consistency on her serve toss plus variety of serve, footwork, consistency on her shots to name a few. BUT… the upside is tremendous! She hits like she means it, goes for her shots, and isn’t afraid to come to the net.  The current buzz is with Madison and Sloane, but you can put my vote in the Jamie column. (Note: To be honest, I like them all for different reasons.)
  6. I’m not quite sure what to say about Madison Keys. Her loss to Vera Dushevina was unsettling because she looked mentally lost on court. I realize that she’s young and has a ways to go in terms of growing into her game, but the hype machine is already working overtime in pushing her to a status she might not be able to live up to. There are, however, a lot of positives with her game. She’s got a great serve, and her big forehand is a huge weapon when it’s consistent. Her serve effectiveness will improve when she can better move it around the box, and her forehand will become more assured when her footwork improves.  Here’s hoping that the hype machine leaves her alone this summer.
  7. Daniela Hantuchova played doubles and singles at Stanford.  A tour veteran for many years, she’s well-known for her model-esque looks. By that, I mean she’s known to (and popular with) many heterosexual men who could usually care less about women’s tennis. Anyway, I was talking to a friend by the upper walkway stadium entrance When Daniela came in to see someone in the player’s lounge. The security guy, bless his heart, said: “Excuse me miss, so you have a credential?” My jaw hit the ground. What do you think: security faux pas or not? 😉
  8. The early part of the US Open Series is problematic!  Top players are reluctant to put effort into the early events (prior to Rogers Cup) because there’s no payoff… other than (maybe) appearance fees.  Others are reluctant to play the early events because it means a longer financial burden for them in terms of travel and coaching fees through the US Open. Additionally, other players opt out of the initial Series events because of the increasing amount of tournaments played closer to home (and on clay) in Europe and S. America. Without all of these players, most of whom are marquee, the tournaments can’t bring in the crowds. And we saw what happened with the SAP Open, right?
  9. Speaking of Hantuchova, she played doubles with Lisa Raymond. Talk about opposites! On another note, Coco Vandeweghe, last year’s finalist, made it through qualies into the main draw. This is noteworthy because it gave me a chance to see her coach, Jan- Michael Gambill, up close and (not) personal. I swear to God he looks no different now than when he was playing on the ATP tour. I wonder where he keeps his aging portrait?
  10. When I start using Dorian Gray references, it’s time to wrap things up. I had a great time at this year’s event, and would like to give particular thanks to Karen P. at Tennis Panorama; not just for the credential, but her support as well. I’d also like to thank the folks at the USTA who allowed me to do line umpire duties the first weekend, and for trusting that I know the separation of my duties as an official and as a member of the media. To be honest though, I certainly hope that my next visit to the Bank of the West will be as a linesman for the entire week.

Take care all!

PostHeaderIcon Thank You Lisa Raymond!

When I saw @RolandGarros’ tweet on my timeline about asking Lisa Raymond question, I just couldn’t resist the chance. For those of you who know the type of questions I like to ask, you’ll understand that 140 characters with all sorts of hashtags was cramping my style.

Still, I thought it was “good enough for government work”, so I sent the tweet. I woke up this morning to the following notification:

Click the vid screen to see Lisa’s answer (sorry…it’s on autoplay and there aren’t controls to stop that), and for God’s sake get ready to click again afterward because it runs on a loop… 😉
Thanks Lisa!

PostHeaderIcon Mary Jo and Venus: An Olympic Dilemma?

Mary Jo Fernandez, the United States Fed Cup/Team USA coach, must be extremely pleased after this past weekend’s Fed Cup rout over Belarus in World Cup II play. The United States team, Venus and Serena Williams, Christina McHale, and Liezel Huber (with Sloane Stephens as an alternate) drubbed the Belarus team 5-0. A clean sweep of all (4 singles and one doubles) matches.

There is still one more tie to play — and win — before the United States earns a place back in World Group I. But this was a good first hurdle to overcome, especially given that Victoria Azarenka, the newly-crowned Australian Open champ and new world #1, did not play the entire weekend. The official reason given was lower back injury. Odds were pretty good that she wouldn’t play once she hoisted the trophy at the Australian Open and got swept into the post-Grand Slam champ whirlwind that accompanies such a huge achievement.

And Mary Jo was very okay with that! Truth be told, Serena was probably okay with Vika not playing as well.

But the problem for Mary Jo began a long time before this tie. It began the moment discussions began about the Olympics and which players would be named to the team. In years past, the selection of the women’s Olympic tennis team has ended in court. Just “google” Serena Williams, Lisa Raymond, and Olympics to discover the details of how Lisa was denied legitimate place on the team by Billie Jean King so that Serena could compete.

The circumstances are somewhat different this time around. There is no Lisa Raymond character (#1 dubs player getting bumped for a singles player) in this particular version. But there are many questions surrounding Venus’ possible participation for Team USA. Each team can field 6 players, with no more than 4 of the 6 eligible for singles. Direct entry is given to the top 48 ranked players at the time of the entry deadline. Because of Venus’ injury-filled 2011 with only 11 matches under her belt, her rankings has slipped well below that cutoff. This is the problem.

Venus is now the 10th-ranked American woman at 133, behind 9 other players:
12 Serena Williams
38 Christina Mchale
59 Vania King
68 Bethanie Mattek-sands
83 Irina Falconi
86 Sloane Stephens
113 Varvara Lepchenko
117 Jamie Hampton
122 Alison Riske
(current rankings for 2/8/12 courtesy of the WTA)

You see where I’m going with this, right?
A healthy Venus easily makes the team via direct entry. A slightly injured/sick Venus, who is otherwise in decent playing condition when healthy, has a claim to be placed on the team based on past performances. Does a chronically-ill Venus, at the tail end of her career and who may or may not be fully-healthy at the entry deadline, warrant placement on the team over higher-ranked players?

If this ranking order holds true into the year, Bethanie could very well be the Lisa Raymond of this year’s Olympics. That is, IF Mary Jo decides to name Venus to the Olympic team. And it’s certainly not a “gimme” for Venus. Even if she ups her schedule to help improve her ranking, it is virtually impossible for her to gain direct entry because of how the rankings are calculated (past 52 weeks/16 tournaments).

If there are already 4 women who have qualified for singles entry, and the remaining two spots are taken by Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, the reigning US Open champions, Venus will not be going to this Olympics. She will miss her last chance to achieve Olympic glory, at the place where she has one of the 5 of her 7 Grand Slam titles: the All-England Club, Wimbledon.

There is still a lot of time between now and the entry deadline, but it doesn’t look good on many fronts. I love Venus and all that she has done for American tennis and women’s tennis in general. But I certainly hope that neither Christina, Vania, nor Bethanie get screwed over in order to give Venus one last (and very long) shot at Olympic gold.

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