Slant Pattern Tennis Odds and Ends

* Using Jon Wertheim's column as a template of sorts, I'd like to weigh in on some of the year-end ATP awards.

For Most Improved Player, Wertheim makes the case that at 27, Aslan Karatsev, who started the year outside the top 100 and ended the year with a win over Djokovic in Serbia, a Slam semi, 2 tour wins, and a ATP Masters 1000-level final, can "retire the award on his honor." It's hard to argue with that. But I do want to give a shoutout to Cameron Norrie, a name that has been hanging around as an ATP average Joe forevvvver, and now he suddenly has an ATP Masters 1000 title, an ATP Masters 500 title, and a world ranking of No. 12.

I don't find it hard to argue with Wertheim on Comeback Player of The Year. He wrote, "when you're in your mid-30s and win matches with a piece of metal implanted in your hip, it's game over. Andy Murray." It's not game over. The metal should help him with his pain management and movement over his previously mangled hip, yeah? While this may sound harsh, I also don't think "former superstar, thanks to hard work and rehab, is now back to being a middling ATP player" is all that amazing, but that's about where Murray finds himself right now.

I'm also inclined to give comeback player to a player who lost and reclaimed their game in non-injury-related fashion. That would make Jack Sock my comeback player winner. I'm sure, however, Murray will actually win (and similarly, all it will take is a few made cuts and one top-10 for Tiger Woods to be the runaway PGA comeback player of the year next year).

Finally, there's Wertheim's "Non-playing Newcomer of the Year," which he bestows to the 2021 San Diego Open, stating: "This will be a theme in 2022: how easily events can come and go."

What he means is this: as the ATP Tour tries to find its footing in a quasi-post-Covid world, tournament adjustments on the fly have to be made. That's why the annual Indian Wells tournament, normally held in March, was postponed to October. To allow players to ease into the California outdoor court scene, and to make up for the Covid-related cancellation of the usual fall Asian swing, they came up with the San Diego Open to be held the week prior. It was only given a one year license, however, so it won't return.

There were also Covid-related issues in the run-up to the Australian Open (more specifically, a need to comply with Australian and New Zealand health and travel restrictions) which saw the ATP Cup relocated to Melbourne, the Adelaide and Auckland events cancelled, and two new one-off tournaments, held simultaneously in Melbourne (The Great Ocean Road Open and Murray River Open), run the week before Aussie Open, also in Melbourne.

As an area resident, one tournament new to the calendar that I hope does last is the Dallas Open, bringing top-level men's tennis to the Metroplex for the first time in over 30 years.

* I want to tip my cap to the Tennis Channel, who has decided, in this paltry tennis month of December to give us ... tennis?

They are devoting hours of the schedule to Challenger events (basically, the tennis minor leagues) this month because it's just about the only tennis being played. Even the higher level Challenger guys are sitting these events out, but no matter the lack of luster, it's professional tennis and the Tennis Channel will bring it to you.

Most other sport-specific channels don't take that approach. There's no live baseball on MLB Network to be found, even though several Central American and Caribbean leagues are in full swing (FOX Sports 2 has a Puerto Rican League game most weekends). There's professional golf this week in Australia, Thailand, and India, but you won't find it on The Golf Channel.

Instead, what you will find are movies, feature shows, "classic" games and tournaments, and I just find it really hard to believe it's better for ratings to show that kind of stuff than actual live events. Going off on a tangent here: the worst, of course, is the Olympics, when NBC and their sister networks are happy to throw in long feel-good features right in the middle of the event!

Last weekend, I watched a Women's Downhill skiing event on Canada's TSN, and it was the same thing. In a 90-minute broadcast, it was split just about three ways, at 30 minutes each, between commercials, god-forsaken features, and actual racing. I guess it doesn't even need to be the actual Olympics for events to be covered in Olympic fashion. Grrr! So, again, thank you, Tennis Channel.

* To close, apparently Nick Kyrgios says that he's "better than Serena" and if the powers that be don't turn this into King vs. Riggs II, they need to be put in jail.

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