Wednesday, August 14th, 2002
Seems like the summer is just flying. I haven't had a chance to even play
in one tournament this summer, and my college tennis season is just around
the corner. I guess that must be how it feels for the current pros as they
gear up for the U.S. Open starting August 26th.
With the summer hardcourt season in full swing, a quick look at the women's
tour finds that there is no clear dominant factor (including Venus
and Serena Williams). Chanda Rubin eliminated Serena in the
quarters of the JP Morgan in Manhattan Beach, CA, and went on to win with
a hotly-contested three-setter over the rehabbed and returning Lindsay
Davenport. Rubin has been one of the hottest hands during the California
swing of the tour, winning the JP Morgan and showing well in the past few
weeks. Rubin's win avenges her round of 16 loss to Serena at Wimbledon.
Jelena Dokic may be the one to watch, and is my dark horse favorite
at the U.S. Open. Jelena has been on fire, making the semis and finals of
every tournament she has played post Wimbledon. With her new Head i.X6 frame
and a new found confidence, Jelena has begun to realize some of the potential
she brought to the tour just a few years ago.
Unfortunately, her dad, Damir, can't seem to stay out of the news, again
acting like he is more important then his daughter. Damir is now
threatening to leave Yugoslavia and register Jelena as a British citizen,
all because he didn't like what the Yugoslav tennis association was offering
his daughter (like it was ever for her). Figure that Jelena, now having to
worry about her volatile father causing a stir at the coming U.S. Open, will
have to face the one distraction she so sorely does not need.
As I write this, I'm watching the Lleyton Hewitt/Carlos Moya
final of the Tennis Master's Series, Cincinnati. Moya is on fire, and Hewitt
looks like he will eventually lose. Moya, a former world number one, is finally
back on track. He has a complete game, and it shows. Moya is a good example
of what is right with men's tennis. Hewitt, though exciting, is what is wrong
with men's tennis.
Moya is constructing points, using the full court. He hits hard, but every
shot is not a rocket. His serve is good, he can hit aces, and he uses it
to open up the court for a winning shot. Hewitt, on the other hand, is a
"hitter." He hits it as hard as he can, then hopes it doesn't come back.
There is a whole generation of players who are that way. Including America's
own Andy Roddick. If you saw A-Rod lose to Mr. "I'm Barely Ranked"
Gonzalez earlier in the week, you would see exactly what I mean. Every ball
A-Rod hit was a cannon. Every serve was as hard as it could be. And after
a while, Gonzalez drew a bead on it.
The women's game is similar, but with a twist. The variety of game is there,
but it seems no one thinks their way through the big matches. Venus and Serena
dominate not because they are untouchable, but because when the big matches
come, the opponents are not prepared. Chanda Rubin beat Serena this past
week because she is one of the few players with a complete game, and she
used her great net play to force Serena to make shots time and again.
Jennifer Capriati loses to the Williams all the time. Jenny just tries
to out-hit them, which one out of every 100 times works.
The women's game is so much more varied, and to a large degree, so much more
interesting. I even find myself laughing at it. Adidas again has "threatened"
Anna Kournikova to start winning "or else." Or else what? She is
the single most popular athlete on the planet, is probably the only and biggest
reason they sell any sports apparel and the truth is she does win. Yes, she
still has not won a professional tournament in singles, but that's not taking
count for her doubles matches.
Which brings us to Martina Hingis. The only reason she lost in Australia
was because her coach sucks. Her mom is out of her league, not unlike Nick
Bollettieri most of the time. Nick can bring you to the water, but rarely
have his kids "drank." Same with Melanie Molitor. During the great
1997 season, Martina was untouchable. But then again, the playing field was
not as strong and consistent.
Now, I'm not going to take anything away from the Swiss Miss, as she is one
of my favorite players, but she hasn't been able to capitalize on the
opportunities. And that is because of coaching. Brad Gilbert once
agreed to work with her, only to have Melanie fire him because to her, he
"didn't do anything I couldn't do or didn't know." Apparently not, Melanie.
Just ask Andre Agassi. So Melanie, subscribe to the new Tennis Channel
on your local Florida cable network. Then set your VCR for Brad's show. You
might just learn something.
So, it all now comes down to coaching. That is where the hitters will learn
to be players and then the players will learn how to win. There is a wealth
of talent on both the men's and women's tours. Maybe we will actually get
to see some live up their potential in three weeks. If not, then maybe they
need to call me.