Matt’s Blog exists to counter some of the madness in the tennis universe by which vulnerable community members might become startled, confused, led astray, and disillusioned. Or worse.
The sport seems to be under some sort of attack from tennis spokespeople who somehow think they know what the sport needs. In most of these cases, for almost any relevant discussion of the sport, I generally suggest that one ask former players, coaches and/or other leaders of significance. Look to that kind of insight for starters.
That’s a teaser. I’ll return to that particular discussion (tennis under attack) in a moment.
First, back quickly to the Djokovic-is-HC-GOAT wet-rag of a debate. Your and my favorite Djokovic Fanboy has been ferrying that argument to his dwindling readership that I can only imagine think he’s come completely unglued in the last year. He blames Federer and Fedfans’ bias for the lack of discussion there now, where there used to be really throngs of contributions to some decent tennis discourse. To be fair, I met him online and actually remember fondly some of the conversations, with him, his readers, etc. He was generous enough to link my blog, for a while, for which I am grateful. But as he went all-in on the Serb, toward the end of 2015, the lights over there seem to have dimmed and fashion now, I gather, a pretty consistent flicker.
He’s chiming in hard on Djokovic is or will be the HC Goat. This is madness. I discussed this yesterday. If Nadal has as many USO titles as you have, you are not the HC GOAT. Period. I suppose if Djokovic wins 10 AO and 18 or 19 majors, you might get away with saying anything. But the 2-5 at the USO is pretty tough in the company he shares. Roger is 5-2. Pete is 5-3. Ivan is 3-5, I think, having made eight straight finals in NYC. Those three guys right there are HC masters. The AO just doesn’t carry the same weight. Tell me I’m wrong. Either way, 2-5 compared to some other greats is a weak brew; and the Nadal comparison seals the deal.
I’ll add that the USO HC should be faster, and was so for sure back in the day, requiring an even sharper style of play. Lendl and Sampras played under those conditions, and Federer as well.
Now? Check-out this little insight Jon Wertheim stumbled upon:
“I always enjoy speaking with Craig O’Shannessy of Brain Game Tennis, who does some next level statistical work. He claims that the most common length of points is rallies lasting 0-4 shots. No surprise, right? But get this: At Wimbledon, 71% of rallies in men’s matches fell into this category. At the Australian and the U.S. Open? 69%. At the French Open? 67%. That’s some serious evidence of homogenizing surfaces.”
This is an unfortunate development of the surface play in majors. If you’re new to the sport, Masters and slower grass and HC are the name of the game. This sport is under serious attack, or however you want to describe it.
What’s even worse concerns the point I started this post with. We’re talking about people, including Wertheim, who want to make extinct the best-of-five format in majors and I suppose anywhere else that advocates for such a “difficult and brutal” version of tennis.
I listened to a podcast today from two uber fans (one guy freelances for NY Times and really loves Twitter; the other is a WTA “insider”). For the record, I do not listen to podcasts. I should since there are many, I’m sure, pretty interesting people probably talking about interesting topics and arguments on all of the many podcasts out there. In fact, I started a podcast with a friend about ultra running a few years ago. Never even listened that. But that seems to be a good format to share your ideas and people do listen to those things. And yes, I’m kinda sorta leaning a little to the idea of doing some podcasting on this blog. But I digress big time 😉
These two uber fans started in on doing-away-with the Bo5 format. Right off the top, folks, that’s just lunacy, right? Doesn’t such a proposal pretty much atomic bomb his or her credibility right then and there? What the fuck would happen then? Majors are best-of-three? WTF?
Anyways, this is a serious topic, apparently, involving at least these two uber fans/journalists and Wertheim, who’s a pretty reputable scribe/commentator himself.
The podcasters worked themselves into a sweat over the duration-of-match complaint/argument. For the fan it’s cumbersome, for the television executive it’s an unnecessary evil that undermines programming and, I suspect, advertising. They compared tennis to soccer, how its 90 minute format is perfect for fans, television, etc.
They were worried about the health of the game now and in the near future. The sport is rich, still, from this last era of big time brilliance and celebrity. But will that always be the case? Tennis may need to evolve.
I am not throwing dirt on those questions. The sport is on its knees hoping for some young blood and rivalries to keep this engine running. I do hear and share some of those concerns. But this change in format is madness.
Of course, they brought-up the players, as well. Best-of-five is too much for the players. The WTA-er of the conversation started to use Djokovic’s toes in the USO final as an example but then, I suppose, realized she was not making any sense and shut-it-down. The conversation really just sputtered and they sounded like young college students who want more “safe spaces.”
This is unreal, folks. This game is practically held hostage by the numbers. Majors, Masters, consecutive SF/QF appearances, etc. Someone try (and fail) to explain how the entire history of the sport would work with all men’s majors going to best-of-three. Is this what people call the “pussification” of the world/sport/culture/etc? I can see Ivan Lendl or Ilie Năstase scouring at the numb-nut who starts to make a serious push for such an incredibly fundamental change to men’s tennis.
I really do think that this is the gender equality core trying to come through the backdoor on the very, for me, awkward comparison of men’s and women’s professional tennis. The talk of equal pay made the headlines more this year with even Djokovic, rightly, wondering about this equality of the sports. That it’s so taboo, so off limits to talk about that is a joke. Let’s talk about it.
I’ve wondered about this, obviously. I actually thought about the possibility of having women’s majors play a best-of-five final or final four. Getting upset about the pay I am not. But my solution is give women an opportunity to show their skills in a more grueling format with the stakes so high. That is a real gender-equality discussion (not the entire tournament, but perhaps the SF or the F).
That’s terrible of me to suggest? Am I being insensitive? How? If anyone feels that way, then the argument is pretty much settled, no? What the men do is clearly so much more taxing, requiring far more fitness and mental toughness.
So, let’s make the men’s game best-of-three. That’ll make everyone happy.
Please, chime-in if you have some thoughts, even counter arguments. This is not just click-bate on a blog. Real personalities in the sport are advocating for this kind of change.
In sum, some fanatics are simply bat-crazy about their super hero, and the sport is moving to homogenize all surfaces and make all matches, regardless of gender or event, best-of-three.
I can’t wait for some solid indoor men’s draws to distract me from this. This madness.