Dear, Reader . . .

I could have thanked the couple of readers in my previous post as the subject came up about people appreciating my blog, but I thought I’d write a post thanking them and anyone else who enjoys the blog (loved the big boost in readership during the AO. . .stick around! 😀

First and foremost, cheers to all who do visit and read, and if you do enjoy the discourse, the style of commentary (of blogging), awesome; that makes me feel really good – feel free to add your “two cents” to the mix; the more the merrier!

On this idea of readers’ appreciation, I have to be honest with you: I want to write about tennis every single day, travel, watch matches and talk about the tennis. Getting compensated for this would be ideal, so I will continue to write and think about ways to climb into the cockpit of that rocket ship. First, I need to get this blog in any way positive on the bank account. I am not a businessman first and foremost – I just like to analyze the sport and other events, cultural issues, etc. But I really do want to raise the stakes with my writing and my readership. I will continue to think about that when I have the time between work and writing, because those are my priorities (along with watching the boys hit the ball, of course 🙂

Any ideas you might have toward this end ($$$), please send them along. You can contact me via this link (one of the ways, as you know, is to leave a comment on a post).

I have some damn fine readers and commenters. You all make me smile and smarter at the same time. Keep the dream alive! And keep me honest. I really do appreciate the back-and-forth. That’s a big part of this social media, the blog.

Help me blow this thing up and make the tennis coverage and insight even better! Don’t be shy.

Caligula, his majesty, has been a steady stream of sharp commentary and I indeed appreciate his latest attempt to halt a post I might write about the incredibly “controversial” court speed of the ATP that he and I both know would be a shot across the bow of a special individual who needs our help. In fact, this insane Roman tyrant of whom I write did offer a nice cliff note on the discussion: the history of court surface evolution is actually pretty vague and, more importantly, not an issue one can really investigate with much hope of uncovering much definitive conclusions.

But I will investigate, not the specific idea of court speed difference necessarily, but what the AO offered us that has some correlation, I suppose (again, nailing down whether or not an auxiliary factor had much to do with the outcome of an event is tough to determine). The exit of two prominent base-liners coupled with the success of more all-courters has to recruit a few choice words for any brains awake on the genuine history of the sport, the importance of change, and the possibility that we get a chance to witness talent, above all.

So, I’ll explore that harbor, so to speak. Nonetheless, thanks for the advice, my friend Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus. I’m heeding your counsel to a certain extent, and was certainly lazy in even making such a suggestion at the end of that previous post. You called me on it. Fremitus! or Στην υγειά σας!

Cheers to the rest of you, as well (blackspy, Incondite, RJ, et al). Thanks!

Now, before I go: I read tonight a post by a “tennis purist” claiming that Federer’s win in Melbourne was certainly a result of doping. This guy really has two premises: there are drugs in the sport and winning big after a long lay-off is a red flag for doping.

I know, incisive stuff, right?

This guy should have a little more than that. Yeah, he’s an idiot, which might surprise him given that he takes himself so seriously. I, as you know, have a decent crap detector, and this guy is a steaming double or triple helping of bullshit.

He goes into an amateur’s history of doping and the flawed testing system. Fine, it’s flawed, yeah we’ve heard the anecdote about McEnroe, the Williams sisters’ and Nadal’s

federersmoke1
Ha ha 😉

hacked files, etc., but this is all murky and stuff we’ve known about, which doesn’t tie anything to Federer, nor does it shed any light on the reality of drugs in sport. Federer is guilty by association, according to this “journalist.”

That’s garbage. Classic conspiracy theory.

The next argument comes from the Nadal model, coming off injury and reeling-off a huge win at a major. He then goes to the 2017 AO and walks us through all of the five-setters won by this ancient 35 year-old, etc. etc.

Ultimately, he argues, how can a guy who ran out of gas vs. Raonic at the 2016 WB SF after going five big ones vs Cilic in the QF then run through the likes of Nishikori (best five setter on the planet according to this guy’s statistical hemorrhoid), Stan (beast at Bo5) and then Nadal (the greatest Bo5er of them all), AFTER coming-off the extended injury time-off.

Aside from his entire agenda having the bias of a well-known fan-girl, I suggest that pointing-out the suspicion of a WB SF loss in 2016 followed by a 2017 AO is poor strategy if you want to win even some light applause from tennis intelligentsia or general readers, for that matter.

Federer was having a pretty rough 2016, for starters. He suffered a knee injury after the AO SF he lost to Novak; he had surgery. He didn’t play IW, Miami, missed some of the clay because of back injury, missed the FO (breaking a string of majors played dating back to AO 2000), and then found himself at WB after a little warm-up at Halle, where he lost to the younger Zverev. Coming into WB a little banged-up, perhaps? Strike you as relevant?

After the loss to Raonic, who was clearly relishing the service-friendly grass, mind you, Roger took the rest of the year off because of his knee, perhaps his back, etc. This wasn’t really shocking then, nor is this sequence of events shocking now, especially given some amateur’s wet dream.

Are you questioning the validity of his injuries? Good luck with that one. 2016 was injury plagued for Roger Federer. That’s the story I’m sticking to along with most of the other earthlings.

Then he opens 2017 at the Hopman Cup, and plays well, challenging some world class players like Evans, Gasquet and A. Zverev. This is followed by an historic run in Melbourne that saw a lot of pretty interesting upsets and runs from a few players. Was Roger’s run some kind of isolated “event”?

Wake-up, sporto. You can do better than that. Roger was doping, but Novak and Andy weren’t? Is that your explanation? Was Mischa Zverev jamming needles into himself, too? That guy came out of the clouds. What’s your explanation for that?

So here we are: Roger, a 35 year-old, goes on an incredible, difficult to fathom run that needs some kind of explanation, perhaps one that’s informed by WADA? You just can’t imagine Roger Federer going on such a run?

Even if in the last four majors he played, prior to AO 2017, consisted of these runs: SF WB (2016), SF AO (2016), F USO (2015) and F WB (2015)? These deep runs are a rarity from this Swiss guy? That’s your take? Who’s paying you?

It gets better. He really gets all frothy and aroused when talking about all the five-setters that Roger played. How in the world could this 35 year-old survive all of those longish matches and still overcome Nadal in a five-setter on top of that?!

He gets a little confused at this point. He assumes that the five setters are 5+ hours long. We are all impressed with Roger’s run, that he beat the likes of Berdych, Kei (5 sets), a surging Zverev and Stan (5 sets) on the way to beating Nadal (5 sets). This was nearly unheard of. Historical. Etc.

But this is what many miss: The Berdych match was 90min; Nishikori 3hr, 24; Zverev 92 min; Stan 3hr, 04; and Nadal 3hr, 37 min.

Sure that’s still a lot of tennis, but those are quick matches in the realm of five setters. That’s part of the genius of Federer’s tennis (not the genius of guys like Djokovic or Nadal). We saw this year the reminder of how tennis was and could be played by guys that want to just serve and ball all-court style. Settling at the BL and ripping/retrieving for five hours is not necessarily the only tennis (for those who are too young or slow to remember). That’s actually more drug suspicious tennis, mr. tennis media guy expert.

And I have already provided some pretty decent rationale for Federer’s run at the 2017 AO.

Is this guy (this voice) suggesting too that Kei, Stan and Co. took a fall for Federer? Give that guy some smelling salts or some O2.

He even included a quote from Andy Murray, who questioned some players’ stamina last spring in Monte Carlo, I believe. At least that’s where he was interviewed. Totally unrelated to Roger’s run at the 2017 Australian Open.

So this “journalist” has Federer on that “list.”

Lol.

I have to write, folks, just to deal with this bizarro bullshit.

And I will be back to serve-up a reminder of the brilliance of all-court tennis, a little S&V and maybe throw some other picnickers under the bus.

Talk to you soon!

Exposure

One of my first big posts last year when I began to focus my blog on tennis was where I threw more suspicion at Serena Williams (“suspicion” in how she was still so dominant at 34 years-old – remember that Steffi won the calendar GS at 22 – and “more” meaning I am not the only one to talk about Serena in this way).  Interesting that Serena thus far is having a below average 2016 by comparison to 2015, but then again we have 3/4 of the season still to play. Remember, too, that since that USO SF loss to Vinci, Serena has fallen off the tennis planet. She appears to be excited for Rome and Roland Garros, so we’ll see if she can find some form and not add even more suspicion to 2015.

We just got done with a few posts about drugs in tennis and other sports since both the men’s and women’s tours are dealing with the drug issue big-time.

I don’t really want to dive back in to that, but I just watched last week’s episode of 60 Minutes that had this brutal story about the recent and current Russian Track and Field doping scandal, shedding new darkness on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and other competitions. Terrible story but great journalism, typical of this great American institution.

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/russias-dark-secret

I hope you have the patience to watch this story (it’s only about 13 minutes long); the point is that track and field (at least in Russia) is riddled with doping at the highest levels.

Elsewhere, another Major League Baseball player (the son of former LA Dodger great Raul Mondesi) has been busted and suspended.

Here’s a link to the MLB PED suspensions data base.

The bottomline is drugs are, more or less, EVERYWHERE.

The 60 Minutes clip includes an interview with Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He is the guy to whom most have attributed the fall of Lance Armstrong. The story of the Russian T&F exposure involves a former Russian drug enforcement agency employee and a Russian athlete secretly taping other athletes, coaches and officials explain the details of that program. This is similar to how Lance was brought to justice. You have to have people break the silence.

In other words, drug testing seems to be pretty much futile, a failure for the most part, embarrassingly a step or three behind the drug culture, all of which is confirmed as we learn more about these big programs once their exposed. The control of information and results is handled by very powerful people. In the 60 Minute story, the athlete breaking her silence explains how when she became injured, she was no longer protected, and thus failed a test. She became expendable. Other Russian women have dominated recent T&F competitions, but have since been exposed and punished.

Seems pretty reasonable to assume that the only way big-time athletes can be brought to justice is for the people with intimate knowledge of these “programs” to step forward and break the silence.

Needless to say, naïveté and ignorance have luxury suites at many of these great athletic events, which we assume to be genuine, by the book competitions. And again and again these exposés make an ass out of you and me.

My Guilt

This is the absolute worst topic for most sports fans to discuss and probably the most significant: drugs in sports.

Really, in just about every case, the public will never know.

There is only suspicion aside from the few cases where a failed drug test is reported (RARE) or an athlete admits to cheating by using PEDs.

There seems to be evidence that Lance Armstrong had failed some tests and paid to hush, in the past. But ultimately, he had to come clean because of mounting evidence via testimony from others.

Baseball has been practically soiled from PEDs. We continue to enjoy the game, but players are still using as is evidenced by a few failed tests here and there; a recent one makes this claim especially clear and it’s good to see MLB handing out stiffer and stiffer penalties; this guy got an 80 game suspension. Certainly, there are drugs in MLB.

The NFL has had and continues to see player use; denying that is ridiculous given the nature of those athletes and that sport. How much is used? Tough to say.

The NBA and NHL both have cases of drug use, as well. Professional soccer? Of course.

What many serious sports fans acknowledge, here in the States at least, is that suspicion surrounds Tiger Woods, who’s associations with doctors connected to certain MLB users is pretty well documented. But there’s only suspicion. Same goes for Kobe Bryant, who’s trips to Germany for certain treatments have raised a few eyebrows. But, again, just suspicion.

One development in any athlete’s performance that has encouraged suspicion is the incidence of injury. There is pretty decent documentation of how frequent and “early” injury is a corollary of PED use.

The case of Tiger Woods is very interesting in this regard. His collapse is mind-boggling. His bouts of infidelity have clouded the real issue with him: complete physical breakdown at a very young age in a non-contact sport.

But again it’s all suspicion.

Kobe’s physical decline, look it up, has fueled suspicion, as well.

In the end, people look bad having this suspicion. Suspicion is linked to fans who do not like a particular athlete who has success. These “haters” can try to undermine an athlete’s performance and legacy by raising suspicion of PED use.

But either way, “haters” and genuinely suspicious fans alike, will likely, in almost every case, never know.

And the reason we will never really know is that the corruption, we have to acknowledge, in most big money sports is capable of controlling some of this news.

Drug testing protocols and systems are not perfect.

The science of creating drugs and testing for them is an elaborate game of shadows.

We will never know, those of us watching and trying to make sense of these athletes and their games.

Most of the corruption of sport involves the money at stake. There is so much money at stake. Do not not understand this very obvious relationship between money and truth.

We have no idea what is really happening. Yet people will get hammered for raising suspicion.

Just ask the French Minister on the other side of the proverbial net from Nadal.

Him suing her, I think we all know, has no necessary bearing on the truth. He’s fighting for his reputation. Not suing her would have hurt him. He had to sue Bachelot. Period.

But also keep in mind that his request to make public all of his records is another ruse.

Why?

Because we will never know. Most of this perception – from these court proceedings, to drug test results, to test histories, passports, and so on, in light of the money at stake and the institutionalized corruption that most of us understand lives and breathes in our lovely naive midsts – is just that: our perception, which has considerable limitations.

We do our best to make sense of it all.

And most likely fail in the process.

Do I want to talk about drugs? Fuck no.

I am suspicious of Nadal’s legacy: a clay courter who got into the “room” with the other greats of this sport. I argue he doesn’t belong. Drugs? I don’t know. I don’t like his tennis, at all. This season’s clay proceedings have been another reminder. He’s a basket case on every other surface.

All of this finger-pointing now with Nadal, from all parties (Nadal, those suspicious of him, his defenders, et al.) really brings up the discussion of PED. And this post is a reminder that PED use in professional sports is . . . EVERYWHERE. We should not be shocked by any of this news, the finger-pointing, the eventual “innocence” etc.

We will never know.

So, sorry to spoil my blog with this very unappetizing garnish that accompanies unfortunately our collective buffet of pro sports. I don’t like the taste either.

I really just can’t wrap my brain around Nadal’s claim to fame.

That’s my guilt.