Aug/19

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Is the ATP Cultivating A New Villain Subculture For The Tour?

This US Open has featured quite a few instances of rebel, bad boy behavior, something which the ATP Tour has been lacking for years with the pristine images of the high profile top players Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, among others.

Last night, Daniil Medvedev actually gave the middle finger to the Ashe Stadium crowd in his heated match with Feliciano Lopez and he later taunted New Yorkers during his post match victory interview, sarcastically thanking them for their negative reactions to him, which motivated him to play extra hard to beat Lopez. Medvedev, the no. 5 player in the world also boasted that the Ashe stadium energy last night will inspire him to play five more matches at the Open.

It was a surreal moment in tennis history to see a young player dare to insult a stadium of fans straight to their faces, it was behavior more suited to a pro wrestling arena.

The evolution of the pro tennis image seems to be in a transformation stage right now. With the non-stop Nick Kyrgios antics and controversies, now Medvedev’s stunning outburts, Roger Federer saying “shit” in a press conference, and Novak Djokovic even confronting a heckler at practice, even threatening that he could “find” the person, it’s almost like the pro tennis powers that be are cultivating a new image subculture for the sport, for the post Fed Rafa era.

Tennis has lacked a bad boy, rebel villain for a long time before the emergence of Kyrgios. And anyone who dared to shake up the status quo was immediately rebuked and punished. Examples? Marcelo Rios and Lleyton Hewitt.

Rios was such a provocative figure that Sports Illustrated even did a cover story feature about him titled “The Most Hated Man In Tennis.” Imagine the promotional value of that story in the most prestigious sports magazine in the world right smack in the middle of the Sampras-Agassi era.

In recent years, tennis has prospered massively because of the transcending popularity of Federer and Nadal. But you have to wonder, just how much more revenue and buzz could tennis have generated if there were some villain bad boys to suitably compliment Roger and Rafa?

Pro wrestling is the money making juggernaut it is because of the strategic blend of good guys and bad guys. Pro wrestling would be next to nothing if it was all good guys acting and talking perfectly. Tennis can learn a lot from the example of pro wrestling’s entertainment value.

With the creation of a handful of villainous figures, tennis could potentially reach the highest heights of popularity and revenue generation.

Remember, pro tennis was at it’s most popular time during the era of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, who both were heroic and villainous figures at the same time.

My tennis club Packanack Lake Tennis Club in Wayne, NJ has about 100 members today. Back in the late 70s, membership was over 700.

Villains. Bad boys. Rebels. They sell. They sell big. Would the ATP be wise to cultivate a sub culture of this so very profitable element? Yes. Is it? possible the ATP is already executing such an initiative? Who knows. But the public is massively enjoying the show this year, with starring roles being played by Nick Kyrgios, Daniil Medvedev, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. And who knows who next will step up and rock the boat

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170 comments

  • catherine · August 31, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    How will the ATP ‘cultivate’ a sub-culture of bad behaviour and hatred and still act as the public face of the men’s pro game ? And then punish what they are encouraging ?

    Dangerous and stupid to mess around like that. A terrible idea.
    These are human beings, not puppets.

  • Brook Zelcer · August 31, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    Dont know how this will work out for Medvedev,, but I definitely appreciate his honesty- especially compared to the way todays players shamelessly pander to the crowd in Flushing. Kinda sickening, to be honest. Reminds me of Connors’ “I’m out here doing it for you guys” bullshit.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 31, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    Agree fully Brook. Prefer real over fake 7 days a week and twice on monday.

  • Jeff · August 31, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    I think Scoop is right. Unfortunately. The Big 3 brought the sport to new levels of athleticism, class and courage. They gave us true champions of the game and life.

    Now, though, we must appeal to the millennials. The whiniest generation ever created. These people are vulgar, respect no one and have grown up in an era of extreme violence and partisanship. It is no wonder they have no respect for the tennis traditions since they play Fortnite all day long and watch NBA basketball.

    Sadly, the tennis powers have bought into this generation, anointing them as the “NextGen” before they even earned anything. As a result, these players feel entitled and want what they do not have to earn. They will behave badly until they get their way. It’s an epidemic.

    Keep in mind Medvedev was fined quickly for last night. Kyrgios has not because they do not want to kill the golden goose. That is telling. Kyrgios is the most important figure in tennis, complaining about Tom Rinaldi on social media today and his fans eating it up.

    I just hope our sport can survive this. What a classy match between Osaka and Gauff. Perhaps the women’s tour will surpass the men’s now as a result of the nastiness of the Tsitsipas/Medvedev/Kyrgios generation. I have no choise but to believe in the ladies now. I fear the worst.

  • Jeff · August 31, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Nice to see order restored tonight. I watched the Shapo-Monfils classic. What a match, the crowd loved it and it truly was worthy of a US Open night match.

    Meanwhile the times I watched Kyrgios v. Rublev, Nick was rushing through his service games and the crowd seemed bored. Then he showed us the true colors of his cowardice with no fight in the 3rd set unlike the plucky Shapovalov who came back from two breaks down to capture the fourth set.

    No one who attended Shapo v. Monfils would have felt more entertained by the borefest of a Kyrgios match. All the people who saw the sport needs him are wrong. Tennis was the winner on this night, I am proud to say.

  • Andrew Miller · August 31, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    Before Next Gen, there was a New Balls Please generation in early 2000s. So it’s not new in terms of marketing and there actually is a group of excellent players finding their way to the second week of slams. That’s true, they’re here.

    Even if Djoko, Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka etc are the semifinalists, it’s still true that the next generation of uber talented tennis players is here in the men’s game.

    As for the NBA and fortnite or whatever, Nadal is a video game junkie and the NBA has been around forever. Jim Courier, like Kyrgios, didn’t want to be a pro tennis player – he wanted to be a pro baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds. I’m sure he was criticized heavily for it. He made it known he loved baseball more, but unlike Kyrgios, Courier’s talent was his timing and not his feel for the game, so he worked much harder and his results were superior.

    Encourage anyone to find new players they like, because our favorites retire. They just do. As fans we have to find new players because eventually the game’s pros turn over – Chela, who I liked a lot, one day just couldn’t do it anymore.

    But it’s nice to see a guy like Diego Schwartzman, who is definitely Guillermo Coria kind of player! Whatever you have seen before comes back in the game.

  • jackson · September 1, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    LOL Nadal isn’t a video game junkie. Years ago he played a lot of video soccer/football against Charly Moya and the other older Spanish players and Pico Monaco and Andy Murray got involved but they’ve all grown up and out of that stage.

    Rafa played video poker for awhile when he was involved with Poker Stars but for the last five or six years, his game of choice is Parcheesi. He and his team carry the board and dice and markers around with him wherever they go and they play everyday and can get a bit rowdy as they’re all extremely competitive in everything they do but they’re all like senior citizens at the old folks home now.

  • Andrew Miller · September 1, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    Scoop may be right, not because the ATP is cultivating or supporting villainy but because the antics of Medvedev have begun to appeal to a lot of fans. The ones in the stadium are half and half – half booing, but the other half appreciating something. I’d like to believe it’s the excellent playing, but some may like his antics post match where he says things that don’t endear him to anyone.

    Sportswriters somehow are now addicted to his show, how he says give me all your negative energy because it’s just making me stronger. That’s a pretty ugly thing to say! I know Djokovic plays a Jedi mind trick where he imagines cheers for his opponent are actually for him, but this Medvedev tactic is bonkers.

    I don’t like it and I don’t agree with it, and he’s about to land another fine for this kind of stunt.

    But Medvedev might break up the big three party now or soon.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 5:21 am

    Medvedev apologised for his behaviour and hopes he can ‘become a better person’ in future on court.

    So no villainy there.

  • H · September 2, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Although he did bait the crowd to boo him more after yesterday’s match.

    At least he has acknowledged his bad behaviour and said he doesn’t like it. Apparently he works with a psychologist. I wonder if that will help.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 2, 2019 at 8:19 am

    How about Mike Bryan being fined $10,000 for making a pistol with his finger and thumb and shooting it at a linesperson? What a jerk! Especially amidst the terrible mass shootings that occur almost weekly nowadays in the US. Doesn’t Bryan have any sense of how injurious such a motion means at these times?

  • Dan Markowitz · September 2, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Worse, he mimicked a rifle with his racket and shot it.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 8:50 am

    Glad they fined Bryan, and will likely fine Medvedev. The anger with refs and umps is confusing to me. In juniors we called umps because we had disputes – we needed them because players were cheating or had eyesight problems.

    In the pros where there is Hawkeye etc, lines people that make errors but generally within margin, now there are players heckling or threatening line judges.

    Every player should be fined for this when it’s not justified. If the line judge makes a bad call, review the tape and then if the ball is called wrong on review, remove them from the match.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Wow, the outrage over a minor gesture by Bryan. Sure it was bad but imagine how corrupting and negatively influencing all the hollywood movies and TV and rap crap that glorifies gun violence. If you want a fine for Bryan for this you should also be for hollywood banning all gun violence and replacing it with positive art.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 9:11 am

    ‘Minor gesture’? Don’t think so. Bryan acknowledged this.
    He’s not a child.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Catherine, media and powers that be force everybody to apologize when an athlete offends anyone. Lip service. Medvedev has a history of stirring up trouble – Johnson, Tsitsipas, Young, now US Open.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Very surprised Bryan would show this kind of disdain and lack of respect to an official, the Bryans have a clean reputation and image. Maybe it was phony? Maybe it was heat of the battle? How bad was the call?

  • Harold · September 2, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Scoop thinks Mirka should have been fined more for yelling at Wawa, than The Bryan idiot move😀

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Harold, no Mirka has freedom of speech to say what she wants and her heckles did not violate any law. Nor did Bryan imitating a shooter in a Hollywood movie.

  • Harold · September 2, 2019 at 10:03 am

    You’ve been killing the Federer’s since the day Mirka yelled, now it’s ok..

  • Jeff · September 2, 2019 at 10:56 am

    Mirka is really a meanie. It’s a pity

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Mirka calling Stan a crybaby is not mean. It’s funny.

  • Harold · September 2, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Last week you cited it as one of the horrible things Federer gets away with. Didn’t sound like you thought it was a joke. You sure bring it up a lot.

    Gorgeous Georges should have more wins..

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    Please refresh my memory. Fed skated out of the Zverev leaving Apey to join him and Godsick at Team 8, also was alleged by German tennis magazine of lobbying Kyrgios mom to have Nick leave his agent John Morris for Team 8. Media silent on these two alleged poachings. Imagine if Djokovic or Sandgren did this. Media firestorm.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Go Goerges! Sweet game.

  • Harold · September 2, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Don’t be so naive. Poaching players by Agents and Coaches has been going on forever. If Djoker has a “ Management CO.” He’d be doing it too.

    Look at LeBron in basketball, worse, he’s getting guys to break contracts to play with him. If Fed and Zverev go on a run winning GS’s in doubles, I’ll agree it was wrong

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Julia is the most rediscovered player in the history of tennis 🙂

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Unfortunately Julia tends to get stuck in 3 setters and fall at the last fence which is what Donna Vekic is planning now. Bencic takes first set from Naomi. Belinda has high hopes.

  • Harold · September 2, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Left out LeBron has a management company for NBA players. Getting guys he represents to break contracts to join the Lakers is a thousand times worse than Fed imo.

    Feel bad for the agents, but I imagine that’s why they have Lawyers

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Let’s see how Patricio Apey handles the breach of contract or how much of a settlement he gets. Let’s see if the allegations regarding Kyrgios are true and if they see the light of day. Both well paid members of the Laver Cup operation which offers not only great tennis but nice leverage for Team 8. Leverage Cup?

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Goerges had it…Vekic took over and wrenched away set two, which was well done Not sure how this ends.

    For what it’s worth: Goerges is indeed a looker. I pay a lot more attention to her substantitive game, but hard not to notice, and I’m sure many believe otherwise.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    As Kyrgios may one day understand…his relevance expands and fades with his game.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    Georges may be top five most underpublicized player in pro tennis, with Suarez Navarro, Kukushkin, Mertens, and Sousa.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Yes poaching is a dark side of the underbelly of the sport but Federer is supposed to be above being involved in that.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Sounds like agents have no shame. May the Gauffs take up Scoop’s suggestions and have an hour sit down with Denise Capriati, and learn from the maze and mess that is sponsorships.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    What I like about Julia is her modesty – she doesn’t do a lot of glamour posing and because success came fairly late for her she was never pounced at an early age by agents etc. She is also a very popular player. Just wish she had a sliver more toughness on court.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Bencic d. Osaka, Vekic d. Goerges.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Georges is the personification of how tennis should be played, on the women’s side she is the beacon of feminine athletic superpower. Big game, graceful in victory and defeat, not a loudmouth on or off court. To me she is the Lopez of womens tennis, how the game should be played and was meant to be played. Nobody symbolizes this more than Georges and Lopez IMO.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Goerges game has form and substance, her coaches have done an excellent job, she has strengths in a big time forehand, movement, strategy, and fitness. Congratulations to Vekic for making a serious march to the quarters and winning a lot of tough matches.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Hope Goerges can pull a Flavia. The window is closing, but she’s playing well and this should translate. She needs to keep it up a level and slam the door when she’s up a set and a break or close to it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    As much as we all like Georges she has no chance to win the title. If she has to play Serena she will 100% defer as she always does to Serena and lose in straight sets. Hate to predict this but have seen it happen too many times. Certain players automatically defer to Serena and can never beat her when the chips are on the line. Bencic can, she proved it once already.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    No, Julia could never beat Serena. She lost to her sf at W’don ’18, avoiding a horror all-German final v Kerber and won’t get another chance. Lovely player, everything you say Scoop, but outside of a miracle I can’t see her winning a bit title in the time she’s got left.

    Good wins for Vekic and Bencic. Beltz has done good work with Donna. Don’t know Belinda’s coach.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Vekic d. Goerges, so it’s Vekic turn. Just wouldn’t mind seeing a few players win a slam during their careers. Flavia was one of them, who lucked out facing her countrywoman a few years back instead of Serena. Having fulfilled a life long dream, Flavia said not getting any better than this and quit.

  • Hartt · September 2, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with Catherine that Goerges is not tough enough on the court. She shouldn’t have let that match slip away.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Bencic playing well. I had heard how good she was, and read about it, and only at this open recognized how good her game is. Really nice stuff.

    Goerges…ah. well I hope she wins something. A master’s or something.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Julia served 21 aces, the most in a women’s singles match since 1998. I agree Hartt, she should have taken that match point. Great contest though and rather unexpected. I thought Donna would go in SS.

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Bencic and Andreescu could be twins 🙂

  • catherine · September 2, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Apparently Julia was so nervous towards the end of the match she had to rub drying cream on her hands – also got a time violation and tried serve and volley on a 79mph second serve. Needs some relaxation therapy ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Bencic’s coach is a former top 10 junior Martin Hromkovic.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Wait, let me get this straight, Mike Bryan using his racquet as a rifle to shoot at a lines person who made a bad call is because he watches too much gun violence on tv and the movies? Scoop, you talk about freedom of speech for Mirka, but you want artistic expression limited in the movies and tv. A person doesn’t have to watch violence on tv or in the movies. My wife didn’t go with me to see the new Quentin Tarrentino movie because she doesn’t like the violence in his movies. She chose to skip it.

    Saying violence on tv and in the movies is the reason why there’s so much violence in American society is as stupid and wrong as saying that it’s mentally ill people who pull off all the mass shootings in this country. Mike Bryan’s got to be a lot smarter. Making a rifle out of your racquet when 54 people have been killed by automatic machine guns in August in this country is not even stupid, but I think it’s grounds to kick he and his brother out of the tournament. I’ve never seen a player do that ever.

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