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

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    Bryan earned his fine, every penny 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Yes Dan, glorification of violence and gun violence is out of control. We can control what we expose the public and kids to. It’s not art it’s degenerate filth. Art should aspire to be much greater than Tarantino crap and that ilk. Bryan’s act of play shooting a gun at the linesperson was wrong but not nearly as wrong as the amount of glorification of violence and over exposure of violence we see in the media. Nuff on that, back to tennis. Rublev getting blasted by Berrettini. Didn’t see that coming.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Saw Berretini coming! He was prepped by the match vs Popyrin, where he beat a hard hitting guy with a change of pace. Rublev was same kind of opponent. Rublev doesn’t have a change up, he’s full throttle from start to finish, like De Minaur. Neither guy handled opponents that had no problem slicing all day long if necessary.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Bencic d. Osaka…wasn’t so different from Svito d. Keys, or Svito d. Yastremska, or really from Vekic d. Goerges. Maybe I just like some forehands better than others, and players work with whatever they can to get the win. Coming in against Osaka is a kamikaze mission, so Bencic did well to pick her spots.

    I do love the Goerges game. It’s a little like Mauresmo with a two hander instead of her superb one hander.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Next gen goes home. Schwartzmann should shut the door on Zverev as he’s up 4-1 in what could be the decided. It’s Berretini or bust, more than likely, and more than likely another wash out from a generation I like. They don’t have the right stuff yet. Del Potro, alone in his own generation, was an has been better than all of them combined.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Schwartzmann d. Zverev. My next gen prediction goes up in smoke. Three big next gen talents in Rublev, Zverev, and De Minaur have lost quickly to the likes of Berretini, almost an elder at 23, Schwartzmann at 24, and old man Dimitrov who I think hovers around age 30. The only young guy left is Medvedev, and he is alone against the wolf Wawrinka.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Berretini, a happy Rios like performance. Defeats Rublev using an array of spins, change of pace and unpredictability. Evokes Rios from 1998 Miami final. Truly can’t teach anyone how to play this style. I’d be surprised if TP commenters watch and don’t enjoy this guy’s brilliance from this afternoon. First Italian man in 42 years to make it to us open quarters.

  • Hartt · September 2, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Dimitrov is not a youngster, but he isn’t 30. He turned 28 in May. He is the youngest of the Kei, Milos, Grigor group. Milos is 28 but turns 29 at the end of Dec., and Kei turns 30 in Dec.

  • Jeff · September 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Bryan got what he deserved to shoot a fake gun off in New York, a city that has been ravaged by gun violence in the past. He should know better.

    I agree with Scoop too. Too many of these violent video games like Fortnite have seeped into millennial culture. But yes, let’s stick to tennis.

    Zverev’s serve obviously fails him yet again. Maybe not qualifying for London will wake him up. It’s probably better since Nadal would have blown him out anyway.

  • Jeff · September 2, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    In the big match today, defending champion Jack Sock knocked out defending champion Mike Bryan in the doubles. Sock once again proving he is among the greatest doubles players in history as he and (Insert Partner here) knocked off the Bryans in straight sets to move in the quarterfinals.

    Sock could face the Colombian top seeds in the semis as he continues to resurrect his career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 2, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    I think it’s even ridiculous Bryan got a fine for that. It’s like a kid bringing a water pistol to school, it’s HARMLESS. Compared to real gun violence. But enough of that. Dimitrov beating Demon is the upset shock of the tournament so far. Berretini routing Rublev is no. 2. Schwartzman over Zverev is the third shocker. Schwartzman is a wonder of the tennis world. He has no right being in the second week of a major, how he does it is nothing short of miraculous. What an inspiration to any tennis player.

  • Jeff · September 2, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Well Scoop, the Russian KGB and British MI6 have each perfected a gun that looks like a water pistol so you can never be too careful. But yes, enough of that.

    How about Jack Sock? Is his future to gobble up the doubles crowns? He may as well do it since his singles game is garbage.

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    Berretini, 2019s Marcelo Rios

  • Andrew Miller · September 2, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    Monfils wins NYC…would be awesome.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 12:50 am

    Andreescu bts Townsend in 3 sets, first and last looked straightforward. Not sure what time it finished in NY but is nearly 6am in UK right now. Bianca certainly got a workout and I hope she’s survived it.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 1:00 am

    A few comments about the bias of the crowds and also the TV commentary.You’d expect one in NY but not the other. Hartt can give us more on that. Bianca appeared completely unbothered by the crowd. Great performance from a player who lost in the qualifying of all four GSs last year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Monfils under radar. They had the revised odds list on Saturday, monfils not even on that list. But he’s rampaging through draw. Could he shock the world? Doubt anyone is betting him to.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 1:19 am

    Interesting Torben Beltz talking about coaching Donna Vekic cf Kerber. Two things struck me – first, some of the strategies he’s concentrated on with Donna could have worked with Angie – better footwork, more aggression, improving serve, coming to the net occasionally, but that didn’t seem to be the focus with her. Second, he seems to find Donna easier to coach, which I don’t find surprising. Also, you can stay around one coach too long and I think Angie realised that and it’s the reason they parted.

    Vekic is a junior version of Kerber but she seems more motivated and receptive. Can’t see her doing a GS but majors, yes, in time.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 1:22 am

    Catherine, that was a very dramatic match. When Bianca won the first set 6-1 it looked like she was cruising. Taylor was trying to use a lot of S&V and going to the net often, but Bianca passed her with ease. She also kept her shots deep, making it difficult for TT to come to the net as much as she liked.

    Then Taylor changed her tactics, and relied on her good baseline game more, making some terrific shots. Bianca showed obvious frustration, and Taylor won that set 6-4.

    Bianca regrouped for the decider, showed more patience and won it 6-2.

    I was annoyed at the commentary, but it was par for the course when an American was playing. Even after Bianca won, the commies kept talking about Taylor, right up until Bianca’s on-court interview.

    Shortly after the match Bianca did an interview for a Canadian sports channel. Asked about the crowd, she said she understood that they were for Taylor, although she did hear a few Canadians in the crowd. She said it was difficult when people yelled when she was serving or yelled out “double fault,” but she got used to it and then it did not bother her.

    She plays Mertens, a non-American next, so it will be easier in terms of the crowd.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 1:31 am

    Hartt – thanks for that. I get the feeling that Bianca can shut out anything when she’s concentrating – she’s prepared for it all. Sounds as if it was a good match and I’m sure other players watching would have noticed that Bianca was having trouble when Townsend changed her game and Bianca got thrown off a bit. She does seem to like pushing things along, and as you say, can get frustrated.

    Does Coco (Andreescu) come to all her matches I wonder ?

  • Jeff · September 3, 2019 at 1:34 am

    This performance by Vekic proves that Beltz is one of the best coaches in women’s tennis. Certainly more noteworthy than Patrick the fraud. What an amazing match although to be fair Goerges choked as is her reputation.

    Still, Vekic showed that the footwork drills and finishing points earlier was a winning strategy even when she was outplayed. This matchup with Bencic is interesting because the two ladies are such close friends. But with a semifinal on the line, can that friendship really hold?
    This is a major opportunity and hard feelings could emerge. It bears watching. Also one has to wonder how Wawrinka feels about his ex sauntering along in the tourney.

    Kerber needs to stop trying the cutie Instagram poses with her fake smile and make some hard decisions about her career. Her IG isn’t cute or interesting so she needs to stick to tennis and stop trying to build her brand. She seems to think she is Ula Radwanska rather than a future HOF player.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 2:19 am

    Catherine, even before IW Bianca said she wanted to win some $ so her parents could attend more of her matches. I don’t know if they are in NY, but if they are am pretty sure that Coco the pup is there as well.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 2:24 am

    Jeff – you’re on the nail with Kerber and her IGs. I don’t look at them too much because I know what I’ll find. Angie is a split person – I wonder just what she’s trying to prove. Forget about glamour, which she doesn’t do too well, and just do the tennis. When she’s being natural she looks fine. I’d say there’s a deep insecurity there – and it’s funny, some of the people who comment on her IGs see right through her. I wonder if she understands them.

    Her preparation for USO was horrendous. I’d almost say unprofessional. And why does she think anyone wants to see her lying on a beach ? Bouchard, yes, maybe a few others, but Angie no.

    I’ve done a browse through Twitter just for fun. Some players don’t post on it for weeks at a time, or just WTA stuff. Good for them.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 8:15 am

    Something hilarious: Marion Bartoli has criticised the WTA’s decision to land in China for the next decade with the tour Finals and says the WTA is ‘only motivated by money’. Who’d have thought it ?

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Catherine, your comment about twitter got me to have a look at Bianca’s twitter. I read a few months ago that the WTA wanted her to be more active on it. I was pleased to see that her tweets over the last few weeks have been all about tennis. Of course she has been rather busy on the courts lately.

    She had lots of retweets of congratulations from fellow players on her Rogers Cup win, a photo with Billie Jean King, etc. What I’d missed at the time was the on-court ceremony during the Rogers Cup where she presented a cheque to Tennis Canada for $210,000 to assist young Canadian players. She and FAA each donated $50,000, an anonymous donor gave $50,000 and fans donated the rest.

    Alexander Zverev recently joined twitter and when he was asked why said because he was told to. I love Sascha’s honesty.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 8:46 am

    The Guardian has an article, “It’s 2019. Tennis Doesn’t Need a Bad Boy.” There is a discussion of both Medvedev and Kyrgios. But I thought this part about Nick summed up why the media and fan fascination with him as a bad boy is simply sad.

    “Kyrgios’s 2019 US Open run ended after a third-round defeat to Russia’s Andrey Rublev on Saturday night. Kyrgios served 30 aces, and at one point, four in a row in a blistering 40-second service game. The audience was not watching a bad boy. What we were witnessing that night was a player ill-equipped to handle the emotional duress of an inconsistent, poorly paced dynamic. We watched an implosion in three sets. It happens. But throughout the match there was an underlying sense of unease – evident in the way the commentators picked Kyrgios’s quirks apart, the way the camera paused too long on his face as he talked, angrily, to himself in between points – that what we were really waiting for was for him to fall apart.”

  • Dan Markowitz · September 3, 2019 at 9:01 am

    The little I saw of the Bianca/Taylor match, Bianca behaved pretty poorly. Look, she’s a cocky young woman, but the smashing of the racquet against the court and her “Let’s go!” when she was destroying Taylor in the first set were a little much. I haven’t seen Mertens play yet, but she disposed of Ahn very easily. I think Mertens might have the edge on Andreescu because if the Canadian lost a set to Townsend I saw playing in the first set of last night’s match, that’s not a good sign.

    Also, wow, Vekic is a mediocre player. She played another mediocre player in Georges. Vekic has no, zero, nada chance of beating a really good player.

  • Jon KIng · September 3, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Catherine, your comment about social media cracked me up because I have been saying the same thing. Its a little bizarre to me how some WTA players post these pictures. I recently saw a creepy website that reposted Kenin’s recent bikini pics with lots of mean comments about her “bad tan” and “thick legs”. I do not see the need to post pics for the public. Probably best to leave that ‘trying to be a model’ stuff to the Bouchards of the world.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 9:24 am

    Dan, remember, Andreescu is a drama queen, she will create dramatic moments out of thin air, it’s part of her arsenal and appeal.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Would Bartoli have preferred the WTA to stage tournaments in more convenient player friendly venues which would have meant less prize money for her and the other players? Doubt it.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Bartoli makes a good point about the time difference between China and North America and Europe. Those matches won’t be played at a convenient time for most tennis fans to watch them. If you want to grow the sport you need people to actually see it.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Dan, I wasn’t thrilled by some of Bianca’s behaviour in that match, but you have to see the entire match to judge the level of her play. Taylor raised her level dramatically in the 2nd set, served much better and made some terrific shots. Bianca was too impatient in that set, but TT deserves a lot of credit for playing well. Then Bianca regrouped and played with more patience in the third set, winning it easily.

  • Andrew Miller · September 3, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Please design pro tennis with me in mind. I expect players to play only when I’m watching. If I’m on social media, they better be too in real time. And deliver ice cream with sprinkles before every televised match. Thanks tennis gods. And if anyone believes any part of my missive here…please don’t! The ice cream with sprinkles would be good though.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Dan, not much pleases you about the women’s game these days does it ? I’m surprised you watch any of it. Can’t say I think Bianca’s transgressions are very serious – not compared to some of the things ATP players get up to every day of the week. Different for them of course.

    Vekic’s never going to be a great player, I can’t recall anyone saying she would be, but she could be regular top 20-30. And to call Julia ‘mediocre’ is just bizarre. Is it because she’s European and part of the hegemony you want swept aside ?

    Who do you rate ? Have you changed your mind about Gauff ? Not long ago you were saying she wouldn’t amount to much.

    Bianca often plays 3 set matches and her level fluctuates. She usually wins them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Andreescu’s consistent results this year are impressive. She is a winning machine, has not played a bad match, some losing sets but she has won a lot of three setters in the last few months. She will be tough to beat this week in New York.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 10:40 am

    I wasn’t bothered by Bianca’s “Come on.” She faced several BPs in the first set so, despite the score, that was not an easy set. Where I would criticize her is in the third set. After yet another DF she slammed the ball down and as a result lost her grip on her racquet, which went flying towards the ump’s chair. She was very lucky no one was hit, or she would have been disqualified.

    But there is no denying she is a terrific player. After their match Wozniacki compared Bianca to Kim Clijsters.

    “I think the one that I can most compare her game to would probably be Kim (Clijsters) back in the day. I think because she moves well and she can stretch out and get to some balls and also play aggressive and use the angles. Obviously she prefers the forehand just like Kim. (Tom Tebbutt, Tennis Canada site)

    During the third set Fernandez and Goodall referred to what Woz had said, and they agreed. They saw similarities in the forehand, how Bianca approaches it, and moves into the court to hit it, and how she can brush it. Other similarities included her movement, how quick she is around the court, and the way she can slide into shots. They also mentioned Bianca’s good swing volley.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Of course the WTA is going to follow the money but using my crystal ball I’m inclined to think the people running women’s tennis might regret committing so much of it to China over the next decade. Just saying.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Bianca’s 3 set matches are part of her learning curve.

  • Hartt · September 3, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Yes, Bianca often has a dip during a match and then has to win a decider. Hopefully with more experience she will learn how to maintain her focus better throughout the match.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 10:56 am

    World Tour Finals have become almost exhibitions, usually no. 1 is wrapped up and there hasn’t been much intrigue in the events, for me anyway. Many of the top players seem to shut it down after US Open. Or lower down to third gear. Hopefully this year no. 1 ranking will be at stake in both ATP and WTA.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 10:58 am

    As we know subconscious tanks are a part of tennis – Jack Kramer said so – I would not rule out Andreescu having some kind of inclination to subconsciously tank sets to come back and win in three. More drama that way. Can’t rule that theory out.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 3, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Scoop,

    Andreescu is not the fittest woman on tour. I don’t think she’d drop a set consciously or unconsciously at this juncture in a slam.

    Catherine,

    I don’t think a lot about women’s tennis. When I watch Georges airmail a forehand 10 feet long and five feet wide on a passing shot when Vekic can barely volley, I think she’s mediocre. Andreescu is intriguing and has that great competitive spirit. Look I talked to Gilad Bloom last night and he can’t believe after watching Osaka’s first match how she went three sets with her opponent. He said all she knows how to do is smash the ball; she doesn’t know how to grind.

    I stayed up relatively late for the Bianca v Townsend match and I wasn’t impressed by TT. Hartt says she picked it up second set. Look, I want to watch Andreescu’s next match. I think that can be real interesting. But Serena v Wang today. Not much interest in that.

  • Andrew Miller · September 3, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Andreescu Win/Loss record speaks for itself. This kid is on a tear.

  • Andrew Miller · September 3, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I appreciate Goerges mediocrity. If mediocrity is four points from a slam semi on the back of a very nice all around game I’ll take it. She came up just short and had the match on her racquet before serving and volleying when she shouldn’t have – a better play there would have helped, but and even better play would have been to not be in that situation on serve. Can I also say this? Goerges is pretty. There, I’ve said it. Have at it.

  • Andrew Miller · September 3, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Berretini was fantastic in dismissing Rublev (no surprise given Berretini had a preview of Rublev in the Popyrin match)… Schwartzmann too.

    Had no idea Schwartzmann was top five on tour in breaking serve. But there you have it, he’s top five on tour in breaking serve. He sent the celebrated Zverev back home, where Zverev can take solace in aging out of the next gen and into the young veteran category of players.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Dan, Andreescu has a body like a Clijsters, she is very fit. I think it’s possible that she is so confident to tank sets. Her three set record this year is astounding. She has won 13 three setters in a row.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 11:25 am

    Georges serve and volleyed at a clutch moment? I was watching her play in Miami vs Magdalena Rybarikova with her Fed Cup captain and we talked a bit and I made a suggestion of how would her practicing serve and volley help round out her game? He said she is actually a good volleyer but doesn’t show it in matches. I wonder…

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 3, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Georges is far from mediocre, she’s one of the best players in the world.

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 11:38 am

    I wouldn’t apologise Andrew. Lots of women appreciate good looks on the ATP side. And anyone who doesn’t noticed Julia’s looks must be blind. She’s never made anything of it though.

    She’s not playing as well as she did a couple of years ago – that was probably her peak, and reaching W’don sfs last year. She’s also had neck and back injuries. Still, she served 21 aces and that wasn’t too bad. She gets nervier now – maybe can get a mental coach. Time passing.

    All those Germans are around the same age. They can have a mass retirement party 🙂

  • catherine · September 3, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Taylor T sent a nice congratulatory tweet to Bianca. They also had a good hug at the net so no hard feelings there.

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