Talking Tennis with Gigi Fernandez

It’s always nice to bump into a tennis legend on the tennis circuit and recently at an ITF tournament in Tampa, Florida I had the pleasure to chat tennis with Gigi Fernandez, who won 17 Grand Slams (14 with Natasha Zvereva), two Olympic gold medals for USA and reached WTA no. 1 in doubles. As a coach, Gigi coached Sam Stosur to her first US Open title with Lisa Raymond. She coached no. 1 doubles players Renee Stubbs, Raymond and Stosur. She currently coaches in Tampa. Fernandez was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in Newport in 2010.

Question: Monica Seles was more difficult for you to play than Steffi Graf?

Gigi Fernandez: “Yeah because she hits hard on both sides. Like with Steffi, she had the slice backhand so I could serve and volley to her backhand. And I was a serve and volleyer. So, with Monica, not only did she hit hard on both sides, but she stood one or two or sometimes three feet inside the baseline. So when you’re serve and volleying and someone is standing three feet inside the baseline to return, you don’t have enough time to get anywhere for your first volley. They were just going by so fast. So quickly. With Steffi I could just hit it to her backhand – I knew slices were coming back and I could get the volley in and then it was like Okay, who’s gonna win the point? But with Monica I couldn’t even get a racquet on it.

Question: Which of the young players today most impress you?

Gigi: “I think Andreescu. She is pretty impressive. I love her all court game. We’re starting to get away from… we had ten or fifteen years of just pounding the baseline. And now girls are more looking to come forward and looking to finish at the net. She drop shots. Hits high balls. Hits angles. It’s not just pounding from the baseline. So I think it’s the future of tennis.”

Question: What do you think sparked this new change, evolution in the women’s game?

Gigi: “I think it’s been coming. I think because it’s been so one-dimensional. And if you want to stand out, if you’re coming up and you see the pros and you want to be different, then that’s the logical thing to add. And also now girls are more fitter, so they can handle the power. And obviously Bianca has really good hands so she can handle the volleys when she comes in. She’s blessed with good hands and she’s taking advantage of it.”

Question: Do you see Bianca Andreescu having the qualities to become the dominant WTA player?

Gigi: “She’s very mentally prescient. She comes back from a lot of adversity in her matches. She didn’t retire in Indian Wells. I was really impressed by Osaka’s third set win at Australian Open after blowing the second set. I think she was mentally very down. Then she fired her coach which was not the smartest thing in the world to do. To become no. 1 in the world and won two Grand Slams.”

Question: Which players impress you in the ATP?

Gigi: “I think when Zverev figures out what’s going on up there in his head. He has a complete game, he moves well for his height. He has a big serve, good return, good groundies. If Rafa and Roger ever quit [smiles] he could be the heir apparent.”

Question: How about Felix Auger-Aliassime?

Gigi: “Yeah, that’s the next step, Felix and Shapovalov. But they’re a little bit younger, Zverev is 22-23. So he has four or five years of experience on them. So I don’t think Felix or Shapovalov are ready to win a Grand Slam or even Tier 1 events. I don’t think they’re mature enough to withstand a whole tournament like that. But they will be in a couple of years. They’re getting there.”

Question: What is the best you ever felt on court? Your finest matches?

Gigi: “It’s funny. If you look at my whole career, it’s probably three matches that I walked off the court and I felt I played like perfect tennis. Three times in 500, 800, I don’t know how many matches I played. 800 matches singles and doubles. So tennis is not a game of perfection. It’s not about playing great or feeling great. It’s about playing your best when you’re not playing well. And figuring out how to win when nothing’s working. That’s what makes the difference between a champion and the average players. A champion figures out a way to win when they’re playing their worst. Where as some players sort of give in.”

Question: What were those three matches?

Gigi: “I don’t remember [laughs]. I really don’t. But I remember one was a singles match but I can’t tell you exactly the match. But I kind of had a general feeling when I walked off the court, I felt I played great. But there’s always something about it that I could have done better. I did play a lot of doubles matches where I played the whole match and I never missed a volley. And that was sort of like my standard, if I played a match and I missed volleys, then that was a bad day. I just could not miss volleys. I mean, makeable volleys. Anything that I could get my racquet on, I had to get it in the court.”

Question: How about the best matches of near perfect tennis that opponents played against you?

Gigi: “You know, (Gabriela) Sabatini used to beat the crap out of me. Because she always seemed to play well against me. I could never beat her. Especially her second serve was so attackable. But I could never beat her. That’s the one who could always get to me [smiles].”

Question: Why? What did she do that was so effective?

Gigi: “Nothing [laughs]. I just beat myself half the time. I don’t know. She had a really nice backhand, good groundies. But she didn’t have a big serve. It just seemed like I should have a chance to beat her but I never did.”

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  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    jg; Brantmeier beat a girl from NJ who I am familiar with, good solid smart defensive player. Xu was 2-0 against Brantmeier in past USTA tournaments but looked the more explosive and powerful player today. Xu’s defense wasn’t enough, she could not get any offense going to hurt Brantmeier. Brantmeier has a pro game I agree, Xu should work on hitting harder, and attacking off the first ball, just to get used to being offensive instead of always defense and counter punching. One hour a day for a week of playing offensive minded attacking tennis points. To round out her arsenal and add more dimensions. I think John McEnroe could help her with this. He actually was a pusher defensive counter puncher before he became an attacker. I have been trying to set up a meeting of McEnroe and Xu but it hasnt happened yet.

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Wonder why Tracy Austin said that. Maybe the injuries 😉 not calling it an injury, but Henin was notoriously tough and somewhat fragile, always ill. Fair enough though, Austin knows what she saw

    Sofia Kenin was very good. Not a real innovative game out there. Mostly power. Good serve. Loads of desire. Not my favorite!

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Andrew, Hewitt was such a phenomenon. His intensity and ferocity was just as intimidating as his game. He had a bigger presence than just his game. He had no fear or over respect for anyone, he took down Agassi the first time he played him at 16, he went to toe to toe with Sampras even as a damn kid. He had the ability to play the ball and not be in awe of the guy across the net. And he would yell and roar on the court and though he said it was to pump himself up I believe it was mainly to antagonize the opponent. Showing them he was there to kick their ass not pay homage. A lot of players hated Hewitt, especially Argentines and Spanish, but Hewitt just didn’t care, he was on a mission. It was business. No player since has been like Hewitt. Rafa does it with a nicer edge. I truly believe Hewitt showed the mental model for part of the way to slay the all time legends of tennis. Nice guy Zverev, Tsitsipas, Berdych, Todd Martin, Gasquet, Monfils would probably be major winners if they had Hewitt’s in your face fearless bravado. But it’s a rare quality.

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    My advice to Shapovalov and Felix: read Gigi’s article and make a point of winning slams now. Don’t wait! Federer didn’t ask permission. Sampras didn’t open the door for Agassi to waltz through to his first slam. Becker didn’t say sorry when he won his first Wimbledon. Gomez wasn’t apologetic for ruining Muster’s comeback, Nadal wasn’t sorry he ruined Coria’s chances on clay after 2004.

    The champs don’t apologize. They just don’t. They saw sorry afterwards blah blah blah. But they are savages during the match.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    If you want to know why Safin was so inconsistent mentally, read the Dmitry Tursunov interview in my book Facing Marat Safin. Nobody ever said it better.

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Scoop, Agassi really appreciated Hewitt’s talent and that of Rios. He knew how good they were. We have to acknowledge that those screaming returns of serve, when big serves went back over the net – this was intimidating for players and those who believed they could serve their way out of trouble.

    Hewitt brought that to the game as well. It may be like you’re saying another sign that Hewitt wasn’t intimidated to play stronger opponents. But he also spoke with the quality of his game.

    But I get your point and you are right. Beautiful games don’t win slams. Ruthless players win slams. If a slam winner’s game happens to be beautiful, it’s also lethal and gives other players nightmares or trauma!

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 10, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Federer and Nadal set a new bar and look what had to happen for Djokovic to join the club. He had to have some of that Hewitt ruthlessness and arrogance, to express that in words that he was going to take down Fed and Rafa, even his mom entered the fray saying things in the media meant to irritate Federer who eventually did snap at the Djokovic’s at a tournament yelling at them to “SHUT UP.” To join the big three club, they ain’t giving out membership cards, you have to kick the door down and kick some ass. You have to be willing to piss off the status quo. You have to be willing to piss off fans and media who worship the big three. Hewitt proved it. Federer didn’t really have to slay the legends, Pete was on his way out and Agassi was too, but Agassi held on longer. The throne became vacant for Federer and he took it without much resistance. Nadal forced his way in there, so did Djokovic. Nobody has the sheer audacity to force their way into the big 3 club.

  • Hartt · August 10, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Andrew, I don’t remember all the things that Austin mentioned in comparing Andreescu and Henin, but two things were they are both shorter and and both have (had) a lot of variety.

  • catherine · August 10, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    Hartt – yes, you’re right it was Kenin, I wasn’t following the match live, just the scorecard. I wish Bianca would pull out of Cincy, she’s plenty of reasons, but as I said young people think they have no limits !

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Scoop,talent wins. Federer didn’t just let balls go by on court. That US Open semifinal was nuts – the shot Djokovic hit to un-nerve Federer on one of Federer match points (?), I’d actually seen Djokovic hit that shot two years earlier in his match against Nadal in the 2008 Queens final.

    That’s talent. Better believe Djokovic had hit that shot before, a hail (name your saint) shot.

    Djokovic was also smart enough to cut the chord with Todd Martin, who vastly improved the Djokovic volley but gutted the Djokovic serve. Sorry for the aside, just shows Djokovic was able to differentiate between what would move his game forward and what didn’t work. Same with Agassi – as much as that didn’t work out, Djokovic mined some gold as his backhand already copied Agassi and suddenly his forehands had a sharper cut on them once they were done. Djokovic just absorbs learning like no one.

    Anyhows, what I’m trying to express is that verbal potshots don’t mean much if a player can’t back them up. Soderling had done the same thing but didn’t have the stamina, and gave players reasons to hate him. That isn’t what I think works.

    But what works? Treating Federer as if he were Robredo, that works. A big match, but a match against a mortal. Anyone that watches Federer KNOWS that when Federer gets a few match points on his serve he sometimes plays it too safe. Roddick would knock you in the stomach if he had that kind of chance to put a match away vs Federer.

    Federer seemingly floats that serve – still hard, just almost predictable that he prefers to get it in rather than give you another look.

    So Djokovic was smart enough to send a suck serve back from Federer back at a gazillion miles per hour.

    Federer by the way did the same kind of thing in his match against Nadal 2005 Miami. Nadal was up two sets to none and heading into match points. Federer then became brat pack Federer and smashed his racquet.

    It broke Nadal’s concentration and Federer went on to win that match. That match STILL counts to Federer!

    And Djokovic still gets on everyone’s nerves. He doesn’t mind renting out all the available space in Federer and Nadal’s psyche. Doesn’t mind it at all.

    These guys, all three, are ruthless! Anyone that gets sucked into how sweet they are should go play golf with Nadal. He’ll make them hate him.

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    My advice to the big three opponents: during matches the big three hate you guys. It’s not personal, they just want to put the ball past you every second and if you somehow feel winded, well they want to make you feel ten times as winded. They care…that you’re winded.

    Nice as hail after the match…they are relieved and happy you helped them win another match for the record books.

    Don’t fall for it pros of all ages!

  • Andrew Miller · August 10, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Hartt, Austin knows what she sees! Andreescu is a fine, fine player. Canada is doing something correct up there. They are failing on the k-instinct side so I hope Shapo, Felix take some notes from the Andreescu match and notice something…

  • Jeff · August 10, 2019 at 8:47 pm

    Well this is interesting. Serena is not going to like the crowd rooting against her tomorrow. Wouldn’t be surprised for her to make it into some kind of race issue. Should be a heated match but I can’t imagine Serena losing. But you never know.

    Jack Sock loses to Kukushkin. Bravo to Cincinnati to not waste a main draw wild card on him. You have to believe he was begging for it but his pathetic 1-5 record in Cincy made a wild card impossible.

    Meanwhile, the Insta rumors are rising that Genie’s sister is an item with Kyrgios! Howzat for some gossip?

  • Hartt · August 10, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    I think Serena has enough experience that she knows what to expect from the crowd. She could use it to motivate herself even more.

    She has won the Rogers Cup 3 times and if she wins tomorrow she will tie Seles for the most at 4.

  • Hartt · August 10, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Bianca Andreescu certainly agrees with what has been said here about a winner’s attitude.

    Then there’s Andreescu’s mental toughness and confidence. “When I step out on the court, I’m fearless,” she said earlier this week. “I show no mercy no matter who I play and I think that’s showing.” (Tennis Canada site)

    Also, “Her attitude at crunch-time is pretty clear, as she explained after beating Bertens, “I told myself in the third set, ‘go big or go home.”

    Tearful on court after the win, Andreescu explained, “I just felt like crying after because I’m so happy to be back on tour right now and to be in the final of the Rogers Cup. Life is freaking amazing right now.”

  • Jeff · August 10, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    Medvedev shaping up as a U.S. Open title candidate.

    My dark horse to win it all: Taylor Fritz.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 12:32 am

    Hartt, Andreescu has the correct approach to big matches. Osaka had this too. Believe it or not, Baghdatis had this before his 2006 match with Agassi at the US Open – he WANTED the match and wanted to send Agassi into retirement. He was unprepared for the crowd being for Agassi, which automatically meant that they were against Baghdatis.

    If Baghdatis had some of Djokovic’s savagery he’d have looked at it as his mission to put Agassi away. And for a period, he did. Just that injuries turned Baghdatis away, and he was crushed that the crowd was so deep in Agassi’s corner.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 12:51 am

    Nadal vs a Medvedev already talking trash. This is an easy call. That said Medvedev has done well to make two finals in a row.
    He reminds me of Kafelnikov light. If some guys on tour played with Medvedev’s ability to keep opponents guessing…

    Sorry Monfils couldn’t play Nadal. I don’t get it, but he may not have wanted to lose badly in front of a friendly crowd.

    Speaking of Khachanov – he plays like Safin. Hits a huge ball. But… nowhere near as good.

    What’s amazing – these guys are huge. Medvedev’s six foot six. Khachanov is big, no? Zverev’s big.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 12:52 am

    Fritz, US Open dark horse – I’m not seeing it. He’d need to improve by leaps and bounds by the US Open.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Sheesh, Serena Williams elevated her game to take Bouzkova out. My goodness. Bouzkova had her on the ropes yet from the first game was huffing and puffing. Nice game from Bouzkova, wow – showed form that 9 times out of 10 wins big time matches. But slowly and surely Serena Williams began wrong footing Bouzkova – making her come forward when she didn’t want to, making her move in directions she didn’t want to.

    Bouzkova suddenly didn’t want to chase down any more drop shots. Because she couldn’t – she tried to get to as many balls as she could and Serena used Bouzkova’s strengths against her. Serena was up for this match! So many many times players lose that match.

    For what it’s worth below is an excerpt from an interview that Jarmere Jenkins of past NCAA fame, currently Serena’s hitting partner, said in January. How on the mark is this?! This is how players should approach big players, because this is how big players approach the field.

    “The best way I can explain it is that I’ve been working with Serena for one year and two months, and not one time I’ve been on the tennis court with her have I felt comfortable,” Jenkins says.

    “It is how she hits, how she moves.

    “I have never felt I could have a lazy practice with her. If I feel that way I can only imagine how the girls who play against her feel.”

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 1:38 am

    And, Bouzkova was gracious in defeat. Nice handshake at the net.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 2:10 am

    Bouzkova smiled after the match until she was nearly off the court and then she couldn’t stop the tears. As you’d expect, she was bitterly disappointed to lose the match. She proved what a relentless competitor she is during this tourney and I expect that we will see much more of her in the near future.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 6:20 am

    Serena can be beaten you know. A lot of people talk as though she’s immortal but she’s not. And a lot of players can’t see themselves beating her. The ones who have don’t think that way. Bouzkova hasn’t got the experience yet.

    Bianca may lose but I bet she’s not going to go out there expecting to.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 7:06 am

    Bianca has said she is excited to play Serena, but her basic attitude seems to be “bring it on.”

    Serena, with her experience, is the obvious favourite, but I expect Bianca to battle hard, whatever the outcome.

    The Canadian media is giving lots of coverage to Bianca and to the final, which is so great for tennis, which is still overlooked compared to hockey, basketball, etc.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 9:05 am

    I finally found the Bianca quote I was looking for. From the Rogers Cup site:

    “As for whether or not Andreescu is nervous going up against a tennis legend, Adreescu’s confidence and sense of humour appears to be unwavering.

    “Whoever [I play in the finals], I’ll be ready,” laughed Andreesu. “Watch out.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 9:55 am

    I don’t see Bibi being intimidated by Serena at all or unwilling to do things that might enrage and summon the queen of mean.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Hartt, makes total sense – Bouzkova at present believes she can beat anyone and has the game to pull anyone, including Serena. However: Serena was up for this one, observed what Bouzkova did to win, and then turned the tables.

    She said Bouzkova liked hitting from the baseline? Let’s give her a low ball she has to move to get to, then as she’s out of position, pasted a ball into the corners. It was a mesmerizing performance to go from being outplayed to completely outwitting the promising Bouzkova.

    When Serena sinks her teeth in a match, it’s going to be tough. She certainly did against Osaka (Serena just signed a long term lease in Osaka’s psyche after dominating Osaka, first time Serena’s done that, you don’t think she relishes this?). And when Bouzkova goes home, she’s like I was so close yet…yet nothing. Serena signed a lease in the Bouzkova psyche too.

    Serena can’t hold everyone at Bay – she hasn’t and she doesn’t these days. But, the work she’s put in is very obvious, and some of her indomitable will and spirit are showing up. She wanted this final and she gets it.

    Certainly either player wins. But make no mistake, Serena, like Henin, like Seles, one of those competitors for whom the winning “never gets old”.

    Scoop describes Serena at her best as totally ruthless. I agree with Scoop! If Andreescu and Bouzkova are similar good for them.

    Pliskova lacks this. Kvitova doesn’t on grass at least. It’s necessary.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 10:17 am

    “Totally ruthless?” That’s not quite enough to describe Serena on the court. She is a serial career killer on the court, she tries to win every set by golden set. If she could she would. Good to see her back at a high level and in a final but she has a big challenge on her hands today, Andreescu will not roll over or stick with a losing gameplan.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 10:51 am

    Andrew – why do you pick Seles and Henin ? Neither, for different reasons, had a career marked by longevity. BJK and Navratilova on the other hand would still be playing today but for mortality.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Scoop, Bouzkova was sticking with a winning game plan. She was thrilled. She was excited. Executing like an Executioner. Ready to send Serena into retirement. She didn’t know Serena had other plans. That Serena would make Bouzkova twist her own ankles. That Serena had resolved for Bouzkova to head to the emergency room with a bouquet of “Get well soon” flowers following her check in.

    Scoop, your phrasing is right. Djokovic even says this, he says Federer has set a good example…for Djokovic. That as Federer reaches slam finals at age 37, Djokovic says it’s great…for me, Novak, because I expect to be able to make it at least as far if not…

    That kind of mentality? My goodness, these players are psychos!

    Do we benefit as fans? Absolutely. The competition elevates the sport. All the better that they do so mostly fair and square – a few nutty freezing techniques here and there and odd knee treatments but fine, fair and square.

    Just that within the lines, it’s always a horror show. The tennis is beautiful but as we’ve discussed, it’s beauty in the service of “lethality”. Hammer the opponent. Relish a ball they can’t get to. Make them believe they have it in thw bag, while you’ve had the bag in your chair the whole time.

    Off court, nice people. Sweet. Lovely. Statesmen. Whatever. On the court? My goodness!!!!!!!!!!

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Catherine, I think it’s because I enjoyed watching Henin and Seles, and saw in them a new way of playing, which of course is just desire. Navratilova absolutely, such an outstanding champion and as fiercely competitive as anyone who has ever lived.

    I appreciate Navratilova because she didn’t sugar coat anything, she was in it for the trophy hunt. She had no problem winning. She wasn’t apologetic at all. Like Nadal or Bouzkova, she sobbed after losses (Nadal did this after his 2007 loss at Wimbledon to Federer, and Uncle Toni ripped him for it and said what the heck, nephew! You don’t cry over this. But titles are like possessions for these players…).

    I’ll say I see the same thing in Kerber, and some of the same thing in Osaka for the period she was getting better and better. Graf had it of course – the ultra competitive drive.

    The drive doesn’t mean players win every time, just that it characterizes their approach to the sport. They aren’t nice people on court.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    More from Bianca: “On playing Serena, she added: “I’ve watched Serena play so many times. It would be really cool to play Serena. It’s going to be an amazing experience, for sure, playing a legend. It would be an honor to share the court with her.

    But when I go out there, like I said, I’m fearless. So hopefully that will be the case when I play her.” (Tennis World)

    So she has the combination of respect off the court but ruthlessness on it that Andrew talks about.

    Bianca is creating excitement about tennis among the general media, which is so important for the sport’s popularity. The Toronto Star has a big photo of Bianca after yesterday’s win on its front page, with the headline “Roaring Ahead.” In this country that is obsessed with hockey and basketball this is huge for tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Fed Nadal and Djokovic a little greedy? Addicted to winning? The neat part is they keep going and driving for more while McEnroe and Borg and Pete had enough and moved on rather early.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Yes Canada is obsessed with hockey and hoops but it’s summer, what does the sports media focus on in summer when there is no hockey or basketball? Is tennis getting major attention and coverage?

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Scoop, baseball gets a lot of coverage in the summer. But an excellent example of Bianca’s impact is that Sportsnet moved the Blue Jays vs Yankees game from their main stations to the specialty channel (where today’s WTA match was originally scheduled)to make room for Bianca’s match on those stations.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Bouchard had “it” and lost it. I guarantee she found something else the sport gave her more addictive than the winning – such as the attention.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way. I say all this because it’s odd to see guys like this or women like this in sport who love adding to their trophy cabinets. There are never, ever enough and there never will be.

    Not normal. But, their love of the fight? Worth paying for. Thirst for competition, knowledge that a pretty ball isnt the same as a winner? That’s good tennis. Something very few players learn. What separates the Boogerts of the world from the Muguruzas.

  • jg · August 11, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Just sayin, Kyrigos has back spasms in DC called the trainer and played thru it and they passed, on the other hand they are debilitating, so which was it? I’ve had them and no way you can serve like she was serving with back spasms.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Well – I didn’t see the match (Microsoft assaulted my computer) but I didn’t miss much it seems. Back spasms ?
    Panic attack ? Please explain. Bianca walks away with this tournament.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Andrew – as a postscript – the thing about Kerber is that I don’t think she naturally has the competitive fire and she has had to struggle for it and keep it for long enough to win and then cope with the enormous let down afterwards. Makes her achievement more admirable.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    I’m sorry – I’ve had a look around the final (?) and to me Serena got gripped by tension and anxiety and it all went to her back, as those things often do, and she threw in the towel. Bianca was going to be the toughest opponent Serena has played for a long time (well, since W’don)- she hadn’t played her before and mentally she wasn’t up for a long match stretching out ahead. I suspect this result will have repercussions. Feel a bit sorry for her but she’s had her days in the sun.

    Bianca came out of the whole thing well.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    Serena had to retire with back spasms. apparently they started last night after yesterday’s match. As someone who has suffered from back spasms over the years, I know sometimes medication will be sufficient and other times nothing works. I once spent 3 days lying on the floor in terrible pain. So it is not surprising that Serena could not continue to play. She was in tears and Bianca went over to hug her and try to console her.

    Obviously not the way anyone wanted the tourney to end. But Bianca had to beat some very good players to get to the final, including Bertens and Pliskova.

    Along with the prize $ of over $500,000 Bianca got a big boost in the rankings. She will be at No.14 and that will have an important impact for her seeding at the USO.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Hartt – yes I know about back spasms but Serena is a professional player and if she wasn’t feeling fit she should have withdrawn before the match. As it is she’s probably suffered a significant loss of prestige in the eyes of her opponents.

    I have doubts whether she is fit enough to play two days in succession now so she’ll probably be ok for the USO.

  • catherine · August 11, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Serena is planning to play Cincinatti so we’ll see how quickly her back recovers.

  • Andrew Miller · August 11, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    It’s ok to retire after four games and pain. It doesn’t take away from the enormous victory of another Masters title for Andreescu and the boost in front of a home crowd.

    I’d rather do things Serena’s way here – see where you are and then call it. It’s better to retire like Catherine said at the time of the match, but four games in is a few balls struck, not much at all. Enough to get a soda or beverage.

    For what it’s worth, yesterday’s semifinal was really, really really tough. I don’t even know how Serena threaded the needle there, and it’s no surprise she’d need time to recover from that one.

    Andreescu is having a nice breakout year. Once again the WTA has proven it has a lot of good storylines – better than the ATP and its “Big Three plus a gang of young guys and old foes that can’t for the life of them win any slams”. Harsh but it’s a soundtrack that’s been playing for fifteen years!!!

  • Jeff · August 11, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    There was little doubt that something unusual would happen with Serena for this match. Every final she is in lately she comes up with some injury to explain away losses. I feel bad for the fans who paid for that fiasco.

    Pretty good effort by the collegian JJ Wolf to push Carreno Busta to 3 sets in Cincinnati. He may be one to watch in the future.

    Steve Johnson about to win the Aptos Challenger. I guess that puts him at a higher level than Sock, who is arrogantly refusing to play in Challengers.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    The Big 3 aren’t just winning all the Slams but they are winning most of the Masters as well. Those guys are so greedy! 🙂 As Andrew said, they will never have enough trophies.

    I think Bianca is another player who is hungry for titles. She has the most match wins of any woman player this season, despite being away for several months.

    One thing that impressed me this past week is how well she dealt with the pressure of winning the Rogers Cup, with the huge expectations of Canadian fans. Her coach said she actually loves pressure, that he saw that when she was a youngster basically carrying the Fed Cup team. And I think that she will never have more pressure than she faced this past week.

  • Hartt · August 11, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    I meant to say that Bianca has the highest % of wins to losses, not the actual number of match wins. She has lost just 4 matches this season.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    Hartt, it’s Biancamania up there now I reckon. I didn’t see the match but it’s either a broken down body from a physical week or she knew Bibi was going to blast her off the court and she baled. Serena privilege will allow her to do that in a final. Not going to say that is the case, just a suggestion. Andreescu is playing that well and she’s that intimidating.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Kristie Boogert reference?! Hey I don’t mind Bouchard being Bouchard and running her career on her terms or using tennis as her platform like a Kournikova. Some fans are turned off by Serena/Navratilova masculine intensity, or what separates the Haleps of the world from the Dominique von Roosts 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 11, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    jg, she probably most likely tanked the final because she knew Andreescu was going to make her look like a slow motion has been. Serena has special privileges, she has earned that right for her illustrious career and being a working mom. 🙂

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