March 14th, 2014
Friday Tennis Blog: On-court Coaching Controversy; Indian Wells
The WTA’s on-court coaching rule has been under fire since its inception, with critics saying it goes against the one-on-one nature of the sport, portraying women players as incapable of in-match problem solving and needing their (usually male) coach to swoop in and save the day with some tactical advice. This week at Indian Wells, Roger Federer says if it ever happens on the men’s side, it better be after he retire. “If it does happen, it’s hopefully after I’m done playing,” the Swiss said. “I really don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s fair, maybe, because not everybody can afford a coach…it’s just not right. It’s cool to figure it out yourself. You can look over to your coach for comfort and support, but other than that, I think tennis should be one of those unique sports where you don’t get coaching.”
Hank Pfister was an accomplished doubles player on the ATP circuit, winning two Grand Slam titles in the late 1970s and early ’80s. So how to celebrate a 60th birthday? Why, naturally to return to the pro tour and have a bunch of 20-somethings hit monster serves at you. “I turned 60 this past year, so I thought, ‘What the heck? I’m going to celebrate life a little bit,'” said Pfister, who this month is competing in doubles at the Bakersfield Tennis Open USTA Pro Circuit event in California. “I don’t get to play much anymore…I just want to go out and have a little fun and try not to get hurt,” he told The Californian. Pfister in 12 years on the tour won 11 doubles championships. “The idea is don’t practice too hard and get hurt before the match,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll represent ourselves in fashion that won’t be embarrassing.”
For those 55+ players who aren’t up for entering pro events, or have injuries that have kept them off the court, there is the new Masters Tennis option. An official demonstration sport at the Florida Senior Games this year, Masters Tennis is played on a smaller 60-foot court (lined within a regulation 78-foot court) with the lower-compression “orange ball.” A little less court to cover, and a lot less stress on joints with the softer ball. Fun for singles and doubles. Two events in Florida in the coming weeks are a Masters Tennis play event during the USTA Pro Circuit women’s event at Innisbrook (Palm Harbor) on March 22 from 9-11 a.m., and one at the Largo Tennis Center on March 27 from 10 a.m.-noon. The format is so popular that it even has an adult prize money circuit in Europe. Even Nick Bollettieri loves Masters Tennis. To find more events, or start an event of your own, go to the Masters Tennis website.
Isner In, Stephens Out at Indian Wells
Stephens, the No. 17 seed, in the quarterfinals led No. 20 Flavia Pennetta 3-0 in the third set with a point for 4-0 before losing that game, and winning only one more game, falling 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
“I’m happy because I was 3-0 down in the third and fought until the last point,” said Pennetta, who like Stephens had to fight against a desert windstorm that kicked up in the third set. “I was just trying to put the ball in the court — the middle of the court! But even though I was trying to do that, none of the balls actually went in the middle. It was always right or left.”
Stephens did become the first American woman to advance to the quarterfinals at Indian Wells since 2008.
The women’s semifinals will be Simona Halep vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, and Li Na vs. Pennetta.
Isner, the No. 12 seed, today will meet No. 20 Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinals.
“Expect the unexpected,” Isner said of Gulbis. “He’s so talented. We all know that. You never really know what you’re going to get with him out there. He’s a shot-maker. He hits the ball extremely hard. He can sort of go crazy out there, too. But it’s kind of like, I don’t know, equate it to like a John McEnroe crazy. He does it but he stays with it…I hope that he cracks some racquets against me. That means I will be doing a couple things right. We will see how it goes.”
Isner and partner Sam Querrey lost in the doubles semifinals to the Bryan brothers, who in the final will face Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka if the Swiss pair can navigate their doubles semifinal today.
They Said It
“I think people forget that there’s a normal life that you have to live outside of being on the tennis court all the time. I’m a regular 20-year-old girl. I sometimes need to, like, talk to [coach] Paul about my boy problems or I need to talk to [trainer] Andrew about how stupid my best friend is.”
— American player Sloane Stephens speaking to USA Today
“It’s not good. I’m losing a lot of sleep…We are lacking competitiveness in our [American] players. They’ve got good backhands and forehands and serves, but they lack an understanding of how the game needs to be played. We have good coaches, but the culture of our players needs to improve. I won’t use the excuse you hear all the time about all the good U.S. athletes playing football or basketball. Sure, if we didn’t have football and basketball in this country, there would be more guys playing tennis. But it’s an easy crutch. If our players were European, things would be different. Being No. 80 in the world wouldn’t be enough then.”
— USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras on U.S. pros-in-training needing to develop a sense of urgency, speaking to the Los Angeles Times
Tennis on TV This Weekend
8am-2pm — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (delay), Tennis Channel
6:30-8:30pm — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel
9:30-11:30pm — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel
7am-3pm — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (delay), Tennis Channel
9pm-2am — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (live), Tennis Channel
7am-3pm — ATP/WTA Indian Wells (delay), Tennis Channel
9pm-1am — ATP/WTA Indian Wells men’s/women’s finals (live), Tennis Channel