Peter Bodo Skeptical Of Players That Loss This Week!
An Inconvenient Truth
Posted 01/09/2007 @ 1 :31 PM
Uh-oh, the sky is falling. It's an inconvenient truth, but The Sky is Falling!!!!! Rafael Nadal is out of Sydney and maybe the Australian Open with a groin injury, Martina Hingis and Dinara Safina - down in flames over "the world-famous Sydney Opera House" (get used to the phrase now, you'll be hearing it a lot shortly!), with the first Grand Slam of the year just around the corner. Tora, Tora, Tora!
Okay, hold everything. Something is rotten in the state of Queensland. Does anyone else notice that the three marquee names cited above are coming off pretty good prep weeks for the start of the proceedings in Melbourne in less than a week? I have a sneaking suspicion that Hingis and Safina are not completely distressed by their early exits at Sydney, and I'm predicting that Jet Boy will be rebounding on Rebound Ace at about this time next week. These players might very well have skied off the course because nobody wants to go into the first Grand Slam of the year, in the usually intense antipodal heat, with the needle on half, or even three-quarters, of a tank.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it looks more and more like the week before the start of a major is not a very good time to throw a tennis tournament - especially a significant one. This is not to say that Jet Boy is faking his pirata pull or that Hingis or Safina tanked their matches. But just as there are inconvenient truths, there are convenient losses (and injuries). Whether you want to blame the calendar, the level of tennis being played these days, or the Wilanders (or lack thereof) displayed by the players,t he inconvenient truth is that the days when a champion or contender with a lusty appetite for combat goes on along run that sweeps him or her right through a Grand Slam event are long, long gone.
When I saw that Nadal pulled out, I thought back to Rotterdam, 2006, and the tempest in a teapot created there when Nadal pulled out of that event with a similar injury. At the time, Jet Boy was just coming back from his foot injury, and he'd had a pretty good run in Marseilles (he got to the semis). The week after Rotterdam, he was scheduled to play in that Oasis of Enlightenment, Dubai. The inconvenient rumor was that Nadal, having made good progress in Marseilles, didn't want to risk injury or play himself out before the vaults burst open in Dubai.
In fact, when I reported on that development, I cited an Internet reports in which an insider from Nadal's camp blithely explained to his fans that Uncle Toni and his minions saw no point in Jet Boy playing Rotterdam, because he'd gotten a sufficient dose of competitive tennis in Marseilles. Sound familiar?
Here at TennisWorld, readers generally fall into either of two large camps on the ethics of this issue. One camp sees nothing wrong with players pulling out of events, even without resorting to the excuse of injury. They must take care of themselves first and foremost, the reasoning goes, and they are the only ones in a position to say what is - or isn't - good for them, health (and, presumably, career-longevity) wise. The other camp consists of the hard-asses, like myself, who believe that players are honor-bound to meet their tournament commitments, inconvenient truths be damned, except under exceptional circumstances (Nadal and Roger Federer both pulling out of Hamburg, after having played that magnificent, five-set final in Rome).
In some ways, there may even be cultural dimensions to this issue, I think world-weary Europeans are more apt to sigh and shrug when players ignore commitments, and support the idea that a player's perceived needs supersede commitments and obligations (Look under "B" for Bercy). That would explain why a constituent in the Nadal camp could make such blunt revelation about Rotterdam (I suppose you could at least award them points for honesty), while American and perhaps British commentators are more likely to take the side of the aggrieved tournament directors and the Nadal fans who bought tickets see Nadal and had to settle for, oh, Jarkko Nieminen. Not that we don't love ole Jarkko.
We can skip the ethical issues here (or use the "Search" box to review what I once called The Player-Fan Pact), because we don't want to go all negative at this time of renewal, and because two larger points ought to be made here. At one time, TDs would have killed (and probably did) to secure calendar slots immediately preceding Grand Slams; Sydney, after all, is one of those traditional fixtures, with a great history in the game. Now, it's starting to look like the week before is toxic - kind of like throwing a big bash on the eve of December 30th and then wondering why none of the folks you invited show up.
The other thing is, the tennis calendar isn't like that Filofax on your desk, with all those crossed-out and rewritten lunch dates and dentist's appointments. Sydney is stuck in its present time slot for eternity (hey, let's all stick around to find out if I'm right about that!), unless somebody starts doing some serious horse trading.
One of the best things the Lords of Tennis could do is recognize that in today's game, for better or worse, there's no need for a pre-New Year's Eve party on Dec. 30th. In the ideal scenario, the players could take part in exhibitions and special events (play as hard or easy as you like, folks!) designed to promote the game and build interest in the pending Grand Slam. The other option is to follow the USTA model and create replicas of the U.S.Open Series at all the majors. One of the beauties of that system is that if you do well in a couple of events weeks out from the Grand Slam, you can take off the week before and still be in the hunt for the bonus money.
Just something to think about as Sydney plays out; I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a rash of upsets coming from the vicinity of "The world-famous Sydney Opera House." BTW, I did go to the Opera House once, but I couldn't find the drive-through window so I settled for a local RooBurger instead.
01/09/2007 in 2007, State of the Game | Permalink |