BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC 2003
SO MUCH SUNSHINE, SO MUCH DARKNESS
If it could go wrong it did this year for this once great event.
Champion Kim Clijsters (4-6, 6-4, 6-2 over Capriati) Singles
Champion Black/ Raymond (7-6(5), 6-1 over Cho/ Schiavone) Doubles
Frank Riley, MS
I had planned on coming to this yearís Classic, as last yearís was just magical for me. Let me be very honest with you. Five super stars in the tennis world were promoted as the big draw for this yearís event. Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati, Lindsay Davenport and Anna Kournikova were the five big names. Of those Five big names only Kim Clijsters and Jennifer Capriati came to this event. Perhaps last year this event would be truly a tier 2 event but this year it might be a tier 3 or lower event from the very poor turnout of highly ranked players. Early on Kournikova (back injury) had dropped out causing me to question my presence at this event all together. I was not aware until I arrived at the event that Davenport (foot injury) and Williams (knee injury) had also dropped from the event. If that was not bad enough for IMG and LBH (event promoters) the few known players that did show up (Dokic, Petrova, HantuchovaÖ) played so badly they were out of the tournament very early. Daniilidou and Shaughnessy played very good matches but were also out by the second round. The draw was in such bad shape that qualifiers filled the field. Capriati had two very hard matches against Marion Bartoli (a very good qualifier) and Lisa Raymond (who almost won the match) both matches being the best matches I watched at this event and both matches going three sets causing frustration for Capriati. Clijsters had one hard match against Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian who won the first set and was the better hitter but lost the match because she was in the worst shape of all players at this tournament. Clijsters was in such good physical fitness she just ran Marie into the ground after the first set. Clijsters ran through the rest of the field as if they were just her warm up matches. This tournament turned out to be a classic match up between Capriati and Clijsters with no one else having any chance of stopping this match up (Raymond being the only other player able to cause problems). So was this a very exciting tournament? To be honest the event was a nightmare for the fans (all I talked to were unhappy) and the promoters of the event.
Many readers might be aware, I was treated rather roughly by LBH and IMG in a rejection of a press pass requested. Does this effect my view of this event, lets be honest yes it did, but by the end of the event I had forgotten most of that as I had a great time talking to tennis players at this event. With that said I am going to talk about the organization of this tournament. There was a major issue at the event that caused many of the spectators to be rather unhappy. It seems that IMG and LBH got a little greedy and decided to add many more seats and removed one tennis court from the Taube Family Tennis Stadium. Last year the spectators watched two matches side by side and it was thrilling to watch. This year only one court was used in the stadium and seats were added over the other court. This caused many problems as half the seats in the stadium really had a rather poor view of the action on the one court. Additionally another court was used in the practice court area outside of the stadium for about half of the matches. So basically this caused every spectator to miss half of the matches. Last year the spectators watched all the matches. I am sure the organization thought that this year they would make a great deal more money with the added seats, but as it turned out with the poor turn out of players many people were very unhappy and half of the seats were empty each day. Additionally a large percentage of African American fans came to this event expecting to see Williams. I was rather happy to see that on the first day as it helped some really great African American tennis players at the event (Haynes and Stevenson). But the third day of the event no African American players were in the event and so the percentage of those fans that showed up decreased rather abruptly.
I did watch a few of the matches at the outside practice court and I can say it was rather degrading to the players that had to play out there. I was watching Lisa Raymond on the practice court playing a very tough singles match. When I looked around there was no more than 30 people watching the match, is that good for the players and is that what pro tennis is all about, it made me rather sick to my stomach. All I could do was cheer Lisa and I will be writing a letter to LBH with my complaint.
Concerning security and the idea of security risk. I noticed a rather alarming behavior at this yearís event and I am sure it started with the thought of Anna Kournikova and Serena Williams coming to this event. The security people and the staff at this event were so obnoxious and pushy that everyone was rather upset with the behavior of the staff at the event. Children were many times pushed away from areas that players came through and security people were abusive in their use of comments and actions. Ushers claiming to be helping you to your seat were in fact checking your tickets for the third time to make sure you only went directly to your seat. Practice sessions could not be watched as they had all that blocked off. If you stood and watched you were told to find your seat, they did not want people standing around watching. Security tried to stop anyone from getting autographs or pictures. Okay, so my question is this, what is wrong with taking pictures, tennis players have their picture taken all over the world but at Stanford something is different? Why? People all over the world want autographs from sports people. Why at Stanford is it wrong to ask for an autograph? Every time I asked for a picture or autograph the players were thrilled to give me one. So my question to LBH is what is your problem with this? Additionally at times there were more security and IMG/LBH staff in the stadium than there were spectators. I felt like I was in a prison at times, whatís the deal? Spectatorís do not like being controlled like that, I suggest strongly they change that behavior or my $500 will not land in their hands next year
Observations Of Key Tennis Players Present
Daniela Hantuchova (4th Seed)
I have to say this Daniela made me rather sad. I have never watched a more unhappy tennis player in my life. I am not sure she even wants to be playing the game. I hardly got a smile from her and she seemed oblivious to the people around her. And yes she is very thin, in fact I tried hard to not judge her on this but it was painful to watch. She is such a pretty girl and by far the most elegant person at this event but she is way to thin. I watched her rather closely for two days and she works out all day long and she seems okay. Her tennis skills are very good in fact some of the smoothest strokes I have ever watched but in her matches she just did not seem to have any interest in the match and in time just gave up. My personal thought is that she is to thin and does not have any explosive power needed in a match. With an additional 20 pounds I am sure Daniela would be rather difficult to handle on the courts but right now something is wrong. I donít have an answer but something is wrong and I think someone needs to step in fast and help her. I watched Daniela destroy Granville in a work out match so the game is still there but something is wrong and in Danielaís only match against Amy Frazier, Amy just slaughtered Daniela (6-2, 6-4) and that really caused some strong emotions in my heart to come out. That was old Amy Frazier destroying a super star in tennis and Daniela just put the towel over her face between each change over, I am sure hiding the fact that she was crying. Listen to me WTA, do something please before we regret what might happen, she needs help now. Daniela, please remember we love you okay.
Nadia Petrova (8th Seed)
Nadia looked very strong in her practice sessions and I had hoped for a good run from her. This was my first time watching her play. Nadia lost in her first match against Maria Vento-Kabchi (6-1, 7-6(4)) who turned out to be one of the best players at this event finally taken out by Capriati in the Semifinals. Nadia had a very rough first-set as she seemed to have a back problem. Her trainer was called out several times to stretch and massage her back. The first set seemed as if Nadia just could not move well but also she was up against a very strong tennis player that worked her very hard. Nadia was not keeping up with the pace. The second set Nadia started to get better (perhaps the back was warming up). Nadia tried very hard to win the set but the tall Russian just lost in the tie break by three games and it was all over. Nadia was the first match I watched of a seeded player and it was a sign of how this tournament was going to go (all my favorites dropped early).
Jelena Dokic (5th Seed)
Jelena came out against Alexandra Stevenson the day after I watched Stevenson destroy Teryn Ashley in a very hot match. Stevenson had the nerve to say she would have Dokic the next day as if she would destroy Jelena. Letís just say I had watched Jelena for several days before the match and she is different this year. Much thinner and more mature. She is very much more independent and lady like. On the other hand she is not as nice of a person as she was last year. The wonderful smile is gone when you talk to her. Her new coach seemed like a nice guy as they worked out talking in Serbian (not that I can do that). But Jelena is not the same with her Mom gone and on her own, perhaps she is struggling this year and has become more serious. I did notice rather quickly that Jelena was growing very tired of my camera. Regardless of the changes Jelena is still Jelena. Very pretty and a very sweet natured and I noticed she loves kids a great deal, perhaps she is thinking about that for herself? I did talk to a press person that had a story for me. At the event in the pressroom, one press person, was verbally attacked by Jelena and an official over something the poor guy wanted to write about Jelena in an interview he had done with her. The yelling went something like, you can't print that it is personal information, so it seems that IMG and LBH are in fact trying to control what is said about the players?
Okay back to the first match against Stevenson. Jelena walked out and she looked smashing in a white and red Fila outfit. Amazing is all I can say. But the amazing thing was Jelena just started from the first serve with her steam engine sound and power game and ran all over poor Stevenson (6-3, 6-2). Stevenson has always been borderline in the mental toughness area and she just fill apart with in a few games as Jelena was just to fast for her. The match was over after about 4 games but Stevenson called her trainer out complaining about a shoulder problem, to the spectators she was getting her butt kicked and the tactic was a stall for time. I was all smiles as it looked like Jelena was on fire, I started to think she might have it, Jelena might be able to win this event.
The second match was against Maria Vento-Kabchi who had just taken out Petrova and smashed through
Jidkova. Jelena came out and struggled hard as they both exchanged blows and it looked very even. Jelena lost the first set and it seemed to take the wind from Jelena. Interestingly Jelena has a new serve this year. In the past Jelena was considered one of the fastest players in the WTA on her serve. This year she never went above 98 mph and the serve is much slower but perhaps it goes in more. She starts the serve with the racquet up in the air above her head, so it is not a full motion serve. By the second set the serve started to fail for Jelena and the frustration was noticeable, Jelena just gave up after a couple of games in the second set (even the steam sound she makes stopped). It was not a pretty site and was shocking. Comparing the first match to the second match it looked like two different people. One thing is for sure, Jelena will give up as soon as it does not go her way. That is a real problem in tennis. To sum this up I could tell that Jelena does not have the great attitude she had last year, but with all her problems that is understandable.
Jennifer Capriati (3rd Seed)
Jen came to the event on Tuesday and I first noticed her working out and I was a little shocked at first, as this is the first time I have watched Jen. What I can say is she was out of shape and very heavy. The stomach was rather noticeable, this is the worst I have ever observed Jen and was nothing like her photos or past match coverage. Lets just say Jen is rather big compared to most female tennis players. At first I have to say I started to disrespect the little chubby girl but by the end of the week I became amazed by Jennifer Capriati. She is rather delightful to watch in her matches. In fact all of Jenís matches were the best at this event. I have already mentioned the two great matches against Bartoli and Raymond. I think the Raymond match was by far the best I watched. Jen won the first set 6-1 and it was a blow out. To be honest I am a big Raymond fan and I wanted her to win. I was making all the supporting yells I could to Lisa between points and in the second set Lisa started to get the fans behind her and it looked like Lisa could win this match with her slicing and drop shots. Letís just say Jen is a Master of tennis and I am sure knows more about the game than anyone at this event. Jen did something amazing. On a serve Jen did not agree with the call of the serve. So Jen slammed her racquet to the ground and got very upset, the stadium was starting to fog up as it was late and very cold, it was surreal, then Jen said some bad word to the chair official and got a code violation. This got all the fans excited and back on her side and I think I was the only one still supporting Lisa Raymond in the match. That is how it went down and it was all over as Jen just hammered out the win (6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4). As I predicted Capriati would be in the final as she just next slammed through Vento-Kabchi (6-4, 6-4). To sum it up Jen has a cannon of an arm and hits harder than anyone at this event and she is very smart. Always in the right area and knows were to put the ball Jen was amazing and made some amazing shots. Jenís only fault is that she is not in the greatest shape. As I predicted Jen did great against Clijsters in the final the first set but the truth is Clijsters is the most fit person I observed at this tournament and she just ran Jen into the ground as time went on. After the first set in the final it was all over for Jen as she could not keep up with Kim Clijsters (4-6, 6-4, 6-2).
Kim Clijsters (2nd Seed)
It is really simple, Kim was the most fit person at this event, in fact Kim is just amazing. After the first day I watched Kim play I knew that she would have no one at this event able to stop her from being the champion. Kimís first match was against Amber Liu the NCAA champion and it was Amberís second WTA match. All I have to say is this was just wrong. Shame on you WTA for letting Amber play someone of Kimís ability her second match, what are you guys thinking. This was more than a slaughter, it was just wrong and the stadium was so strange as we all felt so sorry for Amber. The score was 6-1, 6-1 but I can tell you the two games Kim gave to Amber were Kimís way of being nice. This was not a match at all and Kim did not even get warmed up. This match was a fine example of what went wrong at this tournament as qualifiers were thrust into fill the many openings. Poor Amber was just shaking on her chair between change over and her legs were shaking badly. Imagine coming from college to face the second best player in the world. Kimís best matches are the one mentioned with Marie and the final with Capriati. Both matches had the same out come as Kim lost the first set to heavy hitters but was in so much better shape that she just ran both of them into the ground as they got tired. I watched in the Marie match Kim sliding so hard she actually ripped the sole of her shoe off, she had to change shoes. Is Kim amazing, well hell yes. If anyone wants to have a role model in tennis to follow Kim is the one to be like. Kim Clijsters is flat out the best female tennis player I have ever watched play the game.
Other Tennis Players
Okay there are so many cool tennis players at this event so I will mention some that caught my eye and did things I thought was cool.
I went to play tennis each morning at the courts on the other side of the university and even played a match in the Stadium on Sunday, but I noticed this one player Marie-Gaianeh Mikaelian working out at a court next to mine each morning with her Mom. I thought who is that over weight girl she must be a doubles player or something, I never gave it a second thought. She actually looked over at me many times and one time just watched me looking right into my eyes it was even a little scary, as if she wanted something or maybe wanted to play or what ever, I just let it go and did nothing. I had no idea I was working out next to the hardest hitting person at this event. She took out Meghann Shaughnessy (in perhaps the hottest match at this event) and then was kicking Clijsters butt and won the first set in that match. I feel that if she was in better shape she could beat Clijsters. I was working out next to what really was perhaps the 3rd or 4th best player at this event and I did not even know who she was. How funny life is. I told her after the Shaughnessy match that she was such a good tennis player, she had a huge smile. I wonder if she knew I had no idea who she was as we both worked out at the same courts.
I have to say this because my new role model is Lisa Raymond. Tough, hard and with the best attitude at this event (Clijsters also had a great attitude). I watched Lisa and every match she played in was a hard match and she is just amazing. Lisa does not ever give up. I wish so much I was half as tough as this women. Also Cara Black and Lisa won the doubles championship this week, both are great doubles players.
Okay one last note, I found that I really enjoyed talking to and watching Laura Granville and Meghann Shaughnessy they are both real sweet people and had hard matches that did not go their way but I just loved their reactions and behavior, just two wonderful people.
This trip cost me $1000, I very much loved the tennis and I had a great time, however IMG and LBH and their security staff acted like brutes at times and that better change our they will not keep people coming to the event. Also the general average age of the people at this event was over 60. Interest in the sport needs to be worked on and I think the organization can back off and let us take photos with real cameras and have more autograph opportunities. This stuffy behavior is abusive in nature and causes frustration, as fans just want to have some freedom to watch the players working out. Get the second court back in the stadium and remember it is the fans that make the money for you so give the fans what they want. Itís simple. Also, it would help if you have clear information for people trying to get tickets.
I observed all the tennis players at this event and I did not talk about doubles so if you have any questions you can contact me at:
I want to thank the Glass Slipper for giving me their best room for the week.