Hello and welcome to the tenth issue of Tennis inbox. Ten issues already? In case you missed it, last week we published Part 2 of an interview with world #116 Chris O’ Connell. In the interview, O’ Connell gave his thoughts on what separates the top 200 from players ranked 500 to 800, traveling on the Futures and Challenger tours, and his rise from #1177 to #114 in the space of one year.
In this issue, we think about how lucky we are (were?) as tennis fans, see why the WTA pulled itself out of the upcoming Citi Open, and thank Wimbledon from the bottom of our hearts (on behalf of players around the world). Read on to find out more.
Waiting… with our fingers crossed
One of the ways that being a tennis fan is different is that we get to enjoy an outrageously long season. NFL fans can only enjoy their league for six months or so. NBA fans are a little luckier in that their season takes place over eight months (including the finals). But we tennis fans have been spoiled in this regard! Our season is so long. From the first balls hit in Australia in early January to the last ones hit in London and Shenzhen, we get to absorb nearly 11 months of our sport.
That’s why this extended break has been difficult. Normally it feels like there’s always something on for us to watch and talk about, whether that be on the ATP, WTA, or even Challenger Tours. Now all this waiting caused by the coronavirus is starting to get to us.
Sure, there have been plenty of exhibition events and competitive events, but we’re finding that we’re missing the regularity of the tennis season. And there is a specter which is hanging over our heads. The specter is the question: Is the tour really going to resume?
Given the situation with the coronavirus in the United States, where the first tournaments are scheduled to begin, is there a possibility that some of them might be cancelled? New York City mayor Bill de Blasio dispelled concerns for the US Open in an interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. When asked about the cancellation of large public events and how the US Open tied in with that initiative, de Blasio commented:
“This is one of the numbers of events where there’s going to be sports activities that we all love but without the audience. So people will be able to watch it on TV and we’ll keep the tradition going…. We’re not going to have crowds in the stands… but tennis will be coming back.”
The waiting and the uncertainty is getting to us… but we’ll be crossing our fingers that the tours can resume (in ways that ensure the safety of all participants).
The WTA pulls out of Citi Open, creates own events
The Citi Open, which has hosted both a men’s and women’s draw since 2011, will only host a men’s draw this year. Why? Sources apparently told ESPN that “the WTA was leery that it would have to play second-fiddle to the ATP in Washington, D.C.” The WTA has instead elected to host two events, one in Lexington, Kentucky and the other in Prague. With restrictions on travel still in place in parts of the world, and with many players reluctant to travel overseas due to the pandemic, the two events give an opportunity for European players to compete closer to home. The Citi Open kicks off on 14th August while the WTA events in Lexington and Prague are scheduled to take place around 10th to 16th August.
Wimbledon builds goodwill
On Friday 10th July, The All England Club announced that it would pay out a pot of £10m (~$12,545,000 USD) prize money to players who would have competed at Wimbledon this year. The All England Club can afford to do this because they had taken out pandemic insurance which “allowed them to refund ticket holders, broadcast partners and sponsors in the event of a pandemic.” The prize money being handed out is quite substantial and is being distributed as follows:
- £25,000 (~$31,355 USD) each for the 256 players in the singles main draws
- £12,500 (~$15,677 USD) each for the 224 players in singles qualifying
- £6,250 (~$7,838 USD) each for the 120 players in main draw doubles
- £6,000 (~$7,5255 USD) each for the 16 players in the wheelchair events
- £5,000 (~$6,271 USD) each for the four players in the quad wheelchair events
Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis said in the statement:
“Immediately following the cancellation of The Championships, we turned our attention to how we could assist those who help make Wimbledon happen. We know these months of uncertainty have been very worrying for these groups, including the players, many of whom have faced financial difficulty during this period and who would have quite rightly anticipated the opportunity to earn prize money at Wimbledon based on their world ranking.”
While sometimes seen as just a little too proper by players and fans alike, Wimbledon is sure to build goodwill with this move. Congratulatory tweets and thanks have been streaming in from the tennis world, commending The All England Club on its actions. The biggest boon is perhaps to the players in singles qualifying draws. Players at this level often rely on prize money from the qualifying draws of the four Grand Slams to help sustain and fund their careers.
Berrettini victorious in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown
When we first heard Patrick Mouratoglou’s ideas for a renovated and exciting new way of playing tennis, sure—we’ll admit it—we raised our eyebrows. Mouratoglou’s concept seemed, at that time, just a little too out there.
But as the UTS comes to an end, we’re happy to say that we’ve changed our minds. The format is innovative and interesting to watch in its own right. And we have to say that we quite enjoyed the mini-interviews that were conducted by Jenny Drummond and Pete Odgers at the end of quarters (and their commentary in general). Matteo Berrettini aka ‘The Hammer’ defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas aka ‘The Greek God’ in a sudden death fifth quarter to take the title.
But whether or not the UTS provides a blueprint for where tennis will end up decades from now remains to be seen. What are your thoughts on the Ultimate Tennis Showdown?
Pinpoint vs Platform
Tennis pros, weekend warriors, and technique fanatics around the world are in a perpetual state of disagreement whether the pinpoint stance or the platform stance yields a better serve. The pinpoint stance is also commonly known as the step-up serve. But the debate is settled for former top 100 pro Jeff Salzenstein, who made the switch from pinpoint to platform at the age of 28. According to Salzenstein, who is also a USPTA Elite Professional, one of the reasons that the platform is better is because of “the inability to turn and coil as well in the pinpoint [stance]—compared to the platform [stance].” Salzenstein makes the case that it’s easier to rotate, load the body, and use the back foot while using the platform stance. What do you serve with? Do you think Salzenstein’s assessment is accurate?
What racquets do the pros really use?
On Tuesday 21st July, we’ll publish a research article that details the types of racquets professionals use. It’ll include input from a Master Racquet Technician, and Jonas Eriksson (the founder of tennisnerd.net). It debunks some of the common ideas that tennis fans might have on racquet technology and what frames professionals really use. If you’re not already a subscriber but would like to receive that article straight to your inbox, you can sign up here.