With lead-up grass tournaments in London and Spain among others, the ATP and WTA are preparing for Wimbledon on June 27, 2016. Here are my top five tennis moments this week.
5. Coaching Go-round. While Nick Kyrigios still refuses to hire a coach, Stan Wawrinka has hired Richard Krajicek as a grass specialist coach; they will work together for four weeks. Hired in 2013, Magnus Norman remains as his primary coach. Wawrinka’s lost his first grass match to Verdasco 6-2, 7-6 (3) showing no hint of how Krajicek will tweak his game for Wimbledon. Conversely, John McEnroe has joined Milos Raonic‘s coaching team (Riccardo Piatti and Carlos Moya) and helped him defeat Nick Kyrigios on grass 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. Andy Murray also won his first match under Lendl’s renewed tutelage.
Though Andy Roddick was the first with a super coach, it was Murray’s success four years ago that triggered the trend that has become the norm. The pairing hope to strike gold at the Olympics and maybe, win Wimbledon for the second time, halting Djokovic’s grand slam prospect. It is a bit troubling that Murray can only focus and quell his on court outbursts when he works with Lendl. For all his physical strength and conditioning, Murray would do well to work with a sport psychologist to address this issue instead of becoming dependent on Lendl. Coaches can easily become surrogates for players’ needs or deficiencies. Who on a player’s team is responsible for avoiding this? There is no indication how long the pair will work this time around, so let’s hope Lendl helps Murray in ways he can sustain sans this particular super coach.
4. Simona Halep pulls out of Aegon Classic with Achilles injury. While this maybe cautionary, this does not bode well for the Romania’s number one. Opting out of this Wimbledon warm-up may just be a sign of what is to come for the remainder of Halep’s year. This season her results have been lackluster. Halep appears to be experiencing an extending ‘sophomore slump,’ losing in early rounds, citing a litany of injuries and an inability to focus on the court. No doubt, she has had a lot thrown at her with stalkers and the unfiltered admiration of an entire nation, but she needs to develop healthy coping mechanisms quickly.
3. Documentary Serena set to air on Epix beginning June 22. Serena is seriously in danger of overexposure. This is her third or fourth documentary. It is feature-length, executive produced by Peter Berg, and focuses on the external pressures and vulnerabilities Williams faces in her quest to achieve four Grand Slams in a row (a “Serena Slam”), and her losses at the 2015 U.S. Open and 2016 Australian Open. Though I may not invest the time next week to watch this, I did see the premiere pictures and Serena looked stunning! The dress, color and fit, and her styling all worked well. She looked beautiful and filled with joy.
2. Maria Sharapova and Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have agreed to an expedited and confidential appeal. The final decision will be announced by July 18, 2016. As we await the decision, it is clear that her supporters have dwindled significantly with the release of the Tribunal’s full report. Though, NY Times Freelance Reporter Ben Rothenberg has been leading the Maria deserves an appeal band on his timeline, where he said, “Crux of Sharapova’s argument as was mine on @NCR_Tennis, on day she announced is that ITF should have done more to notify her of change.” More are weighing in, labeling her as privileged and a cheater/doper. Others are poking holes in the doping system that has tarnished its star: notification, lack of scientific studies and an understanding of the drug.
With nearly three hundred athletes identified, the ITF has now banned a Ukranian doctor, Dr. Elena Dorofeyeva, for four years for giving a banned substance to WTA player Kateryna Kozlova. Surprisingly, legal opinions suggest that a reduction of the ban is likely and tennis insiders like Tennis Channel’s Justin Gimelstob also suggested that a reduction would be granted. World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) refusal to use its appeal power, suggests it either supports the Tribunal’s verdict, or more likely it does not want to weigh into the case. Jon Wertheim‘s Sports Illustrated Mailbag response captures the importance and incredulity of Sharapova’s appeal. The New York Times‘s lengthy and scathing investigative piece on WADA will have you question the agency’s value and the state of sports.
1. Looking forward to the possibility of an All-American final at Birmingham. Let’s hope Keys and Vandeweghe put their best foot forward in their respective semi-final matches. They will take the court against players with games that can disrupt their power/aggressive games. Madison Keys secured her semifinal perch with a win over Jelena Ostapenko 6(1)-7, 6-4, 6-2. She will play Carla Suarez Navarro not only for a spot in the final, but a top ten ranking. Coco Vandeweghe is set to play Barbara Strycova in the semifinal having put away Yanina Wickmayer 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinal.
BONUS: Happy Birthday Venus Williams
What were your top tennis moments this week? Enjoy the weekend!