On the Tennis and Bagels Podcast, Andre (stay tuned for his origin story) told Vansh and Owen about his experience in Madrid covering the Davis Cup for Tennis Canada. A discussion of the evolving Peng Shuai story is at the beginning of this podcast, and a quick debate over whether Novak Djokovic will play the Australian Open is at the end. Here are links to listen.
Tennis Origin Story #6: Damian Kust
By Damian Kust
I vaguely remember watching some tennis on TV back in 2010/2011, but the first match that truly got me glued to the silver screen was the 2012 Australian Open final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Almost six hours of incredibly intense baseline rallies, you really couldn’t stop following it once you started. Watching a tennis match from beginning to end wasn’t natural for me at the time, but these two made it happen.
My first favorite player was Roger Federer. Boring, I know. But it was his London Olympics semifinal against Juan Martin Del Potro which was perhaps an even more important experience for me than the aforementioned Australian Open final. The way he played the sport was something I found ridiculously entertaining and appealing visually. The match was held on grass too, which allowed the competitors to make use of all-court tactics quite frequently, something that’s certainly a soft spot of mine.
The thrill of watching that 19-17 deciding set, this time with a clear favorite in my head, was just something else. From then onwards, I was perhaps more a Federer fan than a tennis admirer. As I got into the sport “professionally” and got to understand it better, I became a lot more toned down, objective if you may. That’s not to say the Swiss legend isn’t my idol anymore, that hasn’t changed. The emotions I feel during his matches and his wins or loses just aren’t the same anymore. I sometimes miss that side of following tennis, but I think I’ve just changed for good. An absolute peak of my Federer maniac period was the 2017 Australian Open final.
My first experience watching tennis live was at the 2013 Davis Cup World Group Play-Offs between Poland and Australia. My father and I traveled to Warsaw for the first two days of the tie, mostly wanting to see Jerzy Janowicz and the Australian stars. The former didn’t pan out as we hoped as the Pole withdrew and was just there to support his teammates. However, the latter came out better than we could have known at the time. Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic were both really impressive, despite our federation’s choice of forcing them to play on indoor clay.
Doubles was expected to be an easy point for us, but the excellent pairing of Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg struggled for five sets against Chris Guccione and this big-serving Australian teen, whom we had never heard of before. Seeing that prodigy dispatch Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon next year was a real treat, a first sort of “I saw it coming moment”.
It would then take me almost five years to show up at another live tennis event, but this one would change me even more. In terms of men’s tournaments in Poland, we haven’t had a tour-level one since 2008, so to have it convenient it had to be a Challenger. This time on my own, I decided to go to Gdynia three years ago. Not following the lower circuits too much before, there were a lot of players I have very little knowledge of. I mostly recognized the veterans like Tommy Robredo, Paolo Lorenzi, or Daniel Gimeno-Traver. The latter two would later contest a brilliant final, which lasted almost three hours and had me completely hooked.
But it wasn’t about the quality of that match. The great surprise was how good every single player was in the field. Seeing that tennis at Challengers has so little drop-off in quality compared to what I was used to was just shocking. Lots of the players I saw in Gdynia that year have gone on to achieve a lot more in this sport – Casper Ruud (!), Hugo Dellien, Oscar Otte, Zdenek Kolar…the list goes on. While it wasn’t until the first Challenger I entered as a member of the media (Szczecin 2019) that I would start following that circuit on a daily basis, this was certainly an eye-opening experience. Over the next couple of years, I decided to try to keep promoting that favorite tour of mine and make it more approachable to the public.
So, why tennis and not any other sport? Truth be told, I don’t really know. I certainly enjoy individual sports far more than team ones and the fact that I love playing it (albeit at a very recreational level) definitely helps. It was a set of random experiences (coincidences?) that got me to start watching it in the first place, but once I did, there was no going back. For better or for worse. There’s just nothing else in the world that excites me more than a young talented prospect, a great underdog story, or just a well-crafted point capped off with a perfect volley.
Tennis Origin Story #5: Nick Carter
By Nick Carter
Hi, my name is Nick and this is my tennis origin story. I am 27 years old and I live near Stoke-On-Trent in the UK. I have many interests, but tennis is the one I probably sink the most time into.
Tennis has always been a part of my life. My mum always had Wimbledon on the TV, so I have faded memories of seeing the green grass and white lines on a 1990s screen. Whilst Dad also likes the sport, it was always the interest I share the most with Mum. I’ve been told that when I was very small, my parents made a makeshift tennis court in the back garden and play against each other, with me in the middle sat in my high chair “umpiring”. Sadly, there is no photographic evidence of this. However, it shows that I have always been up for watching tennis.
I honestly couldn’t tell you what drew me initially to watching two people hitting a small fuzzy ball across a net at each other. Maybe it was the bright colours, with green, yellow and white standing out from the television screen. But something always made me want to go out and hit a tennis ball like they did. Now, I only had a plastic racquet and a foam ball but every summer I would watch tennis then go and hit something against a wall. I would pretend I was playing against Pete Sampras, Tim Henman or Venus Williams. Although I gave it a go a few times growing up, I struggled to find a welcoming environment in local clubs and didn’t have any serious coaching until I was 15. Even now, I struggle to find someone to regularly compete against.
My love of tennis exploded as a teenager, specifically around 2007-08. There were two reasons for this. The first was that I finally saw a tennis player that really captured my imagination: Roger Federer. Before I watched him play, I hadn’t really appreciated all the game could be. I was taken in by his flowing movement, magnificent one-handed backhand and of course his killer forehand. It has to be said, I really liked his brand of being the old school player, the traditional gentleman. Interestingly, in the years since I’ve come to appreciate how for all this, Federer is actually a really aggressive and offensive player, ruthless when at his best. To my younger self, he was cool in the face of any challenge and this appealed to me.
The second reason was that I discovered the Eurosport UK Channel. My family had recently got a Satellite TV packageand one morning in 2007 I was flicking channels and I stumbled across the French Open. I hadn’t watched any tennis outside of Wimbledon before, so of course I stopped to watch. I was hooked, watching Justine Henin win yet again at Roland Garros and finally seeing how much Rafael Nadal was a threat to Federer. Then the Australian Open rolled round in 2008, and I remember being stunned seeing Novak Djokovic upset Federer and then beating this (to me) new kid called Jo-Wilfred Tsonga to win his first Grand Slam title.
By 2009, I was checking the results on the ATP Tour siteregularly, watching the Australian Open and Roland Garros on Eurosport and gorging on Wimbledon when it rolled round. I couldn’t watch the US Open as my family didn’t have Sky Sports (I had to go to someone else’s house to watch Andy Murray win in 2012). Not doing things by halves, I learned all I can about the history of the sport, creating a spreadsheet with all the major winners ever (which I still update to this day). You may have noticed I was only checking the ATP results. It wasn’t that I didn’t watch the women’s game but the rivalry between the “Big Four” and the GOAT debate had completely captivated me. Federer is still my favourite player, but I came to appreciate the physicality of Djokovic and Nadal, and being British I had to root for Murray. Actually, I always supported Murray in every match (apart from against Federer) as I wanted him to step out of the shadow of the other three.
By this point, I was becoming more appreciative of the nuances of the game, mostly because I was now playing it myself. I realised that it was more than playing style, that there was an intricate technique behind every shot. This is something I really like about tennis, and to be honest I don’t really see in the same way in other sports. There is always more thought than you think going into the shot, and these players choose and execute their plays in fractions of a second. I find this to be so unique. What else I find fascinatingis the dual mental and physical challenge of maintaining peak performance in one-on-one competition. However, when it comes down to it, what really draws me to the sport, the contests it creates are completely unique. I am always gripped by the rivalry taking place in that moment in time, waiting to see who will emerge victorious from the struggle. I still don’t fully understand all the technical aspects of how the game is played, if I am being really honest. But I can read a player’s body language, I can follow the passage of play, and I live for the competition. I watch tennis in the hope of the contest to come gripping my attention for the next few hours. I also watch tennis to see the next chapter in the personal journey of the players involved, whether it is to climb the mountain of greatness (like Djokovic or Serena Williams) or to win a small but significant victory on the day.
So, what am I excited for in tennis at the moment? I’m enjoying seeing a new generation finally able to compete against Djokovic and Nadal on the ATP Tour. I’m hoping that Roger Federer can end his career well and that Andy Murray can produce one last hurrah. Seeing this new crop of WTA Players coming through as well is absolutely fascinating. In particular, I’m thinking of players such as Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Leylah Fernandez and of course Emma Raducanu. To be honest, I’m more excited for the future of women’s tennis than men’s tennis right now.
However, on an emotional level I am really looking forward to going to see tennis in person again. I finally got to take my mum to Wimbledon in 2018 and again in 2019, this time to sit in Centre Court. She had never been before, and to me this was a thank you to her for introducing me to this sport that has captivated me so much. We will always have tennis to share with each other, so even if I wasn’t obsessed with it now, I will continue to watch Wimbledon with her as I always have.
Baseline Media: Serves Are Too Effective
We all know the serve is the most important shot in the game, but is the serve starting to become too powerful? Baseline Media thinks so, and they have some ideas for how to fix the potential problem of huge servers dominating tennis, limiting entertaining long rallies.
Click this link to watch, or you can watch the video from this page.
Double Faults and Dominoes
Leads are precarious in tennis. You can be ahead, but as soon as you stop playing better than your opponent, that lead will wither. There’s no clock there to save you from a backward slide. This is why mentality is so important: a player can be cruising, but a seemingly random point can cause their carefully built staircase to victory to implode violently.
At the U.S. Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas led Carlos Alcaraz 3-6, 6-4, 5-2, 40-15. Alcaraz had sprinted out of the blocks with alarming speed, but Tsitsipas fought from a break down in the second, then served it out after falling behind love-40. He broke Alcaraz twice in the third, and with two set points behind his imperious serve, a decisive two-sets-to-one lead seemed inevitable.
Tsitsipas missed his first serve at 40-15, then went big on the second and missed that as well. No big deal, right? Here was another set point at 40-30. But when Tsitsipas misfired on another first serve, it’s hard to imagine the double fault on the previous point didn’t get in his head a bit. You’ve gotta make this one; two straight double faults would be terrible. He spun in a soft second serve and Alcaraz drilled a forehand return winner. The young Spaniard shook the head of his racket back and forth a few times in a brief show of positivity.
Tsitsipas would gain another set point, but the game had become a scrap. Alcaraz burned him with backhand passes on consecutive points, then barged forward himself to punch away an easy volley. One break had been retrieved, but the shift in momentum didn’t stop there. Alcaraz got his easiest hold of the match; 4-5 from 2-5, 15-40. Tsitsipas erred on a pair of backhands. After the second, he pantomimed the motion, looking confused rather than frustrated. Alcaraz was nodding to his box, looking fiercely determined but also calmer, despite still being behind.
Alcaraz hit a dynamite half-volley, forcing an error. Two break points for 5-all. The crowd went nuts. Tsitsipas saved one break point, screaming in what sounded more like desperation than defiance. He saved another. More screams, a trio of them this time. They’re not loud enough to beat back the suddenly unrelenting errors. Alcaraz breaks again.
Over the next few hours, Tsitsipas won six straight games to win the fourth set and Alcaraz won tiebreaks in the third and fifth. Fans will remember Alcaraz’s second serve ace to save break point at 5-all in the crucial third set and his spree of winners in the tiebreaks, as they should. Sometimes one needs a lifeline from their opponent to truly show their potential. We may never have known the upper reaches of Rafael Nadal’s tenacity had Djokovic’s forehand not imploded in the fourth set tiebreak of the 2012 Australian Open final. The inverse can also be true; Djokovic’s insane mental and physical endurance may never have fully been apparent had Nadal not pushed the match to a fifth.
Alcaraz finished the year in arguably better form than a physically ailing Tsitsipas, despite being ranked over 30 spots lower. Did that double fault at 5-2, 40-15 change things? It couldn’t have been responsible for Tsitsipas pulling out of the World Tour Finals and undergoing surgery not long after. But I’d argue that if Tsitsipas makes his second serve on that point, Alcaraz doesn’t start holding up that #1 finger later in the match (a ranking that he’s still several steps away from but that everyone now thinks he’ll attain: when, not if), he doesn’t crumple to the ground in victory a split-second before his final inside-out forehand winner disappears into one of those rectangular gaps in the advertising board on Arthur Ashe, and that he’d be viewed more as a very promising young talent rather than the next thing.
None of this is to criticize Tsitsipas, or to say that Alcaraz’s comeback wasn’t incredible, his hype undeserved. But it is intriguing to look back at those moments, that stretch where you go from enjoying a close match to thinking Wait, is Alcaraz a better hard court player than Tsitsipas? It might have happened anyway, all of it, the comeback in the third and the resurgence in the fifth and the five-set win over Gojowczyk in the next round and the easy win at the NextGen finals. Yet it might have happened very differently, or not at all, had Alcaraz’s opponent not double faulted while up a double break and double set point.
Tennis dominoes fall in weird ways, sometimes doing exactly what you’d expect, sometimes surprising you, sometimes deciding to ignore the laws of physics altogether. There exists a pattern that’s relatively consistent, for which I’ll turn to Rowan Ricardo Phillips’s The Circuit to express it better than I ever could: “One step in the wrong direction in the middle of one point can cause an avalanche that sweeps away any advantage, no matter its size.”
It might not always, but it can, and because it can it’s always a possibility the tennis player needs to be aware of, to snuff out every match if they’re able. The advantage can be mid-match or it can be mid-career; a championship point sometimes represents a player’s last chance to win a tournament. Ask Guillermo Coria.
The truth — sad for the players, tantalizing for the fans — is that this step in the wrong direction can seem harmless, but it’s equally possible that the error can give birth to a monster, a monster who knocks you out of a tournament or surpasses you or maybe decides just to eat you, body and soul.
Murray Musings: Peng Shuai and the Year-End Finals
On the 41st episode of the Murray Musings Podcast, Scott, Claire, and Peter discussed the evolving Peng Shuai story, plus details on the WTA and ATP finals. Here are links to listen.
Tennis Origin Story #4: Jake Williams
By Jake Williams
My tennis career started at a very young age where my dad introduced me to the sport along with my two older brothers. We began playing casually on our local park courts in Bedfordshire. My dad was involved with the RAF where he played for the men’s teams and even competed at Wimbledon for the Air Force. My passion for the sport, however, did not begin until I was seven, when I joined my local club: Halton Tennis Centre. I got involved with the junior sessions on Thursday and quickly improved until I was able to compete in the county team for Buckinghamshire. As I progressed and developed I realised my love for the sport would follow suit and in turn I found myself playing most days with my brothers for up to three hours at a time.
It wasn’t until I turned 12 that I thought I could take this seriously. I entered a few county and regional tournaments and began to pick up a few wins here and there. As I began to play tennis more and more I noticed other priorities, such as hanging out with friends, took the backseat. This did not bother me as I was so enveloped in what I was doing and the results that came from my weekly training and coaching sessions were evidence enough to me to try to pursue this career. By the age of 14 I was playing in national events and consistently making county teams.
I had individual coaching sessions before this but no coach really stood out until James Morgan. James was a very established coach at the time and he had been at Halton for over 10 years. Once James had taken me on as one of his players the dynamic between coach and player clicked automatically. James knew what I needed to improve and ended up shaping my technique into what it is today. There are many hardships you go through as a tennis player and my coach always played a big role in helping me overcome those obstacles, along with my dad. As a junior tennis player I was extremely passionate about the sport and sometimes it was easy for my temper to get the best of me when a match wasn’t going my way. This is where my dad taught me how to control these emotions and not let them drag my performance down. I specifically remember playing a challenging match at the St Georges Hill tournament, I was a set down and felt as if nothing was going my way. My childish demeanour on court was affecting my performance and stopping me from playing my game. During the second set I took a tumble during the point at which time I was ready to give up until my dad came on court, picked me up and told me to “man up and get on with the match.” I understand this may seem harsh to some but I see it now as tough love and I ended up taking the third set tie-break 10-5. This moment will forever stick in my mind and was a pivotal point in my career and mental development.
Tennis was a passion of mine that I don’t plan to give up anytime soon. It’s helped shape me into the person I am today, as well as help me achieve many things I wouldn’t have thought to be possible. One of my highlights as a tennis player would have to be playing in the 18&U National event at Nottingham, competing in both singles and doubles. I was also fortunate enough to earn an athletic scholarship in the States where I played tennis for Southern Utah university. This four year experience is something I will never forget and in turn has built another platform to my ledger.
So where am I now? Well, I’m still playing tennis and I’m currently enrolled at Leeds Beckett University where I play for the men’s second team coupled with studying my masters degree in journalism. Even though I’m 22, I still love tennis and I won’t be hanging up my rackets anytime soon. In fact, I can’t wait for what is in store for me.
Tennis Origin Story #3: David Gertler
By David Gertler
I rushed home from school, my heart vibrating against my chest. I wasn’t expecting this. How could I? Serena had never lost in the first round before, how could I ever expect this journeywoman named Virginie Razzano to challenge, let alone come close to beating an all-time great?
But, that’s the reality that faced me as I hurried into my house and turned on a grainy tennis feed to watch the unheralded Razzano take down Williams in three sets, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. The adulating crowd’s cheers felt like spikes raining down on me.
But, I realized in hindsight, that this was a defining moment in my sports fandom. A casual tennis fan might shrug off the loss, saying to themselves “Ok that sucks…when does Nadal play?”
For me, this meant something more. I felt true emotions about that match and the outcome. I wanted Serena to come back strong and prove that, despite the pulmonary embolism that nearly cost her everything.
For the rest of the 2012 season, I lived and died by Serena’s Wimbledon and US Open matches. I sat on the edge of my seat as she somehow survived roadblock matches against Zheng Jie and Yaroslava Shvedova at Wimbledon. I cheered with pure joy as she won the Wimbledon title in three sets over Aga Radwanska.
I agonized over her tight US Open final against Victoria Azarenka, feeling more relief than anything else.
Feeling relief instead of joy was yet another indication that I was truly becoming a die-hard fan.
I had always liked tennis, playing it for fun when I was younger and enjoying the strategic battles that often reminded me more of chess than any other sport.
I had been a casual fan for quite some time, but it was truly that Serena-Razzano match that made tennis something more than that for me.
From there, I started watching more and more, and by 2014 had really gotten into the ATP Challenger Tour as well.
The Challenger Tour interested me because it was truly the defining stage of men’s tennis. Young prospects trying to make it to the top of the game, journeymen playing out their career, injured players trying to make their comeback, it was all on display on the free-to-watch Challenger streams.
The ATP Challenger Tour separated the future stars from the players that would flame out. Played in front of sparse crowds for (way-too-little) money, it showed who was willing to put it all out there for their career as a professional tennis player.
It was so cool, for instance, to see Frances Tiafoe grow into the player he is today. Tiafoe lost his first five Challenger finals, four in three sets, and his first three from a set up.
Yet, Tiafoe persevered and finally won one, beating Marcelo Arevalo in the 2016 Granby Challenger. From Granby until now, Tiafoe has won six Challenger finals in a row and even has an ATP Tour title to his name in Delray Beach.
Watching players navigate the Challenger Tour almost feels like you’re watching them grow up.
It’s this combination of high-quality tennis and players’ individual stories, both inside and outside the sport, that make tennis such a cool sport to follow.
And I don’t plan to stop following the sport anytime soon.
Tennis Origin Story #2: Jack Edward
By Jack Edward
It all started 18 years ago.
My mum dropped me off in Stamperland, a suburb on the outskirts of Glasgow, to try my hand at tennis for the first time. I picked up my racket, set foot on the blaes courts (Scotland’s finest version of clay) and started hitting a few balls.
The feelings it inspired in me… Tedium. Indifference. Disinterest.
Who in their right mind would want to hit a wee yellow ball back and forth all day?
So, em, yeah, sorry, let’s start again. I was never forced into loving tennis – instead, our relationship grew naturally due to the irresistible charm of Andy Murray.
It all started 10 years ago. My mum gifted me a ticket to a Davis Cup tie at Braehead Arena with the caveat that we supported Andy from start to finish.
The speed of the ball. The atmosphere. The swearing. It was an entrancing spectacle that inspired me to get out there and do it myself.
From there, playing and Andy became an addiction. I’d get myself down to the tennis club to knock that wee yellow ball back and forth three or four times a week – the thrill of saving a match point, the adrenaline rush of nailing a forehand down the line, the competition, the community, all of it constantly drawing me back for more.
As for the Andy addiction – well, who could keep their eyes off of Andy over the next few years? Stomaching a heartbreaking Wimbledon loss was quickly rewarded with a jaw-dropping Olympic gold medal followed swiftly by a stroke-inducing US Open title. I remember being in a wee pub in Barcelona when Andy won Wimbledon (seemingly the only Scots for miles going by our unreciprocated celebrations), going mental court-side when Andy lobbed Goffin in Belgium (that’s me below doing the cheesy thumbs up), staying up late at a bar in Krakow to watch Andy win his second Olympic title and sitting in court 2 watching Andy dispatch Milos on the big screen in 2016 – so much adventure tied to the dour Scot’s crowning achievements!
Perhaps Andy started as a love born of nationalism rather than his tennis but it became clear to me I’d backed the right horse… Andy’s story is legendary: in the Golden Era of tennis, when the three greatest players of all time ruled their respective surfaces, a mere mortal from Dunblane cussed and scrapped his way to world #1, cementing his own spot among tennis’s elite.
It’s all those memories of David beating Goliath that are eternally etched into my memories, that will always inspire and motivate me to reach for more.
So that’s how it all started. Whether I was playing or watching, tennis had become a part of me – so last year, I accepted my fate, quitting my job in engineering to pursue my passion. I’m working hard to get a blog and podcast off the ground, never forgetting my roots by imbuing my work with stats and analyses aplenty. I keep myself afloat by coaching some kids, a gig I don’t think I’ll ever take for granted.
I absolutely love it.
Sure, there are times where me and tennis haven’t gotten on (I still can’t serve for taffy). Sure, being an Andy fan nowadays is frustrating at the best of times. But there’s never any use in me denying it – this sport means so much to me!
Hopefully it shines through in my work.
Association of Terrible Principles
By Scott Barclay and Owen Lewis
It said a whole lot that the statement said nothing much.
A few paragraphs of puff-pastry wording that crumbled as you read it, flaking in your eyes as you scoured it looking for an acknowledgment of actual action that never really materialised, fading far too quickly into only a promise to merely monitor.
It seemed weak.
This was Andrea Gaudenzi’s spongy reply to Steve Simon’s trigger-pull over the question marks that continue to hang over the safety of a human being.
Simon, the head of the WTA, announced just yesterday that the lucrative Asian swing that comes with the turning of temperature and the browning of leaves every year would be suspended until free and open communication with Peng Shuai could be properly established.
The ATP chairman’s response has been just the opposite; a shanked Federer backhand the point after he struck a clean winner down the line. There was almost a pleading vibe to his message, an appeal for some sort of an understanding as to why exactly they weren’t going to stand and be counted. Mentions of the positive global influence that tennis has and the need for that to continue in spite of all else seemed coldly apathetic, especially coming as it did in the wake of such a clearly positive action of intent from across the aisle.
Indeed, perhaps it’s not an aisle but more of a yawning chasm, a canyon that separates the ATP and the WTA in a moment that called for a combined showing of strength in the face of fear. The WTA undoubtedly hoped for help but find themselves alone and magnified by their willingness to stun the sporting world with confidence unshakable.
Money over morals, is what the ATP is telling the world. Surely Andrea Gaudenzi isn’t happy with China’s total burial of Peng’s sexual assault allegations, but that doesn’t matter. If you don’t act in accordance with your morals, you may as well not have them at all.
The ATP is fine with this. They want money. The journalist Simon Häring tweeted today that Shanghai Juss Event Management Co. Ltd., a 10% shareholder of the ATP, is affiliated with the Chinese state. Pissing off China means pissing off a shareholder and losing money. And this, evidently, is enough for the ATP to surrender their morals, leaving Peng Shuai to the CCP and saying “I hope you’re safe” rather than condemn the CCP’s actions.
The Chinese Communist Party has historically been unwilling to budge in clashes with sports organizations. In the case of Daryl Morey and the NBA in 2019, the CCP reacted so fiercely to a single Morey tweet about standing with Hong Kong protesters that the NBA made Morey fear for his job as it desperately tried to reclaim its lost revenue from Chinese advertising and streaming.
Due to the rigidity of the CCP, support is needed alongside the WTA’s heroic stand. Tennis is a big product, a conglomerate of organizations on several different tours. One facet on its own doing the right thing is encouraging, but is hardly enough to make the CCP blink an eye. It’s the first chip to fall out of a brick wall, the first snowflake to melt on a thick scarf. A showing of unity when dealing with an issue of this genuinely life-altering magnitude would have underlined how serious the governing bodies of the sport we love are taking this.
So, how is it that the ATP is unwilling to stand behind its female counterpart, instead trying to hide behind brittle words that many were already saying two weeks ago? It is cowardly. Picture a team of people trying to bail water out of a flooding basement. The WTA works diligently, forming a smart plan of action and sticking to it, handing buckets smoothly up the stairs. The ATP fills a leaky thimble with water and runs out of the house.
Comically enough, the stances of the tours can be summed up well by the bio of their Twitter accounts. #ThisIsTennis, reads the bio of the ATP Tour Twitter account. We aren’t just men playing tennis, we are tennis. It’s arrogance without follow-through. In contrast, the WTA account’s bio reads “Championing women to compete fiercely and live fully. We do it for the game”. And the WTA have lived up to those words.
The ATP, meanwhile, now has a pattern of cowardice in tennis politics. Credible domestic abuse allegations against Alexander Zverev in late 2020 were met with complete silence. Even today, months after Olya Sharypova released a second set of allegations that were even more harrowing, the ATP continues to market Zverev as if nothing happened. There is supposedly an investigation into the allegations, of which we have heard nothing since it was announced months ago. They have made clear that they value profit over principle. Any show of quality on the ATP’s behalf is strictly limited to the good shots their players produce on court.
This could change easily. It wouldn’t have been hard to put out a stronger statement in support of Peng Shuai. But the spinelessness of the ATP has sent expectations hurtling through the ground and into Hell.
As such, don’t count on the ATP redeeming itself anytime soon.