Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Ultra Major?
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The Ultra Major? 11/20/2010 - 10:45 PM

Sod by Pete Bodo

If you're anything like me, you're thinking: Okay, let's get this baby over and done with. We're down to the last official tournament of the year, the ATP World Tour Final, and it's a big one—theoretically. But theory and reality are two different things, and the best we can say about the year-end championships is that it's a work in progress. Has been for a long time. Whether it can ever get where it purports to go, where many think it should go, is a question that remains unanswered.

Nobody ever seems really sure what to make of the YEC, by whatever name it travels under (that, I think, is part of the problem, but beyond our scope at the moment). This is, in a roundabout way, a testament to the four-cornered game that has proven to be remarkably resistant to alteration. Think about it: the four Grand Slam events have, for all practical purposes, been the only tournaments that really matter. That this has remained so despite the convulsions of the Open era, in which so many other aspects of the traditional game have fallen by the wayside, is remarkable. And it has to be discouraging for the visionaries who predicted or tried to effect a genuine revolution in how the game is adminstered and presented.

The four "majors" were once vulnerable and might have suffered a loss of status for various reasons. Instead they've grown stronger. This is a testament to how well-managed they've been in recent years. The Australian Open was dead in the water as recently as the early 1980s, due mainly to its awkward position on the calendar (it was once the final official tournament of the year, played during the holiday season). The timing of the event did not play well with players who were weary of travel and, much like today, prone to ask, When do we get some time off?

Fortunately for the status quo, the Australian Open re-invented itself with both a new date (it became the first Grand Slam of the year, played after an adequate interval for the holidays) and a new facility—an effective one-two punch that was bold, risky, and in retrospect, prescient.

Early in the Open era (we're talking about the 1970s) the French Open was woefully behind the times,  but an aggressive marketing strategy and infrasructural changes at the Roland Garros venue saved the day. It also didn't hurt that the advent of Open tennis helped break the Anglo-Australian stranglehold on the game. When players bred on red clay—think Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, Adriano Panatta—rose to stardom, they took the red dirt tournament with them. Borg stood heads and shoulders above the other emerging European stars, and he deserves credit (which he rarely gets) for making Roland Garros relevant in the pro era. He was at his very best on clay, but able to dominate world tennis. This raised the stock of clay enormously.

Murray The U.S. Open did not have Australia's awkward calendar slot, but like the Down Under Slam, it was stuck in a facility (the private West Side Tennis Club, in Forest Hills, NY) that was no longer appropriate in the Open era. The tournament always had two huge advantages: the popularity of tennis in the U.S. and the preponderance of top players who were American. Although those two advantages might have been adequate to tide the U.S. Open through the growing pains of the Open era in and of themselves, the lords of the U.S. game, to their credit, aggressively pursued a growth strategy for the new era.

By moving from the WSTC to a new, "public" facility in 1978, the U.S. Open guaranteed its continuing success, set a percedent that the Australians would follow, and moved into a suddenly available niche that neither the French Open nor Wimbledon needed or particularly wanted to occupy. It was a terrific bit of market creation and/or exploitation. At a time when everyone was talking about the reshaping of tennis, the U.S. Open and then the Australian Open carved out identities that catered to the emerging sensibility.

Wimbledon, being what it is, didn't need to do much. The tournament's stroke of genius was (and continues to be) resisting pressure to re-invent itself. As the other majors were upgraded and re-conceived, Wimbledon officials seemed to recognize that the traditional baseline values and appeal of tennis were still valid, and they understood that as the other tournaments surrendered their cloak of exclusivity, Wimbledon would do well by cultivating it's elitist aura—while making subtle but wise changes to prevent it from becoming a mere curiosity, or anachronism.

So the Grand Slams found a way to remain relevant, the cornerstones of the game. This has hurt the year-end championships, which certainly would be a bigger deal if the majors hadn't been so successful in keeping control of the high ground. Given the way the pro tour developed, it would seem a given that the year-end championships would, if anything, eclipse the individual Grand Slam events. In the best of the world as envisioned by the professional establishment (the ATP), the YEC would naturally become the ne plus ultra among tournaments.

This, incidentally, is one of the reasons the round-robin format has proven so popular to promoters and administrators. How can you compare a single-elimination, luck-of-the-draw tournament with an eight-manm round-robin format in which every match is the de facto equivalent on paper of a tantalizing Masters Series or even Grand Slam semi or final? Today's first singles match (Soderling vs. Murray) is a testament to the genius of the format, as well as the mentality that created it.

I'll have more to say about this subject in the near future, but the main point for now is that despite the concept of the event (a year-end playoff among the top players) and the compelling format, the year-end championships, while undeniably important, has never really challenged the vaunted place of  the Grand Slams, nor has it been embraced for what it clearly wants to be—the ultra major. That won't diminish the enjoyment we take out of the next week, but it raises some questions and helps define how and why tennis still remains different—decentralized, parochial (loosely speaking), individualistic—from our other major sports.

Enjoy the tennis, everyone. Let's get it started!


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Posted by Heather 11/21/2010 at 09:47 AM

Morning! Weighing in on Murray's shirt......not feeling it at all. Apparently it's working for him though, great first set!

Posted by Kwaku 11/21/2010 at 09:49 AM

#3 -> #4

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 09:50 AM

i love that soderling is still being aggressive. keep at it, let's win this 2nd set and take it to a 3rd

Posted by yello fuzzy 11/21/2010 at 09:51 AM

Robin os pulling the trigger too early. Andy is making him antsy

Posted by yello fuzzy 11/21/2010 at 09:53 AM

oops meant
Robin is pulling the trigger.....

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 09:53 AM

yes, robin, back to deuce on mandy's serve. keep pushing!

Posted by Or 11/21/2010 at 09:54 AM

That was Fed-esque....

Posted by Arun 11/21/2010 at 09:54 AM

Love it when Murray plays like this.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 09:55 AM

Fuzzy

I saw Peter Gabriel in the stand.What a blast from the past.

Posted by yello fuzzy 11/21/2010 at 09:55 AM

a sweet chip pass by Andy

Posted by Or 11/21/2010 at 09:56 AM

Murray looks good. Damn.

Posted by GB 11/21/2010 at 09:56 AM

Apparently Moya's being honored after this match.

Posted by Kwaku 11/21/2010 at 09:56 AM

My commentators said Murray should not let Sod get into match rythm.
Well, if that rythm is losing one game after another like in the first set, why not? :-)

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 09:56 AM

Loved the last point from Murray on serve,great defense and then a good passer.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 09:56 AM

Morning everyone. Scary-good point from Sod.

Come on Murray!

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 09:57 AM

danger lurking, robin. keep your nerve, don't want an early breakdown in set2.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 09:57 AM

Evil Sod fist pumping every single point he wins. Desperately trying to come back in this match...

Posted by yello fuzzy 11/21/2010 at 09:59 AM

Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling!
OMIGAWD
I'm still jamming to Sledgehammer and Shock the Monkey...I have absolutely worn out my copy of the album So...I always loved the Kate Bush duet on the that, not to forget his great music with Genesis

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:01 AM

"Apparently Moya's being honored after this match."

You know what that means. Rafa, Verdasco, Ferru appearance. Fed won't be there since he has to prepare for his match and unlike Ferru, he's not a Spaniard.

Posted by Andrew 11/21/2010 at 10:02 AM

Big, big hold for Soderling, who leads 2-1 on serve in set 2. Match score counts a lot in this format. Murray just soaks everything up - the ultimate "make you hit another shot" player. The Scot is playing a cricket pitch behind the baseline.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:02 AM

old man fed,

sometimes you need that fist pump to help your mojo. main thing, he held serve.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:04 AM

Wow, all the fromsport links are suddenly blocked. Channelsurfing.net doesn't have any tennis.
Link, anyone??

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:05 AM

muzzah is playing scary good, jeez!

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:05 AM

http://www.livescorehunter.com

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:07 AM

2-2 second set.

every sod service game now is a must win, cos murray is on song, and he won't look back if he gets a break here.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:07 AM

Muzz come on keep attacking that 2nd serve of Robins

Posted by beautiful tennis 11/21/2010 at 10:08 AM

LOL, Murray is running 10-15 times more than Sod in the 2nd set. It's either Sod Ufe, Sod W or Murray FE after the 7th dead lunge in a row. Hilarious to watch.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:09 AM

Thanks temes!!

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:09 AM

beautifully-angled point, sod! 40-15 on serve.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:10 AM

and he hold. 3-2 sod. keep agoing robin!

Posted by beautiful tennis 11/21/2010 at 10:11 AM

Murray playing well? Geez. If Sod keeps improving his GSs and Murray allows him with that junk, Sod takes this in 3, no question. It's pretty easy to look good when youre opponent cant get the simplest BH over the net like Sod in 1st.

Posted by Andrew 11/21/2010 at 10:11 AM

Interesting. Murray is still comfortably in the lead, up a set and on serve (2-3) in set 2. But he's running for miles out there, and in lots of rallies he's being pushed from side to side five or six times. Doesn't hurt when you eventually win the point, but it can give your opponent a chance to find his rhythm, then, watch out. Plus, as R Federer once pointed out, tough way to make a living for 15 years.

Posted by GB 11/21/2010 at 10:12 AM

Just don't even think about getting broken here, Muzz

Posted by BrooklynNY 11/21/2010 at 10:13 AM

Soderling is playing terrible, missing shots he would make 9/10 times, like open court forehands, and overheads, and volleys he made easily last week.

Andy Murray is still playing his lame reactive tennis running like a dog.
If Soderling turns his game on he will finish this strongly with a W.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:13 AM

who'd have thunk it - muzzah has a 7-1 ace advantage over robin!

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:15 AM

Good time for an ace, Andy.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:16 AM

Muzz your 1st serve percentage great in the 1st set it has slipped a bit in this 2nd set soo far.Come on Muzz lift that 1st serve

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:16 AM

yes, robin, you should be upset with yourself! but hang in there!

Posted by beautiful tennis 11/21/2010 at 10:17 AM

Andrew, it will be just like last year. Murray takes the 1st set in the 1st match before DP started to run him ragged, but he survived that (might survive this one too). Then Federer made him look mediocre after set 1, Murray running whole way. After those Murray shows up dead for the last match which Verdasco shouldve won but choked, much better player throughout the match. This style wont bring him the title here.

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:17 AM

Where's Batman when you need him? Ehehe.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:18 AM

good point robin! back to deuce - make mandy work!

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:18 AM

Muzz it would help if your moved your feet on your f.hand

Muzz get focused your u/errors are creeping up

Posted by beautiful tennis 11/21/2010 at 10:18 AM

Hey Andy, why don't you run some more? I'm sure that'll work.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:19 AM

not a limp volley again - ouch!

Posted by Master Ace 11/21/2010 at 10:19 AM

30-40 for Robin as Andy BH sails wide - Andy serving 6-2,2-3
40-40 Andy Ace wide(115 mph) and say Come On
A-40 Robin return long and swing racquet in disguist
40-40 Andy nets FH
A-40 Andy smash winner after coming to net on short return
40-40 Andy nets running FH after Robin came forward behind BH and hit volley
A-40 Robin nets volley after coming forward behind FH
Andy holds with ace wide

Robin to serve 2-6,3-all

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:19 AM

Muzz serve on fire today.

Posted by beautiful tennis 11/21/2010 at 10:19 AM

I think Murray's defensive skills are too good for his own good.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:20 AM

Muzz great b/hand slice low from the baseline there.

Posted by Texastennis 11/21/2010 at 10:20 AM

I loved the MSG year end tournaments - I can see the argument about rotation and I can recall some very successful ones (Madrid when Guga won comes to mind) but generally the rotation patterns has seemed to me to undermine the eclat and importance for players, fans and media of the event.
How long will it be in London? That seems a possibility for a new long term site - very good event last year.
RR - no getting around the fact that while the RR format promises lots of top matches and gives second chances, it also leads to the possibility of players gaming their matches, especially at the end of the RR phase. I think we've often seen that just as at the women's... (whether consciously or really without intending it).

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:20 AM

3-all.

every service game now life or death for robin. ayayayai!

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:21 AM

Kom igen, Andy! Sod's down love-30.

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/21/2010 at 10:22 AM

If Soderling couldn't break there, you have to wonder. Now Murray with triple break point.

Posted by NP 11/21/2010 at 10:22 AM

Sod's approach shots suck. 3 BPs for Muzz.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:22 AM

Muzz come on

Robin down love 30 on serve

Yay thats the way with a simple pass

Muzz with 3 b/points

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:22 AM

am,

you are not using your voodoo dolls on robin today, are ya?

0-40, lawd save robin.

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:22 AM

beautiful tennis, yes Muzz is defending great today. In fact everything is working smoothly for him in the match. Just great to watch.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/21/2010 at 10:23 AM

Surely Andy can break here

Posted by Master Ace 11/21/2010 at 10:23 AM

0-40 Andy FH passing shot winner after Robin came to net behind FH
Andy 2/4 BP (Robin 0/1)
15-40 Robin swinging volley winner after big serve at T
Andy breaks as Robin DF

Andy to serve 6-2,4-3

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:23 AM

Oops! Robin donates the break.

Posted by GB 11/21/2010 at 10:23 AM

Really bad game there from Sod

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:24 AM

SF Looks around the room no my dolls are having their hair done today ok?

Muzz breaks

Poor service game from Robin there.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:24 AM

double fault give mandy the break @ 15-40.

maybe now that the pressure is off, maybe, just maybe, le sod can start playing better.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/21/2010 at 10:25 AM

OK, the DF was enough for me, it's beautiful outside and I need some shopping therapy. Everyone enjoy the tennis. Kom igen, Robin!!

Posted by Andrew 11/21/2010 at 10:25 AM

Soderling duly folds: 8 minute Murray service game, in which he saves a BP with a wide ace to ad. Then Soderling implodes, UFE in the net, great scrambling defense by Murray induces a mediocre approach and an easy FH pass, and at 15-40, the resigned DF. 4-3 Murray, with a break.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:26 AM

Solid! Murray just too good for Sod today.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:26 AM

Is Robin feeling ok he has been breathing heavy all game

Moya in the stands with his g/friend/wife/?

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:27 AM

Evil Sod can't volley []. How many points did he lose at the net? Geez. At least close to 10 now.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:28 AM

ok, am, i'll rule you out as the reason for sod's bad days so far, then.

i didnt know the dolls need a hair-do, too? lol.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:29 AM

great b/hand down the line by Muzz he consolidates the break

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:29 AM

and he's totally given up on this match. Now it's a formality for Muzz to win this in straight. Just as I predicted, it'll be Muzz and Fed who are advancing to SF, with Muzz-Fed match determining who is facing whom on Saturday.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:29 AM

fight to the last breath, robin!

15-0 serving at 3-5.

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:30 AM

I believe the chick magnet types will evolve into separate species that can grow a girlfriend out of their side like a tumor that lasts for few months and then falls off and a new one starts growing.

Sorry for the weird random thought du jour.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:32 AM

5-4 murray to serve the whole thing.

one last stand, robin, one last stand, please.

Posted by Andrew 11/21/2010 at 10:32 AM

A DTL BH gives Murray a hold, then Soderling holds comfortably. But now it's 5-4 Murray, to serve for the match. Murray has been comfortable in every service game but one so far - big ask for Soderling.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/21/2010 at 10:32 AM

Before I go,"Evil Sod can't volley bleep". Leave Robin alone, it's just not his day, and cursing isn't allowed on the board. Kom igen Robin, I believe in you!! Sweden's no 1, Kom sa, Caro, world's no 1.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:33 AM

Lovely point. Andy's speed is excellent. Sod still trying.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:34 AM

wow, even easy volleys are not going our way.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:34 AM

two points blown at the net again by Evil Sod. forget it.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:34 AM

Hell would Magnus Norman show Robin how to come to the net and position himewlf with the volley and get his racquet in the correct position Please!!!!!!

Posted by NP 11/21/2010 at 10:35 AM

sf, you really should tell Sod to stay the hell away from the net. Dunno why he even bothers.

3 MPs for Muzz.

Posted by Tim (Moonpies lead to violence!) 11/21/2010 at 10:35 AM

Murray is playing well but he's just so defensive, always running down balls, alley to alley, again looks like hittin a winner on this court is none too easy... i mean murray is outside one doubes alley, then all the way to the other side, and hits a passing shot at the feet...

defense over offense is the brand of men's tennis these days, or else just grind someone down after 25 shots...

that said sod has one ugly volley for a No. 4 in the world... but his shots do NO damage at all...

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:35 AM

Andys Mum and g/freind Kim looking on

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/21/2010 at 10:36 AM

As Robin unsuccessfully comes to net for the 95th time, Peter Fleming says, "Groundhog Day."

Posted by Master Ace 11/21/2010 at 10:36 AM

15-0 Robin BH wide after running side to side getting Andy FHs
30-0 Robin nets half volley after Andy hit CC FH passing shot
40-0 Andy FH passing shot winner as Robin came forward
40-15 Andy nets BH passing shot as Robin came forward behind FH
Andy wins the match as Robin BH return sails long


Andy Murray defeated Robin Soderling 6-2,6-4

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:36 AM

Very impressive win for Murray he nearly steamrolled Sod.

Posted by Kristy 11/21/2010 at 10:36 AM

Yay Murray!

Posted by Ruth 11/21/2010 at 10:36 AM

Now, off to the hair salon, both of you! LOL

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:37 AM

good play, mandy. i won't take anything away from you, you just were "on" today.

does soderling play roger or ferrer next, anybody know?

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:37 AM

What was that? Muzz imitating Rafa's jumping fist pump post-match celebration? That's new.

Posted by GB 11/21/2010 at 10:37 AM

Yay Muzz! And straights will likely help later, too.

Posted by Master Ace 11/21/2010 at 10:38 AM

14-26 Robin 27-16 Andy W/UFEs

14/28 Robin at net

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 11/21/2010 at 10:38 AM

Well done, Andy and congrats to his fans, including me today. Commies to Robin and fans. Perhaps the posters who predicted he would be tired were right.

Posted by Ausiemarg,Madame President,Rafa London Is Calling! 11/21/2010 at 10:39 AM

Murray sings out Come On and does a jump into the air with his win

Calm down Muzz that was the first game

Its about time you showed that form on a hard court.Good to see.I hope you can keep this level of play up.

Robin Hmmmm.Out played today.Though you were a bit better in the 2nd set go and practice your volleys Please.

Posted by sf 11/21/2010 at 10:39 AM

np,

on a good day, le sod makes those volleys, but he just seemed tense, tentative at the net today.

good thing about this round-robin format, you still have 2 matches to redeem yourself, even if against supposedly tougher opponents.

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/21/2010 at 10:39 AM

Congratulations to Murray and his fans, commiz to Soderling and his. Murray's former coach, Mark Petchey suggesting in the on-court interview that David Cameron proved to be a good hitting partner.

Posted by Old man Fed/Puny Server Rafa fan 11/21/2010 at 10:40 AM

So we all saw the limit of Evil Sod. He can't possibly crack top 3 with his butcher-like volley technique! Maybe he had a bad day, but c'mon. He came to the net for like 30+ times and i can't think of even one clean volley winner by him. That's a problem all right.

Posted by Andrew 11/21/2010 at 10:40 AM

Murray wins 61/47, or 56% to 44%. Clean kill.

Commiserations to Soderling fans: the last game was a microcosm of the match. Soderling got to the net 4 times, won 1 point (at 3 MPs down). First two shots (volley, half volley) in the net - third was a clean pass by Muuray.

Congratulations to Murray fans. Winning 12-6 helps the game scores a bunch. Only the one dodgy service game - apart from that, he was cruising. Seeing Robin Soderling at the net isn't the most terrifying challenge, I guess. Federer might be a different story - or not, if Murray's last two matches against the no 2 are any guide.

Posted by yello fuzzy 11/21/2010 at 10:40 AM

Well done Muzz....he played and looked smart in an updated Charlie Brown inspired shirt
one the new looks from the 'Peanuts 2010 Collection'

Posted by temes 11/21/2010 at 10:40 AM

I think Sod is like the Sharapova of ATP(without the Slams of course)...very good but straightforward and thus not enough against the best when they're on.

Posted by Holds 2 Love 11/21/2010 at 10:42 AM

All the players out on court for the tribute to Carlos Moya.

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