Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Let's Get Meaningless
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Let's Get Meaningless 01/05/2009 - 2:53 PM

by Pete Bodo

Greetings, everyone, and Happy New Year. I don't know about you, but this was one of the best holiday breaks I ever experienced. Basically, I just hit the virtual wall and shut down everything for a four-day period ending yesterday, which we spent mostly at the farm in game-rich Andes. I especially want to thank Rosangel for keeping the shop open while I was gone. I'll report a little more on the holidays and post a picture or two in Thursday's Deuce Club.

Borgjc But let's get down to business, because for me it's officially Day One of 2009 at TennisWorld. I have two items to bring up here, the first of which is the new ATP Tour website. The best thing I can say about it is that my boy Luke probably would love it, but that's because someone named Jabba the Hutt has already infected his tiny brain with the Star Wars virus. The new website looks way too futuristic (in the worst, most commercial sense) and dark, and nothing about it evokes any of my own associations with tennis. And here I thought tennis was a sunny, bright, colorful game -  a game of pageantry and lush grass and rich clay. Perhaps I'm too old-school, and my associations are too sentimental. But when I open my browser, I feel less like I'm entering the realm of international tennis than the portal to a Paint Ball website, or the home page of some Trekkie convention.

Of course, this has Marketing Strategy written all over it, and in the most ghastly and heavy-handed way. And that undermines the basic integrity of a site like this. The ATP home page ought to have a certain degree of gravitas, and convey the feeling that the site is a no-nonsense source of information and facts about the ATP Tour and its players. If it can also be elegant and eye-catching, so much the better. I guess the good news is that the information is still all there, once you get past the hideous packaging. I just hope the outcry is sufficient for the ATP to fire its web-design team and come up with graphics and a background that says Tennis, rather than Long Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. . .

The other item is the double-shot recently fired across the bow of the game by Andy Murray. He beat Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, back-to-back, to win an exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Both matches were three-setters, and Murray earned his win over Federer via a third-set tiebreaker. In fact, an OT tiebreaker that ended 8-6. When I mentioned Murray's feat this morning to Tom Perrotta, T-bone kind of waved it off with the same response many of you undoubtedly had: Yeah, but it was just an exhibition.

Okay, nobody short of a British sports reporter is apt to confuse Abu Dhabi with the Australian or US Open, but it's good to keep certain realities in mind. Great players hate losing when they feel sufficiently invested to make a match of it, and both Federer and Nadal made a match of it with Murray. You can cruise through a match and win (or lose) two-and-four and tell yourself, it's just an exhibition. But I don't think Rafa or the Mighty Fed were thinking that way in Abu Dhabi, even if they weren't exactly thinking the opposite: This is as huge as a Wimbledon final!

And one thing I feel certain I can guarantee is that Andy Murray didn't walk off the court after beating TMF 8-6 in the third-set tiebreaker thinking, Gee if only this meant something! Historically, exhibitions have ranged from meaningless to critically important, and for a variety of reasons. The trouble with them is that you can believe what you want, and nobody is going to prove you wrong. That's true for the players, too. Rafa and TMF might walk have walked away with a shrug and put it their losses to Murray down to pre-season training, but I have a feeling Murray was pretty proud of what he accomplished. Anyone who understands the role of confidence in tennis has to see this as a great start to the new year by Murray - all other considerations aside.

I feel on solid ground making this argument. In the first match of their rivalry (1973), Bjorn Borg surprised Jimmy Connors on a hard court in Stockholm, Sweden, winning 7-6 in the third set. Stung by this new threat to his dominion, Connors then reeled off six wins in a row, and had Borg dazed and confused all the way into 1977. But early that year, both men played in an exhibition, The Pepsi Grand Slam, on a clay court in Boca Raton (I covered the event).

That event, which lasted for a few years, was something of an embarrassment to the "official" game. As the name implies, it was nakedly commercial, but it also featured such krazy money that even the icons of the game were unable to resist. Theoretically, the PGS brought together the four Grand Slam title holders of the previous year in this nationally-televised four-man exo, and offered substantially more money to the players who fared best. Each man, it was assumed, also received a hefty appearance fee. And keep in mind that at that time, a $100,000 payday - or prize-money differential - was a very big deal, for anyone. So there was plenty of incentive to take the big prize.

Anyway, Borg won their encounter on Har-Tru, 6-3 in the third. It was a fine match, and nobody uttered a single complaint about the degree of effort put forth by the players. A week or two later, Borg and Connors were both entered in the US Pro Indoor in Philadelphia (they did not end up meeting). During his first press conference in Philly, Borg was asked about the sorry state of his rivalry with Connors. Borg immediately cited his win in Boca as a sign that maybe things were turning around, to which the reporter who asked the question quickly responded, "Yeah, but that was just a meaningless exhibition."  Borg's response was swift, and I'm forced to paraphrase (I was present at the presser, but memory fails): You call that a meaningless exhibition? I don't think so. . .

It was very clear to everyone in that room that win was tremendously important to Borg, and the years proved it out. Borg continued to cite that match as the turning point of his rivalry with Connors, and the record supports the claim. For just a few months later, Borg beat Connors 6-4 in the fifth in the Wimbledon final. And his head-to-head with Connors, starting with Boca, ended up 14-2. [[note: Interestingly, the ATP website has the Wimbledon final taking place before the Pepsi Grand Slam, although neither is dated (except by year). But having been party to all this, I'll have to insist that the Boca match took place in the late winter of '77 - until somebody proves me wrong.]]

Now I'm not trying to draw a parallel here between Murray's feat and Borg's accomplishment. These are different times, and different men. But when the jockeying at the top is really tight, there's no such thing as a meaningless match - not when it's played under conventional rules with a financial incentive to win. My bottom line is that Abu Dhabi may fade into memory for Nadal and Federer as a spirited, fun, competitive, meaningless exhibition, but for Murray it could end up being considerably more. And when you think about how closely stacked the competitors are in what appears to be a wide-open year, you'd be foolish to discount the effect these two wins may have on Murray in the days to come.


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Posted by NP 01/05/2009 at 03:06 PM

"In fact, an OT tiebreaker that ended 8-6. When I mentioned Murray's feat this morning to Tom Perrotta, T-bone kind of waved it off with the same response many of you undoubtedly had: Yeah, but it was just an exhibition."

Hmm... where have I heard that before? Agreed that Murray's two wins are more significant than many observers think.

Posted by sonya 01/05/2009 at 03:10 PM

Welcome back Pete, I missed you! (hope that doesn't sound too creepy). Regarding Murray, I feel the same way as you do. Rafa and Roger wanted to win their matches- three hard-fought sets prove that- so you can't classify that as meaningless. Andy has improved so much and someone, don't remember who noticed it the other day: he changes his game depending who he's playing against, and it just seems so easy for him! However, let's not forget that Djokovic wasn't there and no matter what people he's still a strong favorite on hard courts. Why oh why did rafa had to be #1 now?!

Posted by sonya 01/05/2009 at 03:11 PM

dang it NP! I wanted to be first!

Posted by sonya 01/05/2009 at 03:12 PM

ok have to go.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:14 PM

[The best thing I can say about it is that my boy Luke probably would love it, but that's because someone named Jabba the Hutt has already infected his tiny brain with the Star Wars virus. The new website looks way too futuristic (in the worst, most commercial sense) and dark, and nothing about it evokes any of my own associations with tennis. ]

I'm telling you Pete, we were discussing the sci-fi look on the previous thread. It's all so very universal pictures it's odd.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:16 PM

>Long Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. . .


ROFL.

word Pete. You said what every single one of us is thinking!

Posted by elenas 01/05/2009 at 03:17 PM

Murray has done well. Its always good to start well but his USO final against Roger was disappointing though.

Posted by crazyone 01/05/2009 at 03:19 PM

any Federer or Nadal fan who thinks this is "meaningless" is kidding themselves. That said it's possible those guys were trying out different strategies, but as you said, the confidence gained by Murray from these matches is real. And he already has his past success against these guys to build on.

That's why as a Federer fan I was so disappointed when he lost to Murray in the Madrid SFs.

Posted by greenhopper 01/05/2009 at 03:22 PM

Interesting piece of info, Pete. I didn't know that.
Was that Borg's first ever win over Connors ? Or was it the first win after a streak of losses ?

Murray has been handling Federer quite well in 3 set matches recently. I'm not sure beating him at an exhibition 3-setter, when Federer was allegedly trying out new tactics counts all that much.

Beating both Federer and Nadal in back-to-back matches should do something good for his confidence, however.

Posted by NP 01/05/2009 at 03:25 PM

Sorry, sonya.

As for the ATP website, maybe they could replace the planetary body with a fluffy tennis ball featuring silhouettes of the Big 4 (NOT in the jejune race positions). That said, I still don't get the significance of the Star Wars/Trek theme. Is it supposed to be about the future? Yogi Berra would've been proud.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:27 PM

Pete I also agree with you completely on Murray. I do think he will take away even more confidence from the exo. Isn't this his second consecutive win over both men? He won twice recently over Federer and, I think but am not certain, twice in a row over Nadal. Regardless, he's definetly on the upswing. He's looking the way Djokovic did last year and it wouldn't be surprising if he won AO. Still, a long way to go yet.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:29 PM

Also Pete, funny you should mention Connors-Borg rivalry as we were just touching upon that in the previous Your Call. Serendipitous timing all around.

Posted by NP 01/05/2009 at 03:30 PM

Borg did hand Connors a defeat on grass (in SW19, of course) before the Pepsi GS, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:38 PM

Is this match the one you're thinking of Pete? Looks like it took place sometime at the start of '77

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1091998/index.htm

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 03:39 PM

Sher - he's only beaten Nadal once officially. He's 4-2 against Federer and 1-5 against Nadal, per ATP stats.

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 03:44 PM

Plus, Murray in general has a better record over highly-ranked players than does Djokovic. Actually that's been true for quite a while. One questionmark over him has been his ability to do it back-to-back, though, especially in big sitiuations.

Posted by Jenn 01/05/2009 at 03:47 PM

Happy first day of 2009 TW to everyone... haven't yet checked out the new galactic ATP site but plan to do so. Or maybe not.

Totally agree with the analysis here. I don't think the losses mean much in terms of Fed or Rafa's respective confidence or game plans, but back to back wins like that for Murray have to be a huge boost on the confidence meter. It often seems to me that in the big moments, it is not the level of play that separates the top guys but the level of confidence. Look out world, because Murray is coming this year.

Cool history of the Pepsi Grand Slam Club.

Posted by whoa 01/05/2009 at 03:49 PM

i definetely dont think murray's win was meaningless, I mean after all he beat the top two players of the world. but still i do think that its a best of 3 exhibition match so its kind of a "Whole different ball game" than like a Grand Slam or something. But still it was a great achievement for him and could boost his confidence levels which would be beneficial in the AO.

Posted by Kate 01/05/2009 at 03:49 PM

I too, totally agree with Pete. I thought I was on the wrong sight this morning when I was looking for the livescores (can't seem to get a url that works)for Doha. Hmmmm as you alsi state smells of marketing all the way but sigh at last we have live tennis!!!!

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 03:51 PM

Of course, we may get a chance to find out how significant the exos were over the next few days, if Murray gets a chance to tackle Federer in the Doha SF and (I'd hope) Nadal in the final.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. Rafa for AO 2009!!! 01/05/2009 at 03:52 PM

Hey everyone,

agreed about the new look of the ATP site. Space. *shivers*

"Okay, nobody short of a British sports reporter is apt to confuse Abu Dhabi with the Australian or US Open."

that is so true. :) *giggles* But read the BBC as-it-happened thread on Murray-Nadal - it's hilarious. (Gauloises pointed me at it on Saturday.)

Night, everyone. :)

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 03:55 PM

Rosangel, he only beat Federer twice in a row recently if you count the exo, since before that he lost to him infamously in USO final. I was counting the exo.

As for the other point that stands. He has also been one of just a few active players with positive records against Federer for some time, although Roger briefly leveled it at some point.

Murray's stats vs top players are very encouraging for him, that and that he is considered to be more talented tennis-wise than Djokovic. Whether he has the stuff between the ears remains to be seen.

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 03:57 PM

Sher: no, he beat Federer in Madrid, then again in Shanghai. Both after the USO.

Posted by Syd 01/05/2009 at 04:00 PM

Hey Pete,

Happy New Year!

"Of course, this has Marketing Strategy written all over it, and in the most ghastly and heavy-handed way."

Couldn't agree more. Though the old one was no prize either. As for the WTA's site - it stinks.

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 04:00 PM

Obviously, I wasn't counting the exo.....

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 04:02 PM

I don't like the new ATP website layout either. It seems to me that it takes longer to load that it did before, which is a bad move for an info-based website.

Posted by Ryan 01/05/2009 at 04:04 PM

Didn't Andy Roddick beat Roger in an exhibition match right before the Australian Open 2007? Sure, we're talking a different Andy, but we all know how much of a boost Roddick got out of that victory...

Posted by skip1515 01/05/2009 at 04:06 PM

The ATP web site design reminds me of their marketing in general over the last few years; who are they aiming at attracting to the game, and who's advising them about how to succeed at that goal? If they're going after the 7-18 year old males in the world (no offense, Luke), then they might be on target. Otherwise, it's difficult to discern a coherent strategy.

In some ways it's like when they announced that "marketing surveys had clearly indicated that a round robin format was attractive to spectators", or that they'd done other studies on doubles and its followers: no one ever contacted me with any surveys, and it's pretty clear no one who posts at TW filled out any forms, either. Who are they talking to, exactly?

Regarding this weekend's matches, Murray, Federer and Nadal: anyone who believes Federer or Nadal was trying out some new tactics at the expense of posting a W has another think coming. Athletes of that caliber don't compete to lose, ever. Some losses may sting less than others, but it's a matter of degree, not kind.

Years ago, when a close friend was the business agent for the American team of a semi-marginal Olympic sport, she told me of how they'd raced up the steps of the Art Museum here in Philly, with real bragging rights to the winner. "Lighthearted" and "competition" are not words that show up in the same sentence for pro athletes. Make no mistake about it, Federer and Nadal are p.o'd about their scores this weekend.

And Murray's pretty pleased with himself, understandably. Sheesh, *I'd* take two W's against those guys in exo's. :)

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:06 PM

Okay, Rosangel, if I could go back and edit it, I would say, he beat Federer 3 times recently and Nadal 2 times. Is that okay with you? :)

Posted by NDMS 01/05/2009 at 04:10 PM

Happy New Year Pete and everybody!

I passed over watching a Pepsi Grand Slam replay at the TTC. I don't know what it is but with a tourney name like that, it's gotta be one of those "meaningless" exos. Thanks for the info, Pete. I still don't care to watch it but at least I know better.

I think every match played before the Australian Open psychologically *counts* for every player - even doubles matches (including those played in the Hopman Cup). Supposedly, players are rested mentally and physically (and still able to put in the off-season training) and raring to go. So losing means something and winning may mean everything.

I hate the new ATP website layout too. It looks like the designers got their inspiration from www.nasa.gov.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:10 PM

skip1515, my impression is that they are targetting FOX chanel demographic.

As for the loses, I think Pete was spot on when he said that while Federer and Nadal will likely shrug of the loses, it means a lot to Murray. We also have to take the relative age on tour for these players. While Federer and Nadal have both suffered much more difficult defeats in their career that likely put this kind of thing in perspective, for Murray who is still just building up his tennis resume this is a different caliber of a match. Plus, exo or no exo when you have a Federer or a Nadal in front of you, beating them is more special than beating a Murray. (So far.)

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 04:14 PM

I happened to have written a headline post on Murray's 2008 record recently, Sher, and I was in Madrid for the win over Federer - but I remember all his big results anyway, as he has long been my second favourite player. I don't really include the exos in the H2Hs myself, but that shouldn't stop you...:)

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:18 PM

Rosangel, I don't include exos in the h2h either. Although I had a laugh once out of a 10.5 Rafa had over Roger for that grass-clay exho.

I was just -- quite badly, I now see :) -- trying to make a note of how successful Murray has been against the top two recently. Obviously getting the Madrid SF wrong is what made a mess of things, but I don't remember that tournament very well to be honest. For me it all meshes with injuries they got later and blah. I'm glad everyone seems to be healthy now.

Posted by Marian 01/05/2009 at 04:20 PM

Happy New Year, Pete.

What's not to understand in the new ATP site?. The world as we know it -Planet Earth- is a tennis ball. I really hate it!.

I sincerely hope Roger will get the opportunity to teach Murray a tennis lesson whether in Doha or at the AO. I don't see "genius" at all when I watch him play. He is one of the 100 good tennis players but that's all for me.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 01/05/2009 at 04:20 PM

Pete welcome back!.Regardless of what type of tournament a Win is a Win!.Murray has worked hard on his movement and his mental abilty.I knew Murray had a great all around game when Brad Gilbert was his coach.Personally the in your face type of coaching and character of Brad didnt suit Murray,that was evident.

Murray's game shines on the hardcourt.He yet has to get better results on the grass and the clay.He will be knocking at the door this year for sure.After beating Federer and Nadal his confidence will be high,gee wouldnt you be to,just recently beaten the No 1 and no 2 players in the world.

Posted by Rosangel 01/05/2009 at 04:20 PM

I remember that that someone seriously tried to berate ptenisnet for his deadpan delivery regarding the Fed-Rafa H2H after the Battle of the Surfaces:)

Posted by CUBBIE 01/05/2009 at 04:20 PM

I agree that this exho is not meaningless. I think Murray will gain even more confidence than he already had (don't forget he ended the season on a very high note). I did not want Murray to get two wins over Rafa in a row- because then my paranoid mind starts to worry Rafa will never beat Murray on hard court again.

But then- I do have to say- I am not quite ready to delve into the paranoia. (It is too early in the season for me to get too flustered tbh) I don't think that these wins mean that Murray will always beat Rafa- and Feds- from now on. I have read some things that imply that these wins mean the nail has but put on Roger's coffin and Rafa is now stepping into the casket. I think that Rafa and Roger are too good of players to constantly be beaten by Murray from now on- even though Murray is himself a great player. But I do think that when Rafa and Fed beat Murray in the future- they will have a very, very tough time doing so and on some surfaces Andy will be the favorite.

One thing that I do think has happened in the last few months is that Murray has gotten much more mature and fully formed as a player. I am not saying that he has reached his end game in terms of what he will be able to do on a court. But I think we are closer to seeing what the finished product will be. We are now seeing much more of the realization of his talent as opposed to the "potential" that has been buzzed about for years.

Posted by Carrie 01/05/2009 at 04:22 PM

Sigh--- CUBBIE is me- Carrie.

Posted by Vie 01/05/2009 at 04:23 PM

Well, those exo matches definitely show that Murray has natural talent and quality and can beat Nadal and Federer and he gained confidence from it. But I don't think Nadal or Federer, at this point, necessarily are getting edgy about it. It is hard to see with these young ones how their games will develop vis-a-vis each other. I do wish, even as a Nadal fan, that Federer gets back his confidence and composure this 2009. Djokovic and Murray will really challenge our two favorites this season, and I imagine this year might sometimes be nerve-racking for Fed and Nadal fans.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:25 PM

Rosangel,

LOL. Is TW a more laid back place now or what?

>I have read some things that imply that these wins mean the nail has but put on Roger's coffin and Rafa is now stepping into the casket.

lol CUBBIE, i love how you put that.

also I haven't seen you in these parts, are you new? Welcome to TW!

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:26 PM

Haha, you are still welcome, Carrie ;-)

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 04:34 PM

>I imagine this year might sometimes be nerve-racking for Fed and Nadal fans.

Vie, I personally am enjoying watching the transformation of Rafa fans from treating him as a contender to a defending number one. It's funny how similar the attitudes of Rafa fans are becoming to what I used to see from Fed fans. It's not a weak era, is it? lol It's fun to notice certain similarities, because once you've been there it's fun to watch other people enjoy it, in their own way. Does that make sense?

Sometime in 2007 Federer basicaly did everything I ever "needed" from him personally and at this point for me it's all gravy. I'm not gonna be nervous, but it will sure be an exciting year. I think more exciting than 2008 which seemed somewhat transitional.

Plus granted I am hoping to see Roger win Wimbledon. If that happens, the emotional high will be enormous after last year's final.

Posted by Marian (walks in boxers on the court) 01/05/2009 at 04:36 PM

Oh well, Andy Murray has every ingredient needed by a great player and he started to put it together ( who ever thinks that's just a top 100 hundred player is mistaken, sorry!).

Like for Rosangel and other past and present posters (Jewell and Vanessa, just to name a few), Murray's is a favourite of mine, especially now that he controls his attics (his gf must have something to do with that).

Other then that, have a great day everyone and tons of fun!

Posted by L. Rubin 01/05/2009 at 04:37 PM

"The new website looks way too futuristic (in the worst, most commercial sense) and dark, and nothing about it evokes any of my own associations with tennis."

So true, Mr. Bodo. The site is unbelievably tacky, and I, too, hope they'll return to a simpler and cleaner look. As you mentioned your Star Wars-infatuated child, I'll add that marketers should never--ever!--construct a serious site by utilizing colors and graphics that appeal to the under-8 demographic.

--Liron

Posted by Vie 01/05/2009 at 04:38 PM

I think what it means most to Murray is that he knows that his off-season training and weight gain which he is most proud of, was good and that he is in ideal conditions within himself to contest the AO. Having not won a Slam, his confidence can only reach a certain point. I do think he has equal chances with Djoko to win, even though Djoko is one Slam ahead of him.

Posted by Pspace 01/05/2009 at 04:47 PM

Well, I guess for every Boca Raton (Borg-Connors), there is a Kooyong (Federer-Roddick).

Muzz had already proved to us that he can beat these guys. I'd say Madrid SF was a rather spectacular win over Roger, who was trying to go on a roll. And, the USO SF was the icing against Rafa.

How much does this win affect things? I think Muzz himself said he needs to get the wins in a slam. And, the big question (for me) is whether he can translate his play over three sets to a longer match.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 01/05/2009 at 04:47 PM

I think Murray has more weapons than Novak,Murray has already neaten Novak in Cinncy last year to win that title,Novak's concentration and mental abilty is still a concern to me,its not all about having great tennis game,the self belief,the want,to be able to rise up thats what gets you over the line as well.

Posted by Vie 01/05/2009 at 04:48 PM

Sher, if I can choose a Slam for Roger, I think the best for him mentally and career-wise at this point is the FO. Hope he gets that. The three other slams would be gravy. I think Rafa's wish for himself this year is to win any Slam.

Posted by Marian (walks in boxers on the court) 01/05/2009 at 04:51 PM

Yes AM, it's like Nole took a step back (with the exception of AO and maybe Hamburgh ) into Gulbris league...

Posted by Ruth 01/05/2009 at 04:52 PM

Greetings from sunny Nevis, Pete!

I'm with you and Borg re those exhibitions or any not-for-ranking points events. I believe that the professional players are always doing their best to win, whether it's Federer vs Sampras last year, Murray vs Roger and Rafa a couple days ago, or -- God help me! -- Hrbaty vs Blake today!

I bet that some of the same people who shrgged off the Federer and Nadal losses are giving Blake hell (Lames etc etc) for losing to an about to retire player. Very strange, but not reasonable at all. Hey, maybe James was trying out some new shots or strategies or something, like Roger. NOT!!!!

Posted by beth 01/05/2009 at 04:53 PM

Pete - you so hit the nail on the head with your complaint about the new ATP site
it does look like some gamer got loose in the ATP offices and tried to "geek " it up
and I cannot remember who posted it - but it does take longer to load - on my computer , anyway .

Posted by katada 01/05/2009 at 04:53 PM

Hi all

Welcome back Pete. I totally agree with your view on the ATP website. In my opinion is terrible, it takes longer to find the information plus the look is like you are looking at the space station. I do also think that you are right when you say that Rafa and Federer didn't take this exibition match as an ex. I think that in their mind they did want to have a win there, I know that for Rafa every time his goes out to court it doesn't matther if is an exibition or a atp match he just want to win.

Rosangel, let me take this opportunity to tell you that I enjoy every much all you post here, and when you follow Rafa on his tour and then post pictures here and write about it. I specially can remember what you wrote about the final at Monte Carlo, one of the best post I have read, many hugs from me. And I'm looking forward for all the coming things you will write here.

Master Ace, I don't know if I can find the right word to congra you for all the wonderful work you do here on this chat, I dodn't know how you do it but with out you here, how can we have all that information so handy, because of you I have been able to watch matches that in the past I just look at the live score. Take care friend and many thanks for all this information.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 01/05/2009 at 04:53 PM

Rafa will make history this year for a start and win RG for a 5th straight title.I think Rafa can win a A/Open title,that surface suits his game.In that game against Murray,Rafa should have won it,that last game had two brain exploisions,his first serve percentage also let him down,pit I liked what I saw on the court from him.

Posted by NDMS 01/05/2009 at 04:58 PM

Ruth (4:52),

Re: Blake loss to Hrbaty in the Hopman Cup (singles and doubles)

I was also thinking about that. That is NOT an auspicious way to open the seaon.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 01/05/2009 at 05:01 PM

I couldn't agree with you more, Pete.

While Murray may not have a Slam to his credit yet, and therefore be a dubious 4th man in a four-man horse race, it is imminently clear to anyone who paid attention in 2008 that his mercury is rising fast. And I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Nadal, Federer AND Djokovic would see any chance they have to keep young Andrew in his place as an opportunity to grab the bull by the horns and wrestle 'im to the ground.

Troublke is, this is one spirited young bull who can finally see that his place among the top four may be a bit higher than #4. He has exhibited the kind of hunger that is so "not proper" or "sporting" among those of his predecessor's ilk, but that may be what is needed to propel him to greater heights.

I'm looking to Murray, Simon and Tsonga to gain some serious ground on the top three this year, with del Potro working hard to improve his movement and also make some big splashes.

Sadly, this may be the year that Roddick and Blake fall outside the top ten, along with Ferrer and Davydenko.

Posted by Avec Double Cordage 01/05/2009 at 05:03 PM

what happened to the ATP web site is not too much of a surprise, although I think not all the info stayed there like you say. If I'm not wrong they had something called the "ATP vault" in the results section, which contained all the draws of the tournaments since the introduction of the ATP tour, including the grand slam tournaments. Unless it is hidden somewhere else now I think it is gone, which is a real pity, would be great to have it back... perhaps it is still on some server and the URL is still out there, though I couldn't find it on google

Posted by katada 01/05/2009 at 05:08 PM

Hi assiemarg, I agree with you, I like what I have seen from Rafa so far. he also made some mistakes in that last set. But this was his first match after 2 minth, so in general I think he play very well. I also have hope for the Australian Open this year. A win there will solence all those who can stop talking about weak he is on H/C and that he never have beating a seat player on a H/C grand slam. His desire to win every time he goes out to court is zero to none, that's why I love him so much, is no one out there that have his determination and for him a win is all that matters. Hugs.

Posted by Avec Double Cordage 01/05/2009 at 05:08 PM

just had a closer look and found it, the ATP vault is now called ARCHIVE, they moved it from the results list that appears on the main page where the link originally was placed to a link on the site that comes up when you click on results, it's then on the upper left corner of that page

Posted by Samantha Elin. 01/05/2009 at 05:12 PM

One word on Borg, yummy, his legs are so HOTT in that picture, and the little white shorts are pure sexy. He was the greatest players of all time. One of the best to take the court. Mats said of Borg, without Borg there would have never been all the great champions that came from Sweden and no other country produce greater champions. Borg was a god who left the game too quickly, 26 was too young. Borg was hott from top to bottom.

Posted by jbradhunter 01/05/2009 at 05:16 PM

Pete- I think the new ATP site is interesting and cool looking but upon landing on it just this morning, I really thought I had some creative and sorta crazy fan club site rather than the "Official" ATP site

I agree that the exo wins for Andy M over Fed and Rafa are strong confidence building wins- and if he's going to win a major then he most likely will have to take down Rafa and Fed in consecutive rounds anyway...
I also think Fed is past letting exo losses (Sampras & Roddick) affect his big tourney play and it seems Fed would love another chance to school Murray in the art of Grand Slam tennis match toughness

Posted by embug 01/05/2009 at 05:21 PM

Happy New Year to everyone.
Earlier this year, or was it last year... probably, my mind isn't what it used to be. Anyway, the ATP ran a new television campaign during the Paris and Madrid Masters Series tournaments. In one, a woman stood waiting for a bus. No music in the background. Then, wham a racquet the size of a Buick spears the kiosk next to where she was standing. Of course, she ran away. The camera then climbs up the side of the building and an illustration of Nalbandian came in view, his eyes cast downward toward the kiosk, as if he'd tomahawked the racquet. About that time another set of illustrations began to accompany promotional materials from the ATP. They were multiple drawings of the faces of top-ranked players coming at you as if shot from a canon. Their mouths were open and snarly.

I called the ATP in Ponte Verda, Florida, and spoke with someone in marketing. I told him the ads during the Masters Series were really violent. Like, what's up with that? Who did they target? He said they were mostly for European viewers. However, international broadcasts and production hardly kept them on the continent.

At least the new ATP web site has toned down the roar of its campaign from last year. However, it certainly is a touch over the top. The galactic video and awe-inspiring musical accompaniment made me laugh. I'm glad that "ATP" tennis ball didn't change into Mother Earth before Murray crushed it. That would've been anti-green for goodness sake.

For me it's too confusing and foo-foo. Or is that Phoo-Phoo. I wonder who the target market is? Not me! However, I'll tune in.


Posted by Rory Meldam 01/05/2009 at 05:22 PM

I have noted with interest the various discussions regarding the top 4.....I am a Murray fan not the least because he is such a miserable so& so I find it oddly endearing it also does not hurt that the possesses a nuanaced and clever game. I enjoy watching him play and I aslo enjoy Federer's game. However I find it amusing how a persons dislike of a certain player can colour a persons perspective hence the battles between the fed fans and the rafa fans.

Posted by Vie 01/05/2009 at 05:28 PM

Sher, further to your comment at 4:34 pm. Yes, Fed and Nadal fans are sort of in the same boat now. In angst over the defense of the Slam or the ranking. Here's to a good year.

Posted by Pierre 01/05/2009 at 05:29 PM

"ATP World Tour: Feel it."

It sounds a bit suggestive and depraved.

Posted by Samantha Elin 01/05/2009 at 05:44 PM

I love the new marketing strategy by the ATP, I think it's very cool and modern. For anyone who know tennis trivia, is Borg the only player to ever win the FO and Wimbledon in three years back to back? Borg won the FO and Wimbledon from 1978-1980. I'm not sure but I don't think any player has ever done that. I know Sampras and Roger didn't.

Posted by Marian (walks in boxers on the court) 01/05/2009 at 05:57 PM

Well put Rory and I say we should focus on tennis per say more :)

Posted by Matt Zemek 01/05/2009 at 06:13 PM

Pete,

You're quite right in saying this means a fair amount to Murray. It will definitely feed his sense of confidence.

What still lingers, though, is that the Aussie Open puts players on the court when they have appreciably healthier bodies and fuller tanks.

It will still be a difficult assignment to beat Rafa or Fed in a best-of-5 match. Rafa won't run on empty the way he did in Flushing. Andy will have to win three sets against Nadal, and he'll have to do it in a tournament that's not his favorite (the U.S. Open).

It's really anybody's tournament to win among the top four. A very strong case could be made for any player.

In one sense, I can't wait, but then again, since the Fiesta Bowl and the BCS title game have not yet been played, I can...

Posted by Bojana 01/05/2009 at 06:15 PM

AJDE NOLE!

Posted by Pete 01/05/2009 at 06:24 PM

Nice to see y'all feeling so spirited! Gotta run, this Nick piece has turned into a real time drain but the end product for the magazine will be worth it (I hope). Anyway, back tomorrow.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 01/05/2009 at 06:28 PM

Another thing we are forgetting here,Nadal,Murry,Novak are young,they havent hit their "peak" as they say,so till time for that extra improvement.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 06:28 PM

embug, word on everything you said about those crazy violent commercials.

on the other topic, Australian Open traditionally features a surprise finalist. No reason it can't happen this year as well. As Matt pointed out, most players are healthy this time of the year which accounts for some surprising results.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 01/05/2009 at 06:41 PM

Sher A thing I find scary is,that the past R/Up at the A/Open havent done much since then,in terms of results,well Tsonga is a expection,but after that his form went a bit,also had that knee surgery.

Posted by Sher 01/05/2009 at 07:13 PM

yeah, i've gotten used to expecting the "other" finalist to have a pretty bad year after the AO, aussiemarg

Posted by Jbradhunter 01/05/2009 at 07:14 PM

Rafa really surprised me last year with his ability to turn his childhood dream of winning Wimbledon into a reality- I think if he sets his heart on winning the AO with the same focus he took to Wimby the past few years then he'll win the AO.
Federer appears to be doing better lately when he's got real fire in his gut like silencing the naysayers...like if he loses to Murray in the semis of this week's tourney.I have more belief he'll railroad Murray at the AO then the other way around.
Novak has some interesting questions to answer- can he defend such a big title? Does he still have the bold will to claim the highest rewards?
Murray can beat everyone for sure. He can play the best tennis I'm the world- now can he seize a Grand Slam title and do something he's never done before?
Yea! Should be a fun tourney and buildup

Posted by Kenneth 01/05/2009 at 07:36 PM

Happy New Year TWibe!

Pete, great to see you back man. Tennis talk finally.

Whoever mentioned Kooyong beat me to it. Although, I'm told Roddick is still quoting that win as a major *turning* point in his H2H with Federer. He did go on to beat him, right? And who cares if it was a year later??

Samantha Elin, spot on every post today.

When does the AO start again?

Posted by Annie 01/05/2009 at 07:37 PM

Pete: know you've left the building but wanted to put in my 2 cents (along with my 5 bucks on the other thread) about the atp website. It is indeed cold, like jewell said, the antithesis of the sunny sport you so aptly described. And as you mentioned, there's no gravitas, which a sport so steeped in tradition is due.
Maybe this is something the new atp ceo can address as one of his top priorities when he/she steps in.
Any news on that front? this seems like a job no one wants!

and like everyone else, i don't believe fed or rafa or murray for that matter, treated those exos like an exo. We had a poster who was in AbuDhabi at the match who said she overheard officials talking about how the players were supposed to split sets and then "have fun" in the third. Can't see any truth to that story.

and I'd like to second Katada's comments regarding Rosangel and MasterPoy: they really do such a great job and it's true, the rez would not be the same without them. Cheers and looking forward to baby owl action in an hour!

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 01/05/2009 at 07:40 PM

pete, firstly happy new year.
secondly, i completely agree with you about the new and in my opinion unimproved atp website. it's too commercial, and not tennis-y enough. (i don't care about how bad that grammar was!)
finally, re the muzza beating the gods of tennis at an exo, i think that while it doesn't hold the same merit as beating them at a masters or a slam, it will be imperative for his confidence should they meet at a slam or a masters. i have a strange feeling he has federer's number now, and is rapidly taking strides to figure out how to consistently beat rafa.
i'll end by saying a belated happy new year to my fellow TWibers, i hope it brings you all good health and happiness (and great tennis!)

Posted by Erin 01/05/2009 at 07:41 PM

To me, it looked like Roger kept it close enough to be interesting, but didn't really go all out to win that match, sometimes it even looked like he was goofing around..I think to him it was entertainment for the fans and otherwise it was meaningless.

Posted by Peter M 01/05/2009 at 08:01 PM

I think it was two years ago when, after Roddick lost a somewhat close match to Federer in the '06 USO and then beat Federer pretty handily at the Aussie O exhibition at Kooyang, all the pundits were saying that this A-Rod is back, fueled by the Jimmy O'Connor backhand training machine, and ready to finally take a slam again - and beat the big-Fed to boot! Roddick even believed the hype as well - he gained confidence, he knew he could finally beat Federer again - for the second time ever in a "real" match! Then came the Aussie O semis of '07, and well, we all know what happened - Federer just crushed poor Roddick. This is not to say that such a scenario will repeat itself on the back of Murray in this year's AO. However, I would not give so much weight to the psychological effect of winning an exhibition over a nemesis - especially when your comparison, Pete, is from the '70's - and assume that that psychological effect will necessarily translate into a different result. Moreover, Murray has beaten Nadal and Federer recently (and the Fed several times) on hardcourts, so I am not sure if the comparison to Bjorg (who had a severe losing streak to Connors) is indeed apt. I think what we witnessed is just that - an exhibition. I think it is hardly predictive of what will happen at a slam.

Posted by Ren ( Substance is Better than Form) 01/05/2009 at 08:15 PM

Hmmm...Murray's win over the top two players must be meaningful to him. That's one side of the coin. The other, being, it's just nothing. There are wins that you know you exactly "won" as surely as when numbers cannot lie. But there are wins too that you know it could have been either you or the other person on the opposite half of the court! It is the feeling of whether you really played your best or the other did not! Anyhow, it is only Murray who know how he felt. What did he say after the interview? I'd like to check that out!

Good morning Twibe! Happy New Year Pete!

Posted by Veruca Salt 01/05/2009 at 08:31 PM

Murray's wins weren't meaningless, but they weren't the end all to be all either. It's good for him to have that confidence needed to make a good show at the AO, but gracious can any more pressure be heaped on him?

Posted by Graks 01/05/2009 at 09:15 PM

The earth silhouette on the ATP site looks like the Heroes logo, no?

Posted by BodoFan 01/05/2009 at 09:19 PM

Thanks for prompting me to visit the site before rankings are updated Monday.

Agree to disagree with you Bodo about the new ATP World Tour website. You are correct on one thing - the difference is night and day.

What an improvement!

I remember the old newspaper format to be narrow, busy, unorganized and uninspiring.

The new version fills my screen with content and larger photography, all of which was current and interesting. Learned a bit as well with the FAQs regarding the new tournament tiers and rankings changes in 2009.

http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/aboutatp/understanding.asp

The tournament profiles definitely received an upgrade with a lot more information than I remember them having before. Check out Doha below.

http://www.atpworldtour.com/1/en/tournaments/profile/451.asp

For a brand and website that has been stale for as long as I've visited it for rankings and scores over the last several years, as a fan, it is great to finally see the effort.

Posted by messo 01/05/2009 at 10:06 PM

I think the big difference is that Borg was already a multiple Grand Slam champion.

Posted by federerfan 01/05/2009 at 10:25 PM

to sum it up : i think the djoker is the happiest of the top3, in that, he is assured of not having to meet murray until the finals, for the time being :)

Posted by codepoke 01/05/2009 at 10:30 PM

Hmmm.

I went and saw the new site and the new video. That video was awesome. All those excellent strokes captured in slow-mo? How could I be against that.

Did you not SEE RAFA's blistering forehand at the 45 second point!

WOWWWWW!!!!!!!

I've seen him hit that forehand live, and I knew something special was happening from about 6 inches before contact until about 2 feet past it. That video captures it in frightening clarity. He's already swinging harder than I'll ever swing a racket, and then suddenly, at the last possible second, HE ACCELERATES. Words fail me.

Wow.

How he controls that much racket speed is unthinkable.

Watch Federer's slow-mo's and you'll see the opposite. His racket begins a relentless drive directly at his target from about 3 feet before contact and it continues almost undisturbed by the ball he's crushing. Rafa whiplashes the racket at the last second in a way all the best coaches say is unreliable under pressure - unless you're Rafa.

Federer's still my guy, but that forehand blew my mind.

Yeah. I just watched some youtubes. I could picture myself hitting Federer's forehand once every hundred practice shots. It's smooth and physically possible. But my body will never once do what Nadal's arm does on every single shot.

Sorry. I just could not contain myself.

Posted by federerfan 01/05/2009 at 10:31 PM

Peter M : How I wish I shared your confidence re: the parallel between Roddicks exo win over fed and Murrays.
To me the fact that Murray is 5-2 in H2H including the recent exo makes it a far different thing. Something else, his body language when he spoke after beating fed, something about it made me think, this fellow thinks, he knows exactly what to do if he were to meet fed in a GS again on hards.

For some reason, that idea about djoker winning brisbane and getting to #2 over fed before AO sounds better now, fed might be better off against the djoker or rafa instead of the murrayster.

Posted by tina 01/05/2009 at 10:32 PM

The graphic design of the new ATP World Tour site is clearly a nod to video games, right? I've had little exposure to them, and I didn't even play Pac Man back in my day, but that's the first thing that came to mind. I don't like the look of it, but I always go directly to the tournament sites anyway.

Much as I personally dislike Murray, those wins clearly weren't meaningless. But they didn't earn him points in the 'South African Airways 2009 ATP Tour", did they? And it's tight at the top right now. Gotta get those points. Which is surely why Djokovic decided to play Brisbane.

Posted by codepoke 01/05/2009 at 10:37 PM

Ummm.

There's no comparison between Fed's loss to Roddick in an exo and his loss to Murray this weekend. Fed was toying with serve and volley against Roddick. I didn't see much of this match with Murray, but what I did see had no feel of "toying" about it at all.

I wish all us Fed fans good luck this year. I fear we're going to need it. Whatever happens, and I acknowledge he might win a couple slams this year, whatever happens it's gonna be close all year long. No gimme's this year, and I'm afraid there's gonna be some take-me's.

Posted by highpockets 01/05/2009 at 10:40 PM

Pete, glad to hear you were able to relax and recharge your batteries during your holiday ... welcome back and Happy New Year!

I too believe Murray has the top dogs quaking a bit in their sneakers. He has gathered a powerful team around him and is showing incredible maturity and creativity on court ... and he's willing to put in the time and work necessary to get all the way to the top. If Fed/Rafa/Djoko lose to him in Doha, watch out!

I am loving Simon too and hope he has a great year.

2009 is mouth-watering in possibility.

Posted by Karadzic Milosevic 01/05/2009 at 10:51 PM


The Nadal era is rather short.

Tsonga and Murray are the future.

Nadal would not have risen to World Number One had Tsonga been healthy in 2008.

Posted by jb (yeah live tennis!!) 01/05/2009 at 10:56 PM

Pete!
Merry new year and all that! Funny that the ATP new site look dovetails with the discussion of cowboy luke’ s obsession with star wars!

I’ve got to admit, while I don’t hate it – there’s nothing ‘improved ‘ about it for me, I seem to be able to find what I need, but it seems a wee bit harder to find some of the rankings info etc that I’m looking for. It just seems too busy and sound bite-ish. I guess I would prefer a cleaner less cluttered look.

Oh wait, having the current tourney’s spaced across the top is fine. That’s easier to click on one than paging through to see what I want. (Though really, as long as I get ANY scoreboard, I’m ok…!) But it is definitely busier with no increase in info offered, or ease of finding info. And I’ve found that the ‘groovy’ busy sites just take too long to load sometimes, and are to clugy navigating around. And they break too easily.

As for the ‘its only an exo..’. pfft to that. If its an exo between generations, eg – Sampras and Fed, then sure, its an exo and its fun. But an ‘exo’ like this previous weekend, where 6 of the top 10 players were ‘funning around’, I’m saying ‘hail yes, it means something’. Those were good matches, with each player not going for the pretty shots, but trying to WIN!

Murray is definately in a great position. I do hope that he’s truculent enough NOT to let the hype get to him. I think he’s got the game to give anyone fits, I’m just hoping the ‘British Messiah’ hype won’t derail him!

Posted by Flyer 01/05/2009 at 11:00 PM

The ATP site is garish.

Murray will continue to mature and give fits to everyone.

A nice recap of Fed's 2008 with positives for a better - hopefully stellar - 2009:

http://tiny.cc/RJHdK

Posted by pamela 01/05/2009 at 11:04 PM

Can you see the end of the Nadal era in 2009?

Posted by Momo 01/05/2009 at 11:05 PM


i hope Nadal's end happens dramatically at Roland Garros 09.

Posted by VE 01/05/2009 at 11:07 PM

Pete, every match I played against my friends on the high school courts were meaningless exhibitons, but by did I want to win them. Because when you trsvel in a close pack of guys, there is no way a loss, a moment of weakness, will be forgotten. At it's naked core, that's what the ATP Tour is, a loose association of a couple hundred guys travelling the world together amd I guarantee the same rules apply.

I think Murray's got a great shot of making some noise this year, I thought so before the exo and he obviously didn't do anything to change my mind.

Posted by rg.nadal (Happy New Year to the Twibe) 01/05/2009 at 11:07 PM

Hello All!

Posted by Karadzik Milosevic 01/05/2009 at 11:17 PM


I hope we get a new Number One this year. Tsonga or Murray.

I also want Federer to tie Sampras' record (never mind the ranking) -- that 14th slam would crown Federer as the Greatest of all Time. He has 3 Roland Garros finals which Sampras never had, and an Olympic Gold medal, which Sampras never had. Obviously Federer has already eclipsed Sampras.

Posted by rudy3 (electricity is for wimps) 01/06/2009 at 12:32 AM

Question:

Anybody who saw matches today, did they have the ATP World Tour logo on the net?

ATP World Tour...ATPWT...website changes...eeh, don't like it, looks like the got to kids who hang out in that big video arcade in Picadilly Circus to design it.
ESPN changed their site as well.

Posted by Andrew 01/06/2009 at 01:10 AM

Evening, all.

Welcome back, Pete. I was in Banff a few days ago and thought of you and your family.

The Abu Dhabi match was about as meaningful as Kooyong: structured as a tournament, but no-one's bringing their super-secret strategies ahead of where it really counts (Melbourne).

Doha is a real tournament, but it's on the same level as Basel and Stuttgart: it counts for ATP Ranking Points (now with new improved *2 bogosity!), but the big game starts two weeks from now.

I think Murray will play many matches with Federer and Nadal over the next four years, and I don't see Abu Dhabi as being one they'll look back on. In 2008, Murray won three to Federer's one in H2H, and obviously he'd have taken the reverse H2H in a heartbeat.

Still a fascinating month ahead.

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