Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Fundamental Fact
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The Fundamental Fact 07/27/2009 - 2:30 PM

Nd The rich get richer, as we know. And the poor? I guess they just keep muddling through and pretending everything is OK. You’ll find no clearer demonstration of this truth than in the mid-year descent we’ve just made from the grass-capped peaks of Wimbledon to the dry ATP valleys of Indianapolis and Hamburg. If anything, it's an even harsher truth in tennis: As the Grand Slams get grander with each passing season, the small events that are clustered around them just look smaller by comparison.

Hamburg and Indy are two prime examples of the decline of the week-to-week tour over the last 20 years. These tournaments once had strong and recognizable identities. For years they were known as the German Open and the U.S. Clay Court Championships, respectively, names that made them seem like more than just tune-ups for the Slams. Now Indy is a hard-court event and is known, rather parochially, as the Indianapolis Tennis Championships presented by Lilly. Hamburg has suffered an even more ignominious fate. First it lost its simple, understandable, and impressive name—winning the national championship of any country sounds like a pretty big deal—and was bureaucratically rechristened the Masters Series-Hamburg, back in the short-lived and misguided days when the ATP thought it could sell the entire Masters Series, rather than individual events, to its sponsors. Last year the tournament lost more than a name when it was stripped of its Masters status, booted out of the spring European swing, and consigned to the kind of netherworld of irrelevance that only a clay-court event that takes place after Wimbledon can occupy.

The current recession hasn’t yet blown a hole in the budgets, or the retractable roofs, of the tour’s bigger events, but it has hurt the little guys. Second and third tier tournaments are struggling to retain financial backers—16 ATP events are without title sponsors at the moment—and dole out sufficient appearance-fee money to put name players on their marquees. Hamburg and Indy suffered at both ends of this spectrum last week. When Indy’s marquee catch, Andy Roddick, pulled out, the tournament couldn’t get James Blake to replace him because it wouldn’t match his asking price for a guarantee. (Next week’s ATP event, the Legg Mason in D.C., another longstanding part of the U.S. summer swing, is foregoing appearance fees altogether.) This left Indy with a final featuring Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri. That's not a complete disaster for an American tournament, but it's a long way down the ladder from the days when Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe began their U.S. Open preparations in the heart of Indiana. Afterward, tournament director Kevin Martin said he won't be able to hold the event next year unless he can find a title sponsor for it. As for Hamburg, the tournament had to resort to accepting sponsorship from a sports gambling website, The event was prepared to call itself the bet-at-home Open until city officials blocked the move. The name that was eventually settled on, the International German Open, is certainly more dignified. Unfortunately, it's also a total non sequitur.

The results of these two events were mirror images as well. In Hamburg, Nikolay Davydenko beat Paul-Henri Matheiu 6-4, 6-2, while in Indy Ginepri upset Querrey 6-2, 6-4. The wins ended title droughts for both players; one year for Davydenko, four years to the day for Ginepri. Hamburg’s final featured two Europeans who were comfortable sliding on clay, while Indy was a battle between heavier-footed, hard-court-loving Americans. With those basic similarities in mind, what else did these matches show us?

—All four players spent the vast majority of their time at the baseline.

—Points were similar in both places, but in Hamburg they involved a little more movement across the baseline and into the doubles alleys, and a little more topspin for safety. In Indy the rallies were contained within the singles sidelines; by today’s standards, this court looked quick.

—The only player who backed off the baseline appreciably was Mathieu. Other than the fact that he’s an inveterate choker, his biggest problem seems to be that his elaborate strokes make it difficult for him to transition forward smoothly. (This is also true for fellow Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet.) Davydenko, while he looked like a featherweight compared to his opponent, was the guy dictating from on top of the baseline. He was at his most efficiently machine-like yesterday, taking the ball early and punching low lasers up the lines and past Mathieu.

—The losers had two things in common:

(1) A complete inability, or more likely a complete unwillingness, to attack even the weakest second serves from their opponents (and Davydenko and Ginepri have particularly weak second serves). Querrey, who was way off all day—he showed more anger and negativity than I’ve ever seen from him—just stood straight up and hit his returns out. Mathieu actually backed up to receive Davydenko’s weakly kicked second delivery. 

(2) Serving difficulties. Tied 1-1 and up 40-30 in the second set, Mathieu double-faulted and was eventually broken; at 2-4, down a break point, he doubled again. Querrey double-faulted at 4-4 in the second set to be broken.

The serve and the return: No matter what the surface or the style of play, those two shots still constitute a good 70 percent of tennis all by themselves.

Rg —For his part, Davydenko served with aggressive confidence—he used it to get out of trouble, which is not very often the case with him. Up 2-1 in the second but down 15-40, he hit a rare ace and went on to hold for 3-1, keeping his momentum alive. Meanwhile, Ginepri showed more touch and strategic variety than I thought possible. He hit a delicate slice lob over his 6-foot-6 opponent for a winner, and on one crucial late point he completely bamboozled Querrey by floating a one-handed slice backhand deep and down the middle to move him back, and then cracked a sudden, surprise two-handed drive for a winner up the line. Each of the champions finished in style, nailing down their final service games at love with multiple winners.

What does all this mean? Was it worth staging, or watching, these tournaments in the first place? From my perspective seeing both finals on TV, I was happy to witness the following phenomena: Davydenko using the purest form imaginable, form developed through uncountable hours of practice, to belt forehand winners with deceptive pace up the line; Mathieu’s adamant seriousness and nobly concentrated effort in the face of a superior opponent and his own tendency to blow leads (he broke early in the first set and then gave it back immediately); Ginepri’s escalating and slightly incredulous confidence as the match wore on and he maintained his lead—by the end, his game had grown back into the shape it had three years ago, when he patiently wore opponents out with his muscular, lunchbucket strokes.

Finally, and most memorably, there were the moments of victory. These, as Pete Bodo also noted on his blog today, should be savored, even if the results themselves will be quickly forgotten. Davydenko and Ginepri, both a little rusty in the celebrating department, each hesitated for a split-second after the final point. The Russian then threw both arms up and did a little hop, his eyes wide with an excitement I’d never seen from him. Ginepri had to stand and wait for a line call to be corroborated by the chair umpire on match point. It was an awkward couple of seconds, and I thought it would ruin his moment. But when he finally got the good news, he went to one knee and put one hand behind his head. The gesture was indeed a little awkward, but the look on the normally undemonstrative Ginepri’s face was one of deep joy and relief, like that of a man who, however briefly, had just had the weight of the world lifted off of his shoulders. In each case, these long-awaited victories provided a few seconds of vicarious thrill, and even vicarious redemption, for anyone who had a chance to see them. For a sport to mean anything to you, you have to know it means even more to the people playing it. Davydenko and Ginepri couldn't help but show us that it does.

Whatever the level of a tournament, there will always be someone who thinks that winning it is the greatest thing in the world. Title sponsor or not, recession or not, marquee names or not, you can never take that fundamental fact of tennis away. It's why they play; it's why we watch.


Posted by ose 07/27/2009 at 02:56 PM


Posted by Andrew Friedman 07/27/2009 at 03:06 PM

"For a sport to mean anything to you, you have to know it means even more to the people playing it."

This is why I ultimately stopped getting invested in Marat Safin's matches.

Nice post, Steve - as per usual!

Posted by Master Ace 07/27/2009 at 03:23 PM

Robby win at Indianapolis could be a catalyst for his season and repeat his magical ride of 2005. Nikolay win at Hamburg could catapult his way back toward the Top 5 as players above him have lot of points to defend in the next few tournaments. Will be interested to see if Nikolay can get on a roll when he starts his North American campaign in Montreal a week after playing Umag this week. By the way, Novak is playing doubles with his brother in Umag. On Sam Querrey, his return was off against Frank Dancevic in the semifinals on Saturday and if Frank repeated his performance against Dmitry Tursunov in the last 2 sets, Sam would have lost.

Posted by Tfactor 07/27/2009 at 04:23 PM

It's so nice to see these pictures of Davy and Robby.
Regardless of how we classify these tournaments and how tough (or not) were the respective draws, I believe their victories have a special meaning and I hope they will prove inspirational for the remainder of the season.

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 07/27/2009 at 05:00 PM

Steve, another great article. You rock.

Posted by Feedforward 07/27/2009 at 05:03 PM

The Fundamental Fact

There is too much tennis.

I can't believe I said it given how much I love the sport, but I have started seeing glimpses (TV won't really show you sparse crowds) in places like the Indy semis pitting two Americans (not top echelon, but still Americans). There seemed to be more of a crowd at Hamburg, but that is in Europe and only one year from being a Masters event.

What I mean is that there are too many tournaments at the top level. I was struck by something Mick1303 reported in Pete's YC yesterday when trying to figure out the best year of all time (Federer 06 vs McEnroe 84). In the process, he reported the following:

Interesting, that in 1984 there was roughly the same amount of tournaments as today – it was 76 and now it is 70-72 per year. During Lavers 1969 Slam year it was only 30 events including Slams. So it is really hard top compare. In a contrast, during Connors’s 1974 run tour played whooping 93 events.

I am a bit surprised that there were only 30 during 1969, but may have been (depends on how you counted them given it was only the second year of open tennis), but it is hard for me to figure that the ATP Tour can support two (often three) tourneys per week a lot of the year.

It seems to me that ATP could learn soemthing from the PGA. They have a featured event each week with limited participation. The other pros play what is a high level minor league, now called the Nationwide Tour. Given the nature of golf and chauvinism, the Nationwide pros make more than the women do on their separate tour. Even the senior men make more than the women in part because of the names and the fact that golfers can play closer to their younger level than any other visible sport.

In any case, the top 20 or so top money makers on the Nationwide tour are "promoted" to the main tour of the PGA. If someone wins three events, he can immediately go to the main tour. There entries are based on a points system similar to the one tennis uses.

I think the problem with tennis is that there are too many journeymen, guys who hover (if that is the word) between 60 and 150 with perhaps a spurt somewhere into the top 50 or so. One wonders why they go through the hassle year after year. You can understand it when they are young, but why linger on into late twenties or thirties? Why do I care? I think they dilute the impact of the top players at the top events. They become indistinguisable and then, "who cares?" When people feel "who cares?", they quit paying for tickets and watching on tv.

Yes, I know that golf is more complicated than that as it has a separate European tour and an Asian tour and some other lesser ones, but they all interact and have bought into the same world ranking system. I am not saying tennis should duplicate golf, but maybe learn something from it.

If something like this is effected, the ATP tour could shorten its season and reduce the number of top level events. There is no reason that the minor league tour could not go to remote places during any time of the year. Let's face it--the only players who are playing too much are those who go deep into tournaments. Those who are bumping around scrounging for a living wear themselves down more from the constant travel and economic living conditions than actually playing too many big matches.

Posted by andy 07/27/2009 at 05:04 PM

Watching Robby winning the tournament, in the absence of Roddick, Blake and Fish, is delightful. Glad to know that there are palyers who do not think much about making appearance fees. The rich tradition at Indy is at cross roads, because of selfish people. Well - when the top players of America do not care about a rich traditional tournament in USA, who else?

Posted by scineram 07/27/2009 at 05:46 PM

This is nonsense that only 30 events were in 1969. I have no idea where did you get that. Laver won 18 tournaments that year.

Thank the ATP for being in the pockets is the big MS tournaments. They have successfully devalued these small events to abysmal status with the new ranking systemand they wonder why they struggle and there are no players. They reap what they sow.

Posted by richie 07/27/2009 at 05:47 PM

Steve - Even though these tournaments could be considered low on the totem pole, your readers are appreciative of your coverage. And to point out that to Davy and Roby, these wins are high points in their careers. I was disappointed in Querry's effort - he did not look like he was feeling so great. At least that is what I thought. If this was his best effort, he needs to dig a little deeper. Thanks again for your coverage. We out here in the boonies owe you.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 07/27/2009 at 06:41 PM

Nice recap indeed.

I watched the Indy finals live. It was actually a bit sad - lot of empty seats, mellow atmosphere, players strolling through games not putting out the vibes that it is actually a final of a tourney and of course that somber ceremony at the end - that it resembled a round 64 match of a Slam, played as the last match of the day, on court 17 with the threat of fading light.

PS: Somehow the tourney director or the chief honcho, during the prize ceremony, who had that ubiquitous huge cardboard cut out of a check, that USofA manages to manifest at the last minutes (PCH or price is right!), didn't make it a point to present it. It was sort of gestured in as part of the check. It was funny and sad.

Posted by linex 07/27/2009 at 08:08 PM

A great piece Steve. I guess Hamburg still has a meaning the tournament has history, now Kolya appears in a list of hamburg champions that includes Lendl, Noha, Federer, Nadal, Kuerten, among others. Plus Kolya always said this is one of his favourite tournaments, he strongly supported Hamburg in its lawsuit against the ATP last year.

And yes as you say every tournament will have a particular meaning for a different player. Look at Lleyton Hewitt when he won a small clay tournament in Houston after his hip surgery, wasn´t this moment the start of his revival ... in 2009 that culminated with a semi final apperance at Wimbledon.

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 07/27/2009 at 08:45 PM

Although I can barely bring myself to disagree with a Steve Tignor piece, as I like them so much, I can't see how the tour is "declining."

The reality is that the one thing that has declined is the relative (and, to my mind, absolute [but that is another post]} standard of play of U.S. players. The reality is that Ginepri/Querrey is certainly not a bad match up by U.S. standards, after all, this is the number 4 and five guys in the U.S.

Well, being number 4 and 5 in the U.S. used to mean that you were in the top 20 in the world, guaranteed.

Its going to look like the non masters series U.S. events are "declining" for the foreseeable future, so we better get used to it. I would bet in Spain they don't think any of their tournaments are "declining."

I add this up every time because I can't believe it, but in the U.S. Open of 1981 there were 74 or 75 U.S. players out of a 128 draw! That is the height of the tennis boom, people.

Today, with only 9 players in the top 100 its a different ball game.

And please, no comparisons to golf. Wayne Odesnik is our number 9 guy, with a singles ranking of 94. He's won 114K this year.

Some guy named Michael Bradley has already made about 700K on the PGA tour, and and Bradley is really not 94 in the world, as the worldwide money list lists another chap by the name of Jeev Singh at 800K at 94 on the worldwide list.

I dare anyone to pick Bradley, Singh, or Odesnik out of a bar, but the only difference is that PGA tour sponsors are willing to pay Bradley and Singh almost seven to eight times more than ATP tour sponsors are willing to pay Odesnik.

God knows what they are willing to pay the 94th guy in the NBA to sit on a bench somewhere and show up for practice during the week.

But as for tennis v. golf, I put it down, mainly, to the fact that in golf "a top ten finish" is something that is routinely referred to as a good result on the week, and of course it is a good result. Losing in the round of 16 of a tournament is viewed, if it is viewed at all, as simply losing.

Jack Kramer, I believe, also initiated the practice of paying early round losers almost nothing in prize money, and cutting the money in half each round. Note that on the PGA tour, the winner does not make twice as much as the runner up, who does not make twice as much as the guy who came in third. It adds up.

I'm not advocating for some bizzare change in the system of play, although having the finals of all tournaments on Monday, allowing the quarters and semis to be played on the weekend might be an idea.

But the Masters Series/compulsory entry system has been a good developement overall, and the fact that Hamburg and Indy can't have Federer and Nadal or Murray and whomever is simply a fact.

This is somewhat rambling, but you can't compare tennis to many other sports and claim that if all events are not as packed as the Slams then there is some sort of decline. Its too worldwide of a game for that simply of an analysis.

I'll be back to saying how brilliant Steve is shortly, though. :)

Posted by Jbradhunter 07/27/2009 at 11:26 PM

Dunlop- it seems I remember Pete mentioning the disparity between what money a tournament makes compared to the small percentage allotted for prize money.

If I'm understanding you, the sponsors hold all the purse strings?

Posted by Daniel 07/28/2009 at 05:28 AM

Pete > Steve

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian. 07/28/2009 at 07:50 AM

I read over at the WTA world site that the stadium in Stanford for the women's event is nearly empty. I think has the recession hit many people, the first thing they cut out is entertainment expenses. Like when I go to the movie, you see less and less people. I also think tennis has always been a game where you have a few elite player raking in big bucks and other player barely breaking even by the time they pay for equipment, hotel, traveling expenses. I think the first thing the lesser players cut out is the expense of a coach. Hey does anybody know what a good coach in tennis cost? I'm not talking about the Brad Gilbert's of the world. Just always curious about that.

Posted by Corrie 07/28/2009 at 08:09 AM

There's too many small tournaments. The more you have of something the less it's valued. If the stadiums aren't full in the US tournaments, then that speaks for itself.

As a casual tennis fan, not a hard core fan, I certainly wouldn't watch these smaller events, there's too many other things to do. And there's probably not enough hard core fans to make them really viable. A recession is the time when things get culled and cleaned out, so now is the time to reduce them.

Posted by Philip 07/28/2009 at 08:54 AM

I'm sorry Corrie, I don't agree. If the tournament can be staged financially then there will always be people willing to watch them. These smaller tournaments are the breeding grounds for success in the grand slams by players who need these confidence building moments. Last year a prominent writer on this site also questioned the point of having these tournaments because they don't really mean anything but Steve has summed up quite well the meaning that they do have. Even Andy Roddick would have been there if he wasn't injured.

Posted by Feedforward 07/28/2009 at 11:38 AM

Speaking of devaluing, looks like even the majors have devalued points

last year finalist got 1400, now 1200
Last year semifinalists got 900, now 720

and probably so on down the rounds (I have not studied it in depth). I do believe that "to the victor go the spoils" but was there 40% difference in Roddick's Wimbledon and Federer's? I am a big Roger fan, but come on.

SCINERAM. While I am in basic agreement with you and doubt that there were only 30 tournaments in 1969 (in part because I have seen other reports of how many wins Laver had that year, playing a lot because the purses were pretty small at the start), you did not read where I got my input--I quoted another poster in my post.

I am referring to your comment above that follows.

This is nonsense that only 30 events were in 1969. I have no idea where did you get that. Laver won 18 tournaments that year.

Regardless of how many tournaments there used to be, my point is that it appears that tennis has reached a saturation point in many tournaments. Perhaps if the purses and points were greater more would come (e.g., Hamburg, even devalued from last year, had twice as many points and a much bigger purse than Indy).

With fewer tournaments, supply and demand would indicate it would be easier to find sponsors for those remaining.

Posted by scineram 07/28/2009 at 12:08 PM

Do you have a link to that writing? And Tignor's reply as well?

Posted by Grad Student 07/28/2009 at 12:33 PM

In the tennis community (fans and pundits alike), there has a been an increasing tendency to view Grand Slams as the be all, end all of tennis (dates back to Sampras era). I, mean, reporters laughed when Serena mocked Safina for winning two warm-up tournaments that are basically the equivalent of Master Series events. If we devalue everything other than Slams, how can the tours survive?

By the way, Dunlop, the 94th best player in the NBA is a starter. 30 teams times 5.

Posted by Bobcat 07/28/2009 at 02:12 PM

Steve I'm thinking the top players are trying to retain their rights to their own schedules. There is always talk of the long crowded schedule. Well a top player doesn't need the money won't have to defend points and can work with his team to possibly play 1 or 2 hard court tournaments before the Open. It's a shame these tournaments look like glorified Challenger events. For the true fan tennis is getting more intimate what it poses for the Tour is something else

Posted by El 07/28/2009 at 02:58 PM

Hey Steve,
I read your article in the August issue of Tennis Magazine and I must say it was just so insightful and the your ideas were just so original and refreshing. NOT. I thought it was complete garbage! That is all.

Posted by susan 07/28/2009 at 03:29 PM

The thing that blows my mind is the tenacity or perseverance or whatever it is that drives the lower-ranked players to continue playing tournament after tournament, year after year, without ever winning a title. The chance that they may? The belief that it is possible? Not to state the obvious, but winning is what it's all about in a pro career. I suppose there are other goals - reaching the quarters, then the semis... No wonder there's such elation at finally winning one, even if's it's not a top-tier tournament.

Posted by el 07/28/2009 at 04:10 PM

But really come on! You don't even have to look past the #1 player in the world to find variety in women's game! Dinara Safina's game is composed of heavy topsin groundstrokes and she's always mixing it up with her dropshots and her lobs, and high balls and slices. She really is a great player who uses everything she has to win all of her matches. And if you don't buy me on that, she doesn't have any less variety than Rafael Nadal, who's been utterly dominant on the men's tour! And then you have the #5 player in the world, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who just won the French Open. Her variety and style of play have won her over fans like Roger Federer who even said "I like her game, she plays well." Then in the other half of the top-ten you have players like Jelena Jankovic who uses a blend of craft and counter-punching that makes her a very unique player to watch. You have young players like Caroline Wozniacki, who has a beautiful, casual style of play kind of like Murray, and Agneiska Raswanska who plays a lot like Martina Hingis. Why is it that Murray, who hasn't proven that his variety can win him slams (when he's put to the test against more powerful players like Nadal and Federer), is a testament to the supposed superior variety on the ATP, while people completely overlook players like Wozniacki and Radwanska? Is it just the fact that the girls with the variety are really no match for Venus and Serena- the women that you blame for the WTA's "identity crisis." Is it just a classic case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder? Is it just a coincidence that the Williams sisters are the dominant players on tour again and the WTA is "boring" and "one-note?" I for one think that there's nothing wrong with the WTA and I think that Venus and Serena win because they are brilliant shot-makers who don't really get the credit they deserve for being intelligent players. Quite honestly, Venus and Serena don't even belong in the same category as the other girls, based on the merit of their results alone. You chalk up the disparity to the fact that none of the other girls have "caught up" yet, when ironically just a few years ago Venus and Serena "couldn't compete because they were just power players and the game had based them by." For those of you who are bashing the the women's game(and that's a lot of you), examine your own biases before you post something unfair... or you write a big article about it in Tennis Magazine.

Posted by barry (not Barry) 07/28/2009 at 05:05 PM

Steve - great summary of the tournaments, great photos picked from wherever, great writing coupled with solid analysis.

To add to the comments of Dunlop & Feedforward - it's not viable in the long run to have extremely top-heavy payouts of tournament prizes. The 'winner take all' mentality advocated by many in the U.S. is pernicious in the long run. A system that creates only a few winners and many losers ultimately leads to revolution and the introduction of a new system.

Winning is just a byproduct of all the hard work one puts in. Coming as close as possible to achieving one's peak potential should be what's celebrated in life, especially in a format which yields few (only one) winners.

BTW - last year the winner of a Major got 1000 pts, 700 to the runner up, and 500 or 450 each to the semifinalists. Not sure how this translates to 2009, they appear to have simply doubled up the point values. Or am I mixing up the WTA with the ATP?

El - you have a point about the variety of style in today's women's game, more than ever before; however, competitiveness is what makes watching a sport interesting. Having Serena or Venus overpower opponents is just as boring as watching Pete (Sampras) dominate Wimbledon in droning service fashion, or watching Roger dominate the men's game for two years until Rafa offered counterpunching resistance. Lets not substitute 'intelligence' for physical prowess. This is tennis - a game of physical timing and endurance, along with great mental fortitude; but not a game requiring much in the way of intelligence for success.

Posted by Ade 07/28/2009 at 08:21 PM


I love reading your writings because of your keen observation of the "human condition!"

Yes, it also warmed my heart to see the elation from these 2 guys, who like so many other great players seem to be stiffled sometimes, like somebody being held under water, and allowed to come to the surface to gasp for air.

Under the current Federer, Nadal, and now Murray dominance, it sometimes saddens me because I can empathize how the rest of the players feel when they come in at second, third, and fourth.

So when these guys win these tournaments, I can't help but be so happy for them.

Congratulations Nicolay and Robbie!

Posted by Sher 07/28/2009 at 09:52 PM

>For a sport to mean anything to you, you have to know it means even more to the people playing it.

Great line Steve :)

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Winner of Wimbledon Suicide Pool) 07/29/2009 at 09:31 AM

I love the smaller tournies as it gives somebody else a chance to win and earn some decent money. It is a shame that Hamburg has been degraded as it looks like a nice tournie.

I don't know how someone out of the top 130 can make a living day in, day out for years without earning much money.

Posted by naughty T 07/29/2009 at 11:21 AM

It was sooooooooo worth watching Kolya striking the ball in that beautiful clean free way that has been missing for quite a while. Hopefully he can remain injury free and frighten the bejeezus out of the top guy during the hard court swing in the US. Kolya on song is a thing of beauty and listening to him being interviewed in German is really fun.

Posted by Lynne Danley 07/31/2009 at 11:04 AM

I've been a Roger Federer fan since I first saw him play in 2000. I could see he was something special, and he revived what had been a flagging interest in tennis for me. So I got spoiled. If Roger and the top players weren't playing, I wasn't interested in watching. Lately, however, my husband and I have been tuning in to The Tennis Channel and watching these smaller tournaments and WTT. It's been rather fun. We get to see and come to know more about players who are usually not vying for titles and are having fun just playing tennis (in WTT). I'm sorry, though, that there's not much of chance for these smaller tournaments to survive when their status has been reduced and they don't draw any of the top players. The US Open Series has become a joke. Where are the "Road Trip" commercials? All of those top players aren't competing in most of these tournaments any more. I admit I miss them, but I also agree there is really too many tournaments required for these players who usually are still playing at the end of the tournaments they play. They need and deserve a little rest. For the others, who aren't bringing in the huge bucks and need the rankings points, these smaller tournaments are necessary. I wish something could be done to raise their status and bring in the fans or they will not survive. They need sponsorship and a reason for fans to come. Demoting their status on the tour is a death sentence for them. It's sad.

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