A few quick hits:
Sharapova to Steal No. 1?
Amelie Mauresmo is No. 1 on the WTA Tour Rankings. Justine Henin-Hardenne has had a better year that Mauresmo, and is currently No. 1 in the 2006-points-only standings. Who will come out on top at the end of the year? Maria Sharapova?
Henin announced on her website she is likely out until the year-end championships in Madrid, if her bum knee even allows her to play that. Mauresmo is attempting to play Moscow this week after pulling mid-tournament last week in Stuttgart with a right shoulder injury. Stuttgart, by the way, had eight of the Top 15 pull out with injuries. That’s not injury, that’s an epidemic.
Enter the No. 3 Sharapova on the 2006-only standings, a mere 145 points behind the No. 2 Mauresmo. The leggy global brand can bridge that gap with 135 points for reaching the semifinals this week at Moscow, depending on the injured Mauresmo’s results. A win in Moscow would put her at No. 2, roughly 450 points behind the idle Henin. Then the global brand will get additional point-earning opportunities at Zurich (Tier I) and Linz (Tier II) before the year-end championships in Madrid.
Sharapova needs to play her brand of muscle ball while doing what few of the WTA top players can do nowadays — stay uninjured.
Davis Cup Popularity Up and Up
The International Tennis Federation announced that hits on the official Davis Cup website last month, which featured the World Group semifinals (Russia d. U.S., Argentina d. Australia) and the World Group Playoffs, were the highest in recorded history.
Especially in the U.S., where viewers are frequently forced to hit the web when broadcasters think tennis fans are content with watching tape-delayed matches.
“Daviscup.com and Fedcup.com, the official sites of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, have enjoyed more traffic on each tie weekend in 2006 than in any previous year,” says the ITF. “The 2007 Davis Cup draw, covered live on Davis Cup Radio for the first time, also proved a big attraction as 51,000 visitor sessions and 267,068 page views were recorded on draw day alone. There were 45,000 unique visitors to the site, and 1,400 people accessed the live radio coverage.”
What’s the point? I don’t know, but if you’re huddled in front of your computer listening to on-line live radio coverage of the Davis Cup draw — I bow down to you, you are on another level of fandom — and maybe should consider seeking help.
One of tennis’ jewels, yet not ATP or WTA events, the Davis cup gets short shrift even as the oldest and largest event in world sports. Maybe someone besides the promotion-challenged ITF could polish that jewel a little more, especially in the U.S. where sporting news of the Davis Cup is on par with girl’s high school JV soccer.
Pub That Masters Cup Doubles
When the ATP sliced and diced the doubles game, changing to no-ad scoring and a tiebreak instead of a third set, the reasoning was that more singles stars would play doubles since the matches were shorter.
So how is that going?
The highest Top 20 singles player on the ATP Doubles Race standing is Mario Ancic at No. 27 with partner Mahesh Bhupathi. They’ve played two tournaments together all year.
The “Doubles Revolution,” as they say, will not be televised. From the looks of things, you can’t be sure it even happened. Are you following the fact that this week five of the eight positions at the Masters Cup Doubles have been filled (see if you can name a team besides the Bryan brothers), and the final three spots are being contested by teams such as Fyrstenberg-Matkowski and Dlouhy-Vizner? Try and promote that.
The ATP announcement of cutting doubles to get more singles players involved brought back memories of the years John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Guy Forget and Patrick Rafter earned year-end doubles berths.
Doubles remains the most-played, and most popular, aspect of tennis among recreational players, as it ironically disappears from the pro game.
Most of the doubles guys don’t mind what’s going on with “doubles promotion,” as long as there are doubles draws at events and they are still getting paid. But perhaps it’s time to start worrying, if you’re a doubles specialist, whether this “Revolution” has an end goal of improving the game, or if it’s just a diversion until the ATP tournament voting block again tries and get the ATP to completely cut the doubles cord.
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