POWER CONTEST: Does anyone besides me enjoy watching women’s pro matches where players know how to slice, volley, dropshot, change the pace up on opponents and construct a point, rather than just whaling away from the baseline hoping to hit the first winner? Shouldn’t the tour be celebrating players who can hit every shot such as Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo? Instead on Monday the WTA Tour announced a “innovative new statistic,” the “Power Index.” “The top women’s tennis players in the world are more powerful than ever,” says the WTA media release. “Now, there’s a way to measure it.” The Power Index for a player is arrived at by averaging a player’s fastest shots during a match: first and second serves, groundstroke (forehand or backhand), first and second-serve returns, and smash/volley. “We’re excited about the introduction of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Power Index and think it’s another great way to recognize the extraordinary talent, athleticism and sheer power of our top players,” said Stacy Allaster, President of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. I’m not excited about it — just the opposite. I’d rather we celebrate all-around players, not just those who can only hit topspin forehands and backhands as hard as they can, because those are the only shots in their arsenal. The Power Index debuted in San Diego last week where the top ball-bludgeoner was Venus Williams, who didn’t win the event. I’m all for new innovations, but this is like the NFL recognizing which quarterback throws the hardest instead of who completes the most passes. Who cares?
MURRAY DOWNTURN: Andy Murray’s brother Jamie rose to popularity as part of the “Stretch and Booty” team with American Eric Butorac, then shockingly dumped Butorac. The move was reminiscent of older brother Andy dumping Mark Petchey when he felt he could climb higher with a better support team. The Murray-Butorac team emerged, from total obscurity, to win three titles earlier this year, apparently not good enough for the “striving” Murray. “True champions make these decisions when they are at the top of the game rather than the bottom,” said Jamie Murray’s agent Patricio Apey. “They’ve had some good open discussions and decided it was best to go on without each other. They have learned a lot together but it is time to move on. It is in the Murray genes to always strive for the best.” Murray made his first post-Butorac appearance this week, striving to reach the second round at the Masters Series-Canada with James Blake, but losing in their opener against Fernando Gonzalez and Ivan Ljubicic. Don’t rule out a Stretch and Booty reunion, ala Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor, as sometimes players don’t realize until late that it’s sometimes more about the team chemistry and not all about you.
NO. 1 SINGLES vs. NO. 1 DOUBLES: The Bryan brothers are hoping Roger Federer and his Swiss partner Yves Allegro win their first-round match this week at the Masters Series-Canada so they can seek some revenge on the Swiss No. 1 in a “rivalry” that hasn’t been revived in five years. The Bryans, the world No. 1 doubles team who receive a first-round bye in Montreal, are 2-2 career against Federer. The Bryans beat him in their first two meetings in 2001 at Rome (where the Swiss partnered Alex O’Brien) and Hamburg (w/Jonas Bjorkman), but then the following year the Bryans lost their two most recent encounters at 2002 Rome (where Federer paired with Tim Henman) and Indian Wells (w/Max Mirnyi). The match will revive the age-old argument as to whether any top singles player or singles pair (his Swiss partner Allegro is a doubles specialist) is a dominant-enough player to beat a team of top doubles specialists.
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