Blake v. Korolev: What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas
by Sean Randall | March 2nd, 2007, 1:31 am

If the ATP could only wish.

In case you missed it, Thursday’s play in Las Vegas was perhaps the final nail in the coffin for the ill-conceived round-robin format introduced this year at selected events by tour chief Etienne de Villiers, or Mr. Disney as many like to call him. ADHEREL

Well Mr. Disney, welcome to Sin City.

I’ve never supported the round robin concept because it’s open to manipulation and it’s too freaking confusion. Today, we certainly had a bit of both in Las Vegas at the Tennis Channel Open.

In the three man round robin group of question we had top seed and defending champ James Blake, Evgeny Korolev and Juan Martin Del Potro all competing for one quarterfinal berth. As it happened, Korolev beat Blake, but then lost to Del Potro. That meant that today if Del Potro were to beat Blake he’d qualify for the quarterfinal as the Argy would be the sole 2-0 player in the group. That’s fair. Makes sense. If, however, Blake won by a wide margin over del Potro (5 or more games), then Blake would be the winner of the group and advance. Otherwise, Korolev would be named the champion. Sounds fair.

Of course the Blake-del Potro match never finished. Blake was in control 6-1, 3-1 at which time Del Potro pulled the plug by retiring from the match citing “respiratory distress”.

Under current rules, once a player retires in a round-robin match he is then eliminated from any quarterfinal contention, leaving the spot and the group winner to be decided between Blake and Korolev, and since both were 1-1 in the group, under the rules the tie is broken by their head-to-head match, which in this case goes to Korolev.

Of course Blake doesn’t know this until after he leaves the court, at which time he’s informed of the rule and that Korolev has been named winner of the group.

It’s a garbage rule, but a rule it is. And one that was followed in spirit a week ago in Buenos Aires when Juan Carlos Ferrero needed to beat Nicolas Lapentti in straight sets to secure his group and reach the quarterfinals. Lapentti, though, pulled out before the match, and his spot was given lucky loser Lukas Dlouhy who lost in straights to Ferrero anyway. But since Lapentti had been eliminated from the group, the winner of the two-man tiebreak was Nicolas Devilder, who had earlier beaten Ferrero in three sets. Fair enough, I guess.

Fast forward to today.

Blake is of course the top seed at the tournament, the defending champion and for a tournament that gets little in the way of attendance – from what I have read, I don’t get the Tennis Channel – one of the tournament’s biggest draws. Basically, they need him.

On the other hand, 19-year-old Korolev is young kid just happy to be part of the game at this point. In my mind a future Top 15 and maybe Top 10 player, but certainly not a big draw fan-wise in Vegas.

Could del Potro have known that if he retired at any point during his match against Blake that his fellow teen Korolev would get that spot? It’s an ugly thought, let’s hope not.

Enter ATP big cheese, Etienne de Villiers, the mastermind behind the round-robin format. With James Blake up in arms over the outcome and out of the event, the tournament upset that they are losing their top seed and big draw, ET decides to bend the rules (rewrite them?) by awarding Blake the quarterfinal berth instead of Korolev.

Why? ET explains: “James Blake will be awarded the group win on the basis that the rules were not sufficiently explained…. James was within just a few games of winning this match comfortably to advance. Juan Martin (del Potro) has stated that he would have completed the match had he been fully aware of the implications of his retirement…The ATP will be awarding Evgeny Korolev the amount of $11,375, the average sum of the prize money for the quarter-finals and semi-finals at this event.”

“Not sufficiently explained”? What the hell does that mean? Isn’t James Blake the VP of the player council, was he sleeping during that meeting? And since when does not knowing the rules get the ruling to go in your favor??

More ET: “James was within a few games of winning this match comfortable to advance.” What are you now freaking Kreskin, ET? How can you be 100% certain that del Potro wouldn’t be able to rally from a 6-1, 3-1 deficit? It’s happened before, especially against Blake who’s had a history of blowing leads. What if Blake turns an ankle, or what if del Potro does? And if you do have these magical powers of prognostication, why are we even playing these matches to begin with, just stick James in the quarters and be done with it. That is the best thing for tennis after all, isn’t it ET?

And the fact that they gave Korolev, who was mysteriously unavailable for comment after the match, some bonus cash means the ATP told the Russian that they screwed up big time.

I understand that they felt they made an error. But in such a situation i think you have to stick with the rules and go with them until you officially change them. Rewriting them as you go along is not the way, especially given today’s which was clearly biased – one in favor of the bigger draw and American over the no-name Russian.
ET says that they will revisit the rule and the RR format later this month in Miami, but the bottom line is the round robin is DOA. It certainly won’t be around a year from now and odds are Vegas will have hosted the last of these type events. Thank God.

As for the players involved, I got nothing against del Potro – I hope he’s feeling better – and really I got nothing against Blake (though he should take better notes at these player meetings he allegedly at!). Unfortunately for Korolev (and Ferrero), he gets screwed in the end because he’s an unknown player and not a bigger name, like his countryman Marat Safin (can you imagine this happening to Marat!).

But I’d love to know from ET, if roles had been reversed today, that is if Korolev was playing del Potro and Blake was the one sitting on the sidelines, if ET would have made the same ruling by awarding Korolev the spot over Blake? If I was in Vegas, I’d bet the house against it. And I’m guessing I wouldn’t be alone. Too bad.

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60 Comments for Blake v. Korolev: What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

Matt Says:

Amazing – I can’t believe they can get away with changing the rules mid-event!

Also, what about the quote from ET stating ‘[del Potro] would have completed the match had he been fully aware of the implications of his retirement’.

Surely the rules state that a player has to give his best efforts throughout the course of a match, and if the quote attributed to del Potro is correct he’s saying he COULD have finished the match, he just CHOSE not to! What’s that all about?

And what about Korolev? Way to stand up for yourself…nothing like taking the money and running.

tsk79 Says:

To Matt,
Don’t blame Korolev. He is just a up and cumming kid. The ATP would/could make his life on the tour real hard if he objects.
Even his compatriot Davydenko(top 5 player, but no starpower) was put in his place(10k fine) when he spoke his mind earlier this season.

Lara Says:

Please don’t start to blame Korolev on that… there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s been screwed in every ways … he’s not gonna ruin his carreer right now going to “fight” with the ATP CEO when anyway no one will care. He’s nobody to them, even though he would say he’s outraged and whatever else it wouldn’t change a thing !
It’s the ones who have power who have to talk, and that’s what Safin and Hewitt did, let’s just hope they won’t be the only ones !

tennis Says:

I was balke fan untill this week.

I hope fed speaks also.

this is corpsion of amrica money, mr micky should be fired imdtley.

farro had the same sitions last week they didn’t change the rule for him.

the is imbersing.
and blake you should be ashme really ashame, frro last week didn’t want to go to the 1/4 becouse he felt it hurt his honor.

I guass blake does not know fair game.

ATP NO Says:

Mickey Mouse!

Donald Duck!

Mickey Mouse!

Lynn Berenbaum Says:

I just read the best LOL quote of this whole ordeal:

“It is clear that fans like round robin and the research confirms it. But unless we can find a way to ensure that withdrawals don’t unfairly affect the outcome of group, I’m afraid round robin will fail.”

— Etienne de Villiers

Don’t be afraid that RR will fail… be afraid that your research team is making up data.

Add to this Blake’s reply when he found out they paid off Korolev and sent him on his way, “(Korolev) is a good kid and I do feel bad for him,” Blake said. “The rule may be silly, but the right thing was done in my view.”

Well, duh. You’re into the quarters. You might take this opportunity to be tactful rather than smug.

Safin and Hewitt both came out to support Korolev in their pressers, and Safin had a great point — if it was Korolev in that situation, you can be sure that the ruling wouldn’t have been reversed and Korolev wouldn’t be in the quarters.

Roger Federer is out of this world Says:

BISH AND ET are on the same line.

The American Government with 9/11 and the ATP with Vegas tourny, same financial terrorists.

Unbelievable, and americans, again, don’t do anything against it.

Americans are… a very very bad example, GOD BLESS AMERICA?? Stupid human beings.

Roger Federer is out of this world Says:

I meant BUSH and the rest

Chris Power Says:

Here is a petition that’s been put online to try to bring about an end to RR in ATP events after Las Vegas.

In case you don’t know, Etienne De Villiers decided to disregard the clear rules that put Evgeny Korolev into the QFs in Las Vegas and instead declared James Blake the winner of the group.

This is absolutely disgraceful. RR is bad enough but now they’re not even prepared to follow their own silly rules.

There is a meeting in Miami during the Miami event in 3 weeks time to review the RR format.

We want to ensure that the REAL fans’ views are heard, not these mythical fans who favour the system that Mr Disney constantly refers to.

Please sign the petition and it will be forwarded to the ATP before that meeting.

We want to see RR scrapped without further ado.

Colleen Says:

The system can never work because all 3 players can’t be given the same opportunity. Ferrero never had the opportunity to beat Lapentti in Buenos Aires; same with Blake and Del Potro. I have a serious issue with bending the rules halfway through the tournament. Not only is this a slap in the face to Korolev and the system, but also to Ferrero. Why bend the rules NOW but not before? Let’s keep tennis fair. That means 2 people, not 3, vying for one spot. To hell with round robin.

The guy who sells ice to Eskimos Says:

I think the round robin is a great idea.

Sashenka Says:

First of all, even though I’m a huge Blake fan, I think this was a total bull crap call. I completely agree with Lynn, because I would have loved to see Etienne get thrown into the crowd had he taken Safin or Hewitt’s win away from them; it’s not fair at all.

However, please don’t say that it’s just Americans doing this. If this was a tournament in Europe and Nadal (or any other headliner) were in Blake’s position, it wouldn’t be blamed on that country, but on the ATP and Etienne’s crap job of running it. I’m American and I’m just as upset as you are about this.

KOM Says:

Tsk79- please don’t say Korolev or anyone else is “up and cumming.”

Plus, in an ambiguous situation, you have to give the tournament a little benefit of the doubt. Choosing Blake made enough sense to pass. This is tennis, a sport, entertainment. Relax.

Reality Says:

Ok folks,
KOM made a good point. This is tennis, a sport. When are sports ever fair? Politics prevails in just about every avenue of life, even tennis. The ATP is all about politics, and what will improve tennis’ popularity. For some reason the ATP thinks that a round robin formt will help, but we can all see that isn’t going to work. And to all you Bush/America bashers out there. It’s REAL stretch to say that the ATP’s poor judgement reflects America’s values. I’m pretty sure the ATP would have done the same thing if it was Hewit, Nadal, Federer, or any other big name (non-American) seed. Remember, Blake was the top seed (and defending shamp)in this tournament.

dryeagle Says:

I would like to respond to this comment in the article:

In the three man round robin group of question we had top seed and defending champ James Blake, Evgeny Korolev and Juan Martin Del Potro all competing for one quarterfinal berth. As it happened, Korolev beat Blake, but then lost to Del Potro. That meant that today if Del Potro were to beat Blake he’d qualify for the quarterfinal as the Argy would be the sole 2-0 player in the group. That’s fair. Makes sense. If, however, Blake won by a wide margin over del Potro (5 or more games), then Blake would be the winner of the group and advance. Otherwise, Korolev would be named the champion. Sounds fair.

I believe you have your facts mixed up here. Going into the Blake-Del Potro match, Blake needed to win by 7 or more games in straight sets to advance to the QF (say Blake won 6-1, 6-4: Blake 19-18 games won, Del Potro 18-18, Korolev 17-18; Blake advances on games won %). Otherwise, Del Potro would’ve advanced based on games won % or sets won % (if he took a set off Blake).

Basically what I’m saying here is that a finished match between Blake-Del Potro regardless of the score eliminates Korolev. Going into Blake-Del Potro, the only way Korolev could’ve advanced to the QF was a Del Potro retirement.

I’m not here to argue the retirement rule, that is another issue. But when you don’t have the facts straight in your article, its hard for me to accept you arguement. Get it right the next time Sean!

di-10S Says:

more disturbing – “Juan Martin (del Potro) has stated that he would have completed the match had he been fully aware of the implications of his retirement”
So he could’ve kept on playing. It wasn’t a career threatening injury or anything. Just decided ‘i’ll stop now’

this is the bullshit(player’s “injuries”, ATP madness) that makes me not want to watch sports anymore

jk Says:

Yes, It’s disgraceful. Chnging the rules in the middle of a tourney just isnt done in serious sports. If RR is to be saved (and maybe it still can be) the tiebreaking rules needs to be changed to not count games and sets (what next – points?), only matches won. Two-way ties should be broken by head to head (maybe they already are – I don’t know). For three-way ties coin flips would be better than what they use now.

tash Says:

what a disgrace. i hope federer speaks out against this…like safin and hewitt have. blake has been very ungracious about this saying it was fair, funny how all the un planned events show just how nasty blake truly is. somehow i see non of the american players saying this decision was wrong. you can bet that roddick wont say a things against his friend. boy do i miss agassi at a time like this.

abybaby Says:

This is bullshit, but I am not surprised. The whole RR format was created so that tourneys like Vegas can pay big bucks to their star players and keep them around for at least 2 matches. I hope this confusion goes away asap.

John Says:

Has this happened before, where you change the rules to reward the headliner, after the matches are over?

The OJ Jury Says:

The ATP’s decision makes perfect sense to us.

Fan of Tennis Says:

I say don’t blame the players! If someone told you that you were advancing, would you say “no, –uhm, no thanks”… It’s the stupid rules and the ATP big-wigs that messed this up so leave the players out of this. Everyone involved should have thought about the RR rules and regs before running blindly and putting these on the calendar.

The only tournament RR has worked (and the only one I like to see it in) is the Masters Cup. I don’t think regular ATP tournaments should be RR format. Like Roger said, I like the knock-out rule. If a player loses – then he’s out – regardless of who he/she is. The ATP tournament directors got what they deserved – confused mess! You should always thoroughly research something new; you should run trial run-throughs, etc. Something they didn’t do.

Let’s call for the Tennis Commissioner to sort this stuff out! Oh what? No Tennis Commissioner? Enough said…

We need Agassi as the Tennis commissioner – or someone like him to be over everything. It’s just the blind leading the blind right now and they are just running in circles!

allcourt Says:

“Could del Potro have known that if he retired at any point during his match against Blake that his fellow teen Korolev would get that spot? It’s an ugly thought, let’s hope not.”

These are the kinds of possibilities that the ATP should have thought of and dealt with through rule changes BEFORE they decided to use RR in serious competitions (the most serious being the YEC), NOT in the middle of a tournament that desperately needs its top-seeded player to stick around for the weekend. IMHO, although the timimg is awful, the decision is a good one from a fairness (not just a financial) point of view. We will probably see that when they change the rules in order to eliminate the chances of one player to pulling out and preventing another player from moving on just because — maybe — he doesn’t like that player.

Michael Says:

Well, IMHO the Tennis Channel open is a mediocre event anyway, but with this decision they have made it even worse…

What did Safin and Hewitt have to say about this ?

It’s a lot to expect, but blake should ahve done the honorable thing and refused the quarterfinal slot.
Korolev got a royal screwing here.

anyway, I never understood why players like Blake, Safin, etc., go there, instead of going to Dubai.

Or are they just trying to stay away from Federer ? :):)

Roger Federer Says:

Hello fans,

Some told me to speak out, and yes, I will.

We all know these kind of things happen in this world, even the American Government is justifying 9/11 by manipulating Americans, while all the facts are there that they are behind the killings of thousands of Americans.

In my opinion we have to fight against these sorts of unjustice, so fans, speak out because it will make the world a lot better.

Kind Regards,

Your Roger.

PS. Keep tennis tennis.

Argie Doper Says:

Let me do a little exercise to demonstrate how ridiculous this sytem is.

Imagine that instead of Korolev we had Monaco in that group. (Blake, Monaco, Del Potro). Also, asume Monaco and Del Potro (both from Argentina) are actually very good friends off and on the tour.
During the Blake-Del Potro match, Del Potro is getting his butt kicked and the match is about to end. Meanwhile Del Potro, angry at himself for losing so badly, is remembering a joke Monaco said that morning: “If you are losing badly (ie less tha 5 games won) why dont you retire, you help me and screw blake, he definitely doesnt need the points as badly as I do! Just Kidding!”

Just an hypothetical situation, it would never actually happen, would it?

tennisguy Says:

believe it or not the atp has just reversed its reversal. blake is out. koralev is now in.

“An incorrect variation of ATP rules resulted in the erroneous passage of James Blake into the quarterfinals of the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas, and according to the rules Evgeny Korolev will advance instead of Blake, the ATP announced today.”

can anyone confirm if the spielberg ET and this ET are related? both from outer space??

Mahatma Gandhi Says:

I asked Roger Federer if he wrote the above post and he told me “NO!”.

Anyway, I certify that all the people are angels and will go to heaven after earth.

Peace out!

Give OJ and Etienne another chance guys…

Ted Says:

If you have been watching the Tennis Channel Open, you will note that, along with the oddball camera angles, there are no shots of the crowd. This is because the stadium is virtually empty. I’m sure that the initial decision to keep Blake in was to help the tournament.

The RR system is a joke anyway.

JW Says:


Blake is out–Korolev is in. ET did the right thing…

John Says:

Another RR mess:

Hewitt def Spadea 6-3, 6-3
Spadea withdraws
Lucky-Loser Lu replaces Spadea
Johansson def Lu 6-0, 6-1
At this point, it’s a head-to-head for the Hewitt/Johansson match.
But this would have also been true if Johansson had lost to Lu, correct?

Gman Says:

Besides the RR mess its really disheartening to see bloggers start using this episode to unfairly label people. I see comments like ‘all american players are like this’ etc… James is a tennis player, a good one and one of good character. He was told going into this match that if he wins without giving away a certain nbr of games he’d be in the qtrs. He obviously felt betrayed when that didn’t happen just like anyone of us would. I suppose if he had more time to think about what was happening he would be against rule changing as well. Even though it was an unfair one. In the spirit of tennis I propose we quit the american-bashing.

Roger Federer Says:

I always lie.

Mahatma Gandhi Says:

“I always lie,”

Me too.

George Bush Says:

I never lie and God speaks to me. God says you are all liars. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Nevermind Says:

*chooses to ignore above comments*

This is sport, we’re going to hate 90% of what they do anyway. I mean, they’re number one object is fans and money. They have to make it interesting like it isn’t interesting enough. Anyway, I like Blake and I like the way he handles himself. The rest is such a complicated mess, I don’t really care. It’s not like many of them are struggeling for money, so if they do good, good on them, if Blake loses one or two, I’m sure he’ll make it up later!

tash Says:

*tut tut* some people refuse to discuss an in important issue and act like children

ATP NO Says:

“The ATP will be awarding Evgeny Korolev the amount of $11,375, the average sum of the prize money for the quarter-finals and semi-finals at this event.”

So that’s like the ATP giving him the benefit of possibly having reached the semi-finals… but not just quite. Perhaps they were thinking had he played the quarterfinals and gone up oh, say 6-1 3-1 but was forced to retire (let’s just say due to a respiratory issue) then it would make sense to give him some of the money that he almost won for almost reaching the semis.

Sounds like a Disney movie where ANYTHING is possible…

Anyone know where I can get one of those ATP NO shirts I think the Bryans were selling before the big bad revolution?

Sean Randall Says:

Thanks for all the comments, as you all know the new song and dance out of the ATP is that ET (no, not Spielberg’s ET though I’ll listen to the argument), who at first claimed the players didn’t know the rules, is in fact the real one who didn’t know the rules. Let’s dive into his comments.

“I was contacted late at night my time and did not fully understand the issues being discussed and I made a judgment call on what seemed fair. However I understand that judgment calls are not part of the rule book and I must abide by the rules, as must everybody else in the circumstance,” de Villiers said in an ATP statement.

What ET meant to say: “I had just taken my last hit of the ‘ol Mexican dirt when the phone rings, and it’s James. He’s upset. He tells me the situation. Then the tournament director gets on. He tells the event’s struggling and he really needs James around for the weekend. I agree. The ATP supervisor then gets on and says it’s my call, so I tell him to go ahead and put James in, especially since I’ve never heard of this Evgeny fellow. It’s just tennis, which is a form of entertainment. It’s like switching Donald Duck for Goofy. Same thing, right? But now I’m told I can’t make that decision. I had no idea. I thought I was the boss. Cripes, I guess I don’t even know the rules of my own tour.”

“This is of course an unpleasant situation for all involved, but we must abide strictly by the rules. I apologize to James for giving false hope and to Evgeny for the confusion. I said we would be prepared to make mistakes but that we would reverse them if necessary and learn from them.”

What ET meant to say: ‘Marat called me later and he was pissed. I really had no idea he was such a hothead. The last thing I want to do is get a big Russian upset at me. Then Lleyton got on the phone and it didn’t get much better for there. Gosh, sorry for pissing everyone off. I was just trying to do things the Disney Way.’

“I hope that it is recognized that I acted in good faith and my intentions were to do the right thing and see fairness prevail. Clearly, I was wrong to intervene. I have always maintained that we should experiment with new and different ideas and it was with this in mind that I made what I thought was a fair call.”

What ET meant to say: ‘With the poor attendance, I was only trying to help the sport by keeping the more popular player and the American alive. Let’s be real, the tournament really needed James to get through, and the tournament director, David, is also from South Africa so we had it pretty well sorted. If only Marat and Lleyton weren’t there to raise the issue my intervention would have gone unnoticed. James sells tickets, Evgeny doesn’t. That how I did it at Disney. It’s all entertainment in the end. I still don’t see what the big deal is. I need to come up with some better experiments in the future.’

“I regret that I got involved, that I overruled a supervisor and I regret this storm in a teacup.”

What ET meant to say: ‘I should never have signed up for this job. My old Mickey Mouse organization was easier to manage than this one. Dealing with Donald Duck is a whole hell of a lot easier than taking late night calls from Marat that’s for sure.’

“What this situation and a somewhat similar confusing end to a group result in Buenos Aires have shown is that the experiment has brought a sharp focus onto specific flaws involved with round robin competition and the review of the format and the decision as to whether to continue at all, will now be brought forward.”

What ET meant to say: ‘We are dumping this round-robin format ASAP. I can’t lose my job over this. It’s not worth the trouble. And I can’t believe none of my other Execs tried to stop me when I put this garbage out on the table last year. I should have listened to Roger Federer from the beginning and scraped it. Makes me wonder what other bad decisions I’ve made, and since when did we get a tournament Buenos Aires?’

“Discussions with ATP Board members and other parties have already started and the future of round robin play has now been put on the agenda for the ATP Board meeting, starting in Miami on March 22.”

What ET meant to say: ‘I just hope Marat, Lleyton, James and the rest of you guys will keep me around long enough so I will even be at that meeting. I will fix everything, I promise. Whatever format you guys want, we’ll do it. More money, more women, private jets, eight-man draws, more free towels. You name it. Anything. Just don’t can me.’

What’s amazing is that ET is in charge of the ATP and he basically admits to not knowing the rules of his own sport. How the heck does that happen? Did he not get a copy of his own rulebook? Were there none available in the “rulebook storage room”??

But ET should have known better anyway, that you simply cannot step in mid-tournament and change the rules to suit the circumstance. Maybe in business, but not in sports. Apparently, though, he thought he could. And in the end he looks like a complete fool while good guy (or former good guy now) James Blake is left “hung out to dry.” Blake supported ET’s first overrule going against his fellow players like Safin and Hewitt by saying it was a “common sense” decision and the right thing to do, now he looks far worse after this latest reversal. I guess in ET’s mind, though, in order to save face it was better to piss off one guy, James Blake, then to have the rest of the players on the tour against you. More to come I’m sure.

Lynn Berenbaum Says:

Good gawd Sean, that was a blog post in and of itself. Funny stuff!

Several questions weighing on my mind today:

Why is it that the ATP managed to enter into this format without fully canvassing the scenarios? I mean, really, they had to wake up the Chairman in the middle of the night to resolve this? (Okay, that’s two ?’s there…)

Also, how did the ATP communications staff fuck this up so badly? They actually burned their own CEO and made up data to boot. Well done! Maybe they could just come up and print “Tennis fans are stupid” tee shirts and auction them off on eBay… along with the fridge (wtf is with that anyway?)

Thirdly, how are they going to recover from this? They are all full of big plans to remake the game, but given all the bitterness and scrutiny, anything they do in the short term is going to just raise ire and stick in the collective tennis craw. Again, well done. Talk about Disney-esque entertainment value — next up will be a popcorn and Tab chaser.

I posted up some of my other thinks, and entered into a debate with Nina Rota of TennisDiary, the seemingly only RR supporter here. Feel free to jump in.

P.S. Isn’t the expression “a tempest in a teacup”? JC.

baselinehack Says:

James Blake got burned badly by Mr Disney and this tournament. I hope he never defends ET in public again.

James Blake (not really) Says:

Why’s everyone coming down on Blake?
Why’s Sean (if indeed it’s the real Sean Randall…) putting words in Blake’s mouth?

Blake did what anyone else (including Marat, and especially Lleyton) would have done in the situation. Get some perspective.

The RR concept was fatally flawed from the beginning, but it has some allure at first look. Remember, Roger Federer was willing to give it a try at first. It was only after analysing it from a historical and personal viewpoint that he became a disapprover.

RR kills competitive spirit and eliminates the surprise element that tennis so badly needs. In addition, the complexity involved is a major turn-off factor for fans. Blake was a fool for supporting RR, but that’s the only area where he’s culpable. If you blame him, you should also blame all those supporting RR and even those choosing (not forced like Korolev) to play it.

Bruno Says:

Sad situation. That’s all it is.

But, imo, if anyone has a complaint, it’s JB. He gets eliminated by a retirement. Totally out of his control. Sure, he could have beaten Korolev, but he goes home for a default? Stupid format and poorly executed. Fix it or lose it.

Etienne de Villain Says:


Why are you all getting so worked up over this? Fans simply LOVE the round-robin format. Want proof? Just go ask Mickey, Donald, Daffy, Jiminy Cricket, Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, the Big Bad Wolf and Chicken Little yourselves. That’s what I did. And they will tell you just like they told me that the round-robin format is the way future.

p.s., What’s a “rulebook”?

breakpoint Says:

Maybe you know about this already but there’s an online petition against RR going on, which has collected more than 800 signatures in the past couple of days. It will be sent to ATP before the Miami meeting. :)
Please add your name if you agree with the petition starter! :)

Paula Says:

i may not be understanding this correctly, but i read that basically because the match ended in a retirement the games played don’t count in the tiebreak situation and it comes down to the head to head. if this is the case, that’s beyond stupid, if a retirement counts as a W on the score sheet, then there’s no way that the games played shouldn’t count here. RR was stupid to begin with and it’s still stupid. the unpredictability of knockout play is far better, the atp just doesn’t know crap about marketing any aspect of the game. I feel badly for james, he was understandably pissed and got the short end of the stick on this one. he’d have been stupid to voice any disagreement with ET’s judgment call, he’d be out, he’d piss of the tournament, and he’d have made the tour’s CEO look even worse. unfortunately he comes off looking like a bad guy though.

euroka1 Says:


What the hell did go on!
…..and who did call de Villiers?

…..did Federer really get involved?


It’s in Russian originally but here are some quotes from Korolev interview to “Sport-Express”:

“The rules were known before tournament’ start. Yes, they are complicated and far from optimal, I believe. I knew if del Potro retired I would advance to the quarters… I was following the match via internet and when Blake had led 6-1 1-0 I was off to the club to receive prize money and papers for next tournament. And all of sudden I met del Potro who said, “You are through”. “How? What happenned”, I asked. He said, “I have breathe problems”.

“Then I came up to James and said, “Sorry but that’s it”. He replied, “They are still discussing”. “Discussing what?” “Who’s gonna advance.” “But according to the rules it’s me, isn’t it? If I am wrong then I accept it cos it’s really not fair towards you”.

“Later I’ve been told Blake got angry after the match and went to supervisor to appeal the rules. Of course he was leading and should win eventually but rules are the rules. Also I’ve been told ATP chairman changed them by one phone call and decided James would play.

“I was unhappy with that decision, of course. And I was supported by Safin, Hewitt and Johansson. I wanna thank Marat especially. He came to me and said, “Come with me. We need to solve all this”. He very softly told them everything he thought of this situation. He asked them how could they do that and who gave them a right to change the rules mid-tournament?
“I also got in touch with my agents and they helped me too. One of them woke me up at 5 a.m. and said, “You will play”. At 6 a.m. Mark Derby called me and said de Villiers changed his mind in my favor. The next one who called me was de Villiers himself. He apologized and said he did what he thought would be the best thing.

“They had meeting in Dubai with Federer and other guys taking part in it. All of them said it was me who should play by the rules. They contacted de Villiers and came to conclusion nobody was allowed to change the rules in the middle of tournament.

“I haven’t met Blake since Thursday when we both still thought he came through. I told him I couldn’t be satisfied obviously but wished him luck for the rest of tournament.

“I don’t want to discuss whether Blake was right or not. The fact that James talked to the officials and probably phoned to ATP was kind of natural decision. He stated the rules had a hole. What else could he do? Anyway, I hope we got each other right.”

zola Says:


I didn’t know Blake called ET to complain. ( what a correct name , for an extra terrestrial to tennis)
It’s a shame. Blake dropped a lot in my rankings. ET is obviously out.

How do they do it in master series ? Round Robi seems to work well there.

Blake Fan 4 Eva Says:

The Masters Tournament does ok (not perfect) with the RR system because the number of players is only 8 and divided into 2 groups of 4 from which 2 are selected (after everyone plays everyone else in the group) from each group to play 2 from the other group. Whew! That was confusing! Imagine how much more confusing it would be for a player pool of 32 or 48 or 64 if it was this confusing for a player pool of 8!

Blake was so stupid to endorse RR. Maybe he was think with his Harvard cap off or something. This has been a huge tragedy for him. I still admire him for what he is; he just human, not like Roger Federer, who seems immune to human frailties. Except for Roger, I can’t see any senior player behaving any different in such a situation.

zola Says:

I hope we won’t see a situation like this anymore. But what makes you think Roger would behave any different? I think he has his own insecurities.
I really wish to see a sports person that doesn’t take advantage of a situation like that A Henman or Yuzhny that doesn’t take a false point only to win or a Blake that doesn’t call ET to bend the rules to advance in a tournament. I yet have to wait!

Blake Fan 4 Eva Says:

Roger takes his position as the #1 player very seriously and won’t risk losing his moral high ground on such things. Maybe his genius tennis skills enable him to extricate himself without resorting to underhanded tactics.

To illustrate, Roger didn’t argue with the ref on the match point in the recent match with Djokovic (in Dubai), who used the computer replay to overturn it. He had to play the 3rd set to win the match and he didn’t complain about it.

Contrast such behaviour with Nadal, who till he lost to Youzhny, was raving about the virtues of the computer replay system. That doesn’t mean that Nadal is being hypocritical. It’s just that for the first time he experienced the inadequacies of the computer replay system on a first hand basis.

Likewise, Blake didn’t understand the inadequacies of RR system till he encountered it on a first hand basis in Vegas. Presumably, he talked about it to de Villiers. de Villiers should have been firm and told him that RR rules were flawed and he simply can’t do anything mid-tournament, instead of giving him false assurance and stopping Korolev from properly preparing himself for the upcoming match which he advanced to.

Don’t blame Blake for de Villiers’ fault. Blake was only a complainant. de Villiers was the arbiter in this mess. de Villiers didn’t even have the jurisdiction over this issue, still he went on to mess it up. He should be sacked promptly. He’s making light of the issue by saying it’s not Iraq war or African famine. How unprofessional can he get?

zola Says:

Blake is the vice president of the players committee or something like that. He either didn’t do a good job as the vice president to learn the rules properly, or he used his position to call ET and complain. Either way, it looks bad. Don’t try to dilute it by mixing it up with Fed or Nadal Hawkeye arguments.

Blake Fan 4 Eva Says:

It’s obvious that he wasn’t aware of the rules or flaws in those rules. Just because he’s vp of player’s committee doesn’t automatically mean he should memorise or even fully comprehend all the rules. There are officials for it and there is a system in place to interpret and implement those rules.

de Villiers was influenced not by Blake, but by the event organisers who preferred Blake to Korolev. I suspect that de Villiers doesn’t like Blake as the vp of the players council and fully utilised the opportunity to implicate him here. Blake was such a fool to not see the RR system for the minefield it was, still is (and will always be).

This is not the first time that de Villiers has exhibited chauvinism instead of fairplay. Russia was the target this time. Earlier it was China. Last year he made derogatory comments about China and Asia while arguing for the Masters Tournament to be brought back to Europe. His vision for tennis is myopic and instead of working towards globalising tennis even more, he’s tinkering with the basic rules of the sport.

zola Says:

well, ET’s background in Disney, not tennis! It just shows how much ATP cares about tennis!

So you say that this was all a great conspiracy by the Evil ET and ATP to ruin Blake’s future as a tennis player ( what was the motivation?). Wow! Blake is a Harvard student, he is mature enough and he has been on tour for a long time. The bottom line is that he saw the opportunity and took it at the expense of another player. It was foolish and looked bad.

zola Says:

I loved the title.

Blake Fan 4 Eva Says: :Matt Cronin on says…
[QUOTE]Speculation as to who called de Villiers in Las Vegas can now be slightly laid to rest. Blake was told when he came off court last week after Juan del Potro had retired in the second set that he would get through, but then was told he wouldn’t, so he went to the on-site ATP officials and asked for clarification. It appears that it was ATP Supervisor Mark Darby or some other ATP official who called de Villiers, not Blake or Tennis Channel Open TD David Edges.

“My initiative was just going in to talk to Darby about it, learn about the rule, to find out what was going on, how this happened, how come no one let us know of the rule,” Blake said. “And it just kind of spiraled into a long discussion. And before we knew it, we were on the phone with Etienne. I don’t know who initially called him, but we just decided maybe we need to get more people on the line as to figuring out this situation.”[/QUOTE]

Oh now I get it, it’s you people who don’t like Blake and blackball him every half-chance you get… I wonder why… :(

Sean Randall Says:

Great post Lynn. That Nina Rota needs to get her head examined, or get off ET’s payroll.

As for Blake. He’s in hot water because he’s a VP and he doesn’t no the rules. And he admitted to not knowing the rules.

Said Blake about going to the tournament office after learning that the rules left him out of teh Vegas quarterfinals: “My initiative was just going in to talk to Darby about it, learn about the rule, to find out what was going on, how this happened, how come no one let us know of the rule, all that kind of stuff.”

His words, not mine. He says “how come no one let us know of the rule”. Huh? As a VP of the players he should know that rule, and he shouldn’t have to ask the supervisor or anyone else to “find out what was going on.” Hewitt knew, Safin knews and Korolev knew the rule. But Blake, a VP, didn’t?

Bottom line as a VP Blake has to know that rule.

And yes, ET did in fact call Roger to get him invovled.

Said Roger: “I got a phone call from Etienne de Villiers, who explained me the situation. I mean, I was far away, you know, so there was the whole time difference, the whole thing was kind of happening. I just remember going on the Internet and checking out the scores of Vegas and I saw that Blake was through, but I couldn’t figure it out, because I thought Korolev should have been through, even though Blake was about to win, you know, the whole thing. So I thought, okay, well, I guess I miscalculated or whatever, and then I got a phone call on the way over to the club, you know, from the de Villiers explaining the whole situation, kind of the whole back and forth, you know. I said okay. Well, let’s see where — your problem, you know. I’m over here, you know.”

So i wonder why ET felt he had to call Roger. Roger’s not a player council guy. Sure he’s No. 1, but that doesn’t mean you have to call him to get approval on anything you do, does it? Did ET called Roddick or Ljubicic or Davydenko or Nicholas Mahut to get their input. Did they all have their phones turned off? Why just Roger?

Very odd.

The Tennis Backhander » Tennis Embarrassed Again as ATP CEO Steps In to Make Things Wrong Says:

[…] For more see Sean Randall’s “Blake v Korolev: What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas” […]

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