Monday, July 27, 2015

Wk.29- The Locker Room is a Lonely Place

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The average age of the winners this week was 23. None of these players have been on tour a long time. Paire, at 26, is the most experienced but even he is still young and could still fulfill his potential. Tomic and Thiem still have potential to fulfil and talent to burn. And that is today's introduction topic. Loneliness.

There are places renowned for loneliness. Being a main character in a Springsteen song or a Steinbeck novel[la] guarantee loneliness but loneliness does not have to be a negative thing. Sometimes loneliness and solitude can bring great rewards. Da Vinci created some of today's greatest works whilst all on his lonesome. And some of the greatest explorers we have did things all by myself. My name-sake had at times a very lonely existence. He at least knew he was right and perhaps he even knew that in the future he would be respected and admired.

The locker-room could be the most lonely place there is. Sharapova has said it. Rugby players have said it. Football players and soccer players have said it. And they are part of teams. And cricketers have said it, too. In cricket, and in baseball to a degree, it can be so lonely being the batsmen. The bowler [pitcher] and the fielders have each other but the two hitting the ball are on their own pretty much. There's a big crowd and you're just there. On your own.

And for tennis players, it has to be the same. Sure, you have a team but in the locker-room before a match you are on your own. And you may be on good terms with the other girls but you don't speak to the person you'll be playing. You don't interact. And then to go out to a crowd, that can be up to 22000 people which is about the size of your average small American town. Every decision you make out there is your own. The pressure can ruin some people and it can make others. The reason, in part, that there are so many first round drubbings on the big courts is not the gap in level. Because honestly is there a huge gap in level between the world number 2 and the world number 70. There isn't really, not when you think about it. It's the mental ability as much as anything else.

Mentally, can you handle the big occasion? And if you make a mistake or if you get booed [Hingis comes to mind, Azarenka, too] can you deal with the hate. And it is even worse if you're 17 or in that age bracket. 17 year olds should be in malt bars, perhaps solving a ridiculous mystery, at skate parks, watching tv, acting like their relationship is more than a summer romance. 18 year olds should be drinking too much at ridiculously noisy parties and pretending they enjoy dreadful music and pretending they can dance. Nobody could dance when they were 18. Well, except the Jacksons and aren't they the biggest exceptions there are? These young stars should not be on big courts, literally cracking under the pressure.

Our sport has ruined so many young stars. Barty recently, Oudin before her and, almost the archetype, Jennifer Capriati. But on the men's side too. Gasquet, Chang, and Tomic are all fairly recent examples of what can happen. There is still time for Tomic, and Gasquet has built a very good career, but it isn't hard to see why they were broken. The pressure and the isolation is suffocating, it chokes you. It's the same for politicians on the campaign trail. Do you think Hillary sees her grand-daughter? Do you think Rand Paul sees his mistress?

We put these tennis players on a pedestal. We idolize them, we make them out to be gods. But they aren't. This is their job and it's an awful one. Who says we have the right to judge Bouchard and yet we do. I have done on here myself. Who says we have the right to judge Bernie for circumstances which are mostly out of his hands. Who are we to make or break these players? It's not just the injuries, it's not just the pressure. It's how bleak it can be. And we should respect them immensely for entertaining this.

And should you ever see a tennis player, don't make the mistake I do, talk to them like they're you're friend from the pub or your next door neighbor who you don't really like but wave to anyway. And some of them may be paid a large sum but they earn that by traveling the world and playing in front of massive audiences. I couldn't play in front of 22000 people. Could you?

Well, let's get into this week. Stuff actually happened on the tour this week. No, really.

*Rankings Watch*
Top 32 - Fognini still holds it. Coric and Klizan up three places to sit just begin Fognini. 15 points between 32 and 34. Querrey rises four to hit the top 30 and Monaco falls 11 to 38.

Top 10 - Nadal holds it ahead of three Frenchmen. He has exactly 3000 points but is 500 behind Cilic. Tsonga has points to defend coming up.

Top 8 - Ferrer at seven is far ahead of eight but way behind six. But he feels like a world number seven. Berdych at six can't challenge for top four.

Top 4 - Kei could challenge for top four. But Wawrinka has fewer points to defend. Djokovic is way ahead of Federer but Fed is easily holding off the Scot, in at three.

QUESTION: On which continents, excluding Antarctica, has Tomic failed to win a title?

Some other things happened. Shall we have a look?

*WEEK 29*
S: Benoit Paire def. Tommy Robredo 7-6(7)/6-3
D: Chardy/Kubot d. Cabal/Farah
S: Bernard Tomic def. Adrian Mannarino 6-1/3-6/6-2
D: Roger-Vasselin/Stepanek d. Pavic/Venus
S: Dominic Thiem def. Joao Sousa 6-4/6-1
D: M.Gonzalez/Sa d. Fyrstenberg/S.Gonzalez

...So many good candidates to choose from, but 21 year old Thiem takes it. He is quickly rising to the top of the game. And by the time we say we realized how good he would be after he was already pretty good. He took us by surprise. The glitzy glamour of Dimitrov [now single] and his gang distracted us from Thiem. All that glitters is not gold and Thiem is not gold; he is a diamond. Of course he isn't perfect, but who is? Fine. Apart from Ripley in the "Alien" films, who is perfect? He lost in the doubles in the first round partnering Bedene. Seeded fourth, the Austrian won his first match via retirement. Lajovic down 6-1, 3-1 called it quits. Next he benefited again when Haider-Maurer retired after losing the second set 6-1 to Thiem. Then Monfils, the top seed, was all that stood in the way of the Austrian and a final in Croatia. And the youngster came back to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. In the final he swept Sousa aside 4 and 1. He just got better and better as the week progressed. These one handed stars tend to themselves be pretty. And Thiem is no exception. But, of course, Backspin only ever briefly mentions these matters before moving on to the things that matter. And, looking at the bigger picture, Thiem could be the second best player Austria has ever had. And you know who their best is: another guy with a great one handed backhand

...Bernie is secure in the number one Australian ranking position for now and for the foreseeable future. He does have competition from others with fewer points to defend, but he is some 15 rankings spots clear of Kyrgios now. He wasn't even mildly interested in the doubles. Tomic has yet to be the top seed anywhere in his career so far, but that time is coming soon. As the second seed he would have felt confident coming in. He won it last year without the benefit of a high seeding, or indeed any seeding. And he didn't look great in winning but he showed grit. He beat a Spaniard with a long name in the first round 6-7[5], 6-2, 6-4. Next he cruised past Ito 6-1, 6-4. He needed a third set breaker to finally see off Berrer and then he beat Mannarino in a decent match where he should never have lost the second set. Tomic could win a handful of titles this year if he can keep this form. He may even steal a 500. On court he is hitting form right now. The loss to Djokovic at Wimbledon is understandable. Sure he could have fought a little harder, but he is on form right now. He has never passed the second round of the U.S. Open. That will change this year.
...This is the young Zverev, not the old one. It's also not the one Graf beat in 32 minutes in a slam final. It's the young rising star who did so well again. He should have lost to a German qualifier. He didn't. He should have lost to Monaco but instead he beat him 4 and 2. Bellucci should have put him away but the German won 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. And then finally he did meet his match. Robredo had no problems in beating him in the semi-finals. He is back in the top 100 at 98. But he has been as high as the top 80 before so he has room to improve.
...There are some facts that just surprise you. Some facts that knock you for six even though you realize you know that when you think about it. And here is one of those. Paire just won his first title. I know! I was shocked. He is 26 and he just won his first tournament. It was only his third final. And he lost just 36 games in five matches. He beat the top seed Goffin 6-2, 6-3. He dismissed 3rd seed Cuevas with no trouble. And this was on clay. He really is just extraordinary. He had reached finals in 2012 and 2013 but got five games both times. He just did a very French thing indeed.
...On the Italian's best surface he lost 6-2, 6-2. Sousa is 20 places below the Italian. Surely Seppi should do better against Sousa on this surface. The Italian is just too consistent, too much like a wall to be swept away so easily.
...I can't get over how Paire beat the top seeded Goffin 6-2, 6-3. It's just unbelievable. I mean Goffin is like Seppi in that he is consistent but he does have firepower and he does have weapons. Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office. I think the Belgium is still on form, though.

Five things I liked this week...
1 - Nadal entered Hamburg. Right away that is a fantastic decision. No matter how he does he gets props for that.
2 - I have been working on a project with the boss. Not Bruce, the other boss. And it is going to be released soon. I have had a lot of fun and can't wait to see what y'all think of it.
3 - Kirilenko is going to have a baby. Gives me a chance to use this picture.

And we all know what two things these ladies had in common.

4 - How the media actually didn't go crazy over the Dimitrov split. They'll never give anyone space but it wasn't too intrusive.
5 - I thoroughly enjoyed this video of Paire doing his thing and strutting his stuff.

1. Umag Final – Thiem d. Sousa 6-4, 6-1
...Let this moment stand in BACKSPIN history. This is the moment Thiem showed us his true quality. Before was the awakening and now is the realization. This guy is here to stay.
2. Stuttgart 1st Rd – Almagro d. Verdasco 6-4, 1-6, 7-5
...Congratulations to the inaugural winner of the In Nadal's Shadow derby, sponsored by Mallorca Tourism board. And this time it would be Almagro's day. He outlasted Verdasco the 5th seed on the red stuff and moved through to the next round an another step on the way back to prominance.
3. Umag SF – Thiem d. Monfils 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
.. This was one of the biggest wins of Thiem's career. Beating Wawrinka in Madrid was big but Monfils can be impossible at the best of times and it was a semi-final. And at first he got blown away, but then he came back and dealt with the Frenchman nicely. It was an impressive win and he even backed it up.
4. Copa Claro SF – Tomic d. Berrer 6-4, 6-7[4], 7-6[3]
...Tomic didn't win this because he played well, he won this because he fought well. This was an intense match that was hard fought but not actually too scrappy. Tomic should have put the match away several times but he just couldn't and then he came back from a break down in the third to finally seal it.

*Hamburg German Open*
Nadal [1] d. [4] Seppi
Robredo [2] d. [8] Fognini
Nadal [1] d. [2] Robredo

...BACKSPIN has a rule. If ever Evert or Nadal step on a clay court thou shalt not pick against them. It hangs in our offices. There are other rules but this one, rule #122, is one of the ones we break the least. Oh yeah -- Robredo is here, too. And the Italians will provide the extra spice. This is definitely a tournament worth watching.

*Gstaad Swiss Open*
Goffin [1] d. [4] Andujar
Thiem [3] d. [2] Lopez
Goffin [1] d. [3] Thiem

...Thiem and Goffin are on form but Thiem will run out of steam. Lopez is the big wildcard here but I don't know where his form is.

Isner [1] d. [3] Sock
Pospisil [2] d. [4] Mannarino
Isner [1] d. [2] Mannarino

...the Braves are 46-52 and third in the NL. Nevermind actually, this is not a baseball blog. But this is Isner in America. And Isner has had success here in the past. He has been to four finals this decade and won this event the last two times. Anyway it will be Isner here again.

Dellacqua is not playing anywhere this week. All that's on are two weak WTA events. The tour usually rests for a spell after Wimbledon. Come August, everything will be back to normal.

ANSWER: Tomic has never won in Asia, Europe or North America. He has not won in Africa either.

Thanks all and don't forget to visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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