Self-parody with John McEnroe
It seems I wasn’t alone when I was irritated by media descriptions of Lukas Rosol as an “unknown” and a “nobody”, amongst other disparaging terms.
John McEnroe was also disgusted by his colleagues in the mainstream media.
In typical J-Mac fashion, he unleashed a subtle but biting lampoon of the situation during Roger Federer’s five set battle with Julien Benneteau by describing the Frenchman as, yes that’s right, “an unknown”.
It was genius.
Of course this is bollocks. In his role as an analyst, McEnroe has his strengths but he’s about as subtle as he was in his dealings with chair umpires during his playing days.
There was no trace of irony in his description of Benneteau. It was tennis commentary reaching the realms of self-parody.
Whatever about Rosol, the description of a top 32 player as an unknown is quite clearly absurd.
Unknown to who exactly? Certainly not to Roger Federer, who lost to the Frenchman in their previous encounter at the Paris Masters in 2009 and definitely not to anyone who watches the sport for more than two weeks a year.
Quite simply, the lack of knowledge about the tour as a whole by some of its most prominent voices would not be acceptable in any other sport.
Jeff Sackmann, author of the Heavy Topspin blog put that point across superbly when he wrote:
“In any major team sport, a top-100 player is among the top five on his team; number 65 might make an all-star team.”
A commenter on my previous blog post contrasted the laziness of several leading tennis analysts to the intricate knowledge of Brazilian commentary on the NFL, despite it being very much a minority sport in that country.
The people paid to write and comment about tennis should learn to adopt similar standards.
The cramping rule clarified
Not to pick on John McEnroe again, but when Benneteau received massages on his cramping thighs at two separate changes of ends in the fifth set, the highest paid commentator in tennis expressed his hope that someone would come out and clarify the rule.
It’s there in black and white in both the ATP and ITF rulebooks.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season, cramp is not considered an injury and therefore a three minute medical time-out is not an option for suffering players.
However, they are permitted to receive treatment for cramp within the 90 seconds allowed for change of ends and in the two minute break at the end of a set.
The ATP rulebook allows a maximum of two such treatments in a match while the ITF rules (which govern the slams) allow for a total of three.
(Disclosure: I was not fully aware of the status of change-over rub-downs – but then nobody is paying me to do this.)
If a player can’t continue until a change of ends due to cramping then they forfeit the necessary points and games to get there while the umpire (in conjunction with the tournament referee) has the power to issue a code violation for Unsportsmanlike Conduct if he feels “gamesmanship is involved”.
The ITF has a further caveat that allows for additional treatment of cramping if the trainer decides that it is “a manifestation of heat illness”.
So there you go. Knowledge of the rules seems to be about as strong as that of lower ranked players.
But whatever the rights and wrongs of said rule, the treatment received by Julien Benneteau was well within it.
Hope that clarifies things, Johnny.
Youzhny’s lucky number seven
With his four set win against Janko Tipsarevic, Mikhail Youzhny booked his place in the fourth round of Wimbledon for the seventh time. He’s never been any further.
While an 0-6 record in last 16 matches might look abysmal, it’s quite forgivable when you consider the draws the Russian has had.
In his first appearance back in 2001, Youzhny lost to eventual runner-up Pat Rafter. The following year he fell to champion Lleyton Hewitt. Since then he has lost to Fernando Gonzalez (2005), Rafael Nadal (2007, 2008) and Roger Federer (2011).
The 2007 defeat to Nadal was particularly unlucky given that he was in a great position to follow up his 2006 US Open victory over the Spaniard before injuring his back while leading two sets to love.
It would be a shame if such a stylish grass court player never reached the last eight at Wimbledon and with Denis Istomin standing between him and that elusive breakthrough, he’ll never get a better chance.