Monday, July 16, 2012

Båstad, Umag, Stuttgart. The Summer clay that won't go away

For many tennis fans and 100% of the casual ones think the tennis season is over with the end of Wimbledon. Yes, some guy called Roger Federer won his 17th Grand Slam and the best way to sum it up is from former Swiss Davis Cup captain and Geneva's finest Marc Rosset. "All the people who said that the champ !!!! Would never be n1 again and never win another slam will shut up and apologise if federer wins !!! ". There were bumper sales of humble pie this week.

With this out of the way, for the people who realise the sport exists out of the Slams this is the summer clay season where tournaments are held in Båstad, Umag, Stuttgart, Gstaad, Hamburg and Kitzbühel. No, they can't be held earlier in the year due to climatic conditions. Got the beaches of Båstad and Umag, the mountains of Kitzbühel plus The Londoner Pub which is a must visit. Gstaad which is the highest stop on the main tour, though getting rösti under 50 CHF is next to impossible.


Båstad Centre Court


Umag

Hamburg had their TMS status downgraded when the ATP chased the cash for Shanghai, where they don’t get crowds apart from the big players. Shanghai is all sizzle and no steak as for Hamburg, its status is like the woman who was very attractive but has faded due to circumstances not always in their control.

Tennis doesn’t stop at Wimbledon and begin again at the US Open

As per usual there are the critics whining why are there clay tournaments in Europe after Wimbledon. Well clay is the most common surface in Europe and outdoor tennis in theory should be a summer sport. At the same time Stockholm outdoors in October night matches using Tretorn balls could be a fun experiment.

It's simple and practical reasons why Europeans and South Americans want to play in these events, first of all there is the surface factor, second of all many are playing in the German Bundesliga which is the most lucrative tennis league in the world. It's commonsense to play the summer clay events for these players, it keeps expenses down, earn some good money in the process. Normally the contracts are that ATP tournaments will get precedence, but if they lose early in these events then they are available to play for their teams whose matches are normally on Sundays, sometimes they play double headers with rounds on Friday.

These tournaments have a long history and another factor before the age of Twitter and the internet yes tennis existed before then was in the USA their summer tournaments were played on green clay as a lead up to the US Open. Once they changed the surface to hardcourts for the US Open, then those tournaments which were green clay followed. The reality for most American players they don't come over to Europe too soon for the spring clay season which in some ways is understandable. The extended time away from the US, though in their case the adjustment from hardcourt to clay is more difficult than vice versa. It's a case of practicality in scheduling and in the case of the summer clay events, it's the last big opportunity for points on the main tour for many players in the 60-100s without dropping down to Challengers.


With that carnival called the Olympics this really stuffed up the summer clay season where Båstad, Stuttgart and Umag are all this week. Next year Umag will be back in its regular position, so the fields for all the events suffered plus players who did well in both events couldn't defend these points. Båstad and Umag party places on the beach. Båstad always wins best International Series/250 event on tour, plus Stuttgart gets a good field with the location for Bundesliga players plus the incentive of winning a free Mercedes if they win the title.

Båstad

Not the best field this year for the event, it didn't help when former finalist Tomas Berdych and Gael Monfils withdrew before the tournament began. In spite of this there were some good performances in the tournament.

Mr. Prostejov Jan Hajek making his first ever ATP semi final with wins over Del Bonis, former top 20 player Jarkko Nieminen who was awful in the 1st set but Hajek was very solid from both sides in this match. The quarter final against Jurgen Zopp was very tough, the conditions weren't easy, plus both playing for their first ever semi final on the ATP tour. Hajek wasn't quite to the level he shows at Prostejov, but with this performance he makes the US Open direct.







In the semis against Almagro he was just outclassed by the better player, though Almagro struggled during the week with shoulder problems. This was the one match of the week where Almagro played well, It was clear to see the difference in class between the level Hajek has been playing at for most of the year on the Challengers and Almagro.


El Cabezon Almagro with shoulder problem

During the tournament there was a classic comment from the English commentator. He said "it's windy here". Well this is what happens when the location of the courts are right next to the beach, funny thing called a sea breeze these occur at seaside locations.

Lost Opportunity

Daniel Gimeno-Traver the week in Båstad will be mixed for him. He made the quarter finals showing some glimpses of the form he had in Monza. On ability wise he should be a comfortable fixture in the top 100, a solid powerful serve, a heavy forehand with plenty of power. The big weaknesses are the backhand which at times is club level and the mental side. Sports psychologists aren't for everyone, but the weaknesses always get highlighted when under pressure, it's how they are dealt with in these situations.

While making the quarter finals, getting back into the top 100 and making the US Open direct are positive things. The flipside is that his loss against Almagro an opponent who was struggling with his shoulder is one of those that will sting, an opportunity of playing Jan Hajek for a place in the final. Stats don't always tell the true story, they need to be applied and in this case the fact that DGT won only 1 from 12 break points in this match was the reason he lost it.

He was better from the baseline dominating with the forehand, even the backhand was reasonable, yes on a few of the break points there were some poor ones which related to my point earlier with the pressure and weaknesses. The fact he was creating so many chances but not converting that build up of pressure normally has consequences. At the start of the 3rd set in the first two Almagro service games, he had 5 break points, none of these were saved through Almagro's great play more down to DGT not taking the chance.


Gimeno-Traver the face doesn't lie

Then the game DGT got broken in the 3rd he was up 40-30 in the game missed an easy shot, then on a deuce point coming to the net on Almagro's better side the backhand and lost serve on a double fault. Almagro served it out and lucky Båstad is a fun place in the summer with plenty of places to go out, since this kind of match with so many chances and blowing it. This is not something I recommend, but in this case getting very drunk on the night would be the perfect remedy, drinking to forget.


David Ferrer interview

Now for the champion David Ferrer won his second Båstad title, but he wasn't anywhere near the level of his 2007 triumph but he didn't need to be during the week. Ferrer is like the rite of passage for youngsters on tour. They are full of piss and vinegar, yet when Ferrer is finished with them they have the letter L in the column. Yes, he is limited when it comes to natural talent compared to many other players, but young players should look to him as an example to follow in making the most of his talents.

Perhaps not the fact that Ferrer used to smoke like Ostrava or Detroit when they were in their peak industrial days. Next year Båstad will have a lot more money for appearance fees and not be stuffed by the calendar.



David Ferrer

Thomas Enqvist, Magnus Norman and the King of Eskilstuna Kent Carlsson were inducted into the Swedish Tennis Hall of Fame. Unlike Enqvist, the other two had ability to play on the clay. It was good to see Carlsson again, yes he is the one on the right.

Thomas Enqvist, Magnus Norman and Kent Carlsson in Swedish Hall of Fame


Umag

Sunny Umag where they have the tournament organised very efficiently no matches starting before 5pm which is commonsense. It's so hot, everyone is on the beach or recovering from the night before. In this environment this is where Carlos Moya ruled as the King of Umag, had the theory do well on the court, do even better off the court.

Since Slovenia doesn't have an ATP event and Umag is close this is like the de facto home event. Unfortunately it involved another Blaz Kavcic choke, big one as well. Think it's time for the yoga or meditation now. Once it can happen losing from a set and a double break up, but this is the third time yes it's a problem that needs addressing. Getting tight, can't hit through the ball, the legs are heavier than a sumo wrestler, struggling to relax the breathing. We all know the signs.

Worst of all, this choke was against Wayne "The Rat" Odesnik. Mr. Odesnik was caught trafficking HGH, but tennis is a joke when it comes to doping controls. Within this environment and Odesnik allegedly snitching on other players to get his suspension reduced which worked, this is the definition of a rat. The snitching thing is more of an issue than the drugs which are rampant in pro sport. He has fought his way back from not having any ranking points to just outside the top 100. Thankfully Marin Cilic finished off what Kavcic should have done.

Yes, while this was a ridiculous choke. There was one worse performance from the hostess Matea Dominiković thought she could sing as she did a duet with Alex Dolgopolov. Her performance was worse than Volandri's serve, Michael Berrer's smash and Danai Udomchoke on clay. The kindest thing that could be said was that scores of cats being castrated sounded better than this.



Dolgopolov's hearing must have been impacted as he lost his next match to Cilic. Just hope Alex isn't scarred from her as his performance wasn't that bad. Sure, it wasn't quite as good as Carl Lewis, but good for Alex having some fun with it. He definitely should be Ukraine’s next Eurovision entrant. His match against Fognini was just a festival of funk that George Clinton wouldn't have been out of place at.

Thankfully Marin Cilic gave the local crowd something to celebrate with a comfortable win in the final over Marcel Granollers. Marcel was up 4-2 in the set, but once Cilic broke back and got into his rhythm he only lost another 2 games for the match.


Marin Cilic wins Umag

This was a comprehensive title win unlike the farce with Nalbandian at Queens. No person not even Daniel Koellerer but perhaps only Wayne Odensik wouldn’t mind winning a title on a default. Cilic has an excellent work ethic, not too arrogant for a pro tennis player, the main problem with him is the biomechanics on the forehand which can break down when under pressure. He is rebuilding his season quietly after injury problems which forced him to miss the Australian Open

Stuttgart

Janko Tipsarevic took the title and won the Mercedes for his wife. Well it's the best present as Mercedes are good cars plus he didn't pay for it. I still remember Gaston Gaudio losing at Stuttgart three times, next time I am going to steal the car.



Janko Tipsarevic with new Mercedes
Tipsarevic's reaction was honest to say the least. "I don't know how I won this event". Yes, he was down 4 match points against Phau who managed to beat Lukas Rosol earlier in the event. In fact Phau managed to defeat Rosol twice in a week, since he beat him in the Bundesliga as well. It wouldn’t matter if Rosol doesn’t win another match all season, he did what was necessary.

Dustin Dreddy Brown aka the real Dustin Brown not that guy who plays NHL. He made the quarter finals after saving match points. After losing to Garcia-Lopez in the quarter finals, he had to catch a train to Gstaad for the qualies. Brown likes playing at altitude, it helps his serve and Gstaad is just over 1000m. To make the main draw, he had to double duty first he beat Navarro in 3 sets, then after this he saved 6 match points against the feisty Joao Sousa.

For those who don’t like or enjoy the summer clay events, they will be over soon. Thankfully there are individuals who realise tennis doesn’t begin and end at Wimbledon.

6 comments:

arkulari said...

Live tennis is fun at all levels of play (of course there are also mugfests at all levels xD), some people seem to think that the top 10 guys magically appeared there, they ignore how important Challenger events, Future events, 250 & 500 events are to build up rankings, confidence, level of play, experience.

Roger Federer won his first title in the extinct Milan indoor tournament in 2001, the field there was like a current day Marseille or Umag, Rafael Nadal started winning in Sopot, Novak Djokokvic started in Amersfoort... and so on and on and on.

I like the fact that in those summer tournaments you see a lot of real tennis fans, unlike in bigger events where people show up to see what's it all about or if they are famous, to be seen.

Hamburg was the best Masters Series I remember attending: knowing crowd, great venue, good prices, great matches there but they had to lose to Shanghai and their $$$$$, they only really go to it if Federer is playing (that's why the tournament looked so empty last year).

Having someone as dominant as Nadal on clay makes these tournaments one of the few available titles to win for many claycourters so of course they would sweep in and take the opportunity.

Great post, I like when people start watching tennis out of the box.

rocketassist said...

The modern day tennis 'fan' seems to think that tournaments the top 4/so called 'big 4' are meaningless, which is why these events get derided. They're great for experience and provide a platform to improve clay court skills.

As has been said, the likes of Nadal winning his first career title at Sopot, these tournaments can be major launchpads. They all still attract good fields cause they're in good locations for a summer party. Hamburg should never have lost TMS status.

Janko's wife will love the car.

rocketassist said...

tournaments without* sorry

cobalt60 said...

I want that car. Shame it would get destroyed by the salt and sand here;) Nice write up! I love it when someone else writes about matches that I have not been able to watch myself. Makes me feel like I am there in person so thanks for that.

Agree about Cilic; nice to see him win again and getting back to a better level of tennis for him. Saw Bob Brett his coach in the stands on my tv last evening. Now that was fun! Credit Marin though- I saw him first play in 2007 at Cinci but I was impressed more by his work ethic. And yes he was very likable. No airs surround him.

Castrated cats huh? Now that is a picture lol.

Marc said...

These summer clay events have been around for a long time. I remember when Nalbandian played Mantilla in the final of Palermo 2001. It was great to see and discover Nalbandian's talent at these stage.

Many people don't understand that these events are needed, all the top guys didn't start off winning Grand Slams apart from Wilander and Kuerten as their fist event. They have to work through the levels.

Shanghai is a nad joke, but excellent and informative article coupled in with Bundesliga references.

martine said...

Yr write ups always make me feel as if I was right there watching. Thanks!

Marti