Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

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By Leighton Ginn

If your name is not Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka, odds are you are not a player built to last.

There’s a long list of one-Slam wonders who do nothing to follow-up on their success. And there are others who are flash in the pans who can’t muster up any more than 15 minutes of fame.

That brings us to the case of Garbine Muguruza, the powerful Spanish star who captured the French Open title by beating Williams in the finals. She avenged a loss to Williams in the Wimbledon finals in 2015.

It sounds like the makings of a possible rivalry for Williams, who at times looks light years ahead of the rest of the players on the WTA Tour, even though she hasn’t won either of the first two majors.

Muguruza is only 22 and has shown to be incredibly streaky. She’s lost her opening matches in four tournaments this year, Mallorca in her first match since winning the French. It was her home country and on grass, where she was in the Wimbledon final a year ago.

This is becoming a familiar trend.

Much like Muguruza, Kerber upset Williams in the Australian Open final to start the year. After that victory, Kerber would lose five opening round matches.

Going into Wimbledon, Muguruza is No. 2 and Kerber is No. 4.

And there were other players who were getting hot, but didn’t win a major, such as Caroline Wozniacki and Genie Bouchard.

There are a few two-time Slam winners like Samantha Stosur and Petra Kvitova.

What gives?

There’s a few theories.

  1. The women’s field lacks elite players. Serena is in a class by herself. Azarenka has lacked the consistency in her comeback. Kvitova can’t match her Wimbledon success.
  2. Too much too soon. Once a player wins a major, the demands come quick. Kerber didn’t say no too much and found herself stretched thin and now is trying to regain her form. Muguruza, who many want to be the next It Girl, probably is facing the same kind of suffocating demand.
  3. Girls can’t adjust to having a target on their backs. One you have a Grand Slam title to your credit, no one will ever sleep on you, so the gimme’s become fewer.

So why should we care? Well, Serena Williams is closer to the end of her career. She’s still dominant, but how much longer can she go?

When Williams retires, who will carry the baton?

Unless she wins her appeal, Sharapova won’t be back for a while.

Azarenka has shown signs of getting back on top, but hasn’t done it yet.

Who else can carry the tour?

Hopefully at Wimbledon, someone will emerge to start the next era.

And for right now, Muguruza is the latest, greatest hope.

 

 

 

 

 

ITF would rather look tough than fair in punishing Maria Sharapova

 

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By Leighton Ginn

The ITF, the same organization that dropped a case believing a kiss caused a positive drug test result, has decided to ban Maria Sharapova for two years for continuing to use meldonium after it was added to the banned list this year.

Meldonium was a drug Sharapova had been taking for years, but it was only added to the banned list at the start of this year.

Failing to check on the banned substance list, Sharapova continued to take the drug, which she said was to address a health issue with her heart.

Two years seems like a long time for a clerical issue.

According to a BBC report, Sharapova claimed the ITF was seeking a four-year ban.

Here’s the problem. I don’t think the ITF  has any consistency on how it determines and enforces issues with performance enhancing.

Richard Gasquet had tested positive for cocaine in 2009, but that was immediately dropped because they believed the French star’s story that he got the drug into his system from missing a girl in a Miami nightclub.

I guess in the eyes of the ITF, that’s more believable.

The ITF did agree that Sharapova didn’t take the drug for performance enhancing and it was more an issue of neglect. That’s two years?

To me, it seems like the ITF gave Sharapova a harsh sentence to give this false impression that it’s tough on drugs.

Sharapova did deserve some kind of punishment. Her neglect is unprofessional. But two years for using the drug illegally for a few weeks? And was it really performance enhancing?

By the timetable Sharapova had provided, she took the drug after she won her first major title, beating Serena Williams in the finals of Wimbledon.

Since taking the drug, Sharapova had never beaten Williams.

A year would have been on the harsh end, but that’s fairly reasonable to get the message across. ITF decided to double down and go over the top.

Better to look tough than fair.

And the ITF should look into other issues of performance enhancing that are legal, but should be questioned.

Rafael Nadal has been very open with the fact he’s been using stem cells to deal with a back issue that has hampered his career. It’s perfectly legal.

But I had a friend who had suffered a stroke years ago. He was trying to get stem cell treatments to improve his condition. Because stem cells are banned in the US, he had to go to Russia.

I’m not claiming that Nadal is doing anything shady or illegal. But his status as an elite player and because of the amounts of money he’s earned, he’s allowed to get treatment that I doubt players outside of the top-10 are afforded. It’s treatment that could change the direction of a player’s career.

I saw a lot of stories, but never heard if the ITF looked into it.

Then there is the case of Simona Halep, who had breast reduction surgery at 17. Like Nadal, she was open about the procedure and said it has helped her reach as high as No. 2 in the world.

I don’t knock Halep for undergoing the procedure, because she also described it as a quality of life issue. But it’s pretty clear it helped her on the court.

If the ITF really is concerned with the credibility of the sport, it really has a lot to look at. Instead, as with this Sharapova case, it looked like they arbitrarily look at a case and enters a ruling that might help its image.

That is not helping tennis.

 

 

As injuries mount, this could be a tenuous time for men’s tennis

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By Leighton Ginn

As the injuries mount on the men’s tennis tour, maybe it’s time to declare this Golden Age in tennis to be over.

With Rafael Nadal pulling out of the French Open today with a tendon injury to his left wrist, it raises serious questions about the future of his career.

Nadal has not regained his form before injuring his right wrist in 2014. Now we’re talking about Nadal’s left wrist, which will affect his forehand, considered one of the best in the game.

The injuries are mounting, and who’s to say if Nadal could come along physically. But mentally, Nadal had struggles with his confidence. Again, that was with his right wrist, not his left.

Roger Federer has been out since March with an injury. That leaves Novak Djokovic alone at the top.

French Open men’s preview

The Big Three of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic have been on a historic and unprecedented run. They have combined for 42 major titles (Federer 17, Nadal 14, Djokovic 11). In the last 49 majors, the Big Three have won 41 titles.

For the French Open, that just makes Djokovic the huge favorite to win his first at Roland Garros and become the first male to complete the Grand Slam since Rod Laver since 1969.

It’s not like he’ll have an easy road with Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray still in the field.

Murray beat Djokovic to claim the Rome title just before the French Open, and Wawrinka beat Djokovic in last year’s French Open final. Wawrinka and Murray have combined to win four Grand Slam titles.

The Sandwich Spot has great food named after tennis players

Without Nadal and Federer for a while, the men’s tour will need this to maintain the momentum it has had.

Realistically, the tour will need Djokovic to carry the tour even more. It’s becoming more and more unlikely either Nadal or Federer will win a major. Nadal, who turns 30 next week, hasn’t won a major title since 2014, before his wrist problems. Federer has been to three major finals since 2014, his last title came in 2012.

Will drug allegations dog Rafael Nadal at the French Open?

Federer turns 35 in August, and it’s hard to say how he will respond when he comes back.

For Djokovic to carry the tour, he won’t have the kind of rivalries he had with Federer and Nadal.

Both Wawrinka and Murray have been good challengers, but the series record is one-sided as Djokovic has a 42-14 record against the two.

More than ever, the ATP will need these young, promising players to grow up fast.

Am I the only one surprised at the lack of hype over Novak Djokovic’s possible Nole Slam?

 

Will drug allegations dog Rafael Nadal at the French Open?

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By Leighton Ginn

Every time Rafael Nadal steps onto the red clay of the French Open, he’s always the man to beat.

Having a target on his back hasn’t been a big deal. Nadal has an astonishing 70-2 record at Roland Garros with nine titles.

Nadal might not be the favorite this year, not with the way Novak Djokovic is playing, and with Andy Murray starting to find his groove on the dirt.

But Nadal will likely have a difficult obstacle this year, which are drug allegations.

Back in March, after Maria Sharapova revealed she tested positive for meldonium, the former French minister of health and sports, Roselyne Bachelot, accused Nadal of failing a drug test, but covered up his suspension with a bogus injury.

Through the early parts of the BNP Paribas Open, Nadal had to deal with questions about the accusations. It got to the point that on March 13, Nadal said he had enough following his second-round victory over Gilles Muller.

” There is a couple of times I heard comments like this, and this gonna be the last one, because I gonna sue her,” Nadal said. “I am tired about these things. I let it go a few times in the past. No more. I know how tough I worked to be here. To hear those comments from a person that should be serious, because (she) was minister of a big country and a great country like France.

“So I gonna sue her, and I gonna sue everyone who gonna comment something similar in the future, because I am tired of that.”

It should be noted that Nadal has not failed a drug test in his careers. Bachelot had not offered any evidence to support her claim.

In April, Nadal filed the lawsuit against Bachelot.

This will be Nadal’s time back in France since the comments. While Nadal threatens to sue anyone who makes similar allegations without evidence, it probably won’t apply to reporters who will ask questions.

And Nadal probably did open the door for questions with the lawsuit.

We’ll see how the French media handles the situation, and how the rest of the tennis media approaches the story.

They cycle of the story may have passed and maybe reporters will pursue other angles. But that seems unlike.

Sharapova will have her hearing to see how long of a suspension she will serve, and it will likely feed into the Nadal story.

If Nadal is dogged by questions throughout his time at Roland Garros, will it be a distraction? Could he lose focus?

Or could the adversity spur Nadal to his 10th title.

Roland Garros will be a tough proposition for Nadal anyways. Although he’s showing signs of getting close to his dominant form, he’s not there. Djokovic is playing the best of anyone, and he just got beat in Italy by Murray. And David Goffin is rising quickly up the rankings and will be a dangerous force.

A lot of adversity awaits Nadal.

 

 

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Rosie Casals on how Big Tobacco helped the women’s pro tennis tour and women’s lib

Perhaps the most valuable partner for the women who broke away to start their own tour and become a symbol for the women’s liberation movement in the 70s was Philip Morris and its product, Virginia Slims.

Rosie Casals, whose family hails from San Salvador, was one of the Original 9 who broke away from the main tour to start something on their own. For it to work, the women had to prove they were viable.

That’s where Virginia Slims came in. More specifically, its media machine.

Pushing the women’s tour, as well as women’s rights, Virginia Slim used its muscle to make sure the women were in every big magazine and hit every media outlet. They made sure the women were visible, and created stars like Casals and Billie Jean King.

In an earlier interview, Casals spoke of her frustrations about how the growing number of female CEOs are not supporting women’s sports. If women’s sports like soccer, basketball, softball or volleyball had a major corporation behind them, Casals feels those sports could rise up to a level equal to the men.

Big tobacco also helped in building the popularity of another sport in the 90s as NASCAR rose to be on par with the major sports league.

In 2010, Congress passed legislation that banned tobacco from advertising in sports and entertainment.

In the latest video, Casals talks in details about Virginia Slims impact.

Casals spoke to Ginn & Topics as part of the National Hispanic Heritage Month series.

Photo courtesy of the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy of the International Tennis Hall of Fame

Below is Casals expressing her frustrations over female CEOs not providing support for women’s sports.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Rosie Casals on the Original 9 and birth of women’s pro tennis

September 12, 2015 – The Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani in New York,

September 12, 2015 – The Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani in New York. Photo courtesy of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

At the US Open, the USTA celebrated the Original 9, who signed $1 contracts in 1970 to start the Virginia Slims Tour, the first such women’s professional tennis tour. Today it’s emerged as the Woman’s Tennis Association, which has become the most powerful women’s sports league/tour in the world.

In the video below, Rosie Casals recalls the early days of Open tennis and the conflict that lead to the Original 9 breaking away, with great risks to their careers, to start something their own so they can rightfully earn what they deserve.

In addition to Casals, the Original 9 also featured Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville Reid and Judy Tegart Dalton.

Supporting the tour was World Tennis magazine publisher Gladys Heldman, who secured Virginia Slims as a valuable corporate sponsor.

Casals, whose family comes from San Salvador, spoke to Ginn & Topics as part of its special presentation for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

National Hispanic Heritage Month, Charlie Pasarell vs. Pancho Gonzales. The final set and missed opportunites

A room key from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club that features a picture of Pancho Gonzales.

A room key from the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club that features a picture of Pancho Gonzales.

Charlie Pasarell had built a Hall of Fame life after his playing days, as an early board member of the ATP Tour and builder of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

But what people most remember from Pasarell, a Puerto Rican native, is his match against Mexican-American legend Pancho Gonzales, one that he jokes that he’s trying to forget. Pasarell saw his two set advantage evaporate in the second day as Gonzales rallied for a 22-24, 1-6,  16-14, 6-3, 11-9 at the 1969 Wimbledon.

Even if people didn’t bring up the match, Pasarell probably would still have a hard time forgetting the six match points he had against Gonzales, including two that wrote off as bad luck.

Pasarell recalled his marathon match as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month for Ginn & Topics.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Rosie Casals talks about her chemistry with Billie Jean King

September 12, 2015 – Billie Jean King (left) and Rosie Casals pose together at The Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani in New York,

September 12, 2015 – Billie Jean King (left) and Rosie Casals pose together at The Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball at Cipriani in New York,

It is the chemistry between Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals that made them a legendary duo.

Together, King and Casals, a San Francisco native whose family came from El Salvador, won seven major titles, including five at Wimbledon.

But their chemistry went beyond the tennis court. King and Casals helped spearhead a group of nine women players who helped start the professional women’s tennis tour, which has evolved today into the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

For National Hispanic Heritage Month, Casals talks about what made her and King so special.

Tennis pioneer Rosie Casals calls out female CEOs for lack of support of women’s sports

During a conversation about how corporate sponsor Virginia Slims (a cigarette product from Philip Morris) advanced the cause of women’s tennis in the 1970s and why other women’s sports failed to similarly grow, Rosie Casals couldn’t contain her frustrations.

And her target was female CEOs.

“I wish more women who are in a place of power, CEOs of companies, hell they should be helping women’s sports, and women. and they don’t,” Casals said, pounding her fist on a table.

Casals would single out IBM president and CEO Ginni Rometty. In 2012, Rometty took over at IBM and traditionally the head of the computer giant would become a member at the famed Augusta National Golf Club, the site of The Masters.

However, Augusta National had never had women members. When Rometty took over IBM, it brought attention to Augusta National’s policy. But Rometty wouldn’t be extended her invitation until last year to become the third woman to join Augusta National after former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.

Casals felt Rometty should have turned her attention to supporting the LPGA and closing the gap between men and women when it comes to prize money. The first major on the LPGA Tour, the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, pays its winner $375,000. The winner of The Masters, the first major on the PGA Tour, earns $1.44 million.

In tennis, the men and women earn equal prize money at all four of its major championships, including this week’s US Open.

Tennis is the only sport where men and women are equal in terms of prize money and status.

When Casals and Billie Jean King and a group of women they called the Original 9 started professional tennis for women, they were upset about the pay disparity. In 1970, men were paid six times more than women, and one event was to pay the men 12 times more than the women, which upset King and Casals

The nine players signed $1 contracts to start the Virginia Slims Tour, despite threats that they would be banned from playing in the Grand Slam events.

Casals would win that very first tournament in Houston.

However, tennis is an exception. And that frustrates Casals.

Despite the success of women’s college basketball and the US National Team in soccer, the opportunities in professional sports are well behind the men.

But there is a growing number of women who are taking over major corporations, such as Oracle, Yahoo!, Pepsi, Xerox, Lockheed Martin, Hewlett-Packard, General Dynamics and General Motors.

Casals would like to see some of those corporate dollars help promote women’s sports and provide more opportunities.

“That is what really pisses me off, when women don’t help other women when they are in a position of power,” Casals said. “I need to see that, more women stepping up to the plate. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

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Rosie Casals picks Roger Federer to turn back the clock

The US Open men’s field looks to be a three-man race, and Rosie Casals likes the old man of the group, 34-year-old Roger Federer.

At Cincinnati, Federer showed a more aggressive game and dominated No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final.

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“My choice is always going to be Roger,” Casals said. “He played (Djokovic in Cincinnati) the way he should be playing tennis, serve-and-volleying. His serve is worth a million dollars when he gets that first serve in. When he gets that first serve in, everything else is gravy.”

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As the top-ranked player in the world, Djokovic will be the favorite.

Djokovic is considered the best hardcourt player in tennis, particularly because of his domination of the Australian Open and the American hard court circuit in the spring, which includes Masters series events the BNP Paribas Open and the one in Miami.

But Djokovic has only won one US Open title.

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Andy Murray will have some momentum going into the US Open, having beaten Djokovic in the Rogers Cup finals in Canada. Casals said she also likes what she’s seeing from Murray’s coach Amelie Mauresmo.

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As for Nadal, Casals thinks he has to have a better serve. She also wonders if Nadal can adjust his game like Federer did to find longevity.

Who do you think will win the US Open? Here’s a chance to be heard. You can vote on the link below.

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