Matt Zemek

My mother used to tell me a story about her childhood. She was 5 years old. I won’t give the year, but let’s just say it was before color television came into existence. She lived in Chicago at a time when record players and radios were regular nighttime diversions and television was just beginning to establish a foothold in the national culture. 

The story is not a complicated one. It is merely that her younger brother — my younger uncle — was born while she had to go to the hospital for a relatively minor procedure. She recalls her father making a brief stop at the hospital to make sure she was all right, but the combination of the lack of severity of her condition and the enormity of another birth in the family meant that she spent that night fundamentally alone at the hospital.

She sat in the shadows while her father tended to her mother, and other extended family members similarly oohed and ahhed and cooed and mooed about her “baby brother.” Decades later, the sense of loneliness felt as a little girl still came through my mother’s voice.

This is what it might have felt — if only for a brief moment — for Milos Raonic last August in Montreal. Continue reading “MILOS RAONIC — A CANADIAN NOT CONTENT WITH SHADOWS”

They are all anomalies!


Anand Mamidipudi

When Martina Hingis crawled out of her diapers to win the Australian Open at the tender age of 16 years 3 months, it felt like women’s tennis would go the way of women’s gymnastics and sprout teenage champions all over. 

For a little while, this actually happened. 

In 1996, 15 year old Anna Kournikova reached the fourth round of the Australian Open. The following year, Hingis, all of 17, took down another gifted 17 year old, Venus Williams. Earlier that year, Iva Majoli won the French Open at the ripe old age of 19 against Hingis. Just like that the peerless Monica Seles (age 24) checked herself into the geriatric ward and the incomparable Steffi Graf  (age 28) turned into a dinosaur with a forehand. Baby Serena hadn’t even arrived yet! Continue reading “They are all anomalies!”



Matt Zemek

First things first: The French Open is more than two full months away. Surely this is enough time for Rafael Nadal to heal and become sufficiently prepared to turn “La Decima” into title No. 11 at Roland Garros. This title is reserved for Rafa unless or until he declines the reservation. As long as he can restore his health, the French Open is his to lose.

I know we have not yet made the turn to clay season, and that we still have Miami to play on hardcourts, but we have to take a look at the coming spring swing on red dirt.

The crushed red brick is shifting under our feet as we speak. Continue reading “IS ATP TENNIS HEADED FOR A 2004 MOMENT?”

The 29th edition of Venus Williams facing Serena Williams felt different


Briana Foust

Neither woman was the highest-ranked tennis player in the entire world. The winner would have to play at least three more matches if she wanted to be known as the 2018 Indian Wells titlist.  Serena Williams is now a proud mother every time she steps on to the court (“Mrs. Williams” to be exact). Venus Williams is eternally continuing the tradition of her idol Billie Jean King, constantly redefining the limits of the words “personal best.” Continue reading “The 29th edition of Venus Williams facing Serena Williams felt different”

The Long View: A WTA Story In 3 Snapshots


Matt Zemek

Alexander Zverev crashed out of Indian Wells on Sunday night against Joao Sousa, reinforcing an aimless, confused, and utterly brittle period for the German. Because Zverev won two Masters 1000 events last year but then failed to do anything of note at the majors, he is a centerpiece of discussion and a source of frustration for many fans… as he should be. Zverev won Rome and Montreal in such calm and poised fashion that a steady build seemed reasonable… but “poised” and “steady” are the last words one would apply to Zverev in the several months since he left French Canada last August.

Yet, for all the wayward outcomes and miserable matches which have littered Zverev’s path since Montreal, the German is still 20 years old. He is still, all things considered, a young pup. 2018 is not a make-or-break year for him. It could very well be a year in which he has to get kicked to the curb to learn the lessons he needs to absorb. He might not apply those lessons in full until the start of 2020, when he will still be only 22. (He wouldn’t turn 23 until April of that year.)

One man who truly didn’t assemble all the pieces of his career until being 22 years and 5 months old: Roger Federer. Continue reading “The Long View: A WTA Story In 3 Snapshots”



Matt Zemek

Viewed narrowly, Grigor Dimitrov did not endure a bad loss in the second round of Indian Wells on Saturday.

Everyone in the tennis world knows that Fernando Verdasco, while erratic, can be a very tough customer on any given day. The Spaniard has dismissed Rafael Nadal from majors. He very nearly made a Wimbledon semifinal on his least favorite surface. He played one of the great matches of this era in 2009 against Rafa in Australia. He excused Alexander Zverev from Roland Garros last year after the German had conquered Rome. He can play. Losing to Verdasco, especially in a three-set match after losing a first-set tiebreaker, is not a profound source of shame in itself. On an ATP Tour littered with injuries and unreliable performers, Verdasco represented a dangerous second-round draw for anyone in the field. Dimitrov drew the short straw, and he is now out of the rainy desert, headed for Miami. Continue reading “DIMITROV’S INDIAN WELL RUNS DRY (AGAIN)”



Matt Zemek

No Rafael Nadal.

No Andy Murray.

No Stan Wawrinka.

No clue about how well many other ATP notables will play.

The Indian Wells ATP tournament contains very little sizzle, probably the least amount of buzz since the beginning of the Golden Era of men’s tennis.

Since 2004, a member of the Big Three has won this tournament every year but once (Ivan Ljubicic in 2010). In 13 of the past 14 tournaments, one of tennis’s big dogs has walked away with a desert trophy, but in most those situations, the champion had to go through another member of the Big Three or Murray or Wawrinka to capture the title.

The current injury-obliterated state of the ATP won’t allow for that unless Djokovic is able to play well, and get in Roger Federer’s way. Given Djokovic’s lack of consistent rhythm and preparation — an unavoidable consequence of injury problems — it is hard to see that intersection occurring in the coming weeks. Continue reading “SOCK IT TO ME? INDIAN WELLS JACKS UP THE PRESSURE ON AMERICANS”



Matt Zemek

Brackets don’t guarantee that tournaments will be easy — or difficult — for certain players. To that extent, “the draw” is overrated as a predictor of what will happen in a tennis tournament or any bracketed tournament.

March is a month in America when most of this nation’s sports fans focus on a bracketed tournament in the realm of college basketball. The NCAA Tournament leads to office pools around the country. On some occasions, the office secretaries who like the colorful nature of the 68 teams’ nicknames — picking teams to advance for purely aesthetic reasons completely removed from basketball prowess — win the pool.

Yes, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament is that chaotic.

Yet, while one form of “March Madness” unfolds in the United States, the WTA Tour’s Indian Wells bracket promises just as much insanity. Continue reading “MARCH MADNESS TENNIS-STYLE: WTA DRAW GUARANTEES CHAOS”

Federer – A fan’s view, 4 years on


Andrew Burton

In February 2014 Courtney Nguyen, now @WTAInsider but then a blogger with Sports Illustrated, had an eMail conversation with me that was published as “A Fan’s View – Roger Federer.”

As well as looking back at my origin story as a fan (playing hooky from work to watch Federer play Gaudio in the 2004 ATP Year End Championships in Houston) and reminiscence of the dominant years, Courtney asked me to look forward to the rest of 2014 and beyond. Was the back injury sustained by Federer in 2013 the reason for his slump? Would a bigger racquet (Fed had just made the switch to a 98” frame) pay dividends? Would Federer be able to stay competitive with the bigger guys?

Brad Delong, one of the top economics bloggers, talks often about “marking his beliefs to market” – in other words, testing your forecasts against actual outcomes to allow you to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. So here we go. What did I say then, what turned out, and how do my predictions look with hindsight? Continue reading “Federer – A fan’s view, 4 years on”

Reintroducing PG County’s finest, Frances Tiafoe


Briana Foust

This is not a normal tennis story. This journey does not begin in sunny Florida, competitive Texas, or breezy California. It begins in Prince George County, Maryland. An area near Washington, DC while notable for the affluence of its African American population, it ranks 14th out of 24 counties statewide in overall wealth. This backdrop is also where many are hoping the current future of American tennis grew up. He is the youngest ATP title winner from the United States of America since Hall of Famer, Andy Roddick. He is also the first African-American male to win an ATP title in almost eleven years. If you haven’t guessed by now, the protagonist of our story is Frances Tiafoe, 20 year old winner of the 2018 Delray Beach Open. Continue reading “Reintroducing PG County’s finest, Frances Tiafoe”