No Fed Cup for Bouchard, Stephens

If there were going to be any suspense in the coming months about whether Canadian Genie Bouchard would return to Fed Cup action in the first round of the 2018 event, it was quashed on Monday.

The New York Open, which is the newly relocated Memphis Open men’s ATP Tour event, announced that Bouchard along with US Open champion Sloane Stephens, John McEnroe and James Blake will be taking part in a tournament-opening exhibition Feb. 11.

On Feb. 11, the Canadian Fed Cup team will be playing the second day of its first-round World Group II tie in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. 

The US team, of which Stephens was a part last weekend in a victorious effort against Belarus in the championship final, will be in Asheville, NC hosting the Netherlands in its first-round tie.


So that’s that.

No Fed Cup, no Doha

Bouchard last played Fed Cup in April 2015 in Montreal, when Canada faced the same Romania team (minus Simona Halep) to remain in World Group I.

Ranked No. 7 in the world at the time, the Canadian lost her singles matches against Alexandra Dulgheru and Andreea Mitu.

The week following Fed Cup week is the Premier 5 tournament in Doha, UAE. And the appearance could cost Bouchard that tournament as well.

The Canadian’s current ranking stands at No. 81, and she has over 300 ranking points to defend in January at Sydney and the Australian Open. She would most likely need to play the qualifying (unless Doha is planning to give her a wild card). 

Obviously, with this commitment, she couldn’t be in the Middle East that same weekend to play it.

No. 701 Tursunov – “I hope I would win”

WIMBLEDON – Yes, it’s 2017. 

Given this week’s “Is the best woman ever better than a journeyman” debate, sparked by John McEnroe’s tour of the chat circuit in promotion of his new memoir, it was worth checking to make sure.

Asked to compare during an interview with NPR last weekend, McEnroe figured Serena Williams would rank “about No. 700” on the ATP Tour.

Issam Haitham Taweel, a 27-year-old Egyptian who is ranked No. 700, wouldn’t have made for very good copy. And that’s if anyone could find him; he hasn’t played in two months. But it turns out that a serendipitous bit of luck checked in at No. 701 in the rankings Monday.

Former top-20 player Dmitry Tursunov, who has been trying to come back from injury for what seems like years, is in that spot. And the San Francisco-area resident, who is just 15 months younger than Serena at 34, has never shied away from saying what he thinks.

Better than 701

Tursunov said he didn’t think McEnroe was trying to denigrate women’s tennis. But he felt he had to point out out the reality that “men are stronger in general”

Would he win? He hopes he would. 

700“It would be a similar argument to: who would run faster, the fastest woman or the fastest man? Tennis is becoming more and more a physical sport, so it’s going to be hard for a woman to beat the men, he told BBC World Service Sport. “There are lots of factors to take into account. Physically I might not be in the best shape of my life but as an overall package I’m much better than my ranking would suggest.”

“I’ve never heard John say anything absolutely stupid; he knows his stuff.,” Tursunov added. “What he said about her being an incredible player is correct – explosive, powerful and she puts in a lot of work. But I would hope that I would win.”

Serena ripostes

The woman herself responded to McEnroe via Twitter.


At any rate, Williams already answered this point herself on David Letterman a while back. But if she says it, it’s perfectly fine. And, it should be pointed out, she wasn’t talking about No. 700.

During a conference call Tuesday to promote ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage of Wimbledon, commentator Brad Gilbert pronounced those Tweets a straight-set rout.

700“I thought Serena had a 6-1, 6-1 beatdown on her tweet to John. It was tremendous. I thought that said everything, and nothing else needs to be said. … It was perfect,” Gilbert said.

On CBS This Morning Tuesday, McEnroe snapped at host Charlie Rose when he said McEnroe knew the comment would create controversy.

“I don’t want to upset her or whatever it was. She’s — I think she was doing a tongue-in-cheek as well. And I think that deep down we’re talking about something — I can’t even believe we’re talking about it,” McEnroe said.

On the conference call, Gilbert added this: 

” I don’t know what the context of why he said it, why he doubled-down on it.  I will tell you (Serena) is the greatest female athlete in any sport ever, and maybe Steffi Graf is the second-best athlete,” Gilbert said. “Let’s say a 130-pound boxer might be the best ever. You don’t ask if he could beat, like, a heavyweight. He might be a better boxer than the heavyweight, but obviously he wouldn’t beat him. It’s totally ridiculous to ask or think about it. They don’t compete against each other.”

That’s a great analogy, actually. 

On the same call, fellow American tennis Chris Evert also made a pretty good point.

“I feel like it’s irrelevant. It doesn’t mean anything.  I also feel if – and I hate to say it – but if Serena Williams played the No. 200 male player, she might beat him. If she played the No. 500 man, she might lose to him,” Evert said. “It depends on their styles, how the games match up. So that’s my answer.”

Their two cents

Young American Tommy Paul, who has a long way to go before he has a playing resumé that will result in social media “allowing” him to have a say, had his say.

Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, who is no stranger to this sort of opinion, picks Nick Kyrgios to drop a double bagel on Serena in a fictional match – or perhaps to be “gentlemanly enough” to cede a mercy game.

The thing about all this is that the “argument”, if it even needs to be brought up, was settled long ago. 

Braasch’s double battle of the sexes

German journeyman Karsten Braasch, ranked No. 203 at the time, and a notorious smoker and enjoyer of the good life, played a set each against Serena and Venus Williams, 

It was 1998; the sisters were just teenagers. And they talked a lot more trash back then, with the insouciance of youth.


Braasch tells that story here, a few years later.

“Both sisters are great tennis players and hit the ball extremely well. However, if you’ve been playing on the men’s tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty. Try and put a lot spin on the ball -– I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don’t face week-in, week-out,” Braasch wrote. “Another key is to chase down every shot. In our match, they were putting shots into the corners that on the women’s tour would be winners but I was able to return them.”

The bottom line is this: who is actually the better tennis player between Serena Williams and Braasch? And, whose career would you choose? It’s a no-brainer. 

And in 2017, it’s really not worth debating again.

Unless you have a book to sell, of course.

McEnroe figures Serena at No. 700

As he starts promoting for his new memoir, “But Seriously,” John McEnroe is out there saying some things.

He figures Serena Williams, playing the men’s tour full-time, would be ranked around No. 700 in the world.

Yes, he went there.

He says what he really wanted to do after his playing days was be a guitarist in wife Patty Smyth’s rock band (hopefully that’s not why he popped the question!)

He still thinks that the reason the U.S. doesn’t have more tennis champions is cost, other sports ….

So he’s still overlooking the fact that the number of nations producing tennis players these days is off the charts, compared to his days. And that most of those countries have smaller populations and far poorer tennis federations that can’t offer the millions of dollars of support the USTA can. And that that increased global participation partly makes it a matter of probability and numbers.

Here he is in a radio interview with NPR this weekend.

The book will be officially released Tuesday.

John McEnroe’s still got it

ROLAND GARROS – As the second week of the French Open kicks in, players who once were headliners now are extra entertainment on Court 2, for the benefit of grounds pass holders. 

But they sure are entertaining. And there’s probably a nice little cheque at the end of it.

At 58, John McEnroe is the second-eldest man in the legends’ draws, which are divided into over-35s,  and over-45s. Only master showman Mansour Bahrami, at 61, is older.

But he’s showing off the benefits of the significant time we’re told he spends in the gym these days. His legs were never that muscular during his playing days.

And McEnroe is still the gold standard when it comes to the serve-volley game. 

The hands are still lightning-quick. And he still does just enough – not too much, never too little – with the volley. It should be compulsory homework for the kids in the junior draws to have to come out and watch at least one of his matches.

Here’s what he looked like Wednesday.

Serious Mac

For a few years, McEnroe would always put on at least one “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS” skit in every legends’ match. That’s probably because he figured that’s what everyone expected him to do.

But on Wednesday, he pretty much stuck to the tennis. And the full stands attested to how much the fans still appreciate what he brings to the court.

The changeovers with French partner Cédric Pioline were a hilarious master class in solitude. And some of the looks on McEnroe’s face when his partner would miss a routine volley were pretty priceless.

Put yourself in Pioline’s shoes. How nervous would you be at the net, knowing the master is standing right next to you – and knowing he’d never miss any of those volleys?

MAJOR pressure.

The pair ended up beating Goran Ivanisevic and Sergi Bruguera 3-6, 6-3, 10-7 in the match tiebreak.