THE on-off love affair between sportsmen and women and the media has had its fair share of rows, disputes, love-ins and then another row.
The past 20 years, with the advent of the worldwide web and social media, some would argue it has intensified.
Should the media be a sports PR machine or should it be objective and reflect the views of its readers – and fans?
Tennis has been no different.
This week the question about ‘form’ arose. The media, quite rightly questioned the current form of Swiss star Stan Wawrinka.
Wawrinka didn’t like it – as is his right to disagree.
He took his frustration at the line of questioning out on the assembled press pack after his win over Pablo Cuevas at the Swiss Indoors event.
When he was asked whether or not he can return back to his best form, Wawrinka took exception to the question.
“There is an impression here, in this room and in Switzerland, that I have not had a good year.” Wawrinka said.
“I am exaggerating, but I have that feeling and, frankly, I have lost the joy of talking to the media in Switzerland. I’m 15th in the race, could theoretically qualify for the ATP finals. And you ask me: what are you missing to find your best level again?’
“Who won Grand Slam tournaments in the last few years? I’m the only one outside Big Four who has won three. This must not be forgotten.”
But is running 15th in the race a success? Many in the media would argue it is not.
To be fair to Stan, he has suffered from injury in recent years – with knee surgery in 2017.
Wawrinka then added that this season he had won 31 of 50 matches, with four over top 10 ranked players – Kei Nishikori (twice), Stefanos Tsitsipas and Novak Djokovic.
“Everything I did this year makes it a very good year,” he snapped.
“I have regained my confidence, have beaten the very best again at certain times. Sure, I did not win any Grand Slam tournaments, but who won them (Nadal and Djokovic). I’m back in a position where I know what I will be capable of next year.
“And that was my goal for 2019. Would I like to finish in the Top 10 this year? Yes. Would I like to win a Grand Slam title? Yes. But you also have to be a realist.”
Wawrinka believes the Swiss media has been spoilt by the success of Roger Federer and to lesser extent Belinda Bencic.
But his response to what seems genuine questions actually raises more: hope do you judge success in sport?
To the media it is about winning – to team sports it certainly is.
But tennis? Given its individual nature (save doubles), is running 15th – or 20th in the rankings a success?
AND, so the China, where in Shenzen today the WTA’s ‘elite eight’ will begin their quest for honours.
The eight were drawn into two groups for round robin singles play at the inaugural event, and the year’s four Grand Slam champions have been split evenly among the two groups.
Top seed and French Open champion Ash Barty headlines the Red Group, with Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Belinda Bencic.
No.2 seed Karolina Pliskova tops the Purple Group, drawn with Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.
On Friday Barty was announced as the winner of the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, the Leaderboard to the WTA Finals that tracked each player’s run throughout 2019.
Barty amassed 6,476 points from 14 tournaments, with Pliskova finishing second with 5,315 points.
The doubles draw, meanwhile, has pitted top seeds and US Open champions Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka with No.3 seeds and French Open winners Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in the Red Group.
Also in that pool are No.5 seeds Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-ching as well as Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Schuurs.
Headlining the Purple Group is the second-seeded combination of Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova, who lifted the Wimbledon crown.
Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan, the No.4 seeds, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, the No.6 seeds, and No.7 seeds Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai, who won the Australian Open, complete the pool.
ORDER OF PLAY
Sunday, October 27
(3) Naomi Osaka v (6) Petra Kvitova
(1) Ashleigh Barty v (7) Belinda Bencic
(2) Hsieh Su-wei/Barbora Strycova v (7) Samantha Stosur/Zhang Shuai
(4) Gabriela Dabrowski/Xu Yifan v (6) Barbora Krejcikova/Katerina Siniakova
Monday, October 28
(3) Timea Babos/Kristina Mladenovic v (5) Chan Hao-ching/Latisha Chan
(2) Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) v (8) Elina Svitolina
(4) Bianca Andreescu v (5) Simona Halep
(1) Elise Mertens/Aryna Sabalenka v (8) Anna-Lena Groenefeld/Demi Schuurs
THE end of year finals fever continues in Europe this week as The Rolex Paris Masters begins in Bercy tomorrow.
With more than 5 million euros available in prize money, the event has grown in statue since 1986.
Novak Djokovic leads the ATP rankings heading to the Masters, but Rafael Nadal is hot on his heels in the race to finish top in the calendar-year standings.
Djokovic is 320 points ahead of Nadal in the current rankings, but with the Serb due to drop 600 points on November 4 from last year’s run to the final – and because Djokovic’s 1000 points from reaching the London final last year will come off the computer on the same day, the Spaniard is guaranteed to regain the No 1 spot once the tournament is completed. Understand that? No, nor do we.
With spots still available for the ATP finals in London, Paris will provide an amazing atmosphere.
Nadal, Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Federer, Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas have already secured their ATP Finals spots, while Sascha Zverev and Matteo Berretini occupy places seven and eight.
Good performances in Paris could seal a place for Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and even Gael Monfils. The Frenchman will have a partisan crowd behind him.
Remember Guy Forget? He famously took down Pete Sampras in 1991 in a five-set thriller.
Other notable French wins include Sebastien Grosjean in 2001 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008.
RUSSIAN star Daniil Medvedev opened up to Moscow media this week about how his tough on court mentality has evolved over the years.
“I am very calm and smart in life, but everything changes when I play, whether it’s PlayStation or tennis,” he said.
“When I get hit by adrenaline during matches, I get angry. I am working to make sure it doesn’t happen. I was always surprised that people around me were like, How can a good guy do those things on court?”
And Medvedev has praised his wife for helping him control his feelings. “Dasha has taught me a lot, she showed me how to behave, how to be yourself.
“I was behaving more for the others than myself. But in the last year I set my priorities because your life is your life and you can just improve it. So I tried taking care of myself, and getting married came to my mind, realising that my family and my life are more important than other things.”
But the US Open runner-up still hates losing. “I hate losing since my childhood,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that I have a bad character. You think about not losing and when your game doesn’t work, you start blaming the wind, the balls or something else. Over the last years I put aside and I start admitting it’s my fault.”
TENNIS legend Steffi Graff believes Kim Clijsters will find it tough as she sets herself for a comeback next year.
“It will be a big challenge, but she seems like she’s looking forward to it,” Graff said this week.
“I think for her to make the decision that she wants to come back she must believe that [she can compete]”.
“I don’t know what her goal is, but I think if you’ve been at the top the way she has been… and she has come back once before, so she knows what it takes.
“I would assume that she believes that she is capable of it and it will be fun for all of us to watch and see how she will be able to compete”.
The WTA have said that Clijsters, 36, will be eligible for unlimited wildcards at tournaments as a former world No.1. She still needs to play three tournaments or earn 10 ranking points to re-establish a WTA ranking.