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Daily Bagel: Sloane Stephens’ coach: Victoria Azarenka ‘cheating within rules’

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The Daily Bagel is your dose of the interesting reporting, writing and quipping from around the Internet.

• Video: Now just imagine that video for an hour and 29 minutes. Thursday’s men’s semifinal match at the Australian Open was a Novak Djokovic clinic.

• While Sloane Stephens downplayed Victoria Azarenka’s decision to take a controversial medical timeout in their semifinal match at the Australian Open, the U.S. teen’s coach wasn’t ready to let it go. David Nainkin told USA Today that Azarenka’s tactic “was very unfair — cheating within the rules.”

• Fox Sports’ Greg Couch was less willing to mince words. But most interesting is his recounting of how Roger Federer employed a similar tactic against Nikolay Davydenko at the 2010 Australian Open.

Still, in one day at the Australian Open three years ago, I watched Roger Federer use a fake bathroom break against Nikolay Davydenko, and Novak Djokovic ask to leave against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga so he could go throw up.

“When the sun comes from the side, the ball seems half the size and is just hard to hit,’’ Federer said that day. “I never take toilet breaks, but I thought ‘Why not?’ ’’

Asked when he noticed something was wrong with Djokovic, Tsonga said this: “Five years ago.’’

Yes, these things irritate the players, who know exactly what’s going on.

• Serena Williams’ Los Angeles condo is up for sale. She’s not moving to Paris, is she? Just asking.

• Carl Bialik of The Wall Street Journal argues that the reason for more upsets on the women’s tour compared to the men’s tour isn’t about hormones — as a smiling Jo-Wilfried Tsonga seems to think — but format. Here’s the bottom line: Best-of-three matches yield more upsets. Look no further than the ATP’s Masters 1000 events for evidence. Last year the top four seeds made the semifinals only once, in Shanghai.

Thirteen times in all since the 2009 Australian Open, one of the top four seeds in the men’s singles draw lost two of the first three sets in a match before the semifinals, only to come back to win and make it to the semis. It’s happened twice each to [Rafael] Nadal, [Andy] Murray and [David] Ferrer when they were top-four seeds, three times to [Novak] Djokovic and four times to [Roger] Federer (counting just once when it happened to them twice in the same tournament). The best-of-five format does sometimes work the other way: Four times one of the top-four seeds was knocked out before the semis after winning two of the first three sets, three of those times in quarterfinals when a win would have assured him the semifinal spot. Even so, that means in a best-of-three-set men’s tennis world, the top four seeds would have filled just 37 of those 68 spots, or only five more than the women have. That’s a relatively minor difference, considering many analysts consider the current top three plus Nadal to be the best quartet in men’s tennis history.

• Doug Robson on why Sloane Stephens isn’t the next Melanie Oudin.

• Bob and Mike Bryan are one win away from a record-breaking 13th Grand Slam title.

Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty are giving the home fans someone to cheer for. They’re into the women’s doubles final against Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.

• Non-tennis: The strange world of Basque sports, in photos.

  • Published On Jan 24, 2013
  • 6 comments
    CliffDawson
    CliffDawson

    I played Pro Racquetball decades ago. And never thought I would see this type of thing in another sport( Lying, cheating, gamesmanship) I was wrong. Anytime you get a sport that an official or rules can either be stretched of broken will  continue. I've watched a few matches in both Men's and Women's that made me sick and this was one of the worst. Stephens had momentum and probably could have pulled out the second set. Azarenka knew this and even said so immediately said as much after the match. The officials running these people should either stand up for what is right or quit and let someone with a "pair" do it better! Golf is the only sport that you do and will call penalties on yourself

    bryancti
    bryancti

    Is it weird (and cynical) to speculate that Azarenka may be the best thing to happen to the WTA in a while? She is now the designated 'bad girl' of tennis - a female version of John MacEnroe/Ilie Nastase. Her matches may see a boost of people watching, just to see what new drama she'll generate, what crazy stunt she'll pull off this time, and a ton of fans tuning in just hoping that her opponent will whup her ass. Every sport needs someone to root against, and Azarenka is now it in women's tennis.

    Michael9
    Michael9

    The problem with writers like Greg Couch is they mince what they cherry pick and omit to mention important facts.

     

    Fact is, the Australian Open chief verified that (a) their independent doctor confirmed he did indeed treat Arazenka for rib and knee injuries and that (b) Azarenka acted within the rules and spirit of the game (see link). So all those people insinuating and writing that she used gamesmanship owe her a big apology. Just because she does not understand and speak the English language as fluently as Sloan Stephen’s coach does not mean she was "cheating within the rules."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r557KWPfWU

     

    Australian Open "tournament director Craig Tiley said Azarenka had received treatment for a rib injury and then on her knee, "which she had tweaked a little bit in the second set". "In this instance, the doctor confirmed that he did treat the rib, he did treat the knee, and once he made that assessment, she was able and ready to continue to play. On our initial assessment on this, and also on advice from the doctor, it's correct," he said. Mr Tiley said Australian Open staff had handled the situation appropriately. "Certainly we have a grand slam supervisor on every court and it's their job to ensure that the rules are upheld and the spirit of the game is adhered to, and in this case our supervisor assessed that, and together with the trainer and the medical practitioner, they were satisfied that it was," he said.

    http://tinyurl.com/bj45xzz

     

    Here is proof that either Greg Couch fabricatied his quote of Federer: "When the sun comes from the side, the ball seems half the size and is just hard to hit... I never take toilet breaks, but I thought 'Why not?' ’’ Or Couch used a source that fabricated that false quote.

     

    - From Federer's post-match presser, you can see that "When the sun comes from the side" wa  cherry-picked from one sentence. Then "the ball seems half the size and is just hard to hit" was cherry-picked from another sentence. In that presser, Federer never said “I never take toilet breaks, but I thought 'Why not?' ’’ -- so this snippet was fabricated to create the impression of deviousness on Federer's part.

    http://www.asapsports.com/show_interview.php?id=61146

     

    - Federer NEVER said anywhere “I never take toilet breaks, but I thought 'Why not?' ’’. So what inspired the fabrication of this snippet? The idea probably came from the banter between Jim Courier and Federer in their post-match interview on court (2:29:12 in this clip). Federer made a joke to entertain the crowd (just like he did the other day about the big muscles in his scrawny left arm) -- yet fictional comments were put in Federer's mouth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7GDlD5ZFRI

     

    Greg Couch also omitted to mention that (a) Federer was allowed to take 2 bathroom breaks in a grand slam match; (b) Federer correctly took the bathroom break at the allowed time (at the end of a set, in this case the end of first set); (c) Federer's bathroom break extended the 2 minute set break by only 46 seconds (so Federer did not waste time and took his set break quickly); (d) despite Fed's bathroom break at the end of the first set, Davydenko raced to a lead of 3-1, 15-40 double breakpoint on Fed's serve before the Russian flubbed two shots and then crumbled as Federer raised his level (so the bathroom break did not affect Davydenko).

     

    Greg Couch is busted and has lost his credibility. Writers biased against Federer tend to grab at straws or even fabricate straws to put down Federer's successes.

     

    Carl Bialik usually provides insightful analysis, but in this instance he is guilty of linear thinking and poor analysis. He assumed a best of five set match is simply an extension of a best of three set match. Federer and other top players have said that they play best of five matches differently than they play bets of three matches. Besides, if you take the Olympics (best of three before the finals) and mandatory Masters events: these events are usually won by one of the big four players despite the best of three set format.

    Larry23
    Larry23

    “When the sun comes from the side, the ball seems half the size and is just hard to hit,’’ Federer said that day. “I never take toilet breaks, but I thought ‘Why not?’ ’’

     

    Yea, I remember that. I also remember Federer saying he did need to go to the bathroom. As in, perhaps hes able to wait until the end of the match, but if he needed to go to the bathroom, and it was an advantage, then why not do it?

     

    But Im guessing the writer didnt mention that because it would have hurt his point and made his article much less interesting., 

    shackle52
    shackle52

     @Larry23

     Writers like this him begin with a narrative and tell as much or as little of the actual story to support it. In addition, Roger took his bathroom break at the appointed time, not just before his opponent was to serve. At IW semi last year, Roger asked to go during a rain delay and you could hear the ump ask if he could wait so he did. At the end of the match, after another rain delay, just as they were about to start again, at match point, Nadal asked for a bathroom break and it was granted. I have never enjoyed an ace more than the one Roger laid down when he returned.