Friday, February 24, 2012

What's an Upset?; Junior Tennis Faces in the Crowd; Moulton-Levy on Doubles Career; Fratangelo Nears Decision

Although this blog post has only a passing reference to tennis, it has some relevance, and it's by one of my favorite sportswriters, Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski, which makes it worth reading even if a golf result is what prompted it.

I shy away from the word 'upset' myself, and 'major upset' is not likely to make its way into my writing anytime soon. I am alternately amused and annoyed when someone writes of Kim Clijsters "upsetting" someone, due to her WTA ranking being lower than say, Roberta Vinci's at the time the match was played. College sports information department personnel are some of the worst offenders out there, calling a win by the 61st-ranked player over the 60th-ranked player an upset.

I believe in the just-completed men's and women's ITA Team Indoor championships I made two references to upsets: No. 3 Ohio State beating No. 2 Virginia in the men's semifinal, and unranked Buckeye Peter Kobelt beating No. 1-ranked Mitchell Frank of Virginia. (I was not even tempted to call No. 2 UCLA's win in the women's final over No. 1 seed Duke an upset.) The first reference I based on defending champion Virginia's four straight titles and the fact they were playing at home; the second, which I might even argue was a 'major upset', I based not only the previous form of the players, but on how I observed they were both playing up until that match.

It's ironic that when Posnanski does make a reference to tennis, saying "This isn't tennis where the No. 1 player in the world almost never loses to the 64th best," it's on the very day when No. 8 Mardy Fish loses to No. 388 Albano Olivetti of France.

I think many of the headline writers who refer to upsets often don't understand the sport they are writing about well enough to make the kind of distinctions necessary to determine what one really is (note the Washington Post doesn't use the word in their headline in the article I linked to above, which is actually appropriate here). And golf and tennis have rankings that make these distinctions possible, while most sports don't. So if the next time you see me use the word upset and don't agree with my assessment, let me know why. I would be interested to hear what factors I may have missed.

Sports Illustrated has given junior tennis some recognition this month in its "Faces in the Crowd" feature, with Australian Open girls champion Taylor Townsend acknowledged in the February 13th issue and Les Petits As champion Francis Tiafoe in the February 20th issue.

Former William and Mary all-American Megan Moulton-Levy did this question and answer session on her pro doubles career with usta.com.

And Bjorn Fratangelo, who recently served as a practice partner for the USA Davis Cup team in Switzerland, is quoted as saying in this Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article that he hopes to decide between college and professional tennis by the beginning of April. He lists Ohio State, Georgia and Virginia as his top three schools.