ROME – You can find anything in this ancient city. But diligent searchers had an almost impossible task in trying to uncover semifinals of the Italian Open.
Four is the normal quota. At last, on a muggy Saturday afternoon, one did pop up: long shot Alize Cornet – she of the lovely name meaning ocean breeze — overcame No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, as a slim crowd cheered her breezy two-fisted backhands down the line.
By that time the customers were justifiably fed up with the two week tournament. Because of injury pull-outs there were no semis in the men’s precinct, only 38 minutes worth of tennis. Move ahead, the women’s looked promising – until Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova decided not to play, citing pains in the back and the calf respectively.
Cornet was a beneficiary of Serena in the quarters, and defending champ Jelly Jankovic walked into the final because Sharapova’s calf mooed.
The customers, feeling like poor relatives, thought that Serena and Maria were saving themselves for the French Open (May 25), and the two ladies conceded as much. This made Romans, and any other tennis junkies, feel that Serena and Maria were thumbing their noses at the dear old Italian Open.
It was wrong, an insult to the customers, that the two didn’t at least appear on court, try toplay, then default if they had to, and tell the folks they were sorry. It was rude not to do that, and the WTA should have insisted on it. They were clearly not basket cases.
However, with injuries – real and imagined – increasing, both the ATP and the WTA need to come up with what I’d call a “lucky loser” policy. And soon – to make sure the show goes on and the customers aren’t deprived of tennis.
Let’s look at the two tournaments. In the men’s, Radek Stepanek, after stunning Roger Federer in the quarters, begged off with a stomach ache. Thus no semi against Novak Djokovic. But as a lucky loser, Federer could have been returned to the tournament to face Djokovic. Same for Tommy Robredo, a loser to Andy Roddick, who was unable to play the semi. There would be an adjustment in prize money and computer points, but – importantly! — the show would go on.
Same for the dolls. Patty Schnyder, loser to Sharapova, could have been reinstalled along with Sarah Errani, loser to Serena, keeping the show moving and the ticket-buyers entertained – getting the amount of tennis they paid for and deserved.
It is just plain unacceptable for the ATP and WTA to permit the ruination of tournaments by late round defaults. There has to be a better way than just shrugging it off. Get smart, please, you WTA and ATP bosses.