Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Naming of female Davis Cup captain sparks debate

Sam Querrey, a U.S. Davis Cup veteran serving in his
6-3, 6-2 win today over Rhyne Williams in the second
round of the Tiburon Challenger, said it's "fine" that Spain
chose a female Cup captain. Photo by Paul Bauman
   TIBURON, Calif. -- Apparently, it's a generational thing.
   U.S. Davis Cup veteran Sam Querrey, who turned 27 on Tuesday, said today it's "fine" that Spain recently appointed Gala Leon as the first female captain (Davis Cup lingo for coach) in the 114-year history of the prestigious international men's competition.
   But Tom Gullikson, a 63-year-old former U.S. Davis Cup captain who's coaching Querrey part-time, called it "strange."
   Querrey, the top seed in this week's $100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger, hadn't heard the news about Leon.
   But after dispatching countryman Rhyne Williams 6-3, 6-2 in 57 minutes to reach the quarterfinals at the Tiburon Peninsula Club, Querrey thought for a moment and opined: "I think it's fine. She's got a lot of guys to pick from, and I'm sure she'll do a good job. I'm sure it'll be a little different at first, but we've kind of seen it with (Amelie) Mauresmo coaching (Andy) Murray."
    Gullikson came to Tiburon, a wealthy enclave across the bay from Querrey's native San Francisco, for the first time this week. He had heard about the selection of the 40-year-old Leon, who reached a career-high No. 27 on the women's tour in 2000. 
Tom Gullikson, a USTA coach and former U.S.
Davis Cup captain, said he probably wouldn't
  pick a woman to lead a men's team.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   "Very interesting choice because Spain has had so many great former players who would probably be well qualified from their playing days to be the captain," said Gullikson, a lead national coach for the USTA. "I'm not really privy to the why and the how, so I wouldn't want to speculate why they hired her.
   "It probably wouldn't be my first choice if I was hiring a Davis Cup captain. Even in Fed Cup (the women's version of the Davis Cup), I think it's better to hire a female coach. They know women's tennis, and they've been in the women's locker room. It just makes sense to me. Strange hire, I think."
   Toni Nadal, Rafael's coach and uncle, strongly opposes the choice of Leon. He argues that she poses logistical problems in the locker room and "doesn't know men's tennis."
   But as the esteemed Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated noted in his Sept. 24 Tennis Mailbag at, Toni Nadal "never played at a competitive level, male or female, yet grasps the game just fine."
   Similarly, Querrey dismissed concerns about the locker room and Gala's knowledge of men's tennis.
   "You don't always have to stay in the locker room," said Querrey, who has won 14 straight matches since losing to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the third round of the U.S. Open. "You can change in the locker room and then go to a common room and hang out there. That's what we do a lot of times anyway, so I don't think that's a huge issue.
   "She hasn't played (men's tennis), but I'm sure she watches it a lot. I'm sure she's up to date on how the men play, the strategy, things like that. I'm sure they asked her those questions and (about) her philosophy before hiring her."
   Gullikson, who led the United States to the 1995 Davis Cup title, disagreed about Leon's ability to coach men, even though men commonly work with women on the WTA tour.
   Men's and women's tennis, Gullikson said, "are different sports. I think both the women and the men would say that. Men are men, and women are women. We're different. The men play a lot different than the women. They're different emotionally as well.
   "The men can really dominate a match with their serve and forehand, and (they're) obviously very athletic.They can hit amazing shots when they're off balance and out of position. The top four or five players also can defend the court incredibly well. Outside the doubles lines, they can still defend the ball and even hit good shots.
   "Serena (Williams) dominates the women's tour with her serve. She's got a lot of power and a lot of weapons, but you look at somebody like (Caroline) Wozniacki, who was No. 1 in the world without ever winning a Slam, and she really doesn't make winners. She wins on other girls' mistakes, and she's very consistent and competes well. Obviously, she's had a nice run this summer, getting to the final of the (U.S.) Open, but she doesn't have the power to win points like the guys do."
   Gullikson -- who has coached Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Jennifer Capriati and CoCo Vandeweghe, among other men and women -- added that "the women get a little more emotional than the guys do, in my experience."
   Maybe it doesn't matter who serves as a nation's Davis Cup captain. As Wertheim wrote: "Davis Cup captaincy is not exactly a deep dive into the inner works of tennis. The job requirements: Pick a lineup, go to some ITF dinners and, once you learn the ins and outs, tell players Vamos on changeovers."
   Gullikson also discussed:
   --On-court coaching, which is allowed on the WTA tour but not the men's ATP World Tour.
   "I'm not a big fan of on-court coaching in the WTA events. It makes it look like the girls can't figure it out themselves. That's wrong because most of the girls who get into the top 100 know how to play, construct points and compete. Otherwise, they wouldn't be there. Figuring out how to play and being responsible for your own tennis is a big part of growing and maturing as a player.
   "I hate it when players have to look at their coach after every point for either approval or some hand signal of what to do next. I don't believe in that. Twin brother Tim (Gullikson) coached Pete Sampras for five years until he got stricken with the brain cancer (and died in 1996). Pete never looked up at Tim. Tim would yell encouragement from the stands, but (Sampras) knew how to play and handle different situations on the court.
   "If you do a good enough job coaching, your players should be ready to handle anything that happens on the court. They should be ready for any kind of contingency and be able to change tactics and patterns themselves."
   --Whether there has been a changing of the guard in men's tennis this year.
   "I think (Marin) Cilic's win this year, beating (Kei) Nishikori in the (U.S. Open) final, was great. Having (Stan) Wawrinka and Cilic win a Slam this year gives all those guys in the next tier below the Big Four hope that, "Maybe I'm the next guy. I can do it, too.'
   "I think it's healthy. When you see all the same guys winning all the Slams, as great of tennis players as they are and as good as the story lines are, I think it's healthy for the sport when other people come up and break through."
   --Whether Roger Federer, 33, will add to his record 17 Grand Slam singles titles.
   "I hope so. I'd love to see him win one more. I think his best chance is at Wimbledon on the grass because that's where his slice backhand is most effective. Of all the top players, he is by far the best volleyer. And working with Stefan Edberg, who volleyed unbelievably well, I'm sure Stefan is encouraging Roger as he gets older to shorten the points and try to win more points at the net."
   --Whether the struggling United States has any potential Grand Slam champions in men's singles.
   "We have a lot of good young players. The birth year '96, '97 and '98, I think we've got the best players in the world at that age. This year, we had (seven) kids in the round of 16 at (junior) Wimbledon and three of the four semifinalists.
   "Young Jared Donaldson is doing well here, Stefan Kozlov got to the final last week in Sacramento, Francis Tiafoe won the Orange Bowl last year, and Taylor Fritz from Southern Cal has done pretty well in some of the Futures events."
   --American Jack Sock, who's ranked 60th in the world at age 22.
   "Sock beat Nishikori today in the second round in Shanghai. He's starting to have some signature wins. That's his first win over a top-10 player.
   "So, yeah, there's light at the end of the tunnel." 
At Tiburon Peninsula Club
Second-round singles
   Bjorn Fratangelo, United States, def. Louk Sorensen, Ireland, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
   Matt Reid, Australia, def. Fritz Wolmarans, South Africa, 6-2, 5-7, 6-3.
   James McGee, Ireland, def. Jordan Thompson, Australia, 7-6 (0), 6-3.
   Sam Querrey (1), United States, def. Rhyne Williams, United States, 6-3, 6-2.
First-round doubles
   James Cluskey, Ireland, and Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, def. Adam Hubble and John-Patrick Smith, Australia, 2-6, 6-3 [10-5].
   Thomas Fabbiano and Luca Vanni, Italy, def. Alex Bolt, Australia, and Frank Dancevic, Canada, 6-4, 6-2.
   Chase Buchanan and Tennys Sandgren, United States, def. Nils Langer, Germany, and Louk Sorensen, Ireland, 5-1, retired.
   Sekou Bangoura and Vahid Mirzadeh, United States, def. Sebastian Bader, Austria, and Erik Elliott, United States, 5-7, 6-4 [10-8].
   Carsten Ball and Matt Reid, Australia, def. Thiemo de Bakker and Wesley Koolhof, Netherlands, 6-3, 7-6 (4).
   Bradley Klahn, United States, and Adil Shamasdin (2), Canada, def. Dennis Novikov, San Jose, and Greg Ouellette, United States, 4-6, 6-1 [10-5].
Thursday's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
Stadium Court
   John Millman, Australia, vs. Liam Broady, Great Britain.
   Bradley Klahn (3), United States, vs. Marcos Giron, United States. (not before noon).
   Tim Smyczek (2), United States, vs. Jared Donaldson, United States (not before 3 p.m.).
   Bradley Klahn, United States, and Adil Shamasdin (2), Canada, vs. Julio Peralta, Chile, and Matt Seeberger, Los Altos (not before 4:30 p.m.).
Court 1
   Marcus Daniell and Artem Sitak (1), New Zealand, vs. Thomas Fabbiano and Luca Vanni, Italy.
   James Cluskey, Ireland, and Frederik Nielsen, Denmark, vs. Chase Buchanan and Tennys Sandgren, United States.
   John-Patrick Smith, Australia, vs. Nils Langer, Germany (not before 1:30 p.m.).
   Sekou Bangoura and Vahid Mirzadeh (4), United States, vs. Carsten Ball and Matt Reid, Australia.

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