Notes from Shanghai

Abigail Hinto was in China covering the Shanghai Rolex Masters. She gives her personal reflections on last week’s tournament.

 

Qi Zhong Tennis Center

 

By Abigail Hinto

Tennis attendance in Shanghai

Before coming to the Shanghai Rolex Masters tournament, the buzz around the tennis world has been about the lack of people in the stands.  On Thursday, my first day at the tournament, the proletariat section was about half full.  Not bad for a weekday.  The rain helped too in that the people were pretty much forced out of roaming the grounds and into the stadium to watch the only matches available to them.  However, the corporate seats remained empty.  We all know the importance of corporate sponsorship to the success of a tournament, but I believe something could and should be done with how corporate boxes and seating are set-up.  It doesn’t look good on TV when you tune in to see two tennis players battle their hearts out on court in what looks like an empty stadium.  How can we lure new fans to the sport when it looks like no one’s interested in it?  It also hasn’t helped the sport that tennis has always been viewed as an elitist sport.  So how can tennis shed this image when people see a tennis stadium’s lower boxes surrounded by widely-spaced, empty corporate seats.  So how about interspersing the corporate boxes with seats for the general paying public?  Have the lower section filled with more seats. On a late night match/last match of the day when only few people are watching, have the remaining spectators come down from the rafters to fill up the seats below.  Perception is a powerful tool.  When TV viewers see a tournament looks like it isn’t well attended, they would think tuning in wouldn’t be worth their time too.

 

The Shanghai crowd is an enthusiastic bunch.  On both semifinals and finals day, the stadium was almost full.  I don’t know how it looked on TV, but out there live, it was a fun and exciting atmosphere.  In the finals, the crowd was evenly split cheering for David Ferrer and Andy Murray.  They were constantly cheering and reacting to great rallies and awful misses.  It would be great for the tournament, and tennis in general, if that’s what we could always show to the rest of the world.

 

The different faces of defeat

Top players are required to do post-loss news conferences.  Seeing Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal in theirs was a study of the different faces of defeat.  Roddick, who hasn’t been playing well all year, took a step in the right direction this past week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.  Even though he lost to David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, he was playing well again.  As he said, his performances in Beijing the week before and in Shanghai were night and day.  There was spring in his step as he walked into his post-match news conferences, and was generally in a chipper mood.  Athletes want to win all the time.  But if there’s such a thing as a moral victory, this was one for Roddick.

 

Meanwhile, for Rafael Nadal, his has been a year of near misses, now losing 7 finals including 2 grand slam finals.  It’s a first for him in his career, where he has been very solid in closing out tournaments as proven by his 47 career titles including 10 grand slams.  Coming on the heels of losing another final in Tokyo last week to Andy Murray (including a 6-0 third set), he would have wanted to make a good run in Shanghai especially in the absences of his nemesis this year, Novak Djokovic and also Roger Federer.  But he slipped up in his second match and fell to Florian Mayer, returning serve dismally and unable to break brown, his usual strength, Mayer’s serve and volley game.  So Shanghai was no longer just a near miss for him, but a lost opportunity, as he acknowledged in his news conference.  He walked into his news conference head bowed and somber.  He answered the first question straight up, extreme disappointment clearly showing in his face.

It will be interesting to see how each player moves forward now from their losses with their different reactions to it.

 

Songs in Shanghai

The Shanghai Rolex Masters wins, hands down for the tournament with the best change of ends music choices.

My top 5 songs of the week:

5.  All the country music played during the Roddick-Ferrer match

4.  “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors before Murray was about to serve Nishikori a bagel in their semifinals

3.  “Dancing Queen” by Abba as Murray was about to serve for the Championship in the finals against Ferrer

2.  “Mmmm” by Crash Test Dummies during the Lopez-Ferrer match

1.  “Endless Love” by Lionel Richie during the Roddick-Ferrer match.  Even got Roddick swaying to the music as he was waiting to serve in the next game

 

Angry Murray

I never realized how angry Andy Murray can get on court until his semifinals match against Rafael Nadal at this year’s US Open.  I knew there’s that side of him, and he’s constantly criticized for it, but I never really paid any attention to it, and it has never bothered me at all.  That is, until that US Open semifinal match.  I would think that with this winning streak he’s been on, the angry side would come out less often.  But seeing him at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, I guess it really is part of his game.  Is it the perfectionist in him?  Never wanting to lose a single point?  A way to release the tension in a match?  Up a set onDavid Ferrer in the finals, first point of the 2nd set, he misses his return off Ferrer’s first serve.  He goes to turn and shout at his box.  It has gotten a bit tiresome for this writer, this need of his to vent out every single lost point.  It’s working for him now, but honestly, is all of that really necessary?