By Bill Simons
GIORGI GIRL WINS ON COURT, REFUSES TO ANSWER QUESTIONS OFF THE COURT: Camila Giorgi scored a stunning win over Maria Sharapova. Her 6-3, 4-6. 7-5 victory was marked by powerful hitting and flashes of inspired tennis. Less inspiring is her and her father Sergio’s supposed treatment of a string of backers and investors who over the past few years bought her tickets to Wimbledon and the French Open, funded or even gave her coaching, and invested significant sums into her career without being paid back the money they were promised. An in-depth article by Sports Illustrated’s much-celebrated Jon Wertheim detailed an extended string of problematic dealings, broken promises, and encounters likely headed for the courthouse.
The WTA did not want The Tennis Channel to mention all of this in their post-match interview. But Mary Carillo spoke of the disconcerting situation anyway. Inside Tennis wanted to see if Giorgi would discuss her situation, so we tried to ask the 22-year-old Italian about it. She clearly did not want to talk about the murky matters. Our dialogue went like this:
INSIDE TENNIS: This is probably the best win of your career, along with the [US Open] one over Wozniacki. I’d like to ask you an honest question. One of our best journalists, Jon Wertheim, wrote a long piece about all the different investors that you owe: Mendy Wiggins, Eran Gadot, Alex Ramirez, Dominic Owen, Todd Andrews. You’ll win at least $52,000 here [in Indian Wells]. Do you think it would be appropriate to pay some of these people back?
CAMILA GIORGI: Actually, I don’t want to talk about that. For me, just I’m playing a tournament, so I don’t think about that.
IT: But you’re a grown-up. You’re a 22 year old woman. Many people know about this [situation]. Don’t you think it would be appropriate to take accountability and deal with this?
CG: I deal with this. I don’t have problems. But I’m saying to you that I just want to talk about tennis, not this stuff.
IT: That’s part of the game.
CG: Is not part of the game, because this is a history that … it’s, I cannot say. I don’t know how to say in English, but how you say in English?
MODERATOR: Just stick to tennis and—
IT: Wait a second. Let her put it in her own words. You don’t have to coach her. She’s 22.
CG: Yeah, but you don’t need to be aggressive. I’m just answer[ing] your question. If you want, I answer what you want. It’s different. But I answer what I think is the best.
Q: If you want to answer in Spanish or something…
CG: No, it’s okay.
NO DEFENSE: Both defending champions at Indian Wells lost today—Sharapova to Camila Giorgi, and Rafael Nadal to the unorthodox, flairful Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov.
SOME GOOD NEWS FOR THE UKRAINE: After Alexandr Dolgopolov‘s topsy-turvy 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over Rafael Nadal, Inside Tennis asked the 25-year-old—who recently enlisted Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray to make statements in a video he made calling for peace in his embattled home country of Ukraine—about the timing of his win:
INSIDE TENNIS: I know from after we spoke the other day [that] you’re sick and tired of [discussing] the political, but you just beat the defending champion, No. 1 in the world, and one of the most beloved sportsmen that we have. Do you think in some way that might be a feel‑good moment, might help people back in your country now?
ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV: Well, for sure. I mean, it’s a moment for the people to be proud a little bit for someone from their country, I guess.
That’s good. As I said a lot of times, it’s good to make some results, and make the people forget a little bit and have some happy moments in the news, [amid] the politics and all the bad stuff happening.
OF BOBBY, BOB, AND ROBERT: Many a guy named Bob starts his life being called Bobby, and then becomes Bob, and maybe eventually Robert. This little linguistic progression was mirrored when Georgia’s Bobby Reynolds faced Stephane Robert in the first round.
MOST INVENTIVE HAIR HAPPENING SINCE MARTINA HINGIS’ MOTHER MELANIE: Camila Giorgi’s father, Sergio, has a wild gray ‘do.
PIZZA, THE POPE, THE MONA LISA, AND NOW THIS: Italian tennis is happening. The country’s first top 10 women’s player, Flavia Pennetta, reached her debut Slam semi at the age of 31 during last year’s USO. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci were top 10 players in 2013, and are still a top 10 doubles team. On the men’s side, Italy is represented by the charismatic Fabio Fognini, who reached the fourth round at the BNP Paribas Open today. A player with a track record of volatile and dramatic matches whose on-court demeanor ranges from dogged to devil-may-care, Fognini is counterbalanced by the ever-steady Andreas Seppi, one of the cleanest-hitting and most calm players in the ATP.
It’s been an up-and-down, characteristically tempestuous year for Italian women’s tennis, with top 10 players and doubles partners Errani and Vinci both struggling—world No. 14 Vinci burst into tears after finally scoring her first singles win of the season here in Indian Wells. But the country is a fierce Fed Cup force because it boosts a strong Top 100 contingent: along with No. 10 Errani, Vinci, No. 21 (and 2013 US Open semifinalist) Flavia Pennetta, No. 43 (and 2009 French Open champ) Francesca Schiavone, and No. 49 Karin Knapp, Italy is also home to No. 79-and-rising Camila Giorgi, who first made waves last fall by using strong serves and flat groundstrokes to hit Caroline Wozniacki off the court in the third round of the US Open. Giorgi and Pennetta will face off in the fourth round at Indian Wells.
ITALIAN JOBS: While Maria Sharapova collected her last Slam title against Italy’s Sara Errani in 2012 at Roland Garros, it’s safe to say that Italian opponents have been a total nightmare for the tall Russian so far in 2014. She escaped with a three-set marathon win over Karin Knapp in boiler-room conditions in Melbourne, but today, against Camila Giorgi in the desert sunset, she wasn’t so lucky. Sharapova could scarcely win service points, let alone hold, in the match’s final games, and she even lost her trademark cool—a rare event—in a dispute with oft-criticized umpire Mariana Alves after losing serve late in the deciding set..
AND NOW FOR OUR CHOICE FOR THE MOST INTERESTING RECEDING HAIR LINE OF THE SEASON: Michael Chang.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If she played the way she did today for a long time, I don’t think she would be a qualifier.”—Maria Sharapova, on Camila Giorgi.
ISNER—”I’M JUST WORRIED ABOUT MYSELF”: Only one US man, John Isner, reached an ATP final last year. In January, the American men failed to get beyond the third round at the Aussie Open. In February, our Davis Cup team stubbed its toe in the clay in San Diego, losing to a not-exactly-powerhouse British squad. And now, here in Indian Wells, Isner is the only one of the 14 Americans in the draw to reach the third round. When Inside Tennis asked him whether American tennis was in crisis, he said, “It’s certainly been better, that’s for sure, but … it’s none of my concern. I mean, I’m proud of what I’ve done in my career. And, you know, I’m just worried about myself.
The other guys … are going to start to pick it up. They are too talented not to … I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can, and do everything I can to get myself better, and cheer for those other guys, but not put too much stock into it, either.”
DEPORTATION PENDING: Insiders wondered whether the usually benign Desert Sun tennis writer Leighton Ginn will be deported by Friday for suggesting the USTA scrap its extensive Player Development program and use those ample funds to bring more tournaments to the US.
ROSETTA STONED: The Tennis Channel showed a lively montage of Alize Cornet mercilessly berating herself in French and then switched to a commercial announcement: “This portion of our show is brought to you by Rosetta Stone.” Commentator Brett Haber noted the obvious, saying “I don’t think you need [Rosetta Stone] to understand what Cornet was saying.”
CHEWING ON BAGELS: After noting that Carla Suarez Navarro double-bageled Lauren Davis at last year’s US Open only to be double-barreled by Serena Williams, Brent Haber claimed it proved “there is nothing better than New York bagels.”
WHAT SAMPRAS, FEDERER, AND SLOANE STEPHENS HAVE IN COMMON: All three have been coached by Paul Annacone.
FIERY APOLOGY: While commentating on Alejandro Falla (pronounced Fi-yah), who was playing out of his head, Brett Haber couldn’t resist saying that the Colombian was “on fire.” The broadcaster then apologized to the American people for his obvious wordplay.
PLEDGING SLOANE: When Sloane Stephens—who defeated Ana Ivanovic to reach the fourth round—was asked if life on the tour instead of in college has her feeling like a “sorority of one,” she agreed, quipping, “I am a sorority of one—Sloane Phi Sigma or whatever.” She went on to add, “Girls are full of drama. To be in a sorority would be overwhelming. [On the tour] we’re playing for money in a real job. It’s a bit different from arguing over boys and stuff.”