For the second year in a row, Federbear and I watched Wogie’s first match at Indian Wells with a degree of trepidation. Igor Andreev, also known as the Right-Handed-Nadal-But-Shit (…I mean, dude’s even friends with Ferrer. What more need I say?) seems to be one of those players who finds an extra ounce of suicidal instinct in himself whenever he plays Fed. The combination of pace and spin from his forehand, his inclination to spank the snot out of every ball, coupled with the all-or-nothing mentality he brings to a match against Federer makes him a particularly dangerous player in the early rounds of tournaments.
But of course, in 4 matches he has yet to squeak a victory past Wogie McFuckerer, regardless of how close the match got. If you want to know why, just watch the second set tiebreak from his match against Federer today.
Furd’s backhand might’ve skipped off during the second set, muttering that he is no Robocop. Wogie’s first serve percentage might’ve dropped from around 70% in the first set to under 50% in the second. Break points might’ve been neglected like some poor unwanted child. Momentum might’ve shifted from the time Federer went up 2-0 to when he was down 6-5 … but at the end of the day, once again, Andreev became first person to crack. One miss by Igor at 4-4 in the 2nd set tiebreak was all that Federer needed to break out of his Vortex of Funk.Two serves later, Lemon Drop Wogie emphatically closed out his first ever straight sets victory over the Russian.
Sting like a bee, float like the omnipresent holy GOAT…
On a side note, I liked this answer from Lemon’s pressure.
Q. If you could take anybody’s shots, whose shots would you take? You’re famous for your phenomenal forehand. What shot would you take from the other players?
ROGER FEDERER: Um, well, I guess always a good serve is a good start, you know. Then you pick the obvious suspect, you know. The ones who are hitting aces and unreturnable serves and can clutch serve all day.
One of those guys, you know, one of the big guys, like John or Karlovic or Roddick and so forth. You know, guys who have proved themselves over a long period of time, of course. And also have variety.
And then, you know, backhands and forehands all come from the top players, really. If you look at the top 10, you know, I guess there’s always someone who does a few things better than others.
Um, but then at the end of the day, you know, you’re happy with what you’ve got, and that’s what you’ve got to work with.
Then again, I don’t know how much, how effective it would be, I don’t know, Murray’s backhand with my game, you know. My game needs my onehanded backhand, I feel, and I don’t know how his game would work out with my forehand.
So we all get used to with what you have, and, you know, your strengths and weaknesses. That’s how you go along.
At the end of the day, you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got. Your strengths, your weaknesses … At the end of the day, you’re happy with what you’ve got.
Advice we could all use.
A quick note on women’s side of the draw, Vera Zvonareva was her usual neurotic self, losing 64 67 46 to a tenacious Domi Cibulkova. But the most “upsetting” match of the day featured Mama Kims, who put on her stink-face and stank her way through an absolute stinkfest of a match, committed a total of 50 unforced errors (13 double faults) on her way to a 63 26 64 win against Sara Errani. My condolences to anyone who sat through the entire match. That was 2 hours of your life you will NEVER GET BACK.
The Frazzle Post for Monday (Aussie Tuesday) is up. Enjoy le tennis while I catch up on some well needed Zzzz, bitchezzz.
As soon as the OOP for Day 2 was out and Roger Federer was playing, the Day Session tickets for Rod Laver Arena sold out. In vain, my friend and I tried online, called the ticket centre, and visited the ticketek office, but there were no seats to spare for us pair of frazzlers. So we gave up the quest and got ourselves 2 ground passes, intending to catch a bit of Gulbis v Monaco.
But fortune favours the persistent. Hoping for some last-minute pot luck, we decided to line up outside Rod Laver Arena with around 20 other desperate Federer fans for any late tickets in the reserved section. After almost an hour of waiting, a ticket office personnel informed us that some seats have been freed on the lower deck next to the media section, and we were welcomed to take them.
So we happily purchased an upgrade, and snuck into our rather magnificent seats at 3-all first set. Just in time to see Roger Federer lose the next 3 games and drop the set 4-6.
It took all the dignity and self-respect I had not to throw my shoe at him.
For all his lack of temperament, Igor Andreev has a certain … Nadal in him. There’s the fact that in the 3 times they’ve played, Igor’s always been able to take at least a set off Roger, and has never appeared to be intimidated by the presence of God’s-Gift-to-Women. And then, there’s the forehand – unleashed with nuclear monstrosity and zero margin of error, pushing Federer well behind the baseline with sheer fearlessness.
Roger defended well throughout, but there can only be one result when the game is taken out of his hands and played on someone else’s terms: bald patches on Dootsie’s scalp.
While the second set temporarily appeased my nerves, the third set turned out to be the Sharapova-infested dystopia I never signed up for when I walked through the gates of Melbourne Park. After going up an early break, Roger attempted to serve out the match but won only one point. Serving to stay in the set 5-5, he was broken again with a string of horrendous errors.
Is there a worse sound in the world than a shanked forehand by one of your favourite players while your heart is pumping louder than Saturday night disco? At this point, everyone sitting around me was trying not to stare as I clutched onto my friend like a lunatic.
Meanwhile, pissy Fed was pure sex.
If only Andreev was anything like Rafa. Serving for the set at 6-5, Igor had a total of 3 set points to go up 2 sets to 1 on Federer - 3 second serves on the same side of the court. All 3 of them wide to Federer’s backhand. All 3 of them chipped harmlessly back cross-court into Andreev’s hitting zone.
All 3 of them shanked down the line by Andreev.
When Federer broke back that game and let out a roar that was mimicked around the arena, he also broke Andreev’s spirit. The tiebreak went in a flash, as Dootsie got up on her feet to give God’s-Gift-to-Women a standing ovation. Let’s all pretend that Roger saw it in his peripheral vision, and decided to reward me with a bagel.
As for Igor: close, but no premium Cuban cigar for you, sir.
It seems that the Australian Open is set on continuing to top itself with ludicrous scheduling. If Federer’s match was a full-house, then the night session featuring Hewitt and Molik was almost pathetic by RLA’s usual standards. It wasn’t that tickets weren’t sold, patrons just preferred to leave for the action on Margaret Court Arena, where Gasquet and Youzhny were putting on an orgasmically beautiful thriller. Not that I saw a second of it live, being stuck with good ol’ Rusty and Mollie.
But the Aussie patriots were out in full force last night, with Mexican waves, a few cheers that I recognised from my own high school days, and a rousing rendition of “Single Ladies”, complete with choreography.
Bolstered by the crowd, Lletyon Hewitt was as much in “full flight” as he’ll ever be, pummeling some poor Brazilian qualifier back into the oblivion where he belonged.
But Molik faced more of a tussle from Julie Coin, going up a set and 5-2 before choking slightly and letting her opponent flip the match. All credits to Coin, who had vastly improved from when I first saw her back in 2008 against Ana Ivanovic. She became much more consistent along the baseline once she got into the second set, and showed some surprising deft touch at the net.
Although Alicia will be disappointed with her loss, it was not a bad showing from her. She’s at least shown that she can play at a Top 100 level. But with an impending marriage and so much room to develop as a commentator and coach here in Australia, I just wonder if a comeback is worth the trouble.
And on that note, the rollercoaster ride that is Day 2 ended well past midnight into Day 3. Once again, I found myself crashing into bed, emotionally and physically exhausted, but completely gratified by the Federer scare and an evening of drunken Aussie camaderie.
Just for now though, I could do without both for the rest of the tournament.
I was just about to praise the WTA last week for their incredible consistency, with Henin and Clijsters reaching the epic final in Brisbane, while Flavs and Wickmayer battled it out for the Auckland title.
But take a few key figures out of the picture, and suddenly, we’re back to bedlam on the WTA tour.
Lady JaJa led the way first with a straight sets loss to Agnes Szavay. Seriously JJ, I’m not talking to you.
Unless you lemme try on this dress.
As for Agnes, like any dark horse, she has the ability on any given day to upset a top 10 player, but it’s the top 50 that’ll have her number come the Australian Open.
Despite her loss, JJ tried to remain upbeat in her presser:
“It was my first match of the season. I hadn’t played her in a long time. I also hadn’t competed in two months,” Jankovic said. “I have to clean up some things in my game. I need to stay positive. I hope I’ll be ready for Melbourne.”
Things didn’t get better for the tournament top seeds as the day went on. Vera had to retire at 3-all first set against ‘Lena Vesnina due to her lingering ankle problems.
It bodes ill for the towel-head, as she appears to be in no shape to defend her semifinal at the Australian Open and title in Indian Wells.
Vera is now in a recovery race for the Australian Open next week, and admits that she’s not feeling too confident about the early hard court swing.
“I will try to recover for Melbourne, but the inflammation is still there because of the surgery.”
“Last year I had an impressive start and they are impressive statistics. If I look back it was very impressive and I am very proud of what I achieved,” she added.
“This year is going to be a very tough challenge for me to repeat that, but I am going to try my best. The most important thing for me is to compete 100 per cent without thinking about my ankle as the last six months were very tough for me never being able to compete at 100 per cent.
“I was always having to push myself to the limit and I had to take a week off after nearly every tournament to recover. That was difficult so I am looking forward to the day when I can play injury free.”
It was a bad day for the Aussies too, as both Stosur and Dellacqua lost in convincing fashion to Flavs and Vera Dushevina. With such frustratingly high expectations on our players, Australia’s becoming Great Britain 2.0 OH WAIT -
And can someone explain why Flavia Pennetta was dropped by Tacchini? Was Nole that expensive?
The real theme of the day was “Asian Assault”, as Li Na came back from a set down to beat CWoz.
Well done, you Golden Flower you. Clearly it was a piece of cake, seeing that you only needed 67 unforced errors to beat the No 4 player in the world.
On the other hand, Carol – while being the sweetest thing to come out of Denmark since raspberry danishes – appears to be still allergic to the concept of hitting a winner.
Different year, same shit.
God bless our youthful Asian genes.
If you thought Kimi was good back in Seoul last year, wait til you see her in 2010. After making the quarterfinals in Auckland last week, Date Krumm scored another important victory today as she beat Nadia Petrova 63 57 64.
It could’ve been an even easier victory, as Kimi squandered two match points at 5-3 in the second set. Nadia broke back, and was up an early break in the third set before Date Krumm regained the form she had through the first and second sets and sealed the victory.
On the one hand, Petrova just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to drawing the most dangerous players first round. On the other – girl, you were outplayed, outrun, and out-thought by a 39 year old.
No wonder Fabrice Santoro can’t make up his mind.
On the men’s side of things in Sydney, Igor Andreev was upset first round by Leonardo Mayer in a third set tiebreak, 67 63 76, while Reeshie defeated Feli 61 64 and harkened back to the good times with Pamela.
Looks like the good folks of Western Australia will be tossing plenty of shrimp on the barbie this summer, with an absolute kick-arse field headed for the Hopman Cup 2010.
As if the combined attraction of Stosur/Hewitt wasn’t enough in this country, so far four other teams have been confirmed with Dementieva/Andreev representing Russia. Snow White and his dwarfette are teaming up for USA.
And today, the organisers announced the attendance of Lisicki and Kohlschreiber for Germany, and Cirstea/Hanescu as Romania’s first entry in the tournament.
And what’s this I hear about a possible Murray/Robson collaboration?
Tennis in my time zone. Oh yeth …
In a match that was supposed to be all about Rafa’s knees, it was Ferrer who ended up limping off the court at 3-4. Sorry Rafa fans, after two months of thirst, the 7 games that Rafa and Ferrer played probably did nothing to quench your desperation.
Rafa was understandably rusty, but it’s hard to tell at this stage how much of that rust was from his 2 months off the tour, and how much was from any lingering physical and mental effects of his knee injury.
That was quick: REUTERS/Shaun Best
I keep thinking back to what Federer said about his back problems earlier on in the year: that it wasn’t so much the physical recovery that was bothering him, but the mental block he developed over it, i.e. changing his service motion without realising and unconsciously trying to protect his back when retrieving balls. It took him some extreme physical conditioning to break the mental hold the injury had over his game.
Nadal could face a similar problem, it’ll be interesting to see whether his movement is at all affected by his knee injury, or even the thought of his knee injury. But then again, Rafa is much more used to dealing with injury issues than Federer, and his knee problems certainly aren’t anything new. He’s just too good a player not to bounce back from this.
In other injury alerts: Tommy Haas had to retire from his match against Gonzo because of some pretty nasty blisters. Of course Tennis Gods, Tommy Haas is playing great tennis once again and you just can’t handle it, can you? You just had to take him down with yet another injury. Of course.
Leave him alone.
The big upset of the day was Ferrero defeating Monfils, 63 76(7), which I missed completely. Given Ferrero’s form of late, and Monfils’ recent injury, I wasn’t all that surprised.
It’s just heartwarming to see someone like Ferrero hang around, still motivated and trying to win. To be frank, he’s “been there, done that”. It would’ve been perfectly understandable for him to walk away from the game now and ride off into the sunset – he has little left to prove.
But the fact is that he’s not headed for the sunset – he’s holding on, he’s doing more than just holding on in fact – he’s beating some of the young guys. And he’s showing people that he didn’t end up in the top echelon of the game a few years ago by a fluke.
Much respect. Kudos.
Unfortunately, Ferrero faces Andy Murray next round. Unless Murray is really off, the Mossie’s going to get smacked.
Oh yeah, and Jo-Willy scraped past Schuettler, barely – 46 63 64. But he looked so joyous about it all that I don’t even have the energy to get negative.
Don’t ever change, Jojo.
Roddick had a fairly routine win over Andreev 61 76(3).
Given that he’s played some tennis since Wimbledon already, he seems to be in fine form for the Rogers Cup.
My tennistic preferences tend to fall into three categories: 1) players I love, 2) players I respect, and 3) players I dislike. Federer, of course, falls in the love category, as do the Williamses. Nadal is less than love but more than respect. And you should know the ones I dislike.
Once upon a time, Roddick used to fall in the dislike category, and his behaviour at the Australian Open last year certainly reinforced every stereotyped view I’ve had of him over the years. But respect has to be earned, and Roddick has certainly earned mine with his work ethics and maturity this year.
I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this sudden surge of respect for Roddick. While I remain disinterested in his style of tennis, he did take me, as well as many other tennis fans, on a journey with him this year. As the man said himself:
“During my career I’ve been portrayed as every type of person—good, bad, ugly, rude, nice—and this is the first time it’s been presented in the light of a hardworking, everyday Joe type of tennis player trying to make good,” Roddick said. “All the while the meat and potatoes of who I am have probably stayed the same.
“Maybe people have realized that it’s not easy and it does take work.”
God knows we love “hardworking, everyday Joes”. Yes, you can sign his name under the “less than love but more than respect” category.
Coming full circle
Just goes to show how much more emotionally invested in the ATP I am compared to the WTA. What a year it’s been, and I’ve decided to separate it into different posts. So here’s the first one, matches of the year. And a little disclaimer before I start – neutrality has no place on blogs, so feel free to disagree/agree with my terribly biased opinions.
Match of the Year
Do I need to spell this one out? Can anyone really pick another match other than this one? No, I’m seriously not going to mention it by name, if you can’t figure out which match I’m referring to, there’s something wrong with you. Not only did it have high quality tennis, Shakespearean rain delays/acts of divine intervention, and two players who both epitomise what the Wimbledon Champion should be like, but it was also a watershed moment in 2008. The man who won would go on to take over the World No 1 in a month’s time, but really, the moment he reached for the trophy at SW19, he already was the unofficial no 1.
That’s probably as much as I’m going to write about THE match, though I think it deserves many posts solely dedicated to it, I do feel that it’s been theorised enough already, and frankly, I’m still too traumatized by match to talk at length about it (I have the HD version of the match on my computer, and it’s ZIPPED with the password “cardigan”. Maybe one day in 10 years time, I’ll meet a stranger at a pub, or on public transport, and smilingly nod when he/she asks me if I remember this match, but for now, to quote Federer “it hurt”, and it still hurts).
But one last thing I will say about this match was something that came up when I was talking to a friend of mine (also a tennis fan) the other day – what would’ve happened in an alternative universe, if Federer had won the match? 1) it would have been the best come back in the history of tennis. 2) as Federer fans, we would’ve all been a happier bunch. 3) Federer probably could have held on to his no 1 spot instead of subjecting us to his existential crisis from after Wimbledon right through to the doubles gold in Beijing. But think about the other side for a moment – Rafael Nadal would have been the imploder who served for the match, double faulted, and lost in 5 sets. If you remember Nadal’s face after the 2007 final, you would not wish that on him. You would not wish that on anyone. So maybe it was only fitting that Federer be the warrior who “almost” came back from a 2 set deficit than Rafa the imploder who double faulted and lost perhaps his last/only (I hope not) chance to beat Federer on grass.
Non-”The Match That Shall Not be Mentioned” – Matches of the Year
Because The Match was so significant that it just overshadowed every other match, let’s take that aside for a second. The non-”Match” matches of the year (the ones I’ve watched anyway) are -
Best of Five
- Gasquet v Murray Wimbledon: what can you do about Richard Gasquet, on the one hand, I give Murray full credit for coming back from a 2 set deficit, but on the other, it is so Gasquet to lose the match after being up two sets and so close to victory. From another perspective, both Gasquet and Murray (until recently) were at the time, what I would call “the tortured artists”, exceptionally talented, but with the mental fortitude of a stick insect. But since that match, how their lives have diverged – Murray’s gone on to establish himself as a strong contender at major tournaments, and Gasquet ended his year miserably titleless, and injured. *sigh* Had it not been for THE match, this would’ve been match of the year for me.
- Federer v Tipsarevic Australian Open: Tipsarevic came out of nowhere to push Federer to the absolute extreme, and he did play some phenomenal tennis. Federer had some brain dead moments too during the match that probably cost him in the first 3 sets, but once Tipsarevic took that 2-1 lead, Federer clicked into that extra gear, and didn’t give Tipsy much of a chance in any more of his service games. And the game where he broke at 8 all in the fifth was just sheer brilliance, from both ends of the court. Yet (and maybe I’m only speaking from hindsight), there was this ominous feeling after this match, that perhaps, the 10 finals in a row streak was about to end, and that perhaps something else is wrong.
- Federer v Andreev US Open: I’ve still only watched half the match (downloaded to 90%), and from what I’ve seen so far, lots of unforced errors from Federer, but he wasn’t playing badly, Andreev was just playing the best tennis I’ve ever seen him play. I was scoreboarding the match during Constitutional Law, needless to say I didn’t hear a single thing about executive powers, all I heard was the buzzing in my ear from the general lack of oxygen. To add to the drama, I always thought New York was the last city to really warm to Federer, clearly I was wrong. Years of service from Federer was repaid with interest by New Yorkers at the US Open this year, and that was beautiful to see. Can we do the same down here in Melbourne for Australian Open 09? To be really sick and quote everyone’s favourite politician right now – “YES WE CAN!”
- Nishikori v Ferrer US Open: I’ve still not seen the entire match either, plan to download in its entirety during the off-season. Ferrer I’ve always liked for his speed and doggedness, there are those who possess incredible talent, but only make use of a fraction of it (Gasquet, Safin), and then there are those who you wonder how on earth they even made it into the top 10, let alone top 4 for Ferrer at some point this year. But that is because Ferrer made 110% of the talent he does have. As much as I love Nishikori, I did feel quite bad for Ferru after the match. And how about Nishikori, I think we finally have a promising young talent from Asia. All hail Special K!
- Haas v Gasquet US Open: REESHIE! *tears chunks of hair out* But this is another match between two “tortured artists” who really could’ve accomplished more in their careers with the talent they possess. I haven’t quite given up on Gasquet though, and I won’t until he gets to the age of 25 at least.
- Those that never made it to five sets: who says you have to make it to 5 sets for it to be a fabulous match? matches I loved this year include – Gulbis v Roddick US Open, Federer v Gonzalez Roland Garros, Federer v Monfils Roland Garros, Nadal v Murray US Open, Djokovic v Federer US Open, Murray v del Potro US Open
Best of Three
- Federer v Murray Masters Cup: it’s still fresh on everyone’s mind, so it suffices to say that I think it’s “the” best of 3 match of the year.
- Before the Federer-Murray match, I thought the best of 3 match of the year was Nadal v Simon Madrid, again – the sheer drama, the Spanish fans, the unfreakingbelievable shots Simon was pulling off that had me pointing at my computer screen screaming “GET OUTTA HEYAAAA!” I finished the match at 4am AEST, that’s how enraptured I was.
- Nadal v Djokovic Hamburg – it’s funny to think that Nadal is now safely in command of the No 1 spot when way back in May, he was one match away from dropping to no 3 (the position Federer, to my dismay, is in right now). Again, only watched bits of the match but it looked like high quality stuff, many thought it was the best match so far at that point in the year, until it was outdone by the match a day later.
- Federer v Nadal Hamburg – aka the match next day – Federer shouldn’t lost the first set, but he did. Nadal shouldn’t lost the second, but he did. Therein lies the drama of this match, plus this match conned me into a false sense of security that the Roland Garros final was going to be a competitive match, until Nadal showed up in Clay Monster mode and Federer showed up… well Federer never really showed up.
- Roddick DEF Federer Miami – Roddick’s had a pretty disappointing year even by his own standards. But he can walk away from this year thinking “hey, I WON ANOTHER MATCH AGAINST FEDERER”. That almost counts as a grand slam in Roddick’s books these days right? Given that it was not long after Dubai (where Roddick beat both Nadal and Djokovic), there was every reason at that point in the year to think that Roddick was going to be relevant again. Until he lost to Davydenko the next day that is. Don’t you miss the days when Andy Roddick was making grand slam semis and finals, coming up with some classic presscons and acceptance speeches along the way?
- Federer v Nalbandian Monte Carlo – both players played out of their mind, and Federer prevailed in 3 sets, but that was the sharpest Federer had looked since the Australian Open. In fact, it was positively TMF/JesusFed. I had my doubts coming into the match, I hit the panick button half way through, and I ended the match back to being the Zen Master that I really am. Kool-Aid Drinker? Me? Never!
- And that sinkin’ feelin’ continues…I don’t want to remind everyone but just think of what we had to live through this year – Fed the Dead v Simon Pt 1/Pt 2, Fed the Dead v Ginepri Cincinatti, Fed the Dead v Murray Dubai, Fed the Dead v Mardy-Fish-who-rhymes-with-Dish Indian Wells, Fed the Dead v Blake Beijing, Fed the inexplicable vs Stepanek the Worm in Rome, Fed the inexplicable vs Karlovic Cincinatti. The only thing I can say about that sinkin’ feelin’ is that old sayin’ – “what doesn’t kill ya makes ya strongaaaa”
- Non-Masters Matches deserving of a mention: Cilic v Fish New Haven (Marin wins his first title, and I hopped on the bandwagon); del Potro v Gasquet Stuttgaard (del Potro started on his four titles streak, I lose more of my hair over Richard Gasquet); Kei Nishikori v James Blake Delray Beach (Kei wins his first title at the expense of my second favourite forehand in the game)