USO Day 8: Everybody has a story.
As much as I like to complain about all the big names dropping out of the tournament like horse shit, one of the benefits of having some of the lesser known players hang around is that you get to find out a little more about them. Turns out that the old truism ‘everybody has a story‘ still rings … true.
Yanina Wickmayer survived a close one today against Dina-slayer Petra Kvitova, prevailing 46 64 75 to reach her first ever grand slam quarterfinal. As a result, I found myself reading the transcripts of her press conference for the first time.
It seems that for many members of the press, it was their first time interviewing the Belgian too. When asked about why her English was so good, Yanina revealed that she had spent 3 years in Tampa after her mother died of cancer when she was nine.
“I went there when I was nine. I lost my mom when I was nine. I wanted to get away from home. I loved playing tennis.
“I was actually only playing for half a year. So I really enjoyed it, but just wanted to get away from home and do other stuff, be around other people. That’s why we left.”
Wickmayer admitted that it was a mature decision for her age at the time, but it was a decision made easier by the reaction of her father.
“I have to admire him for giving up everything he had. He gave up his job. He gave up his friends. Yeah, he gave up the house, his cars, and we just left.
Yeah, he put his whole life, yeah, in point of me, so I respect him for that. Everything I have now is a little bit because of him just because, yeah, he trusted me. He wanted to make me happy no matter what.
I guess he always believed in me. He always supported me. Even when I had some few tough years, I didn’t get through well, but he always been there next to me and supported me.
Yeah, he’s a great guy.”
He certainly sounds like a great guy. Tennis dads take note! Papa Wickmayer’s decision to leave Belgium had nothing to do with a gamble on his daughter’s career.
“…he didn’t leave everything because he expected me to be a champion. Actually he just left everything to make me happy. I guess that’s a whole lot of difference.
When I was nine, I wasn’t even I loved playing tennis, but I never thought I was going to be a professional and do this every day. I still went to school when I was nine. I was just a little girl enjoying playing.
I guess every year I kept on playing. I loved it a little more and I got a little better. That’s how the story goes.
But he gave up everything just to make his little girl happy, not to make her a tennis champion.”
Tennis isn’t all about the Serenas and the Sharapovas of this world. Sometimes, it’s just as heartwarming to get to know a little more about that Belgian girl who’s neither the one, nor the other.
A tissue for you softies?
[Wickmayer plays Kateryna Bondarenko next for a spot in the semis, after the KBond destroyed Gisela Dulko with a double bagel.]
The Russian Roulette keeps firing, as Melanie completes another Oudini escape from the jaws of defeat, outlasting Petrova 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.
So here’s the deal with this kid – she’s no Justine Henin. Just because someone doesn’t play big babe tennis, doesn’t mean that she’s an Henin or a Hingis. Melanie Oudin is neither, a better comparison is probably Lleyton Hewitt. Like Lleyton, she’s a little babe trying to play big babe tennis, and in doing so, outlasting her bigger, stronger opponents with sheer belief and a terrier-like mentality.
Because there’s already been enough Oudin-worshipping going on, for the sake of being a contrarian, I’ll point out that to a large extent, her last 3 opponents gifted her the match with their neuroses.
Essentially that’s one of the many problems with women’s tennis these days – too often, it’s about outlasting the other player rather than outclassing her. Each player seems to have a ‘dark place’ with a tendency to go there when they’re moments away from victory.
Still, I won’t pretend that there isn’t something oddly inspiring, and oddly “American” about seeing a teenager defy all odds against her (frankly) more talented, more experienced opponents. This is a kid that speaks with exclamation marks, plays through tears and with gusto, writes the word “Believe” on her sorbet coloured shoes and talks about having a dream.
Gimmicky? Yes. Endearing? Hell yes. Once upon a time, I too spoke in exclamation marks, and had a preference for sorbet colours and corny mantras. Didn’t we all? She may not be the most talented youngster out there, but something about Melanie Oudin resonates with the country, and indeed the tennis world.
Not sure that I’m on the bandwagon just yet, but we just might get there one day.
Melanie Oudin faces Caroline Wozniacki next match, who pushed past Sveta Kuznetsova. And I mean pushed. Caroline is a sweet girl and a fabulous personality to have in women’s tennis, but watching her tennis is only marginally more interesting than watching paint dry. At least in this match.
Kuzzy spent the first set and a half blowing Carol off the court with massive serves, blistering forehands and deft volleys. There’s a reason why this girl happens to be Roger Federer’s favourite WTA player – some talents don’t need gimmicks.
But Sveta being Sveta, she imploded bizarrely with a string of unforced errors in the second set. At the end of the day, all CWoz had to do was to keep sending the balls back and watch Kuzzy self-destruct.
How can we keep Marat Safin away from this gal?
On the men’s side of things, Roger Federer had a smashing time against Tommy Robredo, breezing past 7-5 6-2 6-2. The first set was a little tight, but once Roger got that one in the bag, he unleashed the funhouse for the next two sets.
Unlike most other players out there, RFed makes a beating look beautiful.
Unsurprisingly, it was fun for Roger as it was for us. He claims that despite scoring so many victories over his opponents, it’s not just about winning.
“It’s not like even trying to beat him again; it’s just about having fun out there, playing a good match, playing good tennis, enjoying the moment, playing in packed stadiums. It’s something not many people get an opportunity to do.
I think everybody would love to be in my shoes. Why should I give away my spot really because I enjoy too much and people love to come see me play? So this is motivation alone for me. I mean, it’s plenty. I have plenty of reasons for me to keep on playing.”
It goes without saying, which is precisely why I should really say it with a little salut and all: RESPECT!
Roger faces the Sod next, who was up 2 sets to 1 against Davo when the Russian retired with an injury. Robin celebrated his impending meeting with the Fed by … eating jellybeans.
That’s just 100% adorkability. Robin Soderling, the most misunderstood man in tennis? Quite possibly.
My worst enemy for the next two days? Definitely.
In other men’s matches, Djokovic had a straightforward squashing of the Worm, but the real highlight was his reconciliation with the American crowd. I thought it was nice for Darren Cahill to offer him an olive branch, a chance for Nole to redeem himself with something that made him popular in the first place – imitations.
It might seem like all fun and games, but with Roddick out of the draw and the crowd seemingly warming towards the Djoker again, how will it play out for Nole’s confidence?
He seems to be a player desperate for acceptance and particularly bothered by the dialectics between popularity and notoriety. Would being portrayed in a more positive light put some wind under his wings?
Who knows. Just don’t tell me you didn’t see him comin’.
BACK TO FRAZZLING,
“Tennis isn’t all about the Serenas and the Sharapovas of this world. Sometimes, it’s just as heartwarming to get to know a little more about that Belgian girl who’s neither the one, nor the other. ”
This is why I love the stuff you write! Such a touching story.
Soderling eating jellybeans! lol. I think Novak’s learnt from his mistakes, and he’s slowly catching steam. Murray’s been flying under the radar too, surprisingly. Just thinking about the next few rounds is making me queasy.
Always enjoy reading Roger’s pressers. Even with all he’s achieved, he knows he’s fortunate and never forgets it.
The next few rounds are making me queasy as well. Especially after what happened to Murray. EEEK.
I’m frazzling big time Soderling, Verdasco and Djokovic are three of the most difficult opponents for Roger to face, just have to hope that Djokovic does somethig stupid when he’s playing Verdasco and gets the crowd to hate him again. Federer needs to play like Federer from the start, not sluggish in the first set like he was with Robredo. I was so happy when Roger started smiling, I love it when he smiles and when he’s winning.
I hope Serens wins, I was on the Clijsters comeback bandwagon until she beat Venus and now I’m Serena’s bandwagon until she wins. Imagine if KBond or Oudini got to the finals. I’m rooting for Woz for the first and last time ever.
Soderling is the most unfornate guy on tour at the moment, not only is he misunderstood but he has to play Roger again, if he wasn’t in Roger’s draw he could probably get to the semis. He’d better be in Murray’s or Rafa’s quarters in the Aussie open.
I’d love for Serena to win too SJ, if only just to be No 1 again and put us all out of Dina’s misery.
I see you think Roger’s going to win against Soderling? I don’t know about that. I think it’s certainly conceivable that Soderling can do for Rafa at the USO what he did for Roger at RG.
Comforting, aren’t I?!
Not only the usual highly entertaining fluff here (now, don’t get insulted, it’s a compliment, I’m loving the tennis fluff), but also the highly accurate assessment of Oudin and Wozniacki. Well done.
I guess the highly inaccurate assessment of all things Federer could be excused by fandom. Fan IS short for fanatic, after all.
And, Eurotrash is not a race, it’s ostentatious nouveau riche people with questionable taste.
Hi robert, I’m totally okay with people not liking Federer. I’ve had my fair share of anti-Fed comments on this blog. You’re more than welcomes to make comments that criticise the Fed, but keep it constructive is all that I’m saying.
Eurotrash is a term that draws on racial/regional stereotypes. Essentially, it’s a bit of a stretch to use it on anyone who’s not European. And it wasn’t the only word you used that I took issue with, I believe you also used the word “mumzy” and “fat”. My response to your comment wasn’t specific to Mirka or Federer. I would’ve deleted it even if you made it in relation to Xisca.
I don’t begrudge Melanie her exclamation marks or her sorbet coloured trainers.
But like you, I’ve found some of the media coverage of her last three wins a little tough to swallow.
Still, she deserves the glory for her gutsing out of matches she might have reasonably been expected to lose given her tender age. And for that I applaud her. It’s a quality thats been completely absent from the other players at this Open.
Djoko thrives on that kind of mass market appeal, but hasn’t always worked out the best way of getting there. TBH I’m a little surprised it hasn’t made its appearance sooner.
But I’m not sure it’ll make that much of a difference to his chances this time round – his tennis has been competent, focused even, but otherwise underwhelming, and I wouldn’t be that surprised to see another straight sets loss to Federer, should he even get that far.
I’m afraid the media is more of a bandwagon whore than I am. I like Oudin and her guts, but I’d be more inclined to pay her compliments if they had just given a more accurate depiction of her matches. The way some match reports sounded, you’d think she was the one dictating play and putting her opponents on the defensive. Hardly the case. Nadia basically gave that one away, all credit to Oudin and her incredible tenacity.
As for Djokovic, I’m thinking back to his performances in Cincinnati – very underwhelming and defensive in the early rounds, but when he stepped out for the semifinal, he was taking it to Rafa. (Of course, it’s made easier by the fact that Rafa was sub-par). You never know how it’s going to go with him. I think Djoko’s clicking in, after that horrible match against Witten.
Actually I think Oudin does have weapons with her groundstrokes. She’s not a light hitter at all. It’s her serve that’s very weak, and always will be considering her height.
Hi Alex, I agree that Oudin’s groundstrokes aren’t exactly powderpuffs. She does have pace on it, hence the Hewitt comparison – she’s a little babe playing like a big babe, contrast with Hingis, or even someone like Radwanska.
I’d like Oudin better if I didn’t have to listen to the over-hyping by the American media. They are disgusting when they drool.
I’ve been turning off the sound when I watch matches.