Picket Fence Newsreel: Re-beginning 2010.

We might be half-way through February already, but for Maria Sharapova, the season has barely started.

After a disappointing loss in the first round of the Australian Open to MariKiri, Sharapova is looking for a second chance to open the year in style as the top seed in the tournament in Memphis this week.

She’ll be happy with her first round performance, after destroying Shenay Perry 60 62 in just 51 minutes.

Meanwhile, major “underarm boobage” going on with this two piece version of her AO dress. Seriously Nike?

I’m not sure how to assess Maria Sharapova these days. On a good serving day like today, she’ll pop 60% of her first serves in, lose only 3 points on them for the entire match, and keep her double faults count at a respectable 3.

But was it because she has slowly improved her serve in the past month? Or was it simply because Shenay Perry never put her out of her comfort zone? I’m leaning towards the latter.

Like Federer’s forehand of 2008, the Sharapova serve has developed a tendency to depart for “Sasha-land” when she’s under pressure. If Maria wants to show that she is to remain a contender in this sport, I’ll need assurances, and the first one better come on Sunday this week.

Also looking for a fresh beginning this week is Rafael Nadal, who’s back on court practicing ahead of Indian Wells.

“Right now, this week and these first few days back, it’s a matter of taking things slowly,” Nadal said after his first training session of the month.

“I think things are progressing very well. I have been working with the appropriate machines to help the tear heal as quickly as possible and also done a lot of physical work in the gym.”

Speaking to Reuters, Rafa revealed that he’s in a solid mental shape to defend Indian Wells. Not that I never doubted anything to do with mentality when it comes to Rafael Nadal.

Perhaps the only small question mark I’d have in this regard would be whether he’ll be able to fully trust his body again and how that might affect his movement, particularly when matches go the distance and things get tight.

“It’s a tournament where I have almost always played well [Indian Wells],” Nadal said. “Let’s see what happens.

“It’s the first event I will have played for a month and a half and it’s always more difficult to start like that. I am hoping to play well and build confidence for a strong start to the claycourt season.”

Personally, I thought the question marks surfacing over Rafa’s career over the past month are valid, but nevertheless overstated.

Pick any one of the myriad of media obituary for Federer this time last year, replace his name with Rafa’s, and the word “back” with “knees”, and you could be the next columnist on [insert prominent tennis blog here].

But Rafa sounds less worried about his “impending doom”.

“I think I was there during the first month of the year,” he said. “I think I am working well enough to get there again.

“That’s sport. You never know when you start (your career) and when you finish.”

Sure. Stylistically, Nadal’s game is always going to be injury-prone. But it’s a rhythm that I think Rafa himself has become accustomed to: play lights-out tennis for 5-7 months, crash, reboot, play another 5-7 months of blistering tennis.

If you have any doubts as to whether he’ll be able to rebound from this one, simply flip through a magazine while you wait for the clay season.

When asked about a possible extended break from tennis, Rafa denied that he would consider such a strategy to avoid injuries.

“I am very content with what I am doing and I feel very lucky to be playing tennis,” said Nadal.

“I am not planning right now to do anything else than dedicate my life to playing tennis.”

Nor does he feel that he would have a different attitude going into the French Open this year because he’s no longer the defending champion.

But Roger, I suspect, will.

“As always I will be excited about playing a good tournament and trying to win,” he said.

“I don’t think it changes anything not being champion. Of course you’re not going to win Roland Garros every year.”

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23 responses to “Picket Fence Newsreel: Re-beginning 2010.”

  1. Guy says :

    Since physical conditions affect mentality, I wouldn’t be so sure Rafa is mentally perfect.

    • dootsiez says :

      I wasn’t saying he’s mentally perfect. But he’s better equipped to bounce back from injuries than many of the other players because he’s done it many times before and I think he understands what it takes.

  2. Jack says :

    Yay! So happy Maria won!!

    People may find this wierd, but I’ve been a Masha Fan longer than I’ve been a Fed Fan.

    When I first saw she was playing Memphis, instead of Dubai, I was thinking “Why?”. But now I think its a really wise decision. The field is less saturated with top players. Plus she’ll get match practice and hopefully get her confidence up. She should win it too and hopefully she will!

    But I do agree about her serve. I don’t know where its at these days. I do however thinks her serving problems are validated though as the injury must have affected her mentally. I just think its to do with confidence and that if she got a big win over someone like Justine or Serena, whilst serving good, then her serving problems may go away.

    • dootsiez says :

      Jack, I’ve been a Masha fan longer than I’ve been a Fed fan too. Liked her every since her first slam in 2004.

      You forget that Memphis is in the US. Logistically, I never understood why US-based players flew all the weay to the mid-East to compete, then flew back for Indian Wells.

      But there’s always $$$$$ ….

    • TennisAce says :

      Jack, unfortunately for Masha she has not beaten Serena in over 6 years. She has a mental block over Serena. It does not help that Serena’s return game, movement, serve and everything about Serena intimidates Sharapova. Perhaps she either should not have won that YEC match or she should have taken one of those numerous match points in 05. I do not think that she will get back to where she was before because for right now everyone is all about the return and if she does not get that back then she will most certainly be toast, confidence be damned.

      • Jack says :

        I think Masha’s return game has improved over the past year. Due to the shoulder injury, I think she worked more on that part of the game during the last year. She may not be the best returner but she is improving.

        I believe she can beat Serena again. Granted she hasn’t beaten her 6 years, but their last meeting was close and Masha definetely had her chances. But I do agree that its a mental thing with Serena, I think she’s the only person who intimidates Masha.

        I also believe she can get back to her best. She may not get back to No1 as her schedule will be lighter due to the injury. But I can definetely see her winning more Grand Slams.

  3. grace says :

    I´m not sure Rafa has a solid mental shape, when he´s under pressure he is not the same Rafa.,
    When he lost to Sod he lost his confidence before his knees injuries.Of course as a great Champion he can be back but in my opinion is not the same as Roger´s lack of confidence.

    • dootsiez says :

      I dunno, this time last year, when Roger got in tight situations, he was not the same guy either. I couldn’t trust him to win a single non-slam match that went to 3 sets.

      Which made what he did at Roland Garros even more impressive.

      • elisha says :

        Especially that comeback against Haas. I mean, I knew he had a 5-setter in him after coming back against Berdych at AO last year, but I wasn’t sure if he had it in him to do a repeat. I almost gave up. ALMOST! lol… So glad I didn’t 🙂

  4. Anoop Saxena says :

    Well I do not agree with just one bit of what you said.

    Quote, “Pick any one of the myriad of media obituary for Federer this time last year, replace his name with Rafa’s, and the word “back” with “knees”, and you could be the next columnist on [insert prominent tennis blog here].” Unquote.

    The first part about replacement is true, but the second part about the back is not. I was surprised that no, not a single, obituary for Federer had talked about his bad back. They all said in unison, he is on a decline. No one said, “it’s his back”. Infact even before the AO finals, some from the media claimed, that Federer is reluctant to give the credit to Murray and is suggesting that his back had a problem.

    I had this angst building up over columnists not even giving him a chance and not giving him the excuse that his back was not in top form, which inhibited his movement on the court.

    All I am trying to say is that while you are bang on, about replacing Fed with rafa in those obituary columns, the columnists never did justice to Federer. At least with Rafa they are mentioning his ailing body!!!

    • dootsiez says :

      Hmmm … you’re right Anoop. Now that I think about it, I seem to remember Bodo saying outright this time last year that Federer’s back was merely an excuse for him needing a little R&R post-AO.

      Of course, when Rafa retired at the AO this year, the same Bodo was saying how Roger was smarter in the way that he kept his injuries low-profile and kept the other players guessing.

      Of course, he forgot that the flip side of Roger’s approach to revealing his injuries is that no one believes him when he *is* injured.

    • elisha says :

      Yep, I remember Fed doing an interview in AO and he kind of said it in passing, that people didn’t believe him when he said he was diagnosed with mono… He was like, “For some reason, nobody still believes me…”

  5. sara says :

    can’t wait for nadal to be back. just saw a nehind the scenes clip of him and shakira. didn’t know he was into that kind of thing

  6. TopSpin says :

    I put Shaza’s shoulder and Nadals knee in the same bucket.

    Both injuries proved injurious(!) to arguably their greatest strengths: Shaza’s serve (now a distant memory) and Nadal’s movement.

    Bit too early to see where this is headed in the long term, but I see them both streamlining their respective schedules – they’re both still capable of reaching the heights we normally associate with them, though it will all need to be managed with a lot more care and diligence than they’ve been accustomed to.

    Their ranking will likely suffer – not that I think this will bother either of them.

    • dootsiez says :

      Who do you think will fare better in their comeback?

      I was going to go with Shazza, but with Justine and Kim back and the level of competition in women’s tennis heating up, I’m not as sure as I used to be.

      • TopSpin says :

        Agreed, but with Delpo on the rise and Murray, evidently having figured out (at least to some degree) how to play Nadal, it won’t be easy for either of them.

        Never have I had felt such uneasiness about the men’s rankings:S

  7. TennisAce says :

    I know freedom of speech is the inherent right of everyone in the world and everyone has the right to speak his or her mine, but I just took a gander at your sidebar to look at some of the blogs that you had posted there and Ruan Federer is by far the worst Fed fan I have ever come across. For someone who is a fan of a player who epitomises graciousness, consciousness of his fellow man and who speaks highly of his fellow players, to have someone like Ruan Federer writing about him must be a real downturn for poor Roger Federer. Never have I seen such venom spewed against players that I admire like Serena and Venus Williams. Those 2 women took tennis from the doldrums from which it languished in the late 90s and early 2000s. Lest anyone think I am making this up, just go to the SI vault circa 2002 and read back through articles where at the time the reigning No. 1 Leighton Hewitt was so busy suing his governing body he had no time to promote the sport and Capriati, who was in a fight with Hingis for No. 1 and Davenport were all has beens who could not even get people to watch tennis. Tennis was in the doldrums and these 2 girls from Compton, California with their wonderful back story, their all court powerful games, their superior speed and the fact that they were ambitious, had other interests, and were articulate and could play tennis like it had never been played before took the tennis world by storm. Roger Federer is for my money reaping the benefits of having Serena and Venus Williams come on the Tour. Never before has fashion been so important to tennis as when these 2 girls came on the scene. Sharapova as well is reaping the benefits. Who knew that what tennis players were wearing would be such a big deal? Ruan Federer, I hate to say it but you are not a Federer fan. Dootsie, sorry for posting this here, but it galled me and I could not deign to post over there lest he respond to me. Ugh

    • dootsiez says :

      Hmm … I’m not going to trash another blog, especially one that’s in my blogroll.

      Needless to say, anyone who’s followed me on twitter would know my history with a blogger who once accused me of not “respecting” Federer.

      As for Serena and Venus, they were my first loves. Nuff said.

  8. Chairman, Federer Puny Left Arm Society says :

    Blog Wars!

    Folks need to understand that all of Roger’s fans are not equal. Some love him more, some love him less. Some never criticize him, some do.

  9. TennisAce says :

    Thanks very much for the response Dootsiez. I think one of the problems that Federer is not because of Federer himself but more as a result of some of his so-called fans. Anyway, still enjoy your blog as you make me laugh most days.

  10. grace says :

    Of course Ruan blog isn´t an hilarious one….the matter is that as he writes only about Roger sometimes is a bit boring….I´m an addict Roger´s fan but I like to speak about other players too.Yesterday I saw Nalby´s match ,he´s a talented player if he´s fit in my opinion he´s going to beat Djoko, Murray an even Delpo….

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