Sunday Confessions.

1. Poo-poo to all naysayers. Maria Sharapova crushed Sofia Arvidsson 62 61 to win the Cellular South Cup in Memphis. Yeah yeah, it’s a minor event. Yeah yeah, she didn’t have to beat a player in the top 50.

But the win was just what the doctors ordered to bounce back from her disappointing first round exit at the Australian Open. It also moves her up to No 13, within striking distance of the top 10 just before the duo jackpots of Indian Wells and Miami.

“I feel great. I came here for matches – I got five and I got the win, so it was a good week. I served and returned well – two things that are very important indoors.

“I also did the right things against Sofia. I worked hard after the Australian Open and little by little things are coming along.”

“I’m getting there. The more matches I play, the more confident I get. From there, things will start to fall into place and the instinct will come back a little more.”

2. And kudos to Memphis. The winner’s trophy was just what I’d expect from a good ol’ fashioned tennis tournament in a good ol’ fashioned kinda town.

It’s small, it’s practical, none of that avant garde art crap some tournaments give out these days.

3. Player of the Week: Venus Williams, who certainly defied my expectations at the start of the tournament in defending her title and doing it in style. The final she played against Vika showcased her best tennis since Wimbledon last year – hard, fast and ever-so-graceful.

It’s about time the Tennis Media stopped asking questions of Venus Williams. Sure – we expect a lot from her: she’s a champion and a Williams to boot. She should, and could always do better.

But at some point, this “what have you done for me lately” attitude needs to stop. The woman made quarterfinals in Melbourne and won the title in Dubai. Show her a little respect, ’cause those results are more than what the WTA No 2 and 3 can boast this year.

4. Despite the loss, it was a good week for Victoria Azarenka, the bright young thang of the WTA.

Watching the final today, I was struck by the contrast between the maturity and grace of Venus and the headstrong vivaciousness of Vika. In the end, it was one of those days when Venus Williams just plays steadier, tougher and better. And Vika was left looking a little tender and naive in her matching pink shoelaces and hair tie.

I wonder what will Azarenka be like when she loses that youthfulness. I wonder if I’ll still like her as much.

5. I love James Blake’s game. It’s exhilarating, it’s furious, but oddly devoid of any sense of venom. And by all accounts, Blake seems like one of the few genuinely nice guys that I’ve actually liked as a player.

And be it Del Potro at the Australian Open or Andy Roddick in Memphis, James Blake still has the game to trouble any player in the top 10. But it stops at “troubling” and falls short of “winning”.

Go back and watch some of Roger’s matches from 2000-1. There was a quality in him back in the day that reminded me of Blake. It’s the Kamikaze-styled tennis they play: walloping the snot out of every ball that’s remotely within their striking zones, playing low-percentage shots that either ended with the crowd on their feet or groaning into their armpits, living and dying by their own sword. It’s electrifying to watch 50% of the time, awful the rest. There’s a lot of raw talent but little subtlety.

The point is, Roger Federer stopped playing that way. He developed more craft in his game. James Blake hasn’t.

6. Another man who hasn’t come very far in the last few years, Ernie Gulbis made it back into my attention this week, briefly, when he upset Berdych to reach the semifinal in Memphis.

If you were following tennis at the end of 2007, you might’ve kept your peripheral vision on 3 teenagers coming up on the men’s tour – Gulbis, del Potro and Cilic. All born within a few months of each other, all came with their own “money shots” and a whole lotta raw power. If you had asked me back then to pick the front runner out of the 3, I might’ve gone with Gulbis.

But 3 years down the track, del Potro has a slam. Cilic is in the top 10 with a string of scalps and on an upward trajectory.

Gulbis on the other hand, is still wandering in the wild moors of this sport. While his contemporaries are strutting the court with a sense of quiet ambition, Gulbis is still playing with all the brashness of his 19-year-old self. The beard and the disheveled hair do so little to hide the lack of growth.

Will there ever be growth? Or will Ernie continue to emanate that sense of sheer impotence?

Your guess is as good as mine.

7. One guy who has grown in leaps and bounds – John Isner. He’s through to the Memphis final to face Sam Querrey and decide on THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN TENNIS.

Or something along those lines.

If you thought big servers were boring, you obviously haven’t watched Isner a lot. As hard as it must be for a bunch of tennis purists to fathom, John Izzy is inexplicably enjoyable to watch.

Or maybe I’m just hypnotized by his gutsy boyishness.

Oh you cutiepatootie you!

xx doots


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7 responses to “Sunday Confessions.”

  1. Jack says :

    So happy Maria won! Hopefully with a good result in Indian Wells or Miami, she’ll be back in the top 10 before the clay season. Because clay and Maria don’t always get along! 😀

    I was annoyed however that there was not one single stream for her final!!!

    Also, do you think Ernie’s hair is turning into Murray’s, circa AO 2008?? 😀

  2. breadstix says :

    I would do the same for Ernie, but since he’s Ernie… naah. I’ve given up all hope. Still.

    A big congrats to Masha too, it was a good tourney from her, hope we’ll see more of it when it comes to IW or Miami. YAY!

  3. jfK says :

    So happy for Shazam. She needs all the confidence she can get right now.

  4. Warwick360 says :

    I hope isner wins tonight…………fingers crossed………

  5. Ribbons says :

    Here in Memphis, I saw all of Isner v. Petzschner, the start of Isner v. Karlovic, and all of Isner v. Niemenen. What impressed me about Isner is that he’s got more variety and strategy than people tend to give him credit for — live, I could really hear the speed of the ball change and the angles he was trying. The main issue at the moment is that his weapons aren’t yet reliable — you can see what he intends to do, but the shot falls just short or just long or just wide.

    Saw much less of Sam (and his Friday night kit was one of the ugliest in the tournament), but John struck me as having the edge form- and technique-wise.

    Watching Ernie in practice and parts of his matches vs. Querrey and Kendrick (and reading about how he doesn’t watch much tennis on TV — other than himself and Roger ), I frankly will be pleasantly surprised if he ever cracks Top 20. Polite guy, and his coach is a hoot, but E struck me as more a journeyman than a top tier player when it comes to sustaining mental focus for more than five minutes. Which is a pity, because when he’s got all cylinders engaged, he’s fun to watch. *sigh*

    • Ribbons says :

      Well, shows what I know (just saw on the sb that Sam won). Now I’m really glad I opted to sit this one out . (I wasn’t enough of a fan of either guy to put up with “Go Bulldogs!” _and_ Samurai for four hours — plus I really enjoyed the previous 2 1/7 matches I saw (last two games of Sharapova-Ardvisson, all of King-Krajicek v. Mattek/Shaughnessy, and the Lipsky/Martin v. Ramsay/Smith exo. The UMemphis crowd at the exo was hilarious – like being in college again, in a good way.)

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