Picket Fence Newsreel: Weekend Warriors, belated.
1. Excuse the total lack of coverage for the Monte Carlo final. In truth, I ran out of things to say about it.
Rafa was dominant, he was dynamic, he was ferocious. He was everything we expected the Clay Monster to be, and if I know my Rafa fans, they’d be avidly reading up on every single media report on the fallout from the tournament – it’s a little something I call “the Monday Problem”. I fell victim to it when Roger won Madrid last year after a title drought too.
Enjoy it guys. The media conglomerate’s a fickle lot.
2. There was a time when Nando used to be one of my favourite players inside the top 30. In the end, what killed the love was ironically his breakthrough into the top 10.
With breakthrough comes expectations, with expectations – pressure. And we can safely say that there is no better test of character and ambition than pressure.
Hey Nando, I don’t care if you lose to Rafa. In fact, I expect you to. But go down swingin’ dude. Go down with your head held high.
Don’t just look happy to be there.
3. The picture says it all.
For a long time, Sam Stosur reminded me of … well, a female righty Verdasco.
She always had the talent, the all-court abilities, her fearsome serve-and-forehand combo … but injuries and illness got in the way. Her own shyness, her seeming lack of competitive fire further presented roadblocks.
Better health, coaching changes and some mental guidance from Aussie pro-surfer Layne Beachley seemed to have helped, as she soared up the rankings and made her first slam semi last year.
Still, there were times when Stosur turned inwards. Shot for shot, her abilities are undeniable, but compared to some of the ‘slam contenders’ on the WTA tour (haha), Stosur lacks a certain inherent sense of the court position. To win matches, she depends control, not on improvisation. Take the ability to dictate away from her, force her to improvise or defend and her game unravels very quickly.
I’m not sure if any of that’s changed. What has changed though, is her mentality to accept weakness, to put more effort into her singles career, and to continue doing what she does best – serve, aggression, topspin forehands and sharper slices, netplay. Even with her short comings, she’s a player with a lot going for her.
Apart from a culture of expectations on her shoulders.
4. The mandatory “injuries update”:
- Sabine Lisicki out of Fed Cup and Stuttgart, still with her ankle injury
- Serena is out of Fed Cup, but expected to return to the WTA tour in Rome, having just accepted a wild card there. (Rome is now officially my favourite tournament. EVER.)
- Nalby simply can’t go for 2 weeks without getting injured. But how long will his persist? And will his persistence pay off?
- Still MIA: Dina Safina, Del Potro. The former announced on her website that she has “two stress fractures on L5S1 and a rupture on the muscle”. While her recovery has been slow, she’s resumed practice in Croatia.
- Don’t know what’s the deal with Anna Chakvetadze. Russian tabloids are reporting that she’s ill and injured. Father denies retirement plans.
Last but not least, here’s something new – Rafa withdraws from Barcelona out of prevention.
“If I had lost in Monte Carlo on Wednesday, I would have been [in Barcelona].
“We plan our calendar by matches, not by tournaments. I had a bad year, then I returned to my level and my goal now is to stay healthy. I’m in perfect shape. I feel very good, but I don’t want a repeat of what happened last year. For my tennis to be at the right level, I have to be physically well and that’s my principal objective. I’m being as cautious as possible so that I can play the maximum amount possible. Playing three weeks straight is not the best for me.”
Wow, sometimes you do learn the hard way.
- Looks like Prince hasn’t got all their eggs in Sharapova’s basket. Vera Zvoom has signed a new racquet deal with the company.
- Meanwhile, Sorana Cirstea was signed by IMG. She sure is marketable as a player, I’ll give her that. Here’s to hoping they don’t “Vaidisovize” her before she ever makes a mark.
- Wimbledon prize money rises to 1 million this year for the winner. I’m totally biased, but I sure hope that’s going into Swiss pockets.
- Nastya Myskina expecting bébé numero 2. Congrats.
Finally – Maria Sharapova turned 23 on the 19th of April. Masha’s a big girl now (not that you would’ve ever used the word “little” to describe her), but remember this?
Here’s to more of that.