1. How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Okay. I geddit. It’s the W-friggin-TA. If I freaked out every time a top seed got booted out of a tournament by a nobody, life would be like a neverending reenactment of the Ring.
But you just could not have watched Maria Sharapova lose to Greta Arn mid-week and not fumbled for an asthma inhaler. All credit to Greta Arn, who survived a match point in the second round before booting 4 seeded opponents in a row and winning the biggest tournament of her career: her run this week has been a display of tenacity and inspiration. Even my cold, bleak, calcified heart softened a little at the sight of her kneeling in victory after the biggest win of her career today.
But even if we were to take this “giving the giant-slayer their due” thing to the utmost limit, we cannot deny the worrying signs here for Sharapova, in straight sets to a 31 year old journey-woman more than 7 years her senior, with a career high ranking of 81.
This is her third defeat to a player outside the top 50 … in a row.
The Cow On Ice may not be the smoothest mover out there, but she was sluggish all week even by her humble standards.
What befuzzles me beyond anything is why Sharapova asked for a wild card to Sydney only to turn it down last minute. If she seriously considered playing a second tournament before the Open in Sydney, she obviously wanted to be match-fit for the Australian Open. Why change your mind just when you’ve suffered an early defeat?
Unless there is some unpublicised injury, I cannot fathom Sharapova’s logic here.
2. Roger Federer has made 8 straight semifinals in a row since Wimbledon. In his last 10 tournaments, he has only failed to make the final twice.
INCONSIDERATE DOUCHEBAG. I had just gotten into the habit of abusing Federbear whenever he lost early in tournaments.
Not much to say about McFed’s play this week: he played 8 sets, won 8 of them. 3 tiebreaks, won all 3 of them. He’s been broken once since Abu Dhabi and hasn’t faced a break point in 2 matches (granted, he hasn’t played a returner like Kolya). In other words, he’s done enough to sail on smoothly each match.
Bizarrely, the more competitive and high quality matches were the two played against players ranked outside the top 100 – Schoorel and Chiudinelli. I get sick of hearing about the “depth” on the men’s tour as much as anyone, but you know where I’m going with this.
Onto more delicious topics … here’s a picture of a banana milkshake.
Here is another.
3. Justine Henin went to great lengths to talk down her chances at the Australian Open during the off-season, to the extent that at the start of last week, I was just hoping for a few tough wins from her in Perth.
A week later, she has won all 4 of her matches in straight sets. In the last two matches of hers I’ve watched against Ivanovic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Juju has been nothing short of pants-jizzingly turned on. Ivanovic and BMSocks played some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen from them. But like the pint-sized vixen she is, not only had Henin deflected every attack thrown at her with interest, she did it with such style and calmness.
Down 2 set points in the first set tiebreak to BMSocks? Here’s a drop shot. There you go, a smash. And all of a sudden, Henin had turned a 6-4 tiebreak into a 8-6 win. BMSocks regrouped in the second set, hit hard, ran harder. Her black socks turning into a wheel-shaped blur as she zoomed across the baseline, blasting her way to a 3-1 lead.
For a second, you allow yourself to imagine this match going to 3 sets, before you issue a formal apology to the entire nation of Belgium, because from 3-2 in the second set, seemingly out of nowhere, Henin soared into her “happy place”. Every point from then on was constructed; every shot had a purpose; every forehand felt entitled to its own angle, and 9 out of 10 points finished with a winner or a forced error.
Pleasure to behold.
4. BMSocks grows on you.
Tennisticaly inconsistent. Fashion sinner. Tattoos. Socks. Nothing about her fits in my perfect tennis vision, which is inevitably why I like her. BMSocks is about 87.5% heart, and the fact that some of her most memorable wins have come while representing her country says a lot about where that heart lies.
And you won’t find a more happy-go-lucky gal anyway on the vaginal part of the tennis tour. This one goes straight into the Bethanie Mattek Socks’ Hall of Fame.
Well? Rock on, Soxies.
5. The Herald Sun headline read: “Ill Rafael Nadal’s shock defeat at Doha delays his trip to Australia”
And hence, I have a problem.
a) Nadal has lost to Kolya the last 4 times they’ve played. Upset? Yes. Shock defeat? Well … you know how the Herald Sun caters to a delicate and easily startled readership.
b) You would think that Nikolay at least deserved a mention somewhere.
c) Tough luck for Rafa, who should be given credit for trying to finish the match and doing justice to the spectators and to his opponent. But in all honesty, I can’t say I didn’t think his decision crossed the line between “honourable” and “masochist”. The earlier you pull out of a tournament, the more rest you give yourself to recover, the less burden on the tournament you place, and the less likely you are to pass the illness onto someone else in the locker room.
To play through a match while visibly ill may have been the principled thing to do, but for the spectators, there was little pleasure to be derived; for the media, there was little credit to be given to Kolya (who in fact did deserve much credit); and for Kolya, he was placed in an awkward position of not being able to truly celebrate something worth celebrating.
Much respect to Rafa for principle, but I’m just not sure his decision to play through the week and in particular – the match yesterday was the product of rational thinking.
6. One of the Australian Open “Changing Ends” film festival entry. I LAUGHED SO HARD I transfigured myself into a squirrel.
And a happy weekend to you too, my DAAAHlings.