Archive by Author | dootsiez

Wimbledon Final thoughts: the History Boy and the Anti Star.

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Murray and himself

This is not creepy at all.

1. Some things are worth waiting 77 years for. In case you’ve been living in a ditch free from the British press, Andy Murray finally ended his slow, teasing torture of the entire nation of Great Britain, beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to clinch the Wimbledon trophy.

In 2012, when Murray won the gold medal at the Olympics, I mused whether this would in fact provide the mental breakthrough he needed to win a grand slam, any grand slam. The Olympics had the unique status of being a major title but not a major. The winner is both the centre of attention and yet one of many to share that lime light. And in truth, it seemed to take a huge load off Murray’s shoulders.

Within a year, Murray has won the US Open (with a major wobble in the final) and Wimbledon  (with a minor wobble in the final game), and as much as I’ve disliked him as a player, it has been somewhat gratifying to watch him take advantage of the fate and opportunity provided by the Olympics and use it to strengthen a once fragile psyche.

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2. All hail Marion, who – in two weeks – had morphed from the Maid to the Matron of the French tennistical hierarchy. Those reading this blog from way back may remember that I have never been a fan of Bart. Her game is at best quirky, at worst weirdly ungraceful and blunt. Her personality carries the same bluntness as her game. Marion loves and hates with so much transparency, at times making no attempt at being diplomatic in press conferences when her opinion is asked.

In short, on a tour dominated by Big Babe tennis, Bartoli is the oddball.

But in the same way that Schiavone’s win at Roland Garros a few years ago re-energised my love for women’s tennis, Bartoli’s victory at Wimbledon was a victory for variety on the WTA tour. Look past the Serenas and Marias on tour and you’ll find an underbelly of interesting players with quirky personalities who do not get enough (or any) attention.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from this Wimbledon is the mere fact that for a week at least, the spotlight was on them for a change: Bartoli, Lisicki, Flipkens .. even the doubles champs Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. When was the last time we saw both singles and doubles winners with double handed forehands at a grand slam?

Seems to me that the level of variety on the WTA tour could in fact be something to be celebrated, rather than bemoaned after all. Read More…

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WHY IS THE WORLD STILL SPINNING?

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Nothing constructive to say at this point. Except that TENNIS HAS BEEN VIOLATED, THE COLOUR ORANGE HAS BEEN VIOLATED, and by some mercy from the tennistical overlords above, I wasn’t there to witness it.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the sensation of solid earth falling away from your feet.

Let us mourn, bitches.

xx doots

Wimbledon Day 1: Be Roger Federer.

Happy Wimbledon, my lovelies!

This is Doots checking in my epic adventures post-Roland Garros. And time sure does fly when you’re having fun: it’s our favourite time of the year again. Although this year, Wimbledon comes with a sense of foreboding doom, as Federer  drew Nadal in his quarter and Murray in his half, while Djokovic prepares to inhale his way to the final through a plate of gluten free cupcakes.

Diabolical draw aside, Wimbledon is still a good place to be Roger Federer.

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There is nothing quite like the first day of Wimbledon. The grass is greener, the whites are crisp, and the world is a pristine bubble full of those sweep pops of tennis balls on tightly strung strings. There’s not much to say about Federer’s first round match against Victor Hanescu. The Romanian never looked like  he possessed any weapons to threaten Federer. Even the typically big serve was castrated against Federer’s excellent returning.

The stats do tell a story: Federer faced no breakpoints and converted 6 of 8 on Hanescu’s serve. He won 90% of points on his first serve, and hit 32 winners to only 6 unforced errors (14 to 13 for Hanescu).

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But of course, there is more to tennis than statistics. There was that reflex volley in the first set, when Federer almost casually stuck his racquet out in front of the ball, as if to say “keep calm and carry on. I do this in my sleep.” There’s Federer chasing a drop shot, skipping past the winner like a school girl in a field of tulips. And then there’s that backhand lob in the third set followed by a cheeky grin. The satisfaction of soaring higher than a giant.

Given the draw, I may not feel great about Federer’s chances at Wimbledon this year (it’s not a lack of faith, folks. Beating 2 of the Big Four is doable. Taking out three of three is a near impossibility), but I do feel a lot better about his form coming into the tournament than I did back at Roland Garros after the match.

Elsewhere, things were less poetic as Victoria Azarenka found herself sobbing uncontrollably in pain after landing awkwardly on her knees while serving.

Warning: this may be hard to watch for some. 

Fortunately, Azarenka was able to play on, defeating Koehler 61 62 despite appearing to be quite shaken for the rest of the match. Koehler paid the price for not taking advantage of her opponent’s condition and making her run. Opportunities don’t come knocking too often for the lower ranked players on tour, and it’s a shame that when it does, so few players take their chances against the top dogs.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis

One player who did take her chances was Monica Puig, who claimed the first “upset” of the tournament by taking out the fifth seed Sara Errani 63 62. Not that Errani is a titan on grass, if you recall her being on the losing end of a golden set to Shvedova last year. But en route to victory, Puig hit 38 winners with her brand of feisty, aggressive, flat hitting tennis that Errani had no answer to on this surface.

Not bad for a 19 year old playing her first grass tournament as a pro.

Puig has been overtly confident about her talent in the media recently, but given my predisposition to her game, I’m inclined to feel that overt confidence is not so awful a trait in a teenage professional athlete.

Play continues for Day 1, but it’s a wrap from Down Under. Work does have this annoying habit of getting in the way of tennis. Good night and morning, wherever you are.

xx doots

Roland Garros 2013 notes: the Fan Slam Club.

Fan slam 2013

Roland Garros

Guess what, bitches?

I MADE IT – all four grand slams, from Wimbledon 2010 to Roland Garros 2013.

Even though I never set out to specifically go to all of them, chance, obsession and a certain attitude of carpe diem has taken me from Melbourne to London, New York and now Paris, and I have tennis to thank for giving me an excuse to visit and revisit some of the most marvellous cities in the world.

And it has been marvellous. For some reason, Roland Garros has always had a bad rap as a tournament. Players complain about the facilities, the shocking lack of lighting once it starts to get dark past 9PM. Die-hard tennis fans tell you about how crowded the outer courts are, and how ridiculous that most Philippe Chartrier ticket holders do not turn up to watch the first two matches on centre court until around 2PM. God forbid anything should stand between a Frenchman and his lunch. The press describes the boorish crowd, the dirty, gritty and dusty style of play on this surface, the long endless days and non-existent night sessions.

Philippe Chatrier

Eiffel tower view

But what they don’t tell you, as a first time visitor, is the sheer visual beauty of it. You first see it as you walk into Philippe Chartrier – the burnt caramel-coloured court – like a sandpit in a Colosseum, surrounded by the green seats and light grey advertising boards that envelop the court. High up on the Borotra wing of the stadium, you see the Eiffel Tower peeping over the top, an ever-present reminder of where and just how lucky you are. Pigeons soar through the air, looking for a safe place to land and a quick peck from someone’s lunch. On the outside courts, you hear things you never notice on TV – the soft brush of a player’s feet against “beaten earth”, like an artist drawing a charcoal sketch. The crowd groans, gasps and cheers, making French noises at the players with a level of expressiveness frowned upon at the tennis in other parts of the world.

They’re possessive about players in this part of the world. Get the crowd on your side, and they’ll root for you with like an adopted son. Turn them against you, and you may suddenly find yourself playing against the world, veins popping, eyes bulging, screams of “ALLEZ UP YOUR FUCKING ASS” drowned in a sea of boos and wolf whistles. Gael Monfils roused his home crowd with a dramatic five-set upset over Tomas Berdych; Serena Williams prepped them for her seemingly inevitable crowning as the Queen of Paris by conducting her post-match interview in French.

Roger Federer, for whatever reason, became the adopted son who could do no wrong. And attending one of his matches at Roland Garros was like sitting in a stadium full of various versions of yourself – swooning, cheering and grinning at the man like a bunch zealous cougars.

Federer Roland Garros 2013 R1

This was in contrast to Nadal’s match, as Daniel Brands garnered most of the support from the French. This is not to say that the French disrespect Rafa – there was no lack of applause and standing ovation for the man who has dominated at Roland Garros in a way that no other man has. But it felt like there was an unbridgeable gap between Nadal and the French crowd, a gap filled by Federer, Djokovic and the dreams of other men whose chances at Roland Garros have been thwarted by Nadal’s sheer brilliance on this surface.

Nadal v Brands Roland Garros 2013

Yesterday on Chatrier however, we were faced with a slim possibility that someone out there, someone low ranked,  hard hitting, and brave or kamikaze, might be able to thwart Nadal’s dreams for a change. For the majority of the first two sets, Brands played tennis like he had no regrets – crushing his forehand and aiming for the lines whenever he got the chance. He led 3-0 in the second set tiebreak as the crowd moved to the edge of their seats, knees shaking at the possibility of an upset.

But there comes a moment when a lower-ranked player has a top seed at their mercy, and fails to deliver the final blow. Brand went on to lose the tiebreak. The match flipped, and Nadal got consolidated a stranglehold on the match so fast it was almost as if all of Brands’ previous good form was but an illusion, a glimpse into an alternative universe where life could have been extraordinary.

For me at least, life continues to be extraordinary.

After a few days at the tournament, I will be travelling on for three weeks, towards the edge of Europe where I will board that interminable flight back to Australia. So I’m afraid this is it from me for now. Enjoy Roland Garros, and as much as I would like to say “may the best man win”, we all know that for the French Open, or for any grand slam, my truest wish is for the Swiss man to win.

May the Swiss man win

xx doots

Roma 2013: The Silver Linings Playbook.

Le sigh.

APTOPIX Italian Open Tennis

Inevitably after another Federer loss to the Clay Monster, I go through the stages of fury, demoralisation, resignation, and the search for silver linings. And here are the silver linings:

  • Roger made the final. And as kaput as his side of the draw was in Rome, he took it one match at a time and played some gorgeous tennis during the course of the week.
  • If Federer’s main goal in Rome was to get some much-needed match play before Paris, then consider it mission accomplished.
  • Rafa goes into Roland Garros seeded #4, which means that provided Murray doesn’t pull out before the draw, Federer and Nadal cannot meet unless it’s in the final. And would I take another Fedal final in Paris, even after so many frustrating years of little success? YES I WOULD BITCHES. In a heartbeat.
  • In giving him a new haircut, Federer’s hairdresser had clearly cut off some chocolatey strands of SHEER AWESOME, which would explain the slump in form. But never fear bitchessssss, that only means we’re in prime position for the greatest comeback in the history of HAIR.
  • HE LOOKED LIKE A GIANT GRANNY SMITH ON LEGS. I MEAN, WHO LOOKS CUTE IN APPLE GREEN? ROGER FEDERER DOES APPARENTLY. IS THERE ANYTHING THE MAN CAN’T DO? (Other than, ya know, beat Nadal on clay over 5 sets). NO. THERE IS SIMPLY NOT. That is all.

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Belated Aus Open Semi: Game on.

It’s a strange and novel experience as a Federer fan to watch him lose in the semifinal of a grand slam and feel a sense of pride mixed with disappointment.

We could talk about the match and how well Andy Murray played through out the 5 sets. We could discuss how Murray was aggressive, calm and unphased, how he served big and served at a high percentage, giving Federer few opportunities to pound on his typically wimpy 2nd serve. We could talk about this “new” Murray, having emerged when he took the gold medal at the London Olympics, encased in an impenetrable balm of self-assurance.

We could talk about all those things and more. But let’s face it – none of you pass by my little slice of cyberspace to read about Andy Murray, so let’s just get to the pride and disappointment part, shall we?

Federer Aus Open 2013

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Aus Open Day 11: the Gameswoman.

Don’t get me wrong. I am far from being a fan or even a sympathetic observer of Victoria Azarenka. She is not the most endearing, classy tennis player out there, nor has she ever sought to be.

But the one thing I despise more than gamesmanship is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy was in abundance yesterday as Tennis Fandom collectively got on its high horse and branded Azarenka as a villain and the cheat.

Azarenka Aus Open 2013

Sure. Vika did not help her own cause by giving inconsistent stories throughout this whole incident. When asked in her on court interview why she left to the court, Azarenka replied, to an icy, silent crowd on Rod Laver Arena, that she was overwhelmed by nerves and almost did the choke of the year. Later on ESPN, Azarenka would claim she had breathing issues. And in her post match press conference, Vika told the media that she had to unlock her rib because it was causing back issues and making it hard for her to breathe.  Read More…

Aus Open Day 10: Hormonal.

1. As masochist as it sounds, there’s a certain thrill that comes with watching Federer get through a match while not playing at his best, while his opponent was redlining his game for spurts of 4 – 5 games every set, when every second serve felt like it was going to come zapping back, humiliatingly out of reach, too fast, too heavy, too hot to control; when would-be point ending forehands wouldn’t be point ending, and every prolonged rally felt like an opportunity waiting to be missed.

Federer v Tsonga Aus Open 2013

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Aus Open Days 7 & 8: Yes We Stan.

art-WawrinkaTH-620x349It was the match that had, simultaneously and conflictingly, both a sense of defiance and a sense of inevitability. We watched the unfolding of the 5 setter between Wawrinka and Djokovic through bleary, sleep deprived eyes – Stan came out in a state of hyperlucidity. Redlining for a full set and a half with brilliant winners, seemingly neutralising and then attacked Djokovic’s shots at will and off both wings.

And then came that inevitable 6-1, 5-3, 30-0. Stan’s first service percentage dipped. His forehand went away under pressure. His backhand sailed long past the Melbourne sign. Djokovic knew he didn’t need to change tactics. He just needed to be himself and wait for Stan to come back down to earth. Read More…

Aus Open Day 6: Quarter Millenium

I understand that it is customary, post-awesome Federer victory, for me to say something nice about his opponent, even if I hate their guts. So here it goes about Bernard Tomic:

Bernard Tomic has vastly improved since he hit the first nadir of his career at the Davis Cup last year. He has improved his serve to a level befitting a player of his height. He upped the pace on his forehand. He plays with more guile than any other player his generation. Clap clap, everyone. Clap clap.

But here’s the other thing, Bernie. If you were going to bait Roger Federer in the media, if you were going to insinuate that he might not make the third round where you’ll be waiting, if you were going to cross the line from confidence to arrogance, to talk up your chances like you have a hot date with destiny, then you better be prepared to either back it up or sit the fuck back down.

Federer v Tomic Aus Open 2013 Read More…