Aus Open 2014: Fail better.

It’s a somewhat awkwardly phrased, yet oddly poignant line from Irish poet Samuel Beckett:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

When I first saw the tattoo on the inside of the Stanimal’s forearm, I found it corny. Melanie-Oudin-BELIEVE levels of corny.

I don’t know … Real belief, true grit, these aren’t things you need to wear on your foot or etch into your flesh. You either have it or you don’t.

But as the week progressed and I gradually forgot about my cynicism, this line came back to me, again and again. It had me puzzled. It had me thinking:

Isn’t tennis all about winning? Certainly, there is nothing in this sport or in any other that regards failure as something to be repeated. How exactly does one “fail better”? And why is this a sentiment worthy of being articulated, appreciated and inscribed onto human flesh? Read More…

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Aus Open 2014: Shine on.

Don’t you miss that feeling when Roger Federer comes out of the players’ tunnel and quickly shimmy-shimmies his way around court like he was made of SHINE?

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It’s been so long since Federer’s played a match this clean against a top quality opponent. So long since he’s made it to the quarterfinals (okay, two slams. But that’s so long for Mr Shiny). So long since we’ve heard the clichéd use of terms like “vintage Federer”, “full flight” and “majestic” by commentators lacking in vocabulary. Read More…

Australian Open 2014: Frazzle Post

I start with the men’s draw on the premise that we are headed for a Rafole final in Melbourne in two weeks unless someone stops them. But who might actually be capable of tripping the current Big Two?

Murray? Even the most die-hard fans of British tennis would have to concede that Toothface is nowhere near match-fit and ready to win the Aus Open.

Del Poopy? Surely, he is long overdue for a slam win over Rafa.

Wawrinka? There may be some level of cosmic balance overdue to My Friend Stanley after his five set loss to Djoko in Melbourne last year, but given Stanley’s draw, I doubt it.

Here’s a closer look at the men’s draw.

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Federporn Friday (By LJ) – It’s been too long…

Wow, looking back it’s been almost a FULL YEAR since the last Federporn Friday post. I guess there wasn’t much to celebrate with FPF in 2013, but when I get to take pictures of Mr Adorkable in person, you betchya I’ll try and wrangle some FPF time from dootsiez.

This year dootsiez and I braved the humid Brisbane heat and saw Wogie, up close and personal (and by up close I mean 2nd row from court biatches) in Pat Rafter Arena. With my new camera and lens in tow, I braved the bicep killing weight of my kit (dootsiez can testify how heavy it is) and made sure I brought you some of my best work so far.

I guess think of this as a pre-Australian Open celebratory FPF… a chance to celebrate… Read More…

Tales from Brisbane

Happy new year bitches. Long time no blog.

As some of you might be aware, I kicked off 2014 by heading to Brisbane to bask in the sweaty glow of Turderer, and the final loss aside, it was a glorious week. One that had me itching to log onto wordpress and start tapping away again. And ain’t that one of the most liberating feelings in the world.

1. Sensational sports headlines went up all over Australia today: Ashes Whitewash! Hewitt beats baffled Federer! Let’s party like it’s a new millenium!

Theoretically speaking, there is of course no shame in losing to Lleyton. Even as a tour veteran with a bionic foot, Hewitt remains a smart, strategic and persistent player, and more crucially yesterday – not one to falter on key points. In his three set victory over McFudd, Lleyton played some of the most inspired tennis we’ve seen from him in years, and his victory speech showed just how much a title in Australia meant to him at this stage in his career, a poignant moment for fans on both sides of the fence.

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He’s Coming, And He Won’t Stop

Think about this question:

What would you do if you’re a guest writer at a blog devoted to chronicling tennis and the adventures of Roger Federer in particular, and you watch Rafael Nadal own the rest of the ATP Tour on hardcourts, thereby mounting a full frontal assault on Federer’s 17 major titles and his place in history?

Yeah, not an easy question to answer, is it? Viewpoint, mindset, orientation, stylistic preferences, perceived slights (or lack thereof) in the media — those and other things would shape your answer.

There is always a certain political quality to commentary on any subject when it’s intended for a wider audience. The decision to be particularly diplomatic and, on the other side of the spectrum, the decision to not give a flying fire truck about what anyone else thinks are both political responses. Does one audience deserve a soothing, consensus-laden middle ground, or does it deserve the vinegar of hard truth served forcefully?

If you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that I prefer the route of consensus and unification, because — as expressed in “A Place At The Tennis Table” last week — the world can always use more healing and inclusion. There’s never enough of that in anything human beings talk about or pursue. Some fans might need vinegar today or tomorrow, but in the aftermath of a major tournament — especially the last one of the calendar year — the focus should be on celebrating the achievement of the winner and putting it above every other discussion point that can be contested or explored.

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A Place At The Tennis Table

For those who don’t stop here often during a tennis major, please know at the outset that while this is a tennis blog, there is a bit of a preference and priority for all things Roger Federer. Therefore, when Fed bowed out of the U.S. Open in the fourth round on Monday, it was natural to think that there wouldn’t be another major essay on tennis until the end of this year’s U.S. Open. At the end of each major, the two singles championships regularly receive a wrap up from Doots (the publisher of this blog), myself, or both.

However, some days in tennis somehow manage to hit the sweet (or is it sour?) spot with fans in such a way that something has to be said about the matter. Wednesday, Sept. 4 was one such day, and the fact that Federer had no part in the events is precisely what should enable us — and by us, I don’t mean Federer fans — to appreciate this sport, and each other, a little bit more.

This essay is not intended for any one fan base or subgroup in the wide, wide world of tennis lovers. It’s meant for everyone. How fitting this is, given that the U.S. Open takes place in the same city (New York) where the United Nations was born and still stands today. This essay is all about giving each fan, each human person — inherently precious, equally loved, and powerfully valuable — a place at the tennis table, an affirming bit of support in a democratic and unifying context. Read More…

When Darkness Covered The Land

It was, as a matter of fact, a dark day on Monday in New York. No, really — there were just a few tiny and brief sunbreaks, with dark gray clouds dominating the skies and oppressive, heavy conditions persisting.

Sure, Tommy Robredo’s yellow shirt represented the sunshine he in fact turned out to bring to the day. His exuberance, rightly earned in a moment of profound professional achievement, is something that should cheer the heart of the impartial sports fan. What Robredo has done in this autumnal stage of his career is nothing short of remarkable. Who could have possibly imagined that Robredo would be playing in the quarterfinals of a hardcourt major… and after attaining his first career win over an opponent who had regularly vexed him in the past?

Heck, who could have expected so many of the 2002-style events that have occurred so far at this “2002 United States Open”?

Lleyton Hewitt making the second week.

Daniela Hantuchova making the quarters.

Richard Gasquet not sucking (okay, okay, that’s a 2007-style event, but it feels as though he’s been disappointing tennis fans since 2002).

Sports are amazing, even when they hurt. Life is so much richer and more fascinating for their presence in my life and yours. Last night at the U.S. Open provided the best of sport — not just Robredo’s sweet taste of sunshine, but Rafael Nadal’s excellence in a magnificent match against the best version of Philipp Kohlschreiber seen since the 2009 Roland Garros tournament, when he dismissed a fellow named Djokovic in the third round. The night’s concluding match, the Bryan Brothers’ win over Colin Fleming and Jonny Marray, was the best men’s doubles match I can recall seeing since the McEnroe and (Peter, not Colin…) Fleming days.

Sport is grand, and we’re getting some Grand Slam moments in New York.

But about that darkness covering the land… Read More…

The Falsity Of Forever

Great athletes collect their share of “forevers,” the moments and achievements no one can take away from them. This championship seven years ago, that comeback four years ago, this resurgence one year ago, that classic match five years ago — no one can alter certain passages of history once they’re written into the great book of life.

Yet, life goes on — past glories, as rich as they might have been at the time and as comforting as they might still be in quiet moments between competitions, give way to the present day and its new challenges. Even though thousands of obstacles have been surmounted in the past, there’s a new hurdle to be cleared today. The cheers of the crowd echo through the pages of time, but they can’t drown out the groans of lamentation that define the present-tense reality of sport for a fading champion.

This is the falsity of forever, and it’s precisely what Roger Federer is confronting as he prepares for the 2013 United States Open tennis tournament in New York. You can be a great Broadway performer for many decades, but in tennis, you get one decade of opportunity if you’re lucky. Many a Broadway play has been written about the harsh mistress known as Reality, and right now, Federer knows that his decade of tennis primacy has run its course in many ways.

It’s been something to behold, and it will forever be remembered with boundless admiration by tennis fans and chroniclers alike, but a decade of supremacy eventually loses its hold on “forever,” because time is the enemy of the athlete.

For a full decade, Federer inhabited the top 5 of the ATP rankings. For nine full years, he made the quarterfinals of majors without cessation or interruption. Those two realities alone do so much to underscore the extent to which Federer has held up under pressure over an extended period of time. For so many years, he’s been the target, the standard by which his contemporaries have measured themselves. In 2006, Rafael Nadal’s sustained dominance at Roland Garros, coupled with his emergence at Wimbledon, unmistakably showed that the Spaniard had joined Federer as a transformative figure who was going to be a measuring-stick player for everyone else on tour. Read More…

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…