Q. You spoke on court after the match about the fact that your father worked here for a few months, and there was a chance for a while that the family could have emigrated to Australia. Could you elaborate on that?
ROGER FEDERER: I don’t remember quite ‑‑ I was maybe 12, 14 years old. I remember actually my parents having a debate, are we moving away from Switzerland to come live over here.
At the end, they just said, Look, we have all our friends over here. And even though it’s lucrative and nice to go to Australia, they love the country, they also asked us kids. And we were like, whatever the parents decide. What are we gonna decide here?
So at the end they decided to stay in Switzerland. So, yeah, it was interesting time, you know, but it was quickly decided on. I think we even went ‑‑ I mean, went on vacation here maybe before I joined the National Tennis Center at 14.
We went on a big vacation here through Melbourne and Brisbane and Cairns and everything to maybe get a better idea of the country. Beautiful vacation, but at the end we decided to stay in Switzerland.
Q. What was your father doing out here? And secondly, Australia Day is coming up, and traditionally any new citizens who want to change nationalities choose that day to do it. You’ve still got time.
ROGER FEDERER: I would probably move first to South Africa than Australia, because I have that passport, too. No, my father was working in the paper industry. I don’t know how you call it in English. Ask him yourself. He’s in the corridor sometimes.
Hello Roger?! You big tease. WE’RE SO READY TO ADOPT YOU: you’re easygoing enough for this country. You play cricket. You’ve hired numerous Australians – EASING THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN THIS COUNTRY. Rod Laver loves you. The crowd loves you. I celebrate your puny left arm every Friday. You’d be the next Pat Rafter, but clothed.
COME TO MAMA!
Umm … back to the tennis. After a day of upsets and close shaves, Day 6 of the Australian Open turned out to be an underwhelming affair.
Roger Federer progressed safely past Montanes. After a sharp first set, Federer shanked a few backhands in the second and third sets and elicited a few miffed roars.
But he stayed solid on serve throughout, facing no breakpoints and only one deuce. Did what he had to do, and we’re safely through to the next round.
Oh, and Monkey made his 2010 debut today. Hi Monkey! Long time no see.
Roger’s history with his fourth round opponent plays like a broken record. Lleyton Hewitt may not be the player he once was, but he’s still one of the safest bets you can make for fourth round. He’s through after Marcos Baghdatis pulled out of their encounter, down 6-0 4-2 with a shoulder injury.
I’ll spare you the picture of Lleyton, how about Bec instead?
Looking back on the last few years, it seems that all my memories of Baghdatis involve him collapsing onto a court in pain, or getting some part of him rubbed during a medical time-out.
You can either blame the Tennis Gods for that, or you can blame Baghdatis’ level of fitness for allowing someone so young to spend so much of his career injured. And that part, he can control.
His shoulders certainly looked alright when he visited Brighton Beach today.
Dude, that’s not how you play cricket.
Let Roger show you.
See Roger? You’re definitely an Aussie inside.
In other matches of the day, Verdasco had an easy day at the office as Fed’s sometime hitting partner Stefan Koubek retired with an illness after losing the first set 6-1. Djoker needed no retirement to bonecrush a third round opponent ranked more than 100 places below him, defeating Istomin 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Talk about cupcakes, Nole faces Kubot in the fourth round.
You’ll excuse my peevishness at these presscon questions.
Q. Has the locker room respect for Davydenko grown over the past couple months?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: In my own opinion, I don’t look at him in a different way. I always had the respect for him because I always was aware of his quality as a player. He’s an incredible fighter.
As I said, he was one of the players that was kind of underestimated in the last five years. He’s already five years in a row in the top 10, top 5 in the world were you got to give him credit for that. Basically 80, 90% of tournaments he’s reaching quarters. That proves his quality.
Lately he just stepped it up. I think he feels it as well. He feels that he can beat anyone now.
Q. Are you still one of the least‑known players? Do you get bothered for your autograph? You said no one in London did at all. Are you becoming a little bit more…
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: If I go outside now here, it’s be difficult to do in autograph. But in the street in the city, yes it’s easy. Nobody recognize me and it’s good feeling really. Really good feeling.
Q. You live your life.
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: Yes. I like what ‑‑ how I enjoy my life, yes, like this.
Q. If you make the final, would you like to play on Margaret Court Arena? You’ve spent a lot of time out there. Are you disappointed that you haven’t played on center court yet?
NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO: No, no. Why? It’s always I know I starting here at Australia at Show Court 2, Margaret, then maybe Vodafone, like before was, yeah.
I don’t know. Rod Laver, it’s from quarterfinal always I starting to play. That’s was I think it’s good. I know I’m not like No. 1, No. 2 like always will need to play on center court.
But, if I know if I reach quarterfinal and I play center, it’s also good feeling, you know, like coming here, 2010, I play if center court Australian Open.
Lemme get this clear: For years, all the players and true tennis enthusiasts have known Kolya to be one of the most dangerous players to have never won a slam. Tennis media has been the one under-appreciating him all this time. And now they’re trying to spin a story of the charismatic Russian, overlooked by superficial fans and flashy fellow players, when they’re the ones doing the overlooking?
Oh just pass me a bucket.
Jo-Wills had a tougher time in his match, overcoming a slightly injured but spirited Tommy Haas. In probably the highest quality match of the day, the two went toe-to-toe for the majority of the first two sets. Haas lost his head a little in the third set, conceding it with a breadstick, but went up 5-3 in the fourth.
Just when Tommy was looking to level at 2 sets apiece, Jo-Wills mentally checked back into the set and simply overpowered and outgunned the German.
After the match, Jo took his time to show Jim Courrier how to properly do the happy-jump.
Gotta say, I like Jim, but he’s gotta stop cracking all these “dad jokes”. They bring back memories of personal trauma.
While it’s all about the two Belgians on the women’s side of the draw, it’s easy to forget that for the first time in tennis history, two Chinese women, Li Na and Zheng Jie, have made it through to the fourth round of a slam.
Just goes to show how much I know about the Chinese players – both Li Na and Zheng Jie are married to their coaches. How when why?
Q. Are you talking with Zheng during this (slam) process?
NA LI: Yeah, we are talking a lot. We can go like eat together and shopping together. We are not against, so we are friends. (Laughter.)
Q. Both you and Jie Zheng are married and have a coaching husband. So this relationship works pretty well for a woman’s tennis player?
NA LI: I think they have different player. I don’t know how is another player. For me, if my husband come with me, if I have something, I can just talk to him next second. We can communication fast. I think for me it was the best way. I don’t know how is another player. Everyone is different. Yeah.
Li Li Na Na is closing in on her goal of making the Top 10 in 2010 after defeating Daniela Hantuchova in 3 sets in one of the more competitive matches of the day.
The two were evenly matched in both their shot-making abilities and brainfarts, but Li was by far the more athletic one of the two.
Watching Dani’s beautiful ball-striking today, I couldn’t help but wonder what would her career have been like if she came with just 20% more mobility. How can someone so slender and light move with such heavy feet?
In other matches, Serena and Venus continued their march towards a semi show-down as they both overpowered their opponents to reach the fourth round. Very impressed with Venus’ elevated form so far this tournament, not so impressed with the banana peel dress.
Venus has to watch out next round, as she faces a red hot Francesca Schiavone, after Franny pretzeled Aga 62 62 to equal her best ever performance at the Australia Open. Vika, Carol and Zvoom Zvoom Zvonareva also made it solidly through to the next round, all in straight sets.
See what I mean about an underwhelming day of tennis?
I was going to write a Day 1 wrap up, but then I saw these pictures…
… And forgot what I was going to say.
Such hair godliness the world has ne’er seen.
Credit to anutam from RF.com, polaroided by me for extra McDreaminess.
Twas a peaceful day over in Cincy with very few upsets. Karlovic took out 13th seed Gael Monfils, but then again, Dr Ivo acing past anyone 64 67(5) 76(2) is not technically considered an upset.
Unfortunately, Ivo looked really, really excited about it.
Too excited in fact.
Optical illusion win.
Over in Toronto, Nadia Petrova is to Sharapova what Roddick is to Federer. A sure win, but also a nice one – with the victim being top 10, totally likeable, and full of potential.
Maria wrapped it up 6-3 6-4 and kept her serve under control, which in these days just means she only double faulted 5 times.
Someone who can’t wrap anything up these days, much less her head – Amelie Mauresmo. Momo lost to Schiavone 62 36 61 in a battle between two of the three one-handed backhands left in the women’s top 100.
Yup, it really is that bleak. Mentioning the third one – Carla Suarez Navarro also lost to ARad 63 63. The girl’s yet to win a single match on the summer hard courts. Who are you? Reeshie?
Back in Cincy, Stan lost in straight sets to Daveed Ferrer 75 62, making a third round ‘clash of the concubines’ with the Fed impossible. But Marin Cilic bounced back from back-to-back losses to oust the Mosquito 63 64. It’s probably all for the best – JCF has played an awful lot of tennis lately, and Marin hasn’t played much at all.
And the Marat Safin’s Heartbreak Train keeps rollin’ along, and the fact that he actually won another match (beating Ginepri 75 76) prevents those onboard from just diving off it altogether. Too many hurt feelings, but against our better judgment, we still cling on.
Love to hate you Marat. Love and hate you.
With a win under his belt, Safin went all philosophisationing:
Q. You’ve had your motivational ups and downs in your career. What do you think keeps someone like Federer so motivated all the time?
MARAT SAFIN: Being a fanatic.
Anyone who welcomed twins, and then organized a transatlantic family trip has to be a bit of a fanatic. Spot on as usual, Marat. But fanatic about what?
MARAT SAFIN: About tennis. In a nice way. I think you have to really love what you’re doing. You have to love it and you have to be a very great competitor, otherwise there is no –
I cannot understand him.
No shit. You started out together, and ended with a difference of 13 slam (and counting). If only you understood Fed…
Marat further added that Federer and Murray, for all their smack talking, are really two peas in a pod.
But maybe it’s because they are so similar that they get on each other’s nerves. As my wise and noble ancestors proverbialised, “one mountain cannot hold two tigers”.
Whatever that even means.
MARAT SAFIN: [Federer] has more ability than others. Maybe a lot other players. Like Murray, he’s a player. You can see that he knows what he’s doing on the court and he knows exactly at what moment what’s he gonna do, and he reads the point pretty well.
Same. They’re pretty similar to each other. Federer probably he has a nicer technique, but the rest is very similar to each other.
And in case you were secretly hoping that a few good wins might change Safin’s mind about ending his tennis career:
MARAT SAFIN: I don’t like any sports. For example, I would not play soccer. I would not play hockey. Basketball I hate. I never watch any sports on TV. It’s amazing, and I’m a tennis player.
But I don’t like it, the competition. For example, if I have to play soccer against neighborhood, I will play for ten minutes and then I get bored. I’m not a player.
Q. How did you last this long at this level?
MARAT SAFIN: It’s a miracle, huh? It’s a miracle.
Yeah, that felt like getting punched in the ovaries. I’m jumping off this heartbreak train before we end up in a bloody, teary heap at Bercy. Honest. I will do it. Watch me.
So over it,
1) I never cease to marvel at the “orderliness” at Wimbledon. For a tournament of rules and traditions, it has a strange protective effect over the top seeds, it shields them from freak upsets in the first week. It also has the ability to realise pre-tournament predictions, be it an ultimate Federer/Nadal-Roddick showdown, or a Williams final. We may or may not get Federer/Murray and Venus/Serena in the finals this year, but that just seems to be the way Wimblydondon rolls.
Not that upsets don’t happen at Wimbledon, but they’re less likely to happen. Particularly on the WTA side of things, I had expected Ivanovic, Safina or Dementieva to fall much earlier. On the men’s side, I had been predicting Simon and Verdasco to exist early, but both seem to have found their range in their respective third round matches. Even Amelie Mauresmo is putting up a solid performance. Dare I hope that Momo takes down Safina? Dare I? Looking at her first service game against Pennetta, no – I dare not.
But go Momo nonetheless!
2) Ana Ivanovic played the best match I’ve seen from her in quite a while. It’s a pity she had to take down my compatriot in doing so. When that ball toss is right, Ana has quite a good serve, and she seems to be learning to take her time with the ball toss. Good signs? Whatever. I was too busy paying attention to the hunk in her box. Oh Adam, we could’ve been beautiful together. *puppy face*
That said, if Venus loses to her I might just throw myself into the Yarra again. I had Ana as a dark horse for Wimbledon, and she may turn out to be just that. Wimblydondon Gods, protect thy champion!
3) Of course if Venus plays the way she did against Suarez Navarro, I don’t see it happening. How DIVINE was this woman? The first set of the match just topped the Azarenka and Safina quarterfinal at Roland Garros as one of the most enjoyable dominant performances by a player. Interesting to see the number of times she approached the net, even S&Ving on quite a few serves. By the middle of the second set, Suarez Navarro had found her range and her presence in the match, giving us glimpses of the kind of game that saw her advance to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open. But in the end, Venus just had too much power, athleticism, and wingspan for Carla. Great to see her commitment to coming to the net at this tournament, it gave me warm-fuzzies to see a player’s game continue to evolve at the age of 29.
4) Raise your bone-china teacups at our homies in the US of A, who found a 17-year-old sweetheart to swoon over yesterday. With Aussie TV coverage stuck on Hewitt v Petzschner, I switched to livestream to catch a glimpse of this girl. Must say I was quite impressed. Oudin was 20% head, 20% legs, and 60% heart. With all of JJ’s dramatic “woman problems”, the girl remained focused. When she had four set points in the first set and couldn’t convert, I was so sure that she was going to go quietly into the good night, but I was wrong. The girl remained positive, ballsy, took risks and reaped rewards. Considering she almost could’ve lost in qualifying, fourth round is a pretty impressive showing for a 17 year old debutante. I like her guts, and her hoop earrings.
5) Someone whose guts I don’t like – Jelena Jankovic.
Oh JJ, remember the times when we used to be best friends? Okay no, that was just wishful thinking on my part. But I don’t even want to be manicure buddies with you anymore. I like the sore losers and the bitchiness in the WTA, it makes it fun to follow, but this is a little too sore for me.
Q. She’s still very young, but can you tell us what you think her potential is?
JELENA JANKOVIC: No, it’s tough to say. But, you know, from what I have seen, you know, she can play if you let her play. But she cannot hurt you with anything. She doesn’t have any weapons, you know, from what I’ve seen.
You know, I played with half pace. I served, you know, like almost my first serve was like a second serve and all those kind of things. But if I had a little bit more ‑‑ if I felt a little bit more fresh at the end of that second set, I could have won in two sets.
But I just was ‑‑ the more I ‑‑ the longer I stayed on court the worse and worse I felt, and that was not good for me. I know my chance was to win that second set, but unfortunately didn’t happen, and then everything went in her favor.
Q. Except for her movement?
JELENA JANKOVIC: She’s a consistent and quite solid player. She doesn’t make so many mistakes.But she doesn’t do anything either, so it’s like she’s depending kind of on you. And, as well, it’s another story when she’s young and she has nothing to lose, no pressure. You know, even when it’s an important moment, she can just go for it.
And nobody’s expecting her to win, so it’s just a bonus if she does well. But if she loses, you know, nobody will tell her anything.
So it’s a different, you know, situation for those kind of players. And then for players like me, which you’re expected to win, you have pressure on yourself, you have expectations, as well. She just goes out there to enjoy it and give her best.
The pot calling the kettle weak. Perhaps we should remind JJ that she hit 14 winners while her opponent with “no weapons” hit 38?
6) One last Aussie standing out of the original four. Lleyton Hewitt scored a solid straight sets victory over Petzschner, who has the most annoying name to spell. But Petzy can play, I must say, I seem to remember him winning something during the indoor season late last year, or at least I remember making a failed attempt to learn his name at the time. Lleyton did well towards the tail end of each set. Now one more round at least. Pretty please?
I’m uber impressed with the Fanatics at Wimbledon.
7) ARod is still doing that shuda-been-straight-sets-but-ended-in-four thing. I’ve been saying that he’ll make it into the final, but I’m so not sure now: Murray’s played fairly dominant tennis in the last two rounds.
Mildly cross-eyed, no?
8.) How about the other New Balls guys? I can’t believe how well they’ve been doing this tournament.
The Tennis Gods are smiling on Tommy Haas at last, and gave him a second spring. I never liked him much in his early days. Sure the guy played beautiful tennis, but he spent half the time acting like a monkey on court, and routinely blew two sets to love leads while looking like someone stole his banana.
Tommy Haas wasn’t about to blow the fifth set when he came out at 6 all in the fifth against Cilic. The oldest guy left in the draw against the youngest. Old school serve and volley (since when did Tommy Haas S&V? Since now apparently…) versus new age fearless power tennis. When serving for the match, Haas clearly tensed up and threw Cilic a lifeline with two break points. But it was Cilic who proved to be the tenser of the two. He had Haas on the ropes, the court wide open, and shanked his forehand each time. I like the kid, but I wasn’t sorry he lost. He has something on his side that Haas doesn’t have. Time.
9) Another living fossil who’s resurfaced again during the grass season – JC Ferrero. At the beginning of the week, I laughed when I read JCF’s presser, where he talked about becoming motivated again and returning to the top 10. Two rounds later, Ferrero claimed his first top 10 casualty since Rome(?) last year and that motivation showed. Despite being outaced and outgunned by a more powerful Gonzo, JCF remained consistent, making just 15 unforced errors in 5 sets.
The match was also dramatic for the intermittent rain, dimming daylight, and the shambolic announcement (while the players were on court) that the match might be moved to centre court where the roof had been put across. Are you that desperate to use the roof, Wimblydondon?
JC continued to sound positive in his presser.
Q. Are you surprised to be in the second week at Wimbledon?
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: Not at all. I was before, so it’s not the first time. I knew before the tournament that I was playing very well on grass because I made a great week on Queen’s. So I came here, you know, after a week practice and at home, doing not a lot physically and ready to be here.
That’s the way I want it to be, no? Physically I’m 100 percent okay, and I’m not surprised to be in the second week at all.
I’ve stopped using the word “vamos” in the last few years because of my Roger conversion, and truth be told, “hopp” just doesn’t have the same musicality to it. It makes me feel like Heidi half the time. Time to abuse “vamos” again. With no points to defend for the rest of the year, to the top 20 and beyond I say – VAMOS JCF!
10) Not so surprised that Lisicki took down Kuzzy, who just doesn’t feel it on grass. When I first saw Lisicki play at Hopmans earlier in the year, I had no idea who she was, but loved all that I saw except for her DFs. Sabine plays high-risk, gutsy tennis that either ends up giving the match to her opponent with unforced errors, or making every single person watching the match fall in love with her killer instincts and positive energy. It’s fantastic to listen to a commentator who has yet to see her play slowly come to the realisation of what gem the girl is. Not sure that I like her quite as much as I like CWoz yet. But how could you not love this face?
11) For a while it looked like we could have another American pulling an upset. But Stan’s shotmaking rescued him in time. Looking forward to Wawrinka v Murray, not that I think Stan has a chance, but great result for him, reaching the second week at Wimbledon once again.
12) In other results… the Worm came through in five sets against David Ferrer, with some pretty dramatic knee problems along the way. He’s due to face Hewitt next round, can you image the amount of fist pumps, disco moves and lawn-mowing going on?
Only watched the last set of Berdych v Davydenko, and saw all I needed to see. Tomas Berdych is on fire and ready to burn.
He came into the match with a 0-8 record against Davydenko, but bullied Davo into submission in straight sets. After 6 days of play, Berdych is the only guy left in the draw who’s yet to drop a set – I’m just glad he’s on the other side of the draw. Roddick ought to look out. It would be a huge disappointment if he came into Wimbledon with such solid results, only to fall to Berdych fourth round.
Was Chace Crawford at Wimbledon? Oh yeth he wath…. ahermmmm
Images via Yahoo UK & Ireland
… yes you, Lleyton Hewitt. Dignity had to be maintained, and I am at least glad you didn’t get bagelled – you got breadsticked instead. 61 63 61. Mind you, start of the second set looked okay for Lleyton, but the rest of the match … ayee …
Does anyone find it incredibly saddening whenever they watch the likes of Hewitt and Ferrero against Nadal these days? It’s the same feeling I get whenever I see someone with an old-school iBook G4 next to one of those shiny, sleek, new-gen silver MacBooks. There’s an inevitable nostalgia about it all.
Never mind now, off to the blessed grass courts for you Rusty. I’m not so sure about winning it, but a second week is doable depending on the draw.
For once I agree with Fred Stolle, whose commentary I followed last night – some things have to be stamped out at a young age, and spare me a few moments to cast a glare at Larcher de Brito, the 16 year old wunderkid who had no mercy for my eardrums last night. Having been a long time defender of Sharapova’s grunts in the past, it’s probably slightly hypocritical for me to then turn around and whinge about Larcher de Brito. But if you thought Maria Sharapova was bad, this kid makes Shazza sound like a kitty cat in comparison.
Imagine turning on your TV with your cuppa, ready for some relaxing Friday-night tennis, only to be left spluttering over your coffee by the bloodcurdling screech emanating from a sweet looking 16 year old girl. The worst part of it isn’t the pitch or ferocity of her screech, but the length of it. You know you’ve gone overboard when your scream is still going as your opponent returns the ball. And really, there is no cause for a grunt when you hit a drop shot. Come on now …
My-oh-my, Venus Williams, what more can I say?
So I know Szavay played a great match – remained calm and focused. But at the same time, Venus just simply never got into the match. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve seen her play this badly. The serve wasn’t digging her out of tricky situations, the groundstrokes were wild, her timing was completely off. She would’ve lost to a lesser player than Szavay playing like that. The fact that she put up such a performance at a grand slam further highlights how bizarre the whole thing was.
In my pathetic attempt to remain positive: as many rightly pointed out, so what Venus Williams lost in the 3rd round at the French Open? The last 3 times this happened she went on to win Wimbledon. Yes she did.
Man, I’m so sick of clay.
What’s weirding me out even more is the fact that Ana Ivanovic seemed to have clicked, at least judging from what I’ve seen of her in her last two matches. The wonky ball toss has been mainly under control, the forehand is fearsome once more and the fist pumps as excessive as ever. I can go back to my not-so-quiet dislike for the girl now, can I? Not so fast, I’d like to see her score a top 10 win at some stage.
Talking about the girls, Dinara Safina has lost 4 games in 6 sets. Move over, Clay Monster, meet Rafinara Nadafina. Anne Keothavong should be feeling better about her loss.
The only real good news for me from last night: Maria Sharapova has progressed to the fourth round, and I’m still feeling like a proud mama about it all. Not only has she defended her points from last year to prevent herself from further slipping in the rankings, she’s gotten plenty of match play, and exceeded everyone’s expectations based on her performance at Warsaw. Still very rusty, but that will power is enough to get her through most matches against a field of neurosis.
Flashback time: Maria Sharapova fourth round last year at the French Open, seeded no 1 against an underdog Safina, telling the French crowd to “allez up your f*cking @$$“. Booed off court in a stinker. This year, Sharapova outside the Top 100 (Safina now “the real” world No 1), the famously fickle French crowd back on Maria’s side as she slugs past each of her opponents as the Comeback Queen. What a difference a year makes.
PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images
Li Na v Sharapova next round. Oh why do the Draw Gods do this to me? Sad face. Sad face for the pair of them. But that section of the draw should be interesting now that Venus has bowed out.
Am now keeping my fingers crossed for Carla Suarez Navarro, whose match against Azarenka got suspended at one set each.
Overall, not a good night for me as far as my tennis faves are concerned, made slightly worse by the fact that I decided to go through the Roland Garros website only to find the fans’ sections filled with rude haters. Hoping for better tennis tonight.
Trivia: who in the WTA has the highest winning/loss ratio this year? (answer at the bottom of the post)
Not much I can say about the men’s draw – take a wild guess as to who I think is going to win.
The only thing I might add is that the Draw Gods have not been kind – not only is Rafael Nadal the only real contender for the Roland Garros trophy, but he’ll be able to do it without having to face the double hurdle of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Roger, on the other hand, would have to really earn his spot in the finals if he wants to defend his points there. Either way, I’m not putting anyone straight through to the semifinals at this stage except for Nadal, so I’m not even going to think about Djokovic v Federer until the middle of week 2.
On the other hand, the women’s draw is as open as the men’s draw is closed. Picks are useless, but also damn fun, so here are mine:
- Dinara Safina: the clear favourite, Safina’s got all the momentum with her, and the determination to prove her worth as the world no 1. Plus I’ve got a new theory: Safina 08-09 = Ivanovic 07-08. Berlin –> Roland Garros finalist –> Australian Open finalist –> Roland Garros winner. See how history works in perfectly repetitive narratives? One slight complication – she has by far the hardest draw out of all the contenders with Azarenka and Ivanovic in her quarter.
- Venus Williams: results will show that Venus hasn’t had the ideal lead-up to Roland Garros, but history will tell you that if your surname was Williams, you don’t need no stinkin’ lead up. Unfortunately, Lisicki second round could complicate things a la Aussie Open.
- Svetlana Kuznetsova: you say no, the draw says yes, given that I don’t see Serena getting far with one good leg.
- Caroline Wozniacki: I don’t really see it happening for Caroline to be honest, but it’s a choice of her, JJ and Elena D in that section of the draw, and recent form dictates that I pick her over the other two.
So not happenin’ for…
- Ana Ivanovic: Ana’s becoming more and more forgettable these days. Get ready to say bye-bye to ranking points.
- Jelena Jankovic: if you had asked me who would win Roland Garros 3 months ago, I would’ve picked JJ. She has actually shown signs of improvement in the last few tournaments she’s played, but not enough. I do have a slice of humble pie waiting just in case though.
- Victoria Azarenka: she’s hungry, she’s been playing well, but at the end of the day, this is not her surface, not her slam and not the best draw for her.
- Vera Zvonareva: I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Vera decided to pull out last minute or retire mid-match along the way. Straight back from injury with no matches under her belt: it’s the kind of thing that Venus Williams does on grass, and Vera Zvonareva is clearly not Venus Williams.
- Maria Sharapova: goes without saying. But (and it’s a big ‘but’) – if, in the unlikely event, she managed to get past Nadia Petrova, fourth round would be doable.
Grooming the Dark Horses…
- Carla Suarez-Navarro
- Sabine Lisicki
- Alize Cornet
- Amelie Mauresmo
- Anna Chakvetadze
- Nicole Vaidisova
Australian tennis is no longer worth analysing these days, simply because … well, Australian tennis doesn’t quite exist. But if anyone’s interested in the Aussies: bad news all round – Hewitt against old nemesis Karlovic first round (I believe Lleyton is 0-3 against the Croat). Should he get past Karlovic, he’s got the Spanish Terminator himself in the third round waiting. Wild card Bernard Tomic is up against Kohlschreiber first round. Dead meat.
Jarmila Groth (formerly Gajdosova) facing Kinnie Laisne of France and most likely Chakvedatze second round. Dokic v Sprem (and should she get past first round, which she most likely won’t – Elena Dementieva awaits) and Sam Stosur up against Francesca Schiavone.
Trivia answer: Vera Zvonareva (.833). Half a mark if you answered Victoria Azarenka.
… that dootsiez, the ultimate WTA-ranter, dismissive of the utter neurosis that defines women’s tennis these days, is actually enjoying, no, loving(!) the WTA?
Having had a full day to ponder over last night’s thrilling semifinal between Safina and Venus, I’ve come to a realisation that all is not lost on the women’s tour. In fact, things are just starting to spice up.
We’ve already seen the names of a few newbies floating around: the mentally questionable Caroline Wozniacki, the biggest server not named Williams – Sabine Lisicki, and of course the much raved Sharapova No 2 – Victoria Azarenka. Hell, let’s throw in Suarez Navarro too. I missed her run at the Aus Open because of my vacation, but after watching her through the early clay court season, I do admit the girl has the potential to wow. Though she doesn’t do it consistently enough.
After much of the initial excitement has passed, it’s sobering to realise that these newbies are still babies, and babies with flaws and unrealised potential at that. Take Caroline Woz for example, I’m concerned about her ability to perform on the big stage. She’s failing to live up to her potential even in Tier II finals this year, let alone at the grand slam level. Victoria Azarenka, on the other hand, does look like the kinda player who performs well on the big stage, but she’s faced with a unique dilemma of her biggest potential also being her biggest downfall, and that is – her rage. When Vika gets angry, two things may happen: 1) she converts her rage into productive energy and starts pummeling her opponent into oblivion, 2) she alienates the crowd, sulks like a moody teenager, and let the match slip away in a fit of mental explosion. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how she manages her anger over the next year or so.
Doubts aside, newbies, the fact that they exist, makes life exciting. Things could happen. Possibilities abound. And the WTA is all the better for it. Bring on the newbies I say.
Image Credit: Taipei Times
And what about the current generation of contenders? Safina, our much vilified World No 1, played to a level of tennis worthy of the No 1 spot yesterday against Venus. Venus, in all honesty, played quite well, but Safina just rose to a whole new level of mental toughness. It was the kind of stuff we saw from her at Roland Garros last year – the fighter Safina, not the pathetic escape artist of the Australian Open. After going down 5-2 in the first set, Safina called on her coach, a little episode which has been a regular feature of her matches these days. “Vot are you doinggg?” scolded Zejlko. His advice was simple (or the bits I could make out from the on-court mics was anyway) – play aggressive, don’t try to hit winners from the back of the court, start stepping into the baseline, and clear the net more on her groundstrokes. Miraculously, Safina walks back on the court and executes exactly that. Like the click of a finger – Zeljko says, Safina does. Can’t be that simple, can it?
Perhaps all this talk over her being undeserving of the No 1 spot has injected some sense of purpose into Safina’s game, in any case, keep playing like that and she could very well win Roland Garros. As I am writing this, Safina is putting on a dominating performance in the Rome final, and looking set to win (5-2 second set). Other Roland Garros contenders should be glad that on-court coaching is not allowed at grand slams.
And on the other player in the semifinal – Venus Williams: Not known for her clay court prowess generally, there is much to be said about the idea that Venus is a ‘dark horse’, if she could ever be considered as such, on this red stuff. Here are some revealing stats, courtesy of Fangirlandia, also known as TennisForum/MTF.
(08) Venus ——- 0 RG, 1 RG final, 2 T1, 4 T2, 2 T3
(03) Serena —— 1 RG, 0 RG final, 1 T1, 0 T2, 0 T3
(02) Ivanovic —- 1 RG, 1 RG final, 1 T1, 0 T2, 0 T3
(03) Safina —— 0 RG, 1 RG final, 1 T1, 0 T2, 0 T3
(05) Jankovic —- 0 RG, 0 RG final, 3 T1, 0 T2, 1 T3
(01) Kuznetsova — 0 RG, 1 RG final, 0 T1, 1 T2, 0 T3
So that brings the total number of clay court career titles for Venus to 8 (most of those won after 2004), compared to Jankovic 4, Serena and Ivanovic with 2 each, Safina and Kuznetsova on 1 each, (excluding tournaments lower than Tier III). Still think she’s not much of a clay courter? A clay courter she may or may not be, but Venus Williams is one hell of a tennis player. that’s for sure. Congrats on rising to No 3 (oh yeth..) this week!
And what of the finalist in Rome this week – Kuznetsova? Is this the sudden return to form we’ve all forgotten to wish for? In a freaktastic world, we would watch the likes of Davydenko and Kuznetsova play amazing tennis, win major titles, and appreciate them thoroughly. These two underrated, and often-forgotten players. But knowing that the tennisworld ain’t actually as freaktastic as it appears to be, I won’t get my hopes up. Still, nice to see her back in the winner’s circle.
Ayee, too long a rant. More on the WTA another day. Now that you know where my premature optimism is flowing from.
Tada my loverlies.