Doots: Interesting thing when I mentioned the women’s draw, PJ said the field is “wide open”. I feel as if we’ve gotten used to saying this in the past few years, but actually this is the least wide open slam I’ve seen in the past few years.
PJ: Really? How so?
Doots: The women’s tour has been dominated this year by Sharapova and Azarenka. We’re literally looking at a Big 2 situation – with Serena occasionally popping up on the radar because she’s that awesome.
LJ: but it’s clay, I think therein lies the problem.
PJ: I guess for me, I feel like it’s “open” in the sense that there are no sure favourites despite domination from Azarenka and Shrieky. Not like how Rafa is for the men’s.
Doots: Well, I still don’t know. Sharapova has had her best results this year on clay: Rome, Stuttgart, and lost to Serena by the same scoreline as Vika in Madrid. She comes into Roland Garros with by far the best clay season record of the women, which is incredible considering how bad she was on this surface a few years ago.
PJ: That is true. I was rather impressed with Sharapova’s clay showing this year. I know clay isn’t her forte but going by recent form and results, I’ll peg her as one of the favourites. Historical showing otherwise.
LJ: I think Shrieky, Azarenka and Serena for me, but hey if previous results are to be followed, it’ll be a crapshoot for the win.
Doots: They do tend to be the “Big 3” these days, which was precisely my previous point – it’s not as open as in previous years where you just knew that Wozniacki or Jankovic or whoever was up at the top couldn’t do it. But looking at the draw quarters again –
Today was the day that I finally spent some quality time engaging myself in USO tennis. I had been so flat-out busy with work the past week that I couldn’t afford to stay up late/wake up early/sneakily take some time off work (as I usually would). Seeing it was Sunday in Aussieland, I actually crawled up at 430AM in the morning to catch Roger’s match against Marin Cilic.
I decidedly didn’t watch any matches other than the 10min of Fat Dave during breakfast today. This whole time difference thing kinda sucks and everything has been pulled off Youtube so no match highlights other than the 30 secs that the US Open website offers us. Seriously it’s 2011 and we’re still fighting against media totalitarianism, its bloody ridiculous…but anyway, enough about my plight, here’s my wrap of the day that I just made up from tweets and whatnot. I could be completely wrong, but it’ll hopefully be entertainingly wrong.
Let’s start with Rafa…W…T…f? really? I believe Rafa is just trolling us with this inability to play like the Rafa of old, these days. I always think Rafa is gonna unveil himself at the end of some tournament and go...”Aha, I was playing you all for fools, no? I can actually play as Rafa but I was getting tired of steamrolling punks so I thought I’d just play shit for the lols.” =]
Golubev was up 7 set points in the 2nd and had a break in the 3rd but still came out a loser in 3 sets. I think Rafa just likes dangling the cheese in front of mice and pulling the string at the last minute. And Golubev helped him by fucking up shot selection on every important point.
Yeah Golubev, your random Kazakhstani cuteness couldn’t even help your braincramps.
Rafa’s next foe will be Nico Mahut who dished a yummy bagel in the 5th set today.
A spate of retirements also hit the mens side today with Djokovic, Ilhan and Chela benifiting.
James Blake made it in 4, so did Fat Dave, who was spraying errors left right and center until about the 3rd set but managed to hold out his Fat Daveness enough to win. Similarly Ferrer, Nando and Stan the Man all overcame sluggish starts to move into the 2nd round in 4 sets also.
Donald Young sets up a 2nd round encounter with Stan the Man after a straight sets win over Lukas Lacko. His first at the USO since 2007. Much has been written about Young, about his uber-awesomeness in the juniors, his parental coachfails and his lack of propensity to win 1st round matches in anything despite the number of wildcards he’s been given.
Now it’s easy to hate his cockiness but if any of you have managed to catch the very good Jim Courier funded doco called Unstrung about the journey of tennis juniors in the US, you’d realise how frustrating it must have been for Young. He was regularly beating 18 yr olds at 15, and having long been touted as the next big thing in American tennis, he has fallen short at every step, but the kid has game, and I hope he gets his breakthrough one day.
Gulbis created the biggest upset on the men’s side, taking out Youzhny in 3. Billed as the battle of the headcases, I guess Gulbis was just way less headcasey today.
2nd major upset in the womens side in as many days with 6th seed Li Na falling in straights to Simona Halep. *sigh*, WTA….*sigh*.
Like COME ON, Steffi won like 20+ slams, I don’t expect that kind of consistency but I expect my top 10, reigning slam champs to at least make the 2nd round of a slam…FFS!!!!
Li’s compatriot Zheng Jie thankfully battled it through in 3, likewise with Franny “I always take 3 sets to find my range” Schiavone.
Everyone else (Serena etc), took it hunky dory and a special mention goes to Jelena Dokic for making it to a 2nd round of a slam, you’re doing better than some others, dudette.
That’s it from me, for those peeps in timezones actually able to watch the Open please feel free to tweet match reactions at me.
You know all is right with this world when your heart pounds in trepidation just thinking about what assault on my cornea Venus Williams might wear a grand slam. Needless to say, she didn’t disappoint – with a jumpsuit inspired by “Grecian influences” and my Nana’s best doona cover.
All the single ladies …
Rewind two weeks ago, and anyone who tells me that Li Na is going to win Roland Garros, I’ll tell them that they’re pretty much just a tiny bit deluded. Me, who is a citizen of Delusion Land.
But the (comparatively) tiny Chinese girl showed that dreams can become reality, and delusions may not be so deluded after all when she threw her all onto the red clay, and defeated an equally spirited opponent with an equally big heart, Francesca Schiavone.
From the start, Li Na was focused. And determined. She knew what she had to do, and she did it. She kept her calm to keep her serve after breaking Franny in the first set. She kept her cool when Franny broke back in the second set to snatch away her lead. And she was absolutely imperious in the tiebreaker, where she seized control and never looked back.
Watching the match elicited more than just a little bit of conflicting emotions in me. I love Li Na. I love that she stands tall, love how she loves the game, love her quirkiness and her honesty in interviews and press conferences. But at the same time, I love Franny. Like many, I’ve been won over by her when she won that fairytale title last year (beating Sammy boo hoo). I’m won over by how she fought in Melbourne this year – first against Kuznetsova and then just refusing to give up against Wozniacki.
So I was feeling absolutely bipolar – ecstatic for Li Na, and yet crushed for Franny. But hey, my feel-good moment came when I realised that both ladies standing on that court – they are BOTH Grand Slam winners.
How joyous. Truly.
I can’t be more comprehensive because I’m, you know, trying not to puke from nerves over the men’s final (which is a final that I marginally care a bit more about HAH HAH HAH) but let’s just say that I’m extremely happy for Li Na and extremely proud that a Chinese player has defied the odds and won a clay Slam.
Well, who woulda thought.
As much as I like Li Na, Asian pride and all, I really didn’t think she could overcome Shrieky Sharpova shrieking her way into the final and to her Career Slam. I thought she might give Shrieky a really tough fight, but I expected Shrieky to come through – just because, well, she’s her.
But in slightly less than two hours and in straight sets, Li Na smashed her way into the RG final, with her booming forehand and her solid groundstrokes that left Shrieky scrambling in the clay dust. It didn’t help that Maria had a pretty horrendous serving day – 10 double faults, some of them contributed to break points. If Maria was focused on getting her way into that final, then so was Li Na. Composed and showing some solid tactics and shots, not panicking/brain cramping when broken or facing breakpoints, she eventually staved off the Shrieky challenge to enter her second consecutive Grand Slam final.
As for the other finalist – the wonderfully wacky Francesca Schiavone was too good for Marion Bartoli. Bartoli put up a good fight, but Franny – smelling her second chance at a second Slam – would not have any high-IQ Einstein spoiling her party. Franny’s one-handed backhand, although not as lethal or as beautiful as Justine Henin’s, had its own charm and does more than its fair share of damage, chopping through the Bartoli service games to take the match in comfortable straight sets.
At the beginning of the tournament, Franny and Li Na are the two least unlikely people I’d pick to be in the final, although they would be my heart’s picks for the final. I didn’t think they’ll get there. I did think Franny’s Slam last year was a beautiful, beautiful victory, but some part of me did think that’ll be her only victory. She’s ancient compared to the younger upstarts, which most of them on a good day can blast her off-court.
But Franny’s heart – one thing that we should never discount. I saw that heart in Melbourne, that amazing, wonderful spirit. She just doesn’t give up, doesn’t resign herself, doesn’t stop playing. And it’s that heart that won her the Slam last year, and brought her to the finals again this year.
Li Na, a player never known for her clay game. She humorously admitted that when she got to the quarterfinals – she didn’t think she would ever be in the semi-finals of Roland Garros. She has never really given herself a chance on clay – preferring grass and hard. Well, she proved herself to be more than okay on clay with her impressive run to the finals.
1.3 billion people supporting you. That’s some pretty impressive support, and at the same time, a heck lot of pressure. Still, she’s in and she has a chance. A great great chance.
With all the young upstarts in the women’s tour – the bets were with the likes of Kangaroo Woz, Vika Azarenka and co. But playing the finals today are two women considered ancient – Li Na is 29 years old, and Franny is turning 31 years old. No one would have really given them the odds at the start (me included, as said). But here they are today.
This is one final where I don’t really have a preference as to who to win. I just hope to see a fantastic tennis match with Franny and Li Na giving their all. Both ladies will hopefully provide a stunning final, and may the best lady with the best game win today.
Good luck for the finals, ladies!
- Rafa’s quarter: lots of people not named Rafael Nadal.
- Adorkable’s quarter: I’m sorry. Whut? WHUT?! WHUWHUWHUT?! Excuse me while I give Federbear a good kick where the sun don’t shine because WHAT KINDUVA FRACKITY FRACK FRACK DRAW IS THIS?! Provided that he gets past Raonic/Lopez FIRST MATCH, then a mildly rejuvenated Fernando Hair Fiasco second, our Darling Wodge will face the prospect of playing Almug, Jo-Willy or Zod. And should he battle vigorously into the semi, the Clay Monster himself awaits. Curse you tennis gods! I wish you a million constipated nights.
- Toothface’s quarter: Berdy and Toothface bookend this quarter like Crabbe and Goyle, but in between them, Monfils plays the fools, Dayvo brings the humour, Gillou has eyes like Icelandic lagoons, and Bellucci has the Golden Gate Bridge for a nose. Colour me interested.
- Satan’s quarter: Satan made a good choice pulling out of Monte Carlo. Not only did he extend his winning streak by an extra tournament at the very least (let’s face it – he ain’t gonna lose the Mama Djokovic Open), but he also gave himself a break to recover from winner’s fatigue and avoid facing the clay monster a week out from Miami. While Rafa may be seemingly back to normal programming this year, you get this feeling that Satan and Lord Farquaad are just ready to battle it out for the title of the Second Best Clay Courter of 2011. I’m not sure that Djoko will give Nadal a run for his kneecaps though. The clay season never turns out to be as intriguing as we want it to be. Satan and Farquaad aside, this quarter boasts a sea of minions, also known as Chela, My-Friend-Stanley, JCF, Ernie Gulbiscuit.
Full draw here
Ladies’ draw preview
- Woz’s quarter: who thinks Stosur is going to get past Dulko? I have an ominous feeling that no amount of “oi oi ois” can save her from Dulko’s giant slaying voodoo. Potential upset aside, Hamster, Julia the Gorgeous and Dinara keep it relevant, but I don’t expect anyone other than Woz to come through.
- Vika’s quarter: Dushevina first round probably wasn’t the draw Vika wanted, but she could’ve done worse with the other choices in her quarter – Flavs, Petko, A-Rad, Kiri and the newly single Jarka Gajdosova, not to mention the inimitable Lady Jaja.
- Franny’s quarter: my three lady crushes – Franny, Li Na, and MJMS – all crammed into a teenyweeny quarter. WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS ABOMINATION OF A DRAW, TENNIS GODS?! But Einstein once concluded for all mankind – for every awesome, there is an equal and opposite blah: Benesova, Petrova and Fistpumpovic are the other notable players in this quarter.
- Vera’s quarter: talking about awesome, I LOVE THIS QUARTER SO MUCH I want to propose to it in Kenya and kiss it TWICE on a balcony. Why, you ask? As if you needed reasons for TRUE LOVE. But just in case you did: Sharpie, Cilbulkova,Khooooze, Makarova, Wicky and Nutty Patty, Kvitova and Vera Zvoom Zvoom. Need I say more?
The end of Week 1 always makes me a blue.
The first week of the Aus Open has a village fair atmosphere to it, so full of youth and vibrancy. People come for the tennis, but also for star-gazing, freebies, amusement park-styled stalls, and a little rock-and-roll with the live bands.
By the second week, the smell of sausages is gradually replaced with the smell of gun-power … or Dootsie’s hair on fire. This is serious business bitches. So serious, that it must be spelt SRS BSNS.
Anyone heard John Isner’s Barmy Army at the Aus Open?
Here they are. In their own universe, it all made sense.
So getting down to the SRS BSNS: I spent my entire weekend right where I spent the last one: at Melbourne Park, making it 9 consecutive days of dawn to dusk tennis, and by close of play on Sunday, I was bleeding yellow fuzz coming of my nostrils.
There is such a thing as tennistical overkill, after all.
1. Canadian tennis. It like … exists or something.
As of Sunday night, when Andy Roddick was whipped off the court by the Wawrinka backhand, Milos Raonic became the only “North American” left in both the men and women’s draw. He eventually ran out of steam today against Ferrer, losing in 4 sets after taking the first emphatically, but I saw him earlier, against Youzhny, where he clobbered the Headclobber with icy power.
Not much not to like – massive serve, attacking, purposeful baseline game with a good affinity to the net – an unfortunate resemblance to Mark the Poo. Let’s hope Milos has more motivation and less of a penchant for reality TV than Scud.
The only thing I’m sure I’ll grow to dislike: hearing his migrant family story over and over again in the years to come.
2. New balls, pwease.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen one day when I lose my Swiss muse. As much as I love tennis, words just flow more when I write about McWoger – or rather – they burst through a dam of angst, anger and adoration.
But new faces are focussing out of the blur too – faces that I think I could get used to:
- Cilic Peppers, despite losing erratically to Rafa last night, is looking less like an empty shell and more like the shot-twisting stick insect that he was one year ago.
- Dolgopolurrrve seems to have caught the annual Aussie Open giant-slaying bug, literally slaying the gigantic Tsonga and Soderling. I remember the first time I ever saw his name at last year’s Brisbane International: “how on earth did Bernanrd Tomic lose to someone named Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jnr?” I asked. I don’t think anyone would be saying that after the spirited performance he put on against Soderling yesterday.
- The Petkorazzi, newly crowned Miss Popularity of the Aussie Open, danced on the grave of Maria Sharapova after defeating her in straight sets. As much as I hate to admit it, Shazza has completely lost the zinging presence she used to have on court – her movement exploited, her power matched, but her mind and spirit as eager as ever. As a fan, it’s been a hard journey watching her attempt to rediscover her slam-winning form pre-injury, a journey that del Potro fans will take in the coming year.
- Petra Kvitova, shotmaking brilliant in its sheer randomness, eyes shining with desire and determination. Sam Stosur couldn’t have done much more to neutralise the deluge, and mercifully, most of the Australian media have picked up on this assessment.
- Bernard Tomic, almost universally disliked in tennis fandom, deserved a lot of credit for the pressure he unexpectedly exerted on Nadal. I wonder if sometimes, it takes a little bit of brattishness to be nonchalant to the occasion of playing the top seed and one of the great guys on the ATP tour. As for his style of play, until he moves with the kind of cat-like court coverage that Murray brings to the game, I think we can stop with that comparison. If anything, Tomic plays like Marin Cilic with greater variation.
None of them stirs up the kind of dam-bursting desire to blog that Wogie McFed does, perhaps I won’t find another muse like him for a long time, but they are reasons to keep watching and keep returning to the moving tides of tennis, to see if these tiny ripples converge into tidal waves of awesome further down stream.
3. THE MATCH.
I could come up with a wittier tag line, but I think CAPSLOCK suffices to express my awe. You know you’ve just witness something that transcends tennis when your non-tennis following friends ring you to let you know, “I just saw the most amazing tennis match …”
There is a difference (or so I’ve always felt) between fearlessness and bravery, being not just the mere absence of fear. Sometimes, it is precisely brave to overcome your fear, to play through it and live dangerously. To paraphrase a well-known truism, “it is better to have fought and lost than to have never fought at all.”
And third set between Schiavone and Kuznetsova epitomised this sentiment to poignantly. Neither wanted to lose, both struggled physically and mentally to hold and to convert match points. Yet neither relied on the other to hand the match over on a silver plait. Neither stopped making their shots, swinging for the fences. Neither stopped attacked, or fell back into their comfort zone. The longer the match went for (the clock finally stopped at 4:44), the more they put on the line. Winner takes all, loser is left with nothing but the tale of a lifetime.
Unlike the Petkorazzi or Kvitova, there was no merry dance to celebrate this fight to death; there was no youthful, eager spark in the eyes of either woman, a desire to prove oneself on a big stage for the first time in their career. Sveta and Franny played with such bravery, maturity and hearts of steel that they made the contrast between girl and woman on the WTA tour an incredible sight to behold in a single tournament.
Perhaps the best moment after the match was when Svetlana Kuznetsova logged onto Twitter after the match with this tweet:
i was worryed that i gaig one kg…i think i ve lost it)))
It takes a giant well of optimism to joke about your own heartache.
4. The Outsider
The amount of Wawrinka-hate I am being exposed to in tennis fandom these days is making me sick.
Such is the absurdity of human existence, that when a man decides, for whatever reason UNKNOWN to us, to end a relationship and inform the world of it, our first reaction is to judge. Our second – to hate. Our third – to wish a fellow human being ill. As my nan would say, if you haven’t got anything nice to say to that, don’t fucking speak at all.
At the end of the day, Wawrinka is a tennis player. What he chooses to do with his private life is none of our fucking business. He’s never going to be the next Mister Family Man, but without cheating on court, without bringing an inexcusable attitude to tennis, I had no reason not to cheer him on as he played like a man possessed to dismiss Roddick, hitting a total of 67 winners to 19 unforced errors.
I hope Wogie McFed saw the stats sheet.
There’s a reason why the Hopman Cup is my favourite pre-Open tournament. Have a guess why?
a) It’s not even a real tournament.
b) You get to yell “FUCKEINNNE YEEEHAAAACHT” every time a girl returns a clean winner off a guy’s serve and makes your vagina proud.
c) The Hopman Cup invitation senders have a knack for picking relatively unnoticed players (unnoticed by me, that is) and shooting them up the rankings like that time when Itchy put Scratchy into a cannon and lit him on FIRE.
d) Diamond ball trophies. Duh?
e) ALL OF THE FRIGGIN ABOVE.
Like I said, it’s one of my favourite pre-Open tournaments and I hope to make it to Perth one day for it.
ANYHOO. Some notes so far.
As far as my tennistic tastes go, my favourite players being Wogie, Wafa, Sharapower and the Williamses, you can’t exactly say I’m the kind of person who pays any attention to players who earn less money in a year than the GDP of a third world country.
But each year, I watch the Hopman Cup with a genuine attempt to get acquainted with a “lesser” player, someone with the potential to be “more of a” player. In 2009, that person was Sabine Lisicki. In 2010, I loved Golubev and MariHoe Martinez Sanchez. And of course, so far this year, I’ve caught promising glimpses of Bemelmans and Kristina Mladenovic. Both have pacey, aggressive, good looking games. Both gave their higher ranked opponents a run for their diamond balls. Both play like they should be ranked inside the top 100.
But in the end, Bemelmans lost to Hewitt 64 63, and Mladdy faded away against Socks, 63 36 61. For Bemelmans, it came down to his bizarre lack of match experience for a guy aged 22 years ancient. There was little evidence of his match awareness and intent in the way he played Hewitt, which, as you’d expect, proved to be costly for him. For Mladdy, the Laura Robson de la France, it was a lack of fitness that saw her go gently into the good night in France’s tie against the US of A. Rankings and consistency-wise, there is room for vertical movement for both, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that at least one of them will be shooting up the rankings like Scratchy on FIRE.
The one set syndrome. We saw it on display again, and again, and again. Laura Robson showed tremendous grit against Schiavone for a set before letting her guard down early in the second set to lose 75 63. Andy Murray couldn’t find inroads into Potato Star Ace’s game until he took the first set 75. Within the space of one game, Potato had gone from aspiring princess to Cinderella in rags. He bared registered in the second set, losing 75 61. (Italy won the tie after a dramatic mixed doubles match, 67 76 10-2)
Likewise, Andrey Golubev, cutiepatootie royale who hails from the Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, showed some truly unplayable shotmaking in taking the first set against Djokovic 64. But he let down his guard too quickly, eventually losing the next two sets 36 16.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How long the extra-ordinary can realistically last, and how, how exactly, do we turn the extraordinary into our ordinary state?
Dootsie’s Theory of Everything – PART III
IMITATION OF OVARY-BUSTING GORGENOUS
OVARY-BUSTING GORGEOUSNESS IMITATED.
I remember mocking Francesca’s finals win/loss record in Osaka last year, which was something along the lines of 1-14. At the time, I thought of her as the epitome of an imploder, perennially unable to seize an opportunity that presents itself. For the most part, I still think it was an accurate assessment then.
And now? Let me tell you a little story that may or may not be true:
Once upon a time, Dootsie was terrified of public speaking. I still am, deep down. But there was a definitive turning point once when I stood in front of a lectern with a speech on “WORLD PEACE” or something equally latte-sipping-leftist. I froze for 10 seconds without speaking. As anyone with a fear of public speaking would know: 10 years of solitary confinement feels preferable to living through those 10 seconds. I was punched in the ovaries by fear, by cold sweat, by the need to pee, by every second ticking away like a time bomb threatening to blow up and humiliate me in front of some VERY-IMPORTANT-PEOPLE.
Eventually, I took a breath so deep it hurt and told myself to “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER NAOOO!”. I opened my palm towards the audience and began to speak. I killed it. It felt like fuck-yeah.
When I look at Francesca Schiavone these days, that is the person I see. Someone who froze: again and again and again. But she kept putting herself in finals, prolonging the tortuous process until one day, ONE FINE DAY! She broke through, and she broke through at one of the biggest tournaments in the world like a butterfly out of a cocoon. For the first time, I saw the spirit behind the freeze and to shout my own mantra from the rooftops “WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN.” It matters not that she lost to Venus today in a highly entertaining, rollercoaster match, Franny found out the same thing I had discovered once upon a time, standing in front of a lectern with a speech on my kind of latte-sipping world peace: we had unfrozen.
It feels like fuck-yeah.
As for Venus? My first love in tennis is in the semifinal of a slam-not-named-Wimbledon once more. The last time she played the semifinal of the US Open, she played another Belgian – Justin Henin – in one of my favourite WTA matches of the last decade. Who says it needs to go to a deciding set to be epic?
And regarding the dresses that seem to generate so much talk: the point is, you’re all talking about them. That’s fashion. I’d rather that than bland generic dish-outs from – ahem – certain clothing companies with absolutely no thought or attempt at creativity.
Actually, I’d rather Venus Williams win. Period. Dresses be damned.