The psychology of sports forms the basis for a brief commentary on the evolving Roland Garros tournament, currently lodged between the second and third rounds at the end of Wednesday’s play in Paris. The events of the past two days have enabled tennis observers to appreciate the inner game of the sport, the test between the ears that gives rise to such engrossing drama even when the raw level of play leaves something to be desired.
Plenty of coaches and sports psychologists have drawn from Timothy Gallwey’s seminal 1974 book, The Inner Game of Tennis, to impart to athletes the importance of acquiring the right frame of mind. It is obvious that the mind matters so much in tennis, a solo-flyer sport that demands the ability to handle a lot of loneliness. At the majors, the women don’t receive coaching during changeovers; every match at a major – for the men and the women – is a true test of the individual’s ability to solve problems on the fly.
Yet, for all the ways in which the primacy of mental toughness is so evident at a major, there’s one specific way in which the mind can get overlooked.
Yes, it’s important to be able to fight back when trailing, to persevere when things aren’t going your way. Yes, it’s important to be able to hit a clutch serve when facing a break-and-set point at 30-40, 4-5, in the third set of a match that is tied at one set apiece. Yes, it is important to deliver the goods at 5-all in a tiebreaker or at deuce in the 12th game of a set. However, those situations – as important as they are – don’t quite fit into the one situation that trips up so many players: Arriving at a midpoint in a set or tiebreaker when everything is going right and a once-unlikely victory becomes possible.
If you study a major tennis tournament closely enough, you’ll quickly realize how often this specific problem ambushes so many talented tennis professionals. Ernests Gulbis led Gael Monfils 3-2 in the second set in Wednesday’s featured second-round match at Court Philippe Chatrier. Gulbis busted out his best and most untouchable heaven-kissed tennis to break for a 3-2 lead, having already taken the first set in a tiebreaker. The flow of the match was headed in Gulbis’s direction.
Gulbis promptly lost serve for 3-all, and then donated a bunch of errors when serving at 4-5 to hand Monfils the second set, 6-4. The third set was glorious, but when Monfils got a lucky get-out-of-jail net cord to survive a break point at 5-all, he rode that bit of fortune to a tiebreaker win and a four-set triumph a short time later.
Understand this about Gulbis: He loses so many matches not merely in exasperating fashion, but after taking the first set. Gulbis can oh-so-easily find an exalted level of tennis, but his career has been such a study in underachievement precisely because Gulbis can’t stay on the mountain very long. It is a mental skill, not just a physical one, to remain locked in — no, not to the point where you hit ridiculous winners again and again, but to the point that consistency becomes built into performance so that the muscle memory becomes reliable.
Gulbis is perhaps the most prominent example on the ATP side of a gifted tennis player who allows himself to think about how well he’s doing… which opens the gateway for doubt to creep in as soon as a bad shot flies off the racquet. Svetlana Kuznetsova is the prime example of this dynamic on the WTA Tour. When a player should be relishing the ability to play well, the Gulbises and Kuznetsovas worry when it’s all going to fall apart — not consciously, but subconsciously, and certainly enough to hijack peak performance.
Another example of this counterintuitive dynamic — playing well until leading, when the prospect of victory becomes too much to bear — was in evidence in Wednesday’s second-round match between Roger Federer’s next Roland Garros opponent, Julien Benneteau, and Tobias Kamke. Benneteau, who – remember – has not won an ATP singles title in his career, led by two sets against an inferior opponent. The thought of winning (not losing) paralyzed the Frenchman, who proceeded to drop 10 straight games and fall behind 2-0 in the fifth. The fear of success, not the fear of failure, is the overlooked dimension of frailty in professional tennis, and Benneteau succumbed to it.
Fortunately for him, so did Kamke.
The German had little reason to believe for most of the match that victory was likely his. After his third-set escape, he had a right to expect a fifth set, but it was only at 2-0 in the fifth that the finish line appeared.
Naturally, that’s when Kamke disappeared.
It’s not as though the end of this match was dramatic. Benneteau held at love when serving for the match at 5-4. The end came not with a bang, but a whimper. It was at 2-0 in the fifth when Kamke lost hold of the proceedings. He lost this match in the early and middle stages of a set, not its endpoint. Gulbis, when blowing the 3-2 break lead in the second set – following one of his best stretches of performance in the match – gave Monfils the opening the Frenchman needed.
Head games are such a central part of tennis. “Ahead games” — at 3-2 or 2-0 in a set — show why those head games matter so much. Life seems too good to be true for a great number of tennis players only because they fear success too much.
Day 1 of the US Open 2011, and there was something palpably missing in the air. The OOMPH of Slam excitement carried away by Hurricane Irene perhaps. The crowd was subdued and the players mostly went about their business, the seeds not finding much rhythm but then the unseeded found even less. Basically everyone was a bit mopey having walked out of their caves for the first time in a few days.
Wogie Mcfedpants made short work of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-4 6-2, so says the scoreline but those who watched felt the uneasy moments as Mcfedtastic lost momentum and started showing poop for brains at crucial moments. Leading 5-1 in the first, he was broken serving for the set and then got broken to love in the next service game. Worrisome? Probably not but there was enough frazzling on my twitter timeline to suggest that peeps were a little agitated. Save the agitation for later folks, we’re in for a tough road ahead.
Fed’s next round will be up against Dudi Sela whom dispatched a clearly hobbling Thomas Belluci in 5 sets.
Red- perhaps-not-so-hot-Cilic-Pepper took out Ryan Harrison in ugly fashion. Harrison could have easily taken the match to a 4th and squandered it with his padawan youth. Back to Bollitieri academy m’dear. Cilic will play Tomic in one of the best matchups in the 2nd round on paper. Hope it won’t turn into the Aus Open 2010 meeting, where I stayed for 2 sets and decided to leg it back to the hotel before I fell comatose to boredom.
Tomic showing clear signs of his talent and form, downed US journeyman Michael Yani in comfortable straights. Like it or not, IMO the kid has the goods and his style is good for tennis and Australian tennis in particular.
Don’t-Call-My-Name-Falla defeated Troicki in 5, in a match that Troicki should have won. But Troicki is an ass so whatevs. Llodra and Petzschner also came through in 5.
Kei Nishikori retired injured once again. I wonder when the kid will catch a break. He was 1 of 3 Japanese players to retire hurt today.
I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of the day from the men’s side. My BB Greegor forgot to face the net and thus lost in straights to Le Monf.
Biggest upset of the day was earned by Petra Kvitova, going down in straights to Alexandra Dulgheru of The Ukraine. Kvitova is clearly going through her post-slam slump but Dulgheru, ranked top 50, is no easy opponent for a 1st round and Kvitova was clearly sluggish and her timing was completely off.
Shreiky needed 3 sets to get past GB up and comer, Heather Watson. I like Watson, like Laura Robson I think she’s got a good head on her shoulders but experience took over as she faded in the 3rd.
Speaking of Robson she was leading Ayumi Morita before the latter folded to shoulder injury. Bad day for Japanese players.
Nadia Petrova struggled through in 3 and the rest of the women’s matches played out according to script.
So that’s that, first day down, 13 to go.
To leave, I’d like to address this fashion faux pas of the day:
WHAT IN THE FUCK IS THIS????
They look like those Korean tube socks people used to turn up in in high school…like…WHUT???? PLS EXPLAIN!!!!!
Till tomorrow, adios amigos
So. The Mighty Swiss Cheese made it to semi-finals of le French Open. Before I dwindle into any more specifics, first things first:
I’m mighty pleased he went one better this year after last year. I’m mighty pleased that he’s been playing quite well throughout the last week and a half. And I’m mighty pleased that he overcame Gael Monfils in three sets (although I’m not so pleased about his aversion to BP conversion – which made a FULL return yesterday, but let’s not talk about unpleasantries).
It wasn’t the best of starts from Fed yesterday. He was broken early in the match with TWO double faults in one game, and seemed to be struggling with the wind, hitting a rather hefty number of 10 unforced errors in mere three games. But as we all know, soon as he finds his mojo, he gets it going, and that he did, breaking Monfils twice to tuck the first set under his belt.
On the flip side of that though, as we all know quite well (as well), he can lose the mojo just like *that* with his sudden walkabouts. Walkabout-Fed hadn’t really make a significant appearance so far in the tournament, but he was out and about yesterday, contributing to the chapters of Federer’s best-selling novel, The Break-Points Not Taken. Dude had numerous opportunities to break Monfils in the third set, but opted to send ‘em waving merrily away.
There is, you know, some stuff at stake. The FINAL, for one. And the #1 ranking (for Satan). The Satanic Streak. The JMac record. Small fry stuff.
BUT. I am going to try my very best not to think about the semi-final until semi-final day on Friday. Because the mere thought of the final makes my head hurt/my stomach ulcerate/my bipolar-multiple-personality disorder of ZEN VS OMGWTFFRAZZLE rear its very ugly and very confused head.
What happened to nice normal hobbies like reading, painting, writing, caged-tiger fighting, shark-swimming, y’know, hobbies that are not horribly detrimental to my health?
Anyway, for the ladies’ stage – Francesca Schiavone overcame a horrific performance in the first set to stage a comeback and wrestle the match from Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s fingertips in three sets. The third set was a tussle – with breaks and rebreaks galore until Franny managed to held on for the match. The final game between the two laydees was brilliant though – screaming winners won the points, not ugly errors.
Props to Pavlyuchenkova for getting this far and putting up a fight but I am very very VERY pleased that Franny is still rolling. I know that it’s a fairytale if she defends her title, but at least she’s still on track to make that fairytale a reality.
Sveta, however, didn’t manage to play her part in completing my dream semi-final, but Marion Bartoli certainly played her part in continuing the dream of the Frenchies as well as her own. She’s the first Frenchwoman into the semis since Mary Pierce in 2000 (who went on to win the title). I have to admit I have no great affection for Bartoli, but hey, if that’s what the crowd wanted…
My heart weeps for Sveta, though. I really did think she had a chance – not just for the semis, but for the whole tournament.
Yeah yeah yeah, I live in Delusion Land. But just so you know, we’re building up a pretty good population. Interested parties please e-mail me for the application process to become permanent residents/citizens.
That’s the wrap!
You know that Roger Federer is playing his own special brand of Jesus!Fed tennis when a non-tennis watcher – one who has constantly and continually mocked me for my obsession with yellow fuzzy balls and Federer’s non fuzzy nor frizzy chocolate brown curls – proclaimed that she would join me on my future tennis outings for a chance to stalk his pants.
My earlier frazzling/worrying about the match proved to be in vain as Rog came out firing from point one – ripping beautiful backhands, fantastic forehands and put on a show of spectacular serving. When he is in this sort of mood, the person across the net could pretty much do nothing but try to survive the walloping, which was what happened to Janko Tipsarevic.
The first set was over in less than 20 minutes, as Tipsarevic was broken twice due to his own errors and Federer’s genius. In the next two sets, Tipsarevic tried his best to keep up, even managing to earn himself a break point when Roger developed an obsession with failed drop-shots but TMF pretty much just served himself out of trouble. He secured one break in the second set, and broke the Other Serbian twice in the final set to clinch victory in slight over 90 minutes.
Federer is looking very very good, after three matches. I have to admit, it has been very lovely and refreshing to see him play so freely and prettily. If he keeps up this level of play…I won’t say it, but I know all of us are THINKING IT (ANTIJINX).
To the Tennis Gods, my offer of first born and blood still stands if…you know.
Anyway, have some pretty.
In other matches – the blockbuster match-up of the day between Del Potro and Djokovic was halted after two sets due to darkness. I actually stayed up until the ungodly hour of 330AM to catch the match, and although I was half dead throughout, I can see that there wasn’t much separating the two. It wasn’t a cracking, breathtakingly exciting match, but it was competitive throughout the two sets. Djokovic’s first set victory didn’t come easy, and neither did Delpo’s second set victory.
The two will continue to battle today on Lenglen, in what turns out to be a best-of-3 affair. It’s anyone’s guess, as to who will triumph, although I know I want WHO to triumph.
As for the other guys in the field:
1) Good day for the Frenchies, as they make it two out of three, with Gael Monfils dumping Steve Darcis, ending his giant-killing run – and Reeshie Gasquet finally overcoming a determined Thomaz Belluci in four sets.
2) It was nearly a perfect 3 out of 3 for France though – if Jo-Wills Tsonga had not blown a two-set lead against Ewok the Other Swiss. He was even up a break in the 3rd, but allowed Stan to fight back spectacularly. For the final two sets, it was all about Stan being the Man as he breezed through against the tiring Tsonga, showing that McFed not the only Swiss that can put on a spectacular show. Great comeback by Stanley, and he earned himself a chance to play His Friend Roge in the 4th round.
3) Is anyone frazzling about Lord F yet? Initially I was quite okay with having him in Roger’s quarter, brick wall and all. But he’s been sweeping through his matches with deadly ease – destroying Sergiy Stakhovsky in only allowing 5 games – and certainly enjoying the flight under the radar. Coupled with a great run in Melbourne and a solid clay season…urm, I’m starting to wish he stayed out of Roger’s quarter.
4) Mikhail Youzhny lost tamely to Albert Montanes – eating two breadsticks. He staged a great comeback in the second set to take it to a tiebreaker after being down a break, but totally brain-farted in the tiebreak, only taking one point. I need to get off the Headsmashy Bandwagon – but I really did think he’ll have another career surge after making the semis of USO last year. Ah well.
5) Fab Fog beat Garcia-Lopez to earn himself a spot in the fourth round. One quarterfinal this year WILL feature Fog OR Montanes…that made my brain stopped working for two seconds.
On the ladies’ side – the Aussie flag took a HUGE tumble, with Sammy Stosur crashing out to Gisela Dulko, who had her giant-killing pants on yesterday. It’s really disappointing for Sammy – for I think as far as Slams go, her best bet is the French because she’s got a better game on clay. The thing with Sam is, I felt like she’s just not at a place where she is 100% confident with her game, and with herself. She was up a break in the third set after a solid performance in the second set, but couldn’t keep that break, and was broken again with Dulko triumphing.
Good news is, she moves onto the grass to start training for Wimbledon. Bad news is, I don’t think she’ll get very far there.
The shocker of the day though – or perhaps not so shocking when you consider the innate shot-making ability of Daniela Hantuchova – saw top seed Kangaroo Woz tumbling out of the tournament in straights. She was no match for Dani yesterday, who just came out like a woman on a mission, butchering Woz in the first set.
There was a slight wobble in the second that saw Caro break her serve – where I was afraid she might actually lose it, because of the manner she was broken. It looked like a double-bounce on Woz’s side of the court, which would give the point to Hantuchova, but umpire called it good and Woz was like “whut no it didn’t double –bounce” so that was that. But since she was double-break up, she managed to hold on to eventually win the match.
As for Woz – the relevant question was “do you feel the pressure of being a Slamless no.1?” and her relevant quote was “blah blah blah no” and my response was “oh, that’s so relevant.” Honestly? I don’t like the girl, neither do I like her game, but journos have to come up with better questions. If you want to ask the same thing a thousand times over, at least come up with a NEW way of asking it.
This is the first time since 1971 that the top two women’s seeds did not survive the first week of a Slam, and questions were raised again about the depth of the field. To which I say…BRING BACK SERENA WILLIAMS!!! Surely she is the epitome of consistency that the WTA Tour really needs.
Other than that, it was uneventful for the women as all the other seeds got through their matches safely. Marion “high IQ” Bartoli provided some cheer for the French crowd as she overcame Julia Goerges in three sets.
And that’s the wrap, folks.
P.S. photos from daylife.com
Sport is a multilayered stream. There comes moments in a match or a game when the surface and the undercurrent flow in opposite directions.
Up two sets and 5-3, Thiemo de Bakker was on the brink of eliminating one of the surprisingly well loved athletes at the Aus Open. I say “surprisingly”, because Monfils has never really had a memorable run at the Aus Open the way his compatriot Tsonga had. And yet I lost count of the number of little boys walking into Hisense Arena today, exclaiming “WOAH! Look! Monfeeeeees!”
Funnily enough, it seems to be the little boys that have the greatest affinity to Monfils. He’s fun. He’s athletic. He’s made of springs and tomfoolery. And at his core, Monfils is really the Peter Pan of men’s tennis, a boy stuck in a man’s body, torn between the desire to frolic and the desire to win. Up an early break in both the first and second set, Monfils managed to lose both with some utterly intentless shotmaking.
To his credit, De Bakker really picked up the pace and aggression on his shots after he settled down later in the first set, the man is not without talent. But Monfils flailed like he was staging a Rally For Relief to help the Glorious Nation of the Netherlands. Suddenly, the crowd was on edge, screaming words of encouragement at Gael in French. Down 2 sets to love and a break, they knew it was almost over for the Frenchman.
But here comes the surface and undercurrent divide. At 5-3 serving for the match in the third set, De Bakker ‘snapped’, to use Monfils’ own words. A shocking service game later, Monfils is back on serve. On the surface, De Bakker was still up 2 sets to love, a commanding position to seal the win, yet the undercurrent was carrying an entirely different match, starting from 5-3 in the third set, where De Bakker was the one playing tennis without intent, and Monfils was grunting, fighting, struggling and overcoming the surface current.
The final score: 6-7 2-6 7-5 6-2 6-1.
Overheard at the Aus Open
Usher 1: “I hope we get an early finish today.”
Usher 2: “Nah, we won’t. It’s the Curse of Roddick on Hisense”.
Usher 1: “Say WHUT?!”
Usher 2: “Every time Roddick plays on Hisense, we end up finishing late.”
Believe it or not, I missed Federer’s first round match altogether because I was stuck on Hisense with Roddick v Hajek (unsurprisingly a snoozefest). But when some of Federer’s harshest fan critics (you know who you are) tell me that he was playing the kind of tennis that cheapens superlatives, I think I’d better trust their good judgment.
There was a lot of anger on cyberspace over Cahill’s comment that Federer’s win over Nadal at the World Tour Finals “didn’t count”, because evidently, conditions favoured Federer.
Sheesh. I didn’t know Cahill was such a Federer fan. He just managed to discount every single clay court match that Nadal ever won against Federer because conditions favoured OH WAIT –
Asterisks only apply one way and not the other, and Roger Federer victories always come at a discounted price, no matter how sensationally earned, how bravely fought, or how stunning displayed. I’m not even sure how a human being could be capable of such an alarming lack of logic.
Mentioning Federer, I’ve been stuck at Melbourne Park for 8 hours a day in the last few days, so I’ve had little chance to note this intriguing answer in the pre-tournament presser:
Q. Do you feel he should be favorite or you should be favorite, in your own mind?
ROGER FEDERER: No, he should be favorite. He’s holding the three slams. I hold this one still, but just, so… Of course, I won the World Tour Finals, I’ve been playing really well on the hard courts right now. But he’s been the one dominating the slams. Had hardly any tough matches in the last three slams. That makes him the favorite.
I don’t have any problems not being the favorite really.
This of course was immediately spun into a “FEDERER PLAYING MIND-GAMES WITH NADAL” type narrative. But had Federer answered that he was the favourite, he would’ve come off in the media as a massive self-obsessed douchenugget. I mentioned during my off-season rants that as fans, we’re being fed the same narratives over and over again by the media, and this was a prime example.
Personally, I found it to be a revealing presser. First, the way Federer has talked and played lately shows him to be a man stung, and stung into action, not defensive words. That is a good sign for the medium-long term.
Secondly, the extent of Wogie’s admiration for Rafa often goes unnoticed. He talked at length about how exciting this Open is for Nadal.
“That’s why it’s a very exciting Australian Open, to see if Rafa can do it. He sure has all the opportunities, having won three Grand Slams in a row on three different surfaces. Quite spectacular. So I’m excited to see how he goes.”
To be quite frank, I don’t believe this was a pressure tactic or a mind game. One thing that the tennis media continues to underappreciate is the fact that Federer and Nadal’s careers are not inversely linked. More slams for Rafael Nadal does not discount the jaw-dropping consistency with which Federer has excelled in this sport, beyond human capacity as we’ve ever seen before.
In fact, Nadal’s legacy will only add to the quality of Federer’s career in the medium-long term. We will look back on this era to see not a weak one, but one of an iron-wrought duopoly, unable to be broken by some of the best players to have graced this sport.
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Federer knows that better than anyone, and derives genuine happiness from Nadal’s success. (And very much mutual on that front from Nadal too.)
That said, I’m fairly certain Wogie would like to be the roadblock to the Rafa slam as much as Rafa has been to him. It’s not quite the do-or-die for Wogie that the media has been making this out to be, but I am feeling Zen enough to say that the Australian Open is Federer’s to lose. Whether we’re talking form, results, confidence-build up or momentum, the undercurrent has been flowing in Federer’s way for quite some time now. Can he execute 6 more matches and bring this undercurrent to the surface?
Gilles Simon. Bring it.
PS. My good friend and fellow Melbournian – PJ – will be blogging her days of live tennis here as well. Watch this space.
They were the best of the rest, and the worst of the rest. These are the outfits that have made an impression in 2010, for one reason or another.
Let’s start with the worst, shall we? There is always something sinfully fun about criticizing someone else’s outfit.
1. Caroline Wozniacki, Australian Open til Roland Garros
Oh Stella, Stella, Stella. As far as clothing’s concerned, Ms McCartney has been everyone else’s favourite punching bag for 2010. But there is a reason for that: which part of shapeless, slate-grey rags with leaf patterns suggest “fashion hit” to you? Just look at poor Carol’s indignant face of pain OH WAIT –
That’s her normal game face.
2. Caroline Wozniacki, US Open til Will-This-Ever-End?
It’s semi-sheer. There is some form of bodice/bondage with horizontal stretch marks on the fabric. It hovers over her upper thigh, leaving you wondering where “the rest of it” has gone. Is it possible to give CWoz – a young, fit, female athlete – bulges where bulges do not exist?
Why yes! As Stella would say, “Impossible is NOTHING”.
3. Victoria Azarenka, US Open Series
I geddit. I geddit! Nerd is chic. Socially awkward, borderline Aspergers folks like Mark Zuckerberg are all the rage, programming your life into “walls” and “pokes” and “relationship statuses”. It’s okay. It’s about time.
But COME THE FUCK ON. There is nothing remotedly chic about wearing the double helix.
4. Aravane Rezai, Gold Foil 2010
There is so much gold foil going on here you wonder how many Lindt Bunnies died to make this dress. Don’t go around wearing this near a microwave oven now.
5. Aravane Rezai, Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic.
Ever seen one of those “eco-fashion” shows?
They’re a bit like the modern Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone claps along politely and talks about the importance of sustainability, environmental protection, when all the while, they are furiously trying to figure out why there are models parading around wearing ACTUAL PLASTIC BAGS.
That was how I felt, upon sighting this horror.
6. Marin Cilic, Davis Cup Tragic
I do not fucking care! No really. I do not. Whatever your national colours; however strong your “team spirit”, there is no excuse for wearing a picnic blanket on court.
7. Marin Cilic, US Open Tragic
Own up. Which one of you menstruated over him?
(I DID NOT WANT TO SAY IT IT CALLED OUT TO ME TO BE SAID)
8. Sam Stosur, First Half of 2010
There are many things to be said about this orange-ish, peachy, shapeless mess. But I believe Jodi of Tennis From Beyond the Baseline summed it up best when I ran into her at the Australian Open earlier in 2010:
“No one needs an apricot dress.”
Those are some of the worst outfits I personally remember in 2010. Have I missed any other travesties of international proportions? Lemme know.
But until then, without further ado: the best of the rest.
1. Gael Monfils, US Open
It was his first year with K-Swiss, and already, they’ve captured Gael’s personality so much more accurately than Nike ever did.
I don’t love or hate the clothes and hair per se. If Wogie had walked out looking like that, I would be banging my head against a rock hoping I destroy enough brain cells to make me forget it all.
But on Monfools, it all fell together to look so … Monfoolish. Likey likey.
The black and neon green version was also a little be funky.
2. Sam Stosur, US Open
This reminded me of Flavia Pennetta’s US Open 2009 dress, it was crisp, it was fitted, and I don’t know about you, but I personally have no issues with female athletes actually looking like female athletes.
Want to promote positive body image for young women? Celebrities posing nude for fashion glossies don’t help in the slightest. But seeing someone like Sam Stosur exude fitness and strength does.
The dark purple version, which was also lovely.
3. Pretty In Pink
What is it about Victoria Azarenka that just looks so good in pink?
If “real men wear pink”, then ironically, girls-gals often look horrendous in pink. Sure – it’s a feminine colour, but too much feminine pinkness can make it look like you accidentally ate Hello Kitty for breakfast.
Vika, on the other hand, gets the balance right in both her Australian Open and Roland Garros outfits.
That’s another thing: happy young people looking like happy young people. A point the likes of Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic often miss in their effort to look photoshop-worthy on court.
Talking about pink, I thought Alona Bondarenko looked like a teenage dream in her Australian Open dress.
4. Vera Zvonareva, Roland Garros 2010
Like Vera herself, K-Swiss is rather underrated. The colours are fresh. The combination of the pleated skirt and the simple tank top is sporty and feminine.
She doesn’t get many fancy, seasonal outfits every year, but you can always depend on Vera Zvonareva to look professional and sleek, 100% of the time.
5. Michelle Louder de Bretter, Wimbledon 2010
My favourite dress of the year has nothing to do with fancy tulle, vibrant colours or original designs. At the end of the day, it comes down to simplicity, class, and something that I can picture myself wearing. Not to mention, I love white and navy.
Anyone know who it’s by? I thought she was with adidas?
I wanted Federer v Llodra, I got Soderling v Monfils.
In the grand scheme of things, I liked both finalists, so I’m not left projectile vomiting bile in the general direction of Paree.
But really, you’re not even human if you can’t feel some degree of squidgeeeeee for a guy who – despite being portrayed so often as a jumbo-sized rodent by certain members of the tennis fandom – is really just a young man who talks the way his plays.
Uncomplicated. Unsubtle. Undaunted. Unapologetic. A bit like someone gutting a baby seal with a blunt knife … no I KID. I KID.
I do mean it when I say I’m tempted to poke my pinky into one of those dimples though.
I was extremely nervous before this match … I didn’t sleep much at all (last) night. I really wanted to do well today and I’m happy with the way I started the match.
I’m in a strange sort of place with Soderpoopies. He inflicted two losses at Roland Garros in the past two years, both of which ended with me flailing like a gutted baby seal. I find his game unsightly at times. Stylistically, he’s no different to a ‘Tomas Berdych’, of which there are too many in this world. Theoretically speaking, this shouldn’t have been my cuppa.
And yet, there is also something incredibly compelling about Soderpoopies, as a player and as a person. On the surface, he’s aloof. He acts like he doesn’t give a fuck, and – as I alluded to earlier – he plays like it too. The wonder about the Soderpoops of this world is that they make simple what Federer sometimes complicates. And just as we need intricacies in tennis, we also need aggressive, bludgeoning, cracking tennis. The kind of catharsis that, on a good day, crystalises all else around you and the only liquidity is the movement on court.
Like I said, oddly compelling.
Soderling falls just on this other side of the diverse tennis spectrum. The kind of ‘unsightly’ that can be beautiful too; the type of ‘aloof’ that is passionate deep down; and sometimes, the quiet one can be surprisingly eloquent when handed a microphone on a big stage.
No 4. Not sure how Federer or Nadal feels about this – I suspect they’d much rather have Murray at No 4 for the Aus Open. Extreme heat and wind aren’t exactly a winning combination for Swedes. But let’s not jinx ourselves.
Gael Monfils. Two Paris finals in consecutive years, semifinal, quarterfinals at Roland Garros. All this points to one thing:
In this silly, acrobatic, playful overgrown kid, there’s a serious patriot. If there was one outcome of actual significance in the broad scheme of things coming out of this week, it’s that a Serbian Davis Cup victory is no longer a matter of presumption. They still have the upper hand, but as far warning shots go, the Frenchies made some things loud and clear this week. Point taken.
Congratulations Tommy Haas, who joined Wogie, Ljubes and the other daddies of the tour with the birth of his baby daughter. I don’t even need to see a photo to know that she’s a heartbreaking little beauty.
P.S. As I screamed rather shrilly on Twitter: I GOT AUSSIE OPEN FINAL TICKETS. A prayer circle for Doots that Roger Fuckerer actually makes the final.
If he doesn’t, I’m diving into the Yarra in despair.
If he does and loses, I’m diving into the Yarra and TAKING HIM DOWN with me.
If he does and wins, I’m still diving into the Yarra. Naked.
P.P.S. I sat in front of a designer clad woman at Wimbledon this year, who haughtily turned around to her husband during Serena v Sharapova and said: “did you know Serena Williams once told an Asian woman she was going to kill her?” Suffice to say, I was outraged.
This article underscores so much of how I feel about Serena Williams and the way she is often portrayed by the tennis media and fandom. (Clickey)
Post-loss smackdown. Read at your own risk. You have been warned by Miss Crankypants.
You know, I really, really told myself I wouldn’t care if he lost in Paris.
The truth is – I didn’t. Come on, it’s Pareeeeee. The one Masters that means abso-fucking-lutely nothing in the broad scheme of things unless your name is Marat Safin. It’s the time of the year when most of the top pros look solely to the Year End Championships and the off season.
The rat race is – for the most part – over for the year.
“So lose!” I said to Federbear, “if you win, all the better. But honestly, I’ve got you down for a loss to Melzer and a brief rest before London.”
And whadaya know? Even despite all my insistence that I won’t let him get to me this time, Roger Federer actually found a way to CAUSE MY NOSE TO BLEED nonetheless. Bravo, you fucking piece of GOAT LARD.
A distinction must be drawn here – it’s not the fact that he lost. Had Gael beat him 64 64 as he did Rafa in Doha in 2009, I would’ve been mildly annoyed, the way you’re “mildly annoyed” at a swarm of flies buzzing around your room. Nothing an Aussie can’t handle.
But NO. This isn’t about the fact that he lost, it’s the way that he lost it. I say this, having only seen the third set:
ROGER FEDERER, YOU FRIGGIN PRICKTARD.
For the 4th time this year, you’ve lost a match that you had match point in. Only this time, you didn’t just have 1 match point. 2 match points. No, not even three match points.
YOU HAD FIVE, SHTINKIN’ MATCH POINTS.
You had a WHOLE MONTH OF PERFECT, ENERGIZED, POSITIVE BUILD-UP.
You won TWO MICKEY MOUSE TOURNAMENTS IN A ROW coming into this (Stockholm and Basel).
You have a record of 7 non-slam finals in a row.
You had some demon-slaying, junkyard millionaire wins to prep you.
You had an opponent who – for fuck sake – is nicknamed Monfools for a reason.
You won more points than him. But STILL managed to lose the last one.
Congratulations, you’ve outshone yourself. I hope the Mighty Babes bite your fucking ears off when they start teething. I hope Mirka squirts onion juice IN YOUR FACE.
Oh, and yes. FEDERBEAR MUST DIE.
I wrote this yesterday about Gael Monfils:
Watching Monfils play, you sometimes wonder why he needs all the acrobatics. Sure, it’s his style, he’s capable of it, but often, when you see acrobatics get in the way of a solid win, you just wonder why, WHY THE FUCK can’t you just calm down and grow up for a bit?!
Yes. I jinxed it. I should’ve known. How is this different to the US Open, in any way?
Who woulda thunk it that the ONE MATCH Monfils decides to “grow the fuck up” is this one?
To be completely fair, Monfils played well on most of the match points. He worked the crowd without his usual antics. He took Federer to 3 tiebreaks where the playing field is level and ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN and will, in fact, happen.
For someone who actually likes Gael Monfils, that’s a good sign. It shows that, contrary to popular belief, he is capable of winning a match with his brand of entertaining tennis, without resorting to stunts. It shows some degree of maturity I hadn’t given him credit for in the past. (Pity about the douchemountain of a coach.)
But … just … NOT AGAINST FEDERER BITCH. I don’t care. When you find a reason why I should be rational about this, just shoot me.
And by the way, can we stop this bullshit where every player who gets one up on a staggering Federer is depicted as some kind of Everest-moving champion. The future of tennis. The “favourite” for … umm …
Give credit where it’s due. But it ain’t a licence to ignore the reality of a match.
One last smackdown must be executed in the most brutish style. I apologize if … oh wait, I don’t apologize. Not at all. Mats Wilander, ladies and gents:
“Rafael Nadal is the heavy favourite for the Australian Open,” the Swedish great declared, before his match against South African Wayne Ferreira as part of the Champions Downunder Tournament in Sydney on Friday.
“Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in the mix as well.”
No shit, genius. But wait, I feel a passive-aggressive stab somewhere in that statement. Ahh, here we go:
“Roger is always a threat. It will just be a harder time for him to get to any finals now,” Wilander said.
“Who knows with Federer being able to win in Melbourne. I think it will be more about survival for him.”
So lemme see:
A guy wins one slam, taking down a string of top 10 players.
He makes two slam quarterfinals and a slam semi, not to mention 7 non-slam finals: IN A ROW.
He wins a complete set of Masters, ATP 500 and ATP 250.
All this with a case of lung infection earlier in the year, and months of such obvious, public struggles to regain form, lugging twin daughters around with apparent ease, while being attacked left, right and centre by media nobodies.
And yet somehow, he still manages to finish the year as the undisputed No 2.
Name ONE player not named Nadal (a man 5 years his junior), who has managed results such as this.
Point me to a player on the ATP tour who WOULDN’T trade their best year for his worst?
Find me just ONE other sucker “struggling for survival” who has claimed more top 10 scalps since July 2010. This includes Nadal.
All this and more. And somehow, Federer’s “a threat” struggling for “survival” in this sport, while the others like Djokovic and Murray party merrily “in the mix” with the “favourite”.
Well … if this is a “case of survival”, then every other player but one on the ATP World Tour would be DEAD by now, you batshit insane piece of hypocritical asshat. Go play out your pathetic midlife crisis elsewhere.
PS. Oh Llodra. You used up the Pink Shirt magic. 😦
1. Hallelujah! I’ve emerged from the dark ages of exam and work stress into the beginnings of a beautiful Australian Spring.
Meanwhile, it seems that the spring in Roger Federer’s season has just dawned (ABOUT EFFING TIME!). We’ve come a long way since Woger McFed wrenched my gut into a million heart-shaped pieces, bleeding over the lawns of Wimbledon. He’s in a different place now, physically and mentally from the ‘16 slam burn-out’ he had back in March-July (although by “tennis burn-out” standards, two slam QFs and finals in Madrid and Halle barely register on the scale).
You sense it, as a fan. It’s amazing how well we get to know the subtleties of a player’s body language, his expression, the way he exudes a certain feeling. You notice the little changes: that extra sway in his tomcat walk; the calmness – as opposed to frantic shanks – with which he executes devastating shots; that focused nonchalance, as he slowly and calmly clenches his fist after winning a spectacular point, as if to say “oh it’s no biggie … brilliance is just me in the State of Nature, and the Leviathan is what you’re up against, BITCH.”
My point is that there has been a wind change. There is a presence of mind now that was lacking during the middle of the year. That’s not to say that he hasn’t had shanky-times in the past few weeks, or that he was playing total shitfuck tennis between the Australian Open and Wimbledon. It’s just that these days, he’s seeing the ball better. He’s executing better. There’s an extra spring in his step. Less demons. More focus.
Really, at the end of the day, this is my convoluted way of saying “OH-MAH-GAH! VAJAZZLE ME NAOOOOO!”
2. Watching Monfils play, you sometimes wonder why he needs all the acrobatics. Sure, it’s his style, he’s capable of it, but often, when you see acrobatics get in the way of a solid win, you just wonder why, WHY THE FUCK can’t you just calm down and grow up for a bit?!
The answer, I’m beginning to suspect, is that Monfils needs his little stunts the same way that other players need confidence. In fact, his showy performances are precisely confidence building. He’s a player who depends emotionally on a stroke of inspiration, which makes him entertainment and frustration all at the same time.
Or, to revert back to the wise words of Hootie and the Cookie Monster: like a cookie, Gael Monfils is a sometime food. Not substantial enough to be filling, at times sickening, but often, quite simply crunchy and deliiiish.
Monfils has a chance for the final: it’s Paris, and he’s a theatric player who needs a loving audience to thrive. If he was to ever beat Federer anywhere, surely, a best-of-3-set Bercy match is more likely to be his best chance?
Still, it’s hard to imagine that Federer, barring a temporary onset of tennis coma, would give him as many looks as Toothface gave him today.
3. Unless you’re just ideologically opposed to a particular player, it is almost impossible NOT to like someone’s A-game. At the end of the day, regardless of style or personality, good tennis is good tennis. It’s as black-and-white as that.
I’ve been catching up on some of Llodra’s matches in the last few days. One word: inspired.
How delightful and refreshing is his game? Especially on this surface, on this court.
All this is traced back, according to Dootsie’s Universal Theory of Everything-Is-About-Wogie, to that fateful pink shirt during the US Open series. The Magic Pink Shirt has been worth its weight in sweat … SWEAT OF EXCELLENCE BITCHES.
4. Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, Berdych, Ferrer, and Roddick. These 8 men make up the field at Whu-Thu-Fuh in London. My heart aches for Melzer, who barely missed out on what would’ve been a deserving spot in London.
(Moot point, but I hazard a guess that Melzer would’ve made things far more complicated for the top 5 than, say, Ferrer or Berdych. His smashed racquet after losing the tiebreak to Federer today probably showed the extent to which he’s NOT just another happy sucker, only too pleased to lose to Rog or Raf. Dude was genuinely bummed not to have taken the set off McFed.)
Nadal will end his 2nd year as the World No 1. With today’s win, Federer will end his 8th year in a row inside the top 2.
To think that at one point during 2010, the media speculated the demise of either or both of these players. “This is the end of Fedal!” claimed Agassi at the beginning of the year, proving himself to be more foolish than the man proclaimed the end of history.
How privileged our eyeballs are. How blessed the world of tennis.
5. If you ever needed a definition of Daddy’s Little Girl:
Let’s trade places, Mighty Babe! I WOULD SINK MY SPARKLY VAMPIRE FANGS INT YOUR DUDDY’S NECK ANY TIME!
Oh Wogie! You are the Edward to my Bella. (Yes, you just barfed a little into your own mouth.)
Courtesy of l’Illusté. If there’s a more charmed life, I haven’t seen it.
Off to sharpen my fangs and extinguish the fire burning up my ovaries.
Oh yeth Mr Cone. Nothing escapes the shaded eyes of Severin Luthi.
Many thanks to fellow Federbitch Sabine, who was on-site to take these beautiful photographs today/yesterday. In her own words, Roger was “focused and training really hard” …
… and clutching his man-ovaries after being PUNCHED BY HIS OWN AWESOMENESS, of course.
Oh yeah, his practice partner, who stole Rafa’s knees just for the occasion.
And is that Thierry Henry I spy there? Move over Tiger. Woger McFed could write a rad bromance without you.
Merci Sabine. Did Monkey show?