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.
1. As any player without a claim to history will tell you – tennis isn’t all about the slams.
And they might be right – judging from the reactions of last week’s victors.
For Nole and Venus, it was the satisfaction of defending their territory. Winning a tournament once says you had a great week, defending it the second time round turns it into surrogate home turf.
For Ernie and Kleybs on the other hand, they’ll look back on last week with some nostalgia in the years to come. A maiden title is always an important milestone, no matter where you go from there.
2. If only I knew where Ernie will go from here. I used to like Gulbiscuit. I want to like Gulbiscuit again. He had me on the bandwagon in 08 before he pushed me off.
Well, I ain’t rushing back this time – it’s going to take a lot more than “Delray Beach” to bring me back onboard.
How do I know that in 5 years time, I won’t be sitting here wondering what happened to Ernests Gulbis the same way I wonder about what happened to “that other guy from Wham”?
What did happen to the other guy from “Wham!” anyway?
3. While we’re on the topic of Delray Beach winners, what’s going on these days with Kei Nishikori? Apart from a big fat nothing that is.
4. Not the best 31st birthday for Dr Ivo, but a final ain’t so bad. He’ll live with that.
5. It ain’t a maiden title, but Nole defended a title for the first time in his career in Dubai and he did it, as Brad Gilbert would say, by “winning ugly” – edging out his opponents in a series of tiresome 3-setters.
But can you begrudge him the victory? Would you like that with an asterisk too?
Of course not.
There was a time, back in 06-07, when I found Novak Djokovic overwhelming.
First I loved him and found him fun. Then I despise him and thought he was foul. I admired his tennis, which was fearsome and exhilarating. Mostly, I just didn’t know what to do with his “in-your-faceness”.
These days, I can barely summon any emotions either way for Djoko. He learned to be correct and diplomatic in the media. He learnt to play like a pusher and unlearned how to serve. Outside the slams, he plays more tournaments than anyone else in the top 4 and is the most consistent player.
The problem, for me, is that he’s too consistently underwhelming. Be it semis or finals, or the opportunistic title runs in Beijing, Bercy or Dubai against a depleted field, Djokovic sits like a big pile of blah in my tennis peripheral vision, and I can neither love him nor hate him.
What say you on Djoko?
6. As the Winter Olympics came to an end today, I wondered how Tennis Nation would deal with someone like Plushenko. I wondered what would happen if a Wimbledon finalist came out and said: “you can’t win Wimbledon if you don’t serve and volley. All the baseline rallies, it’s not grass court tennis, it’s like squash.”
Yes, Plushenko’s a complete tool. But he’s good and he knows it.
Not only does he know it, he’s so convinced of his own superiority that he won’t have anyone tell him otherwise.
I’m twisted enough to find that refreshing.
7. I’m also twisted enough to find Andy Murray’s brutal candour this week refreshing, after he managed to piss off a second tournament organiser in a row this week in Dubai. (Full story)
I personally don’t mind what he said, given that Mandy doesn’t exactly have high EQ. Perhaps more revealing is his constant reference to “what would Roger do“. Don’t deny it dude, you secretly care more about him than you do anyone else.
8. Am I the only person in Tennis Nation who loves Alisa Kleybanova?
She’s everything opposite of an elegant player: she hits her groundstrokes as if she’s playing tennis with a fry-pan. She looks off-balance 90% of the time on court. The remaining 10%, when she’s serving. She’s not built like a tennis player, which is a gentle way of putting it, nor does she move like one.
These are precisely the reasons why I enjoy watching her. Her crap is inexplicably good, as she demonstrated yesterday with her complete dominance over Dementieva.
Really. She’s just sweet and totally squishable.
9. Since the first week of 2010, Elena Dementieva has played the Hopman Cup, Sydney, Australian Open, Paris and Kuala Lumpur. I say this for her benefit: get out of my face.
10. Venus defends her second title in a row, winning Acapulco and mirroring her results this time last year. She now has the second highest number of clay court titles on tour (behind Henin). Not what you’d expect from the Queen of Grass, but it’s what you’d expect from a player who’s good enough to play “BYO tennis” on her worst surface and still perform respectably.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing Venus on a good run. Retirement my arse.
Yes Dina, I’m a terrible person:
Cheers erupted on Centre Court in Beijing as Zhang Shuai (not to be confused with Peng Shuai) took out the “Real World No 1” Dinara Safina 75 76.
Zhang, ranked 226 in the world, has never won a match in the second round of a main draw before. She appeared to have no conceivable weapon other than her ability to absorb pace, which happened to exactly what Dina was sending her.
To be fair, it’s not like Dina knows how to play any other way. Much better players would’ve had trouble winning a match with 51 unforced errors and 13 double faults. But I guess that’s precisely the trouble with women’s tennis right now, you wish the No 1 player was “the better player”, or “the best player”. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of correlation between quality and ranking when it comes to Dinara.
Also out of the tournament is Venus Williams, who lost to Pavs for the second time in two weeks 36 61 64.
Shockingly for Venus, she committed 14 double faults with no aces over the course of the 3 sets. Colour me surprised if that knee is properly healed. I’m almost in favour of Venus just calling it a year rather than flailing physically and making matters worse.
This is, however, a damn good picture.
On the men’s side of things in Beijing, Cilic, Ferrero, and Robredo all came through in straight sets, while Kohlschreiber took out Dr Ivo in 3, breadsticking him along the way. Anyone who breadsticks Ivo Karlovic deserves a multitude of my love and affection.
And we had 3 Novak Djokovics. Basically my worst nightmare.
In Tokyo, the Swiss are showing the tennis world that they can be awesome without some potato-nosed hubby-of-Vavrinec.
Well, no they can’t. Nice try anyway.
Marco Chiudinelli “upset” Dudi Sela 46 61 64 to secure his own career high ranking in the top 100, while Stan had a good 64 64 victory over John Isner. A good word for Marco, he’s been playing a lot better than his ranking would indicate ever since the Us Open.
Not to mention, they both looked oh-so-pretty, who needs the other Swiss with these two around?
Who am I convincing?
You know times are dark if I’m picspamming about Nole playing golf in Beijing…
Or perving Rafa’s presscon facial massages …
Temptations. They are everywhere.
For the first time in my life, I can safely say that Andy Roddick looked adorkable at the Beijing Airport.
That freaks me out.
FACT: Homelessness is a huge problem on the ATP tour.
The Davis Cup semifinals and World Group play-offs are underway this weekend across 3 continents. What we love about the DC is that it’s filled with manhugs, bromances, and Swiss campfires. It all comes down to having “the spirit”.
What we hate about DC is that no one cares enough to televise much of the action.
The hobo in the picture, also known as Stefan Koubek or more widely as “Federer’s Practice Buddy”, came back from two sets to love down, only to lose to Capdeville 6-4 in the fifth.
Earlier Massu defeated Melzer to give Chile a 2-0 lead over Austria.
In other ties, Gael Monfils appears to be still missing his marbles as he was stunned by birthday boy Thiemo de Bakker in 4 sets. WHO?
Only marginally more dependable, Jo-Willy did his bit for la Republique and leveled proceedings with a comfortable win over Jesee Huta Galung.
Also tied at one all are Sweden and Romania with Soderling and Hanescu both scoring wins on each side. This means, as le Sod tweeted, “no party til Sunday“.
You gotta feel for Ahndee Mooray. It sucks to be this good on a team that’s this bad. But Toothface felt compelled to save Britain’s Davis Cup hopes from full scale extinction by playing with a bum wrist.
Martyr. That boy.
It’s all very well, until you realise that this is only a zonal play-off, and even with his martyrdom, GB is tied at 1-1 against Poland.
Hey Muzz, there are some things worth sacrificing yourself for.
For others, call a sicky.
Onto more riveting stuff, the two Davis Cup semifinal ties were contrasting affairs.
The deep-pockets of Spain delivered time and time again, as Ferrer and Ferrero both score straight set wins over surprise semifinalist Israel. Color me surprised if Spain doesn’t successfully defend its Davis Cup title this year.
On the other hand, the efforts of the Czech Republic in putting themselves into a 2-0 lead over Croatia have been nothing short of epic, eliciting man-hugs all round.
It took Radek Stepanek five hours 59 minutes to beat Dr Ivo 67 76 76 67 16-14 in a match that featured Ivo raining down a staggering 78 aces, besting the world record (his own) by 23. Yeah Ivo, spank that ace.
Random thought: if it took Karlovic and the Worm almost 6 hours to finish the match, how long would it have taken if played between Rafa and Djoko?
And just in case you weren’t exhausted by the Ivo v Worm mindfuckery,
Berdych then took almost another 4 hours to ‘shock’ Marin Cilic, 63 63 36 46 63. Tough luck for the Red Hot Cilic Peppers, the picnic blanket brought him no mojo this time.
As for the Swiss… errr, WHAAAAA-
As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted by Kanye, the Swiss sailed to a 2-0 lead over the Italians, with Stan and Roger both winning comfortably in 3 sets.
Roger Federer, THE WANKER, made 66% first serves, 10 aces, 0 DFs.
The “if-onlys” killed me.
He converted a respectable 6/15 break points. Umm … if you need me, I’ll be in my backyard, digging a hole and throwing my Federbear into it.
No Roger, not even a smiley Monkey Face will save you from my rage.
Although, I did discover the Swiss voodoos behind Roger’s rare break point conversion success:
Roger aside, the rest of the Swiss team was the epitome of cool.
Even Luthi had “the spirit thing” going.
I may be prepared to forgive Roger if he brings back that Fedrinka campfire.
Not to be denied,
HOT! Toothy smiles from gorgeous boys.
NOT! So you think you can dance … dance … dance …
“Spank that ace” vs “the Robot Worm”
HOT! Feliciano Lopez. Period.
NOT! Feliciano Lopez eating a shoe.
AP Photo/Carlo Baroncini
HOT! His Royal Gorgeousness.
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
NOT! WC janitors.
HOT! Davis Cup bromance.
NOT! Best-of-five set matches days after the US Open.
All Masha Fierce needed was a pair of silver heels to boogey to her heart’s content. Not a fan of the randomness of this dress, nor do I like the silver bandana. But you can’t go too wrong with black.
You can go wrong however, with vomit coloured outfits.
I hate Stella. She’s the definition of bland fug.
But the result is the same – Maria and CWoz both scored convincing wins in their first round matches. Maria’s serve looked much better in this match then it did a few weeks ago. A girl can hope, can’t she?
A day of convincing wins for most of the big names in women’s tennis. Even JJ looked close to her 2008 form, burning up the tennis court and our retinas in a scarlet frock. I am starting to get good vibes for JJ again. Good stuff.
No one, least of all Ana Ivanovic herself, is getting any good vibes for her. For the first time in her career, Ana Ivanovic lost in the first round of a slam. Just when you think she couldn’t possibly do any worse than last year, Ana sinks to new lows, losing to K.Bond 2-6 6-3 7-6(7).
Something needs to be done or the girl is headed for the quagmire of confusion known as Vaidisova-Land. Just don’t ask what Ana wants t do about it:
Q. So you’re going to take a long vacation or are you just going to work, work, work again?
ANA IVANOVIC: I honestly don’t know. I really don’t know. I have to think about some things first on my own and then with the team and discuss and see what’s going to be the best.
Obviously I’m very, you know, motivated to get back in the top, but it just feels like I was saying it just feels like Catch‑22, because I constantly playing and trying to play at the level that I feel I’m not at. It’s disappointing and it’s frustrating, so I just want to get a time and work hard on like all the match, off competition.
I’m so over this.
You know who else I am also over? Dinara Safina, who was true to her Safin roots today in her match against my teenage compatriot Olivia Rogowska, defeating Olivia 6-7 6-2 6-4. Olivia did well to keep up with Safina, but most of the match was just Safina battling with her self and her insecurities.
Good news for those with some lingering faith in Australian tennis – Rogowska may not have star quality, but she looked top 30 today. Five facts for the Aussie teen:
1. The biggest name she’s managed to beat this year on the WTA tour is Maria Kirilenko, at the French Open.
2. She was born and raised in Melbourne.
3. Her Polish father used to coach her, until she beat him when she was 13, and he wisely moved on.
4. She claims she grew up on clay. Err … I don’t know how that happened.
5. She is currently at a career high ranking of 167.
On the men’s side of things, the Concubine gave away a two set lead to Lapentti, surrendering 46 36 76 76 63. A plunge down the rankings await the Swiss.
Meanwhile, Navarro scored an impressive win over Ivo “spank that ace” Karlovic.
So … what were we saying about Murray’s draw again?
Just goes to show how completely useless and irrelevant draw analysis is.
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,
Still wondering how it took me two years to discover this. It’s so craptastic, it makes me want to listen to Masha Fierce play Michelle Larcher de Brito.
Oh don’t you snigger Federer fans, you’re not that much better. Anyone who rhymes “Federer” with “shrederer” should be jailed.
Mentioning craptasticness, who’s up for some Dr Ivo rap?
Don’t lie. You totally just drooled barf.
Mirror mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fugliest of them all?
Yes folks, those are indeed the new mug shots the ATP put up on its website for their players’ profiles. Were the instructions “pretend the photographer’s Etienne de Villiers?”
Go-Thug-Yourself Honourable Mention: Fernando Gonzalez for his “big eye small eye” stare-down.
Go-Thug-Yourself Third Place: Gilles Simon, for his drug mule impersonation.
Go-Thug-Yourself Second Place: Jo-Willy Tsonga, for managing to make his face look so out of proportion that it’s medically alarming
Go-Thug-Yourself Grand Prize: Radek Stepanek, for perfectly capturing the sultry, sexy fug that the ATP photographer was aiming for.
And congratulations to the photographer for making Roger Federer, who incidentally has the best skin, look like he has forehead acne instead of sweat beads. That takes serious skills.