Tag Archive | James Blake

Indian Wells: Double Trouble.

Each year, Indian Wells proves to be one of the least fruitful tournaments for the doubles specialists of the game. There you are, wrapped in your own little bubble, ranked No 3 in the world and no doubt feeling rather doozy about the size of your balls … until the richest man in tennis sashays in with his Ewok-looking minion and flicks you out of the tournament in 49 minutes.

BOOM. You are hit with the realisation that your balls will never be as big as the size of McFed’s ego and TALENT. Life’s tough, ain’t it?

Stans Photo

All that was a long winded way of saying that Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray all came through their first round doubles match today. In fact, the only top 10 player who isn’t playing doubles this week in Indian Wells happens to one gentleman named Andy Roddick. With this strong a field, it might be slim pickings for the actual “doubles specialists” who do this on a day in, day out basis.

While we’re on the topic of Wogie McArsserer, dude has announced today that he will play Monte Carlo this year, after skipping the tournament in 2010. It’s a good call, as he will be defending close to nothing for the next 4 tournaments and could in fact consolidate a strong position in the rankings before the Roland Garros-Wimbledon bonanza rolls around.

But his Indian Wells campaign is due to be off to a rather uncertain start – Wogie faces Igor Andreev, the-right-handed-Nadal-but-shit second round. The last two matches he has played against Andreev at the US Open 2008 and Australian Open 2010 both caused my stomach acid to burn all the way through to my ovaries. FRACKITY FRACKING FUDGEBALLS!

Careful dude, you might be in doubles for longer than in singles.

Lundgrens Photo

In singles tennis, it was as tough day for the Aussies, as Not-a-Fucking-Tourist played like a fucking tourist to be bundled out of the tournament by Sara Errani. Lleyton was sent packing in straight sets by Rendy Lu, 62 63, and Chris Gooch lost to wildcard James Flake (oh remember him?), 36 63 62.

Lu

Blake

Unfortunately, the aTomic remains an Aussie hope in the Indian Wells draw, due to face Victor Trotsky next round in a Clash of the Classness. I would rate this match on a scale of 1 to annoying, except the mercury might blow right through the scale.

That’s all for today. With so much tennis going on, you’d be surprised to know that there is absolutely no stream coverage of the event. Time for Indian Wells to join the 21st century, I say!

xx doots

Thrill and Kill.

I feared that this might be humiliating, and no one wanted humiliation. At least I didn’t. Not for one of my favourites in men’s tennis that predates even Roger Federer.

It’s a bizarre affinity – James Blake doesn’t have much subtlety to his game, suicide tennis is often confused with aggressive shot-making, the concept of having a Plan B is non-existent to his game. Actually, at times, I’m not sure that he even has a Plan A.

Speed? I’ve seen faster. Forehand? There’s Federer (there’s always Federer). And hell, I didn’t even like Fed back in day.

But once in a while, you see a player on court who plays tennis like he fucking means it AND doesn’t give a damn AT THE SAME TIME.

How else can you explain it?

Shortcomings aside, Blake will persistently bang away Kamikaze-styled, until he either wins or self-destructs. And of course, there’s the story of his amazing comeback from injury, the surprising intelligence and thoughtfulness in someone who should’ve fallen into the “jock” category. As far as “representing American tennis” goes, this guy has done a pretty good job.

But really, I can’t quite put my finger on it – I just like the guy. He’s ‘thrill and kill’, he’s ‘do or die’ and I’ll be damned if there isn’t something sickly entertaining in that.

The question for me these days is whether he has overachieved in his career or underachieved. At one stage, Nadal could not withstand his flat, zinging groundstrokes. At one stage, he had Roger Federer on the ropes in the Indian Wells 2006 final before Federer began to neutralise the blows. At one stage, it looked like he could walked away from his career with an Olympic medal.

In this sense, James Blake is a perennial underachiever for someone with his weapons. Yet his weapons come with their foibles, as I listed at the start. You saw them on full display in the second set tiebreak against Djokovic today (Blake lost 61 76 63): easy opportunities dunked into the net, double faulting when he couldn’t afford even a second serve – it’s mental, it’s strategic, execution. It’s the whole fucking lot. As always, you walk away from a Blake match thinking “if only he had …”

But that’s the story of his career, isn’t it?

And where to now?


JAMES BLAKE: I don’t know. I’m going to take a little break. I need the body to completely heal up. I felt better than I have in a while the last couple matches. I know I still need to feel really 100% and ready to go after this to move forward to feel like I’m really playing well again. So I’m going to take a little break. Probably start in Stockholm. I think that’s in about six weeks.

I really hope that wasn’t my last match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I definitely want to be back here next year. If it was, you know, I competed my heart out. I did everything I could. But I think I got more in me and I think I’m going to be back there. Maybe more night matches, some more excitement for the crowds, some more good times.

You know, I definitely believe that. I hope it comes true next year.

It sounds a little desperate. Reading it made me sad – I hadn’t realised it was time to say goodbye. Yes he fell down the rankings, but Blake’s been injured. Watching him today, he didn’t look slower, he didn’t look like he had lost the forehand, the serve, the footwork that made him into the player he once was. He just looked like a player lacking matches, put under the spotlight against one of the top seeds.

I hope he’ll be back for another hurrah. I don’t see a twilight run of a major title in him. (But then again, I didn’t see Ljubicic winning Indian Wells either, so what do I know?) Nonetheless, the corny part of me wants him to ride off into a proper sunset, not silently into a dark, rainy night with no one to applaud.

And there is so much strength, talent and perseverance to applaud there.

So US Open 2011. It’s a date, y/y?

xx doots

roger

PS. Roger won. No dramas. No complications. The wind be damned.

I spend half my time freaking out because I worry that he won’t win easily, but when he does, I’m worried that he won too easily and will thus walk into a fourth round or quarterfinal slugfest without the requisite match toughness. AM I BEING A RETARD?

PPS. I’m trying to write about the non-Federers while I still can. (Read: while Roger’s doing this drama-less thing). It’s all part of Dootsie’s Principle of Blogging Equity. I won’t succeed in upholding it, but I have to at least try. AND YET, trying is hard when McSmokin keeps combusting my ovaries. Have you read this? CLICKEY!!!

PPPS. Lordy have you seen Mirka’s bangs?

PPPPS. And her BAG?

(… okay, I was *that* girl in high school, I think we all have *that* girl in us. Even if you don’t have a vagina.)

SHUTUPDOOTSYOUREEMBARRASSINGYOURSELF.

US Open Day 1: Remember the fallen.

As Day 1 of the US Open draws to a close, we’re all still reeling from the disgusting talent of Roger Federer. But let us spare a moment to remember those taken from us too soon.

Goodbye, Evgeny Korolev (ret v Nishikori 67 25). This world needs more Baby Marats.

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Au revoir, Dimitry (lost v Melzer, 46 26 63 63 64 26). This world needs more Tursunov tales.

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And Gonzo, for whom years of grind, wear and tear has resulted in some bodily payback.

Gonzo

James Blake. Technically not out of the tournament. Not yet. But as I watched him being honored during Monday night’s opening ceremonies for overcoming scoliosis, I felt a pang of sadness. Not just because he looked like a bald Obama. But for his fall from relevance. You wish that every tale of resilience and will came with a Hollywood ending.

blake

And at the end of the day, even Hewitt can’t keep winning grueling 5 setters forever. He lost to Mathieu 6-3 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-1. This was – after all – no real surprise. Even in health and good form, PHM would be a tough first round draw for Rusty, but he made a match of it. In typical Lleyton fashion, he took it to five sets when he had no business losing it in any way other than straight sets. What more can you ask for from a veteran you’ve grown used to, or even like, in the past few years?

But with this loss, very sombre questions are being raised in the Australian media surrounding Hewitt’s future (example). No one enjoys watching a player with 41 wins at Flushing Meadows (bettered only by Fed’s 51 among current players) humbled in the first round. Especially not his home country, for whom Hewitt still represents our best hope at men’s slam glory, which equates to no hope at all.

No. If there is that one last hurrah left in Lleyton, it lies not in an Ivanisevic-like miracle, but in something completely different: in a tournament more prone to upsets, more uplifting at times, though mostly insignificant these days. The Davis Cup.

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They say history has a funny way of repeating itself. What they don’t mention is that most of the time, we are absolutely powerless to stop past mistakes from unfolding.

Dinara Safina is taking the same miserable, self-tortuous path that her brother Marat took not so long ago. The only difference is that Marat got over himself long enough to win a slam or two before he headed for the wild moors of tennis exile.

For Safina fans, her results last week in New Haven sparked some hope, when she beat Dani Hantuchova – her conqueror today. But today, there was no such magic. Even Hantochova’s attempts to implode in both sets couldn’t aid Safina in her quest to reestablish a presence in women’s tennis.

I think we’re done with her for the rest of the year. Possibly the next too. Or even …

Alas. Against the dying of the light, in nostalgia or in the futility of rage, we will remember you.

xx doots

Miami: So there’s tennis going on in Florida, I hear.

But what would I know? Since there was no actual coverage of the tournament.

1. Can’t say I’m sorry to have missed this match though: Rochus def Djokus 62 67 64. Can’t even say it surprised me.

Never mind Dubai, Nole’s game has been falling apart since the start of the year. And Oliver Rochus has giant-killing tendencies, almost booted Fed out of Miami one year, if I remember correctly.

“I wasn’t attacking,” Djokovic said. “I was just kind of waiting for him to make the shots, and it wasn’t the right approach. He was making me run a lot, so points were really long. That was exhausting.”

Exhausting? No kidding. Like a cartoon character, Oliver Rochus has legs that run fast enough to leave a cloud of dust hovering waist down. And he now leads Djoko in their career H2H: 3-1.

But at the end of the day, Djoko went “Ivano” on us. 11 double faults, a steady flow of unforced errors and a smashed racquet later, he was booed off court by the Miami crowd, who evidently didn’t appreciate the moody vibes.

At least Ana waited til she was No 1 to start her free fall.

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2. Speak of the deviless, the “Ana Ivanovic Prayer Circle” can now breathe a sigh of relief: she won a match – in straight sets too, thus ending a 4 match winning streak.

No actually hold that breath, because she’s due to play Aga next, and it doesn’t get any easier from there on.

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3. Nole’s departure signaled the start of the culling in the bottom quarter of the draw:
Blake could not hold off Bellucci, conceding the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, while Querrey was quelled by Chardy 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

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4. After her early loss to Gisela Dulko last week, I expected Justine to run into some trouble against Demmy. But she was surprisingly solid on serve, wrapping up the win in straight sets 63 62. Easy peasy.

Not that I saw any of it, no thanks to the lack of coverage.

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5. Hormone-gate!

Wayne Odesnik pleaded guilty to importing eight vials containing eight milligrams of performance-enhancing human growth hormone into Australia, ahead of the Brisbane International this year.

Odesnik was fined over AUD$8000 for his conduct by the Brisbane Magistrates Court and the matter has been referred onto ITF, which could decide to ban him for 2 years.

The ATP released a statement to the AP, saying that they were

“extremely disappointed in the behavior of this individual, which is in no way representative of the sport of tennis”.

The ITF had no comments.

“The case has been referred to the tennis anti-doping program, and we don’t have any further comment. It’s just like any other case that gets referred to the anti-doping program, we don’t have a comment on it.”

But Randy did have something to say:

“There’s nothing worse than that [HGH]. That’s just plain cheating, and they should throw him out of tennis. There’s just no room for it.”

Jimmy Blake said he didn’t know Odesnik well, but liked the guy well enough.

“I wouldn’t say shocked is the word, because sports is a business and people are trying to find ways to get ahead and that’s unfortunate. I wish it didn’t happen in sports, but I think we’re all realistic in the fact that it does happen and we do the best possible job of policing. … I hope it doesn’t sully our sport as much. You want to feel like you’re playing on a fair playing field. I’ve always felt we have in the ATP.

“It’s the same thing you hear about the criminal next door – he seemed like a nice guy until they found something going on,” Blake said. “People look for a way to get ahead, and that’s unfortunate.

“It’s something that’s frustrating. You want to feel like you’re playing on a fair playing field. I’m glad they caught him.”

Canas, who retired last week to coach Odesnik, found himself dragged into a drug controversy once more. During Canas’ career, he received a 2 year ban from tennis after testing positive to a masking agent. There were mitigating circumstances found, and he eventually received an undisclosed sum and a shortened ban of 15 months.

“I heard this morning, but really I don’t know anything,” Canas said. “It’s tough for me to speak because I don’t know anything.”

Who know coaching could be so incriminating?

And more importantly, why did it take a national law enforcement authority to find a cheater in the sport of tennis?

Given Andre’s revelations late last year, and the lack of any records indicating that Odesnik tested positive previously for HGH, it’s time the ATP and ITF starts treating the issue of doping more stringently. Incidents like these do much to sully the reputation of the sport and public confidence in fair play.

Picket Fence Newsreel: the Giant Wobble.

1. WTA tennis sans Williams usually involves top seeds falling like dominoes. The upset bug is highly contagious, and it spreads fast amongst self-doubters and mental midgets. Justine Henin is neither of those things. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her.

But it did, as she fell victim to Gisela Dulko and the Pink Curse, 62 16 64.

Didn’t see a single game of the match, but the serve and general overplaying were to blame for the travesty. Can’t say I’m surprised about either. The third set of the Australian Open could’ve gone Henin’s way had she decided not to hit the snot out of the ball on every service return.

When Justine Henin came back from her 18 month sabbatical, the key difference is the aggressive mindset with which she returned. Yet at times, Justine seems to be unable to find the balance between aggression and doing enough to win.

Is it a matter of tactic or execution? Where will she fall on that fine line between aggression and self-destruction, kamikaze-styled?

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2. Justine was not the only person affected by the tennis wobbles. CWoz had her fair share of scares, going down 1-4 against Vania King in the third set before pulling out a victory, 5-7 6-2 6-4. Meanwhile, Stella McCartney continues to be a plague on the Adidas House with this awful design.

Masha Fierce was two points away from double-faulting out of tournament in the second round against Vera Dush, before she found some semblance of consistency to level the match at one set a piece. She eventually closed out the third set convincingly, 46 75 62. Good fight back, I just wish we had seen that first round at the Australian Open.

Masha

Olga Govortsova might’ve lost to Demmy in 3 sets, but she scored with her cute little K-Swiss gear. I’ve never liked a pink outfit more.

Olga

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3. On the men’s side of things, it was a quiet day as Blake and Nalbandian, the only noteworthy names scheduled today, both came away with straight-set wins.

A Federbandian quarterfinal is still on the cards, folks. Save your frazzles and keep your fingers glued crossed that Roger – oh hai Squishy Pie – doesn’t fuck this up.

And I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put James Blake in wash-out pink, but stop it. Just … stop.

Blake

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4. It happens so often: a player like Federer or Nadal loses in a slam to a major challenger and questions of “is this the end” are raised.

In the case of Rafa, these questions take a specific angle – can his body handle it? Is he capable of playing a full season without injury? Will his dominance ever only come in spurts, rather than eras?

Well … a cutie-patootie picture for y’all while you contemplate those question.

Unlike the media, Rafael Nadal doesn’t ask himself those questions. At least if he does, we’ll never know about it.

“My feeling was I ready to win,” Nadal said. “I was believing I can win the tournament there. I had the chance against Andy, had break in the first, break in the second, and I was playing at very good level. Both players played really well, and I feel like I was at the top the whole time.”

I don’t know about being “at the top the whole time”. To me, it sounded like a few years back, when Djoko lost to Rafa in straight sets at Roland Garros and rocked up at the press conference saying “I felt like I was in control“.

In a way, I get Rafa’s pointIt’s easy to get carried away with all this doom and gloom. If there’s one thing I learnt from Fed’s year in 2009, it’s that form is only temporary, but class is forever. A few good tournaments could be all it takes for Rafa to rampage through the clay and grass seasons.

“I think my feeling the level is much better now,” he said. “If I am healthy, just play the tournaments that I have on the schedule, I have good chances.”

Yet despite his injuries, Rafa stated that he does not intend to cut back on his clay season schedule (down for Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, Madrid and Roland Garros).

“The only thing what I did, what I changed two times, I didn’t play in Hamburg [now the week of Madrid]. But I really don’t want to change if it’s possible.”

Source: tennis.com

Can’t say that I think it’s a good idea. But Rafa’s the best judge, I’m sure. As long as you’re not injured by August dude.

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5. Alicia Molik and Elena Baltacha through to the third round with wins over seeded players. The latter became the first British woman to beat a top 10 player in 12 years. Nice things are happening to nice people at last, after a string of injuries and health issues.

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6. It seems that Lady Jaja is no longer pissed at Roger. Pfft, that’s called ‘Girl World’ for ya.

I just turned 25, and I’ve been on the tour so many years and played so many matches, Our season is so long that even in our offseason, which is short, you are training and your body wears out. It’s not how old you are, but how many miles you have put on your body and how many hours you’ve been out there. Many days, you wake up and everything hurts. You feel slow and heavy. A couple of years ago, I never got tired, I could run around the court and travel all over the place, and now I’m really feeling it.

You have to find ways to stay motivated, and that’s why I admire Roger Federer, because he never gets injured or tired or lacks motivation. It’s amazing. People think you are at the top of the game and you can be there for 10 years and it’s really hard. Even if you really love the sport, your body can’t do it. And then your game starts breaking down, you’re getting injured and your mind isn’t there either. It’s tough.

Source: MSN/Fox Sports

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Squishy.

xx doots

Sunday Confessions.

1. Poo-poo to all naysayers. Maria Sharapova crushed Sofia Arvidsson 62 61 to win the Cellular South Cup in Memphis. Yeah yeah, it’s a minor event. Yeah yeah, she didn’t have to beat a player in the top 50.

But the win was just what the doctors ordered to bounce back from her disappointing first round exit at the Australian Open. It also moves her up to No 13, within striking distance of the top 10 just before the duo jackpots of Indian Wells and Miami.

“I feel great. I came here for matches – I got five and I got the win, so it was a good week. I served and returned well – two things that are very important indoors.

“I also did the right things against Sofia. I worked hard after the Australian Open and little by little things are coming along.”

“I’m getting there. The more matches I play, the more confident I get. From there, things will start to fall into place and the instinct will come back a little more.”

2. And kudos to Memphis. The winner’s trophy was just what I’d expect from a good ol’ fashioned tennis tournament in a good ol’ fashioned kinda town.

It’s small, it’s practical, none of that avant garde art crap some tournaments give out these days.

3. Player of the Week: Venus Williams, who certainly defied my expectations at the start of the tournament in defending her title and doing it in style. The final she played against Vika showcased her best tennis since Wimbledon last year – hard, fast and ever-so-graceful.

It’s about time the Tennis Media stopped asking questions of Venus Williams. Sure – we expect a lot from her: she’s a champion and a Williams to boot. She should, and could always do better.

But at some point, this “what have you done for me lately” attitude needs to stop. The woman made quarterfinals in Melbourne and won the title in Dubai. Show her a little respect, ’cause those results are more than what the WTA No 2 and 3 can boast this year.

4. Despite the loss, it was a good week for Victoria Azarenka, the bright young thang of the WTA.

Watching the final today, I was struck by the contrast between the maturity and grace of Venus and the headstrong vivaciousness of Vika. In the end, it was one of those days when Venus Williams just plays steadier, tougher and better. And Vika was left looking a little tender and naive in her matching pink shoelaces and hair tie.

I wonder what will Azarenka be like when she loses that youthfulness. I wonder if I’ll still like her as much.

5. I love James Blake’s game. It’s exhilarating, it’s furious, but oddly devoid of any sense of venom. And by all accounts, Blake seems like one of the few genuinely nice guys that I’ve actually liked as a player.

And be it Del Potro at the Australian Open or Andy Roddick in Memphis, James Blake still has the game to trouble any player in the top 10. But it stops at “troubling” and falls short of “winning”.

Go back and watch some of Roger’s matches from 2000-1. There was a quality in him back in the day that reminded me of Blake. It’s the Kamikaze-styled tennis they play: walloping the snot out of every ball that’s remotely within their striking zones, playing low-percentage shots that either ended with the crowd on their feet or groaning into their armpits, living and dying by their own sword. It’s electrifying to watch 50% of the time, awful the rest. There’s a lot of raw talent but little subtlety.

The point is, Roger Federer stopped playing that way. He developed more craft in his game. James Blake hasn’t.

6. Another man who hasn’t come very far in the last few years, Ernie Gulbis made it back into my attention this week, briefly, when he upset Berdych to reach the semifinal in Memphis.

If you were following tennis at the end of 2007, you might’ve kept your peripheral vision on 3 teenagers coming up on the men’s tour – Gulbis, del Potro and Cilic. All born within a few months of each other, all came with their own “money shots” and a whole lotta raw power. If you had asked me back then to pick the front runner out of the 3, I might’ve gone with Gulbis.

But 3 years down the track, del Potro has a slam. Cilic is in the top 10 with a string of scalps and on an upward trajectory.

Gulbis on the other hand, is still wandering in the wild moors of this sport. While his contemporaries are strutting the court with a sense of quiet ambition, Gulbis is still playing with all the brashness of his 19-year-old self. The beard and the disheveled hair do so little to hide the lack of growth.

Will there ever be growth? Or will Ernie continue to emanate that sense of sheer impotence?

Your guess is as good as mine.

7. One guy who has grown in leaps and bounds – John Isner. He’s through to the Memphis final to face Sam Querrey and decide on THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN TENNIS.

Or something along those lines.

If you thought big servers were boring, you obviously haven’t watched Isner a lot. As hard as it must be for a bunch of tennis purists to fathom, John Izzy is inexplicably enjoyable to watch.

Or maybe I’m just hypnotized by his gutsy boyishness.

Oh you cutiepatootie you!

xx doots

Down Under: Busy in Brissy.

As a relatively low-key first event of the year, the Brisbane International has a knack of attracting the comeback crowd. 

While Henin won her first match back on tour with a thriller, Kim Clijsters has been blasting her way through the draw, taking just 60 minutes to crush Alicia Molik 6-0 6-3. It’s time to face the music – we really, really suck. 

It only took two games for the crowd to realise that Clijsters had arrived in Australia even better than she was back in the US last year – moving seamlessly, hitting clean and sharp groundies off both wings. 

The Aussie commentators got one thing right: Kim’s playing like a No 1 player right now. 

Molik on the other hand came back on tour with only half the serve that she had before. 

 

 

“My first service game set the tone. I had a lot of opportunities. And when you apply scoreboard pressure on your opponent you get a few more errors,” Molik said.

“Kim ran away with it. She got a lot of confidence and it was difficult for me to get a lot of rhythm in that first set. I found some in the second but it was too late.

“Had I served better I would have been in the match and given myself a shot.

“She played incredibly clean tennis, hit the spots and didn’t give me a look in to attack or any short balls.”

 

With all sides salivating at an all-Belgian final, Clijsters said she can’t wait to play Justine again.

 

“It would be a good challenge but there’s a lot of other girls I can look forward to playing as well: Ana Ivanovic, (Maria) Sharapova, Venus and Serena (Williams),” she said.

“Those big matches are what you do this for. We love to play tennis to play in those kinds of matches.

“So, hopefully, Justine and I get ourselves into that position, whether it’s here or Melbourne or whenever this year.”

 

It’s been too long since the last Belgian civil war, I tell ya. 

Clijsters meets one of my faves Lucie Safarova next round, who scored a dominant win over Aleksandra Wozniak.

Meanwhile, tournament 4th seed Daniela Hantuchova also sailed past Agnes Szavay, recovering from a shaky 0-2 start to close out the win 6-3 6-1. It was a disappointing performance from Szavay, whose second serve can be found at the WTA Lost Property. 

 

 

The other two matches of the day on Pat Rafter Arena saw two Americans progress through to the next round in different fashions. 

“Margin of error” is alien concept to James Blake, who – after so many years on tour – is still tempted to whack the snot out of the ball. It’s one of those qualities that endeared him to me years ago – Blake lives by the sword and dies by the sword, which makes him exhilarating half the time, a ‘bloody idiot’ the rest. 

After a dismal year that saw him fall outside the top 40 with a string of injuries, Blake started his year with two tough 3-set wins against Sam Querrey and Marc Gicquel. But looking healthy and moving beautifully around the court, something tells me that the only way for Mr Lightbulb Head to go is up.

 

 

 

Joining Blake in the quarterfinals, Andy Roddick navigated his way past two Aussies – Luczak and Ball in straights. Both underdogs had their changes, with Carsten Ball getting a set point on Roddick in the first set. But with some clutch serving and solid court coverage, Roddick went on to hold and sucked the energy out of the local crowd.

Not a bad showing given his extensive time off. Although we won’t know the true extent of his rust or form until he faces a quality player.

Shanghai: Last Men Standing.

You might’ve noticed a complete lack of Shanghai coverage this week: 1) the tennis has been mostly uninspiring given the number of retirements this week, 2) life away from tennis, it actually exists. And unfortunately for me, it exists solely to kick my ass. 

But I did manage to catch a few matches this week, and a lot of this happened: 

 

 

He was never known for his mental tenacity, but Nikolay Davydenko hung on like a leech despite losing the first set. In a classic third set, neither players wavered on breakpoints, bringing the match to a deciding tiebreak. 

Sometimes you just have to say too good – Davo turned up the heat during the tiebreak with some of the best tennis I’ve seen from him since Miami 2008. Meanwhile Djokovic slipped into a full-blown comatose, winning only 1 point to concede the match 46 64 76(1).

Such a performance from the Russian probably deserves a picture. Or not. I’m just not that into the whole receding hair-line flaunt.

How about lovely Irina instead?

 

 

Come back soon Roger! Before I start cheating on Mirka with other WAGs. 

 

 

Not much to say about second semifinal, except that Feli probably would’ve retired earlier than he did, had he not been playing his friend Rafa. It was such painful, abysmal tennis from Feli’s side of the net that you couldn’t really judge Rafa’s level. He did what he had to do. 

The injury-ridden semifinal aside, Feli Lopez continues to show that he is capable of playing beautiful tennis for just one week per calendar year.

He used up that quota for 2009 against Soderling, a match that proved to the tennis masses that – yes, contrary to popular belief, Feli does have an organ of nervous tissues in between his ears, and yes – he does use it sometimes.

 

 

And whatever happens, Feli will always have the most beautiful eyes in tennis. Amen.

In matches earlier in the week: you know, just because it’s nearly the end of the season, doesn’t mean players can just STOP SHAVING and let themselves go. 

How do you think my employers would feel if I just stopped plucking my eyebrows by October each year? Huh? HUH?!!

 

 

Yes, you Gilles. You too. 

 

 

I forgive the pair of them after they both put up respectable performances against Nadal and Djokovic to somewhat redeem their year of disillusionment.

Or perhaps disillusionment runs deeper, deep into the third set in fact, where players like Nadal and Djokovic don’t blink,and others like Simon and Blake wonder, for just a split second, whether they have what it takes.

A split second later, they’re down a break and the match is over.

Beijing/Tokyo: WHY?!

It is said that for every match Marat Safin plays to his potential, one case of cancer is miraculously cured in the world.

Pity he doesn’t do that more often. 

 

 

I just watched in shock as the Hippo serve out his match against Gonzo for a place in the Beijing quarterfinals.

Why?!

The dude served up 12 aces and out played Gonzo from the baseline. Complete cruise control.

Safin. On cruise control. I refused to believe my eyes.

WHY?!!  

 

 

Next up, Rafael Nadal. OH-EM-GEE. I don’t think I can take it

Mentioning Rafa, you’d be forgiven for thinking that his second round clash with Blake was a WTA match. 8 breaks of serve throughout the match: some shiny conversion rate by the Rafanator (5/6), and a positively Federer-esque effort by Blake (3/11?!!). 

I’m not sure if Rafa’s playing it safe because of his recent injuries, or perhaps this is too minor a tournament for him to be exerting much effort, but spinning in powderpuff serves against James Blake is just asking for them to be spanked back.

Thankfully, JB can always be counted on to lose precisely when he has no business losing. With a double fault, Blake surrendered serve at 3-4 in the third, and Rafa lived to fight another match. 

And boy, wasn’t he happy about it?

 

 

With Murray and Federer both out of Shanghai, you know what? I think I’ll hop myself on the comfy bandwagon of Mr. Chequeredpants for the time being.

Yer go Minty! 

 

 

Over in Tokyo, it appears that Stan has stolen Verdasco’s old ‘do.

MAKE IT STOP.


 

It’s been a good couple of weeks so far by Ernests Gulbis, who has made the most out of an easy draw and broken his second round curse with wins over Stepanek and Pico.

That’s more like it!

 

 

Ernie is due to face Jo-Willy next in a rematch of their Thai thriller last week, after Tsonga survived a streaky Gasquet and typhoon winds in Tokyo. At one point, the winds were so wild they caused advertising boards to blow across the court. 

 

“It was dangerous. I saw the (advertising) board start to move and thought ‘Woah!’ You never know what can happen,” said Tsonga after the match.

Source: Skysports

 

With the roof open after 3 days of rain, Jo-Willy settled down, and Reeshie unsettled and lost all confidence. Perhaps it was for the best, as a good run could secure Jo-Willy’s Masters Cup qualification bid.

But even so, why must all my favourites play each other?

Why must Reeshie possess the talent of Federer and the mind of Dinara? Why must Safin continue to taunt us all with his tortured awesomeness? Why isn’t Roger playing?!

WHY?

USO Day 4: BELIEVE.

Good day at the office for Americans, a day of bloodbaths for the WTA, as its own headlines read: “who let the underdogs out?”

 

 

For all her comforting results this summer, Jelena Jankovic fell second round to Yaroslava Shvedova 6-3 6-7(4) 7-6(6) after holding two match points. During the match, JJ lacked her usual vibrancy and sprint.

And how could she not? She was playing with a heavy heart after learning that her grandmother had passed away the night before.

 

“For my part, I wasn’t really on the court. My grandmother died and I was very close to her. I was very sad and emotionally, I was not really on the court. I was really suffering. I tried to think about my tennis, but, you know, I felt like I was so late and so slow. I couldn’t even watch the ball. That was my problem.”

 

It’s sad to see JJ’s slam season finish on a low point like that, just when she seems to be getting her game back on track. Take a break Cherry, and cut yourself some slack. 

 

Call it double standards, call it whatever you want. But I’m less inclined to cut Dementieva any slack.

As a self-proclaimed non-fan of Dementieva, I must admit I was fairly cynical of her grand slam chances, even after her victory in Toronto. If slam results could be inferred from warm-up tournaments, then Dinara Safina should be sitting on a few slams right now. I stuck a fork in the idea that Lena D would eventually win a slam a while back, and I’m not about to resurrect her now.

 

 

Even so, it’s just not good enough for the World No 4 and a veteran of the tour to be out-gutsed by an injured 17 year old.

Credit to Melanie Oudin though, if you thought she was impressive against JJ at Wimbledon, then her performance in her 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over Demmy was something else to behold.

The petite 17 year-old was 90% guts today as she fought back tears, ignored the pain in her injured leg, and played fearless tennis for three sets against one of the more established names currently in women’s tennis.

Oudin certainly lived up to the inscription on her shoe – BELIEVE. If only a few more of the WTA contenders could do the same.

 

 

Q. Talk about the shoes. They say “believe” on them. 
MELANIE OUDIN: Yes.

Q. Is that your saying or somebody’s…
MELANIE OUDIN: Actually, my boyfriend gave me that idea to put on it, and I really liked it. So I put that on my shoe. It seems to fit me well.

 

And fit her, it sure as hell did.

 

Someone who never had any troubles with self-belief: Masha Fierce, who came through a cruising win over another American 17 year old, Christina McHale 6-2 6-1.

The serve is still coming in ebbs and flows, the toss tends to get higher as the match goes on. But Maria had it under control for most of the match except for one service game in the second set. Not that it mattered much, Masha Fierce was just awe-inspiring in her omnipresence on court. 

Thank god the Pova’s back, showing the other clowns how to do it with a stamp of authority.

 

 

Desperately needing a stamp of authority was Dinara Safina, whose 6-7 6-2 6-3 win over the 67th-ranked Kristina Barrois of Germany was just about as laborious as her first round match. 

You really don’t need to hear me say for the gazillionth time how over Safina I am. Contrary to Maratski’s insistence, I’m clearly not the one who needs to go fug herself

 

Tough day for Alize Cornet, whose season has turned from promising to dismal after losing to Zheng Zheng Jie Jie in 3 sets. She does however take the prize for my favourite dress of the Open so far. Very impressed with Lacoste’s gears for the girls this year. 

 

 

More tough luck to Sabine Lisicki, who served for the match against Rodionova at 5-3 in the third, only to lose it 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 and spraining her ankle on match point. For your information, Rodionova is Australian this month, although there’s no telling which flag she’ll play under in her next tournament. And I thought I was indecisive.

 

On the men’s side of things, James Blake won two matches in a row, since … ever. Me likey.

The rest of the top 20 also came safely through. RFed’s childhood friend, Marco Chiudinelli, equalled his best ever slam result by making the third round of the US Open over Youzhny. Swiss tennis’s two-men effort lives on, despite Concubine’s shambolic loss.