Given the sheer amount of fandom and media hysteria, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Nadal’s injury was the bigger story today.
But we’ve been there before, on the same day last year. So I’ll get onto all that another time. For now, Justine Henin is gone, again.
For a player who was not particularly well-liked during the bulk of her career, Justine has a knack for leaving you with an Henin-shaped void in your universe, to the point where you see shadows of her everywhere – in Suarez Navarro, sometimes in Francesca Schiavone, and for a while in 2009, rather ridiculously, we claimed to see it in Melanie Oudin.
But that’s what she does to ya, being so utterly unique and so memorable in style.
There are players who are consistent and good, who present a heathy, glamourous image to the world on behalf of women’s tennis (read: Caroline Wozniacki), and then there are players who inspire you to pick up a racquet, to scream your voice hoarse, to invest emotionally in their triumphs and misfortunes. Henin, Schiavone, Kuznestova all fall in the latter camp, and the WTA lost a bit of inspiration today.
Let it be known that Justine 2.0 should be seen as a success, and nothing else: coming back from a 20 month break, she made (and lost) epic finals in Brisbane and at the Australian Open, another marathon in Miami against Kim, won Stuttgart and s’Hertogenbosch and made Round 16 at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Not exact shabby results, to understate things massively.
What I will miss about Henin 2.0:
- the personal ease and joy of spirit she brought back the second time round was something we never saw the first time. For her, I dare say the emotional revelation in returning to tennis probably cast a new light on her entire career.
- Her game. Duh.
- Second chances. Believe in them, give them. At some point, members of tennis fandom and media need to STOP obsessing over two low points of Henin’s youth and making them reflective of her entire character. The woman was not pure evil. She got carried away with competition at times in a lonely, heated environment. Is that so inexcusable, in the grand scheme of things known as human nature?
- More so than any moment in the last 6 months, I miss Serena. With Venus injured, Justine retired, and Serena still in recovery, there is a sense that the true leaders are missing. As I was saying before, we’re left with a lot of good players, but not many who inspire. (Kuznetsova and Schiavone notwithstanding)
- And I will miss the Wimbledon she never won. Forever and ever and ever and ever.
If I were a bigger person, less invested in this sport, less admiring of Justine Henin, I would probably let this go.
Hmm … let’s see: Justine Henin sustained a serious elbow injury, an injury which Bodo insists on calling “routine” in his piece. Oh really? Would you like me to break your elbow and see how you play professional tennis with it? Is ‘routine’ the word you used to describe Rafa’s hamstrings, knees, shoulders and abdominal tears too?
It’s a moot point at this stage, but I do believe Henin’s heart was in her comeback. I do believe she “expressed joy” when she was out on court. Justine is never going to yelp in desperate passion like her name was Ana Fistpumpovic, but you don’t become the first person to take a set off Serena in a grand slam final since 2008 by not putting your heart in it.
And this … I’m not even quite sure where do start …
… I don’t believe McEnroe drove Borg out of tennis, but I believe Clijsters might have driven out Henin. But does it really matter? The important thing is that the Henin comeback has ended, and badly. It’s a pity, and I hope she finds happiness or at least satisfaction in whatever else she chooses to do. It would be naive to ignore the fact that in the end Clijsters has the last laugh, after having to watch Henin version 1.0 utterly eclipse her as a champion.
Never mind that Justine Henin came out and wrote, in PLAIN, GRAMMATICALLY SOUND, and HONEST English, that she is retiring because she can’t afford to play on physically. Oh no, that couldn’t possibly be the reason why Henin’s leaving the game. Kim Clijsters must’ve driven her out with Mister Hubby-Shmubby, Jada, and her grand total of 3 slams won on the same court. Watch Justine shiver in jealousy and baby-lust!
As for Bodo’s question:
Has a person so strikingly plain ever had such a shimmering, artistic game?
I ask in return: has any person so backhandedly complimentary ever wrote with such a chauvinistic, patriarchal and sexist tone?
Seeing that Australian Open is the home Slam of this blog, and Dootsiez is just really worn out from working/tennis-ing/writing awesome SI blog articles, I thought I’ll give her a hand in keeping the Aussie Open posts somewhat intact-ish.
I was at Melbourne Park for tennis for AO Day 5, 6 and 7, so let’s see what I remember from those outings.
Day 5 was a last minute decision for me. I somehow scored a day off from work, and decided to buy myself a day ticket to catch Roger v Xavier Malisse. I missed most of Wozniacki due to successful Roger stalking (but to be honest, I don’t really want to put myself through a Wozniacki match, not even when I’d paid for it), and managed to catch Kuznetsova v Henin. It wasn’t that competitive of a match given the two players were – well, Kuznetsova and Henin. Justine seemed to be still suffering from her elbow injury. She was unable to find her first serve, double-faulting her way to being broken. She clawed back to take the second set to a tiebreaker – but it was a shockingly bad tiebreaker as both girls shanked shots, shanked serves and in the end, it was decided with what seemed to be routine for the match: a Justine double-fault.
I have to say though: Kuznetsova v Henin for a friggin’ 3RD ROUND? Man, that’s about ten kinds of cruel, ye olde Tennis Gods.
And then it was Fed-time with a match against Malisse. If I can be honest, I did think that Roger seemed a bit cranky during his practice session, but I brushed it off as my tendency to over-worry about things not worth worrying about. Until Roger started playing.
As said by Dootsiez, it wasn’t a bad match – he after all won in comfortable straight sets – 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. However, the whole match was just bizarre. His shot selections were bizarre. He seemed disinterested in the first set, but he won that. Only when he got broken in the second set, then he seemed to come to life.
Suddenly, I see Roger muttering, glaring, shaking his head, yelling NIEEEEEEEEN at missed forehands, and giving C’MONS and fistpumps at 15-all. He won the second set, basically steam-rolled Malisse in the third, but his mood didn’t seem to calm down, not until he got the match in his pocket.
If he’s a girl, I’ll definitely say he was PMS-ing. All the symptoms were there. But hey, he won, and he’s through.
Day 6 observations in dot-points – mostly the outside court matches as there was where I was at:
1) Milos Raonic. Who woulda though this young, gutsy and most unknown Canadian qualifier would have the goods to boot world no.10 Mikhail Youzhny? I watch one set of this match and he was outplaying le Colonel from the forehand wing. It didn’t help that Youzhny’s backhand was not as sharp as it usually was. Coupled with Raonic’s amazing serving – he currently holds the record for fastest serve for this AO season – Youzhny couldn’t keep up and was bundled out in 4-sets. It will be interesting to see how he now matches up against David Ferrer.
2) Alexandr Dolgopolov. What a guy. At the ripe old tennis age of 22, he’s finally beginning to make himself seen and heard on tour, reaching the 4th round on his debut Australian Open (didn’t manage to qualify last year) after knocking out Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga in 5 sets. Granted Jo was not 100% – still fighting off the effects of a niggling injury – but Dolgopolov hung on, clawed back from a 2 sets to 1 deficit, and blasted Tsonga with solid forehands and volleys and impressive serving. Tsonga’s frequent double-faulting contributed to the 6-1, 6-1 score of the last two sets, but well played, Dolgopolov. I don’t think he will get past Bobby Sod (who is flying under the radar looking ominous) but I daresay he will give Sod a run for his money.
3) John Isner and Marin Cilic. There’s something about Mr. Isner and 5-set marathons. . If I was John Isner, I will bloody make sure that I never play 5th sets, ever again. I think he is still haunted by Wimbledon. After missing a chance at 0-30 on Cilic’s serve at 6-all, his face was literally wrought with PAIN. He was totally thinking about Wimbledon and OH LORD PLEASE NOT AGAIN I SWEAR. But the final scoreline of 9-7 fell short of his 70-68 Wimbledon record, of course. And the other difference is that he was not the victor. Marin Cilic won himself the right to be stomped on by Rafa in the quarter-finals
4) Bernard Tomic. The kid was a spoiled brat with no EQ skills and social etiquette, but if people expect him to roll over and play dead for Rafa, they expected wrong. Tomic rose to the occasion, matched Rafa on every play – even managing to take a 4-0 lead in the second set before inexperience on his part and experience plus GRIT on Rafa’s part levelled things again. The scoreline of 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 was much closer than it suggested. Rafa was actually pressured in most of his service games. Tomic is no pushover, but he is still a brat. Still, I am curious to see where he goes from here, whether could he sort his personality out along with his game.
Day 7 of tennis was pretty full-on – and again, I missed Wozniacki’s match due to Feder-stalking. Oh well, wouldn’t change it for the anything!
My first match on Rod Laver Arena saw Li Na taking out Vika Azarenka in straight sets – although not without the usual WTA business of losing serve a couple of times before hanging on for the win. Li Na definitely had the crowd on her side – as Azarenka’s screeching just annoyed the hell out of everyone else – little old lady next to me called it “disturbing the peace”. Crowd tittered and laughed every time she went “OOOOOOOORRRRRHhhhhhhhhhhh” and imitations were rampant. Mean, but no one could really stand her. I’m pleased that Li Na is through. She’s playing well, and she meets Andrea Petkovic – who completely outplayed Shrieky Sharapova – in the quarters. It will be a match worth catching.
Roger McFed then took centre court for what 99.9% of the tennis community expected to be a routine trashing of Disco Dancin’ Tommy Robredo. Roger has a perfect 9-0 record, and has only ever lost two sets to Mr. Bright Red Pants. He was imperious on serve the first set, firing aces and unreturnable serves and T-Rob could not even make a single-point dent on. However, although he wasn’t really taking his chances with T-Rob’s serve, he did well enough to earn that one break and to take the first set. The routine was still on track.
Until the second set. Suddenly, T-Rob found his first serve and his disco groove. Fed lost his first serve and most of his ballet groove. A loose game from Roger late in the set found him broken, with Tommy then serving for the set and before I can yell FUCK YOU FEDERER, it was one-set all.
Roger wasn’t in the mood for any more five-setters though. He broke the Disco serve early in the third, and hung on to close the set out in a back-to-routine fashion. Tommy then changed into a presumably lucky red shirt (and maybe lucky red underwear) but it wasn’t nearly enough. Le Fed then earned early simultaneous breaks again in the fourth, and then it was business as usual in the office of Federer.
When asked by Courier whom he prefers for the quarter-final, Roger answered, “My friend, Stanley”. Well, Roger’s friend Stanley was at his smokin’ Ewok Stanley best when he literally blew Andy Roddick off court in the last RLA match in straight sets. Everything was working for The Other Swiss Guy – his backhand was sublime, his forehand was clicking, his volleys were there, he was able to chase balls, return them, and suddenly, out of nowhere, he was pulling 200kmph serves and outserving The Serve himself. Poor ARod didn’t help himself by having a horrendous serving day by his usual standards, seeing his first serves faulting, and thus having Stanley pouncing all over his second serve like PJ pouncing all over Federer if she can guarantee she won’t be arrested for *ahem* inappropriate harassment.
I would just like to remind Roger that when he meets Wawrinka during the quarter-finals on Tuesday, he’s not going to be Your Friend Stanley. He should be Stanley Your Enemy Whom You’re Going To Destroy So That He Won’t Get In The Way Of Number Seventeen. Heads up, okay?
As for the other quarter-final, Djokovic and Berdych both hammered Almagro and Verdasco respectively. As Jodi so aptly puts it, it will be The Battle Of Sesame Street when Bert meets Big Bird. I hope they clobber each other to death.
Saving the best for the last – Schiavone and Kuznetsova. What a brilliant, brilliant match, and brilliant, brilliant display of heart, of determination, of passion. I started watching at 5-all, and could not leave Garden Square despite brambles sticking to my thighs and an extremely sore back. I watched those two girls played their guts out. The level of tennis was RIDICULOUS. The points played – I could only gasp and scream NO WAY as they just blazed the balls back into play for winner after winner with the most ridiculous volleys and ball-chasing.
Towards the end, there would be four breaks of serve. And each time, the girls broke each other with amazing plays and gutsy shots – really going all out for it instead of hanging back and hoping for the opponent’s mistakes. They let nothing go. NOTHING. It wasn’t a serving marathon to hold serve. It was a tennis marathon for every single point. Every single one of it.
In the end, the first to blink was Kuznetsova, as she lost serve that one final time. But she made sure that Franny did not have an easy time serving it out. Sveta kept chasing the balls, kept hitting the winners and never once gave up the belief that she could maybe break back and keep herself alive. But it was not meant to be as Franny finally held that one crucial serve, and it was all over.
At the same time, my heart breaks for Kuznetsova, as I’m sure with millions of other people out there. Franny will play Wozniacki next. And unfortunately, she will have nothing left in the tank to play Wozniacki’s brand of tennis. Still, I hope for a miracle, I hope that Franny’s heart will be enough to propel her through, and through again, and again.
Because I now truly think she deserves the title of Australian Open women’s champ, 2011.
No prizes on who I think should have the men’s title. But I won’t say it outloud.
And onward we go.
P.S. photos from daylife.com
OH-MAH-GAH! Can you hear it? The rustling of feet around the world. Tennis players are resurfacing from their winter hibernation and making me very excited from a Southerly direction.
Funnily enough, South is the direction most players are headed right now. The little isle(s) of New Zealand welcomed the giant siren known as Maria Sharapova today, as Sharpie arrived to a large media contingent at Auckland airport.
Sharapova is due to play the ASB Classic in Auckland, starting 3/01/2011. She has also requested a wild card to Sydney, making this the biggest build up to the Australian Open for a player who normally doesn’t play any warm up tournaments before the big O.
I think it’s safe to say that she doesn’t want a repeat of last year’s Australian Open first round travesty.
Over in neighbouring Astray-lia, other players are arriving to partay down-under. Roddick wasted no time getting back on the practice courts in Brisbane, while Ana Ivanovic wasted no time getting back into a photo shoot in Perth.
Geez Louise. Who barfed tinsel all over this?
“So we started the workout and he was doing really well, and I was actually going to cut him short because if he’s not finishing the workout healthy then it doesn’t really matter.
“Andy looked at me and said, ‘You don’t win the %#@!!% Australian Open by cutting short your workouts’.” – Lance Hooten, physical trainer of Woddick.
Justine Henin, who, like Ivanovic, is also due in Perth for the Hopmans Cup, has chosen a rather peculiar place to train during her off-season: Sanya, on the tropical island of Hainan off the Southern coast of China, where the climate is said to be rather “Australian”. While in China, Henin took some time to visit her Chinese 6th Sense Academy and do some press.
“I had a pretty good start [to 2010], which I hadn’t managed to achieve before. But after playing tennis for 14 years it was physically very hard for me to come back. I am just slowly coming back to the top.”
“I was never 100 percent fit this year. I wasn’t yet ready to play at that level. And with the elbow injury I got at Wimbledon, it became even more difficult.
It was a difficult summer. I injured my elbow, demaged my ligament and I thought maybe it was over for me.
“Now the ligament is getting better but I have to do a lot of work on my elbow and my muscles. I have to trust my elbow again. It’s been through a lot and it has to be strong. It will take several months to be 100 percent.”
Some rather gloomy quotes aside, Henin remains hopeful.
“Step by step I am heading in the right direction now but only winning matches can give me that confidence. I’ve been working very hard. If my elbow continues to improve in the next few weeks or months, I think I have good prospects for the future.”
On the current field:
Henin said the quality of play on the tour had not changed much during her retirement. That actually allowed her to find her feet in a short time. She rose up the ranks to world No 12 in six months and boasted a remarkable 32-8 win-loss record this season …
“I don’t think a lot of things have changed,” she said. “No one is really dominating the tour. It feels similar to how it was.”
Still, Henin acknowledged the power of the new generation, singling out new world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark.
“She is very talented. She troubles a lot of players. I am sure new players will emerge in the next few years.”
“I’m not a machine. I could not last five years,” she said.
“I am near the end of my career. To have fun – that’s the most important thing in remaining competitive at this level.”
“My goal is to play in London,” she said. “Winning the gold in Athens was one of the best moments of my career.
“It’s special playing in the Olympics. You are playing for your nation and you don’t feel alone on court.”
Source: China Daily
Quotes that make you go: oh dear.
Coming off a serious injury, straight into a slam with Hopman Cup as preparation and a tonne of points to defend for the first half of 2011? In short, Justine Henin is going to lose the bulk of whatever 6 months worths of points she currently holds.
But then she’s going to fight up that rankings ladder like the tenacious ladder-climbing bitch she is. This is how it goes. And this time, she’ll enjoy the whole process, baggage free.
Justine 2.0. Didn’t cha know?
As for Wogie McSquigie, after training with Jarko Nieminen earlier in the offseason, Feduhruh is currently hitting up a hot hot sandstorm in Dubai with 26 year old, World No 86 Michal Przysiężny.
According to the Polish press, Whathisface arrived in Dubai on 25 December, and spent the first two days training exclusively with Wogie, before being joined by the Cone.
Then from Monday (27/12) to Thursday, Annacone will coach the pair for around 3.5-4 hours a day. In addition to training on court, they will also be doing some general physical training. Wogie McSquigie will be covering all costs associated of the stay with whatever he keeps under his mattress.
Evidently, the collaboration was set up by Marco Chiudi, who Przysiężny had trained with in Germany.
Here’s a video from those with prying eyes. Merci beaucoup!
Some people count down to the New Year. I count down to tennis. Not too far away now. STAY STRONG MY FELLOW ADDICTS. STAY STRONG!
Good news for Aussie fans, after the tournament’s broadcasting deal with the ABC ended this year, the Hopman Cup has signed a new partnership with TEN and ONE HD that will involved a daily session on ONE, and 20 hours of coverage on TEN.
Better news yet – the teams announced for 2011 are:
* USA – Serena Williams and John Isner
* Serbia – Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic
* Belgium – Justine Henin and Steve Darcis
* France – Kristina Mladenovic and Gael Monfils
* Australia – Lleyton Hewitt (partner tbc)
The remaining teams will be announced in October. The event will run from 1-8 January 2010 at Perth’s Burswood Dome.
WHO’LL BE THERE? ME ME ME!?!
Q. The last time you played in ’08 during the Australian Open, it was not good memories. There was a lot of tension. Her father was in the stands and was quite angry. Is this something that you can’t really accept even today?
JUSTINE HENIN: No, not really, because it’s a new page now for me, frankly. And by the way, I have an incredible memory, as you know, and there are many matches of the past that I’ve forgotten, because it’s a new page for me. I see things totally differently today.
Rewind back just over 2 years, 2007 Madrid Year-End WTA Championships, Sharapova and Henin played one of my favourite matches of the last decade. 3 hours and 25 minutes, 3 sets, zero tiebreaks, endless deuces. Henin would come through the match to finish the year on a 25 match winning streak, a streak that she would extend til January next year against … you guess it – Maria Sharapova. Only this time, Maria Sharapova would thoroughly out-blast, and at times even outrun Justine Henin.
But for that brief 3 month period between November and February, it looked like we had a rivalry. By the end of May, Justine Henin would be retired, and Maria Sharapova would tumble from her pedestal with the worst (undiagnosed) injury of her career.
Q. Justine said that the match you played in Australia seems very distant to her, very far away. Obviously she retired and came back since then. A lot has happened to you, as well. You’ve had some involuntary time off. Does it also seem distant to you, that whole Australian Open run?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Actually feels like we never left, or it was just yesterday. (laughter.)
That’s so funny. It was a couple of years ago, and, you know, here we are. We’re back. It’s a different Slam, but, you know, it’s the same drill. We’re waiting before matches. It’s as if, you know, things haven’t really changed much.
But obviously you think back to the last few years, and both of us have been in different paths and different times in our lives. But here we are going to face each other tomorrow.
Ice Cow is right. We’re continuing right where we left off. Different slam, same opponents, this time each with a world of maturity, frustration and perseverance in their tank.
Consider the factors in Justine’s favour –
- She’s second in the WTA race: won Stuttgart, final at the Australian Open, semi in Brisbane and Miami. Year-to-date win/loss record thoroughly exceeds the meager wins of Maria.
- She leads the H2H 6-3.
- She’s the four-time champion for fuck sake. This is her home turf.
But knowing full well that I may have egg on my face in about 3 hours, if there was ever a time to put some money on Maria Sharapova to pull off an ‘upset’, now would be it.
I wouldn’t be the first to say that Henin hasn’t been playing Head Bitch Tennis this tournament. That’s not to say that she won’t improve from match to match, but that is saying that Maria Sharapova has a chance, given the way she has played in her first two rounds. We’re talking clean, deep ball striking, better defence, stable serve, single digit unforced errors. We’re talking about Sharapova making her brand of BYO Big Babe tennis work on clay.
She is by no means the favourite coming into this match, but as Justine said herself, “I think there’s one quality we share, which is we are winners. We are fighters. With this girl, it’s never over.”
A little snippet of the Melbourne music scene before we get onto the tennis, worth it just for the guy at the start.
1. Dear Tennis Gods, it would be great if you … you know … stopped kicking my ass. Weekend results – in the order of misery:
Madrid: Aravene Rezai def Justine Henin: 46 75 60.
Madrid: Lucie Safarova def Maria Sharapova 64 63.
Whatshisface def. GOAT 62 76(5).
Darth Federer def Dootsie 60 60.
I wonder how Maria Sharapova feels these days – back in 08, she was playing the best tennis of her career before her body came crashing down on her. She came back, slowly but surely, climbing her way into the top 20 with a rustier, more uncertain brand of tennis, before her body crashed again.
But Sharapova wouldn’t be Sharapova if she didn’t have that never-ending relentlessness to her. It’s no surprise that she lost first match in Madrid – coming back from injury, rusty, hasn’t played or won much this year, she had the misfortune of drawing the baby-faced giant-killer that is Lucie Safarova. No frazzling needed – her comeback from injury begins in earnest in Strasbourg.
As for Justine, she was reportedly ill after Stuttgart, looks like she ran out of gas in the third set. I say “looks like”, since no network had the decency to cover an OOP featuring Venus, Henin and Sharapova.
2. To top it off, Jizzy let match point slip at 63 53 before losing to Querrey 36 76(4) 64. WHAT. EVER. No one wants an erectile dysfunctional trophy anyway.
Mentioning erectile dysfunction …
(Lordy, Nole looks pre-pubescent.)
3. Since his very public act of self-mutilation two years ago, Mikhail Youzhny has tumbled down the rankings before sneaking his way slowly back up. Who knew? Dude’s closing in on Top 10 again.
Over in Munich, Mish outlasted Red Hot Cilic Peppers 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, making it third time lucky for the finalist of 2007 and 2009.
Marin. Scruffy. Dimples. Alas …
4. Over in Estoril, Whatshisface successfully defended his title. *grumbles*
What happens in Estoril stays in Estoril, ya hear me?
1. Excuse the lack of bloggage. Not only are work and my Bachelorette degrees owning my ass right now, it’s the clay season, and my mind wanders (mind you, not to snooker), but it wanders nonetheless.
2. She may be diminutive in height, but Justine Henin was a colossus in Stuttgart, winning her first title since returning from her ‘retirement’. It also puts her at No 1 in the Sony Ericsson Championships race ahead of Venus and Serena and raises the million dollar question: can Henin end the year as No 1?
“I thought about a comeback when I saw Roger Federer win the French Open (for the first time last year). This brought back the fire,” she said.
Shocker of a second set aside, it was vintage Henin on all the big points, as she ended Stosur’s winning streak 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. I see no reason to nitpick her tennis, not when she’s just taken out Yanina Wickmayer, Jelena Jankovic and Sam Stosur back-to-back in a tournament that featured 7 of the world’s top 10 player.
3. As for Sammy, to be honest, a slight let-down at this point was exactly what she needed. Winning Stuttgart might’ve actually sent her quiet, introverted self into freak-out mode over the possibility of something grand. Grand and slammin’, that is.
And we wouldn’t want that.
With a title and a final to start her clay season, Stosur has pulled out of Rome to rest her sore arms. Good girl.
4. Rafa won Rome. Yay!
3. Oh wait … Were you looking for “commentary”? Umm, were you?
Didn’t watch a single point of the Rome final.
As far as the tournament was concerned, Ernie was the wild card, Wawrinka might’ve, could’ve but ultimately wouldn’t have. But you’d have to be delusional to think anyone from the so-called Armada is capable of pushing and then closing out a match against Rafa. Not unless Rafa was going into the match on one leg.
So the narrative of yesteryear ensues – Rafa and Justine reign supreme on clay. And frankly, after the frightening tennis plots of last two years, we could all use a little stability.
4. Notable mentions of the week: Iveta Benesova won her second career title in Fes, defeating French junior champ/breast reduction girl Simona Halep 6-4, 6-2. I say ‘notable’, because it was only Halep’s third tournament in the WTA main draw and her first ever WTA tour final at the age of 18. Someone’s star is rising.
5. Not to be lost in the fine print: Iveta’s 63 46 75 semifinal win against Alize Cornet was a welcomed sight. For these two “could’ve beens” of the WTA, good weeks are now few and far between.
6. While I’ve barely had time to review last week’s actions, the WTA tournament in Rome has realdy kicked off, with Sveta Kuznetsova becoming the first major casualty in her 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 loss to MariKiri.
With this loss, Sveta descends onto a shiny 7-7 win/loss record in 2010, and has yet to win 3 matches in a row since the Australian Open. But then again, neither has Fed. The Roland Garros voodoo has struck.
7. In other first-round action, local hopes Flavs and Franny both progressed into the second round – Schiavone with a bit of a struggle against Daniela Hantuchova, eventually wining 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Ana Ivanovic made news by actually winning a match, and winning it easy -sailing past E.Vesnina 6-1, 6-3. She faces Vika next.
With injuries stalking Azarenka these days, I say Miss Muffin is overdue for a much needed scalp.
8. Things not to do while drunk: watch Roger Federer play tennis in 3D.
MEO, the cable channel from Portugal Telecom, will broadcast for the first time a national event live in 3D.
It will also be the first 3D broadcast from an ATP World Tour event. Roger Federer’s first singles match is to be broadcast in 3D on Wednesday, in what will be a historic day for Portuguese television and tennis broadcasting.
Homes with 3D television sets and spectators on-site at the Estadio Nacional, will be able to also watch the semi-finals and final.
Source: Estoril website
Right … that’s exactly what delusional monkey-loving Fedophiles need: Roger Federer sashaying around in their living rooms with his moobies and swirly hair.
It’s not so much an assault on the senses as a cold-hearted murder. Oh my poor ovaries. 😦
Winning is never a bad thing, but for Sam Stosur, I suspect she probably doesn’t need the win. As far as clay season form goes, she has already established herself as a force to be reckoned with, now on an 11-match winning streak. The worst thing for her going into Roland Garros this year is 1) knowing that she’s a contender, 2) feeling the pressure of defending a semifinal.
It showed yesterday, as she was put through the wringer by Anna La Push, down 2-5 in the first set before she woke up and start getting balls over the net and within the lines. In the end, no harm was done – Stosur saw off the surprise semifinalist 75 63.
On the other hand, Justine Henin’s problem is precisely that she needs the win to get the first title monkey off her back. Since returning to the tour, Henin has been in 3 finals and a semifinal in 5 tournament. It’s shiny, but it hasn’t brought her a title.
In defusing Shahar Peer’s relentless attack yesterday, there was little perceived to be wrong with her game. The forehand has settled down in its more compact form. Watching Henin on clay again after a 2 year break, I was reminded of all the little things that made her a Roland Garros champion man times over – the tenacity, the movement, the way she instinctively knew how to slide into her shots … But she needs a title, if only to make this comeback tour “official”.
Over on the penis side of things, I heard Rafa and Ernie put on a show. By “heard”, what I mean is that I was asleep by the end of the first set, thinking that the world was in order. Damn you, time zones!
Funnily though, a tough 3 setter was precisely what Nadal needed at this stage in his return from the graveyards (by his own lofty standards).
As for Ernie? Too many beautiful losses, and the one ugly win he did manage to get was against the guy I never wanted to lose. And let’s face – it was ugly, gloriously ugly, in a “U-G-L-Y, they ain’t got no alibi” kinda way. Like I said, I have no time for the next Tomas Berdych, so show me you can be the next Marin and Delpo, Ernie, and then we can talk.
Because I’m sick of players coming into the fringe of my attention field before disappearing into the wilderness again.
In the other semi of the day, Ferrer defeated Verdasco in straight sets for a place in the Rome final after being down 1-5 in the first set. Not much to it – having won Barcelona and made the final in Monte Carlo, I think we can safely say that Verdasco needed a breather. Not that I’m saying he tanked, but it wasn’t like he was ever going to get a “breather” against Nadal. Losing in the semi may not be a bad idea.
Final predictions? No need to go on a limb, Rafa and Henin, but closer than you might expect.
Czink in Brisbane, Wickmayer at the Australian Open, Jelena Jankovic in Stuttgart. I watched Henin tough out all those matches this year without quite understanding how she did it, but that’s part of her package. Of all her weapons, her ability to remain calm when she’s down and seemingly build momentum out of thin air is astounding. You expect it every time, you ask yourself “surely not?” And you finish the match smacking your lips happily, ‘yup yup, that’s it.’
Highlights (check out the last point):
And check out Justine’s reaction.
I like Henin 2.0. Much less baggage, much more passion.
As for Jaja, she knows what this feels like – her 10th straight loss to Henin, pinkie-less or otherwise. And yet the vast majority of those matches were closely contested.
And despite the early losses of Azarenka and Wozniacki in Stuttgart this week, Stuttgart tennis has been simple and militarily efficient. Much like the country’s engineering.
Sam Stosur sealed off her 10th victory in a row yesterday, with a match so straightforward, so methodically executed it was a relief to watch. Serve, forehand. Serve forehand. Oh you’d like to rally a little, okay, just let me find a forehand somewhere – oh there it is.
Nothing terribly creative or dramatic about it, but given the default mayhem of the WTA, it’s nice to see strategy, execution fall so seamlessly together for Stosur these days. With a sprinkle of confident too, like a pinch of lemon zest to finish off a great fish.
You know what final I want in Stuttgart this week.
1. While the men’s tour has somewhat settled down during the clay season with the reign in Spain, the only thing reigning on the ovaries side of tennis world is chaos.
Overnight, Carol and Vika both crashed out to Lucie Safarova and Anna Lapushchenkova for a quarterfinal no one expected to get. None of this, however, was that surprising. The BFFs have been struggling with various injuries since starting their clay seasons in the US.
But with Kim Clijsters down with a torn foot muscle, the Williamses largely absent, and Gen-Y ravaged by injuries, Justine Henin should just keep her head down, try not to catch any more volleys at the net, and hope that Sam Stosur implodes under the weight of our Aussie hopes.
2. Mentioning Stosur, she overcame a slow start to take out Alexa Dulgheru 36 60 62 for a place in the quarters against Li Na. So much talent, but so tempered by sheer mindfuckery. Can’t wait.
3. Talk about mindfuckery, Justine Henin isn’t one known for her mind blanks, but she barely steadied the ship in time after choking away a 5-1 lead in the second set, squeaking out Wicky in straight sets- 6-3 7-5.
She’ll have to up the ante if she wants to beat Jelena Jankovic next round, who has barely lost games this tournament. But then again, Justine is an experienced Jaja slayer, having won their last 9 meetings.
4. Dina is back people, as Dinarik. It’s all very confusing.
But since she’s been away for a while and it was her birthday on Tuesday, I’ll play nice: good to see her tough out a win against Agnes Szavay. 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-0.
5. But Dootsie, you can’t just ignore Rome!
Oh yes I can. Sulkysulkysulkysulk.
6. In off-court news, Deliciano is expecting a Delicianita.
Spanish press confirmed this week that former Miss Spain María José Suárez is between 1-2 months preggers with Deliciano’s child. The pair has been on-and-off for the last 5 years and do not plan on getting back together.
In a recent interview with Hola, Jose Suarez plans to raise the child on her own because she “would rather raise the child in a less hostile, and independent environment”, and admitted that their relationship should have “ended three years ago”.
Indeed. Hell has no fury like a Spanish woman gone hormonal.
7. Fernando Gonzo may have pulled out of Madrid, still bothered by his knee pains, but make no mistake, dude’s got more tennis left in him.
Gonzo announced today on his website that he’ll be working part-time with Darren Cahill. The pair will begin their partnership the week before the start of the French Open.
Okay Darren, you go work with the poor man’s Fed.