Tag Archive | Kei Nishikori

basel basil barsol baysel…(by LJ)

I didn’t watch one iota of Basel, till the final. I don’t know if I’ve ever managed to watch Basel in the past, I felt like it did but obviously not since the time difference meant every Fed match was 4am Sydney time, ugh…but thankfully the final was a more manageable 1am.

Yes yes, the draw parted like the Red Sea. Mandy had a Butt Strain (serves you right for taking Marco’s wildcard and complaining about the long schedule). Nole went down with 1 shoulder against Nishikori, who served a delicious bagel in the 3rd.

SO IN THE END….

This man came with a mission…

To beat this guy…

Who is on this mini-resurgence, which is great cause he’s uber likable and has a great game. But anyhoo…Maestro played like this most of the night…

and Special K could only do this for most of the night…

So Maestro fistpumped lots and went in for the final kill….

The 3 Amigos looked on in bemusement…

And at the end Fangirls and boys squeed at the final sweet sweet victory…

Tears flowed under the rampant adoration of the crowd…

But smiles prevailed overall…

And that bigass trophy got a bigass wet kiss…

Whilst the ballboys & girls got their much deserved PIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAAAA…..

And i managed to go to bed at 2:30am…

Nothing short of PeRFection

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US Open 2011 (by LJ): Day 1 wrap

Day 1 of the US Open 2011, and there was something palpably missing in the air. The OOMPH of Slam excitement  carried away by Hurricane Irene perhaps. The crowd was subdued and the players mostly went about their business, the seeds not finding much rhythm but then the unseeded found even less. Basically everyone was a bit mopey having walked out of their caves for the first time in a few days.

ATP

Wogie Mcfedpants made short work of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-4 6-2, so says the scoreline but those who watched felt the uneasy moments as Mcfedtastic lost momentum and started showing poop for brains at crucial moments. Leading 5-1 in the first, he was broken serving for the set and then got broken to love in the next service game. Worrisome? Probably not but there was enough frazzling on my twitter timeline to suggest that peeps were a little agitated. Save the agitation for later folks, we’re in for a tough road ahead.

Fed’s next round will be up against Dudi Sela whom dispatched a clearly hobbling Thomas Belluci in 5 sets.

Other notables:

Red- perhaps-not-so-hot-Cilic-Pepper took out Ryan Harrison in ugly fashion. Harrison could have easily taken the match to a 4th and squandered it with his padawan youth. Back to Bollitieri academy m’dear. Cilic will play Tomic in one of the best matchups in the 2nd round on paper. Hope it won’t turn into the Aus Open 2010 meeting, where I stayed for 2 sets and decided to leg it back to the hotel before I fell comatose to boredom.

Tomic showing clear signs of his talent and form, downed US journeyman Michael Yani in comfortable straights. Like it or not, IMO the kid has the goods and his style is good for tennis and Australian tennis in particular.

Don’t-Call-My-Name-Falla defeated Troicki in 5, in a match that Troicki should have won. But Troicki is an ass so whatevs. Llodra and Petzschner also came through in 5.

Kei Nishikori retired injured once again. I wonder when the kid will catch a break. He was 1 of 3  Japanese players to retire hurt today.

I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of the day from the men’s side. My BB Greegor forgot to face the net and thus lost in straights to Le Monf.

WTA

Biggest upset of the day was earned by Petra Kvitova, going down in straights to Alexandra Dulgheru of The Ukraine. Kvitova is clearly going through her post-slam slump but Dulgheru, ranked top 50, is no easy opponent for a 1st round and Kvitova was clearly sluggish and her timing was completely off.

Shreiky needed 3 sets to get past GB up and comer, Heather Watson. I like Watson, like Laura Robson I think she’s got a good head on her shoulders but experience took  over as she faded in the 3rd.

Speaking of Robson she was leading Ayumi Morita before the latter folded to shoulder injury. Bad day for Japanese players.

Nadia Petrova struggled through in 3 and the rest of the women’s matches played out according to script.

So that’s that, first day down, 13 to go.

To leave, I’d like to address this fashion faux pas of the day:

DEAR NIKE,

WHAT IN THE FUCK IS THIS????

They look like those Korean tube socks people used to turn up in in high school…like…WHUT???? PLS EXPLAIN!!!!!

Till tomorrow, adios amigos

LJ

Weekly Mosaics: go thug yourself!

Mirror mirror on the wall,

Who’s the fugliest of them all? 

 

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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?”

Epic success.

 

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. 

 

*rapturous applause*

xx doots

Week 1 Wrap Up – Part 1: Ready? Setty? Go!

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Congratulations to the ATP on this fabulous concept, let the race begin!

 

I’m starting my weekly wrap-up early this week, mainly because I’ve watched a lot of tennis over the last few days. With so much tennis played over different time zones from Qatar to New Zealand this week, according to my calculations, on Tuesday, Planet Earth clocked about 21 hours of non-stop tennis. Personally, the TV in my room’s being left on for about 6-10 hours a day while I’m on holidays, eating watermelons and watching tennis. Forget about easing your way into a new year – let’s start it with a bang. 

 

So what’s Week 1 of 2009 tennis bringing to the table? 

 

For starters – 3 dominant themes of this week (hopefully not of 2009 as a whole)

1. France, France, France – Viva la France!

A commentator (Fred Stolle I think) pointed out this week that France has almost 30 men and women inside their respective Top 100s this year, the most out of any country in the world. But if you were watching tennis week, it probably felt like more than that. At the Brisbane International, out of the 16 men’s and women’s quarterfinalists, 6 of them were from France alone. Over in Perth, Alize Cornet and Gilles Simon are treated like rock stars as the No 3 seeds at the Hopman Cup. And in Qatar, Monfils makes headlines as he upsets Nadal, while Santoro makes them for just hanging around to win a game. Needless to say, the French must be doing something right with their juniors, because it’s the Golden Age of French Tennis, folks. America and Australia, take note. 

 

2. The Welcome Back Party

The great thing about Week 1 is that no matter what happened in 2008, 2009 is at least full of optimism and hope. That hope, of course, can be quickly dashed as voices of doubt arise and things quickly settle (or unsettle), but for at least a few brief days, 2009 lives up to its promise of being better than the one before. 

 

Another great thing about this week is that all the players who went out early last year because of injuries, mental implosions or just sheer tennis irrelevance are back in action. Want names? Rusty, Casey D, Gasquet, Safin, Safarova (remember her?), Baghdatis, Hrbaty, Jelena Dokic, oh, and did I mention – Rafael Nadal? With the exception of Rafa, I have just one question for the rest of those I mentioned – are you back? or are you back

 

3. And the top seeds go tumbling out….

Remember the good old days when the top seeds stuck around for the semifinals and the final? But not this week. Rust, injuries, bad form, new racquets, problems adjusting back to life on tour were all cited as causes of their subpar performance, but really, I don’t hear their conquerors complainin’. It’s not like the top seeds were the only ones who went for an 8 week break. The highest seeds still left in the draws on this beautiful Saturday morning – Hot Sauce (Verdasco), No 3 seed at the Brisbane International, Marin Cilic, No 3 in Chennai, Murray and Roddick, respectively No 3 and 4 in Doha.

A few honourable exceptions – Victoria Azarenka (Baby Sharapova) , and Elena D, no 2 in Brisbane and no 1 in Auckland respectively – did hold up under pressure and make it all the way to the finals.  More on the top seeds later, but it was a disappointing effort from the group of them. Go hang your heads in shame.

 

The Hot-or-Nots of this week

 

Hot: the Hopman Cup 

I have a confession to make: I’m in love with the Hopman Cup.

A little OTT perhaps, but I’ve always thought of the Hopman Cup as a bit of a useless tournament. The only reason I started following it this week was because of the extended tennis drought in the offseason. But in time, I grew to love this unique tournament and everything about it – the format, the mixed doubles (where else can you find almost 10,000 people watching a mixed doubles match?), the way it brings out some of the less noted players and give them a chance to play in front of a big crowd. I love the Hopman Cup ball, the off court goss; I love its underdogs (read: Slovakia, Chinese Taipei); Lucy Hopman, the widow of Harry Hopman, who flew from the US to London, London to Singapore and Singapore to Perth just to come to the tournament, I even that little old lady who apparently turns up to tennis each year with her knitting needles. Oh, and did I mention those gorgeous diamond encrusted trophies? There’s such an amazing atmosphere at the tournament and I can’t believe I only gave it a chance this year. I’ve never been to Perth, but I might just go for a holiday there towards the end of 2009 and catch a bit of action after all the sightseeing. 

 

A little disappointed that Russia did not get its fairy tale ending, but who would’ve thought Slovakia would be such a great competitor. They thoroughly deserved their win.

 

Not Hot: the US of A joins the top seed hit list

Seriously, sif getting cleansweeped by Slovakia first tie. Just goes to show the strength of American tennis without the Sisters. As for James Blake, he did look like he was getting back into the rhythm of things by the end of the week. Do I think he’ll be able to defend his quarterfinal at the Australian? Yeahhhummmmmn…no. 

 

Hot: Don’t knock on the Dok

Uhuh, Jelena Dokic, she’s back… kinda, okay, not quite. 

Those who watched her match against Mauresmo this week probably thought she deserved to win that day. The familiar pattern of the match was that Jelena dominated most of the baseline rallies, at times even overpowering Mauresmo. But the problem was that Dokic was still the same neurotic player that she was back in her teens. As soon as she got into a lead, she started double faulting, going for too much, and making a ton of unforced errors to give back the break. Whether that’s matter of match fitness or mental fitness remains to be seen. 

Going back to my previous question? Is she back or is she back? Let’s just say that I do expect her to pull an upset sometime this year, but beyond that is really up to her. 

 

Not Hot: “Aussie” Ana Mania

On with the top seed casualties…

Branding Ana Ivanovic as “not hot” is always a little strange, especially after we’ve been inundated with her Rolex ads, magazine covers and Anando paparazzi photos this summer (winter if you’re reading in the Northern Hemisphere). It might be a little hypocritical of me to criticise Ana here, after all, I’ve always defended Sharapova when it came to similar criticisms, but Sharapova’s always competed at the highest level, hardly ever exiting before the semifinals of a tournament when she’s healthy. Ivanovic on the other hand, has made one semifinal after her Roland Garros win last year. She’s still ranked No 5, but if she doesn’t pull herself together right about now, she’s going to drop even further down the rankings. 

Oh, and seriously get over it! She’s not Australian. 

 

Hot (or maybe just lukewarm): the Importance gets a win

I hesitate to put Ernie Gulbis in here. Sure he got his first big win over the Big … Four, and careeerwise, it’s gotta give him a lot of confidence, but like he said so accurately himself, he’s had a lot more “beautiful losses”. So while this was his biggest win to date, it was by no means his best tennis. Still, a win’s a win, and this was probably the biggest story of the week, and that’s hot. 

The strange thing about Gulbis is that while he’s relatively unknown outside the Tennis World, he’s practically achieved boyband lead singer status within. I guess having a baby face helps. He’s due to play Auckland next week, after pulling out of Kooyong (boohoo Ernie).

 

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“It’s not the end of the world, it’s the first match, so I’m still trying not to be very pessimistic.” Sure Djoker, but you’re not trying very hard.  

 

Not Hot: rust, dangerous opponent, new racquets, jetlag…not my problem

Above are the reasons Novak Djokovic cited for his loss – it couldn’t possibly be because he just sucked.  Okay, let me rephrase – I’m aware that I can be a little harsh on the Djoker – it couldn’t possibly be because Novak Djokovic did not look like he wanted to win the match that day, nor did he look like he was ever prepared to fight for it. In short, Djokovic behaved like he didn’t give a damn. Disappointing to say the least. Many players who are lower ranked, more injured or physically tired this week put in epic efforts to try and win their matches (Julie Coin for example).

My adversity towards Djokovic isn’t due to all his talks, his impersonations or even his family, it’s because of his tendency to just give up when things aren’t going his way. Monte Carlo last year was an example, US Open was another. Perhaps he’s feeling the pressure of having the most points out of the top 3 to defend up to the clay season this year, who knows? I certainly hope he starts to look like he cared sometime soon. 

 

Hot: Rusty back in action

Yup yup, he won 2 out of 3 singles matches at the Hopman Cup, in the third match which he lost to Blake, there seemed to be some sort of ear problem affecting his balance, which reminded me eerily of Alicia Molik. But overall, I think it was a great week for Rusty considering he’s been out of action since August last year. 

There was a time when I used to hate Lleyton Hewitt for all his antics, but I must say, the guy’s really mellowed out with the whole “family man” thing, and there’s something endearing about a player who’s completely focused on really making the last leg of his career count. 

 

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Not Hot: Nadal in sleeves

See Nike? Give Rafa back his sleeveless shirts and piratas, he’s no longer scaring people! 

Frankly, even though Nadal lost to Monfils, there was very little to it. Not that Monfils didn’t play brilliantly, but to put it in perspective, Rafa hasn’t played since Paris (Abu Dhabi not withstanding), his first two rounds were both easy beatdowns, which I think actually hurt him. Those first two matches didn’t take him out of his comfort zone, nor did they help build up his match fitness, so when he came up against Monfils, he was ill prepared for the level of play that Monfils brought with him that day.

On a different note – Federer and Nadal entered 5 tournaments together from Monte Carlo to Wimbledon last year, and played each other 4 times in the finals, but since Wimbledon, they’ve entered 8 tournaments (the exho included) together, and haven’t played each other once. It’s almost painful.

 

 

Not Scary

Not scary in sleeves, and yes, that is a cat on a tennis court

 

 

Hot: the MaraNara

Marat and Dinara are just gorgeous together. As I said, it’s a pity they couldn’t win. Safin actually looked like he was in relatively good form until I commented on his two straight-set wins. From then on, he lost two matches in a row, relatively close both times, but that’s Safin for ya. 

In any case, I don’t know where I got the idea that Safin and Safina didn’t get along, they looked great together at the Hopman. Dinara clearly adores her older brother, and she’s growing on me, that girl. 

 

Australia Tennis Hopman Cup

 

Not Hot: Roger Federer who?

Go away.

I don’t want to talk about you. Mr Let-me-win-the-first-set-Mandy-then-you-can-have-the-rest. You played like crap. 

Feel my contempt. 

(the only thing more worthy of my contempt is the reaction of some of the fans, it’s either utter denial or doomsday prophesies, feel my contempt there too.)

 

 

Hot: Flavia la Flabulous

I thought Flavia Pennetta really shone this week in the mixed doubles at Hopman, the girl took on Safin during the mixed tie against Russia and won the majority of points with a wry smile. Take that Marat!

 

Not Hot: Jo-Willy Tsonga

Tsonga’s fast becoming my second favourite player after that Imploder who lost to Murray for the fifth time overnight, but his form this week was just not hot. He should’ve had easy wins against Calleri and Nieminen, but he didn’t. And last night, he lost to an ex-fave of mine, a guy who I’m secretly observing but openly ignoring this year (can you blame me? I lost too much hair over him last year). And in case anyone cared, his conqueror is still in the draws, so I’m refraining from commenting. Fingers crossed I didn’t just jinx him.

But back to Tsonga, he’s due to play Sydney next week with the Djoker. Are they both wilting a little bit under the pressure of last year’s success? To quote Rafa,  “we gonna see.” 

 

 

I still love the hair and the smile though.

I love the new hair though.

 

 

Other hots or nots of the week

  • Hot: Lisicki’s fiest
  • Not: Davyenko’s injury
  • Hot: Nishikori’s second big win
  • Not: Kiefer’s freak accident 
  • Hot: Alize Cornet, period. 
  • Not: Gilles Simon’s hair, but he’s dealt with that already.
  • Hot: Hrbaty changing retirement plans, says he’s prepared to play til 2012, oh, and run a few marathons along the way
  • Not: uncertainty over Masha. 😦  

 

Part Two coming re the guys and gals still left in the draws. On with my rant!

The Fangirl Chronicles

I don’t write about myself much, maybe because writing about yourself is actually a lot harder than writing about the larger-than-life players of Tennis Nation. But with the offseason well and truly underway, and most inhabitants of Tennis Nation in hibernation, I’m left with way too much time to wonder how the hell I got to become a tennis blogger/youtuber/highlights maker, and those players who drew me into this strange and wondrous world of yellow fuzzy balls. So here is my story, fangirl styled… 

 

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As a child of the late 80s, one of my biggest tennis regrets was missing out on most of the golden Sampras years. When Sampras was owning the sacred lawns of Wimbledon like it’s no one’s business, Dootsie was still busy eating candybars, learning her ABCs, and dreaming about a future as a great female astronaut. 

 

So it’s hard, really, to pinpoint my first tennis love. I’ve asked a lot friends of my generation who their first tennis love was, and generally, I get one of 3 people – Sampras, Agassi or Martina Hingis. But truth be told, I was never truly a fan of any of these three at the time. By the time I started following tennis as a cocky, know-all fourth-grader, Tennis Nation was approaching the tail end of Sampras’ career. Perhaps it was because of my inherent underdog-complex, or the aloofness of Pete Sampras as a person, or maybe the fact that up until recent years, as a Melbournian, the only slam I ever followed was the Australian where Agassi was a more familiar figure, Pete Sampras never quite grew on me.  But I’m reading “A Champion’s Mind” right now, so who knows? A biography might be just what I need to find the Sampras-love within. 

 

Agassi on the other hand began to endear me immensely towards the end of the 90s, and especially as we entered the early noughties. There was so much to be admired about Andre Agassi, his aggressive baseline game, his half-volleys, the way his groundstrokes came with extra venom… Moreover, he seemed to be one of those rare people who defied the natural bell-curve of an athlete’s career. Personality-wise, Agassi had both the class and sportsmanship of an elderly statesman worthy of every respect, and a history of rebel attitude that drew the fascination of a teenage girl. 

 

Another person from the same era who I actually learned to appreciate much more in hindsight was the great Steffi Graf. I mentioned that one of my greatest regrets when it comes to tennis was missing out on most of the Sampras years, well – perhaps the greatest regret of all was missing out on the good stuff from Graf, for Steffi has almost become my WTA-Federer in hindsight. But at the time, I only ever remembered Graf as a sentimental former champion, plagued by injuries, overtaken by Hingis & Co, her possible retirement always seemingly on the agenda, though nevertheless unimaginable. But perhaps it was precisely because I’ve always remembered Graf with a feeling of nostalgia but without any clear recollections of her significant triumphs, that I’m always on the hunt for vintage Graf matches, and when I do find them, I’m always impressed. 

 

As we launch full scale into the noughties, another player who came close to being a “tennis love” should be noted, and that is good ol’ Pat Rafter. Sure enough, I’ve always rooted for the Aussies – Rafter, Hewitt, Philippoussis, hell we’ve adopted Dokic too (though she always seemed to be in two minds about which country she wanted to play for). But my admiration for Pat Rafter went beyond mere nationality. As a player, Rafter was delightful to watch, inspiring many “ooh-ahh” moments as he lunged for impossible volleys, speared the ball in unexpected directions and attacked the net ruthlessly. There was something of a daredevil in the way Rafter played the game. As a person, Pat Rafter symbolised what we used to admire about Australian sportsmen – he was a fair competitor, he was charitable (donating half of the prize money from his 1997 and 1998 US Open titles to the Starlight Children’s Foundation), he was a diligent person who took a while to work his way up to the top echelon of the sport, but did manage to accomplish the impossible through good work ethics. For a while, my greatest wish was for him to win Wimbledon, and God knows he came painfully close, perhaps too painfully, seeing that he retired in 2002. For me it was sadly ironic to see such a fine serve-volleyer walk away from the game without a Wimbledon title.

 

So the early noughties, the good old days when Britney Spears still beared semblances of sanity…

 

One of the reasons why I say that I feel as if I’ve missed out on most of the Sampras years is probably because back then the ATP was somewhat of an afterthought for me. The WTA was my real love (quite surprising seeing that my favourite pastime these days seems to be ranting about the mundane quality of women’s tennis). But the period between 2000-2003 was an exciting time for the WTA, never was women’s tennis more attractive with Hingis and Kournikova as its poster-girls (or “Spice Girls of tennis” as they self-dubbed). But more importantly, never was the tennis more enjoyable. For early noughties marked the rise of the power generation with the likes of Lindsay Davenport and – the two players who really drew me to tennis – the Williams sisters. And the Williamses were much more than powerful ball-bashers. As tennis players they were creative, gusty and sensational. Because of them, for once, tennis could be seen as something more than an elitist, snobby sport. The Sisters were and still remain the populist face of tennis. I should also mention that the same period saw the early signs of two future contenders from Belgium – Henin and Clijsters. When people say that men’s tennis is about to enter into a “Golden Age”, in my eyes the only “Golden Age” I lived through and remember was the age of the WTA Power-Gen and the coming of the Sisters. 

 

After 2003, strangely enough, I lost interest in tennis. Maybe I got sick of watching Serena beat Venus all the time, maybe I just needed to bond with the other passions of my life, develop my interests in music, art, literature and … boybands (!? Oh-the-shame!). Or maybe I was just a teenage dirtbag disinterested in all things in life. Yes, I’m regret to say, I suddenly stopped following tennis after 2003. 

 

And if you’ve been reading my blog, you’re probably predicting the next turn of events – Roger Federer became the Saviour who rekindled my interest in this sport, who brought me back to Tennis Nation and turned me into the tennis fantard that I always was. If that’s what you were thinking, then you thought wrong.

 

Yes, a particular player did bring me back to this sport, but his name wasn’t Roger Federer, his name was … well … Rafael Nadal. 

 

A friend of mine couldn’t believe it when she found out that I used to be a Rafa fan. Even more bizarrely, I used to be a Federer-hating Rafa fan. I did mention that I have an inherent underdog complex, didn’t I? Well, back in 2004, when Federer was winning everything under the sun, and humiliating Rusty, my fellow Aussie, with double bagels at the US Open, it was kinda hard to like the bastard.

 

And Nadal – Nadal was like a fashion statement, and I’m talking about so much more than the sleeveless tops and the pirate shorts. Nadal’s fashion statement was his attitude – the firey antics on court (okay, and the butt picking too), his incredible mental fortitude and steadfast work ethics, not to mention the way he took baseline tennis to the extreme. There was much to be admired about such an exciting young talent. Nadal was the challenger, and Federer the establishment.

 

And about Federer – in the early days of his career, much of my dislike for him stemmed from the fact that he appeared to be devoid of both mercy and emotions, sporting an unsightly ponytail and five o’clock shadow, wearing a series of badly fitted sacs, and inspiring a ridiculous amount of praise from commentators. As for the tennis, sure it was as impressive and elegant back then as it remains today, but when I heard that he had come to the Australian Open in 2005 having won Doha without losing serve, I couldn’t help but think to myself – “someone stop this bastard on his rampage!” And happy hippo did, by the name of Marat Safin, who I forgot to mention, was an on-and-off love of mine (but who didn’t have a soft spot for Safin?). 

 

You know that moment in Pride and Prejudice, when a series of events forces Elizabeth to recognise that she had been blinded by her prejudice, and that underneath his pride, Mr. Darcy was really a generous and kind person? Well the same thing could be said of my opinions of Federer. No one was as shocked as I when I watched him get up to make his acceptance speech at the Australian Open in 2006 and suddenly turn into a pile of  blubbering, sobbing putty. Mind you, I was rooting, as always, for the underdog Baghdatis. But something about Federer that day – the fact that a 7 time grand slam champion could still be genuinely overwhelmed by the occasion – made me see him in a new light. Perhaps Roger Federer wasn’t as indifferent, unfeeling, and devoid of attitude as I thought he was. And viewed in that new light, I became more and more partial towards Federer. How could you not be after a year like 2006? I remember during the 2006 Masters Cup final, after Federer hit his zillionth backhand winner, Barry Cowan muttered softly to himself “yes, you are that perfect, without a doubt.” In 2006, instead of being annoyed at the amount of adulation Federer was getting from commentators, I was beginning to understand why. But still, the thought of committing “treason” against Nadal never occurred to me.

 

The real moment that nailed me to the Federer bandwagon came, again, at the Australian Open in 2007. I remember there was a lot of talk coming into the Australian Open, that Andy Roddick was finally “closing the gap”, after having defeated Federer at Kooyong. I for one had found Roddick to be too overrated, though I have developed a lot of respect for the guy, so I didn’t entirely buy the “gap-is-closing” hype the media was building up. But even so, that semifinal match …. how do you describe a performance like that? How do you do it justice? 

 

…At some point, I think I might’ve been on my knees, rocking forwards and backwards in worshipping motion. Sure Roddick didn’t play a good match, but even so, sort of high percentage shots Federer was pulling off with utter nonchalance was just astounding. In the fourth game of the second set, when Roddick, seemingly in control of the point, unleashed one of his forehands that landed almost right on the baseline. And Federer, on the full run, simply leaned to his left and neutralised Roddick’s monster forehand with a casual cross-court backhand half-volley. He then stopped cooly to brush back his curls, fiddle with his strings, and raise his hand half in apology to Roddick, half as an acknowledgement to the crowd, who was by then howling with laughter at the slo-mo replays. Utter ridiculousness. If you haven’t seen the point, you shouldn’t even be on this blog.

 

And just like that, the 2007 Australian Open semifinal marked the beginning of the end of my tennis story – I was converted, I was convinced, I saw the light. I understood what David F. Wallace was talking about when he wrote that famous essay on “Roger Federer as religious experience“:

 

“It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.”

 

We’ve all had those moments.

 

And despite my “treason”, I still remain very partial to Nadal. How could you not? Even after he traumatised me by committing regicide at Wimbledon this year, Nadal remained the same player who first endeared me and brought me back to the sport of tennis. I still smile every time I watch him line up his water bottles. His butt picking is still cheap amusement should the match even take a turn for the mundane. And the way his eyes dart from side to side suspiciously as he walks along the baseline always reminds me of a little schoolboy waiting to be scolded or shanked for doing something naughty. 

 

And where to now? I feel myself drawn to the young guys – Gulbis, Nishikori, Cilic. But not to the same extent as Federer. It could take a long time for someone to wow me like that again. Andy Murray – thumbs up for his improvements this year, but there’s just no need to write an autobiography at his age. Tsonga came close to giving me another “wow” moment at the Australian Open this year, and he continued to impress after he returned to the tour from his injury. WTA-wise, Venus and Serena are still hanging around, but unfortunately, I don’t see enough talent among the Russians and Serbians dominating the game today to get me excited. Vaidisova looked like she could be the next big thing for a while, but what happened to her? Stepanek? I like JJ, but she’s yet to prove herself on the big stage. Who knows, I could have another Pride-and-Prejudice moment with Ivanovic, but so far, I see her as a good player, but way too overrated. 

 

So this ‘Golden Age’ of the ATP better keep me sufficiently amused, or I might let my partiality for cheesy boybands take over again.

2008 Year-End Wrap Up: ATP Pt 2, the Players

Some final thoughts on the players this year, by players, I mean players other than Roger Federer, who, as the header of this blog, deserves his own damn post.  😀

 

Player of the Year

Who else but Rafael Nadal. To say that Rafa has been the most dominant player this year is to state the obvious – the dude did end up as the World No 1. But it’s a different kind of dominance than the one I’m used to seeing in the past 3 years. Nadal spent a period of 8 months between Stuttgart 2007 and Monte Carlo 2008 without winning a single title, by the time Hamburg rolled around, Rafa was one match away from losing his No 2 spot to Novak Djokovic. In this sense, with the benefit of hindsight, Hamburg 2008 seems like a real turning point for Nadal. The fact that he weathered the storm and came through two very tight 3-setters (Djokovic in the SF, and Federer in the final) must’ve given him an enormous boost. Two more matches defined the rest of Nadal’s season – one was Queens and the other was of course the Wimbledon final. Sure enough, Rafa was seeded No 1 at Queens, but how many people had him as the favourite to win? After Queens, it was almost unanimous among tennis clairvoyants that Rafael Nadal was going to walk away with the Wimbledon trophy this year, and no matter how close Federer came to proving them wrong, ultimately, they were dead right, and it was precisely this sense of inevitability that made the 5 setter at Wimbledon so heartbreaking for Federer fans. I’m not one to believe in fate, but I came damn close during that match.

One last voice of doubt regarding Nadal though, since his win in Beijing, Nadal has gone titleless for the rest of the year, brought down by physical injuries and the sheer exhaustion of this long season. Has/Can Nadal’s body ever sustain him through an entire season? And how does this bode strategically for those who want the top spot? 

 

Novak Djokovic 

Twice this year, he came close to becoming the World No 2. Twice he fell short. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that I’m not the biggest fan of the Djoker. Every time I came close to warming up to him, he and his family would say or do something outrageously comical to repel me again. Examples? “the-king-is-dead-long-live-the-king” incident, the sore-throat/dizziness retirement in Monte Carlo, and of course, the infamous Roddickgate at the US Open…

For sure, Djokovic started the year looking very much like the next in line. Australian Open, Indian Wells, a few semifinal showings- I don’t need to go through the 2008 chronology.

But then something inexplicable happened – I watched him surrender meekly against Safin at Wimbledon, and something in his demeanour that day kept coming back for the rest of the year – an expression that spelt “I couldn’t care less”, “you happy now?” appeared time and time again – against Murray in Toronto, against Tsonga second set in Thailand, third set in Paris and at the Masters Cup. And of course, in the semifinal against Federer at the US Open, Djokovic never looked like he had an ounce of belief that he could win. Even in the eyes of a non-fan, the Djoker just looked like a guy who needed a hug by the end of that fourth set. 

Perhaps for this reason, I’ve really refrained from talking about the Djoker recently, except for a little dig at his ill-advised drop shots. I remember all the negativity surrounding Federer during the year, and well… you just don’t trash talk a player when he’s seemingly in a ditch. After his Masters Cup win, I feel much more free to ponder over Djokovic’s stagnation after Rome this year. At the end of the day, the conclusion I came to was that he’s probably just an overly sensitive guy who desperately wants to be respected, but chooses the wrong way to earn that respect. Either way, for me at least, what separates Novak Djokovic from Nadal and Federer right now is more his mentality than his quality of tennis. I’m not sure where the Djokovic’s get their victim-complex from, and certainly some players work well with a “Me vs the World”  mentality (Hewitt, for example), I’m just not sure Djokovic is that kinda guy judging from his performance in the latter half of this year.

Question: I was making highlights for the 99 Roland Garros final between Hingis and Graf, and it occurred to me – is Novak Djokovic a Martina Hingis? Not in terms of style (although I can see similarities) but in terms of personality and PR…

 

Andy Murray

A friend of my reckons Andy Murray is “kinda cute”. She might even have a thing or two for his hairless chest and tic-tac teeth. Can I say I’m horrified?

Okay but seriously now, Andy Murray seemed relatively irrelevant at the start of this year. I remember marveling earlier on this year that just over 12 months ago, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were at the same level, and since then, Djokovic has made the finals at the US Open and won himself a slam down under, while Andy Murray – where the hell was Andy Murray?

Just as well I kept those thoughts to myself, because not long after, Andy Murray began his rise to the top of the game. The real turning point for him, as I’ve mentioned, came during that match against Gasquet at Wimbledon. Since then, Murray seems to have acquired a new sense of maturity and clear thinking. No need for me to go through his match history since the US Open final. Not a fan of the person (he published an autobiography BEFORE his first Masters Series title? Without a decent grand slam showing? C’mon!), but I am a fan of his game. Dude’s going to be World No 1 someday, without a doubt. Barring a return of his former brain cramps or injuries, he’s due for a grand slam title, very soon. 

One last comment regarding Andy Murray – dude, DROP THE FRED PERRY LINE. You’ve gone down in history as the player who turned up to play McFederer in the US Open final dressed in a potato sack. Fugly with a capital F.

 

If I were an investor, and tennis players were stocks, I’d be looking to buy next year – 

  • Ernests Gulbis: I actually thought he’d make more of a mark this year, but in quite a few matches, he came short of pulling an upset. Doesn’t matter. I expect this guy to draw blood next year, now that I’m on the bandwagon. 
  • Marin Cilic: Love. Love. Love. The boy knows how to hit a two-handed backhand. Good first serve and forehand as well. There’s a lot he needs to work on. But the salient features are there. He’s going to be a great player one day.
  • Kei Nishikori: he’s been on my rankings watch all year. Something tells me he’s going to become the highest ever ranked player from Asia very, very soon. I’m interested to see how he’ll deal with the pressure from back home in Japan though. 
  • Lleyton Hewitt: if you sold him, now is the perfect time to buy. He’ll never be a contender grand slam-wise again, but the man’s still got more titles in him once he recovers from his hip surgery. Plus Aussie tennis’s hit rock bottom, and it needs a little bit more support from me. CAAHH’MAWWWNNN.
  • Undecided – Troicki. Yay or nay? 

Stocks I’ll be keeping

  • Juan Martin del Potro: it’s been his break through year, but he’s yet to claim top 3 blood. That’s going to change in 2009. But at the end of the day, as much as I like what I see, I do find him a little one dimensional. If we could combine the mentality and heart of del Potro with the talent of Marat Safin or Richard Gasquet, we could have another Federer.
  • After a year like this one, it’s a surprise that I’m still keeping Richard Gasquet. My commerce student friends would be screaming “SELL SELL SELL YOU ARTS/LAW/COMMIE HOE!” at me. Gasquet is going to make me broke (and bald) one day. But I just can’t bring myself to sell a stock that seems like it’s got so much potential. 
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: I have my fears about his fitness, and his high risk tennis isn’t the kind of thing you should get attached to if you are unsure about your heart condition and blood pressure. But I just love the flair, the raw power combined with surprising finesse, the outrageous things he does on a tennis court…. wins over 3 out of the top 4 this year. Rock on Tsonga!

Stocks I’m selling

  • Gael Monfils: I know he made semi at Roland Garros, and I do love watching Monfils play. Not to mention he’s got one of the most adorable personalities on tour. But I don’t think he’ll ever be a contender. And he hasn’t got the sort of spell over me that Gasquet has. So here’s a stock I can afford to sell. 
  • James Blake: again, another player who I dearly love. But Blake ended this year titleless, losing to a lot of players who he probably shouldn’t have lost to. I’d love to be proven wrong, but it seems like the Masters Cup run he had in 2006 might end up being the highlight of his career. =(
  • Andy Roddick: I miss Roddick v Federer matches. We didn’t get another one after Miami. It’s a shame to sell just when Andy’s growing on me after all these years, but gee Roddick’s had a miserable year. He started the year with a little outburst at the Australian, and ended with a withdrawal from the Masters Cup.  
  • David Nalbandian: he doesn’t believe in himself, so why should I believe him. It’s a shame because no one needs to be told of the obvious fact that Nalbandian is brimming with talent. I used to have a thing for imploders. These days, Gasquet is more than I can handle. Nalbandian must go. Sorry Bandy =(
  • Nikolay Davydenko: I’ve promised myself to watch him more in the future, after discovering how underrated and entertaining his game is during the Masters Cup (hey, I’ve watched the guy lose 12 times to Roger Federer, so it’s not my fault that has never hit me before). But once you realise he’s defending Miami next year, you would be selling too. Good chance that Davo will make it to the London WTF next year, but not a good chance that he’ll end up in the top 5 six years in a row.   

 

And fare thee well to Santoro, Bjorkman and Guga. You’ll all be dearly missed. Marat Safin – look on the bright side, you made semifinal at Wimbledon this year. I’m not ready to say farewell to you yet so come back for 2009 please! 

 

One more post on McFederer and that’s probably enough tennis writing from me for 2008. What am I going to write about during the off season? My day? But writing about your own day is like going through your own vomit to see what you had for breakfast. No. That ain’t happenin’.

2008 Year-End Wrap Up: ATP Pt 1, the Matches

Just goes to show how much more emotionally invested in the ATP I am compared to the WTA. What a year it’s been, and I’ve decided to separate it into different posts. So here’s the first one, matches of the year. And a little disclaimer before I start – neutrality has no place on blogs, so feel free to disagree/agree with my terribly biased opinions. 

 

Match of the Year

Do I need to spell this one out? Can anyone really pick another match other than this one? No, I’m seriously not going to mention it by name, if you can’t figure out which match I’m referring to, there’s something wrong with you. Not only did it have high quality tennis, Shakespearean rain delays/acts of divine intervention, and two players who both epitomise what the Wimbledon Champion should be like, but it was also a watershed moment in 2008. The man who won would go on to take over the World No 1 in a month’s time, but really, the moment he reached for the trophy at SW19, he already was the unofficial no 1. 

That’s probably as much as I’m going to write about THE match, though I think it deserves many posts solely dedicated to it, I do feel that it’s been theorised enough already, and frankly, I’m still too traumatized by match to talk at length about it (I have the HD version of the match on my computer, and it’s ZIPPED with the password “cardigan”. Maybe one day in 10 years time, I’ll meet a stranger at a pub, or on public transport, and smilingly nod when he/she asks me if I remember this match, but for now, to quote Federer “it hurt”, and it still hurts).

But one last thing I will say about this match was something that came up when I was talking to a friend of mine (also a tennis fan) the other day – what would’ve happened in an alternative universe, if Federer had won the match? 1) it would have been the best come back in the history of tennis. 2) as Federer fans, we would’ve all been a happier bunch. 3) Federer probably could have held on to his no 1 spot instead of subjecting us to his existential crisis from after Wimbledon right through to the doubles gold in Beijing. But think about the other side for a moment – Rafael Nadal would have been the imploder who served for the match, double faulted, and lost in 5 sets. If you remember Nadal’s face after the 2007 final, you would not wish that on him. You would not wish that on anyone. So maybe it was only fitting that Federer be the warrior who “almost” came back from a 2 set deficit than Rafa the imploder who double faulted and lost perhaps his last/only (I hope not) chance to beat Federer on grass. 

 

Non-“The Match That Shall Not be Mentioned” – Matches of the Year

Because The Match was so significant that it just overshadowed every other match, let’s take that aside for a second. The non-“Match” matches of the year (the ones I’ve watched anyway) are –

 

Best of Five

  • Gasquet v Murray Wimbledon: what can you do about Richard Gasquet, on the one hand, I give Murray full credit for coming back from a 2 set deficit, but on the other, it is so Gasquet to lose the match after being up two sets and so close to victory. From another perspective, both Gasquet and Murray (until recently) were at the time, what I would call “the tortured artists”, exceptionally talented, but with the mental fortitude of a stick insect. But since that match, how their lives have diverged – Murray’s gone on to establish himself as a strong contender at major tournaments, and Gasquet ended his year miserably titleless, and injured. *sigh* Had it not been for THE match, this would’ve been match of the year for me. 
  • Federer v Tipsarevic Australian Open: Tipsarevic came out of nowhere to push Federer to the absolute extreme, and he did play some phenomenal tennis. Federer had some brain dead moments too during the match that probably cost him in the first 3 sets, but once Tipsarevic took that 2-1 lead, Federer clicked into that extra gear, and didn’t give Tipsy much of a chance in any more of his service games. And the game where he broke at 8 all in the fifth was just sheer brilliance, from both ends of the court. Yet (and maybe I’m only speaking from hindsight), there was this ominous feeling after this match, that perhaps, the 10 finals in a row streak was about to end, and that perhaps something else is wrong.
  • Federer v Andreev US Open: I’ve still only watched half the match (downloaded to 90%), and from what I’ve seen so far, lots of unforced errors from Federer, but he wasn’t playing badly, Andreev was just playing the best tennis I’ve ever seen him play. I was scoreboarding the match during Constitutional Law, needless to say I didn’t hear a single thing about executive powers, all I heard was the buzzing in my ear from the general lack of oxygen. To add to the drama, I always thought New York was the last city to really warm to Federer, clearly I was wrong. Years of service from Federer was repaid with interest by New Yorkers at the US Open this year, and that was beautiful to see. Can we do the same down here in Melbourne for Australian Open 09? To be really sick and quote everyone’s favourite politician right now – “YES WE CAN!”
  • Nishikori v Ferrer US Open: I’ve still not seen the entire match either, plan to download in its entirety during the off-season. Ferrer I’ve always liked for his speed and doggedness, there are those who possess incredible talent, but only make use of a fraction of it (Gasquet, Safin), and then there are those who you wonder how on earth they even made it into the top 10, let alone top 4 for Ferrer at some point this year. But that is because Ferrer made 110% of the talent he does have. As much as I love Nishikori, I did feel quite bad for Ferru after the match. And how about Nishikori, I think we finally have a promising young talent from Asia. All hail Special K!
  • Haas v Gasquet US Open: REESHIE! *tears chunks of hair out* But this is another match between two “tortured artists” who really could’ve accomplished more in their careers with the talent they possess. I haven’t quite given up on Gasquet though, and I won’t until he gets to the age of 25 at least.
  • Those that never made it to five sets: who says you have to make it to 5 sets for it to be a fabulous match? matches I loved this year include – Gulbis v Roddick US Open, Federer v Gonzalez Roland Garros, Federer v Monfils Roland Garros, Nadal v Murray US Open, Djokovic v Federer US Open, Murray v del Potro US Open

 

Best of Three

  • Federer v Murray Masters Cup: it’s still fresh on everyone’s mind, so it suffices to say that I think it’s “the” best of 3 match of the year.
  • Before the Federer-Murray match, I thought the best of 3 match of the year was Nadal v Simon Madrid, again – the sheer drama, the Spanish fans, the unfreakingbelievable shots Simon was pulling off that had me pointing at my computer screen screaming “GET OUTTA HEYAAAA!”  I finished the match at 4am AEST, that’s how enraptured I was. 
  • Nadal v Djokovic Hamburg – it’s funny to think that Nadal is now safely in command of the No 1 spot when way back in May, he was one match away from dropping to no 3 (the position Federer, to my dismay, is in right now). Again, only watched bits of the match but it looked like high quality stuff, many thought it was the best match so far at that point in the year, until it was outdone by the match a day later.
  • Federer v Nadal Hamburg – aka the match next day – Federer shouldn’t lost the first set, but he did. Nadal shouldn’t lost the second, but he did. Therein lies the drama of this match, plus this match conned me into a false sense of security that the Roland Garros final was going to be a competitive match, until Nadal showed up in Clay Monster mode and Federer showed up… well Federer never really showed up. 
  • Roddick DEF Federer Miami – Roddick’s had a pretty disappointing year even by his own standards. But he can walk away from this year thinking “hey, I WON ANOTHER MATCH AGAINST FEDERER”. That almost counts as a grand slam in Roddick’s books these days right? Given that it was not long after Dubai (where Roddick beat both Nadal and Djokovic), there was every reason at that point in the year to think that Roddick was going to be relevant again. Until he lost to Davydenko the next day that is. Don’t you miss the days when Andy Roddick was making grand slam semis and finals, coming up with some classic presscons and acceptance speeches along the way? 
  • Federer v Nalbandian Monte Carlo – both players played out of their mind, and Federer prevailed in 3 sets, but that was the sharpest Federer had looked since the Australian Open. In fact, it was positively TMF/JesusFed. I had my doubts coming into the match, I hit the panick button half way through, and I ended the match back to being the Zen Master that I really am. Kool-Aid Drinker? Me? Never!
  • And that sinkin’ feelin’ continues…I don’t want to remind everyone but just think of what we had to live through this year – Fed the Dead v Simon Pt 1/Pt 2, Fed the Dead v Ginepri Cincinatti, Fed the Dead v Murray Dubai, Fed the Dead v Mardy-Fish-who-rhymes-with-Dish Indian Wells, Fed the Dead v Blake Beijing, Fed the inexplicable vs Stepanek the Worm in Rome, Fed the inexplicable vs Karlovic Cincinatti. The only thing I can say about that sinkin’ feelin’ is that old sayin’ – “what doesn’t kill ya makes ya strongaaaa”
  • Non-Masters Matches deserving of a mention: Cilic v Fish New Haven (Marin wins his first title, and I hopped on the bandwagon); del Potro v Gasquet Stuttgaard (del Potro started on his four titles streak, I lose more of my hair over Richard Gasquet); Kei Nishikori v James Blake Delray Beach (Kei wins his first title at the expense of my second favourite forehand in the game)

Repost: “Random thoughts on a brilliant tournament”

I’m in the process of moving over some of my posts from the previous blog, as I said, blogger keeps coming up with error messages whenever I want to post or edit, so I’ve switched to wordpress. Here’s my post from the 10th September, a wrap up summary of US Open 2008.

 

**

 

10/09/08

 

Tennis is in an exciting place right now“, said Roger. And I wholeheartedly agree. The two hard court majors this year (AO and USO) have been by far the most exciting. Whereas the French Open and Wimbledon were about the inevitable final between the biggest rivals in tennis since McEnroe and Borg (or if you like, Graf and Seles), the hard court majors proved to be more like their host countries – the most democratic. The Dominant Two were less dominant, the up-and-comers at their most dangerous, upsets happen left, right and centre. Non-top-10ers show that they are ready to make the break. The US Open has made me feel excited about tennis in 2009 and the year isn’t even over yet. 

 

 

Juan Martin del Potro, the new tennis machine that conquered 4 titles within a space of one month this summer, with an arm span that reminds me a little of Michael Phelps. Of course del Potro is nowhere near the Phelps of tennis (Federer or Nadal, take your pick), but it would surprise no one if he ends the year in the top 10, and upsets a few of the big guns next year. Bandwagon – yes. Adoration – no. Let’s just say that I’m a tennis-purists, who likes her Federers, Murrays and Gasquet’s.

 

 

Marin Cilic, who I always classified as a more refined version of Ivo-Karlovic-serve-out-of-ya-tree, turned out to have good movement, good returns and a generally enjoyable game. 

 

 

And mentioning enjoyable, one of the most enjoyable young players to come up in recent years – Kei Nishikori – has flair reminiscent of the Magician Santoro, is steady mentally (recall 5 setter against Ferrer) and an excellent returner. 

 

 

And Ernests Gulbis, absolutely stunning set and a half against Andy Roddick, then succumbed to inexperience. Read his presscons, he also happens to be one of the most articulate (despite English not being his first language) players when it comes to talking about tactics or recounting the match. Just heard that he lost first round in Romania this week, so keep your fingers crossed that he doesn’t turn out to be a Gasquet (mentally), because the boy has style. 

 

 

Mentioning Richard Gasquet, isn’t it sad that one of the best shot makers (and single handed backhands) in the game also happens to be one of the biggest imploders? Losing in 5 sets to Tommy Haas in round 1 was just an example, losing to Murray after being up 2 sets and a break is also equally unacceptable. Mon dieu Richaarrrrdd…..

 

 

Caroline Wozniacki, tough loss to Jankovic, but she’ll be in the top 10 next year. Just wait and see. 

 

 

Alves, Federer’s round 2 opponent, said he was proud of his achievement even though he lost, because he lost to the man who will be holding the trophy in a week’s time, ‘just wait and see’ he said. Awww, thanks for the show of faith, wish I could say the same thing about Mats Wilander,  who proclaimed the King dead, finished, over, no more grand slams for Roger Federer. Equally unpleasant to see that he’s changed his tunes the minute after USO was over, claiming that Federer will win ‘many more grand slams’, and will 100% beat the Sampras record. And I thought I was a bandwagoner.

 

 

Murray “King of the Scots”, you blew me away in that semifinal against Nadal, and made me pray for Roger’s forehand, backhand and footwork to turn up on Monday (which they did). But what an exquisite player – the way he returned Rafa’s serves standing way behind the baseline, the spins he put on his balls, his net play, groundstrokes, volleys, his mixing up the pace on the ball – giving his opponent a softball, then pounding it into an opening for a winner – wow. Just wow. You may have fallen at the finish line, but there’ll be plenty more finals to come. Chin up boy!

 

 

Rafael Nadal seemed unstoppable, coming into this tournament with FO, Wimby and an Olympics Gold under his belt. Patrick McEnroe called him ‘an absolute favourite’, most of the analysts and so-called sports writers picked him as the winner, until Andy Murray blew him off the court in their semi-final. On the one hand, Rafa was clearly half a step slow the entire match, and was unable to impose his game on the crafty Scot, but on the other hand, his loss made me appreciate how hard it’s been for Federer to win 3 grand slams a year for 3 years, and in most years, a Tennis Masters Cup to finish off his season. Federer might need some Rafa advice on the clay courts, but Rafa needs to find out from Federer how he sustains his level throughout the entire season, almost 4 years without any significant injuries, and still manages to look fresh every year at the US Open and year end championships. 

 

But I still remember the days when I was on the Rafa bandwagon instead of the Fed Express. Don’t worry Rafa, a phenomenal year for you, Melbourne will be yours one day, New York will be yours one day, a career slam will be yours ultimately. But Federer, Djokovic, Murray (and all the youngsters I’ve mentioned) stand in your way. 

 

 

Jelena Jankovic may still be the best player to have never won a grand slam, but she won my heart, that’s for sure. What a character! Love the drama, love the smile, love the humour and love the splits. Would love for her to win a grand slam (starting with the Australian Open next year). You go girl!

 

 

And all hail Serena, the Queen of Queens, who won her 9th grand slam, and got back to the no 1 spot (with some groovy celebration along the way). Now we finally have a no 1 player who’s capable of backing up the ranking with quality tennis. I dare you to find anyone on the WTA tour who’s capable of player tennis like her and Venus. There’s simply match for the talent of the Williams’s. 

 

 

And a shout-out to Venus too. Someone had to win that match, and the draw gods were not kind, putting her and Serena in the same quarter. Better luck next time. And the fact that she’s ranked no 7 is an absolute travesty of the highest order. 

 

 

I’ve heard some complaints about the coverage of the USO, both in the US and in Great Britain, but seriously, that’s because they haven’t heard the commentary in Australia. Even I could spot the statistical/historical errors the commentators were making. One of them said the no 1 ranking was on the line in the final for Federer (errr… what?), another commended Djokovic for a successful Wimbledon (clearly senile, thought he was still in 2007). Channel 9 should relinquish the rights to Channel 7 or SBS, or get better commentators. I had more fun watching French streaming than listening to those morons. 

 

 

Novak Djokovic… forget it, not worth a thought, gamesman and hypochondriac of the highest order. Andy Roddick, who’s growing on me at last, showed humour, class and took all the controversies like a man. Nothing to be ashamed off. A tough shoulder injury to deal with during the course of this season, but I look forward to his gradual resurgence after this.

 

 

And lastly Roger Federer. I thought about his win so much that I’m oddly out of things to say about it. But really, he made my day, he made my year, he made tennis fun, and breathtakingly beautiful. I like this new Smiley-Federer, the Federer that pumped his fists during the Andreev five-setter, made sounds that I’ve only heard come out of the vocal chords of Rafael Nadal, and told the crowd that he enjoyed it.  

 

Even I wrote him off, worried about his mentality this year, claiming that he may be experiencing some kind of existential crisis. Watching him against Andreev, Djokovic, Stepanek and Murray yesterday, I was happy to eat my humblepie, and shush the Brad-Gilbert within. 

 

Some people called it redemption, but for Federer, there was nothing to redeem. A semifinal (with an illness), 2 finals and a title, I know about 98 players on the tour that would sign up for a year like that. 

 

Mats Wilander, despite his ridiculous bandwagoning, got one thing right: if he continues to play with such passion, he’ll win many more grand slams. Thumbs down to the commentators, press, and tennis bloggers (casts some evil glares) for conducting Federer mass-burials left right and centre, and then resurrecting him once they proven as wrong as the guy who thought the earth was flat (Thomas Friedman?). 

 

But thumbs up for all the players that rallied behind him and told the press that Roger’s not doing so badly as they were making him out to be (i.e. Sampras, Roddick, Blake, Tursonov, Alves, Rafa, Hrbaty, Henman etc.)

 

Thumbs up to the music guy at Arthur Ashe for playing ‘Still the One’ after every match. That, he got right.  

USO verdict: a win for tennis, a FAIL for Contract law and Constitutional Law. Talk about getting no work done. Off to go play catch up now. 

 

 

In many ways, this title was Roger's most passionate, and most human win.

In many ways, this title was Roger's most human win, and yes, contrary to popular belief, he does sweat.