Day 1 of the US Open 2011, and there was something palpably missing in the air. The OOMPH of Slam excitement carried away by Hurricane Irene perhaps. The crowd was subdued and the players mostly went about their business, the seeds not finding much rhythm but then the unseeded found even less. Basically everyone was a bit mopey having walked out of their caves for the first time in a few days.
Wogie Mcfedpants made short work of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-4 6-2, so says the scoreline but those who watched felt the uneasy moments as Mcfedtastic lost momentum and started showing poop for brains at crucial moments. Leading 5-1 in the first, he was broken serving for the set and then got broken to love in the next service game. Worrisome? Probably not but there was enough frazzling on my twitter timeline to suggest that peeps were a little agitated. Save the agitation for later folks, we’re in for a tough road ahead.
Fed’s next round will be up against Dudi Sela whom dispatched a clearly hobbling Thomas Belluci in 5 sets.
Red- perhaps-not-so-hot-Cilic-Pepper took out Ryan Harrison in ugly fashion. Harrison could have easily taken the match to a 4th and squandered it with his padawan youth. Back to Bollitieri academy m’dear. Cilic will play Tomic in one of the best matchups in the 2nd round on paper. Hope it won’t turn into the Aus Open 2010 meeting, where I stayed for 2 sets and decided to leg it back to the hotel before I fell comatose to boredom.
Tomic showing clear signs of his talent and form, downed US journeyman Michael Yani in comfortable straights. Like it or not, IMO the kid has the goods and his style is good for tennis and Australian tennis in particular.
Don’t-Call-My-Name-Falla defeated Troicki in 5, in a match that Troicki should have won. But Troicki is an ass so whatevs. Llodra and Petzschner also came through in 5.
Kei Nishikori retired injured once again. I wonder when the kid will catch a break. He was 1 of 3 Japanese players to retire hurt today.
I’ll leave you with my favourite picture of the day from the men’s side. My BB Greegor forgot to face the net and thus lost in straights to Le Monf.
Biggest upset of the day was earned by Petra Kvitova, going down in straights to Alexandra Dulgheru of The Ukraine. Kvitova is clearly going through her post-slam slump but Dulgheru, ranked top 50, is no easy opponent for a 1st round and Kvitova was clearly sluggish and her timing was completely off.
Shreiky needed 3 sets to get past GB up and comer, Heather Watson. I like Watson, like Laura Robson I think she’s got a good head on her shoulders but experience took over as she faded in the 3rd.
Speaking of Robson she was leading Ayumi Morita before the latter folded to shoulder injury. Bad day for Japanese players.
Nadia Petrova struggled through in 3 and the rest of the women’s matches played out according to script.
So that’s that, first day down, 13 to go.
To leave, I’d like to address this fashion faux pas of the day:
WHAT IN THE FUCK IS THIS????
They look like those Korean tube socks people used to turn up in in high school…like…WHUT???? PLS EXPLAIN!!!!!
Till tomorrow, adios amigos
1. How much does Rafael Nadal want to win Monte Carlo? As much as Sue Sylvester wants non-Sneaky Gays, more than an obese person wants hot chips with chicken salt and North American Federer fans want their Federporn delivered on Thursdays.
Analogies, I’m terrible at them. He wants it bad is what I’m saying.
Two matches, 2 breadsticks, 2 bagels. They don’t come served steaming hot with Swiss cheese, but that’s not to say they’re not just as a good. As far as I’m concerned, they’re better that way.
2. 5 Spaniards in the final 8 in Monte Carlo. Someone once told me that Spanish players are white shirts to French players’ tie-dyes. Outside Nadal and – for mostly nostalgic reasons – JCF, not a lot of them catch my eye.
Well … at least not in any professional way.
Mentioning JCF, he served up some baked goods of his own on route to a 61 36 75 victory over Jo-Wills. The Mossie might be 16-1 on clay this year, but he comes up against an impossible roadblock next: Mr Bakery himself.
“I would love to play him in the semi-final or the final, but right now the draw is like this,” Ferrero told reporters.
“I have more experience. Maybe my serve and my backhand are a little bit better, and physically I’m stronger than in 2003,” he said, although he would not state he was a better player overall.
No, he would not and should not, having only won 2 of his last 8 meetings against Rafa. But he did hit us with this fabulous line.
“I know Rafa very well but we all know he is the number one public enemy on clay.”
Nice one. You’re gonna go down Juanqui, but you’re gonna go down swingin’.
Surprisingly, one Spaniard didn’t make it to the quarterfinals – Tommy Rob, who was dispatched in straight sets by a certain Daveed, 63 64.
Nalbandian smiling on a tennis court generally blows my mind.
Nalbandian smiling on a tennis court with what appears to be Roger Federer’s hair makes my brain combust into a gooey pile of ashes.
WHY MUST YOU DO THIS TO ME?
3. “Upset” of the day, Marin Cilic was booted out of the principality by Montanes 64 64, although I’m not sure how upsetting it really is when a big-serving Croatian loses out to a small and speedy Spaniard. An Australian Open burn-out and movement issues on clay in equal measures.
The upset of the tournament so far, however, goes to Mandy, who made the trip to Monte Carlo in vain, losing his first match to Kohlschreiber. As good as Kohlschreiber is, it has become clear by now that Mandy’s in a psychological funk. The Fed didn’t just defeat him to win the Australian Open crown, he broke him.
But the strange thing with Andy Murray is his incredible self-awareness. He’s always been one to know his own limitations. It’s solely up to Mandy now to unbreak himself out of this lethargy that has been clouding over his tennis since his tears in Melbourne.
Q. Could you compare the moment you are living now, this result, with another moment of your career?
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I’ve been – I mean – obviously the last two tournaments have been bad. You know, yeah, it’s been a long time since I lost a couple of matches like this.
But I think, you know, I have to make sure that, uhm, you know, I don’t panic. You know, everyone I think can go through periods where they don’t play well. You know, I’ve lost to good players. Obviously, the score line has not been very close in the last couple of matches.
I just need to start playing better. It’s probably been a couple of years. Last year, the whole year, I was very consistent. The years before that, I was a little bit inconsistent. But I need to try and find that again and find my consistency, then I’ll start to play well.
No reason to panic for Muzz fans – if he has any, I suspect a small part of him is living for the July-September stretch of the season already. Bizarrely enough, sometimes I feel that more so than perhaps even Federer, Andy Murray is the one player at a stage in his career where he cares only about majors.
Because he ran out of things to prove elsewhere a year ago.
4. Excuse the total lack of WTA coverage, usually women’s tennis interests me a lot more than men’s tennis during the clay season.
It’s been so far so good for the top seeds in Charleston, as Wozniacki (def Schnyder), Petrova (def Wozniak), Jankovic (def Rodina) and Zvonareva (Bondarenko) all progressed into the quarterfinals in straight sets. Peng Peng Shuai Shuai and Dani Hantuchova are also in their first clay quarterfinals of the year, as they wrapped up their wins over Vesnina and Angelique Kerber respectively in 3.
As I write this, Sam Stosur is up 3-0 in the final set, after taking the first set 6-1 but conceding the second 3-6 against Vera Dush.
Slam her, Sammy!
Over in Barcelona, Franny defeated local favourite CSN for a place in the semi, while Shvedova, Dulgheru and Vinci all came through their quarterfinals in straight sets in front of what seems like a total of 5 spectators.
Small revelation while I was streaming Barcelona yesterday – Roberta Vinci = vastly underrated player. Amongst her, Franny and Flavs, the Italians have one stylish Fed Cup team.
5. Time to file that restraining order Jelena, Daddy’s on parole.
The AP is reporting that the Serbian court has freed Damir Dokic on parole. Dokic was convicted of threatening to blow up the Australian ambassador and sentenced to 15 months in prison. That sentence was later reduced to 12 months. Dokic was released on Thursday.
How badly does Andy Murray want to win a slam?
He gave you the answer in his clinical deconstruction of Rafa’s game in their quarterfinal encounter.
Murray played the most aggressive tennis I’ve ever seen from him for the first two sets – flatting his groundstrokes, particularly high off the backhand, charging to the net, throwing in the odd S&V every few games. Tactically and execution-wise, it was a lesson on how to beat Rafa.
That’s not to say Rafa didn’t have his chances. With early breaks in either set, Rafa simply could not hold onto his lead. Part of it was because of the pressure Mandy was putting on his service games, part of it was the lack of confidence from Rafa in his serve and forehand. When the second set rolled into a tiebreak, Nadal – perhaps distracted by his knee – was uncharacteristically loose on his forehand, winning only 2 points to concede the set to Muzz.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Toothface, still yet to lose a set in Melbourne, and dare I say it – looking ready and … desperately desiring to win his first slam.
To add to the pain of the loss – quite literally – there are now questions over Rafa’s right knee, which sustained an injury in the second set and deteriorated in the third, forcing Rafa to retire.
With this loss, Nadal will drop to at least to No 3 and possibly No 4 post-Australian Open, with a whole heap of Indian Wells points still to defend.
Q. Could you let us know what the condition is, what the latest story is with the knee. It’s very unusual for you to stop during a match.
RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, well, is not a lot of history because was during the match. Was in the end of the second set in one drop. And I feeled similar thing to what I had last year.
And, yes, after that I can’t go down after that, no? So was impossible to win the match. When I have the chance to play, I never retired. Anyway, like I know I going to lose like I did in Rotterdam like last year. I say sorry to Andy for that.
I felt pain still there without no one minimum chance to do nothing, the same time is hard for me be five more games there without try nothing, no? So I don’t know if I still playing can go worst or something. So I said, well, no repeat the same mistake like I had last year. I go to the limit, but not cross the limit, no?
Earlier in the day, the desire was evident on Marin Cilic’s face, as he fought off a valient Andy Roddick in his third 5 set match of the tournament. For the majority of the first two sets, Cilic was consistent in his aggression from the baseline, reeling off winners with his typically risque game.
Roddick, hindered by problems in his shoulder and knee, was forced to change tactics: he began to look for ways to end the points more quickly, take charge of the points, flatten out his forehand …
Bizarrely, the injuries forced him to adopt a winning strategy. Andy came back strong to win the next two sets, while the fatigue of the last week seemed to catch up on Marin at last.
But at an age when his contemporaries are starting to make splashes on the big stage, Marin Cilic did not want to wait for another chance at his first slam semi. Admirably, he fought off nerves and Roddick’s momentum in the fifth set, and returned to his consistent aggression of the first two sets. At 3-1, Cilic finally broke Roddick for the final time, and held serve for the rest of the set to close out the match for his place in the semi.
Q. Why are you playing such good tennis?
MARIN CILIC: ‘Cause I’m a good player (smiling).
That. You are.
At this stage of a slam, it’s all about how badly you want it. Justine Henin wanted it, and she wasn’t joking when she said that the competitive fire was rekindled in her.
It wasn’t the cleanest of matches from her, but the sudden rise in her level during her first set tiebreak against Nadia Petrova was frightening. Equally frightening was the way she dug herself out of a double break hole, and broke Nadia for a 76 75 win, her first straight sets victory since round 2.
Fault her serve during the match, fault her timing, fault her physical wear-and-tear. But there was one thing that you couldn’t fault Henin on during the match – her competitive instinct.
Boy, am I glad to see her back.
Bizarrely, the higher quality women’s quarterfinal today came not from Henin v Petrova, but from Zheng Jie v Kirilenko, who put on a display of shot-making and variety in women’s tennis.
The two were rather polar opposites – Zheng: short, compact, fast, flat-hitting, takes the ball impossibly early like a female version of Nikolay Davydenko. MariKiri: tall, lanky, hits with top spin, and rallies from the baseline with the ability to charge to the net.
Kiri will be disappointed that she lost what could possibly be her only chance to make a slam semi. But there was very little she could’ve done better – Zheng Jie made 9 unforced errors and 16 winners for the entire match. In women’s tennis, you depend on your opponents to give you something.
Zheng gave Kiri absolutely nothing.
How lovely is it to see two small gals who rely on their timing and shotmaking rather than brute power in the semifinal?
But I’m not giving it to Henin yet. One thing is for certain – whoever wins this won’t win on talent alone. Grand slams, they’re all about desires.
And we’re about to find out today just how badly does Nikolay Davydenko want it?
[clearspring_widget title=”IBM Grand Slam Widget” wid=”49624e4c7981ede8″ pid=”4b64d28096c1c94b” width=”300″ height=”250″ domain=”widgets.clearspring.com”]
Reasons why Mandy will beat Fed tomorrow
- New aggressive attitude shown in the past two weeks
- Confidence – Murray still leading 6-4 in the H2H
- As usual, my retarded theory: Federer’s complacency after a strong semi. Roger has the tendency to play a hot match followed by a cold match. We’re due for a cold one.
- Form – Murray has served more aces, lost fewer sets and played the best tennis I’ve seen from him at a slam. Ever.
- Ferd the turd might turn up: Federer’s serve hasn’t been totally on this week.
- Fluoro armpits. Scary.
- Desire to win a first slam. To win a first slam beating Federer. To help the Brits win their first slam in 150,000 years by winning his first slam while beating Federer. Lastly, to earn Roger Federer’s respect.
Reasons Fed will beat Mandy tomorrow
- Big match experience, he’s done it 21 times before.
- The match may or may not be in Federer’s hands, but what matters is that Roger believes the match is in his hands
- The pressure on Murray: from his country and from himself, as a slamless 23 year old “heir apparent”
- By contrast, Roger has zero pressure: he defended his points, secured the No 1, looks happy and laid-back, and to be quite honest – he wouldn’t be crushed if he lost. BUT I’LL BE YOU FUCKWIT.
- TMF is in Melbourne. So is Ferd the turd. So who’ll stay home tomorrow to take care of the kids?
- The key to the match is Roger’s serve, which has been on and off all tournament. But that’s within his control.
- Hit for Haiti karma
Day 5, the temperatures soared to 37C before a late night cool change took over. And much like everything down under, the tennis yesterday mimicked the weather, with shades of hot and cold, and its fair share of ups and downs.
ONE is your magic number. Randy and Rafa both lost one set. ‘Martin Porto’ ate one bagel. Justine Henin came back from one set down to level, and eventually – win the match against Kleybanova. Monfils could do no more than win one set against a cracking John Izzy, while Wicky and Sveta gave away one set to their respective opponents, but ultimately no harm was done.
And in the upset of the tournament, Kimmie won one game to concede the match to Nadia Petrova 6-0 6-1. To top it all off, Nadia Petrova was wearing a beautiful dress.
IS THIS REAL LIFE?
But first, it was a match that had nothing to do with ‘one’. Unless you count Jelena Jankovic as one big loser.
I have a real soft spot for JJ. She’s a ridiculous human being. She’s emotional, she’s stereotypical, she acts like a petty little school girl, and I mean that in a good way – she’s a real hoot to have around. And when she’s on, she plays tennis in a flowy, crafty and strangely feminine way.
Flowy, crafty and feminine she was not yesterday in her 6-2 6-3 loss to Alone Bondarenko, who was a shiny 0-9 against her prior to the match. Youch.
Every off-season, JJ goes off, picks a part of her game to “improve” and comes back with that part of her game regressed. This time last year, ranked No 1 in the world, JJ decided to bulk up. The price she paid for it, supposedly, was the loss of her mobility on court and that mobility she never got back until the summer hard court season rolled around.
This off-season, it seems that Lady Jaja took a look at the serving woes of Ivanovic & Co and decided she wanted to join the club. She went off, complete revamped the serve, and came back not only with no marked improvements but quite the opposite.
She gained no extra power, no better placement or higher first serve percentage. In fact, there was so much going on with the toss and ridiculous knee bend that she lost the timing on her serve.
Which brings me to my point – why fix something that wasn’t broken? Her serve was never a thing of wonder, but it was slightly better than “functional”. Now it’s barely rolling into the box.
I understand the desire to continuously improve as a player, but girl, you’re 24. The salient features of your game are there for better or worse. It’s time you start working with the strengths you’ve got rather than trying to fashion new weapons out of thin air. How much time do you think you have left before the new generation of bright young things come along and usurp your place in the top 10 OH WAIT …
The word ‘shocker’ doesn’t quite describe this next upset. Didn’t see a single point of Clijsters v Petrova because I was watching Cilic v Wawrinka on Margaret Court Arena at the time. From what I gather, it seemed that Nadia Petrova turned up prepared to play the Kimpossible, but the Kimpossible didn’t turn up to play at all.
Clijsters’ press conference offered no explanations for this bizarre loss, the worst in her career spanning 555 matches.
…she was good. But, you know, I let her ‑‑ you know, I made all the mistakes and she didn’t really have to do much. She served really well and was aggressive in the rallies, but that’s because I let her play into the courts. Just because I wasn’t feeling the ball well. It sucks.
It’s something you don’t want to happen too often. You just want to keep working hard. But, yeah, like I said, it sucks that it has to happen at this stage of this tournament at least. If it happens in another tournament, then you can say, Okay, you know, it’s not a big deal, just keep working hard.
You know, matches like this, maybe it happens once a year where you feel like this. But, yeah, like I said, you don’t want it to happen more than this because then, you know, it’s not a coincidence.
I think I haven’t changed anything in my whole preparations before every match. Everything was the same, same routine, then something like this happens. That’s probably the most frustrating thing about it, is not knowing. That’s sports. You know, it can happen.
That – ladies and gents – is the difference between Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic. Both lost early at the Australian Open. It “sucks”, of course it does. But unlike Ana, Kim isn’t going to go away, sign up for therapy, dump her coach, revamp her service motion, and get a new husband. She’ll wave her hand and call it “sports”. It happens, and I’ll make damn sure it ain’t gonna happen again.
Life wasn’t much easier either for the other Belgians still in the draw. For a set and a half against Kleybs, Justine looked lethargic and a step too slow. Meanwhile, Kleybanova was serving and clubbing the ball with so much pace and accuracy that it didn’t seem possible to stop her momentum.
But momentum, like Lady Luck, is a fickle customer. Justine finally woke up half way through the second set, and all it took for was a few second serves from Kleybanova for Henin to weasel herself into the match.
She’s not the HBIC for nothing.
With the second set under her belt, the lethargy wore off and Henin began to exhibit her full array of shots with better execution and court coverage, neither of which she had at the start of the match.
The real question now is whether she can recover in time for her all-Belgian clash against Yanina Wickmayer, who is yet to lose a match in 2010 but has probably had more dog fights than any other player this Australian Open.
In two of the more exciting matches of the day, John “Chubbysex” Isner and Marin Cilic defeated some tough opponents in Monfils and Stan on the infamously rowdy Margaret Court Arena.
Not a fan of big servers in general, but there’s something about John Isner that gets me … it’s not the forehand, nor his abilities at the net, both of which are respectable though not world-class. The kid’s got spunk, that’s all.
And he’s also got Andy Murray next round. It’s Toothface v Tongueface, can Mandy break finally his Australian Open voodoo? Or will John Isner achieve his best ever slam result?
If there’s one thing about Margaret Court Arena that I love, it’s the atmosphere of the place. It’s rowdy, it’s gleeful, and players like Monfils milk it for all its worth. Every roar from the crowd seemed to be magnified by ten-fold, and fans of a particular player tend to congregate like sardines into a single section of the crowd.
I had the misfortune of having the entire Croatian contingent sitting in my section yesterday. Luckily, they were mostly well-behaved after the security team stationed themselves outside. And apart from cheering like a bunch of drunk energizer bunnies through the night, and trying to convincing me that Roger Federer was “Norwegian”, they became a welcomed distraction from what was otherwise a very long match and a heat-exhausted crowd.
Stan started the match with full focus, striking the ball cleaning, and drawing gasps from the crowd with his backhand. But Stan being Stan, he couldn’t harbor the momentum, nor could he handle Marin’s risque forehand once the Croat found his range there. Every time, Cilic pushed Stan wide on the forehand, he won the point. And the momentum in the last 3 sets largely went the way of the youngster.
By the third set, Stan was physically exhausted in the heat, and the sounds coming from his racket had lost the sort of crispness they had in the first set. There was only one way for this to go and it wasn’t in the direction of the Swiss.
It was an important win for Cilic, whose tennis followed the theme of the day through phases of hot and cold. He’ll have an interest match against “Martin Porto” next round, as the Argentinean himself has been having complete blackout periods during matches. Delpo needed 4 sets to get past Mayer after losing a bagel set.
We’re in for one helluva Round 16 I tell ya.
I was just about to praise the WTA last week for their incredible consistency, with Henin and Clijsters reaching the epic final in Brisbane, while Flavs and Wickmayer battled it out for the Auckland title.
But take a few key figures out of the picture, and suddenly, we’re back to bedlam on the WTA tour.
Lady JaJa led the way first with a straight sets loss to Agnes Szavay. Seriously JJ, I’m not talking to you.
Unless you lemme try on this dress.
As for Agnes, like any dark horse, she has the ability on any given day to upset a top 10 player, but it’s the top 50 that’ll have her number come the Australian Open.
Despite her loss, JJ tried to remain upbeat in her presser:
“It was my first match of the season. I hadn’t played her in a long time. I also hadn’t competed in two months,” Jankovic said. “I have to clean up some things in my game. I need to stay positive. I hope I’ll be ready for Melbourne.”
Things didn’t get better for the tournament top seeds as the day went on. Vera had to retire at 3-all first set against ‘Lena Vesnina due to her lingering ankle problems.
It bodes ill for the towel-head, as she appears to be in no shape to defend her semifinal at the Australian Open and title in Indian Wells.
Vera is now in a recovery race for the Australian Open next week, and admits that she’s not feeling too confident about the early hard court swing.
“I will try to recover for Melbourne, but the inflammation is still there because of the surgery.”
“Last year I had an impressive start and they are impressive statistics. If I look back it was very impressive and I am very proud of what I achieved,” she added.
“This year is going to be a very tough challenge for me to repeat that, but I am going to try my best. The most important thing for me is to compete 100 per cent without thinking about my ankle as the last six months were very tough for me never being able to compete at 100 per cent.
“I was always having to push myself to the limit and I had to take a week off after nearly every tournament to recover. That was difficult so I am looking forward to the day when I can play injury free.”
It was a bad day for the Aussies too, as both Stosur and Dellacqua lost in convincing fashion to Flavs and Vera Dushevina. With such frustratingly high expectations on our players, Australia’s becoming Great Britain 2.0 OH WAIT –
And can someone explain why Flavia Pennetta was dropped by Tacchini? Was Nole that expensive?
The real theme of the day was “Asian Assault”, as Li Na came back from a set down to beat CWoz.
Well done, you Golden Flower you. Clearly it was a piece of cake, seeing that you only needed 67 unforced errors to beat the No 4 player in the world.
On the other hand, Carol – while being the sweetest thing to come out of Denmark since raspberry danishes – appears to be still allergic to the concept of hitting a winner.
Different year, same shit.
God bless our youthful Asian genes.
If you thought Kimi was good back in Seoul last year, wait til you see her in 2010. After making the quarterfinals in Auckland last week, Date Krumm scored another important victory today as she beat Nadia Petrova 63 57 64.
It could’ve been an even easier victory, as Kimi squandered two match points at 5-3 in the second set. Nadia broke back, and was up an early break in the third set before Date Krumm regained the form she had through the first and second sets and sealed the victory.
On the one hand, Petrova just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to drawing the most dangerous players first round. On the other – girl, you were outplayed, outrun, and out-thought by a 39 year old.
No wonder Fabrice Santoro can’t make up his mind.
On the men’s side of things in Sydney, Igor Andreev was upset first round by Leonardo Mayer in a third set tiebreak, 67 63 76, while Reeshie defeated Feli 61 64 and harkened back to the good times with Pamela.
It’s almost as if she never left.
All eyes were on Justine Henin as she began her comeback in Brissie today. Pat Rafter Arena, full-house, second seed Nadia Petrova. The stage was set for one helluva first round match and the girls did not disappoint.
All throughout the off-season, the Henin camp had been keeping expectations low for the Australian circuit of the tour coming up, but it is hard not to expect things when Justine defeats an in form Nads in straight sets to kick off her season.
Given that it was Nadia Petrova standing on the other side of the net, I expected some clothing malfunction and a whole lotta implosions. I got neither.
Petrova was surprisingly steady throughout the match, serving big, rallying solidly and charging forward when the opportunity presented itself. The two sets mirrored each other, with Justine and Nads going toe-to-toe until 5-all, when Justine broke and served out each set, 7-5 7-5.
What was surprising was how little rust Henin had. All the aspects of her game that endeared her to many were ever present – the signature backhand, the thoughtful shotmaking, the net play, the defence on the run, and the speed, not just from one end of the court to another, but the uncanny ability to stop and turn with agility…
Nadia Petrova agrees:
“It’s a different Henin. To me, it looks like she is playing better tennis than when she retired.
“She really plays a completely different style. She tries to be very aggressive and taking her opportunities straight away.
“Before it was always like long rallies and more like a claycourt player and now she’s becoming a really aggressive player.”
Henin claims that her new aggressive style will help with her longevity in the game.
“I tried to be a bit more aggressive but, physically, if I am going to play on the tour for a few years I need to be more aggressive,” she said.
“It’s only the beginning and I feel better today than I did when I retired that’s for sure, both emotionally and mentally.”
That’s not to say there was nothing lacking in her game. Henin came back from retirement with a higher ball toss and shorter forehand backswing. Part of the Career 2.0 package she’s been working on over the off-season that’s supposed to benefit her quest for Wimbledon and slam glory.
Serve-wise, 6 aces to 3 DFs, not at all shabby by WTA standards. Although the first serve percentage was atrocious for most of the match, she was winning 90% of the points on first serve. The jury’s still out on whether productivity for percentage is a fair trade in the case of Justine Henin.
But so far, so good. It was lovely to watch these ladies kick off their seasons with a lively, competitive match. Power, speed, and versatility. They gave us a bit of everything. With Serena, Clijsters and Henin already favoured by the bookies for the Australian Open, the last two years of the WTA merry-go-round starring Ivanovic, Safina and Jankovic seemed but a distant bad dream.
I didn’t realise it was 2005.
Mentioning bad dreams, earlier in the day, Ivanovic won her first match since Rogers Cup 09, defeating Jelena Dokic 75 16 63.
Compared to the match between Henin v Petrova match that followed, this match represented all the woes of women’s tennis – double faults, neurotic ball tosses, mental paroxysms, the inability to maintain leads or control momentum.
Dokic was the better player for most of the first and second set, but her refusal to hold back on the second serve costed her 11 double faults, and ultimately the crucial third set. Ivanovic should be pleased to have at least a win to start her year. I’m just not sure it was so much her doing as Dokic’s undoing.
And if there was one thing I hate as a tennis fan, it’s matches won or lost on errors rather than positive play.
If you didn’t see Clijsters v Henin, you have just missed out on one of the most incredible, dramatic matches of the last 3 years.
SHAME ON YOU!
Order of Play
- Stanislas WAWRINKA vs Marin CILIC
- Marc GICQUEL/Jeremy CHARDY vs Leander PAES/Lukas DLOUHY
- Radek STEPANEK vs Andy RODDICK
‘Tis the season to be jolly, as they say, and why wouldn’t you be?
In the lazy, frazzle-free haze of the offseason, familiar faces are resurfacing everywhere. You know what they say about absence and fond hearts?
How could I have missed the orgasmic effects of an Henin backhand without her 18-month ‘retirement’?
Who knew I had this much love for Nalbandian and his tummy full of foxiness?
And didn’t you have a smile on your face too when you saw Alicia Molik and Casey Dellacqua on court at the Australian Open wild card play-off? …Well didn’t cha?!
Oh yeth! Old friends are back, and they’re back in a winning fashion.
Making his first appearance since being sidelined with a hip injury 7 months ago. Nalbandian defeated Massu and Gaudio at the Copa San Juan Minero, conceding only 7 games in 4 sets.
Having only seen the match against Massu, what can I say? Nalby was much better than I thought he’d be.
Remarkably self-assured throughout the match, Bandy served big, foxed his way around court and absolutely crushed that forehand at every opportunity he got. In fact, I was surprised at how effective his forehand was during the match and how happily at ease he looked.
Now the thought of Nalbandian lurking in the Australian Open draw of some hapless top seed officially makes me want to stick my head into a barf-bag. But hey, good to have you back, you foxy ninja!
The woman’s on a roll! Justine Henin capped off her exho tour with a straight-sets win over Nadia Petrova in Cairo. It was her first match on clay since the painful loss to Dinara Safina 18 months ago. Good to see the bitch of Roland Garros back on home turf.
Henin now goes into the Australian circuit with 3 straight-sets wins under her belt, 2 of which over fringe top 10 players. And she says she doesn’t have high expectations for the Australian Open? Right.
Here’s to hoping for a good draw. Like Nalbandian, Henin is just a land mine waiting to feast on the limbs of a few top players.
The Australian Open wild card play-offs kicked off this week at Melbourne Park, as Casey Dellacqua and Alicia Molik both made their appearances in hope of boosting Aussie presence at our home slam.
Molik, who retired for a year due to lingering illness and injury, looked fresh and happy as she downed 18-year-old Jade Hopper 6-1 6-2. She was soon joined by her sometime doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, as Dellacqua defeated Olivia Rogowska 76(10) 60.
The score line speaks volumes for how Rogowska fell apart after losing the first set, but from what I saw, Casey was hitting the balls cleanly enough.
Regardless of form, ranking or potential, you won’t find two more down-to-earth, happy-go-lucky players on the WTA tour. Welcome back ladies. Our Fed Cup team will be made of win next year.
Also on the comeback trail, Carlos Moya will be playing an exhibition tournament in Buenos Aires as preparation for a January return to the ATP.
Moya was sidelined with osteoarthritis in a foot, and injuries to the tendon and bone of the right buttock.
I wonder how he injured his right buttock.
Yes. I’m a horrible person, but let it be known that ellesse, Nadia’s Italian sponsor, makes horrible sportswear.
Indeed, I spent half the year wondering if Nadia Petrova was wearing her clothes inside out. Which, unfortunately for ellesse, she wasn’t.
Sometimes, you just have no excuse.