I start with the men’s draw on the premise that we are headed for a Rafole final in Melbourne in two weeks unless someone stops them. But who might actually be capable of tripping the current Big Two?
Murray? Even the most die-hard fans of British tennis would have to concede that Toothface is nowhere near match-fit and ready to win the Aus Open.
Del Poopy? Surely, he is long overdue for a slam win over Rafa.
Wawrinka? There may be some level of cosmic balance overdue to My Friend Stanley after his five set loss to Djoko in Melbourne last year, but given Stanley’s draw, I doubt it.
Here’s a closer look at the men’s draw.
It was insanely hot yesterday and not just because Federer was playing tennis and generating insane hotness.
It was the kind of hot that made you feel like you were being slow roasted live, thinly veiled in a blanket of sweat, and every breath felt like you were breathing the steam out of a boiling kettle. How players managed to play any tennis at all was beyond me. I for one was melting into the seat just watching them.
And through the heat, I watched most of Berankis’ decisive win over Florian Mayer. After a year of injuries in 2012 that stunted his rise in the rankings, it’s nice to see Berankis in such good form. For a small player by modern tennis standards, when he’s on, Berankis plays like a much bigger guy, with easy power and an attacking, all court game. If he stays in form, he should give Toothface more of a work out next round after coming through two cakewalk rounds. Read More…
Theoretically, Pablo Andujar should be munching on bagels and breadsticks in the Bakery of Rafael Nadal. But nope. Rafa’s round 2 match, although a lot less dramatic than his round 1 match, was anything BUT straightforward.
It’s kinda puzzling to see Rafa Nadal failing to consolidate a break – on clay, in Paris – but it’s downright Twilight Zone to see him failing to consolidate a break THRICE. But to see him down 5-1, 40-0 in the third set was complete Twilight Zone in Alternate Reality as the tennis world again erupts into a flurry of disbelief: Rafa Nadal, what the FUCK are you doing?
Let’s give Pablo Andujar some credit. He played well, very well in fact, to hang with Rafa and keep him constantly challenged in the first two sets. The fact that he was up 5-1, 40-0 in the third set was not completely of Rafa’s own undoing – and even if Rafa was about three zillion kinds of crap in the third set, there was no denying Andujar’s spectacular shots at opportune times helped him with the commanding score-line in his favour.
Most tennis players would have lost the set when facing three set points, double-break down. Not Rafa Nadal. But of course, on the flip side – one can argue that most tennis players would have WON the set with three set points and insurance breaks in his pocket. Most tennis players would have taken at least ONE of the EIGHT set points offered. Unfortunately, not Pablo Andujar.
Andujar choked – there was no other way to put it – when he had three set points, his forehand was landing everywhere BUT inside the court. And I woulda think with that break, Rafa would go on to hold easily and force Andujar to try and serve for the set again. Nope, think again. The games that followed were utterly weird as both Rafa and Andujar seemed to try their hardest NOT to win the set, which sort of went like this:
Rafa: *hits a double fault* Hey, Pabby, I know I just broke you, but here are four – count them, FOUR – set points! I am so nice, no?
Andujar: Awww Rafa, that is SO VERY nice, but I couldn’t possibly! *hits a crap forehand*
Rafa: Okay. Then I break you again, no?
Andujar: Oh, if you must.
Rafa: Many sorries, no? Here, have another set point!
Andujar: Hmmm…not shiny enough. You can have it instead.
Rafa: *shrugs* Okay.
Andujar: My legacy: Guy Who Wasted Eight Set Points Against Nadal! Yee hah!
It eventually went into tie-break, which was kind of yo-yo. They traded mini-breaks before a couple of bad errors by Andujar gave Rafa a 5-1 lead – but Andujar clawed back to 5-4 only to play the most horrendous drop-shot at the net to give Rafa match point.
Gee Rafa, whatever happened to “a little less drama, please”?
Honestly, it’s just unusual to see this Rafa – a Rafa that is less than 100% confident of his game, a Rafa who shank forehands, a Rafa who couldn’t land a first serve, and a Rafa who, at times, just look completely lost out there (against both Isner and Andujar). It’s disconcerting to see him struggling so early on in RG, as shades of Federer at Wimbledon last year flash through my mind. I don’t quite know what to think yet, but I do know I should never ever count out Rafa in Paris. Struggling or not, I somehow still think he’ll find a way to bulldoze his way into the final.
But time will tell.
The rest of the day played out as such:
1) Rafa avoided any significant drama, but not so for Jurgen Melzer. Following the footsteps of fellow semi-finalist Big Berd, Melzer found himself unceremoniously dumped from the tournament by unheralded Berd compatriot Lukas Losol. Melzer was serving for the match in the 4th set, and curiously just lost it. He began smashing racquets in the 5th, but couldn’t hang on for the win, and POOF! Murray’s quarter is as pretty as Djokovic’s right now.
2) Speaking of MAndy – he was as exciting as a wet smelly sock in his own match against Simone Bolelli. But y’know, it’s Simone Bolelli. Served for TWO sets, led by breaks a few times, but ultimately succumbed to Mandy’s teeth and his inability to take a set. So Mandy is through in straights despite smelly-sock play, while Bolelli and Andujar should get together to get drunk and soak their heads.
3) Bobby Sod was in no mood to lose anymore sets this round, outplaying Albert Ramos in straight sets, THANK YOU, SOD.
4) My sentimental favourite Nikolay Davydenko’s Playstation batteries went flat against Croatian qualifier Antonio Veic, losing in 5 sets. I have been hoping for Kolya to upgrade his Playstation but that just doesn’t seem to be happening. Veic will play Rafa in the 3rd round, squashing my hopes of a Kolya/Rafa meeting.
5) Hairbandwagon, meanwhile, is still rolling after Dolgopolov’s neat dispatch of Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets. Dolgo most unusually hit more winners than unforced errors, including a ridonk drop-shot off Haider-Maurer’s second serve that WORKED. This is what happens when his crazy works for him. Anyway, he’ll need ALL his winners in his bag of tricks to overcome Satan Bert Minion Viktor Troicki, who was clinical in dispatching Tobias Kamke.
6) The other half of the Ponytails, X-Man Malisse, however, fell against Fernando Verdasco in four sets – in what must be a relieving win for the dude.
7) Mardy Fish is the last American man standing after Samurai Sam bite the dust against Papa Ljubs; Marcos Bagman (l. Leonardo Mayer), Kevin Anderson (l. Juan Ignacio Chela) and Florian Mayer (l. “I Took Federer to Five on Grass” Falla) are among the seeds to crumble on Day 5.
There was no lack of drama on the ladies’ side either. First off, Mama Kim shockingly lost to little known Dutchwoman Arantxa Rux – after serving for the match and holding match-point in the second set. She noticeably had ankle issues but denied that her loss was due to that. She put it down to lack of matches and lack of confidence when she lost the match points. Props to Rux for holding her head together to pull off the upset – a rare feat among the ladies, that’s for sure.
Shrieky Sharapova came within a whisker of joining Kim on the next flight out, losing first set and was down a break to French wildcard, 17-year-old Caroline Garcia. Garcia was imperious in the first set, leaving Shrieky looking almost befuddled as she ran way with the set 6-4. Even MAndy tweeted with an unusual touch of mild enthusiasm:
The girl sharapova is playing is going to be number one in the world one day caroline garcia, what a player u heard it here first.
But as Garcia’s serve began to crumble as the occasion loomed upon her. She hit double-faults to hand Shrieky a break when she was up 4-1, allowing Shrieky to regain her momentum and ran off with the next 11 games, dishing out a bagel in the third.
Even so, girl’s got game, development and loads of time on her side. I hate to agree with Toothface – but she may be a great force to be reckoned with.
Other than that, it was fairly uneventful for the women:
1) Li Na came up against some resistance from Silvia Soler-Espinosa, but still managed to prevail in straight sets, but the other girl on Lenglen, Victoria Azarenka, pummelled Pauline Parmentier into oblivion, only allowing her one game.
2) Jarka Gajdosova survives in straight sets to advance – Aussie men’s tennis may be looking shabby but the girls are still flyin’ the Aussie flag!
3) In the match of Ana Ivanovic’s first-round Slam conquerors, Ekaterina Makarova defeated Johanna Larsson in straight sets.
4) All the seeds survived except Alexandra Dulgheru, who lost to countrywoman Sorana Cirstea.
That’s the wrap for Day 5. Am seriously honestly hoping for a DRAMA-FREE Day 6 – especially where Roger is concerned. Ferd, please stay locked in the toilet and do not come out…forever.
Stay glued to your screens to cheer for the Swiss Pants, y’all!
P.S. photos from daylife.com
The death of Bin Laden brought a lot of mixed feelings over the course of the day. Some were jubilant, some (myself included) felt the human cost of the past 10 years more acutely than ever. But above all, if there could ever be one good thing to come out of this entire clusterfuck of the 21st century, I hope that it is some measure of closure for the families of innocent civilians torn apart by terrorism. Not just American, British, or Australian, but also Arab or Muslim.
In light of all this – who wants to talk tennis?
But indeed we should. Lives must be lived, and nothing brings me more glee than watching Dayvo make sweet love to a nice German car after beating home boy Florian Meyer 6-3 3-6 6-1 in Munich. It was Dayvo’s 21st career title and should be more than enough to send him on a well-deserved climb back into the top 30.
In other news, del Porridge took out Real Tennis Fiasco 6-2, 6-2 at the Estoril Open final, while over in Serbia, Satan maintained his perfect record for the season with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 win over Deliciano Lopez at the Mama Djokovic Open, improving his match record in 2011 to 27-0. Clap along politely, if you must, as he enjoys an intimate moment with the alarmingly phallic trophy.
27 wins in a row is no doubt an incredible achievement, but just to put it in context:
Wogie McFeduhruh is the only player in the Open Era to hold 6 winning streaks of 20 matches or more. The 1st streak being 23 matches in mid-2004; the 2nd streak was 26 matches; 3rd – 25 matches in early 2005; the 4th streak was 35 matches at end of 2005; and the 5th and longest streak started at the 2006 US Open and ended after 41 victories.
All credit to Mister @naughtyT for the stat.
So yes. Fantastic achievement for Novak Djokovic. But when I, Miss Bossypants Doots, tell y’all to sacrifice goats at the alter of the too-often underappreciated Wogie McFed, YOU DO EXACTLY WHAT I SAY! Oh yes you do!
PS. By the way, Rotterdam could barely prevent itself from weeing in excitement as it announced this week that GOATerer will be joining the line up for the 2012 tournament. Check out the video here.
Rewatch the Federer v Davydenko Doha final from yesterday and turn this on in the background:
I did. And then I did a little Wiggles dance.
Note Federer’s face as he walked up to Nikolay at the net after his 63 64 win yesterday. He looked so satisfied and happy that I half expected him to break out into a song, “I’m a sex machine ready to RELOAAAAAAD like an ATOM BOMB about to OH! OH! OH! OH! OH EXPLODE!”
The combination of Queen and McFederer was so potent both my ovaries accidentally detonated. But boy, it has never felt better to have maimed lady-tubes.
The celebrations were somewhat muted. The Australian Open starts in just under 8 days and already, I find myself twiddling thumbs and absent-mindedly bouncing Federbear against a wall out of angst. Everyone will tell you that Federer has won 5 of his last 7 non-slam tournaments. B-b-but WHUT? He’s not supposed to care about Mickey Mouse tournaments anymore. He’s not supposed to be amassing a ridiculous number of points like he’s on some kind of demented hunt for scalps. This Federer guy – isn’t he meant to be “over the hill”, desperately grabbing at whatever slams Nadal “generously” toss his way so that he can seal his precious legacy?
Say WAAAH?! Winning an extra tournament Stockholm? Almost in tears in as the Basel champion? Looking like a kitty with milk in Doha? Going on a non-slam tournament binge?
Who do you think you are – the new Nikolay Davydenko?
I kid, of course. You know as well as I that there is no cause to doubt Federer’s hunger and passion for the game. Sure, this ain’t a slam, and the task before Wogie now would be to valid the sensational 6 months he’s had with a slam win. Am I confident? Never! It’s a slam, fearing everybody is the mark of a true kool-aidholic.
But let’s just say that I’m bringing back those hot tunnel vision goggles and my favourite mantra: ONE. MATCH. AT A TIME.
But like hell I’m going to forego a celebratory fistpump after such a satisfying win, just because the bigger prize is just around the corner. Every title deserves to be celebrated and savoured.
So here’s the deal:
- He didn’t lose a single set this week.
- Having lost all of his tiebreaks in Abu Dhabi, Federer won all of his tiebreaks in Doha.
- Counting Abu Dhabi, in 7 matches, Wogie McSquishie has been broken ONCE.
- He hasn’t faced a break point since the R16.
- He played his toughest and most passive-aggressive match in the 2nd round against Schoorel, and has since stepped up gradually each match.
- Against Davydenko yesterday, he struck the ball so cleanly he put Windex out of business. Besides that, he served automatically, he took his chances at the net and returned aggressively: which is to say that most of the little tweaks in his game in the last 6 months were evident.
Yes. The Paul Annacone magic lingers, and 99% of Federer fans now want to permanently relocate inside Annacone’s mouth and live on a diet of neapolitan ice cream. Love ya, Mister Cone, you crunchy Zen-master you!!
And then, there was little this gem I just came across.
“He’s obviously l told me to play more aggressively, because I did have a bit of a tendency to just start chipping the backhand return into play and just getting the rally started. I’m very good at that, I can do that all night. But it’s just a bit predictable for opponents….”
Oh my Grill Cheesus, you needed Paul Annacone to tell you that?
Never mind. LET US PARTY ON.
Don’t stop me now I’m having such a good time! I’m having a ball!
Don’t stop me now, if you wanna have a good time, just give me a call!
Don’t stop me now (’cause I’m having a good time!) DON’T. STOP ME NAOO. (Yes I’m having a good time!) I DON’T WANNA STOP AT ALLLL!
Don’t stop Wogie. *wiggle dances*
1. How do you solve a problem like Maria?
Okay. I geddit. It’s the W-friggin-TA. If I freaked out every time a top seed got booted out of a tournament by a nobody, life would be like a neverending reenactment of the Ring.
But you just could not have watched Maria Sharapova lose to Greta Arn mid-week and not fumbled for an asthma inhaler. All credit to Greta Arn, who survived a match point in the second round before booting 4 seeded opponents in a row and winning the biggest tournament of her career: her run this week has been a display of tenacity and inspiration. Even my cold, bleak, calcified heart softened a little at the sight of her kneeling in victory after the biggest win of her career today.
But even if we were to take this “giving the giant-slayer their due” thing to the utmost limit, we cannot deny the worrying signs here for Sharapova, in straight sets to a 31 year old journey-woman more than 7 years her senior, with a career high ranking of 81.
This is her third defeat to a player outside the top 50 … in a row.
The Cow On Ice may not be the smoothest mover out there, but she was sluggish all week even by her humble standards.
What befuzzles me beyond anything is why Sharapova asked for a wild card to Sydney only to turn it down last minute. If she seriously considered playing a second tournament before the Open in Sydney, she obviously wanted to be match-fit for the Australian Open. Why change your mind just when you’ve suffered an early defeat?
Unless there is some unpublicised injury, I cannot fathom Sharapova’s logic here.
2. Roger Federer has made 8 straight semifinals in a row since Wimbledon. In his last 10 tournaments, he has only failed to make the final twice.
INCONSIDERATE DOUCHEBAG. I had just gotten into the habit of abusing Federbear whenever he lost early in tournaments.
Not much to say about McFed’s play this week: he played 8 sets, won 8 of them. 3 tiebreaks, won all 3 of them. He’s been broken once since Abu Dhabi and hasn’t faced a break point in 2 matches (granted, he hasn’t played a returner like Kolya). In other words, he’s done enough to sail on smoothly each match.
Bizarrely, the more competitive and high quality matches were the two played against players ranked outside the top 100 – Schoorel and Chiudinelli. I get sick of hearing about the “depth” on the men’s tour as much as anyone, but you know where I’m going with this.
Onto more delicious topics … here’s a picture of a banana milkshake.
Here is another.
3. Justine Henin went to great lengths to talk down her chances at the Australian Open during the off-season, to the extent that at the start of last week, I was just hoping for a few tough wins from her in Perth.
A week later, she has won all 4 of her matches in straight sets. In the last two matches of hers I’ve watched against Ivanovic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Juju has been nothing short of pants-jizzingly turned on. Ivanovic and BMSocks played some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen from them. But like the pint-sized vixen she is, not only had Henin deflected every attack thrown at her with interest, she did it with such style and calmness.
Down 2 set points in the first set tiebreak to BMSocks? Here’s a drop shot. There you go, a smash. And all of a sudden, Henin had turned a 6-4 tiebreak into a 8-6 win. BMSocks regrouped in the second set, hit hard, ran harder. Her black socks turning into a wheel-shaped blur as she zoomed across the baseline, blasting her way to a 3-1 lead.
For a second, you allow yourself to imagine this match going to 3 sets, before you issue a formal apology to the entire nation of Belgium, because from 3-2 in the second set, seemingly out of nowhere, Henin soared into her “happy place”. Every point from then on was constructed; every shot had a purpose; every forehand felt entitled to its own angle, and 9 out of 10 points finished with a winner or a forced error.
Pleasure to behold.
4. BMSocks grows on you.
Tennisticaly inconsistent. Fashion sinner. Tattoos. Socks. Nothing about her fits in my perfect tennis vision, which is inevitably why I like her. BMSocks is about 87.5% heart, and the fact that some of her most memorable wins have come while representing her country says a lot about where that heart lies.
And you won’t find a more happy-go-lucky gal anyway on the vaginal part of the tennis tour. This one goes straight into the Bethanie Mattek Socks’ Hall of Fame.
Well? Rock on, Soxies.
5. The Herald Sun headline read: “Ill Rafael Nadal’s shock defeat at Doha delays his trip to Australia”
And hence, I have a problem.
a) Nadal has lost to Kolya the last 4 times they’ve played. Upset? Yes. Shock defeat? Well … you know how the Herald Sun caters to a delicate and easily startled readership.
b) You would think that Nikolay at least deserved a mention somewhere.
c) Tough luck for Rafa, who should be given credit for trying to finish the match and doing justice to the spectators and to his opponent. But in all honesty, I can’t say I didn’t think his decision crossed the line between “honourable” and “masochist”. The earlier you pull out of a tournament, the more rest you give yourself to recover, the less burden on the tournament you place, and the less likely you are to pass the illness onto someone else in the locker room.
To play through a match while visibly ill may have been the principled thing to do, but for the spectators, there was little pleasure to be derived; for the media, there was little credit to be given to Kolya (who in fact did deserve much credit); and for Kolya, he was placed in an awkward position of not being able to truly celebrate something worth celebrating.
Much respect to Rafa for principle, but I’m just not sure his decision to play through the week and in particular – the match yesterday was the product of rational thinking.
6. One of the Australian Open “Changing Ends” film festival entry. I LAUGHED SO HARD I transfigured myself into a squirrel.
And a happy weekend to you too, my DAAAHlings.
Roger lost. I iz sad.
1. The withdrawal bug has hit Indian Wells: Del Potro and Gonzalez are officially out.
The former is still struggling with wristy business and the latter needs the time to raise money for the earthquake relief effort in his home country. I don’t know what Gonzo’s planning, but why couldn’t he have done what Zheng Jie did for the Szechuan earthquakes and donated his tournament winnings? EDIT: WORD JUST OUT – Gonzo will be playing either Fed or Rafa in Miami to raise funds for Chile.
Davydenko and Federer are “technically” still on the entry list, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a last-minute withdrawal from Dayvo.
2. We’ve all been touched by the tragedies in Haiti and Chile. The same rings true for many tennis players. The Hit for Haiti program in Indian Wells announced today that it will feature Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Justine Henin and Martina Navratilova in addition to Federer/Sampras v Nadal/Agassi. That’s 94 grand slams over 3 decades of arse-kickery. Smelling salts anyone?
But as I tweeted earlier, what I’d really love to see is Roger and Steffi in mixed doubles. They remind me a lot of each other.
3. Mentioning Haiti, can you find a tennis player in this video?
4. The dramas within Tennis Australia make the snooty private girl school I went to look like a community of Buddhist monks. Stop the factionalism and get your shit together, TA.
McNamee, the former Australian Open CEO and a current Tennis Australia presidential candidate, has been credited with helping to smooth the rift between Hewitt and his talented heir apparent. The players recently shared a telephone conversation that both have said helped resolve differences, notably a practice-session snub at Wimbledon that Tomic has described as a ”misunderstanding”.
McNamee confirmed yesterday that he had played a role in the bridge-building, while refusing to divulge specifics on the basis that ”it’s just so good for the sport that it’s been sorted out”. Yet he was clearly bemused by Fitzgerald’s claim that Tomic had heard only from Hewitt and that no third parties had been involved.
”He hasn’t heard from Paul [McNamee] or anyone and I don’t know whether there’s any self-promotion around from any corners of the tennis community,” cup captain Fitzgerald said on Saturday. ”But all I know is that Paul hasn’t had anything to do with this Davis Cup team, not for the last 10 years and not now. I want to make that very clear.”
McNamee’s response: ”I was there, so that’s all I can say. If I’m there, I’m there. It’s extraordinary.”
5. It’s Oscar season and Serena Williams looks ready to hit the parties during her Indian Wells absence. She made a shimmery appearance at the Global Green pre-Oscar party. As the name suggests, eco-friendly is the new Avatar.
6. Since we’re talking flicks, Paradon Srichaphan’s been busy promoting his new movie, the historical thriller “Bang Rajan 2”.
A man of many talents, apparently.
7. Shock! Horror! Outrage!
No Federporn Friday this week. As you can see, I am Macbookless and stuck with a desktop PC 😦
With upsets all the rage in Dubai, one can’t help but wonder if Dubai’s carnivorous birds jinxed the tournament into sheer anarchy.
Day 2 of the tournament saw Muzzball, Davo and Jo-Wills all crash out at the hands of lower-ranked players. Djoko survived a scare, conceding the first set before he managed slow-cooked Troicki into defeat. Only Marin progressed in straights with a victory over Koubek.
Yer go Cilic Peppers.
Don’t cha geddit, Dubai organisers? No one really wants to put their hand into that thing.
Uhuh. The Fed decided to turn up to the players’ party for the second year in a row without actually playing the tournament.
Yeah douchebag, spread those lung-infectious germs! Spit into their drinks when they’re not looking!
While he was there, Roger received a gift from a local artist. Somehow, I don’t think he’ll be hangin’ that in his living room.
Nole was game enough for the falcon of course. Wouldn’t have expected any less from him. They are birds of a feather after all.
And as the draw opened up spectacularly overnight, perhaps it’s finally time for the Falcon to defend a title for the first time in his career.
Although knowing him, he’ll probably just cockblock himself into failure again.
FINALS SUNDAY LINE-UP
Youzhny vs. Djokovic
The Headclobber is not the kind of player I’d expect to do well in a final. But then again, this is Dubai, a tournament he’s typically played well in.
His opponent is in a bit of unchartered waters himself, as Nole is oh-so-close to defending a title for the first time in his career. If his last 3 matches were anything to go by, he really, really, really wants to screw it up.
Ferrero vs. Ferrer
Wanting Ferrero to win. Picking Ferrer. Simply because logically, it just doesn’t make sense for JCF to be on such a Nadalesque run without losing a match.
Venus vs. Hercog
Err. Whut? Venus is on track to defend her second title in a row. This hasn’t been a bad start to her year by any stretch of the imagination.
Dementieva v Kleybanova
For every pound that Alisa Kleybanova loses, she takes one step closer to the top echelon of the game. I’m not having a go at her weight, I’m having a go at her physical conditioning. She’ll never be the fastest or the smoothest mover out there, but she can do something about the most exploitable weakness in her game.
That aside, I actually kinda love Kleybs. Her ball-bashing ways are strangely cathartic.
Meanwhile, Elena Dementieva has had 3 weeks off since Jan 1st. That’s taking into account that she crashed out of the Australian Open early.
Can someone knock some sense into that girl?
How can you be expected to “peak” at the slams when you play day in day out, often at the most mundane of tournaments. It’s no surprise she hasn’t managed to win a slam.