Tag Archive | Stanislas Wawrinka

He Stan(d)s Here As His Own Man

You should never have to feel pressured to tell somebody else that you are your own person.

So much of the written and theatrical arts — television, plays, movies, books — have always dealt with the notion of the double life, the tension between the outward identity and the true inner self. One of Doots’s and my favorite shows, Mad Men, is the foremost contemporary example of a television program which explores this concept. Don Draper might not succeed in being his best and truest self, the one which is comfortable enough to strip away the Madison Avenue monster who has to exhibit power, control, and virile swagger. Don knows that he should be a more grounded person, the one which, in the powerful season six finale, took Sally and Bobby to the whorehouse where he grew up. However, he doesn’t yet know how to become that person. He doesn’t know how to get where he needs to go.

If Don Draper was to tell Megan or Betty in tonight’s episode, “I am now the person I know I need to become,” neither his wife nor his ex-wife would take him seriously. The same would be the case for any viewer. Don can’t tell others he’s changed. He needs to show he’s changed, and that will be the big drama of Mad Men’s final season.

In real life — not a fictional television program — human beings can’t testify to their most meaningful transformations in mere words. Al Gore used his nomination speech at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles to tell the American electorate, “I stand here tonight as my own man.” The American public, despite a period of relative economic prosperity after Bill Clinton’s two terms, thought so little of Gore’s authenticity that it voted George W. Bush as president. You don’t tell others you’ve changed. You prove it with your actions.

This is why sports are so great, oui?

Oui.

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It's a point worth noting (and a rich sidebar to the main story authored on Sunday in Monte Carlo): Had Roger Federer not saved Switzerland in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, Stanislas Wawrinka might not have felt happy enough or liberated enough to play his very best tennis this past week, en route to his first Masters 1000 championship. Federer did indeed wind up helping Wawrinka... but his buddy still had to toe that line and deliver the goods when it mattered. Stan genuinely attained a new measure of hard-earned tennis independence in this seaside showdown.

It’s a point worth noting (and a rich sidebar to the main story authored on Sunday in Monte Carlo): Had Roger Federer not saved Switzerland in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, Stanislas Wawrinka might not have felt happy enough or liberated enough to play his very best tennis this past week, en route to his first Masters 1000 championship. Federer did indeed wind up helping Wawrinka… but his buddy still had to toe that line and deliver the goods when it mattered. Stan genuinely attained a new measure of hard-earned tennis independence in this seaside showdown.

Stanislas Wawrinka has spent so much of his career in the shadows of Roger Federer. If you’re reading this piece, this is a point which needs absolutely no elaboration whatsoever… so I won’t bore you with any kind of recap.

Let’s deal with the very recent past: Wawrinka did win his first major championship earlier this year in Melbourne, Australia, but he then wobbled in both Indian Wells and Miami, feeling the pressure of having to justify his meteoric rise in the rankings and the larger tennis community. He struggled with the transition that is so difficult for just about any tennis player who ascends to the top tier of the sport. Everyone tries to gun you down. Media scrutiny intensifies. You become the focus of the action in the arena, not the sideshow or the cute, cuddly underdog. This is not something one can automatically respond to with perfect emotional equilibrium.

Wawrinka’s stumbles in the United States in March became something much worse in early April. The reigning Australian Open champion played poorly enough to be a first-round loser at a major tournament — yes, he was that bad if not worse — in the Davis Cup quarterfinals. Wawrinka, playing for Switzerland against Kazakhstan, managed to collect himself long enough to battle through a win against Mikhail Kukushkin that kept the Swiss alive in the best-of-five tie. However, if this Federer guy hadn’t exhibited complete command in his two singles matches, Switzerland would not have advanced to the Davis Cup semifinals.

It’s worth hanging onto that Davis Cup experience for just a moment, because it represented one more instance in which Federer overshadowed Wawrinka. It was only one weekend, true enough, but as the Monte Carlo Masters arrived on the calendar, it had become reasonable — through the prism of recent evidence — to claim that Federer had once again surpassed Wawrinka as Switzerland’s number one tennis player. Even though Wawrinka flourished in the process of reaching Sunday’s Monte Carlo final, his countryman — the one with 17 major titles and 50 Masters semifinal appearances, among other distinctions — had just defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic on consecutive days. An informal survey of tennis pundits and commentators before Sunday’s match would have established Federer as the favorite.

Yes, Wawrinka had won a major title.

Yes, he had risen to No. 1 in Switzerland and No. 3 in the world.

Yes, he had beaten Djokovic in a five-set match at a major, and he made his first major semifinal at the U.S. Open last September.

Yet, there was something Wawrinka had not done since his tennis resurrection began: He had not yet beaten Federer head-to-head over the past 16 months. On Easter Sunday — a day made for resurrections — Wawrinka had a chance to put a number of old, persistent narratives in the tomb while walking into the new life of a career that could stand completely on its own, free forever from Federer’s shadow.

Wawrinka didn’t have to tell Federer or the world that he was his own man. The beauty of sports — especially the mano-a-mano theater of singles tennis — lies in the reality that competitors get to prove themselves on the merits. Wawrinka had a chance to show that he was his own man in tennis terms. Federer’s quest for an elusive Monte Carlo title was the most tangible achievement on the line in this match, but the more powerful and intriguing human story of the Monte Carlo final was Wawrinka’s quest for permanent, unquestioned independence as a tennis star — within and beyond Switzerland.

What we saw in one of tennis’s most spectacular settings proved to be a perfect example-cum-announcement of the extent to which Wawrinka has grown as a competitor.

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Wawrinka felt the weight of the occasion — and his opponent across the net — in an error-strewn first set. Coach Magnus Norman’s charge pulled the trigger much too quickly on his forehand, spraying the ball in hard-hitting rallies that were entertaining and disappointing at the same time. When Wawrinka took a 2-0 lead in the second set but immediately got broken back at love, it was not only reasonable, but logical, to think that in a movie seen many times before, Stan would not stick to the plan. The Australian Open champion appeared ready to lose the second set, 7-5 or in a tiebreaker, mirroring past sets that slipped away against not only Federer, but also the likes of Nadal and Djokovic. When the second set did work its way to a tiebreaker, the smart money suggested that Federer would win.

Stanislas Wawrinka arrived at that most perilous intersection between opportunity and paralysis. He had a chance to show that he was his own man… or to show that Federer’s mere presence on the other side of the court still overwhelmed him in a situation of consequence.

In prior years, Wawrinka had lost to Federer at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He would lose a set he could have won, and afterward, he’d disintegrate into a player who didn’t bother hiding how mentally beaten he actually was. Federer would console him at net when the match ended, but the psychological damage took root and lingered more than it needed to. Athletes have to forget their failures very quickly, and this was one of the foremost things Wawrinka had not learned to do until Magnus Norman came along.

When the second-set tiebreaker arrived, Wawrinka came face to face with the kind of moment that had destroyed him in the past… and the kind of moment Federer has used to forge some of his greatest triumphs. The tiebreaker is where Federer won the 2007 and 2009 Wimbledon finals. This part of tennis is a crapshoot, but it’s where the great players usually affirm their prowess in “big-point” situations, and few have ever been better-er than Federer. The enormity of the challenge Wawrinka had to meet cannot be overstated.

It’s true that Federer was quite nervous at the start of that second-set breaker, wanting so badly (too badly, in retrospect) to bag that first Monte Carlo title. However, Wawrinka had to be solid precisely when Federer gave him leverage — past Fedrinka matches, after all, often saw Federer give his friend Stanley an opening… only for Wawrinka to refuse to take it. The Swiss No. 1’s evolution as an elite player, which needed to manifest itself against Federer (and Federer’s aura on court), had to include one element in particular: the ability to capitalize on spotty play from the 17-time major champion.

Stan did just that in the process of taking a 4-1 lead.

Federer was not through in challenging his pal, though. The Swiss No. 2 then stabilized, playing four excellent service points to push the tiebreaker to 6-5. Wawrinka had done a lot of good work in that tiebreaker, but if he lost that one 6-5 point with a mini-break lead, he would have stood two points from defeat, and that’s when a lot of old demons could have rushed back to the forefront of his consciousness.

Federer was down 6-3 in this tiebreaker. You might recall another tiebreaker in which Fed trailed, 6-3 — in 2009 at Wimbledon against Andy Roddick. (It was even 6-2, but this does not make the 6-3 claim any less factual.) Federer held his two service points at 3-6, forcing Roddick to win one point on serve at 6-5. When Roddick lost that point, Federer found the escape hatch and the bridge to the fifth set, when his legs outlasted Roddick’s and forged a piece of tennis history. Great players won’t always win an isolated 6-5 service point in a tiebreaker, but this was a time and a match when Wawrinka needed to win it… at least if he was going to show with his actions that he could stand as his own man.

Sure enough, Wawrinka found a strong flat serve to the wide corner of the service box from the ad court, and the second set was his. In a moment of truth, a player who had struggled to surmount the obstacle of his own mind — not to mention the intimidating presence of a tennis immortal who was his friend and countryman — put a large part of his past to rest.

In the third set, Wawrinka — who not only logged a lot less court time during the week in Monte Carlo, but also played multiple 1:40 p.m. (local time) matches while Federer was slotted into mid- or late-afternoon windows — had the much fresher legs to supplement his belief. Yes, Federer fell flat in the decider, but a man who is going to be 33 years old in August did not figure to be the more invigorated player in a third set… not after his protracted quarterfinal war with Tsonga and his mentally demanding semifinal against Djokovic. The second-set tiebreaker was Sunday’s defining sequence, and in that stretch of 12 points, Stanislas Wawrinka didn’t make a single meaningful misstep.

On Easter Sunday, a feast  rooted in the celebration of new life and the eternal possibility of human breakthroughs, Stanislas Wawrinka gave Switzerland a new -- and second --Masters 1000 champion.

On Easter Sunday, a feast rooted in the celebration of new life and the eternal possibility of human breakthroughs, Stanislas Wawrinka gave Switzerland a new — and second –Masters 1000 champion.

You could choose to talk about this match from Federer’s perspective. The father of two — who is about to welcome a third child into his and Mirka’s household — lost conviction and clarity on his groundstrokes. The match ceased to be on his racquet when Wawrinka’s weightier shots became more consistent and calibrated, unlike the first set. Yet, for all the things Federer failed to do, we come back to the original point of this piece (and Sunday’s match):

This was always going to be a measurement of Stanislas Wawrinka’s evolution more than anything else. Was Stan ready to become his own man, to show something that could not be conveyed in hollow words and had to be expressed in both his game and his mental toughness?

The powerful, authoritative nature of Wawrinka’s “YES!” is what the tennis community should take away from today. Neither Federer nor the match as a whole deserved to be seen as anything better than average, but amidst a lot of ho-hum tennis, Wawrinka was legitimately great in this encounter’s defining stages, the second-set breaker and the start of the third set.

*

Federer certainly encouraged, comforted and challenged him over the years. Norman, as a coach, has certainly transformed the way Wawrinka thinks about and believes in his abilities as a competitor. Yet, when you walk on the court as a tennis player, you remain fundamentally alone. It’s part of the beauty, fragility and power of the sport that tests the human person’s mind-body dualism at a very high level.

Stanislas Wawrinka drew from other resources and perspectives as his career moved along. Yet, no one but Stan The Man could show — to himself, to Federer, to his nation, to his fellow pros, and to the world — that he had become a tennis man in full. Last year’s loss to Djokovic in the 12-10 five-setter marked a first step along the path to greatness. The U.S. Open semifinal represented the second huge step. The Australian Open championship was in many ways the affirming and supremely validating moment that had eluded him for so long.

On Sunday in Monte Carlo, though, Wawrinka needed to show that he would no longer crumble under the weight of facing his — and his country’s — revered tennis icon. No, losing to Federer would not have made any of Wawrinka’s prior achievements any less valuable or meaningful. However, a loss would have enabled the press to continue to ask all sorts of questions about the psychological effect Federer has on Stan’s tennis. If nothing else, Wawrinka needed to win this match for more than a Masters title and its accompanying rewards (a fatter paycheck, added race points, and 400 extra rankings points). Stan needed to win this for himself, for all the times when he’d win a tournament and would be asked about Federer this, Federer that, Federer here, and Federer over there.

It’s not as though the press was justified in asking Wawrinka all sorts of Federer questions, especially in moments that Stan The Man deserved to celebrate for his own sake and on his own terms. Those questions were not thoughtful then, and they’re not thoughtful today. Now that he’s beaten Federer in a championship match, though, it should be a lot easier for journalists to remove the Federer narrative from Stanislas Wawrinka’s career… at least when Davis Cup and the Olympics are not involved.

Why should Wawrinka no longer have to field an endless series of questions about a separate Swiss tennis player?

Because he showed in Monte Carlo that he can beat Roger Federer when it matters… and because he’s simply a better tennis player than the Fed at this stage in the two men’s careers.

Stan was The Man before he took the court in the Monte Carlo final, or at least, it was right and appropriate to believe as much.

What’s different now? We no longer need to believe, as though someone has to tell us through spoken words that things are different. No, we don’t need to be convinced by means of speeches or sermons.

We know. We know because we’ve seen cold, hard evidence on the tennis rectangle and a dusty sheet of red clay where a new Swiss Master reigns on his own.

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Australian Open 2014: When Will The Hate End?

Disclosure/preamble No. 1: Doots will have an Australian Open wrap-up. She’ll be sure to celebrate Stanislas Wawrinka’s win, so I’ll let her focus on that piece. I have it in me to celebrate Stan’s win as well, but in much the same way that a newspaper would have two writers cover different angles of a story, I’ll deal with one story so Doots can have the other, more pleasant task.

Disclosure/preamble No. 2: You know me as a tennis fan who writes about the sport. I have not expected to cover the sport, but there might finally be a chance that I’ll do so as a stay-at-home blogger before too long. Therefore, it’s good for me if I write something that isn’t meant solely for an audience of Federer fans.

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On with the show…

*

Here I was, prepared to offer a far-ranging wrap-up of the 2014 Australian Open and write something bundled in a tidy thematic pouch. I had all the major points of emphasis lined up. No matter who won Sunday’s men’s final between Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka, the template was there. Keeping in mind that the greatest achievement of Nadal’s career (just one person’s opinion, of course) was forged in Melbourne in 2009, I was expecting another crowning moment to occur in this match. However, if Nadal lost to Wawrinka, I still could have produced an essay with all of my larger planned themes intact.

Then, however, an injury reared its ugly head… or lower back, as the case may be.

114b4dac-9331-439c-9b3d-53df348e037f_Sweaty Read More…

Aus Open Days 7 & 8: Yes We Stan.

art-WawrinkaTH-620x349It was the match that had, simultaneously and conflictingly, both a sense of defiance and a sense of inevitability. We watched the unfolding of the 5 setter between Wawrinka and Djokovic through bleary, sleep deprived eyes – Stan came out in a state of hyperlucidity. Redlining for a full set and a half with brilliant winners, seemingly neutralising and then attacked Djokovic’s shots at will and off both wings.

And then came that inevitable 6-1, 5-3, 30-0. Stan’s first service percentage dipped. His forehand went away under pressure. His backhand sailed long past the Melbourne sign. Djokovic knew he didn’t need to change tactics. He just needed to be himself and wait for Stan to come back down to earth. Read More…

Aus Open Day 3: A day at the tennis

206015_10151473497566874_1456479854_nIt’s a great irony that as a tennis fan, you tend to follow more tennis matches at home than when you actually go to a tournament, and so I write this more as a recount of my day than any real look into the tennis being played today.

Between lining up to get into the outside courts,  eating, hiding from the sun, and watching a Federer practice session, I barely saw 2 matches, and both were frustrating, low quality, and deeply unsatisfying. How could they not be? If there were a less inspiring OOP than today’s, I don’t remember it. It says volumes about how lopsided the draws are that even numbered days have a far greater number of intriguing match ups than odd numbered ones.

Read More…

Roland Garros Preview: A Conference of Anti-Experts. Pt 1

Ahead of the French Open, your Aussie blog mistresses – Doots, PJ and LJ – convened for a cosy fireside chat of the anti-experts in place of your usual ‘draw analysis’, pointless predictions, and French Open themes. Best enjoyed with a glass of wine, a hint of sarcasm, and a dash of hope.

Read on and enjoy! 

Doots: So I posed a question on the blog yesterday about the lesser of two evils between Rafa and Novak. Obviously now that Roger has drawn Novak, this is kinda redundant but what did either of you think about which is the “easier” side?

PJ: I actually hope for Federer to land on Rafa’s side of the draw. If I have to take another 2011 redux where he plays brilliant to beat Satan and then fart to Rafa in the final…I may just jump into Yarra River.

Doots: But surely a final is better than a semifinal?

LJ: It is, but fuck – losing another French final to Rafa? Seriously every time I venture onto the Roland Garros website, I cry a little looking at the scoreline.

Read More…

Davis Cup: Switzerland vs USA Wrap (by LJ)

Okay, so I’m a little less pissed and more coherent than I was on Sunday morning, but I’m still perplexed…like most of you… with the Tennistical Fuckery that was the Swiss Davis Cup campaign over the weeked.

So the last time we left the Swiss Davis cup team, they were doing this…

We were all celebrating the fact that Stan the Man finally grew some Davis Cup cajones and we were all looking forward to a possible run by the Swiss at the big prize this year. On paper it looked like a given, the US on slow clay AT home, in Swissyland…perfect right? Uh…not so much.

Of course most of us dismissed the actual stats. Mardy Fish ranked 8, John Isner, 17. Mike Bryan, one half of the world’s number 1 doubles team. But don’t worry…the yanks are shit on slow clay…so we thought. Nevermind that John Isner was the first person ever to take Rafa to 5 sets at Roland Garros…oh no…but that was a total fluke right?

yah…these guys thought so too…

Yeah it was totally cute. The Swiss boys bonding, having shitlloads of fun…

And you know what? maybe a little too much fun. When Fed came out in the pre-tie presser saying win or lose he’s happy just to be with the boys something went uh-oh in my head. It almost seemed like the Swiss were a little laissez faire going into the weekend.

So in the making of the perfect example of why Davis Cup is about team depth and Captaincy, the US team came in well  prepared, and hungry…hungry to WIN. Although his suit wasn’t to the levels of Swiss snappiness, Captain Jim Courier was all levels of business. He had ONE job to do this weekend…and it was to win.

In the first rubber, Wawrinka and Fish dueled in a 5 set fest of sloppy tennis and chokeage. Up 2 sets to 1, Wawrinka collapsed in the 4th, giving Fish all the momentum in the 5th. Wawrinka played mostly reactive tennis, reacting to Fish’s kick serve and reacting to the pummeling of his backhand. When he broke back late in the 5th, he did so with 3 crosscourt FH winners…a shot that he basically shied away from the entire match…and thus we had this…

Fish gutted out the win. And so I thought, SHIT, this is going to be ONE Looooong weekend. So then Fed was up next…against this beast…

Yeah, if i came across this dude in a dark alley, you better be believin’ I’d be running for my life. After winning a tight but manageable 1st set where Isner was broken early, Fed get’s broken in the 2nd set after Isner hits 3 screaming winners off Fed’s wide serves. And soon the issues with the court were getting obvious.

At 2000m above sea level, the court in Fribourg was making the ball bounce high but the clay itself wasn’t slow enough. It gave ample trouble to both the 1-handed backhands of Wawrinka and Federer, but it gave just enough time for the likes of Isner to pound his groundstrokes.

I decided to sleep after the 2nd set (at this point I’d been up for 21 hours) and woke up to a 4 set loss. A result I entirely expected. It had the hallmarks of the Soderling match at FO2010, Federer was given no riddum to work with and Isner was teeing off on his serves and groundstrokes.

Also Fed was pissed at the bad bounces on the court. I thought the court at Royal Sydney was bad but obviously the guys at Fribourg took a page out of the same book. And when Fed is frustrated…the results usually aren’t good. Frankly I should start betting on tennis since I’m doing quite a good job of predicting final results after the 2nd set.

So fuck…yeah, the Swiss go into the doubles 0-2 down. Now after watching Federinka at Royal Sydney last year, I was not impressed. People harp on about how they won the Oympics yadda yadda yadda…Folks…that was FOUR FUCKING YEARS AGO….and it was best of 3 (bar the final)

Again like at Royal Sydney, Federinka comes out guns blasting and win the 1st set. But soon in the 2nd, the wheels start falling off. The silly errors start and they stop communicating. Against a Bryan and a prettty good dubs player himself, Fish, you just can’t afford to be that shite.

I’m not going to go as far to say the Olympics gold was a little flukey, but as a pair, these guys are just not best of 5 quality. And possibly because they’re usually gassed after their singles rubbers on day 1. But at times both had some mind blowingly FACEPALM-worthy errors in the match.

So anyway, USA go on to sweep the tie 5-0 (Lammer and Chiudi fought bravely but alas)…here’s some manlove…

Kudos to Courier for coming in with the perfect gameplan (To not let Roger Federer play tennis supposedly) and kudos to his team, especially Isner for executing the plan perfectly. I don’t like playing blame games but a few big things let the Swiss down in this tie:

  1. The court and location shot the Swiss in the foot
  2. Lack of focus, authority and gameplan exerted by Severin Luthi
  3. Lack of focus and cajones from Wawrinka.
  4. Lack of fight and refocus from a one Roger Federer, after tight 3rd set losses, happened in Australia and happens here again against Isner.

I never thought this tie would have been a easy gimme for the Swiss like some media outlets said. But had Wawrinka won the first rubber, Isner would not have had as much freedom to swing as freely as he did. And we could have woken up today to a 3-2 win by the Swiss. But this is how close tennis gets…a few games here and there late in the 5th set decides everything.

So yeah, I was pissed…and angry…albeit mostly for selfish reasons really. I stayed up almost 21 hours to see both 1st day singles rubbers, I paid 10 bucks for the ITF stream for the weekend and FUCK…I expected more from the Swiss team…

…but hey, we all have our bad days right?

So Dear Suissies, let’s kiss and make up…

…but promise to try harder next time alright?

LJ

P.S. How ahmazing are Swiss Tennis crowds? I will forever cherish the sound of a GIANT cowbell…

AO2012 Day 3 Wrap: Five-setters. They’re cool. (by PJ)

This is not going to be coherent, let me warn you first. I’ve had very little sleep, I’m cranky about the fact that I have to work while there’s tennis going on, and I’m extremely SKDFJSLKGJKSDJFSKD about the fact that I cannot, for the life of me, get a ticket to go to Hewitt/Roddick tonight (EDIT: I GOT A TICKET. IT IS ON. YESSSSSSSSS!!!! Actually in the end I had two, my life is a comedy of errors…).

Unless I want to pay AUD$279.00 on Ebay but I am not that desperate or stupid. I have a TV, I’ll survive. With tears and a big bucket of ice-cream.

(Also I wrote this at work while my boss is away at a meeting, because I wouldn’t have time otherwise. I don’t know how Doots did it on a consistent basis.)

Ooooh the drama from yesterday. All from the men’s side, too!

So. Batshit Crazy Dolgopolov has apparently decided that he will start killing me early in the year. After one five-setter on Monday, he was so in the mood for another one yesterday, performing Houdini-like magic to escape from his match with Tobias Kamke.

I had a bad feeling about the match even before it began, partly thanks to Dolgo’s admission that his Gilbert’s Syndrome may have reared its head, and also because he was no show at his scheduled practice session.

I had a bad feeling when he looked both orange and also a little green in his pumpkin outfit in the first set. It wasn’t a BAD first set per say, he was a bit unlucky with his crazy to lose serve and lose the set. But then it seemed like whatever was bugging him went away, as he upped his ante and played spectacularly to serve two breadsticks and snag a 2-sets-to-1 lead.

But Crazy do as Crazy does – went completely fucking batshit insane in the 4th – played the dumbest tennis I’ve seen from him in a while. Forehand spraying wide, backhand finding the net, first serve lost on Planet Pluto. Truly horrific performance in the 4th, and I was burying my head in my hands, going  “YOU FUCKER, YOU COMPLETE TOSSER OF A FUCKER.”

He got broken pretty quickly in the fifth, and my heart sank to depth of my shoes. I had none of that steely resolve I had on Monday when I was just way beyond pissed and all “IF YOU LOSE, YOU LOSE IN FRONT OF ME!!!”. I was just…sad. Sad that he couldn’t live up to his potential and his game, sad that he may just exit the tournament in the second round. Therefore I ditched him for Isner and Nalbandian…and hey, maybe he just needed a break from me cursing him, as he managed to survive a matchpoint (on his serve) and eventually win the final set 8-6.

Tough task ahead against Bratomic. I will probably be the only one backing him in the crowd.

Also, seeing Dolgopolov emotional and frustrated and smashing racquets is no fun. I take back what I said about wishing he’ll show more emotion/fire. He should go back his I-couldn’t-care-less mannerisms. That sort of demeanour and attitude seemed to work for him better.

Ahhh Isner/Nalbandian. Isner = 5 setters. That’s just the way he rolls, and yesterday was no different. 5 sets, although the final score of 10-8 is a far cry from *that* Wimbledon match. But man, you gotta feel for Nalbandian. A bad decision late in the 5th set could’ve been really costly. We’ll never know for sure, of course, but it he could’ve gotten a look at a second serve…who knows. The umpire’s decision is questionable. He did call the score and gestured to resume play, but it may have been done a tad too quick. Nalby’s time in taking to challenge was definitely much less than, say, Del Potro or Nadal. Still, the decision was made, play went on, and Nalby never really covered from that.

Marathon Man Isner earns himself a berth in the third round and potentially playing Rafa in the fourth. Another 5-setter? Who knows. (I wouldn’t hold my breath though…)

Other snapshots from the day:

1)      Baghdatis/Wawrinka was fun. Would’ve been fun even if Baghdatis pulled a Baghdatis and play 5 sets till 6AM in the morning. But Stanley needs his Ewok sleep, and after failing spectacularly to serve out the match, came back fiery in the 4th and smashed the Baggy serve to break him three times (Baggy went one up and smashed 4 racquets).  But man, those Greek/Cypriot fans were just too much. Cheering on every single point won by Bagman? Heckling Stan’s serve? Really?

2)      Bernie Bratomic beat Sam Querrey. Not surprised. But definitely not pleased. He plays Dolgo next. I will probably be there trying not to kill Tomic, kill Dolgo or kill myself. On paper, Dolgo should win. They both play the same brand of game, only Dolgo plays it better. Unfortunately, he’s also way way WAY more crazy. And he hasn’t been very convincing in his last two matches. Hope he won’t be affected by the crowd in RLA – my one voice will not be enough to drown the Fanatics.

3)      Fetus Fed Dimitrov nearly pulled off an upset, but couldn’t sustain the physicality of 5 sets, suffering from cramps and muscle tightness in the fourth and fifth sets. Nicolas Almagro escaped the fate of Mardy Fish.

4)      Ah, Mardy Fish. Flailing and failing as (Alejandro) Falla fired past him. I do think he works very hard to get to the top 10, to where he’s at now, but his on-court behaviour was appalling. Dude, don’t be an ass to the ballkids. There is no need to give the kid a death stare just because he was half a step late with your towel. Geez.

5)      Delpony – looking in form as he outplayed Blaz Kavcic. Kavcic had the upperhand a couple of times, but Delpony was never really threatened at all. With Fish fried, that quarterfinal is looking very likely.

6)      Tommy Haas, possibly playing his last Australian Open, put up a credible fight against Rafa but the inevitable is inevitable. The tour will become so less hot when Tommy finally hangs up his racquet. That man is beautiful beyond belief. #shallow #perverted #haasishot

7)      The women left all the drama to the men yesterday. Azarenka and Clijsters were especially devastating in their form, giving their opponents a mere game. Ouch.

Tonight could be a blockbuster or a washout. Either way, I AM NOT THERE. FUCK MY LIFE.

Till next time, if I am still alive to blog after tonight/tomorrow.

PJ

P.S. No Pants, you say? Well, have some.

He did not play yesterday as Andreas Beck, suffering from a back injury, gave him a walkover. Cosmic Gods of the Universe were pissed at Tennis Australia for putting Federer at Hisense, I understand, but Gods, don’t take it out on poor Beck. Anyway, Roger goes into his 3rd round match with Ivo Karlovic without much match play. Hope this will bode well…

You people know how I am. I worry excessively OKAY.

P.P.S. I’m writing for Tennis Grandstand as well for this year’s AO. A version with no swear words and less personal emotion is up here: On the Grounds: Day Three of Australian Open.

P.P.P.S. Photos are my own.

Tennis 2012: It Has Started…Sometime Ago (by PJ)

Well, hola to y’all, from PJ.

Belated Happy 2012 to all Fence-readers on the behalf of our beloved Fence-keeper Dootsie (who is currently lying on a Portugal beach, living out of a suitcase and living the hell of a dream life…am I jealous? HELL YES)!

The tennis season has officially begun…like 5 days ago. There’s always some sort of buzz, I feel, to these tournaments.  As a prelude to Australian Open, these tourneys – all at a modest ATP250 level – don’t seem like the biggest deal. But they represent the players’ ground to test their game and test their fitness after the holiday season of food and fun (except if you’re Murray, then you don’t have fun). They allow players to suss out their opponents/rivals, and perhaps stamp some authority going into the first Grand Slam of the year.

And so, as we reached the tail-end of the year’s first few tournaments, I just want to quickly blog and share some thoughts as the Happy Slam approaches (I will be there. Federbear ala PJ will be there. And I hope I will not be dying).

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Davis Cup – Australia vs Switzerland Days 3/3.5 Wrap aka Maker of Men (by LJ)

Where do we start the story of Stanislas the Manislas? He who was made extra manly on this Sunday in history. PJ below has but already expounded on his manliness so I guess let’s start at the beginning of the day.

My inner circle of federites arrived early hoping to catch our man practicing but alas as he was playing the 1st match he was done by the time the gates opened. Instead I amused myself by reminiscing about my childhood tennis watching days seeing these guys out on court.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

Lleyton was practicing and he looked sharp and ready to go. He looked like he was going to “Cut a bitch” today. I was scared for Stan, but then I didn’t even know if Stan was playing, I spent the majority of the day thinking I was going to cheer on poor Marco who was going to be destroyed.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

Rog started off blisteringly against Tomic, taking fast aggressive grass court tennis to the teenager. Shutting down his slices with venom, and like always showing who’s freaking BOSS.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

But then Mirkaland happened along wind, leaves/twigs and stuff littering the court and tarpaulins blowing off makeshift broadcast towers in the 3rd…causing complete distraction. Tomic then took it with his own brand of aggressive tennis, and I was impressed with his effortless power. If the kid can dial his game and tactics on the hard courts, he’s going to be top 20 for sure.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

But then by the 4th, it ended just as fast as it started. Rog was pushed but he was never really in danger.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

So…tied at 2-2…we heard that Stan would be playing the final deciding rubber. I had all but given up hope for a Suisse win. Gimpy Useless Stan against Lleyton “I will cut your heart out with a spoon and eat it in Davis Cup ties” Hewitt on a dinky grass court in Sydney? All signs pointed to a steamroll by Hewitt.

So I took my leave of the court in the break between matches and chilled by the railing outside waiting for Roger to come by. Dude took his freaking time, the 1st set was over before I went back in again and all because I wanted to take photos like below for all you perverts out there.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

So I get back into the main court. On serve 2nd set. Then Stan pulls a break near the end to take the set. Okay we thought, he has a set, he can lose without embarrassment. And then the 3rd set happened. Breaks were traded like the WTA and at 5-4, Stan had BP 30-40 to take the set. Rusty drops it short at the net, Stan comes in for an easy backhand pass up the line…and he MISSES IT by inches….OUUUUUUUUUT.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

I threw my hands up and went “STAN YOU NOB!!!!!!!” I thought that was it. Rusty comes back, drives off another few BPs in that game and holds later to take it to the tiebreak. Up a few early minibreaks, Stan brainfarts 1304987102397109273 set points and loses the 3rd in over 70min. We all thought, this is it…Hewitt will roll through the 4th.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

I should also mention that at this stage it started getting ridiculously cold in the stands, the sun was going down, PJ had a flight to catch, we ALL wanted the match to be over and done with so we can go home to hot chocolate or something.

But then something happens in the 4th. Rusty double faults a few times, clearly not having enough leg strength to push off on the serve and suddenly…Stan wins the 4th…the stands are going FUCKING NUTS!!!!…WE WERE GOING FIIIIIIIIIIVE…my Swiss flag was out and I waved it obnoxiously around all the Aussie supporters around me.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3FUCK YEAH STAN!!!!

Suddenly we all started caring…like WHUT??? but 2 hours ago, we were all happy for Stan to just lose and get it over and done with…what the hell happened? It was getting tense…and dark. So cold and dark that I stopped taking pictures. We all feared the worst, BAD LIGHT, will it get called off before it finished?

At 2-2 Stan somehow broke again, I don’t remember much of it other than utter disbelief that he broke, and then cheering like a madwoman. At 4-3 Pat Rafter had a long argy bargy with the UMP, I thought it was going to be called then but no…2 more games the UMP said. Stan Holds…5-3 and it finally gets called. Mutters of discontent ring around me. Personally I was glad they freaking called it, I couldn’t survive a “real life version of Wimby 08” and I don’t think Roger would have appreciated it either.

So we all got on the buses and went home, with none to return the next day. It would be up to fate we gathered. But in our conversations afterwards we were all incredulous at Stan’s effort, pretty much summed up in this gem of a quote by Princess Rog. That night we would all do anything for Stan.

After such a performance the Day before, there was no way that I would be happy unless Stan won the match. It only took 1 game on the morning of the 4th day to decide it. Against a seriously injured Hewitt, all Stan had to do was keep the ball in play and thus as anti-climactic as it was…the tie was won. Le Suisse was back in the world group and Australia again has to spend another year in the wilderness of group I.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about Hewitt. What an absolutely tenacious human being. You know, I used to hate him with vigour, everything he embodied irked me. But in his old age (for a tennis player) he’s really hard not to root for. And he left himself out there on that court, he fought, he struggled and he almost took it. He put in possibly the most effort of all the players in this tie and it must be gutting to not have pulled out the win.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

Davis Cup is a maker of men and fraught with more drama than Dynasty. It’s where tennistical battles are fought, leaving courts bloodied in the wet salty tears of a country’s favourite sons. One only has to watch the utter agony of Djokovic retiring to Del Potro to understand that there is something intrinsically more to Davis Cup than just tennis.

So it is that which makes Stan…THE MAN…of this tie. He went in a gimpy boy, sulking at his own misfortunes and came out a man whom made his own destiny in the twilight of a Sydney spring. We can no longer question his commitment and tenacity in Davis Cup. After this gutsy performance Wawrinka has proved himself and we are all better for it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of mishmash wraps and photos from the Davis Cup tie. I myself felt nothing but complete privilege to witness 3 days of amazing tennis and drama…and of course…Roger Federer on grass. Certainly a dream come true and nothing less. It was a completely epic and captivating tie and will leave me an experience to cherish forever.

Davis Cup - Australia vs Switzerland - Day 3

I’d like to thank the following PJ, JodiMcA, Ceciliase7en, Lizibef, Specifite, Amy and cb_s for sharing it with me.

We hope to bring you some FPF before Shanghai kicks off with more tennis next month.

LJ

~photos by moi – Day 3 all here

Picspam (by PJ): Whatever Stan wants me to do, I’ll do it.

The fanfiction, you guys. They are WRITING THEMSELVES after Roger’s epic comment about sleeping in Stan’s bed and doing whatever Stan wants him to do (relevant quotes ahoy!)…

(Somewhere in Spain, Rafa is either crying and/or writing sad love songs and/or performing voodoo on Stan)

This is my little pictorial tribute of the Swissies this weekend, the two heroes, Roger Federer and Stanislas ‘the Manislas’ Wawrinka. I looked through my photos of their doubles match and picked some photos of them looking especially squishy and matchy. Even though they ended up losing that match (and Stan was all like, “get me off this fucking court” towards the end)…I gotta say, these two really have a lot of chemistry.

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