AO2011 Day 5-Day 7: Heart (by PJ)
Seeing that Australian Open is the home Slam of this blog, and Dootsiez is just really worn out from working/tennis-ing/writing awesome SI blog articles, I thought I’ll give her a hand in keeping the Aussie Open posts somewhat intact-ish.
I was at Melbourne Park for tennis for AO Day 5, 6 and 7, so let’s see what I remember from those outings.
Day 5 was a last minute decision for me. I somehow scored a day off from work, and decided to buy myself a day ticket to catch Roger v Xavier Malisse. I missed most of Wozniacki due to successful Roger stalking (but to be honest, I don’t really want to put myself through a Wozniacki match, not even when I’d paid for it), and managed to catch Kuznetsova v Henin. It wasn’t that competitive of a match given the two players were – well, Kuznetsova and Henin. Justine seemed to be still suffering from her elbow injury. She was unable to find her first serve, double-faulting her way to being broken. She clawed back to take the second set to a tiebreaker – but it was a shockingly bad tiebreaker as both girls shanked shots, shanked serves and in the end, it was decided with what seemed to be routine for the match: a Justine double-fault.
I have to say though: Kuznetsova v Henin for a friggin’ 3RD ROUND? Man, that’s about ten kinds of cruel, ye olde Tennis Gods.
And then it was Fed-time with a match against Malisse. If I can be honest, I did think that Roger seemed a bit cranky during his practice session, but I brushed it off as my tendency to over-worry about things not worth worrying about. Until Roger started playing.
As said by Dootsiez, it wasn’t a bad match – he after all won in comfortable straight sets – 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. However, the whole match was just bizarre. His shot selections were bizarre. He seemed disinterested in the first set, but he won that. Only when he got broken in the second set, then he seemed to come to life.
Suddenly, I see Roger muttering, glaring, shaking his head, yelling NIEEEEEEEEN at missed forehands, and giving C’MONS and fistpumps at 15-all. He won the second set, basically steam-rolled Malisse in the third, but his mood didn’t seem to calm down, not until he got the match in his pocket.
If he’s a girl, I’ll definitely say he was PMS-ing. All the symptoms were there. But hey, he won, and he’s through.
Day 6 observations in dot-points – mostly the outside court matches as there was where I was at:
1) Milos Raonic. Who woulda though this young, gutsy and most unknown Canadian qualifier would have the goods to boot world no.10 Mikhail Youzhny? I watch one set of this match and he was outplaying le Colonel from the forehand wing. It didn’t help that Youzhny’s backhand was not as sharp as it usually was. Coupled with Raonic’s amazing serving – he currently holds the record for fastest serve for this AO season – Youzhny couldn’t keep up and was bundled out in 4-sets. It will be interesting to see how he now matches up against David Ferrer.
2) Alexandr Dolgopolov. What a guy. At the ripe old tennis age of 22, he’s finally beginning to make himself seen and heard on tour, reaching the 4th round on his debut Australian Open (didn’t manage to qualify last year) after knocking out Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga in 5 sets. Granted Jo was not 100% – still fighting off the effects of a niggling injury – but Dolgopolov hung on, clawed back from a 2 sets to 1 deficit, and blasted Tsonga with solid forehands and volleys and impressive serving. Tsonga’s frequent double-faulting contributed to the 6-1, 6-1 score of the last two sets, but well played, Dolgopolov. I don’t think he will get past Bobby Sod (who is flying under the radar looking ominous) but I daresay he will give Sod a run for his money.
3) John Isner and Marin Cilic. There’s something about Mr. Isner and 5-set marathons. . If I was John Isner, I will bloody make sure that I never play 5th sets, ever again. I think he is still haunted by Wimbledon. After missing a chance at 0-30 on Cilic’s serve at 6-all, his face was literally wrought with PAIN. He was totally thinking about Wimbledon and OH LORD PLEASE NOT AGAIN I SWEAR. But the final scoreline of 9-7 fell short of his 70-68 Wimbledon record, of course. And the other difference is that he was not the victor. Marin Cilic won himself the right to be stomped on by Rafa in the quarter-finals
4) Bernard Tomic. The kid was a spoiled brat with no EQ skills and social etiquette, but if people expect him to roll over and play dead for Rafa, they expected wrong. Tomic rose to the occasion, matched Rafa on every play – even managing to take a 4-0 lead in the second set before inexperience on his part and experience plus GRIT on Rafa’s part levelled things again. The scoreline of 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 was much closer than it suggested. Rafa was actually pressured in most of his service games. Tomic is no pushover, but he is still a brat. Still, I am curious to see where he goes from here, whether could he sort his personality out along with his game.
Day 7 of tennis was pretty full-on – and again, I missed Wozniacki’s match due to Feder-stalking. Oh well, wouldn’t change it for the anything!
My first match on Rod Laver Arena saw Li Na taking out Vika Azarenka in straight sets – although not without the usual WTA business of losing serve a couple of times before hanging on for the win. Li Na definitely had the crowd on her side – as Azarenka’s screeching just annoyed the hell out of everyone else – little old lady next to me called it “disturbing the peace”. Crowd tittered and laughed every time she went “OOOOOOOORRRRRHhhhhhhhhhhh” and imitations were rampant. Mean, but no one could really stand her. I’m pleased that Li Na is through. She’s playing well, and she meets Andrea Petkovic – who completely outplayed Shrieky Sharapova – in the quarters. It will be a match worth catching.
Roger McFed then took centre court for what 99.9% of the tennis community expected to be a routine trashing of Disco Dancin’ Tommy Robredo. Roger has a perfect 9-0 record, and has only ever lost two sets to Mr. Bright Red Pants. He was imperious on serve the first set, firing aces and unreturnable serves and T-Rob could not even make a single-point dent on. However, although he wasn’t really taking his chances with T-Rob’s serve, he did well enough to earn that one break and to take the first set. The routine was still on track.
Until the second set. Suddenly, T-Rob found his first serve and his disco groove. Fed lost his first serve and most of his ballet groove. A loose game from Roger late in the set found him broken, with Tommy then serving for the set and before I can yell FUCK YOU FEDERER, it was one-set all.
Roger wasn’t in the mood for any more five-setters though. He broke the Disco serve early in the third, and hung on to close the set out in a back-to-routine fashion. Tommy then changed into a presumably lucky red shirt (and maybe lucky red underwear) but it wasn’t nearly enough. Le Fed then earned early simultaneous breaks again in the fourth, and then it was business as usual in the office of Federer.
When asked by Courier whom he prefers for the quarter-final, Roger answered, “My friend, Stanley”. Well, Roger’s friend Stanley was at his smokin’ Ewok Stanley best when he literally blew Andy Roddick off court in the last RLA match in straight sets. Everything was working for The Other Swiss Guy – his backhand was sublime, his forehand was clicking, his volleys were there, he was able to chase balls, return them, and suddenly, out of nowhere, he was pulling 200kmph serves and outserving The Serve himself. Poor ARod didn’t help himself by having a horrendous serving day by his usual standards, seeing his first serves faulting, and thus having Stanley pouncing all over his second serve like PJ pouncing all over Federer if she can guarantee she won’t be arrested for *ahem* inappropriate harassment.
I would just like to remind Roger that when he meets Wawrinka during the quarter-finals on Tuesday, he’s not going to be Your Friend Stanley. He should be Stanley Your Enemy Whom You’re Going To Destroy So That He Won’t Get In The Way Of Number Seventeen. Heads up, okay?
As for the other quarter-final, Djokovic and Berdych both hammered Almagro and Verdasco respectively. As Jodi so aptly puts it, it will be The Battle Of Sesame Street when Bert meets Big Bird. I hope they clobber each other to death.
Saving the best for the last – Schiavone and Kuznetsova. What a brilliant, brilliant match, and brilliant, brilliant display of heart, of determination, of passion. I started watching at 5-all, and could not leave Garden Square despite brambles sticking to my thighs and an extremely sore back. I watched those two girls played their guts out. The level of tennis was RIDICULOUS. The points played – I could only gasp and scream NO WAY as they just blazed the balls back into play for winner after winner with the most ridiculous volleys and ball-chasing.
Towards the end, there would be four breaks of serve. And each time, the girls broke each other with amazing plays and gutsy shots – really going all out for it instead of hanging back and hoping for the opponent’s mistakes. They let nothing go. NOTHING. It wasn’t a serving marathon to hold serve. It was a tennis marathon for every single point. Every single one of it.
In the end, the first to blink was Kuznetsova, as she lost serve that one final time. But she made sure that Franny did not have an easy time serving it out. Sveta kept chasing the balls, kept hitting the winners and never once gave up the belief that she could maybe break back and keep herself alive. But it was not meant to be as Franny finally held that one crucial serve, and it was all over.
At the same time, my heart breaks for Kuznetsova, as I’m sure with millions of other people out there. Franny will play Wozniacki next. And unfortunately, she will have nothing left in the tank to play Wozniacki’s brand of tennis. Still, I hope for a miracle, I hope that Franny’s heart will be enough to propel her through, and through again, and again.
Because I now truly think she deserves the title of Australian Open women’s champ, 2011.
No prizes on who I think should have the men’s title. But I won’t say it outloud.
And onward we go.
P.S. photos from daylife.com
Aus Open Days 3-5: Ewok and Other Passing Thoughts
A bit of a catch-up post, because I’ve been mindfuckedly busy this week I haven’t had time for “Fence Maintenance”.
1. I’ve never seen a killer in Stanislas Wawrinka until this week. Maybe it was the double chin, or the neck beard that makes him slightly resemble Ewok. Or the fact that he had always been “the other Swiss”, the guy that Woger once made a campfire out of, quiet and slightly “Fat Dave”-like in his build.
And I’m not sure why I see it now either: I’d like to say that it has nothing to do with the going-ons in his personal life (his recent separation from his wife and child), but at the end of the day, it has. There is a kind of ruthlessness in Stan’s character that I hadn’t realised before, and he’s certainly playing with a sense of ruthlessness, yet to lose a match this year, or even a set this tournament.
Watching him against Dimitrov (live) and Monfils (on telly), it struck me that Stan Not-So-Man is a bit of an anti-Gasquet. Whereas Gasquet came into the game being hailed as “Baby Fed”, with the high expectations of his country riding on his young talented shoulders, Wawrinka floated under the radar for years as the shadow of Federer, “that-other-Swiss-guy-that’s-not-the-One”. Whereas Gasquet’s in his comfort zone when he rallies from a full meter behind the baseline (is Reesh the only guy who actually takes a step back when he receives serve?), Not-So-Man is more Federersque in his attitude, with perhaps even more aggressive shot-making than Federer. (Lundgren’s work?)
All this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I’m not so sure about that projected Federer v Roddick quarterfinal. And Stan is a quarterfinal opponent I’d worry about far more than Roddick.
2. Grigor Dimitrov. Is he legal? ‘Cause like … a friend wanted to know.
3. Mentioning Dimitrov, Stan and Gasquet: we can make a pact that we NEVER call any dark-haired boy with a single-handed backhand “Baby Fed”, ever again?
Perhaps one day, a young boy will come along who can hit a forehand like this, and then it won’t matter if he has a single handed backhand, or has Lundgren as a coach. It just won’t matter. Until then, I think we can do more justice to both Federer and his baby counterparts by not comparing them falsely.
4. I watched most of the completely bizarre match played by Wogie McFed on Rod Laver Arena yesterday. He was agitated for most of the second and third set, groaning at his errors, screaming “c’mons”, fist pumping a point at 15-all like his name was Ana Fistpumpovic.
There was a period where he went through a fixation with drop shots, as if to say “Imma gonna keep playin’ this until I kick yo ass wit it“. He didn’t manage to kick Malisse’s ass: X-Man’s movement was fairly spectacular. Yet despite all of Wogie’s frustrations and annoyance, he won easily 63 63 61, and kicked up the charm in his post-match on-court interview with Jim Courier.
It’s one of my favourite things about Federer in Australia. He seems so relaxed, so at ease with Jim Courier and Todd Woodbridge that a completely human side of him comes out. When asked about his mindet in the fifth set against Simon on Wednesday, Federer drew rounds of laughter from the crowd as he half-jokingly answered: “I hope Gilles doesn’t play so well … I hope he gets tired … because then plays Sydney, then he comes here and badly prepared …”
And when Woody asked him about the 4 Swiss flags on the side of his shoes, McFed protested like a little girl, “but it’s gonna sound cocky mum, you’re making me sound cocky…” and with that, he had the crowd wrapped around his little finger. One moment, the 16 time enslammed champion, next – just a curly-haired man worried about sounding too up himself.
5. This has to be a first – Tony Godsick gives an interview about Federer to a Swiss paper (in French). Interesting last question: “Why did it take so long for Federer to impose his presence in the United States?”
AO2011 Day One: Fortune Favours the Stalkers (by PJ)
Hola, y’all, this is PJ descending upon the most celebrated Fence again, in the Australian Open 2011 season. Although it all officially began today, I’ve already been feeling the AO mood since Saturday when I attended the 3rd day of Qualifying. I honestly had a LOT of fun during qualies and will definitely be looking at going again next year if I’m in the country. It’s super awesome for player stalkerage plus the top players do their pre-tourney interviews on that day, means chances for photos and autographs. For the record, I got Djokovic’s and Rafa’s, but missed Federer by a breadth. If only I had not stuck around watching Schoorel and Koubek both trying NOT to win the set. FML.
And Rally for Relief. Hilarious antics by Djokovic and Roddick, Fedal doubles and Fedal giggles, and pure smashing girl power. What more could we ask for?
My original plan on Day 1 was to go for the night session, but crap scheduling meant that I ended up buying myself a Ground Pass, and LJ helped to get us both upgraded sessions for a Day Session in Rod Laver Arena where Roger was slanted to play the first match.
Lots of time before that so I saw lots of tennis!
My day actually began fantastically when after seeing Clijsters’ practice session, I ran into a group of fans in red and white, and then I saw this guy entering the practice courts. Whaddaya know, he’s Swiss and all.
Roger’s hitting partner today was Papa Ljubs, and they seemed to get along well, having a chat and a laugh before they started hitting. I unfortunately was at the end of the court where Roger was NOT practicing. My telepathic to lure him over to our side failed so I didn’t manage to get super good photos. But here’s some of them anyway.
Evidently Fed has telepathic abilities…he commands balls.
Both me and LJ didn’t expect him to sign autographs today because the norm for Rog is that if he is to play that day, he doesn’t sign autographs. But to every stalker’s delight and squeeage, he jogged over, firstly to talk the huge, enthusiastic group – the RF Brigade, who handed him gifts and the Red Envelope. Fed took pictures with them, chatted and signed all their memorabilia before moving on to the other fans.
I was lucky to get my Bear signed, and LJ her cap.
As Roger moved away from us, I thought about asking him for a photo, but we both thought we may have missed our chance. Then again, as he walked back towards our direction to pack up and go, on a whim, I called out and asked him for a photo. He looked at us, and the big Swiss flag LJ managed to borrow from her friend, smiled and gestured for his physio to take my camera.
And this is the result.
MuhahhahahhahaAHAHAHHAHHAHA OUR LIVES ARE TOTEZ COMPLETED 4EVERZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Might I also add we showed very graceful and commendable restraint by not grabbing him, molesting him, or trying to steal his pants.
After that, we moved on to the show courts, but honestly, we were all giddy and giggly and glompy over each other…random skipping and hugging. The things Federer do to us and our mental states! We managed to calm down enough to get into Nishikori Kei v Fabio Fognini.
It was actually an entertaining match, except both guys couldn’t drop shot to save their lives. Each attempt was quite a spectacle of fail. We started watching when Kei was up two sets to love, and choked away two mini-breaks to lose the third set. He ended up winning the match anyway, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-4.
LJ totally find Fognini doable, by the way. Me? Not so.
After that, we tried to get into Davydenko v Mayer, but it was very full. Nevertheless, LJ opted to wait while I head off to Querrey v Kubot. Kolya ended up losing (WTF Kolya!??! I know Mayer can be good but WTF REALLY KOLYA?!?!??!) and Querrey ended up losing, 8-6 in the final set. It was quite competitive in the 5th set…both guys had chances on each other’s serve, but ended up shanking them away until that one break point when Kubot pounced for the win.
In between matches, we saw Rafa, but because we wasn’t stalkerish enough to know beforehand, there was no way we could even get a spot for decent photos. Boo hoo.
And oh, Bobby Sod practiced after Rafa.
And then it’s YAY FEDY TIME. We got like second-to-last row seats but hell, we didn’t even care. Besides, there’re no REALLY BAD seats in Rod Laver. Because the arena wasn’t super-ass huge, we can still see pretty clearly. My camera didn’t quite cut it, but LJ’s…wooosh.
Thank goodness we can see pretty clearly, because my oh my, what a pretty show from Mr. Federer. He was on from the moment go, providing a clean, sharp display of OMGWTF BBQMG shots – blistering forehands, crisp backhands, OH MAH GAH dropshots and shots that just seemed to work in the most ridiculous way – to go two sets up to love. Seriously, some of the shots were unbelievable and I was just like HOW THE FUCK DID HE DO THAT HOW THE FUCK WAS THAT IN IS HE A FUCKING ALIEN?!!?! Yeah, it was that good. I think at one point Lacko wanted to throw a tennis ball at him and not in a friendly, haha way either.
Lacko stepped it up in the third set but Feddykins has never lost when he was up two sets to love and he wasn’t about to make today the day, breaking Lacko in the 9th game and eventually winning 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.
And then we joined Jodi for Mahut v Dabul. Boy, both these guys have some cracking forehands and cracking shots. Mahut held it together to edge out with a straight sets win. I gotta say, everyone’s new favourite Frenchie is just quite a sight on court, suitably pumped and suitably gritty. You can see his determination – it was as intense as his hair (which did not move an inch for the entire match, I swear).
I caught a bit of Ewok Wawrinka and Gabashvili as well. The Ewok may be a total douchebag in the aspects of his personal life but he does have a very pretty backhand. He won comfortably anyway.
I then wandered to check out Fed’s potential second-round opponents, just to freak myself out. Lu Yen-Hsun was playing Giles Simon and whoa, the Asian brigade was out in full force, yelling in Mandarin and decked out in Taiwanese flags and Chinese signs. Support not enough for Lu though – after winning an intense tiebreaker in the first set, he fizzed away to lose in 4. But Simon was looking solid. A bit head-casey, but good.
So Federer v Simon is set for Round 2. You may begin frazzling now.
After that it was Rod Laver Arena for some snooze fest matches. Thank goodness the second set of Wickmayer and Groth was actually quite a display of solid hitting from both girls…so I got something out of my ticket. I then got dragged out to watch Verdasco – in one of the most horrendous shirts I’ve ever seen – play Schuttler. Seriously, Nando’s shirt was BAD. I’m rather positive that the designer is colour-blind. It then began raining, so back to RLA we go.
Djokovic v Granola Bar was…BLARGGHHHH. Djokovic was decent but he didn’t need to play well, as Granola Bar evidently forgot to eat himself – he was flat and low in energy and didn’t put up too much of a fight. He fought to earn back a break in the second set, but promptly got broken again to lose the set. In which my friend now owes me twenty bucks.
To sum it up, here’s the most interesting thing in the entire match:
Guy behind me to his friends, and he was rooting for Granola Bar, said: “I always, ALWAYS root for the underdog except when it comes to Federer. His game is too beautiful to go against.”
Anyway, bring on Day 2! More stalking, more stories, more tennis! Yahoo! And killer night matches 🙂
Now I need to sleep.
P.S. All photos from the camera of yours truly, moi.
Dootsie’s Theory of Everything – PART III
IMITATION OF OVARY-BUSTING GORGENOUS
OVARY-BUSTING GORGEOUSNESS IMITATED.
I remember mocking Francesca’s finals win/loss record in Osaka last year, which was something along the lines of 1-14. At the time, I thought of her as the epitome of an imploder, perennially unable to seize an opportunity that presents itself. For the most part, I still think it was an accurate assessment then.
And now? Let me tell you a little story that may or may not be true:
Once upon a time, Dootsie was terrified of public speaking. I still am, deep down. But there was a definitive turning point once when I stood in front of a lectern with a speech on “WORLD PEACE” or something equally latte-sipping-leftist. I froze for 10 seconds without speaking. As anyone with a fear of public speaking would know: 10 years of solitary confinement feels preferable to living through those 10 seconds. I was punched in the ovaries by fear, by cold sweat, by the need to pee, by every second ticking away like a time bomb threatening to blow up and humiliate me in front of some VERY-IMPORTANT-PEOPLE.
Eventually, I took a breath so deep it hurt and told myself to “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER NAOOO!”. I opened my palm towards the audience and began to speak. I killed it. It felt like fuck-yeah.
When I look at Francesca Schiavone these days, that is the person I see. Someone who froze: again and again and again. But she kept putting herself in finals, prolonging the tortuous process until one day, ONE FINE DAY! She broke through, and she broke through at one of the biggest tournaments in the world like a butterfly out of a cocoon. For the first time, I saw the spirit behind the freeze and to shout my own mantra from the rooftops “WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN CANNOT BE UNSEEN.” It matters not that she lost to Venus today in a highly entertaining, rollercoaster match, Franny found out the same thing I had discovered once upon a time, standing in front of a lectern with a speech on my kind of latte-sipping world peace: we had unfrozen.
It feels like fuck-yeah.
As for Venus? My first love in tennis is in the semifinal of a slam-not-named-Wimbledon once more. The last time she played the semifinal of the US Open, she played another Belgian – Justin Henin – in one of my favourite WTA matches of the last decade. Who says it needs to go to a deciding set to be epic?
And regarding the dresses that seem to generate so much talk: the point is, you’re all talking about them. That’s fashion. I’d rather that than bland generic dish-outs from – ahem – certain clothing companies with absolutely no thought or attempt at creativity.
Actually, I’d rather Venus Williams win. Period. Dresses be damned.
In comfort and pain.
Dootsie’s Universal Theory of Everything,
(also known as 1 + 2 + 3 = win)
1. Pure fucking brilliance
2. TRANSFER of pure fucking brilliance
3. PURE FUCKING EXCELLENCE TRANSFERRED.
= WIN. Coincidence? Idunfinksobitch.
This is the fate that has befallen Scotland in the last 24 hours:
“Andy Murray falls apart and exits US Open with a whimper” – Guardian
“KO’d Murray: I don’t know if I’ll win a Grand Slam.” – The Sun (doth set)
“SHOCKED AND STANNED!” – The Mirror
“Murray a casualty of Waw” – Skysports
The last two puns are only slightly lame. Slightly.
What’s to say about the match? Wawrinka should’ve won the first set, but didn’t. Murray could’ve won the last one, yet he let it go. But really, it was just 4 sets of bizarre ebbs and flows, see-saw momentum that somehow always ended up swinging Stan’s way. At the end of the day, no one saw this coming.
Stanislas Wawrinka? That Swissy growing a double chin, always second best to – yer know – the other Swissy that’s the best?
To beat Murray? Pre-tournament favourite, winner of the US Open Series, taking out Nadal and Federer in straight sets back-to-back. Proud owner of this supposedly prized asset named “newfound aggression” …
You cannot be serious.
The truth is, I’ve never seen a killer in Stan. His usual forays into giant-killing terrains inevitably ended in dismay. The exception being Monte Carlo 2009, 2 days after Federer made a post-wedding last minute decision to take Mirka shopping in a tax-free haven.
In other words, it counts but it doesn’t count. The man is dubbed Ewok for a reason.
Although it was Jedi Ewok who turned up to the match today.
Perhaps there is a killer in there after all.
Make no mistake: Stan played aggressively, took it to Mandy with some inspired shotmaking. But he was only able to do so because Murray went back to his passive-aggressive hole, unwilling to pull the trigger. He gave Stan too much breathing space, played with exasperation, rather than inspiration, and Stan? He simply thrived on these vibes.
And we’re back to where we started: another year, another slamless season. Tennis Karma dictates that I do not kick a player when he’s down, so here’s my attempt to look at it without kicking.
As human beings, we all have comfort zones. We have habits, mindsets, behaviors and signposts that keep us grounded and make us who we are. We can continue to push outside those comfort zones and challenge ourselves, but this works particularly well if it is done on our own terms and at our initiative. When we’re pushed outside our comfort zone against our will, we start to cling on to those habits, default mindsets and signposts of comfort, because those are always the reference point to our identity.
Yes. I realise I’m making little sense with this bullshit here.
Late 2009, Rafael Nadal was struggling, both physically and mentally. Low in confidence, not trusting his own body, Nadal reverted back to the sort of game on hard court that I saw him play in 05 and 06 (essentially BYO-Clay-Court). Rafa was still dangerous, but he wasn’t lethal. The gravy on top – the improvements he made to his game – came after his confidence was gradually restored.
A Fed example – early 2009, when Roger effectively suffered from the same physical and emotional problems (bad back, crisis of confidence in the media), he began hitting his forehand with the desperation of a man starved for exhilaration. How many times did we see him move around his backhand to shank a forehand STRAIGHT INTO THE FUCKING NET? (Too many, I tell ya).
The point being that these characteristics form – if you like – the comfort zone. When put in a situation of distress or self-doubt, the first thing Rafa reverted back to was his more defensive, more clay-court game, regardless of surface he was on. Same with Roger, who went to his forehand like his life depended on it. These are the leopard spots that don’t change, the default mode. Everything else is a matter of how much gravy these players can summon up and put on top of their game.
In the case of Murray, his comfort zone is his passivity. There is no question that he can play aggressively on his own terms and his initiative. But when under pressure, on a bad day, Murray’s go-to for “weathering the storm” is to wait for his opponent to give him something. Very often they do, but this passivity is no defense against a streak of inspiration. Verdasco, Cilic and Wawrinka all taught us as much. Murray, as good a player as he is (or can be), is still very much vulnerable to the whims of form, environment, his opponent’s inspirations and most of all – his own exasperations. That exasperation (misery?) is also a part of his default mode.
I’m not going to speculate if Murray has a slam in him. Yes, time is ticking, but right now, it is still on his side. But what I take away from this loss is that rather than waiting for the holy trinity of factors (environment, form and opponents) to fall into place for his first slam, Muzz will have to learn to deal better with being put outside his comfort zone against his will.
Last but not least, since I link everything back to Fed without fail, does this not underscore the retarded consistency of Federer at slams since 2004? The fact that he has never been burnt out or hampered by injuries to the extent of being upset in the first week? (We came close this year, but no cigar).
The next time someone in the media starts touting Djokovic or Murray pre-slam at the expense of Fed, remember this: Federer has won 16 times Djokovic’s slam count, and as for Muzz’s slam count – OH SHIT –
Karma’s a bitch. She’ll get me back.
Imitation is the best form of flattery.
Changing coaches is all the rage in men’s tennis these days. Following the creation of the a deliciously waffle cone filled with chocolate swirls, also known as “the Federcone“, Andy Murray announced in LA that he has parted ways with Miles Maclaggan, his coach over the last 2 years, citing a difference of opinions.
“It obviously was a hard decision and one that wasn’t the nicest thing to have to take,” Murray said. “But it wasn’t that tough to make up my mind because we were quite far apart in what we thought.”
“It wasn’t necessarily something that Miles wasn’t bringing. We had a chat when we were in Miami about how we saw things. We all saw things pretty differently. Between the three of us we obviously had different ideas and different ways of seeing things, what I felt was beneficial to me and what Miles and Alex felt was beneficial to me.
“I need to be comfortable in the set-up that I have – have 100% confidence that everyone that’s working with me believes it’s the right thing to do. The last few years have gone very, very well, but I want to try and get to No. 1 in the world and try to win Grand Slams.”
Now coachless ahead of the US Open, Andy Murray is on the look-out for a new coach. Speculation in the UK media has named the four main contenders for the prized (or cursed) position to be Cahill, Roche, Groeneveld, and Todd Martin.
“It’s easy to start over-thinking things and over-analysing things,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a problem with my game. I just need to get better, and that’s something that maybe hasn’t happened the last four or five months.
“Hopefully by getting a new coach and a new coaching team in place, that will help me do that, and hopefully achieve my goals.”
Murray isn’t the only one reshuffling his team, the tennis slumbers between Wimbledon and the US Open series is anything but slumberous. Blich is reporting (clickey) that Roger’s former coach Peter Lundgren has finished his work with mini-Fed Grigor Dimitrov, and will commence working with Stan Wawrinka as early as August 2010.
That man sure has a thing for singlehanded backhands.
Federporn Friday Interrupted: Everybody wins. Except for Fed.
Federporn Friday went up on Saturday last week, and Roger – the wanker – lost a few hours later. As a result, it is my solemn decision that there shall be NO FEDERPORN FRIDAY until 15 July. LIVE WITH IT FOLKS.
Meanwhile, let me use the Friday column to be adventurers, exploring the realms of other exotic porn species. I asked for twitter submissions, you fence-sitters responded.
A number of you suggested a retro-themed FPF: the name Stefan Edberg came up more than a few times. As a child of the late 80s, Edberg feels like an uncle-figure to me, AND NO ONE LOOKS AT THEIR UNCLE’S THIGHS IN THAT WAY. OKAY?
Besides, my idea of retro-porn is more along the lines of the dark, brooding Ivan Lendl, bringing sexy-fug back. Yeaww.
Or if we were really serious about going retro: Frank Shields, year-end No 1 back in 1933. Former Wimbledon and US Open finalist, rocking the white blazer like his name was Ro – umm. Whatever.
You may know his grand-daughter – quite a child star she was! And in keeping with family tradition, she too married (and divorced) a tennis player. Read More…
Monte Carlo: In form.
Oh yeth, it’s the time of the year for me to dig out this picture again.
As I write this, Rafa is pulverising Thiemo de Bakker for sport (Note: Rafa won, 61 60 by the time I finished writing). Coming into this clay season, there has been a mixture of both expectations of make and break for Nadal. No matter how much he’s improved on grass and hard court over the last two years, clay is and will always be his default setting. What happens when that default setting breaks down?
The latter of 2009 told us all we needed to know.
As much as Roger’s year is centered emotionally and form-wise on Wimbledon, 2009 taught us that Rafa’s year, no matter how much he values Wimbledon and the other slams, is at least centered on his Roland Garros performance form-wise. And when he couldn’t perform, it hurt. On so many different levels. And the hurt carried through right til the offseason.
Watching Nadal the past few months, even though he hasn’t won a title this year yet, I couldn’t buy into all the media negativity about his play. His results may look similar to late-2009 -quarterfinal, a final, two semis – but the buzz in his tennis is back. You couldn’t help but sense that he’s on the verge of something here – the moment when you swim ashore and fumble in the water for solid ground to stand on.
And what better solid ground than the red dirt on which he’s won 5 consecutive times?
Q. You played at a very high level in Miami, although you didn’t win the tournament. How encouraging was that coming into this clay court season?
RAFAEL NADAL: I played well in all the tournaments this year. I didn’t win yet, but I was there all the time. I had the problem on the knee in Australia, but I was playing really well.
And in Doha, for sure, best level probably in Doha. In Indian Wells, I was playing very good tournament. I played a terrible match in semifinals, but the rest of the matches I was playing a very high level. And in Miami, too. I played well. I played good match against Nalbandian, very good match against Tsonga. And later in the semifinals I was playing very well in the beginning. Then he played well and I played little bit worse.
That’s important, always play well, because that gives me a lot of confidence, give me know how I can play well another time, because the last year, the last six months, anyway, if I didn’t have bad result, having semifinals, one final in Shanghai, quarterfinals in other tournaments, I feel I wasn’t ready to win important tournaments.
But this year since I start, I feel ready.
Ready I think he is.
And what of players other than Rafael Nadal?
JCF has my vote for the best clay-courter outside the top 3 right now, but Wawrinka, coming off a title in Casablanca, had a surprisingly easy time in dismissing Ernie, 61 64. Truth be told though, the score line was partly Ernie’s own undoing. Still, 6th straight victory for Stanny the Manny. Impressive.
The Miami final seems to have given Birdy a mighty boost, as he rolled past Reeshie 62 60. Elsewhere, things didn’t get much better for the French, as Nando defeated Juju Ben 62 61.
There is no end in sight, for the reign in Spain.
Picket Fence Newsreel: The Monte Pythons.
1. Notable victories overnight in the Monaco principality of Monte Carlo – Ernie whipped Chiudy into submission with a 63 62 win.
Nalby and Birdy had it even easier, with the identical score line of 63 61 over Beck and Feli respectively, while JCF baked Granola bars, 60 63.
Perhaps more intriguing than the matches – WHAT’S WITH THE HAIR DUDE? YOU LOOK 50.
2. As Monte Carlo got under way over the last two days, the biggest news so far is that Novak Djokovic has split with Todd Martin after 7 month collaboration. The pair teamed up before the US Open last year, but Nole’s serving woes and some communication issues between long-time coach Marion Vajda and Martin saw the tenure come to an end.
“You’re always going to have problems like that when you work with two coaches. They did not understand each other very well.”
“Todd is a fantastic person. He has so much experience and was willing to share everything with me. There are no hard feelings but we just decided it was not working. It was probably a question of understanding what kind of person I am.“
In other words, Martin didn’t click with the Djokovic team.
The problem was probably exacerbated by Djokovic’s serve problems over the past few months. Martin reportedly attempted to tinker with Djoko’s serve to protect his shoulders, but if the woes of Ivanovic and JJ at the Australian Open were anything to go by, messing with the serve at this stage of a player’s career is just asking for misery.
“Todd has specific ideas on some issues of work. There were no major problems, but changes in my service did not work out. It was a good experience and I’m not sorry for it.”
“At the ATP Finals in London my shoulder was tired and the body automatically started to make adjustments because of that,” Djokovic explained. “Then we tried a slightly different action and it all got very complicated. So now I am just going back to my original action.”
3. You didn’t think I was going to skip this did ya? Over the last weekend, Stanislas Wawrinka took home his second title in almost 4 years, defeating Victor Hanescu in the final 63 62. It was his first victory over the Romanian in 3 attempts.
While competing there, Stan took some time off to visit the local mosque with his coach.
The tournament, one of the few on the ATP tour schedule played in Africa, was declared to be a success.
“It was fun to watch, and even though there weren’t a lot of Moroccans at the tournament, it is growing in popularity here, especially as we have had our share of good players recently,” said Said Chobkar, an avid tennis watcher who has documented the rise of the sports popularity in local media. He said that this year, more and more young Moroccans “are picking up a racket and started to hit some balls. Hopefully this will mean more success for us on the international stage.”
Majed Ibrahim, a young tour operator based in Casablanca, said he made more money during the tennis tournament that he had in the previous three months combined.
“These kind of events are really great for the country, because it brings in a lot of money from foreigners who want to see the place and not just watch sports,” he said.
Source: Bikya Masr
How awesome is this sport of ours?
As for the Swiss, the title – coming a week after his 25th birthday – was a resounding statement that he still has the drive to win at smaller tournaments, despite recently becoming oldie and a daddy. Oh wait –
Even so, it was important for Stan to get the monkey off his back after losing 5 consecutive finals. He’ll be looking to build on his victory in Monte Carlo, where Ilham and baby Alexia will be joining him for the first time.
FUCK YOU, ROGER FEDERER. We could’ve had a Mighty Swiss Babes play date.
4. The ATP has a new video: DIMPLES AND DOLPHINS. My heart almost ruptured.
5. Leon Smith, former coach of Andy Murray, has been officially named Britain’s Davis Cup captain and the head of men’s tennis at the LTA. While the rest of us took a moment to wonder out loud – “Leon WHO?” – Mark Petchey was first to jump the gun and bitch to the media.
“When Roger Draper came into the LTA it was all about a world-class leadership team, world-class people and this is it; four years down the track we are putting someone in charge of the men’s game and the Davis Cup who has none of these qualities.”
“So are we saying the strategy before was wrong and now we’re on the right one, or are we actually saying we don’t have a clue and are sticking somebody in the job who we think might persuade Andy Murray to play Davis Cup? Andy will make his own decision and I know Andy, he was happy to go with the majority view of what the players wanted in terms of a Davis Cup captain – and the majority of those players wanted Greg Rusedski.”
After the dramas surrounding Tennis Australia and now with the LTA, it seems that the politics of tennis federations aren’t so different from the politics of girlworld.
6. Lastly, congratulations to Sania Mirza, who married Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik on Monday. There was no end to the drama as the April 15th wedding had to be brought forward by 3 days, after Muslim clerics in Hyderabad criticised the fact that Malik was living in his future bride’s house.
The ceremony was held in the presence of family and friends at a hotel in Hyderabad, attended by a delegation from the Pakistani parliament, including Pakistan’s minister for population welfare, who has asked Sania and Shoaib to become ambassadors for the country’s program to curb population growth.
So … I guess we know what that “family planning kit” is all about now.
But enough of all that. Wedding photos! Hurrah!
Your thoughts …