Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30? Think Again
“Don’t trust anyone over 30!”
That was the rallying cry of the 1960s American counterculture movement, raging against the Establishment. The System. Entrenched Power.
The two Golden Oldie Tommies — Robredo and Haas — are not part of the power structure in men’s tennis. Roger Federer, on the other hand, is. Yet, those three men — while living on different sides of the tracks — all created very special memories in the first week of Roland Garros. They proved that, yes, you can sometimes trust someone over 30. Grandpas might not be agents of the counterculture, but they’re cool in both senses of the term — they’re composed under pressure, and they’re the life of the party in Gay Paree.
This being a Federer fan blog as well as a general-service tennis blog, we’ll make sure to emphasize how the old-man narrative at Roland Garros in 2013 magnifies Roger’s legacy. Our story begins, though, with Robredo.
Robredo’s Marathon Mastery
It’s been 86 years since another man forged two-set comebacks in three successive major tournament matches. In the 1927 Wimbledon tournament, Henri Cochet turned the trick. One would think that in light of all the amazing comebacks registered over the decades in men’s tennis — think of Pancho Gonzalez over Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon in 1969, or Novak Djokovic rising from the dead against both Andreas Seppi and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year at Roland Garros — SOMEONE would have won three straight five-set matches after losing the first two sets in each of them. Yet, no one did… not in 86 years.
Not until Tommy Robredo took center stage in Paris this past weekend.
Keep this in mind about Robredo: He had to take more than a year away from the sport due to a left leg injury that required surgery. Robredo, who has made multiple major quarterfinals and spent some time in the top 10, dropped to No. 470 in the world rankings 12 months ago (a statistic courtesy of ATP tennis researcher Steph Trudel). Of all the people who would figure to break this 86-year drought, Robredo resided at the bottom of the list. He had to fight off four match points — two as a receiver of serve — to defeat Gael Monfils on Friday. His Sunday comeback against gack-prone Nicolas Almagro completed one of the most marvelous feats in modern-day tennis… not because Robredo lacks talent, but because the Spaniard’s absence from the sport had not exposed him to the grind of the majors and the five-set gauntlet that is part of them.
Robredo wasn’t much of a factor in the clay-court tournaments that preceded Roland Garros. It’s not as though he possessed a full supply of match play that prepared him for extended five-set combat. He did this on the fly, and from a position of relative obscurity, without having any momentum to catapult him into this tournament. His achievement is truly remarkable.
Like a Haas, Like a Boss
Whereas Tommy Robredo’s tennis career was interrupted by a leg injury, Haas — as you might know — has seen his hard-luck career get derailed by not just his own injuries, but injuries suffered by his parents in a motor-vehicle accident. Haas has needed to step away from tennis for at least three extended and separate periods of time. He has needed to care for his parents; rehab a shoulder injury; and rehab from a hip injury. A black cartoon raincloud has hovered over his career. Yes, he has allowed some winnable matches at majors to slip through his fingers, but one can only wonder how Haas’s tennis life might have unfolded had he not been so frequently visited by adversity.
When Haas lost 12 match points in the fourth set on Saturday to John Isner, the German-American — forced into a fifth set — had to feel miserable. Who wouldn’t? He didn’t play poorly on 10 of his 12 match points — Isner simply served bombs on most of them — but he double faulted when handed a match point late in a fourth-set tiebreaker. That kind of failure can and does linger in the mind of any athlete. Haas was broken in his first service game of the fifth set, and when he fell behind Isner, 4-1, the match — while not over — certainly pointed to an Isner victory.
Haas, a tormented player who conducted a lot of open verbal dialogues with himself during Saturday’s third-round match, insisted on fighting to the very end. He got a look at a break point when trailing 4-2 and converted it to get back on serve. Later, at 5-6, Haas saved a match point on his own serve. Finally, at 8-all, Haas broke Isner, and when he held one game later to take the match 10-8 in the fifth, a number of accumulated demons had been banished.
Haas, with his movie-star looks, could easily transition to other less strenuous careers. He could spend more time away from the court with his wife, Sara Foster. He could put his body through so much less wear and tear. Yet, Haas has chosen to climb the mountain at 35 years of age. He’s not a top-tier contender at majors (the same goes for Robredo), but something deep inside him is pushing him — to compete, to persevere, and, most of all, to win a lot of high-stakes tennis matches. He is looking to the center of his very being. When he looks there, Haas sees a lot of fire left.
The Great Federer
One of the paying customers at Court Philippe Chatrier on Sunday evening in Paris was Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays The Great Gatsby in the latest movie version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic. The last line of Gatsby, shown in the film, is as follows:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
When a great athlete advances in years and loses the full-flight quickness that once characterized his peak years as a professional, it is so easy to travel into the past, to reminisce about days gone by, when legs were young and first steps to the forehand corner came easily. It is so easy for fans of Roger Federer to recall the halcyon days of 2006 and 2007, when the wine flowed and the wins piled up and the band played a ceaselessly merry tune. Today, it is so much more of a grind for Federer to win at the highest level.
He’s won “only” one major since the 2010 Australian Open. Rafael Nadal (2010) and Novak Djokovic (2011) announced their presence as the two ATP players immersed in their best years, performing at the height of their powers. Federer has to settle for being “only” the third-best player in the world, “only” a semifinalist on most occasions at majors. He played bravely and well against Andy Murray in the semis of the 2013 Australian Open, but was beaten by a younger player who was simply and unquestionably better. It’s not that Federer has declined — he really hasn’t — but that the competition is aged 26 and 27 while Gramps/Pants/Granny Smith/Woger-With-A-Chewwy-On-Twop is approaching his 32nd birthday. It’s simply more of a climb these days. Success still arrives, but at the expense of more effort from an older body.
It’s so natural to want to think about the past, especially when almost everything that could possibly be achieved in any kind of profession has in fact been attained. Federer’s won the Grand Slam. He’s won 900 matches. He’s won seven Wimbledons. He’s reached 23 straight major semifinals and now 36 major quarterfinals. He’s made 10 straight major finals. He’s reached 40 major quarterfinals, 33 semifinals (with a chance for 34 on Tuesday), and 24 finals. His name already litters the ATP record books, especially in the Open Era. He doesn’t need to hit another tennis ball to prove anything to his fans or to the wider tennis community.
Yet, he continues.
He continues to fight like a junkyard dog, gutting out another comeback from a two-sets-to-one deficit in the early rounds of a major. Though pushed yet again by Gilles Simon at a major (hello, 2011 Australian Open second round), Federer once again managed to find solutions in a fifth set against his fellow Frenchman. (Federer is Swiss, but please — he is loved as a native by the Paris crowds. He’ll meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an all-French quarterfinal.)
Federer the problem solver continued to find the right assortment of shots in the right moments. He continued to hit clutch serves when the pressure of the match reached its zenith at 5-3 in the fifth. He faced his nerves, which brought him so close to an exasperating loss of serve at 5-3 and raised the possibility that he would lose yet another match after failing to win match point. He withstood all the pressure, all the heat, that comes with being a target for the competition.
He made another major quarterfinal, earning the right to say that he has not missed the round of eight at a major for nine full years.
Nine. Full. Years. (Imagine a golfer finishing in the top 8 of each and every major tournament for nine full years without interruption.)
Nothing can or should diminish what Tommy Robredo and Tommy Haas have done this past week at Roland Garros. Comparisons between or among similar feats should not reflexively be seen as diminishments of one feat; they can and should be seen as elevations of the other.
What Robredo and Haas have done the past few days stands on its own merit. The two members of the thirty-something crowd have won legions of new admirers while becoming even more beloved by longtime tennis diehards. The hunger and passion Robredo and Haas displayed — both during and after their victories — moved a lot of people very deeply, showcasing tennis at its inspirational best.
Yet, with all of that having been said, it is certainly worth noting that Robredo and Haas arrive at their passions quite naturally: They’ve never made a major-tournament final. The elusive quest for supreme glory is something that looms before them, a long-denied prize that might never be captured but is still worth chasing.
Roger Federer? He’s won just about every prize imaginable, Davis Cup being an exception. He’s prevailed in just about every kind of situation in tennis, Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros being the one fundamental exception. Federer has had none of the bad luck Robredo and Haas have suffered. He is not impoverished in terms of achievements and successes the way Robredo and Haas are. Yet, his level of fight is just as substantial, his hunger just as evident.
Roger Federer comports himself and plays his sport with a distinct Old School flair. He’s not a member of the counterculture. Yet, he’s a man over 30 who can be trusted even more than Mr. Robredo and Mr. Haas. You see, Robredo and Haas are producing pieces of one-time magic that are unlikely to be reduplicated. They’re making the second week of a major with guts and guile, winning by the skin of their teeth and fending off all manner of challenges from without and within.
Roger Federer? He’s been getting to the second week of a major for nine full years, competing more like a starving artist than a man who — monetarily and professionally — has accumulated a king’s vast riches.
Tommy Robredo and Tommy Haas are very, very special tennis players who have added to their legacies of achievement.
Roger Federer is, shall we say, Specialerer.
The Special-est, you could say.
The man over 30 who should be trusted by anyone and everyone in tennis.
I close with another quote from the era of The Great Gatsby.
In 1931, The Sporting News said this about the sport that sustained the United States through overwhelmingly tough times in the first third of the 20th century:
Great is baseball — the national tonic, the reviver of hope, the restorer of confidence.
We human beings need uplift from outside sources. We need pick-me-ups from people and cultural beacons and social occasions that inspire us, excite us, and introduce us to new horizons of possibility.
For the tennis player, the solo athlete, this inspiration has to come primarily from within. Therefore, a variation on the Sporting News quote is something that applies both to Mr. Federer and to our own (tennis) imaginations at the same time:
Great is Federer — the enduring tonic, the reviver of hope, the restorer of confidence.
Monte Carlo (and more): Public Enemy No 1.
1. How much does Rafael Nadal want to win Monte Carlo? As much as Sue Sylvester wants non-Sneaky Gays, more than an obese person wants hot chips with chicken salt and North American Federer fans want their Federporn delivered on Thursdays.
Analogies, I’m terrible at them. He wants it bad is what I’m saying.
Two matches, 2 breadsticks, 2 bagels. They don’t come served steaming hot with Swiss cheese, but that’s not to say they’re not just as a good. As far as I’m concerned, they’re better that way.
2. 5 Spaniards in the final 8 in Monte Carlo. Someone once told me that Spanish players are white shirts to French players’ tie-dyes. Outside Nadal and – for mostly nostalgic reasons – JCF, not a lot of them catch my eye.
Well … at least not in any professional way.
Mentioning JCF, he served up some baked goods of his own on route to a 61 36 75 victory over Jo-Wills. The Mossie might be 16-1 on clay this year, but he comes up against an impossible roadblock next: Mr Bakery himself.
“I would love to play him in the semi-final or the final, but right now the draw is like this,” Ferrero told reporters.
“I have more experience. Maybe my serve and my backhand are a little bit better, and physically I’m stronger than in 2003,” he said, although he would not state he was a better player overall.
No, he would not and should not, having only won 2 of his last 8 meetings against Rafa. But he did hit us with this fabulous line.
“I know Rafa very well but we all know he is the number one public enemy on clay.”
Nice one. You’re gonna go down Juanqui, but you’re gonna go down swingin’.
Surprisingly, one Spaniard didn’t make it to the quarterfinals – Tommy Rob, who was dispatched in straight sets by a certain Daveed, 63 64.
Nalbandian smiling on a tennis court generally blows my mind.
Nalbandian smiling on a tennis court with what appears to be Roger Federer’s hair makes my brain combust into a gooey pile of ashes.
WHY MUST YOU DO THIS TO ME?
3. “Upset” of the day, Marin Cilic was booted out of the principality by Montanes 64 64, although I’m not sure how upsetting it really is when a big-serving Croatian loses out to a small and speedy Spaniard. An Australian Open burn-out and movement issues on clay in equal measures.
The upset of the tournament so far, however, goes to Mandy, who made the trip to Monte Carlo in vain, losing his first match to Kohlschreiber. As good as Kohlschreiber is, it has become clear by now that Mandy’s in a psychological funk. The Fed didn’t just defeat him to win the Australian Open crown, he broke him.
But the strange thing with Andy Murray is his incredible self-awareness. He’s always been one to know his own limitations. It’s solely up to Mandy now to unbreak himself out of this lethargy that has been clouding over his tennis since his tears in Melbourne.
Q. Could you compare the moment you are living now, this result, with another moment of your career?
ANDY MURRAY: Yeah, I’ve been – I mean – obviously the last two tournaments have been bad. You know, yeah, it’s been a long time since I lost a couple of matches like this.
But I think, you know, I have to make sure that, uhm, you know, I don’t panic. You know, everyone I think can go through periods where they don’t play well. You know, I’ve lost to good players. Obviously, the score line has not been very close in the last couple of matches.
I just need to start playing better. It’s probably been a couple of years. Last year, the whole year, I was very consistent. The years before that, I was a little bit inconsistent. But I need to try and find that again and find my consistency, then I’ll start to play well.
No reason to panic for Muzz fans – if he has any, I suspect a small part of him is living for the July-September stretch of the season already. Bizarrely enough, sometimes I feel that more so than perhaps even Federer, Andy Murray is the one player at a stage in his career where he cares only about majors.
Because he ran out of things to prove elsewhere a year ago.
4. Excuse the total lack of WTA coverage, usually women’s tennis interests me a lot more than men’s tennis during the clay season.
It’s been so far so good for the top seeds in Charleston, as Wozniacki (def Schnyder), Petrova (def Wozniak), Jankovic (def Rodina) and Zvonareva (Bondarenko) all progressed into the quarterfinals in straight sets. Peng Peng Shuai Shuai and Dani Hantuchova are also in their first clay quarterfinals of the year, as they wrapped up their wins over Vesnina and Angelique Kerber respectively in 3.
As I write this, Sam Stosur is up 3-0 in the final set, after taking the first set 6-1 but conceding the second 3-6 against Vera Dush.
Slam her, Sammy!
Over in Barcelona, Franny defeated local favourite CSN for a place in the semi, while Shvedova, Dulgheru and Vinci all came through their quarterfinals in straight sets in front of what seems like a total of 5 spectators.
Small revelation while I was streaming Barcelona yesterday – Roberta Vinci = vastly underrated player. Amongst her, Franny and Flavs, the Italians have one stylish Fed Cup team.
5. Time to file that restraining order Jelena, Daddy’s on parole.
The AP is reporting that the Serbian court has freed Damir Dokic on parole. Dokic was convicted of threatening to blow up the Australian ambassador and sentenced to 15 months in prison. That sentence was later reduced to 12 months. Dokic was released on Thursday.
Frazzle Post: Monte Carlo.
Down Under: It’s a love story, baby just say yes.
Don’t you wish you could switch places with Tommy’s diamond encrusted ball right now?
Don’t lie. Unless you’re saying you’d rather swap with Maz Jose’s, in which case I HEAR YA BROTHER/SISTER.
I had expected Spain to win, but not in the fashion that it did.
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, my girl crush of the week, never quite found her form against a determined Laura Robson, surrendering to the match 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) to the 15 year-old World No. Godknowswhat.
After that, who expected Great Britain not to pull off a stunning victory?
Disco Tom apparently.
Undaunted by the soon-to-be World No 5 even after losing the first set 1-6, Tommy Rob let completely loose and pulled off his biggest upset of late, outhitting Murray to break even with one win apiece, 1-6 6-4 6-3.
It was a slight choke by Mandy, who had allowed Tommy Rob very few looks on his serve until 4-all in the second set, when the momentum suddenly shifted and Robredo began to up his aggression in an alarming fashion. To think I considered he was a toothless tiger…
And yes, Tommy really wanted Perth’s balls. Linesman didn’t want to give them.
With the final tie going into a decisive mixed doubles match, the Spaniards were at a distinct advantage given Maz’s doubles expertise.
While the first set progressed into a tiebreak after a succession of service breaks, Britain gained itself 3 set points at 6-3. But it’s not over until Tommy Robredo sings. Muzz tensed up once more and shanked a routine backhand, before Robson was overpowered by Robredo’s forehand on the next two points.
MJMS then worked her doubles mojo for the minibreak and converted the set point with a crisp volley.
Throughout the second set, MJMS and Disco Tom worked as a well-oiled machine, putting constant pressure on Loz Rob’s serve. The inevitable break of serve game at 6-5, with a Robredo return-of-serve winner.
Man of the tournament.
I’m not saying anything.
Despite his loss, Mandy remained bullish about his Open chances.
“I think I’m ready to win it. I just need to play well, if I do that then there’s no reason why I can’t,” Murray said.
“I feel like I’m serving well, moving well and playing the ball better than I have done for a long time in the back of the court and volleyed well this week. So there’s not a whole lot to complain about.”
“I’m sure if you ask (Roger) Federer how he’s feeling this week going into Australia after losing to (Nikolay) Davydenko (in Qatar), I’m pretty sure it’s not going to put a whole lot of doubts into his mind,” Murray said.
Lastly, a warm-fuzzy photo with the tournament Dowager, Mrs Hopman.
Down Under: Perth, I want your balls.
It’s Hopman Cup time, the tournament with diamond encrusted balls. One step closer to these prized trophies are Romania and Spain, having won their ties against Australia and the US of A respectively over the weekend.
I remember going to a local stand-up comedy show a few years back. When the comedian brought up the name “Lleyton Hewitt”, the crowd booed. If we can’t find some love for him here in Aus, then what hope is there for Hewitt overseas?
Fast-forward a few years and the Hewitt-hating normality I’ve come to know and love is crashing down on me. Instead of suing the ATP, making homophobic remarks and playing mind games with his opponents, Lleyton Hewitt has somewhat grown up.
These days, he seems to be more willing to spend his time investing in online retail stores, making babies with Bec, and generally doing inoffensive things such as milking what’s left of his career for all its worth.
And in all honesty, he doesn’t have to. No one’s stopping him from riding off into the retirement sunset a la Marat Safin. Perhaps we don’t give him enough credit for … actually loving this sport?
Unlike his compatriot Sam Stosur, Hewitt started his year with a win over Victor Hanescu in a dramatic third set tiebreak.
All credit to Hanescu, who served big, mixed in drop shots and volleys to make Hewitt run around like a rabbit. But Lleyton wouldn’t be Lleyton if he didn’t battle every match to the end of time. With Hanescu cramping and the Perth crowd fired up, there was only one result to expect.
Romania however could depend on Sorana Cirstea to seal the tie. Not a fan of the Racoon eye make-up and slappy forehand, but you gotta admire the guts and fight from the girl. Looking done and dusted half way through the second set of her singles match, Cirstea took full advantage of a slight falter by Stosur, pumped herself up and took control of a match she had no business winning.
Top 20 by the end of the year?
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?
I’m sure you’ll understand my newfound love for the girl, having missed her match against Serena at Roland Garros last year, it was my first time watching her.
And why wouldn’t you love her game? Beautiful service motion, one of the rare non-spastic ball tosses on the WTA tour. She’s an intelligent player with a good sense of knowing when to stay in the rally, and when to move forward and unleash her array of doubles-savvy volleys on her opponents.
You don’t get a lot of players like her on the women’s tour these days. A breath of fresh air, as one might say.
Is it any wonder then that MJMS and Tommy Robredo teamed up to defeat Oudin and Mr Chubby Sex?
Izzy, I love you. But you know you can’t serve at 77% and still lose the match, right? It’s a crime for someone with a serve like yours to volley that floppily.
As Romania and Spain kicked off their quest for Perth’s balls, all the teams turned up to attend the annual Hopman Cup ball. Lena D looks beautifully bland, as always.
Sabine hadn’t realised Halloween was almost 3 months ago.
I keep a mental list of players who are either of the same height or shorter than me. Melanie Oudin belongs in the former category. Kimiko Date Krumm in the latter.
John Isner belongs in neither.
When I was 15, I was still waiting for boobs to arrive. Frick you.
Shave. Wear a tie. Tuck your shirt in. And stop looking like a hobo.
Tommy Rob shows Mandy how it’s done.
Sammy. Aww. Sammy.
Lleyton and new coach Nathan Healy.
What I wouldn’t give to be in Perth right now …
Beijing/Tokyo: Sayonara Dinara.
Yes Dina, I’m a terrible person:
Cheers erupted on Centre Court in Beijing as Zhang Shuai (not to be confused with Peng Shuai) took out the “Real World No 1” Dinara Safina 75 76.
Zhang, ranked 226 in the world, has never won a match in the second round of a main draw before. She appeared to have no conceivable weapon other than her ability to absorb pace, which happened to exactly what Dina was sending her.
To be fair, it’s not like Dina knows how to play any other way. Much better players would’ve had trouble winning a match with 51 unforced errors and 13 double faults. But I guess that’s precisely the trouble with women’s tennis right now, you wish the No 1 player was “the better player”, or “the best player”. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot of correlation between quality and ranking when it comes to Dinara.
Also out of the tournament is Venus Williams, who lost to Pavs for the second time in two weeks 36 61 64.
Shockingly for Venus, she committed 14 double faults with no aces over the course of the 3 sets. Colour me surprised if that knee is properly healed. I’m almost in favour of Venus just calling it a year rather than flailing physically and making matters worse.
This is, however, a damn good picture.
On the men’s side of things in Beijing, Cilic, Ferrero, and Robredo all came through in straight sets, while Kohlschreiber took out Dr Ivo in 3, breadsticking him along the way. Anyone who breadsticks Ivo Karlovic deserves a multitude of my love and affection.
And we had 3 Novak Djokovics. Basically my worst nightmare.
In Tokyo, the Swiss are showing the tennis world that they can be awesome without some potato-nosed hubby-of-Vavrinec.
Well, no they can’t. Nice try anyway.
Marco Chiudinelli “upset” Dudi Sela 46 61 64 to secure his own career high ranking in the top 100, while Stan had a good 64 64 victory over John Isner. A good word for Marco, he’s been playing a lot better than his ranking would indicate ever since the Us Open.
Not to mention, they both looked oh-so-pretty, who needs the other Swiss with these two around?
Who am I convincing?
Picspam: Yes Roger. That was the look on my face during the fifth set.
With Federer pulling out of doubles due to exhaustion/jetlag/cbf-ness, the Swiss lost in doubles to the Italians in straight sets.
Roger was not amused.
Either that, or Myla, Charlene and/or Mirka kept him up all night.
Reuters strikes again! REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito
No Mirka sighting, but Stan’s Concubine was there for moral support.
Either that, or she enjoys the Wawa/Chiuchiu eyecandy.
In other Davis Cup news, Spain and the Czech Republic set up their finale clash with respective 3-0 wins over Israel and the Croatia.
As always you can depend on Feliciano Lopez to supply us with plenty of pony-riding, manwich-making, homoerotic LOLs.
JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images
Don’t ever change, boys.
Equally dependable to induce “headdesks” and “facepalms”, the Worm subjected us to a strip tease after he and Berdych sealed the deal in doubles to put the Czechs in the Davis Cup final for the third time in history.
HRVOJE POLAN/AFP/Getty Images
Just in case you didn’t know what Radek’s monkey face looked like…
HRVOJE POLAN/AFP/Getty Images
So who the hell is going to defeat the Spaniards? Just don’t see them losing.
Davis Cup Picspam: Hot or Not
HOT! Toothy smiles from gorgeous boys.
NOT! So you think you can dance … dance … dance …
“Spank that ace” vs “the Robot Worm”
HOT! Feliciano Lopez. Period.
NOT! Feliciano Lopez eating a shoe.
AP Photo/Carlo Baroncini
HOT! His Royal Gorgeousness.
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
NOT! WC janitors.
HOT! Davis Cup bromance.
NOT! Best-of-five set matches days after the US Open.
USO Day 8: Everybody has a story.
As much as I like to complain about all the big names dropping out of the tournament like horse shit, one of the benefits of having some of the lesser known players hang around is that you get to find out a little more about them. Turns out that the old truism ‘everybody has a story‘ still rings … true.
Yanina Wickmayer survived a close one today against Dina-slayer Petra Kvitova, prevailing 46 64 75 to reach her first ever grand slam quarterfinal. As a result, I found myself reading the transcripts of her press conference for the first time.
It seems that for many members of the press, it was their first time interviewing the Belgian too. When asked about why her English was so good, Yanina revealed that she had spent 3 years in Tampa after her mother died of cancer when she was nine.
“I went there when I was nine. I lost my mom when I was nine. I wanted to get away from home. I loved playing tennis.
“I was actually only playing for half a year. So I really enjoyed it, but just wanted to get away from home and do other stuff, be around other people. That’s why we left.”
Wickmayer admitted that it was a mature decision for her age at the time, but it was a decision made easier by the reaction of her father.
“I have to admire him for giving up everything he had. He gave up his job. He gave up his friends. Yeah, he gave up the house, his cars, and we just left.
Yeah, he put his whole life, yeah, in point of me, so I respect him for that. Everything I have now is a little bit because of him just because, yeah, he trusted me. He wanted to make me happy no matter what.
I guess he always believed in me. He always supported me. Even when I had some few tough years, I didn’t get through well, but he always been there next to me and supported me.
Yeah, he’s a great guy.”
He certainly sounds like a great guy. Tennis dads take note! Papa Wickmayer’s decision to leave Belgium had nothing to do with a gamble on his daughter’s career.
“…he didn’t leave everything because he expected me to be a champion. Actually he just left everything to make me happy. I guess that’s a whole lot of difference.
When I was nine, I wasn’t even I loved playing tennis, but I never thought I was going to be a professional and do this every day. I still went to school when I was nine. I was just a little girl enjoying playing.
I guess every year I kept on playing. I loved it a little more and I got a little better. That’s how the story goes.
But he gave up everything just to make his little girl happy, not to make her a tennis champion.”
Tennis isn’t all about the Serenas and the Sharapovas of this world. Sometimes, it’s just as heartwarming to get to know a little more about that Belgian girl who’s neither the one, nor the other.
A tissue for you softies?
[Wickmayer plays Kateryna Bondarenko next for a spot in the semis, after the KBond destroyed Gisela Dulko with a double bagel.]
The Russian Roulette keeps firing, as Melanie completes another Oudini escape from the jaws of defeat, outlasting Petrova 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3.
So here’s the deal with this kid – she’s no Justine Henin. Just because someone doesn’t play big babe tennis, doesn’t mean that she’s an Henin or a Hingis. Melanie Oudin is neither, a better comparison is probably Lleyton Hewitt. Like Lleyton, she’s a little babe trying to play big babe tennis, and in doing so, outlasting her bigger, stronger opponents with sheer belief and a terrier-like mentality.
Because there’s already been enough Oudin-worshipping going on, for the sake of being a contrarian, I’ll point out that to a large extent, her last 3 opponents gifted her the match with their neuroses.
Essentially that’s one of the many problems with women’s tennis these days – too often, it’s about outlasting the other player rather than outclassing her. Each player seems to have a ‘dark place’ with a tendency to go there when they’re moments away from victory.
Still, I won’t pretend that there isn’t something oddly inspiring, and oddly “American” about seeing a teenager defy all odds against her (frankly) more talented, more experienced opponents. This is a kid that speaks with exclamation marks, plays through tears and with gusto, writes the word “Believe” on her sorbet coloured shoes and talks about having a dream.
Gimmicky? Yes. Endearing? Hell yes. Once upon a time, I too spoke in exclamation marks, and had a preference for sorbet colours and corny mantras. Didn’t we all? She may not be the most talented youngster out there, but something about Melanie Oudin resonates with the country, and indeed the tennis world.
Not sure that I’m on the bandwagon just yet, but we just might get there one day.
Melanie Oudin faces Caroline Wozniacki next match, who pushed past Sveta Kuznetsova. And I mean pushed. Caroline is a sweet girl and a fabulous personality to have in women’s tennis, but watching her tennis is only marginally more interesting than watching paint dry. At least in this match.
Kuzzy spent the first set and a half blowing Carol off the court with massive serves, blistering forehands and deft volleys. There’s a reason why this girl happens to be Roger Federer’s favourite WTA player – some talents don’t need gimmicks.
But Sveta being Sveta, she imploded bizarrely with a string of unforced errors in the second set. At the end of the day, all CWoz had to do was to keep sending the balls back and watch Kuzzy self-destruct.
How can we keep Marat Safin away from this gal?
On the men’s side of things, Roger Federer had a smashing time against Tommy Robredo, breezing past 7-5 6-2 6-2. The first set was a little tight, but once Roger got that one in the bag, he unleashed the funhouse for the next two sets.
Unlike most other players out there, RFed makes a beating look beautiful.
Unsurprisingly, it was fun for Roger as it was for us. He claims that despite scoring so many victories over his opponents, it’s not just about winning.
“It’s not like even trying to beat him again; it’s just about having fun out there, playing a good match, playing good tennis, enjoying the moment, playing in packed stadiums. It’s something not many people get an opportunity to do.
I think everybody would love to be in my shoes. Why should I give away my spot really because I enjoy too much and people love to come see me play? So this is motivation alone for me. I mean, it’s plenty. I have plenty of reasons for me to keep on playing.”
It goes without saying, which is precisely why I should really say it with a little salut and all: RESPECT!
Roger faces the Sod next, who was up 2 sets to 1 against Davo when the Russian retired with an injury. Robin celebrated his impending meeting with the Fed by … eating jellybeans.
That’s just 100% adorkability. Robin Soderling, the most misunderstood man in tennis? Quite possibly.
My worst enemy for the next two days? Definitely.
In other men’s matches, Djokovic had a straightforward squashing of the Worm, but the real highlight was his reconciliation with the American crowd. I thought it was nice for Darren Cahill to offer him an olive branch, a chance for Nole to redeem himself with something that made him popular in the first place – imitations.
It might seem like all fun and games, but with Roddick out of the draw and the crowd seemingly warming towards the Djoker again, how will it play out for Nole’s confidence?
He seems to be a player desperate for acceptance and particularly bothered by the dialectics between popularity and notoriety. Would being portrayed in a more positive light put some wind under his wings?
Who knows. Just don’t tell me you didn’t see him comin’.
BACK TO FRAZZLING,
Picspam: A fresh batch of convicts to send to Australia.
Do head shots ever look good?
I love Kendrick’s face – he looks positively constipated.
Special mention to Gael Monfils though, the guy actually managed to look normal. Overall, a much better batch than the ATP’s previous attempt.
At least they don’t look like drug lords in these.
Your thoughts …