Tag Archive | Venus Williams

Roland Garros 2013: Deriving Cachet From a Cliche

France Tennis French Open

Welcome to the beginning of All I Need Is A Picket Fence’s coverage of the 2013 Roland Garros tournament in Paris.

Doots, Le Foundress of Le Fence, is living “Le Life” in the City of Light. She’s attending the tournament in person and will have all sorts of tales to tell. You’ll get pictures and on-scene observations of the experience of attending Roland Garros, Doots’s final leg as part of her now-completed “Fan Slam.” She’ll tell you all about it very soon.

(Hey, wait a minute — there was this Swiss guy who completed a Grand Slam in Paris as well, and a Russian woman who did the same thing last year. Doots is following in the footsteps of the two tennis players she primarily blogs about. Paris is a city made for blending life and art, dreams and reality. Feel the poetry, Picket Fencers. Feel the poetry.)

While we wait for Doots, let’s get our Roland Garros coverage off the ground by overviewing the first two days of competition. Many unremarkable things have happened:

On the WTA side, Nadia Petrova suffered a stomach-punch, come-from-ahead loss. Serena Williams threw down the proverbial hammer. Sorana Cirstea and Ana Ivanovic took their fans through an all-too-typical emotional rollercoaster. Julia Goerges continued to struggle.

On the ATP side, it wasn’t quite business as usual — not to the same extent as the WTA. Lleyton Hewitt fought valiantly and lost in five sets. Gilles Simon played a long, drawn-out, and exasperating match (against Hewitt). Other than those familiar occurrences, the men threw a lot of curveballs at tennis observers. American men (yes, PLURAL) actually WON first-round matches. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won without fuss or drama, and Richard Gasquet did the same. No French absurdist theater at Roland Garros — not yet.

You want to know how shocking the first two days of men’s competition have been in Paris? ROBIN HAASE won a tiebreaker! That says it all, does it not?

“NOBODY BEATS ROBIN HAASE 18 TIEBREAKERS IN A ROW!” — Vitas Gerulaitis, probably

The women’s tournament has given us some precious gems and poignant moments from two days of play: Venus Williams emptied herself on Court Suzanne Lenglen, giving everything to tennis — just as she has throughout her distinguished career — only to fall short against Urszula Radwanska, whose lobs and mixed-pace shots ultimately frustrated Venus in a 3-hour, 19-minute scrap of appreciable quality.

Virginie Razzano, who — remember — lost her fiance two years ago, earned a second-round paycheck with the possibility of a third-round prize. Razzano has suffered shattering, devastating grief… and lived to find sustenance from sport. The first days of a tennis major are special because they give the likes of Virginie Razzano a day — and a payday — in the sun, validating many years of perseverance. Razzano will make almost $53,000 U.S. even if she loses her round-of-64 match. That take-home pay will cover a lot of expenses, justifying the decision to continue playing in the shadows of loss and loneliness. The greats play for championships, but many players at the majors are playing for that big infusion of prize money in the first week of the tournament… and for the love of a sport that has meant so much to their lives.

With that general recap in the books, let’s move to our featured selection from the first two days of Roland Garros 2013, a quick reflection on the difference between the elites and the pretenders in the sport.

France Tennis French Open

In one corner stands Rafael Nadal, the best male clay-court tennis player of all time. In another corner stands Tomas Berdych, a player with evident major-championship talent but only one appearance in a major final and only three semifinal showings. The matches these two men played on Monday in Paris revealed so much about their careers.

With Nadal, the obvious narrative was nevertheless the narrative that genuinely applied to his first-round encounter with Daniel Brands. Nadal absorbed an opponent’s best punch for nearly two full sets and found himself down 3-0 in the second-set tiebreaker, already trailing by a set. This was not about Nadal failing to perform; Nadal was staring at the possibility of a two-set deficit because Brands adopted and executed the distinctly Rosolian approach of going for low-margin shots at every turn… and usually making them. Brands played like a man possessed, but as soon as a second-serve return missed at 3-0 and a nervous chipped approach missed at 3-2, Brands lost confidence. Nadal, tied at 4-all in the breaker, pounced on short balls in the last three points, clearly relishing not only the challenge he was given, but his ability to meet said challenge.

There is something to be said for the claim that the best competitors are the ones who really are joyful — not just free from fear, but filled with song — in the face of tense and decisive hinge-point moments. Mindsets make the men and women who surmount obstacles and grow bigger when the stakes become higher. Nadal didn’t play all that well for much of this day, but when the moment mattered the most, he became the big dog in the arena. Brands hit so many big-league shots, but he couldn’t call forth the thunder when he really needed it, when he could have gained a two-set lead and — later — when he was on the verge of breaking back to even the third set at 4-all. This is how great players survive upset bids, and it’s how people with Daniel Brands’s level of ballstriking ability wake up at age 25 and realize how much money they’ve left on the table in their professional careers.

With Berdych, the Nadalian dynamic was inverted — as it so often has been for the Czech in his career — on Monday against Gael Monfils.

You will recall that in the 2012 Australian Open, Berdych was on the verge of taking a two-set lead over Nadal in the quarterfinals, but couldn’t close the sale. Berdych has suffered that kind of loss so many times in his ATP existence. In this match against Monfils, Berdych faced a talented opponent who was performing well and playing in his home country. Berdych received a brutal draw at this tournament and had to play what amounted to a “road match” in round one. Losing here — given the way Monfils played on Monday — was not a great sin in itself. What will linger for Berdych is that, in a clean inversion of the Nadal pattern, Berdych played well until those moments when he really needed to elevate his game.

Through 4-all in the first-set tiebreaker, Berdych had competed really well. Monfils came out of the blocks with force and fury, lashing his crosscourt forehand and generating substantial depth on his groundstrokes. Monfils’s past year on the ATP Tour has been ravaged by injuries, uncertainty, and an inability to make a major mark on men’s tennis, but the Monfils who shoved around Berdych for much of the first set is the player who made the 2008 Roland Garros semifinals and has displayed the kind of ability commensurate with a top-10 player. Berdych stood up to Monfils and had given nothing away when 4-all arrived in the first-set breaker.

Then, however, Berdych wilted. An inside-out crosscourt forehand — poorly chosen and poorly executed — gave Monfils a crucial piece of leverage. Two more errors a few moments later handed Monfils the first set. Berdych erased a two-set deficit and very nearly pulled out the match in the fifth, but that first-set failure made Berdych’s mountain that much tougher to scale. Whereas the Nadals of the world struggle for much of the day but then succeed in defining situations, the reality of tennis life takes a 180-degree turn for the Berdyches of the sport.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for Doots’s dispatches and more Fencing as the tournament of the terre battue rolls along in Paris.

Aus Open Day 4 & 5: ’cause you’re hot and you’re cold.

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It was insanely hot yesterday and not just because Federer was playing tennis and generating insane hotness.

It was the kind of hot that made you feel like you were being slow roasted live, thinly veiled in a blanket of sweat, and every breath felt like you were breathing the steam out of a boiling kettle. How players managed to play any tennis at all was beyond me. I for one was melting into the seat just watching them.

And through the heat, I watched most of Berankis’ decisive win over Florian Mayer. After a year of injuries in 2012 that stunted his rise in the rankings, it’s nice to see Berankis in such good form. For a small player by modern tennis standards, when he’s on, Berankis plays like a much bigger guy, with easy power and an attacking, all court game. If he stays in form, he should give Toothface more of a work out next round after coming through two cakewalk rounds. Read More…

Aus Open Day 1: And it was all yellow …

Sharapova AO 2013

Emerald green may have been decreed by Pantone as the colour of the year, but the colour of the Happy Slam is clearly yellow, as both Nike, Adidas, and “the Others” all brought out cheery, yellow coloured gear as a homage to one of the national colours of the host nation.

If only the tennis was bright and cheery. Day 1 of the Aus Open brought with it a drama free procession of the top players, starting with Sugapova’s double bagelling of Puchkova, who more than lived up to the tired puns on her name. Read More…

Wimbledon Women’s Preview: A Conference of Anti-Experts.

With the men’s draw out of the way, PJ, LJ et moi got together for a chat about the ladies’ draw. Pictures from the pre-Wimbledon party. 

Doots: Alrighty. Let’s get started. First thoughts on women’s draw? I feel like every year for the past few years, Wimbledon has always been about what the Willians Sisters will or won’t do, and this year, it’s been the least about them in a long while.

PJ: I have to admit I am in camp “wanting a Williams to win”. Especially Venus where Wimbledon is concerned.

Doots: I think it might be too much of a long shot for Venus.

PJ: Hey, I live in Delusion Land, no?

LJ: I think she’ll be dangerous in the early rounds, but I’m not too positive on current form.

Doots: What do we think about Kvitova? I thought she was royally screwed for Roland Garros given her form going into it, but she actually acquitted herself respectably.

LJ: Her game is just so funky, I don’t know what to think. I feel like she has the potential to really beat anyone, but … but …

Doots: Funky’s one way to describe her game: when she’s on, she is shotmaking genius, when she’s off, she is an unthinking idiot. Her game doesn’t leave much room for grey.

PJ: the Female Dolgopolov, but maybe a lot less crazy.

LJ: Yes, I definitely agree with the Female Dolgo characterization, but she managed to hold it together for a slam.

PJ: Speaking of danger in early rounds, Pironkova to meet Shrieky in the second round. Now that I have mixed thoughts about: [Pironkova is a] two-time semifinalist, [but] she has the equal potential to beat herself into submission. It’s like she does nothing for the whole season and is just waiting for WImbledon to attack or something.

LJ: I thought Shreiky had an okay draw until I realised she has both Pironkova AND Lisicki in the 4th round.

Doots: Well why don’t we get onto Shrieky’s draw then. She has the Aussie ARod for her first round; most likely – Pironkova second round.

Read More…

Roland Garros 2012 Day 3 & Day 4: What you don’t expect.

Ah, gay Paree and clay Paree. I’m not a huge fan of clay-court tennis, or Roland Garros in general – my best moments of the Slam stands alone at Ferrero winning and Federer winning. Adding on the magnificent time difference from Land of Oz plus hectic times at work…let’s just say I haven’t feel so disconnected from a Slam in a very long time.

But still, it is a Slam, and it still invokes feelings of excitement and anticipation in me, even if, so far, I haven’t had the opportunity to properly watch a full match that features another player not named FederBrainfart, or read up on full tennis analysis and news etc etc etc. And things have been happening. Man, have they been happening.

Perhaps the biggest news thus far is Serena Williams losing to Virginie Razzano in the first round. It may be worth noting that Serena has never ever lost in the first round of a Slam – until now. It was a match full of drama and momentum swings and stuff that’s Hollywood-worthy, or so I heard. Serena was up 5-1 in the tiebreaker in the second set, lost the set. She was trailing 0-5 in the third, and clawed back nail and tooth and guts and spleen to come back to 3-5. Razzano needed 9 match-points before finally managing to win the last set 6-3.

Wowza.

Read More…

Roland Garros Day 1: That Tricoloured Bubble.

Despite having never been a fan of Roddick at any point during his career, there is still something thoroughly depressing about watching him lose first round at a grand slam. Even if he did lose to a Frenchman … in France … on clay – by far his least relevant surface. (It may be of relevance to mention here that the Frenchman in question had a win/loss record of 1-9 at Roland Garros coming into the match, so clearly, the said Frenchman is not your typical, dreaded clay machine). Read More…

US Open 2011 (by LJ): Day 3 Wrap – An Ode to Venus

Dear Venus,

You brought something very special to tennis, whether it was those early hair beads flung across the courts every swing, or your gangly but poised frame gliding across the Wimbledon grass there was tennis before the Williams sisters and tennis after the Williams sisters.

As the oldest Williams sister, you’ve endured so many generations of players but yet you still come back, time and time again, pulled back by your love of the game.

To have your career stopped, so cruelly by an illness which has no certain remission rate and no cure is just….UGH.

Get better soon Vee, you deserve to come back and receive a proper send off.

WTA

Venus Williams withdrew from the US Open 2011, citing Sjogren’s Syndrome and probably taking her out from tennis indefinitely. The diagonsis was long coming, Vee only having played 4 tournies this year has been looking out of sorts for a while. Sabine Lisicki goes through to the 3rd round.

A Slew of seeds fell by the wayside today including Cibulkova, Radwanska, Bartoli and Wickmayer. And it’s only the 2nd fucking round. I mean is the season just too long? Or is it the WTA points system? cause someone needs to sort this shit out.

Robson and Dulgheru underperformed compared to their first rounds earning themselves a boot from the tournament.

ATP

On the Men’s side, Soderling joined the list of US Open wounded, withdrawing just before his match with a virus, another statistic for the “Season is too bloody long argument”.

Roddick continues to struggle, needing 4 sets to get past Michael Russell, as Murray and Del Pony do it easy in 3.

Also doing it easy was Julien Benneteau taking out 10th seeded Almagro….Almagro was ranked 10????? WTfuckery?

3 matches went the distance including Gilles Simon who needed 5 to get past Brazilian Ricardo Mello, which shouldn’t bother him too much considering what he did at the Australian Open this year after winning Sydney , (almost burst an artery sitting through that match.)

And that’s it from me folks, the next few days will be brought to you by PJ but I may drop in sometime next week.

Happy USOing

LJ

Wimbledon: Week 1 Tidbits

1. With some players, it’s love at first sight. Some floor you with a single performance. But some players grow on you like warts and moles. They may not have been your favourites to start off with, but as they approach the autumn of their careers, you realise that even without ever actively liking them, they’ve become part of some of your best tennis memories.

Andy Roddick is a wart. Having been bored by his game and stardom for almost all of his career, I found myself feeling desperately anxious for his future as he was knocked out 76 76 64 by Deliciano, a player he has never lost to before in 7 attempts.

This is not to discount the astounding performance from Lopez, who showed some uncharacterstic shallots to win the first two tiebreaks, meticulously plating up 28 aces and 57 winners on Centre Court. A minor upset this may be, the result actually reflects Deliciano’s form of late, which has mostly been obscured by some close losses – to Roddick by the narrowest of margins in Queens, and to Federer at Roland Garros and (rather epically) in Madrid. Read More…

Wimbledon Day 1: No. I don’t understand either.

You know all is right with this world when your heart pounds in trepidation just thinking about what assault on my cornea Venus Williams might wear a grand slam. Needless to say, she didn’t disappoint – with a jumpsuit inspired by “Grecian influences” and my Nana’s best doona cover.

Yer ready?

All the single ladies …

Vee's back

Read More…

Frazzle Post: Wimbledon

TOURNAMENT ENDED.

Flabbergasted Kitty