Happy Wimbledon, my lovelies!
This is Doots checking in my epic adventures post-Roland Garros. And time sure does fly when you’re having fun: it’s our favourite time of the year again. Although this year, Wimbledon comes with a sense of foreboding doom, as Federer drew Nadal in his quarter and Murray in his half, while Djokovic prepares to inhale his way to the final through a plate of gluten free cupcakes.
Diabolical draw aside, Wimbledon is still a good place to be Roger Federer.
There is nothing quite like the first day of Wimbledon. The grass is greener, the whites are crisp, and the world is a pristine bubble full of those sweep pops of tennis balls on tightly strung strings. There’s not much to say about Federer’s first round match against Victor Hanescu. The Romanian never looked like he possessed any weapons to threaten Federer. Even the typically big serve was castrated against Federer’s excellent returning.
The stats do tell a story: Federer faced no breakpoints and converted 6 of 8 on Hanescu’s serve. He won 90% of points on his first serve, and hit 32 winners to only 6 unforced errors (14 to 13 for Hanescu).
But of course, there is more to tennis than statistics. There was that reflex volley in the first set, when Federer almost casually stuck his racquet out in front of the ball, as if to say “keep calm and carry on. I do this in my sleep.” There’s Federer chasing a drop shot, skipping past the winner like a school girl in a field of tulips. And then there’s that backhand lob in the third set followed by a cheeky grin. The satisfaction of soaring higher than a giant.
Given the draw, I may not feel great about Federer’s chances at Wimbledon this year (it’s not a lack of faith, folks. Beating 2 of the Big Four is doable. Taking out three of three is a near impossibility), but I do feel a lot better about his form coming into the tournament than I did back at Roland Garros after the match.
Elsewhere, things were less poetic as Victoria Azarenka found herself sobbing uncontrollably in pain after landing awkwardly on her knees while serving.
Warning: this may be hard to watch for some.
Fortunately, Azarenka was able to play on, defeating Koehler 61 62 despite appearing to be quite shaken for the rest of the match. Koehler paid the price for not taking advantage of her opponent’s condition and making her run. Opportunities don’t come knocking too often for the lower ranked players on tour, and it’s a shame that when it does, so few players take their chances against the top dogs.
One player who did take her chances was Monica Puig, who claimed the first “upset” of the tournament by taking out the fifth seed Sara Errani 63 62. Not that Errani is a titan on grass, if you recall her being on the losing end of a golden set to Shvedova last year. But en route to victory, Puig hit 38 winners with her brand of feisty, aggressive, flat hitting tennis that Errani had no answer to on this surface.
Not bad for a 19 year old playing her first grass tournament as a pro.
Puig has been overtly confident about her talent in the media recently, but given my predisposition to her game, I’m inclined to feel that overt confidence is not so awful a trait in a teenage professional athlete.
Play continues for Day 1, but it’s a wrap from Down Under. Work does have this annoying habit of getting in the way of tennis. Good night and morning, wherever you are.
1. 2nd major tournament of 2010, second early exit by Maria Sharapova. This follows her round 2 loss at Wimbledon and round 3 at the US Open. At least she sounded a lot optimistic than I do right now.
“It’s just the mystery of the unknown.We can only do so much and work as much as we can. It’s a combination of both physically and mentally just getting stronger and little steps.
I think I’m doing a lot better than other people that have had shoulder surgery in their careers. Some people have never come back. What, I’m 13 in the world or something? That’s a lot better than some of the girls I’ve lost to in the last year.”
It’s a long long road back from injury and it’s a rocky one. Not of the confectionary kind.
The common feature in her losses to Zheng Jie, Oudin and Kiriklenko over the past 6 month has been that she’s hit more winners, unforced errors and double faults than her opponents. It’s not that these victors were counterpunching pushers waiting for her to ‘give away the match’. It’s about her game having too much black-and-white, hits-and-misses and not enough grey.
Yes, grey is neither her style nor her personality. But it wouldn’t hurt to see some minor tweaks in her game. Especially with a whole new generation of Baby Sharapovas coming up with more consistency albeit less mental fortitude than Sharapova.
Still. Hard to be mad at Zheng Jie when she’s such a cute little rubber duck.
2. Non-upsets of the day: Gisela Dulko tells the story of a typical journeywoman – beating Justine Henin one day, winning a grand total of one game against Aga the next.
Comebacks are all the rage on the WTA tour – Alicia Molik crushes Lena Balt 60 62 to advance to the third round of Indian Wells.
Greul grilled Monfils 16 62 63, Blake blitzed Ferrer 61 64. Melzer melted Nalbandian by the inverse scoreline of 64 61.
No Fedbandian quarterfinal then? Le sad.
3. Of course, we were almost denied of a Federer quarterfinal of any kind altogether as Victor Hanescu took a set in his 36 76 16 loss to a chili-red Roger.
The first set was over a flash as Roger got up an early break and lost only one point on serve. You can be forgiven for expecting the second set to be just as straight forward. After his hawk-eye successes at the Australian Open, the Fed reverted back to his love/hate relationship with our favourite birdy.
Hey genius, two things you can’t argue against in tennis – hawkeye for a bad call, and a wall for outhitting you.
But it seems that taking a set off Hot Papa was all that Hanescu could manage before a third set burn-out. Roger upped his service percentage and closed out the deal with a breadstick, and took a few more vases home for Mirka.
Baghdatis next. Fear for your knickers.
4. Ana Ivanovic fell to Sevastova in her first match at Indian Wells. With this loss, she’s set to tumble out of the top 50 for the first time since 2004. It’s depressing. It’s humiliating. It’s well-publicised … or perhaps more appropriately – badly-publicised.
It’s just a awful story.
So I’m going to stop talking about it.
5. Wisdom from Bodo.
Sure, players have bad days, and women players often have bad days for biologically-related reasons that are never discussed (it goes against the grain of both good manners and our general social philosophy) but loom at the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room.
6. I’m a little late on this thanks to the internet fiasco at home, but Hit for Haiti 2 turned out to be the unfortunate clash of personalities it promised to be.
Rafa looked overawed at times and wasn’t nearly as relaxed and quippy as he was in Australia with Nole. Fed was goofy and McDreamy, and really tried to make things about as pleasant as he could.
Andre and Pete? Fire and ice.
From the outset, it felt like Andre was trying to overcompensate the humor of the night. Depending on your view of AA, either he got too relaxed and loose-lipped, or he set out to bait Pete in the first place. It didn’t help that Pete not only took the bait but took it badly. It was shocking, inappropriate, embarrassing. It was the walking-in-on-nasty-Christmas-fights kind of awkward. It made me want to rewind back to the part of the night that was still cheery and playful.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Andre Agassi. The little kinks in his personality are what makes him one of the most intriguing characters in tennis. But this was no brainer – he said the wrong thing at the wrong time. He embarrassed Pete, who he knew wasn’t quick or sharp enough to tease back with the same sort of dark, edgy humor.
Not to mention: he did so at a charity match in front of 16,000 people. It killed the atmosphere and shifted the focus of the night from altruism to scandal.
When asked about the incident, Rafa said he didn’t understand it. Whether he was being genuine or just refusing to get involved we’ll never know.
Fed also downplayed the incident with a line I wish he used on the night to break the ice: “Now being a father I thought we had to give both guys a time out.”
Cracking dad jokes already are we?
7. To end on a positive note: bullying Roger? Bad idea.
Meet Marcos Baghdatis. Every usher’s nightmare. Incapable of finishing a match “on time”, but utterly capable of bringing in mobs of rowdy, excitable fans armed with flare canisters.
For two sets, Baghdatis struggled on the “business points”. Whilst there was very little between Marcos and Ferrer during the first two sets, Ferrer – with his sheer doggedness and consistency – always played a fraction better towards the tail end of the set.
Had it been any other crowd, the vocalists would’ve been silenced at this point.
But this wasn’t any other crowd. Fun fact – Melbourne is the second largest Greek speaking city in the world after Athens. On a day like this, it comes in handy.
Groups of Cypriots and expat Greeks in the stadium cheered like energizer bunnies as Baghdatis clung onto the third set. Before we knew it, Baghdatis smelled a drop in level in Ferrer and clinched the fourth set. By then, the elderly and corporate ticket holders were leaving in droves to escape the “OLE OLE OLE MARCOS” chants booming through Hisense Arena.
Was anyone surprised? Who would Marco Baghdatis be without Australia?
Be it his inspiring 2006 run or his 2008 dusk to dawn epic against Lleyton, no matter how further down the rankings Baghdatis slipped, he’s always been treated like a superstar down under. And today, it took some superstar treatment for Baggy to finish the duel. But he did it the hard way – cramping, smashing rackets, shanking shots, missing opportunities … He did it. 4-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-1.
By the way, Sprembag = an item or not?
In the non-upset of the day, Gisela Dulko claimed her second glamour scalp in the last 12 months, downing Ana Ivanovic in 3 sets, 67 75 64.
I did not see it, nor do I wish to see it, with both players leaking a total of 146 unforced errors in the match.
I do not even wish to talk about Ana Ivanovic. why kick a player when she’s down and fading into irrelevance?
Her press conferences of late have filled with therapeutic “bingo words” like “balance”, “just enjoy”, “relax”, “the positives”. Exhibit A:
I think every athlete goes through it. You know, you just have to sort of, yeah, be positive and stay positive. Sometimes it’s hard.
But, you know, it’s like you have families that support us a lot and you can go through it together. And then, you know, I’m sure, you know, we learn from it. We’re not going to let it happen again.
Q. What do you do this year to give yourself a break when you’re away from tennis? How do you unwind and relax? Is there something different in your routine this year?
ANA IVANOVIC: Yeah, you know, I still have to find things that’s gonna make me relax. I really like reading and watching movies. Sometimes I spend too much time in the room; it’s not good either.
Just find something, go for a walk just to keep your mind off of tennis, you know, surround yourself with positive people.
At some point, you just say “whatever makes you happy dear” and look the other way.
While 2010 hasn’t brought about a change in fortunes with Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams seems to be regaining her form. Against a potentially tricky Sybille Bammer, Venus was back to her “hard, flat and fast” best. While the first set went in a flash, she stayed aggressive throughout the second set, despite suffering a slight drop in form half-way through the set.
Although truth be told, Sybille Bammer managed a total of 4 winners in the match, and not for the effort of trying either. There is only so much you can do against Venus when you have zero offence game.
Venus plays her third lefty in a row – Casey Dellacqua next round, who enjoyed a 3-set victory over Karoline Sprem, while lil sis Serena enjoyed an equally sharp victory against ex Safina-conqueror Petra Kvitova.
The Williamses liked their lefty cupcakes, it seems.
Later on in the night, the Federer Funhouse resumed business as Roger sealed an easy win over Victor Hanescu, 62 63 62. 52 winners to 17 unforced errors. So shiny I’d like to wear it on a chain around my neck.
On a good day, mere mortals run, the all-time greats fly. Our man, he soars.
And even Jim Courrier couldn’t keep his hands off him.
Oh by the way, Prince Whatever walked in during the middle of the match. Apparently, it was a big deal.
Yes folks, feel the love I have for the royal family of Bri- err “Australia”.
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 …