1. Sometimes, you see it in his eyes.
When they grow into two round saucers, you see the panic and excitement therein: “HOLY SHIT. I-CAN-DO-THIS-I-CAN-DO-THIS-CAN-I-DO-THIS-DO-I-THINK-I-CAN-DO-THIS-HOLY-SHIT-I-DON’T-THINK-I-CAN-DO-THIS?!”
And for a moment there, he had me fooled. Victor Troicki served for the match, a bad call by the umpire and a pea-brained funk later, Rafa had broken back for a tiebreak, where the playing field is level and inspiration and will prevail. I wasn’t fooled anymore, even on those two match points Troicki had.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal cracks me up sometimes he can’t even help himself. Psssssst, this ain’t a slam, darling.
Have a beer, Rafa. Just … drink it.
2. Bali wild cards have been awarded to Ana Ivanovic and Daniel Hantuchova.
Neither has won a tournament this year, so let’s call it for what it is: the WTA privileges marketability over merit and its professionalism as a peak body of female athletes. It’s not new or surprising in anyway, but it does deserve a judgmental frown from the idealist in me. There’s another side to Dootsie that desperately wants to believe that women’s tennis, or women’s sport in general, operates on merits as opposed to sex appeal.
But alas, I sounded naive even saying that.
[Personally, I would’ve liked to see Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Jarka Groth, or Kimiko Date Krumm get a chance to play in Bali.]
3. Caroline Wozniacki is no longer just Scandinavia’s No 1…
It’s not her problem. She has no control over the rankings. She just wants to play EVERY. SECOND. FUCKING. TOURNAMENT.
But what was different this time round was that even before the fury that usually came with the dethroning of Serena Williams started, there was an outpouring of support for Carol. The fact that so many were rushing to defend her even before she ascended the top spot speaks volumes for what we’re all thinking deep down – the No 1 spot ain’t worth its weight in slams.
4. I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: more so than Federer or Nadal, more so than anyone on the ATP tour, the person who is most defined by his single-minded pursuit of slams is Andy Murray.
That was what I thought about yesterday, as I watched Andy Murray put in a lackluster performance to be served off the court by Papa Ljubs. A respectable performance at the WTF aside, this year’s just about over for him, motivation-wise.
5. While the year may be over for some (read: half of the WTA), for Juan Martin Delpoopoo, 2010 has been a non-starter.
And he leaves Asia non-started, a little demoralised even. There’s not much harm in that. Ideally, Ponyboy should be satisfied with his ‘comeback 2010’ if he just gets one or two wins under his belt before calling it a season. The real comeback starts in 2011.
I wonder though, as I do with Maria Sharapova as well, just how far we’ve moved on without them.
Roland Garros, please keep’em comin’.
Kei Nishikori, a bitch for JPop.
I think Roger and Rafa should be in this. I think they should sing this song. y/y?
[I love how Danny had already resigned to Sandy being a prude, but the moment she turns up a skank, HE GETS ALL EXCITED. Roger should be the skank, obviously. I SEE IT IN MY HEAD YO!]
But alas, we get no such thing.
That sums it up really.
One of my new year resolutions in 2010 is to stop going all “Damir Dokic” on Federer whenever he loses. Needless to say, I’m failing miserably after snorting a mouthful of water up my nose early this morning when confronted with a 6-4 6-4 loss by Fed to Davo.
Roger appeared out-of-sorts at times during the match, finding very little rhythm on serve, and fluctuating between decent tennis and wild shanks into the net or the tram lines.
It showed in his stats, Federer served at 54% with 2 aces and 3 doubles. While he made 30 winners in total to his opponent’s 24, he also clocked an obscene 37 unforced errors, Kolya not exactly flashy in that department either with 21 of his own.
All credit to Davydenko though: if Federer appeared out-of-sorts in the match, it was mostly because Kolya played out-of-this-world tennis – serving hard, making 100% of his serves in the first set and moving tremendously well around the court.
It was Roger’s 4th straight loss to a top 10 player, as Dootsie moved her hand that much closer to the panic button. Federer appeared to be nursing some discomfort in his wrist during the match, at one point, shaking and massaging it during the change of ends. But he was having none of it in his post-match press conference,
“Yeah, he served very well, especially when he needed to. He played better. I felt my arm from the cold but it is not an excuse. He served well, many 200s out there. He made it difficult as the match went on,” Federer said.
“There is nothing to worry about my arm. I will be fine.” He added.
No excuses, just the way we like it. It’s either really a minor issue, or he’s lying through his teeth when we’re so close to a slam. Serves him right for playing Doha. If you ask me, it’s idiocy to play in a colder Asian climate right before the Australian Open.
“I like to come to Doha every year. I’m excited to go to Australia too and I need some rest before the year’s first Slam.“
Over in Kooyong, the organisers are passing out tissues.
Some hot legs and smoldering side profile to sooth your anguish.
In the other semi of the day, it was smooth sailing for Rafa as he dominated Victor Troicki to move into a final. He’ll have a tougher test against Kolya, as the pair is tied in their H2H at 4-4. Davydenko won their last 2 meetings, but admittedly isn’t feeling too confident right now.
“I don’t know for how much longer I can hold this level of tennis.”
Dude, you served at 100% for a set. If you keep it up, I might have to throw a shoe at you.
So: Will Rafa end his title drought at last? Or will Kolya head to the Australia with a share of the spotlight for once?
I’ve completely neglected ATP tennis this week. Me bad. But really, men’s tennis without Federer, Nadal or Djokovic is a grim wasteland on which only the occasional wild flower is worth the pause to appreciate.
Managed to catch two of Jo-Willy’s matches this week against Chiudinelli and Gulbis. And frankly, I got enough power tennis from those matches alone to last me the year…
… and enough charisma to keep me from resorting to the 2007 Australian Open semifinal for my tennis orgy.
Don’t know how I feel about Ernests Gulbis these days. Apart from thinking that he has a far larger fan base than he reasonably deserves.
But then again, so does Zac Efron.
It’s a too familiar story: Ernie served ace bombs, whacked the snot out of the balls, and mixed in some deft drop shots that seemed to have the gravity slurped out of them altogether. It was fast, furious and entertaining stuff. Not a single break of serve on either side over 3 sets, but the result was the same: coulda, shoulda, but Ernie lost anyway.
Gulbis is one month older than Cilic and del Poop. Of the latter two, one took out the No 2 seed at the US Open and the other made me swear non-stop at Roger Federer for a good 24 hours.
Ernie, by contrast, is struggling to string two wins together. While there’s no denying that he has talent, there’s also no denying that he’s turning out to be the biggest underachiever of his generation with a disproportional tween following. What’s lacking, apart from a higher level of athleticism, is strategy, shot selection, and sheer belief.
Someone get me a permanent marker and his shoes.
Another revelation this week is the Swiss who isn’t the one nor the other – Marco Chiudinelli. It turned out that this guy was no powderpuff after all. Unlike some of his more flashy compatriots, stylistically Marco’s a stoic sort of player, a big server with a bigger forehand, not to mention an eager volleyer.
Chiudinelli reached his highest ever ATP ranking this week at 116. With his qualification in Tokyo, he’ll be in the top 100 soon, and by the way he’s been playing since he made 3rd round at the US Open (his career best), the guy is certainly punching well above his height.
Perhaps the consecutive 3 setters wore him out, perhaps the season – the longest Jo-Willy has had in his career – is catching up on him and just about everyone else, Tsonga lost in 3 sets to Victor Troicki, who promptly went on to gift the final to Robert Pattinson’s mesmerizing eyes.
And slightly dorky smile.
Oh, and utterly routine tennis.
Over in KL, I only managed to catch the final, which was a slow but sure process of self-destruction by Fernando Verdasco. Execution fail.
Go get foot surgery Nando, and rest up for next year. Spain’s got pockets deep enough to win the Davis Cup without you.
And even after all these years, it confounds me how anyone with Davo’s talent can possess less charisma than a pencil sharpener. Maybe we folks in tennis just have a hair fetish.
Hair re-growth Davo, it worked wonders on my dad.
- Roger Federer (24 points: 10 for the win, 2 for straight sets, double as team captain)
- Lucie Safarova: (16 points: 10 for the win, 2 for straight sets, 2 for beating a higher ranked player, 2 for taking down a seed – Bammer)
- Sara Errani (16 points: as above, took down Kirilenko)
- Dinara Safina (12 points: 10 for the win, 2 for straight sets)
- Jelena Dokic (12 points: 10 for the win, 2 for beating a higher ranked opponent)
- Victor Troicki: (10 points for the win)
- Feliciano Lopez (1 point for losing but winning at least a set)
- Agnes Szavay (1 point, as above)
Looks like my gamble on Errani, Dokic and Safarova paid off. Turns out I do know something about the 25+ bracket of the WTA after all.
Instead of doing some preview where I talk about the chances of every single seeded player and come to a useless conclusion, I thought I might try a different format.
This Australian Open, I’m entering my local newspaper’s Super Tennis team competition. The rules are fairly standard – you choose 3 players from the top 25, 5 players from the 26+ bracket of both the men’s and women’s draw to make up a team of 16. Then once the tournament starts, your choices are locked in and you’re awarded points based on the performance of the players on your team. For each win by a team player, you score 10 points. Bonus points for
- A Straight-sets win = 2 points
- Beating a higher ranked player = 2 points
- Non-seeded player beating a seed = 2 points
- A losing player winning at least a set = 1 point
- Winning team captain = double points for the team
So here’s the final line-up for Team Dootsiez after much deliberation and a few substitute changes,
Men’s Top 25 (3 picks)
- Roger Federer (Team Captain): at the end of the day, I’m not going to bet against the Fed, ever. Period. Is my FedKadism clouding my judgement? A more impartial tennis follower (if such a creature existed) would probably make Murray the Team Captain at this point. But here’s the thing with Federer. He’s testy right now. He’s fired-up. The loss to Andy Murray in Qatar aside, he’s played very well this year. And I don’t know if anyone else picked this up in one of the Kooyong pressers – Federer mentioned something about not wanting to play the main contenders just before a grand slam because you always have to hide some things – alluding to Kooyong 2007 where he lost to Andy Roddick. So I sure hope that I’m reading his words right – you’ve got a few cards up your sleeves, don’t you? …. Fed?!!
- Rafael Nadal: my hunch is visiting me again, and this time it’s telling me that Rafael Nadal is going to do well on hard courts this year. After Roland Garros 2008, I doubt I’ll ever trust my “hunch” again, but this time, it could actually be onto something. If Nadal is good enough to win an Olympic gold medal, if he’s good enough to win numerous hard court Master Series titles, what and who is to stop him from winning a hard court slam? FYI I’ve always thought those who dismissed Rafa’s chances on hard court were idiots.
- Andy Murray: ahh – the talk of the town right now. I actually don’t have much to say about Andy Murray, mainly because anything that’s worth saying has already been said 100 times. What more do you need to know? He has one title this year already, two if you count Abu Dhabi. He’s beaten Federer and Nada back to back. He has no points to defend at the Australian Open so you gotta like his chances. But going against the mainstream for a minute – why shouldn’t Andy Murray win the Australian Open? a) the competition is a lot closer than it appears to be. Rafael Nadal is mysteriously flying under the radar whilst holding up a banner of “Change”, he’s changing the clothes, changing the image, and changing that forehand. It’s scary. Roger Federer, from what I’ve heard of him, is testy, ready to fight it out, and brimming with determination. That’s also scary. And despite recent losses, Novak Djokovic knows how to perform on a grand slam level now. A few solid early round wins and I think he’ll eventually click in. Really, the competition is a lot closer than it appears to be, though you might not know it from the disproportional hype. b) Beating Federer and Nadal in a best of 3 set match is one thing…. the ultimate test however is getting past Federer and Nadal in a best of 5. Murray did beat Nadal in the semifinals of the US Open last year, but who’s to say that Nadal hasn’t improved since then? And as for Federer, his intensity level has dropped at non-grand slam tournaments, but I’ve yet to see him go flat in the middle of a grand slam match. If you want to know what a potential Federer v Murray match-up at the Australian Open might look like, Masters Cup 2008 is a better indicator than Qatar 2009.
Original Substitutes: before my hunch visited me, I had Tsonga up there instead of Nadal. Right now however, the draw, rumors of injury (yet again!), and recent performances all point in one direction – Jo-Willy Tsonga ain’t gonna make it this time. I could be wrong. I’d love to be wrong. But I’m sticking with my hunch on this one. Novak Djokovic was also a possibility I considered. But again, recent performances say otherwise. Defending a grand slam is quite different to playing to win it. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Novak Djokovic needed a little more time to win his second slam. Del Potro? It would be a tragedy to see someone as uninspiring as Delpo pull off a victory over the Fed, but it could be done. Like I said the previous post, it’s a grand slam – be scared of everyone.
And lastly, you’ll have to excuse my hunch – it’s been bugging with me some ridiculous premonitions. Nalbandian? Roddick? Semifinals? What… did you think we were in 2006? Go away.
Men’s Top 26+ (5 picks)
The hard part with these picks is that I don’t expect a lot of players outside the top 25 to make it deep. So my strategy is to pick ones that I think will make 2nd or 3rd rounds, perhaps a dash to R16 or the quarterfinals if I’m lucky. So here are my five guys
- Ernests Gulbis (no 53): he finally got a good draw. There is no reason why he shouldn’t make it past Montanes. Andreev as a second round opponent is tough, but easier compared to Nadal and Roddick. James Blake as a possible third round opponent is also winnable.
- Radek Stepanek (no 27): ah. The Worm. Possibly one of the most annoying players on the tour with all his antics and mind games, but the guy’s a perennial third or fourth rounder. Made a dash to the quarterfinal at Wimbledon in 2006 if I remember correctly.
- Ivo Karlovic (no 26): mind numbingly boring to watch, but again, he’s a relatively safe bet for Round 3, provided he makes it past Mario Ancic in comeback mode.
- Victor Troicki (No 57): majorly going out on a limb here with this Serb. Hope it pays off. Win two matches boy, that’s all I need from you.
- Feliciano Lopez (No 30): again, all I need is for him to beat Muller and the winner of Starace and Tomic. I don’t expect him to beat Del Potro a second time, though it would suit me just fine if he did. Lopez can be a delight to watch sometimes.
Original Substitutes: I had Kei Nishikori originally, but he drew Jurgen Melzer first round, Andy Murray the third.
Also had Lleyton Hewitt up there, but the guy drew Fernando Gonzalez first round to both players’ dismay. Not that I don’t think Lleyton Hewitt can win against Gonzalez, but I don’t like his chances enough to have him on my team.
Women’s Top 25 (3 picks)
- Dinara Safina: she’s in JJ’s half of the draw, and is a safer bet than JJ – looking healthy and defending nothing. Some say she’s due for her first grand slam this time. My hunch says otherwise, but I don’t see anything stopping her from getting into the final.
- Venus Williams: It’s not me, it’s my hunch! I’m telling ya, Venus is rising in 2009. What am I going by with this prediction? – she’s publicly announced her intentions of getting back to the very top, of winning the Australian Open and the French. That hasn’t happened since the early noughties. She’s gotten her braids back. She played phenomenal tennis at the year-end championships last year. And I have a sudden inexplicable surge of love for Venus, which is beyond me, because I’ve always been a bigger Serena fan.
- Serena Williams: and surprise, surprise – I picked the two Williamses and Safina for my three Top 25 contenders. Serena’s actually got a good draw, Mauresmo, Azarenka, and Radwanska could cause some troubles, but if she’s physically well, she should get into the semis quite comfortably.
Original Substitute: Elena Dementieva – I had her instead of Safina for a while, and after her Sydney and Auckland wins, my original pick was probably right. But the only reason she’s not up there is because she happened to fall in Venus’ quarter, or shall I say, Venus happened to fall in her quarter. Caroline Wozniacki was another option, but it’s still a long shot at this stage given her draw.
Women’s Top 26+
This is the section where I went a little bit cuckoo. The truth is, given the lack of depth in the women’s field these days, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between someone ranked 26 and 76. Unlike the ATP field, the WTA is missing a whole bunch perennial third and fourth rounders, the likes of Maria Kirilenko and Daniela Hantuchova for example. This makes my choices in this bracket a lot harder to make.
- Sara Errani (no 42): most of my choices for the 26+ bracket are gambles and this is one of them. I’m banking on Sara Errani to make it past MariKiri. Having seen her play at Brisbane and Sydney, I think she’s got it in her.
- Lucie Safarova (no 64): Another gamble, it actually took me a while to remember who Lucie Safarova was, but seeing Berdych in her box at the Brisbane International brought back memories. Ah – the girl who took down defending champion Mauresmo in the Australian Open 2007. She’s been bothered by a string of bad injuries since but when healthy, she’s a terrific lefty ball striker. I just love the way she deals with power and pace for a relatively a small girl so I’m making a huge gamble on her to 1) be healthy enough to play (she retired with a minor leg injury from the quallies in Sydney), and 2) make it past Sybille Bammer.
- Jelena Dokic (no 179): As mad as I may sound, I believe Jelena Dokic is ready to get it all together again. However, if she fails this year, I really don’t see her coming back again. So your last chance Jelena, let’s start by winning a match – Paszek first round, you can do it.
- Agnes Szavay (no 28 ): don’t have much to say about her actually, she’s definitely a player on her way up, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t make third round, beyond that? Zvonareva as a possible fourth round match-up is winnable, so it should be interesting.
- Jarmila Gajdosova (no 99): going by the draw mainly, but Gajdosova can play, and plays a lot better than her No 99 ranking would suggest.
- My reason says Andy Murray, Dementieva or Safina
- My hunch says it sees a bandana, but is it Roger’s or Rafa’s? My hunch remains silent on that one. Oh and Venus for the women’s side.
Less than 2 days to go, and I’m bottled up with restless energy. Happy slamming y’all.