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.
Don’t get me wrong. I am far from being a fan or even a sympathetic observer of Victoria Azarenka. She is not the most endearing, classy tennis player out there, nor has she ever sought to be.
But the one thing I despise more than gamesmanship is hypocrisy, and hypocrisy was in abundance yesterday as Tennis Fandom collectively got on its high horse and branded Azarenka as a villain and the cheat.
Sure. Vika did not help her own cause by giving inconsistent stories throughout this whole incident. When asked in her on court interview why she left to the court, Azarenka replied, to an icy, silent crowd on Rod Laver Arena, that she was overwhelmed by nerves and almost did the choke of the year. Later on ESPN, Azarenka would claim she had breathing issues. And in her post match press conference, Vika told the media that she had to unlock her rib because it was causing back issues and making it hard for her to breathe. Read More…
The day started off with 2 unfortunate retirements… Feli (Pulled muscle) and Dancevic (Lower back)…and with that the Roland Garros 2012 casualty list was off to a great start.
Our wonder boy Wogie McFudd was second out on Suzanne Lenglen…up against German Tobias Kamke. I missed the first half of the match due to mandatory nommage of birthday cake bought for Dad, but the last half which I did see consisted of:
yes kitteh…it was kinda horribleh
Doots: Interesting thing when I mentioned the women’s draw, PJ said the field is “wide open”. I feel as if we’ve gotten used to saying this in the past few years, but actually this is the least wide open slam I’ve seen in the past few years.
PJ: Really? How so?
Doots: The women’s tour has been dominated this year by Sharapova and Azarenka. We’re literally looking at a Big 2 situation – with Serena occasionally popping up on the radar because she’s that awesome.
LJ: but it’s clay, I think therein lies the problem.
PJ: I guess for me, I feel like it’s “open” in the sense that there are no sure favourites despite domination from Azarenka and Shrieky. Not like how Rafa is for the men’s.
Doots: Well, I still don’t know. Sharapova has had her best results this year on clay: Rome, Stuttgart, and lost to Serena by the same scoreline as Vika in Madrid. She comes into Roland Garros with by far the best clay season record of the women, which is incredible considering how bad she was on this surface a few years ago.
PJ: That is true. I was rather impressed with Sharapova’s clay showing this year. I know clay isn’t her forte but going by recent form and results, I’ll peg her as one of the favourites. Historical showing otherwise.
LJ: I think Shrieky, Azarenka and Serena for me, but hey if previous results are to be followed, it’ll be a crapshoot for the win.
Doots: They do tend to be the “Big 3” these days, which was precisely my previous point – it’s not as open as in previous years where you just knew that Wozniacki or Jankovic or whoever was up at the top couldn’t do it. But looking at the draw quarters again –
At least someone gets this joke of a trophy.
So … I spend a whole blog post ranting on about Rafa and Novak’s tantrums in Madrid, and Serena Williams comes out and pwns them in just 45 words, complete with some feministy zing and a nod to Mother’s Day.
I guess that’s why she’s Serena Williams, and I’m … living in Canberra. Preach it, gurl: Read More…
LJ’s last words on her Dubai wrap: “…I don’t really care how Fed does really…Rotterdam/Dubai have been so much fun, I’d think we’d be a bit spoilt if big things happen in the 1st US swing, but hey…tennis is weird that way.”
I like to say that I echoed her sentiments except that a (not at all) secret part of me that wants Federer to win every single tournament under the sun…and guess what?
The Old Man decided to spoil us, by winning the freaking tournament. And yes, tennis is weird and wonderful that way.
To say he didn’t begin the tournament well is an understatement. The tournament had been dubbed Indian Unwells for a virus that managed to drift around and attack everyone in attendance (official name: Coachella Valley-wide virus. Unofficial name: IW virus). 6 players, including Monfils, withdrew even before the tournament began. And throughout the week, players continued to be waylaid – Schiavone, Seppi, Kohlscrubber…to name a few.
Well, well, well. Who said old men can’t boogie? Because Roger Federer, aged 30 years, 6 months and 11 days, just ran, slid, skipped, hopped, danced and boogied his way into his 71st career title. Not to mention a 12th straight year with at least one title to his name.
And thus ends the first Grand Slam of the year. The guy with the trophy is Novak Djokovic and the guy with the plate is Rafael Nadal. And as we sit back and watch, the tennis media/world explodes with excitement at the new GOAT…
(I just want to interject here and say that I’ve never really believed in the GOAT debate. GOATS, to me, are these. Other than that, I feel that the eras/surfaces/players/competition – all too vastly different to arrive at one single absolute conclusion. But I disgress.)
Anyway, some post final thoughts to wrap up the dizzying explosion of tennis, tears, dramas, sweat and sunburn…
AO2012 final – a replay of the AO2009 final. Replace Federer with Nadal, and replace Nadal with Djokovic. The one who came off a gruelling semi-final defied the odds of physicality and fitness to win. The one supposedly more well-rested, the one with the supposed advantage…lost – not because of a lack of skill or talent, but to that mental demon floating around the head.
Rafa had all the chances and the momentum. Crawled back from a 0-40 hole in the 4th set, dug deep to win the tiebreaker, was up a break to lead 4-2 in the fifth. But then when Djokovic found that extra something, Rafa lost that extra something. When Djokovic broke back in the 5th, that was when the doubt crept into Rafa’s head. And mentally, that was that one hurdle, a magnanimous one, that gave Djokovic the ultimate advantage. The same advantage that Rafa had over Federer in the 2009 final (and in all their finals/meetings, I may add).
Rafa’s post-match conference spoke a lot of positivity, as did Murray’s post-match conference. These two guys have lost absolute heartbreakers, but to arguably the best player of the moment right now. Murray will move on – I have no doubt – and I feel that he will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season. He’s at a good place, despite the loss.
Rafa? There is a lot of discussion and debate surrounding his mental state with this 7th-straight loss. As a Federer fan, who has watched Federer suffer and struggle at the hands of Rafa, believe me when I say that I know how Rafa fans feel. It’s frustrating and annoying to see your guy lose to that one other guy on a constant basis, and no matter what Rafa (and Federer) may have to say about it, we just know that it’s mental. Of course it’s not 100% mental but can we really deny that the block in both their brains against their respective conquerors had to do with the losses sustained over and over again?
No matter how mentally strong one may be – even to a toughie like Rafa – it has got to hurt. It has got to raise questions. And it has got to affect the confidence.
But where does Rafa go from here? For that fact, where does Federer go from here?
I’m not entirely sure that Federer will ever solve the Rafa riddle. As LJ had noted in one of her tweets, tennis is a game of match-ups sometimes, and the match-up between the Federer-Nadal game gives Rafa the bigger edge, not to mention that mental advantage. Of course, the old man may still find a way now and then – I won’t ever count him out – but I’m pretty sure he’ll end his career with that deficit H2H to Rafa.
And hey, I’m okay with it.
As for Rafa…he finds himself on the undesirable end of this rivalry with Djokovic. What had hurt Federer – game wise – will not hurt Djokovic. It will be back to the drawing board for him, and he will have to figure out Djokovic in a way that he never needed to figure out anyone else. It will be a challenge for him, but I’m sure that he will rise to the occasion. I’m not ready to write him off as the eternal loser in this rivalry. Because we all know that isn’t set in stone, not yet.
Roland Garros will be very interesting, especially if Rafa and Djokovic happens to meet again. As the best clay courter the tennis world has ever seen, Rafa will have the edge. And beating Djokovic on his beloved Parisian clay may be what Rafa needs to boost his confidence once again. Although if I can be selfish, I am, of course, rooting for a certain pair of Grandpa Pants to spoil the potential of a Rafa/Djokovic final.
I think I’m approaching that zen point of Federer’s defeats – to Rafa, or otherwise. Yes, the losses still hurt. Yes, they still make me feel like crap. But I think the time it takes for me to get over it has lessened gradually. At the end of it, I’m just glad I still get to see him play. I’m glad that he’s still around. After all, I’m not a Federer fan because he wins (in fact I kinda loathed him when he was all dominant and winning everything circa 2004-2006). I’m a Federer fan because he embodies what I admire in a sportsperson – the determination, the spirit, the passion he has for the game. Because he plays a friggin’ beautiful game of tennis, and because his pants are friggin’ hot. Everyone loves a winner, but strangely enough, I became a bigger Federer fan than I was when he was at the losing end (Wimbledon 2008) because then you see what kind of stuff that he’s truly made of.
Rafa fans, you have a lot to be proud of when it comes to your man. Even if he doesn’t figure out the Djokovic riddle (but I doubt this), he’s never a loser. His willingness to fight, his never-giving up spirit, and the fact that he always leaves it all on the court, each and every time – that speaks volumes about him as a person.
I think the level of men’s tennis is at dizzying heights right now. The Top 4 is probably the strongest Top 4 we’ve seen in recent years. It will be interesting to see if any outsiders can wrestle their way into this circle. This sets up for a very intriguing 2012 season…even if I may encounter heartbreaks and heartaches along the way, I’m excited to see all of this unfolding.
As for the ladies’ side…they have a new #1 – Victoria Azarenka, who captured the spot by winning Australian Open and blasting Shrieky Sharapova off court with a bagel. Ladies’ tennis looks as exciting as the men’s and even less predictable. The last 4 Slams are all won by first time Slam winners – 2 young ‘uns (Kvitova and Azarenka) and 2 oldies (Li Na and Stosur). Will this trend continue throughout 2012? Not if Serena Williams has anything to say about it. Her Australian Open campaign is not successful according to her lofty standards, but she’s back, and back with a vengeance.
This year’s Australian Open has been good for me. I was a cover girl as a tennis tragic who visited online tennis forums. I got to cover an adidas event and see Tsonga, Woznicaki and Simon up-close. I’ve written a lot more about tennis than I ever had in the past. Most importantly, I saw a lot of great matches, saw a lot of 5-setters, saw the players grind it out, saw Federer playing some wonderfully fantastic and pretty tennis, saw the heart and soul and guts of Lleyton Hewitt. The results wasn’t what I wanted, but that isn’t something I’ll dwell on when I think about my experiences at the Happy Slam this year.
And thus this concludes my guest bloggage for Australian Open. I’ve been rambly and most of the time not making a lot of sense, but it’s been a LOT of fun, as usual. Thanks again to dear Dootsiez for letting me occupy this spot on the fence.
And now back to you!
Semi-final stage has been set, and we all know what’s going to be on the menu. Before I go into dissecting the fine dishes for tonight and tomorrow night…some random thoughts to wrap up the events of the last few days.
1) Federer-Delpony. A match that I was excruciatingly nervous about, just because of USO09 angst. Yes, Delpony isn’t the player he was – but still, I couldn’t discount the damage he can potentially do, with that forehand. From the start, I thought this would be the quarter-final match up – helped that Mardy Fish got hooked and grilled by Falla. At first, seemed like my worry was displaced as Federer started brilliantly in the first three games to break Del Potro (recording something insane like 8 winners and 1 UE in those games). All cool if he keeps up, right? But noooo…dude got broken and I was sitting in a meeting at work feeling my stomach curling up in ulcers. But as Delpony was serving to stay in the set, a couple of great returns from the Old Man seemed to rattle him, and he tossed in a double-fault to give Fed the first set. Set 2 seemed to roll around like the first – early break for Fed but a tough service game as he was attempting to serve out the set. I was so worried that it’ll be a repeat of USO09 (NIGHTMARE! NIGHTMARE!) but Fed hung tough and served it out. Third set was pretty much kinda smooth-sailing and straightforward with Fed taking a double break and serving out the match prettily, much to my relief.
2) Nadal-Berd. Berd will be kicking himself in the head FOREVER on that flubbed volley on the second set tie-breaker…which would’ve given him the second set and a two-sets-to-none lead against Rafa. As it goes – if you let Rafa back into a match, it will most probably be curtains for you, and that was what happened with Berd…went bye bye Berdy in 4 sets. He had his chances – the second set, and early break in the third set – but just couldn’t capitalise on them. I’ll refrain on commenting on the so-call controversies though, because in the end, it is what it is. Doesn’t make a difference either way.
3) Muzz-Nishikori. Nishikori had nothing left in the tank after his 5-setter against Tsonga (which was quite brilliant, by the way. He really showed a lot of steel to outhit and outlast Jo) AND baking two hours in the sun for mixed-doubles before his match with Muzz. I expected an easy straight-sets win, and that was what happened. The general consensus was that he didn’t play that well (apparently served kind of horribly) but Kei-chan had no energy/legs left to really pose a huge challenge. Still, a fantastic run for Nishikori and top 20 is beckoning. He’s a good kid with quite a solid game, definitely one of the potential ones to break out in his career. Hope he continues to do well, and inspire more tennis players in the Asian region.
4) Djokovic-Ferrer. Oh, Lord F. I cannot believe you were straight-setted by Djokovic. You were supposed to be able to run faster and longer than gimpy old man Hewitt (who had one leg for half the match)! But as it is, Ferrer CAN run faster and harder but Hewitt had the edge over him in arsenal and shots, as well as guts and heart and spleen. Lord F had his chances in the second-set tiebreaker, but suffered mental lapses to allow Djokovic to take control and take the set. Might have been different if he had been able to take a set…but he didn’t and went down tamely in the 3rd.
So for the third time in the last 4 Slams – the Top 4 is in the semis. I honestly think the depth in the men’s game – when it comes to the Top 4 – is probably the best it has been in recent years. Of course, I still think #3 is the tops. 🙂
5) The unlikely quarter-finals between Shrieky Sharapova/Ekaterina Makarova and Petra Kvitova/Sara Errani yielded the likely results. I thought Makarova had half a chance seeing she was spectacular against Vera (I didn’t see the Serena match) but Shrieky was simply too good for her. Kvitova, however, didn’t play well, but it was enough to beat Errani in straights. But if she doesn’t pick up her game today against Shrieky…I think she’s goners for sure.
6) Azarenka outhit and outshriek Radwanska to make the second semi-final and Kimmie beat Wozniacki as expected. I know Woz was number 1, but her game just isn’t good enough to combat Kim’s power hitting and aggressiveness. In losing to Kim, she loses the number 1 ranking, thus ending the complaining and discussion of a Slamless #1…for now. When AO is over, the WTA #1 will be a Slammy one – because it would either be Kvitova, Sharapova or Azarenka. And Azarenka will have to win AO to assume that spot. Hip hip hooray – no more mocking the WTA for a while at least!
And on we roll to Semis Day 1. (Get your frazzlepants on)
Australian Open is a mere 36 hours away, and whilst it may seem late to report breaking news…I’m going to caption it as such, anyway.
BREAKING NEWS: FEDERER AND DJOKOVIC ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE DRAW.
For the first time since RG2005, apparently!
Seems like le Tennis Gods decided to prove me wrong and plop these two on the opposite side of the draw. Best thing ever to happen? Errr…rightio, let’s get on with the usual Open preview…
I know I said I will spork myself if Federer lands in Djoko’s half of the draw again, so I was quite happy when I saw that he was in Rafa’s half. A decision that I may truly truly regret in the event both of ‘em lives up to their seeding, so…
Anyway, Federer’s draw looks fairly manageable…a qualifier first round, probably Andreas Beck second round, Jurgen Melzer/Ivo Karlovic third round…then it gets tricky. He will potentially plays my other favourite Crazy Dolgopolov…who, on one of his genius days, can prove to be very difficult (as Bobby Sod Soderling will readily tell you). As of now, crazyass days happen more often than genius days so we shall see. His other possible R4 opponent is Bratface Tomic (ugh). His QF opponent by ranking will be Mardy Fish, or perhaps more realistically, Juan Martin del Potro. I still have US Open angst/fear/blah blah but hey, I will have faith in the Old Man, definitely.
And then. Rafa. *twiddles thumbs and frazzles like a madwoman*
The lolcat on the fence. It clearly has deep, vested meanings.
On paper, it sorta looks like a joke because Rafa could potentially play 3 qualifiers in the first three rounds. Upon closer scrutiny…well, it’s still somewhat a sweet bakery treat draw. He plays a qualifier, and then maybe Tommy Haas, and then Ivan Ljubicic. Haasi and Papa Ljubs are no longer the players they were, and much as I like to live in Delusion Land, they will not even remotely trouble Rafa. R4 sees Rafa potentially playing
minion Feli Lopez or John Isner. If anyone thinks Isner can maybe take out Rafa based on RG last year…come join me in Delusion Land. His QF opponent is Big Berd…which is…uh…urmm…Berd (draw your own conclusions).
And then. Fed. *twiddles thumbs and frazzles like a madwoman*
Easy first round, easy second round, and then possibly Steps the Worm (easy third round), and then probably Milos Raonic, the Serve It Kid. Do I think Raonic will beat Djokovic? No. Will Raonic trouble him? Perhaps. And then for QFs it’ll be
minion Tipsarevic or basketcase Reeshie (easy QFs in that case) but by seeding, it’ll be Lord F Ferrer…
Not discounting or asterisking Lord F’s amazing win last year…but let’s face it, it’ll be a rather different Djokovic this time round, especially mentally. Honestly I don’t think this is a draw he will be unhappy with.
And then he will bro it up with his man Muzzface in the semis.
May they kill each other.
Special mention: Andy Roddick is a potential 4th round opponent…although the days of Djokovic being Roddick’s bunny were long gone. But Roddick will have to battle through Lleyton Hewitt in a second-round match (should they both get there) – where I will be put through emotional torture, not unlike Hewitt/Nalbandian from last year. Sobs.
Talk about not easy. Okay, it’s kinda tough. First up he faces Ryan Harrison – who may or may not be troublesome, depending on his fire. But certainly not the easiest of first rounds. And then it’ll be Xavier Malisse, followed by Michael Llodra/talented headcase Gulbis/Bogomolov Jr. R4 sees him taking on Gael Monfils…which on a good day can beat anyone, and on a bad day (which happens 65.78% of the time) just ends up beating himself, and then some.
Possibly Muzz has the toughest QF opponent in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He’s coming off a strong indoor season and has not lost to anyone not named Roger Federer since Paris. Will be tough for MAndy, but with Mr.Lendl in his corner, let’s see they can come up with.
And then he will bro it up with his man Djoko in the semis.
May they murder each other.
You all know who I want to win. Realistically who do I think will win? In the spirit of anti-jinxing and the such, I’m not saying anything.
For the laydees:
If Woz wants her first Slam, she gotta tough it out…with Lucie Sarafova in the third round, Glitter Gal JJ in the fourth round, defending champ Mama Kim or Li Na in the QFs. All equally capable of taking her out on a good day…or even on a not-so-good day (hahha déjà vu).
Semis? Shrieky Sharapova.
Let’s hope she stays away from kangaroos this year…their bites/kicks can be mean.
Scarily in form in Sydney – even if she lost to Li Na in the semis – so Petra comes in as a smokin’ hot favourite. Although she has Maria Kirilenko and Ana Ivanovic lurking around, they shouldn’t be any trouble at all, and her first test should come in the QFs, either against Sammy Stosur or Hamster Bartoli. If she plays the way she did in Sydney – barring any mental implosion – she’ll get through.
Semis? Screechy Vika.
Coming off a win in Sydney, she’s also considered a favourite. Seeds in the early rounds are Flavia Pennetta (whose form is still dubious due to a back injury in Auckland) and Peng Shuai, before running into the likes of Frannny Schiavone/Julia Goerges or more realistically, Agnieszka Radwanska. If everything of Vika’s is on song – her game, her brain and her screeches – she should be fine.
Semis? Barky Petra.
Boy oh boy, poor Shrieky. She opens against Gisela Dulko, who is very very fond of that whole creating upsets thing in Slams (and subsequently losing tamely in the next round). If she gets through Dulko, she should be okay for R2/R3 and then she’ll run into Sabine Liscki or Svetlana Kuznetsova. We need no reminding of what Kuznetsova could do when her brain’s on the right dial. Should Shrieky survive Sveta…Serena Williams looms in the QFs, or Vera Zvonareva according to seeing. Tough, tough road indeed.
Semis? Kangaroo Woz.
Full speed ahead, y’all! As usual, we’re riding and dying with the Grandpa Express!!