Sunday, October 31, 2010

Putting 2010 to Bed

Kim Clijsters won the year end championships, just like I said she would. Caro tried her best but when it comes down to it, her game relies on the other person making mistakes, and Kimmie just did not make enough mistakes to make it worth Caro's while.

And you know what? Kim Clijsters may well be the player of 2010 for the women. Even though she didn't have the bestest year of all the years. And that is really saying something about women's tennis.

You can't say it was Serena's year, because even though she did win two Slams, she was out of the mix for nearly the whole thing. You can't say it was Caro's year, because even though she did reach #1, she only made one Slam semi final and mostly won smaller tournaments. That leaves Kimmie by default - she won a Slam, a couple of Premier titles and the year ending championships. That's not a bad haul...

...but it feels like it should be more.

I'm not saying that there should always be someone who has a year like Rafa had this year. But the women's tour has really felt like it's flailing this year, especially in these Serena-less months.

I don't want to naysay what Kim Clijsters has achieved this year, because she's done some awesome stuff. But dominate? there's been none of that. It's really highlighted, this year, just how far above the rest of the game Serena is. She may not be #1 at the moment, but she is very, very obviously the best player around. And that is all that can be said about that.

I'm glad we've put 2010 to bed for the ladies. It was a messy, ugly affair, when all's said and done. Here's to a better 2011.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Doha Disappointments

Well, Doha goes on, even if Elena Dementieva has gone and retired on us. And the streak of intense disappointment continues.

Seriously, these were not the results I wanted and they were both soft losses. I really had high hopes that Sam Stosur could win this tournament, but once she went down that first set to Clijsters, she just crumbled. It was a good result to get through to the semis, but really, the field was just not that good. She could do better.

But her disappointment has nothing on that perpetrated by Vera Zvonareva. Bepa, who have the ability to absolutely wallop Caro's arse. But you didn't. She lost a set 6-0. SIX LOVE. I am disgusted.

I am fully expecting Kimmie to win this tomorrow, though I think Caro needs it a lot more. But in reality, the match is never on Caro's racquet. If Kimmie plays moderately well, she has this one in the bag. Caro needs it to sort of consolidate her #1 position - if she's going to be #1 she needs to win something - but Kimmie's game is obviously superior. If she brings it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sands Trickle Away

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Lena, is this not a little bit premature?

Sure, Dementieva hasn't had a very good year this year. She's not the youngest by WTA standards, but she's really not that old either. Normally, I feel pretty supportive when players call it quits - even if they do decide to come back, like, five seconds later - but this one just does not feel right.

It feels reactionary. It feels like frustration. It feels like a mental breakdown, and it feels like the Elena Dementieva who has broken down so many times before. It is a very Elena thing to do but I don't think it's the right one.

Elena is at her best when she digs her teeth in and believes in herself. These incidences can be few and far between, but when they happen, they've made for fabulous matches. The greatest matches I can remember Elena playing are losses, actually - her loss against Henin at the Australian Open this year and then again last year at Wimbledon against Serena. They were both awesome matches because she didn't give up, even if she got defeated.

But maybe that's what drove her to it. Always the bridesmaid, never the year. And for most of this year, she hasn't even been the bridesmaid. But this is giving up. She's never going to get that Slam now, and she totally has the ability. She's not going to be able to defend her gold medal or anything of the ilk. This is... I think it's pretty poor form.

I would not be surprised if we see a comeback from Elena. But if we do, I don't anticipate success. The hourglass is trickling down and I think she might be wasting those last grains of sand with this stunt.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Short Statements on Skill

Well, we pretty much have our final four. We have Caro and Kimmie and Sam and Bepa. And really, they didn't have to do so much to get there.

The only really significant match of the round robin stages - that counted anything in terms of psychological winnage, in any case - was Stosur over Wozniacki. And then she had a bit of a comedown when she lost to Lena D, even if it was in a third set breaker.

But let's stay on topic here. This has been a stunningly dull world tour finals, even by WTA standards. It's just been a big fat pile of nothing, really. Looking forward to 2011, I really hope they can lift the standard, because it's really just a whole big pile of not good.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sam She Is

I just realised that Sveta is not in Doha. I know she didn't have a good enough year to come anywhere close to making it, but it still makes me sad.

You know who is in Doha, though? And doing awesomely? That would be one Sam Stosur, who is kicking arse and taking names. She played the only competitive match of the day yesterday when she beat Francesca Schiavone, and today she pulled a really big coup by beating Caro Wozniacki.

Caro Wozniacki may be the #1 player in the world, but she is completely vulnerable to a zoning player. Well, anyone is vulnerable to a zoning player, I suppose, but she is super-vulnerable. Her game is all based around the fact that everyone else's game is based on risk - if she can keep the ball in play, eventually the coin will comes heads instead of tails, so to speak. But when her opponent is taking the risks and the majority of them are paying off... hello, trouble.

That's what happened today. This isn't the best I've seen Stosur play, but it was pretty damn good. Nearly everything she hit went in and she hit through Caro basically at will. She had the ol' serve forehand combo working like a dream. It was great stuff. And now she has total control over the Maroon Group with only one match left to play... and when you consider that that match is against the emphatically out of form Elena Dementieva, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see Sammy's path straight into the semis.

Vera Zvonareva is on top of the White Group for now, but Kim Clijsters is also undefeated - you'd have to think that it'll be the winner of that match who wins the group. Jankovic definitely isn't going through and I'm not so hot on Vika's chances either, so you have to think that it'll be Clijsters and Zvonareva going through here. Stosur and Wozniacki have to be the picks in the other group, unless Schiavone pulls out something a bit spesh.

I just realised something. Did Venus not qualify this year? or is she just not playing? What's the deal there? This must be the first Williams-less final in some time!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And The Razzie Goes To...

Are we here already? Is it really already the end of the year?

Well, not for the boys - they still have a few weeks left before the World Tour Finals, in which three spots are still up for grabs - but it's all going on in Doha for the ladies right now. Although 'all going on' might be misleading. The WTA hasn't exactly been known for its great matches of late, and in at least two of the matches today, we had no disappointments. Or big disappointments. I was trying to put a positive spin on it, but yeah... not positive. No way, no how.

Let's start with the least disappointing of the three matches, Stosur vs Schiavone. This wasn't the greatest match ever, but both Sammy and Frankie basically held up their ends of the 'I can play tennis' bargain, and we had a match. Sam got revenge for Roland Garros and some tennis was played. End of that story.

...and then we had Dementieva. Caro Wozniacki may be the #1 player in the world. She may beat people by big scorelines sometimes, but she rarely beats them into the ground. You rarely come away from a Caro match going 'wow, that was a two hoof beatdown.'

That was what today's match looked like. And it wasn't because Caro was playing well, it was because Dementieva was playing awfully. I hear Caro asked her 'are you all right?' at the net, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was something messed up in camp Lena D. And I wouldn't be surprised if we see an alternate tossed in.

And they might want to make sure they have a third alternate, because I'm pretty sure the second one will be taking Jelena Jankovic's spot. Awful as Dementieva's performance was, it had nothing on Jankovic's. JJ did manage to take one more game off Bepa than Lena did off Caro, but I'd argue that her quality of tennis was... completely non existent. Yes, I think that's fair.

So, in short, two of the worst matches of the year were played in Doha today, and that's saying something. Congrats to Bepa and Caro, and especially to Sam Stosur, who won the only match which was a match, but dear god I hope the quality is better tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mr Kimiko

So I'm behind the times. I didn't realise Thomas Muster was back until he actually played that first match of his against Andreas Haider-Maurer in Vienna.

I'm not quite sure why Muster decided to come back - maybe he got all inspired by players like Kimiko Date Krumm, who have broken through the 4-0 barrier and are still going strong, or maybe he just really likes tennis, or maybe there's some other reason - but I'm going to issue a sort of blanket approval for it. I like the idea of the male Date Krumm, playing with the young guys and very occasionally beating them too.

Of course, the ATP is a very different story to the WTA. The WTA is - how shall we put this delicately? - not in its strongest position ever at the moment. The ATP is ruled by the iron fist of Fedal and has about a bazillion good guys running around. It has depth. Muster will probably find it a little harder than Date Krumm. And also Date Krumm's comeback has been going on a leeeeeeetle longer than Muster's...

...but still. Muster put up a good fight against Haider-Maurer. Andreas might be ranked #157 or whatever, but we can't forget that he pushed Robin Soderling to five at the US Open, so he clearly has some game. He beat Muster in straight sets today, but one of them was a tiebreak. And Muster is going to take a while to get his head back in the game, if a full scale comeback is what he's after.

So yeah. Go Thomas. I approve. Come back. And stuff.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shiny Happy Shiny Things

There's something that makes you smile when you see Roger Federer with silverware in his hands. When there is a trophy over the Federhead, all is right with the world.

I mean, it's only Stockholm. A 250. For which I don't think he gets any ranking points. And it wasn't as if it was a great field - I mean, he was playing Florian Mayer in the final. I was hardly dialling 1800-SURPRISED when he won. But considering the definite title drought that has been going on this year, seeing Roger with some shiny stuff is definite happymaking.

And, as noted yesterday, it was a great result for Mayer as well - though he got a distinct lack of shiny stuff. Gypped. Maybe his reward was merely standing in the presence of mighty Fed. Who can tell.

And what a result for Viktor Troicki? He's a player I go on and off with, but I find it very hard to believe that this is his first ever ATP title. He's definitely got enough game to pick off a few 250 tournaments here and there in his career - maybe even a 500, if he gets very lucky. And it was a good victory for him in the final as well, beating Marcos Baghdatis. A bit disappointing for Marcos, I suppose, but a final is still a pretty good showing!

Now stop reading my random ramblings and go and look at pictures of Roger holding shiny things!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Florian and the Final

Well, well, well, he didn't need that last win after all. Robin Soderling is through to the world tour finals, and I am confident that he is going to rock them, providing he is uninjured. He wasn't that great last year, but here's hoping he can do something a bit spesh this year. He, after all, very, very much deserves to be there.

But Stockholm has been rolling on without him, and we have the final coming up very soon - Roger Federer vs Florian Mayer. You'd expect that Roger would make the final - he's Roger, after all, and even though he had a bit of a scare against Wawrinka, he makes it good - but this a big result from Florian Mayer, he who conquered Soderling and then backed it up.

Seriously, Florian Mayer has been around forever, and I could not tell you one single thing about him. That's usually a sign that he hasn't done that much, I think. This is certainly the first final I can remember him making. I can't think of too much more to say about this, due to not knowing too much about him, but well done, dude. You'll have your work cut out for against the Federer Express, but you should be pretty proud of coming this far, if nothing else.

There's also been a big result for Denis Istomin in Moscow. I know he lost to Marcos Baghdatis, but it was tight, and with his whole up and comer schtick, semis in a decent field like this is good stuff. And it's a good result for Baghdatis as well - he hasn't had the most awesome year ever and a title here would be a really good result for him. Actually, a final's not bad either. Fun times.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Super Soderling

Massively disappointing loss for Robin Soderling in Stockholm today - he is literally centimetres away from qualifying for the world tour finals, but he went down to Florian Mayer. Not an awesome result.

You would think this is a cue for another one of my x-player-who-did-well-at-a-Slam-one-time-is-now-so-disappointing rants, but no. Quite the opposite. While Soderling took a bad loss today, the fact that he is so close to qualifying for the world tour finals - which would make him the first guy outside the big four to do so - proves something very important. When Robin Soderling arrived on the scene, he made sure he hung around.

Ever since that win over Nadal at Roland Garros last year, the Yoker has been a force to be reckoned with. Before that, he was a mildly dangerous second tier player, capable of pulling the odd upset. Now he's someone that could legitimately challenge for a Slam title. And he is not a one hit wonder. He's not even a one album wonder. He's made two Slam finals now, and a whole bunch of other quarters and similarly awesome results. Soderling is keeping the standard up.

All this has left him one win away from the world tour finals - a win that he will get, even if he took a bad loss today. Robin Soderling has become what the Davydenkos and Berdychs of 2010 aspire to be - someone who made it big and then held their level, not someone who had a couple of good results and then fizzled spectacularly. The Yoker has really been a game changer in men's tennis. And with the team we have at the top at the moment, there's not many men who can say that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Talking Tomas

So the big news of the day is that Maria Sharapova is engaged to her partner Sasha Vujacic.

Um... yeah. That's pretty much all I have to say about that.

In other news, I talked about the disappointment Davydenko's been this year. Let's talk about someone else who has been disappointing over the last few months - Tomas Berdych.

A big match can break you. I think we've seen this a few times this year. We've seen guys go into matches they've convinced themselves they have the goods to win, they haven't won it, and it's been goodnight Irene and disappointment has reigned. We've seen Federer do it to Andy Murray and Nikolay Davydenko, and I contend that Rafa Nadal did it to Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon.

I really think Berdych thought he could win that match. And after you've beaten Federer on grass at Wimbledon, no wonder. But I think that expectation has been the death of him, because what has he done since? Unremarkable US Open series, capped off with a disappointing first round loss in New York. And now he's been upset by Jarkko Nieminen, who is a wily veteran but hardly a tennis ninja.

I don't think the final nail has been hammered in the Berdych coffin - not by a long shot. But you know what? If he plays Federer again any time soon and loses - whether it's a blowout or a tough one - you can start playing that funeral dirge. Because what is currently very, very bent will then be completely broken.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So Nikolay Davydenko just got beaten by some dude called Pablo Cuevas. I suppose I've vaguely heard of Cuevas, but I couldn't tell you jack about him. I can tell you something about Nikolay Davydenko, however, and it's that 2010 is not shaping up to be like 2009. Not even close.

Remember this time last year, when Davydenko was kicking arse and taking names and generally pretty much winning everything?, yeah, it's not like that this year. This year, he's the one that's getting his arse kicked and his name taken. I'm not sure where he is in the line for qualification for the world tour finals, but considering the results he's had this year, I can't really imagine he's high up the list...

It's a sad story. Kolya is simultaneously cardboardy and totally charming and likeable. His game is sort of watchable, when he isn't playing awfully (remember Davydenko vs Verdasco at the Australian this year)? But it's been a year of pretty much fat nothing for him. Ever since Federer took him and snapped him at the Open, he's not been the same.

For a guy who supposedly hasn't had a good year, Federer's done a lot of psychological damage this year. At the Australian Open, he managed to slay both Andy Murray and Davydenko. The Murray thing's been discussed a lot but the Davydenko thing has been underestimated. I don't want it to be true, but I think we might have seen the best of Kolya. He burned very, very bright at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I'm really hoping he hasn't burned himself out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfect Pat

So the new Australian Davis Cup captain has been announced. John Fitzgerald is stepping down after ten years at the helm (including a memorable victory in 2003) and the new dude is...

...Pat Rafter.

And Jodi says this: what a sweet choice.

Seriously, I cannot imagine how they could have made a better choice for captain. Pat Rafter will be 100% awesome. I'm not a fan of the player captain, but I really do love the idea of the young captain, and I think Pat fits that niche perfectly. He's young enough to have played with some of the team (i.e. Hewitt) and isn't so far off the tour that he completely can't relate.

He's also a public figure - much more so than John Fitzgerald - and if he can raise the profile of Davis Cup, I think that will be a good thing. Added to which he is a totally awesome guy whom people really look up to and an excellent statesman for the sport and stuff. He's charismatic and I really think he'll spur the team on to better things. Like getting in the World Group, for example.

In addition, Tony Roche is coach. Great pick. Well played, Tennis Australia!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Experience Wins Out

I was so caught up in the Federdrama last week I almost totally forgot to cover what was one of the most remarkable women's finals of the year. Let me remedy that now.

In Osaka, Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Kimiko Date Krumm in the oldest women's final I can think of, and, I would hazard to guess, the oldest women's final ever. They have a combined age of 73 and between them managed to beat a whole handful of awesome and much younger players en route to the title. Date Krumm bagged the scalps of Stosur and Peer, while Tanasugarn took out Bartoli. Not so shabby. Not so shabby at all.

It would have been awesome if Date Krumm could have won this won - it is her home tournament, after all - but there was no way this was not going to be a feelgood final. Women's tennis has traditionally been the bailiwick of teenage wunderkids like Hingis and Sharapova, and while that is a story in and of itself, there is something very heartwarming of the triumph of experience.

I didn't see the match and so I can't comment on the quality of it, but when two women like Kimiko and Tamarine can keep pace with people who are, in some cases, more than twenty years their junior... not only keep pace but beat them... well, that's pretty awesome. I don't have too much more to say except this was an awesome match. With awesomeness. Covered in a luscious awesome sauce. And I hope Kimiko and Tamarine keep rocking on and showing the young 'uns how it's done.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yeah, I'm Not Gloating Any More

Oh hiiiiiiiiiiiiii, Mr Federer. Yeah, you. I'm looking at you.

Remember how you played all those awesome matches this week? Remember how you humbled Soderling, spanked Djokovic? When you get into a final, you have to keep playing awesome. Small tip. Not brainfart a match away.

This was easily the worst match Roger has played all tournament and it was extremely annoying. I know he doesn't have the sort of issues with Murray that he has with Soderling and Djokovic at the moment - there's no revenge motif - but dude, giving him confidence = not a good idea. Winning tournaments = awesome. Losing four finals in a year = not awesome.

Like I said yesterday, I think Murray needed to win this one a lot more than Federer. And maybe it's good that Federer lost it so spectacularly, because in a way, Roger beat himself. Andy didn't. I think Murray would have taken much more psychological benefit away from a tight fought three setter where he triumphed than this easy win over SketchyFed (aka Ferd).

But a win is a win and Murray will take what he can get. Will this have any bearings on the Slams? Probably not. But Murray will be glad to tag Federer before the year is out and try to undo some of that Australian Open damage, that is for sure.

And Roger, really?! After those awesome performances this week, you had to give me this? Dude.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yeah, I'm Gloating

I'm not going to gloat.

Okay, maybe I am going to gloat a bit. SUCK ON THAT, NOVAK DJOKOVIC!

Yeah, yeah, Roger didn't play THAT well, and he'd swap finals - Shanghai for New York - any day. But he won. And that bitchslap - before 2011 starts - is very important. I'm sure Roger will want to finish the year victorious over all his nearest rivals. Consider yourself tagged, Novak.

I don't think this will really affect Djokovic - or Roger, really - that much. Neither is the other's bitch, and this match isn't going to change anything. But a win over a dude who beat him so heartbreakingly is only going to be good for Roger. And, oh yeah, he got the #2 spot back. AWESOME.

Next up: Murray. Considering he beat Monaco in the semis, Federer is in a bit of a different class. That said, we're never going to count Murray out of anything. This match will be interesting - Federer will be almost as keen to tag Murray as he was Djokovic, but if Murray ends up triumphing, I don't think it will have much bearing on their relationship where it really counts: the Slams.

So much as Roger will be keen to win this one, I think it's a little more important for Murray to win it. He'll be keen to get one back and end 2010 with a bit of a victory over the Federer Express. Will it undo the damage done at the Australian Open? Probably not. But it will important for Murray to get his head a little bit in the game. Just a crack.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Shanghai Showdown Special

Well, I said that Melzer couldn't keep his level up, but I thought he'd at least manage to beat Juan Monaco after defeating Rafa Nadal. Everything I said about Melzer yesterday still stands - this is far and away the best year of his career - but come on, Jurgen, you can do better than that.

Consistency is the name of the game, I suppose, and these streaky players could really do with a dose of the Wozniackis every once in a while.

Meanwhile, we had the Federer/Soderling showdown (I'm pretty sure every match of theirs from now on is going to be characterised as a showdown) and it was not very showdown-y. It was a very one sided affair... and that side was Soderling. Yes, Federer won the match, but could Soderling have played any worse?

It is not Federer's fault that Soderling lost this match. Sure, he contributed - he didn't play badly or anything, but it was hardly GodFed - but Soderling defeated himself in this match. He served awfully, hit awful strokes, made awful decisions and just pretty much played awfully. I don't know if he's got what Djokovic used to have - remember how he played for the #2 ranking like, 100 times, and never got anywhere? Maybe Soderling has the same with the prospect of overtaking Murray so tantalisingly close. I don't know. But something was up, and it didn't feel like injury. It felt like one giant brainfart.

Next up we have Murray/Monaco, which should pretty much be a snoozefest - if Murray loses this match, he is in worse shape than even the most dire naysayer would think - and Federer/Djokovic, which should be very interesting indeed. Like Federer/Soderling, any match these two play is going to be a showdown for a while. I don't know how significant the result would be - I'm hesitant to put too much weight on a single match - but it will be interesting to see who triumphs, no doubt about it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Melzer Moment

The biggest thing to come out of today's showdown in Shanghai is not that Rafa Nadal lost a match. People will probably jump up and down and be all RAFA'S DECLINE about it, but at the end of the day, this was no biggie for the Rafinator and I don't think it indicates too much about him and his form.

No, the biggest thing to come out of today was that Jurgen Melzer won a match. He won a match against an excellent player and he did it with panache.

You know what this match reminded me of? It reminded me of that match last year where Benneteau played an absolute screamer of a match against Federer, and there just wasn't much Roger could do about it. In the best of three sets arena, there is always going to be a guy that comes out not just red, but white hot - ablaze, an inferno of a man, and even if you are the best player in the world, you just can't do much about it.

That was Jurgen Melzer today.

I don't think Melzer can keep that standard up, purely because no one can keep that standard up. But this has been the year of his tennis career. He made the semis of a Slam - I sure never picked that one! - has had some excellent victories, and now he's played his ultimate game to beat the best player in the world right now. He's really made good on his talent and potential this year. And if he continues playing at a not-quite-this-good level, he could even win this tournament.

Spare a moment for Jurgen Melzer. This match is going to get talked about from a Rafa-centric perspective, the way any match is talked about when a big player loses. But remember - Rafa didn't lose this match. Jurgen won it. And what sweet, sweet victory it was.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Unadulterated Pleasure

Daddy's home.

Roger Federer looked absolutely sublime today in his win over John Isner. I don't think I've seen him play better all year, except maybe - just maybe - in the Australian Open final. This was vintage stuff - old school Federer putting the beatdown on his opponents just by being awesome.

I've been cheating on Roger a bit with Rafa lately - paeans of praise-wise - but oh Roger baby, you will always be #1 in my heart. There is no tennis experience that compares to watching Roger Federer play well. David Foster Wallace was right on the money when he described it as being a religious experience.

Isner did not play badly - not at all. But how can you compete with the hungry awesomeness that was Roger today? He wants to win - this we can see clearly. And he's got his mojo back, at least for the next little while. And he's making the tweener his most consistent shot - seriously, do you think he practices them like he does forehands and backhands and serves?

It's been a long time since we've been able to simply gush about Federer. We got that opportunity today. Well done, Roger! Keep it up!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Downhill for A-Rod

We've got to the point in Andy Roddick's career where people start asking if it's the end of the line.

Me personally? I think A-Rod's got a bit of tennis left him in yet. I even think he's got a few more top ten year-end finishes left in him. But I don't think he has another Slam in him. Not even close. He might have another semi or two left, but a final? Nuh-uh.

It's sad but true - Roddick's best chance, and his last chance, came at Wimbledon last year. When he lost that match 16-14 in the fifth, he was effectively losing any chance he had to win another Slam. Even if he had won that match, I don't think it would have spurred him on to more Slams. It was the difference between being a one-Slammer and a two-Slammer, and unfortunately for Andy, he's going to finish up his career on one.

Andy's been pretty good with the injuries over the years, so it's sad to see him suffering now. This is the second year he's missed the end of year championships, and I don't know how many more he has in him. Hopefully he can recover so he can put up a good showing - though we know it's not going to be a Slam-winning one - in 2011.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Not the Second Coming

It is just not Fernando Verdasco's year.

This said, does anyone else feel like FeVer is a little bit, well... overrated? He had one outstanding tournament at the Aussie Open last year. He played Rafa tighter than he will ever play him again. I feel very comfortable making this claim. But since then - a few minor tournaments aside - FeVer just ain't all that.

He's not a bad player - not even close. He's not even mediocre. He's just not the Second Coming of Rafa that everyone seems to think he is. He's had some good results - some Slam quarters and whatnot. But I don't think FeVer's ever going to make a Slam final. I don't think he's even going to make semis again. I think he's doomed to more of the same - more small tournament victories and upset-but-not-upsetting early round losses to up and comers like Thiemo de Bakker.

The Second Coming of Rafa would take a couple of early losses, sure. All the greats do, every now and again. But FeVer takes so many of these early losses and he doesn't back them up with the wins. I don't know how close FeVer is to making the end of year championships but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he doesn't. I don't know what he's done to earn it.

And you know what? the expectation placed on his shoulders after AO '09 can't have been good for him. There must be one thing worse than being a Roger or a Rafa and having the weight of the world on your shoulders, pushing expectations uphill like Sisyphus. Imagine being Verdasco - imagine being called the Second Coming of Rafa when really, you're not. Not even close. That must be very, very painful.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Medals. And Stuff. Whatever.

Last post on Commonwealth Games tennis, I swear. I still loathe it with a fiery passion, but I should probably talk a little about how it turned out.

It was pretty much the Anastasia Rodionova show, which is not unsurprising, because she was pretty much the highest ranked player there. She won singles gold over Sania Mirza - in what was a surprisingly good match, though it wasn't particularly high quality - and then doubles gold with Sally Peers. She also got silver in the mixed doubles with Paul Hanley - they lost to a pair of Scottish players I have never heard of.

It's a pretty sad story for Commonwealth tennis when Australia is winning pretty much all the medals, which is essentially what happened. There were a few for India - I was, I confess, glad to see that Somdev Devvarman won gold for his nation (it at least made their ridiculous inclusion of tennis worthwhile) - and Sania Mirza, of course, won silver, but Australia won a ridiculous amount of medals in this event. Rodionova, as mentioned, won gold in the women's singles, and Sally Peers won bronze. Greg Jones and Matt Ebden (still a big Ebden fan, in case anyone was wondering - love his game) won silver and bronze. Then there was gold in the women's doubles, as well gold in the men's doubles. Oh, and also silver in the women's doubles.

Let's face it - Australia is not currently one of the world's tennis powerhouses. We have some good up and coming players, but we can't even get into the world group for Davis Cup. And yet we managed to win all this stuff. It's ludicrous.

Congratulations to all medallists. I mean that sincerely. I wouldn't want my ranting about the inclusion of the sport in the games to reflect badly on your achievements, of which you should be very proud. But seriously, Commonwealth Games? How about we stick to what we're good at next time?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Radness of Rafa

Well, colour me unsurprised. Rafa Nadal has beaten Gael Monfils with supreme ease to win the title in Tokyo.

And it's time for another ode to how great Rafa is.

It's really rare that one talks in terms of poetry about Rafa. Poetry is reserved for Federer - and it's easy to see why. Federer's game is balletic, elegant, artistic. Rafa's game is a lot of things - brilliant among them - but 'balletic' is not a word that would usually get applied to it.

No, Rafa's game is pure prose. It doesn't need to be described it poetic terms because it's a prosaic game, and it should be discussed in prose.

What Rafa can do with a tennis racquet and a yellow ball is astounding. The way he moves is not godlike, it is Promethean. It is earthy and takes effort and you can feel the effort it takes. It is incredible what he can do. He has the strongest will of any player I have ever seen play, perhaps ever. He is mentally basically unbreakable.

Watching him almost makes you hurt sometimes - not because he is so good (which he is) but because watching him play looks physically painful. You wince but you can't look away. He is a warrior on court. He leaves nothing on that court.

And off the court he is one of the most humble, wonderful statesmen for the game we have ever seen.

I've said this before, but rock on, Rafa. You are awesome. Happy seventh title of 2010.

Friday, October 8, 2010

More CommCrap

Let's talk a little bit more on how bad Commonwealth Games tennis is.

Seriously, I know I said this all a couple of days ago, but the supreme pointlessness of it is still bugging me. Why on earth is tennis in here? It really does not become the games at all.

Let's face it: the Commonwealth is not that great at tennis. And that's fine, I guess - no one said that people in the Commonwealth had to be good at the sports that are in the games. Not all sports can be swimming or cycling or whatever. But when you can't get the big names to come...

Enough on this. It makes me mad. But ugh - why? it's so irritating to see tennis at this standard when it could be so much better.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Consistency Isn't Everything

People are falling all over themselves to make Caro Wozniacki's ascension to #1 okay. I can't count the amount of 'oh, but she's so consistent' etc I have read overnight. And sure, points wise, she is #1. Points don't lie.

But come on. Seriously.

You thought Jankovic and Safina were weak #1s? Safina made three Slam finals! Jankovic made one too! I know Woz has made one, but it doesn't count towards her current points count. She's only won one Tier 1 event, for heavens' sakes.

I'm not saying that Serena deserves to be #1. While she is clearly the best player in the world, if you haven't played - not her fault, obviously, but still - your name's not in the game. You have to be in it to win it, etc. But look at players like Zvonareva. Look at Clijsters. They're achieving real grown up results without playing week after week after week. Sure, they have taken a couple of weak losses, but they've followed them up with some big results.

There is a lot to say for consistency. But consistency in lower level tournaments? Consistency born of simply playing a lot? I know Caro works hard - no one is going to deny that - and consistency is something lacking on the WTA tour. But there's something seriously whack when this kind of consistency gives you a #1 ranking. Bring back Dinara.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Man in the Mask

So, tennis world, I feel like I've missed the memo. Is Gilles Simon awesome again? Did someone forget to tell me?

Seriously, you can't turn around these days without going, 'oh, Simon beat that vaguely competent guy? is he back or something?' Today, the vaguely competent guy is Michael Berrer, but there have been many much more competent dudes that Simon has got the W over lately.

I never had a lot of time for Gilles Simon when he was awesome. Part of this was me being a bitter Federfan - I cannot lie - but then there was that whole deal wherein, you know, he doesn't actually have any weapons. The best demonstration of this I ever saw was when Rafa hammered him at the AO in 2009. I feel like he's really good at pretending to be a good player but sometimes he gets exposed. And that's exactly what happened when he got de-awesomed.

But now he's all winning stuff, so the mask is back. But he did only beat Berrer in a third set breaker, so read into that what you will.

Oh, and Tursunov beat Gasquet. I'm a bit of a Tursunov fan, so yay, but seriously, Richou? Did that seriously just happen?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Bitter Pill of JMDP

Oh man, Andrey Golubev retired in Beijing. I hope he's all right. Get better, Andrey.

And in another oh man moment, you know who I feel sorry for? Juan Martin del Potro.

I think JMDP is doing exactly the right things at the moment. This season is a write-off for him, but it would be totally moronic for him to come into next year stone cold, so he should play some matches here now to get his hand back in. No pressure, no one expecting him to win, ra ra ra.

Except you know what? There is someone who expects him to win - bet you anything. It's himself. And it must be a bitter pill to swallow to go from winning the US Open one year to being bagelled by Feli Lopez in Tokyo.

The best thing JMDP can do is keep on keeping on. If I'm him, I'm playing as much tennis as I can - conscious of the fact that I have to keep it easy on my wrist and stuff, of course - and just getting some matches under my belt. Training is all very well and stuff, but he needs some match toughness. And you've got to be in to win it - eventually, he's going to start winning again. It's coming.

JMDP is going to be able to put this back together again. But not right away. And that must be so incredibly frustrating for him, poor dude. Keep your chin up, Juan. I'm cheering for you.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Yesterday, we talked about Andrey Golubev, who is awesome. Today, we're going to talk about something which is decidedly un-awesome.

That's right, we're talking Commonwealth Games tennis.

Now, I understand why Comm games tennis is so dodge. Not that many awesome players come from the Commonwealth, to begin with. Sure, there's Murray and Stosur, but beyond that...? not so much. And it's at a stupid time for the few awesome players there are, and they have pretty much zero incentive to play, apart from some faint sense of nationalism. So surprise, surprise - guess what? they didn't choose to play. Which leaves us with a draw where Somdev Devvarman and Anastasia Rodionova are the top seeds, essentially rendering it meaningless as any kind of major tennis achievement.

I understand all these things. All these things were predictable things, quite outside of the whole furore with security in Delhi. And this begs the question - why the f*ck is tennis in the Commonwealth Games at all?

I'm a big fan of tennis in the Olympics. But you know what? That's because the field is awesome and people have an incentive to play. No one is really going to come to the Comm games, because it's not a productive use of their time nor is it good for their rankings. Tennis in the Comm games is, quite simply, a big fat waste of time.

I know India put it in in the hopes that Sania Mirza could win a medal. Here's hoping that at the next Comm games, it comes straight back out again, because it is spectacularly useless.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More on the Greatness of Golubev

So my beloved Andrey Golubev did not win. He fell at the very last hurdle - and literally, it was the very last - against Mikhail Youzhny. Damn you, third set tiebreaker!

But seriously, can we just reflect momentarily on how incredibly awesome this kid is? Like, seriously, he is the up and comer of the year for me. Can anyone think of anyone else who has made a comparable rankings jump? He was outside the top hundred when I spotted him playing Hopman Cup back in January, when he flipped the switch and became Awesome Andrey.

You know what he's ranked now? #33. Thirty freaking three. That is some jump.

I'm sad he didn't manage to scrape over the line against Headbanger, but a week where you beat Robin Soderling and David Ferrer in back to back matches? That's a good week for anyone, let alone some guy that was ranked outside of the top hundred not that long ago.

Make no mistake, Andrey Golubev is going places. And with what he can do... I don't think there are many players who will be able to stand in his way.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Loss of Meaning

It so happened that in the early days of October 2010, one Rafael Nadal lost to one Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. High and wide did the shouts and acclaims sound. Oh no! a loss! what does this mean?

Pretty much nothing, I would say. And I don't think anyone's going to disagree with me on that one.

Rafa was due a loss, and semis of Bangkok, where he was probably getting a huge appearance fee and didn't really have the biggest incentive to bring his a-game? I'm not surprised. This is no harbinger of the beginning of the end. It's nothing to take seriously. It's a minor loss in a minor tournament that doesn't mean anything, really.

And people are totally ready to agree with me on this one. So here's a question - I might sound like a sore Federfan, but it's relevant. Why doesn't Roger get this kind of treatment? Every loss he takes makes it seem like it's the end of the world, that players aren't scared of him any more, that the end is extremely f*cking nigh. But with Rafa, it's like... yeah, well, whatevs.

I'd say the relative merits of losses for both dudes are about the same. Both usually win their matches, both sometimes lose the odd one. I don't think either player would disagree with me on that one. So why does Rafa get the whatevs treatment while any Roger loss is apocalyptic?


Friday, October 1, 2010

Andrey Time

It's time to talk about Andrey. And by talk, I mean gush.

I told you this kid was awesome! I told you that he was on the way up! And I was right!

Is this an upset of Soderling I see before me, belonging to Andrey? Why yes, it is. The Golubev freight train is picking up steam and it is powering onwards and upwards. Not only has he upset Soderling in convincing straights, but now Ferrer? Kid just doesn't know his place, and I love it.

The first time I ever really watched Golubev play, I was on a plane from Melbourne to Perth. I was flying there for a couple of days of the Hopman Cup, and I was watching one of the night ties on that little plane TV. It was Russia vs Kazakhstan, and Igor Andreev was taking on some kid called Andrey Golubev. Who is this kid?

I found out soon enough, when Golubev prevented Andreev from hitting a single winner for a set and a half. He was a demolition machine that week - that kid is something else. The Hopman Cup is a good place to capture the much-coveted attention of Jodi, and he did it in spades.

It could have just been a good week. But no, ever since he won his first title a couple of months ago, Andrey has been 100% solid awesome. He's improved his ranking by about 70 places since the beginning of the year, and now he's in the finals of Kuala Lumpur, it's only going to go up.

And trust me, if the kid can beat Soderling and Ferrer back to back, he can totally take Youzhny. Watch out, Headbanger!