Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Even More Holidays

Still on holidays. Go and have some fun. Play a game of tennis, even.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yet More Holidays

What are you doing here? Go and do something lazy instead of reading my holiday auto-updates!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010


In case you can't tell, I am on holiday at the moment. And there's no tennis news to keep up with anyway. Except for a few wildcards, but I've analysed most of those to death anyway.

See you in the New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Birthday

Would you look at that?! In the course of the last three days, we've had post #1000, Christmas and now this blog's third birthday. So many celebrations!

I am obviously choosing to celebrate them by writing very little, because you should be off eating lots of delicious things and lolling by a beach (southern hemisphere) or a fire (northern hemisphere) rather than listening to me try to talk about tennis when none is happening.

Happy birthday to me! (And let's hope for a slightly better day in the cricket tomorrow.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas! Why are you here, reading post #1001? Can't you think of something better to do?

(If Christmas is your shtick, I hope Santa brought you many tennis-tastic gifts!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

One Thousand Thoughts

This is my one thousandth post on this blog. This clearky means I have a few too many thoughts, and I like hearing the sound of my own voice a bit too much. If that analogy works with typing instead of speaking.

But for today, as it is Christmas time and I have many things to do - and also because no one's playing any tennis - I'm going to keep it very short and simple. Thank you for reading my self-indulgent thoughts, even when I repeat myself (which, in the course of a thousand posts, is quite a lot). Thank you to commenters and lurkers and thank you tennis (especially you, Mr Federer), for being awesome.

Here is to the next thousand!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Roger and Rafa - Round Two

As expected, Rafa won the Spanish leg of the Match for Africa exo mini-tour, which is a perfect result. This may be the only time you will ever hear me say that a Roger loss is a perfect result, so cherish it! If one guy had won both the exos, people might start to talk about these matches as some kind of foreshadowing for Australia. I don't think these matches are about competitive tennis at all.

No. They're about charity, they're about entertainment, and I'm a bit convinced they're about Roger and Rafa bro-ing out together.

I said this yesterday, but I cannot get over how awesome it is to have these two dudes at the top of tennis. Seriously, you could not hope for two nicer guys. These matches weren't about competitive tennis - they weren't about Slams or ranking points or the rivalry or anything - but there were about tennis as a sport: as something sporting, about being a good sport, about using what you have to help others. There are not many players who would give up time in their off season - especially this close to Christmas - to play some exos. But these two...

We saw it at Hit for Haiti - and Hit for Haiti redux, where the bromance was thrown into sharp relief by the animosity seething between their predecessors, Sampras and Agassi. And now we're seeing it again. We're seeing that sport doesn't have to be about hatred and that competition can be healthy. And that that the competition inherent in sport can be used to do huge amounts of good.

Roger and Rafa have raised enormous amounts of money with these exhibitions. And hey dudes, if you want to do another Hit for Haiti-esque charity event right before the Australian Open again... I WILL BE THERE.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roger and Rafa - Round One

From the bottom of my heart, I would like to say THANK YOU to Roger and Rafa for having these exos. Quite apart from all the money that they have raised for disadvantaged children in Africa, they have given me something to write about for the next couple of days.

I don't even want to pretend that the tennis played in these exos means anything. Roger has won the one in Zurich and it's a pretty sweet bet that Rafa will win in Spain. I don't want to say that they're scripted or anything - but, yeah, this is hardly the time to bring out any ultimate tennis weapons. These are matches meant to entertain, matches to make people feel good, and I think that that goal has definitely been reached.

So if we're not going to talk about the matches, what are we going to talk about?

Well, it's pretty easy, really... it's time for a Fedal love fest. Yes, another one.

Seriously, how lucky are we to live in an age where we have both Roger and Rafa at the top of the sport? One of them would be a blessing, two... well, it's more than a mitzvah. It's hard to think of two more sporting, awesome guys. And despite the fact that they have one of the most intense rivalries in sport, it doesn't exist off court. On court, they are fierce competitors. Off court... they have a rad bromance. And anyone who saw those pictures Roger took yesterday of him all excited off to meet his mate Rafa... well. There's no doubting that these two were, in some senses, Meant To Be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In Which I Once Again Feel Sorry For Nicolas Mahut

More on wildcards, as I have nothing else to talk about (thank you, Roger and Rafa, for your charity matches. I can see material for the next two days lined up already!)

So the French wildcards have been announced, and they are Virginie Razzano and Benoit Paire.

I have absolutely no idea who Benoit Paire is, but Razzano is a familiar enough name to all of us - and seriously, wasn't she in the top thirty like yesterday? I was totally shocked to see her name on the wildcard list, because honestly, how has she not made the cut? Now that I think about it, of course, I cannot think of a single thing she's done in 2010 - has she been injured or just out of form? - but it still is a shock to me that she's not inside that magic number.

As she is obviously outside the main draw cut, I think she is an excellent choice for a wildcard. Though I bet Kristina Mladenovic is pretty bummed. Oh well.

Now. Benoit Paire. Who are you? A quick Google reveals to me that he is 21 years old and ranked #150 odd. It also reveals to me that Nicolas Mahut is ranked about twenty places above him, which means he likewise cannot qualify for the main draw without a wildcard (or playing qualies).


That is all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Walking Yet Further On The Wild(card) Side

So we have Olivia Rogowska and Marinko Matosevic through from the Australian playoff, and now we have our American entrants. Ryan Harrison and Lauren Davis will be joining Olivia and Marinko in Australia.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who said 'huh?' when they heard the name Lauren Davis... and I still have pretty much no idea who she is. A quick WTA search reveals nothing about her except the fact she is 17 and that her career high rank (last month) was #437.

And yet she beat Coco Vandeweghe, of whom I have heard, and is notable for upsetting Vera Zvonareva earlier this year, creating a festival of excitement in American tennis for about four second. I understand she's pretty sketchy, but you don't beat Zvonareva without a bit of something going on. So this Lauren Davis kid must be a bit all right. We should keep an eye on her!

And then Ryan Harrison won. He played some good tennis in 2010, so this is a very nice beginning to 2011 for him. I doubt he'll be winning any Slams right at this second, but he has a nice game and he could go a round or two if he gets a good draw. It kind of freaks me out that he is so young - and Lauren Davis too! It makes me feel very old.

Harrison beat Jack Sock, and that does make me sad. Quite apart from any, you know, tennis that Jack Sock might have going on... how can you deny THAT NAME?! I think it is my favourite name in tennis right now.

Anyway, congrats Ryan and Lauren (and good luck to Coco and Jack Sock - no, I can't separate those names at all). See you in Oz!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Surprise Party

Wow. WOW. I did not expect this coming - and neither, I think, did anyone ekse vaguely interested in the December Showdown for the AO Wildcard. Olivia Rogowska and Marinko Matosevic have won the wildcards, leaving their higher ranked and better known opponents to hope and pray for a discretionary one.

Let's start with Olivia. What a stellar effort. It would have had something of the fairy tale about it to see Dokic win, but can a spirited comeback like the one Rogowska pulled off be denied? She came back from a crushing in the first set and two match points down to win the second and then the third sets of this match. And she has served notice now - she will take on anyone.

I think Rogowska is best known for the time that she took on then-#1 Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open and very nearly won. Although she's had some good results - like that one - she never seems to have really captured the imagination of the Australian public. For her sake, I hope she manages to go a few rounds at the Open, because as Casey Dellacqua and Jelena Dokic have shown us, there is no surer way to become a national darling than a win a couple of matches in Melbourne in January.

As for the defeated Dokic? She'll be okay. You'd get long odds if you bet she wouldn't get a discretionary wildcard. (Double neg for the win!)

Now. Dudes. Marinko Matosevic, how about you? Five set long haul and you came out on top, beating Peter Luczak (who is no slouch). This is a big, big win, and will see Matosevic going straight into the main draw. My hopes for him are pretty much identical to my hopes for Rogowska - win a match or two, raise your profile. Profile can almost be as important a weapon as a forehand sometimes - if you can get a crowd behind you, create a little fear in an opponent's mind... that can work wonders. Matosevic doesn't have that yet - but, as Luczak would surely know, he's well on his way to earning it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Jelena Smackdown

It does not take a stretch of the imagination to see that Jelena Dokic is looking dangerous.

Oh, I don't mean that she's going to make some fairy tale comeback and win the Australian Open or anything, but... well, we all remember 2009. You just never know what is possible with Jelena - she's out injured or sick or whatever so often that there is no real sense of what she can do. We just haven't seen it yet.

I don't think anyone was expecting Dokic to steamroll Molik the way she did - least of all Molik. I saw a little of this match on the livestream - not much, but enough to tell that Molik was looking seriously shellshocked. Dokic took her and smacked her down like the hand of God, and there was absolutely nothing Molik could do about it.

She'll face Olivia Rogowska, who overcame a vaguely injured seeming Sophie Ferguson, and you have to put your money on Dokic here. Sure, she might suffer a bit of a slump, but what we do know about Jelena is that she is determined like whoa. You'd have to wake up very early in the morning to out grit Ms Dokic.

Over in the dudes, Peter Luczak overcame Matt Ebden and Marinko Matosevic beat Adam Feeney, and now these two will final it up. I really like Luczak - he seems like a nice bloke - and I don't know very much about Matosevic... which is why, I think, I'm going for him. Luczak has an awesome shot at a wildcard. Matosevic could get swept under the rug pretty easily.

Friday, December 17, 2010

...Rest Day?

So... I think there was a rest day at the Showdown. Or I missed alllllllll the matches. It certainly wasn't the semis, anyway.

So more Showdown tomorrow, when I have more to say!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Wow! Suddenly it's the semis of the December Showdown! That happened with a speed I was not prepared for!

The blockbuster semi is, of course, Dokic vs Molik. It's a shame that they're not on opposite sides of the draw, or this could be a final, but sadly it hasn't played out that way. Nonetheless, this match should be an awesome one. I can't remember the last time these two girls played, and I think it's going to be very interesting to see which one comes out on top. I fully expect them both to get carded into the Open anyway, but that does not make this match any less interesting.

This is not to say, though, that whoever wins this match wins the wildcard. Both Dokic and Molik went three sets in their last matches, so clearly neither is in OMG DOMINATION mode right now... though those cylinders could fire up at any moment! Whichever one gets to the final will have their work cut out against Sophie Ferguson or Olivia Rogowska.

In the dudes, James Duckworth is out, which makes me sad, because he's a bit cool. He was knocked out by Marinko Matosevic, who will face Ball-conquering Adam Feeney. You'd like Matosevic to win this one - he is the second seed - but you never know. This said, Matosevic has been coming through the tournament quietly... I kind of really hope he gets the card here, actually, because he doesn't seem to have made the name for himself that some of the other players have. Peter Luczak and Matt Ebden will face off in the other semi. You can pretty much bet Luczak will get carded in, and Ebden will have a pretty good shot, but Matosevic seems to be under-the-radar man. This could be his best shot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No More. Shut Up. Yes, You, Bernard.

Day 2 of the December Showdown, and the attention is all off court rather than on - focused on Bernard Tomic, who pulled out because of illness and now is reportedly practicing somewhere in Queensland, confident of getting one of Tennis Australia's wildcards into the main draw.

I'm a little torn here. Most of me wants to prove the little f^&*er wrong and yell DON'T GIVE HIM A WILDCARD, TENNIS AUSTRALIA! NO NO NO NO NO! But then the other part of me is like... don't give him any more attention. Do we really need another Bernard Tomic scandal? Card him in, shut him up, and for heaven's sake, don't put him on Rod Laver Arena at night when I could be watching a real player.

So let's not talk about him. Let's talk about actual tennis instead.

Dokic and Molik both came through, which is to be expected. So did Rogowska and Ferguson and the other minor challengers - except for Isabella Holland, who was put in her place by Monika Wejnert. I didn't see the match, but I've followed Wejnert for a few years now, and it would totally tickle me pink if she got the wildcard!

In the dudes, Luczak is through - of course - as are Ebden and Jones and Groth (husband of Jarka) - but in a bit of a surprise, John Millman went down to James Duckworth, who is a real up and comer, and in a MASSIVE surprise, Carsten Ball went down to Adam Feeney. The men's tournament is, I believe, knock out, which means Ball cannot get this wildcard. I would not be surprised if he got A wildcard - he's done his Davis Cup duty pretty well - but this is a bad loss for him. I don't know if there were any extenuating circumstances, but he must be pretty down on himself...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Kind Of Magic

The December Showdown has begun! It seems a little strange to get so involved in what is just a playoff for one of the 128 spots on offer in the Australian Open draw... but then the showdown is wonderful fun.

The real question seems to be whether Jelena Dokic or Alicia Molik will be the one to get the wildcard. I think you can probably bet your bottom dollar that both would be carded in anyway - they are big names - so I certainly won't be unhappy if one of the many other girls in the draw pulls through. But Dokic and Molik did both have good wins yesterday and looking hot. That would be a bit of a drawcard final!

If I had to pick, I think I'd throw my cap into the Dokic corner, purely for emotional reasons. When she won the playoff a couple of years ago she went into the Open and won her way into the quarters - wasn't that a story? I don't expect we'll ever see the like of that again but it would be lovely to see the circumstances mirrored, so to speak. There might be a kind of magic in that.

Meanwhile, I'm a little surprised at the names in action in the men's draw. Peter Luczak? I suppose with his ranking he doesn't qualify for direct entry - which is an enormous shame, because he managed to get it up so high there for a while. And Marinko Matosevic and Carsten Ball as well... I suppose it's just indicative of the fact that there is only one player for whom entry is a guarantee that is Hewitt. Everyone has to throw their cards in. Everyone has to play. We've been so spoiled on the women's side with Stosur and Groth and whatnot that we forget this a bit.

Anyway, I wish I could say something about the actual tennis, but not having seen any of it, I can't. I will say this, however - fourteen year old Ashleigh Barty, I hope you play some awesome stuff out there. I always have a soft spot for the young 'uns!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Hola, my reader friends! As you know, December is a bit of a quiet month in the tennis world - but the December Showdown starts today, and our coverage of it will start tomorrow. Well, when I say 'coverage', I mean, 'me talking about matches I didn't actually see', but I'm sure we can make something out of that.

So yes. This is going to be a short one today, due to lack of content.

But a few quick words on the Hopman Cup - a few months ago, they had such a sweet line up, and now they're dropping like flies. First we lost Serena, who's been replaced by Bethanie Mattek-Sands; then Steve Darcis, who has been replaced by Ruben Bemelmans (he who played Lleyton pretty tight in Davis Cup); and now Gael Monfils has got all injured.

I heartily approve of his replacement, though. Nicolas Mahut and Kristina Mladenovic might not stand a great chance of taking the trophy, but any man who can play a 70-68 fifth set is all right by me. I wonder if Nico has a hair gel endorsement yet...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Looking Back - Melbourne

It shouldn't be hard to guess that this was my absolute favourite result of the year. There are few things that make me more gleeful than the sight of Roger Federer kissing a Grand Slam trophy.

It seems a long time ago now, the Australian Open. The next one is right around the corner, and here's hoping we have a repeat result! But the ripple effect of this tournament was felt throughout the year - not so much for Federer, I think, who didn't really play this well again until after Wimbledon, but for a few other players, this tournament was massive.

This was about the midpoint of Rafa's 'slump' (note inverted commas), and it certainly wasn't his best tournament of the year... which might have had something to do with the fact that he was a bit injured. However, he did play some excellent tennis, and those two sets he played against Andy Murray were highly interesting stuff. It'll be interesting to see how he backs up at the tournament in 2011, presumably uninjured and with the wind of success firmly at his back.

But let's talk Murray, because I think this was where his year was set. Once again, he got to a Slam final. And this time, it was clear he expected himself to win. And he was absolutely humbled - totally brought low - by the might of Roger Federer. And even now, I don't know if he has fully recovered from that.

Oh, he's beaten Federer since. He's had some good results - you don't get to be the guy that played Rafa tight like that in London without a bit of something going on. But at the Slams this year, Murray has looked spectacularly unconvincing. For so long, everyone has said that it's only a matter of time until Andy gets a Slam. This year... we started to doubt that. And those seeds were planted in Australia.

Murray played some fantastic tennis. I will never forget that passing shot he hit against Cilic that totally got him back into that match. But that final - and, in particular, that tiebreaker - broke him and did some bad damage to his psyche. Whether or not he recovered from that is anyone's guess. I don't think he has - and I don't think he will until such time as he manages to lift a Slam trophy over his head. Recovering from doubt like that... well, it's not going to happen overnight. Or even overyear.

The other two semi finalists ended up being spectacular non events this year. Tsonga was injured and Cilic... well, I don't know where he went.

The tournament was Federer's, of course, and I could gush for a long time about how happy it made me. But I won't. I will just say this - the world is a lovely place when he has a trophy in his hands. It is, somehow, intrinsically right.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Looking Back - Roland Garros

This tournament, I would argue, is when the real Jonah Day of the Federer fans in 2010 began (ending sometime after Wimbledon). It was always going to be a sad day when that semi final record went down. 23 major semi finals in a row. I would venture that that is one record that is never, ever going to be beaten.

It was Robin Soderling that did the damage, and in a strange way, this tournament belongs almost as much to him as it did to Rafa, even though Rafa absolutely routed him in the final. (We have had heinously boring Slam finals this year. I mean, I loved the one in Australia, but there's only been one that went more than three sets, yesno?) He became the man who not only broke That Record, and not only had victories over both Federer and Nadal at Roland Garros to his name, he proved that he was not a one Slam wonder. Robin Soderling can and will challenge for Slams, especially at Roland Garros. Count on it.

There was another dude who came out swinging and really made an impact at Roland Garros this year - well, I certainly stood up and took notice of him. That dude is Jurgen Melzer. He had an amazing year, and the semi final finish at Roland Garros is the crowning glory. Sure, he went down to Rafa - but who isn't going to go down to Rafa at Roland Garros? - but he had an absolutely amazing tournament full of big wins. He was preciously close to making the cut for the World Tour Finals, and if he keeps up his standards next year, I think that he just might. He'll have a ton of points to defend, but so what? If he can defend them - and improve on them - Jurgen Melzer is going places.

The other semi finalist was Tomas Berdych. In hindsight, that is dreadfully portentous.

But there is an elephant in the room. And his name is Rafa Nadal.

Rafa Nadal, who everyone had talked about as down and out a few months earlier. Rafa Nadal, who had not won a title in eleven months when he took the title in Monte Carlo - the first of what was to be a claycourt clean sweep, ending with his reclamation of the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Rafa Nadal, who pulverised his opponents into submission. Rafa Nadal, who became world number #1, and who never looked back.

Rafa Nadal, who deserves every bit of praise we can heap upon his head.

Rafa doesn't inspire the same poetry and awe that Roger does. I don't know if anyone will ever call watching him play a religious experience. But that does not make him any less great. He's not that guy. He's the conquistador, the raging bull, an almost elemental force of nature. And we have been privileged to watch him play this year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Looking Back - Wimbledon

As far as Wimbledon's I'd like to forget go, this one ranks up there pretty highly. And it's not just because of Federer's demoralising loss to Berdych in the quarters - though that is obviously part of the reason! No, it actually comes down to the fact that the final was really spectacularly uninteresting.

We have been blessed with some classic Wimbledon finals of late. Wimbledon 2007 - Federer takes down Nadal in five sets. Wimbledon 2008 - the match widely touted as the greatest of all time, when Nadal prevailed over Federer in a heartbreaking 8-6 final set. Wimbledon 2009 - if you want to talk about a heartbreaker, ask Andy Roddick how he felt after going down to Federer 16-14 in the fifth, giving Federer his fifteenth Slam.

2010. Rafa Nadal beats Tomas Berdych in three sets so dull it's almost agonising.

This is not to take anything away from Rafa, who had a stupendous tournament. (I find myself saying that I don't want to take stuff away from Rafa a lot, for some reason - I suppose that as a Federer fan I'm always looking at things from a very specific perspective.) This was the tournament where people started to talk about Rafa not just as the dude that stopped Federer being far and away the greatest of all time, but as a candidate for the title of Greatest himself. But none of that makes the final any less than dull.

I don't especially want to talk about the Federer/Berdych match, which had me swearing and crying and screaming like a maniac. One match I will talk about, though, was Federer's first round - which also had me swearing and screaming and crying. Who ever would have thought that there would be a day when Alejandro Falla would be serving for the match at Wimbledon against Roger Federer? Not me, that is for sure, and I would venture that the thought hadn't really occurred to many other people either.

I think that that was when I realised that this Wimbledon was probably not going to be Federer's. But when Federer came back from the brink of defeat, I wasn't thinking about that. There have been a bunch of matches this year when Federer has lost from a match-points-up position. Let's not forget that he's fought his way out of some pretty dark holes himself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Looking Back - New York

So, over the next few days, I'm going to do a little series - a sort of year in tennis. More specifically, a year in Slams, and even more specifically, a year in Slams backwards. Why? Because I can. So today we're going to talk US Open.

This tournament belonged to Rafa. There is no doubting that. He didn't have the hardest draw in the world, but he played excellent tennis all the way to the final. And what an achievement for him - getting not only his third Slam of the year, but completing his career Slam. Having seen Federer do it the year before, I think we were highly sensible to this achievement. And for such a young man... wow.

The final was a bit anti-climactic. Even when it was a set apiece, one could sort of sense that Rafa was going to win. And there's no way it could measure up to That Semi - the one that broke the hearts of Federer fans around the world.

It was, strictly speaking, Novak Djokovic's turn. But the way he won that match - after Federer had held match points - was simply heartbreaking for those of us of the Federer disposition. Several people (as usual) thought it signalled the demise of Federer. In hindsight, we know now that it didn't. Federer went on to tag Djokovic two or three times before 2010 was over. But I think he'd swap a couple of those wins for that one.

But maybe we weren't quite ready for Federer and Nadal to face off again yet. The world needs time to prepare before those titans clash. And if there's one thing I want to prove with this little series, it's that the year finished on exactly the right note. Federer vs Nadal. At the end of the day, that is what the ATP is about.

But anyway. My favourite match of the US Open was Federer vs Soderling in the quarter finals. I thought it signalled good things to come in the rest of the tournament - clearly I was a bit wrong there! But it was a fantastic Slam-level - I don't want to say revenge match, but you know what I mean - time for Federer to get Soderling back for Roland Garros. He played very well there. And my favourite matches are always the ones where Federer does well. This is no secret.

But before I go, there was another key player in the tournament, and that was Andy Murray. He lost early. Again. After he made the final in Australia, even though he didn't win - actually, even before this, really - I think just about everyone thought it would be a matter of time until he had a Slam to his name. When he went out at the US Open? That's when I started doubting his ability to ever win a Slam.

But at the end of the day, this tournament was Rafa's. And it was very, very well deserved!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Horrible Thing

The big tennis story of today is, of course, the theft of Pete Sampras's trophies. Which is a horrible, horrible thing.

There's not too much more I can say other than it being a horrible, horrible thing. Sure, any number of jokes have been made about the fact that Sampras was keeping them in a cheapish storage facility, but than in no way means that he deserved for them to get stolen. It's such a tragedy. All those memories... well, I suppose he still has the memories, but it would be better if he had the trophies to go with them.

He still has thirteen of his fourteen Slam trophies, but the one that was taken was, I believe, his first Slam - Australia in 1994. He came out and said that he wanted these trophies to show to his kids, who are largely too young to remember him playing, and you have to think that your first Slam - well, that's a biggie. That's one for the kids. Straight to the pool room. But not any more.

I sincerely hope that Pete gets his trophies back and that they haven't been destroyed. It's not like 1994 AO trophy is something you could hock on eBay and make a ton of money from, so I hope that whomever took them realises it is relatively worthless to them and gives it back - because while it might be worthless on the market, it's priceless to Pete.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Little Nation That Could

You know what? I think I can probably squeeze another day out of Davis Cup blogging after all. So here goes!

Even though, as we all know, I am definitely not Novak Djokovic's biggest fan, I kind of love the story of Serbia and the Davis Cup. It reminds me of Croatia five years back - it's a sort of Little Nation That Could story. It's the story of a country who managed to topple countries much bigger with much deeper pools than they have with what seems like heart alone.

Of course, that isn't one hundred percent true - the Serbian team is totally talented and it's more than just will that's got them this far. But the incredible driving force of the will of the nation - correct me if I'm wrong, but tennis is the most popular sport in Serbia, yesno? - was definitely a big deal.

By rights, France should have taken this one. Serbia may have Djokovic, but France has got about ten dudes in the top hundred (or something similarly ridiculous). And France was also the team that knocked Spain - the nation which is clearly the world's tennis powerhouse at the moment - out of contention. France has the depth which Serbia lacks - while Djokovic is excellent and Tipsarevic and Troicki are very good and Zimonjic is a world class doubles player - if one of them is out, then there are REAL problems. But Serbia - well, it's the little nation that could.

I don't think Djokovic functioned quite in the way that Ivan Ljubicic did for Croatia in 2005 - I don't think he provided quite the same kind of extreme rallying point than Ljubo did, though his matchplay record is clearly comparable. No, the Serbian triumph was, I feel, much more of a team effort. I feel almost a bit bad for Djokovic, actually, because his excellence was sort of assumed. It was just sort of assumed that he would win both his singles rubbers and that the team would try and take care of that one remaining point... and the people that did take care of that point were the ones who were the heroes (Tipsarevic in the semis, Troicki in the final.) The Ljubicic story was almost the story of How One Man Won The Davis Cup (with a bit of help from Mario Ancic). The Serbian narrative is different.

But I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that it was this way. Actually, I think it's a good thing that the Serbian victory has been a team deal. Novak Djokovic winning a big tournament? Well, that's not that exciting. But a tiny nation with a handful of talented players and a whole lot of heart winning it? Now that is a story.

Monday, December 6, 2010


We're having a rest day today in honour of the Serbian Davis Cup win. And also because, even if I had time to write something, I don't have anything write about. So have a glass of champagne for the Serbian Davis Cup team and see you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Superb Serbia

Well, I did not expect this. I would have sworn that France was going to win this one. I was convinced that Llodra would have the guns to pull through and that Monfils might get a sneaky one in over Djokovic. But I was totally, utterly wrong. Sorry about that, Serbia. And congratulations.

It's hard to pick a hero for this tie - I mean, you can safely say it wasn't Tipsarevic, but beyond that, not so much. You really do have to go with Djokovic, I think, who won those crucial two points and gave Troicki a fighting chance going into the fifth and deciding rubber. You can throw Troicki's name into the ring as well - he did, after all, win that rubber - but his serve was the yippy one in the doubles. So Novak gets the honours, I think - but it was a big team effort.

Let's talk about the two matches for a second. I think they both would have been terribly anti-climactic - especially after the epic doubles match - if it wasn't, you know, the Davis Cup final. I definitely wasn't expecting Djokovic to put the hurt on Monfils the way he did. I definitely was expecting more from Monfils than he brought. It seems like he left it all on the court against Tipsarevic... he should have saved some up for this match, because with the way Tipsarevic was playing, he didn't need to use it all then.

I think the crowd definitely drove Djokovic on, but I think it also negatively affected Monfils... which it didn't in the first match, so I found this surprising. I thought that Monfils sort of enjoyed being the antagonist then. Today... not so much. Maybe it's different because it's Djokovic. I don't know. But Gael won't be too happy with himself.

And neither will Michael Llodra, and I am really sad about this one, because I would have totally backed him against either Troicki or Tipsarevic. Unlike Obradovic, I would have played Tipsarevic here, but his choice was obviously a good one, because it paid off big time. Troicki had the match of his life out there. He was definitely spurred on by the crowd here, because he had an absolute blinder. I have never, ever seen him play that well.

...and I can't remember the last time I saw Llodra play so poorly.

This one breaks my heart, because I am in love with Llodra's game. He epitomises French tennis - the flair, the style, the everything. But today he epitomised the bad side of that - the erraticness. And it was horrible to watch.

This is the kind of match that can break a man, and I will be so, so sad if it breaks Llodra. He is so much better than this. He has so much more ahead of him. Here's hoping he can just put Davis Cup behind him and rock 2011 like the French tennis god he is.

But for now, congratulations to Serbia. Talk about a fairy tale.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Serbia Gets Slapped

Okay. Now we have some action. A fightback from two sets down? That is what I'm talking about.

I bet Obradovic is fiercely glad he didn't play Djokovic here, even though the Serbs didn't get the point, because if Djokovic had gone five sets today? No way he'd be up to it against Monfils tomorrow. That just wouldn't be happening.

Troicki and Zimonjic put up a good match here - they won the first two sets, after all - but they're both going to be bitterly disappointed. To lead two sets and then go down, in front of a home crowd? Geez. That is like a slap in the face with a fish and no mistake. And if I'm Nenad 'I love doubles' Zimonjic, I am a bit annoyed about being let down by the weak serving of my partner. Because that, at the end of the day, was the clincher. So in that sense, maybe Obradovic is regretting he didn't play Djokovic. I doubt he would have got as yippy as Troicki did.

But let's talk about the dudes that really pulled it out. Clement. Llodra. I love these dudes. They might be one of my favourite doubles teams ever. They are GOOD TIMES. I don't really have a side I'm pulling for in this tie, but in terms of this match? I was pulling for these two all the way. Forget did a really good job putting these two together - though I doubt it was a rocket science decision.

What I always admire in a comeback like the one they pulled is the ability to not panic and to not give in. It must be so easy to fold when you're two sets down - the way back seems insurmountable. But for Arnaud and Michael? Not so much. They rocked it. And I bet that Serbian crowd was NOT happy.

This leaves us in a very interesting place for tomorrow. The long and short of it is that if Djokovic loses, Serbia are screwed. But let's assume that rankings hold and Djokovic beats Monfils (even though I have a sneaky suspicion Gael might pull that one out). The fifth rubber is due to be contested by Tipsarevic and Simon. But will it actually be these two?

If I'm Forget, I'm definitely considering picking Llodra, even though he played five sets today. Simon was overwhelmingly disappointing in the first singles rubber... but then, he was playing Djokovic. Llodra has had a great time of it lately and should be high on adrenaline, if on nothing else. So despite the five sets, I'm going Llodra.

But if I'm Obradovic, I'm sort of between a rock and a hard place. Troicki was definitely the weak link in the doubles, and he's coming off five sets. But then Tipsarevic was terribly disappointing in the first singles match. Neither option is particularly attractive. Yesterday, I would have got Troicki in a second. But today, I think I'm leaning towards Tipsarevic. Maybe he can make something happen through talent alone...

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Meh Beginning

Davis Cup seems to have come around surprisingly quickly this year, yesno? I remember getting tons of mileage out of it in the offseason last year. But no matter. It hasn't been especially interesting yet, so it probably doesn't deserve the space.

So we've had the singles match - Djokovic vs Simon and Tipsarevic vs Monfils, and we're locked at 1-all after two straight sets victories. While this could lead to a very exciting finish - a live fifth rubber could be awesome! - the day was somehow not that exciting.

I'll start with the second match, which was Djokovic/Simon. I'm not sure why Guy Forget played Simon here. Maybe he thought that there was no hope of winning this match anyway so he sort of tanked it a little bit? I would have played Llodra for sure. Simon never had a chance in this match, as you would well expect. There was a little excitement when he saved match points to break back to 5-5 in the third set, but then he got broken straight back, so meh. That's a good word to sum up this match, actually: meh.

It also sums up the performance of Tipsarevic. I think that, like Obradovic, I would also have picked Tipsy over Troicki here, but he just did not bring it. Monfils has had a screamer of a summer but there definitely isn't the mismatch element going on here that there was in the Djokovic match. I probably would have picked Monfils to win (if I'd realised Davis Cup was even coming up - oops) but Tipsy should have at least got a set here, I think.

Maybe he was nervous in front of his home crowd. Maybe he is just not in form. Maybe it just wasn't his day. Whatever the reason was - or whether there is a reason at all - I expected a bit more from Tipsarevic. I expect that Troicki will be played on Sunday. Llodra, too.

Excellent performance from Monfils, though. There is every possiblity that Monfils/Djokovic could be an absolute scorcher on the weekend - and if Djokovic plays doubles and doesn't get the rest, then 'meh' could be the last word on my mind.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

But Not Enough

How many days can I stretch out Roger and Rafa? I think it is probably quite a few. And then we have Davis Cup. Wow, what a festival of things to talk about.

I talked a lot about Roger and Rafa yesterday. I think it's not unfair to say that it was a fitting way to end the year, with a Federer/Nadal final. There have been a number of years where Nadal has been the one person stopping Federer from winning the calendar Slam. This year, Federer fulfilled the role for Nadal. For so, so long, tennis has been about these two dudes. At the end, it's always Roger vs Rafa. That is what tennis is about.

And yet... we talk about the Big Four. Sometimes even the Big Five if Soderling gets his nose in, but we're not going to talk about the Yoker today. No, let's instead focus on Roger and Rafa's backup dancers, the two that are supposed to be on the same level - and sometimes genuinely are! - but can't seem to make it happen at the big dance. Let's talk Djokovic and Murray.

Both Nole and Muzz have had one Slam final this year, and both were smacked down by what seemed to be the hand of God. When Djokovic faced Nadal after that marathon of a victory over Federer - it is important to note, I think, that both Murray and Djokovic had a victory at the Slam level over one of the Hispano-Suisse domination machine - he had a shot. If you're going to beat Federer, of course you have a shot. And he actually didn't do too badly - he took a set off Rafa and played reasonably competitively. It was good stuff, good times.

But not enough. Djokovic has that one Slam in his bag, and the second one has never looked further away.

And then there was Murray. He beat Nadal en route to his final at the Australian Open (Nadal did retire, but Murray was playing spectacularly) and a lot of people thought he was going to win that one. And he got absolutely humbled. He didn't play awfully - he wasn't great, but he didn't suck, especially in that third set breaker, where he had a handful of set points - but there was just nothing that he could do against Federer. He did what he could.

But not enough. And now we're wondering whether Murray will EVER win a Slam.

Murray and Djokovic did not have bad years. They both made a Slam final and performed pretty well at Masters level and generally just did not really suck - though there is a case to be made that Murray suffered a supreme slump for a while after his loss in Australia. But at the end of the day, the year belonged to Rafa, and the one dude standing between him and supreme domination was Roger. Just as it has been in other years - 2008 belonged to Rafa as well, and 2004-7 and 2009 were Roger's. There is no room for anyone else at the top. Roger and Rafa are reigning supreme.

In other era, Murray and Djokovic would probably both have a handful of Slams right now. But this year... one final apiece, and that is all. Murray lost to Nadal in the semis of the World Tour Finals and Djokovic to Federer. While Roger and Rafa are around, Nole and Muzz are doomed to always be three and four, the perennial semi finalists.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cool Dudes

Right. I have returned from my blogging-disrupting travels and am here at your service. Blogging. Let's do this thing.

So while I was away, it seems there was this one match that generated a lot of talk. What was that...? Oh yeah. Federer vs Nadal. The most polarising match ever, it seems. Everyone wants it to be some big sign of things to come or a total aberration, a blip. There seems to be a lot of 'OMG Federer will never lose to Nadal again!' and 'no, Nadal was injured/sick/tanking SHUT UP!' Everyone wants this match to be some big thing.

Except two dudes. And they're a little important in this debate, as their names are Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

I obvioulsy have an agenda here. I want this match to mean something. I want this match to be the psychological push that Federer needs to send him into a screamer of a 2011. And I think it definitely is that, though probably not to the extent that I would like it to be. 'Ask me how I feel after my first round loss at the Australian Open,' Federer said wryly, when someone asked him whether this was a sign that he was back, back, BACK. I think Roger has a much healthier perspective on this match than I do. I want it to be a SIGN. He... is taking it in his stride. He's keeping it real, and that will probably serve him well.

Though this win obviously can't hurt.

And then there's the 'Rafa Rafa Rafa here are ALL MY EXCUSES for why he didn't win' contingent... when Rafa himself offered no excuses and asked for no quarter. On this particular day, Federer was betterer, and Rafa knows this. He's a sportsman - he won that award, remember? - and he's not taking this one away from Roger, no way. But will it affect him in Australia? I will go with a big fat no.

So what I'm saying is this, I guess. We all want this match to mean something - something more than it does, probably. But the only two dudes who actually know what it means and can make good on it are Roger and Rafa. And they seem pretty chill right now. They're playing it cool. And for both of them, that is probably a Good Thing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Festival of Lame Excuses

So great was his victory
So great was his win
So great my excitement
I did not get to bloggin'

But I will be better!
I will be good!
I will blog tomorrow!
And read it you should!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Roger's Reminder

The year is over. And from my perspective - and the perspective of all Federfans everywhere - it has ended on the best possible note.

I'm going to talk about the significance of the fact that we had Federer and Nadal in the final final of the year another day, but for today, let's just focus on the match. Three sets. It would have been disappointing if it had been anything less (although who would have thought so in the midst of the frazzle fits!) The most fitting way to cap off tennis for 2010.

We haven't seen Federer play as well as he has this tournament for a long, long time. Certainly not this year, I think. He had an excellent game plan and he executed it wonderfully. And the most telling stat, I think, is this - 100% of break points converted. I - among many, many others - have bemoaned his pitiful conversion rate all year. And now, on a huge stage, against the biggest of opponents, we have this, this proof that yes, Roger Federer's head really is in the game.

Federer's form was probably the better coming into the match - he's had a crazy time of it in the latter half of the year - but picking Nadal was so easy here. He's had a fantastic year. He didn't lose a match in the tournament. He gritted it out against Murray. He has a mind of steel. He's been a huge problem for Federer before. He's the #1 player, and there is a reason for that. He is Rafa Nadal, and he is the ultimate test.

Picking him was so easy. But one person didn't. And that person is Roger Federer. Federer backed himself, backed his gameplan, backed his game, and he came up trumps.

This year has been a year of Rafa. There is no doubting that. And congratulations to him. I love the guy, and I'm looking forward to seeing him win a lot more in the future. But this win, this victory, this match... this is a very, very stern reminder. I'm Roger Federer. I'm here. I'm the greatest player that has ever lived. I'm always a threat. And there is no universe in which you should ever, ever count me out.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


HE WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Go and celebrate. We'll do that blogging thing tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Final Countdown to the Final Showdown

I didn't actually see either of the matches today either, but I feel like I should say something meaningful. We are, after all, having our first really big Fedal final in quite some time!

The two semis could not have been in greater contrast. Federer had a pretty easy time against Djokovic - seriously, he has had the hammer down on Novak ever since the US Open. Is that three times he's tagged him now? I think that it is. I can't make personal comments, obviously, due to the whole not-seeing-the-match, but it seems like the general consensus was 'masterclass'. Which fills me with joy. I just hope he can keep it up.

Rafa and Muzz, on the other hand, had an epic struggle. I'm glad Rafa came through - seriously, a Fedal final? mouthwatering - but I think Murray has a lot to be proud of here. That one match with Federer aside, he actually played really well this tournament. He's earned back his #4 spot and if that tiebreaker had gone the other way, he would have taken #3, which really would have been something.

This was a big, big struggle, but I really don't think it will figure too heavily tomorrow with Rafa. We all remember the Great Verdasco Semi Final of 2009, which he then backed up with a five set victory for the title. It's pretty much impossible to pick the final tomorrow. There are strong cases to be made for both Rafa and Roger as titleist. But we can say this - no matter who wins tomorrow, they will be a very worthy champion who deserves it big time. This is the best possible final we could have.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Post Of Great Insightfulness

Well, I didn't see any of the matches today due to being on a minibreak in Sydney. But Rafa and Nole are both through, and A-Rod and Big Berd are not.

Pretend I said something insightful and talk among yourselves.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Federjoy, Soderwoe

So, if the reports of the match I'm reading are true, the scoreline was closer than it actually was. Roger Federer over Robin Soderling, 7-6 6-3. It looks like a tight one, but I get the feeling it wasn't, really. Not with the way people are writing about it.

Of course, if I'd actually seen it I could judge for myself... but I'm going to settle with 'wow, this is an excellent result, about which I am very glad!' He got a hawkeye call right. A HAWKEYE CALL, the thing at which he is the worst in the world. When he's getting those in, you know something is going right.

I am, however, very disappointed that Soderling did not qualify. If only he had got off to a better start with that Murray match... that was the match that decided qualification, really. Much as David Ferrer is a solid player, it wasn't hard to pick that he was going to go 0 and 3 in this group with these players. And with Federer playing lightyears better than anyone else in the group right now... it was all down to that first match on that first day. And Soderling was the one that stumbled, even though you would definitely argue that he had better form coming in.

Oh well. Alas, poor Robin. He goes back to #5 in the world now (I think?) but I'm sure he'll be making another charge soon enough. He doesn't have any points to defend at the Australian Open, after all...

But we should spend some time talking about Andy Murray, who, to his credit, pulled out a solid win over David Ferrer today after his spectacularly disappointing performance against Federer. Ferrer... well, to say that he didn't really turn up would be fair, I think, but let this take nothing away from Toothface, who kept his foot on the accelerator and raced away to a quick straight sets win.

However. If he plays at this level against Nadal, whom I assume he will play in the semis (given that Nadal is in poll position to qualify in top position in that group), Rafa will strike him down like the hand of God. If Muzz wants to be in the final, he's really going to have to step it up.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Boy Who Cried Sick

I think I was totally right about the match with Roddick being just what Rafa needed to blow out the cobwebs. He wasn't at his mighty best today, but he was pretty solid - it was definitely Rafa, not Shmafa - but the fact of the matter is that he didn't need to be at his mighty best, considering his opponent.

Seriously, will the medical woes of Novak Djokovic never cease?

Look, I don't doubt that he suffers from them, and the contact lens incident today was definitely a major medical malfunction. But every time he does this, it takes value away from the times he really does need assistance (like today). If the contact lens incident had happened to another player, one who doesn't take as many time outs, then it would be a Big Thing. But with Novak, it's just him being Novak. He's the player who cried sick. He has bird flu, SARS, common cough and cold... (thanks Andy).

This rant probably isn't as relevant today as it is when he pulls one of those other medical excuses. But yeah, Novak. This - times like today - is when you need your medical assistance. This is when it's serious. When you literally CANNOT SEE.

I actually didn't intend to turn this into a Djokovic-always-has-medical-issues rant. But you got one, so... um... yeah.

Rafa played well today. I'd put money on him beating Berdych in the next round. I do not think it is hard to say that yes, he will be going through.

But he won't be accompanied by Roddick, which was what I thought. No, he got his arse handed to him by Berdych today, which was... um, surprising. This is the problem with Berdych - it's what makes him so dangerous sometimes, I think. Even when he's totally out of form and you count him out, sometimes he can pull a random blinder out of his pocket. But twice in a row? I really don't see him doing it against Rafa.

We could be in a very interesting situation for qualification in this group if Rafa and Roddick win in the next round. Rafa will go through with three wins, but everyone else will have won one and lost two. I guess it will come down to games. Maybe I could be right. Maybe Roddick will go through after all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I see rainbows. And sparkles. And unicorns. And sunshine. And all good things. Because we saw some old school Federer Express Ultimate God Tennis (tm) today.

I know Murray wasn't at his best, but you know what? Federer wouldn't LET him be at his best. He totally embarrassed Murray out there today. It was a clinic. It was a schooling. It was a two-hoof beatdown. It was exactly what I wanted to see from him, and exactly the kind of tennis he should be playing to end the year with confidence.

It was both what he wanted and what he needed. And if he continues along this merry orgasmic-tennis-playing way, he is going to strike fear into the hearts of everyone else for 2011. Big time.

Basically, I thought it was the best thing ever. Yep. More of that, please. I love it. And I know a good close tennis match can be a frazzly wonderment of entertainment, but when it's you, Roger, give me my beatdowns. Give me the Australian Open 2007 semis. Give me the Federer Express. Give me rainbows.

Oh, and Robin Soderling beat David Ferrer, thus keeping his hopes open for qualification. While I do want him to qualify, I don't want him to beat Roger... I'm not sure if this is mathematically possible, but we'll see, we'll see!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes You Don't Get What You Want But You Get What You Need

This was definitely not the first round robin match Rafa Nadal was after. However, I think it might have been just the one he needed.

Let's recap. Rafa hasn't played for about five weeks. Presumably he is carrying some kind of minor injury - he didn't play Paris, for one, and he always seems to be carrying an injury, also - and then... oh yeah. Five weeks. Rust city central. And he's playing Andy Roddick, to whom he has been a little vulnerable on hard courts in the past.

...oh, and he's just lost the first set. And it's a tiebreaker. And if he loses it, he loses the match.

A good solid three set slog, with the employment of some of his trademark iron mental toughness, sounds like just what the doctor ordered to me. Get the cobwebs out. Dust off the grit. Fight your way back from a bad position against a tough opponent and play your way into form. And you could see Rafa doing just that over the course of the match. He let that break go a little tamely in the first set and couldn't break Roddick's serve again. So he hung in there, gritted his teeth, and didn't let go. I'm sure he'd have preferred an easy win, but in the long run, I think this was just what he needed.

It was not, however, what Andy Roddick needed. I still think he has a good shot at qualifying for the semis, but he has to make sure he doesn't let this woulda shoulda coulda of a match get him down. He can definitely beat Berdych - he went down super easily today - and I'm reasonably confident he can also beat Djokovic. He's just got to hang tough, mental wise. And today wouldn't have helped. But he can do it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Batman Wins, Robin Falls

As a Federfan, I could not have asked for a better start to the World Tour Finals for my guy. He was pretty much awesome today. It wasn't quite Ultimate God Tennis, but it was... about Batman level. Sure, he was only playing Ferrer - 'only' Ferrer, like any guy at the WTF can be 'only' - but he didn't give into his tendency to let his bunnies get away with a win and he put the hammer down where it was necessary. Nice one.

Ferrer did not play so well. I guess he'll just have to be happy to be nominated.

So, as a Federfan, I am happy with the Roger side of things. However, I really, really had my money on Soderling to take down Murray, and I was sorely disappointed. Not only was it a loss, but it was a pretty easy loss too. Murray had a gameplan which he executed beautifully. Soderling never once looked like he had an answer.

This win will give Murray a confidence boost that I don't think any of the other guys will be too keen on him having. To beat Soderling, who has so recently passed him in the rankings, has to be pretty sweet for him. He'll feel like he's asserted his authority and staked his claim to that #4 spot (remember when Murray was #2? that was weird) and it could give him a loooooot of confidence going forward.

You pretty much have to see Murray going forward out of this group now, unless Soderling pulls two absolute blinders out of his hat and beats both Ferrer (quite likely) and Federer (maybe not quite so likely). That makes me a bit sad, because I really wanted the Roger/Robin duo to go forward. But then this isn't about me... much as I might like to think it is!

Oh, and the calendar has been shortened for 2012. Sort of. That will give me a little something to talk about in the off-season coming up...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bow Down Before My Rightness

So there's a big to do in the tennis world about the annual ATP awards and the clash between Roger and Rafa fans and whatnot. Roger won the Fan Favourite, Rafa won the Sportsmanship award, and for some reason, everyone thinks this is some kind of scandalous big deal.

Um, whatevs, dudes. They both deserve their awards - and you could make a case that they each deserve the others' award, and pretty much any case you want. They're both awesome. Chill out.

What I want to talk about is another report, and how incredibly right I am.

Most Improved Player: Andrey Golubev. OH YES.

Who told you? Who has been talking about the awesomeness of Golubev since January - since the Hopman Cup, in fact? Oh yes, that would be me, your tennis prophet. Bow down and worship me, kids. Bow down.

Oh yeah, and worship Andrey too. Because he is awesome and like, deserves his award and stuff. But he couldn't help his awesomeness. I PREDICTED IT. YOU READ IT HERE FIRST. OH YEAH.

Oh, and newcomer of the year was Tobias Kamke. I... don't really remember him. But then, to be fair, I don't remember any real newcomers. So maybe he was the newcomeriest. And stuff.

And you know who really deserved their award? The Indo-Pak express. Rock on, dudes. You are made of 100% pure excellence.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rhyme On The Quiet Time Before The First Point Is Played

'Tis the day before the championships
And all through TennisLand
Not much is happening
Despite my demands

Rafa, Nole, Muzza
Yoker, Ferru, Roger
Big Berd and the A-Rod
Lounging like old codgers

Because nothing will happen
Until the Sabbath day
The courts are all quiet
There's nothing to say

I have naught to write about -
For I have done my preview!
Do you think that rhyme
Will bring any more pageviews?

I think not, but my problem
Is that I have zilch to write!
So let's end this post here -
Good day and good night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mildly Interesting Factoids

Today we are going to talk about two relatively little things that I find mildly interesting. (Wow, this sounds like a very engaging blog post! You are such an interesting writer, Jodi!)

1) When asked what his most heartbreaking loss this year was, Roger Federer answered with 'losing the Halle final to Lleyton Hewitt.' Wow, dude, you, like, really love Halle. Possibly more than Wimbledon? I know Halle is your tournament and you've said that you'll play there for ever and ever and ever, and yes, I did get a bit angry at you when you lost...

...but more heartbreaking than the F^&* THE WOOOOOOOOOORLD!!!!!!1! moment we all went through with the Berdych match at Wimbledon? Or even the Soderling match at Roland Garros? Or Djokovic at the US Open, with the match points? I do not think so.

2) Dinara Safina is playing Hobart next year. Now, we all know that Hobart is the Mickey Mousiest of the all the Mickey Mouse tournaments, but I don't think this is necessarily a bad move for Dinara. If she can get some wins in here, she might get a bit of confidence back. And certainly match play.

If she loses early, however... the inverse will be true. Times a thousand.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Farewell, Charly

It's been a long time coming... and to tell the truth I thought it had happened already. But it's still a thing.

Carlos Moya has retired. Farewell, Charly.

Ah, Carlos Moya. The love rat of the ATP tour. The Yoda to a once upon a time young Padawan Rafael Nadal. The dude that thought it would be awesome to cheat on Flavia Pennetta (seriously, Carlos?) The dude that was one of the ATP pin ups and who was actually more surprisingly successful than you might think.

One of the first ATP matches I ever remember really watching featured Carlos Moya. It was at the Australian Open in 2001, it went five sets, and Moya beat Hewitt. I didn't know enough about tennis at that stage not to automatically go for the Australian, so I was cheering against Moya, but damn, that was an entertaining match. I will never forget it.

Moya was around so long that I think a lot of us have actually forgotten how incredibly successful he was in the late 90s. He was a multiple Slam finalist and he was also a Slam winner (Roland Garros '98, I do believe) and he was ranked #1 in the world. He was up there with the best of his generation - the Kuertens and Rafters and Agassis and Samprases of the world - and he came off pretty all right, when it all comes down to it.

He obviously continued a lot longer than those guys (maybe Agassi is comparable, but in general). Was this a good idea? I'd say he probably could have gone a little sooner. But let's not forget that it's only been a couple of years since Moya was beating his protege Nadal. And that is no mean feat.

Also, thanks for retiring so I had something to write about today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Round Robin Roger Rafa

Groups! We have groups! That should give me something to talk about today! Yay!

The general consensus seems to be agree that Nadal's group is a hell of a lot easier than Federer's, and I would tend to agree. However, Rafa hasn't played that much since the US Open, so while he might be fresh, he might also be rusty, so that could even them out quite well.

But let us analyse.

Team Rafa: We have Rafa himself, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick.

Team Roger: The Fed Express, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer.

Let's start with Team Rafa. I'm definitely seeing Berdych going zero and three in this group. No matter what group he was in, I think I would see this coming, because he has been playing stupendously badly. I'm actually thinking that Andy Roddick might stand a really excellent chance at winning this group. He's got the hard court prowess to take any of these guys, except perhaps Rafa on an awesome day. He'll definitely beat Berdych, probably Djokovic, and I think he stands a good shot at beating Rafa.

I see Rafa finishing second and qualifying, but Djokovic is really the dark horse for me in this group. It seems strange to say that about the world number #3, but there it is. He's combined some excellent play with some awful play recently and it depends which way he goes. Whoever wins the Rafa-Nole matchup is going through, in my book. And I am pretty sure that will be Rafa, unless he gets all injured or something.

Over to Team Roger now, and this group really doesn't have an obvious 'I'm losing every match' dude like Berdych in the other group. If you had to pick one, you might pick Ferrer, but he has been playing very, very well lately, and I wouldn't count him out.

I think Soderling and Federer both stand excellent chances at winning this group, and those are the two I'd put my money on to qualify. However, they can both be prone to sketchiness and both had long weeks in Paris... but yeah, I don't think that'll really affect them. Soderling is The Form Player coming in, and Roger - well, I wouldn't really be counting him out.

Murray is in a similar position to Djokovic in this group - he could dark horse his way into qualifying if he beats one of Soderling and Federer. I don't really have a read on his performance at the moment, though - will the home crowd gee him up or tear him down? He's been affected by it at Wimbledon, but as this tournament isn't quite such a big deal, maybe he can turn it to his advantage here...?

Monday, November 15, 2010

...You Know This Already


I mean, come on, ATP. I am so not ready to have nothing to write about. And I so can't take a whole week building up to the WTF. I just don't have enough material.

But I guess I have to try.

So, we have eight dudes who are playing. Yep. These eight dudes are Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Soderling, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych and Roddick.

But you knew that already.

The draw is tomorrow.

But you also knew that.

...I'm going to leave this one short until I actually have something to write about. Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Paris is Burning

After the rage of yesterday, the storm has passed, and I have found myself very satisfied with the outcome in Bercy. Not the Federer part, obviously - you are still in very big trouble, mister - but the Soderling victory? I am all over that like a rug.

Monfils really demonstrated in this match that he's not going to be a major force any time soon - oh sure, he'll pull some big wins, like he did yesterday, but he's missing the magic ingredient, which is consistency. Against the Swedish barrage yesterday, he panicked, rushed and crumbled. He admitted as much in his post match presser.

I mean, I can understand why he was nervous - he was playing in the biggest final of his career in front of his home crowd! - but he really needs to get a handle on his fragile mentality before he's going to challenge for these matches regularly. And much as I think they're stupid, maybe he should have indulged his stuntman theatrics a bit more. They seem to fire him up... but maybe that would have just made him more jittery. I don't know. But anyway, that is the aspect of his game that is lacking.

But this was an awesome victory for Soderling. Let's talk about how awesome he is for a mo, because he is really VERY awesome. I can't believe this is his first Masters win, but I am SO glad he has one now. It is the perfect way to cap off what has been an awesome year - and, in fact, two years - for him. He is really proving that he's not just a Roland Garros wonder - he is a force to be reckoned with ALL THE TIME. But especially in Paris. He sets that damn town ON FIRE.

And now he's #4 in the world. I love it. Take that, Toothface.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lord Have Bercy

Lord have mercy (heh, Bercy) on you, Mr Federer, if I catch you any time soon. Oh suuuuuuure, I know I said (or at least thought) that I didn't mind if you lost here so you could have more time to prepare in London. But you know what?


And you know what else?

When I said that I didn't mind if you lost, I didn't mean that I wouldn't mind if you lost in three sets after having a break in the third set and FIVE F%^&ING MATCH POINTS. After I have been saying such nice things about you! Saying that you were playing good tennis! Saying that you might have a real shot at winning the WTF!

If you do not play well at the WTF, Roger, I will - I will -

- I will still love you, because you are my favourite ever, but I will be CROSS, Roger. I will be very cross. We are always hardest on the ones we love, and I will come down on you like a rather large pile of BRICKS.

If you must lose a match, do it in a way that doesn't break my heart, okay? And stop legitimising Monfils's dramatics by losing to him. They're annoying and you are BETTER THAN THAT.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Weird, But Not Complaining

Wow. Roger Federer, where have you been this year? This is a weird time of the year to start playing Ultimate God Tennis. Not complaining! Please keep it up!

It's sort of simultaneously hard and easy to believe that Federer's never made the semis of Paris. Easy, because this is not the most strategically important part of the year to be playing well. Hard, because he is playing SO well right now. And you know what? It would be really nice to cap off the year with a Masters title. Even better if he could cap it off with a good showing at the WTF.

He played SO well against Melzer today. He's had to play Melzer about a billion times this year after never having met him before, and it has not been a happy head to head for Jurgen, let us just say that much. Did you know that this is the most amount of aces he has ever served in a three set match? When that serve is going well, you know Federer's feeling good. You know that he doesn't have the back pain and that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

So. Yeah. I'm excited about what the fading twilight of 2010 can offer Roger. Or, rather, what he can offer us!

Andy Murray lost today, in a very interesting match against Gael Monfils. I'm in two minds about the strategic importance of this. On one side, he really didn't show much form. On the other, he now has more rest before the O2, which is bad from a Federfan point of view. But oh well. Whatever. Roger is still my favourite.

The other two semi finalists are Llodra and Soderling - Llodra is totally having an awesome tournament! That said, I don't see him beating Robin, so we might be in for a very interesting final here. I would be very interested to see a Federer-Soderling final, assuming Roger comes through Monfils. It could be a very interesting prelude to the WTF!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Elite Eight (and Mr Melzer)

The line up is set for the World Tour Finals. The lucky three to get through are Roddick, Ferrer and Berdych. I wish Melzer had made it through instead of Berdych, but as was pointed out to me yesterday by reader Yolita (thanks!), this was in fact mathematically impossible. Pretty sure the only way we get Melzer now is if one of the Elite Eight shuts down for the year, and I don't want that to happen.

This qualification happened because Monfils beat Verdasco, who I am very glad did not qualify - he really didn't deserve it. Berdych lost to Davydenko (bit sad he wasn't in contention, but then, he didn't really do anything to deserve it, apart from having a cracker start to the year) but is still through, and Melzer came through to face Federer in the quarters, but is not through. Oh, and Llodra beat Djokovic.

The way he's playing at the moment, Berdych is going to be easy pickings for the other dudes at the WTF, and - I don't want to jinx it, especially because he made the finals of Basel last week, but nonetheless - I have a sneaking suspicion we might see Djokovic go 0 and 3 as well. Unless, of course, Berdych and Djokovic are in the same group, in which case Novak's getting at least one win. Djokovic's results have actually not been that bad of late, Llodra-loss today aside, but I am just spectacularly unconvinced by his play. Maybe it's just because he's been tagged twice by Federer since the US Open and I'm biased, but he feels a little lackadaisical to me at the mo.

But he ain't got nothing on Berdych.

Also, I think we have to give a big shout out to Andy Roddick, forever the forgotten quantity of the top ten. His longevity gets overlooked because of the longevity of his peer Federer - understandable, due to their comparative success rates - but qualifying for the WTF eight times in a row? Dude, that is super. Well done, A-Rod. You keep on keeping on. And who knows? If you end up in a group with Berdych and Djokovic (or even if you don't), you might find yourself in the semis or even in the final of the WTF. I would be a little surprised if it happened, but not a lot surprised. And when your field contains the like of Nadal, Federer, Murray, Soderling and, yes, Djokovic, that is saying something.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bercy, Daveed and the WTF

Bercy! The forgotten Masters. The one that no one who is anyone really cares about because the World Tour Finals are in, like, two seconds... except the people that are trying to qualify for the finals, because hello, points, who are thus wearing themselves out before these finals even happen.

Sorry for that Sentence of Doom.

But seriously, here we are in Bercy, one of the stupidest placed tournaments on the calendar in term of care factor - dudes, I know that you want to finish the year with a bang for the non-WTFers, but you make it very hard for anyone to care about you - and we have a bunch of guys who are after the remaining three spots. The front runners, the way I see it, are David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jurgen Melzer and Andy Roddick. One is going to miss out, of course, but it has to be out of those four. I think. Maybe Fernando Verdasco is in there. But with his epic losingness, I don't think he's going to be in there.

I'm really hoping Berdych is the one who misses out, because a) I don't like him very much and b) apart from Wimbledon, what has he really done? But I think he's up there in points... oh, I don't know. I don't understand their crazy maths.

I do understand, however, that Jurgen Melzer and David Ferrer have helped their chances by winning - a skin of the teeth thing for Ferrer, but a win nonetheless! Match of the day, though, has to go to Murray and Nalbandian. You had him, Daveed! You so could have kicked his arse if you'd just kept your level up! But maybe you did me and the Fedfans of the world a favour by losing... we don't want Murray all fresh for the WTF, do we?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bali Blues

So, Bali. In all this Federer winning a title excitement, I pretty much totally forgot about you. And as you are the last women's event of the year, probably I should write about you.

I'm not quite sure what the point of you is. Are you like the year ending championships for woulda shoulda coulda players? If you are, why do you happen? Why do woulda shoulda couldas get their own year ending championship? What is your rationale for selecting players? Please, Bali, enlighten me, because I do not understand you.

And then you were won by the perenially underwhelming Ana Ivanovic, who has managed to scrape her way back to #17 in the world, and I just can't be too happy about that. I'm not an Ana hater, but then I'm not a Ana fan either... but both of these things are irrelevant. Fact of the matter is that Ivanovic should never have slid so far down the rankings that winning Bali was even a thing.

But that ship sailed a long time ago.

Like Ana Ivanovic and her victory and her certain seeding at the Australian Open, I am just not sure how to feel about Bali. It is an anomaly of a tournament and I don't quite know what the point of it is. Weird.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last of the S&Vers

On from the excellent news of yesterday to the rather more melancholy news of today - not sad, I think, but heading in that general direction. Taylor Dent has retired from professional tennis.

In reality, Taylor Dent was someone that never was. He was like a slightly more actualised version of Joachim Johansson - he had all the talent, but injury and whatnot stood in the way of him making good on it. I remember back in Australia 2006, where he was the 27th seed, people were tipping him to make the semis and all kinds of crazy things. Taylor never even came close.

But despite all his woes and despite the fact he never made it to the upper echelons of the game, Taylor did represent something important in the world of men's tennis, and that is something which is, I think, definitely going to be missed. That thing is serve-and-volley. Dent was probably one of the last - if not the last - true serve-and-volley player out there. I mean, he wasn't exactly Pat Rafter, but he was all that we had left on that front. Of course there are players who can and do serve-and-volley, but Dent was the last of the true breed, I think. And that will be missed.

And then there's the fact that the Dent story in and of itself is pretty amazing - didn't he spend more than six months in a full body cast at some stage? He was definitely out for a really long time and then made a pretty shiny comeback, which is awesome. But he has a new(ish) baby and a life and he's never going to make the big BIG leagues now, though he might have continued to enjoy some minor success. I understand why he's retired. But it's kind of sad to think that the Last of the S&Vers has departed the court.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Let Them Eat Pizza

This is very immature of me, so humour me for a minute:


I know that, as far as 2010 goes, the victory will be seen to be Djokovic's over Federer, because, like, US Open and stuff, but it makes me so happy that Federer has managed to tag Djokovic twice since, and in pretty sweet fashion too. And at Basel, which is not only Federer's home tournament but had Djokovic as defending champ... ohhhhhh yeah.

There's nothing too much I can say about this win except that Roger played great for most of the time, made more of his opportunities than he has in some other matches, and played an absolute cracker of a third set. After Djokovic equalised you weren't quite sure which way that was going to go, but Roger absolutely put the hammer down, and it was totally satisfying.

And he fed the ballboys pizza. And his twins were there. And it was just lovely.

I won't subject you to any more of my celebrating - gush quietly among yourselves. And, oh yeah, HOPP SUISSE! GO ROGER! FEDERER IS BETTERER!

...and stuff.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

History And Stuff

So, as suspected, That Wimbledon Final The Sequel turned out to be no big deal. Despite getting broken (and, indeed, facing his first break points) of the tournament, Federer cruised to an easy win in this one. I suppose you could say that it's proof that he really did break Roddick in That Wimbledon Final, but when the record stands at 19-2 I think you have a little more history than one match to back it up.

Anyway. Djokovic beat Troicki (who, once again, proved his complete inability to win anything after failing to close out a set after being 40-0 and three set points up) and so he will face Federer in the final. Now this could be an interesting match. Djokovic will want to retain his title, Federer will want some revenge - and the shades of the US Open are still hanging over them. I don't know how significant it will be in the greater scheme of things, but in the world leading up to the World Tour Finals, I think it will be very interesting indeed.

Speaking of the WTF, apparently David Ferrer is in qualifying contention. Um, really? He's having a gun of a tournament in Valencia at the moment, but I seriously cannot point to one major result he has had all year. This may not necessarily be his fault - I guess it's proof that the Big Four (plus maybe Soderling) tend to skew proceedings - but I seriously would not have picked Ferru as a contender. Hope he does well in Valencia, though. That would be an awesome result for him, and I do have a bit of a soft spot for him in my heart.

And oh yeah, Bali - aka the tournament I completely forgot was happening. Apparently Ana Ivanovic is in the final. What's up with that? Since when has Ana been in the final of anything? I mean, good on her and stuff, but I read that someone is now putting her on their list of major contenders for the Australian Open. I think I speak for a whole lot of people when I say HELL NO.

Friday, November 5, 2010

That Wimbledon Final II (Electric Boogaloo)

Here is one thing that I did not realise - the semi final match up of Federer and Roddick tomorrow will be the first time they have met since That Wimbledon Final. I could have sworn that they had played since, but since I can't put my finger on when it was nor find any record of such a match, I have to believe it.

It could have been a very significant match, if it took place a little closer to That Wimbledon Final. As it is, I don't think it will mean that much - certainly not to Federer, though he will obviously want to win very badly, because it is his home tournament and all. And as for Roddick? If he wins, it will be a big thing, but if he loses, it will be just another loss to the man that has beaten him nineteen times already. If it had been closer to That Wimbledon Final, then it would have been the cherry of torment on the top of his sundae of despair. But now... not so much.

It's been a good week for both men so far, and if Roddick loses now, it will still have been a good week. He had a good win over Querrey and an even better win over Nalbandian, and considering that he really hasn't had a great time of it since That Wimbledon Final, semis in Basel is a good result for him. It'll give him some valuable points towards a possible qualification for the world tour final (even more likely now that there is a bit of question mark over Rafa, who has just withdrawn from Bercy) and a bit of confidence. If he loses to Roger, well - there's no shame in that.

Roger, however, has been playing like a ninja all week and I imagine that he will really want to win this, particularly after he lost in the final to Djokovic last year. Though it won't crush him if he loses, it will be very disappointing for the tournament, and he won't want that. This is one of those rare occasions when he sort of needs the win more than his opponent.

So it's going to be an interesting match. I'm backing Roger (surprise, surprise) but I really don't think that the memory of That Wimbledon Final will help him too much. It's been too long and too much has happened and it's taken its toll on Roddick already. But you never know...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not So Mighty

Oh, Marin Cilic. You started the year so mightily. And the truth is, that single semi final appearance in Australia was nearly enough to send you in the world tour finals.

But no. And that is how it should be, really - that semi final did not make a year.

Mighty Marin (or not-so-mighty, as he is at the moment) was knocked out of finals contention (and, indeed, the tournament) by David Nalbandian. I mean, sure, David is a pretty tough second round draw, but it was a really tame loss. It wasn't pretty. And much as I applaud this Nalbandian comeback (because Tennis Needs Nalbandian) I wish that Cilic had put up more of a fight. I wish he'd made a match of it.

I don't know what Cilic's problem is - whether he's been injured for a bazillion years or he has mono like everyone else or what - but if I'm him, I'm wrapping up my year now. I'm taking some extra time for R&R and getting myself back on track. He has a bucketload of points to defend in Australia and he will plummet down the rankings like a big rock if he doesn't make at least the quarters (I would imagine - I'm guessing). So he needs to go sort himself out.

His loss, however, has set up a tantalising clash between Nalbandian and Roddick. I can almost forgive Roddick for beating my beloved Andrey Golubev, so intriguing is this match. Roddick is also in finals contention (though I really can't put my finger on anything he's won this year... maybe the memory of Wimbledon last year is still overshadowing everything else in my mind) and Nalbandian is hungry for points. And this is his favourite surface. Should be an absolute screamer!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day of the Disappointing Dudes

Wow. Tomas Berdych. I know you've been disappointing ever since your run to the final of Wimbledon, but I couldn't have realised this level of disappointment.

I've sort of vaguely maybe heard of Tobias Kamke, but I couldn't tell you one thing about him. And yet he put an absolute beatdown on Berdych. I didn't see the match, so I don't know if it was closer than the scoreline or whatever, but dude, DUDE. 6-4 6-1? That is craziness.

Berdych is in the running to claim one of the last three spots for the world tour finals, and this must have hurt his chances big time. Well, at least medium time. Time is running out and he's not the only one after a spot.

...though considering one of the other people after a spot is Fernando Verdasco, who also took an utterly miserable loss, maybe Berdych doesn't need to try so hard. I know Gilles Simon is having some of Awesomeness Renaissance, but 6-1 6-3, Nando? Yowza.

Speaking of miserable losses in Valencia - oh hiiiiiiiiiiiiii, Andy Murray. I know you've already made the WTF so you don't need to try so hard, but dude, come on, Juan Monaco? Really?

But you know who's not disappointing? Roger Federer. That was a nice win over Tipsarevic. It maketh me smile. And also Robin Haase! He beat John Isner. You keep on with your bad self, Robin.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Disappearing David

I'm never quite sure what this weird Bali tournament the week after Doha is for the women - like, you didn't get into the year ending championships, so nice try, you can be the postscript? - but whatever, I'll roll with it. There's usually some reasonably interesting matches going on there... and it would be hard to be less interesting than Doha turned out to be. Looking forward to watching it, in any case.

Now, over to the dudes.

Daveeeeeeeeed! You are back! You are beating some twobit journeymen again! I had almost totally forgotten you existed! Remember when you were all up there in the favourites for the US Open and then you somehow disappeared off the face of the earth? me too! No more of that! You are a fun guy to watch! You keep on with your badass Jan Hajek-beating self!

...I apologise for all that unnecessary exclamation.

Seriously, though, I had totally forgotten about Nalbandian. I had no idea he was playing in Basel and I'm glad he is. He's been conspicuously absent for a while now and - well, not conspicuous, really. I forgot about him. But now I realise how much I subconsciously missed him.

I hope he has a good run this week - not a title winning run or anything, because, hello, Roger, but maybe a nice semi or something. That could be nice.

Oh, and Marin Cilic won a match. Seems like a long time since that last happened.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Basel O'Clock

You know who hasn't been around for a while? Robin Haase, that Dutch dude. I think of this, of course, because he suddenly is around again, beating Stephane Bohli in Basel, and he's popped his head up a couple of times this year, but mostly... not so much with the being around.

He was one of those young guns a few years ago who was supposed to be heading big places - I remember him taking Lleyton Hewitt to five in the first round of Wimbledon in an awesome match. He reminds me a bit of Gulbis, but I think he just looks like him more than actually being like him.

Anyway. That's all I have to say about that. I hope we see a bit more of Haase playing. I remember really liking his game.

And we cannot talk about Basel without talking about the Basel guy himself, one R Federer. He spent less than an hour on court dismissing Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr and he was smoking. And then Dolgopolov retired one game away from the finish line, which I thought was pretty poor form - how hard is it to play one extra game and give your opponent the win proper? - but it was still all sunshine for Roger. Keep it coming.

...oh, and why is Stan Wawrinka playing in Valencia and not Basel? Are he and some Swiss tennis figure or organisation or something having a fight?

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.