Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Excuse me while I die quietly

Being a Federer fan is exhilarating. When you see him lifting his trophies, celebrating that myriad of victories, you celebrate with him. It is almost ecstatic, almost Dionysian - and it is wonderful.

But when he loses, his heart breaks. And yours breaks right along with it.

Maybe it's because Roger loves the game of tennis so much, particularly at Wimbledon, that his losses are so heartbreaking. He is steeped in the tradition of the game, of the place, of everything. He places weight on symbols, on symbols like these tournament. And when he loses...

...oh God, I'm crying.

Let me try to be rational here. Tomas Berdych played a wonderful match. He was, in all honesty, the better player, and he deserved to win. And Roger did not play particularly well, especially in the final two sets - but that does not negate the fact that Berdych played brilliant, brilliant tennis. He's made consecutive semis of Slams now and might finally, at long last, be making good on his talent. He is obviously one of the most talented players in the game and it's wonderful that he's finally 'actualising his potential', to use a stupid catchphrase.

But for me, at this moment, I can't laud Berdych, much as his performance was great. My heart is breaking for Roger, because I know his heart is breaking. I know he's won six Wimbledons, sixteen Slams, and he could retire now and still be the greatest player ever.

But the fact remains that he still wants it. And because he wants it, knows he can achieve it, and hasn't... he's disappointed in himself and that makes me sad. This means so much to him - and this time, it is destiny denied.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Anything Can Happen. Literally, Anything.

So, um, if anyone picked a Zvonareva/Pironkova semi in their bracket they just made a killing. Hell, people that picked a Serena/Kvitova semi also made a killing. We've seen some weird results in the WTA lately, but this just takes the case.

You thought Stosur vs Schiavone was a weird Slam final? What, then, would you call Kvitova vs Pironkova? Because this could happen.

I was very disappointed with the performance of my title pick, Kim Clijsters. Vera Zvonareva totally got her act together in the second two sets, but Kimmie was spraying that forehand something fierce. This was not the Kimmie we saw beat JuJu. It also wasn't the Kimmie that lost to Petrova in Australia, but it was closer to her than the Kimmie we saw in the last round. Saddening.

But hey! at least this result shows that all is not lost for the Russians. Their big guns, Sharapova, Safina, Kuznetsova, Dementieva... all gone. But up pops forgotten little Vera with the big result. Never underestimate a Russian lady.

But upset of the day surely has to go to Tsvetana Pironkova. She has, I would like to note, beaten Venus before. But Venus at Wimbledon is a whole other kettle of fish. Venus is the queen of this tournament. And yes, she was looking a little out of sorts, but Tsveta absolutely schooled her in that match. It was quite remarkable. Beating Venus on grass isn't quite beating Federer on grass or Nadal on clay, but it's in the ballpark next door. This is a massive, massive result for Tsveta.

And now only Serena is left upholding what remains of WTA normalcy. You have to think that her path to the title is pretty clear now, but we know perfectly well that anything - and I mean anything - can happen. Tsvetana Pironkova, Wimbledon champion. IT COULD HAPPEN.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just Another Manic Monday

You have to feel for Andy Roddick.

Wimbledon is, arguably, the best chance he has to win another Slam. After he lost that heartbreaker of a final last year, I'm sure he wanted desperately, more than anything, to give himself that chance again.

But it wasn't Roger Federer who took that chance away this time. Not even close.

Yen-hsun Lu is through the quarter finals - a truly remarkable achievement for the man from Chinese Taipei. And Andy doesn't even get to be the bridesmaid this time.

Sigh. Poor dude.

This really opens up the second quarter of the draw for Novak Djokovic, and it would be pretty surprising if Lu ended up in the semi final. Not outside the realms of possibility, of course, but highly unlikely. Djokovic has played himself into something resembling form this tournament - he looked quite good overcoming a spirited challenge from Lleyton Hewitt, whom many people picked to pull the upset. It'll be interesting to see how far he can go.

Roger and Rafa came through reasonably unscathed, but the same cannot be said for Robin Soderling - that was some five setter he pulled! But I think we're all counting down to that blockbuster quarter between Rafa and Robin now... will it be Roland Garros revenge? Or will Rafa reassert his dominance?

Over to the ladies, and it was a great victory for Kim Clijsters. I'm really liking her chances now - I picked her to win and I'm sticking with it. JuJu lost her way a little, but Kimmie capitalised - nice one.

And a great win for Serena over Sharapova also. And for Venus - man, Jarka played her tight! I am looking forward very much to seeing more of Jarka in the future...

The real seeded casualty on the women's side was Caro Wozniacki, who went out very tamely to Petra Kvitova. How very underwhelming.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wending Through Week One

So. Week One. What's gone down?

Well, the ATP has gone all WTA and the WTA has gone all ATP. Without too much exception, the major contenders in the women's draw are still alive - by which I suppose I mean the Williams sisters, the Belgians and Sharapova. Outside those five, I'm not really seeing too many major contenders for the title. All five of these women have got through with relative ease - I don't recall any of them dropping a set, though I could be wrong.

In the ATP, on the other hand, we've had a festival of very-nearly-almost but no major, major upsets. Federer and Djokovic have survived one major scare each, Nadal two. Only Andy Murray has come through relatively unscathed... but Robin Soderling has been cutting his way through the draw so ominously you can practically hear the Jaws soundtrack. You have to like his chances against Rafa if they both get that far.

Because it's been a festival of very-nearly-almost, we've had some guys who have come away with very hard losses - harder to bear, I suspect, because they were so very close. Alejandro Falla, Olivier Rochus, Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschner will probably be engaging in some solid self-flagellation, if I am right. They all put up great fights but couldn't quite get it done.

We had some bad behaviour - Victor Hanescu springs to mind, in one of the most bizarre cases of tanking and crowd abuse ever. He got fined the big bucks, and I'm pretty sure no one knows what went down. That was weird. We also have Sveta Kuznetsova refusing to shake Anastasia Rodionova's hand. She said she had her reasons, but I don't know what they are. Also weird.

Surprise packet of the week has to be Jarmila Groth. She hasn't had a super tough draw or anything, but she has come through to the fourth round for two Slams in a row. That is something which is most definitely not nothing.

The Queen turned up. I don't think anyone really cared.

And then the story of the week - John Isner and Nicolas Mahut put on the match of a lifetime on Court 18. An absolute gladiatorial epic, I am pretty sure this match will be remembered long after we have forgotten who won this tournament. Absolutely outstanding. 70-68. Can't imagine this ever being matched.

What are your Week One memories?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Phil's Big W

Rafa may have won the match, but Philipp Petzschner can put another check in his fan column. He's officially won me over.

I would be lying if I said Petzschner could really win the match. I think I always knew - and I don't think I'm the only one - that Rafa would pull it out. That said, it does not mean it was not a fine, fine match indeed, and very enjoyable to watch.

Petzschner on grass is an absolute joy, and I really liked his tactics against Nadal. He came into the net a lot - which might seem foolhardy given Nadal's proclivity for the passing shot, and sure, he did get passed on more than a few occasions - but what I really liked was a) the different looks he gave Nadal when he did come in, whether he hit a traditional approach shot or served and volleyed or some cute crosscourt angled thing and b) that he drew Nadal in as well. Nadal's not the world's worst volleyer, but it's certainly not the strongest part of his game - he'd rather be passing someone at the net than being here himself. And Petzschner drew a surprising amount of errors that way.

I think the match that Petzschner played was like a bizarre cross between Soderling and Rafter, and for two sets, it really worked. He obviously couldn't keep the level up, due to the fact that in his own words, to win he had to 'play crazy', but he asked Nadal a lot of questions. And I imagine that there would be a lot of people watching this match with interest. One of them would be called Robin Soderling, going 'heyyyy... I've seen this somewhere before'. And, I hope, another one was called Roger Federer, because if he played Rafa like this, I don't know what would happen.

But these dudes aside, let's just say yay Petzschner, because even though you didn't win the match, you sure won me over. Well done, Phil.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Court Where Stuff Happens

Court 2 used to be the Wimbledon court with all the notoriety - the graveyard of champions where big names fell with such incredible regularity. But Court 2 doesn't have it any more. The most notorious court on the Wimbledon grounds now has to be Court 18.

I'm not sure if playing there is a blessing or a curse, but if you're playing on Court 18, chances are your match will be memorable. Maybe it will go for eleven hours and span three days. Or maybe it will be the forum for one of the foulest cases of bad sportsmanship I have ever witnessed.

I know there were people in the crowd who were doing something (not sure what) to upset Victor Hanescu. But come on, he's supposed to be a professional tennis player. Tune it out, dude. Get into your zone. There is no excuse for the way Hanescu behaved.

His opponent, Daniel Brands, had this to say:

"In the final set I recognised that he had some problems with his leg and he was getting angry, and angry with the crowd. The main reason was because [he was getting jeered] from some people in the crowd. I didn't hear [him swear]. I think he was deliberately foot faulting and serving some double faults on purpose.

"At the end he came and shook my hand at the net. I asked him what happened. He said he was injured and had to retire. I didn't see him after leaving the court. That was the first time that we played against each other. It doesn't happen really very often that the player gets angry. It's not polite to act lke he did but that's his decision that he made."

Brands is very diplomatic about the whole thing - primarily because I think he is as confused about the whole situation as everyone else is. I don't think anyone really knows what went on with Hanescu and the crowd, but I don't really think it matters. There is no excuse for the kind of stunt Hanescu pulled. There is no excuse for unsportsmanlike conduct and there is no excuse for tanking. It is extremely disrespectful, not just to the crowd who were on his case, but to his opponent.

I am sure Daniel Brands would have loved to have won this match under better circumstances. I am sure he'll take the win anyway, but I don't anyone would really want to win this way. I hope Hanescu gets smacked with a big, big fine. This behaviour is unacceptable.

Oh, and also on Court 18, Jarmila Groth won her match against Angelique Kerber. This might not seem so remarkable, but when you consider that Jarka has now made the round of sixteen at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon despite being ranked around #80, then it starts getting pretty remarkable! (What's even more remarkable is that the Australian media don't seem to have noticed yet...)

And John Isner's tournament is over. I don't think anyone expected him to beat de Bakker, and in a way, I'm glad he lost. It would be wrong if he progressed deep in the tournament and Mahut was left stranded holding nothing but a first round loser's check and a souvenir bowl. That match existed outside Wimbledon (and, some might argue, all sense of time and reality). It'll go down as one of the great ones. Victory was Pyrrhic for Isner, and really, that's the way it should be. That match wasn't about winning and losing - that one really was, to use the old adage, about playing the game.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Piece of History

No matter what happens in this tournament, no matter who wins, no matter who visits, this is the match Wimbledon 2010 is going to be remembered for.

Isner. Mahut. These names will go down in history.

I don't think we'll ever see a set to match the epic 70-68 that was the final set between these two gladiators. I don't want to go on about this match too much, because, hello, enough people have done it already, but I can't not. It was a match where time literally lost all meaning. It was a match where the sport of tennis became the cruellest sport there is, because there could only be one winner. It was a match that made all the other sports in the world seem like completely pansy sports, because it just did not end.

...and it was also the match that drew some focus away from the World Cup and reminded us that soccer is not the only global sport!

I have so much respect for both these guys now. This is what tennis is about. It's matches like these which remind me why a fifth set tiebreaker would be the worst idea ever - because how could you truly evaluate this match, this drama, in a first to seven breaker?

Respect, John. Respect, Nic. This match is history.

(Also, Nicolas totally lost that game at 69-68 because everyone would laugh if the score got to 69-69. You know it's true.)

There were a heap of five set matches around the grounds yesterday (um, 10-8, Jo-W? what kind of set is that? That's barely double digits!) but I want to quickly discuss Rafa's particular battle - looks like Roger and Nole aren't the only ones who have done it tough early on. I don't think this is really signalling any great dystopic doom, but it is kind of interesting - haven't seen this level of challenge in the early rounds against so many of the top guys for a while!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


And I bet you thought last year's Wimbledon final was an epic.

16-14 looks like a pansy-ass walk in the park compared to what is currently in progress at Wimbledon - a match that has nearly doubled the length of any other tennis match in the history of the world ever. 59-59 in the fifth set.

How does that happen?

Who will blink? Will anyone blink? Is this match destined to go on and on and on forever?

It is such a shame that one of these dudes, one of these gladiators, have to lose this match. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, I salute you. You are both going down in my very good books, under the 'man of steel' category. This match is unprecedented and I very much doubt that we will see anything like it ever again. If you look up 'anomaly' in the dictionary, you get a livestream of this match.

You also get a livestream of this match if you look up 'endurance'.

This match is testament to the fact that tennis players need to have it all - speed, skill, endurance, incredible fitness - to succeed. It could be argued that tennis players are the best athletes in the world, because they have to be so versatile. There is so much that a tennis player needs to be able to do to succeed.

But beyond this - beyond the iron physicality that both Isner and Mahut have displayed - is the mental. Tennis is in the mind. This is point by point tennis, where everything matters. And neither has blinked. Neither has faltered.

Now that is strength.

Now that is an athlete.

Now that is a gladiator.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I think the first round losses of Stosur and Schiavone show one thing - the fact that the WTA is really anyone's game at the moment. One day, you might be playing in the final. The next, you're losing in the first round. It's open and it's unpredictable and it's hard to know what's going on.

That said, Serena Williams is looking fierce and I defy anyone to beat her, no matter what I predicted.

But let's go back to Sam Stosur. She looked all at sea on the grass and Kaia Kanepi trod all over her at the end. Kanepi played an awesome match and this was a tough, tough first round draw for Sam, mark my words - Kanepi was ranked #18, like, last year. But Stosur did not really acquit herself well at all.

Stosur does well on clay because of the Nadal-esque she can get on her groundies, particularly the serve. The new string she's started using has only helped her. But I think she fell into the same trap that Roger did last night and was kind of trying to play clay court tennis on a grass court. She's one of the best doubles players of the last decade. She's very comfortable at the net and can hit a sweet, sweet volley. She had some good success at the net in this match, but did not come in anywhere near enough. A few serve and volleys or even chip and charges might have been a good idea. She did try it a couple of times but not enough.

Kanepi played good tactics - going into the backhand in particular. In Roland Garros Sam danced round a lot of these to hit the forehand, but here she didn't have the time, what with the nature of the surface. And also her forehand was misfiring a bit, so not the best idea anyway.

In short, this is a bit disappointing from Sam but not really surprising. She's never been that comfortable a) at Wimbledon and b) under scrutiny, and here she was both.

Someone who is comfortable in both these places is Serena Williams, and she looked positively lethal today. Larcher de Brito pulled it together a bit in the second set but it was too much, too late. It looks like I was a little quick to write off Serena. I, for one, am hoping for a similarly awesome performance from MaSha and a big, big R16 clash...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't Call My Name, Alejandro

You'd think it would be relatively easy, being a fangirl of the greatest player ever. But no. It's tears and tantrums and occasionally wanting to die, even though it's all worth it when times are shiny and good. We're spoiled, we Federer fans, because our guy comes through so often for us - when he doesn't, we whinge.

But perhaps the sweetest moments (aside from those special moments when he holds up the shiny trophies and has a little cry to himself) are when he is forced to fight, when he is pushed to the brink and when he finds a way to win anyway.

It was not GodFed we saw out there against Alejandro Falla. He didn't seem to have too much of a game plan and he was playing short... and Falla was playing crazy out of his skin good. Falla was on fire, if you will (yes, I went there). But that's the thing about the great ones. They have the ability to find the way.

Let's talk a bit about Alejandro Falla. It would be easy to say that this is the start of big things for him, but I think that would be disenguous. I think this is the best match he has ever played in his career and I don't think he's ever going to top it. He served for the match against Roger Federer. He was SO CLOSE. This will be the story he tells his grandkids - the day he almost beat the greatest player who ever lived on Centre Court in Wimbledon. The day a little bit of that greatness rubbed off. The day he played the greatest match of his career. The day he was so close, and yet so far away.

Things seemed to click for Roger once he got that break back in the fourth, and I think once he got that first mini break in the tie break it was all over, red rover. He raced through that set like he was late for something, and that's when he played vintage Fed stuff. He uncorked a few, one might say. The commentators on TV here said that he was playing the earlier parts of the match as if it were a clay court match, and I see where they were coming from.

I don't think this is really what Roger wanted for his first round, but the dude came through a tough epic, so maybe the fight will be good for him. I've been worrying he's been getting complacent - maybe this will be a very rude wake up call. Just because your draw looks like a cakewalk doesn't mean it is in fact, a cakewalk.

But well done, Roger, for winning a match you should have lost. And congratulations, he-whose-name-is-a-Gaga-song, for playing the best match you will ever play.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wimbledon 2010 - The Gents

We did the ladies yesterday, time for the gents. Wimbledon T-minus one day!

Roger's quarter: I don't think my pick in this quarter is going to be exactly revolutionary. Unlike Roland Garros, Roger has what I would call a better draw than his buddy Rafa. He opens up against Alejandro 'don't say my name' Falla, which you'd think would be not too bad. And the other big seed in this quarter, Davydenko, is fresh off injury and hasn't really been right since the whole beatdown at the Australian Open incident.

So yeah, surprises.

There are some interesting lurkers in this section, however. Andrey Golubev is going to be the one I keep my eye on, but I'm going to track the progress of Marsel Ilhan, Dustin Brown and Carsten Ball carefully. They're not exactly top ten material yet, but they're interesting guys with upset potential.

Winner: Roger. I am SUCH a revolutionary.
If not him, then: Heaven forbid such a thing occur. But I'm going to keep it Swiss and say Stan Wawrinka. I like his grass court game.
Dark horse: See note re heaven forbid. But I'm going to go with Berdych or, if the apocalypse happens to occur, Schuettler.
First round matches to watch: Tursunov/Schuettler, Luczak/Robredo, Brown/Melzer and Berdych/Golubev.

Novak's quarter: I'm going to be equally revolutionary and not pick Djokovic in this quarter, because please, what has he done these days? Wimbledon seems to bring out something special in Roddick, and much as I am not keen on the idea of a Roger/Andy semi, what with Soderling's retribution in Roland Garros, I can definitely see it happening.

I suppose Hewitt might be another contender in this quarter, but I am really not on that bandwagon and frankly don't see it happening - not over best of five. The biggest threats otherwise, in my opinion, are Marin Cilic and Philipp Kohlschreiber. They haven't done much of much lately, but they're both solid guys who could just solid their ways into the semis, should everyone crumble around them.

Also keep an eye on Yen-hsun Lu. I like him on grass.

Winner: Roddick. What a daring gamble, Jodi!
If not him, then: I'm going to say Cilic. I like him on grass.
Dark horses: Kohlschreiber and (sigh) Hewitt. Emphatically NOT Bernard Tomic. I don't think his style is especially well suited to grass.
First round matches to watch: Schwank/Korolev, Fish/Tomic and Monfils/Mayer.

Muzz's quarter:I can't figure out if it's more revolutionary to pick for or against Muzz in this quarter. I don't like the way he's playing, nor do I think he will react especially well to the British pressure (particularly if the English team goes out in the World Cup) but his quarter of the draw is really not that tough. If this were Roland Garros, he'd have cause to be scared, but there's not huge stacks of grass court prowess going on in this section.

That said, I wouldn't want to face Sam Querrey's serve on grass if I were a pro tennis player. No sirree.

I suppose you never know what Jo Tsonga can pull either, but he's injured (yesno?) Anyway, I picked him to make the semis in Paris and the boy let me down. Same with Ferrero - have never really seen him play on grass, but can't see it suiting him especially well.

Winner: Muzz. For lack of a better option.
If not him, then: Sam Querrey. See notes re serve.
Dark horses: Watch that tumbleweed going by. Oh, all right, I'll pick Verdasco and Tsonga. And Marco Chiudinelli, just for funsies.
First round matches to watch: Benneteau/Vliegen, Tsonga/Kendrick and Querrey/Stakhovsky.

Rafa's quarter: Now this is not a nice quarter for Rafa. The current question mark over Gulbis (is he in? is he out?) might lessen his angst a little, but the fact remains that he has a rocky road to the final... and I'm a little worried about how his body's holding up. Boy's played a LOT of tennis lately (even if he was winning all his matches in straights).

So I really am going to be revolutionary. I'm not picking Rafa. Faint now. Off you go.

I'm giving my vote to Soderling. I think he has the drive to prove himself outside Roland Garros, and you can bet that if he met Rafa in the quarters, he would want to give him what-for in recompense for the finals in Paris. I haven't seen a great deal of him on grass, but I think he could definitely keep the ball low on Rafa, and that would help his cause a lot.

Also, watch out for John Isner. That's all I'm saying.

Winner: Robin Soderling. He wants it.
If not him, then: Rafa. I'm not THAT revolutionary.
Dark horses: John 'I could kill you with my serve' Isner. Youzhny could also be a spoiler and Baghdatis has been to the semis here before.
First round matches to watch: Ferrer/Kiefer, Youzhny/Sela and Nadal/Nishikori.

That leaves us with the following semi finalists:

FedEx vs Andy R
Andy M vs The Yoker

I think either of these matches could go either way. But if someone had a gun to my head and forced me to choose, I would pick the following final:

FedEx vs Andy M

I'm as surprised as you are. I certainly didn't expect myself to be tipping Muzz for the final. And here I find myself doing it. That said, Soderling is totally going to take him to five. And if it does end up that Nadal makes the semis, he will make Muzz his bitch. But the winner of this hypothetical final is...


Told you I was a revolutionary.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wimbledon 2010 - The Ladies

It's that time again - le predictions de Jodi, Wimbledon edition. Let's start with the ladies.

Serena's quarter: This quarter isn't terrible for Serena, but it's not great either. Normally I'd expect her to come through it without any problems at all, but I'm just a little concerned about her level of injury at the moment. Still, if the girl is going to get to quarters and very-nearly-almost of Roland Garros (which is what she did last year, when she won Wimbledon...)

The biggest name lurking in this section has to be Maria Sharapova. She's not doing too badly - she made a final last week - but she could be doing better (she should have won that final.) She could meet Serena in the round of sixteen, and wouldn't that be a screamathon (even more so if Michelle Larcher de Brito got through - all of SW19 is going to be able to hear Serena's first round encounter with the young screamer.)

Winner: Serena. You'd be a fool to bet against her.
If not her, then: Maria Sharapova. No shocks there.
Dark horses: Na Li. I'm never counting this lady out. And also, randomly, Dominika Cibulkova. I heard she's working with Zeljko Krajan now, and maybe that'll give her a little sumthin' sumthin'.
First round encounters to watch: Serena/Screamer, Cibulkova/Safarova and Keothavong/Rodionova.

Caro's quarter: This is a much better draw for Sam Stosur than she had at Roland Garros, and consequently, I don't expect her to go as far. She places best as the underdog, when there's no pressure on her, and I don't think it would be unfair to call her favourite for this quarter, as Caro doesn't seem to be in much form.

One to watch out for, however, is Caro's teen queen frenemy, Vika Azarenka. She's hit a nice patch of form right at the right time - however, I'm not sure if playing a final the Saturday before Wimbledon will help or hinder her. Jury's out there. And is it a fluke? Who knows.

Oh, and miss gold lame dress herself is in this quarter (though presumably wearing a different dress.) What can she make happen here?

Winner: Vika Azarenka. I just have a feeling.
If not her, then: Sam Stosur. I don't expect it, but it'd be nice if it happened. Or maybe Pavlyuchenkova - I like her game a lot.
Dark horses: I like the look of Alexandra Dulgheru, but I'm not quite sure what she can do on grass. Oh, and maybe Rezai.
First round matches to watch: Pavlyuchenkova/Benesova, Cirstea/Kvitova and Stosur/Kanepi.

Jankovic's quarter: They might as well have just named this quarter the Belgian quarter, as all three of the big Belgian contenders (and Kirsten Flipkens) are in here. Surprise! they're all major chances in my book. I love Kimmie's game on grass - and if she can beat someone in 38 minutes (even though she lost the next round) I appreciate it. JuJu definitely has the drive. And I just really like Yanina Wickmayer.

As to JJ herself - I don't know if she's really recovered from the mental beatdown Stosur put on her at Roland Garros. But I am ready to be proved wrong.

Also watch out for Nadia Petrova. You never know what she can do.

Winner: Kim Clijsters. I like her game on grass the best of all the Belgians - oops, I mean, everyone.
If not her, then: Justine Henin. You know she wants this one.
Dark horses: Yanina Wickmayer. Belgian surprise! And also Nadia Petrova. And Jankovic - can I call her a dark horse in a quarter she's seeded to win?
First round matches to watch: Jankovic/Robson, Oudin/Flipkens and Kirikenko/Voegele.

Venus's quarter: Not only do we have Venus 'I care only about Wimbledon and nothing else' Williams in this quarter, but the recently crowned Roland Garros champ Francesca Schiavone, proof that anything can happen (and frequently does). That said, I'm not expecting lightning to strike twice for Frankie, but definitely keep an eye out for her - I think she'll play out her seeding, if nothing else.

It's hard to pick against Venus at Wimbledon, even though she's been so pathologically underwhelming for a while now. This quarter isn't too bad for her, because the major headcases of the game - Ivanovic and Safina - are in there, and should Venus meet them, I don't expect she'd have too much trouble dispensing with either one.

Do watch out, however, for Yaroslava Shvedova. She's been playing some good ball lately.

Winner: Venus. Not betting against her in her backyard. She wants revenge against Serena for last year.
If not her, then: Frankie. Don't think it'll happen, but who's going to count her out now?
Dark horses: Shvedova, as noted above. And also Marion Bartoli - we know she's gone deep here before, maybe she can do it again. And maybe even Safina, now that the pressure's off a little and no one's really talking about her.
First round matches to watch: Peer/Ivanovic, Mirza/Kerber and Safina/Groenefeld.

This leaves us with the following semi final match ups:

Serena vs Vika
Kimmie vs Venus

I bet you think I'm going to pick the Williams sisters, don't you? It's been the all-Williams show for a wowzand years now. But guess what? My finals pick is...

Vika vs Kimmie

That's right, not even one Williams in the final in the Jodi draw. Neither have been playing well enough for me to merit picking them. (That said, neither is Vika, but she is totally due a win over Serena). And I have a feeling.

And the winner is...


Probably not the safest bet, but I have a really good feeling about Kim Clijsters in this tournament - a holding up the trophy feeling. And it's always a feelgood victory when Kimmie wins.

What do you think?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Playing Field

Well, my boy James Ward didn't get too much further - his run stopped in the quarters - but it was still a champion effort for him. Well done Jimbo.

What runs like Ward's are making me aware of is the level of upsettage that is going on in men's tennis at the moment. Sure, at the Slams it's basically the Hispano-Suisse domination machine rolling onwards like a mighty boulder, but in these 250 tournaments we are seeing a very high level of crazy shenanigans going on.

Look at the tournaments this week. The final in Eastbourne is between the #5 seed and the #8 seed. Not a bad result, but not exactly what you'd expect. In s'Hertogenbosch, we have the #7 seed and an unseeded player - and no player seeded higher than #7 made it to the semis. The same thing happened at Queen's, and, to a degree, at Halle. And even at Roland Garros - Nadal and Soderling were pretty decent semi finalists, but Melzer and Berdych? I don't think anyone had any money on that.

What does this prove? I'm not quite sure. Maybe the playing field is evening out a bit. Maybe there isn't quite such a divide between the top ten/twenty and the dudes below. Or maybe I'm just making this up. Who knows. But it's going to be an interesting phenomenon to watch - particularly, I think, in the smaller tournaments - for a little while...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Woes of Ward

So James Ward, huh. The British kid who has put out Feliciano Lopez and Rainer Schuettler in a row. This would be an all right result for any top hundred guy - Deliciano and Rainer both have serious cojones on grass - but Ward is ranked #342. Good on you, kid.

And yet - for all their 'British tennis is going down the drain we have no one except Andy Murray we lost that one time to Lithuania' malarkey, the British tennis folks haven't wildcarded him into Wimbledon.

Hell, you'd think that with the current state of British tennis, they'd be throwing a tickertape parade for him as he rode into SW19 on the back of an elephant while being serenaded by Elton John. But no, total snub. I just don't get their reasoning here - have they run out of wildcards? What's the deal? What'sa going on? Because it doesn't make any sense at all.

The real loser here (apart from British tennis) is Ward, who will have his hot streak stopped cold in its tracks. It'll be back to satellite tournaments for him, while the entire British public bemoans the state of tennis today (Murray aside). You really have to feel for him. He deserves this wildcard, probably more than any other guy who has been carded into the main draw (from the British populace, at any case.) Is this going to be all he's reduced to? A big run at Eastbourne?

It'd be a sad thing indeed, if Eastbourne was the high point of his career.

That said, I hope he goes on and breaks some more heads at this tournament before his run is over. If he's not going to get a wildcard, then he needs to rub his success in the LTA's face, in my book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Thing Which Should Be A Not-Thing

So people are seriously outraged that Federer got seeded above Nadal at Wimbledon. Like, they actually think this is unfair.

Um, seriously?

Look, if Roland Garros wanted to seed Rafa #1 there from now until the end of time, I would have no problem with that. He totally deserves it. He's won five of the last six and has generally been an all round righteous dude at that tournament. He owns it and he owns it hard.

And guess who owns Wimbledon hard?

Is it so outrageous that the defending champion, the dude who has won it six out of the last seven years and who is #2 by, what, 70 points? should be seeded first?

The #1 Nadal argument seems to be based entirely around the fact that Nadal beat Federer here in 2008. However, epic as that match was, it was one match. One. And the fact remains that overall, Federer's grass court record kicks Nadal's hard in the pants. Just like Rafa's clay court record kicks Federer's. Roger deserves this.

Added to which, it's not as if the Wimbledon formula was rigged to be pro-Roger or anything - it hasn't changed. The data doesn't lie. And common sense doesn't lie either.

I just can't believe that this is even a thing. Seriously.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The End of Elena?

Going to keep this one short today - I just had one of my wisdom teeth out and I'm kind of groggy what with all the Novocaine, so forgive me is this doesn't make too much sense.

What we're going to muse on today for a few short paragraphs is Elena Dementieva, WTA Ironwoman, she who has played 46 straight Slams, and she who might reportedly be skipping Wimbledon due to injury. Yes, that's right, Elena 'I will play even if my legs are falling off' Dementieva could be out due to injury.

Now, if I were one of Lena D's rabid fans, I would be a little worried about this. Even as someone who appreciates her rather mildly, I am worried about this. When you're as seemingly imprevious to injury as this woman is and then you get injured so badly you have to pull out of Wimbledon...

It's not exactly a secret that Lena D had a chance at Roland Garros - a really good chance. She made it all the way to the semis before this injury sliced her down. But now that this injury has sliced her down, do we now have to put a line through her name as a Slam contender? Is Elena damned never to win that first elusive Slam, never to succeed at the big dance?

I would be inclined to say yes. I don't know exactly the nature of her injury, but if someone as tough as her is hurt so badly she just can't get up again, something is seriously wrong. And Lena is not young in tennis years either.

Is this the end of Elena?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The C Word

What is this I am eating? Why yes, it is my words, accompanied by a large slice of humble pie. I suppose that will teach me to write off Lleyton Hewitt.

But considering he was on a fifteen match losing streak to Federer, what was I supposed to do?

I think the fans will be more worried about this loss than Federer himself, and that is something which actually worries me a little. I don't want to mention the dread word 'complacency', but I'm beginning to think it might be heading in that direction. Two of his big streaks have just been broken - the semis and then the wins at Halle. I don't think either has worried him too much and I kind of wish they worried him more.

But I cannot be greedy. The dude has sixteen Slams, after all. If that's not going to make you complacent, what is?

Big props to Lleyton Hewitt, though. I had totally written him off and he proved me wrong. I still hesitate to make him a big chance for Wimbledon, but if the draw falls right for him, he could make the semis. Best of five will be, however, harder for him, I think, with his hips. But the results this week show that there is a small degree of openness to this year's Wimbledon which maybe hasn't been there in the past.

Oh, and Querrey beat Fish. I, um, don't really care that much, but good on Sam. We ain't on clay no more.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Measure of Wimbledon

So I might have to eat humble pie re Lleyton Hewitt, given that he is in the final of Halle... but I'm still not very inclined to change my mind. I don't want to do any jinxing by saying this, but I give him exactly no chance to beat Federer, and unless he can play with the big boys on the small stage, he's not going to be able to play with them at the big stage.

Here is hoping I don't have to eat my words tomorrow. I don't think they'd be very tasty.

Meanwhile, with that top heavy field in Queen's, who thought that we'd be seeing a Fish vs Querrey final? I certainly wouldn't have picked it, that's for sure. Though this being said, this could be a real sign of things to come. We've got a very open women's game at the moment - I will be very interested to see what happens with the boys at Wimbledon.

Federer is, of course, solid, but there are big fat question marks over the rest of the fabulous four. Murray and Djokovic are not not NOT in form and I am worried about Rafa's injuries. And Queen's has showed us that it's a while down the list before anyone is making a real showing - Querrey is the seventh seed, Fish unseeded.

So are we going to have a surprise finalist at Wimbledon? Will Queen's be the measure of the tournament?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Those With Excuses and Those Without

I guess it has to happen sometimes - all the top seeds losing at once. But to say I didn't expect it to happen at Queen's would be an understatement.

Let's spare a thought for Halle, where all is progressing normally, before we talk Queen's mass exodus. I think I can safely say that I am quite happy with the results there and... actually, it's not that normal. We're in the semis and only the first and the eighth seeds are left. What's up with that?

...but at least Federer, being the still-standing top seed, has prevented the dystopia of Queen's.

Not only are we now missing Djokovic and Roddick, as mentioned yesterday, but Murray is gone and Nadal is gone. This I did not expect - not one little bit. All six of the top six seeds are now outty-5000.

I said some vaguely nice things about Andy Murray yesterday, and now I would like to take them all back. It will be a freaking miracle if he repeats his semi final run at Wimbledon. If he can't beat Mardy Fish at Queen's, I don't know how long he will stick it out at Wimbledon, carrying not only his whole demons but an entire nation on his shoulders. He is running out of time to get his head together. I know he lost in a third set tiebreak, but come on, Andy. Fish should be cake for you.

And Rafa. Oh, Rafa. I am a bit worried about you, boy. I am sensing injuries and I am sensing them badly. In one sense, losing now is one of the best possible things for his Wimbledon campaign, because even though he won't have the grass matches in, he will have some time to rest. But we know what Rafa injuries are like. If his knees are gone again, ten days with his feet up probably won't help much at all.

Though at least it looks like he'll actually, you know, make it to Wimbledon this year. Which is an improvement on last year. But don't freak me out like this, Rafa. Get better.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Djoker Is...

Andy Roddick, I will deal with you later. Losing to Dudi Sela could be a big, big mistake. You could take a wildcard into Eastbourne, I suppose, but what if you win there? You'll have far too many matches under your belt. But if you don't, you'll have too few.

See what I mean?

But I'm not writing today to hate on A-Rod (fool that he is, with all those points to defend). No, Novak Djokovic, I am looking at YOU.

So Xavier Malisse beat you. Huh. That dude hasn't been good for about a wowzand years and though it doesn't really seem like it, you are supposed to be one of the best players in the world. I know this transition to grass is tough, but suck it up and deal with it, Nole. And for heavens' sakes, get some better allergy medication.

We've had the dominant four at the top of the game for a while - it's really been all about the Hispano-Suisse domination machine, but Djokovic and Murray have held their own. However, it's becoming painfully obvious that Roger and Rafa are streets ahead of the rest. Murray, maybe, is doing all right with the keeping up, even though he's not playing great, but I feel like Djokovic is only just hanging on. He has been thoroughly unremarkable for a while now, and I have to wonder when it's going to start being reflected in the points.

When you're not a Djokovic fan and even then you're majorly disappointed in him... something is up there. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. And Nole needs to work out what it is before it's too late.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Step One

So I've been reading a lot of stuff this week from people who think that Lleyton Hewitt is a potential spoiler maker at Wimbledon (and, for that matter, Halle.) I would like to point out that these people are not just the Australian media, who are always suggesting Hewitt could be a spoiler maker (when they're not talking about 'our Sam'.) These are proper grown up tennis peeps.

My response is... um, no.

Don't get me wrong - Hewitt's a good grass court player. It's probably his best surface. But his day is so far over it's not funny, even if he still does win the odd tournament here and there. The reason he's so good on grass is because he's fast. But he is definitely nowhere near as fast as he was.

I could harp on and on about his hip surgery - I mean, come on, he's only just come back from Round 2 on that one. He's had more hip surgery than a retirement home. But it's not just his speed that's affected - well, I suppose it is his speed, but that's not what I'm getting at.

I would contend that the whole reason Hewitt got to #1 back in the day is because he had such a fast first step. He could zip around the court and play that very effective form of counterpunching tennis that he plays because he had a) good reaction time and b) his body backed him on that. Grass court tennis is such a fast game that so much relies on this first step.

And Hewitt doesn't have it any more. And there's not a lot that can make up for that.

You know who does have it? Rafa and Roger. One of the reasons these Fedal boys are so good is because they have this quick first step. If you ask me, this was the question mark that was hanging over Rafa post knee injury - would the first step be fast enough? I think we can all agree that there ain't nothing wrong with what that boy's got going on in that department.

But Lleyton? A Wimbledon contender, just off hip surgery? The first step not the same? Guess again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grass Masters (also, welcome to #800!)

Welcome to post #800 on Tennis From The Backseat. Yes, I have been writing (reading: gabbing madly at you) for that long. Thank you for reading as I flail madly around the crazy world of tennis.

So, today's discussion topic is this: a Masters 1000 event on grass. Yea or nay?

I don't know if I have a definitive opinion on this issue. It seems to me like there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. So let's examine, starting with the pros.

There are three Masters series events on clay, yet none on grass. And yet Wimbledon, the grass court Slam, is pretty much the most important tournament (at least symbolically) of the year. So why no love for grass? Give us a Masters event, clay court hogs.

I definitely see the point of this one. If the grass court season for longer, I think we would definitely see more players like Nicolas Mahut - i.e. grass court specialists. Why is it that when Wimbledon has such epic significance, the grass court season is basically a cursory event? And when you consider that three of the four Slams used to be on grass... what happened there?

It really doesn't seem fair to grass court tennis. Sometimes I feel like there are effectively two tours going on - the normal tour and the clay tour, and grass is just this little month of homage to tennis history thrown in there. It privileges dirtballers and denigrates ...grassballers. Except there aren't really any specialist grassballers. Except Nicolas Mahut.


There is no time between Roland Garros and Wimbledon for a Masters series event.

I hear you. I mean, if you are going to have a Masters event, you've got to have at least one more week between these Slams, yeah? Most players do play one week in this two week fortnight gap, but to make it compulsory is a big ask. And if you do try and add an extra week, who's going to move? I foresee a Roland Garros/Wimbledon bitchfight over this issue.

If someone's going to move, I feel like it has to be Wimbledon, otherwise you have no time at all between Madrid and Roland Garros, and that will not do at all. However, if you are going to put a Masters event on grass, are you going to take that Masters name away from a clay event or a hardcourt one? Clay has three, which seems like a lot, but hard courts have six. And North America has four of them. Why do they need so many?

And also, Wimbledon totally won't move. Not for anyone.

And then there's the thorny question of who you give the Masters crown to. Does it go to Queens or Halle? You can bet that Roger Federer would be mighty pissed off it were Queens, given as he now has a contract to play at Halle forever and a day...

So in short, I don't know. A grass court Masters event sounds awesome in theory but is very complex in practice. What are your thoughts?

(And thanks again for sticking round till post #800!)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Okay, kiddies. Roland Garros and the claycourt season are over for the year (well, apart from that weird post-Wimbledon fake-claycourt season, but no one who is anyone really plays that.) We're off the red and onto the green - off the dirt and onto the lawn. But before we depart Paris altogether, let us take a moment and think of what we have learned.

1. Rafa Nadal is the greatest clay court player. Ever. I don't think this is particularly contentious - however, when you consider all the hoops that Federer had to jump through to prove he was the greatest of all time, I think this bears some thinking about. Rafa has long since beaten that streak of most consecutive clay court wins (I think Vilas had it before, and I think Rafa's streak ended up at 81 or something crazy, which beat the record by about 30.) However, the one stat Rafa has yet to chase is the Bjorn Borg feat of six Roland Garroses.

Let's be fair on the kid. He is 24. I think he has more than one title in Paris left in him yet. And if you put today's Rafa up against Borg in his prime, my money is on Rafa. So I'm handing over the greatest claycourter ever crown... now. Actually, I handed it over about three years ago, but let's make it official here.

2. Some streaks can only be appreciated when they're broken. 23 Slam semis. That's about five years of being in the semis in every Slam. Well done, Roger Federer. It may have ended, but I think we can safely that this is one stat that is safe for a while. For five years, at least.

And you still have your quarter final streak. 24 and counting. Is that a record?

3. You don't have to be a baby to make massive career strides. Much as I was being all nationalistic and pulling for Stosur, Francesca Schiavone's win was massive, and she's nearly 30. This was a huge achievement for her, and I think it really is the icing on the cake for this story in women's tennis. When you've got players who are not young in tennis years achieving greatness, I think that is special. This is a win for the Kimiko Date Krumms of the world. But most of all, it's a win for a lovely player who deserves it.

And on that note...

4. Francesca Schiavone has one of the best smiles in tennis. She and Marcos Baghdatis. Gotta give it to them.

Any arguments?

5. Robin Soderling was not a one final wonder. I don't know if anyone expected Soderling to come close to replicating what he did last year. He may not have played the best final ever, but let us not denigrate his journey to the final. He played some truly excellent tennis. And considering he was the one that a) beat Nadal here last year and b) broke the Federer Slam semi streak... can you deny that the Yoker seriously has something, particularly here in Paris?

Now, what else have you got in your bag of tricks, Soddy my friend?

6. Sam Stosur is a force to be reckoned with. Like Soderling, she did not exactly play the final to end all finals. But you can't fluke beating Henin, Serena and Jankovic in a row. Sam Stosur is going places. She is this year's Soderling (well, Soderling is this year's Soderling, but she's the other one.) She backed up and bettered her performance of last year despite being in the most obscenely difficult quarter I have ever seen. This can only give her confidence and things are only looking up.

7. Don't trust the Russians. Sveta. Dinara. I am looking at YOU.

Much as I don't like it when I don't get my Fed-in-the-final fix, I thoroughly enjoyed this year's Roland Garros - and, unusually, I enjoyed the women's side more than the men's. Maybe it's because I am, at this stage of my life, more emotionally invested in men's tennis, but I really enjoyed the openness of the women's draw. It was a real anybody-can-win thing, and hell, anybody did. I would be upset about this with the boys (I like Fedal on top) but in the women, I dig it.

Wimbledon, over to you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rafa's Renaissance - Revenge, Retribution and Restoration

Yes, I really went to that alliterative place with my title.

I think as a Federer fan I'm supposed to be sad that Rafa won and knocked my boy off the #1 perch just one week short of Sampras's record, but you know what? Rafa thoroughly deserves this one, and if you can play an entire clay court season without losing a match, you deserve to be #1. The way Rafa is playing at the moment is out of this world. The boy is back.

The Rafa that stepped out on court today was not the Rafa that stepped out against Soderling twelve months ago. That Rafa was exhausted and at the end of something that would prove to be a chapter in his life. This Rafa - this is Rafa 2.0, and nothing can stop him now.

Short of beating Federer in the final (which he has done so many times here it has almost lost all meaning) I think Rafa is glad it was Soderling he fronted up against. There was something symbolic about beating the man who ended his reign - and beating him so comprehensively in straight sets. Rafa hasn't lost a set all tournament, and there's a reason for that - he is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack when it comes to clay court tennis. When you read a clay court draw, I think you read it for the runner up these days. Because it's always Rafa and a bunch of guys not named Rafa.

And this couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Congratulations on your win, Rafa. You deserve all the victories and joys that come your way.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fearless Francesca

I might have been pulling - and pulling heavily - for Sam Stosur, but one cannot fail to be inspired by what Francesca Schiavone did today. I have not seen a performance so inspired, so fearless, for many years.

Did anyone ever think Francesca would a Slam? I don't think so. She's nearing 30, which makes her the second oldest Slam winner of all time. What an inspiration, and what a revelation for women's tennis. Francesca, I salute you.

Let us spare a thought for Sam Stosur, who played a nervy but not necessarily a bad match. This has been the tournament of her career, even though it ends with the tin of biscuits and not the trophy. But there is time still for Stosur, and now she's been here, I think she'll be here again. I think there is a lot of tennis left in Sam Stosur, and her time will again.

But this moment belongs to the fearless Francesca Schiavone, who played the match of her life. She served brilliantly, returned like a demon and made some completely inspired volleys at net. But what won her this match and won her this tournament was her fearlessness. May you never lose it, Frannie.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Like Donkey Kong

There is a certain sense of parallelism in this year's men's final. It was time for Rafa to back in the final - this is, after all, his playground. And much as I was hoping to see my beloved Roger facing up against him... there is another part of me that is very glad Soderling has the chance to have another crack at him.

Beyond a Fedal final, I doubt there is any prospect more tantalising than Nadal/Soderling at the French now, given what happened last year. Nadal will be thirsty for revenge, and Soderling will be thirsty not just to win his first Grand Slam title, but to beat this guy again. And if there is anyone, any single non-Fed player who has the capacity to really trouble Nadal here, it is Soderling.

In fact, for Nadal, Soderling is the worst possible opponent. His battle with Federer has never been especially mental for him, but if any player is in Rafa's head, it is the Yoker. This will be the real test - how has last year's final affected him?

Truth be told, I think last year's result will give Rafa extra fire. Not only will he want revenge on Soderling, he genuinely doesn't like the guy, and he will NOT want to lose to him twice - not here, not at Roland Garros. But exactly the same thing is going to be true of Soderling - just as Rafa dislikes Robin, Robin dislikes Rafa, and I doubt there would be too much sweeter for Soderling than to win this tournament by beating Rafa.

In summary, both dudes have something to prove, and both will want to do it at the expense of the other.

Ever since Robin beat Roger, there has been a sense of fate about this match. In a way, Roland Garros is Robin's playground as well, and now we have a tussle. This was never going to be a final for Berdych or Melzer - this one is all Rafa, all Robin, and it is on like Donkey Kong.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I don't know if it can be described how significant this Saturday will be for women's tennis in both Australia and Italy. It may be the randomest Grand Slam final we've had in quite some time, but in many ways it is also the most momentous. No matter who wins, whether it be Stosur or Schiavone, this weekend is absolutely mammoth.

I cannot pretend to be unbiased. I'm pulling for Stosur in an absolutely massive way. I am very interested in the future of tennis in my nation (oddly enough) and Stosur is definitely our way forward. Added to which I absolutely love her game and I think she has everything it'll take to win this title. But even if she doesn't, what she has achieved her is massive. I mean, to beat Henin, Serena and Jankovic in a row? That beatdown she laid on Jankovic was nothing short of epic - whoever would have thought JJ would go out only having won three games? And whoever thought Sammy Stosur would be the one to come through that incredibly tough quarter she was in?

Schiavone's achievements are also incredibly huge - I have to give a lot of credit to Van from Tennis Talk Anyone? for calling this one, because I never would have picked Schiavone for the final. (I think I picked Pennetta to go deep - wrong Italian, I guess!) It was very sad the way that she came through yesterday - I'm sure she would have rather had the full triumph rather than come through on the back of Lena D's retirement. But nonetheless - she has played amazing this tournament.

Has she got what it takes to beat Sammy Stosur? Who knows? But for whoever comes through, this will be an absolute revelation.

I can genuinely say that I am very happy about this result. I have very different reactions to mens' and womens' tennis, I think - I am eternally biased in mens' tennis, being such a rabid Federfan, but with the women I'm not, and sometimes that makes it more exciting. Whatever happens from here on in is a good result. (I mean, Sammy would be a better one, but if she doesn't win, I won't cry myself to sleep or anything...)

I'm just so excited about this final. I don't think it's the final or the tournament was hoping for, but you know what? that kind of just makes it all the more awesome.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Slammin' Sam

Well, well, well. For all my Zen, the tournament seemed a little empty to me with Federer out. But Samantha Stosur, you have given me reason to get right back into this Roland Garros shenanigan.

It's not exactly news that I'm not the most parochial tennis fan ever - I like to see the Aussies do well, don't get me wrong, but I'm a fan of individual rather than nation. So my fandom of Sam Stosur is not just because we share a country of origin, but because hot DAMN I love that girl's game.

I'm not, obviously, a massive fan of her chokiness, and if she had lost this match after serving for it at a set and 5-3, I don't know if she could ever have forgiven herself. But in a strange way, I think it did her more good beating a player like Serena, of notorious mental toughness, in a tight third set. That took more guts and nerves and chutzpah than serving out a routine straight sets victory ever could. Not that I wouldn't have liked to see her serve it out... but knowing that she can hang tight and hang tough with the toughest of players deep in the third, in the disadvantaged position of serving second - that is something something SOMETHING.

It was a brilliant first set and a half from Stosur. Not Serena's greatest match at all, but what is so important is that Sam capitalised. And if she can beat Henin and Serena back to back, there is nothing she can't do.

Whoever wins out of Jankovic and Stosur will win the tournament, I think. And there is absolutely no reason that in a few days, we couldn't say Sam Stosur, Roland Garros champion. That girl has every chance in the world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Strange Kind of Zen

The streak had to end one day, I suppose. 23 Slam semis in a row - that streak was just begging for some powerhouse like Robin Soderling to march in and snap it. And in a way, it is good that it broke - we can now appreciate how absolutely phenomenal it was with a little perspective.

And there's always the quarter final streak.

As a Federfan, I'm supposed to be totally heartbroken about this loss. And I am very sad about it. But either I've grown as a person or am in some kind of bizarro world, because I am surprisingly okay with it.

Last year at Roland Garros belonged to Roger. Once Robin Soderling knocked out Rafa Nadal, you knew that this year was the year for Roger to win Roland Garros. He achieved the feat. He conquered that Everest. And now it is someone else's turn.

Realistically, it's going to be Rafa, and I hope it is, even though that puts my boy Roger's streak at #1 to an end. Like Roger regaining Wimbledon last year, Rafa regaining Roland Garros is only right. However, we must remember who it is who put an end to the Federer campaign here.

It was one Robin Soderling - he who did the impossible and beat Rafa. He only has to get through Tomas Berdych to reach a final where, one imagines, Rafa will be waiting.

What will happen then? If there is a non-Fed person in the world who would have a fighting chance in that final, it is Robin Soderling. And I hope he gets there. Roland Garros is a special place for him now. I want him to at least repeat his feat of last year, prove it is not a fluke. (And to tell the truth, I'm glad that Roger lost this match instead of the one he played against Soderling last year!)

So, Mr Federer, get ye to the grass and win yourself another Wimbledon. Mr Soderling, get ye to the final and see what ye can do. And Mr Nadal... watch out for Swedish yokers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Year To The Day

A year to the day that Robin Soderling did the seemingly impossible and knocked out Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros, Sam Stosur has done exactly the same on the women's side. And much as I love Justine Henin, I am ecstatic for Sam.

People were calling Sam the dark horse of this incredibly difficult quarter, but I don't think anyone actually expected her to come through Justine realistically. But she has a chance - a damn fighting chance - of actually repeating her semi final performance here last year and maybe going further. If she can beat JuJu on clay, you can bet that she has as good a chance as anyone against Serena...

The winners: Sam Stosur. For all the reasons listed above. And for being freaking AWESOME.

Rafael Nadal also, for being a complete force of nature on a clay court.

And I have to give a shout out to Jurgen Melzer. So much talent, never really did too much with it, being the first Austrian to really do much of anything after Thomas Muster retired. And now - quarters at a major. Not too shabby at all! And considering the way Djokovic is playing, he stands a pretty decent chance of making semis if he keeps his head screwed on.

The losers: I'm sorry, JuJu, but you have to go in this column. Sam Stosur played lights out to beat her, but I seriously thought JuJu was going to win the tournament. She won't be happy with this result - even though it will give her a little longer to plan her assault on Wimbledon. And maybe that will be the difference for JuJu there... only time will tell.

And it might seem a little unfair, but Shahar Peer has to go here too. She started out fantastically against Serena and then completely lost it. What happened there, Shahar - apart from you realising that, oh yeah, Serena was on the other side of the net?

The disappointments: Raise your hand, Nando Verdasco. I know you have your whole toenail deal going on, but I was really feeling you this clay court season. I really feel like you have it in you to go super deep at Roland Garros - obviously your year is not this year.

And I know he won, but Novak Djokovic has been very disappointing this whole tournament, and it didn't stop here. Considering Robby Ginepri has won a grand total of eleven clay court matches in his entire career, you'd think the world #3 would be able to beat him without meekly dropping a set for what seemed like no reason.

The scraped-in-by-skin-of-teeth: No one really - no extremely tight matches today. So let's call this one the sneaking-through-the-draw-without-really-drawing-attention-to-themselves category today, and point our fingers at Nico Almagro and Jelena Jankovic, who have been silent and deadly so far. Nico will obviously stop next round, as he's playing some dude called Rafa whom I hear is a bit good on this surface, but Jelena really has the potential to go all the way here.

One to watch/story of the day: Watch out world. Here comes Sam Stosur!