Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not Quite Such A Bloodless Coup

Yesterday was a bloodless coup. Today was very nearly almost not so.

Sure, we lost a couple of seeds. We lost Marcos Baghdatis. We lost Li Na. We lost Nadia Petrova. We lost Juan Monaco and Radek Stepanek and Lucie Safarova and Yaroslava Shvedova. But on the whole, these seeds are relatively minor. With the exception of Petrova and maybe Li, these seeds were not major title contenders. There were three seeds today we came to the verge of losing that were very definitely major title contenders.

Let's start with the ladies - more particularly, with Maria Sharapova. I would be lying if I said I was not cheering for Jarmila Groth in this match - I was cheering my lungs out for here. I really like Jarka, and not just because she is Australian - she has awesome, awesome game. But she crumbled big time in the third here and let Maria out of the cage in a big way, because Maria was in real trouble here. I've ranked her among my favourites for this title, but if she plays like this, she is going to get big fat nowhere. Groth was quite a big test for the first round - maybe her second round will be a little less intense. But make no mistake - MaSha has to pick up her game.

This is nothing, however, compared to what Jelena Jankovic went through today. She should have lost that match against Simona Halep. It is testament to nothing more than Halep's youth and inexperience that she choked that match away - I have every confidence that in a few years, this will be the kind of match that Halep does not lose. Jankovic got very, very lucky today - her passive play eventually paid off against an opponent so young and naive she was almost afraid of winning. She should have lost this match. If she plays this passively, she is not going to go very far. She has the talent to win a Slam, but if she plays like this, she never will.

Which brings us to her countryman, Novak Djokovic.

Viktor Troicki definitely bears a little blame. He should have won this match in the fourth set, and it is to Novak's credit that he toughed it out. But seriously? A match this intense? This early on? I suppose Federer did it against Falla at Wimbledon... but in the long run, that didn't really work out so well, did it? Djokovic is proving that he is not a major contender more and more with every match he plays like this - particularly matches he plays in tough weather conditions, where it becomes painfully obvious that he just cannot deal. Dude, when you're comparing the brief respite of shade in the fifth set to sex, it is painfully obvious that there is something wrong. That is all I'm saying.

I feel like there is something more I should be saying in my Day 2 wrap, but I can't for the life of me tell you what it is, so I'm leaving it there. Catch you on the flip side!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bloodless Coup

Well, we all know where my heart lies - it's firmly going yay yay YAY at such an awesome showing by Roger Federer over Brian Dabul.

I know Dabul is a nobody. I know Federer's break point conversion rate was crap. But seriously, the signs were nothing but good. And that tweener... swoon.

Okay. Pulling self together now.

It was a mixed day for the Australians - good for the women, with only Ferguson falling, though Stosur looked shaky, but poor for the dudes. Carsten Ball might be through, but that was a big fat fail from Lleyton Hewitt. If you're not going to pull the actual comeback, dude, lose in three. Have mercy. You can't come all the way back and stumble at the last hurdle. It's just not cool.

But back to the good news story. Most rocking player of the day as far as the ladies go has to go to Sally Peers - what an awesome victory! After coming through qualies! I don't know a lot about Peers, but I am 100% impressed - here is hoping she can keep up this standard!

There were no major upsets today, but we have to talk about Robin Soderling. I have never heard of this Andreas Haider-Maurer fellow - what is the go there? I saw none of the match, but it seems to me like he almost did what he did in Australia: play an awesome two sets and then lose in five. Thankfully for him he got it together in the fifth, but that is dangerous for the Yoker. (Though considering the quarter of the draw he is in, if he wants to sit this one out, well...)

Gael Monfils also needed five, but Hewitt was the only male seed to fall today, and we lost no seeds in the ladies - this must be the least bloody opening day in quite some time (especially considering Hewitt was the #32 seed!) I don't expect it to stay that way in the rest of the first round, but the normalcy (especially for the ladies) is almost refreshing.

A word, though, for Dinara Safina. She just could not make anything happen against Hantuchova today. Take the rest of the year off, Dinara. Come back next year. Just chill for a bit. Stop trying so hard.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Final words before the US Open!

#1: Yes, Roger Federer and Svetlana Kuznetsova are still my picks to win the US Open. Though I'm not entirely confident with either, as I never am. (Roger because I always pick him to win, and Sveta because I never know who to pick with the ladies, even when Serena is playing).

#2: Will the US Open start already? New Haven seems like it's gone for a thousand years. A thousand BORING years.

#3: Players council hijinks! We already knew that Roger and Rafa got re-elected and Bert got booted, but hey, would you look at that? Would that be a unanimous re-electment to the offices of president and vice-pres for Rog and Rafa respectively? Why yes, I think it would be.

I've said this a thousand times, but I will say it again - we are so, so lucky to have statesmen like these at the top of our game. They are both incredible for the game individually - together, they blow my mind. They have the power to make real changes, and I am confident we are going to see more of their off court awesomeness over the next term of the council.

Congrats, Roger and Rafa! I know I picked Muzz to make the final, but may the Fedal Grapple in the Apple finally become reality!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

US Open Predictions - The Gents

We've done the ladies, time for the gents. Away!

Rafa's quarter: It's weird to see Rafa in this spot and Roger in the #128, even though Rafa deserves it - I've just become accustomed to looking to the top for the Roginator. But nonetheless, here we are. And here Rafa is. And even though he took some not-so-awesome losses in Toronto and Cincy, you'd be a moron to pick against him.

The big challenge to Rafa in this quarter, the way I see it, is Nalbandian. I love that Nalby/Nadal match up and I am hanging out for that quarterfinal, because it would rock my socks off. Whether or not Daveed can keep in the best of health, on the other hand, is another matter - but he's not one of the top favourites for this event for nothing. And if anyone in this quarter can shock Rafa, it's Nalbandian. (That said, if Teimuraz Gabashvili takes a set from Rafa in the first round, I won't be surprised - he has game.)

I'd like to say Gulbis could make something happen here, but I don't think it's going to happen. I'm not expecting anything from Fernando Verdasco, who has been resoundingly meh of late. If I'm looking for super dark horses, I am looking to Ukraine - hello there, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. What have you got for me?

Winner: Rafael Nadal
If not him, then: David Nalbandian
Dark horse(s): Sergiy Stakhovsky (or maybe Denis Istomin or Jeremy Chardy)
First round matches to watch: Nadal/Gabashvili, Stakhovsky/Luczak, Chardy/Gulbis

Muzz's quarter: This is the quarter of players on whom Jodi is not too keen, with Murray, Stepanek and Berdych all ensconced therein. However, Andrey Golubev is in there too and I love him, so it's not all bad. (As well as some dude named Jack Sock. I like him just for his name.)

Considering Murray won the US Open series, I'm not going to pick against him here, but I'd be lying if I said I had a Murray feeling. I just can't see an adequate challenger. I don't see Berdych beating him, and guys who could legitimately trouble him, like Stan Wawrinka and John Isner, are just not in great form. But it's America, and so you never know what Querrey might do - and we mustn't forget that Mikhail Youzhny has been deep at this tournament before and is perfectly capable of doing it again. Actually, if anyone is going to overthrow the over-jawed Scot, it is the Headbanger.

Oh, and there's always Yen-hsun Lu to worry about...

Winner: Andy Murray
If not him, then: Mikhail Youzhny
Dark horse(s): Yen-hsun Lu and Andrey Golubev
First round matches to watch: Starace/Almagro, Youznhy/Golubev, Stepanek/Benneteau

Bert's quarter: This quarter is the one where a surprise semi-finalist would most likely come from, given how unimpressive Novak has been of late. If he was in better form, I would say it presented the perfect opportunity for Nikolay Davydenko. As it is, it might still be the perfect opportunity.

But this is a tough quarter. You're never going to count Andy Roddick out here, and you never know what Gael Monfils might pull. And then there's Mardy Fish, who has been playing some great stuff. And Marcos Baghdatis! The names just keep on coming.

Actually, you know what? I am going out on a mega limb here. I am going to pick Gael Monfils to win this quarter, on grounds no stronger than 'I have some kind of feeling' about him. Whether or not this is the 'upset in the first round' feeling remains to be seen...

Winner: Gael Monfils (told you)
If not him, then: Nikolay Davydenko or Mardy Fish
Dark horse(s): Marcos Baghdatis or Andy Roddick (can Roddick be a dark horse)
First round matches to watch: Greul/Gasquet, Djokovic/Troicki, Baghdatis/Clement

Roger's quarter: Oh gee, I wonder who Jodi is going to pick in this section. What a big surprise it will be!

Um... I might go Federer on this one.

The predictions of heart and head are aligning on this one. Roger has played some legitimately great stuff so far in the US Open series, and the Federcone partnership seems to be rocking on just fine. There's some big talent in this section, but Federer can, I am confident, handle all the punches thrown at him. The big lurking danger is obviously Robin Soderling, but I bet someone is hungry for a revenge sandwich. Served cold.

Another player I'm going to be watching with interest is Thiemo de Bakker - purely because everyone seems to be talking about him and I can't quite work out why. Suddenly he's this epic talent. When did that happen?

Winner: Roger Federer
If not him, then: Robin Soderling
Dark horse(s): Juan Carlos Ferrero
First round matches to watch: Dent/Falla, de Bakker/Gicquel, Nishikori/Korolev

That leaves us with the following semis:

Nadal vs Murray
Monfils vs Federer

I'm legitimately torn over who to pick for the first semi, though the second is no mystery to me. But given his previous record in Flushing Meadows (comparatively, at least) I'm lining up the following final:

Murray vs Federer

And you know what? I think Roger's going to break him. Again. Murray may have triumphed in Toronto, but here? Nah.

So, according to both my head and heart, my prediction for the men in the US Open is Roger Federer. (I wonder how many of you are surprised...?)

Friday, August 27, 2010

US Open Predictions - The Ladies

It's Slammin' time again! Moreover, it is Slam prediction time again, giving us all something to write about that is not New Haven (thank God.) So here we are - Slam predictions for the laydeez.

Caro's quarter: Oh, how it galls me to write 'Caro's quarter'. If I had my way, she would never have a quarter. But she is the #1 seed and I guess we have to suck it up and deal. And if the talent in her quarter holds true, she is not getting out of this quarter alive.

The two big names in this quarter are Kuznetsova and Sharapova, and I can seriously see either of them coming through here. I have quite a good feeling about Kuznetsova, actually - it's all contingent on her not going off to la la land in the middle of a match, but then, this is always going to be true of Sveta. And who is ever going to count Sharapova out in a Slam? Not me, that is for sure.

Also keep an eye on Li Na. We all know from experience that she can sneak her way into the semis without you even noticing!

Winner: Svetlana Kuznetsova
If not her, then: Maria Sharapova
Dark horse(s): Li Na (really dark horse = Aravane Rezai)
First round matches to watch: Groth/Sharapova, Kuznetsova/Date Krumm, Cibulkova/Voegele, Li/Bondarenko

JJ's quarter: I can't quite remember how JJ came to be ranked #4, but I'm glad she is, because this is the best chance she has had to come through in a long time. If she can get through her first round over the difficult youngster Simona Halep.

You have to consider Vera Zvonareva, because hello, Wimbledon final, but I'm not quite sure if she has the repeat in her - you know how she always gets injured. That said, don't count her out, because we all know how much game Bepa has. She's in a little section with Agnieszka Radwanska, who has been playing quite well, and that would be a very fun match to watch. (A-Rad is also an outside chance, I think.) And another you can't count out is Yanina Wickmayer. She made the semis here last year. Why couldn't she do it again?

But my pick is Nadia Petrova. She is playing well and the Russians are after revenge. If she keeps her game up, she can win this quarter easily.

Winner: Nadia Petrova
If not her, then: Vera Zvonareva or Jelena Jankovic
Dark horse(s): Yanina Wickmayer and Agnieszka Radwanska
First round matches to watch: Jankovic/Halep, Lisicki/Vandeweghe, Petkovic/Petrova

Venus's quarter: I would like to begin this by saying in no way am I picking Melanie Oudin to do anything in this section. Just so you know.

This is a tough one, because I'm not entirely sure who to pick. I think, based on current form, I have to go with Azarenka, but this seems to be the weakest quarter of the bunch. I don't see Venus doing too much. The other big seed is Schiavone, and somehow, I don't see her as a multiple Slam champion (sorry, Frankie). That leaves Azarenka, and she really is the only choice here.

That said, this is the quarter which might be the most exciting in terms of someone breaking through. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, I am looking right at you. This is the best opportunity you are going to see in quite some time. And you too, Flavia Pennetta. I know you are awesome. BE AWESOME.

Winner: Victoria Azarenka
If not her, then: Flavia Pennetta
Dark horse(s): Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (or, at a push, Tsvetana Pironkova)
First round matches to watch: Bondarenko/Dushevina, Vinci/Williams

Kimmie's quarter: Oh, how I would love Kim to repeat here. I would love that SO MUCH. That image of her and Jada and the trophy last year was too gorgeous not to be repeated. And she definitely has the chops to do it, too.

The other big seed in this section is Stosur, but I'm hesitant to pick her due to the fact she's coming back off injury. I'll be happy if she gets through her first round, to tell the truth - Vesnina is the kind of player who could pull an upset.

There are lots of names and not a lot of form in this section. Safina and Ivanovic are both in here, as is Dementieva and Hantuchova and a whole bunch of other people with famous names but not big results. (I am maybe a little unfair to Hantuchova here, but still.) This gives these people a golden opportunity to find their form and play themselves deep. Who will do it? Who knows? But I can't wait to find out. This quarter looks like the most interesting one of the draw.

Winner: Kim Clijsters
If not her, then: Daniela Hantuchova
Dark horse(s): Petra Kvitova and Zheng Jie
First round matches to watch: Hantuchova/Safina, Ivanovic/Makarova, Stosur/Vesnina

That leaves us with:

Kuznetsova vs Petrova
Azarenka vs Clijsters

These are hard matches to pick, but I'm going to say that leaves us with a final of:

Kuznetsova vs Azarenka

Who to pick there? It's tough. But I am going to go with Svetlana Kuznetsova on this one. I just have a feeling. So you heard it here first - Jodi's pick for the US Open is Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Spectacular Dullness of New Haven

So if Roger Federer made the final of both the biggest tournaments of the US Open series and won one of them... why is Andy Murray the winner of the series? Can anyone explain this?

Moreover, I'm pretty sure Marcos Baghdatis came second. Explanations, anyone? I just do not get it at all.

I'm really scraping the barrel for something to write about right now (duh), so I guess we have to talk about the lame tournament going on right now. That tournament is New Haven and it is spectacularly uninteresting, but let's see if I can dream up something to say.


The men's final is between Denis Istomin and Sergiy Stakhovsky, which should give some indication of the quality of the tournament. I wouldn't know who to pick there, because I don't know enough about either player - even though Istomin has been rocking that dark horse thing all year. The women's final is between Nadia Petrova and whoever wins out of Wozniacki and Dementieva.

There is a thought, actually. Why is it that nobody who is anybody on the men's side plays a tournament the week before a Slam - which seems to make sense, because you want to conserve energy, ra ra ra - but a bunch of the ladies do? The ladies who are anybody - because much as I would like to deny it, Wozniacki is anybody.

So... yep. There's a question. Answers, anyone?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dark Horse Dinara

So... yeah... um... I don't have a lot to talk about today. It's too late for Cincy discussions, too early for US Open breakdowns, and there's not that much happening on the women's side. (Except for CazWoz being the #1 seed. What's up with that?)

Oh, I know! Here's one I heard today - Dinara Safina, dark horse for the US Open.

Now hang on just a minute. Much as I would like this to be true - no matter how wonky she plays, I just can't quit the Dinara bandwagon - calling her a dark horse for the US Open is just ridiculous. Two years ago, maybe, this would have been an excellent call. Right now...? Not so much.

That's not too say that the women's draw isn't ridiculously open, because it is. I mean, hello, Wozniacki is the top seed. Caroline Couldn't-Hit-A-Winner-If-She-Tried Wozniacki. This really is anyone's game. But suggesting that that anyone might be Safina is so far out of left field it's almost on another planet.

Fact: Dinara has been playing better of late. Fact: playing without the pressure of expectation will probably do her the world of good. Fact: she doesn't have to listen to Zeljko shouting at her any more. And if Dinara can show me some good results towards the end of the year then we might start talking about SERIOUSLY dark horse standing for the Australian Open. But right now? I'd be calling her a dark horse for the third round. A semi-dangerous floater. And not much more.

But then, of course, Kim Clijsters won the US Open last year in only her third tournament back, so what do I know?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not His Destiny

So I'm sitting here watching ATP World Tour Uncovered, because, you know, that is what you do sometimes, and there is a feature on Tomas Berdych. 'Huh,' say I, because I am still a bit sore at Berdych for all the pain he has inflicted on my beloved Roger Federer this year, and don't really pay too much attention.

And then they ask, 'so when will Tomas Berdych win a Grand Slam?'

Whoa. We're talking in 'when' now? Whatever happened to 'if'?

I will tell you one thing and it is this - I do not believe Tomas Berdych will ever win a Grand Slam. (Watch him go ahead and win one now.) I think that at the end of the day, no matter how great his year this year has been, he is going to be remembered as an underachiever. If he was playing like he is now three years ago, then I would have been all 'sure, Berdych, Slam winner, I believe you'. But now...? I think Berdych has reached (and maybe passed) the height of his powers. I think the train has left and if he's clinging onto anything, it's the caboose.

I got a bit caught up in metaphors there, but what I think is this: you can cry 'late bloomer' till the cows come home, but I think Tomas has missed the up-and-comer part of his career. He can make a surge here all he wants. He can win Masters titles, if he wants. But a Slam...? I do not think that destiny is one for Berdych.

Where I do think Berdych can attain tennis glory is in Davis Cup. But I just don't see Berdych, Slam winner. It does not compute.

Monday, August 23, 2010

She Who Loses Last

News item #1: I have tickets to the first week of the Australian Open! (again!) I am very excited about it! Australian Open membership is the bomb.

News item #2: Caroline Wozniacki is a serious contender for the US Open.

I don't want to think Caro is a real contender. I can't think of anyone whose game I like less. The great headcases of our game - the Ivanovics and Safinas of the world - at least they went for stuff. They might have made some spectacular errors, but at least they died trying, in a manner of speaking. Caro seems to have got to where she is by waiting for her opponent to make a mistake, and while that is obviously within the rules of the game, I don't think it's within the spirit.

But nevertheless, CazWoz is a serious contender and may well be the #1 seed, now we've lost Serena. If she keeps forcing everyone else to make mistakes before she does - like she did in Montreal this week - then she's going to be near impossible to beat. What needs to happen is that someone needs to hit her straight off the court. Someone needs to go for the lines and hit them, not just miss them. Otherwise, Caro is going to make the final again and this time go one better.

But now Serena is out, here's the question - who's going to be the one to take down the game's greatest pusher? Who is going to step up to the plate? Will it be Clijsters again? Venus? Jankovic? Kuznetsova? Someone else entirely?

Or is pushing - not losing instead of winning - going to be enough?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pretty in Pink

I know I said I wouldn't do any more pink puns, but this is a special occasion.

And I don't want to get too crazy and too excited or anything, but OMFG Roger WON!

People can put as many caveats around this win as they want. Sure, he barely played the first two matches with all the retirements. Sure, he's not at his full power yet. Sure, he didn't play or Djokovic or Murray or Nadal or whomever you might want to name. Sure, he didn't hang the moon.


And that is all that matters to me.

Sometimes it means more to me when Federer wins not playing his best tennis than when he does. People underestimate his fighting ability something severe, but he is made of stern stuff in amongst all that talent. And he can wear a pink shirt like nobody's business. He played some super stuff this week - maybe not GodFed stuff, but some really good stuff. But what he really showed was grit, and that is what will get him through the US Open. It has got him through the US Open time and time again, and memories seem curiously selective in this area...

But enough critiquing of the tennis media. Let's bask in the win. Because it is FREAKING AWESOME.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Asterisk Problem

It really hasn't been a good news weekend so far. There's a hung parliament in Australia, Tony Abbott might end up being the Prime Minister, Serena and del Potro are definitley out of the US Open...

I won't subject you to my whinging on Australian politics, but if you want whinging about the absence of these two key figures from the year's last Slam, then you have come to the right place. I don't believe in the concept of the asterisk - you know, when someone wins but it's with reservations because of something that happened, like Amelie Mauresmo in Australia in 2006 when Justine Henin retired in the final - but the US Open is just not going to be the same without these two.

We kind of already knew del Potro wasn't going to be there, so this is hardly surprising. And ordinarily, I wouldn't really be too bothered. I managed to get through all of Roland Garros and Wimbledon without missing Delpo at all (in fact, sometimes I'm pretty sure I forgot he even existed). But New York is a different matter. He's a defending champion. And while that has its own mystique but doesn't actually necessarily mean anything given the field, I find that we do miss him more on hard courts. He's a bigger force here than anyone else. You never know what's going to happen when Delpo steps on court. And I think that level of volatility will be missed.

But the real shocker is, of course, Serena.

I didn't expect this one, and I spent some time going 'oh no, both defending champions are out' until I realised that Serena was not, in fact, the defending champ. I just sort of assume she won something if I can't quite remember who won at that moment (sorry, Kimmie) and that, right there, is one of the reasons she'll be missed. In Serena, you always know you have a Slam contender. Sometimes, given the nature of the WTA, she's the only Slam contender you have. One of the things I like most about Serena is that she wins things, she doesn't just lose last. And that is what I am afraid is going to happen at the US Open.

Of course, we could have another Clijsters or Schiavone fairy tale victory. Who knows what will happen? It will definitely be a surprise and that will be exciting. But without Serena - and, for that matter, without Henin - I'm a little worried the WTA will be she who loses last, not she who wins.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Greatest Love of All

The tennis world has been bedazzled with the Roger/Rafa gigglefits video this week (RIP) and we were all hoping that we'd get to see that played out on the court as well. Unfortunately, this is not going to be the case - while Federer played sublimely in overcoming Davydenko, Nadal went out in three tight ones to Baghdatis - but I think we can still celebrate what a rad bromance we have at the top.

We hardly ever see Roger and Rafa play after Wimbledon - no matter how often the Grapple in the Apple or whatever gets billed, it never eventuates. That was one of the reasons why the possibility of the semi here was so tantalising - it's strange, pure and simple, and we like that. It would be incredibly interesting to see how they shape up against each other on American hardcourt, because we've just never seen it.

But when it comes down to it, we've seen everything we could ever want to see from Rafa and Roger this week.

The two guys at the top of our sport are friends. They're bros. They're comfortable laughing with each other, chilling out with each other, doing charity matches for each other and just generally being an awesome duo. That video showed just how cool they are not only as individuals, but with each other. As tennis moves on and moves forward and children move into the sport, I can't think of a better example. No one would fault these men for hating each other. Each would be a whole lot more successful without the other. And yet they genuinely like each other.

Sampras and Agassi would never have made this video. Neither would McEnroe and Lendl, or any of the great tennis rivalries you can think of. In Roger and Rafa, we have something very special. And even though they didn't get to play in Cincy this week, they both managed to win.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Determination of Dinara Safina

Taking some time off and falling down the rankings is the best thing that has happened to Dinara Safina in a long time.

She's not a US Open contender. I'm not even going to begin to claim that. But now, in her post-Zeljko days, in the slow comeback crawl, I'm getting the feeling that Dinara is starting to put a few pieces together. It's only one match, but do you think the Dinara of three months ago would have been able to tough out Nadia Petrova 6-4 in the third set? No, I didn't think so either.

I don't want to make mountains out of molehills, but you kind of have to when it comes to Dinara. What I really want to see make a comeback, because it's what got her to #1 in the first place, is that you-have-to-shoot-me-to-win mentality. That's the mentality that got her past Sharapova and Dementieva at the French Open in 2008 and shot her into the final. It was what she had in the early days with Zeljko - fire and vim and determination - and what she hasn't had in a while now.

I was sad when she and Zeljko broke up. But now, in the aftermath of that destructive, apocalyptic relationship, I can definitely see that it was best. Dinara's finding herself again. She's finding the good. Or at least she did in this one match. She dug in her heels and didn't give in and toughed it out and from where I stand, that is nothing but a positive sign from her. Determination is key.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Please Do Not Feed the FeVer

Pretty standard results today. Roger won (well, in a retirement, but still). Rafa won. Muzz won. Novak won. Sod won. Nalbandian won. Even Roddick won.

But you know who didn't win? Fernando Verdasco. And considering his ranking, I am finding this problematic - because FeVer hasn't won so much in a long time.

The whole David Nalbandian being oh so very close to a US Open seed even though he hasn't even really played for, like, forever is a real sign of the huge jumps one can make in the rankings system by suddenly being awesome. You'd think that sucking hard over a long period of time would send you down the rankings. But look at Juan Martin del Potro - sure, he's still carrying Slam points, but he's been sitting in the top ten for ages. I don't think he's there any more, but he's been a-sitting there.


So why hasn't FeVer plummetted? Because I seriously can't remember the last time he did something awesome.

And he lost to Mardy Fish as well. I know Fish is playing well at the moment, but at the end of the day, he's just not that great. FeVer is capable of playing spectacularly. We know this. We were there for AO '09. So what's up with him?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Drowning, Not Waving

Gilles Simon turned up in 2008 and was awesome for a while.

And then he went away for a bit. And despite a few moments when his head has bobbed above water, he's pretty much stayed away. Like today - losing to Mardy Fish. Gilles Simon is, for me, the epitome of meh.

When you consider the immense stable that is French tennis, with all that talent spewing out of them, you've got to wonder what happened with Gilles Simon. He is easily the least talented of the major French players, but he has overactualised on his potential time and again. He beat Federer twice. In a row. For a guy with nothing even beginning to resemble a weapon, that is pretty awesome.

But it was a long time ago. And now Gilles is drowning, not waving. And that's all I have to say about that.

Speaking of talent, David Nalbandian is back and chalking up the wins. He may have fallen apart a bit against a streaking Andy Murray last week, but he hasn't let it stop him in his stride, which I was a little concerned was going to happen. It was a tight first set against Ivan Ljubicic, but then Dave moved into the bakery and it was all over. Who would have ever thought we would ever seriously be talking about Nalbandian as a serious Slam contender once again, eight years after he made his first and only final?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Making Sense of Cincy

Well, here we are in Cincy. Incy wincy Cincy.

When I see we I obviously mean the men's tour - it is no secret that I find it more interesting than the ladies' tour right now - but let's talk Cincy last week, when the ladies played here. There were some totally interesting results that came out of that tournament that I forgot about in the haze of strawberry milkshakes and chocolate icecream.

Our winner was Kimmie, and it seems to me like she hasn't won anything for a while, so this is a good result for her, especially if she's looking to defend her title at the US Open - which I personally think would be awesome and, if she keeps playing like this, she has a great chance of doing. The final against Sharapova was definitely one of the better women's matches we've seen this year, and I would say that both ladies were in great shape heading towards New York...

...if Shaz hadn't gone and half-broken her foot.

Oh Maria. Will your injuries never cease?

Nonetheless, if the injury isn't too bad and if MaSha can recuperate in time, she has as good a chance as anyone to do well at the US Open, especially considering Serena might be entering on exactly zero matches (and may well still be wearing an orthopaedic boot.) And if Kimmie keeps her level up, I'm not going to gainsay her.

But the real mover and shaker for the ladies last week - in my opinion anyway - was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. I wouldn't rate her as a shot at winning the Open or anything - I think Nastia has a way to go before she gets there - but she could definitely pull a Wickmayer and go very deep and pull some major upsets. She very nearly overcame MaSha and that is no mean feat. So yeah... keep an eye on that one!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever

Okay, now I really am running out of pink-themed phrases. I might have to let it go now.

I don't think anyone was really expecting Federer to win this match, but I know he hoped he would. However, losing here is not the end of the world. He has the #2 ranking back for a week, and I don't think this will have damaged his confidence against Murray in the best-of-5 arena at all. And although he's played some really good stuff this week, he's also played some truly, truly dreadful tennis. And he still made the final. And that says something.

The emphasis is more here for Murray. He described this as one of the best weeks of his life, and while I don't want to call it a turning point for him, he did win his first title of the year and he did beat Nalbandian, Nadal and Federer en route, who arguably make up the other three of the top four US Open contenders. (Djokovic = arguable, in my book.)

And so what he gets here is confidence. What he gets here is momentum. And now the question is - what is he going to do with it?

A tiny part of me is glad Federer didn't play so well this week because I don't want him to peak too early. I don't want to say Murray is in danger of this - he doesn't have too many fitness issues - but he should just make sure he doesn't psychologically peak too early. Ask Sam Querrey - it's one thing to win the US Open series, quite another to win the US Open.

But this can be nothing but good for Murray. I feel like it's a pretty positive outcome for Federer as well. And I think we'll get a much clearer indication of where everyone stands when we move into Cincinatti next week... please, Roger, keep wearing that shirt. Strawberry fields forever. (Sorry. It had to be done.)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rose Coloured Glasses

So that was pretty much one of the fugliest tennis matches ever. Mr Strawberry Swing might have come out on top, but it was not pretty. Not one little bit.

You very rarely hear the phrase 'winning ugly' applied to Federer, but that was what today was. In fact, you know, I don't know if it was that. It was getting very lucky that Djokovic was playing like a fourteen year old junior for last stretches of the match. Don't get me wrong, I am super glad he is in the final, but that level of tennis is not going to get you anywhere, Roger. Please do better tomorrow, honey.

But let's put on the rose coloured glasses. He's in the final! Woot! And he'll play Murray - and won't that be a match up. Murray hasn't won a title all year and Federer has won only one - the Australian Open. Beating Murray, and essentially breaking Murray for the rest of the year. These are the facts.

So it's going to be interesting. Muzz will want revenge, but how much is Roger still in his head? How far does that damage go? And if Muzz throws everything he has at this match and loses, I think that puts him in an even worse mental position. You can kiss goodbye to the rest of the US summer for him if that happens.

But if Murray wins - which he really should, if Federer plays anything like he did today - then this could renew him, revitalise him. The win against Rafa has got to count for something, but beating Roger would really vanquish some demons. If Murray wins, he becomes a big, BIG contender again. If he loses... I think he's broken. This match is more important, I think, for Murray than for Federer... but it is important for Federer too. Dude only has one win on the board. And even winning ugly - or winning fugly - is still winning. And we could use a win around here in the Federcamp.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Strawberry Swing

I didn't see the Federer match this morning. I'm glad, because I probably would have killed myself before the big pay off of the win. But I am very happy with the way it turned out.

Excuse me for a moment, I just have to be immature.


Ahem. I'm back now.

The strawberry swirl outfit Roger is currently rocking is clearly working for him, because, after having watched a few highlights, he played some awesome stuff in that match - in the first set in particular. He isn't exactly known for beating people with pace - and I hope he doesn't rely on this as his main weapon or anything - but some of the balls he sent past Berdych in that set were absolutely blistering. They made Berdych look a lumbering ogre. It was sweet stuff.

Obviously, he didn't keep it up for the whole match, or we wouldn't have seen a third set tiebreaker, but it was better stuff than I've seen from the Roginator for a long time. And we had a demonstration of 'BTW, Roger is gritty part 739812938' again. Like with Falla, people often forget that Roger is perfectly capable of rescuing himself from the brink of despair - and that's exactly what he did today.

It looks like he'll have Novak 'Bert from Sesame Street' Djokovic up next, and though Djokovic is playing really well currently against Chardy, it will be an interesting match that I think Fed is going to win (touch wood). How many 'the real #2' articles do you think we'll see?

So you go enjoy on of your top hundred ever wins, Roger. And you bring it - no, BRING IT - back tomorrow, baby.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taking His Chances (And Yours Too)

Everything has been written about Rafael Nadal's game that could ever possibly be written. I don't mean that to break Rafa down to the sum of his parts or anything, but just as a comment on the sheer amount said and written about Rafa. We've talked about the forehand. We've talked about the movement. We've talked about the mental toughness. We've talked about all the things.

But one thing which is talked about, but probably not enough, is Rafa's ability to hang tough on all the big points. I cannot name one moment when I have seen that boy crack. And that, right there, is why he is one of the greats.

Take today's match against Stan Wawrinka, for example. That tiebreak could have gone either way. When a tiebreak gets to 12-all, that's a fact you just can't deny. That set could so easily have been Stan's.

But it wasn't. It was Rafa's. And this is not a one off. The close sets, the tight ones, the ones where anyone could win... Rafa wins those matches a whole lot more often than not. I don't know his record in tiebreaks, but I presume it's amazing. Just like all players, Rafa plays a lot of close matches. But he nearly always wins them.

So sorry Stan. Woulda shoulda coulda. You had chances. And in most tennis matches, the other guy is always going to have chances. But what separates Rafa out from most everyone else is that he takes just about every chance he can - and makes sure the other guy doesn't take theirs. And that - that latter point - is one which is not talked about enough. Because Rafa is, far and away, the best at that in the world.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

David and David

So Roger didn't play his bestest tennis yesterday, but he won, and that made me happy. And his strawberry pink shirt also made me happy. It's so nice to see him wear something that's not blue.

Yes, I am shallow.

But happy as I was that my beloved R-Fed made it through, the match of the day went to David vs David, Nalbandian vs Ferrer, who played an absolute barnburner. It was close, but Nalbandian came out on top, and I think that's really telling. If he can keep his legs under him against an Energiser Bunny like Ferrer, then he's got a really good chance of holding his own against similar players. Like Nadal. Oh yes.

I love that Nadal/Nalbandian match up and I am gagging to see it again. We haven't seen Rafa since Wimbledon, so we don't know what's going on with him so much, but I'm presuming he's still keeping on keeping on, being Rafa and being awesome. Nalbandian in this kind of form... that could be lethal.

And hey, Nalbandian just finished his next match, and he absolutely slaughtered Tommy Robredo. There's a message to all the Spaniards out there... (okay, I haven't really looked at the draw and I don't know if Nalbandian is drawn to face Nadal any time soon, but I really want it to happen).

Nalbandian hasn't tested himself against a top ten player yet since his resurgence (I think? Unless I missed it?) and I'll be really interested to see how he does when that time come - because that time is clearly a-coming, with the way he's playing. Who knows what havoc Nalbandian can wreak? He could win this whole damn tournament, and I don't know if anyone would, at the end of the day, be surprised.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Small Signs of Life

Ana Ivanovic won a match today.

I can barely remember a time when saying that was not out of the ordinary - a time when Ana Ivanovic was a regular feature in the second week of Slams, when she was in the final, hell, when she won freaking Slams. We talk a lot about people not actualising their potential and never winning a Slam when they totally have the potential too... perhaps we should be applauding Ana for getting there at all. When I can go on for this long about Ana winning a single match, well...

To be fair to her, she did beat Victoria Azarenka, which makes this victory a whole lot bigger. I thought Vika was playing a lot better of late - she made a final recently, did she not? - but maybe not. Or maybe she was tired, but I don't know if that really washes too well. I think it's very telling that Ivanovic not only beat Azarenka, she beat her after losing the first set. I'm not going to mention words like 'resurgence' - because it's still only one match - but that is nothing but a positive sign for Ivanovic.

Now. Back it up.

And Dinara Safina won a match today as well. In straights. She beat Roberta Vinci, who isn't exactly top ten but who definitely does not suck, so that is a really positive result. I'm just really hoping she didn't come back too soon, what with all her back problems. I'd be really sad if she screwed herself up again.

Oh, and quick follow up from yesterday - Jelena Dokic's epic fifteen match streak has come a little too late to catapult her into the main draw at the US Open, which is a real shame. However, I know Australia has a reciprocal wildcard arrangement with the USTA, and please please PLEASE Jelena deserves that wildcard. I know she's had a bunch of chances but PLEASE she deserves it. And just to prove it's fate, do you know what she's ranked now? #82. Exactly what Yen-hsun Lu and Tsvetana Pironkova were ranked when they made their runs at Wimbledon - and, I believe, what Andrey Golubev was ranked when he won his title and jumped into the top fifty. IT'S A SIGN.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Flashbacks

At the risk of sounding totally hackneyed and cliched, the winners this weekend really have been a blast from the past.

On the subject of blasting, that was exactly what did David Nalbandian did to his opponents in Washington. It was merciless mass murder - and that is not an exaggeration. Maybe it's because del Potro is out and due to lose a buttload of points and Nalbandian wants to regain that coveted Argentinian number #1 spot, or maybe he's just enjoying being on the tennis court, but Nalby is on FIRE out there. This is like that tear he went on during the indoor season a while back. I really hope he can keep this up, because he could be fierce during the US Open, and we could see some MATCHES.

(Here's hoping he's seeded by then. Imagine drawing Nalby first round!)

And then there's Sveta, who took out Aga Radwanska. She almost choked it away, but then she, you know, didn't, and I really hope she can keep up this level of confidence because I freaking LOVE SVETA. It's a trial, being a Sveta fan, but when she's on she can beat just about anyone. And I love it when she does, because I think she's awesome.

And then last but by no means least, hidden but not forgotten, Jelena Dokic is on an absolute tear. She's just won three ITF titles on the trot and is on about a fifteen match winning streak. She's definitely in a position to be in the main draw at the US Open and maybe, finally, something good can happen for Jelena. God knows it's her turn!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Roger!

Happy birthday, Roger Federer.

In honour of your 29th birthday, I declare today a day of rest. Others can laud your greatness today - I will let silence speak for you. No words can encompass what you have done for our game.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Whoa, whoa, whoa - so Marin Cilic hasn't been in the best form this year, but he was absolutely massacred by David Nalbandian in Washington. Not just beaten. Slaughtered.

Daveed is back, and he's here to bring pain. Pain and blood and brimstone and people are scared, yo.

One of my favourite matchups in tennis is Nadal/Nalbandian, when both guys are reasonably in form, and if the chips fall right, we might get this some time in the next few weeks. Rafa is coming off a big Wimbledon win, but I'm calling it early - Daveed has the potential to be this year's Juan Martin del Potro and go on an absolute tear of winningness. He is in a ferocious mood, and he is massacring opponents that he has no right to massacre.

It is ON, amigos. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

And the same thing (to a lesser extent) goes for Sveta Kuznetsova. She absolutely pounded Flavia Pennetta in San Diego, and I'd rate her a really good chance for the final... if she keeps it together. Nalbandian is notoriously sketchy - hence the GoodDave/LameDave dichotomy - but Sveta takes headcase to another level. Keep it together, Sveta, because you have the game to beat anyone, anytime, if your head's in the game.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back at the Bar

The results in Washington this week are like stepping back five or more years. It's crazy. And it's also one of the greatest triumphs of talent I have ever seen.

I have talked before about how I think Tomas Berdych is crazy talented - which he is - but Xavier Malisse is, in my book, much more so, and really could have been something if he had managed to capitalise on it. Which he hasn't. Not really. He should have been solid top ten for several years and he never came close. But now, in his relative old age, he's having some success - at this tournament anyway.

Maybe it was the threat of his career ending with that whole drugs thing last year - the same thing that enveloped Yanina Wickmayer - because it really seems to have lit a fire under Malisse. He's never going to reach the top ten, but he's been moderately impressive this year by anyone's standards. And now he's beaten the top seed (Berdych) to progress to the semis in Washington. Good work, Xavier.

And then there's Marcos Baghdatis and Marin Cilic - very talented, both of them - but well, well, who is this I see? It surely couldn't be the man who has missed the last six Slams but still manages to keep it together for Davis Cup? Oh why yes, it is. David Nalbandian is playing as well as I've seen him for a long time and he played some lovely stuff in putting out Roddick-beater Simon. I really want to see him keep on this trajectory of improvement, because seriously, seeing Daveed play when he's playing well is something very special.

I'd be happy with any one of these four boys taking the title, but I really would like to see Malisse or Nalbandian do it. It's been a long time between drinks but they're finally back at the bar!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Roddick Broken

So today is not Andy Roddick's bestest day ever.

He lost to Gilles Simon in straight sets in Washington. Easy straights, too. Simon may have had a very good 2008 and have done his time inside the top ten, but he's definitely not the player Roddick is. I think the only person with a comparable top ten record is Federer.

And now, if I understand rightly, this loss to one-year-wonder Simon has knocked Roddick clear out of the top ten.

And you know what? I think you can trace that poison all the way back to Wimbledon 2009. I think that was the moment when Roddick lost hope of winning another Slam, because he hasn't looked threatening since - not even at the smaller tournaments. Sure, he's racked up a few minor victories (I think), but I don't you think you can underestimate the impact that that 16-14 loss had on Roddick. The moment that Federer got his 15 was the moment Roddick realised he was stuck on 1 forever.

I actually genuinely believe Roddick has the game to win another Slam - probably the US Open or, at the outside, Wimbledon. But if this mindset continues? Not so much. Roddick may have had the misfortune to be born in the great Fedal era and never really have had a shot, but he always hung in there, kept it going. But I think last year at Wimbledon, Federer finally broke him. Roddick's had his head down ever since.

And now, more than a year later, that is showing up in the points.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hurrah for the Hopman Cup!

As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I embarked on an epic tennis adventure around the nation last year, stopping in at four cities. One of these was Perth, where I paid my first ever visit to Western Australia and the Hopman Cup.

Now, even though I had an absolute blast last year, I was tossing up whether to go to Perth again this year, because when you live in a country as big as Australia, flights clear across the country are expensive. It's like a punch directly to the wallet. But with the announcement of some of the teams, I think my decision's been made for me. I couldn't not go.

John Isner and Serena Williams are the American entry, and they have to be the top seeds for sure. Big Is played there last year (opposite tiny Melanie Oudin) and I think Perth will be very glad to see him back! And Serena, well… pulling a #1 player is a huge coup for an exhibition tournament like Hopman Cup! I'm assuming they pay appearance fees and that their bucket of money is very deep indeed, because they've also got Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic. (I know Ana's ranking is not that high, but I still think she could demand big time fees!)

Oh, and Justine Henin, partnered with Steve Darcis. Minor coup. Pfft.

And then there's the French team! Gael Monfils is going to be very entertaining, and I'm really looking forward to seeing his partner, Kristina Mladenovic, one of the top juniors in the world. And Lleyton Hewitt is back (again), with a yet to be decided partner.

It would be pretty hard to dream up an exho field better than this! This has the two finalists from this year's AO and I for one am gagging to see them play. Perth 2011, here I come!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Comeback, Comedown

One of my favourite, favourite players ever - primarily due to his mad blogging skillz and the fact that he is a really funny dude - is Dmitry Tursunov.

Now, Dima's been off the scene for a while - I assume he's been injured, though I couldn't tell you exactly what the nature of that injury was. But he came back! A little while ago! He used his protected ranking to get into the main draws of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where he recorded two first round losses - understandable, when you are on the comeback from a year or more out of the game.

But today, in Washington, Dima had a win. And that makes me very happy indeed.

And he didn't just beat some nobody or some punk kid either. It was a tight match, but Dima took out Teimuraz Gabashvili, who has played some very good Roddick-beating tennis of late. I mean, he's not exactly Federer or Nadal, but this is a really, really excellent result for Mr Tursunov. Tennis needs characters like Dima, and man is that guy a character.

Another guy who is a real character in tennis but who is playing appallingly and reaping according results is James Blake. If Dima is the good news story of Washington, Blake is the bad, because there seems to be no end to his woes. I literally cannot remember the last time he won a match - and that's saying something, because I can usually keep track of stuff like that. But Blake is in a downward spiral for sure. He lost to Ryan Sweeting, who is - correct me if I'm wrong - an American junior.

When results like this are not a one off but the norm, there is a problem ahoy, sailor.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Baby, Remember Their Names

Okay, so there's some grown up tennis going on right now. The annual Juan Martin del Potro string of US hardcourt tournaments has begun, and people are playing in them. And stuff.

Oh, and also, it's the World Junior Tennis Competition final in Prostejov, Czech Republic, and the Aussie kids are KICKING ARSE.

This is an event for the best players aged under 14 in the world, and considering that Rafa Nadal played here once, I think we can safely say it's a good platform for future stars. Both the Aussie teams have had tough draws, but both have come through wonderfully.

Let's start with the girls, because their upset is probably the biggest one. The Aussie girls were unseeded and upset the second seeds Russia in a huge coup. The real star was probably Ash Barty, who had a massive win in her singles before backing it up in doubles, but Isabella Beischer and Lyann Hong also made huge contributions. Look out for these girls in a few years time - I bet they're going to be huge!

The girls won their tie 2-1, but the boys went one better and made a clean sweep. Thanasi Kokkinakis, Li Tu and Blake Mott played absolutely awesomely to secure Australia the win against the home team, the Czech Republic. This is a massive effort and people should be very proud!

I wish I had more to say about this event, because I think it's really worthwhile. For now, I'll just stick with well done, keep it up and congratulations, kids!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The G-Boys

There's a poll on the ATP website at the moment that is trying to ascertain who is the biggest improver of 2010. Mardy Fish, John Isner and Jurgen Melzer are all on there, as is Aleksandr Dolgopolov Jr, who obviously has improved, even though I don't remember it happening.

But most importantly, two of my favourite young characters are on there. Both have won their first titles this year, and I have hopes of great things for both of them.

Andrey Golubev. Ernests Gulbis. Improved. Still improving.


I've talked a lot about my fangirlishness of Golubev lately, so I'll leave him alone for now, but let's talk Gulbis. I have been on his bandwagon for what feels like a thousand years now, waiting for him to break through. Sometimes I thought I was the only one on the bandwagon, though at other times it was quite popular. Though, with injury and whatnot, he hasn't been around much lately, it is really good to know that I was right. Gulbis is going places.

Both Gulbis and Golubev have massive tennis stories left to tell. Both are relatively late bloomers, but so what? So are plenty of players. I don't know if either of them will ever win a Slam - though Gulbis might surprise you! - but there is a lot of success ahead of both of them. I am sure of this.

And I'd also like to point out that Gulbis is leading the poll at the moment, and Golubev is coming second. But the real winner? Me, obviously.

(This is a joke, clearly.)