Thursday, September 30, 2010

Frankie, the Potato, and the Glorious Kazakhs

I could talk about the tennis going on in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and Beijing and whatnot...

...or I could talk about my favourite tournament of the year, and how awesome it's going to be next year.

That's right. More teams have been announced for the Hopman Cup!

Lleyton Hewitt's partner has been announced - it's Alicia Molik. This isn't exactly awe-inspiring stuff - when Australia managed to pull Stosur last year, that was a bit more of a coup - but Molik is likeable enough, so it should be fun. There's no way Australia's getting to the final, of course, but meh, whatevs. It's all about the exciting international teams anyways.

Speaking of which - Italy! yay! We have Potito 'I have an awesome name that only Jack Sock can rival' Starace paired up with Francesca Schiavone - man, is the women's draw going to be awesome at Hopman '11 or what? We have Serena, Juju, Frankie... pure awesomeness. The Italian team has the possibility of doing what Spain did this year, I think - a relatively underwhelming team on the surface that can totally kill the flashy teams with the big names. I would not be at all surprised to see Frankie and the Potato win the thing. It would be awesome.

But you know who I want to win? Kazakhstan.

That's right - Slava Shvedova and my beloved cutie-patootie Andrey Golubev are back for another year, and some arses are going to be kicked. They very-nearly-almost made the final this year - can they go all the way this time? I wouldn't be ruling them out... as Switzerland can well tell you, you can never count Kazakhstan out...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kolya Fading Away

Oh, Davydenko. It seems like only yesterday you were the next big thing.

I've talked a lot about how losing to Federer at the Australian Open broke Andy Murray, and how it's in doubt now that he'll ever win a Slam, even though everyone seems convinced it'll happen. But what hasn't got a lot of air time - and has been much more pronounced than the Murray situation - is the way that Federer broke Davydenko.

We all remember the match. One and a half sets in, Kolya had points to make it a double break in the second, moving towards a two sets to love lead. And then someone flipped a switch and Roger won about twelve games in a row and it was all over, red rover - the whole Kolya adventure. All those victories that he'd scored over Federer in the last couple of months somehow became meaningless. His short lived gig as Mr Personality faded into the back of everyone's memory. And Kolya himself faded away.

The Kolya of that time, pre-quarters in Australia, would not be losing in the second round of Kuala Lumpur to Igor 'where have I been?' Andreev. That Kolya would be pretty much a dead cert for the final and no one would have stood in the way. That Kolya was a wall, capable of beating anyone, any time, any place, if he put his mind to it. Even the man that had made him his bunny, Roger Federer.

But then Federer turned a match around in a single point and that wall came crumbling down.

Davydenko is a strong enough player to come back from that defeat. One of the reasons he's been in the top ten for so long is not his game, but his consistency, which is a largely mental thing. You don't do that being weak. But since that time, we haven't seen much of Kolya. And unless he can pull himself together and do something even faintly resembling what he did in the latter part of last year, he's in danger of fading into the background permanently.

And Kolya, we don't want that. Pull yourself together. Because tennis isn't quite finished with you yet.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oh Hi, Big Guy

Oh hi, big guy! Welcome back, JMDP!

No one was expecting JMDP to do anything even resembling winning in Thailand, n'cest-ce pas? Even if they did want him to match up against Rafa Nadal (which I, for one, am glad did not happen - can you imagine the humiliation that being smacked down by Rafa would have inflicted on the poor dude?) He lost to wee Olly Rochus in straights - competitive straights, but straights. And he served sixteen aces, which coming off wrist surgery, is pretty impressive.

But basically, I think everyone's just glad he's back.

The tennis world is all right without JMDP in it. He's not one of the key personalities of tennis, even though he did have his Slam run last year. Losing JMDP hasn't been like losing the Djoker or Murray or a player of comparable level. We've managed to forget about him pretty well. But even though the tennis world is all right without him in it, it's better when he's here.

And it'll be even better when he's fully better.

That, of course, is the question. The dude's been out for a long time, and wrist surgery is a big, big thing. That is a mammoth thing to have to recover from, and I'd say that there's a big chance that he'll never be the same player. I think it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that he's a one Slam wonder, in any case.

But you know what? a dude that can smash sixteen aces in his first match back from surgery... he strikes as someone who's going to recover all right.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A List of Unrelated Facts

Let's see if I can string together a blog post that doesn't rhyme for the first time in what? four days? Maybe this week will be more interesting. I have to believe it.

Let's do a list of things I think are noteworthy or interesting instead of a poem. And I'll try very hard to make sure it doesn't rhyme. I will, however, be extremely cryptic and not explain what I mean.

1) I used to really like Viktor Troicki. Now I think he is a bit disappointing.

2) Jack Sock is kicking Ryler de Heart's arse when it comes to the best name in American tennis.

3) I really need to watch some of this Thiemo de Bakker dude. Everyone seems to think he's awesome. I've missed it totally. I hate missing bandwagons. It makes me sad.

4) I am on the Yuki Bhambri bandwagon. Mostly because he has a cool name.

5) Being a Svetlana Kuznetsova fan is like repeatedly banging your head into a wall. Sometimes you're so dazed you forget the wall's there, but mostly you're in agony.

6) I'm really glad I'm not a Vika fan. That seems like it would be worse.

7) It would be awesome if Bepa became #1 in the world, even if it was just for a week.

8) Is Kevin Anderson awesome or something now? He seems to be everywhere.

9) Andrey Golubev is definitely awesome.

10) What are your random inane comments?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Rhyme (but shorter this time)

As you can tell by the fact that I have resorted to rhyme, the tennis week has been spectacularly dull. Like, there are no words for the level of dullness that have descended upon us. And so, another short post.

When the tennis is tired
Jodi's uninspired
To write witty posts
Of which she can boast
Instead she writes rhymes
Which, after a time
Get very boring
And people start snoring
And so I have sought
To keep this rhyme short
And I think I'm succeeding -
You! there! stop reading!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More Haikus for a Dull Week


Chela won this one
I had wholly forgotten
That he existed.


This one went to Gilles
Back in 2008
He was good... but now?


AKley disappeared
For a while - but now - yay! Seoul!
...doesn't mean that much.


Alla in Tashkent
She lost to Jarka last week
This is a good run.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Haikus for a Dull Week


Starace is out
Montanes is the top seed
How did that happen?


Since Australia
Cilic hasn't been red hot
Just kind of tepid


Safina is out
Sadly, so is Date Krumm
Seoul is dead to me


Alla beat Masha
At Wimbledon that one time
...that is all I've got.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The State of Tennis Today

There comes a time when it's simpler to rhyme
Than write anything insightful
Tennis is so boring that I'm almost snoring
It is decidedly undelightful

We might get all bent talking of Tashkent
But in the end, it's not that exciting
What fun! and what mania! talking of Romania!
...somehow I don't find it inviting

It's like the game takes a walk at the end of New York
When we conclude at the US Open
Now it's a lull that's ever so dull
And to be honest, I find myself mopin'.

When Jodi turns to rhyme you know it is time
That something of import happen
But right now it's so tedious I've made up the word 'weedious'
So awful I see you all flappin'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On The Same Side Of The Net

So, um, there's still tennis going on. And stuff. In this not-that-exciting time of the year.

But at the end of the day, I don't have that much to say except 'yay, Dinara Safina won a match', so we're going to flash back to the US Open a week ago. And we're going to do something I don't often do on this blog - talk doubles.

Yes, I am aware that everyone and their dog have covered this story, but really, is there a better news story around than Bopanna and Qureshi?

We can talk about the Bryans till the cows come home - and probably we should, because what they have achieved is awesome. But the whole Bopanna/Qureshi thing is one of the biggest feelgood stories in tennis this year. An Indian and a Pakistani playing together... wow.

I studied a lot of Indian politics and history at uni, and one of the things I remember noting is the role of sport as a healer. Politically, India and Pakistan are at loggerheads, and this can translate to the sporting world as well - particularly cricket, where the rivalry is fierce. But then something will happen, like one nation touring the other, playing friendly matches. It makes everyone feel all nice. And things are good for a little while. It makes sport not only awesome and fun, but politically worthwhile, a goodwill gesture.

Bopanna and Qureshi have taken that one step further. They're not playing each other, participating in feelgood friendly partisanship. No, they're playing together. They're united. They're one. And they are taking on the world. The only way their story could be better is if they won, but at the end of the day, even that doesn't matter. Their trip to the final won them huge visibility, but the fact that they played together at all is magnificently wonderful.

I really hope these two guys stay together for a long time. There is no way to underestimate the amount of good they can do by standing up together on the same side of a net. No way at all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Let The Sun Shine In

I bitched a lot about the state of Australian tennis yesterday. Today, let's talk about something lovely. Like Jarmila Groth winning her first WTA title in Guangzhou!

Groth isn't the most talented player out there, and she's never going to be Sam Stosur mk 2 or anything, but she has a lovely game and damn can she play. She has had an absolute breakthrough year this year - there are a lot of players ranked a lot higher than her than would be really super happy with making two fourth rounds at the Slams. Given the level of consistency in the WTA, that is a really excellent result.

Jarka might be a bit of a late bloomer, but she definitely brings a lot to the Australian stable - and, moreover, the Fed Cup team. Between Stosur and Groth - with players like Rodionova and Dokic lurking around as well - we have one hell of a Fed Cup team. The Guangzhou tournament might not be a huge tournament - Jarka was top seed - but winning a title, any title, is a huge achievement for any player.

I could be more analytical and make predictions for Groth, grand where to from here statements... but I don't really want to. Instead, let's just focus on the fact that Jarka won a title. She won it in style. And that, my friends, is awesome. Let the sun shine in, Jarka. You deserve it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One Step Short... Again

I would really, really be lying if I didn't say that I was disappointed.

Belgium was an eminently beatable opponent for Australia. But once again, we proved that we just really don't have the depth. Rochus, Darcis and Bemelmans really does not make a worldbeating Davis Cup team - nowhere close. But apparently Hewitt, Luczak and Ball... well, that's even worse.

It really highlights the dependency of the Australian team on Lleyton Hewitt, which is incredibly dangerous. Even if he'd been able to play, I don't think he would have had much success - he came so close to losing to Bemelmans that I really didn't see him coming through Rochus. But Luczak should have been able to make things happen. And Ball... well, I think people just expect a lot more of him than he's capable of, to tell the truth. He and Guccione make a great doubles team, but I just don't know if he's ever going to be any more than that.

Australia really can't rely on Lleyton. He's been so good for so long, but come on, the dude's been on his way down for years. We can't manufacture talent out of nowhere, but we need to stop pinning all our hopes on one guy so much - it's not fair to him. This is exactly what is going to happen to Bernard Tomic and Jason Kubler, if they ever make good on their respective immense talents - reliance, to the detriment of the squad. And then we're going to end up like the UK, losing to Lithuania.

I suppose there's nothing really you can do. If you don't have the players, you just don't have the players. And I think the venue decision was as smart as it possibly could have been - the hot, steamy conditions of Cairns should really have benefited the Australians. But it just didn't happen. Story of Davis Cup in Australia for a long time now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The New Ivan

A 5-0 loss, Switzerland? Really? Really?!

We are SO not speaking.

But Serbia! How about you?! Novak Djokovic, you done good, but how about you, Janko Tipsarevic? You are a freaking HERO.

This is going to be a really interesting final. France have the talent to beat just about any squad in the world - scratch that, France can beat anyone if they play well. They have amazing depth and an ability to substitute quality players that only Spain can really come close to matching. I mean, look at the talent in their stable - Monfils, Gasquet, Tsonga, Llodra, Benneteau, Clement... and that's just off the top of my head. Those Frenchies can play.

But the highest ranked player in that tie is going to be Novak Djokovic, and unless Tsonga is back and playing awesomely, I don't see him getting beaten in either singles rubber. And Janko Tipsarevic, well... if he can beat Tomas Berdych in a clutch singles rubber and then come back a couple of days later and win a live fifth in convincing fashion... such is the stuff that Davis Cup heroes are made of. That is Ivan Ljubicic level stuff right there. And Janko, I think you just might be the new Ivan.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

France on Fire, Serbia to the Wire

Well, that didn't go too well for Switzerland. Well done, Kazakhstan, but Switzerland, really?

Enough about that. I suppose the playoffs pale in comparison to the real deal, the semi-finals, and I probably should at least mention that they're happening.

The regular Davis Cup heroism of David Nalbandian could not save Argentina this time - they have been absolutely taken apart by the French team. It would not be unfair to say, I think, that France are on fire. And given that the level of tennis talent in France is nothing short of immense, it is not unfair to say that they should always be on fire. They should be a fixture in the finals, not breaking a major drought.

But now isn't the time to lambast them - now that they have actually made good for once. France are a super deserving finalist for this year's Davis Cup - taking out Argentina and, moreover, Spain, is nothing to sneeze at. Their draw has been many things, but cupcake-y is not one of them. Allez!

And then there is Serbia vs the Czech Republic, and a tighter tie it would be hard to imagine. If Serbia had had Djokovic on the first day, one might imagine that the whole thing might have been a lot less tight. But no, Serbia have to win both matches on the final day to go through.

And they so easily could have been out in straights like Argentina - if Serbia go through to the final this year, they need to give Janko Tipsarevic a ticker-tape parade. His win over Berdych was some of the best clutch play around. And now the Czech Republic may be up a point, but if Djokovic can make good on his ranking and beat Berdych, and if Tipsarevic can keep his level up against Stepanek, well... what a tie this could end up being!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Davis Cup Dampener

I am a great fan of the tennis nation of Kazakhstan. It might seem cold and corporate to some, but I like the fact that they care enough about their tennis prowess to go and buy players like Golubev and Korolev and Shvedova to play for them. I appreciate that they care that much about tennis.

But I do, I confess, get a little bit upset when they go and take a 2-0 leave in a relegation tie over my beloved Switzerland.

The Big Swissie isn't there, of course - understandably, due to the whole semis in New York thing (see yesterday's rant) - but Stan Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli are. I expected Golubev to beat Chiudinelli - we all know that Golubev is a) awesome and b) one of my special favourites, making him even more awesome - but Stan? losing in five sets to Mikhail Kukushkin?

Excuse me while my eyes fall out of my head in surprise.

Stan, following you can be incredibly frustrating. Quite aside from your being second banana to my beloved R-Fed, I like watching you play - your backhand is artistry. If you and Gasquet ever played a backhand exhibition match, I would so be in that. I was super happy when you made the quarters of the US Open - that is genuinely a fantastic result.

But it kind of puts a dampener on it when you go and pull a stunt like this.

Despite the fact that Davis Cup is really, really hard to care about, I'm really genuinely annoyed with this result. And I'm a bit annoyed with R-Fed for not playing. Switzerland should be kicking Kazakhstan's arse in this tie and it's just not happening. The whole missing Roger and brainfarting Stan thing is leading to a real misrepresentation of the tennis prowess of Switzerland, and that is frustrating. (Now, if they changed the scheduling and the format...)

But that, I suppose, is the nature of tennis.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Under the Carpet

Guess what time it is! Here is a blog post you have read before - many times before - but which I still find myself writing every single damn time this thing comes around.

Davis Cup, honey, if you want people to take you seriously, your scheduling has to change.

I know there are definitely players that take the Davis Cup seriously. Everyone loves playing for their country, right? But Davis Cup is the only time players (well, male players) get to play in a team in this sport, yesno? It's special. It needs more prestige. You want your big guys playing it - and moreover, you want them thinking that it's important enough to play.

This is why you don't schedule it the week after a Slam when those players have just been in the finals and semi-finals and are absolutely exhausted and want to sleep for a hundred years. It is just not clever.

I'm not the only one to put this proposal forward and I won't be the last - set aside two weeks for Davis Cup, well away from any of the Slams. Hold it in a different venue each year if you like - maybe it could be held in the country that won the tournament the year before? And play it like a Slam - teams playing every two days, getting knocked out as they lost.

Maybe there would not then be the need for five rubbers. Maybe it would be best of three rubbers. And yes, maybe that would be controversial. But at least you'd get people playing those three rubbers. And you could do it with a squad of players - maybe as many as six - and you could deploy whoever you wanted. The two highest-ranked nominated singles players of each squad would play each other, then the two lower-ranked ones, and then there would be doubles. And it would be awesome. You could even make it best of three sets if you were that way inclined, but I think you could stay with best of five.

And obviously the same model could apply to Fed Cup. Davis and Fed Cups would then become events, real spectator sports, and would feel a lot more like a competition. Because at the moment, they're both being swept under the carpet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Oncoming Storm

It's hard to let go of the Slam year. 2010 is, for all effects and purposes, over. We have learned what we are going to learn over the best of five sets thing, and now it's time to phone it in till the end of the year.

Or, if you are that way inclined, pick up some points, and that would not be the worst thing in the world ever to do, Mr I-Would-Be-Ranked-6-if-I-hadn't-won-the-Australian-Open.

And it's a time when we should be reflecting on what we've learned, but I'm not very reflective. Instead, I'm restless.

What have we learned? Well, we have learned that Rafa Nadal is a force to be reckoned with, and outside of being that guy that always denies Federer at the most inopportune times, we need to start talking about him as a great player in his own right. We have learned that Andy Murray might not, contrary to popular belief, ever win a Slam. We have learned that when Serena's out of the mix, just about anyone can win a WTA Slam... but when she is in the mix, you have to pull out something pretty special to beat her.

These are all valid lessons to have learned, but even though the year is effectively over, I have the feeling that we're not quite done with 2010 yet. Rafa has year end #1 all sewn up and I wouldn't be betting against Serena on the women's side, but there's the sense that there is something coming. Surprises are in store.

There's a storm coming. I couldn't tell you what it is, whether it will be for the ATP or the WTA or both, or whether I am just making this up, but I have the feeling that 2010 isn't quite finished yet. We may not have the big tournaments left to warrant it, but there are still a few surprises left in store for us this year.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rock On, Rafa

As a Federer fan and someone who is currently quite fond of the idea of the Roginator as the greatest of all time, it is difficult not to be a little sad at Rafa's career Slam.

So I have made up my mind not to be.

Let's just take a moment and give Rafa a round of applause because dude, DUDE, YOU ARE AMAZING. The stuff Rafa can do with a racquet and a yellow ball is out of sight. He is unbelievable - not in the same way Federer is unbelievable, but in a way of his own. Federer is like a ballet dancer on court. Rafa is like a video game - some indomitable monster that the opponent just cannot overcome. The way he smacks his forehand is terrifying. His passing shots fear other mere mortals with terror. And now he has a big-ass serve, well...

And he is smart! I wouldn't say he is the biggest tennis genius ever or anything, but damn does that guy know what he is doing on a tennis court. I feel very sorry for him sometime because he is always going to be talked about in reference to Federer, always going to be in Roger's shadow to some extent, even if he does one day surpass him in titles one, purely because Roger was first. But Rafa... Rafa is something else, and I think for a while, we need to talk about just him.

And damn it, I frigging love that kid. Roger love and Rafa love don't have to be exclusive. So rock on, Rafa. You keep vamosing through life, because I love your work. And dude, you are one of the greats of all time. No question about it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Little Something on Fitness

There is a story behind the US Open final that needs to be told. It's not the story about how Rafa might turn out to be the GOAT after all or how Djokovic's parents are really annoying or how I can't believe we were denied Fedal again, even though they are all valid and worthy stories.

This story is a story about fitness.

Cast your mind back, if you can, to January 2009, when the slightly younger Rafael Nadal played Fernando Verdasco in an Australian Open semi for the ages. It went for over five hours and was physically exhausting, brutal tennis for both parties. No one left anything on court.

That same Rafa Nadal came back two days later, played another five sets, and beat the greatest plater of all time.

Now let us consider the case of Novak Djokovic. Mr One-Slam-Away-From-A-Retirement-Slam played an absolute epic of a five setter semi final against the greatest player of all time. No one left anything on court. It was wall to wall blood and sweat and tears.

This same Novak Djokovic looked meek as a little kitten for a good part of the opening set of the US Open final. He was slapping his feet with his racquet and looking for cheap points as quick as you could say boo.

Now, yes, this is slightly unfair. It's very unfair, in fact. But I would contend that the two circumstances are comparable, and one of the things that separates the greats from the extraordinarily goods is fitness. Let's say Federer had been the one to come out of that semi. Even if he had lost in this final, I don't think I would be writing the same essay now. His fitness is rarely talked about, but it's incredible.

But this is not about what might have been. What I do mean to say is that I think the right player won this match, and not just because the other guy was tired. If Rafa Nadal had been the one to go through that five set semi, I don't think his performance would have been any different than it was. Because he is made of iron.

I don't know if any of this is necessarily Djokovic's fault. I certainly don't wish to diminish his achievements - he took a set off Rafa, for heaven's sake, and we all know how hard this is to do. But this is one of the things that is standing between him and Slam #2. He expends so much energy getting to the final that once he's there... he can't quite play the tennis we know and he knows that he is capable of.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ballad of the Rain Delay

What can I say about today?
One thing only - rain delay
Nole must be saying 'yay!'
Because he gets an extra day.

But Rafa likes his resting too
So, just between me and you
I do not think that he will do
Anything different - he'll win (big, too).

But we must wait - alack, alay -
This means I don't have much to say
Which is why today is Rhyming Day...
(...and now I'm going to go away.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Queen of Queens

I'm not going to write about the men's semis, primarily because it was just so disappointing. Fedal, denied again. Suffice it to say that Rafa, Novak, you were definitely the better players on the day. And Novak, I know we don't have a good history, but I do know it really was your turn. And you should be very proud.

Oh, and vamos Rafa.

What I can talk about is the women's final. I predicted Bepa yesterday due to the scratchy way Kim has been performing, and I was 100% totally wrong. Bepa was the one that went to pieces today, and boy, did she lose it in a big way. She was not half the player we saw line up against Wozniacki - not the player who did not lose a set en route to the final at all.

Bepa fell prey to her mental demons - the mental demons that plague all tennis players but which some players can manage better than most. Do I believe Bepa can win a Slam - like, if she has the game to do so? Absolutely. Do I think she will? Probably not, especially not after two disappointing finals losses.

But please, Bepa, prove me wrong. I am really, really happy to be wrong.

And then there is Kim Clijsters, the queen of Queens. What a beautiful moment it is whenever she wins a tournament. She is a gracious, charming victor... and it does not hurt that Jada is cute as a button. She played stunningly well in this match and really showed this tournament that she has the goods. She fought through tough matches where she looked down and out. She turned on the talent when it counted. She showed that she, herself, must always be counted. And congrats, Kimmie. You deserve all your glory.

Friday, September 10, 2010


CazWoz, you seem like a nice kid. You really do. But until you start playing more interesting tennis, you will not catch me barracking for you in a million years. I was so, so glad that Vera Zvonareva knocked you out today, and I'm not going to apologise for it.

Let's talk about Bepa for a minute. She has flown pretty much completely under the radar for this entire tournament, despite the fact that she made the final in Wimbledon and has been playing like a gun. I don't think there's one single person who picked her to make the final here - including me - and it's really satisfying that she's stood up to be counted. There's a lot of things in the future of Vera Zvonareva, but the way I see it, not once again will she ever be forgotten.

In Slams, I think you have to say that Bepa has had the second best year after Serena - she's certainly the only other person who has made two major finals, and even if she loses tomorrow that's not going to change. And you know what...? She may be the underdog, but I don't think there's a cookie tray in Bepa's future tomorrow.


Because even though she's been winning, even though she's brought it good when it's counted, Kim Clijsters is playing some of the most error strewn tennis we've seen from her in a while.

Her match against Venus today... well, she so easily could have lost that one, and Venus is going to have nightmares about those two double faults in the breaker. Similarly, Kimmie played a very error-riddled match against Stosur. She's squeaked out her last two matches, but against Bepa, who is playing spectacularly and has nowhere near the pressure that Kimmie has? Well...

I think this match is on Kim's racquet - but that Bepa will really have something to say about that. Both these players are capable of redlining their game and playing like ninjas. If it comes down to a ninja-off, I think Kimmie will win... but I'm thinking the player more likely to go ninja is Bepa, if that makes sense.

So. Yes. Excellent performance from Bepa today, not so much from Kimmie. And though I'll be happy whoever wins - I think this one just might belong to Bepa.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Man You Cannot Ignore

I don't think there is anyone in the world who picked Nadal to make the final of the US Open, much less to win. Everyone was all like, 'no, he doesn't play well here, he hates this surface, Andy Murray ra ra ra'.

I'm rooting for Federer. We know this. And my life would be easier if all this were true. But the fact of the matter is that Rafa, you are awesome, and I am so glad you have proved your doubters wrong.

The man who can't play in the US Open has got to the semis without dropping a set - and before today, he hadn't got his serve broken at all in the tournament, which is absolutely phenomenal. He has also added a whole lot more oomph to that serve and is playing like a demon out of hell. He is totally capable of winning the whole thing. Like, scarily capable. But while I am scared, I cannot help but applaud.

I know that his big obstacle was supposed to be Andy Murray, who would smash him like a guitar in the quarters. Instead, he faces Mikhail Youzhny, who put him out of the US Open a few years ago but seems unlikely to repeat the feat. But this does not mean that any feat Rafa has achieved has any kind of asterisk over it - not at all. Rafa may have a relatively cupcake-y draw, but that isn't his fault and he can't be held accountable for it.

A Fedal final would be the ultimate frazzle test for a Federer fan. But it also has the potential to be one of the greatest matches ever.

Not that I'm counting chickens or anything - Roger has to get by Djokovic, and Youzhny, well, he did put Rafa out that one time. But no matter what happens, Rafa has so much to be proud of this tournament. We talk about Fed-haters a lot - I don't know if there are Nadal-haters so much as Nadal-ignorers. And Rafa has shown us time and time again that he is not a man who can be ignored.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whoa Tennis

Robin Soderling, I like you. You know I do. Compared to some other players, I bear you relatively little ill will for what you did to Roger at Roland Garros this year. I like watching you play and I barrack for you over at least nine out of ten other players.

That said...


I am so, so glad that the Fedmeister took out this one and broke his two-Slam 'only the quarters' streak. And could I have possibly asked for more? I think not. I think I could have asked for not one iota more. Straight sets? Against the man that broke the 23-Slam semi streak? Whoa. That is all I can say.

It was whoa-tennis. Federer won 86% of points on his first serve. That is crazy talk. It is insanity. And you know what stat is my special favourite? FIVE OUT OF SIX BREAK POINTS CONVERTED. By Federer standards, that is absolutely outstanding.

I am a very happy little Federbitch right now, let's put it that way - and I am looking forward to Super Saturday with only a (relatively) small amount of frazzles! The Federer Express will be taking on Novak 'Bert' Djokovic, who has been playing surprisingly well this tournament. He played well to take out Monfils, and... he's pretty much just played well. No one expected him to get this far and he has. Kudos to him.

That said, I still don't like you, Novak. HOPP SUISSE!

Oh, and women's tennis. We have a Caro/Bepa semi. This has been a great year for Zvonareva... second straight major final, anyone? I know I'm cheering for it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Intrigue and Errors

We have a really intriguing women's semi final lined up - Venus vs Kimmie. A year after Kimmie lined up against Venus's sister Serena in that fateful match, we are getting the closest thing to a repeat possible. Intriguing.

Now, I think Kimmie is going to take this and take it relatively easily. But if she plays as error-strewntastically as she did today and Venus plays tight, then it could be very interesting indeed.

Let's talk about the two quarter finals for a sec. Frankie Schiavone was right when she said she lost her match more than Venus won it. Normally, I'd be all 'come on guys, this is unfair', but Frankie imploded spectacularly in this match. She is capable of so much more and this was very disappointing. Nonetheless, it's got Venus through to her first semi in about a hundred years in New York, and given the dearth of men on the dudes' side in this draw, the US should be glad.

And then there was Sammy. Oh, Sammy.

Clijsters played some error-strewn stuff today, and Sammy had her chances. She could have won the match today if she had just taken them. But her inability to hold serve... well...

But no one expected her to hang this tight to Kim. And no one really expected her to make quarters here. She played to her seed, and that is something. Well done, Sammy.

And the men. Oh the men.

Rafa got through relatively painlessly, and Youzhny with only a scrape or so, but Stan Wawrinka and Fernando Verdasco must both be totally exhausted after their respective epics. I don't want to say that we'll have Youzhny and Rafa in the semis for sure... but I kind of do, because I just don't know how these guys are going to bear up.

But awesome performances from both - Stan for toughing out that fifth set against a non-partisan crowd and FeVer for roaring back from two sets to love down. This is the best performance from both this year, and both have a lot to be pleased about. And if one of them is a surprise semi finalist... I won't complain!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Capslock of WTA RAGE

Today, I am spectacularly impressed by the main men in tennis and spectacularly unimpressed with the ladies' side of things. We had EPIC WINNAGE and then EPIC FAILAGE.

Let me elaborate.

First, the good news. Basically, the good news = the dudes. It's very unusual that you'll ever find me putting a Novak Djokovic win in among my good things, but it seems like everyone and his dog was expecting him to lose to Mardy 'Farty Dish' Fish today. Fish was the hot tip, the big pick... and instead, Djokovic coolly dispatched him in straights.

Everyone knows that I'm not Djokovic's biggest fan, but he proved why he is still near the top of the game after all these years. Kudos to you, Novak. Good job.

And then the Sod won, which fills me with frazzly terror but which is good because, hey, I like that Yoker, and Monfils won, which is cool, because I picked him to reach the semis and it makes me look a bit insightful.

Oh, and some Swissie won. Some Swissie looked pretty freaking brilliant as he put Melzer to bet in straights. And I'd like to give full credit to Melzer here, because he played some excellent tennis and never went away in the match. Federer was just awesome. And a 50% break point conversion rate? Given his usual standards, that is made of pure solid gold.

But then there were the women.

This does apply to all. Vera Zvonareva, you get an A+. You are my new favourite on this side of the draw, because you are really cool, Bepa, and you played some sweet sweet stuff against Petkovic today. You played like someone who has made the final of a Slam before and is looking to make their second one should play, and that really impresses me. You've played to your seed and no one can ask more of you than that.

...but I'm going to, because if it comes to it, I'm gonna need you to take out Caro for me. (You're cute, Domi, but I don't see you doing it.)


Kudos to Caro and all, but I was really disappointed Sharapova did not make more of this. I was hoping of something of the level of Stosur/Dementieva, and I definitely didn't get it. This match was billed so highly it was always going to be a letdown, but it should have been better than that.

Oh, and then there was bit where Wickmayer lost to Kanepi, and, oh yeah, SVETA LOST. Sveta, I wanted you to win so badly I PICKED you to win, and I NEVER pick you. But could you oblige me? NO. You went down in flames to tiny Domi C, and I'mma havin' a hard time forgiving you. Less brainfarts, please?! PLEASE?!

...I'm going to stop writing before the capslock gets stuck on. But come on, Bepa. Win this half for me. I know you have it in you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leaving Normal

Of course when I talked about the relatively low upsettage in this tournament, there was going to be a wham-bam-thankyou-ma'am epic upset. Andy Murray, you are GONE.

This is a loss that Murray shouldn't have taken. Not after winning Toronto and the US Open series, and not after playing well in his first couple of matches. We knew the Stan Wawrinka match up was probably not the best match ever for him - we all remember that epic five setter under the lights at Wimbledon - but Stan hasn't been playing that great, and Andy should be better than that.

That is the problem with Andy. Right when he should be, he never seems to be better than that.

I would not be surprised if this match has as much of a psychological impact on him as that crushing by Federer in Australia. At least in Australia he made the final and managed one set of relatively good tennis, even though he lost it. Here, he just couldn't make it happen. Sure, Stan was zoning, but he wasn't redlining, wasn't zoning so hard that there was nothing Murray could do about it.

But nonetheless, Murray just could not do anything about it. And now you might as well send Rafa straight to the final.

Over on the ladies' side of the draw - I don't know if we'll see a better women's match this tournament than Stosur/Dementieva, because that one was an absolute cracker. I was listening to it at work and I was on the edge of my seat. I thought Sam fighting off one match point against Serena at Roland Garros was pretty good - here, she fought off four and played a superb tiebreak to beat Dementieva.

I don't think Sam stands a realistic chance against Clijsters right now. But she's played to her seed and achieved her best result at the US Open by a long way. Sam Stosur has a lot to be proud of - on a surface that is not her best, she has fought her way into the quarter finals. It's not getting anywhere near the coverage that, say, Jelena Dokic's run to the quarters in Australia did last year. And you know why? because this is becoming normal for Sam. And that is the best news of all.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Low Upsettage, Big Winnage

There really has not been much in the way of upsettage this tournament. We lost our highest profile seed today in Jelena Jankovic, and I think we all knew JJ wasn't getting too far, not with the way she's been playing lately.

People might say that this takes the fun and the surprise out of the tournament, but I really like it. Sure, some early exits can be totally exciting, particularly if you get big profile seeds in tough tough matches (whether they win or not), but when you get to the second week, you really appreciate the lack of upsets.

Let's look at some of the tantalising match ups we have ahead of us. I have to say that this is the first time in my life I've been actively excited about a Wozniacki match, because I think her match against Sharapova has got to be an absolute barnburner. I think Caro will come out of it - though I would like it if MaSha did, because I appreciate her tennis MUCH more - but no matter what happens, this has the potential to be a titanic struggle. So, I am shocked to find myself saying, does Ivanovic against Clijsters, if Ivanovic can bring her best level.

Yes, I am aware that this is a big, BIG if. But still. It's possible.

And then whoever wins that Woz/Shaz match will probably face Sveta... man, that top quarter is made of win! And then there's Stosur/Dementieva - it could be the worst match ever, but it could also be intensely awesome.

And then over in the dudes, we have most of our main guys intact - with the exception of Davydenko and Berdych, we are reasonably unscathed. Certainly, the big four are all there, alive and kicking, and it is not unthinkable that all four will reach the semis. Wouldn't that be something?

But as it is, we already have some awesome matches coming up. Nalbandian/Verdasco should be great. So should Murray/Wawrinka - I really like that match up. And Fish/Djokovic! Don't even get me started on how badly I want both of those dudes to be knocked out... and we know for sure at least one of them is going.

And I could not close this blog post without noting that the awesome Mr Roger Federer straight setted Paul-Henri Mathieu. Stay cool, Rog. You da man.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I suppose the match of the day we have to talk about is Sergiy Stakhovsky and Ryan Harrison. And don't get me wrong, this was a good match. Very entertaining stuff.

But... USA, I say this with love. I say it because I am from a country that does exactly the same thing to its sportspeople (hello, Casey Dellacqua?) You do not do your up and comers any favours when you deify them as the next big thing. It is possibly the most spectacularly unhelpful thing you could do for their careers.

It's a horrible process called... Oudinisation. And Ryan Harrison is being Oudinised.

I bet Harrison is kicking himself that he lost that match - any self respecting tennis player would be. But you know what? For the sake of any future career he might have, I reckon it might be a good thing. If he had got to the third round, had gone further, the Oudinisation process would have gone further. He must have become fully Oudinised. And that is not a good thing.

Players that are Oudinised have incredible expectations placed on their shoulders. Tennis is a game where only the toughest survive, and it is only the extremely rare player in whom that toughness is innate (Rafa and Serena come to mind). In most others, it is learned. I would include Roger Federer in this category, so this is not necessary a bad thing - look how he turned out. But the process of Oudinisation does not help.

Look at what happens to British players at Wimbledon. This is an extreme case of Oudinisation which can affect even those who are legitimately the next big thing (hi, Andy Murray). But when you heap the expectations of a nation on the shoulders of someone as young as Ryan Harrison or Beatrice Capra or Melanie Oudin, you are not allowing them that necessary growth period. The time when they can play their way into toughness.

It so happens that sometimes young players have good results. We know this happen. Melanie Oudin had a spectacular run at the US Open, and this cannot be denied. But when players this young have that one run and then get expected to repeat, that is when you open the mental floodgates to the demon. These players can be literally destroyed by hope - the hope of a nation desperate for someone to be the next be thing - and a lot of the time, that second result is going to be a long time in coming. If it ever comes. Oudinisation can mess with your head.

So what I'm saying is that just because one young player had one young result, do not go and make them your Messiah. You may have dodged a bullet when you fluffed those three match points, Ryan Harrison - it might all work out better for you in the long run.

And in other news, Dustin Brown has awesome hair. This is all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

There Is No Mention Of The Word Blood In This Title

Okay, so I think I'm about done with the whole blood thing. That is sooooo first round.

First thing is first - Roger Federer is through, and in style. I could ask for nothing more (though if he wants to throw in a few more tweeners, then I'm not going to complain, you know?) I didn't see any of his match against Andreas Beck, but I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy most of it. Viva la Rog!

My fangushing is over now. Let us talk about everyone else.

Match of the day, I thought, had to go to Richard Gasquet and Nikolay Davydenko. Well, maybe not match of the day per se, but superlative performance of the day - Richou absolutely massacred Kolya. If I were more derivative, I would have titled this blog post something about Kolya's blood being spilled.

This is the kind of player Gasquet had the potential to be. If he played this awesome all the time, no one would be able to stop him. He'd be a second Federer - he'd be damn near unbeatable most of the time. But alas, he hasn't realised that potential. I doubt there is a Slam in Gasquet's future. He's going to be one of those woulda shoulda coulda kind of guys. But hot damn, this was some performance today. I'm going to be reeeeeeally interested to see how he fares in the next round, because if he shows up with this kind of form.... yeesh.

Soderling and Djokovic both had much easier times of it, which was nice for both of them. Djokovic seems to be trying to set a tradition of making an inappropriate joke in all of his post match press conferences. Um... whatever, Bert.

There was one major upset on the men's side today, and that was Kei Nishikori triumphing over Marin Cilic in an absolute epic. I love Nishikori's game, so I hope he can go far - this was quite some match for him!

Now. Ladies.

1) Caroline Wozniacki is looking more and more like she might win the title. This scares me.

2) Jelena Jankovic is definitely not going to win it. This is a bit saddening.

3) Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are both big contenders and whoever wins that top quarter is going to win the tournament.

4) Andrea Petkovic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands played one of the most compelling women's matches I have seen a long, long time.

Any questions?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bloody Coup

So much for bloodless.

We have to start by talking about Andy Roddick, because this is one of the worst losses he's taken in a while - not just in opponent but in demeanour. This is probably the most bad tempered match I have ever seen Andy play. He just had nothing going on, and he was berating himself stupid for it. It was painful to watch and to experience and does not bode well into the future. Anyone can take an early loss - but the manner in which he took this loss does not make me hopeful for his future.

Congrats to Janko Tipsarevic, though - great win! This really opens up the Djokovic quarter, and because I don't see Djokovic coming through, why not Tipsarevic to be surprise semi finalist? This quarter quite literally belongs to anyone.

You know who else is going nowhere fast? Oh HI, Tomas Berdych? Am I gleefully glad that you got booted out of the tournament like a whelp? Why... YES. I am really happy about that because I am never going to forgive you for Wimbledon EVER and I really, really love what Michael Llodra is bringing and maybe you don't deserve this but I am so, SO glad you are out, out, OUT!

Okay. Ahem. Back now.

There were a couple of other scares - Sam Querrey springs to mind - but otherwise the dudes survived okay. Oh, except for Ljubicic! This is a big win for Ryan Harrison. I wouldn't go tipping him for future glory or anything, but it has to be heartening.

Now, over to the ladies. Vika, Vika, Vika. I don't even like you and I am TOTALLY worried about you. I am glad that it wasn't heat-related because that would have been seriously worrying, but could you try not to give yourself a concussion when I've picked you to make the final? That would be greatly appreciated.

But I don't think this says anything about my picking abilities. How was I supposed to anticipate a concussion?

Oh, and we have to talk about Ana Ivanovic. What is this whole winning-two-matches-in-a-row-in-a-convincing-fashion thing? This is not dreamt of in my philosophy!