Archive for January, 2011

30 Jan 2011

She came. She saw. She was Kimpressive. The win was Kimminent. Nothing is Kimpossible.

Dammit, BG.

Since I’m a bit late, I’ll just use this post to wrap up my overall WTA thoughts. Those thoughts are mostly full of “holy, that was awesome”. While the US Open seemed to be viewed entirely through a “no Serena” filter, everyone got over the no Serena thing, at least I think, and viewed the WTA for what and who it is over this Australian Open. And damn, did it deliver.

Whether you want to talk about Kim’s continued kickass play, Bepa’s continuing consistency, Franny’s insane fight, Nails’ hilarious on court interviews and awesome attitude, or just the overall high level of play, it made both ATP diehards and non-tennis fans clue in, even if just for a little bit.

For me, this tournament was almost like a “I told you so” to tennis press and those who often have difficulty finding a reason to love the WTA outside Serena and the big names. No, there’s no “big 4″ or “big 2″. There’s weird upsets, there’s surprises… but that’s the appeal. And at the end of the day, we ended up with all four semifinalists within the top 8.

Are there going to be matches with lots of breaks? Puzzling upsets? Sure. But I hope both the awesomeness of the ladies this past fortnight, and the general blandness/predictability of the men (in my opinion, at least) will poke your interest at least a little bit. Rock on, ladies.

The Final Four

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open

26 Jan 2011

So… who do you like?

This has been quite the Australian Open for the ladies, and at least for me, has blown the men’s out of the water in terms of compelling matches, match-ups, and just overall excitement. Especially with all the talk of no Serena… well, at the end of the day, Franny’s fighting spirit more than made up for it, and our final four are all highly deserving. The 1, 2, 3, and 8 seeds? No shit, eh.

In my ladies draw preview I went 5/8 with my quarterfinal predictions, pretty damn good considering it’s the WTA, and had a Kim/Bepa semi with Bepa taking it and then taking the whole title. From what I’ve seen from her, and a slightly inconsistent Kim, I’m tempted to stick with this. Though it might end up being more dependent on which Kim shows up.

As for the other side… don’t count either of them out. Caro could easily grind any of these three down, and an epic, Franny-like Nails run isn’t out of the question; she definitely has the experience and confidence. I’m going to say Bepa vs. Caro, with Bepa coming out on top. Daring! What are your calls, people? Hit me. These are exciting times.

Down And Out

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open, Ferru, Rafa

26 Jan 2011

If a picture says a thousand words… well, here’s a picture of Rafa moping on a changeover. Is there much more to say?

Instead of a potential blockbuster night time quarterfinal showdown between Rafa and Ferrer, Rafa was once again denied due to injury. The whole situation is made even worse by the fact that Rafa had been practicing well and, from what he felt, done away with the sickness that had been plaguing him in earlier rounds.

But if you’re going to lose, what better way to lose than to a friend? In his presser, Rafa absolutely insisted he not be asked about the injury and was both noble and completely respectful of David’s victory.

Q. What can you tell us about the injury? What did David say to you at the end of the match?

RAFAEL NADAL: I can say nothing about the injury. Seriously, I would prefer don’t talk a lot about the injury.

Tonight, first of all, I don’t know nothing. Second thing, for respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match. I think he played at a very high level. I just congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semifinal. I think he’s doing a fantastic tournament. If he keep playing like this, he going to have a good chances.

What David told me at the net is for me and that’s it.

Q. It’s going to be difficult for us to write a piece without appreciating how well you could move. It seemed to us you couldn’t move as well as you would like to have been moving tonight. Is that a fair statement?

RAFAEL NADAL: You see the match?

Q. Yes.

RAFAEL NADAL: So you are ready to write everything. I don’t have to tell you about what I felt on the court because I tried my best all the time. But is obvious that I didn’t feel at my best. I had a problem during the match, in the very beginning. After that, the match was almost over. So that’s what I can say.

But you know what, for me is difficult come here and speak about. In Doha I wasn’t healthy. Today I have another problem. Seems like I always have problems when I lose, and I don’t want to have this image, no? I prefer don’t talk about that today. If you can respect that, will be a very nice thing for me. Thank you.

Q. What was the problem, though?

RAFAEL NADAL: You are listening me? I can’t tell you which problem I have. First thing, because I don’t know. That’s my answer.

Sorry, but… really, press? The dude is hobbling and tearing up on court, and you just absolutely have to know what it was that was bothering him? He’s not Jay Cutler, leave him be. That’s story enough.

As for Rafa, wow. While Rafa Nation silently weeps the loss of their man, at least you can go out of this tournament with a head held high. Not only does he not want to draw special attention to the injury, he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who only loses due to injury (keep in mind he finished the match) and gave full respect to David (who, yes, is having a fantastic tournament).

So there you have it. Fed/Nole tonight, Muzz/Ferru tomorrow. I would think that Muzz should be ok to get through, but that will very likely be a fantastic, high quality match. As for Fed/Nole? I’m not even going to try. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s blood on the court by the end of the night. Nole is playing at the top of his game, Fed has been slightly inconsistent at times but will want sweet, sweet vengeance. I’m not going to be getting very much sleep tonight, am I?

23 Jan 2011

When I went to bed early in the third, I had a feeling that the match drag on for bonus time, much like Fran had with Rebecca, winning 9-7 in the third. But mostly, I thought Kuz had the momentum and would be on her way.

Boy was I wrong.

The longest match in women’s history, 4 hours and 44 minutes. In contrast, the 5 set men’s 2009 Wimbledon final took 4 hours and 17 minutes and the fifth set only lasted 95 minutes. This third set took 3 hours.

Though I didn’t see the end, I can say that from the start both were up for a fight; Fran equipped with her badass snarl and Kuzonator with her laser stare. Even when trading breaks early, it hardly mattered. If the tennis is awesome, who gives a damn? Kuz took the second set relatively easily but clearly Fran was not prepared to just hand the match to her.

The hug at the net says it all. Amazing tennis and an amazing effort by both where either could have been the winner. The fact that Fran came off a 9-7 battle in the previous round just shows the true fighting spirit that she possesses, one that few ladies on the tour can claim to have.

WTA haters to the left, please. Well done, ladies. Go tennis.

21 Jan 2011

- With Justine and Venus out, and no Serena, is this officially Kim’s tournament to lose? Is that possible since she’s not top seed?

- Has the draw opened up enough for a Franny RG like run? If so, who might it be?

- What happened to Malisse’s fitness?

- Make sure to catch some of Milos/Iron Commander tonight. You’re likely to get your money’s worth.

- Any thoughts on who you like in a looming Sod/Muzz QF yet?

- Stan’s presser was pretty money last night. Was asked why he thought Europeans were dominating the draw, said he had no idea… and that was it.

- Now that we’re 5 days in, if you got the chance to revise your ATP or WTA choice, which one would you pick? Who would you switch it too?

Been a great opening 5 days, think we’re going to be in for some fantastic match ups come the second week.

Suck It, Hockey

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open, Marino, Milos

20 Jan 2011

Milos Raonic Australian Open

First time a Canadian man has reached the third round of a slam since Daniel Nestor at Wimbledon in 2001? (Yes, 2001.)

OH HELL YEAH.

Milos, Gilles and I will gladly share our birthday with you.

In fact, Milos is all but exactly a year younger than I (I’m ancient, what can I say) and is starting off 2011 with a serious bang. He qualified for his first ever slam at USO last fall, losing in the first round. He then qualified for Malaysia and Tokyo, and has since, dare I say, set the world of young tennis players on fire after handing it to Llodra in straight sets to make the third round of the Aussie Open.

When I say handing it, I mean it. Milos didn’t face a break point over the first two sets and won the first set tiebreak without dropping a point on serve. Despite Llodra getting his break back in the third and playing childish mind games, (taking way too much time on Milos’ serve, fist pumping in his face, moaning to the ump) Milos kept cool and closed it out in the tiebreak, once again not dropping a point on serve. He served around (give a % point or two) 71% and won 91% of points off his first serve.

I will admit, seeing Milos play last year, I was worried about his consistency and ability to break. The serve was obviously fantastic, both with power and cutting spin to either wings, with an above average second serve to boot. However, the backhand appeared to have problems, the movement was still getting there, and there was some strange shot selections.

He’s still young, so these problems will likely come and go, but there were no traces of them against Llodra. Moving amazingly well for a 6’5 kid, hitting solid backhands, and making fantastic shot selections. I don’t recall a single time during the match where I thought “huh, not sure what he was doing there”.

In other words? Watch out. If Milos can get into a groove, he should easily be able to rock out on grass and hard courts over the summer and make a serious run in the rankings. Exciting times.

Also exciting? It’s a bit late, but because I didn’t get a chance to post about her… how about Rebecca Marino? Pushed Franny to the limits, 9-7. Oddly enough, she shares a lot of traits with Milos: 20 years old, tall (6’1), fantastic movement, and a huge forehand (instead of serve). She won three $50,000 tournies last fall and is clearly coming into her own.

I know there are some fellow Canucks out there who read this, so this is for you. Get excited. If the past 6 months continue to ring true, these results are far from a flash in a pan, and these kids are something to get seriously excited about… eh?

Fire At The Disco

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open, Elf

18 Jan 2011

Juan Martin Del Potro Australian Open

Breathe in, breathe out. Not going to get too excited. This is Delpo’s first slam win in a year. Breathing.

BUT FER SRS? STRAIGHT SETS?

I’m ok, promise.

It wasn’t a dominant performance against Dudi. Hell, it probably shouldn’t have been a straight sets win. But if I were to use totally arbitrary numbers, I would say that Elf’s ball striking is around 90% there (100% in terms of cracking forehands) and mentally about 50%. There were some strange, strange shot selections and he clearly wasn’t comfortable opening up and going down the line when the opportunity presented itself (though most of the time when he did, it worked well).

That being said, he hit some delicious shots off both wings from outside the doubles alley in typical Delpo style, was ripping forehands, hitting some fantastic serves are really going for some shots. It’s tough to ask for much more.

He was equally awesome in his presser.

Q. How good does it feel to be back in a Grand Slam arena after so much frustration for you?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Well, I feel good. Is nice for me be here with these players, this tournament, and of course playing a Grand Slam.

Today I play good tennis again. But I’m really enjoying this week. I met with all the players, especially the top 10 players. They support me when I was very bad. So now I face to face with them and I say thank you.

Top 10 players sent him supportive messages while he was down in the dumps about being out? I love you tennis.

Q. You talked about the support of the fellow top 10 players. How did they support you? Did they call you or send messages?

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO: Everything. They call me and they send an emails, everything. It’s important. They have all his schedule very close, very completed. Sometimes if you got his callings, is good because they are thinking about you and about yourself. So I just want to say thank you to all of them. For me it’s good playing against them again.

Bah!

Next up? Baggy. Yikes.

18 Jan 2011

It’s late. Whatever.

Top Half – Caro’s Quarter

This is a seriously difficult and tricky quarter for Caro. Trouble spots loom everywhere including Domi in the third round, Wicky/Mono in the fourth, and any one of Justine, Kuz, or Franny in the quarters.

Unlike some, I don’t think Domi beating Caro again to be that realistic. Piotr will have Caro pumped and ready to go, and slams are a different beast entirely. I think her consistency should be enough to take out Wicky or Mono on the other side.

The bottom half of this quarter is a total mess, and we’re already a round away from a third round Kuz/JuJu blockbuster. I still think Justine is battling her way through this.

Quarterfinal: Caro vs. Justine

Top Half: Venus’ Quarter

Much like the other quarter of the top half, this is a quarter filled with land mines in what I believe is an overall much, much stronger half.

Venus could be up against Petko in the third round… a match I’m not entirely convinced she can win. Kanepi, Masha, Nails and Vika are all bouncing around in this quarter as well.

Petko has been seriously impressive finishing off last year and starting off 2011. I think there might be a whole lot of Petko dances getting thrown down sooner than later…

Quarterfinal: Petko vs. Vika

Bottom Half – Kim’s Quarter

Things are generally straight forward for Kim here. Yes, a possible rematch with Nads awaits, but she’s coachless and hasn’t been feeling fantastic. Kleybs and JJ are bouncing around too but shouldn’t be much of a match.

Quarterfinal: Kim vs. JJ

Bottom Half – Vera’s Quarter

Bepa better hope she’s got her A game with her, because she’s going to be challenged in her next match against Bojangles, which should be a seriously cracking, hard hitting match. Lucie, K-Zak, Pavs… and of course Sam and Kvitova on the other side. Scary. I think forcing Bepa to find her game early is going to be a positive thing however…

Quarterfinal: Kvitova vs. Bepa

Semifinals: Justine vs. Vika, Kim vs. Bepa
Final: Justine vs. Bepa
Champion: Vera Zvonareva

Stranger things have happened, my friends. In fact, stranger things will likely happen. What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment, and hit me with your predictions!

Off To The Races

Posted by Brodie under: Australian Open

17 Jan 2011

All top 5 men of the bottom half made quite a statement to kick off the first day of action. Fed, Nole, and Dick only dropped 5 games and Berd and NandoHawk dropped 6. Impressive.

There were a few crooked scorelines, however. First off, poor Fuzzy Koala who went down to Flouride Mayer. Despite losing only taking one set, Kolya won only 10 fewer points… 3 for 13 on break points is a real stinger.

Monf just squeaked by against de Bakker after dropping the first two sets. He fought out the third 7-5 and cruised in the final two.

Crazy result of the day goes to Kubot d. Querrey in the fifth set, 8-6. Q-Man took the second to go up 2-1 and managed to eat a breadstick in the fourth. Qu’est-ce que c’est? Make of it what you will, but Sammy Q’s odd inconsistency and lack of mental toughness will likely keep him from ever making a big splash in a slam.

Rafa, Muzz, Jo, Delpo, and Nalby/Rusty all featured on day 2.

14 Jan 2011

The time is nigh. A blank slate, a fresh list of serious contenders, and a whole lot of great tennis in front of us. Bring the noise.

Top Half – Rafa’s Quarter

The first seed is a coveted position for a reason, and Rafa has really reaped the benefits this time around. Possible fourth round match-ups for him could include Tree or Marin and a possible quarterfinal clash with someone like Nalby, Youz, or Ferru.

While there is definitely a solid chance that one of these guys might match Nadal’s game at some point, there’s slight chance that they will out last him (as long as Rafa is healthy). This should be pretty straight forward as far as slam quarters go.

Quarterfinal: Rafa vs. Nalby

Top Half – Sod’s Quarter

A significantly more juicy quarter than Rafa’s, this doesn’t only feature a possible Sod/Muzz throwdown, it features dark horses such as Baggy, Jo, and yes, Delpo. Jo is on Sod’s part and Baggy on Muzz’s, and I think both of those guys could be a very serious upset threat for either.

This is definitely going to be a quarter to keep an eye on for exciting matches early on for the men’s side, and what will likely be an eventual challenger for Rafa.

Quarterfinal: Sod vs. Muzz

Bottom Half: Nole’s Quarter

While this might appear to be a jam packed quarter, it’s really not entirely threatening to Nole. Berd, Kolya and Fer are all stuck in the top part of the quarter and Nole really only has Ivo, Viktor and Nico to give him trouble. That’s pretty money in terms of getting to the quarters.

As for the top half of this quarter? Well, Kolya/Fer could relive their amazing AO match of last year in the third round. Sweeeet… That, and no one really knows what bug has gotten into Berd’s head, or how to get rid of it. Huh.

Quarterfinal: Nole vs. Fuzzy Koala

Bottom Half – Fed’s Quarter

Fed has been in wicked form lately and trying to challenge him right now? Yeah, no. I’m not going to. It doesn’t hurt that his quarter is wicked easy.

Quarterfinal: Fed vs. Stan

I can’t believe I’m about to do this. It seems like a cop out. Like cheating. The easy path. But honestly? I’ve lined up draws before and come up with some seriously odd and nonsensical results, both on the ATP and WTA sides of things. But if things go as they should (which one would always moronically assume when drafting up such an arbitrary thing as this) then I really do think this is what will happen. So here we go.

Semis: Rafa vs. Sod, Fed vs. Nole
Final: Rafa vs. Fed
Champion Rafa (in 4 sets)

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap