Archive for June, 2011

30 Jun 2011

Nadal’s Tournament So Far: Defeated: Fish, Delpo, Muller, Sweeting, Russell.

What Rafa Needs To Do: It hasn’t been breezy, but Rafa once again has himself in another Wimbledon semifinal. Getting this far never seemed too much in doubt, but Delpo definitely gave him a scare and Fish woke him up when he won a set.

For Rafa, things are pretty obvious. Keep that serve big, make sure the forehand is working and placing balls where he needs it, and be ready for a fight (which he always is). I think it’s safe to say that Rafa isn’t quite at the level he was from last year, and he’s got health issues that threaten to derail his run. He’ll need his A game for sure.

Murray’s Tournament So Far: Defeated: Lopez, Richie, Ljubicic, Kamke, Gimeno-Traver.

What Murray Needs To Do: It’s felt like Andy’s run to the semis has been easy. Routine. The draw helped him out, and it was simple. Right?

Partially. I think it’s safe to say that Andy’s draw could have been a whole lot worse, and wasn’t. At the same time, he’s dealt with Feli’s big serve, Richie’s variety, and Ljubicic’s Mr. Cleanness and made them look pretty routine. Those are definitely opponents who will ask the question of the big names, and Muzz has been ready to answer back right away.

It’s always a different beast, the business ends of slams, when only the cream of the crop remain. But I really do think Muzz is looking confident and solid. He had a fantastic clay season, looked comfortable, and looks absolutely fine with the pressure of Wimby.

In terms of his game and strategy, his serve is going to need to be cracking. If he starts having trouble on his serve consistently, it’s not going to be pretty. He will also need his backhand, probably his greatest weapon, which has been able to neutralize Rafa’s forehand in the past.

I’m going out on a crazy on this one and calling Muzz in 5 grinding sets.

For those who missed it, I asked on Twitter for people to send in their thoughts on who would win both semifinals, and how many sets it would take. Here’s the results. Whoever correctly picked both winners and respective total set count will get a follow Friday! Here’s the results from this match.

Rafa in 5: 4 total: @DancingPanda1, @jonscott9, @GVTennisNews, @elliejackson1
Rafa in 4: 14 total: @jeannab64, @delpotweeties, @nidsserz, @ljkingy, @stephinNZ, @marpal38, @omes_tennis, @ember_42, @sharapovanovic, @EllieFM, @rosso_neri, @AdjustingTheNet, @clairtennisfan, @emmpahickey
Rafa in 3: 3 total: @omygravy, @RacquetRequired, @DiscoDebMKE

Andy in 5: 4 total: @mitchjos, @sheilokavieira, @anna_tennisfan, @MindTheRacket
Andy in 4: 8 total: @BraveThinkSol, @tenniswatch, @ruthlesscourt, @Ms_Art_House, @R0si, @Daszmarelli, @zbrain, @Daily_Scores
Andy in 3: None

30 Jun 2011

Djokovic’s Tournament So Far: Defeated Tomic, Llodra, Baghdatis, Anderson, Chardy.

What Djokovic Needs To Do: It’s been a bumpy ride through Wimbledon for Novak. Struggling with Baghs and Tomic after a couple of sets has tested Novak and forced him to raise his game despite some frustration. What is really going on here, no one can know. Is he physically tired? Mentally tired? Over confident after winning two sets? Tough to know. Regardless, Nole is going to be in tough against and is going to have to play his best tennis of the tournament.

I think the real key for Nole is just his head, but in terms of play, definitely his return and his backhand. Jo was able to exploit Fed’s backhand, both in rallies and on the return, and his cross court forehand was just deadly. Nole’s backhand is a lot better than Fed’s, and he’s also a better returner, which he will need with Jo’s serve being brutal this tournament.

Tsonga’s Tournament So Far: Defeated Federer, Ferrer, F. Gonzalez, Dimitrov, Soeda.

What Tsonga Needs To Do: Keep doing what you were doing! Jo’s level of play in the last 3 sets against Fed was absurd. The serve was crushing, he was looking to move in, looking to be aggressive, and then crushing the crap out of the forehand to boot.

One of the biggest problems I tend to have with Jo is his how he becomes so passive. Jo moves incredible well front to back, but not as well side to side. He also has a solid forehand in terms of power and his placement with it, but often chooses to just get the ball back with it a bit too much. When he beat Fed, he went for nearly every forehand, and because of that, was staying on the aggressive. It was insane. Jo absolutely needs to do that against Novak. He has the ability to dictate play, and he needs to be looking to do that every point. Novak is too solid not too.

If Jo can play like he did against Fed, he’ll win this tournament. I like him to win in 4 sets.

For those who missed it, I asked on Twitter for people to send in their thoughts on who would win both semifinals, and how many sets it would take. Here’s the results. Whoever correctly picked both winners and respective total set count will get a follow Friday! Here’s the results from this match.

Novak in 5: 6 total: @tenniswatch, @GVTennisNews, @ruthlesscourt, @EllieFM, @Daszmarreli, @emmaphickey
Novak in 4: 7 total: @DancingPanda1, @omes_tennis, @RacquetRequired, @mitchjos, @DiscoDebMKE, @Sheilokavieira, @anna_tennisfan
Novak in 3: 2 total: @marpal38, @r0si

Jo in 5: 5 total: @jeannab64, @delpotweeties, @BraveThinkSol, @AdjustingTheNet, @clairetennisfan
Jo in 4: 10 total: @nidssserz, @ljkingy, @omygravy, @jonscott9, @ember_42, @sharapovanovic, @Ms_Art_House, @elliejackson1, @zbrain, @MindTheRacket
Jo in 3: 3 total: @stephinNZ, @rosso_neri, @Daily_Scores

Wimbledon Is Weird

Posted by Brodie under: Presser Gems, SW19

26 Jun 2011

It was a hot day in June, and my job of pulling nails from the dry wall of a partly burned house was the last thing on my mind. I had high expectations of John Isner for Wimbledon. The tall, big serving American had missed Wimbledon the year before due to mono and fallen out in the first round the year before that. I had seeded him 12th in my customized Wimbledon seeds posts, taken him as a dark horse in my tennis pool team, and talked up his game on Twitter.

Alone on the second floor of the house, I madly checked my phone at any chance I could as Ana fired me updates over Twitter. John was down 2 sets to 1 to some French qualifier Nicolas Mahut. I knew that if he could squeeze out the fourth set tiebreak, play would likely be called for darkness, he could get his head together, and come back and serve the thing out in the fifth. It turned out I was right. Well, sort of.

Play got under way in the morning (for me), and I didn’t pay much attention until the business end of the set, when I was on my break. Surely, someone was going to get broken and the match would end. Not true. Frantically, I checked my phone as often as I could, and bugged Ana for updates as often as possible (while still trying to look busy). The match dragged on. I often got confused replies. “I don’t even know anymore.” Frustrated with the match, and busier after lunch, I could not afford to try and sneak updates as often. Eventually, out of exhaustion, amazement, annoyance, or a combination of the three, Ana sent me another message. “BRODIE, THEY’RE STILL GOING.”

Co-workers were amazed and slightly dumbfounded when I told them a match that had been started yesterday and restarted today was still going at 30-all in the fifth set. The scoring made no sense, yet it made it even that much more interesting. The day after, it continued, and finally finished. Another co-worker asked me “how can that even happen?”

The match, with its endurance, exhaustion, and all around weirdness caught the attention of the sports world and beyond, and we as tennis fans could not have been more proud.

But for us fans, the match joined the long history of oddities and traditions at Wimbledon that we already knew and loved; and Wimbledon sure loves it’s history.

Wimbledon is home to traditions shared by no other tournaments in the world. First off, all players must wear all white. For players, it’s a chance to be part of a tradition shared a long line of greats to play at the tournament. For fans, its equally as important. The players pop against the green grass, and it’s instantly recognizable and comforting visual cue.

The tournament also observes what is commonly known as “middle Sunday”, a near holy tennis sabbath on the first Sunday, where all play is halted. It gives players and fans alike a break, and also sets up a jam packed Monday, where all round of 16 matches are played.

Lastly, while other grand slams have scaled back men’s doubles matches to three sets, and regular tour tournaments have created no ad deuce games and the super tiebreak to speed up play and create more drama, Wimbledon’s men matches still continue to be played in a best of 5 set format.

Strangest of all, and most importantly, is the beloved surface the tournament is played on: grass. After a long and grueling clay season that culminates with the second major of the year, Roland Garros, the focus shifts to England. Suddenly, grass reigns supreme. Every tournament in England except for the World Tour Finals (played on hard courts at the end of the year in the O2 arena) is held during this month long period and is played on grass. Yet only three grass surface events take place outside of England; Halle in Germany, two weeks before Wimbledon, Den Bosch in the Netherlands a week before Wimbledon, and Newport in the United States, a week after.

No one plays on this high maintenance surface outside of this month long window. No one grows up playing on it. Yet it is used for the biggest tournament in the world.

Ideally, this would even the playing field, considering the level of experience on it. Ironically, it is arguably the most extreme surface. The ball flies on the grass, but bounces low. It changes with the rain and the heat. It is tricky to move on. And it takes a beating over the fortnight, and is reduced to dirt at the baseline.

The surface has remained, but the way players have played on it has changed. Once dominated by big powerful serve and volleyers, even players like Roger Federer, who won his first Wimbledon title mainly relying the tactic, now choose to stay back.

In the end, these are the strange truths of a strange sport’s biggest championship, won by many of its greatest champions. It is a sport played around the world with a never ending season, by people of all races, creeds, and nationalities, where 15 + 30 = 40, love means zero, people and computers call lines, and points, games, sets and matches can go on forever.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Enjoy the second week everybody.

Wimbledon Week 1 Stray Thoughts

Posted by Brodie under: SW19

26 Jun 2011

Another slam, another kickass first week. The second week is typically the one with the high quality matches, but much like being at a tournament early in the week, the first week of a slam is where us tennis junkies get our fill. There’s tennis everywhere.

The women’s side has been the most exciting for me. There’s been some predictable results, some upsets, an intriguing final 16, and most importantly a ton of great matches. Once again, it’s a real testament to the quality across the draw on the women’s side. It’s not just about everything being “wide open”.

Players that really impressed me are three of the ladies who may be the future of this sport in a few years: Sabine Lisicki, Laura Robson, and Heather Watson. Sabine continues to have some of the biggest shots on the tour, and to boot, has shown off some excellent defense and good movement. Laura’s movement is continuing to improve by my eye. She just has a wonderful feel of the ball and a great lefty forehand which is proving troublesome for her opponents. Heather is looking like an excellent counterpuncher, not afraid to go for winners with great power off both wings, especially a plus backhand. Well done ladies.

For the men, I’m really quite impressed with what Del Potro has managed to do so far. Grass really is a terrible surface for him. The low balls are tricky, and his movement is a mess. He really seems to have trouble getting his feet under him to unleash that big backhand. At the same time, he’s realized that he needs his big serve to win, and that it can be a huge asset if his first serve percentage is up (and boy was it up against Rochus).

I still think Richie is going to give Muzz serious problems, and there might be a surprising upset there. Jo is looking fantastic, which is just great and fun to see. He should be able to blow past Ferru, and I’d love to see him have a crack at Fed.

It was a tricky week for Nole, who is still figuring out grass, and needed to tough out a win versus Baggy. Don’t count him out quite yet, however. Sometimes a player needs something like that to wake up a bit, and I think that’s the case for Novak here. The day off today won’t hurt either.

And hey, remember Thomas Berdych? Yeah, he’s kind of crushing everything. Hmm…

Overall, it’s been a fantastic week, and I’m loving how the draws have turned out. We’ve got some of the players we expected to be through, and some surprising winners which should result in a few curveball quarterfinalists for the big names. Is it Monday yet?

26 Jun 2011

I emailed you back in May about Andy Roddick but Nole was more the popular subject back then. With Roddick not performing well in Australia, a no show for the French (which doesn’t matter anyway) and now out so early in Wimbledon; if he doesn’t do well in New York do you think he should throw in the towel?
— Brian Brown, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Tennis is a weird sport when it comes to retiring and getting old. First off, once you hit 30, you’re old. That doesn’t mean you’re done, however, and a lot of players, male and female, clear out the mental cobwebs as they get older and get better in that sense. Just look at the remaining 16 on the ladies’ side for Wimbledon.

Should Roddick retire? Absolutely not. The fight is clearly there, as he wrote after he lost at Wimbledon. I think he’s still enjoying the sport, and enjoying competing. The US Open is obviously a very special place for him, and I’d expect him to probably finish off his career there, whenever that might be. And much like he wrote in that post, being top 20 in the world is like making the all-star team in another sport, he’s not exactly terrible at tennis all of a sudden.

Why do the Wimbledon organizers insist on disrespecting the Williams sisters — Serena especially — year after year by putting them on Court 2?
— Joe, Montclair, N.J.

I fall on both sides of this argument, if possible. I think there’s definitely something funky with some of the Wimbledon scheduling… but at the same time, the same can be said for a lot of big tournaments. Were Wimbledon wrong to put Serena on court 2? Not really. The issue for me is the fact that, I believe, the Jo match was on court 1, and the defending ladies’ champ was on court 2. Goofy.

I also don’t buy this “I’ll stop complaining when Murray plays on court 1” crap. Of course he’s going to be on centre every time, he’s the biggest appeal. Just like Roddick and Serena will be in New York. To sum it up, there’s nothing wrong with the premise itself, but in this situation, was probably a dumb move.

Novak Djokovic looks great. Is he on a diet or something? Why haven’t I heard anything about it from ESPN or anything?
— Dan, Toronto

Dan, dude. Google that shit. We Canadians are typically more informed than this. You’re letting me down here, man. Also, Wertheim, why are you even addressing this? Wasting mine and your time.

Give Rod Laver back the five years he lost for being — que horror— a pro, and his major totals are at Martina Navratilova/Steffi Graf levels and we never have this discussion … and he never gets credit from anyone for being the pioneer he was in bringing above-board professionalism to tennis, and the huge price he paid for so doing. To me, old phart that I am, the others will always be playing for second place alltime, and it’s not even close.
–Jon R., Waite Park, Minn.

Fair enough. Comparing across eras is very tricky, however. Laver will always be a god in this sport and should be treated as so; he’s an amazing historical figure and amazing man. However, he also played during a time where Americans and Australians dominated the sport. I’m so tired of the GOAT discussion. Moving on…

A quick proposal. Perhaps as a reward for being seeded at a slam, an unseeded male player must win three of five sets to defeat a seeded male player. However, if the seeded player wins two of the first three sets the match ends. They could run this through the first two rounds at least and leave matches between unseeded men as two-out-of-three affairs.
— Dan Martin, Burlington, Ky.

What the hell? No.

Watching Sabine Lisicki defeat Li Na in Round 3, I was struck by her awesome and powerful serve. I read that she has the record for the fastest serve of all time in the women’s game and was wondering where you would rank it overall based on all of its qualities? Does the fastest serve make the best serve of all time? Why is Serena’s “slower” serve often referred to as the Greatest Serve Ever in women’s tennis?
— Devaughn, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Interesting point, but there’s so much more to a serve than the speed. How often do you get it in? What kind of spin/movement/placement is there? Second serve? Serena’s has always had amazing feel on the serve, is typically at a solid percentage, and has a plus second serve. I think Serena’s is the best the women’s game has ever seen, but Sabine’s is definitely top 5 out there right now, and might even get better over time.

Has Wimbledon changed the rules for men’s doubles in other years? Going to best-of-three instead of best-of-five in the first week … due to rain? I know you’re an advocate of this approach in general, but switching to it in this case seems very random. I can’t imagine the PGA saying, hey, this year we’re going to play the first two rounds of the Masters from the ladies’ tees, just to speed things up. — Helen, Philadelphia

Yup, you’re right. But then again, Wimbledon is the only slam still doing 5 set doubles matches, so really they’re the odd one out. I think it’s a good move overall.

The grunting has been a huge issue in the women’s game, but as I sit here and watch Serena yell “Come On” at the top of her lungs, I am fired up. Maybe it is the effort or the passion, but it does not bother me. Do you think it is the consistency of the grunt that irritates the masses?
— Jeffery Nielsen, Surprise, AZ

Hey, original! The women do it, the men do it, it doesn’t bother the players, and I’ve always loved when a player grunts when they hit a winner and then extended it out after hitting a winner like “nnnuuuuaaaYEEAAAH”.

Beanie Baby Boom

Posted by Brodie under: Ms. Licky, SW19

23 Jun 2011

Sabine, it’s good to have you back.

It’s been a long road back for Sabine, who was out for months with an injury from the 2009 US Open that made her 2010 was an entire write off. Watching her blow match points against Vera at Roland Garros was painful and heart breaking. That’s why it was so refreshing to see her blow away the Birmingham competition on her way to the title. Power and talent, baby.

Today she fought hard on her way to an upset of Nails in the second round, 8-6 in the third. Saving two match points, we always knew that the power and determination was there and she could make some noise in the draw. She might just be getting started.

Sabine’s serve and forehand were absolutely off the hook today, but that might be the obvious part. The most impressive thing for me, was her defense. Running shots, awkward backhands, low balls… not the first thing you would think of when Lisicki comes to mind. But she dealt with Nails’ offense, she dealt with passing shots she had to make, and she stuck in rallies she probably had no business being in.

If both her and Ana win, they could face off for a chance to meet the winner of Serena/Marion in the quarterfinals. The WTA is alive and well.

Wimbledon Day 3 Round-Up

Posted by Brodie under: Uncategorized

22 Jun 2011

I’ll hopefully be doing one of these every day for the rest of the tournament, and individual posts on matches of particular intrigue.

– It was one hell of a day for Canadian tennis. All three remaining Canucks in the singles are done. The most devastating of all is Milos, who went down with a nasty tumble early in the first set versus Muller and was unable to continue on for more than a game. Not only does this knock him out of the tournament, but it also nixes a chance for Milos to play in the biggest match of his life versus Rafa on centre court. There will be other chances, however, and Milos will be back. Here’s hoping it’s not too serious and his summer isn’t in jeopardy.

– Both remaining Canadian women, Marino and Dubois, went out to Vinci and Petkovic respectively. The Marino match wasn’t on a show court, but the scoreline definitely showed off the error of youth. Up 5-2 in the first, she was unable to close it out, lost it in a tiebreak, and went down in the second without much of a fight. Dubois fought well to claim the second set, but ran out of gas against the power of Petko.

– Round of applause for Kimiko and Venus. Hell of a match, regardless of age, regardless of health. Women’s tennis is alive and well.

– I still think ya’ll better watch out for Richie.

– It’s been a rough year for T-Berd, who not only lost semis points from RG, but now has finals points to defend. Nice to see that he’s moved through the first two rounds without issue.

– Good and bad news for the British youngsters. A great win for Laura Robson, who toughed one out against Kerber after a huge momentum swing in Kerber’s favour in the third. Tough stuff for Watson, however, who was in cruise control in a set and a half, and then had some elbow issues on her right arm and lost in a close three sets, 6-4 in the third. I know it’s a bit silly to hype players up, but in my opinion, both of these ladies have a real shot at being constant fixtures in the top 20, and eventually top 10.

– Sabine still hasn’t lost a set on grass all year. She plays Nails tomorrow on centre court. Be there.

1. Rafael Nadal

Posted by Brodie under: Rafa, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Changes tactics brilliantly, which helps him keep balls deep and returns aggressive
Weaknesses: Can be beaten down by big servers, game not firing on all cylinders as last year

Rafa comes into Wimbledon as the odds on favourite to win his title. Despite not playing his greatest tennis, he sorted things out in France en route to another Roland Garros title. As the defending champion, and the number 1 ranking in the balance, Rafa will have to navigate through a tricky draw to reach the late stages of this tournament, where he’ll likely end up the favourite to take it once again.

1. Serena Williams

Posted by Brodie under: Serena, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Serve, forehand, return, and incredible all around power
Weaknesses: Health, movement, consistency questions

No one really knows what we’ll get with Serena this year. As we saw today, she’s really just thrilled to be back on court, doing what she does best. The shots might not be there yet, but the fight still as. Her power is unrivaled in the history of the women’s game, and combined with her fighting spirit, it’s hard not to think that she could win this tournament even if she had that boot still on. She’s not my pick to win the tournament, but given her history and defending champion status, Serena gets my nod as the number 1 seed.

2. Roger Federer

Posted by Brodie under: Federror, SW19

21 Jun 2011

Weapons: Serve is looking strong once again, simply one of the greatest grass players ever
Weaknesses: Backhand beginning to break down

Considering his results from Roland Garros, and how he has been playing of late, Fed would likely be my first seed if Rafa wasn’t hot off another RG win AND the defending Wimby champ. The serve has returned, as has the confidence. He’s doing what he needs to do to conserve energy early in the tournament so he can push it up a notch in the business end. He has a favourable draw too, and should be well on his way to another semifinal appearance, if not another Wimbledon title.

Mind The Racket Podcast:

Episode 7 – US Open Week 2 Wrap-Up