Archive for the ‘10 Things We Learned From…’ Category

29 Jan 2013

Sorana Cirstea AO 2

1. Business as Usual at the Top

I noted last year that while it felt like a bit of an odd season for the ATP, it was really incredibly predictable. Each of the top 4 men won the major title that they typically do well at. While Murray’s defeat of Federer is a significant note towards Federer’s incredibly slow but inevitable decline, it was really business as usual. Without Nadal in the top 4, the void was filled by Ferrer, without a doubt the most consistent guy out of the big 4, and the door was essentially slammed in his face by Djokovic. This top 4 thing doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to it’s finish.

2. Azarenka Enters Eliteness

Arguments about the drama aside, both the mental strength and physical strength shown by Azarenka to come through and defend her title really was “the stuff of champions”. When Azarenka’s name used to be mentioned, it was game first and mental strength second. Her collapses against Serena in Australia were the stuff of nightmarish legends. Suddenly, the fact that she’s still number 1 and finding ways to win difficult matches is the story. Very few people are talking about the fact that Azarenka is playing some incredibly top tennis at the moment and smoking the ball with little remorse. Embrace her in the discussion amongst the top, everyone. Vika and her grunt aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

3. Ball Don’t Lie: Jo and Rasheed Works

I’ll fully admit that I am a massive Jo fan. He’s one of those “five tool” guys who can literally do anything on a tennis court. Yet, his overall tactics, and at times, attitude or mental strength tend to fail him depending on the situation. His controlled aggression and ability to get down and find another boost of energy against Federer was refreshing. Jo was fighting and finding new ways to win points. There was a self belief there. Commentators noted that Tsonga said he enjoys working with his new coach because of the language barrier, and he really has to stop and think about what Rasheed is saying. Jo definitely seems like one of those guys who can act a lot without thinking (at times his aggression is insane, other times he looks like he just learned how to play tennis a week ago), and obviously there are a few key things that he is really taking to heart. A balanced Jo is a winning Jo, and I hope we get to see more of that in the clay season.

4. Li Na Here To Stay

I refused to buy into a lot of the Li Na hype being thrown around the past couple of years, mostly because I’ve been largely unimpressed by her game, and her age worried me. It’s becoming very clear that neither of these things are much of an issue, suddenly. Nails missed a lot of time earlier in her career, and the regular wear and tear hasn’t taken it’s toll to the same level as a regular 30-something tennis player. Li Na’s movement has always been her biggest issue, leading to her game to be incredibly erratic at times. It appears to have really improved under Carlos, particularly on the backhand wing which has almost instantly gone from, at times, a liability, to a super weapon. She’s making small adjustments on tough balls to play some defense instead of the one way train of “crush everything possible”. It’s another dimension that her game desperately needed, and will serve her well on the clay of Paris.

5. Andy Murray Still Not Over Final Funk

Listen. Tennis is great for narratives. Murray’s win in the gold medal final was fantastic, and he won the US Open title. But it shouldn’t be ignored that Djokovic played terribly in the first two sets of that final, turned it on, won two sets, and then basically collapsed. Murray failed to break Djokovic a single time in the Australian Open final. If Djokovic, Federer or Nadal played in a slam final, four sets, nearly four hours, and failed to break their opponent there would be serious questions being ask. Djokovic is receiving praise for this win, as he should, but Murray was incredibly impressive, and still lacks an ability to create in sticky situations.

6. Sloane Stephens is Legit

I always had a feeling Sloane Stephens was going to break through before Robson, Watson or McHale. Raw power goes incredibly far in the WTA, and players who can use that power to both 1) hit it inside the lines with some sort of consistency and 2) make decent decisions with it are going to win considerable amounts of matches. Along with the other three, Stephens has a great head on her shoulders, isn’t getting ahead of herself, and seems to be comfortable with the media. She turns 20 in March. Suddenly, she is no longer a “player to watch”. She is a legitimate player who could be knocking on the door of the top 10 before you know it. I think she’s that good.

7. Grigor Dimitrov Needs Some Work

Lordy. Remember when we were all GRIGOR DIMITROV HAS ARRIVED!…? I bit my tongue. The way Dimitrov hits the ball is eerily similar to Federer, and it’s nice to look at. Yes, his face is nice to look at too. But Dimitrov still lacks something essential, and that’s depth. It seems to be getting better, but some good wins in Brisbane does not make a top 10 player. One handed backhands are pretty things, but they need to be effective. Dimitrov’s backhand still hovers around in the Gasquet school of loopy yet ineffective backhands. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of positive signs in Brisbane, and I think he could be poised for a good year, but let’s not all claim him as the next big thing quite yet.

8. Delpo Where Art Thou?

Similar to my Jo love, my Delpo love is well documented. He had a great season last year to get back into the top 10 and really get fully healthy. Now is the time to go for it. He’s been pretty notoriously crap at the Australian Open and this year is along the same disappointing lines. It’s not easy, but an opportunity to challenge the top 4 is definitely there. Delpo is incredibly underrated on clay, and it would be lovely to see him crush some balls and get back into the groove before the hard court swing starts.

9. Azarenka’s Media Skills Come Back To Hurt Her

If you’re reading this, you know what happened with Azarenka and Stephens. Azarenka took a medical timeout which may or may not have been legitimate at a questionable time. Stephens’ coach called it “cheating within the rules”. Afterwards, Azarenka was hammered. Regardless of what you make of it, there is something much deeper to this whole situation.

Some have claimed that Azarenka has been “interrogated” and mistreated by the press. This may be true. It needs to be said, however, that Azarenka has done herself zero favours. I’ve been in those rooms, and I hear things. It’s simple human nature. It’s hard not to love a player like Petkovic, who comes in, gives good answers, and understands that the people in the room are there to do a job, and a job that is ultimately good for the sport that she plays. She once asked at the end of a press conference that I was in “are you guys good?”

Azarenka is largely uninterested in press. She often defers to her support group and is cold and mistrusting of the media. The media is not always the most lovable of group, but they will definitely warm to those willing to help them out. The fact that Azarenka may have been so affected by the media and others calling her out for medical timeout should teach her a harsh lesson about the power of the media and of fans.

10. Tennis Fans and Their Drama

Perhaps this isn’t something learned, but the amount of off court drama that came with this year’s first major was at times staggering. The Azarenka story above, the courts being too slow, players slipping and sliding, Tsonga’s comments… and now, finally, as more information comes out about doping in cycling and baseball, the spotlight somehow turns to tennis. Tennis has come a long way in a short time, along with other sports. The major difference of tennis to other sports is the technology. The rackets players use today have next to nothing in common with the wooden rackets of days gone by. Yet baseball players still use wood, football players still use their feet… Suddenly, the word “superhuman” has come to imply “unnatural”, as if there is no way top tennis players could have come this far so quickly without performance enhancing. A quick look on the changes of tennis’ racket technology, surfaces, and sports science and nutrition on a whole will see that this curve is entirely expected in a sport relatively young in its professional growth. So please, before you start throwing around steroid allegations, particularly those not as familiar with tennis, stop and think for a moment.

30 Oct 2012

1. No Number 1 Controversy This Time

Let’s get this out of the way first: yes, Serena won two majors and the Year End Championships, Azarenka only one major. But there can be little argument that week in and week out, Azarenka was the best player on tour.

Azarenka’s transformation has not been a drastic one. She has always looked a player capable of great things. Restraint, both in her attitude and her disposition in rallies has given her the extra 2% to push on to the next echelon of the game. In the past, it has been easy for us to build a narrative on why Azarenka has not done better. Her poor attitude. Her health. Her ability to come blazing out of the gates in big matches only to have those same flames consume her late into the match.

To start, the poor attitude seems all but gone. There is a fine line between cockiness and extreme confidence, and most would argue that Azarenka, at one point, fell on the wrong side of the coin. Often letting the little things get to her and being poor in losing, it looked like the type of thing that would hold her back. Suddenly those cries of frustrations have turned into healthy, self motivating leg slaps. Hair whips of determination and under the breath grunts “keep going”. It’s been turned inward in a positive way.

Her game has developed in a similar way. Vika at times appeared a ball basher who simply overwhelmed opponents with her weight of shot, with bouts of inconsistency. She has learned great constraint on the forehand, both in her regular, powerful topspin shot as well as in her more defensive, spinning forehand. When the ball isn’t in the greatest position for her, she’s become much better at finding ways to spin the ball cross court to gain time, instead of simply trying to rip it and hope for the best. Combining this with great movement, she can quickly get back into points and get back on top. She knows how to build points and she knows how to finish them off – and it’s a treat to see.

2. Serena is Here To Stay

For a time, it was hard to know if Serena would ever play tennis again. With a new lease on life, Serena is looking as fit and as calm as ever, a truly deadly combination. Wimbledon was a stroll in the park, and the US Open was straight forward outside of a very difficult final. The Year End Championship fell under a similar theme. She plans to train in Paris with her coach over the offseason, a first for her, and likely has her eye on doing another “Serena slam” and winning all four major titles in a row.

I’ve heard it noted several times, and it is hard to disagree. While Serena is “old” in tennis terms at 31, the time that she has missed through out her career, including recently, may help to considerably lengthen her career. Many players expire around 30 because after 15 years of serious grind, they burn out mentally, their bodies fall apart, and their endurance goes. None of these appear to be an issue for Serena, and she is so fit and with such natural power, it is difficult to see her dropping off any time within three to five years. Mind blowing stuff.

3. Another Year of Stability Should Await in 2013

Let’s be honest. At times, the past few years have been difficult for the WTA. We diehards don’t so much mind the top ranking being tossed around, or top 20 players winning major titles. However, sadly, it has been difficult to justify the validity of a tour with a number 1 without a slam and players coming from nowhere to win big titles. With Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena taking home all majors this year, it would be difficult to bet against them splitting all four between them again next year. While players such as Radwanska, Kvitova and Li Na will always have a chance against them, it is hard to see one of the big three not topping them in a final (much like the Williams/Radwanska Wimbledon final). A WTA “big four” sounds appealing to match it up to the ATP side of things, but in truth it is a “big three” who should continue raking in big trophies in 2013.

4. Castle Defenders

While a look at the final eight in Istanbul lends itself to a powerful baseline style, three names pop out: Radwanska, Kerber, and Errani. These players tend to be in tough against the top, hard hitting ladies (they went a combined 1-6 versus the other five, not including Stosur) they have the consistency, fitness, and creativity to consistently outmatch players outside of the top 10. I don’t like the term counterpuncher for any of them: neither of them prey on pace and turn it back on their opponent. Kerber prefers players with pace, but she specifically prefers players that open up the court for her to take advantage of – she doesn’t particularly reverse pace back on an opponent. Radwanska is an incredibly creative, instinctual player, likely with the greatest drop shot I have ever seen, men or women. And at a mere 5’5, Errani can run for days, and uses incredible wrist strength to command a longer handled racquet to cope with pace and push opponents back.

On Twitter I saw several people cry out against the Errani/Radwanska match as terrible matchup, expecting a boring match. While neither are big hitters, they have widely different styles and produced one of the matches of the year. While they may never solve the power puzzles in the way a player like Hingis managed to do, embrace and enjoy these players for all that they offer to the game.

5. The Future of Power

With that being said, it is very clear that the future of the WTA looks very much to favour those with large amounts of power, and there is likely to be more Kvitova winning Wimbledon coming out parties than Schiavone late but great Roland Garros wins. With a big three playing this well, the only way to beat them appears to be beating them at their own game, something Azarenka nearly did at the US Open this year. It’s not just the results, but the quality of results that these three tend to get against players hoping to use creativity, defense or counterpunching – it is very rarely close outside of clay.
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13 Sep 2012

(0.5 Kim Sears’ hair > Yours)

1. Murray Really Does Have It In Him It was always going to be a matter of when, not if, but after Djokovic’s career year last year, there was significant questions about Murray finally breaking through and winning that first slam.

He needed a bit of luck, as many champions do, but his ability to realize it was his moment in the fifth and shut down a tiring Djokovic was truly impressive. I think it would be silly to start getting carried away thinking Murray is a big favourite to win the Australian, but suddenly he looks a legitimate chance to win at least one of three major titles next year, and that is a refreshing change.

2. Serena Williams – Greatest Ever?* It was tedious to sit through people wonder out loud if Serena was the greatest player years ago, when her amount of major titles barely stacked up to the 22 of Steffi Graf. While now only at 15, *Serena can’t be considered the greatest in terms of results, but surely has to be considered the best in terms of pure objective power and ability. McEnroe noted that having missed so much time, there’s a legitimate chance she could play for several more years and not get tired. She might have that 22 number in the back of her head, and if she does, watch out.

3. Super Saturday Doesn’t Work Regardless of whether or not it actually rains on Saturday, loading up the end of the week with so many important matches is suicidal, and has provided us with five straight Monday finals, going back to Federer over Murray in 2008. (That was 2008? I feel old). If it rains Thursday or Friday, the entire thing is basically screwed. As I mentioned many times, the decision on this is largely due to ratings for TV, and it needs to stop.

4. Jo Needs A Coach. Bad. It’s no secret that I’m a big Jo fan. He has massive power, but he’s also pretty natural, has a crafty element to his game, and is quick around the court, particularly back to front. However, while being coachless for a while has allowed Jo to stop thinking and go hit the ball, his loss to Klizan is unacceptable for someone of his quality. Sort it out, dude.

5. Azarenka The First Legitimate Top Player of the New Generation While Caro was number one for some time, it has been her friend and mirror image Victoria Azarenka who has made the biggest surge for the upper levels of the game. The spoiled brat syndrome has all but been converted into a cool confidence (hashtag #Vikaswag please) that has pushed her to the next level of mental strength. Outside of Roland Garros, she has to be in the conversation to win any of the other major titles next year, and arguably had the second best year to only Serena.

6. There Is Still a Place for Crafty Fighters Maybe it’s come from their great success as a doubles team, but despite being no match for Serena, both Errani and partner Vinci made some impressive runs this US Open. As far as the women’s game has come with big hitters and big servers, they can still be prone to having their game break down, and players who really want to fight to the end can always have a chance on their day. Likewise, Vinci uses some mega slice on her backhand that throws off players who like it simple and flat. A lesson a lot of players could learn.

7. Delpo a Threat Again There wasn’t a whole lot between him and Djokovic, despite the close score. Quality over quantity (of sets won), my friends. This was always going to be an important year for del Potro to really push his game to get back to the top. Now ranked sixth and likely playing the World Tour Finals, JMDP is now setup to get some nice draws and push deep into the second weeks of slams. Get it, son.

8. Ivanovic Steadying the Ship – Slowly It’s hard to believe this was the former number 1s first slam quarterfinal since she last won one at the 2008 Roland Garros. I don’t need to remind Ana fans that it has been a pretty terrible fall from grace. Regardless, Ana appears to be figuring it out, and by that I mean finding that controlled, consistent aggression she once had. She can beat the players she should be beating. The ball toss and serving in general remains an issue, but the ground strokes and brain problems are really starting to find a happy medium, which is a positive sign heading to 2013.

9. Canada Looks Strong You know who I’m talking about. Filip Peliwo of course! The kid is on fire, and made all four junior slam finals this year, winning Wimbledon and the US Open. Junior success never automatically translates to senior success, but he seems to be a genuinely great kid as well as having a real controlled competitiveness to him. He’ll need to keep working, like any junior, to bulk up a bit, among other things, but he already looks like he has a bright future ahead of himself. Oh, and yeah, Milos had a great tournament, falling to Murray in the fourth round.

10. WTA Full of Impressive Youngsters Sloane Stephens equaled her 2011 fourth round result and Laura Robson matched it. These two ladies, YOUNG ladies, have tremendous attitudes and tremendous power. I’m absolutely convinced they have top 20 stuff, likely top 10, as they already impress and are no where near turning 20. Believe the hype, these kids are the real deal.

6 Jun 2011

1. Rafa

Once again, it is tough to do anything but stand in awe. 6 Roland Garros titles ties him with Bjorn Borg, and I don’t think many people would put money down on him not passing that record. After losing 4 straight finals to Nole, 2 on clay and 2 in America, his confidence is back at another crucial time of the season with Wimbledon only 2 (?!) weeks away.

2. Fed

I think we can stop counting this guy out until the day we stop seeing his name on grand slam draw sheets. I’ll be the first to admit that, while I didn’t quite count him out against Nole in his semifinal, I thought it was going to be another convincing win for the Serbian. Not so. Fed is in prime form for Wimbledon, and in my eye, is probably the very close second favourite behind Rafa.

3. Nole

Remember that time when that one guy never lost and we thought he was going to win every damn tournament he entered? It’s been an insane 6 months for Nole, going back to the Davis Cup and all the way to his Roland Garros semi-final run (still his best result at the tournament). No, grass is not his best surface. I don’t think he really has a realistic shot at the tournament. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he leaves our general tennis consciousness due to the Fedal hype and Muzz expectations, and comes back for the hard court swing and emerges as the favourite for the US Open. You’ve been warned.

4. Masha

Love her or hate her, The Return of The Mash couldn’t have been better timed with Kim injured and the Sisters missing. The cow on ice has managed to survive despite her serve and is looking like the feared figure she once was. Great timing for Wimbledon, where she might just be the favourite going in.

5. WTA

The WTA is wide open these days… and it’s awesome. Even without some of the big names as far as the fourth round or quarterfinals, there was a heaping pile of exciting young talent and veteran fight, and a ton of high quality tennis. Personally, I can’t wait to see what great early round matches we get at Wimbledon.

6. Asia Cares

Over 110 million in China saw the women’s final. They’re taking note, and this is fantastic news. Here’s hoping the tournaments out there get a boost this fall, and the sport continues to grow at a grass roots level.

7. Youngins Promise, Veterans Rule

There were some significant young ladies in the running for this year’s title, including Caro, Vika, Kvitova, and a great showing by Pavs. But in the end, the final four was entirely what we would consider veterans. Along with it, all four are fantastic fighters. And that’s ok. If these two past two Roland Garros champions can tell us anything, it’s that your next years might be the best to come.

8. Fran No Fluke

There’s something about the clay in Paris that makes Fran come to life. You can see it in her game, you can see it in her eyes, and you can see it in her fight. It’s a magical thing indeed. A round of applause for the two times finalist.

9. French Crowd Still… French

Love em or hate em, this ain’t Wimbledon. Mad cheering for their Frenchies, booing line checking, starting riots outside Lenglen and creating one of the most biased atmospheres in a slam final for a non-home country player we’ve ever seen. Big ups, Frenchies, you’ve outdone yourselves once again.

10. Uh, Grass?

Is Fed in prime form? Can John Isner upset Rafa this time? Kim? Bepa? Vika? Serena’s return? What about Novak? How could Milos do? The grass season is already upon us. I have whiplash.

4 Jul 2010

1. We All Grow Old: At 30 and 29, are Venus and Fed finally wearing thin? Venus seems all to prone to have a wildly inconsistent, strange day, and Fed is showing that he can be blown off the court by big hitters on any surface. They won’t be losing in the first round, or dropping out of the top 10 any time soon, but could this be the end of dominance for the reigning king and queen of grass?

2. How About “Semifinal Sillybump”? You might as well starting it a curse. Tim Henman made the semis four times at Wimbledon, but could never crack the final. Whoever beat him in the semis won the final every time. While that is only true for this years Wimbley for Muzz, he’s made the semis two years running and just can’t seem to make that last step that would surely put the whole country into a mad frenzy. Poor guy.

3. The Bigger The Better: The world’s biggest tennis tournament proved to be the most unlikely place for two underachieving headcases to reach their first ever slam finals. Who knew?

4. The Weather Is Brokeded: After all that fuss to install a roof, and the only thing it was used for was letting a first day Nole match go forever and shading the royal box. Is this the first Wimbledon where there hasn’t been any sort of serious weather delay? Unreal.

5. Anything Is Possible From Here: I’m not sure if everyone agrees, but things feel a bit weird going into the rest of the season, no? The women are still full of question marks, with Justine being injured, and skilled players coming and going. The men have a weary Fed, and a Rafa who is likely to play one, maybe two tournaments before the USO. Thunderbird and Sod also loom, and there’s about a zillion points to be picked up in August with no Delpo (sob). Not to mention all these weird clay events. Could be some really great matches over the next month or so, there’s lots to be had.

6. My Predictions Don’t Always Suck: OK, so maybe I had some weird picks (I’m looking at you Marin). But I did well to say that Tree’s serve would be ridiculous on grass (heyo!), Jo’s game would one day work out on grass, and bumping Nails up to number 6 and Berd to number 9. See? I’m not totally dumb.

7. WTA? Are You There? It’s Me, Serena: When she’s on her game and serving well, there’s no one on non-clay surfaces to stop her. So far, in slams, Kim has been the only one in the past year and a half, and her game is still needing some rounding off going into the hard court season. Serena remains the overwhelming favourite for USO.

8. Expect the Unexpected: Think back to April. Rafa had dropped dead at the USO (again), and had busted up the knees during his AO defence. He couldn’t even play Wimbledon in 2009, and hadn’t won a title in 11 months. While the ridiculous 3 Masters wins and Roland Garros were a slap in the face to those who doubted him, the win on grass just adds the exclamation. Unless he’s so hurt he can’t play, never count Rafa out.

9. WAG? Hair and Aviators Please:

Cheers to Lucie, who also rocked them (though I can’t find a pic) and @katyyyyyy for the idea.

10. Wimbledon Crowds > All: Rafa gave them mad props for still supporting and respecting him despite taking on homeboy Muzz. This might have been the first time I’ve watched tennis for two weeks without going “oh shut up asshole!” or “ahem, THEY’RE READY” or any other offside, crude remark that the people in the stands obviously can’t hear from Canada. Well done England, well done.

28 Jun 2010

1. It is Possible to Have a Rainless Week: Insanity. Gorgeous, rainless weather all week long. Smooth as can be. The weather for the week isn’t bad, and it’s clear and warm for Monday, most importantly.

2. Grass is Still Grass: Dick had some good points. For as much talk as there has been in the past years about how Wimbledon is slowing down, it’s been pretty damn fast the past two years. Last year was incredibly hot. This year has been hot and dry. Dry meaning that most of the courts have had the shit kicked out of them and we’re only a week in.

3. The Sisters Are Slammin’: Serena has yet to drop serve, and Venus is looking as dangerous as ever. Both have the serves working, both are simply overpowering and destroying their opponents. So far. Still, they remain the ones to beat at Wimbley.

4. Fedal Looking Shakey: Fed had to come back from 2 sets down, Rafa has had to come back from 2-1 sets down… twice. Fed also dropped another set. They’ve been far from automatic. While Fed seems to have gotten his stuff together, both Fed and Rafa remain on upset watch for the rest of the tournament.

5. The Andys Aren’t: Dick hasn’t been automatic, but he’s comfortable and confident. Muzz has been automatic. The two remain bigger favourites, in my eye, than Fedal.

6. The British Press Are Paying Attention Now: So England lost. They even gave themselves about 24 hours to get their asses back to write silly thing about how Muzz is letting everyone down. Fun.

7. It’s Anyone’s Tournament: There was a weird vibe, I thought, coming into Wimbledon. A vibe that just about anything could happen. Maybe it was Fed’s quiet collapse in the quarters to Sod, maybe it was the Sam/Franny final. But with Fed, Rafa, and Dick all dropping sets, and so many huge names left on the women’s side, it’s still anyone’s tournament heading into the second week.

8. We Won’t Ever See That Again: The adjective bank is empty. Thanks Isnut. That was [insert large adjective here].

9. Sunday Off Isn’t Always So Bad: It always kind of annoys me. I specifically remember being in such a manic state for Wimbledon, and the day off left me like a crack addict going cold turkey. This year, I’ve been working more, and they only give me tennis for half my weekend. Pssh. Luckily I lucked out and got Monday off. And what a Monday it is. Everyone plays. Masha/Serena. Kim/JuJu. Sam/Muzz. Nole/Lleyton. Bring it on.

10. No More No Names: It might be an all Williams final, but there won’t be any Sam/Franny madness this slam. Masha, Kim and JuJu are all still hanging around. Hell, so is Caro. Expect two big names in the women’s final, whoever it is.

31 Jan 2010

Ah, irony. Yesterday I heard “Bright Side” by Thornley, a song off an album I never much cared for, but has grown on me for it’s overall catchiness. Anyway, I listened to it a few times and figured I might be listening to it a whole bunch over the next week or so. You know, those catchy songs that get stuck in your head. Yeah, bad omen.

Fed or Serena win(s) got you down? Favourites all lose in the first round? Ana fan? Feeling the winter blues? Not seeing enough sunshine? Grumpy cause your sleep patterns are fucked? Look on the bright side! Here’s the top 10 reasons to hold your head high after Australia.

1) You Can Finally Start Sleeping Properly Again

Yeah, it’s a whacked out time, following this Australia stuff if you live in North America. You’ve gone to sleep early, woken up early, stayed up late… gone to sleep, woken up, gone to sleep… or just plain haven’t slept. But this shit’s all over, and you can go to bed at 12 tonight and not be afraid of missing anything.

2) You Can Have A Social Life Again?

Girlfriend getting peeved that you’re placing tennis on the top of your priorities (definitely not the case with me!) Parents wondering why they haven’t seen you done homework in a week? Skipped nights out because “otherwise I might miss something?” Take back your life, all is well.

3) The Tennis Season Can Only Go Up From Here

Right? Unless maybe you consider a Justine/Fed slam combo win worse. But seriously folks, this shit can only get better.

4) Nole Fan?

Career high ranking of number 2 baby! (Don’t worry about who he displaced.)

5) The REAL People Who Can Beat Fed Were Messed Up

The last time Roger lost a match in a slam? Out with a bum forearm… or wrist… or brain. The last time Roger lost at AO? Bum knee. Second last time Roger lost at AO? Bad clam chowder.

6) There’s Always Next Week

Chances are if you’re reading this, unlike Serena, you DO care about non-slam events. Yeah, I care if Pico wins a 250 clay tournament in Sweden. Yeah, I do care if Sabine comes out of nowhere to upset Venus and win her first title. It’s no slam, but the great thing about tennis is that things just start up anew next week, and there’s always good things to look for.

7) Indian Wells And Miami Aren’t Far Off

The greatest self proclaimed “total wannabe” will be bringing in her irreverant coverage from her blog and much like last year, it’s going to kickass. Plus, IW and Miami are huge, meaningful tournametns, and they’re like a month away.

8) Tennis Pool Is Still Fun

OK, I got my ass handed to me this week in tennis pool. But if you’re playing, the show must go on, and there’s still tons of tennis to be played. And it’s fun, dammit! Plus it gets us even more interested in smaller tournies. What’s more fun than that?

9) Fed’s Still Douchier Than Thou

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, look, there’s no secret behind it. You know, I mean, definitely a very talented player (laughter). I always knew I had something special, but I didn’t know it was like, you know, that crazy.

I definitely had to work extremely hard so I would pick the right shot at the right time. For instance, on the match point I decided to hit a dropshot. You got to be crazy to do that.

HAHAHA OH ROGER. Good to hear that he’s got a comedy career lined up after retirement. He’ll probably get 150,000 people to every show.

10) It Will Just Be Sweeter When Muzz Beats Fed At Wimbledon

Fuckin’ right, baby.

17 Sep 2009

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I did one of these segments after Wimbledon, meant to do one for the American hard court season, didn’t… anyway, we sure did learn a lot from the USO this year, and not just about the players. Here’s a list of 10 things we learned from the USO this year (and not that *I* learned, but *we* learned, cause it makes it look like I have my finger on the tennis culture pulse… or whatever…)

1. Elf Rules This Land

I can’t remember if I posted it on here, but I had mentioned to many people before the USO “its not a matter of IF DelPo wins a slam, but a matter of WHEN”. As has been noted, he was thrased by Fed in AO, but stepped up his game and nearly beat him at RG. ESPN also oft noted that in the third set tiebreak of the final in Washington against Dick, he fired five aces, one of which was on a second serve. One of the reasons Fed (and Rafa – think IW against Headbandian) can often out last opponents on an off day is his ability to play big points big, making sure the opponent can’t deliver that final blow. The fifth set was Elf’s entire final blow, and he proved he can play well and calm in big time matches, and can absolutely dominate on hard courts. He suddenly becomes a huge favourite for AO and can still pick up a ton of points before the end of the year. How long before this guy cracks the top 4, me wonders. Quite obviously noted.

2. The “Big 4″ Is A Stupid Idea

Yup, it was a great idea, but not necessarily so true. The “Big 4″, the top ranked dudes, Rafa, Fed, Nole and Muzz, the four guys who were supposed to be at the top of the game and provide big time dominance. Well, Nole’s lack of success in the first three slams, and Muzz’s lacking clay game and loss to Dick in the Wimbley semis first provided some problems… then along came Marin, who took out a pretty whimpy Muzz, who a lot of people thought was poised to make the final again. And yes, Elf, who defeated Rafa AND Fed to take his first ever slam title. Which also means that Muzz is the only player in the top 6 without a slam. And if Elf can keep playing at this high of a level, especially with a solid clay game, there’s no reason why he can’t crack the top 4 sooner than later. Big Four? Nuh uh. Big Six? Probably not. Yeah, give it up people.

3. Mom’s Get Shit Done

I’m calling it now. Next summer, if the USO series keeps doing this “It Must Be Love” slogan, they need one with Kim saying how she loves Jada and all the cute things she was saying on court after the final, with a tagline of “it must be maternity. It must be love. Come catch Mom on the US Open series this summer across North America” or whatever. I expect my royalties. Mom is taking the rest of the year off, and obviously won’t be busting her ass to get into every tournament she can next year, but how does this change the outlook for next season? How can she do at the Australian? Or on clay or grass? If Justine plans on coming back, we’re gonna be in for one clusterfuck of a year, especially considering rankings and favourites.

4. Number 1s Do Not

Well, that’s not entirely true. Fed made his 22nd straight slam semifinal (only 12 up on the next guy…) and lost his first grand slam final to someone without the last name of Nadal. Not bad. Poor old Dina did not suffer the same fate, unfortunately. She typically does well on hard courts, but continuing serving problems as well as wild errors and building frustration left her on the outside looking in. Really too bad considering she’s had such a solid year in the slams, to finals and a semi, and her domination of lower ranked players at RG was absolute hilarity. Hopefully now that the next slam isn’t for quite some time, she’ll be able to settle down, work on the fundamentals of her game, and just play some solid confidence during the indoor season (that’s right Dina, no more wind to fuck with your mile high ball toss!) and continue it on into January. We need ya girl.

5. The WTA Sucks

Perhaps the USO was indeed the ultimate tipping point, its hard to argue. The top 16 men all made the third round of a slam for the first time ever, whereas the women seeds were absolutely taken to the chopping block by players like Slava Shvedova, Petra Kvitova, and of course The Russian Slayer, Ms. Mel Oudin. How bad do the top women suck? Is it the pressure? Is the rest of the field just that strong, and getting stronger? I addressed it in my article here, and make of it what you want, but regardless, the seeds they were a fallin’, hard, fast, and early at the USO this year.

6. Rain Sucks Even More

AO has its two main stadiums roofed, of course Wimbley shed a tear when it finally got to bust out its new and improved centre stage roof, and the Frenchies will have their’s up soon. We all know that it rained late in the second week, causing all scheduling to go to hell, throwing out certain television scheduling, keeping us from even seeing some matches (Caro/Wicky) and getting our hopes up every half hour by saying that play would be “delayed” once again. Is this just something that is part of the game, that we have to deal with? The luck is pretty horrible, indeed, considering the fantastic weather of the first week. Unfortunately, everyone was so frustrated by it that probably no matter who your favourite players are, you were likely pissed at the USTA for scheduling, justified or not. So can’t we build a roof? I guess we’ll have to see. I really liked the suggestion someone made that they should put one on Louis Armstrong stadium, a big venue that can hold a solid amount of people and can keep play going if its later in the tournament. As for Ashe, I honestly just don’t know how you could ever put a roof on that beast, and have it safe. I also can’t imagine trying to play in there with a roof on; as if it isn’t a total cavern already. Regardless, the USTA probably needs to keep better track of the weather and come up with some more solid concrete plans with how to deal with this in the future for the sake of the ticket holders, broadcasters, and more importantly, the players.

7. Commentating: A Lot Of Hit, A Lot More Miss

This need not apply to Europeans, the true test of an American commentator sure seems to shine when covering other Americans. On one hand, we have Aunt Pam seemingly drunk half the time (cheers to Forty Deuce for the aunt reference… stupid and drunk, but can’t help love her, if for sometimes the wrong reasons) and her unfortunate comment about Wickmayer and how she should have been a breeze for Caro to defeat. On the other, King Dick not allowing Elf to speak in Spanish to thank his fans, hometown, and family. Regardless of whether that was his fault, it sure as hell wasn’t right. Of course you also had the complete human misfortunate that was Hannah Storm attempting to pretend to know something about tennis, Cliff babbling on about how Fed is so amazing and pees gold, and the rather unfortunate brotherly love coverage of Dick and others from the Mac bros.

But then you also have Mary, who in admittance, doesn’t have a ton to offer to men’s tennis, but offers wonderful insight into women’s tennis, genuinely cares about the sport, and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind, or crack a joke when need be. And of course “Killer” Cahill, which I believe refers to how he “kills” all his male counterparts in terms of commentating, who offers once again excellent insight in to fundamentals of the game and the match. I can’t remember which match it was, but Cahill was down in the stands, Mary was up in the booth, during a women’s match, and the two of them going back and forth was an absolute treat to listen to. The TTC coverage was also excellent, though I didn’t see much of it, but ESPN or CBS should seriously think about picking up Navs, the woman is a brilliant commentator, and I’m pretty sure had more insightful things to say about the Tree/Dick match than JMac probably did. I didn’t particularily care for Jimmy Connors, but I heard so little of him, and apparently he did a great job. I’m not necessarily trying to make an argument of this, but I really think the true personality of American commentators comes out at the USO, whether its because its a tourney thats close to home and their heart, or they’re just obsessed with following the American players and realizing they can go to town with it. Some of them passed with flying colo(u)rs, some of them sucked, and some of them were named Hannah Storm. Case closed.

8. Captain Gilbert Actually Knows Relevant Information

Oddly enough, when I was watching Captain Gilbert go about his job this slam, I noticed he had ACTUAL interesting things to say. At a couple points Cliff or Dick or whoever asked him what he would tell to a certain player who was having trouble with a certain part of their game… oddly enough, he came up with some pretty good answers. I don’t call him Captain Gilbert for nothing, I often make fun of his commentating as being something like “well as you can see, the two players are on the court playing tennis, with two racquets and a ball, and the ball kids are now retrieving the ball. Absolutely wonderful”. But since the FD Podcasters also noted that BG somehow stepped up his game, I realized that it wasn’t just me, indeed, we, that noticed Captain Gilbert was oddly insightful. Maybe its the hard courts. Weird. Luckily he still has lots of random embarassing crap to say too.

9. People Like To Watch Tennis. Too Bad They Can’t

The men’s final had viewership up like 100% or something over last year, yet because of the rain, it was pushed to 4pm. Maybe that helped. Regardless, the women’s final was on Monday night, during Monday football, meaning it was flipped to ESPN2, not CBS which had 60 Minutes, and only shown on TSN2 here in Canada, which pretty well no one gets. And as previously noted, it was impossible to see the Caro/Wicky match. Basically all hell broke loose after the rain on the broadcasting front, in the US and here in Canada. Please don’t have that happen again, this is a slam, the big matches need to be on TV, I don’t care who is playing.

10. Don’t Get Cranky With Me Young Lady

Bepa gets fined $1500 for a bunch of “fuck”s, Fed the same for “I don’t give a shit what he said”, my poor Canadian old fart Daniel Nestor 5 grand for getting pissy at a fan who has apparently caused them problems before and testing the patience of Queen Lynn, and finally, of course, Serena, for tossing a racquet and then causing a racket. I believe the only solution is to put Fed and Bepa on a team, and Daniel and Serena on a team, and have them all take their rage out on each other in a battle to the death doubles match. Only on pay per view. Seriously though, could you imagine? I barely can.

Ah, what an educational time this has been, no? Now enough of this slam business, lets strap on a Davis Cup and get to work.

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6 Jul 2009

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So right about now you’re probably noticing “hey, where’s the post for the men’s final? Where’s the Fed?”. Yup, there isn’t one. I was planning on doing one later, but I just couldn’t, it wasn’t in my heart. And I actually felt terrible for Dick, pretty well the entire day. Plus, if you saw it, you don’t need me to try to explain it, and I was way too saddened for a sarcastic stab at it. For those who didn’t see it, you missed a hell of a match, and by now, you know what’s up.

So where to go from here? Originally I was unsure. Look ahead? Look back? I’m gonna look back, with what I hope to make a regular series, with tourneys, players, you name it. So here’s to the first installment “10 Things We Learned From…”. I like “we”, cause its totally pompous. Its like me saying that we already learned these things, and then me silently whispering you the answers and you going “ah-ha, right, of course we learned that”. It also allows me to point out important things, and totally pointless shit.

10 Things We Learned From… Wimbledon

1. Fed is the GOAT, blah blah blah…: This seems to be the adopted phrase of the anti-Fed people for the describing of the media’s Fed worship, which I suppose isn’t really misplaced, and kind of expected.  But now, I think its true. You don’t need to agree, or like the guy (I don’t) but I think its pretty tough to argue now. Dude has the career slam, and the most slams. The only arguments are a lot of “what ifs” with Laver, the fact that he has a losing record against dudes like Rafa and Muzz (which is semi-irrelevant) and that Rafa MIGHT end up beating his record. Which is a big might. And the T of GOAT is time, and I don’t think it includes the future, because then the title wouldn’t exist. Skillz that killz and pay the billz. His consistency has been absolutely insane in slams and over his career, so props to Fed and his goatey GOATiness.

2. The Williams Sisters still own women’s slams: Its funny. Serena nearly loses to Kuz in the semis of AO, then goes on to crush Dina in the final. She just barely loses to Kuz in the RG semis. Then, escaps match point against Lena and goes on to crush her sister, who had just crushed Dina, in the final. Bit of an odd pattern. While that description doesn’t include Venus really, Vee was an absolute wrecking force until the final, and I have much confidence that she would have won the final easily if she was playing anyone but her sister. I’ve seen it noted many times that V looks so awkward on other surfaces, but somehow, on grass her long reach and lanky approach seems incredibly natural and a thing of beauty. Once again, gotta watch for her at USO. As for Serena? She’s the huge favourite for the final slam of the year, but I have a feeling a not-so-headcasey fake Russian might be able to get in the way…

3. Masha is back, but she isn’t “back back”: Girl surprised everyone with her ginormous run to the RG QFs, where she eventually ran out of gas against Domi. People (myself included) were hoping for some more surprise magic at Wimbledon, and she oddly enough faired exactly the same as last year, only till the second round. Many people commented on her fitness and movement and it would be great to see her gain some of that back, and make a push back into the top 10. If there’s anyone out there who’s mad, blind hunger to destroy everything in her path competitiveness can rival Serena’s, its Masha’s, I think. And I think the women’s game really needs her to come back and fuck stuff up again. Possibly literally. (Remember when she used to be number 1?… yeah me neither…)

4. Dick’s hard work paid off: The dude managed to take out Muzz in four sets and then take the eternally fit Fed to essentially 6 sets and nearly win the damn thing. You could tell that he felt he had something to prove, and that’s special to see, just too bad he couldn’t pull it off. Also, his dickishness came in handy when Fed tried his pretend empathy on feeling for Dick’s loss. You show him. I can’t say I’ve become a fan, but he’s definitely gained a lot of respect in my books for working hard, and staying strong through that marathon, and even after the match (only Sven knows what Federror would have done had he lost).

5. I’m takin’ the country and the mothafuckin’ Queen with me: Andy Murray is ready to deal with the pressure. He’s also incredibly comfortable with playing on centre court, as EVERY match he has is the last one on it, and rightfully so. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t think Muzz would handle the pressure, and that he would crack. Seeed like he was about to against Stan in the quarters, when 52 PERCENT of British TVs were tuned into the match, but he gutted it out against Stan who brought his A-game. And against Dick, the better player won, its as simple as that. Muzz was still playing smart, not making dumb, nervous errors, and actually hitting some insane shots (what was that one where he was way off, to the right of the baseline, and hit some insane angled forehand for a winner? Shit was off the hook). Anyway, despite having horrible Henman Hallucinations, I’ll have some good Murray Memories to take into 2010′s contest; the dude has a legit chance at the title.

6. Come Ms. Licky, and frolick upon my yard: Sabine’s coming out party was when she upset Venus in Charleston and went on to win the title on the fungus clay, but her REAL coming out party was here at Wimbley, where she stood up, screamed, and demanded to be heard, bumped into my girl Caro, and got to the quarters..  The girl’s serve is FUCKING GINORMOUS, as well as consistent, and she’s able to pretty brilliantly construct points from there. She’s got an all-power game that has some holes, but she means business, and its like one I don’t think we’ve seen for a while. While she’s actually older than U-Rad and Caro, she’s part of a group of rising players of Polish descent, along with, as JMac put it “Wozniacki, the Radwanska sisters, and the Canadian girl”. Stay classy (and knowledgeable) JMac.

7. Slowly, but surely…: Ana is slowly but surely finding her game again, it seems. She made it to the fourth round, and sadly lost due to injury to Venus (in a match she likely wasn’t going to win) but the matches before hand were pretty simple and to the point, and it really seemed like she was starting to believe once again, which is half the battle. Also, she plans on working with Cahill over the next coming while, and then with Sven in Cincinatti and Toronto, which is HELLA EXCITING. Sven knows a lot of shit. It also means I might get to see the two of them together in Toronto, which makes me squeel like a little girl.

8. Rafa wasn’t at Wimbledon…
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But these dudes sure as hell were. I’m also pretty sure we learned Pete actually wanted Dick to win, not Fed, which I think probably has more to do with the fact that he’s American, than his record. I also feel partly responsible, for rooting for Marat when he killed Pete in the 2000 USO, with his plasma cannon of a serve.

9. …But he damn will better be in New York: Seriously, can’t take another Dick/Fed final. Or another Muzz/Fed final (at USO) for that matter. The common cry about Rafa come USO time is that he’s worn out from the hard court season and the tank is pretty well empty, due to his style of play. I’m seriously hoping this whole injury thing has been Sven’s blessing in disguise, and he has a strong outing in August. And by that I mean he completes the career slam and the ripe old age of  23, and the crowd goes wild.

10. JMac can actually be REALLY entertaining: I don’t know how many people watched the BryBros lose to Daniel and Zimo, it was quite a long match, but JMac’s commentary was HILARIOUS. I also learned that he has a really damn good understanding of doubles tennis, wow. Anyway, with matches like that, you know the commentators aren’t as comfortable with the players and the style of play, so their mind is gonna wander a bit. This meant Mary wasn’t saying a whole lot, and JMac was talking about the players, their style of play, and then relating it all back to his crazy doubles career, in which often left them in cliff-hanger endings going into commercial break, AKA, JMac was just telling really damn long, yet entertaining stories. It reminded me a lot of baseball, often the colour commentator is a former player, and can tell hilarious stores of his days playing, and relating it back to what is happening in the game. JMac says a lot of dumb crap sometimes, but here’s to his witty and highly entertaining commentary and stories during that epic doubles final.

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap