Tuesday, 25 November 2008

2008: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Pt II

Davydenko hits a winner - Youznhy hits his head - continued...

Wow....it's difficult to know where to begin with this one - I certainly haven't seen anything like it in any non contact sport; come to think of it I haven't seen anything like it in any full contact sport either (not self inflicted anyway).

Mikhail Youzhny was involved in a gripping third round encounter in Miami with Nicolas Almagro.
Up until that moment, Youzhny had been characteristically intense both in terms of his shotmaking and his outbursts (mostly directed at himself). Then at 4-5 down in the final set, he failed to convert a much needed break point and in what must be tennis's first display of no
holds barred self flagellation, slammed his racquet into his forehead three times. His frame must have nicked his head in at least one of those 'headshots', as the next camera shot showed Youzhny with blood streaming down his face.

A strange edgy silence descended over the stadium as it became clear he'd need medical attention.
Almagro tried to make light of the situation as he went over to Youzhny's seat and smiling sheepishly, asked if he was ok - I almost expected a 'GoodFellas' moment from Youzhny
("I'm funny how Nicolas? Like a clown!? I'm here to amuse you!?")
And no I'm not going to include a picture or a video - it's very well documented on YouTube and elsewhere.

James Blake later said of the incident "That was pretty funny - not for Mikhail, I'm sure....I did that as a kid and I kind of stopped doing that. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Serena Bagels Henin in Miami

Not that I find Serena bagelling anyone that surprising, but this was after all Henin, the world n
umber one, winner of 7 Slams, and this was already her second bagel of the year (she suffered the first at the hand of Sharapova in Melbourne). Something was obviously very wrong. But what?

Monte Carlo: Djokovic advises Murray to be more agressive
(or 'How I wish I'd never said that...' Part II)

Another Murray critique, although this time poor Nole was at least asked for his opinion.

Upon witnessing Djokovic hand Murray a 6-0,6-4 duffing-up, the British commentary team understandably aggrieved at seeing their man downed in the tennis equivalent of just three rounds, asked Djokovic what Murray could do to improve.
The two did after all train together and their move up the rankings
was largely expected to be concurrent.
Djokovic had also just one year earlier, inflicted a stinging 6-1,6-0 defeat on Murray en route to his first Masters Title in Miami, and had since moved up to number 3 in the rankings, makingn this latest loss especially bitter.

"Be more aggressive..." the man said. I'm pretty sure Djokovic thought he was giving an honest reply to a very straightforward question (and both he and Federer were spot on about Murray). In any case Murray's never looked back, returning the favour in back to back wins over Nole at Toronto and Cincinnati. Maybe he'll be less forthcoming in the future...

(Djokovic image by laboratoria_recreativo under licence)

Sharapova wins her first clay court title

It wasn't terribly exciting, didn't h
ave the best atmosphere and let's face it, she wasn't facing Henin at Roland Garros, but in winning Amelia Island Sharapova showed that cows (her words*) aren't that clumsy on ice after all.
* The word 'cow' when used in reference to women assumes a very particular connotation here in the UK; needless to say this isn't my intent; Sharapova herself used the phrase 'cow on ice' in describing the awkwardness she feels on clay...

Djokovic 'Wins' Rome

After Nadal v Coria in 2005 and Nadal v Federer in 2006, things had to deflate in Rome and deflate they did in 2007. Still it wasn't so bad and it had to happen sometime, I suppose. However nothing prepared me for the absurd, sorry, shambolic train wreck of an affair that was Rome 2008.

Nadal had been beaten in his opening match against Ferrero but anyone who saw the state of his feet will understand why - not really blisters so much as craters.
Djokovic seeded three, received a bye into round 2 and posted convincing wins over his next two opponents. However he didn't need to play much tennis against both Almagro in the quarters and Stepanek in the semis who both defaulted after a set each.

As if things weren't bad enough, on the other side of the draw Roddick, despite his incredible r
un to the semis (did Andy forget he was playing on clay?), decided that he too was unable to continue and pulled out after just three games.

We did thankfully have a final o
f sorts, but no one really expected Wawrinka to trouble Djokovic.
So there you have it; Djokovic won a Masters Title having only played three full matches.

Still think a win's a win?

Federer 'Wins' Estoril

I wasn't altogether clear on Federer's reasons for entering Estoril:
he was either looking for some extra practice on the dirt, or for a way to purge his system of the losses incurred at Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami.

Could he also have foreseen further losses in the season and have been looking to strengthen his ranking with a quick win here?
Either way it wasn't the most convincing of wins
(Davydenko defaulted in the final), and left me feeling rather confused about the state of his game.
(Image by Kainashi under licence)

Safina beats Henin, and Serena and Dementieva

We all know Safina's rebirth began at Berlin this year. But what really impressed me about the scalps she collected along the way, was that in each match she came back from a set down seemingly on the brink of defeat.

Comebacks and mental fortitude are not normally associated with Safina or her brother. I can only assume that the Safin Gene has undergone a rather radical mutation in her case. I'm hoping that something will rub off on Safin when they partner in Hopman Cup next year...

Justine Calls Time

Yes it was shocking, unexpected, premature....but in some ways the natural conclusion to
a partial season that already included two bagels.

What was perhaps equally revealing was the precarious position she left Women's Tennis in. Sharapova's shoulder problems were soon to resurface and Ivanovic, who would go on to win RG and become the new number one, would plummet so spectacularly that many began questioning her Slam credentials. Not the best year for Women's Tennis.

Anyway, I'm not completely convinced by the burn out theory - even if she was tired, why not (as many have suggested) take some time off and return, even after a whole year.

In terms of Slams and accolades, yes she's 'been there and done that', but still hasn't won Wimbledon and I simply don't believe someone
as ruthlessly competitive as she is (sometimes to her own detriment - let's just say that RG 2003 v Serena and Melbourne 2006 v Amelie were not her finest moments), will remain content with that.
(Henin image by Tinrey)

Rafa ruffs up Federer ('Thanks for the headline 2Hander')

One word: Ouch. First bagel in ten years. The most uncompetitive display of tennis from Federer you may ever see, although not through any lack of effort on his part. The British Media, in the build up to Wimbledon began wondering whether the scars would affect him at Wimbledon. I'm pretty sure they did although he still managed to give us that final.

This for me was Federer at rock bottom. Yes he had surprising losses to Fish, Simon and others - but to be, well, humiliated frankly, in the final of a Grand Slam - one that he probably thought he had a good chance at winning, has to hurt. In fact I'm surprised he held it together as well as he did.

Davydenko 'Wins' Warsaw

I'm going to keep this short: In the same week that his colleagues began gearing up for the grass and SW19, Nikolay chose to enter (and win) Warsaw.

This is a man who despite having been in the top 10 since 2005, has only once been to the fourth round of Wimbledon, which, with his hand skills is beyond reason.

Even David Ferrer, who probably sprinkles crushed shale on his breakfast cereal each morning, and is likely to remain further than ever from being anything like the grass court player Kolya could become, was able to win Hertogenbosch. Well done David.

Tennis Magazine recently suggested he should be docked ATP points for even electing to enter a clay court tournament at this time. I think they might be right. (Davydenko image by ataelw)

Federer 'Wins' Halle

Perhaps a little cheeky this one, but come on, most everyone was at Queens...

Egbaston washed out

To those that don't follow this, it's one of the more important women's grass court events in the build up to Wimbledon. It's not exactly Queens for women, but along with Eastbourne regularly features big names like Sharapova, Jankovic and others. Except for this year when all the big names either didn't enter or pulled out.
Anyone wanting evidence of the problems of Women's Tennis this year needed to look no further.

Nottingham played indoors

This was just plain funny and a little surreal. After the final between Verdasco and Karlovic had been delayed by rain, the officials eventually gave in and decided to conduct it in a somewhat commonplace indoor court in front of only a handful of members of the press and public. The court bore a stark resemblance to my local club and for a very fleeting moment I felt the very large space that separates us from the tennis elite contract a little.

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