Thursday, 4 December 2008

2008: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Pt IV

Olympics - Federer/Wawrinka Doubles Victory

Important for two reasons:

1. It acted as a turning point of sorts in Federer's markedly less distinguished season - he went on to win at Flushing Meadows of course, but also I felt, appeared a lot more confident in
all of his subsequent matches (even the losses).

2. That....thing they both did after winning. Rugby has the New Zealand All Blacks and their Haka ritual and the World Cup is replete it seems, with ever more creative Goal celebrations.
Tennis now has 'Federinka' and what can only be described as a Human Barbecue.

A little too much boy love for some, it was refreshing though, to see Federer beginning to enjoy his season.

US Open - Nole gets fiery with Roddick

It began with Roddick having a swipe (in jest apparently) at Djokovic's list of physical ailments, and ended up with Nole getting booed off court after choosing to retaliate rather personally, with impeccable timing I might add, during an on court interview conducted right after beating the American #1 in the Ashe Stadium in front of a mostly All-American crowd.

The contrast to last year's reception could not have been greater.
You can read about it here, but two things stand out from this episode:

1) As Roddick said, if you're going to impersonate other players, you've got to be accepting of such informal criticisms when they come your way - or at least to feign the appearance of it.

2) Nole was quite within his rights to respond; but why didn't someone on his team persuade him to do so in the post match presser? A calculated yet disarming riposte was all that was required, and would have gone a long way towards both answering Roddick's concerns and keeping him in most of the publics good books.

US Open - Federer Wins a Slam (without quotes)

Well we were all waiting for it to happen - and just think how different things would look if he went both Slamless and without a Masters Shield.

It was unfortuna
te for Murray, that Federer chose this moment to reemerge and bring some of his most decisive (although not nearly as elegant) tennis of the year.

Many have gone as far as to say that this may be his best win yet, as it came after Federer's own Season of Discontent and was brought about not with the cloud-9 tennis of preceding years but with a more earthy, heartfelt performance which may be a more common feature of his remaining years on tour.

US Open - Murray runs Rafa ragged (Or Andy Ruffs Up Rafa)

Two moments more than anything else for me, announced Murray's entry to the big time of tennis this year; and they don't include that 'Getta-Loada-My-Biceps' moment at Wimbledon, nor his very convincing set of back to back wins over Djokovic.

For me, the first of his two crossover moments came in the way he brutalised Nadal (particularly in that last game) in that US Open Semi.

There's very few players (other than Federer and Djokovic) who can cope with the curious (and unprecedented) blend of pace, topspin and unbridled physicality that Nadal brings to the table. There's one or two that have been able to take their game to Nadal: Blake (there I knew I could find something good to say - no it'll get better I promise) and Youzhny have both posted good wins over him on hard/indoor courts.

But to my knowledge, no one has ever worn down Nadal quite like Murray did during that super charged semi. It even sounds wrong. Nadal wears you down - that's what he's about.

As if to sum things up in the ultimate game, Nadal having lost a rally in which he was literally run ragged, bent over double and took well over the prescribed twenty seconds to return to the baseline.

US Open - Jelena's Runner Up Speech

Oh Jelena...

You may have gathered that I don't always think much of her ancillary antics. It's just she seems to be stricken with a particularly vicious strain of the 'Anything-lest-they-think-I'm-boring' virus.

I'm all for more colourful displays of emotion and personality on court, and more creative responses to the press. But don't let's get carried away please, and (perhaps more importantly) stop letting it get in the way of your tennis.

We had the whole stopwatch thing in Stuttgart and at the US Open it seemed Mary Carillo (the on court interviewer) had to practically prise her away from the mic after her runner's up speech.

I can't bring myself to fault her too much for wanting public support, I just wish she would find a more balanced and 'less is more' kind of a way of expressing it.

Madrid - Murray Beats Federer

This is my other big Murray Moment.

His victory here was decisive, measured, mature and aggressive. It not only confirmed Murray's (now justified) positioning within the 'fabulous four', but also demonstrated his uniqueness within that group.
I previously made the point that prior to Wimbledon, Murray's much-lauded winning record over Federer didn't really stand up to scrutiny, when you consider Federer's poor showing in each of those wins. Maybe that was a little harsh and Murray probably deserved a little more credit.

However I said it then and continue to believe that this victory was the first (perhaps of many) to truly be on an equal footing; and if Team Murray is looking for a deeper understanding of his very enviable record against Federer, they would do well to study this match rather than Cincinnati 06.
(Murray image by Oscar Alonso Algote)

Three in a Row for Jelena

Despite my critique of her desire for popularity, I'm never short on praise for her game and in any event, it's difficult to argue against three back to back titles that included a win over Venus Williams.

In a season where most of the leading ladies were unable to really take advantage of Henin's sudden departure, Jelena took titles in Beijing, Stuttgart and Moscow securing a season ending position at the top of the rankings; who cares if she didn't win a Slam? It is now surely only a matter of time before she does. I'm going with the French Open next year.

Marat Misfires in Moscow/Kuznetsova loses her 10th final in a Row

Ever seen the film Copland? In particular the scene where De Niro's Internal Affairs Investigator lays into Stallone's small town sheriff for failing to make the most of an opportunity he afforded him.

Aside from being one of De Niro's finest moments, it expresses perfectly how I might have responded to Marat and Svetlana's attempts at explaining their latest offering in what is now fast becoming a long running (and badly written) soap of mental collapses (and torture).

Marat blew his best chance at securing a first title (and some much needed confidence) in three years when he (not so uncharacteristically) folded against world number 71 Igor Kunitsyn.

And Svetlana, well, will she ever make good on my (I'm now thinking rather ill placed) faith in her?

WARNING: The clip below features some strong language....

I'm not quite done with either of them, but something has to change fast.

Keep facing the wall, both of you!

Tsonga wins in Paris

Tennis Talk, Anyone? has this great piece on Cedric Pioline this week, and how he squares up against other French tennis greats (both past and present). It ends by presenting Tsonga as the natural inheritor to Pioline, and most likely to be Frances most successful player of the Open Era.

I can't disagree with this. I did this piece on Tsonga a couple of months back and my take on on him remains unchanged: after Federer, he's probably this generation's most complete (and explosive) player and aside from injury (which he is very prone to), I can't think of any reason he shouldn't win multiple slams on different surfaces.

Venus's Indoor Season

Let's just say it was encouraging to see Venus playing (and winning) on a surface other than grass. I've often wondered why she plays so very little outside of Wimbledon (particularly on fast indoor courts, where she should frankly be laying waste to the rest of the competition): I can only put it down to a desire to protect herself from injury which really knocked the stuffing out of her from 2003-2005.

TMC Announcer

For those finding Tennis wanting in terms of the razzmatazz we so often find in the world of Heavyweight Boxing, we had Don King this year referring to the US Open final as the 'Grapple in the Apple' and Andy Murray being as 'loose as a goose'.

But was there anything cooler than the Court Announcer at the TMC this year? I particularly
found amusing, the stark contrast between the efforts of the announcer ("...AND NOOWWWW WELCUMMMMMM, WUURRRRLD NUMBER FOURRRRRR - ANNNDAAAIIII MURRAAAAAIIIIIII!!!!!!!!") and the understated and slightly po-faced entrances not just of Murray but Davydenko and even Federer...

And no I wasn't expecting either of them to get all 'Apollo Creed' on us, but come on guys, at least strut your way on court!

Black Rock Masters - Who needs Hawk Eye when you've got Sampras?

I'll soon be posting some of my observations on the Black Rock Masters, but this incident during a match between McEnroe and Sampras struck me as a perfect end to the year and a great way of concluding this series of postings.

As always, McEnroe was challenging a line call - in particular one of Sampras's Aces (more on Forget and Sampras's showcase serving later). After not getting much joy from the umpire (no Hawk Eye here remember), McEnroe appealed to Sampras himself ("What do you think Pete?").

Instead of answering directly, Sampras provided us with his very own reenactment of Hawk Eye where, carrying the ball, he manually traced (climbing over the net in the process) the entire trajectory of the ball as he saw it.

Needless to say Sampras found the ball 'in' and McEnroe for once, could find nothing to say.

blog comments powered by Disqus


All images on this site have been found in the public domain.
Credit has been given wherever possible.
If you feel your copyright is being infringed upon by any particular image, please contact me and I'll have it taken it down.

You Said...

Powered by Disqus

Receive Updates by Email...

Enter your email address:

  © Free Blogger Templates Spain by 2008

Back to TOP