Monday, 16 February 2009

Allez Amelie...

It was at times painfully evident, during Amelie's three set deconstruction of Elena this weekend, at just how well placed she is not just to defuse Elena's groundstrokes, but those of most any high powered baseliner in the top twenty; which for me makes it all the more frustrating.

Not that it was a particularly high quality match. Both are clearly capable of better things. But that I suppose is the point for me: a fully fit Amelie playing at around 75% or above trumps most powerballers not named Williams (although do you remember that match she had with Venus at the final of the Proximus Games some four years back - it was around the time Williams was finding her way back from injury to eventually win at Wimbledon -- a real showcase of contrasting styles).

If anything, Elena tried a little too hard to contend with the blend of slice, pace and moonballing that was being thrown her way. She would have probably been more successful if she'd doggedly stuck to her natural strengths (flat balling Amelie from the back of the court is what you're about Elena); instead on occasions, she got drawn into playing Amelie like Amelie - and the sight of Elena at the net is not a pretty one, although a true sign perhaps of how desperate things were out there.

Like most Amelie fans, I'd love this to indicate the beginning of bigger and better things for her in what must surely be the twilight of her career. But it's probably more realistic to mark down our expectations by a notch or two. For one thing staying uninjured presents a difficult challenge - particularly against players that are altogether too ready to give her the run around.

I called Radek's win in Brisbane back in January, this year's first venture into how'd-that-happen territory. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting him to follow up in San Jose. But perhaps even more amazing was to hear of five Americans ensconced in the quarters. When was the last time that happened? And why did none of them go on to win the title? It's moments like these that Andy, James and Mardy (and even Sam if he's to remain a Young Gun) will need to learn to take advantage of -- even if Radek chooses to behave like a baddie from a Roald Dahl book. I suppose Mardy got to the final, but the other two have some reflecting to do.


I've seen a bunch of recent articles all of which seem to suggest that the Serbs are on some kind of downward spiral. There can be no doubt that they are struggling right now, (Ana in particular has had her well documented problems since Roland Garros last year) but I think it's time to cut them some slack as some of those problems at least, might have begun to bottom out.
  • Ana's just appointed Kardon as a Coach, whose blend of experience and maturity might prove to be just what she needs. She's made a decent enough start at Dubai in defeating Kleybanova and Coin - hardly the stuff of legend, but opponents whom she might have struggled against last year.
  • Jelena's form is normally quite sketchy early in the year -- her season ending exertions usually catch up with her in January and always seems to be recovering from some kind of virus or infection. I predicted a Slam for her in 2009 and I'm sticking with the view that it's most likely to come at Roland Garros.
  • Novak worries me - if it was just a case of poor form I might be less concerned, but his ambivalence at times suggests he's a little lost and couldn't care less. He did make the Aussie Open quarters so let's not all of a sudden forget what the guy's capable of, but ranking points don't last forever - and in the presence of the threat from that man Murray he's going to have to step it up sooner rather than later. I still think Clay and Grass presents him, as well as those other three, with an opportunity (surprising for a hard courter I know), since (Tsonga not withstanding) these surfaces still seem a little intractable to the less nuanced player. But if he hasn't made his mark by Roland Garros, the doom mongering won't be premature.
Mauresmo image by Richard Fisher
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