Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Desert Heat Pt 1

Djokovic d. Haas 6-2, 7-6(1)
I only saw the first set of this one - there's something very operatic about seeing your fave players getting cut down. Can't watch anymore of this I thought, and I'm glad I didn't as even though the second set went the distance, I've a sense that Tommy was treading water. Kinda like his career right now.

Djoko did look more purposeful than he has been recently, but maybe he was allowed to be.

Isner d. Safin 6-4, 6-4
Thought this would happen. But to be fair to John, his game has developed a lot since I last saw him. There's sure as hell a lot more to him than big shoes and a serve. Marat went through large portions of the match playing his meat and potatoes tennis. Playing it well I might add, but must have been surprised at the pace with which the ball was being returned, or in some cases flying past. Isner also made some quite fruitful forays to the net (now ain't that nice to see?) And as for breaking Isner's serve, well that was never gonna happen was it?

Andreev d. Tsonga 7-5,6-4
This is one which I was looking forward to. So were a lot of people I'd imagine. And so I got out my standard template with which I usually analyse Andreev: "Forehand goooood (one of the best on tour in fact), backhand baaad (mediocre to say the least)..." Except that last bit didn't quite tally up with what I was seeing. Igor, whose new hairdo makes him look like a peasant (a private joke between 2Hander and myself - no but seriously, a sort of understudy to a blacksmith in a late 19th century Hamlet maybe), has been busy with those backhand drills it would appear. So you now had what to all intents and purposes was a complete game on both wings from Igor versus a Jo-Willy who frankly wasn't at the races. He didn't play a bad game, but was missing his usual zest and vitality, his shots lacking that bite we're so used to chewing up and gulping down. Even his trademark inside-out forehand (my nomination for the best shot on tour right now) was missing for large parts of the match and poorly-executed when it did make an appearance. All in all a Jo-Willy minus the edge - and that just won't do against Igor 'The Forehand'.

Murray d. Mathieu 6-3, 6-2
Murray Masterclass. I love Mathieu's intensity (though it's sometimes his own undoing). He's very much in the 'Coulda been a contender' category (anyone know if he sounds like Brando? I've not heard his voice). But this was just too easy by half. Paul-Henri, spent half of the match playing into Murray's hands and the other half getting frustrated and generally very hot under the collar (not that he was wearing one).

To think Andy said he wouldn't be putting too much pressure on himself at IW. Taking it easy and focusing on Miami. If good things happen then so much the better. Me thinks Andy's fibbing. Me thinks Andy's telling porky-pies. Me also thinks Andy's well aware of the questionable state of Djoko's game right now not to mention the sizeable bucket of ranking points that he'll lose if he doesn't defend his title here.

To speak plainly, Murray is focusing on Miami but would have his feet up in his bachelor pad were it not for the prospect of dimming some of that daylight between himself and the #3 ranking, not slugging it out in a searing arid desert - heat you'll remember is not Murray's best friend.

One more thing - his slices seem to get more delicious every time I see them. Have you ever seen a double hander with such an extraordinary backhand slice?

Federer d. Karlovic 7-6(4), 6-3
"How to Slay (and dismember) a Wandering Monster in Two Sets...". Available in all good bookstores this Monday, priced £12.99. Book signings at selected locations.

I love this quote:

"I think he's good for the lower ranked players to play against just because you'll always have a chance.

"For the top guys, it's worse, because it just depends on a few shots."

- Federer on Karlovic after beating him in straight sets

Source: Sky Sports

Nice you think he has some purpose on tour then...

Gonzales d. Blake 7-5,6-1
Blake a little more downcast than usual and if you're familiar with what he normally looks like, you'll know this is bad news.

Gonzales, who's apparently taken exception to speculation into the whole hand-of-God thing at the Olympics last year (does Gonzo also read 'Tennis Is Served...' I wonder), has come a long way with his single handed back hand. That is the one good thing I will say about this match.

Ivanovic d. Pennetta 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
I'm not sure what it is about Italian ladies, but I love their intensity and character on court. It was the same with Schiavone (No fluke of course that she has a single handed backhand). Loved the distinctive grunt, loved her physicality and loved the Hewitt-like grit and attitude (in both the conventional and the street sense of the word).

And so it is with Flavia, who upon losing a point gives a look which would suggest you've short-changed her on a pound of bananas. This girl looks like she believes it's her God-given right to win - not a bad thing with the state of the WTA these days (must stop flogging that dead horse). Unfortunately she hasn't the game to back it up just yet.

Ana just edged this one, which isn't a bad thing considering the standard of her opponent.

Safina d. Craybas 7-5, 6-4
Saw very little (and only bits of the second set) of this one. Safina looked to me to be hitting well. More worryingly, Craybas's coach (during the on court coaching sessions) kept goading her into targeting Safina's forehand. I didn't see the first set, and I know her backhand is the more dependable shot - but was it really that bad?

I still haven't bought completely into these on court sessions, but there's no doubt they can be valuable; I remember reading an article in Tennis Magazine about how being mic-ed up would allow competitors' agents, families, scouts etc. to share the secrets of the more astute coaches. I'm not completely sure I agree, most of the top players' weaknesses are after all, well known, but there is potential for cats to escape from bags I would think.

Wozniacki d. (Ursula) Radwanska 7-5, 6-4
Ursula wilted in the heat and was unable to make good on what was otherwise a very good start. Girl (Ursula that is) hits with more pace and purpose than Big Sis, who's ranked around a hundred places above her. I don't think her recent wins over Svetlana and Big Sis are an anomaly. Officially on my 'one to watch' list.

// UPDATE: Deliberately missed out Nando v Gasquet - Nando's chilli sauce is now 'smokin' hot. Have some 'observations' (the type that causes steam to emit from my ears) to make on young Reeshard. Another time.
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