Monday, 3 May 2010

Rome, Stuttgart Round Up…

Apologies for the lack of coverage. There’s a phrase you thought you’d never hear.

The apology is as much to myself as anyone else seeing as how Rome is meant to be my favourite clay court event.

Plenty of happenings this week, both of the Romanic and Germanic variety - no time to luxuriate in any one of them I’m afraid. Well maybe just this one.

Oh yes, we could indulge in a spot of trophy-biting again, but I much prefer Rafa doing his prancing leprechaun thing – don’t you?

Comeback complete….I should say.

With not a damn pachyderm in sight.

I’m sure there was a spanking great final played in Rome today, and congrats to Ferru for making his first Masters final and all that – I just didn’t happen to see very much of it.

As far as I’m concerned the real final took place on this very same arena 24 hours ago.

Up until that point Rafa’s dirt-ridden comeback, however dominant, remained possessed of a certain liminality – one that would seemingly only be removed by his taking down a shotmaker in cold blood.

Mission accomplished, though Ernie ensured there was nothing cold about it.

That’s the sound of pedantic analysis being swept away by a deluge of unbridled optimism.

-- Over in in Stuttgart, Juju picked up her first title of Career 2.0. with a 6-4 2-6 6-1 win over Sam Stosur, who, incidentally, will be world #8 on Monday.

Trouble is it wasn’t terribly convincing. One wonders what the result would have, could have been, had Stosur retained the focus that saw her reach a ten-match clay court streak. Similar levels of shoddiness pervaded JuJu’s route through the entire draw – with forehand-vulgaris putting in the odd, unwelcome appearance.

Difficult to complain very much when someone subdues a field comprised of seven of the world’s top ten players, without playing their best tennis.

One only wonders if such sloppier performances are to be a more regular feature of her second coming.

And whether shaping her entire comeback tour around Wimby, perhaps at the expense of her signature surface, is in fact the best approach.

Allez…I think.

-- At start of the week I confess I rather dissed Ernests Gulbis as “a haircut and a forehand” (after checking with Lendl of course).

Now I’m thinking “a haircut, a forehand and a drop shot too”, and a lot more besides - I’m also positively Samsonesque in my insistence he not clip those locks of his.

Monte Schmonte. Right here’s where the clay court season began. And when one of our most vaunted debutantes elected to announce himself.


And now a moments reflection for those no longer with us – or, to be more precise, those running a little thin on presence lately.

1) Biggest of big fish first.

Federer going out early at a Masters event no longer surprises anyone. I’ve long since given up trying to make sense of it. Think of it as the new world order.

Don’t have much time for the weary assumption that he doesn’t accord Masters events the same degree of respect and/or attention (Slams are ostensibly bigger fish, but how precisely does one go about marking down their levels of commitment by the commensurate 1000 ATP points?).

Easier to believe the less forgiving three set format and increased competition of the second half of his reign has something to do with it.

2) Oh Muzza….you almost had me convinced.

For one match only he played the kind of tennis that might have left you thinking, “Crisis? What Crisis?”.

Then of course he ran into Daveed Ferrer, and it was all revealed as a sham.

Not out of the thick of it just yet then, and clay will likely never host his best results, but perhaps some evidence that the Muzzanomic downturn might be shorter lived than initially anticipated.

3) Djoko shouldn’t actually be part of this list, seeing as how I thought he gave a great account of himself – his loss to Dasco certainly bore little resemblance to the haemorrhaging at Monte, and were it not for Ernie and Nadal the very next day, would have been the match of the event.

4) Dinara’s resurfaced. It didn’t last very long. Don’t call her Dina (Dinarik, or Dinarochka’s ok).

(Photos: Getty, Reuters, AFP)

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