There’s only so long you can go on bitching before you come across as a sore, grizzled, grumpy old fart.
Not that I embrace this supposed new world order just yet – she still needs to actually win this thing to justify her #1 seeding (preferably by knocking out a supremely confident Kim Clijsters) but it would be folly to continue to doubt her capabilities, or indeed to continue to deride her as a “pusher”.
A few grumpy, farty, though no less GLARING caveats and we’ll be good to go:
1) There’s still too much of the “backboard” in you Caz.
Around 80% of it to be clear.
The trouble with the term “push” is that everyone seems to have their own exotic understanding of it. Probe them further and they normally sub-categorise into aggressive & non-aggressive counterpunching. I normally lose interest at that point.
Which is why I prefer the term ‘backboard’: someone whose only tennis mandate is to wait for you to make a mistake. Immediately clear to everyone what we’re dealing with.
There’s other levels of “push” of course (counterpunching of the aggressive and non-aggressive variety), though that’s the one I normally find objectionable.
And in that sense at least, Caz is no longer “just a pusher”. Since San Diego (and quite possibly before) she’s developed a quite robust ability to make good on her opportunities, open up the court and even belt the occasional decent winner down the line.
That makes her perhaps 80% of the backboard she was this time last year. Amongst other things, that means I still have her down as a backboard.
Only that might be Ok as she seems to be pushing(!) in the right direction to decrease that 80% “backboarding average”.
2) I’ve no time for anyone who thinks Caz didn’t profit hugely from a Masha meltdown.
Caz is young, fit, healthy and has worked incredibly hard on her game, but still won the vast majority of her points last night by simply putting the ball back in play (a mere 16 winners) and waiting for Masha to implode. Which of course she did, serving up 9 double faults and 36 UFEs in the process.
No mean feat – the athleticism required to chase down some of those balls belongs squarely in the top five – all the same, it might have been a somewhat different story had Masha actually made more of the types of winners we saw earlier on.
The easiest way to silence me and any other critics Caz, would be to go out and beat a top five player in their element – preferably a former Slam winner, preferably Kim Clijsters, though not the one that lost 6-1 6-0 to Petrova earlier this year (very important sub-caveat).
If you can do that, I may not like it -- in fact I’ll almost certainly continue to root against you as I don’t much go in for the “manufactured sunshine” look -- but as far as I’m concerned, you can play any brand of tennis you want.
You can do that, or you can sit around here and discuss the semantics of “push” with me…