Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2011: Tennis Confessional.


Heck….has it actually been one month?


I don’t tend to do that good a job of staying away during the off-season, but the truth is that this year, I really needed some time apart.


I’d love to say this has something to do with my flamboyant Howard Hughes  lifestyle – the truth is I’d simply had enough.




Confession #1: You really can have too much of a good thing (That’s right, I said it).


The Fedal charity gig (raising over $5M in various fine causes – nice work gents) was particularly excruciating –  sitting through three engineered sets of pseudo-tennis twice, after a well-rounded, fulfilling season that actually ended on a good note smacks of the type of gluttony that leaves you feeling bloated, gaseous and in my case, nauseous.


Only when the start of the official season barely registered, did I sense something might be drastically wrong. Fortunately tennis-rehab came in the form of one of last years best WTA matches (Henin v ElenaD in R2 of Aus) – that’s right, it took a replay of a match that was played 12 months ago to reignite my interest in a sport I’m meant to enjoy enough to spend a criminal amount of time writing about.




Do a youtube search and you’ll find reams and reams of highlight reels – that’s no mistake: almost every other point was a highlight.


It was “only” two sets of tennis – but those two sets were uncontaminated, crystallised excellence.


All of which isn’t just a very long way of telling you how scandalous I find it that it didn’t even feature as a nominee for match of the year on any 2010 poll anywhere (not once). But rather to highlight that things rather faltered for the WTA from that point on  - I’d go as far as to say that all of the best women’s tennis of 2010 was played in its first month.


And that’s only the start of it, because I’m afraid:


Confession #2: I don’t consider 2010 to have been a vintage year of tennis.


I don’t expect Rafaelites to agree of course – come to think of it, I don’t “expect” anyone to.


It’s all subjective after all and I’m even willing to concede I might be wrong.


Even so, that many false starts, failed deliveries & soggy reams of disappointment (often from the highest of levels) speaks more of “fug” than it does “vintage”.


And besides, I figure we’re done pontificating on how great it all was.


1) All the best women’s tennis was played in its first month.


See above. ElenaD/Henin (Aus - R2) remains my personal fave, though the Serena/Henin final and the Brisbane final between Henin & Kim weren’t far behind.


The French Open final, perhaps, may have recaptured something of the drama but it remains the case that nothing came close in quality to what we saw in that very promising start to the season.


2) Men’s Grand Slam finals (and two of the women’s) were strictly one-sided affairs – only of any lasting interest to those strongly invested in Rafa or Fed.


Not that there's anything wrong with that and both the Aus & USO men’s finals were spellbinding if only in a torturously one-sided way.



Doesn’t stop a season devoid of a competitive (if not a five set) men’s Slam final from being, well…just a wittle-bit rubbish.


3) The Spectre of Delpo


Only including this for the sake of completeness, because as far as I’m concerned he could have taken off the entire year to recover from what can, after all, turn into a career-ending injury(history is full of the stinking carcasses of careers blighted by an ill-conceived desire to return too soon).


Even so, that didn’t stop me feeling twitchy when he (those two matches towards the end of the year not withstanding) went and did just that.


4) Muzz won another seventy billion Masters titles….and still less than precisely one Slam.


Seen it, been there, done that. NEXT.


5) Henin’s comeback miscarriage


Justine probably deserves more generosity on my part considering she gave us some of the best matches of this year and spent much of its second half with a fractured elbow.




All the same, I’m calling fug on a year in which she plays her best three matches in its opening month – one of which was in the opening week of the season.


Harsh, I know – fracturing her arm is hardly her fault though I’m not sure her win in Stuttgart was terribly convincing either.


6) Player of the year: Kim Clijsters…WTF result of the year Petrova d. Clijsters 60 61.


Its been almost 12 months yet no one’s come up with any more cogent an explanation for what’s unanimously held to be the single most WTF result of the year, than that Kim can be both alarmingly good and unnervingly bad – both it seems in equally disturbing measure.


I’ve mostly given up trying, yet what's remained overlooked is that Petrova played an exceptional match – something that got drowned out  by the pitch-black humour surrounding Kim’s performance.





I don’t have a problem with Kim being voted POY – in fact I was rather grossed out by the redundant groans of disgust at Serena being passed over.


Newsflash: Serena stepped on a shard of glass and it ended her year after playing all of six events. Sad, but that precludes her from POY contention (YES even if the two events she won were Slams). Sometimes it’s not a conspiracy.


Contrast that with Kim winning the USO, the SEC, Miami, Cincy AND Brisbane – a title at every level. She’s not my favourite player but arguing against those numbers is futile and smacks of sour grapes.


Despite all of that, Kim still has a certain ‘transient’ quality to her game that no one’s quite been able to put their finger on - who’s completely convinced we won’t see more WTF results from the Player of 2010? I know I'm not.


7) Djoko’s Title “Tally”


Remember when Djoko won Dubai early on last year?


It would be one of only two singles titles he would win in 2010 – both of them ATP 500s.


To put this into perspective, Djoko won a Masters title and reached the final of four others in 2009. He also won two Masters titles in each of the two years preceding that, which makes this the first time since 2006 that he’s not won a single Masters title.


Disappointing for a season in which he played some of the best tennis we’ve seen from him in over two years – though admittedly most of it was towards its back end.


8) Rafa’s clay-court clean sweep


Rafa’s clay seasons are always laughably one-sided but this year he won all three Masters and RG – all for the loss of only two sets. That would be two sets over the entire clay season.




That’s not domination, that’s tennis sacrilege.


As pleased as I was for him, that stat also speaks of underperformance from the rest of the tour (especially the top guys).


It’s ok, we can say that now. The dust has settled on Rafa’s year.


9) Greatest “Diss-appointment of” 2010?


Whither comeback queens Masha, Henin? Whither Sveta? Marin?? Those last two, in particular, have a lot to answer for.


Not according to, who pronounced Dinara, who spent the better part of the year out with a bad back, their “Biggest Disappointment of 2010”.


They took the edge off it by noting that “few believe Dinara belongs outside the top 50”, but that headline is plain irresponsible.


Call me cynical, but if Serena isn’t POY because she only played six events then Dinara’s not DOY for precisely the same reason.


10) When is a scandal not a scandal?


Hey psssst! Have a hot tip for ya.


You ready? Get this – Rafael Nadal has just expressed a desire to win the Australian Open.


[furious scribbling noises]


Got that? Not only that [breathless] ….not only that….he’s even said he intends to try his level best to defeat whomsoever he should face in the final.


There’s more where that came from:  next week I’ll be revealing how the UK’s most savage spending cuts since the 1920s are likely to prove “deeply unpopular” and how all 33 of the freed Chilean miners were said to be “happy to be reunited with their loved ones”.



More of an off-court disappointment this one.


From what I can tell, if Fed passed on any “inside information” at all, it’s that he allegedly intimated to “someone” (we don’t even know this was Forstmann) that he intended to try and defeat Rafael Nadal in the 2007 RG final.


That’s about as “shady” as the Mercurian stratosphere and about as “scandalous” as Rupert Everett in drag.


If there’s a story here at all, it’s how easy it is to drag a high profile name into what seems to be nothing more than litigious hustling between the IMG kingpin and an estranged former business associate.


And how willingly irresponsible members of the media lapped it all up.


11) Demmie’s Retirement


The good news: I’m no longer in denial about this.




Still largely playing catch-up tennis-wise.


Normal service will resumptionalise in due course.

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