Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Miami: ‘True Grit’


And please don’t bore me by stating the ear-bleedingly obvious, that whilst full of ‘drama’ and ‘spirit’ the match was pretty shoddy in terms of quality and the preponderance of UFEs.

I’m well aware of that: Pova hit 76 UFEs. Her serve was predictably senile, but perhaps most shockingly, her forehand calcified disturbingly enough to make the most routine of strokes a major logistical exercise – furiously struck balls that would once sail long/wide now barely reaching the net. And it seems to be happening more and more.

As an exhibition of execution and technique it was simply criminal. A shoddy, garish abomination.

But the fact that Pova fought through on spirit and spirit alone, in spite of her uncooperative, beleaguered toolset, in spite of her ankle injury, against her very able opponent, and (let us please not forget) at 3hrs and 28 mins, against the limits of her own endurance, make this something very special.

To argue that the quality wasn’t there is to SPECTACULARLY miss the point: like arguing about the intricacies of Atomic Physics under the shadow of an incoming Nuclear Bomb.

We can all ooh and aah at Nole inflicting a flawless, clinical beatdown on his fellow Serb. We can admire the technique, the efficiency,  the fluency – attributes which acquire even more greatness when they are on show against the very best. As they were against Federer in the USO semis last year or against Nadal in Madrid 09. All spiritually exhilarating matches more akin to an “experience”.

Then there’s the flipside: and it’s equally if not more spiritually exhilarating. Where a competitor finds a way to win based on little more than inner resolve. If there’s a  gene for ‘true grit’, then it’s one Pova has in spades and perhaps only shares with Rafa and Serena.

As for Dulgheru, I’ll be the first to admit I’d not seen her play before – though after last night, that “least known player in the top 30” tag should, if we have any sense of decency at all, be torn to shreds and not spoken about in polite company ever again.

To say she acquitted herself doesn’t even come close. It’s true Pova wasn’t striking with the fluency she once had – most of her shots were rather desperate winners, UFEs or low pace balls sent confusingly and pointlessly straight down the middle – but Dulgheru did succeed in moving Pova around in a way Sam Stosur entirely failed to.

She forced Pova to play for as long as she did. She also defended immaculately well and, when it was all over, was utterly gracious in defeat. What’s not to like?

There were reports circulating on twitter this morning of how Dulgheru was barely mentioned in the commentary, so intense was the sense of adulation surrounding Pova.

This is no longer a surprise to me – I actually assume it to be the default form of “tribal” behaviour exhibited by certain media outlets. 

Let us not forget that Bartoli only last week went through the very same in her match against Caro. Neither Pova, nor Caro, are to blame, of course.

Unfortunately, and however resigned you may be to it, it still grates.

Whatever you may think about both players, whatever your sympathies may be with a former Slam-winning world #1 on the comeback, its’ simply good form and good manners, is it not, to give both players their due? And not just when they put on the soul-stirring show BOTH Pova and Dulgheru did last night. It’s even possible (believe it or not) to do this whilst retaining loyalty with your fave.

When fans are unable to do this, it grates, but you kinda indulge it. When the media behaves this way, it’s simply inexcusable.

I, for one, will be keeping an eye on Miss Dulgheru from this point on. She deserves nothing less.


Petko for Pova next, who battled past JJ with the same brand of feistiness and angular aggression that put paid to the Woz.

Pova can’t have anything left in the tank (and that’s assuming her ankle even lets her move). I think Petko’s gonna make her first Premier-Mandatory final – that’s what I think.

And then, who knows what?

(Pics: Getty)


Miami: Heartbreak


Clijsters d. Ivanovic 7-6(4) 3-6 7-6(5)

If you can’t win a match at 5-1 0-40 up in the final set, however well your opponent suddenly, mysteriously begins to play, you choked. Plain and simple.

And not ALL the kind, fanciful spin in the world will change that.

That said, and I’m not a great fan of either player, but you need help if you can’t conjure up even the pretence of sympathy.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Miami: News and Views


1) Murray has officially parted ways with Corretja and is, one assumes, on the look out for a new coach. “Open to new opportunities”, or however it’s being framed. 

Lendl’s name has been in the mix for a few days. Some of the reaction to this has been as outrageous as it is predictable, with SKY viewers yesterday emailing alternatives ranging from JMac to Martina Navratilova to Maclaghan again…

No one explicitly dissed Lendl, but it’s very clear who they DON’T want.

Never mind that none of those other suggestions have put themselves forward.

Never mind that Lendl is an 8 time Slam winning former world #1 who might, you know, know a little something about success on tour.

I’m not saying it struck me as the obvious choice either (both are strong willed, though that might be EXACTLY what Murray needs), but it seems to me it ought at least to be tried before being so routinely dismissed.  Stranger things have happened.

My own somewhat cynical suspicion is that a legacy of dislike continues to pervade Lendl’s public persona – he certainly wasn’t out to win any popularity contests during his career. I’m still waiting to hear why that should have ANY bearing on his suitability as a coach.

Whatever the case, the truth is Muzz very likely represents GB’s best chance of winning a Slam for many years to come. Perhaps even decades. I hardly need to remind you that the next highest ranked Brit is James Ward at #213 – and this is actually better than things have ever been.

To be blunt about it, beggars can’t be choosy. And you could do a LOT worse than Lendl. Let us hope he doesn’t reconsider.

2) A few further things need to be said about Petko’s win over Caro. 

The first is that however well Petko played (and don’t let anyone tell you she didn’t), she simply wasn’t facing the Caro that has dominated the tour outside of the Slams, and that people so enjoy poking fun at.

Anyone that claims otherwise needs to explain away the whopping 52 UFEs from Caro that equates to over a hundred from anyone else. Good luck with that.

The second, is that this is a relatively new experience for Caro and one from which she’ll likely benefit. It brought home in the most stark way imaginable that she might be just as prone as any other top player to a bad day at the office.

I doubt it’ll cause her to substantially alter her game, but if it results in a few new wrinkles it will have been worth the pain.

The third, is that this anguish resulted in the emergence of a new shouty, screechy Caro that I’ve actually become rather fond of.

I doubt she’ll be around very much. Yesterday is likely to remain her finest “big screen” moment – expect her to fade away into a less-distinguished daytime TV career.

And finally, I’m still not a fan of Petko. Not at least in the way some people are. (I’m not wholly convinced by her game either – but there’s still time to improve upon that)


I realise that puts me very much in the minority. Fine by me.

I’ll certainly concede that she’s #goodfortennis, though I’ll hope you’ll give me leave not to succumb to the hopeless strain of infatuation that lead to en-masse Petko mini-raves after her win yesterday.

Word soon after was that she’s “bored” of the Petko dance and is looking for a new “thing”.  I was bored of it too – and pretty soon after the initial novelty wore off. She seems to me to be talented enough and charismatic enough to be above gimmicks like that.

And as far as a new “thing” is concerned, here’s a somewhat wacky idea: her new thing could be, you know, not having one.


3) Delpo’s 63 62 win over Sod was perhaps the greatest sign yet that he’s steadily progressing towards the top ten if not the top five in the not too distant future. You could infer all of that on the basis of the serve alone. It was also the most beleaguered form of underperformance I’ve seen from Sod in a long time. 

I’ve seen Sod play badly before: I’ve seen him thrown off balance, having trouble with the elements, and leaking UFEs of nearly every shade. I’ve not, however, seen him shank this many balls in a single match – say what you will about him, but that’s just not his style.

At the end of the match the stats showed that both men hit only 18 winners apiece. Two of the heaviest ball strikers of this generation only managed to conjure up 36 winners between them.

That tells me Delpo, despite being in his element, felt he didn’t need to hit many winners. And that Sod simply couldn’t.

None of this is to suggest that Delpo isn’t progressing entirely steadily and appropriately – it just could have been a very different match.

4) Pova’s win over Sam said more to me about where Sam is than it did about Pova.

Like Delpo, Pova got through doing exactly what she needed to, and not an iota more. Why would she?

The serve is still not under control, but really, neither was Sam’s. More worryingly, she wasn’t able to convincingly get Pova off balance the way her game is custom built to. and to which Pova is uniquely vulnerable to.

When she did manage to, it all had a laboured feel to it that speaks to me of a player struggling to cope.

And that kick serve we’re all so fond of musing over? The stats showed that Sam served only marginally better than Pova. That’s not a comparison anyone should be flattered by. 



Saturday, 26 March 2011

Miami: 52 = 100


These things happen. Even to the best of us. Or, you know, the most consistent of us.

I daresay it might even benefit her in the long time.

I really hope all those Neanderthals that pretend EVERY win by Caro is a case of her opponents’ capitulating, are as vociferous today about her errors.

52 UFEs from someone as passive as her equates with at least 100 from anyone else. That’s, like, a LOT to merely “explain way”.

Great win for Petko, but anyone pretending that Caro wasn’t struggling, perhaps as badly as she ever has, needs to be punched in the face. Repeatedly.


Miami: On Anarchy and Perspective

Murray routed in straights. He’s 0-9 sets since the final of Oz. 

This is no longer a slump. He’s practically comatose.

“He needs to snap out of it.”

“He needs a coach.”

”He needs to be slapped about the chops with a wet (Omega-3 rich) halibut.”

We get it.

Expect a slew of smug, utterly irritating, self-satisfied, vindictive screeds, some not even bothering to masquerade as “commentary”, on how he might never win a Slam. On how he’s toast. On how this would never happen to <insert fanboy fave>.

I’m not denying that it’s all oppressively bleak right now. It just seems to me we’ve seen worse, from bigger and better players than Murray.

For all we know he might even look back upon this one day as a necessary dip. I’ve seen it happen before.

A little perspective wouldn’t go amiss.


”Call me ‘Bogie’ one more time…”

Meanwhile GGL and Dasco’s departure  (in addition to Kolya and TooMuch yesterday) has effectively killed the top section of Nole’s draw and rendered his entire quarter positively plebeian.

Did I mention Stan went down to Granola in three?

Or that Boy Wonders, Harrison and Milos bit the dust (as did Grigor AND Berankis AND Sock)? Boy bands must suck in Miami.

And the crazies don’t end there.

Maka slew Kleybanova – actually that’s not crazy. [In fact I gotta ask: how many of these “upsets” will Maka have to pull for us to concede they might not be, ya know, upsets?]

Even both of Robin and Marion had to go three sets to secure their openers.

So when Dinara snagged a set from Bepa it somehow didn’t seem so anarchical amidst what was otherwise absolute anarchy.

Whatever. See if I care. 



James Blake: Who can barely put two matches together for as far back as I can now remember.

A little perspective, if you please.


I doubt it amounts to much seeing as he’s playing Nole next.

But God help you, if you can’t find it within yourself to celebrate (or at least look fondly upon) this.

Your soul’s depravity clearly knows no bounds.

And the angels will WEEP for you.

(Pics: Getty)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Indian Wells: “The Anti-Commentariat”


She’s consistent in a way Marion is not. And, more tellingly in the last set, she’s fit in a way Marion is not. As far as I’m concerned, that makes her the better player.

I think I might have already said this, but Caro’s retrieving skills are her “Killer App”. You don’t have to like that, but you sell yourself very short indeed when you pretend she has no business being at the top of the game because of it. Razzle-dazzle winners are a means, not an end. Her “means” are very different: deal with it.

I think I might have said this already too, but Caro will almost certainly win a Slam. Damn Straight. With Kim, perhaps, only around for a year and a half more (if that), playing a Willams-patented restricted schedule until then, and now nursing a shoulder injury, its all but inevitable.

Personally, I have no problem with that.

Can we agree I have given her her due?

Good, because it appears it’s physically impossible for the mainstream to extend the same treatment to her opponents – most notably those that don’t fit the “bombshell” agenda that has nothing whatsoever to do with tennis.

I don’t like personal attacks on anyone. And the Marion hate has been out of control for YEARS. Whilst I consider it equally retarded, it’s worth remembering that the hate Caro has had to endure is still only a fraction of that of Marion’s and most of that is restricted to her style of play – not her weight, her fitness or looks, as is the case with Marion.

Marion’s an aloof, idiosyncratic, ferocious talent with attitude she’s not about to apologise to anyone for. I must have missed the part where this makes her Cruella de’Vil or, indeed, where its not her right to behave exactly as she sees fit.

Whilst she hasn’t always made life easier for herself (particularly in her dealings with her compatriots) and whilst that might preclude her from ever being your cup of tea, some of the barbed invective hurled her way has no place in civil discourse (try and imagine Caro receiving the same treatment after a bust up with Karen Barbat or Malou Ejdesgaard, assuming either of them are ever ranked high enough to be seriously considered a “compatriot”).

And I know not everyone will agree with this, but some of this “anti-commentary” has sometimes (subconsciously or otherwise) spilled over to the mainstream.

When Marion was routed 6-1 in the first set, the commies began speaking longingly (almost wistfully) of their wish for a Caro/Kim final. Whatever other thoughts you might have on that sentiment, it’s highly disrespectful to any competitor there on their merits. If you were troubled about the quality thus far, far better to say you wished for A FINAL, whoever the competitors. Would we have heard the same if it was Pova, Dani or any other “bombshell” playing Caro? I rather doubt it.

As it happens, Marion played a dud of a 1st set. But you wouldn’t know this if the mainstream commentary was your only take on the match. For them it was supposedly “all about about Caro” which Marion “had no answer to”. There’s no doubt Caro played an impeccable first set. Truly flawless. I’d expect nothing less from the world #1. It’s also true she was contending with Marion’s ‘D’ game for almost all of it: 90% of Marion’s returns being sent unconvincingly down the middle, right into Caro’s hitting zone. Unsurprisingly, Caro lapped it all up.

When the tables turned in set two, the “anti-commentary” painted a picture of Caro having “lost intensity”, rather than conceding (even in part) the very different tactics Marion brought to bear. 2-6.


Set three really was “all about Caro” – Marion, put up a brave fight, but was simply done physically. A familiar problem; one wonders how much she can do to mitigate against it. 6-3.

And for that in particular, I grant that Caro was the better player out there (indeed the best player of the week): consistency together with that level of fitness (and mobility) seems to me to be a perfect fit against a tour whose majority is comprised of players finding it difficult to stay in a long rally, let alone possessing the fitness commensurate with playing so many of them over three sets.

I’m not going to pretend Marion isn’t one of my favourite WTA players , and I know better than to foist her on you as Caro is thrust upon us. It’s also true that Caro is not my favourite player but I also know better than to attack her personally for that.

The “Anti-Commentariat” is unable to extend the same levels of courtesy to players they don’t like (and mostly for reasons that have very little to do with tennis).

Even as I write this, there’s not a single picture of Marion in Yahoo’s tennis photostream: that would be your ladies runner-up of Indian Wells – an event some call the “fifth-Slam”.


Still think some players aren’t unfairly promoted/demoted above and below others?

(Pics: Getty)


Indian Wells: “This too, will pass”


I don’t think you can ignore just how AWOL Rafa went in set three (he only served in the 30th percentile in set two), and taken in isolation, Noles’s  performance didn’t come close to convincing me of that “best player in the world right now” tag being bandied about.

Here’s something else you can’t ignore: Nole is now 20/20 matches, a streak dating back to DC last year (17/17 for 2011), 3 for 3 titles won this year, the new world #2 and had back to back wins over Fedal this week.

Taken in its totality, you might even argue that “best player in the world right now” tag doesn’t go far enough.

All good things must come to an end and this will too. The big question of course is what will remain in its place. Not the languid, burnt out shell Nole was during his first post-Oz downturn (brought about incidentally by Safin in Wimby 2008), one hopes?

Experience, maturity and common sense would suggest not.


Not a good look.

I can only put it down to the most freakish of freak incidents. As nightmarish an anomaly as you might ever see. The contrast between the first and third sets was as stark as it was bleak. I can’t, in all honesty, say I’ve ever seen anything like it – not after such  an such an emphatic opening statement.

Still, we’d do well not to treat it as anything other than an anomaly.

(Pics: Getty)


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Indian Wells: Noticeboard






Rafa Delpo Djoko Fed





Woz Pova Wick Bartoli

Top Guns

Young'n Restless
Sympathy Vote


Marion and Caro met less than a month ago in Doha where Caro served her up a double breadstick. It was exactly the kind of oblique dysfunction Marion in particular, with her intransigent tennis philosophy, is prone to.

Walter’s idiosyncratic methods (swinging a lead pipe - no really) have sometimes sparked derision. I mostly applaud it. Marion was never destined to be a great mover – there’s nothing unsound about making the most of the hand you have been dealt with – especially when you fashion it into something as potent as what it’s become. I doubt such exacting standards of timing and pace would  exist in Marion without recourse to precisely such a meticulous, academic (if slightly kooky) approach.

The question, of course is, whether it stands up well to the Woz defence – arguably the most formidable of its kind out there today (yes we must give her that at least). On the evidence of this week, at least, that seems achievable. The problem is Marion’s game, like any hawkish belligerent’s, doesn’t lend itself to downturns of any kind.

If that happens, we’ll get another straight sets dismissal for which, I suspect, Caro will be just as unfairly serenaded as she will be baited.

(Pics: Getty)


Indian Wells: “Oranges are not the only Fruit”



Not gonna lie to you: I was rooting for Fed to win yesterday. Mainly because of his utterly pants IW/Miami record. I thought it time he put that behind him.

“Alas” indeed, though I think it only reasonable to point out that this has been by far his best IW in over 4 years, when Canas exposed (quite publicly) for the first time, the type of doubt and frustration that has characterised almost every poor performance of his since then.

That’s not to say Nole isn’t wholly deserving of the win or, indeed,  the #2 ranking. In principle, I actually prefer Rafole finals over Fedal ones. In principle.

That’s mostly been down to Madrid 2009 when the two pulled off the best (and longest) three setter ever played. Trouble is, we’ve not had anything even remotely comparable ever since.

It’s been the same story with Fedal finals with nothing really living up to Wimby 2008 or (my personal favourite) Rome 2006.

Maybe we’ll never see anything like that ever again – maybe Rafa and Nole’s conditioned maturity and Fed’s twilight make that all but impossible.

What I suspect we’re all after is simply a good match, which doesn’t necessarily depend on both playing 100% all of the time, or on particular styles of play.

My own view is that the role of “matchups” (Fed v Rafa or Rafa v Nole) doesn’t contribute nearly as much into bringing that about as self-satisfied (and utterly irritating) fans of either camp would like us to believe it does.

Entirely natural to prefer one over the other. So take your pick, but don’t foist it on others who share equally valid preferences for the other, or both, OR NEITHER.

It’s entirely possible for Fed and Rafa to give us one last preternatural blast before Fed calls it quits, just as it is that Rafa and Nole put on a show that makes our ears bleed later today.

Apples and Oranges. And “Oranges are not the only Fruit”.


Friday, 18 March 2011

Indian Wells: Black Swan & the Communist Manifesto


It’s no secret I’m more invested in the women's event this year: I make absolutely no apologies for this – the stories are simply more compelling.

And don’t worry – I’m not one of those uber-contrarians that define their world view in knee-jerk opposition to the tours elite and in slavish support of any and every nonsensical upset – like some anarchic tennis interpretation of the Communist Manifesto.

But I do think that, aside from Caro, the remaining players in the ladies draw provide the right blend of pedigree, talent and narrative to make it so much more than “just another week” of following the the tour’s elite playing top-tier tennis at top-tier events.

Without a doubt, Delpo kinda provides that on the men's side too (though you have to think that, in Rafa,  he’s now reached his natural limit at this stage of his comeback); and if Reeshie pulls off what we daren’t even conceive let alone mention, it would be a better story than just about everything else put together – I just think that’s about as likely as the creation of anti-matter(Update: Anti-matter, as suspected was not, and cannot be, created or destroyed – just like talent it seems)

To really grab your attention and run with it, a story needs to retain the bare essence of credibility. Which is what, I suggest, we have in spades in the women's draw.

Everyone knows what Bartolis capable of – one can only hope that losing here, if it happens, won’t have been because of the stomach flu that left her gasping for air against Ivanovic.


Had Peng survived Pova, she’d be aiming  to win her first tour title – you only need to have seen the measured, technically mature, and entirely professional way in which she held out to the very end, to understand why anyone gunning for that wouldn’t be partaking in some outlandish speculation. Far from it – a top 20 spot looks almost inevitable by the end of the year.

Where do you even begin with Pova?

It’s one thing to win a Slam (arguably beating history’s finest), bust your wrist and be forced to remain out of the game for a year; and entirely another to win three of them, spend almost half a decade at the top of the game (beating some of the best players EVER) and to then be locked out for the best part of two years from which you emerge able, only, to gingerly, cautiously feel your way back to bare-competence (an implicit sobering acceptance of how that “might never be” again, necessarily pervading the entire process).


Not simply bereft of your best weapon – once described (alongside Serena’s) as the best serve in the game – but in a particularly perverse poetry that might come straight out of ‘Black Swan’, to actually have it turn on you.  

All at the age of only 23.

Delpo fans have my full support – as does he –  but this is of an entirely different order of suffering, of self-awareness, of trajectory altogether.

Which is why I sat through her win over Peng, not just enthralled by the way she took hold of the match for a set and two games – something which, in any case, we already saw  against Safina – but by what came next.

With a win seemingly only a whisper away, Black Swan suddenly struck (she’d been lurking around striking lurid poses for while). Double fault quickly begat double fault, rapidly and perniciously smothering her drive, her movement, her confidence – her very soul you might say.

Anyone not moved by the way in which she gutsed her way through

that last set, drawing only on the innate reserves of mental strength she might only share with Rafa, has no business mingling in civilised society. Winning ugly doesn’t quite capture it  – it was almost more depraved than that.

Black Swan would have settled for nothing less.

So there you have it. Pova winning would almost represent a completion of a journey, a version of which Delpo will, in time, make in his own way. That time isn’t now – hastening it before its time might even prove counterproductive.

Bartoli battling stomach flu, back (quite impressively) from injury, capable of taking out anyone on her day, represents the alternative.

Even the obtrusive Wickmayer has, in some senses, earnt her stripes – whatever else you might think of her, her talent is undeniable.

Yep, I’m ALL ABOUT taking this #AnyoneButWoz thing to the nth degree.

(Pics: Getty)


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Indian Wells: “Metaphysically” Back


It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever warm to Little Miss Fistpump, but I do know and I do enjoy the look of a former champion on the mend.

JJ never got into the match and spent the better part of it on her back foot being overwhelmed by Ana’s pace.

Ana’s now as in her element as she might ever be – the serve still continuing  to crumble occasionally, though not in the spectacularly pernicious way that’s wrecked any sense of continuity she might otherwise have derived over the past two years.

The highly irritating bellicose ‘ajdes’ and fistpumps (which have now acquired an equally irritating wind-up motion) will likely continue to keep me underwhelmed. Where others see “motivation” and “spirit” I see only gamesmanship of the highest order. Which isn’t in itself a problem (if a little unwholesomely “in your face”): but let us please call it what it is.

My timeline was so completely swamped with adulation, it almost gushed straight through my monitor like some metaphysical scene from Inception.


I would go through some of  those very same emotions  hours later.

It seems to me that nothing, but nothing, hits the mark in this age of Kangaroo-pressers and ranking system paraphernalia, than to see one of the very best, the “old guard” (if at 23 you can be called that), cut through all the crap with a statement match like this.

The serve still holds her back, but on the basis of this performance Pova’s already (metaphysically) back in the top ten.

Try and imagine what she’d look like with a decent first serve.

Dinaroshka, serving aside, did all the right things this week. That’s mostly been down to her attempting to rally her way out of trouble rather than hitting the snot out of everything that comes her way. The new found patience (instilled, I imagine, by Sanguinetti) saw her able to fight her way past a troubled Stosur but also a Dani at the very top of her game.

The serve, at this point, barely qualifies as a “work in progess”. You’d have to be a really picky dirtbag to beat up on her for that.


I was live scoreboarding this one feverishly (mostly because Caro dropped the 1st set 6-2 – I really, REALLY want a new winner this week), clumsily trying to picture how it might all be playing out.

This is how it was actually playing out:

”Alisa Kleybanova of Russia misses on a forehand volley return to Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during the BNP Paribas Open”. (Getty’s caption not mine) 

Can we all agree Alisa Kleybanova strikes the best decontextualised tennis poses ever? [Alise Cornet a very close second]


I know. I don’t believe it either.


If the future's Milos, then the future will have to wait. Fed plays Bieber in the quarters.


Indian Wells: Broken.

Trying this thing where I play “fly-on-the-wall” during Vika’s matches whilst pretending to ignore her. It’s working. I’ll very likely be enticed into watching her play Caro. Which is when the spell, I suspect, will be broken.


After watching her leg buckle painfully under her, Sam Sumyk (not whispering for once) wisely advocated against risking further (more complicated) injury….on the off chance that she recovers in time for Miami.

Statement of the Bleedin Obvious: Thigh strain, Heatstroke, Serena Williams.......VIKA HAS ROTTEN ROTTEN LUCK. 

This’ll probably sound callous, but she has more chance of baking a cake made of anti-matter than being in ship-shape for Miami.

And if she somehow does manage to heal even partially, she’ll probably end up treading on a shard of glass whilst dodging a falling piano.

It’s almost immoral.

Get well soon.


Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Indian Wells: Whither Stosur?


Anyone that continues to ignore the ignoble immensity of Stosur’s troubles  since the new year began will have their work (spin-doctoring) cut out for them today.

I have (and continue to have ) every sympathy in the world with Del Popcorn/Dinaroshka. But let’s not pretend a large part (maybe all) of both matches didn’t reek.

Dinara served up around 16 doubles with her newly architected service motion – I believe Stosur gifted as many forehand errors. Dolgo, meanwhile, went AWOL for most of the 2nd set. Not just a little rough around the edges then.

Plenty to admire, particularly Dinara’s patience from the back of the court (that’s new) – but you’ve gotta think Kohls-Smiter and Pova will prove sterner respective tests. Or maybe not.


Indian Wells: “Brazen Hussies”


Dominika’s Law of Universal impudence: Capable giant slayers (like Domi) will only slay Goliaths in your tennis pool. Espesh blue-eyed ones with hot coaches.



Cibulkova d. Zvonareva 46 76(4) 64

Players like Domi and Rezai employ a brazenly simplistic hit’n miss formula.

Many people have a problem with this (and not just coz it’s one-dimensional). I don’t.

It’s not conventional. It certainly shouldn’t be taught. And you live, just as you must die, by the sword.

But let us please not pretend it has no place in the game. And let us please not pretend it’s not soul-stirringly hypnotic when they do connect. 

Without them, that sort of shameless audacity simply wouldn’t exist. Why would it? It’s idiocy.

Trouble is, if you entirely eliminate that idiocy from the game you remove the only elemental (madcap) force capable of pulling off the most suicidal of wins at the highest of levels – the occasional duffing up of a top five player forces the game to evolve in ways it might not otherwise see. Think of them as the mutants that create sufficient amounts of instability in a population that might otherwise lack for vitality, or worse, go sterile.

At its best you get the kind of apocalyptic run Aravane exhibited at Madrid last year. At its worst she goes down, like she did yesterday, flailing in a fug of her own insolence.

Sharapova d. Rezai 62 62

That’s not at all to say Pova didn’t play a contained, measured and entirely professional match – as good as anything I’ve seen from her in months.

It’s just difficult to know what to make of it and how much stock to place in it (which I totally want to do) without having had the match this was hyped up to be. Dinara next.

I have no idea what chance Domi stands against Wicks (Universal Impudence says she’ll flame out in straights) – players like her aren’t built for longevity, nor do they naturally lend themselves to any extrapolation.  I only know that I find it ironic that two of the fiercest ball strikers we have measure in at (or under) 5’5.

Where does that leave so called “Big Babe Tennis”?

(Pics: Getty)


Thursday, 10 March 2011

Indian Wells: Donald Duck, my eye.


Young d. Murray 7-6 6-3

There really is no way to categorise young Donald’s style of play. Unorthodox? Flamboyant? HELL YEAH.  Not that either of those quite does it justice. I’d say its packed full of riffs and more akin to an “experience”.

(Just so we’re on the same page with respect to “riffs”…)

I don’t have any problems calling out Murray for the theatre of anguish he  inflicts upon us for rather too long every year after Oz. It’s something he’ll have to address for himself. Though I will say that I’ve seen a lot worse.

At some point, however, it was less about his despondent underperformance than it was about Young’s electrifying over-performance. Not that that was ever gonna get in the way of the mickey-taking.


Poking fun at Muzz  is all well and good provided you’re prepared, in the same breath (and in as strong terms), to give Young his due for the best performance and biggest win of his career. Not doing so is as blinkered as it is disingenuous.

He probably won’t keep it up. I doubt Hendrix could either.

Donald Duck, my eye.

(Pic: Getty)


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Indian Wells: Because I’m Worth it.

Here we all so wonderfully are at the first post-Oz event of the year that actually amounts to something. I expect electricity, I expect sociopathic levels of belief (and denial), I expect the feeding frenzy that results when those, like myself, with the predictive capacity of mucus, indulge in a little quantum-bracketology of their own. I  also expect some very poor trash-talk between Nole and Fed.


Maybe I’m just half a wavelength behind everyone, but it doesn’t quite feel like that just yet.

What it actually feels like is a benign form of stasis in which all the best stories are yet to develop, or haven’t yet acquired the momentum necessary to elicit the type of considered tennis reaction that goes beyond sticking bubble gum in your detractors’ hair, or breaking wind and running away– not that either of those isn’t an entirely sensible way of settling tennis disputes.

I’ve got some strong feelings on why I don’t think winning here would strongly benefit all but a handful of the top players. Woz, for example, is darned either way: Win, and face all those malignant, ‘Slamless’, ranking-related questions again. Lose, and any pretensions she might entertain of being mentioned in the same breath as Clijsters evaporate into thin air.

Muzz occupies a similar role – winning would certainly go a long way to snapping him out of his (now traditional) post-Oz runners-up stupor; and yet he owns 6 of these things already. The lack of that other more crucial “thing” is what’s causing the psychosis.


What would a win really do for Kim or for Fed’s legacy (other than, in his case, dispelling that grim and quite inexplicable fog of “dysfunktion” that’s loomed over him both here and at Miami for the last 4 years)?

Can Rafa really care all that much knowing he can safely look forward to claiming 4, if not 5, out of the 5 clay court events he’ll likely enter this year?


Wish all of them well, but here’s what will really light my fire:

1) Bepa: The best WTA performer right now (and playing as well as she’s ever likely to ) – that single title she’s won at this level (at this venue in fact) is beginning to smack more and more of underperformance.

2) Sod: as I think I’ve said before , I really don’t believe he’s done himself justice having won only a single title at this level (very) late last year. He’s actually still playing catch-up with his potential.


3) Sveta: see above comments about Bepa’s “underperformance” and then multiply by 50.

4) Delpo: Two consecutive semis and an entirely commendable mickey-mouse title. A Masters title makes the comeback official. Somewhat ludicrously, it would be his first.


5) Any one of a gang of bright (and entirely ruthless) young things like Dolgo, Milos, Petra or even Kanepi to bring about a bloody coup – a killing spree that results in the partial reconfiguration of the rankings and ownership of the tour’s main titles. 

I’m entirely serious. I’m not normally one for “next big things”, but it seems to me we’ve faffed around with Grigor and Ernie for long enough – conditions seem ripe as they’ve ever been for something a little different.

And because, they’re worth it. All of them.


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Wiggling Bepa and the “Man to Beat”



I didn’t follow any of Dubai this year only finding time to tune into the final.


As such, I don’t have too many opinions. But I do think it bears mentioning that although this is now 3 consecutive titles for Nole in DooBye, this is the first and only of those three in which he’s either displayed the form or met with the opposition consistent with that success.


What’s perhaps more surprising is that it was Fed who’d been the better player all week – Nole termed his win over Berd “his worst performance of the year” – yet it was Nole who was able (in the first set at least) to bring the type of tennis that’s won him Slams (plural).


Does this form, this incredible streak he’s on, make him the best player in the world right now?


Probably. I really don’t see the controversy in stating that.

The fact that he’s the ‘man to beat’ right now must surely be incontrovertible and isn’t (despite troublemakers’ best efforts to stir things up) a slight on anyone. On the other hand, it also says next to nothing about his chances at any of the upcoming Slams or, for that matter, at IW/Miami. Nothing, that is, other than that he must be held up as one of the four or five players with the best shot at winning it.


Quite possibly the best wiggling-Bepa pic ever.

Yes the wind was a factor (though I think it’s very telling how Caro-supporters gloss over how Bepa was successfully contending with exactly the same conditions) and I’d be lying if I said Caro was at her best (main difference centres on whether she was done physically after two contiguous weeks or simply due a dud) – yet I still think all of that pales in comparison to how very far Bepa has come.

Can you honestly see her playing some of the matches she played this week even twelve months ago (let alone prior to that)?

If you want my honest opinion it was Hantuchova that delivered the performance of the week – I’m still not completely certain why she lost that match.

But doesn’t that also precisely and exactly capture why it’s Bepa and not Dani holding up the trophy at the end of the week?

Some of Bepa’s surprisingly low-key, economic play (often under the type of pressure would have resulted in her inexorable collapse not 16 months ago) was so un-Bepa like, I almost mistook it for someone else.

Just as un-Bepa-like, is the fact that she was able to continue in that vein for the entire week.



Who are you and how did I get here?


Yes Delpo won his first title since his comeback and yes that is a flux capacitor from late 2009.

Also, incidentally, his third consecutive semi final and a rise of 77 places to #89 in the rankings.

Spare a thought, if you can tear yourself away from the Delpo welcome-home party, for Tipsy, who is now 0-3 in ATP finals and the only “titleless” member of the top 100 Serbian stable.



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