Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Roland Garros: Wounded Badger, Hidden Talons

So it seems eliminating gluten’s only half the story. To really harness your talent you also need to either roll your ankle, pull a muscle, or to simply cramp. Anything that renders you immobile.


Do that, and you’re suddenly incapable of hitting anything other than double digit aces and the most penetrating of winners, particularly on the forehand – supposedly, Murrays poorer wing. All on his “worst surface” (nope, still not letting that go).

If you want my honest view, Viktor was the better player during the earlier parts of today’s deciding set. We all know how that story ends – with broken glass and blood spattered all over the place.

Up until today, I’d only heard 2nd hand reports of Viktor’s epic ability to punk out on a lead like this. It’s now inscribed into my soul. And there ain’t no way of undoing it. “Once seen, can’t be unseen”, as they say.

Yes, he was robbed of a single point at 3-2 up on Murray’s serve – but lets not pretend the ballboy altered the earth’s tilt or something. He still broke Murray that game, he still held on to his serve – yet would still go on to lose the next five games in succession.

Nothing to do with the poor ballboy – who was filmed shaking like a startled rabbit with the dagger-eyes of the entire stadium bearing down on him.

You know what would have been an absolute money shot after something as outlandish as that? For Viktor to be pictured later putting the poor kid at ease, kicking a football, ruffling his hair, buying him a candy cane or something – exactly the kind of thing you can picture the far savvier Novak doing.

Seriously, his standing would have gone through the roof. Instead, this happened:

After Murray won a point on a similar overhead winner, Troicki mockingly asked the ballboy why he didn't run out during that point. Then he kicked the ball away from him. Little tip, Viktor: Showing up an 11-year-old is never the way to get a crowd on your side.

-- Busted Racquet, Yahoo Sports

That’s not how you treat kids Vik, Not in Serbia. Not in France. Not anywhere.


Roland Garros: Someone explain.

Let me be clear up front.

Anastasia will have her “coming out” party at some point– this may already be it, she’s too good not to, and she’s only 19 for crying out loud.


That said, and I say this entirely without innuendo, agenda or snark –  I really can’t see what all the fuss is about.

Most people appear to think this kind of a run at a Slam was long overdue or something. Not to be unkind, but that’s really stretching things quite far.

She hits a good ball off both wings – so do a lot of top 30 players – and has more than earnt her spot in the top twenty – so has Wimby quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi (seriously, we hear next to nothing about her).

As well she played today, ultimately her lack of a really big weapon (together with lack of experience for which she should really get a free pass) proved to be her undoing.

Cesca had no business whatsoever losing the first set, let alone blowing away that 5-1 final set lead.


And when she came to her senses at the end of set two, the gulf between the two was nothing short of painful.

Anastasia has already made her impression. She has nothing to be ashamed of and deserves any and all recognition for putting Cesca through the mill - the very least we can do is learn to spell her name.

But nothing is to be gained by serenading her beyond her accomplishments – there’s far more potent talent (at least at this stage) raging in the top 20. As I believe Marion showed us today.

It’s really nothing personal. I feel the same about Maria Kirilenko.

Another entirely wholesome spirit celebrated beyond her powers. Anyone care to explain that?


Sunday, 29 May 2011

Roland Garros: All H̶a̶i̶l̶ Fail AbFab

“By Gad, sir, you are a character. There's never any telling what you'll say or do next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing.”
-- Kasper Gutman, The Maltese Falcon

It was billed as the “starter” match no one would be interested in. But it ended up upstaging  “main features” Nole/Gasquet and JJ/Fran.

Ladies and Gents, I give you AbFab.


Nothing I can say will do credit to this utterly outrageous force of nature.

He is quite simply, the playa’s (as opposed to the player’s) playa, someone that causes impropriety itself to look on with a mixture of befuddlement and awe.

At 7-6 down, and with Montanes only two points away from victory, he reared up (apparently in pain) and simply stood there, forcing the umpire Louise Engzell to come down from the chair. After a brief chat, she appeared to indicate that he should call the trainer. Which of course he did, and that was that.

What followed was something between a burlesque panto and car crash TV.

AbFab’s tweaked muscle fibre prevented him from propelling upwards on serve, which would result in him foot faulting more times than his opponent hit aces – I personally counted 8. Did he take a step or two back behind the baseline before serving to correct for this ? What do you think? 

Between the foot-fault idiocy, Montanes’s utterly corrupt decision to go all “Berrer” on us, and AbFab’s ridonkulous thwacked winners he produced (sometimes on match point down) to go on and actually win this thing – all in a state of near-total immobilisation – I’m not sure there was much actual tennis left.

The rules are simple: A muscle cramp does not constitute an injury, but you can call on the trainer for a pulled muscle.

Perhaps all the ragging on AbFab and Louise Engzell was, therefore, misplaced, as not even he (let alone Engzell) can know which of the two (if any) is the cause of the pain; all the same, it does represent a grey area in the rules. And grey areas are open both to umpire misjudgement and exploitation.

Whatever. Third year running RG has come good in putting on an outrageously spectacular offering of one form or another. In this case of the comical rather than the seismic variety.

As an event it simply stands alone, just like AbFab does as a drama queen. No one even comes close. Not even JJ.

And if he ends Nole’s streak, it will be the single most spectacular act of cultural vandalism in the history of sport.

I can’t wait.


Friday, 27 May 2011

Roland Garros: Upset, Yes. Shocker? No.


Rus d. Clijsters 3-6, 7-5, 6-1

1) We KNOW Kim is prone (more than most) to occasional bouts of catastrophically abhorrent play. The stench can be positively sulphuric. This isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last.

2) She hasn’t played in two months. Competitive match play is kind of a big deal. Even for multi-Slammin’ Super Moms.

3) Arantxa Rus came to PLAY. And, as I hope we saw, she happens to play rather well.

4) Clay hasn’t ever been Kim’s surface of choice. Winning all the hard court Slams in the world won’t change that. She was only ever a “contender” in so far as her undoubted elite status as a player, and the aura that inspires, carried her through enough wins in one of the most open FO draw of recent history.

5) It was windy out there today. Wind tends to be unforgiving at the best of times. Kim was both far from her best and (worse) didn’t seem bothered (or yielding) enough to reign it in.


Perhaps the real shocker was how many respected commentators were falling over each other in their attempts to explain the loss away as a consequence of Kim’s (supposedly still injured) ankle.

Really? Did she confirm the ankle was a problem at the start of the week? Was it a problem in any of her previous matches? Would it have been a problem if she’d breezed through Rus the way everyone expected to?

[Sorry, but petulant lines of enquiry are a two-way street]

I have no reason to be sceptical of the story of how she rolled her ankle (apparently dancing barefoot at her cousin’s wedding). If that’s what she says,  let’s take it at face value without figuratively rolling our eyes, or engaging in other unnecessary innuendo.

But if she turns up to play, apparently healthy, then that’s exactly and precisely what I’ll assume her to be. There’s really no occasion to be speaking of supposed “injuries” whilst a match is still in progress – not unless and until the player concerned has taken an MTO.

Why, in any case, is it so very difficult to wait for her to bring it up herself, either in the post-match presser or any other subsequent interview?

Which, as it happens, is exactly what she did: she admitted to frustration in not being able to execute, she expressed a desire to return to the practice court – no mention was made of any injury (to the ankle or otherwise), not until she was explicitly prompted to do so, when she denied it was an issue.

In other words, she admitted that (for whatever reason) she wasn’t good enough on the day. Again, I take her word for it.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Roland Garros: Cognitive D̶i̶s̶s̶o̶n̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ Flatulence



Marin out. In his opening match. On the first day of Roland Garros. In straights. To Ramirez Hidalgo.

The sad thing is, no one was even that surprised.

Then again no one made light of it either. Probably because its not funny anymore.


Apparently there was a stomach complaint of sorts.

In which case, I SERIOUSLY question the decision to play when you’re facing the possibility of a sixth consecutive first round Slam exit.

Despite my better judgement I still want to believe in you – mostly because I’m not that keen on the haters’ caricature of the spoilt, affluent slacker travelling from tournie to tournie in Daddy’s helicopter.

Articles like this, however, don’t help. Neither do 6 consecutive first round Slam exits.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Pseudo-Science Surrounding Rafa’s Slump

Nole’s been unflappable, but pretending Rafa’s slump hasn’t been a contributing factor in at least some of those losses would be just as disingenuous as not giving Nole his due.

Since this weekend there’s been a concerted effort to analyse, rationalise and, in some cases, explain away that slump.

Whilst most of this theorising contains an element of truth, I can’t say I completely agree with any of them. Much of it is simply a heady mixture of pseudo-science and wishful thinking.

Given the scale of Rafa’s domination and his iconic status in the game, this “need for answers” is, of course, completely understandable.

In certain cases, however, this overarching impulse to ‘explain’ has proved so consumptive that it’s lead people to see things that really aren’t there.

1) However poorly Rafa is right now, he’s either won or reached the final of every event he’s entered since the Aussie Open – going out in all four Masters finals to none other than “Nole the Unsinkable”. Immediate observation: Some slump.

2) Even so, a slump is a slump: let us please call it what it is, and not go turning it into some illusory call for him to change his game. Yes really.

3) More to the point, I really can’t see the need for ANY rationalisations – not in any case, the more Freudian ones.

However much we might like to romanticise it, the truth is that no one really knows what starts, perpetuates and ultimately ends a slump: it’s not wholly analytical or technical in nature, but then neither is it as mystical as some appear intent on presenting it.

Whilst no one would deny that the manner of Murray’s departure in the Aussie Open final was what led to his slump – the worst since he entered the top ten – did any one of us see him emerging from it on what is unanimously thought of as his “worst surface”?

Not only that, but to come within one set of bagging two of the biggest scalps this season: Rafa on clay (Monte Carlo) and Nole the Unsinkable (Rome)? (Also both on his “worst surface”)

If Murrays too good not to emerge from a slump, the odds of Rafa failing must be considered non-existent.

The trouble with all the analysis surrounding Rafa is that its being carried out within the false economy of Nole’s streak – which WILL come to an end, just as certainly as Rafa’s slump will.

Should it happen as soon as next week, its entirely conceivable that Rafa goes on to win Slam number 10. Not to take anything away from him (how could I?), but it’s also entirely conceivable that Nole goes out in R16 to one….Jurgen Melzer.

Streaks often end in the most unspectacular way imaginable and without due deference to anyone’s narrative.

Then where will the pseudo-science and mystical charms be?









1) There’s only so many ways in which you might underline the warped and, it seems, iconoclastic nature of Nole’s streak. What was once simply ‘astonishing’ has now acquired something of the profane. Nothing is to be gained by adding to any of that, other than to say, N-I-C-E.

2) Anyone that denies thinking he wouldn’t be affected to a lesser or greater degree by Saturday’s exertions against Murray is either in denial, or simply basking in the view afforded by hindsight. 

3) His level in the first set, in particular, was even higher – if this is possible – than during the semis.  Eye-wateringly awesome as that is (and, in its own way, rather chilling), it’s also true that he needed to win this in two.

4) It wasn’t a case of if, but when the effects of the previous day’s exploits would catch up with him. Let there be no illusions that a player as savvy as Nole wasn’t fully cognisant of this.

Or that there wasn’t a premeditated strategy of preventing a third set, which would, quite frankly, have proved disastrous, however poorly Rafa might have been playing. (see ‘Tentative-Rafa trumps Tired-Nole’)

5) Planning such a two set blitz is one thing – it should come as no shock that a player as skilled as Novak is able to execute upon it. Similarly, its not impossible for a world class athlete to pool all his or her (limited) resources into a calculated attempt at playing death-defyingly well up front, knowing full well that it can’t last.

Far better to do that and lose, than to allow yourself to get embroiled in a three setter you can have no hope of winning.


Friday, 13 May 2011

Rome: #SoIncredibleItsCredible



Sod got TOTALLED. Just like the oversized banger in the breakers yard.


The sad thing is the first set had promise.

He even had a couple of break points which, unconverted though they were, were nothing in comparison to the incomprehensible horror of the eighth game.

Nole was as Nole is, and has been since the start of the season, but, really, what should have simply been a “long shot” was rendered obscenely immeasurable by Sod’s inability to keep even the most routine balls in court. Worse still, he seemed to give up the fight.

The streak lives on and is now at 35.

Same deal as yesterday: So Incredible Its Credible.


Rome: Noticeboard











Berd Murray Nole





Woz Vika Arn Sam
JJ Pova Li Fran


Enjoy it while you can because as magical as the runs been, Reeshie is a full 0/8 against Rafa. Half of those wins have come on a hard court in the last three and a bit years. So you see, it’s not really a “Clay thing”, more of a “pwned thing”.

Even with Rafa’s fever this week and his dodgy form prior to it, you have to banish all reason and common sense to think Dickie stands a chance tomorrow.

The way I am with Sod over Djoko, for example (or Murray over Djoko, for that matter). The streak ends tonight.


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Rome: Weird Schliz Happens.

Only saw the latter half of this so not really qualified to speak.

Which of course means I’m gonna.

Gasquet d. Federer 4-6 7-6(2) 7-6(4)

First point: Reeshie pulling off this schliz should surprise precisely no one. Oh I know, his brain was meant to turn into jelly-beans in the final set tie break , and it didn’t. That is surprising.

What isn’t surprising is his big-budget game: everyone knows he has this kind of result in him.

Second: Rome pulling off this schliz should surprise precisely no one.

Remember in 08 when around half the draw retired with injury and Stan Wawrinka made the final? He wasn’t even awesome back then – and I seem to remember Novak winning the whole thing having barely played three matches.


Not to mention Fed imploding against Volandri the year before. And he was awesome back then.

Weird schliz happens in Rome. And what’s more is, we may not be done yet.

Think, in particular, of Nole’s streak.

It would be exactly in keeping with Rome for someone completely out of sorts to put an end to it. In straight sets, of course, and all with out any ceremony whatsoever. Someone who thinks of clay as his “worst surface”. Someone like, say, Andy Murray.

It’s just so hilariously incredible, its actually credible. (Thanks @artincircles


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Madrid: Pre-Raphaelite Petra Picspam



I’m sure I’m not the first to have noticed this, but it seems to me that if the Pre-Raphaelites did tennis, Petra would be their ideal subject.

More Pre-Raphaelite Petra:



To tell you the truth I wasn’t sure who to support in the final.

Vika's had her share of bad luck with injury/fainting/being drawn against Serena; it really seemed like it should be her time.

On the other hand, Petra winning at this level would be completely in keeping with her rise.

Didn’t really matter in the end. Vika didn’t play a bad match. She barely got a chance to play one at all.

It wasn’t completely clean hitting from Petra – it rarely is – what matters is she hit winners clean through and clean past Vika. 40 of them.

Vika doesn’t have anything like Petra’s pace, but there’s not a lot anyone can do when Petra’s not missing.

Plan B? That’s not how she rolls. And it’s earnt her a spot in the top ten.


Madrid: Voltaire on Rafole Postmodernism

Just once, I'd like to sit thru a Rafole/Fedal match without the merits of either rivalry being foisted on me. Just once.

What started out as a “Postmodern” counterculture to the fanaticism surrounding the Fedal rivalry and the mainstream adulation it gave rise to, has quickly evolved into something just as toxic as the “mainstream” it purported to differentiate itself from.


This is familiar territory, but I think it bears repetition in light of the near-hysterical attempts during the final of the pro-Rafole lobby to “persuade” everyone of the inherent virtues of their sacred cow.

I wouldn’t object so much if there wasn’t such an obvious subtext: that “my particular rivalry exists on a higher plane, gives rise to fans of a higher moral fibre than yours”. The smug, self-satisfaction is really quite astonishing.  If you insist deary. It probably makes you feel better about yourself, so I guess it must be true.

More often than not, it’s not even cloaked in spiritual terms like these. And I almost prefer that. However “mainstream”.

Let me explain: if you want to be a fanboy or a fangirl, I may disagree with your choice of player, but (within certain limits) I’ll fully support your right to behave like an obnoxious kad. I’m certain Voltaire himself would have no problem with his words being butchered in this way.


The reason is simple: the kads’s position, however obnoxious, remains unequivocal. I know what (or whom) they unabashedly stand for. I know what they unashamedly don’t stand for. Even their startling double standards in favour of their player will, however disagreeable, come as little surprise. For the most part, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But if you’re going to position yourself as a “radical”, someone taking the “moral high ground” over the “establishment” and its underlings, supposedly above all that rank populism and fanaticism that surrounds the mainstream, and then proceed to insidiously impress the merits of your favourite rivalry upon me (in a way that is clearly meant to denigrate fans of that other “mainstream” rivalry), then you’re far worse than any number of fanboys and fangirls who, whatever else might be said of them, do at least wear their heart on their sleeve. They aren’t pretending to be anything else, and that alone makes them more credible.


Bottom line is, nobody much cares. Everyone should be free to like the Rafole rivalry, or the Fedal rivalry, or both, or NONE.

Up until this week I had thought I preferred Rafole. That’s mostly to do with Madrid 2009. But the Fedal semi reminded me of at least some of the things that had caused me to salivate many years ago and which, frankly, don’t exist in any other rivalry. The same can be said of Rafole. Apples and Oranges.

If we were to be completely honest about it, we’d have to admit that neither rivalry has come anywhere near, recently, to reproducing anything like its respective benchmark – which remains the Madrid SF of 09 and the Wimby Final of 08.

You really don’t have to chose, but if you do – please don’t make like you’re taking the “high road”. I think you’ll find you’re barely taking a road.

Right at this very moment, there’s probably someone out there gushing over the Donald Young, Wayne Odesnik “rivalry”. And that’s ok too.


Madrid: #GlutenFree

Preamble/Disclaimer: Nothing I’m about to say is intended to undermine either Djoko’s win this weekend, or his streak that dates back to DC last year.


The streak is now at 32 (34 if you include DC) and includes wins over Murray, Nadal(3) and Federer(3). If you include Berdych, Almagro and Ferrer that’s 10-0 vs. top ten players this year. Not to mention that the latest of those is a win over Rafa on clay.

How do you even begin to go about undermining something like that? Couldn’t even if I wanted to.

As an achievement it stands almost, but not quite, alone (though I really don’t know how sensible it is to compare Johnny Mac’s 39 match streak with the competition Nole’s had). And for that, he deserves every accolade, every possible plaudit coming his way.

And now the caveat that only just about dares to speak its name: The best player in the world right now (by far) beat a Rafa in questionable form – try as I may, I can’t see anything “seismic” in that. Yes, EVEN on clay. And I wanted Nole to win.


Oh don’t worry. I’m not peddling asterisks – I rarely get my hands dirty with those even when I believe they’re warranted (which in this case I don’t).

But then I don’t believe in sticking my head in the sand either: it’s self-evident to anyone that's been following him that Rafa’s form has been suspect, almost since the year began. In fact, I believe I’m on record as saying I expected Rafa to lose on clay at least once this season.

Again, not too worry – there will be some gloating, nose-rubbing and trumpet-blowing on my part, but this has more to do with simply acknowledging an observable phenomenon.

You don’t need me to enumerate all the instances: there was something wholly spontaneous about the way he combusted in IW/Miami – Madrid wasn’t nearly as bad, but a crisis of confidence did, nevertheless, permeate his entire performance.


The most glaring and persistent problem was a lack of depth. I hope we don’t need to be reminded that far lesser players than Novak have cleaned up against Rafa when he does that.

In spite all of that, and despite some of the headlines I’ve seen, Rafa remains ‘King of Clay’ and the overwhelming favourite going into RG. As great as this win is, as great as the streak is, it says little or nothing about Nole’s chances at the FO – other than that he must be considered one of the favourites.

Five sets is a game changer. Words like ‘fatigue’ enter the equation. And however tentative Rafa might get, he still trumps Tired-Nole. Some things never change.


Parting shots:


1. Why is “altitude” always a problem when Rafa loses in Madrid?

I’m not willing to let this pass anymore. Someone’s gotta put a stop to it.

It’s not that I don’t think altitude is a factor. I just don’t agree with it being accorded “Theory of Relativity” status.

Fact: Rafa’s timing has been off ALL YEAR. Sometimes shockingly so. He found it only sporadically in the final, but when he did, he started to play better. As easy as that. Very little (nothing) to do with “altitude”.

2. Chicken and Egg: To play or not to play, behind the baseline

Ditto re the strongly worded critiques of Rafa playing behind the baseline. They can’t be allowed to go on either. Not unless we’re prepared to be equally vocal about it when he’s winning three Slams a year.

Playing behind the baseline is his default play – don’t expect that to change anytime soon.  I don’t always approve (and he does seem to adjust for grass and faster courts), but his athleticism and, crucially, the depth he usually maintains, means he remains effective doing something that would normally prove FATAL for anyone else.

Of course, when he isn’t maintaining that depth, he’s vulnerable to being pushed further back (as he was in the final) in a way in which Fed and Nole, or indeed Davydenko, are simply not.

Chicken and Egg.


3. Conventional Wisdom be damned.

Less controversial this one.

That Rafa is more comfortable being the “hunter” rather than the “hunted” has been conventional wisdom, almost since he first broke on to the tour in 2005 – and probably remains true in part even today.

Even so, I can’t help thinking that a rather large part of what shapes that view is Rafa remaining world #2 for so very long. Put simply, if Fed didn’t play tennis and Rafa acquired the #1 ranking in 2006 instead of 2008, we’d probably be thinking very differently about it.

I prefer, in any case, to take a more cyclical view: it’s far harder to defend THAT many points than it is to acquire them. Seems obvious really. Not to mention the alternating nature of Rafa’s health/form since 2008.

Not that I believe in getting all conspiratorial about it either (see, “Rafa’s ‘underdog thing’ is nothing more than a front” – he may do that from time to time to deflect the media glare, but that kind of spin is really not either his or Fed’s style).

Things have, quite simply, now (with or without “Nole the Unsinkable”), evolved into something far more complex than can be routinely explained away by any one of many so-called “conventional wisdoms”.

“Conventional wisdom” also said that Rafa couldn’t be beaten on clay.

Corollary:  conventional wisdom can go to hell.

4. Tweener-lob > Tweener (obvious I hope)

Yes it was a remarkable feat of ingenuity and athleticism.

Yes it’s only capable of being  pulled off by the most skilled and creative players our sport is ever likely to see.

Which is why I find it all the more necessary to point out that it does, in fact, have a precedent. 

Needless to say, Rafa’s rendering of it was totally awesome in its own right – nothing can or should take away from that. I just don’t remember the street parades when Fabrice pulled his little wonder off.

Another neglected question: Why must Nole be on the receiving end of so many of these?

5. Fed can beat still Rafa.

Self-evident, now, I hope.

Not only that, but I remain confident he can beat him on clay. Not regularly, of course, not routinely, and certainly not when Rafa’s at his best.

I just find it irritating when the fanboy fraternity pretend that there’s something inherently unbreakable about Rafa. It’s really not the case. Not on clay nor anywhere else.


It should be obvious to any one with a multi-cellular brain how and why clay creates just the right blend of conditions for Rafa’s optimal play.

All of that on one side and the basic, elementary and uncomplicated issue of fluctuating form on the other – which Rafa, just like anyone else, is vulnerable to: I should have thought that was obvious too with what we’ve seen from him this year more than any other.

Fed was able to exploit that shoddy form to explosively wrench away the first set from Rafa in a way in which only he can.

Unconverted BPs (*gasp*) and an altercation with Molay (really wish he’d let it go) saw to it that he wasn’t able to carry that over – but that’s a far cry from saying it can never happen.


Friday, 6 May 2011

Madrid: Noticeboard










Llodra Sod Bellucci Djoko





Julia Vika Li Domi
Pavlyuchenkova Lucie BMS Petra



Top’o the World

Hot Stuff

Sympathy Vote


Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

Whatever else Thomaz might be about to achieve this week, he’s NOT doing a “Julia”.

True that, like Julia, he’s been hovering on the periphery of the top 30 for what seems an eternity – and like Julia he may be about to crack the top 30 (anyone?).

That’s where the similarity ends.

Seems a decent kid, but he hasn’t won a single Premier i.e. Masters event yet. Not even close.

And he certainly hasn’t come anywhere near to beating the world #1 (that would be Rafa) twice in succession.

Julia did.

Appreciate the two situations aren’t completely congruent. All the more reason not to pretend they are.


Madrid: There will be war paint. There will be rugby socks.


Hey, US of A?

I really wouldn’t worry about not having a single American in the top ten (male or female) for the first time in history.

You have Bethanie Mattek-Sands. You have war paint.

More Bethanie.



The funny thing is I can TOTALLY see her getting past both Li and Petra. What? Don’t laugh.


Madrid: Nobody say anything. Nobody do anything. [Don’t even blink]




Just a friendly reminder of what we normally do around here, when Vika is in tournament-winning form.


Madrid: Clay Court Mythology

I don’t claim to fully understand why Feli’s match with Fed went to three tie breaks. I only know that its HIGH time we buried many of the utter myths surrounding clay.

As I’ve blathered on about many times before, and as Carlos Moya said again yesterday, the era of surface specialists is OVER (not at all the same as saying that surface specialists won’t continue to exist btw – relics of a bygone age often do).

The vast majority of the more convincing up and comers and, in particular, all of the players at the very top, have the results they do, not because of their proficiency on clay or any other surface, but because of their proficiency at tennis

Tweaks and adjustments must, of course, be made – but it’s self-evident, I hope, that whilst their respective style may differ, all of Fed, Rafa, Nole, and, indeed, Sod, play the same brand of winning tennis on all surfaces.

To a lesser extent, the same holds true for Murray and Feli – and when they lose on clay, it’s for exactly the same reason they lose anywhere else: mental dysfunction.



The point about Feli is that he has one of the best serves in the business, and, when he’s thinking straight(!), can hit through the court and close out at the net in a way that’s served him so very well on grass: none of that’s suddenly gonna disappear because he’s on clay.

Nor am I surprised to see him pull off a performance that would see him triumph over at least half of the current top 10 (possibly his best clay court match ever). Infrequent sure, but it’s hardly the first time and probably won’t be the last.

Yes that shocking “smash” at 5-2 in the final set tie break will probably return to haunt him, and yes, Federer, clearly vulnerable, only pulled through by the slimmest of margins. And yes, Federer being Federer, it’s probably fair to expect just a little more.

The fact remains, however, that he got through playing at a fraction of his best and will likely benefit from the encounter. It’s not the first time we’ve seen that either.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Madrid: Yoolia ‘gorges’ on Caro

I had put together something about Julia that I didn’t get round to posting after her win in Stuttgart.  Let me correct that now.


Caro was FAR from her best  in Stuttgart – don’t let any dickhead tell you otherwise. The same cannot, however, be said of today.

Whilst Caro is clearly less comfortable on clay, I don’t know that this is a “clay” issue as much as it is a “badass” issue.

In any case, anyone that plays apologist to Caro, after Julia’s second consecutive win over the world #1, needs to be dragged aside and kicked down-under. Repeatedly if necessary, and until they “get it”.

At times out there (and certainly in Stuttgart) Julia was playing top 5 tennis – often under the type of pressure that has seen players “better” than her wilt time after time.

Twice in Stuttgart she saved set point with the kind of serve out wide I’ve only seen from Petra this year. She used the same serve to dig herself out of trouble today in a match that, quite frankly, most saw Caro winning – especially after she was treated for blisters in the 2nd set.

The crazy thing is that should place her in the category of big-hitting, one-dimensional nutjobs. Julia simply doesn’t fit that mould.

She’s almost entirely adept at the net, classy and secure enough to only fistpump/‘CMON’ her own winners (it can be done), and, best of all, remains both calm AND daring under pressure both are necessary.

In other words, she called Caro’s bluff in a way that sets her apart form 95% of the competition.


I defy you not to like her.

(Pics: Getty)



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