Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Roland Garros: Parting Shots

-- Let there be no illusions about this: the only reason Fed was “under the radar” is if you chose to put him there. Not everyone did. Just so we’re clear.


Two things in particular (aside from the “Rafa effect”) lost him the final: blowing the 5-2 lead he so convincingly built up in the opening set (obviously), and the first serve that was the absolute linchpin of his victory over Nole.

But for brief sporadic appearances, that serve all but deserted him in the final especially during its most crucial moments. There were of course flurries of activity when even Rafa admitted he couldn’t stay with him. There were also far too many netted returns.

It’s almost banal to the point of counterproductive to indulge the question of whether the SF in particular was Feds best performance since Wimby 2008. I’m certain I’ve seen intermittent echoes of “what once was” several times since then (WTF 2010 just one of many). But as an unremitting exhibition of quality at this level, its right up there.

And if he plays as well as this at Wimbledon, well, the world’s his slimy mollusc.

-- Never have I felt more vindicated than with respect to Francesca Schiavone


Quite possibly the most sincere runners up smile of all time.

It certainly wasn’t a given that she would follow up in the way she did after last years win. But then neither should it ever have been in so much doubt – her results over the year as well as the fact that this was the most open draw in recent history meant I gave her as much (or as little) a chance as any other top tenner. I even made her the banner for my noticeboard.

The reception she got from even the most respected commentators (as well as other more reliably callous sectors of the media) was nothing short of repugnant.

I entirely understand natural caution – I exercised the same caution in the immediate aftermath of her RG win last year, just as I do now with Li Na.

But even after results like these (all, incidentally, Slams and Premier events over the last 12 months): Montreal (QF), US Open (QF), Tokyo (SF), Beijing (SF), Aus Open (QF), Rome (QF)…

One wonders what the woman had to do to get noticed, let alone a little respect.

For shame.

-- Big up to Novak for the third longest streak in ATP history.


Were it not for AbFab it would be the second longest (did anyone think he wouldn’t leave his indelible mark on the event in a way in which only he’s capable?)

Its funny how the narrative suddenly changes. Rafa is suddenly the best athlete on the planet. Fed’s the favourite for Wimbledon. If you say so.

For what its worth I still think Novak’s the best player on the planet right now. The streak may be over but you simply don’t lose that sort of momentum overnight – however well Rafa or Fed might have played.

-- Biggest “disappointment”: Maria Sharapova:

This is not a knock. Anything but, in fact.

But I simply can’t dismiss a sense of waste – not with the overwhelming narrative or weight of (justified) expectation coming into this.

Consider the results: IW (SF), Miami (RU), Rome (Winner). Consider the possibility of a Career GS for a self-professed ‘Cow on Ice’.

Winning Rome in particular put paid to any doubt remaining in the minds of her strongest clay-court sceptics, and when you place that alongside a draw as open as the day is long, you simply can’t help but feel a sense of lost opportunity at the really quite poor SF performance she turned in.

It was windy for sure. Her opponent dealt with it. And so did both of Marion and Fran in the second semi final played on court that day (incidentally, in EXACTLY the same conditions). In fact, it was of such a high quality you might reasonably think of it as the the ladies match of the event.

These things happen, but no one’s interests are served by blaming a clear case of nerves on other secondary factors.

Needless to say, the run bodes incredibly well for Wimbledon.

-- Andy Murray turned in his best ever FO


Lets be honest – his draw wasn’t strewn with either land mines or tripwire.

But can anyone deny his five set comeback against Troicki demonstrates anything other than serious mettle?

Every seen Andy Murray dictating play from the baseline with his forehand? He did in Paris, for almost the entire two weeks. That’s not something I've seen on even the fastest courts.

Throw in the drama of a rolled ankle (which actually seemed to focus his aggressive intent further still) and you have something quite special.

”Worst Surface?” Colour me surprised if clay doesn’t, one day, turn out to be his best.

-- Fedole

The first set of this was the best set of tennis you’ll probably see all year – from both men. As well as Fed was playing in all departments, it was really his serve that was the absolute linchpin of this victory.

-- “Fingergate”

There really is no limit haters will go to to justify their vitriol.

I couldn’t care less who you might choose to direct your most potent rage towards (though I do find the number of people that predicate their support of one player with such caustic abuse of others quite astonishing – see Caro below); but can we stop pretending that a simple gesture or what someone said in a presser somehow gives it credence?

It really doesn’t, and your opinion of him will remain unchanged irrespective of what he may or may not do. Far better to be open and honest about that – I know I’d respect your right to be as obnoxious as you want.


The gesture itself is fairly innocuous and seems a retaliatory swipe against the doubters that would have you believe he was over the hill. Not to mention that I’ve seen countless other players do it – and not just in tennis.

-- At a certain point, all that fevered and reckless schadenfreude that erupted in the minutes after Dani’s win over Woz (and is probably continuing to this minute) will have to stop.

As with any other form of light entertainment, there’s only so much of it you can take before you begin to feel queasy.

More to the point, the relentless scrutiny of Woz in particular (that appears to be prompting so much of the derision) is simply a threadbare hoax: Dani could have and would have brutalised any number of top ten players playing the way she did in the opening set. Maybe even Clijsters.

There was a second wave of derision over her decision to play Copenhagen instead Eastbourne. Like I said, it left you feeling queasy – she’s simply too much of a sitting duck right now. If she elicits such toxic chemical reaction in you, ignore her, stop following her on Twitter. It’s really not that hard.


The discussion about her style of play and, in this case, her scheduling is entirely appropriate.

To reiterate: you’ve just come off one of your most alarming Slam losses as a world #1, you’re about to undergo the clay-to-grass transition the very best of players have historically struggled with, and you need, so very desperately, to win a Slam, any Slam.

How do you justify not doing anything and everything in your power to get as much grass court practice under your belt?

-- The Clay Court Myth just won’t go away [And it is a myth]

Murray, Pova, even an American against the world #1, turned in a career defining performance on the red dirt, and we’re still stuck pretending that their historical troubles on the surface are a consequence of some imagined limitation in their game?

-- “ScriptGate”

I’ve been steering clear of this one mostly because everything that needs to be said has been already.

I’ve read both sides and whether or not you feel there’s an issue over the way in which the release of scripts impacts the livelihoods of reporters, what immediately leaps out and punches you square in the chops is the arrant hegemony of the IWTA.

Put simply, any legitimacy they may possibly have garnered for their cause was shot to bits the minute they pretended to have some god-given right over the release of information itself, the copyright of which must surely reside with the players themselves.

Perhaps the most bizarre episode of the affair is in the emergence of Pete Bodo as Freedom of Information Champion for an article he wrote five years ago.

I haven’t always agreed with him – the “milk maids” episode was so bizarre it actually worked as a caricature of sexist sports writing.

But far too many people are simply out to win popularity contests by fashioning ever more unimaginative tracts with which to lampoon him with.

Whatever else you might think of him, there can no doubting that he’s been committed to his craft for decades – there’s a wealth of experience there whether you choose to admit it or not.

And as “scriptgate” shows, it’s worth remembering people are mostly far more complex than how you might chose to caricature them.

(Pics: getty)

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