Monday, 29 September 2008

One Night in Bangkok...

Im tempted to herald the arrival of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 6-4 to take his first ever ATP title in Bangkok yesterday.
That win also avenged his AO final loss to Djokovic earlier this year.
That the Frenchman is a serious talent capable of bringing home the biggest scalps in the game must surely now be beyond question.
He's powerful, athletic, possesses a double-handed backhand to rival Safin and to top it all off
actually looks graceful at the net! Yes thats right - if he lives up to his promise, (and I've no reason to doubt him) he might actually provide the counter to the baseline brigade many of us have been waiting for.
Not that I don't like baseliners - I wasn't actually a great fan of serve and volley; ok it takes a certain type of stylish and talented player to pull it off but doesn't often make for great viewing.

No I prefer the modern baseline heavy game - its just every now and again you want to see someone at the net who doesn't suddenly look like they're learning to walk again.

Anyway, my only worry for Tsonga is his injury problems. I'm concerned that being such an athletic player will mean he won't fulfill his great potential because he's:

a) either always worried about injuring himself and therefore not giving 100%

b) having to take vast amounts of time off because he's constantly recovering from injuries

Hopefully that won't happen and we'll be treated to many great encounters.

Djokovic image by chut79 distributed under the CC by-nc-sa license
Tsonga image by toga


Saturday, 27 September 2008

Down and Out...

Ana Ivanovic has lost once again to Zheng Jie in the quarter finals of the China Open, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-4.

I actually thought she played a lot better than she has been recently; she seemed to be strking the ball with more confidence
and while she has never exactly been 'fleet of foot', its clear she has been working on her movement and footwork.
Much has been made recently of Ivanovic's run of poor form since winning at Roland Garros this year. After getting to the final of the AO and then winning at Indian Wells and of course Roland Garros, she was widely expected to be a regular feature at the latter stages of most majors. That she has come short in such dramatic fashion and on some of the biggest stages, (where, buoyed by her recent Grand Slam successes, she may reasonably have been expected to d
eliver) is surprising but also somewhat symptomatic of a mini crisis in women's tennis.

Now I'm not one of these purists who, while rightly lamenting the loss of Henin, seem to think women's tennis has now irretrievably gone to the dogs. But most anyone who has followed tennis closely over the years will readily admit that, aside from the Williams Sisters (when they are uninjured and playing frequently enough) there is now no longer an elite band of players, any one of whom is capable of seeing things through on the big stage. It was different around say 2005 when apart from Henin and the Williams Sisters, we had Sharapova, Clijsters, Davenport and to a lesser extent Mauresmo, Kuznetsova and Dementieva all giving us high quality, competitive encounters. (Yes I know we've also had some horrendous women's finals too.)

To be honest its a real shame that Sharapova has had the injury problems she's had. I thought she was back in the big time when we had what most agree was the best women's match of last year at the season ending Championships in Madrid against Henin. She did of course win the AO right after that but has since lost form again and had more shoulder problems since.
I bring her up because although I've never been drawn to her less subtle, hard hitting game, she is quite possibly the best at that brand of baseline tennis; and coupled with her mental strength (which is second to none IMO) was my pick to take on (and run with) the number one ranking.

When Ivanovic took the number one ranking earlier this year, I felt somewhat short changed. Not that she didn't deserve it either: she has been the best performing player for the first half of this year and was one of the most consistent last year. I suppose thats what my point is: in the current landscape its sufficient to be
merely consistent - to perform, on average better than everybody else. But thats not what the number one ranking should be about.

I've got nothing against Ivanovic, shes got just about the best groundstrokes in the business - we all know her forehand is an absolute A-Bomb of a stroke. Its also a very classic action - no wide lassoo style swings here! I just don't think we'd be considering her any more than a competent top ten player, were we to have had better competition. She belongs to a group of players who are able to dictate play provided they are receiving the ball right in their hitting zone; move them around, get them off balance and they suddenly look very vulnerable indeed. They don't have a great deal of variety, rarely throwing in a slice and pretty much avoiding the net like the plague.

To her credit, Ivanovic has worked very hard with her movement. She can run down balls better than ever before but her defence will never be that of Jankovic or Dementieva; she also lacks the mental qualities that brought Sharapova such success despite her somewhat stiff movement. All this makes her particularly vulnerable to a player like Jheng Zie who kept her pinned behind the baseline both in Beijing and earlier this year at Wimbledon.

So in some ways I'm not too shocked at Ivanovic's recent loss of form; she'll recover before long I'm sure, and continue to improve - she's too talented not too. But in the meantime, we do in Serena, at least have a worthy number one.

Image by franz88 distributed under the CC by-nc-sa licence.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Very International Affair...

This last week all the publicity seems to be over Davis Cup so lets get that out of the way to begin with.
Let me state right out that historically I haven't been a great fan of Davis Cup. To me it always seemed to be operating at a level below the main tour - a poor relation of the premier ATP events.
Its detractors have various theories as to why this is the case, but even ardent fans sometimes agree that it can be difficult to muster up the same level of interest and passion without the involvement of the top players.
Still I'm beginning to be won over as we've had some very decent matchups this year - in particular France v US earlier in April and of course Spain v US this last weekend.

There was little doubt that Spain would win last weekend, but I was pleased to see competitive matches between Roddick and Ferrer and particularly between Querrey and Nadal - I mean most people probably wrote the guy off the second the draw was released. The fact that he was able to take a set off of Nadal in what must have seemed the most imbalanced of matchups (on clay against arguably the greatest clay courter of all time backed by a partisan Spanish crowd in a Madrid bullring - I mean Querrey must have thought 'Are you guys kidding with this setup!?') bodes well for his future.
He held his own and even though he lost the other sets, didn't appear to wilt.
Against Nadal, Roddick unfortunately got a dose of what Federer experienced at this years French Open Final - that he got the crowd on his side albeit for a fleeting moment (best moment of 2008?), was amongst the few positives that he could draw from this encounter.

I guess thats what rescues Davis Cup for me: the atmosphere. The crowd and the antics of the players' bench really do make this event something special, however I'm still not completely sold: for every matchup like last weekend we also have debacles like Great Britain v Austria - only Andy Murray's involvement in that fiasco prevented it from being a complete write off.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Contact Me.


About Me…

I've been playing tennis since the age of 8. Somehow, I don't quite know how or why, I didn't end up being the saviour of British Tennis. Funny that.

That's ok by me – I've let "the powers that be" know that I'm available for Davis Cup Duty. Should the need arise. You know – if they're in what they call a “tough spot", a “sticky patch".

In the meantime I ended up going into computers. As in physically in computers.
That probably sounds like something out of 'The Matrix'. Which ought to make it feel dead sexy. Some days it does. On others it's just plain dead.

I still play an awful lot of tennis. A lot of awful tennis too. I also talked an awful lot of tennis. Quite often on company time and sometimes to people that have no interest whatsoever in the game. People that think tennis scores read "6 Nil" and still believe it's played with "bats".

Put them right, I tell you. *chuckles to self*

Trouble is, I sometimes got "put right" myself too. Physically. By people wielding beer bottles. They didn't find me "funny" or "enlightening". Fancy that.

Anyway, I finally settled on a more reclusive existence talking tennis from behind the relative safety of firewalls and a web front end.

I'm pretty sure I still exist. Most of the time. I blog therefore I must.

I blog therefore I am.



All images on this site have been found in the public domain.
Credit has been given wherever possible.
If you feel your copyright is being infringed upon by any particular image, please contact me and I'll have it taken it down.

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