Wednesday, 1 December 2010

London WTF: The Coefficient of Awesome.







Fallacy #1: Rafa’s tiredness resulted in his three set loss to Federer.


"I'm not going to say I lost the match because I was tired. I feel I lost because I played against a very good Roger Federer on one of his favorite surfaces. And when he's playing like this, it's very difficult to stop him, no?"


He may or may not have been tired. The fact is that it’s irrelevant: If Rafa doesn’t cite fatigue as a factor then no one else gets to either (N.B. this is not the same as saying he couldn’t possibly have been tired – very important distinction).


Before you start citing Madrid 09, remember Rafa (and Nole) played over 4 hours of clay court tennis that daythe longest three setter ever played, and, I daresay, the best – with only 24 hours to recover. You’ve got to be pretty obtuse and/or naive to think fatigue played no part there.

Slams are a different animal as they offer up a very welcome 48 hour rest period. I know many amongst the “far-right” of tennis fandom like to pretend ‘roids are the only possible way to explain Rafa’s incredible recovery in between the semis and final of Aus 09. The altogether more boring and factually inconvenient explanation is that 48 hours is more than enough recovery time for any athlete at this level, let alone someone as physically gifted as Rafa.


The point is that this one belongs in neither of those two categories and has much more to do with the electrifying way in which Fed began the match.




Fallacy 2: Roger Federer has “figured out” Rafa targeting his backhand.


Newsflash: Targeting Fed’s backhand will not cure male pattern baldness.


With the amount of success Rafa has had targeting Fed’s backhand over the years it is perhaps understandable that it has become something of a goto-play for him.


It is, however, a mistake to confer upon it the pseudo-mystical properties it seems to have acquired in some quarters.


Any strategy is only as good as it’s execution.


And no strategy can account for days when Fed’s backhand is nuke.


On the other hand…


Newsflash: Fed winning the final by timing his backhand better than he had all year does not suddenly make targeting it a “failed strategy”.


Does Andy Roddick stop serving big because he’s playing Roger Federer?


Do we stop believing in climate change because of a freak snowstorm?


I only bring it up because three or four games into the final there was a rush of dickheads calling for Rafa to abandon his goto-play because it seemed Fed had finally “figured it out”.


Fed has no more figured out Rafa making his backhand the frontline of his attack than we’ve figured out climate change.


This is not his fault – you don’t “figure out” systemic problems; you mitigate against them and minimise their impact.


Fed’s done that pretty well over the years, but will still for the most part be fighting an uphill battle. Every so often he’ll play a match in which nothing Rafa does will seem to work.


That’s no reason to abandon what’s proven to be the greatest-ever play against the great-ever player.





The thing about form…


There was, in any case, something more subtle at work. Subtle enough not to feature on the blinkered radars of those that would scream “fatigue” in the immediate aftermath of the Rafa/Muzz semi: Rafa’s form, as good as it was this week, wasn’t quite up there in the stratosphere of his best moments of this year.


And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.


Nor should stating that be seen as some kind of last ditch, madcap attempt at explaining away Rafa’s loss – let us please not insult either of them by doing that (for the record, I’m also one of the few people that believe Fed wasn’t all there in the first two sets of the Wimbledon 2008 final too).


Form is an incredibly complex, divisive, misunderstood and mysterious force – quite possibly the only thing we know about it is that we know nothing about it. Conventional wisdom says it feeds on momentum (or should that be the other way round?) but it can blossom just as well with adequate rest and careful preparation.


It’s no different for the top two players of all time,


Fed has very publicly “struggled” (by his standards) with form this year. Just one week ago his entire season was being defined (by some his own fans I might add :-( ) by the deathly hallows of those infernal five unconverted match points. Now, three out of three converted break points and some unspeakably acute-angled shoulder high backhand winners later, it seems he’s a dead cert for the Aussie Open. Neither are true, of course.


He (along with Rafa) simply has a higher ‘coefficient of awesome’ than most everyone else and that gives him a better handle on his form than the overwhelming majority of the tour.


During his worst spells this gets him through matches he has no business winning.


During his best spells we get to see him go through a string of top eight players for the loss of only one set.


This probably won’t be the most daring or captivating take on this match you’ll read all week – doesn’t make it any less true: this was a straightforward question of form – and Fed’s was faaar better all week.




Parting Shots…


1) Fed was far and away the best player this week – his opening set against Nadal might even have been his best this year. Special mention to Sod for playing the single most competitive set of tennis out of any of his pre-Rafa opponents.


2) Both Nadal and Federer are firm favourites for the Aussie Open.


No one benefits from any special momentum apart from a few small events in its lead up. As always, players with the firmest possible grasp on their form stand the best possible chance of harnessing it. Guess which two they are?


3) That Fed wound up rather than down towards the end of the season and found his most nefarious and lurid form at the WTF is due in large part to the input of the Cone, but is ultimately about Fed’s own coefficient of awesome.


4) “Fed's Back”…….*confused*….. I get that he struggled with converting the odd break point this year, but, really, when did he ever go away?


Unless you think he’s somehow culpable for losing at the Slams to three of the world’s best players having breakout days when no one could touch them. In which case you’re very silly indeed and I leave you to your…..silliness.


What this does underline (once again) is just how incredible that record of 23 consecutive semis is.




5) Lest we underestimate how badly Rafa wanted this one… 


He’s a dab hand at disguising his emotions but he looked pretty welled-up when filmed walking along the corridor back to his locker room immediately after the final.


I can only assume he broke out the waterworks behind closed doors – we know this happened after losing to Fed at Wimbledon in 2007.


And if you still need proof you only need look at……


6) The hyperbolic way in which Rafa lost his very Spanish rag.



“Don’t get me angry…you won’t like me when I’m angry….”



I don’t get it……did Carlos Bernardes ask to kiss his sister?









Words are exchanged with Carlos




Sterner words were exchanged in English with the ATP backboard supervisor


All 19 Spanish matador dolls find their way out of the pram.






Rafa sprouts limbs that wrap up the match in warp speed.



There’s something very elemental, spontaneous and disproportionate about these outbursts.


They don’t come round very often but you don’t want to risk being mowed down when they do.


It’s all completely over the top….and yet a small part of you is left wanting the T-Shirt to show your grandchildren.


7) Muzz played the better semi-final….Rafa won because he has a higher coefficient of awesome.


I’m still broken up about this one :-(


Match of the year? Perhaps. The Fed/Djoko USO semi seemed to me to be a higher quality encounter. There was way too much errant nonsense from Rafa in that second set.


I’ll settle for it being the best match of Muzz’s career.





Muzz had made no secret of his desire to play Rafa but anyone that thought that translated as “PRIVATE MUZZ, REPORTING FOR SPANISH MINION DUTIES SAH-YESSAAH!” – and there were plenty – was to be sorely disappointed just six games in.


All of the usual stuff was in fine nick…the double hander was firing, the slicing especially pernicious, the defence totally kickass.


What was really surprising is the other heavy artillery he brought. Yes it seems Muzz does do heavy artillery.


In fact, I love it when he realises he has the best first serve in the top four – you heard that right. Everyone knows this, yet it continues to be treated like some confused truth that dare not speak its name.


And that forehand I’m always complaining about not being a ‘putaway shot’? Yeah forget that – I like to talk a lot.


He even bounced back from the heartbreak of losing that high quality first set in a tie break, when form, his temperament, and suspect stamina would suggest it was time to bow out. It certainly derailed Rafa who would go on to lose the 2nd set 6-3.


In another words he ticked all the right boxes and some other ones we didn’t even know about.


And yet he lost (mostly on account of Rafa combusting spontaneously at the match’s most pivotal moments).


Moment of silence, if you please, and a Celtic Lament.




Open Question: Does he even need a coach? I say he does alright without one. *shrugs*


(Images: Getty)


Thursday, 25 November 2010

London WTF: What they forgot to tell you about Berd.



Berd didn’t just demolish Roddick yesterday. He didn’t even “serve notice” to the rest of the draw (too early to say that + they’re not the ones taking him for granted).





He did, however, insert a very large twin-pronged skewer up the rear ends of those that made a Burlesque Pantomime of discrediting his chances.


If he qualifies, his victory against those self-satisfied morons (that wrote him off before the event even began) will be complete. Almost irrelevant what happens from that point on.


There’s nothing especially shrewd in observing he’s had a post-Wimby slump.


It reminds me of those twats that think picking Rafa to win RG makes them some kind of prescient pundit.


Is it really so difficult to see him working his way into form on what is, after all, a surface that should suit his game?  The forgiving RR format affords you the luxury of doing just that.


Sure, he might still go back to juggling poo-poo against Rafa – but if that happens, it will be as much a consequence of the idiosyncratic top 8 round robin environment than of any inherent form coming into the event.


Berd admitted to struggling with the pressure that accompanies his new top ten standing and, in particular, of qualifying in the lead up to WTF.


That pressure no longer exists. If anything, his status as a relative ingénue to these proceedings should allow him to relax and, in particular, not to think too much…for that way lies madness.




My only regret is that ARod should form part of the collateral damage.


Rod wasn’t the player he was opposite Rafa – in fact with the amount of time and space he gave to Berd it was, in some ways, the exact opposite of that performance. On the other hand, it’s difficult to see what anyone could have done during that psychedelic spell of tennis Berd went through in the second set.


There’s actually several very plausible permutations for Berd to qualify now – though the cleanest (and easiest to understand) would be for Berd to beat Nadal and for ARod to beat Djoko.


Don’t pretend it can’t happen – we’ve already been there.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

London WTF: The Seven Layers of Grunge.






A welcome dampener to the wild, euphoric and, frankly, irresponsible British outpourings that followed his Sunday afternoon carving-up of Robin Soderling .


No – I’m happy this happened. Maybe now the press will realise that couldn’t actually be sustained. Believe it or not it is possible to get get through this thing without painting the sky seven different shades of argyle.


In fact the worst thing you could do in the aftermath of that ‘sub-prime’ performance would be to analyse what went wrong. Don’t even try.


Make like sunshine.


Announce a royal wedding.


Declare your support for the nuclear disarmament of developing countries.


Pretend. Nothings. Happened.


Coz in the grand scheme of things it might not matter. And in the grander scheme of things it might turn out to be exactly the kind of stimulus package he needs. The stick rather than the carrot.


It was nigh-impossible not to be sardonically-totalled by the careless, catatonic, dithering way Muzz began what was undoubtedly his most important match of the RR stage.





His shirt was the wrong colour. His shot selection was iffy. His first serve looked like it was in need of a banking bailout.


Like he said, against Fed that’s simply not going to get it done – against a Fed as focused and unforgiving as he was yesterday, it’s ATP hara-kiri – a wonder, really, that he avoided the bagel.


Far from being anything tactical, he simply wasn’t present.


Which is why I think a tactical analysis is essentially redundant and perhaps even counterproductive – why risk ushering in a double dip recession by focusing on any remaining layers of grunge that might still lurk in the subconscious of his tennis memory banks?





It’s not all bad. He was hardly going to better the euphoria of his first match – the best opener played by anyone this week.


Better to detox early on during the RR stages rather than in the midst of a chaotic semi with Novak or Rafa.


Fed will, now, only miss out on qualifying if he loses in straights to Sod (stop sniggering) and if Muzz defeats Daveed in straights in which case we have a three way “games-won” face-off.





But I don’t expect they’re thinking about any of that.





Speakin’ of detox….here’s someone that managed to exfoliate all seven layers of grunge remaining from his very tepid opener against Muzz.


Which is all the more surprising as Daveed had troubled him throughout the season both at the Slams and, it seemed, everywhere else.


Sod will have to beat Fed in straights (STOP SNIGGERING I SAID) and will need Muzz to lose to Ferru to stand a decent chance of qualification.


Which leaves me in something of a quandary. You don’t root against Muzz at home – you just don’t do it.


So which is it to be?


The Mighty Viking or the Celtic Tiger Kitten?


The home favourite or my favourite?


Faust himself would struggle with this one.


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

London WTF: Tron - Fuschia Edition








Lest we doubt the essential rectitude of a winner?


It seems 5 weeks out of the game really do show at this level.


For the best part of the first set Rafa could find nothing. And I mean squat. Nothing other than a forehand that was fully flatulent and a serve that was about as souped-up as the slosh you get served in an M25 service station.


Ever since before the event began Ferru, Berd and ARod have been cast as everyone’s favourite whipping boys.


Difficult to argue in Ferrus case that there’s not a very real danger of him being comprehensively outclassed – particularly with the group he’s been drawn in.





And after yesterdays pitiful performance one wonders what, if anything, will extricate Berd from the pooey pigswill he’s wallowing in right now.


But to write off anyone at this event is to effectively ignore the eccentricities of the three set Round Robin format.


The beauty of this format is that Ferru can still, in principle, qualify by defeating Sod tonight (he’s already beaten him twice on hard this year) and somehow wangling a three set win over Muzz (not impossible).


But ARod as the butt of your worst ATP jokes? Really?




Drawing Rafa in his opening match was always going to have been his best chance of beating him – and it’s no fluke he came so close.


He obviously came out primed to shorten the points and smother the net at every available opportunity – that Rafa won around 80% of rallies longer than 8 shots confirms the moral rectitude of this approach.


But it was his near-flawless execution of that strategy that underlines how daft I think those anti-predictions really are.


He clearly benefited from that deliriously poor start from Rafa, but if it hadn’t been for an especially acute-angled pass from Rafa during that second set tie break, one I’m not fully convinced he meant to strike so sweetly, Roddick might just have been looking at a straight sets win.


As it stands, he’ll now have to get through Novak (somewhat likely) and Berd (wholly likely) to stand a chance of qualifying – uncertain yes, unlikely no.


Sunday, 21 November 2010

London WTF: ‘Argyle’ Andy






Murray d. Soderling 62 64


Yep….it was that darn good.


Sod never got going, but in truth Muzz ran down everything he did manage to send his way and got him into all sorts of four dimensional knots every time he came to the net.


Sometimes you can neither run nor hide. Thankfully Sod has a couple matches to go, but will have to raise his game having come out so scarred and ‘set-less’ from this encounter.






There was some talk about why Muzz should change his “passive” style of play when it’s good enough to beat the #4 player in the world so emphatically.


Truth is, the #4 player (get used to hearing me say that) could neither buy a first serve  nor any semblance of momentum – most of those other six won’t have those problems and have more options to draw on if and when they do.


A spectacular way to come through what was, after all, his opening match – it’d be equally spectacular folly, though, to expect to continue to win playing with the same slicey-dicey economy. A little mix and match never hurt anyone – and there's plenty of wandering monsters lurking in both groups looking to do just that.


Have to admit I had my doubts about the argyle vintage wear – but it looks FAR better on court than the pinstriped thing you see in the online brochures.






It also has other vintage approval.





Federer d. Ferrer 61 64


A straight sets dismissal that went on for at least half a set too long.


It’s no surprise, surely, that this would be Ferru’s eleventh consecutive loss to Fed. Far more alarming that he couldn’t buy a first serve and took a full set to enter the match.




You can cope with seeing Ferru getting comprehensively outplayed – it is, however, jarring to see him so jittery and lacking in confidence. Not the ‘Federer complex’ surelyyou have been there ten times, one of which was in the final of this very event.


And a far better match it was too.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

London WTF: Daveed Cameron unveils a few last minute additions to the coalition.





It hasn’t been a good month for David Cameron.




First there were the student riots  that saw the near-sacking of Tory HQ (a couple of broken window panes) and a fire extinguisher being hurled off its roof that only narrowly missed police.


Since then, floods, banking bailouts not to mention the continuing fallout from the the deeply unpopular “austerity” measures – a word that almost sounds like a period themed wallpaper.


He was even taken to task for employing a personal photographer on the public payroll – what is a man to do?


1. Announce a royal wedding.


The scarcely concealed theory being that flooding the public sensibilities with talk of “Kate and Will” & “Will and Kate” will gently assuage the grim public mood so ostensibly damaged by those nasty public cuts.



Who has time to worry about your home being repossessed when you might be debating Kate’s bridal wear and the rights and wrongs of Wills presenting her with Diana’s ring? 


Or why she hasn’t ever held a proper job (it would seem, disturbingly, that some of us believe privilege has no part to play now that the royals sometimes marry outside of a carefully screened courtly set).


Complete the set piece by flooding the airwaves with a series of period romps showing the gentry in a lovingly eccentric and well-meaning light and the working class in a sufficiently reverential one. Sit back and let it simmer.


And if that doesn’t work…


2. Hobnob with tennis elite inside Downing St.


To be fair to him Cameron has actually played tennis before. Though there's no reason to suppose he was any better than Tony Blair who almost had a panic attack before going out for a charity knockabout with Pat Cash & Illi Nastase




Nice one Ferru. A gauche, awkward Viking has been made to feel even more socially inept and about *this* small.


All in all, Sod’s win in Paris has meant I haven’t very strong views about whom I’d like to see win. They all seem to make a compelling case.




Group A


Rafael Nadal.


Simply coz, other than this title, he really has won it all (in some cases several times over). Think Fed and RG 2009.


Novak Djokovic


Simply coz it’d be nice if the revival we saw at Flushing actually turned out to be one, rather than one of the many false starts we’ve seen since winning Indian Wells 2008 – the last title he won playing the way I like him to. Seems fitting for him to win at least something this year – and he has a chance to do that not just here, but to also clean up at Davis Cup and at Aus next year (hat tip @DavidLawTennis). That would be something.





Tomas Berdych


Simply coz he ‘s wallowing in doodoo at the moment and I don’t want him to go the way of Marin – for that way lies madness.





Andy Roddick


Simply coz this is the 8th time he’s qualified(!) yet has somehow never made it beyond the semis. And because he has a better chance here than at another Slam. And because Elena’s retirement has made me especially protective towards anyone associated with tennis circa 2004-2006. And because I’m still not up to talking about that yet.




Group B

Roger Federer.


Simply coz those blasted 5 unconverted MPs threaten to define what I still maintain was a better ‘one-Slam’ year than 2008. (Side note: how many “declining” players can cite having a ‘one-Slam year’ as an exception to the norm?)





Andy Murray


Simply coz having comprehensively scattered his seed on the Masters-1000 scene (read 6 Masters and 0 Slams), there’s a certain justifiable urgency surrounding the need to “step it up”. Winning here isn’t quite a Slam. It is, however, the next best thing – and it’s at home, and it wouldn’t do either him or his street cred any harm. Or, for that matter, David Cameron’s.





Robin Soderling


Simply coz “Simply coz” alright?….though I do so wish he hadn’t been drawn with Dave Ferrer.


Daveed Ferrer


Simply coz he tries so hard. Always.


P.S No one seems to have noticed that for the first time in six years Kolya is not part of the draw. Please tell me some one out there cares.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Paris: About time too.


So it’s like this. Paree and me? We go waaaayyyyy back. But it’s also what they call “complicated”.


The top players (those that have qualified for WTF in particular) haven’t always shown up. Those that have are almost always too banged up to care.


The venue is a study in criminally bland interiors - the outside courts look like something they’ve annexed from the local primary school – the main court is certainly big, yet still lacks the spunk expected of (what to most is) a season ending event, occupying instead a no-man’s-land of confused obsolescence: too cluttered to be minimalist yet too vacant to have anything like an atmosphere.


Is it any wonder the stands are barely filled until well into round three (and even then it’s only for marquee matches)?


The trouble is, it’s also the place Marat won three of his five Masters titles and the site of Daveed Nalbandian’s little late season surge of 07 – ideologically speaking, I have a hard time even feigning indifference to any of that.


Then there’s the crowd…its one thing seeing an outside court full of empty people, but that’s not half as jarring as those that eventually do turn up:  French fans that don’t boo and hiss and poke and leer and….flap(?) Or is that just for RG?

Like I said. Complicated.









Yeah, yeah, yeah. What took you so long?


You might expect me to be jumping clean out of my boxer shorts over this one, and I am, except….it should have happened one whole year ago.


With it being Paree, and with the show both Llodra and Monfils had put on for the better part of the week, there was a certain tricoloured electricity in the air – and, consequently, much of the pre-final commentary had centred along the lines of…. “Has Gael come of age?” …. “Will Sod be affected by the Parisian crowd?” … “Has Rasheed finally pushed the right buttons?”.


I see no problem with any of that. Trouble is, it diverted attention from that bloated, frisky, Scandinavian elephant on the other side of the room: that it’s more than just a little anomalous for a guy with GS wins over the best two players of the past decade (one of which arguably ranks as the greatest sporting upset of recent years) not to have won a single Masters event – not even on a fast indoor court.





So when Sod finally put paid to Gael’s last (and obviously doomed) attempts at treating the rising damp of French melancholy, it was all a little ‘are you not done yet?’ (and not just because the final was such a blowout).


The greater and more obvious moral victory was against Mika in the semis who despite having spawned a blister and very evidently tiring in the final set, remained, for me, the better player out there for most of the match week.


So when Amelie, Fabrice, Guy, Julien and, quite possibly, the spirit of de Gaulle all showed up courtside at the same time – for the briefest of moments, it really did seem the week was destined to end on that flavoursome, tricoloured note.


A lesser player (or a pre 2009 Sod for that matter), effectively being prevented from playing their best tennis, would have crumpled in a self-effacing heap of hopeless obsolescence .




And yet, the truth is no one, not even Napoleon himself, could have enabled Gael to beat Sod on a court as fast as this.


Swedes win on fast indoor courts. That’s just the natural order of things dear boy. Why should it matter in 2010 that he’s (clearly) not cut from the same cloth as Edberg or Wilander?


Robin’s groundies on the fastest court we’ve seen this season? Well that’s just a marriage made in heaven.


We hold these truths to be self evident because…well, mainly because Robin’s oppressive groundies say they are – truths that should, in any case, by now have been drummed into us by the violence of his, otherwise well-meaning, forehand – a forehand only a mother (and a certain doting tennis blogger) could love.




Expecting him to S+V or otherwise cavort with the net the way Edberg did is like attending a Burlesque show and complaining about the overdressed, hammy actors.


And with that, Sod – sorry Söd – usurps Muzz as the #4 ranked player in the world. With less than 300 points between him and Djoko and virtually no points to defend in Melbourne (both have 400 points to defend at WTF) , the future’s looking very bright indeed.


It’s a career milestone….and yet it’s also just another box to be ticked along the way to bigger and better things. He’d completed all the the other rites of passage and, if you ask me, reaching two Slam finals in the manner he did has got to be worth a Masters title alone.


Do I think he needed to win a Masters title before a Slam, something of a diktat amongst tennis’s chattering classes? ‘fraid not if anything, he seems more akin to Delpo in the way he simply ‘arrives’, should he decide to play well enough to win a Slam or any other event.


This one was long overdue….and it’s only the beginning.


In yer MonFACE


So sad Gaël. Here, have a Germanic umlaut for your pain.


Decriers will, of course (correctly) point to that poor excuse for a final – and yet, did any one of us believe they’d live to see the day Gael pulled the plug on that tired, poorly-choreographed stuntman act that riles me, and countless others, so very much?




No amateur dramatics, no Car-Crash TV – in fact, no broken glass of any kind.


It meant he was able to go through three top ten players (and score his first win over Fed) in the same week – don’t be surprised not to see that again for a very long time.


There was always a very real danger that, having delivered such an extraordinary performance piece, Gael would ‘revert to type’ in the final  – no surprises there then. Only, playing brain-dead passive tennis (which there was plenty of), is, this time, only in part responsible.


“Since the beginning of the tournament I’ve been really using up my reserves physically and mentally,” said Monfils, who also beat Andy Murray and Fernando Verdasco in earlier rounds. “It’s the whole week that made me tired.

“Today I wasn’t able to find the extra stamina that I would have needed to be more competitive. … It’s the first time I’ve been beating three top-10 players in the same tournament.”


Dya know, I actually believe the man?


Gael’s not accustomed to the kind of mental/physical demands that such a restrained, patient and focussed passage of successful play at the highest of levels inevitably brings – his character’s usually killed off early on the second act and so has never been part of such a structured narrative, certainly not in such a prominent role.


Should it surprise us he wasn’t able to cope? He wouldn’t be the first player to default to more comfy territory under pressure.


Except the trouble with reverting to type ‘A’ Gael is that it’s the exact ideological opposite of what you’d normally do in such circumstances: when you’re running so low on fuel, the sensible, considered goto-play is to serve big and to shorten points – arguably what got him there in the first place.


But then nothing Gael ever did was either ‘sensible’ or ‘considered’.




If it were up to me, this entire post would be dedicated to Michael Llodra – my player of the week.


Having him win this event would have been exactly the kind of madcap, kooky yet-strangely-appropriate result this tournament’s become known for.


For what I hope are very obvious reasons I wasn’t rooting for him…..and yet as I sat there watching him arabesque from one end of the court to the other, it was impossible not to be utterly entranced.


A curious, throbbing, elemental mix of idiosyncratic French flair and Moulin Rouge.




There’ve been all the usual pitiful, nostalgic comparisons to the idealised age that never-was – and yet what’s made this little window into 1996 possible has been the choice of surface – the fastest we’ve seen anywhere all season.


Of course it has its drawbacks – there was a reason they slowed down both the grass and the balls at Wimbledon. All the same, I’m thinking it’s pretty obvious the pendulum’s swung too far the other way when one, admittedly superfast, event upends some of the best players of this generation.


I’m also thinking it’s a small price to pay for a slightly different look to the type of tennis we get on one awful, anodyne medium-pace, blue hard court after another.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tennis and The Tea Party



Remember that time Rafa was cartwheelin’ fistpumps all over town after beating a qualifier in round two of a 500  event? Well…










*whispers* Think we should tell him it’s not 2003?


We don’t see this sort of thing nearly so often from you now, but like I said to Rafa – don’t ever change.


Roger Federer hit for the cycle in 2010: a Slam, a Masters Series titles, a 500-level and a 250-level title. (If this were any other player it would be a banner season; because it's Federer, we keep hearing how it's least productive output since 2002.)



Actually no. Well, sort of.


See, the only people that actually focus on it being his “least productive output” are the type of cavemen that probably still think he’s world #1.


This is the opinion of a hot-headed fringe group – the ‘Tea Party’ of tennis.


Anyone else with even a passing interest in the sport (including me :p) picked up on his multi-tiered title tally (tongue twister, much), as well as noting that this is now his 7th consecutive final outside of the Slams.




And if we really want to be picky, then I think you’ll find it was 2008 (USO, Estoril, Halle, Basel), rather than 2010, that was his least productive.


Not that a deliberately skewed perception is anything to be surprised by – never let nerdy facts get in the way of a chance to play contrarian.


By the way, it might interest you to know that the exact same thing’s happened to Kim Clijsters, who’s also won a title at every WTA level (a Slam, a Premier-Mandatory, a Premier-5, an International Event…and of course the SEC), yet all we keep hearing is how unwholesome it is of her to be getting so “Williams” about her scheduling.


And so it was that Fed, in this week of mediocre sequels (I hope no one seriously bought into the idea of that ARod semi as “Wimby part 2”) and trumped-up revenge narratives (Fed either “only cares about the Slams” or he uses titles like this to avenge Slam losses – which is it?), fought his way past Pete Sampras’s title count to 65 ATP singles titles – 4th overall in the Open Era.


It’s a relatively light meander up to McEnroe (77). But to meet the real nutters – tennis’s gasoline-guzzling hell’s angels – you have to work your way up to three digits. Only there do you get to meet the likes of Ivan Lendl (94) and Jimmy Connors (109). I wouldn’t get too close however – not unless you want to get pulled into a drinking game involving engine oil and an industrial solvent.




Rafael Nadal

David Ferrer

Fernando Verdasco

Nicolas Almagro

Albert Montanes

Juan Carlos Ferrero

Feliciano Lopez

Guilermo Garcia-Lopez


8 of the 14 Spanish men in the top 100 have won ATP singles titles this season.




Simply an astonishing stat: it’s one thing having such an epic presence at the top of the game – quite another to make good on it.


Granollers had a chance to join this esteemed Spanish inner circle of truth. All he had to do was go through Daveed Ferrer.




And yet, just as you don’t think of beating Fed in Basel, you don’t beat the tournament co-owner in his own house – it’s just not the done thing deary.


(images: getty)



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.

You Said...

Powered by Disqus

Receive Updates by Email...

Enter your email address:

  © Free Blogger Templates Spain by 2008

Back to TOP