Sunday, 28 February 2010

Weekend Round Up.

Dubai: Djokovic d. Youzhny 7-5, 5-7, 6-3

That trophy’s a ship, but viewed side on it’s very Burj-ul Arab no?

Yes that distant wail that could be heard over the horizon for the best part of today was the sound of the moaners and haters crooning in unison. Myself at their helm.

"It's a very mental game," said the Serb. "People don't realize how much tension you have to go through throughout the match. It took a lot of energy for me. Stopping and playing, and coming back and then again stopping the match last night because of the rain."

"Today was another good example of how much I believe in myself and how much I fight till the end," added Djokovic, who gained swift revenge for Youzhny's straight sets victory in the semi-finals of the Rotterdam Open earlier this month.

(Fox News)

I’ve said all I want to say about Djoko coming out on top against a field of also rans on Twitter – the fact remains he still had to go out there and win it.

The fact also remains however, that I’d like to see him kick butt at the Masters 1000’s and Slams -- something I don’t deem him unqualified for -- and a front on which, outside of clay, I remain fundamentally dissatisfied.

Acapulco: Williams d. Hercog 2-6 6-2 6-3

Mexico seems to agree with V. Only at Wimbledon itself is she more radiant.

After that unceremonious outage in Oz, she’s gone from strength to strength, winning her second successive title in two weeks

As Mr Wertheim pointed out in the TwitterSphere earlier, Dubai, Acapulco and the Billie Jean Cup in Madison Square Garden on March 1st makes a total of three events in 8 days.

Meditate on that thought for a while the next time you want to accuse her of only caring about the Slams.

Acapulco: Ferrer d. Ferrero 6-3 3-6 6-1

After beating his compadre in Buenos Aires last week, Ferrero fails to make it three in a row.

No matter. I treat Ferrero's return and the news of Ferrer winning titles in South America, as a sign that our stock of functioning clay courters not named Nadal is in nothing less than full working order.

I’m sizing the next few months up as Armageddon on clay.

Kuala Lumpur: Kleybanova d. Dementieva 6-3, 6-2

I’m almost relieved to see Dementieva lose at a tier two/three event.

Maybe it’ll prompt her to attend to that less ennobling Grand Slam record of hers.

Probably not.

Kleybanova gets all sorts of wierd grief about her size – but she’s too good a player not to have won a title.



Thanks for these Yolita!

I haven’t taken the time to verify them, but I’m guessing the figures will be fine (considering they were produced by a mathematician – *ulp*).

Below are the ATP points accumulated at Masters events by the top ten over the course of 2009.

Nadal 5280
Djokovic 4480
Murray 3600
Federer 3360
Del Potro 1880
Davydenko 1640
Roddick 1100
Verdasco 1100
Soderling 565
Cilic 470

Only Nadal fares better than Djoko – with Djoko a full 24.44% ahead of his nearest competitor.

Four finals, two semis and of course that title he picked up at the end of the year in Paris, hardly suggest he’s dragging his feet.

And yet for some reason I just don’t remember it that way!!

I remember Djoko having an faultless clay court season (which also accounts for two of those finals) - outside of that I’ll be the first to admit things begin to get a little hazy.

What’s probably contributed to this skewed and incredibly unfair perception are the very tame performances he’s delivered in the finals of hard court events.

He barely seemed to trouble Murray in Miami, and Federman virtually swept the court with him (and Murray) in Cincinnati.

Maybe that’s what bothers me – the old consistency vs. quality debate – Djoko’s commitment to reaching those finals has been admirable but his performances upon making them rather subdued.

It all falls rather short of what I’ve come to expect from him.

And yet the facts are irrefutable: barring Nadal, Djoko performed consistently better than anyone else – better than anyone you probably had down as a high performer.

But it’s in interesting question is it not, why Djoko -- his tennis, and the man behind the tennis -- remain so very misunderstood.


Friday, 26 February 2010

Dubai: Final Line Up and my ‘Notes on a Scandal’

There’ll be no further reposting of what I’ll only gingerly be referring to as “the video”.


We’ve all seen the video – correction, we’ve all experienced, the video.

You don’t need me to do another “me too” post about it.

Though the following must be gotten off my chest.

A collection of my choicest reactions over the last 15 hours.

  • “Oh Rafa – What will your mother say!?”
  • “What will Xisca say!?”
  • “You did ask her?”
  • “$$$***$$#####”
  • “Your ingénue appeal is forever lost.”
  • “No wonder your knee hurts!”

All I need now is for Murray to do a cover of “You can call me Al” (in the role played by Paul Simon of course), and my life will be complete.


Speaking of my life being complete – as of yet it’s only half way there.

Headbanger came through in straights against Melzer who’s yet to form any meaningful impression on me.

Djoko’s just put out Baggy – to which I say pesh-tosh.

It also means I’ll be firmly ensconced in Camp Headbang tomorrow.

You might think it strange for me to be rooting against Djoko, but rest assured I have his best interests at heart.

A win for him here will benefit precisely no one.

Not him, and certainly not tennis.

The way I figure it, he might get a little too complacent, maybe a little too content with winning the odd 500 event now and again, when he should be pitching his tent at the Masters and Slams. At least that’s what I thought the agenda was.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Twitterati Illuminati and Free Museum Tickets.

First off, observe if you will the newly created twitter feed to the left.



I’m a Twit. And not quite proud of it.

One day maybe, but right now the only thing I take pride in is how long I held out.

140 character limited dystopia claims another victim.

As you’ve probably noticed it makes the site load slower than Simon Reed’s hate infested inbox, so I’m open to suggestions on any juicy Twitter widgets you may know of (already tried Twitter's own) that can be configured to gel with the look and feel of your site. Until then you'll have to make do with this unsalubrious mess, and it's unTwitter-like date stamps.

Ana Ivanovic has hired Heinz Gunthardt as her new coach.

The Ivanovic management made the announcement, which brings to an end the number 23 player's coaching relationship with the adidas team, still her clothing sponsor.

I know we’ve jumped through this hoop before.

But can we still all breath a great sigh of relief, and take collective solace in this first step in the right direction?

Things really couldn’t get any worse for her, so let’s hope she sees this one through before checking in to Team Adidas once again.

We all know Heinz worked with Steffi Graf. Quite a few of us also know he aided and abetted Brad Gilbert into making Andre and Steffi’s first on court “practice session” a reality.

Just saying. This guys got salubrious history in many spheres.

Muzzard goes down 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 to Tipsarevic.

Undoubtedly a big win for Tipsy, though Muzz was never overly optimistic about his chances at this event, drawing attention instead to the lengthy time he’s spent away in the aftermath of Oz.

"It is always disappointing to lose, but I did not have much expectation from the tournament," Murray said.

"I am coming from a big break after the Australian Open and was not as prepared as I should have been for the tournament. I was still trying out things on the court, rather than playing my normal game."

That may well be true. Some of it, or all of it.


I also think however, that Tipsy is a dangerously underrated player.

Three years back, I thought he was headed for the top ten. Then Nietzsche and a shed load of brain cramps intervened (in any order or all at once).

"One of the biggest wins, surely," he said. "For me, Murray is a contestant to be No. 1 at the end of the season. He played unbelievable tennis at the Australian Open. He was one of the favorites to win the tournament here, for sure."

It’s not nearly as frequent now, but every so often he delivers a performance that makes me hope. Yes, I’m aware it might offend some people’s sensibilities, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Tipsy in the top ten.

If for no other reason than that he’s a dead ringer for a buddy of ours that used to work in the Natural History Museum.

Every time I see Tipsy – I think free museum tickets.

So now you know.

It ain’t November yet people…

With Fed, Delpo and Nadal already sidelined, and further withdrawals from Davy (wrist) and Llodra (thigh strain), you might be forgiven for thinking it’s already nearing the end of the season.

Tsonga was only spared my virginal wrath on the TwitterSphere, when I was reminded he continues to struggle with a stomach injury he sustained in Oz. Not that I find it difficult to celebrate any time Ljubicic wins big,

It’s further opened up a draw already containing several prominent gaping holes.

I was at first thinking how this would offer up yet another opportunity for Djoko to clean up, except I saw Djoko play today (he won in three against Troicki), and I’m not that convinced he’s about to clean up anything.

There’s also the ‘Red Hot Cilic Pepper’ effect to consider of course. He’s not in Djoko’s half of the draw so the two could meet in the final.

All of that assumes order and harmony.

Except my recent uptake of Twitter has tapped in to a latent primeval desire for chaos and disarray.

Which is why I’ll be rooting for Baggy and Youzhny. Both have been away for far too long, and it’s not for want of effort.

Though there’s also Tipsy and the lure of free museum tickets.


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Dubai: Ladies Round Up.

Williams d. Azarenka 6-3 7-5

After witnessing probably the worst match contested by a couple of top seeds (Venus v Li Na in the QFs of Oz if you’re still wondering) in the second week of a Slam, I’d more or less consigned Venus to the ‘If you haven’t anything good to say…’ basket.

I’m not sure we’ll ever crack the nut of why performances like this continue to be a feature of Wimbledon and no where else – what I do know is that it’s wholly appropriate for a die hard fan like myself to continue to ask why.

It’s no secret I actually prefer her game over her sister’s – she may not reach top gear that often these days, but heaven help her opponents when she does: performances I believe might actually surpass Serena.

One has to feel something for Vika even it isn’t sorrow, and even if like me, you find it difficult to cosy up to her. Not that I’d ever even dare attempt it.

Her performances have mostly been consistent and she’s truly earnt her top ten position.

Every time in the last 12 months she’s come within clinching distance of what by any other reckoning would qualify as a breakthrough performance (not that different to what Caz-Woz achieved in Flushing), she’s run into Serena playing one of the very many “matches of her life”.

What was scary last week however (most things with Vika usually are), was how frequently she came to the net and how dedicated to the process she appears to be.

Stubborn sorts like Vika take a most unique form of affrontery at being told they can’t do, or aren’t suited to something.

A closer inspection of the facts reveal that coming to the net more is indeed part of the agenda for 2010. She even revealed how hitting with no less an artisan than Stefan Edberg recently in Hong Kong had helped her grow in that sphere.

Whatever. I don’t suddenly expect her to morph into Amelie Mauresmo. At the moment she’s anything but – with nine out of every ten net approaches ending in a drive volley.

Don’t cringe. The drive volley’s here to stay, whatever you might think about it.

It’s also as much a part of tennis as anything seen during Chris Evert’s day.

I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite so elegant as Venus Williams taking on the stroke in full flight.


Fed’s absence in Dubai has once again turned it into a two, three or four horse race depending on how far your loyalties extend.

Djoko and Muzzard through comfortably today. Davy and Tsonga with some convincing to do.

Tsonga might have wished for a better opener. Llodra’s fresh from his win in Marseille and Benneteau (the runner up there) was the guy that took Jo out.

I might be wrong but I’d guess he's not that into French Connections right now.


Thursday, 18 February 2010

Dubai: Poetry and Time Travel.

Another day, a fresh new round of WTA upsets.

Except nowadays I’m not so sure of what qualifies as an upset.

Peer d. Li Na 7-5 3-0 (Ret.)

Wickmayer, Razzano, Wozniacki and Li Na. That’s some kinda run.

shahar (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

I just find the whole of ShaharGate tiresome - only a little less so than those overly simplistic and mostly inane analyses that continue to pretend we live in a world without root causes.

Poetic justice is the way I heard her run here described.


I suppose they still think sport and politics don’t mix.

Try telling Arthur Ashe that.

What I don’t find tiring and infinitely more poetic, is how players like Peer and Safarova appear to have rediscovered their form of late 2007. Back then they were heading up the second tier.

Could they have somehow profited from Fed’s glory in Oz?

Seems he’s not the only one intent on turning the clock back three years.

I figure his incredible victory over Murray delivered a massive EMF burst, that has partially reconfigured the universe back to what it was in 07.

With the return of the Pre-Safinite Sisterhood, and with Fed once again delivering beatdowns that leave your eyebrows singed, it does seem suspiciously déjà vu.

Zvonareva d. Jankovic 6-3 6-2

Smokin’ hot and smokin’ not.



Vera came into this event on a high having carried over the larger part of her most potent form from Thailand.

With Indian Wells (and all those points to defend) only weeks away, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Jelena carried over the most potent parts of precisely nothing.

This time last year, I was predicting for her to win her first Slam at RG – nowadays one wonders whether she’ll even be in top ten contention by then.

I’d actually like to see Vera go on and win this thing – though she’s a set down to Vika as we speak.

Kulikova d. Kuznetsova 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 4-6

Not poetic. Not poetic at all.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Oz Withdrawal Symptoms: Extrication Complete.

It took a while in getting there, but I think I’m ready to move on.

With Warped-Pete’s blessings.

ABM AMRO Rotterdam: Soderling d. Youzhny 6-4 2-0 (Ret.)


(Photo: Getty)

This title had Davy, Djoko or Big Rob written all over it.

Hard indoor ones tend to have the Swede’s name etched in a little more deeply – exactly the kind of event suited to his flatter-than-flat hard boiled style of play, and one he really should bag if we are to treat his top-ten maverick status very seriously.

Besides, what better way to snap out of that heady stupor he’s been in since the beginning of the year?

And so it played out – with Big Rob mostly keeping things simple (as if his game could be anything else), and with Davy and Djoko both falling in the semis and reassuming their lovingly-tended spots in the playground of ‘nearly-man’ tennis.

Except this was a 500 event. Where the nearly-men are supposed to go to town.

Maybe that’s a tad harsh to Davy, but with Djoko looking as 0ut of sorts as he did opposite Youhzny, one wonders what remedy if any will effect a turnaround, or whether that Serbian shooting star really has shot it’s last.

I tend towards believing it’s been shot down. And you know who I hold culpable? Marat Safin.

Cast your minds back two years - deep in the inner most recesses of those tennis-heads of yours lies embedded a memory, one which I like to think of as Marat’s Last Stand.

In 2008 Safin wowed his way to his last ever Slam semi-final at Wimbledon. Perhaps the greatest story of 2008 – second only to that greatest-of-all-finals itself.

His fans, tennis aficionados, and the rest of the world waited for, wished for good things to follow. In vain as it turned out.

But there was another story too. One that’s mostly been relegated to a footnote in history, if that.

For the Djoko that emerged from that punishing three set 2nd round loss displayed an almost dismembered look, one that I put down at the time to being ridden over roughshod by the Mighty Hippo.

Marat may have breathed what turned out to be his last gasp that year, but with it too he appeared to extinguish Djoko’s only remaining flame.

He has never regained that glint in his eye.

Gone was the cocky free-swinger and in his place stood an inhibited, austere, risk-averse, neurotic ‘Grinderman’, intent on reinventing himself as a clay courter.

That part of his post-‘Safinated’ agenda at least, remains intact.

In the eighteen or so months that have followed that psychosomatic shakedown, only two hard court Masters titles have been forthcoming, though it’s on clay that he appears to have retained at least some afterglow of his pre-Safinated self, the most notable example of which being that semi-final at Madrid last year.

I have no idea why exactly this is – in the same period he’s reached a further four hard court Masters finals, though in neither of which he displayed a shadow of the confidence that was so inextricably a part of what for the time being remains his only Slam title.

But consider this: if the experience has left him more of a force on clay, then Marat might very well be considered the architect of Federman’s revival.


I was. At first.

I’m following a lengthy, loosely connected, slightly indulgent, and not entirely water-tight train of thought here – I must ask that you bear with me.

Whether or not you fully care for the creature Djoko’s morphed into, and whether or not you fully agree with the direction he’s headed in, he remains – perhaps by virtue of that grind -- for the time being at least, a force on clay.

Had he not been taken to the cleaners by Marat, he might never have evolved into Grinderman.

Had Djoko not seen fit to undergo this transfigurement, we might very well never have had that Madrid semi.

And if we didn’t have that maddeningly delicious Madrid semi, Nadal may have made the final only fractionally as exhausted as he turned out to be.

You follow?

Three setters are as ruthless as they are unforgiving affairs – where the slightest lapse in concentration, a single break can decide the course of a match.

Suppose Fed didn’t win Madrid, would he still have entered Roland Garros the energised figure we are told to believe he was?

Would Rafa still have lost?

Would Fed have still have served his way to number fifteen, on the back of 55 aces?

I would still say yes to those last two. But I would also say that there’s a ‘house-that-Jack-built’, in there somewhere.

This is the legacy that Roger built.

This is the GOAT that sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

Madrid is the event that freed the GOAT,

That sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

This is the bull, a step too slow,

That found Madrid a step too far,

Thus freeing the GOAT,

That sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

This is the grind that stirred-up the clay,

That irked the bull, a step too slow,

That found Madrid a step too far,

Thus freeing the GOAT,

That sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

This is the kid, that would be King,

That took to grind that stirred-up the clay,

That irked the bull, a step too slow,

That found Madrid a step too far,

Thus freeing the GOAT,

That sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

This is the match that Marat played,

That swept the kid, that would be King,

That took to grind stirring up the clay,

That irked the bull, a step too slow,

That found Madrid a step too far,

Thus freeing the GOAT,

That sat atop the legacy that Roger built.

Honorary mention to Mikhail, who truly earnt his final spot, despite some lackadaisical play from Djoko.

This week’s Dutch Master: Big Rob

This week’s Wooden Clogs: Davy, Djoko

In other news….

Open GDF Suez Paris: Dementieva d. Safarova 6-7, 6-1, 6-4

image (Photo: AP)

What, another tier two title Elena?

I was more interested by the way Safarova came into this. Quite the most confident exhibition of ‘line and length’ from her in around 3 years.

Except not very many players do line’n length as well as Elena.

Pattaya Open Thailand: Zvonareva d. Tanasugarn 6-4 6-4

Brasil Open Costa do Sauipe: Ferrero d. Kubot 6-1 6-0


Saturday, 13 February 2010

Oz Withdrawal Symptoms: Gently Does It…

The pull of Oz afterglow, Warped-Pete’s warm chatterings and a smattering of ho-hum events has left me less than inclined to keep even one (half open) eye on the happenings on tour.

Easing oneself in gently, as I understand it, is the usual protocol.

There is life after Oz, whatever Warped-Pete might have to say about it.

JMDP out for four weeks with a wrist injury.

image (Photo: AFP)

He cited this ahead of Oz, and then made it to the fourth round before falling prey to the man-mountain that is Marin.

My conclusion at the time was it was a minor niggle – now I’m not so sure.

Tentative return expected at Indian Wells. Shame - I had hoped for more matches under his belt ahead of ‘The Fifth Slam’.

Conventional wisdom says you normally need around 12-18 months after winning your first Slam to acclimatise to a reality in which you’ll hopefully continue to play a part.

Conventional wisdom also says it’s impossible for anyone not named Rafael Nadal to defeat Federer in the final of a Slam.

Corollary: Conventional wisdom can go to hell.

Not that I think he’ll win another Slam this year – just don’t go expecting him to go all Jo-Willy on us.

That other ‘Stringed-Quartet’

If you’re serious about tennis and haven’t already ventured an opinion on the possibility of Federer scoring the Grand Slam this year, I’m guessing you’re holed up somewhere on Mars with your head in the (red, baking) sand.

I have mixed views on this.

On the one hand, to even consider it feasible is of course totally preposterous, the provenance of obscure statisticians or the staunchest of RF.Commers.

The fact that Fed (as much a hay munching Goat as we’re ever likely to see) only came close to achieving it three times out of the four seasons from 2004-2007 , should give us an insight into the dangers of uttering those words lightly.

On the other hand:

-- “Fed came close three times of the four seasons from 2004-2007” – that argument works both ways.

-- Steffi Graf. 1988.

Nuff said? Not nearly.

She didn’t play with a wooden racquet and try, just try telling Seles, Navratilova, Capriati, Hingis, Davenport and Sanchez-Vicario that they were part of a ‘weak era’.

I pity the foo’ that does.

-- Lest we forget the Rafael Nadal effect – had the Clay Goat taken up fly-fishing or (probably more appropriately) clay pigeon shooting instead, Fed might very well stand before us the proud owner of not one, but two Grandest of Slams.

-- 2009 saw some uncanny happenings both on and off the court. But with Fed’s loss in the final of a Slam and Rafa’s loss at RG, two of sport’s most deeply held religious tenets - were unceremoniously thrown to the wall.

There’s also this.

…Sure, I have regrets inasmuch I was wrong [about predicting Federer’s demise]. But let's go back to the summer of 2008. Federer lost in Australia to Djokovic. He simply failed to show up for the French Open final. After a five-year reign at Wimbledon he lost an epic final to Nadal and was simply gutted afterward. He went the Olympics and lost to James Blake. He had fallen to No. 2 in the rankings and Nadal, the younger player, was riding a wave of confidence while other challengers -- Djokovic, Murray, Tsonga -- were hitting their stride. Or so it seemed. Against that backdrop, imagine if someone had written: "Don't worry Federer fans! This is just a blip. He'll win four of the next six majors and be on top within a year!" They would have reserved you a room at the sanitarium.

-- Jon Wertheim,

Corollary: Weird sh*t happens, and weirder sh*t has happened.

Rafael Nadal’s Knee: The Last Taboo

There was a barely detectable off court momentum shift in the immediate aftermath of Oz. It came right after Rafa was unable to finish up his semi against Andy Murray: fearing the worst about Rafa’s knee officially became mainstream.

Up until that point, obligatory laments about the effect the grinding nature of his game will have on his career, had mostly been tempered with reference to his awesome fitness and an undying faith in his will to succeed.

Now they tend to come alone.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this was that this time, no one saw it coming. There was no tell-tale taping beneath his knees, and he was playing as well as he had been prior to Wimbledon last year.

Corollary: Continuing to hold fort for now, but the need to temper his schedule cannot be emphasised enough.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Oz Withdrawal Symptoms: The Time Traveller's Tennis Partner.

You know you watch too much tennis when……Pete Sampras offers you tennis advice in a dream.


We play a set of tennis on a broken-up gravelly court in surroundings I know I should remember all too well from the early nineties. Only I don’t.

It’s a dream, right - so I can return his serve, and am able to keep him from visiting the net too often.

He doesn’t look like the legend I remember from TV – just an overgrown kid in his early twenties; his hair is a lot shorter than it should be and for some peculiar reason his eyebrows meet in the middle(?). As warped as you might expect a dream to be.

I don’t remember who won. The script writer of my dreams doesn’t seem to consider this significant.The stage manager meanwhile, has gone and painted the sky a pale red - like those surface shots of Mars Nasa released many years back.

All I remember is that afterwards, Warped-Pete is extremely sweaty and mildly irritated.

He’s also scathing about my groundies.

He mimics my shortened back swing which according to him demonstrates “a blinkered view of how I might use the court - a most unsatisfactory want of form and variety”.

I’m somewhat taken aback by this slightly abrasive assessment, not least because it’s simply not true.

For one thing, I didn’t have a shortened backswing back then - to be honest, it was more like Dinara Safina’s; and I used to wield a Dunlop Max 200G for maximum effect (you don’t get any better than Steffi Graf’s racquet) - the way you might wield a cricket bat held in one hand (was I, am I Robin Soderling?).

Only in the last four or five years (since my switch to Babolat) have I shortened the backswing and, funnily enough, begun packing more topspin into every forehand than I ever thought possible or productive. It works a treat against most club players, though I say it myself.

I protest my case with mannerisms I’m not meant to have developed yet – not the only bothersome incongruity in this netherworld of sensory displacement.

Still, Warped-Pete doesn’t like it.

His moodiness doesn’t subside as we down cans of Dr Pepper and Cherry Coke (very big during that period) and discuss Oz, in a landscape chequered with other nostalgic motifs.


Me: So, awe-inspiring work from Federman?

Warped-Pete: I gotta say, as thrilled as I was witnessing the toppling of my record last year (one which I truly believed would stand the test of time), and as swoon-worthy as his performance opposite Murray was this time round, you do sometimes feel that such a pronounced difference in class, is something we ought to be seeing a little less of in this age of supposed parity.

The way I see it, there’s currently only two guys at the top that have proven that they have what it takes to test him in the final of a Slam.

Me: Nadal and Delpo…?

Warped-Pete: Quite - except one of them is injured (perhaps chronically), and it’s not at all certain yet that Delpo will follow up against a Federman in this form.

Me: So….not that awe-inspiring then?

Warped-Pete: Oh it very much was…but let’s not forget that the prevailing theme coming into this event was…?

Me: The state of British/Aussie/American tennis?

Warped-Pete: No you galoot!

Me: French tennis? Serbian Soap Operas? I dunno!

Warped-Pete: *#&***”£$£&^*&####!!!


Warped-Pete: Parity!

Me: Parity, sure.

Warped-Pete: Parity was the name of the game, parity was what it was all meant to be about.

Me: And…what, it didn’t happen?

Warped-Pete: What do you think?

Me: Well….

Warped-Pete: Let me enumerate: del Potro our US Open Champion, goes out to Marin – the only guy other than Murray, playing seriously enough to mount a credible challenge, who then plays himself to the point of extinction, in a total of three five setters.

Me: But…

Warped-Pete: …lemee finish – Big Rob, purveyor of seismic upsets, the “It-Man” of 2009 – exits unimpressively in the opening round. Djoko continues to raise doubts about his fitness - pukes his guts out in fact, though not nearly as impressively as I once did…


Warped-Pete: Murray, we all know what happened there…and Davydenko, of whom we all had such high hopes – arrives, and then promptly departs, as flat as a pancake. Sound like parity to you?

Me: No.

Warped-Pete: Still not convinced?

Me: I just think that…

Warped-Pete: Three words: Jo-Willy-Blowout.

Me: You had me at Jo…

Warped-Pete: I’m with your buddy, what’s his name?

Me: ?

Warped-Pete: The fella that shares your blog?

Me: 2Hander?

Warped-Pete: Right.

Me: This is all a little uncomfortable, I’m not meant to know him yet.

Warped-Pete: What?

Me: I’m scheduled to meet with him around the time of my finals, which judging by your tennis gear, is still around 4-5 years away, and….what’s a blog anyway?

Warped-Pete: You’re also not meant to be hitting with a Babolat – they’re still string manufacturers at this stage of the game – we’re not meant to have the faintest idea who Roger Federer is, over half your readership won’t have heard of Netscape Navigator (or Mosaic for the more archaically inclined) which is what we’ve only just begun surfing that curiosity known as the internet with, and we sure as hell shouldn’t be discussing the 2010 Aussie Open!

Me: Fair enough. (Smart a**).

Warped-Pete: So like I was saying…what?

Me: Nothing.

Warped-Pete: Your buddy was a little underwhelmed by it all, and said something about tennis having come “full circle”.

Me: Not good?

Warped-Pete: It’s not a question of good or bad, and it’s not Federman’s fault he’s a cut above the rest – but 2Hander has it spot on. 2004-2007 was full of that kinda stuff.

Me: Academy Award nominated beatdowns?

Warped-Pete: Right. Call it “the age of enlightenment”, call it whatever the hell you like. The point is we’ve been there and done that.

Me: And now?

Warped-Pete: This is meant to be a Post-Modern era. One with “at least five possible contenders” at each Slam, remember? One where parity -- not Fed, Rafa or anyone else -- reigns supreme.

Me: I dunno….surely it’s a good thing that Federer displays this intimidating form in what’s likely the last act of his career – his passion and ambition clearly undiminished by age, by parenthood -- maybe even a chance to answer those critics that continue to peddle variants of the ‘weak era’ theory, in an era which is anything but - no?

Warped-Pete: …..No.

Me: No?

Warped-Pete: No.

Me: Care to elaborate?

Warped-Pete: Not without parity.

Me: Why’s that now?

Warped-Pete: Federer has only ever played five five-setters over the course of twenty-two Slam finals.

Me: So?

Warped-Pete: Three were against Nadal – you’ll remember he lost two of those. Then there was that epic with A-Rod at Wimbledon last year and of course that infamous loss to Delpo at the US Open.

Me: I’ve been very patient up till now – but would you kindly get to the point?

Warped-Pete: It’s very simple – we need more matches of that calibre in Slam finals.

Me: So…hang on, we’re moving the goalposts again, is that it? 16 Slams – on all surfaces - still doesn’t quite cut it?

Warped-Pete: Doesn’t cut what? This has nothing to do with Fed – we already crowned him GOAT last year – at my expense remember? We’ve been there and done that too, despite having shown it to be nothing more than a philosophical construct.

Me: Then?

Warped-Pete: Parity.

Me: What is that!? Your middle name?

Warped-Pete: If we are to believe we really are in an age now where there’s four or five legitimate contenders at every Slam – then finals like last Sunday’s should be a thing of the past.

Me: What makes you think they’re not in the past? Don’t forget that in the finals of both the previous two Slams, Federer was pushed to five – one of which didn’t end so happily for him.

Warped-Pete: His fans would argue ‘Federman’ didn’t show up.

Me: And he did here?

Warped-Pete: The haters will argue the competition didn’t show up.

Me: Bulls**t!

Warped-Pete: Language Timothy! I’m just doing that devils advocate thing. And besides it’s only a dream.

Me: Already in this ‘dream’ of yours…

Warped-Pete: Mine?

Me: …ok mine, already in this dream of mine, we’ve engaged in a ‘Lawrencian’ set of tennis, indulged in a caustic appraisal of my game and now you won’t even dignify this debate by committing to a position.

Warped-Pete: Just who the hell do you think you are!? This is a dream you muppet, you don’t get to define the rules. I don’t remember Alice complaining half as much during her little trip to Wonderland! And for our set of tennis to be truly ‘Lawrencian’, it would have to be indoors in a stately room in front of a fireplace - we’d also have to be butt naked! Hey what a great idea for an exho! But we’ll not go there.

Me: She called it ‘the stupidest tea party she ever was at in all her life’ – but we’ll let that one slide – just what exactly are you saying?

Warped-Pete: Compare the final of Wimbledon last year with what we saw the previous Sunday. Which did you enjoy more?

Me: A better match, I get it, but…

Warped-Pete: Which of Federer’s two performances were you more convinced by?

Me: Pile not thick enough for you…? I get it.

Warped-Pete: Which do you suppose the haters were more convinced by?

Me: ALRIGHT-ALRIGHT! But you yourself conceded that ‘Federman’ wasn’t maybe at that Wimbledon final – that he truly fought his way to victory that day by applying his shoulder to the wheel.

Warped-Pete: And that’s my point, I could do with a little less razzle-dazzle from Federman, if it means we get to witness more evenly contested five set Slam finals.

Me: Who’s to say those finals won’t be ‘evenly contested’ because it’s Fed-Long-Shanks and not Federman that turns up to play?

Warped-Pete: Who’s to say the final in Oz wasn’t so unevenly contested because Murray’s game – though much revamped – still has some way to go before it’s capable of smothering the Federman genie before it gets out of the bottle?

Me: So Fed looked good because Murray allowed him to – is that it?

Warped-Pete: Not at all – Murray gave it his all and for once, as you yourself observed, came armed with the right weapons – he’s just not sufficiently travelled down that road yet.

But it’s an interesting question is it not? And not one upon which we’re all ever likely to agree. I mean who’s to say Goliath wasn’t suffering from a rather unsavoury hangover when he faced off with young David?

Me: There’ll always be fans willing to explain away all of Fed’s losses just as there’ll always be haters claiming every one of his wins are down to the lack of competition.

Warped-Pete: Indeed, and it’s not our job to persuade everyone. The truth probably lies somewhere indeterminably in between. In the meantime, can we not just agree that it makes for better tennis?

Me: What does?

Warped-Pete: Parity.

Me: *Rolls eyes*


Thursday, 4 February 2010

2Hander's Take: AO Aftermath

I would like to start by reintroducing myself. Why? Well, I have noticed over the past year or so that the readership of this blog has grown (probably no thanks to me and my rants!) and I have been, at best, a passive reader during my absence.

Where do I start? For those who know me, I've been away from posting largely due to my mother being ill in hospital. She had a long history of heart and chest related problems. Judging by my use of the past tense, you'd be right in assuming that she is no longer with us. She sadly passed away a few months ago after quite a long stint in hospital. It's weird, but the rollercoaster that this whole episode was seems like it was ages ago, when it wasn't. At times, it has been hard trying to get (and remain!) focussed. I am OK though. The term moving on for me is more like a helical spring-shaped path as opposed to a simple straight line. Losing a loved one, well, feelings come and go as time goes by. Time does heal a great deal and I am thankful for what and whom I do have.

So, in a way, tennis does help to keep me (somewhat) sane – all the more thanks to you guys.

Now, for those who may be thinking: "Who the hell is this guy?!" and/or "Where the heck did he come from?!", I am an old friend and sometimes tennis partner of our beloved friend Topspin. We have been talking about tennis like quasi-pundits for around 10-12 years, back when we were in our early 20s (Woops! Have I just given away our ages?! HAHA!!). Top gave me the honour of being a guest poster on this fine blog and you will find that I am far more shamelessly opinionated and certain things (like the [crap] state of British tennis) wind me up something chronic. However, I like to think I am a malleable sort of chap who can be persuaded to see and sometimes take on different perspectives to issues around The Beautiful Game – no, not the one where 20-22 people are running around trying to kick an overglorified pig's bladder through a metal rectangle!

(Though I am a football fan as well, just nowhere near as much)

This Aussie Open…I paid more attention to the 'business end', i.e. the second week and it seemed to be lacking a certain something. Yes, it had the crazy epic duels early on in the first week, the odd upset (Delpo's early exit), dark horses (Cilic) and yes, Federer played a very good tournament and all that. However, I can't help but feel that tennis has come full circle since 2007, when Federer dominated like something crazy. I'm sure he is older and wiser, especially being a dad now – his life must have a lot more perspective now and he seems to be playing much more freely. He got the GOAT, as well, although not against Nadal at any point along the way but through no fault of his own. Anyway, he has nothing to prove and I think most people would be inclined to agree. I do think that had he won last year in that 5-set epic with Nadal, it may have been more fulfilling, probably because it would have silenced a lot of critics. I must add that his volleying has lost quite a lot of its edge, especially in the final. I think Tsonga may be the best volleyer around today, as he more willingly comes to the net.

I am also saddened by Nadal's status quo at the mo. All I can say is that I hope he gets back to full fitness soon and we get to see him flourish and achieve even more. He's too nice a guy to not wish him well. Though I am sure he's learnt his lesson and not enter 500 clay court tournaments in any given year!

Djokovic has matured in terms of his attitude off court as well as his game. Just take a look at how awkward he felt when asked to do an impression of Nadal (in front of him as well!) at a presentation ceremony (was it at Rome?). He seems just as lethal off both wings and, oh yeah, he has changed attire from Adidas to Sergio Tacchini (Are they back now? What about Ellesse?).

Murray really looked as though he was ready for his maiden Slam. His game has come on leaps and bounds, although he needs to improve his 1st serve percentage. His second serve is better now than it was at the last Wimby, it has to be said. Like Roger said, his time will surely come soon. And he's also switched clothing from Fred Perry to Adidas…

I still think there is another Slam or so left in A-Rod…though I will not commit to anything by saying when and where it might come.

I reckon Delpo will bounce back from this early setback. Being tall, he can slap any loopy forehands Nadal can throw at him, as he did in Flushing Meadow. He has also exorcised the demon posed by Fed.

Nando Verdasco…I just want to slap him for losing against Davydenko! Not so much for losing against him because Kolya has improved, it's more the manner in which he lost. I still think Davy lacks the flair it takes to win a Slam, maybe he'll prove me wrong. We'll not talk about that set he took of Fed because even I probably could have taken that set off him!

So yeah, things have changed, but maybe we've just been given a brief flashback of how things used to be. You know, Federer just finishing matches at will, even in Slams. In the grand scheme of things, the field has opened up, with at least 4-5 realistic Grand Slam contenders. The next few months will definitely be very interesting…



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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