Saturday, 30 July 2011

Behold Ernie, ‘Creature of the Night’.


It’s the eyes – they’re all “in league with Lucifer”. Well that’s one way to get sh*t done.

Not gonna lie – a little scared right now.

Gulbis d. del Potro 6-2 6-4

When he broke his 5 match losing streak with a win over Malisse,  it was a mere curiosity.

When he followed it up it  with a straight sets win, it was a reminder that, whatever else you might think of him, he’s still relevant.

When he dusted off Delpo 2 and 4 last night, it became a “thing”. Oh yeah, I think we can call it that now.

By all accounts (after hours for me), it was a one-sided demolition with Ernie reminding us of why he is indeed a thing, why he’s always been a thing.

I doubt very much that Delpo would have underestimated the threat, but he cannot have expected this.

Here’s hoping this form carries over. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but this ain’t a Slam (not even a Masters 1000) – Ernie hasn’t been beyond one of those in his last 7 attempts.

*That* particular streak needs to end too. And FAST. Else this ain’t a “thing”. Not even close.


Williams d. Sharapova 6-1 6-3

I know I was meant to have been all “IT’S ON” ever since it was clear these two would meet – I just couldn’t dismiss the possibility of precisely this kind of a letdown.

But I would have preferred it if Pova had simply been tuned – far better to have simply been able to say “too good” rather than imploding the way she has all too often recently.

As it happened, Pova was neither here nor there – she simply looked utterly terrified of Serena (so I’m told).


"I think I’ll need to win a couple of more matches before it becomes a true rivalry," said the fifth-ranked Sharapova, who is now 2-7 against Serena and who hasn’t beaten her since 2004. "It’s not really a rivalry until I win few more matches. She’s experienced enough to know that even if it’s a small or big event you have to go out there and do our job and still go out there and win it."

Not that Serena instilling fear in her opponents should surprise any of us. But it’s a little disappointing when that opponent happens to be one of the best competitors the sport has ever seen – perhaps the only player  left in the WTA with the requisite mental hardware to pose Serena a challenge.

Still, as with Ernie, this ain’t a Slam is it, so what does it matter? Right? Right?

“I decided it’s time to get serious not only at the Slams but every other tournament as well.”

-- Serena Williams


Sabine next. On paper, this spells all sorts of Boombastic. But then that’s what we said about the Wimbledon semis.


Obligatory Happy Domi pic.

No one else serenading the run she’s been on, so I will.

4th round or better at every Slam. QFs or better at three out of the four.

She plays Marion in the semis in a match custom built to test my loyalties to the nth degree.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Stanford: This Descent into Despair just got Asymptotic

Morita d. Ivanovic 6-3, 7-5

This is not even funny or tragic anymore. I’m not even sure it qualifies as an upset. In fact, I don’t know what it is. It’s certainly not analysis-worthy any more. For one thing, there ain’t nothing there to analyse.

How many times do we need to be told that she has an ergonomically-challenged service toss?

Or that its all a problem of confidence?


Never fun to see any player struggling – let alone a Slam winning former #1.

And I REALLY  don’t buy into those continual attempts by some to lampoon her success and caricature her as a one-trip pony….a kid that got a lucky break.

Lest we forget, her rise (and arguably some of her best matches) came during 2006-2007 – a time when Serena, Venus, Pova and Henin were all very much in their prime and at the top of their game…..all at the same time. Call it what you want, but that ain’t no fluke.

Even so, 3 years is a long time, and unless you’re a fan (a big fan) and feel a need to fashion colourful laments on how, sink or swim, you’ll be there till the end, it’s likely better to just give her some room to regroup – and she will regroup even if that doesn’t mean winning another Slam or even a position in the top 5 ever againand say nothing at all. So that’s what I’ll be doing.


Kirilenko d. Georges 6-2, 6-3

I know, I know, I don’t get it either.

To be honest I never really believed Julia would follow up on her success early on this year the way, say, Petra has. That doesn’t mean I consider this even a remotely acceptable result.

Having won Stuttgart, and made the semis of Madrid (beating Caro twice in the process *snigger*) she then failed to make the second week at either RG or Wimbledon.  That’s more than simply a letdown.

And now this: a first round exit to Kirilenko – a competent and likeable enough player, but not, quite frankly, in nearly the same league.

Or maybe she is. Maybe I’ve got Julia all wrong – predictions tend, after all, to be anything but predictable.  Maybe Julia will follow the more common debutante route of continuing to languish emerging only sporadically to bag a scalp that is as big as the blaze of publicity it commands.

Frankly, I’ve had my fill of that and am holding out for something better. And not just from Julia.

Stanford: Pretty Sure This Qualifies as #Winning


6-0 6-0 in 47 mins.

And she didn’t face a single break point. Nor did she lose a single point on her first serve. Not one.

“It was me being focused,” Williams said. “I’ve always said if I play my best no one can beat me. Hopefully I can get back to that level.”

Hell, that’s not even a brag (let alone a humblebrag) – more like  a demonstrable law of nature.

Guess that means she’s “back”.

Except we’ve always known that words like that simply don’t feature in Serena’s tennis altereality (neither do “form” and “momentum”). And it bears repeating that Rodionova ain’t even a top 50 player – never has been. But then she ain’t canon fodder either…or, at least, not the type of canon fodder that fails to win even a single game.

So yeah, unsurprisingly surprising. Parrot green ecstasy for her fans. Crisis talks for her “not a fans” and players in her section of the draw. Speaking of which:

“She’s coming back and she’s winning again,” Kirilenko said of Williams. “I need to be focused every minute.”

I’m no Kiri fan, but you have to love how she takes the edge off her imminent destruction with the word “focus”. You can do it with almost anything:

“It’s no longer a question of when but if Murray will win a Slam….he needs to be focused every minute.”

“I’ve spent nearly three unsuccessful years trying to unify Quantum Mechanics with the General Theory of Relativity…..I need to be focused every minute.”

”The worlds biggest economy may default - may not even be able to send out welfare cheques come Tuesday next week…..we have to be focused every minute.”

Assuming Serena doesn’t catastrophically implode between now and Friday, or that “focus” isn’t all its cracked up to be (and it really isn’t, not in itself) Serena will meet Masha in R3.

YES I’ve heard about the “womance” (that is what they’re calling it right?):

“I really like playing Maria and I really admire her and never giving up and developing the confidence that she has… Always just walking around and having so much aplomb, it’s good. I always admired that, it’s really cool.”

…..NO it doesn’t surprise me that two of the greatest competitors this sport has ever seen should have something like mutual admiration.

But then neither do I think there’ll be anything other than cat claws, fire and brimstone on court come Friday. You really do need to focus if you do, and more than just “every minute”.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

“Happy dancing Spaniards”

Nothing I can say will do justice to the distilled quanta of awesome that  is this video.

Can we all, instead, simply agree that it “does what it says on the tin”?

(word, big-up, hat-tip and many, many thanks to @andy_murray)


Whatever July might have lacked for on court – it gave, and gave, AND GAVE *off* court.


Howdy all.

As you’ve no doubt already gathered from my little sabbatical, I’m not especially fond of the tennis in July. In fact, I abhor it….especially when it’s on clay.

FACT: July is to the Tennis Calendar what “no-man’s land” is to the serve-volleyer –  the type of place you exile a recently demoted German Masters event when you want to add insult to injury.

And you know what? I think the players agree with me. Well most of them.

Since Newport they seem to be doing anything and everything other than actually plying their trade (that would be tennis). Shaving their head, getting married, staging (slightly tasteless) mock-assassinations, dating (non-tennis) sports stars, amongst other middle-earthy type things.

Whatever works for you tennis. Get whatever’s plaguing you right outta your system, right outta yer hair. Just so long as you’re good to go for August.

I had hoped to ease myself back in. Only I don’t think that’s going to be  possible with the Stanford draw being what it is:

1) Five of the eight seeded players are from my tennis pool.

2) Serena’s in the mix

3) Potential/actual matches: Kimiko/Domi R1, Sabine/Sam R2, Serena/Georges R2, Dani/Pova R2,

The mind doth boggleth….not at all conducive to “easing in” of any sort.

Welcome back tennis.


Thursday, 7 July 2011

2Hander's Take: Born-Again Single-Hander...

I'M BACK BABY!!! [Z: *falls off stool* Well look what the cat dragged in...]

Well, it's been a long time to say the least. I have not been keeping track of the Blog as much as I should have (explanation, well, sort of, offered below). However, like old friends, it should take us no time to carry on where we left off. [Z: don't get to shake off going AWOL for 2 years that easy...]

For those of wondering "WHO the HELL is this guy?!?", and there have been enough changes to the Blog and its readers to make me think that's a sizeable proportion of you wonderful people, I am an old (and hopefully good) friend of Zafar's - he used to be called Topspin - what happened to that?! [Z: Think its probably ok to use my name after 3 years ;)]

The last time I posted must have been around the 2009 mark, around the US Open time. A lot has gone on and a lot has changed. Firstly, I have changed job and location to one where internet is more expensive (But I still pay for it! Hey, I don't have a TV!) and the work is more stressful. That's a super combination to keep me off posting, but hey, I got there in the end - question is, will Andy Murray?! [drums and cymbal] [Z: To quote Mr President: YES HE CAN. AND WILL :( ]

(On a side note, whilst I am quite a fan of Muzza, it is not because of his image as David Lloyd suggested. I did like Murray's retort of 'stick to building fitness clubs') [Z: I like the shaggy look - its not like he went 'George Bastl' on us :p ]

Another change has been to my tennis game (hence my nick?). I have abandoned the two-handed backhand for a Federeresque (in my dreams, anyway!) single-handed. I have found that it is more consistent, I feel as though I have far more control of the ball and I find it easier to get into position for it. Also, funnily enough, I can deal with higher balls far better - Roger, give me a call and we'll talk! [Z: HERESY. After all the grief you gave me over the ONE time I tried hitting with two hands...]

So, that would make something of a Born-Again Single-Hander. In light of this, must I now change my nick to BASHer?! However, if we've done away with nicks, then my name is Asad.

OK, well the story so far is...Novak Djokovic is whupping EVERYONE - good night! [Z: No sh*t] Seriously, the guy has come leaps and bounds both on and off the court. For I...uh-oh, humble pie time...used to be quite a critic of Nolé. [Z: sh*t] I found the impersonations were becoming rather tiring as was dedicating every victory as a tribute to how hard life was a Serb in the 1990s. [Z: ...]Also, on court, he would seem to "lose the will to live" on occasion giving up after a good start or not being able to get started in the first place - particularly against Federer and Nadal.

Now? WHOA! For a start, he is now starting to beat Federer more regularly and convincingly. His groundstrokes have always been strong on both wings but his backhand really is nearly on par with his forehand. [Z: I quite liked his BH, but you're right both strokes equally dependable....] His volleying has improved, though he's always looked more natural at the net than Nadal. [Z: Nadal/Nole have both learnt to volley admirably well - but I still think they both look like a couple of street-hustlers at the net] More natural than Tsonga? Erm, no! Also, he has finally found his rhythm with that new service action and not to mention the new racquet.

I think I used to call him Chokovic! That, too, has now been formally retracted.

And now, I must challenge a few things, if I may. [Z: Uh-oh] I would say that he did play his best tennis in many respects against Nadal, both mentally and mechanically (if that makes sense). His shots during the 1st, 2nd and 4th sets (more about the 3rd set in a bit) were fan-diddly-tastic! He was playing like a man possessed. He destroyed Nadal in the 2nd set (in fact I thought Rafa must have had a bust-up with his girlfriend or something because a significant part of him was not in the game). The way he was mixing up the pace of serves was genius. The way he went after Nadal's backhand was also a brilliant tactic which worked a treat. [Z: Agree..I actually think Nole elicited a lot of Nadals "unforced" errors - my point was he didn't need to be as good as he was say in IW/Miami...but I almost prefer us to disagree :P ]

The 3rd set, Rafa kind of decided to show up and play. However, maybe nerves got to Nolé as he was hitting a lot of balls out and his serve somewhat desserted him. I thought that the old Chokovic Syndrome might start kicking in then. He broke early in the 4th set, but quickly got broken back. This is where he really showed his new-found mental strength: he got it out of his system, dug deep, went for his shots and it paid off. [Z: Rafa thinks this level might not last...I don't get it - relying on his opponents level to fall has never been his style either on court or in a presser :-O ]

Whereas Tsonga showed us the masterclass on how to beat Nadal at the 2008 Aussie Open, which was by and large from the net [Z: I have a bone to pick with Jo...], Nolé has managed a few times now (not to mention on clay!) to beat Nadal at his own game - with high, loopy topspin from the back of the court. This is why I feel rather cheated that they didn't get to meet at RG and in a strange twist of fate, were deprived of a Rafole final at Wimby. I think Nolé believes he can 'bother' Rafa at RG now... [Z: You're right - that would've been something - but I liked Feds win as well.....]

So, Novak has finally come of age and he fully deserves the No. 1 ranking for he is, so far this year, the best player on the planet. He has matured incredibly, OK it came after a few bad seasons and injuries but I take my hat off to him... [Z: Ditto....]

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Wimbledon: Parting Shots - The rest


» I hate talk of “guards” (and their replacement) almost as much as I do “goats” – and mostly for the reasons Tignor mentions here, which are that people are apt to use the phrase prematurely.

It’s certainly true that, were Rafa to win the FO and Wimbledon next year, and Novak to win, say, Aus again, and Federer (or someone else?) to win the USO, those who called for the changing of the guards would be forced to change them right back again (or at least to admit they were premature).

Even so, I think Tignor overstates his case a little in characterising Novak’s victory this weekend and ascent to world #1 as, “just a big win”

2 Slams, 4 Masters titles and only one loss out of a total of fifty matches played since November last year is (as I suspect Mr Tignor knows full well) a little more than “just a big win”.

And you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised if this does turn out to be the changing of the guards. It has to come at some point (duh!).

» The Wimbledon Mic disaster

For a tournament steeped in such history, prestige and, well, privilege, this was confoundingly bad and utterly unforgivable.

The point about a runner-up (whoever they might be) is that they’re usually hankering to get off court as soon as possible.

The very least you might do is to make the various formalities they must undergo as easy to endure and as smooth as possible.

Instead, most of the comments Rafa made to Sue Barker weren’t heard by anyone. When transmission did return, he (understandably irritable) cursorily thanked his team on a mic that was still so glitchy as to make most of what he said unintelligible.


» This may very well be the biggest crisis of Rafa’s very decorated career since his injury/parental-divorce-ridden 2009.

It may just be his post-loss state of mind but, nevertheless, I found this quote worrying:

"My experience says this level is not forever. Even for me when I was last year winning three Grand Slams, my level of last year is not forever. Probably the level of Novak of today is not forever."

Not “I must improve” but that “Novak won’t stay that way forever”. Confused smile

» Rafa a “cheater”, really? Get a grip.

I’ve obviously missed something.

Why is taking a MTO before a tie-break – not mid game, not on his opponent’s serve, not even on a changeover – but before a tie break (a natural cut off point) evidence of questionable moral fibre?

That’s what Rafa did against Delpo and it caused unchecked, unmitigated outrage on my timeline.

As it turned out, nothing much was wrong – but judging from the reaction you’d think some would prefer that there was – perhaps they’d also prefer him to play through injury, in case there really was a problem?

Drawing attention to his quite irritating idiosyncrasies is one thing. The perception hit he now regularly takes makes addressing it of vital importance.

Using them to malign his character in a desperate (and rather insecure) attempt at “bigging up” one’s own fave (especially when that fave is in no need of “bigging up”) is selling yourself very short indeed.

» As if to compound his perception problems even further there was a release-of-information gaffe on Monday when both Neil Harman and reported Rafa as having a “hairline fracture” that could have kept him out for “6 weeks”.

The report was killed by Uncle Toni less than 24 hours later who also confirmed that he was still on to play Montreal. Which is it?

» My own feeling is Rafa has very evident PR issues rather than “moral fibre” issues – and, needless to say, he needs to sort them out – specifically as it relates to the management, treatment and announcement of his injuries.

I’ve no time for those accusing him of cheating (its bigoted and unnecessary), but shit like this doesn’t help his cause. I also don’t think playing a Slam shot up full of anaesthetic is the best way to be going about things but that rant’s for another day.


» Whatever progress Pova may have made (and it’s difficult to deny progress has been made if you properly examine her results since IW), and however disciplined, resolute and hungry she undoubtedly remains, its hard not to feel that she’s often treading water just to keep her serve intact.

It may well define the rest of her career – when it breaks down the rest of her game is sure to follow. She knows it. We know it.

Despite all this, we should be very wary of dismissing her chances of winning a Slam altogether. She’s gotten this close twice in the past two months (one of which was on her worst surface): she only played one poor match at RG (SF), and it’s not difficult, I hope, to see Petra handing away her debut Wimbledon final amidst a flurry of UFEs?

The chips will, of course,  need to land the right way up, and if and when the win comes, it will have been in spite of, rather than because of her serve.

Still not quite the same thing as “never”

» Kimiko/Venus week one. Match of the tournament. Match of the year?

Like I said, required viewing for WTA girly-girls under the age of 25.

» After 11 months out, Serena (unsurprisingly) hit the ground running and only came undone by a monumental effort on the part of one of the flattest ball strikers in the sport.

Her fourth round exit will see her drop to #175 in the rankings. At least one top seed is due a very bad day at the office in round one of the USO.

» I’ve learnt to expect fluctuations from Venus Williams and it seems six months out hasn’t changed that

The good news is that she still had it in her to go toe-to-toe with Kimiko. The bad news is that she still hasn’t figured out Tsvetana.

» Seriously, I haven’t figured out Tsvetana either. Nobody has.

9 matches won out of the 22 events she played since Wimbledon last year. Just nine. Yet somehow that's enough to make the the semis of Wimbledon going through the world number three and Venus Williams (again and with the exact scoreline) back to back? Someone explain.

» <Insert threadbare pun about Slam-less world number ones here>

For what it’s worth, I still think Caro can win a Major, but like Pova (actually nothing like Pova) a lot of the chips would have to land the right way up. And the Law of Averages says it’s not nearly as inconceivable as is being suggested that they do land the right way up. At least once.

» Was rather hoping for an end to Fed’s 18-month Slam drought, and when Jo-Wilfried went and did what he did and in the way he did, it made me a little sad – we go back a long way, Fed and I.

And I still say he’s been quite unlucky  – every Slam loss dating back to the USO (and Delpo) in 2009 involves a big hitter playing lights-out tennis – with the type of depth and accuracy no one has an answer for. That, or its been Novak (2.0) or Rafa (on clay).

That’s not me being an apologist, it’s just plain fact.

»  I’m still not done blaming everyone and everything

In Murray’s own words, he’s “15-20% behind Rafa” and those other two. Which will make the win that much sweeter when it does come. Perhaps rather foolishly, I still choose to believe it will come.

» Marion

I only wish she hadn’t played that much tennis in week one :(

» Vika

Bad draws, injury, heat stroke, the return of the Williamses and, now, the emergence of Petra. There appear to be an awful lot of reasons why Vika shouldn’t win a Slam and the list is only going to get bigger.

» Don’t normally talk doubles but Jurgen and Iveta winning mixed is one of the highlights of the fortnight for me. Mainly because we got to see Iveta smile.

And pictures of Iveta smiling are, as we all know, collectors items.

» Sabine

Welcome back. And don’t disappear on me again.

» Jo-Wilfried

I can’t hate on you – especially seeing as you were able to win a set off Novak and took him to two breaks in the semis. But I still think you screwed Fed.

» BREAKING: Sam Stosur still can’t win a match on grass. 


» Aside: Alan Rickman would make a quite EXCELLENT umpire. And it’s not just the equally magnificent voice.

» Unnoticed and unsung: Dominika – 4th round or better at every Slam. Take a bow.


Wimbledon: Parting Shots (Petra edition)

I make no apologies for devoting the first half of these ‘Parting Shots’ to Petra. She’s the best thing that’s happened to women's tennis in years.

» Petra Kvitova is the best WTA Grand Slam ingénue since Maria Sharapova and I hasten to add, Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Its been seven years and no one’s even come close.

In some senses she’s no different from a lot of her generation – a huge backswing, a lasso FH, a tall imposing frame, not the greatest looking mover and someone that looks to out power her opponents.

Then there’s all the little things that set her apart, like the ability to slice/volley, the foibles and curious ticks, like that mild look of annoyance she sometimes wears after an UFE – all of which conspire together to make her ‘Petra’.

» All throughout the fortnight comparisons were being made to Mary Pierce. I have to say I couldn’t really see it.

Not at first. And even though I’ve come round a little since, I think there’s a more valuable comparison to be made with Svetlana Kuznetsova.

You’ll see where I’m going with this.

» Petra’s not in the business of getting down on herself.

If she fires off an UFE, she winces a little, may stare pensively at her frame but then moves on. That furrowed look of minor vexation and bemused disappointment she sometimes wears helps keep her focus rather than detracting from it.


» The effortless winners are, like Sveta, the tennis equivalent of “easy listening”.

Sveta has the shortened backswing which I’m not going to pretend I don’t prefer. The easy flamboyance is common to both.

» The flip side of such easy flamboyance is that neither deems it necessary to take any corrective action when things go awry. As they often do.

They simply have too much faith in the quality of their shotmaking to start doing anything differently. I know I wouldn’t either if I were half as gifted.

But when the wobble doesn’t auto-correct, it often costs them matches rather than mere sets, sets rather than mere games, and games rather than mere points.

» Not gonna lie: Her lanky frame can look a little clumsy chasing down balls along the baseline, yet she’s mostly – mysteriously – in position, and is somehow able to maintain the same depth on the run as she does when lining up for a shot on her terms.

That’s them muscles at work. And it gives rise to an athleticism that is completely beyond someone like Pova – although I adore her all the more for it.

» Let me say that again: Petra maintains the same depth on the run as she does when she’s able to line up for a shot on her own terms.

It won her countless rallies in the final as poor Maria simply wasn’t able to keep up. You just don’t see that very often, except maybe from Venus Williams on a good day. New breed of competitor.


» The easy shotmaking is a function of an even easier temperament.

After seven years of tantrums, chokers and cry-babies, I’m unashamedly in awe of it.

» Make no mistake about it, Petra deplores UFEs (I don’t see how you cannot when you’ve seen the excellence you’re capable of).

But she doesn’t erupt in emotion the way Marat or Bepa used to, or silently burn herself out in seething resentment the way…..many others have done.

Neither does she choke as overtly as a Sam Stosur or an Amelie Mauresmo. No, Petra (and Sveta) occupy a quieter middle ground known as ‘Erratica’, which can lead to downright reckless or maddeningly efficient shotmaking.

» Aside: Born 150 or so years ago and Petra would have made a quite EXCELLENT pre-Raphaelite muse.

» And now, for the clincher: both Sveta and Petra wore braces when they first burst on the scene in a maelstrom of dorkish affability.

What do you mean that’s not relevant?


Monday, 4 July 2011

Wimbledon: Not the best final, Not his best tennis…

Not, in my mind, a vintage final. Not even close.


But I’m not going to harp on about Rafa’s UFEs – there weren’t, in any case,  as many as it “felt”, perhaps because they all occurred at the most critical moments.

I’m not going to talk about his shoddy forehand, or how I thought this was the worst Slam performance I might have ever seen from him.

I’m not even going to bother pointing out that, as well as he played, I thought that Novak was beatable today, not quite at the heady heights he attained during his streak – a place he hasn’t been in since the beginning of the French Open.

To do so would be disingenuous.

It’s not that I don’t believe in any, or all of the above, or in the validity of pointing it out. It’s just that, in the grand scheme of things, it simply doesn’t matter.

And if you want to get picky about it, many of Rafa’s errors were elicited, if not entirely “forced”. Yes there is a difference.

What we know is this: Novak is now a troublesome squatter in Rafa’s head, and it’s up to Rafa to find a means of evicting him – this really shouldn’t be contentious given he’s admitted as much in his presser, which was as unflinching as it was Yoda-like:

"Today my game don't bother him a lot,” Nadal told reporters. "He's playing better than my level. And find solutions, that's what I have to try. When I was healthy, I only lost against him. Probably the mental part is little bit dangerous for me. To win these kind of matches, I have to play well these kind of points [that] can change the match. I didn't play well these moments. That's what happened in Indian Wells, that's what happened in Miami, and that's what happened here. I don't want to count in Madrid and Rome because he played much better than me. And to change to be little bit less nervous than these times, play more aggressive, and all the time be confident with myself. That's what I gonna try next time. If not, I gonna be here explaining the sixth [loss].”

The problem I have with much of the commentary surrounding Novak’s win is that it’s still being conducted through the prism of the most mindblowing moments of his streak – a place which, if we’re honest, he hasn’t been in since the beginning of the French Open.

There’s nothing deplorable or disingenuous in drawing attention to his record this season, nor in the effusive praise that’s sometimes giving rise to – this win, like many before it, is, in no small sense, a product of that streak, if only in a residual way. But it seems to me that doing that deflects attention from its real merit: that he simply didn’t need to be at that level.

The fact is, Novak was able to put Rafa through the mill performing at barely around 85% – that also happened to be high enough to produce what he called “the best grass court match of his career”.

In other words, he won Wimbledon without playing his best tennis. How many times have we serenaded Rafa and Fed for doing precisely that?

Unhealthy obsession with the streak obscures that very “Big Picture”.


In terms of trajectory, narrative and, dare I say it, “destiny” (an overused word I’ve grown to hate), however, it’s not only valid, but imperative to take note of the streak in its entirety; for only then do you come to a proper understanding of how the best player of the past 7 months came to win the biggest title of his career and position himself atop the rankings.

Even the nerves and issues with confidence Rafa alluded to in his presser are a direct function of what transpired in those 7 months – the seeds of his fear (and resulting UFEs) in the final were laid in those four losses he suffered to Novak earlier this year.

So you see,  it’s really quite irrelevant whether or not Novak played at the height of his powers in what must be considered the crowning victory of his season (and, one must think, his career) to date.


Marathon runners don’t sprint, leap or bound over the finishing line, they sometimes just casually shuffle across, secure in the knowledge of the work they’ve already put in to reach this point – and Novak did a heck of a lot more than that to make world #1.


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Wimbledon: Noticeboard

So on twitter, this would be where I retweet, prefixing it with “THIS” (or other similar words to that effect):

“She played here with poise and self-belief, not least her serving out the title with a love game. And notice how she celebrated afterwards: there was no scaling of the stands to hug her box, no dramatic drops to the grass. Kvotiva smiled with satisfaction but the message was: “Yeah, that’s about how I thought it’d go.” She’s now a Wimbledon champion and her profile has changed forever. But it sure looks like she’s up for what’s next.”
-- SI Open Source

No tears. No dramaz. Just a grounded manner that is about as easy, baggage-free and clean as her hitting on court. It probably won’t win her many endorsements. But it makes it, in my eyes, the best Grand Slam ingénue win since Maria Sharapova.









Fish Feli Fed Novak





Domi Sabine Paszek Petra
Maria Marion Vika Tsvetana





Sympathy Vote

Ideas above their station

***PICK OF THE DAY: Day thirteen***



Rafael Nadal(ESP)[1]
Novak Djokovic(SRB)[2]


Wimbledon: I will go down with this ship.





I blame Pippa Middleton.

I blame Bjorn Borg and his STOOPID jovialities with Mansour Bahrami being played out between points whilst Murray was out there being flayed alive.

I blame Goran’s quite appalling middle parting.

I blame all those that have the gall to suggest that it all hinged on that one forehand that sailed long at 2-1, 15-30 up in the 2nd set – as if losing the next seven games (that would be three consecutive breaks of the Andy Murray serve) was inextricably tied to one metaphysical moment in space-time.

I blame the BBC and their symbolism overkill in showing a shot of an actual cloud with an actual silver lining.

I blame the anguish, the audacity….

…and the resulting masochistic trauma.

I blame all those who profess the importance of “winning the first set”. Really? Coz in my mind, anyone playing Rafa at Wimbledon (where he’s won his last 20 matches) needs to win not just the 1st, but the 2nd set and possibly even wangle an early break in the third before I even consider breathing easy easier.

I blame Rafa for being too good by half. I blame him for not flinching or ceding an inch.


I blame him for possessing the hand/eye coordination and presence of mind to pull off that ridiculous slide cum racquet-juggle thingimajig, where he somehow avoids injury by landing on his bottom. 

I blame him for committing a grand total of only seven UFEs over the course of the entire matchzero in the second set.

I blame all those that appear all too willing to ignore this (and all too eager to rip on Murray instead).


I blame him for being unbearably gracious in both winning and losing ("Andy didn't win a Grand Slam today, but he is much better player than some who won a Grand Slam in past. This is true”)

I blame all those that say: “This is what champions do…”.  Sorry, but that means *nothing* to me. Is it meant to make me feel better? Champions also have bad days at the office, champions also get “slamdunked” by the likes of Jo-Wilfried, champions also get mono, champions suffer slumps, champions suffer life-threatening illnesses, champions sometimes step on glass, champions have been known to dabble with class-A drugs, champions also use the pooper. In other words they’re sometimes just like the rest of us. But Rafa wasn’t today.


I blame Rafa’s mum for robbing me of what little remaining composure I’d managed to retain with the way she justly applauded what was very evidently Murray’s last stand, mere seconds before he inevitably, inexorably went crashing out.

I blame all those who said Murray displayed “no energy” out there, but would, undoubtedly, in a flash, have crucified him for baring his fangs if he did show more desire.

I blame all those self-loathing Brits who categorise the best player we’ve had since the 2nd world war as “shit”. No really. “Shit”…..for losing to Rafael Nadal – who hasn’t lost a match here since 2007.

I blame all those that continue to bark on about his “passive play” – but are unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge the guts and resolve needed to play with the type of aggression that is, quite frankly, out of his element and against the natural grain of his game and temperament. So much so that, in his words, he “probably got the balance of aggression and patience wrong…”, and “went too aggressive this time…”

I blame them all.

And I continue to believe, even though I honestly don’t know what the phrase “only a matter of time” OR “too good not to win a Slam” mean anymore. Quite frankly, winning a Slam, at this point, seems anything BUT inevitable – and that seems as good a reason as any to back him.


I will go down with this ship EVERY time he falls short of winning one of these things, unless and until he does. :(


Wimbledon: On what PLANET is this a faulty rankings system?


I’m not kidding: there’s actually folks complaining about this.

A Slam, four Masters Titles and only ONE match lost since November last year – to Roger Federer playing somewhere at his best. Yeah, I'd say the right guy is at the top of the rankings.


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