Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sometimes "stuff" just happens.

I don't think you can deny that there's something up with Novak. He's not been himself since the start of the clay court season.

What began as a "one off" in MC (put down rightly to the passing of a beloved grandfather) continued largely unquestioned into Madrid (where he was at war with the surface) before morphing into something altogether more gruesome in the final of Rome (where one of his smashes was so poor it almost landed on his foot) - what I think of as his single worst performance this year.

And to be honest, he's been off ever since.

Nothing so obviously hellish as Rome - more a certain listlessness and inability to summon his best during moments of crisis, all of which stands in stark contrast to his stretch of 'form' (not even sure that's the right word for it any more) last year.

If we are to believe the words of his former coach Jelena Gencic, "personal problems" lie at the root of it.

That may well be. But as Novak indicated, "everyone" battles with those from time to time. And I will never not flinch and cringe (fringe?) at the instinctual drive of some to explain away a spell of poor play or even a single upset whenever a top player is involved. Upsets happen, "stuff" happens, giving birth to aliens happens - even to the best of the best - can we not let that just be?

It's entirely reasonable and healthy to want to put forward reasons of course. Provided we accept that what we're proposing as a root cause is an approximation of an approximation based on little or no knowledge of something that may not even be slightly true - wholesale conjecture in other words.

I'm a big fan of conjecture - until, that is, we dress it up and start pretending it's something more than that.

This isn't Novak's doing (although you could argue his former coach has invited much of the speculation). And whilst his fans obviously contribute to it, it's bigger and very different in nature to fandom - in fact, no single party is to blame.

It's a conglomerate comprised of media, fans, bloggers, the bloke at the bus stand, and other talking heads - and its relentless drive to rationalise and categorise everything from the sublime to the trivial into neatly labelled unthreatening manilla folders is almost pathological (I know this, because I'm part of it too).

I think the idea of stuff "just happening" unfettered, uncontrolled and untamed by narrative (or even basic laws of cause+effect) simply terrifies them.

But that's exactly the reason why most of us (including myself) love sport.

Sport knows nothing of fandom or ideology. It simply plays out on a level playing field unencumbered by agenda. Sometimes it's even chaotic. And therein lies its power to enthrall. Imposing a narrative on that actually feels like an insult. Sport's simply too big for that, and Novak's too good for it.

I daresay something personal *is* troubling him. I've got no reason to doubt it - Gencic isn't his mouthpiece but does seem
to know the family well enough (and Novak certainly hasn't denied it).

But it could equally be the natural decompression that follows 18 months of near-perpetual ecstasy (and an acute awareness of just how difficult that might be to replicate).

Or even a combination of both - they're not mutually exclusive you know.

I could, of course, be completely wrong. But, as of now, we simply don't know. And unless Novak himself says any different, I prefer to leave it that way.

Isn't that, after all, why they call such things "personal"?

(Photos: Getty)


Monday, 6 August 2012



But I still think there's an entirely healthy middle ground between (1) the idea that Murray's Olympic win means he's now certain to beat Fedalovic in a 5 set Slam final, and (2) that it has no bearing on anything at all because it's "not the same thing" (equally childish).

Too early to be thinking that way, right? I should still be partaying in the Stella-McCartnicated afterglow of the biggest win of his career, I know.

Fine. But if he goes down in a tight (or not so tight) 5 set final (or even semi final) to, say, Rafael Nadal at the USO, the same tabloid contingent retweeting pictures of his head on a stamp now, will begin (again) to raise the most horrible doubts about his ability to bring his best against the best.

It wouldn't be the first time.

What this "means" (a LOT - some would say its uniqueness precludes it from even Slam comparisons) should not be confused with the *expectation* it sets - they're two entirely different (albeit hopelessly tangled) issues.

(Photo: AP)


Friday, 24 February 2012

Aga Saga.

Alas, Aga. So close.

photo (2)

It may surprise you to know that I was initially with her on this.

Much as I like Vika, and much as I do believe she was injured, perhaps she did carry on a little too much in between points in a way which a no-nonsense nature like Aga's just can't tolerate.

As we've seen with Nole, if a player is grimacing/writhing around in agony, but making athletic winners of the highest order only moments later, people (and it seems players) will talk – silly to expect otherwise. And Aga seemed to me to be well within her rights to convey her distaste, which she did eminently well with that hydrochloric handshake –  designed as it was for maximal-effect.

That ought to have been the end of the matter.

Putting out your (unsolicited) personal opinion re your (former) bestie and new tennis Queen Bee a whole week after the incident suggests to me that something else is at work and that perhaps that "something" has been brewing for some time.

Jealousy? Nah. There's a healthy rivalry there but nothing so malicious.

My own view (for what it's worth) is that this is simply new territory for Aga. Her recent success and career-high #6 ranking seem to have galvanised her into feeling she now has a certain licence to shoot off in this way.

Nothing especially wrong with that but it doesn't mean she'll always best know how (or when) to shoot nor, indeed (as in this case), when she's overshot.

Besides, as many have already noted, you have only yourself to blame if you were unable to put away an "injured" opponent (though one wonders what exactly they expect 'weaponless' Aga to put anyone away with).

Vika's cryptic (or not so cryptic) reaction:


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Not to rain on anyone’s parade but….


Much as I like her, and much as I’ve waited for this moment, Vika is not “this years Nole”, nor is it very meaningful to make pronouncements on how well she’s coping with being top dog until she repeats the show she put on in Doha at a venue like  IW or Miami – or better still, RG.

Not that I think she’s not capable of doing precisely that, nor has this week been anything other than majorly convincing.

It’s just that the more she’s bigged up now, the greater she’ll be made to pay for it when she next takes a fall – often exclusively by the people responsible for the bigging up. It would please me greatly if that didn’t happen at a high-visibility venue like Miami, which is why I’d be happy for her to have taken a fall either here or at Dubai next week.

We might also remember that Halep/Aga/Sam ≠ Serena/Petra


Sam? I dunno what to say to you.

(pic: getty)


Monday, 30 January 2012

Oz: ‘I’d be Lying’

Djokovic d. Nadal 57 64 62 67 75

I want to say that this was the best match ever. But I’d be lying.

I want to say duration always maps to quality. But I’d be lying.

I want to say Rafa didn't have his chances and that Nole was simply too good. But I'd be lying.

I want to say that Nole is Rafa’s “kryptonite” against which Rafa supposedly has "no weapons". But I’d be lying.

I want to say Rafa played this with the same brand of daring intensity that he exhibited against Federer. But I'd be lying.

I want to say that Federer won't be smarting over this, and that he shouldn't feel short changed at not getting a crack at Nole. But I'd be lying.

I want to say that I'm completely convinced it wouldn’t have been any different had it been Federer, and not Rafa, at the other end. But I'd be lying.

I want to say that Rafa's soul won't be crushed by the worst loss of his career and that he'll snap out of it in little over a week. But I'd be lying.


That said...

I could say that the longest match in GS history was purely about the inability/unwillingness to finish off a point. And nothing to do with guts, endurance or heroism. But, here too,  I would be lying.

I could say that Nole doesn't deserve credit for taking his chances the way Rafa seemed unable/unwilling to under that kind of relentless and unforgiving pressure. But I would be lying (it's why he, and not Rafa, is world #1).

I could say that Nole doesn't deserve all manner of accolades for learning how to manage and regulate his energy levels to see this thing through. But I would  be lying.

I could say that I don't want to tar and feather those tacky enough to be talking of "faking" at a time like this. But I would be lying. You clearly don't understand sport; and sport wants nothing whatsoever to do with you.


I could say that the heroic battle of will that ensued in the  final set didn't transcend any pedantic concerns I might have had about “quality” and letting things get this far. But I would be lying.

I could say that Murray hasn't come a long way and that it's a crying shame that Lendl hasn't managed to do more with him in just one week. But I would  be lying.

I could say that Nole only has the most fleeting of chances at completing the Calendar Grand Slam by beating Rafa at RG. But I would be lying.

I could say that this wasn't #goodfortennis, that a marathon like this didn't hold appeal for both fans and non-tennisheads; that tennis, ultimately, didn't win today.

But, there too, I would be lying.

(Pics: Getty)


Oz: Slamless #1’s are so 2011…

610x (6)
Azarenka d. Sharapova 63 60

Whatever tangential, slamless universe opened up in the immediate aftermath of Henin’s first retirement (and locked  out quite admirably for a year by Serena) is no more.

1) Four first time GS winners. Based on this, you either believe the WTA is flat-lining, or you welcome in the new faces and perhaps even hope to usher in a new age. I choose the latter.

2) Juju gone. Kim gone by end of year. Difficult (sadly) to know how much more we can expect from Venus. And Serena will face the occasional upset (last 2 slams attest to this). Perhaps the guards have been altered. But if Serena soundly spanks everyone at Wimbledon we'll be forced to change at least one of them right back again.

610x (5)

3) I make no secret of my affection for Vika. She's roguish, she's impudent and sometimes downright garish. And, yes, some of that still needs looking at.

4) She’s also uncompromisingly real – the uncontrived cowboy of the WTA, who gives 110% every time. It’s plainly disingenuous to harp on about the former without once mentioning the latter.

5) Besides, if she was really as bad as all that, she’d have reacted quite abominably to the spate of bad luck she's had over the years.

x610 (3)

6) Heat troubles, injuries, quite atrocious draws (ending mostly with Serena Williams)'s been quite a journey. A lesser spirit would have faded into obsolescence quite timidly.

7) Instead, she works hard at her fitness and game, and wins her first GS playing something at her best (and with uncharacteristic variety) at a venue which, given her susceptibilities, may as well have been the surface of the sun.  

8) A triumph that included a win over Kim. A triumph that bagged her the #1 ranking. Yes, I checked and rechecked....and every box has been ticked.

610x (7)

9) Pova clearly has her troubles, but if anyone claims she's not a genuine GS contender after her second final in just seven months, they're lying.

10) The way she held up against Petra in particular (who was ferociously/religiously teeing off on every second, and even some of her first serves) in that final set was truly inspired – my nominee for women's match of the event.

11) Spare a thought for Woz. On second thoughts don't – she's savvy enough and thick skinned enough to know where she's falling short and that a #4 ranking is about right.

12) For what it's worth I still think Petra is the best player on the planet right now.

(Pics: Getty)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Oz: The Non-Bracketology Post.

It’s happened.

Nole has been drawn against Murray. Fed will play Rafa in the semis of a Slam for the first time since RG 2005.





Nole Murray Delpo Berd
Ferrer Kei Federer Rafa





Woz Vika Maka Errani
Kim Aga Pova Petra





Sympathy Vote

Ideas above their station


Let me guess, the counter-conspiracy theory goes something like this: Oz are merely performing an elaborate tap-dance, so we might lower our guard to all that nasty draw-rigging that regularly goes on at every Slam. There’s even Maths involved.

Whatever. But this is weird – Vika comes into this 1) uninjured and otherwise healthy, 2) having won an event just this weekend 3)  drawn as far from Serena as is geometrically and humanely possible.

Anyone that’s followed Vika’s GS career knows that this is akin to jellyfish  discovering a colony of unicorns on Mars. Knowing her luck it’s probably best to wait and see exactly how it plays out.

610x (2)

Other bits and bobs: 

1) Murray goes through Ryan,Ernie, Gael and Tsonga before even getting a crack at Nole. In as much as there is a short straw, I’d say he drew it.

2)  Tomic/Fer (R1)..…just, AHAHAHAHA. 

3)  Pova/Dulko (R1)….NOT FUNNY….NOT COOL

4)  Maria goes through Dulko, Sveta/Sabine and Serena before even getting a crack at Petra….so short it barely qualifies as a straw. 

5)  The Chak is back! 

6)  Other than a R16 encounter with Milos (which sounds completely groovy), can’t imagine Nole will have much trouble making the semis. 

7)  I’d like Fed/Delpo to be the QF blockbuster some are hoping for….Delpo just doesn’t seem quite there yet. 

8) Not to be unkind, but Rafa’s section is full of has-beens. There’s a small chance the likes of Nalbie nabs a set off him but that’s it. 

9) Would be nice to see Grigor make something of his life…at some point. Especially after interviews like this

10) LRob has just qualified to play JJ in R1. She almost squeezed a set from Maria last year. I’m not predicting an upset, but it should be colourful. More than anything involving JJ usually is.  

11)  Kim/Li R16….When was the last time two current Grand Slam Champions played each other this early???? 

12) Difficult to know what to expect from Woz right now –  I can see her getting through her early rounds, although I can also see Lucie upsetting her…maybe even in straights. Hope she survives – kinda want to see her go through Kim. It will be a big big Mountain Gorilla off her back. 

13)  Marion aside, Petra’s draw is kinda cake-walky (sorry Sam). As is always the case with Petra, this has absolutely no bearing on her chances of winning or losing ANYTHING.


Potential Early Round Mashups:

MURRAY/RYAN (R1), Troicki/Gael (R3),  Dolgo/Tomic (R3), Grigor/Baggy (R3), Rafa/Young (R3)

Lucie/JJ (R3), Kim/Dani (R3), Vika/Watson (R1), Flavia/Peng (R3), Fran/Julia (R3), Bepa/Kanepi (R3), Domi/Serena (R3), Sabine/Sveta (R3), POVA/DULKO (R1), Sam/Nadia (R3), Marion/Zheng (R3), Pavs/Ana (R3), Kiri/Petra (R3)

Maybe it’s just me, but are WTA third rounds usually this stacked?

R4 meet’n not-greets:

(ATP) Nole/Milos, Janko/Ferrer, Murray/Gael, Fed/Dolgo, Rafa/Nalb
(WTA) Woz/JJ, KIM/LI, Vika/Peng, Fran/Aga, Bepa/Serena, Pova/Sveta, Sam/Marion

QF drive-bys:

(ATP): Nole/Ferrer, Murray/Tsonga, Delpo/Fed, Berd/Rafa
(WTA): Woz/Kim, Vika/Fran, Serena/Pova. Marion/Petra

Oh yeah. And that small matter of Petra/Serena facing off in the semis.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Oz: Magnificent.

Djokovic d. Hewitt 61 63 46 63

There’s those who “leave it all out there on court”. There’s those that “don’t know when to stop”. There’s the sensationalist  lunacy that lies beyond that. And then (and only then) there’s Lleyton Hewitt.

Bernard, Donald and Ryan better have been bloody watching.

Even the seagulls got involved.


Goodnight you irrepressible, foolhardy and quite ridiculous Creature of the Night.


It's ok. You can admit to welling up a little. Or more than a little.

I know I did.

(Pics: Getty)


Oz: Define “upset”

Kanepi,Bepa,….Serena Williams?

Makarova d. Williams 62 63

Not the first time Maka's sprung this shit. Oh sorry, "upset". Won’t be the last either.

Don't mean to suggest Serena wasn't laughably below par (she was) and I won't pretend Maka can hang with either her or the likes of Kim; but if there's a vulnerability to be exploited (as there was today), an upset to be sprung, forged or otherwise effected, Maka will be on it.

She seems to have an incredible knack for that sort of thing. Many don't. Just saying.

(Pics: Getty)


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Oz: Ode to Lleyton….a night to rememborize.

Hewitt d. Raonic 46 63 76 63

Let the record reflect Raonic is a good egg. Measured and competent both on and off court. Proof that you need neither overwrought showmanship to make people like you, nor brattish confidence tricks to make things happen.

But his lack of experience showed today (not having ever played on RLA before can’t have helped either).

Not that he doesn’t have time on his side.

But tonight (and it always seems to be a night) belongs to the Rust. 

…and to his fratty, Balboa Troubadours.


Exactly the kind of match Milos needed to win.


But I just don’t know how you don’t root for the (181st ranked) guy that set the benchmark for “(counter)punching above your weight” for over a decade, in what may be his last appearance here.

He’s not everyone’s cup of tea….

The ride’s sometimes been bumpy….

And at times, downright garish….


But his efforts have never commanded anything other than ABSOLUTE RESPECT. (Not as common as you’d think in an era of confidence tricksters, cry-babies and injury timeouts that are just….timeouts)


And I just can’t get past those four hip ops over four years.


He even lobbed Milos on MP. ALL 6’5 OF HIM. Yeah, lobbing gangloids is a thing now. All the cool kids are doing it.

A week ago, he was a forgotten relic on my tagcloud…..


Now he’s in R4 of his home Slam.

Heckuva run O polarising one…..

610x (1)

record scratch (mp3)


Friday, 20 January 2012

Oz: Kind of a big deal, no?

ap-201201141951714790663 kimclijsters_2698029_

Quite simply the biggest R4 match up you’ll likely see at any Slam this year.

No really. When was the last time two reigning Grand Slam Champions met this early at any Slam?

I’ve not been able to find out. Seems to me this is kind of a big deal.



Oz: Don’t Jurrrdge Me.

Sorry people, but as obnoxious as the the whole Henin-like challenge-fakeout thing was (and it was), Bernard continues to interest me.


He’s clearly cemented his murky hobgoblin nature in the minds of most with this latest, incredibly silly stunt (probably fair), but the hobgoblin has GAME. And I just….can’t not take notice of it (same holds true for Dolgo).

Whilst it’s true the incident taints his win (and wasn’t really necessary), it’s also true the match was five sets long.

I’m not suggesting turning a blind eye but, just as with Nouni’s blunder only a couple of days ago (which many have sadly sought to dress up as something more insidious than a blunder), we’re missing a trick if we distil those five sets into just one incident of juvenile delinquency.

The fact is, however flamboyant and adorable Dolgo’s brand of ‘kooky’ might be, he simply doesn’t have the type of patience Bernie (love him or loathe him; loathe mostly) brings in spades, particularly in longer rallies. And I think that bore itself out over five sets.

All the same, I’m glad a match that promised so very much went the full five sets. And if that still leaves you feeling miffed, know that Fed will probably vanquish him (and avenge all you Dolgo fans) in straights. At least I think he will (God help us all from the interplanetary bratGasm if he doesn’t).


Let’s also not forget, Dolgo’s not dead, and lives to… whatever it is he does another day.

(Pics: Getty)


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Oz: Day Three Drive By

1) Let’s be clear about this. I like Kader. And I like Daveed. None of that is likely to change very much.

Isner d. Nalbandian 4-6 6-3 2-6 7-6 10-8

Kader made a dud call by not allowing David to challenge. And David was right to feel hard done by that. An ignominious end to what sounded, otherwise, like a sensational match.

But I’ll never not be suspicious of those that attempt to explain away entire losses on the basis of one incident – it’s the goto-play of the desperate. Kader could have been Alves-like in his ump-misdemeanours, and it still wouldn’t change the fact that tennis was being played both before and after that incident.

Also, we’re questioning Daveed’s charm? On the day Mardy went “Lardy” (again) and Baggy obliterated 4 racquets?? For feeling hard done by a call that even Nouni probably now admits was a shocker??



2) It’s not news to anyone that Rafa should beat Haas in straights, but am I alone in thinking he should have been made to play this one without pummelling more than two shots in succession high into the veteran’s single-handed backhand? Where have we seen that before?

Seems only fair. And a little more inspired.

3) Lleyton/ARod last (last) on RLA??

Seems to me we ought to know better by now than to schedule either one of Lleyton or Baghdatis in a night match.

The matches don’t always promise to be gripping and there’s practically ZERO chances of them finishing before brekkie the following day. We hold these truths to be self-evident, but for some reason they’re especially true of Melbourne.

I’m not convinced ARod has it in him to go the distance quite like he once did (nor, for that matter, does Lleyton), but if it does, expect more common sense and less delinquency than you’ll find in Gael v Bellucci. Also a night match.


4) You may think grunting is a non-issue (it is), you may point to the fact that the players don’t seem to mind (they couldn’t care less) but I do have a lot of time for the viewpoint (Wertheim’s, amongst others) that says it becomes an issue once it begins “alienating its core clientele”……that would be the fans.

But those Neanderthals?? Mimicking Vika in the stands today? Not part of that clientele. Trust me, our sport’s not in crisis because some stoned pot-bellies (that probably only watch tennis for 2 weeks each year) decided to make a day of it.

Consider them alienated.

(Pics: Getty)


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Oz: “He just does…”

Andy Murray d. Ryan Harrison 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2

Will never fail to crack me up how circumspect tennis writing suddenly becomes when trying to explain the mechanics of how Murray actually won a match. #HeJustDoes

Most don’t even try. And you really can’t blame them.

Go ahead and experiment: pick your favourite three outlets and see if you come out of it any more informed or demystified. YOU CANNOT. NOBODY CAN.  PERHAPS NOT EVEN MURRAY (Tignor, to his credit does, at least, try).

Maybe that’s what’s bothering him

(Pics: Getty)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Oz: The Artful Dodger



Q.  Was there any time in the match when his body language showed you something that you focused on?

BERNARD TOMIC:  Um, yeah, in the third set.  He thought  I had a feeling he knew I was going to go away.  I eased off, as well, I think on purpose.  I eased off and seemed I didn't care, and I think that's what drawed him a little bit tonight.  He thought he was going to win that third set, and when the right time came, I broke him. 

You know, after that the third set, you know, he started getting a little bit tight and not hitting his shots.

Q.  So you set him up a little bit?

BERNARD TOMIC:  In that third set, yeah.  I knew if I lifted my game early, he would have lifted as well and he wouldn't have let go.  I pretended a little bit in the first few games in that third set to not be there as mentally, but in a way to still be there.  

Ya know, I’m not quite so sure he’s pulled off the confidence trick he thinks he has. 

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that he tried to pull it off (it happens on tour all the time), and not to say that it didn’t influence things, but Dasco, honey, you did this to yourself, all by yourself.

To be fair to Fer, he did mention he was affected by the heat – his undoing was at least as much a function of that as anything else. But, ultimately, the whole rope-a-dope thing (as a form of mental fakeout ) seems to me to be selling Bernard quite short.  If he’s rope-a-doping anyone (and he is) it’s because of his style of play, not because he’s pretending to be on the ropes.

His pre-match smack talk re Dasco’s BH (“can’t really hurt me”) may have been derided as childish – it also happened to be spot on. And, from what I saw of the highlights, going deep to that wing seemed to work a treat.

Reminder: Dolgo/Bernie (R3)…..if ‘kooks’ are your thing.

(Pic: Getty)


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

You Just Knew.

No, that’s just what you expect to happen only hours after you dare to make a post criticising an almost universally popular player.

The long and the short of it is that this stinks. Stress fractures in the back demand to be taken very seriously indeed (just ask Dinara).

Petko made no less than three Slam QFs last year, one of which, of course, was at Melbourne. It wasn’t just me wanting to see her build upon (or at least to defend) that.

After that loss, incidentally, she gave one of the most thoughtful pressers I think I might have seen from any player, ever – commenting in particular on that infamous Sveta/Franny dog fight that had also finished around the same time. It was as sincere, as well-mannered and insightful as anything you’re likely to see, the very embodiment of “giving to your fans”.

In other words, it was Andrea Petkovic (rather than Petkorazzi) at her very best both on and off-court.

I’ll miss her.


Not even Caro (wrist injury) has been spared in what will come to be known years from now as the ‘Lucky Loser Bonanza’ of Aus 2012. Is our eventual Champion be a qualifier? Stranger things have happened.

You’d think that if Caro’s not safe, no one is – and yet Vika, of all people, somehow still is.

Caro’s almost certain to lose the top spot now – Petra will be crowned new WTA Prom Queen by simply winning her next two matches. And even if it doesn’t happen now, you imagine it soon will.

In other words (and I know this might be painful for some) , on the grounds of taste alone, it’s time to move on from that “Slamless” thing.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Let it go, Petko - the fans will (still) come.

ANDREA PETKOVIC, the entertainer of women's tennis, has been forced to abandon her trademark victory dance after complaints from players and American media, her father said.

Petkovic's father, Zoran, said after the match that players had complained about the dance, saying it was over the top.

Petkovic herself said she decided to change the routine ahead of the Brisbane International last week in response to continued questioning from journalists in the US.


''[People] didn't tell me to my face and I don't read about myself so I wouldn't know [if there was criticism], but the questions they started saying, 'Don't you feel like it's disrespectful towards your opponent?' … and this question came up over and over again,'' she said.

''The thing I used to say was always, 'Listen, the soccer players when they shoot a goal and they celebrate with all kinds of things and they don't even win the match, and nobody would ever say something against them. Or the American football guys, when they do a touchdown they do a cha-cha-cha and nobody ever says anything against them.''

Petkovic said the conservatism of tennis made the dance a problem for some commentators. ''It's just our very traditional sport and I think this was kind of strange for people,'' she said.

-- Sydney Morning Herald


Voluntary disclosure: I’m beginning to feel about Petko  the way some feel about Kim Kardashian.

Where others see charm, harmless fun and even wit(??), I only hear scratchy blackboard noises.

It wasn’t always like this, but it doesn’t take long for gimmicks (coz that’s what they are) to wear out and to be taken the wrong way (just ask Novak).

The comparison with team sports doesn’t wash. Very different dynamic and fan DNA. Little, if anything, to do with ‘conservatism’.

But for me, it’s less a question of the dance being ‘disrespectful’ to anyone (it really isn’t meant that way) than a feeling of flat-out tackiness I can’t seem to dismiss(particularly with ‘Petkorazzi’) . You should certainly be able to see why it might not be to everyone’s taste, especially when you do it after dumping out an injured opponent love-and-Oh.

Andrea Petkovic Brisbane International 2011 tZzRO4weMgHl

As it happens, I don’t know that I much understand complaints from the US press either, which seem equally OTT. You’re not compelled to like EVERYTHING you write about, nor to write about anything you so strongly dislike. And, frankly, it’s difficult to take such complaints about Petko giving “offence” seriously in the same week a mainstream US outlet saw fit to label Monfils an “idiot”.

But I’d say we’ve reached a tipping point when more and more players start coming out against the dance (would be interesting to know exactly who came out). Players, your peers – not blogger riff-raff like myself, or anyone that might be dismissed so easily as a “hater”.

It’s naive (and a little conceited) to think that everyone will, or should, like it, as many of her supporters seem to insist upon.  Maria certainly didn’t.  Maria ain’t riff-raff either. And its only sensible for someone as savvy as Petko to take note.

She said she was surprised by the negative reaction in the US in particular. ''It's strange - on the one hand the Americans really like me and they come to my matches, but they're like really bipolar,'' she said. ''They either love me or they hate me.''

I hope I know her better than to think the worst, but a tennis newbie might be excused for reading this quote as just a little self-absorbed: believe it or not, there’s a silent majority that don’t feature in Petko’s “love-me-hate-me” dichotomy of the US – one that simply couldn’t care less. One can only wonder why those WTA-fan-cliques that kick up such a fuss over Woz making it “all about her” overlook stuff like this.

She seems, in all other respects, an intelligent and likeable person – genuinely affable, her net embraces are second to none (particularly after a loss). I certainly don’t believe in ragging on her for merely trying to bring something a little different to the sport.

But she also seems talented enough and savvy enough to be able to work her charms without resorting to gimmickry, and to know when such gimmickry has run its course. In other words, you’re better than this.

There’s a difference between waging the occasional “charm offensive”, working it effortlessly (and unexpectedly) into the public eye, the way, say, Sveta did this week, and try-hard stunts that (rightly or wrongly) betray a certain craving for popularity.

I want to think well of you (and let’s face it, other than this, there’s a LOT to like), so let it go. Let it go, and believe me, the fans will come (and stay).

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

D̶o̶n̶'̶t̶ ̶E̶v̶e̶r̶ change: 2012…Why you so 2011?

What might we rightly infer based on all of the 4 days we’ve had of 2012?

1) Ana’s still struggling. [Please don’t change your coach] 

2) Bartoli’s still not shy of almost double bagelling those that are still struggling (no sadz Jarmila, it’s a Marion thing – she did the exactly the same to Safina this time last year). Still, nice reaction.

3) Kim’s still taking three to do what should rightly be done in two.

Rust, yes? She’s played next to nothing since early last year. Except I’m not completely convinced she wouldn’t have found a way of playing three sets anyway.


4) Gael Monfils is still inventing new ways of incorporating muscle (he didn't even know he had) into set-motions it had NO BUSINESS being part of.

5) Sam Stosur is still losing matches she has NO BUSINESS losing. [Can’t see her or Li repeating last year. Happy to be proved wrong]

6) Serena Williams is still getting headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Well that didn’t take long, did it?

For the record, I dislike it intensely when people give her a free pass for indefensible conduct and, even worse, try and depict even the mildest criticism of that indefensible conduct as a uniquely conspiratorial witch hunt.

I’ll continue to dislike it in 2012, because, being honest, I don’t expect it to go away.

I also don’t expect to see the back of its flipside: that (very mainstream) injury cynicism some are ideologically hell-bent on (we’re calling it “karma” now?) – cynicism that persists even in the face of video evidence (2:27), and even when a subsequent MRI scan confirms the injury:

The ‘Free-Passers’ inspire revulsion, which in turn bolsters the repellent views of the Injury Cynics and vice versa.  It’s very obvious the two polarised trends are designed to feed off one another in a deadly embrace from which there can be no escape – my guess is they don’t want to escape.

Sometimes bad conduct is simply bad conduct, which Serena, like many, many before (and I daresay after) her, is neither immune to nor irreproachable for.  Sometimes, dearest trolls, it’s not a conspiracy.

And sometimes, dearest hobgoblins, an injury is just an injury – nothing more, nothing less. Not an occasion to use as a cathartic vehicle to air distaste, vendettas, your very personal dislike (or another word some venture that you’d hope shouldn’t be part of this discussion) of Serena, the way some air their soiled undies.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that this, too, hasn’t changed in 2012. Trolls are still trolls whatever the Gregorian Calendar might have to say about it.

Only Rafa’s unveiling of his new top-heavy frame, and of course Murray’s announcement of  what he hopes will be a game-changing (and perhaps shape-shifting) partnership with Ivan Lendl (Murr-dl?) buck this trend of same-iness, but of course neither count as both were announced in 2011.

Either the tennis season’s pulling one hell of a fast one and intends to unleash a seismic gamechanger later this year (which, being honest, would have to be at least as seismic as Novak or even Petra’s year to count), or the season really will prove to be that trite and that unconvincing…



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