Ditch, an almost 20-year-old division 2 player, was finding himself losing matches not solely because the score said so, but because he departed the court too many times during the points. He might have physically been on the court for 2-3 hours, but mentally he showed up for less than an hour.
“I have three weeks off,” he moaned on the phone during the Christmas break.
“What are you doing today?”
“A doctor’s appointment and meeting some friends.”
“Wanna do your homework now for the tennis season?”
“I’m not playing this week.”
“Play off the court. Practice your focus; practice not being perfectly invested 100% of the time, but watch how you come back from being disengaged,” I suggested and asked, “What are you doing at the doctor?”
“Just a bunch of us getting together.”
“Easy. Take the flu shot with full engagement. Look at the needle.”
“I hate shots; I always look away.”
I heard my voice get louder, “Change your game plan.”
“I’ll watch the needle,” Ditch repeated, “and call you later.”
He wrote rather than spoke:
“I shook my arm, watched her prepare the needle with yellow fluid, watched it pierce my skin, watched the cylinder depress, and watched it being removed. My mind was surprisingly clear, and my arm was surprisingly relaxed. I thought beforehand that my arm would tense up, like it does in a match, and that it would hurt (as I usually expect a missed shot to feel). However, during the whole process, I had none of those thoughts. ‘In the zone’ came to mind.
And afterward, at the gathering of friends, I was engaged in the discussions among everybody.... but only for short periods of time. I was aware that every time (and frequently) I would ‘drift’ off into my own tangent fantasies about tennis or girls, or even a rare and random thought prompted by a line in the conversation. I do this on the court, but I usually focus on what I’m doing wrong rather than what I want next. But being aware of it helped my bounce back more quickly and I joined in... It didn't affect the amount of times I left (quite a large number), but it did affect the time it took to come back. Each return to the next part of the conversation took less time. Maybe it will take less time for me to get into the next point?”
And maybe Ditch’s workouts will be happening no matter where he is – on or off the court – at the doctor’s or on a date.
P.S.: Ditch got his name a few years ago from his first girlfriend. Though she didn’t stick around, (“For obvious reasons,” she said.) the name did.no comments
I've made no secret over the years about my admiration for American Taylor Dent. As a kid I was a big Boris Becker fan - serve and volley at all costs and with a booming serve to back it all up, how could one not be drawn to such a game? Fast forward twenty or so years and very few players still employ a serve and volley strategy on the ATP Tour.
Taylor Dent is one of the remaining throw-back players who lives and dies with his ability to control and capture the net. An all-round nice guy on and off the court, Dent is a genuine guy who has always been candid with the media. The fact that he can effectively use his 6'2'', 195lbs frame to volley as often as he does is quite the feat.
Reaching a career-high of 21st in the world in August of 2005, Dent has had some decent results in the past. He has won four career ATP Titles and made another three finals. Twice he has made it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam, and last year he made it to the third round of the U.S. Open which gave him the confidence to pursue his comeback even further. After losing to Andy Murray there he said, "It's nothing but positive for me. This is a huge step forward in my progression."
I had the good-fortune to talk one-on-one with Dent during the summer of 2008 as he was just beginning his comeback to the ATP Tour. Sidelined for two years with a serious back injury, Dent did not even think that returning to the professional tour was an option.He spoke to me about a visit with his doctor who surprisingly one day gave him the thumbs up to return to the court.
"All of a sudden the doctor goes, "you know, it looks really good, you should just go give it a shot." I was like, whoa - out of nowhere. It was kind of fortunate that it worked out that way because I didn't have to worry about coming back. And then all of a sudden it was just like, "you know, you can go play some ball, play some tennis."It has not been an easy few years for Dent as he tries to get back into form, but he has had a small breakthrough this week in Atlanta by making his first quarterfinal appearance in a main-draw event since 2005. After defeating Horacio Zeballos, the fourth seed in Atlanta, Dent admitted he still has many more goals to achieve.
“It’s been a long process and the process isn’t over. My goals are further down the road than the quarter-finals. It all revolves around improving my game. I’ve improved my baseline tennis and attacking tennis and it’s no surprise that results will follow. Hopefully quarter-finals will be a regular thing and then maybe some semis and finals will follow.”
Whether Dent can get back into the top fifty in the world remains to be seen, but he certainly has the right attitude and approach. If Dent can qualify for the Rogers Cup in Toronto in August you can be sure that Tennis Diary will be meeting with him to catch-up and explore his comeback further.no comments
Davis Cup took place this week but that somehow never feels like real tennis. Rah rah rah and sis boom ba, but I happen to be one of those capitalist churls who appreciates tennis more when the selfish motives are at stake. Like in the Grand Slams. I like it when the boys and girls play for themselves. Tennis is the most individual of sports, except when we all gang up and form teams and play Davis Cup/Fed Cup.
So I find it funny that I ended up this week watching (and enjoying) the World Cup, where teamwork is essential and a man is nothing if not part of the team effort. Mind you, the average American's love affair with soccer only lasts roughly a month every four years. But it's been an entertaining affair.
Spain must feel like it died and went to heaven over the weekend. They won the World Cup in soccer, beating a Holland team I favored personally, but they didn't deserve to win. Too many penalties and they played too much of a holding pattern for my tastes. I certainly wanted to see them play the way they played to get into the final.
You have to like soccer, if for nothing else than the way they really stick it to American advertisers. Two 45-minute halves played without any commercial interruptions. Hooray! Maybe that's why in part the game still struggles for a foothold in this country. The advertisers don't get enough shots at filling our heads with dreck. Masses are playing it now, but not so many watch it. It still provokes yawns from me though, even in the World Cup. We're just too hooked on our massive attack-style of pro football, where there's lots and lots of scoring usually. We like big tallies.
Wouldn't it have been better if Spain could have squeezed out another goal just to keep that lone one company?
Rafael Nadal was in attendance along with other notables. He won Wimbledon, while another Spaniard - Alberto Contador - is the favorite to win the Tour de France under way also this week. So Spain is really on a roll. The place must be humming after this weekend. Can we be charitable then and overlook the fact they lost 5 zip to France in Davis Cup?
The Spanish economy may still tank, but they'll always have London. And Johannesburg. And probably, soon, Paris.
Speaking of Paris, the last couple of days have not been good to Lance Armstrong. He is the main reason Americans are following the Tour this year, such as Americans follow the Tour. He had a horrible day over the weekend, getting caught up in three separate crashes. A very unlucky run that pretty much screws his chances for any podium finish. The uncharitable might say that this is karmic revenge on Armstrong for the doping charges Floyd Landis has levelled at him and a few other riders.
Can an immoral man like Landis spin a moral tale? I say he can, and he has. Whether anything else falls out of the woodwork remains to be seen. The powers that be in cycling are out there digging into it at this very moment.
I especially liked the little Landis gem about the team stopping by the road on a remote mountain to load up on fresh blood.
One supposes this gives a whole new meaning to the term, "pit stop."
Pedal onward!no comments
I’ve been looking at the subject of trending topics and journalism lately. The conversation goes like this: Traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines are drowning in the world of the online mediasphere. Blogs and websites dedicated to such subjects as sports and celebrities with little or no subscription costs short of a video ad or text ads running down the side of the page are taking over the news world.
In order to catch up and make a profit instead of continuing to lose money, media outlets are replacing editors with search engines. Instead of a group of gray suited editors meeting in the newsroom each morning and handing out writing assignments – and essentially dictating the subject of discussion for its readers which used to be much of the population – new media sites are looking at hot search topics on Twitter, Google, and Yahoo and assigning articles based on those results.
No matter what you might think of this turn of events, and I certainly find it distressing that TMZ.com was valued at $100 millions dollars earlier this year while the LA Times is slowly fading away, let’s see what this might look like in the world of tennis media.
I went to monitter.com and entered the search term “tennis” and found the following trending topics on twitter: Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, and the ATP grass court event in Newport. Serena is trending because she’s on the front of Sports Illustrated this week, Rafa because he’s taking over Roger Federer’s place as the best player in the game, and Newport because Nicolas Mahut is playing and that, my friends, comes from the biggest tennis topic of the year so far – as decided by google’s trend tracker - that never ending match between Mahut and John Isner in the first round of Wimbledon.
Next I went over to Google’s Hot Searches and looked at their list of most searched items. As you could probably guess, no tennis item was high on the list. So I decided to pair one of the trending tennis topics with one of Google’s Hot Searches to push my blog post closer to the top of Google’s search page – that’s the goal right?
I started with Hot Search topic Caster Semenya. After winning the African Junior Championships in both the 800 meter and 1500 meter races last year, Semenya was barred from competing while her gender was verified. Competitors claimed that she is built like a man and so competing against her is unfair. She’s a trending topic today because the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) announced that Semenya has been cleared to return to competition as a woman.
Which brings me back to Serena. Did anyone ever complain that it’s unfair to compete against Serena because she’s just too strong? She definitely got a bosom and a big butt, but if her game was jello wrestling rather than tennis – which requires at least a bit of finesse, would she be facing a gender test before being allowed to compete in the next event? Or, as @dollfacebarbie put it, “Why do Serena Williams look so Hard?”
And then there’s LeBron James and his pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. These athletes are the most valuable free agents in the NBA this summer and they are dictating the lives of many other NBA players at the moment. Salivating teams are dumping and trading players left and right to free up enough money to sign one, two, or maybe all three of these bigtime free agents.
What’s interesting about this process is the circus surrounding it. Particularly the cameras following Wade and Bosh who are being filmed as part of a documentary. Teams ask the players to turn the cameras off during their sales pitches to Wade and Bosh but you have to think that some of them feel more like fodder for a new Borat movie than a serious contender for either player’s services.
Which leads me to wonder, what about tennis documentaries or reality shows? We had a Serena and Venus reality show and that was nice, but what about a reality show that follows a player on tour, or a reality show that works the coaching merry go-round on the ATP and WTA tour by choosing a player’s next coach?
Marcos Baghdatis fired both his coach and his trainer this past week. Baggy’s a great subject for a reality show because he’s good looking and he’s an emotional and charismatic player. He also has a history of playing well on big stages and the American audience knows him from a captivating five set thriller with Andre Agassi during Agassi’s last U.S. Open.
John McEnroe could be Donald Trump and fire prospective coaches until there’s only one left. Tennis magazines could follow the burgeoning relationship between Baggy and his newly chosen coach. For sure the topic should trend high when they break up – honest, the top two stories on Yahoo today involve the breakup of Jake and Vienna, the resulting couple of ABC’s reality show The Bachelor.
Look, reality shows make their own news. That’s the point. The point is to generate a looping news cycle by creating a product that involves the audience and thus creates a trending topic. Media sites then assign stories on the trending topic and celebrity magazines join in and you’re golden.
Whaddya think? Short of bringing back Anna Kournikova, how can we make tennis trend?
Did Wimbly deliver for you all? I like to think it did; I hope it did. But I am uncertain, and feeling a bit like the little kid sitting atop the heap of Christmas toys in the New Yorker cartoon, who turns to his parents forlornly and says, "Is this all?"
Somehow I wanted more. Am I teed off because my man Roger Federer lost again, I wondered. No, I decided, I'm getting used to his losses now, and Berdych is a real contender, no shame there in Federer losing to him.
If you think Roger is crying, how must Andy Roddick be feeling? Has someone checked in with him just to see he hasn't slashed his wrists or done anything foolish? He went out to a qualifier for heaven's sake.
Sam Stosur lost in the first round; I had good hopes of her going deep here, but she spent herself perhaps unwisely coming into Wimbly.
Venus Williams repeated a pattern she has shown us more than a little of lately - she plays solid for a few rounds, then she has just an awful day and away she goes. Rather mystifying.
Andy Murray came up short yet again, so he gets a new nickname: Shorty. In fact, both semi-finals were disappointing. Novak Djokovic couldn't derail Tomas Berdych and his game now seems to be resting in a state of somewhat suspended animation; he doesn't ever play that poorly that he starts to slump in the rankings, but he doesn't seem ready to leap up another level either. So the Lads In Waiting are, still, keeping us waiting. I thought the crowd atmosphere at the Murray semi-final was muted nearly from the beginning, as if the Brits were already resigned to their man not getting through. And somehow by the end of the match with Nadal they were ok with things. The writing on the wall was that clear.
No waiting around with Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal however. They performed above and beyond the call of duty. When the chips are down and your life depends on the outcome of a match, I would want to bet on either one of these two to save the day. Desire and determination are so etched into their characters when they walk on court that the opponents may as well not bother, just keep heading over to the strawberries and cream concession stand.
I saw no chance at all for Vera Zvonareva to do anything else but lose to Serena in straight sets. I just hoped that the Russian would be very happy to get to her first Slam final and at least she didn't get bageled. She appeared to leave the court in a decent disposition, and that's a good thing. I can remember her leaving the court about a year or so ago after blowing a horrendous chance against Flavia Pennetta in a night match; Vera physically started to beat on her own body before she had even left the court.
Berdy I had a little more hope for. Someone mentioned Safin upsetting Sampras at the Open ten years ago, and I liked that analogy; Berdych has the game to do that, but not on this Sunday. Still, I was hoping he might have taken a page from Pete's playbook and just try to stay close to Nadal and aim for the tiebreaks, then, once there, he could amp up the serving like Pete used to do and sneak off with the set. Didn't quite work out that way - the big Czech gave up a single break in each of the three sets, so he never got to those chances in the tiebreak. Still, his nerves mostly looked under control, and he got to show off a lot of his stuff. Maybe next time we will get more out of him. I like Berdych a lot; I have been waiting around for like forever on this guy. Such a smooth, powerful talent! I want more stuff out of him now!
Many folks seemed to respond to the Isner-Mahut match-up. For my money though I would rather pick my way over burning coals on hands and knees than sit through ALL of this match. The shotmaking goes away and it becomes all about the serve and who can stand up straighter for longer and fire bullets endlessly. That's not tennis, that is torture. So sue me. At least Isner got some good press play from that endless endless match. OK, John, now we expect stuff out of you too going forward!
Can Roger Federer win another Slam? I was thinking he had several more left after he won the Australian this year, but since then he has shown us much cause for concern. I wonder if he will keep talking up how much he loves the game and how he wants to play until his mid-late 30s. We may not hear so much of that now. Reality may be sinking in, slowly, reality being the level of the men's game now, and how hard it is for the top guys to stay on top. I thought Federer looked so poorly early on that I wondered if he had practiced enough; he looked pretty rusty against Falla.
Federer may turn out to be more of a Leo that he realizes: Leos like to be kings of the world; they EXPECT it. When things don't work out, they have a marked propensity to pack up the marbles and go home. Look at the handshake Fed gave Berdy after the match. He hated losing that match.
"Oh, Come on!” I replied. “I bet twice a year, at most, once on the Grand National (horse racing), and maybe once on the tennis," I said, in self-defense.
"Look, fourteen-to-one. Fourteen-to-one on any other player apart from Federer, Nadal and Murray." I said with a little persuasion, "That’s gotta be worth a bet. My gut tells me so." I continued attempting to back up my decision with some intuition. Something I felt that my girlfriend would understand.
"The likes of Berdych or Soderling, or maybe even Andy Roddick are gonna upset the seedings this year, I can feel it." I carried on, "Seeing Berdych destroy Murray in the third round of the French (Open), and then reaching the semis, I just fancy his chances."
"Anyway," I continued, backing my case further like an unconvincing lawyer, "you bet on the stock market, so what’s the difference with me betting on the tennis?" I said, realising the weakness of my argument as soon as I clocked what I was implying,"Well that’s hardly the same thing."
She replied, "I get dividends and I can pull out whenever I like. And there's always options, which means I can gain even when the market is falling," she said, with conviction.
"Well I'm going to have a bet anyway," I said, with a stubborn tone, realising that any counter argument was futile.
"Well it’s your money," she said with a slightly smug tone. And our mini-episode was over. I felt thoroughly defeated, in straight sets.
Unfortunately when it came to placing my bet, I felt another defeat. After three credit card rejections on-line and some rather bad language I decided I was getting a sign that it wasn't meant to be, and maybe (dread of dreads) that my girlfriend was right. Gut instinct was just an excuse for my little whim where I was going to waste 100 Euros.
But then I thought, right I'll back it with a hundred on Nadal as well, for ‘security.' His odds were 3-to-1, so I’d be in for a healthy payback as long as Federer or Murray, (whom my gut wasn’t responding to), didn’t win. Alas on the fourth try, my card still didn't work, so I reluctantly accepted defeat once more.
So here I sit, two weeks later, on the eve of the Wimbledon 2010 tennis final, facing my third (or is it fourth) successive defeat as Rafael Nadal is to face Thomas Berdych in the Final on Sunday. Life can be so cruel, as Murray can testify after yesterday’s semi-final:
Our great British hope, Andy Murray, faced Rafael Nadal in his second consecutive Wimbledon semi-final. Unfortunately for Murray he has found Nadal in the form of his life, with the Midas touch to boot.
In the first two sets Nadal displayed a standard of tennis that Murray could do nothing about. Nadal took the first set 6-4, though performances from both players were world-class throughout. Murray continued to elevate his standard and his second set performance was of an even higher standard than his first. He outstripped Nadal in virtually every statistical department; more winners, less unforced errors, a higher first serve percentage, more aces and so on. Neither player was able to break serve. At six games all, the unpredictable tie break ensued. Alas, for Murray luck seemed to favour the world number one as a net cord at 6-6 gave Nadal set point. Nadal apologised with a customary hand gesture, and duly went on to smash him on the next point, thanks for the apology! Murray couldn't hide his disappointment and hurled his racquet into the dirt with the force he delivers his blistering 130mph plus first serve. Fortunately the racket landed harmlessly on the baseline about 10 feet away and no-one was hurt, only his pride.
All credit to him, Murray again came out fighting and took an early break in the third set to take a 2-0 advantage and raced to a 4-2 lead. There it seemed he completely ran out of ideas and possibly energy, no doubt daunted by the task that was ahead of him. Errors started to creep back in as the fatigue was clear for all to see. Nadal broke back and didn't drop another game to take the set 6-4. Nadal won 6-4 7-6(6).
It will be of little consolation for Andy that he did in fact win more points than Nadal in the whole match. However, as well as Murray played, he didn’t provide the viewer with the belief that he could really beat Nadal at the key moments, when it matters most. With 72 years without a Wimbledon finalist, let alone a champion, it seems that British tennis is still as far away as ever.
In the other Semi-Final the Czech Thomas Berdych convincingly beat the Serbian Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-3 7-6(9) 6-3. After out-powering Djokovic in the first set, Berdych had a minor wobble in the second set tie-break where he failed to take any of his four consecutive set points, but was strong enough to put it behind him and close the set 11-9.
Djokovic looked empty and thoroughly beaten at the beginning of the third set, as he continued to struggle with the unrelenting pace of the 6ft 5inch Czech. Berdych took the final set from a despondent Djokovic 6-3.
Berdych puts his most recent successes down to his victory over Federer earlier this year in the Miami masters series, when he came back from match point down to take the match. He said it was a turning point for him and it certainly seems his results since have backed that notion. His game has, for some time, shown that it has all the technical and tactical components of a top-5 player. He certainly hits the ball harder and more precisely than just about anyone on tour, even harder than the brutal Robin Soderling.
It seems Berdych’s belief and persistence have been the only thing lacking, but surely no longer. With the tools in his game and his results that have followed, Berdych must feel that ‘the sky’s the limit.' In his post match interview Berdych said he "fears no-one." Well he hasn’t faced Nadal in a Grand-Slam final yet, so let’s see!
What has become clearer, at least to me, is that persistence and belief really are key. And that gut instinct often has a value much stronger than most of us may realise. I, for one, will be making sure that the next time my gut talks to me, I listen more intently. As for the final on Sunday I’m rooting for a moral victory. Come on Berdych!
I dropped into my local Japanese restaurant for lunch today and ordered my favorite dish – a salmon salad. Just because I go to a Japanese restaurant doesn’t mean I eat Japanese food. Anyway, the woman who works lunch grew up on Long Island and used to go to the U.S. Open with her father. Even so, when I ran into the restaurant last Thursday and implored her to turn on the television so I could watch the mind boggling marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Wimbledon, she didn’t believe me.
She could see my desperation to watch the match but the score hadn’t made any sense to her. I told her the score was 39-39 in the fifth set but it hadn’t registered. World Cup soccer had taken over the tennis broadcast so the score still wasn’t real to her and it didn’t sink in till she went home and saw the rest of the match.
Kind of. It was the never ending first round match that died at 59-59 in that evening’s darkness only to end with a 70-68 Isner victory the next day.
By the way, I know Isner and Mahut were eating something or other but don’t they have labor laws that cover lunch breaks and dinner breaks in that situation? And I can guarantee you, I’d have needed a Stadium Gal setup for bladder relief and a rubber donut after sitting for more than six hours if I’d been the chair umpire
It’s virtually impossible to overhype a 163 game match with 215 aces that went longer than 11 hours, but that didn’t stop a bit of overanalyzing in the aftermath. John F. Murray, sports psychologist and author of Smart Tennis: How to Play and Win the Mental Game, was concerned about Mahut’s mental health after ending up with a loss after such a heroic effort:
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest this loss could manifest itself in him calling an end to his career.
I would say it’s an exaggeration. Mahut went through a cathartic crying jag at the end of the match then picked himself up and played his scheduled doubles match the same day. I’m much more worried about Andy Roddick’s Wimbledon hangover. After losing last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer by the measly low score of 16-14 in the fifth set, Roddick went out to 82nd ranked Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round this year. And that’s really tough because Roddick won’t have that many more chances to fulfill his dream of a Wimbledon title.
And speaking of 82nd ranked players, Venus Williams lost to 82nd ranked Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals today by the eye popping score of 6-2, 6-3. Pironkova is making sure we don’t entirely forget the quirky game of Fabrice Santoro with that funky forehand slice of hers. She moved Venus around and changed speeds enough to put Venus off her game and that’s not a fluke, Pironkova also took Venus out in the first round at the 2006 Australian Open.
The person I’m most worried about at the moment is Jennifer Capriati. It’s not just the prescription drug overdose that landed her in the hospital on Monday morning but the friends she keeps. The media called it an “accidental” overdose in what is probably an attempt by her family to ease the perception of the situation, but Justin Gimelstob wasn’t going along with the spin.
Gimelstob went on The Early Show on CBS today and described Capriati as being in “in tremendous pain physically and mentally. She struggled with depression, and it's a tough story.” Some of this is common knowledge but Gimelstob is a friend of Capriati’s while, at the same time, a member of the media, so how much should he be saying while Capriati is in the hospital?
Celebrity websites outhustle more traditional news organizations these days and the line between members of the media and their subjects has shrunk. People with video cameras line up outside clubs and restaurants and sell their footage of sports and entertainment figures to TMZ.com. But friends should clear personal comments with their subjects before going public.
There’s another friend too. A former boyfriend of Capriati’s has used her woes to advertise his own career. Dale DaBone – who must have been named by one of his employers – is a retired porn star who told TMZ that his decision to return to porn had left Capriati “hysterical.” Capriati’s story just gets sadder and sadder.
I often find pro tennis players conservative in their reluctance to talk about other players but in this case I appreciate it.no comments
ZACH'S TENNIS DIARY
Roger was late for his lesson this morning. He was up late with a "tired wife and two crying babies. " He also looked ragged.
"Did you see that Isner match?" he asked.
Roger sighed, "That's what I need: the desire to go past the exhaustion."
"Now I know what we're working on today," I baited.
"My backhand sucks," he focused us.
"It's tired and doesn't want to play."
We rallied for a while as he showed me his backhand. He especially pointed out and whined about the weak and "unparticipating" ones. I thought: What's important? He stayed up most of the night with attention on his children's vocal expressions.
"Last night, were the babies crying over nothing?"
He laughed and spoke between shots, "Who knows. They may have just wanted to sleep."
"So they cried real loud?"
"They didn't whine?"
"No whining from my kids; when they want, they scream."
I nodded a knowing nod. "You want something."
"And your point?" he snarked.
"Cry for your backhand," I suggested. "Scream for what you want. Don't whine. Your lesson was last night - this is just hitting tennis balls with what you learned."
"You mean hit like a one-year-old?"
"No. Hit like the voice that got your attention most of the night."
He went back to the baseline awaiting the feed. He wound up his backswing, let out a yell and whacked the ball 70mph sizzling past me landing two feet inside the baseline.
"Now that's a scream a poppa can be proud of."
You see a record broken on TV and your attention gets piqued. Instead of getting caught up in the outer number or "otherness" of the event, bring it home. Become the player who has the willingness to keep playing, even if it's not perfect, vulnerable or shows your opponent some hidden weaknesses. You get to see them too.Then go out and expand your screaming shots.no comments
There was the epic Isner/Mahut marathon match where breakfast at Wimbledon turned into lunch, dinner and leftovers for the next day. We recently witnessed the self-destruction of Victor Hanescu who blew a two-sets to none lead, spat at some taunting fans and then tanked some points and retired with a so-called injury. In doubles, the shocking loss of top-ranked doubles tandem Nestor and Zimonjic to the British pair of Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot got our attention. Then who could forget the near-exit of Roger Federer in the first round and then Rafael Nadal in rounds two and three. To cap it all off there was the first visit from the Queen herself since before Roger and Rafa were even born! Clearly there was no shortage of memorable moments over the first seven days.
On the men's side expect Federer to self-correct after nearly bowing out to Ale-Alejandro (Falla) in the opening round. Roger dismantled Arnaud Clement with ease in the third round and now faces Jurgen Melzer who has never experienced much success on grass. While Melzer experienced an unlikely semi-final appearance at Roland Garros last month, he is out of his league at Wimbledon against Roger. This is the first meeting between the two which could factor into a four set win forFederer.
Tomas Berdych also reached the semi-finals at the French Open and should be able to at least get through his next opponent, 6'5'' Daniel Brands from Germany. Ranked98th in the world, Brands has had an interesting time at the All-England Club thus far with a big win over Nikolay Davydenko in the second round and then the strange five-set victory against Hanescu. Still, he is unlikely to continue his streak against the seasoned Berdych.
The most anticipated fourth-round match is between veteran Lleyton Hewitt (who won here in 2002) and the up-and-down Novak Djokovic. While Hewitt recently defeated Federer in Halle and has played well this year, he is 1-3 against Djokovic in his career, with two losses on grass. I suppose the odds of this one going five-sets are likely given Hewitt's fitness and desire to win - which does not bode well forDjokovic.
American Andy Roddick has performed admirably thus far and should destroy his next opponent in Yen-Hsun Lu. A Roddick/Hewitt or Roddick/Djokovic quarter-final match is one I'm already eager to watch.
It's France vs France between Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The pair are tied at three victories apiece in their career head-to-head and expect the older Benneteau to challenge Tsonga, who is not exactly at ease on grass.
A very interesting tilt between Andy Murray and Sam Querrey is anyone's guess. While Murray has breezed through the draw and performed well in front of the Queen the other day, he is sure to be tested by the big-serving and confident American.Querrey has won titles on all three surfaces this year and is due to have a Grand Slam breakthrough in 2010. While Murray owns a 3-0 career record againstQuerrey, this is their first meeting in two years - a time period that has seen Querrey improve by leaps and bounds.
Sweden's Robin Soderling is truly coming into his own on the ATP Tour and showed last month that his 2009 French Open finals appearance was no fluke. A truly deserving top-ten player for the first time in his career,Soderling has not yet dropped a set in the tourney and should take care of clay court guru David Ferrer with no issues.
Finally look for Rafa to dispose of P-H Mathieu in less than five sets, but don't expect the Spaniard to make a deep run given his current physical state. After two come-from-behind victories and injury issues to his arm and knee,Nadal may only have one more Wimbledon victory in him this year. He will be put to the test by Soderling in the quarters and if he ever were to make it past that would be seriously challenged in his current state by any of the other big-names.
I'm getting the vibe for a Federer/Roddick semi in the top-half and a Murray-Soderling in the bottom. I'd love to hear your thoughts before or after round four gets underway.
So Nadal Djokovic Murray Roddick and Cilic all walk into a pub in London.....and....never walk out. Could this be a joke? It might seem that way. These manly men were all the top seeds at the Aegon Championships last week (Aegon as in "egg on" your face, which is not too far off the mark either). They all lost and they lost pretty early, in what must rank as one of the worst wipe-outs of men's seeds since.....well, I don't know when. Sam Querrey was asked about it after his semi-final comeback in three sets over Rainer Schuettler. He couldn't remember when such a bloodletting had occurred either.
Sam certainly couldn't object to the results though - we were left with Querry Schuettler Lopez and Fish in the semi-finals. Another good joke, no? Actually, maybe not so improbable after all. Fish and Querrey can serve big on occasion and their games are suited for a quick surface like grass. Mardy had a good run at the French, so he was coming out of that momentum. But Querrey had an awful time in Paris, so it was more important that he arighted his ship before sailing into Wimbledon. And right the ship he did, losing a tight first-set in his semi with Schuettler, but coming back strong to win it in three. Sam left Paris in an absolute funk, grousing about tennis life in general and leaving his fans wondering if his heart was fully into playing.
The American lads put on a pretty good show in the final. The match looked very close right up until the closing games of the second set. Fish inexplicably lost two serving games in a row and played a couple of really lousy shots. Boom done, the match was over in straight sets. I was OK with that: Fish looks in good form but it was Querrey who needed to impress, and impress he did. I was so worried about Sam after he left Paris I wondered if we shouldn't have put him on a suicide watch or something. He was way down in the dumps. British soil gave him a huge transfusion of new confidence.
The score here was Querrey, 7-6(3), 7-5.
As the weekend wore on, more big-name seeds bit the dust. Er, the grass I guess. Over on the continent, Roger Federer was doing his thing with the usual style and panache he shows on grass. Why don't they just call in the Roger Federer Open instead of the Gerry Weber? Roger has owned the show for a while now, and recently signed a life-time deal to show his shining face at the event each year for the rest of his tennis life. Gee, what a horrible fate, no?
Then the weirdest thing happened: Federer lost to Lleyton Hewitt in Sunday's final. I had to close my eyes and read the scoreline again: 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4. No lie. Now I am worried, even though Hewitt is a fine competitor and a first-rate player on grass. I know Federer plans to play on well into his thirties, but a loss like this gives pause. Is he prepared to play on just for love of the game, and maybe still a spot inside the Top 5? Or will he go the Bjorn Borg route, realize he can no longer maintain the Number One ranking, and go from the game sooner rather than later? Let the reporter ask THAT type of question. I for one would love to hear the answer.
No sooner had the Federer score appeared on the screen than the Maria Sharapova loss came over the airways. She dropped a two-set final to Na Li of China. The Chinese woman is good-sized and strong and she's been around, but still. The second set, 6-1, looked pretty sad. When the world's former best player on grass loses on grass just before Wimbly it is a bit of a surprise, despite all of Sharapova's shoulder/elbow/serving woes.
What on earth can happen at Wimbledon this year? Will the boys and girls manage to restore order such that the top seeds can advance as they should? Or will another seeded wipe-out take place? I generally like a big event to have lots of upsets and barn-burners early on during the first week. But maybe not so much this time around. I already have had my fill of upsets and shockers just based on this past week alone.
That pub may be full up with dead seeds by the end of the first week of Wimbledon, who knows?no comments