Saturday, July 01, 2006

'I just lose by myself' -- words to live by

Mr. Benjamin, Part II
Good for Venus Williams for taking a stand on the equal pay issue at Wimbledon. I disagree with her standpoint that it's a 'human' issue -- we're talking about a group of millionaires quibbling over pennies essentially. But in her press conference Thursday, she said the women were willing to play best-of-five to get their equal pay. It seems that issue is often skirted when the money topic comes up.
Why wouldn't Wimbledon give women the opportunity to earn the money? If Wimbledon officials really believe men draw more of an audience, they should take a look at their own tabloids. Who's gracing the covers? The best-looking women, not men. And guess what, stuffed shirts? That's why the casual fan will come to Wimbledon. Not to see Rafa Nadal show some leg. It's sex appeal, and it's a little disturbing, but that's the fact. If Wimbledon isn't willing to consider having the women play five sets, it's doing the tournament a disservice. I know I'd feel a bit cheated if I paid for Center Court tickets, and watched Amelie Mauresmo blow away some nobody in thirty minutes. The women are fitter than they've ever been. Give them the chance to earn equal keep. A word to the other Slams: You, too. Shame on you for giving out the same money for less work.

Tennis? Just a game. Now let's watch some soccer!
David Nalbandian had a plan on Friday. Play his match early, wipe the Grass with this Verdasco dude, thereby advancing in his best Grand Slam. Then paint his face baby blue and yellow and scream his bloody head off cheering for home country Argentina as they kick the snot out of Germany in World Cup action. Well, he got the early match he requested. He also lost in straight sets to Fernando Verdasco, who is ranked No. 30 in the world. On top of that, Argentina lost to Germany, 4-2 in penalty kicks. First, penalty kicks? Why don't all the players just gather in the middle of the field for a thumb-wrestling competition? Second, if there was a way to penalty kick a player, Nalbandian would be at the top of the list. I play tennis as often as I can, and my serve sucks. My husband calls me Two-Hit Nancy. I would give my husband's right arm for a chance to be in Grand Slam, even to lose love-and-love to a great player. But Nalbandian's got natural talent and a beautiful counterpuncher game, and he holds an edge over potentially the best tennis player ever, and he flakes out in the third round in the only major where he's reached the final.
'So what happened?' the reporters essentially asked after his match.
'He play okay,' Nalbandian says. 'He don't play great. I just lose by myself.'
Another gem:
Q. You had a racquet warning. You appeared to lose your temper a bit in the first set. What was going through your mind at that point?
Nalbandian: Nothing.
Man, you don't say.
At least he's not alone on the bench. James Blake lost yet another five-set match to Max Mirnyi. Blake was definitely the favorite, but Mirnyi is truly a sleeping giant in tennis. He has lots of doubles success, but he showed today that he's got plenty of singles game. The American will kick himself for surrendering a two-set-to-one lead, but he went up against a grass buzzsaw. The truly strange part is that Mirnyl's next opponent, Jonas Bjorkman, Mirnyi's current doubles partner, holds a 9-1 advantage over Mirnyi, including a win at Wimbledon in 2003.
Along for the bench ride is Martina Hingis, going down in a shocker to another doubles specialist, Ai Suyigama. Hingis was the clear favorite here as well, but her weak serve betrayed her some, and Sugiyama gave possibly her best singles effort ever. It was a game of 'Beat the opponent to the net,' a rarity for the women's game, and highly entertaining. Next time, Martina. As for Ai, it's all on you to beat Henin-Hardenne.
Maybe women's tennis isn't as shallow as you might think. Usually, the top ladies cruise through the first week of a major. Not this week. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the French Open runner-up, lost today, too. She went down to Na Li, of China. She's seeded 27th.

Doubles vision
Guess who's playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon? Nope. Try again. All right, Venus Williams. With Bob Bryan. They won their first round match today against Ai Suyigama and Jeff Coetzee. But one of their next opponents should sound familiar to doubles fans: Mahest Bhupathi. Good luck, guys.
Remember a few years back, when Hingis, Davenport, Clijsters and the Williams sisters were playing doubles, too? Seeing Venus back on the doubles court is good for two reasons. First, she's showing that she's feeling healthy enough to do both for the first time in years. Second, let's get some excitement for doubles going, you guys! We all play it, and never see it on TV. Not even the great Martina Navratilova, who's playing mixed and women's doubles. Don't bet on seeing her much, though. And really, what's the big deal? Hey, we'll all get a chance to see her some other time, right? Come on, ESPN. She's evergreen, but sheesh. One day, she might stop playing tennis.

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