Friday, September 14, 2007

You go, Lindsay!

In Bali, new mom Lindsay Davenport took down world No. 3, Jelena Jankovic. What is this, Lindsay's third wind in her career already?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

OK. The Henin ban is off ... for now

Women’s tennis is in disarray. Look at the U.S. Open for a perfect example. The second seed, Maria Sharapova, loses in the third round to a girl, Agnieszka RadwaƄska, who has more consonants in her name than she has teeth. Tatiana Golovin, of France, and ranked 17th, is defeated in the first round by Ahsha Rolle, an American who’s easily carrying an extra 15 pounds. By the conclusion of the Open, there was a lot of shuffling in the rankings, affecting all but one player.
Justine Henin’s name might not stay the same, (she was recently divorced) but she’s been at the top for a year. She quietly dominates almost every tournament she enters. She managed to enter Flushing Meadows as the top seed, but not favored to win. Yet, she easily dismantled two of the favorites, the Williams sisters, and still had enough in the engine to smoke Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final. She didn’t drop a set to anyone in the last two weeks.
As dominant as she is, Henin’s aloof behavior has probably cost her fans and endorsement money. In particular, it’s the final of the 2006 Australian Open that leaves a bad taste in many mouths. Amelie Mauresmo, seeking her first Grand Slam title, was pitted against Henin. Down a set and a break, Henin simply stopped. That’s right. She retired, claiming an upset stomach. (And whose wouldn’t be, after being whipped in the first set 6-1?) Not only did she look perfectly fine, but in the press conference afterwards, she offered little explanation in the way of her “injury.” “I had no energy,” she told reporters.
Then there was the 2003 French Open semifinal against Serena Williams. Williams was serving, and Henin raised a hand, a signal that she wasn’t yet ready. However, Williams was already in her motion, and hit the serve, knowing she’d get another first serve. Not. The umpire didn’t see the hand, and Henin refused to acknowledge that she had done it, so Williams had to hit a second serve. Henin won that one, and Williams accused her of lying in her post-match conference.
Incidents like this prevent her from being an overwhelming fan favorite, no matter how good she gets. If she goes on a Roger Federer tear, there’ll always be Paris for fans, or Australia. Like it or not, though, she’s the best female tennis player right now, and she seems ready to be around for a long time.
Look at it this way: Henin hasn’t pulled out of any finals lately. Well, she hasn’t exactly been in any danger of losing, either.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why night tennis is awesome, Part II, and some men's previews

It’s almost two o’clock in the morning, and as usual, I’m not asleep. I’m also not watching Smallville DVDs, which, sadly, is normally what I’m doing at this time in the morning. I’m watching Rafael Nadal battle it out with David Ferrer on one of the biggest stages in sports. And it’s live! C’mon, people, who’s with me? The U.S. Open rocks! OK, I’m done. The men’s quarterfinals:

Roger Federer v. Andy Roddick: The numbers don’t look good for Andy Roddick here. He has beaten Federer exactly once, four years ago. He’s lost to him 13 times. The term “uphill battle” seems an understatement here. If Roddick has one thing going for him, it’s the fact that he’s won two matches at Flushing Meadows this year by walkover, with two opponents quitting. The American can try to raise his level against the best player in the world, or he can hope for another “walkover.” Sorry, Andy. I think Tonya Harding’s got a Celebrity Death Match set up for tonight.
Nikolay Davydenko v. Tommy Haas: Haas is enjoying a bit of a career resurgence after being derailed by injury. After edging James Blake a couple days ago, he should be brimming with confidence, even if he is taking on the fourth seed. Davydenko has looked solid himself so far, despite the gambling investigation that centers on him. Haas and Davydenko have had some battles at Grand Slams. Last year at the Open, Davydenko beat him, but this year in Australia , it was Haas who won, 7-5 in the fifth set. The edge here goes barely to Haas, only because Davydenko has played a lot this summer, and his gas tank has got to be approaching empty by now.
Carlos Moya v. Novak Djokovic: Stat of the day: Carlos Moya won the French Open … in 1998. That’s a long time ago, and he’s still ticking at 31. His opponent is 11 years younger, and has a win over both Federer and Rafael Nadal this summer. One guy Djokovic doesn’t have a win against this summer is Moya. Moya’s won both of their matches this year, including in Cincinnati a few weeks back. Can the old man continue his dominance over the young upstart? I don’t think so. It may take four sets, but Djokovic should be able to figure Moya out, especially with a Grand Slam semifinal on the line.
Juan Ignacio Chela v. David Ferrer: Physically, Chela would get an edge, since the Ferrer/ Rafael Nadal match practically ended 15 minutes ago. Seriously, this is huge for both men. Whoever wins gets to their first Grand Slam semifinal. In cases like this, an intangible like this could mean more than who has the best forehand. Ferrer could be still riding the high from beating the world No. 2, but it was a three and a half hour match. Chela also had to go the distance in his fourth-round win. Bottom line: Who would have expected either of these guys to get this far? And who could guess who’d win between the two?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thinnin' out the herd: Womens quarterfinal preview

Everything appears to be holding to form in the women's draw of the U.S. Open, which means anything goes. Maria Sharapova, for example, now has more time to test out that PowerShot camera. Also, I wonder if she can wear that night dress of hers out clubbing.
Sharapova isn't the only high seed missing from the quarterfinals. Ana Ivanovic and Nadia Petrova also bowed out early. But what we have left is lots of potential: Another Serena/Henin quarterfinal clash, Venus/Jankovic, and a possible all-Williams semifinal. (The fans of pretty tennis must cringe at this.)
A closer look at the womens quarterfinals:

Justine Henin v. Serena Williams: This is the third straight Grand Slam quarterfinal meeting between these two, and the numbers don't look good for Serena. Henin dominated in Paris and eked out a win at Wimbledon. Justine has been steamrolling through the draw, and Serena has looked a bit streaky. Can she raise her game for the big match? By now, we should know the answer is "Heck yes!" Serena in three.
Jelena Jankovic v. Venus Williams: You know, this is one messed-up draw. But I guess that's what happens when you give Sharapova her own half. Anyway, Jankovic has edged Venus the last three times they've played, including Wimbledon last year. But Venus is looking good so far at the Open. She raised her level against Ivanovic, and I think she can do the same against Jankovic, whose weak serve is starting to catch up with her. Venus in straights.
Agnes Szavay v. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Who didn't see Szavay in the quarterfinals? The 18-year-old is having one heck of a Slam. Maybe she'll swing by the food bar and grab a burger. Seriously, the Hungarian seems to be putting her game together this summer, winning her first title and making the New Haven final. I'd give Szavay a fair shot against Kuznetsova, even though she lost to the Russian in that New Haven final. However, Kuznetsova's been here before and her experience should get her through. Kuznetsova in two tight sets.
Anna Chakvetadze v. Shahar Peer: This might be the hardest one to call, just because one of these 20-year-olds will get a shot at a Grand Slam semifinal, which would be a first for both. Both have solid ground games, but Peer seems to be a slightly steadier player, while Chakvetadze can spray a few untimely unforced errors. This is going three, and it'll be entertaining. Edge to Chakvetadze, who's been on a roll this summer.