Thursday, March 26, 2009

"The hunger is back."

So says Kim Clijsters, who announced today a slow-but-steady comeback to tennis. She plans to play some exhibitions, then start in Cincinnati, play Toronto and then the U.S. Open. (Good to see some players take that "Road Trip" campaign seriously.)
It'll be good for the game to see Clijsters back. It sure doesn't look like Maria Sharapova's coming back anytime soon, and all the players in the second tier right now seem content to stay there, and not challenge the Williams sisters. The question, though, is if injuries will continue to dog her, because if they do, she'll be making another quick exit from the game.
How-EVAH, should Clijsters come back and say, make the U.S. Open semis, it's really going to reveal some holes in the women's game. Not like they're not immediately obvious, but if a 25-year-old who took a couple of years off to have a kid can come back and go toe-to-toe with Jelena Jankovic or Dinara Safina ... well, that's remarkable, but not in a great way for Jankovic or Safina.
Clijsters was always a fun player to watch, and if she ever wanted to rack up the Grand Slam titles, this would be a good time to come back.
One more thing: Clijsters, in her press conference, said the urge to play again came almost immediately after practicing for exhibitions. She said, "We'll evaluate things after the U.S. Open and take it from there. What counts is that I simply feel like doing this right now!"
She feels like doing this right now, folks. I'm just going to throw this out there: You know, when you think retirement, you usually think about older people, because they've had time to think about it, make their mark on their career, and are now appropriately done with it. Kim. You're a kid. It's nice that you're back, but if you had taken a year off without retiring, it looks like you would have come back anyway. Here's a new tennis rule: No retirement press conferences for anyone under the age of 32. That's it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Comeback time?

Some people (Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic, Vera Zvonareva, Amelie Mauresmo – shall I continue?) have no idea of how to take advantage of the proverbial gift horse.
Then there’s Kim Clijsters, who, taking a page out of Lindsay Davenport’s book, has decided that even with a kid on her hip, she could be in the women’s top 10 by the end of the year. If she puts the kid down, that’s top 5, easy.
Clijsters is having a press conference on Thursday to discuss her plans for 2009. Either she’s coming out of retirement or she feels the need to tell us she’s reserving a sitter every Wednesday for date night.
Having not seen her play lately, she still has a hella edge, as Serena Williams might say. She’d easily make the quarters of the French with the state of the women’s game, which is not a great thing. But the much-needed depth she could bring would be a huge breath of fresh air.
Although, as good as Clijsters was, most would add that she probably should have “finished” her career with more than one Slam. But now that Henin’s not around to choke against, maybe having a family will allow her to play with abandon.
More about this on Thursday. Meanwhile, let’s dish. How long before Kim Clijsters cracks the top 20?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Popcorn tennis

Sometimes, men’s tennis is so good, I wonder if there’s a script. But then it would be wrestling and that would make me sad.
If there were a script, Rafa Nadal would be the guy who always looks down and out … then claws his way to victory, defying the odds, probably with a Peter Cetera song shrieking on in the background about the glory of love.
Nadal’s latest magic trick was performed in the wee hours of Thursday morning at Indian Wells, fighting off five match points, then utterly dominating David Nalbandian 6-0 in the third set. A lot of people might see a result like this, and add them with the previous titanic battles he’s been through, and wonder if he’s really good enough to be No. 1, because he doesn’t wipe the floor with opponents (like some former world No. 1, ahemRogerFedererahem). Um, yeah! And on top of that, I like him more with each improbable victory. He da man! That’s it!

And then there’s Dinara Safina, who could have become world No. 1 with an appearance in this final. You did notice the past tense usage, right? Yeah, quarterfinal loss to Victoria Azarenka, who would have probably beaten Serena Williams in Australia if the match hadn’t taken place in an oven. However, Safina is slowly showing the ability to deal with pressure situations with a steady hand. Very slowly. How slowly? She might be mentally ready for a Slam final by this time next year.

Last, but certainly the most entertaining news this week is Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka expecting a baby. Let’s just kill the noise about fatherhood taking the edge off the Fed. Look, Tiger Woods has two kids, and he’s still the best player in the world! (He also finished ninth in his last tournament …) But we need to get to the heart of the matter here. There are some serious concerns to address:
1. Roger. Are you going to marry your girlfriend?
2. Whatever happened to traditional child names, like Susan, and Thomas and Randall? Why do people have to name their kids after car parts, fruits and aging rock stars?

Monday, March 09, 2009

The return of Maria Sharapova

Good to see Sharapova back! But did anyone tell her that she will probably have to volley in doubles?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

9 things I've been doing instead of blogging

1. Watching Serena Williams clean up in a one-day $1.2 million exhibition tournament and wishing my parents had slapped me silly when I said I wanted to be a journalist.
2. Choosing my local league teams for the summer.
3. Thinking "This would be a good time to blog," then going on Facebook.
4. Watching Andy Roddick dismantle some poor Swiss guy in Davis Cup play. Besides Stan Wawrinka and that other decent Swiss player, there are no other men from that country in the top 100. In the top 200, make it three -- Stephane Bohli. You know. Stephane. Bohli.
5. Finding it interesting that David Nalbandian couldn't play Davis Cup because of a "virus." I think I've had that virus before. The original name is very scientific, but translates to "I don't feel like it."
6. Watching Venus Williams win two titles in a row. OK, one of them was in Mexico, but it was clay -- not a bad move if you really want to do some damage in Paris.
7. Reminding myself that it's been a long time since I've seen Maria Sharapova play. Allegedly, she's practicing and planning to play doubles in a tournament with Elena Vesnina -- just doubles. I'm asking myself how bad this injury is, because if I'm a pro with a lingering shoulder injury, I don't think the first major I'd be playing would be the French Open ...
8. Thinking that Zina Garrison has a long road ahead of her trying to prove discrimination in her lawsuit against the USTA. You know, Zina, my job happens to discriminate against me not doing my job. I understand I can be fired for that. Just sayin'. Let's get real for a second, hon: You can't allege discrimination for getting fired just because you're black.
9. Getting tired of Chris Brown. And Rihanna. I can say in all confidence that I DON'T GIVE A &@$(#! Is there nothing more interesting going on in the world? Like Indian Wells? Damn.