Sunday, January 31, 2010

Australia 2010: Man up! or Post-Script

Come on. Does anyone else think the Roger Federer/Andy Murray scenario after the final today was a script? Last year, Fed's crying like a little girl after losing to Rafa Nadal. Now this year, Murray's fighting tears after Federer beats him?
It's full circle for Federer. After a rough start to last year, he came back to make history, snagging the next two slams. But then he lost a tough one to Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open. Back at the stage of probably the most heartbreaking loss of his career, he comes up roses. I mean, really, when you making jokes about your opponent's nation not winning a slam for thousands of years, you've got to be very confident. You certainly wouldn't hear him making those jokes about Nadal. Except for the first round, Federer looked head-and-shoulders above all his opponents, and Murray was no exception.
But, moving on to Murray -- can we all agree that the Murray who showed up to the final was not the one who advanced to the final? Talk about tight. Especially in the third set. When Murray let that 5-2 lead slip away, he showed he wasn't quite ready for prime time yet. It's clear he's been working on his game but there are some things you can't prepare for. Like the massive pressure of trying to win a Grand Slam against the best player in the world. I still think Murray's going to win a Slam this year. I just don't put him in the same category as a Tim Henman, who had trouble with nerves and had limitations on his game. Murray's becoming a stronger player every year and whenever he deals with being something of a head case, he'll start racking them up and maybe one day against Federer.
But these men have got to do something about this crying at the Australian. Gosh, I haven't seen this much crying since Martina Navratilova's playing days.
You don't see Justine Henin crying. I cannot believe she can just show up in Australia with one tournament under her belt and make the final. You can't fault her dedication and fighting spirit. But why would she cry? She's still as lethal as ever, and quite likely to win some major this year. Question: If she wins Wimbledon, which is her goal, will she "retire" again?
And I guess Serena Williams' crying days are over as well. I have never seen anyone else with such an iron will to win. Unlike Federer, Serena had definite moments of, um, sloppiness? Dear Lord, how does someone get into a set and 4-0 break against Victoria Azarenka, who is no slouch, to suddenly find a second gear? Let's not forget that she is not the most technically sound player. And again, against Henin, she looked flat-footed and slow. I've just never seen someone's will transcend what is actually happening on the court and hot temper and all, you have to admire that. I guess that's a lesson for Murray. Winning isn't just the x's and o's sometimes. To win, one has to believe one can win. Doesn't one?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Australia 2010: 0 and 1?!? Really??

Not quite sure what was more shocking -- the scoreline of the Nadia Petrova-Kim Clijsters match or the fact that Petrova wasn't wearing something that made her look like a cross-dresser.
Holy crap! What happened to her? Petrova, I mean, here's someone who basically has underperformed for her entire career, mostly as a result of injury and a little bit because she gets a little jumpy in big matches. Then she shows up at the Aussie Open with a dress that hangs properly on her and beats a tournament favorite in less than an hour? I mean, what got into her?
And will it last? And who made that dress?
And as surprised as some are about Clijsters, I'm not. I mean, what do you expect? At some point after returning from a long break in tennis, there has to be some lingering effect, right? It was crazy to think she could win the U.S. Open her first major back to begin with. To think she'll make the semis and up from now on is a bit much to expect.
I also would have given Justine Henin a break if she had lost her match yesterday, too. A set and a break down in her second tournament back? And she comes back to apply the beatdown? Very impressive, and that¹s hard for me to say about Justine. (I know, I know, it's hard for me to get over her transgressions. I had to remind my husband yesterday about my issues with her and it got me mad all over again. I wish Mel Oudin would have made another run. Then I'd have another short girl on the tour to root for, guilt free.) It's hard to argue with results. By the way, she also beat the woman on tour who was the most in form in Elena Dementieva. Does anyone else have trouble believing that Henin didn¹t touch a racquet for a year? I'm saying
it right out -- that cannot be true.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Australia 2010: Who's hot?

To play tennis or write about it? That is the question.
The answer: I'm sitting here resting my sore feet (I figure it's gotta be the shoes), a couple days late, but not a penny short for my Aussie Open overview, shall we say. Instead of the regular rundown, then, we're going to play "Hot and Cold". Here's how it'll work. I name a player and discuss how likely it is they'll win the first major of the year. Cold means "cold day in hell". It can only get better from there.

1. Roger Federer: WARM-ISH -- It's hard to bet against the Fed, but I gotta say: I was not convinced by his first round play. If Igor Andreev hadn't punked out in the third set, our World No. 1 would've been going five with some guy. (But look what having the swagger of being Roger Federer does to a guy serving for the set.) Anyway, he's got a cushy draw. I don't think he'll have to worry about Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round. For some reason, I think Donald Young might be ready for an Aussie upset. Anyway again, Fed might get Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, and Davydenko took him down in a warmup tournament. Is he ready for that? Or Djokovic in the semis?
2. Rafa Nadal: HOT -- It's the beginning of the year. Spring has sprung. This is Nadal's time of the year. He's got an interesting draw, what with maybe Ivo Karlovic or Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth round, and Andy Murray in the quarters. Perhaps Juan Martin del Potro in the semis. Murray and del Potro are people he's had trouble with at the end of the year, but without any injuries to run him down yet, maybe he's got a run to the final in him.
3. Novak Djokovic: HOT -- Here's how you make a Grand Slam cake. You start with a contender with something to prove and add a cupcake draw. Then you stir the ingredients together with just the right amount of pressure (Jo-Jo Tsonga in the quarters and perhaps Federer in the semis) and put it in the oven (the final in Australia). Let bake in the sun for three, four hours and ...
4. Juan Martin del Potro: LUKEWARM -- Iffy wrist, tough draw ... I can't see him in the semis, past Roddick in the quarters and Marin Cilic in the fourth round.
5. Andy Murray: HOTTISH -- I'm telling you, Murray's winning a Slam this year! It might even be this one. To do that, he'd have to have to take Nadal down, then either del Potro or Roddick. He can do that. Federer or Djokovic in the final? He can do that! Right?
6. Nikolay Davydenko: LUKEWARM -- Yes, he just beat Federer and Nadal in a warmup tournament. The key word there is warmup. It's funny -- I think that because Davydenko is bald, we might think he's older than 28. He's still got time to make a run. Fed's playing with shaky knees, right?
7. Andy Roddick: LUKEWARM -- Yes, he can ride his serve past most hacks, but around the quarters is when they learn to block that sucker back. I see Roddick's trying the play the net more and that's admirable.
8. Robin Soderling: COLD -- Ha ha ha! I know he's the hot stuff now, but I've never liked Soderling, especially after that Nadal thing. He's a jerk! And you know what? That forehand's too flat! There is this one thing called "the net." And there's this other thing called "an ego." I bet it's hurting after that first-round loss. And ... Soderling's just a journeyman who's had his moment. This time next year, he'll be back where he belongs, ranked somewhere in the 80s.
9. Fernando Verdasco: WARM -- Can the Hot Truth make the semis again? Maybe do one better? I dunno ... in a five-set tussle against Davydenko? Or was last year once-in-a-lifetime? You know, like Robin Soderling in a final of the French Open.
10. Jo-Jo Tsonga: LUKEWARM -- Been out with injury, and although he can still hit the cover off the ball, I wonder if he can get past Haas in the third round.

1. Serena Williams: WARMISH -- Right now, I'm watching Serena play doubles, and they're cruising, 5-1 in the first set, but geez. Every time Serena plays a match, she's got more and more bandages on her. Not only that, but I think Sabine Lisicki's got a shot against her in the fourth round.
2. Dinara Safina: LUKEWARM -- Favorable draw, but her reaction to big moments were not so favorable. Example: the 2009 U.S. Open. Safina's wandering through early rounds, begging someone, anyone: "Beat me, beat me! Take me out of my misery!" Seriously, she has a big chance to really do something with her draw here. The second-highest seed in her quarter is Jelena Jankovic.
3. Svetlana Kuznetsova: WARMER -- Form's looking good. Draw? Maybe Clijsters in the fourth round and possibly the upset-minded Aravene Rezai. Look, Clijsters spends most of her time chasing a kid around the house. I'm sure tennis is like a back rub to her. Good luck, Sveta.
4. Caroline Wozniacki: WARMER -- I'd be all about Wozniacki if she wasn't content to just keep the ball going. She's such a passive player that I wonder if she won't run herself ragged just to get to the second week. But if she doesn't, I'd give her a decent shot against Venus Williams in the quarters.
5. Elena Dementieva: HOTTISH -- Arguably the player with the best form right now. The trouble is that she has to play Justine Henin later today in the second round. As a TWA reader recently pointed out, Henin has NOT been eating Bon-Bons all day while she was retired. I think Dementieva can make the semis if she can get past Henin. Big if.
6. Venus Williams: WARMER -- I think I've noted before that Venus' season is like me in the mornings. Slow, sluggish, don't talk to me until noon. Venus is like that in the first half of the season. She's got a cushy draw -- with the likes of Casey Dellacqua and Francesca Schiavone floating around. Is she ready for her sister, dressed for the Aussie Open as a mummy?
7. Victoria Azarenka: LUKEWARM -- Not yet showing any consistency at majors. If she were, I bet she'd be able to take on Serena in the quarters (or Lisicki).
8. Jelena Jankovic: WARM -- It's January. It's hard to tell where anyone is right now, but Jelena Jankovic has been flat for some time now. Being stuck with Marion (Candy) Bartoli and Dinara Safina in your half won't help much. But, as Jankovic will tell you, she had a lot of drama last year. Including "woman troubles." Which should count for something. Will there ever be an end to her drama? If there were, she could win a major for a change. Now that would be drama.
9. Vera Zvonareva: WARM -- Nestled in a part of the draw where she can do some damage. That is, if she's over her hysterics. And, of course, we won't know until she's blown a second-set lead in a major fourth round match again.
10. Aggie Radwanska: COLD -- Not until she gets some meat on her bones.

And, OMG! Rennae Stubbs and Lisa Raymond are playing together again! Say what?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Aussie countdown!

So I turn on my TV this morning and Serena Williams is going three with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. I mean, who else could it be -- wearing black and gaudy gold? Guess again, Naf. Seriously, Aravene Rezai turned some heads a couple years ago with nice results, but probably wilted under the pressure. Who knows? A little wisdom and foraging through Bethanie's closet might be just what her game needs ...

The seeds are out for the first major. Not too many surprises -- Serena and Roger Federer are the top seeds and for some reason Justine Henin is looming in the draw. Good luck, ladies. But here's a laugher. Yanina Wickmayerwas suspended briefly for allegedly trying to shake off drug testers. The suspension was overturned, but because she was suspended when entries closed, the only way Wickmayer can play is to win the qualifying tournament. That's fair. Unless you're in the qualifying tournament. Must be a nice feel when you look at the draw and you're playing a U.S. Open semifinalist. In qualifying.

Did anyone see Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters playing in the final of the Brisbane tournament? I have my issues with Henin, but one of them is not how very damned good she is. Seriously, the women Henin beat out to be ashamed. She's been eating Bon-Bons on a couch in Belgium for two years. They've been ... playing tennis. Nice work, um, pros.

Why is the guy doing commentary on Tennis Channel wearing a suit a) with 80s shoulder pads and b) that is at least one size too large for him? Wardrobe!

More when the draw comes out!