Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who's rooting hard for Li Na right now? THIS GIRL!

So it's been about 14 hours since the conclusion of the Victoria Azarenka/Sloane Stephens match, and I gotta say, I'm still a little pissed off. In case you didn't see it, Azarenka had a little trouble closing out the American teen, and when she failed to serve it out at 5-3, she called a medical timeout for a troublesome rib and left knee. Because it was a double injury, she got nearly ten minutes off-court, effectively icing Stephens, who was to serve next and was broken. In that final game, she showed no signs of problems with movement and in her on-court interview, never even mentioned being hurt. Or in her ESPN interview after that. In fact, the first thing she said was that she almost choked that set away and implied she needed a minute (or 10) to settle her nervous ass down. Which leads us to the question: WTF? Now, immediately after, some analysts seemed willing to consider the idea that Azarenka didn't know exactly that what she did was abuse of the rules. How to say this best? Um, that's crap. Mary Jo Fernandez diplomatically called it a "veteran move." Later, in her press conference, she tried to tell reporters she had a legit rib injury that made it hard to breathe, and just didn't understand reporters' questions. Oh come on now. All of a sudden, fifteen minutes before you're in front of a mic, you have not one, but two injuries flare up on you just as you're serving for a Grand Slam final and it doesn't spring to mind immediately after, when you're interviewed? Everyone knows that injury time outs are for injuries, not mental lapses. Foosball is for people with mental lapses. (And let's get this out of the way: Even despite Azarenka's stunt, you have to be mentally strong enough to overcome your opponent, no matter what they pull. Stephens is young, and this experience, along with many others, will make her stronger. It's not Azarenka's fault she couldn't hold serve there. It was Stephens'.) Now this doesn't rise to Justine Henin's retirement in the Aussie final against Amelie Mauresmo to me, but I lost a good deal of respect for Azarenka last night. She's so ridiculously talented that she could have taken care of that match on skill alone. And I don't even think her goal was to get Stephens off-balance -- that timeout was strictly taken for her mental benefit. But champions don't pull cheap stunts like that. Not the ones we can't forget 50 years later. Speaking of 50 years later, hopefully, this will lead to a rule change that keeps players from pulling bush-league stunts like this at will. Just off the top of my head, I'd suggest taking a challenge review from a player for every timeout they call in a set. It's not perfect, but give me time. I can come up with something better. Bottom line: The beauty of tennis is that it's a thinking man's game. It's not like football -- which involves strategy, don't get me wrong -- where you can blow a whistle and try to ice a kicker. It's in the rules in that sport, and that's fine. In tennis, there is no sideline coaching (ahemWTAahem) and there are no time outs permitted because your racquet suddenly weighs 50 pounds. You're nervous? You have to either figure it out yourself or suffer the consequences. Oh, I forgot the third option. You can fake two injuries that no one will ever be able to prove you do not have while you regroup. Not cool, Azarenka. And neither is that sidekick of yours. Am I the only one genuinely annoyed by this Reddoof character? (That was intentional.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Live Twittering for Women's Semis!

That's really all there is to say at this second, except this: I'm picking Li Na and Victoria Azarenka (but am rooting hard for Sloane Stephens!).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

AO'13: 'Probably a bit of a choke?' Probably?

That's from Sam Stosur, after her second-loss loss to Jie Zheng last night. A couple years back, Stosur apparently hired a sports psychiatrist to help her overcome the nerves she would have in tight matches -- especially the ones in her native Australia. The only other thing I'm going to say about this is that I hope it was covered by her health insurance. Sigh. Anyway, back to the people who are still in the tournament. The best matches of the day are the night games on Laver. Which start around 3 a.m. on the East Coast. Am I man enough to watch Federer vs. Davydenko, then Robson vs. Kvitova live? Or save the all-nighter for Venus v. Maria? Perhaps the better question is: How much sleep does one need to function? Anyway. Back to the matches tonight. Federer's looking good here so far, but he's not exactly been tested. Davydenko had a good warmup to the Aussie Open, but he wasn't playing top 5 players in the process. Federer in three, and maybe we'll get a 7-5 set in there. Now, I'm not gonna lie. I never really thought much of Laura Robson, even after she beat Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open last year. It turns out she's kind of good, though. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova is only 2-2 on the year and she hasn't even played anyone in the top 10 yet. Tough call, because Robson has game, but no experience while Kvitova has game and experience, but still gets the Stosurs sometimes. I'm going to pick Robson in three. Now, to make a pot of coffee.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Aussie Oy Oy Oy 2013! The Women's Draw

More now than ever before is this true: What happens at this major depends on Serena Williams. She is unstoppable right now, and even someone as tough-as-nails as Victoria Azarenka is left crying on the sidelines after an encounter with her. And only one of them can get to the final. So the question becomes: Who is the next victim? Let's find out with a look at early matches: Wozniacki vs. Lisicki: So 2012 wasn't kind to Caroline Wozniacki. Professionally, that is. Rumor has it she's engaged to Rory McIlvoy, whose career is just taking off. Either Caroline has added some umph to her game and learned to adjust to the power possessed by others, such as Sabine Lisicki. Could be an early exit for the former world No. 1. Kvitova vs. Schiavone: Holy hell. If you're trying to work some kinks out of your game, as Petra Kvitova is these days, the last person you want to see in the first round is Francesca Schiavone. Of course, another way to look at it for Kvitova is that at least she might get the chance to grind out a match right out of the gates. Schiavone. Straight sets. Sam Stosur: Appears to have the Aussie yips again. She might make it through the first couple rounds, but will likely crack at the first application of pressure, especially if she really ends up playing Julia Georges in the third round. Maria Sharapova: Sure she's the second seed. She also allegedly has an injury that hampers the serve. Because that's what Sharapova needs is another serve obstacle. Anyway, in addition to that, she also tends to have trouble with Venus Williams, who doesn't exactly inspire the fear that her sister does these days. So this is a tossup. I'm going with Venus, but I'd like the option to review this choice should the two of them actually play in the third round. The breakdown: Quarterfinals: Azarenka vs. Lisicki, Serena vs. Schiavone, Li vs. Radwanska, Kerber vs. Venus Semifinals: Azarenka vs. Serena, Radwanska vs. Kerber Final: Serena vs. Radwanska Winner: Duh.

Australian Open Men's Draw

This just doesn't feel right without Rafa Nadal. (Also, the illness story doesn't feel right, either.) Without Nadal, the top four becomes the top three, and that leaves Novak Djokovic without a major rival until the final. Still, it's the beginning of the year, and anything can happen. A look at some potentially interesting matchups: Djokovic vs. Mathieu: While Paul-Henri Mathieu is indeed a tough customer, it's hard to see Djokovic struggling much. It could still be good first-round tennis, which would be a rarity for a match involving the top four. Then he'd have rising American Ryan Harrison to contend with after that. So that's what you get for being a top seed, huh? You know who Fed's first round opponent is? Benoit Paire of France. Yeah, that Benoit Paire. Hewitt vs. Tipsarevic: Just when you think it's about time for Lleyton Hewitt to turn in the ATP card, he shows up to a tournament and beats Juan Martin del Potro in the final. Monfils vs. Dolgopolov: Gael Monfils is unseeded. That's all I really wanted to say, really. The breakdown: Quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Berdych, Ferrer vs. Tipseravic, del Potro vs. Murray and Federer vs. Gasquet Semifinals: Djokovic vs. Ferrer, Murray vs. Federer Final: Djokovic vs. Murray Winner: Djokovic (barely)

TWA -- here we go again!

When you haven't even checked your blog in nearly a year, you wonder what has happened since you were gone. You wonder if someone has hijacked it or sprayed it with some sort of cybergraffiti. But it's still here, well-ignored and guilt-inducing. Waiting to for someone to dust her (yes, her) off and do something with her. She has a point. It's not as though I've cut off tennis in the past several months. I've sat on the couch and said aloud to myself and waxed about how Venus Williams shouldn't have wasted her time with a singles slot at the Olympics; wondered where in the world is Dinara Safina; hoped that Rafael Nadal's career isn't really over but deeply concerned; given up hope officially on Andy Murray winning a major, only to have him finally come through (only three or four years after I called it here first). I just haven't written any of that down, that's all. Until now. The blog is back, but there's more! This time, I'm also throwing in Twitter! If you've ever read this blog, follow me at TWA_tennis_blog, especially as the Australian Open gets underway. Oh, and I'll throw out some draw picks presently. Stay tuned. I will try to do the same.