Monday, May 27, 2013
This year was supposed to be my year. I was going to win a Racquet Bracket draw and win a trip to a Grand Slam. And I learned some things from the travesty that was my NCAA bracket. This time, no research. No looking up head-to-heads. No checking records on clay. None of that. The plan was to fill out each match with no more than ten seconds of thought. Couldn't do any worse, right? Ri-ight. It all started with Venus Williams. Now I'm not blind. I certainly wasn't picking her to go very far in this tournament (or in her career, but more on that later) -- I figured she'd go down to Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round, but I thought she had a round or two in her. Yeah. No. She put up a heckuva fight, as many have noted, even with her back problem, along with the autoimmune disease she's dealing with. But at the end of the day, she dropped yet another first-round French Open match to Radwanska's sister, Urszula. (It's funny, because most people if given the opportunity would drop the silent 'z' from a name. Nuh-uh. Not the Radwanskas.) The question is how long Venus is willing to go on with these sorts of results. I keep hearing talk about her trying to hang in there for the 2016 Olympics. That's insane. She shouldn't have gotten the singles spot last time and she really thinks that in three years, she'll be able to make a case against the likes of Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and Jamie Hampton? Nope. She can't really believe that either. And the fact that Serena Williams, who will win this event unless she gets injured, is still willing to play doubles with Venus here says to me that Venus is going to quit soon, and she wants to end her career with her sister by her side. If Venus is playing the French Open next year, I will drink this nail polish sitting on my desk. No chaser. Still, not a draw breaker. I was still feeling pretty good about my brackets and France. Even took some French lessons from Serena's last couple winner's speeches. The women are always in flux, but my men's picks were solid, I thought, even if I didn't follow the seeding all the way. Perfectly conceivable, I figured, that Nadal could squeak by Djokovic in the semis and face Tomas Berdych in the final, because Berdych can beat Roger Federer. Right? Absolutely. The problem is that Tomas Berdych CAN'T BEAT GAEL MONFILS! Seriously, the last time Monfils did anything of consequence was like five years ago. Out of nowhere, he takes down the tournament's fifth seed? And I have to say, for a change, Monfils showed some control and managed to keep his athleticism on display without doing anything stupid. Well, he had some dunce cap moments (I'm thinking set point in the third set), but just not as many as usual. Although I'm probably not going to France on this bracket, it's nice to see Monfils playing well again. But is it too late for him? Tommy Haas would probably say no. As would Rafa Nadal, who basically came up with the goods today at the very last second against Daniel Brands. Why is it that certain players have huge matches at a major out of nowhere, then return to nowhere after showing just how good they can be? Here's hoping that doesn't happen to Brands, because he's got game. One more thing: Did anyone else not even give Caroline Wozniacki a chance in France to make it past the in-form Laura Robson? OK, I hesitated for, like two seconds before I picked Robson. Then Woz loses just five games in an annihilation? Nah, she won't make it past Kuznetsova, but still. Maybe all is not lost with this one.