Thursday, December 17, 2015

Serena Williams: Apparently three out of four is pretty bad

This week, Serena Williams was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated like the boss that she is. Which is utter nonsense, of course.
Some horse enthusiasts are a bit perturbed about SI's announcement. Apparently, some horse named American Pharaoh won some horse races (man, I hope he doesn't blow all that money on apples), and that's more impressive than Serena winning three majors. She did this playing some of her worse tennis on her least-favorite surface while ill (French Open), against some inspired opponents (Heather Watson, Venus Williams) and against opponents who were sometimes at least a decade younger than her (Garbine Muguruza, who arguably has shown the most potential to next dominate the women's game is 22.)
So I don't know anything about what this horse has done, but I think that horses should be disqualified from winning Sportsperson for the year for a couple reasons. I'd like to outline them here:
a. A horse is an animal, not a person. And I don't think this one even talks, like Mr. Ed.
b. You know what would happen to Serena Williams if she broke her leg? Some doctor puts her leg in a cast, she doesn't play for six months, and knowing Serena Williams, she'd come back and win another Slam or four. You know what would happen to American Pharaoh if he broke his leg? Yep, you guessed it -- the shotgun.
So I'm good with the human winning the award.

Monday, December 14, 2015

LEAGUE WATCH: Serving up disappointment

Mercifully, the fall season is over for our women's team. The mission was simple if we wanted to keep it going: Beat the other team in our division more than once. We came up a bit short, and my mid-match flake-outs are a big reason why in my book. You can't just play tennis once a week, and have that match be your competitive match. Well, at least I can't do that.
In the meantime, I've had the opportunity to work on my game with a group that picks up doubles matches four days a week. For the most part, I've been able to knock off a good chunk of the rust, but there's still a part of my game that's bothering me, and that's the serve. I think -- I think -- I have all the ingredients of a good serve, but very rarely do they all come together to create the booming serve I want. I'm not a big person, but if Justine Henin showed me anything, it's that if you have a good serve technique and you're four feet tall, you can have a strong serve. That's all I want, but I can't pinpoint what the problem is. My husband thinks I'm tucking my arm in and not getting off the ground enough, but I think the bigger problem is the toss and that it might be too low.
So I had a thought. I would record my serve practice and post it so you guys could help me! I had this thought about three weeks ago, and that's about the time it took to actually find a simple way to edit this short video. This is probably because I am not as technologically advanced as I had led myself to believe. As a result, this post is the fruit of about three weeks' labor, so enjoy it and feel free to offer any tips! If you do, you get a free subscription to Tennis With Attitude!


video


Sunday, November 01, 2015

LEAGUE WATCH: Actually, don't watch.

It's a tennis player's dream to move to a place where the weather allows you to play as often as you can. You think: "What could be better? I can play all day!"

So one of the first things I did in Florida was to join a USTA mixed doubles team, and I was underwhelmed by the competition. The 8.0 matches felt like Allegheny 7.0-level skill, so naturally I wasn't very worried about anyone. But you know who else is underwhelming? Me.

I joined the women's 7.5 fall team and thought once again that it should be a cakewalk. These players have nothing I've never seen before, right? You should try telling that to my game, because all of a sudden, league tennis is like uncharted waters.

Take my last match. Now back in the day, I was used to playing my way into form during a match and improving as I went along. I'd shank balls all over the place in the first set and if I was playing with a new partner, I'd just tell them to give me a minute. Lately, though, I've been stuck in first gear.

Last night, while I laid awake thinking about how I should have gotten into lacrosse as a child, it occurred to me what the problem is. I've lost my swagger. See, back in the day, I had more swagger than game. I'd walk up to the service line late in a set and get real focused. The other night, I walked up to serve at 4-5 in the second set and I was so nervous that I briefly considered just throwing down the racquet and having a good Zvonareva-esque cry on the baseline. It was really that serious -- I just could not deal.

My game's not perfect, but I used to feel like I knew it and could trust it. I would get into a weird place during matches where I would rely heavily on instinct and the game just flowed for me. I never got rattled at losing the first set because I always thought I'd get stronger. Even after a loss in the old days, I always felt like I at least finished the match stronger than I had started. Now everything feels forced. I'm never fully relaxed anymore. I'm thinking about the mechanics of almost every shot I hit, especially the weaker shots in my game. I want my swagger back.

Probably the only way to get it back is to play a lot. That's much easier said than done, especially when you have to hand off 45-plus hours to the man every week. Maybe my game just needs to get adjusted to a different climate? Or my brain does? I have no idea. All I know is that I'm tired of playing poorly and I want to stop. Like I've always said, tennis is 99.4503827 percent mental, so whatever is happening concerns the hamster cage in my head. I mean, I can hit a thousand forehands in practice, but what's the point if I can't make myself hit them with authority while under pressure?

If you have any ideas about getting my head on straight again, I'm not too proud to beg. I'll take 'em. But make it quick, because I have another league match this week. #gulp



Monday, October 12, 2015

Vacation musings

Been very busy lately. The last week and change has been full of a daily regimen of laying at a beach, or a pool, or taking in island views. But something weird still ended up in my luggage for vacation:



And there have been some pro developments worth noting between my light afternoon hit and the hot tub. I know, rubbing this in is not classy at all. Which reminds me of my massage at noon:

1. I haven't seen the Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic China Open final yet, but I have seen the scoreline -- 6-2, 6-2. Yowsuh. Because of his recent struggles, Rafael Nadal is the subject of much speculation. Does he still have it? Can he still compete with the best? Is it finally time to consider a haircut? But his response to these trouncings he's getting from Djokovic will be interesting to see. It's not the first time Nadal has found himself struggling in a rivalry. For a couple years, he came up short to Roger Federer at Wimbledon especially, and he tweaked his game to change that. He might have to do a bit more than tweak in this situation, because Djokovic seems to be getting better and better. He is a fluke French Open loss away from holding all the Grand Slam cards for 2015. Of course, in the middle of a year, that's not an accomplishment that can be fully realized, but here we are. So what can Nadal do to reverse this? Let's ask Djokovic:
"I knew that he's going to make mistakes and he's going to give me shorter balls so I can dominate the rallies, which happened."
That from his post-match press conference, according to tennis writer Carole Bouchard. So can Nadal flatten out his shots? Is he going to man up that serve at all?

Oh, sorry. I was just asking the questions. I don't have the answer.
2. Serena Williams decided to shut it down for the year and everybody lost their mind. Me? It's like, "meh." Frankly, this nonsense about her being engaged to Drake is a bit more unsettling. I mean, he was on Degrassi, guys. Does this bother anyone else but me?!
3. However, whatever happened to all this talk of a shorter calendar for ATP and WTA tournaments? Is pushing back the Australian Open by a couple weeks supposed to make everything better? I just realized that even though it's October and there are still seven tournaments left, not including Shanghai, which starts this week. With Serena out of the WTA year-ending event, and other good players (Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Garbine Mugaruza) pulling up lame, here's another question: Who wants to see a year-ending tournament without the players who made the regular season interesting?
I think I got this answer: No one, that's who.



Monday, September 21, 2015

To Roger and Serena, with "love"

Hey, guys:

Just wanted to say congrats to both of you on a great U.S. Open! Roger, your form was incredible throughout the tournament. If you think that tennis is waning in viewership and popularity, you should know that at least four people I've played against this week have tried the SABR return approach. No, none of them have done it with a 90 square inch racquet or against a serve over 50 mph. And Serena, coming into this tournament, you held all four majors at one time. Actually, of all the majors this year, your form looked the best here.
Alas, neither of you won the tournament, and that's led to you being a victim of your own success. The second the match was over, you both faced some tough questions that you shouldn't face because you are basically legendary. But you know how they say 'Love means nothing in tennis?' 
Anyway, I thought I'd offer you a few stock responses to commonly heard comments after your losses. Free of charge. Don't worry, it's no trouble at all. We'll start with Serena, because she's losing patience:

Question: "You don't seem happy." No, that's not a question. Variations of this theme: "Why did you leave so quickly after losing in the semifinals?" or "You're not saying much," or "Let's discuss how bad you feel about losing." This is unlikely, but in the event that someone actually gets to the root of these questions and finally says straight out: "Women aren't allowed to brood. How about you buck up and do a twirl for us?"
Your answer, should you choose to accept it: "I know you guys watch tennis for fun, but it's my career. I work at it, 40 plus hours a week, even when I don't want to. When you work that hard, you expect to be successful, and if you're not, it's not a great feeling. Maybe you take it better than I do when you fail at something. Sorry I'm not smiling. It doesn't mean I don't respect my opponent. I'm kinda pissed is all."

Question for Roger? Sadly, yes.

Question: So you lost again. Are you going to retire?
Your answer: Sure. I'm thinking about it. Let's face it -- I'm old. I made the final of the U.S. Open, and am one of the best players of my generation -- and of the game. I just beat the world no. 1 in a tournament a few weeks back, but what does that really mean? I'm not gonna lie -- I miss winning the titles, and clearly that's never going to happen for me again. I mean, I just don't have what it takes anymore. I was thinking of playing the Old Man Tennis Tour that Jim Courier's got going on. Why grind it out with Djokovic and Andy Murray when I can whup up on Pat Cash? It's working for Andy Roddick and Mark Phillippoussis. That doesn't look lopsided at all. So it's decided then? Let me just knock out this Davis Cup obligation, and I'll see you guys next year in Salt Lake City in the first PowerShares tournament!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

So ... about yesterday.

Just your average run-of-the-mill matches Friday at the U.S. Open. Couple thoughts on them:
1. OK, I expected an upset with Flavia Pennetta and Simona Halep, but geez. Halep said in her press conference she felt out of gas by the time she got to Pennetta, but she kinda looked out of gas against Sabine Lisicki. And she was lucky to get out the Victorial Azarenka tussle. You could say she had a tough draw. You could also say that if you're the No. 2 player in the world, you and your body has to be ready for that tough draw. Of course, Pennetta also took out the in-form Petra Kvitova in the quarters. Who knows. Strange things have happened at this tournament. Very strange things.
2. For example Novak Djokovic barely broke a sweat against defending champ Marin Cilic. Djokovic is like a buzz saw right now. Cilic didn't exactly luck out to get this far, but you know what they say. Sometimes, you take the bull by the horns, and sometimes the bull takes you by somewhere else. The other thing they also say is that Djokovic was destined for a dream final to face 
3. Roger Federer. If any match on Friday's docket seemed destined to go five sets, it was Federer's match against Stan Wawrinka. But Roger's really popular these days, and you don't just leave Bradley Cooper waiting backstage. Seriously, Federer looks vintage right now. When you come to a major talking about trick moves you're working on, and then bust that move out in the third game against a quality opponent in the semis, well, then. I will make one prediction about Sunday's final. You're not gonna see any SABR attacks. It's not about fun anymore. 
Well, that's all I got. Happy finals weekend, guys!






Kidding. Of course.
4. If you've played tennis long enough, what happened to Serena Williams yesterday in her semifinal loss to Roberta Vinci has happened to you, too, and your stakes were likely nowhere near as high. Serena had never lost a set to Vinci before Friday. At no point on any surface had Vinci gotten closer than four games in a set. Vinci doesn't have a SABR move -- she was just playing her game. (Although am I wrong in thinking she actually looks more fit than in recent years?) That game usually isn't a problem for Serena. But as I said, and as many others noted, there's one person who's going to prevent Serena from making history, and it sure as hell wasn't Roberta Vinci. And if anything weird was going to happen, it was going to happen in the place where she may or may not have threatened to assault a linesperson, the place where an ill-timed yell led to her getting derailed against Sam Stosur, the place where the blind umpire began overruling calls against Serena. Watching her begin to play not to lose is a familiar feeling for many of us, but it's unfortunate for her that it happened so close to the finish line. But we are talking about a woman who still at this moment is holding four major tournament titles at once. Limited time only, but you see the point. 
If you've played long enough, what happened to Roberta Vinci yesterday has also happened to you. You've been across the net from someone with much better tools, and many more accomplishments than you. You assess your skills.
Power? Nope.
Speed? Ahh ... nope.
Familiarity with the stage and situation? Oh, wait, ... no, no exactly, unless my girl Sara Errani's nearby.
But Vinci took her tools and went to work, and stayed on task while Serena was over there yelling "Yes, bitch!" (??!?) It is the mark of the underdog and that is what's great about sports. You know what's more likely to happen -- this is where you get rankings -- but no matter your reputation, you still have to go out there at get it. Today's women's final is merely a testament to the ones who went out there and got it.
It is also true-life anecdotal evidence about why you don't buy your tickets for the women's final in mid-August. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday picks

I still can't decide if it's OK for us to actually live life normally on any Sept. 11. Every time I see things occurring on that date, it seems weird. I don't think anyone who was really around during that time will actually ever forget the lives lost or the general panic we felt on that day and the days that followed. The fact is, though, that we are still here and life still goes on, even under a different pall. Babies are born on Sept. 11. Others go to work on Sept. 11. People do good things for other people on Sept. 11. And, I guess, we play and watch tennis because life goes on, even if your heart is a bit more heavy today. Peace to all the survivors and families of victims today.
It is really going to be difficult to segue into tennis now, but awkwardly, that is what I will do, but it will be quick and painless.
Because I think at least one of these matches will be very short. It is really hard to see Roberta Vinci mounting much of a challenge to Serena Williams, who hopefully finally got some sleep. (Shout out to the tennis that Venus Williams has been playing lately. She still overpulls the trigger at key points, sacrificing her form in the process, but man, was she spanking that ball on Tuesday.) But Simona Halep against Flavia Pennetta could get interesting. Like, upset interesting.
The men? Yes, it is perfectly fine to salivate at the thought of a Novak Djokovic/Roger Federer final. But this won't be easy for either guy. Stan Wawrinka is looking pretty strong this tournament and Marin Cilic has already won it, so there is that small detail. Welp, better get going so I can reserve my spot on the couch ... for the mixed doubles final! Hingis/Paes v. Mattek-Sands/Querrey. Any other questions?


I got some things to say.

I never thought I'd be a person who was happy with a rain out during a Slam, but dammit, there's too much good tennis going on! How are you supposed to watch it, write about it and hopefully play a little bit yourself, along with other, more minor concerns, such as work and family obligations? So let's take a breath and catch up on what's happened in the last couple days, and look at what's on deck as long as there are no more monsoons in New York ... in another post.
But first, it's not often that tennis collides with Big World Issues, but it did this week when James Blake, a Harvard grad and a pretty decent tennis player in his time, was tackled by police while he was standing outside his hotel. There are a couple of things about this incident I would like to discuss:
1. "Whoa," you might have been thinking when you first heard this. "That other guy must have done something really bad to get straight-up tackled on the street." If James Blake had been the guy the police were looking for, he would have been guilty of buying shoes with a stolen credit card. Which is a crime, yes, but it doesn't sound like there's a weapon involved ... so why are you showing physical force on a guy just standing there? Well, having grown up in New York, I have a theory. If you grew up in New York when I did, there are names you know, such as Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo (look them up). The NYPD has a reputation for going a bit overboard and honestly, it's a good thing this didn't get worse. The record shows that it definitely could have.
2.  I really like how everyone's crediting Blake for handling this situation so well. Gah -- the sarcasm font doesn't work very well on this keyboard. He said what he had to say. Some people are saying he didn't say enough. He really didn't have to say anything, but he did, and he really needed to. He was direct and honest and then he was done with it. But all of this "handling this with grace" or "not doing enough" talk is putting the onus on the victim, as though if he had gone on a Twitter rant about it, he wouldn't have been justified. James Blake handled this the way you would expect James Blake to handle this, and he didn't take leave of himself or his values to do that. Now, if this had happened to Lleyton Hewitt or Nick Kyrgios, well, let's just say you would have had a different pony show.
3. This wasn't necessarily a race thing for me because I think the police would have sadly done this to anybody. But how about this nonsense? I mean, really? Putting the other suspect's picture out there is just saying in effect, "Come on, look how much alike they are! You would have done it, too!" But here's the two-headed kicker: (a) they really don't look that much alike. Both are darker skinned and are smiling ... (b) the guy on the right is also not the right guy. Finally, though Blake got an apology from police commissioner William Bratton. But that even brings up another question:
4. Here's a scary thought: We heard about this one because Blake is kind of a big deal. How often does this happen? And are you OK with that happening to every SUSPECT in a crime? Do they get public apologies? Private apologies?

Monday, September 07, 2015

Draw demolition derby






It's the editor in me. I can't help pointing out the (multiple and numerous) errors, even in my own draw.
But who cares? This tournament has been insane in the best ways. Even in a match I could barely bring myself to care about offers up a woman doing a between-the-legs shot that worked! (Yes, I stayed up until 1 a.m. to watch a match I did not care about. smh)
Anyway, a look at some of the highlights of what's coming up today -- dare I say right now:
Victoria Azarenka v. Vavara Lepchenko: I think we all know that the player who has the best chance to beat Serena here is Azarenka. She also keeps it classy at all times when "consulting" with umpires. I don't want to say Lepchenko has no chance at all, so I won't say anything else.
Stan Wawrinka v. Donald Young: In some ways, Stan is a much different player than he was when Young managed to beat him in 2011. He's got majors and he's beaten the best in the world on the big stages. He also seems to think this improved play gives him license to wear some truly horrible clothing throughout the year. In other ways, he's not so different (Wimbledon 2015, where he just kinda went 'meh' in the quarters against Richard Gasquet and let him back in the match). Young is also playing some inspired tennis right now. He hasn't done it yet against the elite. Gilles Simon is a pretty good win, but it doesn't spell an upset here. I'm going with Stan.
John Isner v. Roger Federer: I haven't seen a Federer match yet, but have heard so much about this SABR attack. I like how Roger is now just trying to keep himself amused by coming up with new tactics, just for kicks. Roger, sneak attack or no.
Sabine Lisicki v. Simona Halep: Halep, although she hasn't had a real solid Grand Slam year, and she is susceptible to an upset. Oh did anyone by chance see her mixed dubs match last night, when he ripped a forehand past Nenad Zimonjic for match point. That's very boss-like. Very boss-like indeed.
Tomas Berdych v. Gasquet: I don't know, but nobody bother me while this match is on.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

What's in an underdog?

Before we talk about Fabio Fognini, Petra Cetkovska and Bethanie Mattek-Sands -- NIGHT TENNIS AT THE OPEN, Y'ALL! It is, hands-down, the best part of any Slam. You've got general rowdiness, dancing fans, alcohol, two opponents slugging away under the lights and celebrities all happening at the same time in the same place and if the tennis is good, this is all happening usually waaaay after midnight. For the people who think that tennis is boring and has no personality, you can step off.
Segue: HolyhellRafaNadalandFabioFognini! That was just a ridiculous display of tennis. There are far too many highlights to rehash, but two quick things:
1. Everyone's going to say that this is the proof that Nadal is over. Yeah, maybe he took his foot off the pedal just a bit when he was up in the third -- maybe thinking he'd conserve his energies for the next match. But he really was playing great tennis throughout the night. He was fast, his groundstrokes were imposing and accurate, his defensive and offensive game was on fleek, and plus his ass looked great in those shorts. Maybe on another day, with another opponent, that match would have been one-sided. So he's still got game. But
2. This guy. Fognini has a bit of a reputation for sometimes not putting forth his best effort at all times. He also has a reputation for being a hothead, so maybe it was the night atmosphere that fueled him. Because there he was, playing against one of the best in the world, smacking winners all over the place, and he almost never looked off-balance in doing this. Maybe Nadal needs to flatten out his ball a bit, or maybe Fognini just knows him too well.  Either way, it takes a lot to keep yourself composed in a situation like this, and Fognini did it.
Fabio Fognini is 28 years old. In tennis years, that's like, 46. Petra Cetkovska, who took out Caroline Wozniacki in another night-tennis thriller, is 30. So, 48. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who had better never retire, is also 30. How old are you? How's your career going? Ever think that you're past the age to do what you always wanted to do, that you missed something? Have you ever said to yourself, "Gah, I coulda been a contender if it weren't for XXXXX?" Have you ever looked at your contemporaries and wondered why they are so much more advanced than you? You don't need to answer any of that, especially not to me, but this is why watching underdogs come out on top is so fulfilling. It's like lower-case everyman taking on Superman. Of course they don't have a shot. Right? Did anyone see that wide-eyed look in Cetkovska's eyes the other night when Wozniacki was staging her comeback? If you did, you know that feeling -- "You're going to let it slip away again, aren't you?" And that is not just a tennis feeling. That's a life thing, dawg. And watching the physical battle on any athletic stage, and actually seeing someone overcome it in public to seize victory is empowering and awe-inspiring. Not everyone can take that ball of nerves and just swallow it. There's something in that for all of us, something very big-picture that you can take away from the underdogs at the Open this year.
It's also just great entertainment and we could leave it right there. Whichever.

Monday, August 31, 2015

U.S. Open preview: The women


Really, the only thing left here to discuss is Serena and predicting if she can pull off a true-life calendar Slam. Obviously, no one can say with any certainty. Who knows? Maybe at this very moment, she and Drake have decided to elope and get married. (Although it is probably not a good idea to marry anyone who was on "Degrassi." Hello, drama!) Or she could get injured, or she could fall at the first hurdle this year, some woman named Vitala Diatchenko. Or even Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Or she could have another end-of-year meltdown (which does always seem to happen at the U.S. Open for her ...)
So, let's take a page out Sarah Koenig's book, and consider the "most logical" conclusion. At the French Open, Serena was far from her best and won. One of her "main rivals," Maria Sharapova, is out of the tournament. Another one, Victoria Azarenka, is still ranked 20. There really isn't anyone who has posed a stiff-enough and consistent challenge to Serena. She's seen their best, and she knows she can beat it. She's had pressure all year, and she's dealt with it. So the real question is how she deals with this pressure, because no one outside of Serena can decide this. She's answered the question already. I would just say that as long as she's not called for a phantom foot fault, she should be good to go.

But on the other side of the draw, I have drawn myself into a corner. I still can't decide who advances to the semis on that side. Obviously, I don't think it matters a ton. But any thoughts?

U.S. Open preview: The fellas

How do I think the U.S. Open's men's draw will play out this year? Well, take a look:



A lot of this speaks for itself, but a few things to note:
1. Kei Nishikori over Novak Djokovic in the semis? Yeah. I think Nishikori is special. Last year, he made it to the final, and surprisingly did not bring home the title. That stumble might be enough to trigger disbelief for many others, but I think he'll be back. He's got the game to take down Federer in the final. He got Djokovic last year, right? Also, I hope Nishikori v. Monfils is a night match. Pleasepleaseplease
2. COME ON TOMMY HAAS
3. COME ON MARDY FISH
4. Hewitt v. Tomic. Now that should be fun. Sometimes Hewitt got on my nerves when he was a kid, but now it's really fun to watch him still scrapping away.
5. No, Nadal is in no condition to beat the top few players right now, but he is also not in the place where he's losing to Borna Coria.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pre-U.S. Open rant: Telling women what to do

My big takeway from the Serena Williams/Simona Halep Cincinnati final wasn't necessarily Williams' dominance and her continued ability to pull victory from inconsistent play. We already knew about that.
More than anything, the match made me realize just how ridiculous on-court coaching is -- on at least three levels. Let's review them now:

Level One
So Darren Cahill is the Adidas player development couch, and he was available to Halep during changeovers for on-court coaching. Cahill is also a commentator for ESPN at times, along with Brad Gilbert and Mary Jo Fernandez. Gilbert says something about how surprised he is that Serena's opponents never change where they stand to receive, which is a valid point. But he and Fernandez discuss this for about a minute. Set ends (to Serena), at which time Halep calls Cahill down for a chat. Among the advice he gives her? Vary your return position during the Williams serve.
OK, so that's not conspiracy level or anything like that. And it could be a coincidence -- that's a good piece of advice I've heard before. But it illustrates one problem with this on-court coaching. In theory, Cahill can use his years of expertise, and tap Gilbert, and maybe throw in a McEnroe. He could even have complete access to instant stats online OF THE VERY MATCH THEY'RE PLAYING. One of the things that's special about tennis is that it's like a mental puzzle that the player has to figure out. Obviously, on-court coaching takes away from this and even allows a coach to walk a player through the match using all kinds of tools. You can't call it cheating, because now it's part of the rules, but it does beg another level of questions such as

Level Two
'Why just women?' And why not the majors? Here's why. It's not really a part of tennis, and shouldn't be a part of tennis. And the fact that it's only done for women is insulting. It says, "Oh, lord, look at these poor girls out there. How can anyone expect these girls to figure any of this out by themselves?" (insert sad-face emoji)
If the answer is that it's to draw fans to tennis, that's nonsense. In sports, watching someone being coached is usually not the memorable part. Unless you're Alison Riske and your boyfriend/coach tells you to STFU. (Quick aside: That's why that dynamic almost never works.) Otherwise, not entertaining at all. So the only reason left to limit this to women players is the idea that they need it the most. Nice. Nice.

Level Three
On-court coaching illegal in your average league play. Some kid's mother yelled at me one day when I was playing against her daughter because I was using my phone during a changeover. I was calling my job to tell them I was running late (because tennis, you guys), but she said, and I quote, based on my memory from probably six to eight years ago, "You could be calling your coach."
!??
That was laughable on some other sublevels, but the fact is that I can't get coached, or phone a friend, or get any other lifelines outside of my own head during a match in my league tennis. And rec players need help more than anyone else! Some real talk: The only things rec players know for sure is how to blow $200 on a racquet because it's Roger Federer's stick.
Look, if Maria Sharapova, a professional who has been playing her whole life, has more need of a coach on court than us hacks, we got a problem. Oh, what? The stakes are higher for her? True. The stakes are also higher for professional male players, but they don't get to flag their coaches. Heck, Boris Becker makes a gesture in Novak Djokovic's general direction, and everyone loses their damn mind. I bust out my cell phone, and my opponent's mother is ready to brain me with the backup racquet. Halep calls Cahill over, and everyone's like, "Good call. Solid advice."
Yah. Totally makes sense.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

So, Wimbledon has been a little entertaining ...

First, ESPN, thank you for derailing my "workout routine." Now I wake up in the morning and watch every tennis match I want online. If you actually have things to do, this is not as good as it sounds. Who am I kidding. This is awesome!
Before I fang some tennis players by picking them to win matches, how about (1) Serena v. Vika, (2) Agz v. Madison and (3) all the doubles anyone could possibly want!! Even though Serena has come back from a set down a lot lately, it is still just jaw-dropping to watch her as she reasserts herself mid-match. It's not a rope-a-dope, it's a tennis player completely comfortable with her tools, and who doesn't panic because she knows she's going to work it out. It's nuts -- and I've never seen anyone do this before. She goes from zero to making you feel sorry for her opponent in eight seconds. I'm just done picking against Serena was the point of all of that. And although I think Maria Sharapova might be exercising some type of mind control to get out of some of the situations she gets into, but it will not be enough on Thursday. Pray for rain, lady. If it pours through Friday, you can say you made it to the final weekend.
The men:
1. Vasek Pospisil v. Andy Murray: Much has been made of Pospisil playing 10 sets on Monday. Congratulations, buddy! You won only half of them! Man up, would you?
I think Murray's over the hometown pressure nonsense, but he is still susceptible to listing during matches. But even if the Canadian could mount a challenge, he has more miles on the legs in this tournament, and Murray's looking fairly spry out there, so he gets it in three, I think.
2. Novak Djokovic v. Marin Cilic: I don't know, man. I'm worried about Novak right now. He's got more of the same that he got from Kevin Anderson coming up from Cilic, except Cilic is better. At this point, I'll just say this has five-set potential, man.
3. Gilles Simon v. Roger Federer: I really really really really really really want Simon to win. But Federer.
4. Stan Wawrinka v. Richard Gasquet: This is gonna be Shotmaker Central tomorrow. Wawrinka, yeah, but some beautiful tennis coming our way. Too bad I won't be able to watch it -- I'll be working out.
lol

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A testosterone-infused Ladies Day

Kevin Anderson. That would be the guy I gave zero props to in advance of his match with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Right -- the same guy who is tied at two sets apiece with Djokovic. Anyone know any good crystal-ball repairmen?
Anyway, tomorrow is ladies' quarterfinal day at Wimby. Let's run 'em down:

1. Maria Sharapova v. Coco Vandeweghe: Coco's another one who got no props from me yesterday. She'd get them today if she were playing almost anyone else. Although I am intrigued by the idea of Sharapova getting outhit by someone who in her press conference makes reference to "making her feel my presence." That just scared me, and she wasn't even talking about me. I mean damn. But Sharapova in three, in case anyone still cares what I think for the purpose of making fun of what I think.

2. Serena Williams v. Victoria Azarenka: HO LEE CRAP. Azarenka's had Serena on the ropes the last couple times they played, and I'm not saying Azarenka's gonna win, because probably not, but this is gonna be so good.

3. Garbine Muguruza v. Timea Bacsinszky: I didn't have to cut-and-paste any of those names. Go me.
This is gonna be interesting. I'ma give an edge to Timea, here, though. Although both of these women have big games, I think Bacsinszky's head is in a better place right now. She really had to figure her way out of that Monica Niculescu match, and she did it. Muguruza's still young, and this will be one of those matches that teaches her about mental toughness -- and how far she still might have to go to stay consistent through a match.

4. Madison Keys v. Agz Radwanska: Considering Keys' form of late, it's gonna be hard to pick against her, but ... I will do just that now. Nothing personal -- it just seems like Radwanska's finding her groove this year finally, and it's on grass. She's crafty and Keys is young. You always want to go with smarts in a pick like this. Although Radwanska ditched Martina Navratilova as a coach, so, maybe not so smarts?

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Just another Manic Monday ... at Wimbledon

Let's just run down the Wimbledon schedule tomorrow by way of a preview:

1. Serena Williams v. Venus Williams: OK, like almost everyone else, I want Venus to win. Here are the cold hard facts that kinda refute that outcome:
     a. They are not playing dubs together. Some might consider this a sign that Serena is not in top shape, which is not hard to sell after her French form. But it makes more sense that it's Venus trying to save her energy. She's looked OK during her matches so far, but one thing she has never shaken is this idea that she has to swing for the fences no matter what. I've never seen anyone go for more crazy shots with an open court except Gael Monfils. Can she stay consistent during a match with the best player possibly ever? Even at Wimbledon? Like I said, I wish she could.
     b. Serena is basically not going to lose until she passes out on the court. Look, she really should have lost to Heather Watson. Aaaand she should have lost to that Friedlander chick at the French. Also Bacsinszky. Yet, here she is, walking into Wimbledon with allll the Grand Slam swag. Someone on Twitter shared this today and it really says why I don't see Serena getting all sentimental tomorrow:
From Wimbledon 2008 final press conference (Serena lost to Venus, 7-5, 6-4)
Q. Have you talked at all?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I saw her. I mean, we weren't involved in a big conversation. 

Q. You don't look happy at all. 
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't? I wonder why. 

2. Ivo Karlovic v. Andy Murray: I know rants aren't very ladylike. And I know this is Wimbledon. So let's just commence with the rant. I don't think you should be allowed to play tennis if your primary (read:only) weapon/shot is your serve. Nothing against Karlovic (OK, that's not true), but damn if Jo-Jo Tsonga shouldn't be playing this match instead. I mean damn. Tsonga played great, and he loses to the serving machine. NOT FAIR
Andy in three. Also, Amelie Mauresmo's "Make Your Own Luck" shirt makes her the most bad-ass pregnant lady EVer.

3. Roberto Bautista Agut v. Roger Federer: Fun fact: Roger Federer doesn't appear to have a middle name. Any ideas out there for a good middle name for Federer? It's the only thing he's lacking. He's got looks. He's got game. He's got two sets of twins. He's got Nadal out of the tournament. Let's get Roger a middle name by the time he wins his match tomorrow, 'k?

4. Maria Sharapova v. Zarina Diyas: Haven't really had opportunity to see/hear Sharapova play yet this tournament. Don't know much about her opponent either, but she has beaten Andrea Petkovic AND Flavia Pennetta already. The Pennetta win is particularly troubling if you're a Sharapova fan. Pennetta is basically a backboard, and if you beat her, it probably means you can run down shots for diyas, er, days. On the other hand, there almost isn't anyone else who wills herself to victory the way Sharapova does. So I guess I'm gonna go with her in three.

5. Stan Wawrinka v. David Goffin: I'll eat this terrible dinner I made for myself if Goffin even wins a set.

6. Novak Djokovic v. Kev: NEXT.

7. Richard Gasquet v. Nick Kyrgios: So someone needs to educate me here. Is there a reason Kyrgios is wearing the koozie on his nondominant arm? At first, I thought he was wearing it to mock Milos Raonic, but then he wore it in doubles, too. Like, whaaa?
Boy, I have no idea how this match is going to shake out. Kyrgios is definitely a shotmaker, moreso than the aforementioned Monfils, but he is not terribly disciplined on when to go for these shots. If you have problems picking your moments to go for shots, Gasquet is not the guy you really want to mix with. Their last encounter went five with Kyrgios coming back from behind. My thought, though, is that Gasquet actually would have been the one to come away from that match having learned something. We'll see.

8. Caroline Wozniacki v. Garbine Mugaruza: Wozniacki can beat almost anybody, but she can also lose to anybody because she has no other real weapons other than her fitness. It's crazy, but it's true. I'm actually thinking an upset here -- Muguruza's young, a big hitter, and seems real comfortable so far on the grass. Mugu in three.

9. Tomas Berdych v. Gilles Simon: I hope Simon wins because I love watching that guy play. He looks like a werewolf with that facial hair, but whatever. I would just say the closer to the evening they play, the better for Simon. Kidding. Kinda. I really think he's going to win, but not because he's really a werewolf, but because his retrieval skills will probably irritate the crap out of Berdych. It's easy to hit through that in set one. Set two? Set four??

10. Coco Vandeweghe v. Lucie Safarova: I'm not buying Vandeweghe. She hasn't really had a challenge yet. Sam Stosur played terribly, so that doesn't count. Safarova, on the other hand, is pretty much killin' it right now unless she's playing Serena Williams. She'll keep that up here, too.

11. Agz Radwanska v. Jelena Jankovic: I can't say at all where this one is going, but I'll be setting the alarm clock for this sucker. This is just gonna be pure tennis, people. No big serving, no crushing forehands. Just four and three-quarter hours of straight shotmaking, everybody

12. Marin Cilic v. Denis Kudla: As long as Cilic plays the way he finished against Isner, not seeing any real problems for him here.

13. Vasek Pospisil v. Victor Troicki: Who wins the battle of the 'I-can't say-that-name-can-you? players'? I have to give the edge to the Serb (that's Troicki). I mean, James Ward isn't bad (and I'm only saying that because it's Wimbledon and he's British), but why did Pospisil have such a hard time with him? So maybe a more seasoned player will expose that wishy-washiness. Troicki in four.

14. Victoria Azarenka v. Belinda Bencic: I'ma go with Azarenka here. Since returning from injury, her game has been on the slow track to the upswing. Sure, she's seeded 23, but how many women ranked above her can at least approach controlling her own destiny against Serena like she can? Like, two or three, that's how many. Vika in two.

15. Olga Govortsova v. Madison Keys: Just the slightest of edges to Govortsova. Beating Alize "Rope A Dope" Cornet in three sets is a big deal to me.

16.  Timea Bacsinszky v. Monica Niculescu: It's a little surprising to see Niculescu this far in a major, although someone who relies so heavily upon slice probably should do well at a place such as this. It probably is enough to annoy some players, but I don't know if Bacsinszky is one of them. She's big and strong, and smart and will cruise here. Also, incidentally, helluva backstory: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/04/sports/tennis/timea-bacsinszky-reaches-her-first-french-open-semifinal.html

Shaking off a bad Attitude

I'm not gonna lie – part of the reason my husband and I decided to uproot our family southbound was so that the kids could be outside more (that's code for “we could be outside more playing tennis!”). We're considerate parents like that.
None of us envisioned that when the chance to move finally came, it would be piecemeal. We wouldn't be together, not right away. But even then, I thought it'd be a couple weeks only, not that long. Long enough for a working mom to take a breather from the family that always needed something, am I right?
Haha. No. Of course not. Nearly two months ago now, I packed up my car, interviewed a real estate agent with my husband, said goodbye to my distracted children as they watched Chuggington (and then again during Octonauts), surrendered my house keys to my very best friend in life, told him I'd see him soon, and drove to Florida. I would say half of that drive on the first day was done pretty artfully, considering my eyes were just randomly filling with tears. I think my husband and I always figured that when we finally made it to perpetually sunny skies, we would do it together. It just wasn't the same to get there without him, or them.
Regardless, as soon after I arrived here, life went on for everyone else. The French Open came and went, and watching on TV as Serena won it from her knees was craaaazy fun and even before nude Stan Wawrinka came along, watching him play solidly throughout the tournament was kind of a tennis turn-on. (I can't be the only one who thought Nadal's injury in last year's Australian Open final was the ONLY reason he won. Well, I sit corrected.) But still, something was missing. Naturally, it was my tennis spirit-twin who knew it.
“Why don't you go out to the courts and play some tennis?” my husband nagged me over the phone (because that's how men roll).
“OK, maybe after work one day.”
Which I of course didn't do. In retrospect, a lot can be said for my frame of mind when you realize that I preferred leaving my new job and going back to my dark room at the local Travelodge and watching Penny freakin' Dreadful on three Showtime channels throughout the night rather to going to the nearby tennis courts. (Also watched 'Boyhood' at least three different time. Do you understand now?)
An even better commentary on my relationship with my racquets at this time, which had now been untouched for two months – the day I finally went over to the tennis courts, I got out of my car and walked over to the office to find out about the leagues in the area. A man yells over at me, “We need a fourth!” And I say – wait for it – “Oh, I can't right now!”
Yes, of course I could have. It was Saturday for heaven's sake. In theory, the reason I went to those courts was to play tennis. Someone offered to play tennis, and I said no.
Yeah. Exactly.
The only thing that broke me of whatever the hell this was was my spirit-twin, as usual. He told me he was signing up for a tournament for one last go-round with his partner. And finally, it hit me: If he can still want tennis, even with two small children hanging around his neck at all hours and the stresses of moving and selling a house constantly clawing at his sanity, then what the what was my problem?

And if you wanna hear something hilarious, it was that guy I turned down for tennis who still got me back into it. I've been playing with his Saturday morning group (horribly, but that's what you get for not playing for two months – there ARE NO SHORTCUTS) and doing my backboard penance for about three weeks now. Maybe I thought I would punish myself for not having what I really want right now by depriving myself of the other constant in my life for nearly 14 years. Or of the other habit of mine that's been with me forever – writing. Well, I guess my punishment's over. It's about time for some Attitude to start flowing around here again. The good-bad kind. Not the bad-bad kind. You understand. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Yessssss!! Finally. Some Tennis With Attitude!

OK, it's been pretty hectic over here lately. Been busy quitting a job, acquiring another job and moving my personal tennis team across (several) state lines. So the blog's been on hold, and although there has been a lot to blog about (Nadal, Davis Cup, Azarenka stealing Serena's hitting partner, Indian Wells, Miami, and how Serena pulled out injured from one and then won the other and does anyone else think that's weird at allll, and NADAL, etc.), there just hasn't been time. BUT. I just saw something that made me realize why I started this blog. And for that, I have to thank Genie Bouchard, she of the decent forehand, but perhaps even the better backhand(ed aside) for this:



(Yeah, I coulda picked the English one, but attitude sounds so much classier in a foreign language. It also needs no interpretation.)
Couple thoughts on this. First, while I believe that Genie Bouchard is not all of that, it is also about time that someone challenged this "tennis is polite" norm nonsense. Because as all of us who actually play tennis know, there is not a whole lot polite about the grind of the game. When you shake hands with your opponent and you say "good match," do you not mentally add "for ME!" Why is tennis the only sport where you have to be quiet and polite to your opponent when you certainly don't want to be? Bouchard's refusal to bow to the polite quo (just made that up, thanks) hopefully will open the door to tennis being like other sports, where you're allowed to want to win. Now, if we could just get rid of players walking into a big match hand-in-hand with a little kid, that would be good.
I said couple thoughts. The other one is that if you're going to create a maelstrom by not shaking an opponent's hand, it would be helpful to go ahead and also win the match. Otherwise, this happens:



*facepalm*

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Whaa? Serena's doing what where now?

Considering the occasional theatrics of Richard Williams, I'd admit that there was a time I thought he blew the incident at Indian Wells in 2001 out of proportion. Not that he was lying, but maybe that it wasn't as bad as it seemed. There are a lot of people who might have thought that no one actually says those types of racist things "anymore." Over the years, I've realized that people do say those things, and they probably did that day at that tournament. So Serena Williams' decision to go back there makes her a lot stronger than I already thought she was.
Of course, at first, I was like, "Whatnow? Whaaa??" She said she'd never go back, right? Why go back?
Two reasons, and I'm speculating:
1. Because she'll probably win the thing, and that would really piss off the racist element. I mean, let's not forget she won the tournament that year with those dimwits in the stands.
2. So there's this part of the Lion King where Mufasa is showing Simba their kingdom, but then shows him a part that's way out and shrouded in darkness. Mufasa basically says to Simba, "Everything else is yours, except that shadowy place. You must never go there."
Yeah, I busted out the Lion King on you. But there's a point. See, maybe Indian Wells is that part of the kingdom for Serena, and maybe she's enough of a rebel to say, "Well, really, what could be there now that could hurt me?" That is basically her home tournament. If there's anyone who should feel out of place when they go there, it should be the idiots who shouted at her and her family in the stands.
If Venus never goes back, as she has also said, that's understandable, and her world, and her call. But Simba's, er, Serena's move, is pretty bad-ass.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Armchair Line Judge's return to a normal sleep pattern

I am sorry, but it's difficult to be a tennis fan during the Aussie Open and a normally functioning adult. I mean, here's Madison Keys mixing it up with Venus Williams, and my kid needs a new diaper. Come on! Change yourself, kid! And then there's the finals happening at 3 a.m. my time. And then my boss wants me at work before 1 p.m.! Outrageous!
As it turns out, I'm still employed and my kids and spouse are still around (I think). What's left? Coupla thoughts:
1. It took this tournament for me to figure out why I root for Venus Williams. She was at the helm of women's tennis when I first became a real fan. And then when there's someone who looks like you doing something that no one who looks like you really ever did before, there's an emotional thing there. When she would lose, it was like, "How could you?" for me back in the day. Seeing her decline over the years made me over-correct the other way -- "She's got nothing." But deep down, you don't want to believe that. You still hold out hope. Not enough hope to put it down on paper. You have to be realistic. "Of course Venus isn't going to make the quarters of the Australian Open. Of course I'm not going to turn on my television at 5 a.m. in time to watch her finish off Ags Radwanska and mix it up with arguable the next big American tennis star for three sets in the next round. Of course I'm not going to see her finish that match with good tennis, not unforced errors strewn about the court, even though she lost." 
Is Venus actually back? I don't know. Who cares? That was just too much fun to watch. 
2. Well, well, well, Tomas Berdych. Lays the beat down to Rafa Nadal and then fighting Andy Murray tooth-and-nail in the semis? (Much has been said about Murray's girlfriend cursing out the Berdych camp in the stands of the match. As far as the basic rules of tennis go, I am a traditionalist, but if there's a situation where a tennis match could get all soccer on a fan or observers, that is a good thing. Let's just leave the riots out of it, but trash-talking your opponent -- that's pretty great. Sorry if that's not classy.) Anyway, Nadal crashed out early (as he expected, and for once, he was right), but Berdych finally manning up is good for men's tennis. Nadal and Roger Federer ain't gonna be around forever, people.
3. Oh, and by the way: Andreas Seppi?!? I have an old tennis friend somewhere on the West Coast who called that years ago. Whazzup, Morgan!
4. The women? Not much to say there. I wish Ekaterina Makarova believed in herself a little more. Because she would have given Serena Williams a better run for her money than Maria Sharapova did. Watching someone scrap so hard and come up short for the latest time in a decade is almost enough to make you feel bad for that person. Almost.
5. OK, the last time I saw Madison Keys play was a long time ago, I'll concede that, but does anyone else think that she all of a sudden that her game style is a lot like Lindsay Davenport? I know Davenport's her coach, and maybe it was watching Keys play against the sisters Williams, but the heavy ball, the huge forehand – it was like, it was like, when a thing has happened before that seems familiar but you can't place your finger on it? What's that called?
6. This deciding-point nonsense in mixed doubles: #fail. So now, we're going to take the best part of a tennis match out -- the constant battle. Good. Good.
7. BETHANIE MATTEK-SANDS
8. Why don't Nestor and Leander Paes play dubs together? Did I miss that experiment?

I gotta go watch the mens final. Separate post coming on what the (*&#$#^ happened to Murray.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Armchair Line Judge: Aussie thoughts so far

1. I mean, look at the ass on Rafa Nadal. If anyone should be asked to give a twirl, it should be that sexy bastard.
But this is a life lesson we can all apply to ourselves, and not just the young Genie Bouchard: If some random dude asks you to twirl for him in front of a stadium full of people, and he's using a microphone to do this, kindly direct him to the orifice that would house that microphone in the most painful way.
2. However, I will give any onsite Aussie Open reporters a dollar if they start asking the male players about their thoughts on "altered balls."
3. I freakin' knew Nenad Zimonjic and Danny Nestor were going to separate again. Dammit!
4. To anyone who disputes my contention that tennis is 99.94389237 percent mental, let me direct your attention to one Maria Sharapova, who just straight bludgeoned a serve match point down to come back in her second-round match. I mean damn.
5. So let me understand this: The Williams sisters pull out of the doubles tournament just before their first round match, and then make it clear that they read the rules about withdrawal, know they don't have to give a reason and then act all cutesy about not giving a reason? That is ... interesting.
6. Marcos Baghdatis just went five sets with Grigor Dmitrov. #throwbackthursday

Armchair Line Judge: My decimated draws before I burn them

Because why not have a good laugh over picking Donna Vekic for the quarterfinals?




Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Armchair Line Judge's guide to the Aussie Open 2015

It's mid-January, and only about eight weeks since the year-end championships, so it must be time for another major! This lengthy layover only tends to ensure erratic results, so with that in mind, let's predict what's going to happen!  
For this preview, we're gonna do the Armchair Line Judge's call for the Top 10 on both sides for players' chances to advance to the semifinals:

The Women

1. Serena Williams: In. Yeah, Hopman Cup was kind of a disaster, but she's usually most dangerous right after a bad patch. Hmm, though. Vera Zvonareva looming in round 2. Hmm.
2, Maria Sharapova: In. What a sweet draw for her. If seeds hold, she would get Genie Bouchard in the semis, which might be tough, but I'm not on the Bouchard bus yet. That might be because I'm not a teenage boy, though.
3. Simona Halep: In. Definitely for the semis, and perhaps beyond …
4. Petra Kvitova: You know what they say about Petra. There's no kvit in her. (Get it?) But she still gets the 'out' call here. Even if she were in, could she beat Venus Williams or Ags Radwanska in the semis? I'm not even sure she can beat rising star Donna Vekic in round 2. Just too inconsistent.
5. Ana Ivanovic: Out. Ekaterina Makarova is like kryptonite to top players Down Under.
6. Agnieszka Radwanska: In. Big win against Serena at Hopman Cup, which, yes, is just a warmup, but she's come close before against the big players, and that win is a big deal. Plus, I love the Navratilova hire. Not saying we're talking instant results, but this will be interesting. And I'ma live on the edge here and say that this coaching change is going to bring a major this year, but I decline comment on which one.
7. Genie Bouchard: Out. Yeah, I know, she beat Serena at Hopman, too. But still, I say next year for her, because she doesn't have a complete game and thereby doesn't have the tools to do that consistently. Radwanska? She does, except for that serve. And is it just me whose shoulder area aches every time I see her hit a forehand?
8. Caroline Wozniacki: Good job, Caroline Wozniacki! You're rebounding from a tumble from world No. 1, only to return stronger and more confident about taking on the heavy hitters on the big stages – and beating the likes of Maria Sharapova. So … ladies and gentlemen, let's see Woz's prize for a solid 2014! Drumroll … Young American Taylor Townsend in Round One and probably Victoria Azarenka in Round 2! What? Why'd everyone get so quiet? Out.
9. Angelique Kerber: Whaaa?!?? What's she still doing in the top 10? OUT!
10. Ekaterina Makarova: Out, but like just outside the line. Or could she beat Halep for a semi spot? Might need a ShotSpot for this one.

First round special: Sloane Stephens against Victoria Azarenka. Both unseeded and back on the stage where Azarenka lost a lot of respect for that “oh, my sore brain” stunt. But this one is interesting in name only. Stephens is kinda in the wind right now, and Azarenka, even returning from injury, still looks like a threat in this draw. A higher-quality match might be Dominika Cibulkova and Kristen Flipkens. Ooorrrr, Wozniacki and Townsend. Maybe.
Upset comin': Camilla Giorgi over No. 12 Flavia Pennetta in the first round.


The Men


1. Novak Djokovic: In. But that's a loaded portion of the draw. Lleyton Hewitt? Jerzy Janowicz? Juan Martin del Potro was in it, too, until he backed out with an ongoing wrist issue. And then there's Gael Monfils, whose face should accompany the dictionary definition of “wild card.” All interesting, but all those guys are a bigger potential problem for Milos Raonic.
2. Roger Federer: In. I think that's in. I'm just wondering about Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov, who has a ton of potential, but hasn't done anything yet.
3. Rafael Nadal: Oh. Here's Rafa Nadal again, like he is every year at the Australian Open. Folks ask him how he's gonna do, and he shakes his head, buries it in his hand and mumbles that he's terrible, that he has no shot. Which means that he's gonna win the whole damn thing. Ooh. Lukas Rosol as a possible third round opponent? Yeesh. If – big 'if' – Nadal can survive the first couple rounds, it could be enough for him to recover his form and then opponents like Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych won't seem like much. But if he's still that much out of sync, then, yeah, he could lose to Mikhail Youzhny right away. So, the line call? In, but right on the line. Which means that any old line judge could call it out.
4. Stan Wawrinka: Not a bad draw for Stan, the defending-champion man. Not until he would get to Kei Nishikori. Talk about a popcorn match – that Wawrinka won't win. Out.
5. Kei Nishikori: In. See above.
6. Andy Murray: Apparently, Murray just cleaned house in his camp and got rid of all the Amelie Mauresmo haters, and he's ready to go. Good, because his ranking is not Big Four-worthy, because it's six. To change that, he's gonna need to win another major. To do that, he's going to have to take down Dimitrov and Federer just to get to the semis. Sorry, but out.
7. Tomas Berdych: You know, if the wind blew the right way for him – meaning that Nadal loses early and that No. 11 Ernests Gulbis can't mount much of a challenge, this could be Berdych's chance for the semis – and beyond. But if it is just the regular wind, then no, he's not going to beat Nadal. Out. Probably.
8. Milos Raonic: I get it. He's big. He's talented. Big serve. Big forehand. Wears that koozie on his arm. Seems to be settling into his role in the top 10. Yes, he'll go far, but it will be the most boring tennis you'll ever see, especially in the early rounds. It's just hard for me to get excited about Raonic. Even if I were, it'd be difficult to get amped up about his chances against Djokovic, because he's not going to beat Djokovic, unless he's not really over the flu. A relieved 'out' call here.
9. David Ferrer: And then there's David Ferrer, who is like a Labrador retriever. He will go after every ball, and make his opponent do one more thing, and it's often enough to win a match. Now that is some tennis that I want to watch. He's entertaining, determined … and a bit long in the tooth … and hair. (Someone needs to say it – Davey. Get a haircut!!!) He's slated to run into Nishikori in the fourth round, and I don't know if that's going to go well for him. Out. Moo.
10. Grigor Dimitrov: In all likelihood, out. Whenever I see him play, though, I wonder why he hasn't yet made his move at a major. Like a real move. He's got all the tools, but he seems to be mentally inconsistent. He could be humming along in a match, and then try a drop shot when he should have hit a groundstroke up the line. But you know who also used to do that? Andy Murray. So there's hope?

First-round special: It was gonna be del Potro vs. Janowicz, but no del Potro now. Without that, I'm gonna say Nadal v. Youzhny will be a good one, assuming Youzhny doesn't brain himself before the conclusion. Nicholas Almagro vs. Nishikori – Nishikori better be ready right away for this one. Also Sam Querrey v. Vasek Pospisil.

Upset comin': Borna Coric over No. 29 Jeremy Chardy in five, methinks.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The coaching floodgates are finally open!

For as long as I've been a tennis fan, I've wondered why pro players never seem to hire female coaches. It's not like there's no shortage of legendary women players who would fit the bill. Last year, it was a male player, Andy Murray, who hired Amelie Mauresmo on, and naturally, the choice has been under scrutiny ever since, with whispers about her effectiveness. Now, I'm not gonna lie. If I were going to choose a woman coach for a tennis pro, it probably wouldn't be the person who had some moments of mental weak in big moments(coughcoughFRENCHOPENcough), especially if you have had a similar issue. But technically, Mauresmo is a good choice. She always had great form, and even if they didn't always result in winning a Slam, she did have some great results on the big stage. After years of disappointment at majors, she did finally break through -- twice.
And Madison Keys is picking up Lindsay Davenport. That's a good pick. But am I the only person who thinks that Davenport probably still had a slam in her?
No, if I were going to choose a female tennis coach, it'd be someone who has a record of success and has shown an ability to grow and change her game. Maybe someone who actually changed the trajectory of the women's game with her own training habits and by bringing an element of power (which by now is about the same "power" Chris Evert had, but still). I wish there were one or two women like that.
Apparently, so did Aggie Radwanska, because she just hired MARTINA NAVRATILOVA to her coaching team this year. Two things: Has anyone ever asked Martina to be their coach and she's just been saying no all these years? Because she is a perfect coaching candidate -- for any player.
Also, this is awesome! These two are the perfect match. Radwanska is already a very smart player with a ton of variety, but her problem is -- OK, there's no nice way to say this, so here it is -- she needs to work out. No, she's not out of shape, but you can't be a stick figure in the 2015 WTA tour. The serve has to go, and she needs to be able to mix some power with the variety. If she could do that, she'd be top 3 through her whole career. And her willingness to hire Navratilova says that she's willing to work on all of that. At least, I hope she is, because Navratilova doesn't strike me as the type of coach who would be sipping her coffee on the bench, watching her charge practicing a terrible serve. No, what I see in that scenario is Navratilova taking her coffee mug in one hand, her racquet in the other, and standing on the other side to receive that terrible serve and crushing it every time.
Pleasepleaseplease let this work out. Yeah, I get power tennis, and love it for the most part, but man, wouldn't it be great to see the likes of Radwanska tweak her game and become the Martina Hingis 2.0 in 2015?