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.

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:

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.