Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wimbledon: Taking the scenic route through early rounds

Surprisingly, Wimbledon has begun with just a touch of rain. At least there is a roof at Wimbledon, so there's a hope of the tournament ending sometime soon. Today, they're going to try to play 60 singles matches to get the schedule caught up. I'm sure I've said this before, but why do most major tournaments continue to hold their tournaments at exactly the worst times? Australia: Heat wave every year. French Open: Cold. No roof. Wimbledon: Rain. U.S. Open: Well, the U.S. Open is perfect and they have night matches.
But I digress. As the draw gets caught up, let's take a look at some of the matches we know are coming. There aren't many so far:

Novak Djokovic v. Sam Querrey: If this weren't Wimbledon, it'd be a whitewash. But the serve means a lot here, so Querrey should win about 4-6 games.

Roger Federer v. Daniel Evans: I only mention this because the Brits will be wont to do what they do every year, which is act like they have up-and-comers who are giant slayers. This Evans guy can't be bad, having beating Alexandr Dolgopolov, but I'm going to go ahead and give the tiny edge to the guy who's basically won Evan's age in slams.

Serena Williams v. Christina McHale: She's only played one round so far, but Serena's looking very no-nonsense so far.

Timea Bacsinszky v. Monica Niculescu: Still think this could be really interesting with the combating styles.

Petra Kvitova v. Ekaterina Makarova: Talk about interesting. I don't think this going to go well for Petra. Just not.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

OK, fine, I'll say it.

I'm not normally one to hold on to irritation (and that's what this is), but this one really gets me. This tweet right here:

While it is good to do something useful with your time as you wait out an appeal process for a drug suspension from your sport, it is also a bit perplexing that Maria Sharapova is not sure how she got into Harvard Business School. Maybe it was the turn of phrase that caught my eye in reaction to this news. Did you know that most people who go to Harvard go through corporate sponsorship? Does this mean that her candy company, Sugarpova, is paying for this program? Or is Nike paying for this? Just curious.
The application process for this is normally four months. Did Sharapova have to wait that long? Just curious.
Harvard Business School's website says it looks to pick high potential global leaders (check) and it has a pretty lengthy and detailed drug policy (push).
Look, I'll be honest. It really irritates me that you can be banned from your sport for breaking the rules -- for cheating -- and have your major endorsers fall over backward to keep supporting you. It's definitely true that Sharapova was ordered to up her meldonium dosage before matches and practice, which sort of flies in the face of this being some type of heart medication, or flu medication, or whatever she's claiming. Yeah, she's a very smart businesswoman, and in that sense, this is a good fit, but unless I'm missing something, she's been banned from her sport for being a drug cheat. Aaaand she just got into Harvard Business School.
Just curious about that is all.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Up to (Wimbledon) code?

One of my favorite pre-Wimbledon story so far has been the Nike dress recall. In case you've missed this one, the "dress" was approved by the All-England Club, but not approved by players, who apparently found it very difficult to play tennis while almost naked.

Nike has asked those wearing the dress to bring it by the shop for alterations. "Whoops, we forgot half your dress!"
It's surprising that so many players wore the dress as-was to begin with, but some made adjustments, though. One player used a headband as a belt to keep the dress from flying up and showing off the ol' underoos. Another player had to WEAR A PAIR OF PANTS UNDER THIS DRESS.

So what that this dress subjects match spectators to a player's rear end for an hour or so per match? At least there's no lavender in it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brexit, er, Breakfast, at Wimbledon: The Gentlemen

OK, so I am angst-ing so hard over this men's draw. The beginning stages involve some legit popcorn tennis, and I need to come up with some type of illness that can keep me out of work. Zika? Brex-regret? I don't know yet. I'll accept any ideas on that front.
We're gonna switch up the format a bit and just go into the matches to watch. For once, they are more important than what I think. (Just this one time. Don't go getting ideas.)

As you can see, I had some trouble filling this out, which has, like, never happened to me before. I thought I'd have some clarity after a good night's sleep, but nope. Not at all. (Wait until you see the bottom half.)
Jack Sock v. Ernests Gulbis: See what I mean? Some of these wouldn't be so difficult to call if it weren't Wimbledon. Here we have two solid servers with big ground games, and a resurgent but typically salty Gulbis, speaking his mind and playing well. The thing is that whoever wins this match can ride that pretty far, until they get to Milos Raonic. So yeah, no idea still.
Gael Monfils v. Jeremy Chardy: I went with Monfils here, but I think it'll be an interesting tussle. Monfils is coming back off an injury, and he doesn't normally do well here, so ...
Gilles Simon v. Janko Tipsaarevic: Simon, but this is fitting to be another grinder.
Borna Coric v. Ivo Karlovic: Again, this is almost impossible to pick because it's grass. If Karlovic wins this match, he has the potential to end up in the quarterfinals, just on his serve alone. Although Coric hasn't had the Grand Slam results yet, he shows a megaton of promise. If he gets out of this one, it could give him a chance to really make some noise at a major. Again, no idea here.

Bottom half:

OK, I know what you're thinking. "Geez, Naf, this isn't rocket science, or even picking an outfit for work. Pull it together and pick something!" So here's the thing. Let's say Alexander Zverev advances as he should, and Tomas Berdych advances as he should? Who wins that third-round match? Whoever wins that match has to play Dominic Thiem in the fourth round. Who wins that?
Now that I'm looking at this in the morning, that's actually the biggest toss-up in the half. Sure, Stan Wawrinka can beat Fernando Verdasco and probably Thiem, Berdych or Zverev.
As far as Andy Murray goes, he could have his hands full with the likes of Nick Kyrgios, assuming he can get past Radek Stepanek in the first round. That's going to be hard. Murray's path to the semifinals is more complicated than Wawrinka's. Richard Gasquet's a problem. John Isner on grass is a problem. Either newlywed Fabio Fognini or Feliciano Lopez is a problem. Very complicated.
So what cream will rise to the top at this tournament? In the top half, you can't overlook Roger Federer. The only real question mark is the back problem. It caused him to pull out of a tournament last month. You might have heard of it -- the French Open? That's a big deal and so if he's still struggling, can he overcome Kei Nishikori in his quarter, or Novak Djokovic or Raonic in his half? And speaking of Raonic, he of the Koozi arm, I think he's a lot more dangerous now than he was before he started listening to John McEnroe. That's straight trouble with a capital 'T.'
I'm sitting here trying to press myself into committing into a Final Four. I can't. I've decided to call in with a low-grade fever and just enjoy the tournament. Also, these half-draws will probably be my most successful ever.

Brexit, er, Breakfast at Wimbledon: Ladies preview

Here is the harsh reality as Wimbledon approaches in the wake of a vote in Britain that basically affected the entire world: Reporters will ask tennis players about it and they will try, but fail, to answer intelligently. BREAKING: Most of them do not live in Britain, and even those who do are still just tennis players. Then sound bites will emerge that make them look stupid. This is unfair, and very mean, even too mean for the executive board of directors here at Tennis With Attitude. So let's not.
Instead, let's have a look at this women's draw. It's sort of interesting. (Not as interesting as the men's draw, but we will get to that.)

Despite her recent late-stage stumbles, Serena Williams is still obviously the favorite at Wimbledon. If she's of sound mind and body, there's not much in her half of the draw that could bother her. Maybe Agz Radwanska. Maybe Petra Kvitova, but she's not exactly brimming with confidence lately. The bottom half could get crazy. There's Simona Halep, new Grand Slam champ Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams, and Madison Keys, who is starting to look like the real deal. Annnd Sabine Lisicki, who came to Wimbledon a couple years back and almost won the thing. She hasn't done much since, but still, it's Wimbledon. As my draw indicates, I can definitely see Keys and Muguruza advancing the farthest, and I'd give Muguruza the edge if that did happen.

Some intriguing opening-round matches:
Daniela Hantuchova v. Christina McHale: Because Hantuchova still plays tennis?!!
Caroline Wozniacki v. Svetlana Kuznetsova: This is a first-round matchup that is utterly unfair. This should be a very good match, even though Woz is coming back from injury. I picked Kuznetsova, but this is a toss-up. No idea how this one's gonna go.
Alison Riske v. Roberta Vinci: It'll be fun to watch dueling game styles in this one. Thinkin' Gramma Serena-slayer will just drive Riske crazy with all the slices on grass.
Belinda Bencic v. Tsvetana Pironkova: I spelled that one out myself -- no cut-and-paste here. How ya like me now!?? So basically, Pironkova actually plays tennis all year round, but truly thrives when given the opportunity to torment Venus Williams at Wimbledon. She also did nicely this year at Roland Garros. I bet on Bencic, but this will be tricky match, methinks.
Victoria Duval v. Daria Kasatkina: Because it's just nice to have Duval back after her health issues. She's so cute, like little chipmunk!
Lucie Safarova v. Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Another really unfair draw for the players involved. Since they play doubles together, they probably are a bit familiar with each other's game. Great for fans, not so good for these guys.

The prediction I made that I am most doubtful about:
Monica Niculescu v. Timea Bacsinszky: I still kinda think that Niculescu's slice could give lots of trouble on grass. And Timea's kind of a big girl -- can she handle that reallllly low ball. Oh, the angst!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Serena + history + opponents + time =

Another French Open, another major that concludes with Serena Williams holding flatware. (Did anyone see the way she was waving that second-place plate, like she was asking around her house about who wanted seconds?)
Many reasons have been offered up for reasons Serena has yet to snatch that 22nd Slam title, tying her all-time with Steffi Graf. Among them: Drake, Roberta Vinci, hidden injuries, the shoes, the hair, et al. In my most desperate times, I attend the school of thought that many others are trending toward: nerves. The older she gets, she might be thinking, the fewer chances she'll have, right?
In fact, I believe there is another reason Serena Williams isn't getting over the hump these days -- because winning majors is hard? Crazy thought, but stay with me.
There aren't a lot of women who have won as many Slams as Serena does right now. There are two who have won more than her: Margaret Court and Graf. Court has 24, and didn't win a major between 1966 and 1968, because she had retired. When she came back, she lost in a Wimbledon final in 1969 WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT, had her baby, and then won all four slams the next calendar year. Then she didn't win any majors between early 1971 and 1972. In 1973, she won three of the four majors.
Graf won the Golden Slam in 1988 and after she won the Australian Open in 1990, she didn't win another major until Wimbledon in 1991. After she won the U.S. Open in 1996, she didn't even advance to a semifinal in a major in the following year -- she took time off to have knee surgery, But in 1999, she won the French Open, her last slam.
And then there's Serena Williams, who is stuck at 21 majors and everyone is naturally losing their minds. There is one thing about Serena's quest that makes it more difficult than what Graf and Court did. She'll be 35 in September. Graf was done with tennis when she was 30. Court was 33, although her Slam-snagging was over at 31.
I guess what I'm saying is that everyone needs to settle down about Serena Williams.