Here's the thing: Venus Williams and Lisa Raymond had no business losing to Nadia Petrova and Elena Vesnina in the deciding rubber of the Fed Cup semifinal tie on home turf yesterday. I know Nadia Petrova is an excellent doubles player, but Lisa Raymond is ranked No. 2 in the world in doubles and Venus has 6 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister.
Katrina Adams, one of the most knowledgable and fair commentators I've heard, especially when it comes to doubles, her specialty, remarked throughout the match at how flat-footed Venus was around the net. The Russians attacked her in the forecourt and usually won the point. Toward the end of the match, Lisa was yelling, "You, you!!" so that Venus would take shots she had surprisingly left for Lisa to cover early on. I know, I know. This was the first time these two paired up for doubles, but with Zina Garrison captaining from the sidelines, I had no idea why it took the pair so long to come together as a team. When they did, they played great tennis. But it was too much, too little, too late.
And why did Zina rest Vania King and play Meilen Tu, a player with exactly no Fed Cup experience, in the fourth rubber? If you're trying to bring the Cup back to the USA, you don't put an untested player in a match that can close out the semifinal tie for you. Vania would likely have also lost to Nadia, but at least she might have put up more of a fight and tired Nadia out more before the doubles rubber.
I'll continue to scratch my head over Zina's decisions.
For their part, the Russian team played outstanding tennis and came up with great serves and returns on the big points. Vesnina was the biggest surprise, because she had the least experience of the four players and played the best tennis. And once again, Tarpishev captains his team brilliantly and pulls out another victory against the Americans in the semifinals of the ITF's biggest team competitions.
In the finals, Russia will face defending champion Italy, who defeated France in the decisive doubles rubber on the back of Francesca Schiavone, who rallied from 5-2 down in the final set of her singles rubber against Tatiana Golovin (big choke) to level the tie at 2-2.
For more Fed Cup coverage and drah-ma, see Savannah's take.
France invaded the United States this week. Two Frenchman contested the final of the Campbell's Hall of Fame Championships in Newport where Pete Sampras and Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario were inducted. Fabrice Santoro, makeing his Newport debut at the ripe old age of 34, won his first grasscourt title with a straight set victory over Queen's runner-up Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 6-4. It was Fabrice's first title since 2002. Vince Spadea, the last American in the draw, bowed out in the quartefinals to South Africa's Wesley Moodie.
Wimbledon 2007 is history. But it's all about the Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rivalry. My in box remains inundated with emails about these two and often it seems as though the fans of each or more intense rivals than the players. The following is the most eloquent of these fan musings and is sure to stir up some more discussion.
Why I admire Raja, but Love Rafa
from helen w
I watched the Wimbledon final with my heart in my mouth from the moment the players walked on to the court. I didn't miss a shot. I found myself fist-pumping (with only my abyssinian cat "Little" Rafa for company) and screaming in the privacy of my living room. I was with them until the last shot, and the handshake & hug at the net. But as tears ran down, I turned off the TV as I couldn't bear to watch the ceremony. (OK, I am a confessed RafaTard, a Rafa KAD. Is there a 12-step program for such as me?)
So -- why is my emotional response to Rafa so much stronger than it is to Roger?
Both of these men are fabulous players and great gentlemen. But I sense a core difference in them. Rafa, from his very soul, seems like a generous-spirited, essentially kind man. I believe this is a direct result of being born into the family that he was so fortunate as to be born into. I can't speak highly enough about how much I esteem his extended family. Would that every child could be born to such a family.
One consequence of this gift is his being so able to allow his emotions to shine through in everything he does. This is what makes him such an engaging player to watch, to cheer for.
Roger, on the other hand, plays with tightly-controlled emotions. We are told that when he was a young player, he often had temper tantrums on court. Contrast this to Rafa, whose uncle and coach Toni told him that should Rafa ever threw his racquet, it was the end of their coaching relationship. And he never has.
My experience with people who maintain tight control over their emotions (and I speak from very personal experience) is that the main reason they are afraid to let their emotions show is that so much of their emotions comprise feelings of anger. This is almost always a legacy from early childhood, which I believe is impossible to completely eliminate in later life. The best one can do is "work" on it. I believe that Roger's gentlemanly behaviour is not something he was born with, in the way that Nadal's is, but something that he has worked on, and huge kudos for him for doing it. Nevertheless, sometimes the not-so-gentlemanly side still peaks out, for example when he requested the chair umpire to turn off Hawk-eye during the Wimbledon final. And when he expressed no sympathy for the plight of the players in the bottom half of the Wimbledon draw, while at the same time having complained about having to have a late-afternoon start at the French Open last month. He sometimes seems petulant on court when things don't go his way. Before the Wimby final, he remarked that he did not see any real improvement to Rafa's grass game, which is reminiscent of him calling Rafa's game "rather one-dimensional" during last year's clay season. That these attempts at gamesmanship seem so clumsy is actually a testament to Roger's real fairness and good character. Rafa, on the other hand, has never resorted to this kind of thing, and it is difficult to imagine him ever going there.
(For those of you what claim that Rafa's fist pumps and shouts of "Vamos!" are unsportsmanlike, I can only say that I believe them to be the result of emotional exuberance, and are not done to spite his opponents -- there is no malice in them.)
Get ready to jump all over me, but I believe that this personality difference is often observable in their fan bases as well. When I read some of the reader commentary on espn, tennis.com, and msnbc, I feel that a lot (not all!) of the Federer KADs almost hate Rafa, and are so often banging on about how unfair it is that he is always taking too much time between points, how repulsive he is with pulling at the back of his pants, etc, etc.... Some of them have even diagnosed him with obsessive compulsive disorger. They too often accuse others who suggest mitigating circumstances (e.g., the effects of the rain delays at Wimbledon) as "making excuses for Rafa." Many (most?) Rafa KADs, on the other hand, are more than willing to give Roger his due. I often wish that Roger's fans worked on their emotional issues as much as Roger has worked on his.
During the first set of the Wimbledon final, a deep male voice boomed out from the stands, "I love you Rafa!"
He spoke for so many of us.