Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Serbia Rising

Ana Ivanovic joined compatriot Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals with a 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Venus Williams.

Not since the 2004 Roland Garros quarterfinals have Serena and Venus been eliminated from a Slam in the same round. In Paris, it was on the same day. Serena lost to Jennifer Capriati; Venus, to Anastasia Myskina, the eventual champion.

This year, Serbia defeated the United States. And if history repeats itself, Ana will be hoisting her first Slam trophy on Saturday afternoon.

In the semifinal, Ana will play Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, who dismantled Agnieszka Radwanska in the day's other quarterfinal.

Well, well, well, mtl. An all eastern-European Slam on the women's side henceforth. MMT, we were saying? I think this could be history as well. Bud Collins, you got an answer for us?


Karen said...

People are starting to talk about the Serbians and not in a complimentary way. Last night I was quite surprised at the backlash that AnaI was getting over at tennis.com for the fist pumps and in your face trying to intimidate an icon in the game. In 5 meetings she finally won. She has yet to accomplish half of what Venus has accomplished and so the fist pumping etc is a bit too much for my tastes. As to the story about playing in a swimming pool - at least she had a freaking pool. Her mother is a lawyer for dickens sake who can afford to not work and travel with her daughter to all tournaments. Jelena's parents are economists and Novak's father is a successful businessman. Tell me where the hardluck story in that. Please give me a break. That is one of the reasons why they are acting as if they are entitled to be at the top of the game because they have always got what they wanted. Someone last night said that Novak reminds her of a little boy who wants to play with the other boys but the other boys just dont want him around so in order to get other people to like him he becomes the court jester. Methinks she may have a point.

rabbit said...

I can't fully agree with you, Karen. I don't like Ivanovic or Djokovic at all but don't think it's fair comparing hardluck stories. There was an actual war going on in their home country. True, each of them had the means and the opportunity to move out to train, but we can't tell how stressful that was for them. Not sure how living in a poor, tough, violent neighborhood compares to living alone in a foreign country with your loved ones in the middle of a war.

But I do agree with you that Ivanovic's fist-pumping was a bit too much against a clearly injured Venus. What especially bothers me about Ana was how she played in her first GS final. She just gave up and claimed nerves as an excuse. This was basically the first time I've seen her step up in a big match.

Over time, Ana might win me over if she continues to play great in big matches, but Novak never will. Even in this tournament, he is talking trash about Roger. He has no shame in taking fake injury breaks. His box cheers opponents' errors. And his game is just so boring to me.

I don't know about Jankovic. Sometimes I love her, other times I hate her. For sure, I hated her after she beat Serena, but I will root for her against Sharapova.

And a great match by Roger against Blake. Some of the points in that second set tiebreak were phenomenal. Great shots scattered throughout the third set. Hoping Roger keeps his good form for the victory against Djokovic. And another great interview.

PeytonAllen said...

Wow. Some WS fans are taking the losses hard. I have no idea what it's like growing up in Serbia but i imagine despite what your parents do for a profession it would remind us we're pretty lucky to be where we are.

Why should Ana not be allowed to fist pump? Get real. I don't think she slammed a ball into the court and said, 'in your face Venus!'

I dunno. I learned on the espn boards not to argue with WS supporters. But for some reason i'm typing this...

You can hate the Serbs all you want but in Serena's case her feet were encased in lead. She was probably hurt. In Venus' case she was out played. She's mostly been outplayed at all the slams, sans London for the last five years. Maybe longer.

Players pump themselves up now. It's the state of the game. But take it how you wish.

Serena does the same thing.

Whatever problem Sharapova had in '07 seems to have gone away. She's serving better and looking like the old Maria from the baseline. She needs to bag this slam to keep fueling the hype. If she stays in this form, it'll be interesting to see her play the WS again this year. Both just dismantled her last year.

Brett said...

Wow, sounds like someone is bitter that a Serb beat her favorite player. Are you seriously trying to condemn fist pumping? What does fist pumping have anything to do with intimidation? Are you trying to say that, one can only show happines during a match if one has accomplished more than one's opponent? That's one of the most illogical statements I've ever heard. If you knew the first thing about Ivanovic's personality, you'd know that she wouldn't even know how to purposefully intimidate an opponenet, aside from what her forehand might do to opponents' psyche.

And who are these "people" that are talkihg about Serbs? Anyone credible? It sounds to me like you and a few of your friends are mad that a Williams sister once again didn't show up for a big match, so you all decide to take it out on everything Serbia. Well just because some of your immature friends agree with you doesn't mean everyone else thinks the same thing.

And if you consider fist pumping (fist pumping!) to be unsportsmanlike intimidation, what do you consider grunting at 100 decibels everytime you swing your arm?

PeytonAllen said...

Nice interview from Roger. Thanks for the link. I like the contradictions from Federer. So much class 90% of the time, and then....he pours it on while talking about him self. But, I love the stick up his ass he seems to have with the whole challenge system. He hates it. Seems generally annoyed whenever anyone makes (and wins) a challenge against him, but he's the first to use it when it suits him. Fed just shut up and accept the system that most of the world loves. Isn't this better than having JMac go on tangents about fault serve calls? "CHALK FLEW IN THE AIR!"

Which if you have seen that replay you can clearly see chalk actually flying in the air on that serve. lol

My thing with replay. I think it's dump to let the umpires overrule without use of it. What twice this week we've seen an overrule be overruled by a challenge? Just let the umpire overrule with use of it. Meaning when he or she says "correction ball was ----" it goes right to the shot spot.

Novak is playing great tennis. He was mentally and physically beat after the Open last year, and didn't have long to recharge but he's come out here and played great tennis. Ferrer was eaten alive last night.

It amazes me that some of us want players to not be afraid of Fed. To challenge him, not to back down, yet...Novak is a punk for showing no fear.

I think it has a chance to be a great match. Both are playing well. Novak really outplayed Fed for two sets in New York but came away with nothing. If he can steal the first or second set, that one could go for a while.

It would be nice to see Rafa make his first HC Final, but Jo Willy is crushing the ball. I say Nadal in four sets and Novak in five.

MMT said...

Jankovic and Ivanovic deserve to be where they are - the Williams sisters are both great champions, but it doesn't mean their opponents can't pump themselves up. Good for them. Neither one of them is going to handle Sharapova, though.

As for Djokovic, I can't stand his entourage (especially the parents) but I like him. I did find it shocking that he had the temerity to ask for quite during the points. If people want are gasping during the point it's a good thing - it means the tennis is good.

He was a ball of nerves at the end of the 3rd set. He should have closed it out at 5-3, so he has to dial-in against Federer. I think he's the favorite - he's playing better, hits harder, and has spent a little less time on court, so the stars are aligned for him to do it.

Finally, I like the challenge system, but I think it should have to be immediate, no checking with the box, no checking the mark, and whether you get it wrong or not, you lose your challenge. Too many stoppages, in my opinion.

Karen said...

Woo hoo, I got bitch slapped by 4 people. Did not see that one coming. As we say in Jamaica, mi throw mi corn, me never call no fowl. In response. I do not like fist pumping, screaming, hollering, jumping up and down, in your face screaming, the turning your back to your opponent when they are getting ready to serve, the injury breaks especially when your opponent has momentum. For full disclosure I am a fan of both WS and Roger Federer. I do not think it is proper for any player, no matter who they may be to be talking smack about another player. This is not boxing. This is tennis. When did tennis disintegrate into what it has become so much so that people are now finding it acceptable to be rude. Is this a reflection of our society. Say what you will about Sharapova and her alleged cheating ways, but you will never hear her talking smack about an opponent. The nearest to that is when she stated that she bet Aggie does not try what she did at the USO against her again.

As far as I am concerned the Serbs all had it easy. They are from privileged backgrounds and yes, whilst they were living in a war torn country, the fact of the matter is that the privilege still remains. They believe that they are entitled and that is all well and good that you consider yourself one of the elite, but to be fronting on the icons of the sport. The ones who have fought tooth and nail for you to benefit the way you are benefitting now speaks to a lack of class on all the Serbs.

The only person in the Williams box who always makes a spectacle of himself and displays what could be termed unsportsmanlike conduct is Richard Williams. Mama Oracene has been known to cheer her opponents good plays and smile, so does Jelena’s mother. Jelena needs to learn from her mother. It is irritating to me as a fan of tennis to see her laughing at her opponent’s errors out there on the court. As for Novak, the less said the better. Sorry for the rant

tangerine said...

Three Serbs in a slam semis, that's amazing. Well, there goes my prediction that Ferrer would defeat the Djoker. Nole really upped his game and finally looked more relaxed and comfortable on the new court. Ferrer continues his strong run. Amazing what a little bit of self-belief can do.

By the way, somebody on MTF noted that Djokovic becomes only the third active player to reach all four slam semis. The other two are Roger and Nalbandian, both of whom did it at the age of 24. Nole is only 20.

Disappointed to hear that people are already bashing Ana for doing something that practically everybody else does on tour. She dares to do a fist pump? Wow, is that really so scandalous? Seriously, folks. Moving on...

I have no idea what happened to the WS, they looked so strong going in to this tournament. Venus had an excuse but Serena's loss especially was a WTF moment. She actually looked depressed out there. If I didn't know better I would have thought that a favorite pet of hers had just died before the match started.

"Wounded animal" Jankovic's inspired run ends here. Maria will chew her up.

Three cheers to the former mental wasteland known as James Blake. I honestly thought he would crap out of his match with a breadstick or two. I didn't think he'd actually go into a slam QF believing that he belonged there and that he could win it. He actually forced Roger to play some of his best tennis. When Roger does that, it's a compliment to his opponent.

Loved his pissed-off "I can't believe I missed that shot" attitude instead of his usual wimpy "Great shot, Roger!" deference. Is this the new leaner, meaner Blake we've been wanting to see emerge for so long? God, I hope so.

Semis look great on both the women's and men's side. The AO is finally starting to look and feel like a real grand slam experience.

cms said...

I know a lot of people on this site do not care much for Federer, but here he is in last night's press conference defending Djokovic and anyone else considered "cocky" at a GS:

"But this is the way you're supposed to think out there. You are not coming here to lose in the first round. You're coming here to hopefully do well and then win tournament if you're one of the top 10 guys. That's reality. That's nothing new. That's not cocky. That's confidence. That's just a normal tennis player."

MMT said...

Djokovic has made some very arrogant comments in the past. After losing to Rafa in Paris in 2006, he claimed he was in control of the match, that the result was down to his play, and that Rafa was beatable on clay.

There's nothing wrong with believing that to yourself, and expressing belief in yourself if asked about a match, but this was ridiculous. Well, if he wins, most will say it was just a confident champion in the making saying what he thought, and at the end of the day, you can't fault him for that. Still, it does stick in the craw a bit.

But deep down, I think he's a good person, an ambitious professional, and has the right to say what is obvious - he has the tools to win this tournament, and eventually become the best player in the world.

Craig Hickman said...

peytonallen said: "It amazes me that some of us want players to not be afraid of Fed. To challenge him, not to back down, yet...Novak is a punk for showing no fear."

Novak is a punk because Novak is a punk. He can't help himself. And I find his tennis nothing special. And he cheats. On the regular. And he's a liar. Serpent.

But his opponent last night was a bigger punk. Ferrer can't seem to beat players in the latter stages of Slams who don't speak Spanish. He needs to do something about that because his performance did not befit a professional tennis player. The game's "best returner" couldn't even get a return in play on a break point.

I have a feeling Raja will kick the self-anointed Serpent in the teeth in the semifinals.

The Serbs' tennis success doesn't bother me all that much. (The hype about them is another story...) I simply don't like them very much. (Well, I should qualify that I don't like the Big Three all that much, but Janko Tipsarevic and Victor Troicki seem perefectly fine to me...)

Ana is okay, I guess, though I did find it interesting that she yelled "C'mon!" all match until she had the upperhand near the end of the second set and then she reverted to her norma "Ajde!" Whoever said she doesn't know how to try to get into her opponent's head obviously doesn't know Ana either. And I don't fault her for doing whatever she needs to do within the rules to try to beat a player she's never beaten before.

But I bet the farm she's not so in your face if Venus' leg isn't wrapped up like a mummy. It's amazing the confidence you get when you know your opponent won't be able to be in full flight.

Again, no criticism of Ana at all for what she did, but let's not canonize the girl as some kind of angel. She's a tennis player trying to win a Slam.

And I believe as many fans of the Serbs believe that they feed off each other. Jelena escaped against a timid 17-year-old in the first round. Tipsy took Raja to the limit. Novak beat a listless and weary Hewitt and a Spaniard who didn't show up. Jelena beat Serena and then Ana beat Venus. (And both of them were gracious in defeat. Not newsworthy, of course, but true.) It's all good. Now let's see where the Serbs go from here.

If I had to predict: Despite what all his fans in the tennis media say, Novak won't be No. 1 anytime soon, if ever. Jelena won't win a Slam unless she pulls a Myskina (who she plays exactly like, sans serve and everything) at Roland Garros, and Ana will remain a bundle of nerves when it really matters. Troicki has the best game of all the Serbs but who knows what kind of desire he has to make it mean something on the tour. He sure as hell gave Rafa all he could handle in the first round, though.

And thank you all for your Tuesday, I mean Wednesday Tirades!!!

Karen said...

Wow Craig came and calmed things down. Who would have thunk it. Thanks Rabbit for the clip of Roger. He seems to be loosening up a bit now. I guess the threat of losing his No. 1 ranking has mellowed him somewhat - LOL

PeytonAllen said...

Karen i hate the bathroom breaks as well. And think the WTA should either crack down on coaching or just allow it.

That said, having watched a good deal of the Ana/Venus match I failed to see where Ana was unsportsmanlike. If you're going to point the finger at "come on's" "fist pumps" or quick stares across the net then be sure to lump Fed and the WS into that discussion.

Serena was obviously hurt to some degree. Venus however, appeared to be running across the court just fine. This idea that she was hobbled and thus Ana won is a joke.

While it was Ana's first win over Venus let's not forget Venus has not won a Major off grass since 2001. Hasn't been in the final of a Major off grass in four years.

Point is you don't have to go looking for excuses as to why she lost.

David Ferrer is what he is Craig. To build him up as a legit GS title threat is laughable. He has a host of skills, but players like Federer, Djoke, Roddick, and Nadal should beat him when it counts. Maybe David didn't play his best last night, but let's credit Novak for playing well. He really found another gear.

He's done and said some things that have gotten on people's nerves and that's understandable. I'm not championing the kid. I want Rafa to win. But it'd be nice to see another challenger for Fed.

When Fed was Djok's age he was a headcase as well. Teenagers often grow up and become men and women that find something they didn't have in their youth. Maturity and wisdom.

Every sport needs a villain. Djok makes a good one. But, he has major talent if not flash. That's clear.

Craig you're on record as saying he wouldn't back up his results this year. Correct?

He's in another slam semi.

I just don't think, whether people dislike him or not, that you can wish him nor his talents to go away.

Craig as for you hopes that Fed will tap the kid on the nose and send him on his way, past results predict this should be a close, well-fought encounter.


Fed/Djokovic head to head.

PeytonAllen said...

Try this head to head link

Craig Hickman said...

"Craig you're on record as saying he wouldn't back up his results this year. Correct?"

Wrong. I said he had to back up his results before I declare him all that a bag of chips.

Craig Hickman said...

And he's in another Slam semifinal because his draw opened up for him like a wet...


Let's see how he defends what he won last year.

Craig Hickman said...

H2H's are history. It could be close. It could also be a blowout.

And if I want to wish Novak away, I think I can. And if I don't see him the way others do, I think I can. That's my prerogative, no?

Brett said...


I think you have very inciteful and entertaining commentary on the tennis world and I appreciate the opportunity for intelligent discussion here. Having said that, I think you are being a touch defensive. Of course it's your prerogative to state your opinions. I don't think peytonallen was trying to say "you can't wish away Novak." He was only stating his own counteropinion, which he has the prerogative of saying as well.

"But I bet the farm she's not so in your face if Venus' leg isn't wrapped up like a mummy. It's amazing the confidence you get when you know your opponent won't be able to be in full flight."

This is exactly what turns me off to the Williams Sisters. I can't remember the last time that a Williams simply got outplayed. Venus herself said the leg wasn't an issue and that she got outplayed. Why can't her fans take her lead?

And if it is true, according to all WS fans, that given Venus and Serena are healthy, they would win 100% of their matches, shouldn't they be held accountable for being injured so frequently? You call Ferrer a punk for wilting when it matters most (which imo is a fairly harsh criticism created from the fact that you dislike Novak and desparately want someone to put him in his place), but I think the WS are even bigger punks for not conditioning well enough to be a consistent winner, especially when you're talented enough to be one of the greatest players of all time.

Craig Hickman said...


Thanks for your comment. peytonallen and I have a long history of "fighting". That's how we get down. We both enjoy it. I'm pretty sure he understands the inside joke to my response.

But it's also my prerogative to be defensive if I choose to. I make no apologies for it. It's simply a small part of how I express myself.

My comment about Ana doesn't have anything to do with Venus' interview history or the comments of her fans. I was simply speaking about Ana's confidence in the face of an opponent who clearly can't serve as consistently as she was toward the end of last year, and who can't get her feet right to hit a backhand properly. Ana picked on that side as she should have. I also spoke of the Serb's success and its possible influence on her confidence as well.

Venus can say anything she wants, but she wasn't in full flight. She might've still lost if she was in full flight, but she wasn't. I've said here and elsewhere that something is going on with the Williams family because both were uncharacteristically morbid and Venus had an angry outburst in doubles that I've never seen from her before. Oracene didn't even look right.

Tennis isn't played by one opponent in a vacuum. I'm not offering excuses. I'm providing context. Ana DID outplay Venus in this match. Thus the scoreline.

And as you can see, I have given Ana full credit. Doesn't mean I didn't find her demeanor interesting.

Craig Hickman said...

And one more thing, brett. There's no need to make assumptions about what motivates my criticism.

Ferrer beat Novak in Madrid. He also beat Roddick. I like Ferrer. But he punks out deep in Slams and I call him on it. If his opponent yesterday was Roddick and he played the way he played, I'd have said the same thing. Just like I've called Roddick a punk when he chokes.

Despite my biases, I'm an equal opportunity critic and I give credit where credit is due.

PeytonAllen said...

Craig you ignorant slut.


Craig Hickman said...

LOL, peyton. Right black atcha.

(By the way, I meant Ferrer beat Djoke in Shanghai, not Madrid)

oddman said...

Dang, I like Ferrer. What the hell was that? That's the second time now... he finally got into it a little too late in the match, had the Djoker running scared though, and boy I enjoyed that. But it didn't last - too bad. Heh heh, screaming at his box and fans to shut up - HA HA!
Re: the title of this post though, you have to tip your hat to the Serbian tennis players for coming on strong. And yes, they do feed off each other, Craig.

Karen said...

Well great to see intelligent discussion around here. In relation to things going on in the Williams household. Point 1, Richard is no where around and you all know Venus plays better when Dad is around. Point 2, controversy surrounding the moving of Venus' 4th round match to accommodate Lleyton's match. Tennis writers are saying that she should have moved and the press are having a field day with this. It cannot have been good to have to live through that kind of thing over the past couple of days and having to face the press in relation to it. In case anyone hear thinks I hate the Serbs, I actually picked AnaI to win the USO last year, before her flame out against Venus. As to JJ's performance last night, what the hail was that? AnaI getting bagelled in the first set. To the person who commented on the injuries of Venus/Serena. They are playing a lot more matches in order to get themselves better conditioned. It takes time. I for one will continue to enjoy them until they retire.