When you've watched a player a long time you get to know his or her quirks, fan or not. You can tell from how the player sets up to serve whether he or she is nervous, prepared, or scared shitless. You can tell from how the player hits their shots if this is going to be a walk in the park or on the wild side. The fan picture above is from Dubai. I think her facial expression indicates the current state of American tennis especially when it comes to the ATP.
As soon as I saw Andy Roddick take the court yesterday I knew he was in for a rough day. The Roddick who took the court in Dubai was calm, collected, confident. The man who took the court yesterday was as jumpy as the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof. Jumpy is not a good place for Andy Roddick to be. I remembered that Andy and Feliciano Lopez played one of the better hard court matches I've seen in some time in contesting the Dubai Final. As soon as the first jet powered serve cleared the net yesterday I figured Tommy Haas had the match in the bag. I wasn't aware of the head to head between the two men - I found that out after the match. I was just going by style of play. Tennisheads were saying that the surface worked against Andy. They say he couldn't get any help from the slower Indian Wells court which is why he played the way he did. Not untrue. But Andy Roddick is a professional tennis player. During one incarnation he actually played well on red dirt. In my opinion Andy came in not to play tennis but to blow his opponent - Tommy "Macchiata" Haas - off the court. Tommy was having none of it and waited for the implosion that would occur when Andy realized a lot of his balls were coming back. Rallies were not his friend yesterday. Roddick doesn't have the patience unless everything is going his way. And unfortunately as Mick Jagger opined, "you can't always get what you want". The challenge a player faces in being considered one of the top dogs is how he does on surfaces not to his or her liking. It may be too late for Andy to change his ways. He needs a coach. I'm not sure his brother is the one to deliver a punch to the gut when one is needed.
The other major hit American tennis took yesterday was delivered by Lleyton Hewitt. He systematically destroyed Sam "Kid Porsche" Querrey who coming into Indian Wells was once again being talked up as the future of American tennis. Not so fast there Bunky.
Cheering squad or not it was obvious that the guy who said he'd rather be driving his mother's Porsche was not going to beat a determined Lleyton Hewitt. Size definitely didn't matter in this match as Hewitt showed the Kid how it's done. The only question was how bad the beat down was going to be. As shown here the Kid was probably already on the Pacific Coast Highway.
There are three Americans left.
So what were the women up to while all of this was going on? I have to say the saddest match I saw was Amelie Mauresmo vs Alona Bondarenko. I'm giving away my age when I say I remember when Mauresmo burst on the scene way back when. I remember her drive, the raw talent and thinking that she was going to be a player to reckon with. Her career shows that it takes more than talent to stay at the top of the heap even in the WTA. I saw a player yesterday who could barely keep the ball between the lines. Shots she used to make in her sleep were ending up way beyond baseline or sideline boundaries. Alona didn't have to do much more than keep the ball in play. I've read that Amelie might hang it up soon. Maybe she needs a sabbatical that doesn't involve sickness or injury so that she can decide just what she wants from her life and from tennis. As it stands right now she is a whisper of her former self.
Thanks to the two hours or so of live tennis provided in the States by FSN I spent most of my day in front of my computer watching coverage on ATP Masters Series Television. They're also showing the women's matches of note which is great since the WTA doesn't seem to grasp the concept behind online viewing as of yet. I do have to mention in passing that for once it was the WTA that had it's draws up for fans before the ATP this go around. Stunning development. Maybe they'll find a way to get into that new fangled on line thing.
Sorry for the digression. So I'm sitting in front of my computer screen and watching Maria Sharapova's match against Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. I should say trying to watch. I've usually watched Ms Sharapova on my television. It doesn't have surround sound which apparently is a good thing since the sound coming from my speakers during Maria's match was threatening to deafen me. I know, I know. I'm a fan of Venus and Serena. I am a Monica Seles fan. But is it really necessary for her to make that much noise?! Sheesh. I had to turn the volume all the way down just to be able to watch. To her credit Eleni did not roll over and play dead. She fought. But Sharapova used her big serve and power game very effectively and Eleni, not the fittest of players, didn't stand a chance. The surface didn't seem to affect Maria's game at all.
Haruka was anxious to see Shahar Pe'er vs Sania Mirza. Personally I wasn't keen on watching it. I figured Shahar was the one who would prevail over a mentally fragile Sania. I was wrong. Sania plays well in California. She is said to be setting up shop outside of India so maybe she will end up living in Cali. When she lost the first set by donating a tie break to her doubles partner I figured the match was over. Again I was wrong. Sania raced to a lead in the second set and looked ready to wrap it up when she mentally imploded. Then she did a smart thing. The WTA allows on court coaching at this event and she asked for her coach. Not only did she hold on and win the second set but she won the third. She won it playing tennis not ball bashing and used her big forehand well. That this was a big win for Sania goes without saying. It'll be interesting to see how she does going forward.
The other match I have to mention is the one between Mario Ancic and Fernando Gonzalez. Fernando has been struggling of late and Mario is just making it back from a bout with mono that kept him off the tour for several months. They split the first two sets with Ancic winning the first and Fernando showing why he's a threat in convincingly winning the second set. It looked as if he would go on and win the match from Ancic who was giving a crash course in Croatian curses. I was learning the words to the Chilean fight song thanks to the very enthusiastic fans who support Chilean players world wide.
It sounds odd when you say it but tennis is funny. Ancic came out of the gate in the third set like a bat out of hell. Before Fena knew what was happening he was down 5-0. It was just like that watching it. "What the hell" was all this viewer could say as Ancic grabbed the third set by the throat and didn't let go. Gonzo did wake up and managed not to be served a bagel or a breadstick but it was too little too late. He could not make up the double break lead his opponent had at that point.
One final note. It gets cold in the desert at night. I poked fun at the women who came out to play in Hong Kong earlier this year in leggings and long sleeves. But Daniella Hantuchova came out dressed for play in Canada last night. She was looking good but I expected her to have to make her exit via dog sled.
I hang out on a lot of sites to find out what's going on among fans, superfans, and tennisheads. I supposed you could call them tennis geeks but I like tennisheads. There are enough fan sites, fan blogs and professional blogs to sustain any tennishead's obsession. One fan board however has gone the extra mile.
"Kirkus" and his merry band over at Talk About Tennis apparently have a team of fans on site at the Pacific Life Open aka Indian Wells. Their day to day experiences are posted HERE. Photo Galleries are also available. There are also good quality audio clips from some of the pressers available.
A Final Note
Along with great fan doings there are bizarre fan doings as well. I'm sure most have heard or read about the "fan girl gone wild" at Andy Roddick's pre match press conference. If not here is the
I think the young lady was nervous and like many fans when faced with their idol she went overboard. Andy handled it well despite his obvious dislike of the line of questioning. I guess this is 101 in what not to do at a press conference.
Monday, March 17, 2008