Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Marat Safin returned from the dead and dismissed world No. 3 Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 to cause the biggest upset of tournament so far.
Djoke was considered a favorite to take the title, as he made sure to tell us before the first ball was struck. But even though he was runner-up at Queens, grass just isn't a surface he particularly "gets" yet.
Yes, he made the semifinals at SW19 last year. But from what I saw he was let off the hook several times before the semifinals by Nicolas Kiefer, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marcos Baghdatis. I guess some would say his mental toughness carried the day. I say he lucked out.
Djoke has never faced a player who returns serve like Marat did today. Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have good returns, but Marat attacks his returns like Andre Agassi did. (I'd love to have seen Djoke and Agassi play.) Djoke was demoralized and forced to hit more double faults than usual. Which is exactly how the match ended - on a double fault.
And Djoke had the nerve to call Marat mentally unstable before the fawning press corps. I know Marat jokes about his own mental issues, but I'm of the opinion he's the only player who ought to joke about such things in public, and certainly no player who just experienced a major upset at his hands. I don't care how much the press corps laughed.
Today, Marat was stable, composed and deadly. And he served brilliantly. Early in the match, he figured out that Djoke likes returning flat serves. So Marat kicked and kicked and kicked his first serve everywhere in the box and didn't allow Djoke to get in a groove on his returns.
Marat was only faced one break point in the match, which he lost. He broke Djoke four times and earned 12 break points.
And lest we forget, the mercurial Russian hates playing in the kind of wind that gusted through London today.
Thanks, Marat, for getting rid of this grifter on grass.
Thanking Her Lucky Stars
And kissing the net chord.
New world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was up 5-2 on French veteran Nathalie Dechy. A blink later, Ana was down a set, having lost a tough tiebreak.
I don't use the word "deserve" when talking about winners and losers of tennis matches because the person who wins deserves to win.
Ana played like an upstart for most of the match. Nathalie played a brilliant match and could never catch a break on a crucial point. Not the least of which was Ana's second match point when her tight forehand hit the net and trickled over. Ana responded like an embarrassed little girl, pulling the her cap down over her face.
And speaking of caps. After one of those brilliant points, Nathalie slammed a backhand volley winner at the net just as her cap fell off. The point was hers. Ana wasn't at all obstructed by the cap fall. But the chair umpire ordered them to replay the point.
Should Ana have ceded the point? Several ATP players would have, while I have a hard time seeing a WTA player do the same. I'm sure there's a few out there, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. Rip me if you want. Folks know I'm a feminist. But gracious sportsmanship is lacking on the WTA tour, Justine Henin's retirement notwithstanding.
But it was already overtime in the decisive set and had Ana given Nathalie the point, she would have been down 15-30. Six points away from defeat. She gets a pass.
There were many other moments in the match where lady luck was on Ana's side, but Nathalie stayed the course and battled deep into the third set. When Ana finally escaped, they had a nice moment at the net.
And then Nathalie wept.
Face in towel, the fans applauded softly, continuously, allowing the Frenchwoman her grief. When she finally came up from under it, they roared loudly and gave her a standing ovation.
It was one of those special moments when you are just as satisfied with the fans as you are with the match.
That's how they do it in London.
John McEnroe (after his golden boy, the Djoker, was slammed by Marat):
Photos of the Day
Rowdy fans removed during the Lleyton Hewitt match
Bobby Reynolds, first American into the third round
Fernando Gonzalez felled by Bolelli
Serena Williams before winning her match