Friday, May 30, 2008

Day 6: Sisters, Sledged

I know, I know. Tacky title. But when I got the news that both Serena and Venus lost today, that's the first thing that popped into my head.

It wasn't a shock. Really. I said in my preview that Katarina Srebotnik gives Serena fits on clay. And there's a shady undercurrent to their on-court relationship that I noticed in Charleston. If a player can get into Serena's head, strange things can happen. And Flavia Pennetta beat Venus in straight sets the last time they played. On a hardcourt. So...

Tough draws.

I didn't get to see much tennis today. Won't see any tomorrow either. It's the Maine Democratic Convention weekend and I'm a delegate, so I'm knee deep in our democracy.

For those who have seen the matches and want to provide your takes, please share in the comments.

I should be back Sunday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day 5: For the First Time Since 2002

Two American men have advanced to the third round at Roland Garros. Today, Robby Ginepri upset No. 27 seed Igor Andreev, a quarterfinalist last year, to join Wayne Odesnik in the final 32. An upset by a man who wasn't event included in the player's guide because he'd dropped out of the top 100.

That's all I have for today. And that's quite enough. Especially given the beatings American men take every single year around this time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 4: Personal History

He'd never won a five-set match. Which means he'd never come back from two sets to love down. But Paul-Henri Mathieu, the Frenchman who ended Gustavo Kuerten's love affair with Paris, moved into the third round today with a gallant 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 comeback against Spain's Oscar Hernandez in a match that lasted more than four hours.


Serena Williams fought off a feisty effort from France's Mathilde Johansson to advance 6-2, 7-5. How she managed to lose seven games is beyond me. No it's not. She was gagging like a strangle victim in the second set. She better close out these early-round matches with less drama if she intends to make a run at the title here.

Maria Sharapova got all she could handle from the teenage backboard named Evgeniya Rodina. In the deciding set, the Russian upstart didn't face a break point through the first 12 games, while Maria saved three. Too bad the youngster didn't know about injury timeouts. Clearly inhibited by some physical ailments late in the third set, she never called for the trainer even though one was "on-call" at courtside. Showing incredible poise in her first Slam match, I'd venture a guess that she pulls off this upset if she'd gotten the rubdown she so desperately needed. Or maybe that's just my bias talking. The way Mary Jo Fernandez and Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo and Dick Endberg were licking Maria's nether regions throughout the ESPN re-broadcast, some balance is required. Justine Henin's retirement leaves this one at the top of the rankings.


Rafael Nadal must be pissed. He had to wait yet again for his first-round match to be completed while the women's matches scheduled in front of him went on and on and on, including the one I just mentioned. But he was calm and focused and relentless, as usual. He has to play a talented Frenchman tomorrow. Could be a fun time in front of all those French fans.

Speaking of which, where the hell are the fans? There are a lot of empty seats on all the show courts, even when the Frenchies are on the court. What's up with that?

Oh, yeah. American Wayne Odesnik won that winnable match I spoke of day before yesterday. He's the first American male into the third round since...James Blake.

Go figure.

Day 3: Rain

I forgot to post this. But just so I have as complete a review of the event as possible, here it is.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 2: American Upset

Fan favorites Roger Federer and Venus Williams advanced on a rainy day in Paris. But the story of the day was Vince-Spadea-lookalike Wayne Odesnik knocking off Guillermo Canas in three tiebreak sets.

Americans aren't supposed to beat Argentineans at Roland Garros. But Wayne's game is well-suited to the dirty stuff. Willy seems to be waning.

Impressive stuff from the young Floridian born in South Africa. Hyung-Taik Lee is his next opponent.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 1: Goodbye, Guga

He may go down in history as the only tennis champion for which no one spoke an ill word.

Thanks for the memories.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

ROLAND GARROS 2008: Women's Top Seeds Preview

BY Mad Professah

[1] Maria Sharapova RUS (1). Maria Sharapova became the top ranked player in the world by virtue of the shocking (some would say suspicious) retirement of defending French Open champion Justine Henin on May 14th. However, Sharapova is unlikely to complete her career Grand Slam with the 2008 Roland Garros title. In her half of the draw she could face Dinara Safina in the 4th round, followed by Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova in consecutive rounds. This is a gauntlet of Russians she is unlikely to survive despite winning the first Grand Slam title of 2008.
Prediction: 4th Round.

[2] Ana Ivanovic SRB (2). Last year's French Open finalist was also in the 2008 Australian Open final, and on both occasions she was overwhelmed by the circumstances and failed to show her all-court powerful game, anchored by her deadly forehand and superior defensive skills. Unfortunately for her, she is in Serena Williams quarter of the draw in 2008. Serena won her first title on clay since her 2002 Roland Garros title, which I see as an indicator of Serena's intentions to go further in the 2008 draw than her 2007 quarterfinal loss against Henin. regardless of who her opponent is.
Prediction: Quarterfinalist.

[3] Jelena Jankovic SRB (3). Justine Henin had won the French Open in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. With Henin's retirement, the person who the tennis world has focussed on to win the Roland Garros title is the older of the "Serbian sisters," Jelena Jankovic. She is in Venus Williams quarter of the draw, but I don't expect that to prevent Jankovic from advancing to the semi-final, although I do expect a fantastic match.
Prediction: At least Semifinalist.

[4] Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (4). Kuznetsova made it to the final in 2006 and will most likely be facing Maria Sharapova after the top seed has been battered by extensive combat with other fellow Russians. The matches between fellow Russians are often difficult-to-watch affairs. A case in point is the 2007 US Open semifinal between Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze, which is likely to be reprised in the 2008 Roland Garros quarterfinals, with the result of Kuznetsova prevailing being the same.
Prediction: Semifinalist or Finalist.

[5] Serena Williams USA (5). Serena withdrew from the Italian Open quarterfinal in Rome with a back injury two weeks ago but if she is at 100% in Paris she will clearly be a threat to be one of the final four players in the tournament, and a good bet to win the whole thing. With the absence of Henin, the result will be completely up to Serena.
Prediction. Semifinalist or Champion.

[6] Anna Chakvetadze RUS (6). Although I am a fan of the diminutive Russian, she has not been the same player in 2008 after her horrific experience with a home invasion robbery during the 2007 off-season. I do expect she will begin her return to form with a quarterfinal berth (and loss) to fellow Russian Kuznetsova. How she acquits herself there will be key to the rest of her year.
Prediction: Quarterfinalist.

[7] Elena Dementieva RUS (7). The beautiful Russian with the ugly serve and the powerful groundstrokes won the Dubai tournament over Kuznetsova earlier this year and has returned to the Top 10 after a disappointing few years. Dementieva has made it to the French Open final before (2004) and can beat any of her fellow Russians, if she's playing well.
Prediction: At least Quarterfinalist.

[8] Venus Williams USA (8). After taking a mysterious hiatus from tennis due to an undisclosed illness the 6-time Grand Slam champion returned to competitive play to lose a hard-fought quarter-final in Berlin against Jankovic. It is likely there will be a reprise of that matchup at the 2008 Roland Garros quarter-finals. It is possible but unlikely the result will be different.Prediction: Quarterfinalist or earlier.

[9] Marion Bartoli FRA (9). The surprise finalist at the 2007 Wimbledon championships has managed to maintain her spot in the Top 10 for the last year but has not managed to get close to winning a tour title. It's possible (but unlikely) that Bartoli will get a chance for revenge against Venus Williams in the 4th round, this time on the red clay of Frenchwoman's national championships. The result will be the same.
Prediction: 4th Round or earlier.

[10] Patty Schnyder SUI (11). The tenth ranked player in the world is Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia but she withdrew from the tournament due to injury. The wily left-handed Swiss Patty Schnyder was moved up from World #11 to be the tenth seed at Roland Garros. She is in Serena's quarter of the draw, with a lively likely 4th round showdown (against a player which has beaten her on clay twice before) which will be a good measure of how far Serena's determination will take her this year.
Prediction. 4th Round.

Roland Garros 2008 Preview

Let's hope the rain stays away for the next fortnight as Roland Garros commences. The draws are out, Slam excitement is in the air, and fans are revved up.

If Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal don't meet in their third final of the season, I'll be shocked. Literally. Of course clay is funny, as Savannah is wont to say, so upsets may happen, but I'm not seeing them. Raja can waltz into the final on tiptoe; Rafa has a few more bad bounces to overcome, but I trust he will. Novak Djokovic is in Rafa's half, but my opinion of Djoke the person aside, I'm not sold on the idea that he has what it takes to go the distance in Paris. A sore throat, shortness of breath, dizziness, a broken fingernail are all poised to derail him just as he gets his groove on.

Oh. Well.

With Justine Henin's sudden retirement, the women's draw is wide open some say. I wouldn't go that far. Yes, Roland Garros is the Slam that produces the most first-time Slam champions and probably has crowned more one-time Slam winners than any other. Who could win their first Slam in Paris this year? Because I so often compare her to Anastasia Myskina, Jelena Jankovic is the first to jump to mind. But she'll have to emerge unscathed from a loaded bottom half of the draw and it's likely she'll have to defeat Venus Williams and Serena Williams back-to-back just to get to the finals.

Serena's form, her 17-match winning streak that Dinara Safina snapped in Berlin, and her desire to win every Slam more than once certainly make her the prohibitive favorite. But Katarina Srebotnik, her third-round seed, and Patty Schnyder, her fourth-round seed, have given her all sorts of trouble on the slippery stuff. In fact, she's never beaten Patty on clay, though both of their matches went three sets.

The top half of the women's draw features Russia. If I had to bet on it, I'd say Elena Dementieva will emerge victorious from the sea of compatriots, but I wouldn't count out Vera Zvonereva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, or Dinara Safina, all of whom love springtime in Paris. And then there's Maria Sharapova, the top seed, who will try to prove her greatness by completing a career Slam with a victory on her least favorite surface. She has the will, I suppoe, but does she have the game?

Well, there you have it. I've just written more about the women's draw than the men's. All because Justine ain't around no more.

How lovely.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Roland Garros 2008: Women's Draw

SHARAPOVA, Maria RUS [1] vs. RODINA, Evgeniya RUS
Qualifier (Q) vs. BRENGLE, Madison USA (W)
Qualifier (Q) vs. SANCHEZ, Olivia FRA (W)
MULLER, Martina GER vs. KNAPP, Karin ITA [32]

KIRILENKO, Maria RUS [21] vs. CAMERIN, Maria Elena ITA
Qualifier (Q) vs. SANTANGELO, Mara ITA
Qualifier (Q) vs. SPREM, Karolina CRO
BONDARENKO, Kateryna UKR vs. SAFINA, Dinara RUS [13]

ZVONAREVA, Vera RUS [11] vs. FORETZ, Stephanie FRA (W)
OLARU, Ioana Raluca ROU vs. COHEN-ALORO, Stephanie FRA
Qualifier (Q) vs. AMANMURADOVA, Akgul UZB
WOZNIAK, Aleksandra CAN vs. BAMMER, Sybille AUT [20]



KING, Vania USA vs. HUCK, Violette FRA (W)
REZAI, Aravane FRA vs. PETROVA, Nadia RUS [25]

SCHIAVONE, Francesca ITA [18] vs. CRAYBAS, Jill USA
MAMIC, Sanda CRO vs. KRAJICEK, Michaella NED
CIRSTEA, Sorana-Mihaela ROU vs. KREMER, Anne LUX
GALLOVITS, Edina ROU vs. AZARENKA, Victoria BLR [16]

SZAVAY, Agnes HUN [12] vs. MORITA, Ayumi JPN
STOSUR, Samantha AUS (W) vs. PEER, Shahar ISR [17]

MEDINA GARRIGUES, Anabel ESP [29] vs. Qualifier (Q)
CHAN, Yung-Jan TPE vs. PIRONKOVA, Tsvetana BUL


WILLIAMS, Venus USA [8] vs. OBZILER, Tzipora ISR
DUBOIS, Stephanie CAN vs. Qualifier (Q)
Qualifier (Q) vs. SALERNI, Maria-Emilia ARG
PEREBIYNIS, Tatiana UKR vs. PENNETTA, Flavia ITA [26]

MAURESMO, Amelie FRA [22] vs. SAVCHUK, Olga UKR
Qualifier (Q) vs. PARMENTIER, Pauline FRA
DITTY, Julie USA vs. DECHY, Nathalie FRA
DELLACQUA, Casey AUS vs. BARTOLI, Marion FRA [9]

RADWANSKA, Agnieszka POL [14] vs. KORYTTSEVA, Mariya UKR
BREMOND, Severine FRA (W) vs. Qualifier (Q)
ERRANI, Sara ITA vs. DULKO, Gisela ARG
VAKULENKO, Julia UKR vs. CORNET, Alize FRA [19]

CIBULKOVA, Dominika SVK [28] vs. KERBER, Angelique GER
GARBIN, Tathiana ITA vs. ERAKOVIC, Marina NZL
Qualifier (Q) vs. JANKOVIC, Jelena SRB [3]


JOHANSSON, Mathilde FRA (W) vs. PIN, Camille FRA
MAKAROVA, Ekaterina RUS vs. CASTANO, Catalina COL
RUANO PASCUAL, Virginia ESP vs. SREBOTNIK, Katarina SLO [27]

RAZZANO, Virginie FRA [24] vs. ZAKOPALOVA, Klara CZE
YAN, Zi CHN vs. LOIT, Emilie FRA
BYCHKOVA, Ekaterina RUS vs. SCHNYDER, Patty SUI [10]

VAIDISOVA, Nicole CZE [15] vs. Qualifier (Q)
RODIONOVA, Anastasia RUS vs. PENG, Shuai CHN

WOZNIACKI, Caroline DEN [30] vs. MEUSBURGER, Yvonne AUT
Qualifier (Q) vs. HSIEH, Su-Wei TPE

Roland Garros 2008: Men's Draw

Qualifier (Q) vs. Qualifier (Q)
ANCIC, Mario CRO vs. SEPPI, Andreas ITA [31]

KARLOVIC, Ivo CRO [20] vs.FALLA, Alejandro COL
ZVEREV, Mischa GER vs.Qualifier (Q)
SODERLING, Robin SWE vs. MONACO, Juan ARG [13]

CILIC, Marin CRO vs. HAASE, Robin NED
Qualifier (Q) vs. VOLANDRI, Filippo ITA
CUEVAS, Pablo URU vs. GONZALEZ, Fernando CHI [24]

ANDREEV, Igor RUS [27] vs.STARACE, Potito ITA
SERRA, Florent FRA vs. GASQUET, Richard FRA [8]


DAVYDENKO, Nikolay RUS [4] vs. JOHANSSON, Thomas SWE
Qualifier (Q) vs. SAFIN, Marat RUS
Qualifier (Q) vs. MANNARINO, Adrian FRA (W)
PRODON, Eric FRA (W) vs. LJUBICIC, Ivan CRO [28]

FERRERO, Juan Carlos ESP [23] vs.DANIEL, Marcos BRA
MELZER, Jurgen AUT vs. LUCZAK, Peter AUS
Qualifier (Q) vs. TSONGA, Jo-Wilfried FRA [14]

ROBREDO, Tommy ESP [12] vs. CORIA, Guillermo ARG
Qualifier (Q) vs. VANEK, Jiri CZE
SIMON, Gilles FRA vs. STEPANEK, Radek CZE [21]

HEWITT, Lleyton AUS [25] vs. MAHUT, Nicolas FRA
CALLERI, Agustin ARG vs. FISH, Mardy USA
SANTORO, Fabrice FRA vs. MAYER, Florian GER
DARCIS, Steve BEL vs. FERRER, David ESP [5]


BLAKE, James USA [7] vs. SCHUETTLER, Rainer GER
Qualifier (Q) vs. GULBIS, Ernests LAT
LAPENTTI, Nicolas ECU vs. TIPSAREVIC, Janko SRB [32]

BAGHDATIS, Marcos CYP [17] vs. BOLELLI, Simone ITA
FOGNINI, Fabio ITA vs. DEL POTRO, Juan Martin ARG
LLODRA, Michael FRA vs. PATIENCE, Olivier FRA (W)
SMEETS, Robert AUS (W) vs. BERDYCH, Tomas CZE [11]

MOYA, Carlos ESP [16] vs.Qualifier (Q)
KUERTEN, Gustavo BRA (W) vs. MATHIEU, Paul-Henri FRA [18]

CANAS, Guillermo ARG [29] vs. ODESNIK, Wayne USA (W)
BJORKMAN, Jonas SWE vs. LEE, Hyung-Taik KOR
DANCEVIC, Frank CAN vs. Qualifier (Q)


CHARDY, Jeremy FRA (W) vs. Qualifier (Q)
Qualifier (Q) vs. TURSUNOV, Dmitry RUS [30]

ALMAGRO, Nicolas ESP [19] vs. PASHANSKI, Boris SRB
Qualifier (Q) vs. ROCHUS, Olivier BEL
EYSSERIC, Jonathan FRA (W) vs. MURRAY, Andy GBR [10]

YOUZHNY, Mikhail RUS [15] vs. BECKER, Benjamin GER
Qualifier (Q) vs. Qualifier (Q)
ISNER, John USA vs. CHELA, Juan Ignacio ARG
VENTURA, Santiago ESP vs. VERDASCO, Fernando ESP [22]

NIEMINEN, Jarkko FIN [26] vs. KIEFER, Nicolas GER
GUCCIONE, Chris AUS vs. Qualifier (Q)
Qualifier (Q) vs. NADAL, Rafael ESP [2]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Andy Roddick Withdraws From Roland Garros

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) -- Andy Roddick, the highest-ranked American man, withdrew from the French Open on Monday because of a right shoulder injury.

The sixth-ranked Roddick, who lost in the first round at Roland Garros the last two years, pulled out of the semifinals of the Rome Masters on May 10. He then skipped the Hamburg Masters last week, but had been expected to play this week at the World Team Cup in Duesseldorf.

"Andy is pulling out with an upper back shoulder injury, the same thing that he had in Rome," said John Roddick, Andy's brother and the U.S. captain at the World Team Cup. "He's pulling out of here and he's also going to miss the French Open, too."

Continue reading...


Andy hasn't missed a Slam in his career. He doesn't like Roland Garros, but he always plays it. Shoulder injuries are alarming.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Red With Their Blood

I was all set to write a play-by-play of this match. But you can read that somewhere else.

Instead, I'll just say this: that was a spectacular, extraordinary final between two tennis geniuses who did what geniuses do. Both warriors fought, attacked, absorbed, counterpunched, dragged themselves back up when they looked like they were going down, and laid it all out. Masterful performances from both.

This was tennis. Sportsmanship. Valor. Respect. Completion.

The dirt is red with their blood.

Congratulations to both geniuses but in particular to Rafael Nadal who won his first Hamburg title with an exquisitely angled backhand passing shot that dropped defending champion Roger Federer's chin to his sternum in defeat for the first time in a Hamburg final.

Given the crowd's polite response to Rafa during the trophy presentation, I'll also suggest that this victory was about more than just tennis.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Raja vs. Rafa, Part Umpteen

More later.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, May 16, 2008

As We Speak

Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic are involved in a break-fest over in Rome. The match isn't on television, but in 10 games played, there have been 8 breaks of serve. Venus just served for the first set, but alas, the score is now 5-5.

Earlier, Serena Williams gave Alize Cornet a walkover into the semifinals citing a back injury.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BREAKING: Justine Henin to Retire?

If you believe this report, then the answer is yes:

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP)—Justine Henin is quitting professional tennis, according to a Belgian newspaper.

The 25-year-old Henin, the top-ranked player in the world, will make the announcement Wednesday, Het Nieuwsblad reported.

Henin has been battling fatigue and not playing well.

This year she lost to Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. Last week she was ousted from the Berlin Open in the third round and this week she pulled out of the Italian Open.

Henin’s retirement will come a year after Belgium’s Kim Clijsters said farewell to competitive tennis. Clijsters has since married and become a mother.

Henin’s rise to the top began in the mid-1990s.

Despite a troubled personal life—her mother died in 1995, her father did not speak to her for eight years and she divorced in 2007—Henin won an Olympic gold medal and all major tournaments except Wimbledon.

Her best year was 2007, when she earned more than $5 million winning 63 of her 67 matches in 10 tournaments, including two grand slam events.

Jon Wertheim reports talks about it here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Comment of the Week: Karma is a Bitch

About all the retirements during Internazionali BNL d'Italia, tristann said:

Silly doesn't begin to convey what has happened in this tournament. I am hoping that tomorrow Stan wins, but frankly I don't care that much. All I ask is that it be either a blowout either way, or involve a retirement. I feel sorry for the fans in Rome, but if nothing salvages the disaster that this tournament has turned out to be, it will be harder to ignore the truth. That Evans article is a good start. Better late than never.

Nadal has been speaking up a lot, for quite some time now, but it has fallen mostly on deaf ears. He has made some judgment errors, and I ranted on those in an earlier post, but there is no denying that he was facing some very unfair choices. The scheduling has affected many players, but he was the one who stood to lose the most during this clay season. I think that is the reason certain other high visibility players chose to keep silent. The thought of Nadal limping into RG after four weeks of desperately trying to defend points might have been too tempting for some players (and their fans).

Well, karma is a bitch, ain't it? I'll leave it at that, rather than go into another long rant.

One good thing that came out of this, Craig, is that both Roddick and Blake have gained a lot of respect after their performances in Rome.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Making Her Mother Proud

She did it. Rallying from a set down yet again, Dinara Safina dismissed compatriot Elena Dementieva 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to win the German Open.

It's her first Tier 1 title. And having beaten Justine Henin and Serena Williams back-to-back in the earlier rounds, it's certainly well-deserved.

Her mother, her first coach if memory serves, must be smiling ear-to-ear.

Happy Mother's Day

To all the mothers who read this blog, have a blessed day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sick And Tired

What a difference a day makes.

I was actually looking forward to today's semifinals. I wanted to see Radek Stepanek subdue he who will not be named. I wanted to see Andy Roddick upset the mentally frail Stanislas Wawrinka.

But Radek was sick and Roddick was tired. Two seminfinals; 10 lopsided games played.

Oh. Well.

I hope the booing fans got a full refund.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Andy Roddick, Last American Standing

That's usually the headline in January, if Serena Williams isn't playing the Australian Open, in early July, if Venus Willilams isn't playing Wimbledon, or in September during the US Open. But the silly season continues.

Andy Roddick advanced to his second career semifinal at the Foro Italico with a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) victory over a determined Tommy Robredo, who's trying to get his career back on track.

Andy took a page from Radek Stepanek's book by serving big and smothering the net at every opportunity. He exhibited his trademark red clay fluster late in the second set when he dropped serve to drop the set and also in the third set when he surrendered his early break lead with a double fault. The crowd urged him on as he fought his way into a tiebreak.

I forgot how popular Andy is in Rome.

Robredo, showing know signs of his long match last night against Nikolay Davydenko, ran coast to coast to loop and lob back all that Andy threw at him and almost walked away with an upset.

I say upset because before today Robredo had never won a set against Andy which included a loss right here in Rome six years ago. The same year Andy advanced this far.

Tomorrow, the American will face Stanislas Wawrinka, a clay court specialist who needed three sets to defeat James Blake who was a mere two or three points away from his own milestone at a claycourt Masters event.

Will the silly season continue?

Stay tuned.

Federer Falls

This has just not been a good year for Roger Federer. Listless, sluggish, ornery. Reminds me of his demeanor in last year's Monte-Carlo final.

Radek Stepanek upset the Swiss 7-6(4), 7-6(7) with great serving and excellent net play. He was virtually unpassable. Even after he choked serving for the match, he recovered, even after falling behind in the second tiebreak, and notched his second victory over Raja in six tries.

This is the silly season of tennis.

Dinara Safina, Giant Killer

Haven't seen the match yet, but Dinara Safina, the feisty little sister of the feisty Marat Safin, followed up her upset win over Justine Henin with an even more impressive come-from-behind victory 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(5) over Serena Williams at the German Open.

While Justine has struggled this season, Serena was coming off three victories in a row, including consecutive Tier 1 titles, and a 17-match winning streak. While her form has been fabulous, her faith in herself has been suspect. I'm reminded of her inability to close out matches back in 2001 and 2002 before she started winning more Slams. How cyclical a career can be.

As for Dinara, she's always had the talent, but her lack of mobility and her frail mentality have kept her from living up to her potential. Clay, ironically, is her best surface because she can get to more shots. To defeat two multiple Slam champions in a row, not to mention outlasting Serena in a third-set tiebreak, shows that she has worked hard on her mental toughness and it has paid dividends at a big event.

Let's she if she can take this all the way to Sunday.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Roddick and Blake, Roma Quarterfinalists

Andy Roddick and James Blake advanced to the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico today in Roma.

How can it be that these two Americans are both in the last eight of the same clay court Masters series event? In my recollection, this hasn't happened since 2002 when Roddick and Blake joinedAndre Agassi in the quartefinals. Roddick and Agassi both advanced to the semifinals, while Blake lost to Jiri Novak in three tight sets. Agassi went on to defeat Tommy Haas in the finals that year.

Roddick dispatched homeboy Simone Bolelli 7-6(5), 6-3. It was a tough match. Bolelli is a claycourt specialist, so he knows all about the geometry of the court. But Roddick fought from a break down in the first set to capture the tiebreak in a set that seemed to last forever. I was most impressed that Andy was able to win 50% of his second serve points against a man who hit deeper, wider and with more spin.

Blake had the tougher row to hoe against Spaniard Fernando Verdsasco. I saw none of that match, but a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 victory is impressive stuff for a man who tends to mentally check out of claycourt matches when the going gets rough.

Meanwhile in Berlin, Serena Williams blitzed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals where she'll face Dinara Safina who upset Justine Henin.

Good day for American tennis.

Justine Loses in Berlin

Who saw the match and can tell us what happened? Justine Henin, clay court queen, upset by Dinara Safina? Was it a bagel or a bread stick in the third set?

Let us know.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rafa Loses in Rome

by Savannah

Exhibit A

I think that trumps a sore throat no? We fans know he won't use it as an excuse but seeing how badly blistered his foot was and knowing he still took the court just increases my admiration for him. This will allow him, and us, to criticize that ridiculous schedule ET and his posse came up with for the clay season.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

TMS Roma 5/6/08 - A Four Match Summary

by Savannah

I was home and got to watch tennis all day. It wasn't a planned day, it just happened. The day started with Andy Roddick facing Mardy Fish. On Monday Fish beat Michael Llodra of France. I didn't see the match but Llodra is no slouch on clay so the match today was highly anticipated. When a news article appeared in which Andy said he had spent a lot of time moving into the new apartment in New York City he'll share with his fiancee many tennis heads took that as Andy sending up the white flag and admitting he was set for a second round exit. Instead of a competitive match Mardy seemed to revert to the role of good friend and played nothing like he had the day before against Llodra. Andy played in his usual style and won easily in straight sets.

Andy's match was followed by another highly anticipated match between Roger Federer and Guillermo Canas. This would be their first meeting on clay. I'm sure Canas and his team watched the tape later to make sure he was really on court against Federer. Roger had no intention of letting Guillermo even think he had a chance. It's not that Willy didn't try. Roger made sure to crush every idea Willy had. Another fairly easy straight set victory and a pretty dull match unless you're a Roger Federer fan.

Then came the match that for tennisheads was interesting but probably got a ho-hum from mainstream media. Fernando Gonzalez was coming off victory in Munich and it can be said he should've been a tad tired. Janko Tipsarevic is the thinking person's Serbian player. Breathing issues? He wears a tape over his nose to assist him in that area just like football players do. Obnoxious family? Never in sight. Oddly timed medical time outs? Not Janko. Drama? Jelena must be playing somewhere this week. Check that tournament out.

Janko took the court with what can only be described as supreme confidence. Not arrogance, just confidence in his game and that he had a good chance of beating his opponent. Janko's confidence had to soar when he took the first set 6-3 over a seemingly befuddled Gonzalez. It looked as if Janko was on his way to a straight set victory when Fernando woke up. He stopped missing and he stopped himself from reverting to his old hit hard and harder style. When the dust settled the set had been leveled at 6 all. Janko still didn't seem rattled. About three minutes later he was. Fernando won the tiebreak 7-0.
The third set turned into a exhibition of clay court tennis at it's best. Great shots. Waiting out your opponent, pushing him into making a mistake by going for too much. Once again after twelve games the score stood at six games apiece and another tiebreaker had to be played. This was no seven zip beat down. Both men played well but Gonzalez, the one who has played big matches before, used all of his experience and pulled out the tiebreak 8-6. Experience won that match for him.

The other great match of the day took place under the stars. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was playing his first tournament after an injury kept him out of competition for a few weeks. He was playing Gilles Simon someone this fan had never seen play before. Simon won the first set over an obviously rusty Tsonga 6-2. When Tsonga fell behind in the second set I went and took care of some personal business thinking Simon would win easily. Wrong. Tsonga had managed to win the second set 6-4 and the two men were preparing to start the third set. Once again Gilles took the lead 5-2 and it looked as if he were on his way to the next round. But Jo had other plans. Patiently, his feet now firmly under him on the slippery red clay he fought his way back, pulling even at five all. Once again at the end of twelve games two players found themselves tied at six games apiece.

As I said above when all else is equal the player who has the most experience to call upon will win. It looked as if Tsonga was going to win when he tightened up and missed both match points he had on his serve. It should be mentioned that Gilles was serving for the match at 5-2 when Tsonga made his run. Simon knowing he'd dodged a bullet with Tsonga missing those two match points calmly closed out the match taking the tiebreaker 8-6.

Both Janko and Jo-Wilfried learned valuable lessons today. When they get over the bitterness and watch the tapes they'll see where they lost their matches and understand why. For me as a fan I enjoyed a day of clay court tennis.

Foro Italico Open Thread

I haven't watched any tennis this week, so I haven't a clue who's in form, who's not. Please share your match reports and thoughts about the results as they roll in this week.

German Open Open Thread

See above.

UPDATE: Highlights from Berlin. (Thanks, karen!)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Perfect Day

Rafael Nadal won his fourth Barcelona title with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 victory over compatriot David Ferrer.

If Rafa doesn't go down as the best claycourt player in history, I'll be surprised. When he's on, you simply have little chance to beat him.

His record on clay this year remains perfect.

Fast Cars

Fernando Gonzalez won his second title of the season with a 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-3 over Simone Bolelli at the BMW Open by FWU AG in Munich.

Gonzalez' record on clay this year remains perfect.

Friday, May 02, 2008

News From the Royal Courts

by Savannah

There's something about age fifteen. It's the age when indulgent parents suddenly wake up and realize the monster their laissez-faire child rearing has created. Now aware that the warnings uncles, aunts and neighbors were giving while the Little Darling went on his or her way were not caused by jealousy mom and dad decide it's time to make Little Darling into a better citizen. No more feet on the table. Parental controls suddenly appear on Little Darling's computer. A curfew is instituted. And when Little Darling talks to his parents as if they're servants he is actually punished for it.

How does Little Darling take this change in his flow? Most Little Darlings I know go from "you can't be serious" to telling his parents where to go and what to do when they get there. There are threats about running away from home. Family secrets are blurted out in public at inopportune moments - the larger the crowd the better. The resolve of the parents is tested. They are in a no man's land. If they back down Little Darling continues to fly out of control. If they stick to their decision Little Darling gets more out of control. It's lose lose until Little Darling realizes their behavior will not be tolerated. The time Little Darling takes to go from "A" to "B," however, may make the parents suicidal.

Why talk about the Little Darlings of the world? I guess because that is what came to mind when I read Maria Sharapova's shots across the bow of the good ship WTA this morning.

Maria took on the WTA over being fined for pulling out of Berlin and for actually demanding that she show up for a photo shoot to promote the WTA!!! The Bastards! How dare they fine Tsarina Maria the way they fine other players!!! And how dare the WTA tour ask Tsarina Maria to participate in a FOUR HOUR photo shoot with those commoners that populate the WTA? Poor dear will have just made a twelve hour flight from Los Angeles and must prepare for her appearance in the Tier 1 event in the Eternal City. Here are the posts from the Tsarina's own official site.

Statement May 1 2008
"As many of you know, the WTA tour makes many players enter tournaments that they know the players will not be playing. I informed the WTA several months ago that if I played Charleston, I would have to pull out of Berlin. Now they are forcing me to give an injury for the reason why I am pulling out or they will give me an additional fine on top of the 125,000 fine already given to me. I am a very giving person, but I refuse to give anymore of my money to the WTA tour.So I want everyone to know that besides getting sick the past few days, I am healthy and I am looking forward to playing Rome. The good news is that the new road map for next year should solve all these problems."

Maria Needs Your Help May 2 2008
I want all my fans to know that the WTA Tour is forcing me and several of the other top players to do a 4 hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. They want me to do this shoot on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday of the Rome tournament after flying 12 hours from LA. I have set my own personal rules when it comes to doing shoots and I never do shoots before tournaments bcause it's mentally draining and I want to just focus on my tennis. Now the WTA is telling me if I don't do this shoot they will fine me over $300,000. As you can see the WTA Tour loves to fine players. To be honest, I would love to do this and help promote the tour as much as possible, but to force me to do this shoot the day before a tier 1 tournament is just not right. I am interested in what my fans think I should do?

1) Should I just do the shoot?

2) Should I NOT do the shoot and take the fine?

3) Should I NOT do the shoot and take legal action against the WTA?

4) Should I contact the other top players and try to boycott the shoot?

5) Other
Needless to say I'm only providing the LINK to the Tsarina's site. If you want to vote go right ahead.

A few things come to mind re reading these.
  • Maria could not be conversant with "Roadkill" otherwise she would not say it will make things better. Mandatories Maria, uh, Tsarina. My bad your majesty.
  • This is an attempt by IMG to try and paint the Tsarina in a more fan friendly light. She is aggrieved I tell you! She's not taking it anymore! They're picking on the poor Tsarina by asking her to live by the rules the rest of the tour lives by. Don't you, her subjects, agree? Of course you do.
  • The Tsarina has gotten away with shit like this before and someone has finally decided they've had enough. I agree with one fan who posted that there must have been some hellified fights behind the scenes for something like this, which is rightly internal WTA business, to see the light of day.
  • Did the Tsarina and her court really think Sony Ericsson was paying her all that money for nothing? Did they never hear the quaint comment "he who pays the piper calls the tune?" or do crude statements like that not make it past the royal gates?

What surprised me to be honest was the outpouring of support for the Tsarina. I don't know if all those supporting her are just enjoying her seeming rage against the system or if they're just of the her shit don't stink school when it comes to the Tsarina. There were a few miscreants who pointed out that Lindsay Davenport had made the same point about the bait and switch tactics used to get fans to come to tournaments a couple of years ago. As thanks for her action Lindsay was then denied wild card entries into events that would normally have granted them to her. Some fans were even bold enough to ask what fan reaction would be if either of the Ladies Williams had aired dirty laundry like this.

What is going to be interesting to watch is the WTA's reaction. Larry Scott, beloved by his family and a few close friends, is like the parents of Little Darling. He created this "golden girl" of tennis. Somehow when she played in the States she always seemed to get cupcake draws. Last years US Open draw was an embarrassment to the tour and a slap in the face to the women who worked hard to get there and deserved nothing more than as fair a chance as a "random" draw could provide. The Tsarina has traditionally had tougher - read balanced - draws in Continental Europe and no one really expects her to do well on the clay. The real test will be the Wimbledon and the US Open Series draws.

I'm sure the last thing Scott expected was for his golden girl to turn on him. But just like the parents of Little Darling he's now got a monster on his hands, one who seems to think she is above the rules of the WTA. I thought that both items, the poll and the statement, would be gone by this evening as cooler heads tried to convince the Tsarina she'd just committed career suicide by biting the hands that have fed her and her court so well the last few years. They've told the Tsarina that she is women's tennis for so long she now seemingly believes it. Like a spoiled and indulged child she's going to need a dose of reality. Let's see if her enablers decide they're not going to take it anymore.

From the Royal Swiss Court
(Oh No He Di'int!)

Roger's been talking up a storm lately. In this
he was questioned by reporter Paul Newman and gave his thoughts on mono, clay courts, his rivals, and whether he would ever coach.

Could Federer ever see himself coaching? "I don't think it would be a problem, though I've realised over the years that it's sometimes not so easy. I can't just tell a guy: 'Do that, do this. It's very simple for me'. For the other guy it might be impossible. I've found this when I'm at a Davis Cup tie and I'm trying to help someone like Stan [Stanislav Wawrinka] or someone ranked maybe 150 in the world. You obviously have to have a different approach.
Note: Stan Wawrinka is a semi finalist at Barcelona this week.

End Notes

  • The Royal Court of Serbia hasn't been quiet. One of the advisors to the Prince is said to have publicly questioned whether King Roger of Switzerland really had mono. The Prince, who recently forfeited a match against King Roger is apparently still suffering from a sore throat that rendered his right arm, legs and the rest of his body useless. The Court Jester, uh, spokesman, Amit Naor, speaking as a broadcaster at Barcelona,went on to say of the Prince of Serbia "Roger is the guy on top, Rafa is the man to beat on clay, and Djokovic is the person to do it".
As soon as he clears his throat I presume.

  • Not all is lost. In the feel good story of the week thirty six year old Younes El-Aynaoui beat Juan Martin del Potro today in Munich to enter the semifinals of that tournament. Glad to see you back, Younes!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Photo Of The Day

Jose Henin is pictured during the presentation of his book 'Justine, ma fille, ma championne' (Justine, my daughter, my champion), on April 30, 2008 in Brussels. Jose Henin is the father of Belgian world No. 1 Justine Henin. (ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)