Always a bridesmaid, never a bride? Will she get her chocolate wedding cake in Paris? I wouldn't bet against it.
Augh. I am still so gutted from this match. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that Rafa came through in the end. But to lose the way he did, I just feel for Fernando. He fought so hard. SO HARD. Everyone, including me, doubted he could make a match of this, even after he did make a match of it. "Oh, he'll go away. No way he can stay with Rafa." But he did. He limped, he fought, he blasted his way through this match. And for it to end like that? There is no God.
Afterwards he put on a brave and classy face:
Q. Do you think you'll be able to find sleep tonight?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Yes. Why not? You know, is sad, no, to play one match like this and lost after five hours. But, you know, for the other side, I need to be proud for the tournament I made and the level I played today also. I think it was unbelievable match.
You know, we both played unbelievable. I think, you know, Rafa, I said always, you know, in these matches, five sets, he is the toughest player. You know, and I was there all the time, too. So, you know, for sure I will have this match in my mind all my life.
You know, I'm so proud of all the things I made today and these two, almost two weeks.
Q. Can you imagine you only served four double‑faults in the whole match, and sadly, in the last game, you served two?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Tennis is like this sometimes, no? What can I do? I was trying the same like in all the other games in the match. But, you know, just to try a good second serve, I played two double‑faults.
But I think I need to be so happy with the level I was serving today. You know, I made 20 aces. I was serving 210, 215 a lot. So I cannot think about that I made two double‑faults in one game, you know, and think about this, because tennis is like this sometimes and you don't need to think about this so much, no?
Q. You had 95 winners. You played extremely offensively, but Rafa still gets so many balls back. What is the most impressive thing about his defensive skills?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Everybody knows that he is the best player making this, no? He gets unbelievable balls. You need to win the point against him three or four times more than against all the other players.
Anyway, there are so good players like Federer, Murray, Roddick, Blake, whatever, all the top players. With Rafa you need to win the point three times more than with all the others.
He have unbelievable legs. He run unbelievable. Anyway, he's taking the ball, you know, like so difficult. I think that he always have a chance to put the ball in unbelievable, no?
Today was a lot of points like this. You know, I remember that point unbelievable that I made a smash like so close to the net, and he just put the ball in. I put it again to the forehand, and he made unbelievable passing shot cross‑court with the forehand. I was, like, I couldn't believe, no?
But, you know, with Rafa after, I start laughing because I say like, With him is normal. With the others, no. But with him, I'm not surprised of this, no? I saw him play a lot of times, and he made things that all the other doesn't make. So this is why he's also No. 1 in the world.
The funny thing about this match is that had Fernando's legs not start to give in the fourth, I think Rafa would have taken it in four. Rafa was in pretty strong control of the match at that point, yanking Fernando around and not giving him much to hit. But when Fernando started to cramp he started shortening the rallies and going for broke. And it worked. He completely took Rafa out of rhythm and slowly regained momentum and belief.
Dude, Ana. You know how to pick em. Fuck the haters and go with your gut/heart. Call your man.
Q. How important is the experience factor tomorrow, the fact you've been there so many times before, Dinara has only played in one Grand Slam final?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I don't know if that factors in too much. Once you make it to one Grand Slam final, you pretty much know what to expect. So if she hadn't made it to the final before, then I would say, yeah, I'd be more experienced. Seeing as she's already been there, I think if anything she's going to be way more hungry for it and want it even more. That's going to be definitely going for her.
Q. That special club you talked about with the 10 Grand Slams, can that outweigh the fact she's going for her first?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don't know. We'll have to see tomorrow. Obviously I desperately want to win, and she does, too. You know, I feel like whether I get 10 today or whenever, it's gonna happen sooner or later.
Q. You were on the tour five years before Dinara came along. Can you tell us how you looked at her when she first came on and how you've seen her develop.
SERENA WILLIAMS: She's developed a lot. She's gotten a lot more confident. When she first came, she was so young and so sweet. I mean, she's still sweet now. You can just see she's more focused now, more intense, and you can just totally see the change.
Q. What about from a game perspective?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, her game has just developed. It's improved leaps and bounds.
Q. She obviously said earlier in the week she still had some mental issues with concentration, that sort of stuff. Will you need to come out aggressive and try to exploit that a little bit tomorrow?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Sure. I mean, I have mental issues, too, so... I think everyone has mental issues.
Q. Can you elaborate on your mental issues.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I get really angry and I'm a perfectionist. I have a slight case of OCD. Yeah, those are my issues.
Q. Is that OCD self‑diagnosed?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it's definitely self‑diagnosed. But I think I can pick it out ‑ maybe.
Q. Dinara spoke about idolizing Marat when she grew up. You and Venus were so close in age...
SERENA WILLIAMS: I idolized Marat, too (smiling). I can totally understand.
From today's presser:
Q. When he won it, what did it do for your mindset, knowing he won this final?
DINARA SAFINA: At that moment he did some not very nice comments about me, because it was 2005, as I remember. On the press conference he didn't talk very nice, so I was a little bit upset about him on this.
But still, you know, it's just amazing feeling when you know, because he won it. For us tennis players, a Grand Slam, it's something very big. To know that he won it, it's just unbelievable feeling. It just made me, like, that I want also this, to have it one day.
Q. Has Marat spoken to you since your win yesterday?
DINARA SAFINA: He just text me.
Q. What did he say?
DINARA SAFINA: Well done (smiling). That's it.
Q. You were talking about 2005. In that press conference, he said that you needed to grow up. How much of that sort of changed your thinking?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, you know, he didn't know what was going through my mind because I didn't talk to him too much, you know. He's not really the guy who has enough patience for this, you know, to have a woman's talk, you know (smiling).
So sometimes it's tough to him to explain what I have going through. I think it was a little bit rough that he said at that time.
Q. We've talked about your temper. Isn't there a positive side to how fierce you are?
DINARA SAFINA: How what?
Q. How fierce you are.
DINARA SAFINA: Well, you know, that's the way I am. It helps me to pump myself. That helps my game, you know. Everyone has his own personality. I have this one that if I will not pump myself, I will be just too calm and will be nothing going out, no fire coming out of myself. So it just helps me.
Q. Tomorrow night the winner takes the No. 1 ranking. Do you feel you're the best player on the tour at the moment?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, if we are fighting for this spot, that says everything, no?
Q. You talk about how special Grand Slams are to tennis players. What would it mean for you tomorrow if you win?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, you know, to win tomorrow and to be No. 1 in the world, then, I don't know, I'll go and buy chocolate cake (smiling).
This would be my present for myself, that, yes, I can eat that chocolate cake.
Q. Your coach has said you've changed your diet in the last year. What sort of changes have you made?
DINARA SAFINA: Well, it's a diet, just what I can eat, what I cannot eat. Basically that's all.
Q. So very little chocolate cake?
First of all, screw you, ESPN. I really hate myself for falling into the stupid promo trap of actually thinking that this was going to be more of a match than it was. Why else would I stay up late to watch two players that I don't particularly root for. I love how they were so dismissive of Gilly's chances to beat Rafa but kept trying to sell this as an exciting and compelling match.
I mean, really, how could it be? Andy's that kid who busts his ass and gets B/B-pluses in all your basic courses so sometimes you think he can cut it in the AP classes. BUT HE CAN'T. He's just not "as bright" as the other kids. There's a reason there's a Big 2 or Big 4 and Andy's not in the conversation. I don't blame Andy for this. He did all he could in the off-season and he never pumped up his chances of beating Roger. But fuck you, ESPN. In my sleep deprived state and I actually thought this was a match worth watching. Boo face.
The one thing that kept it entertaining was how exasperated and disappointed Brad and Patrick were. Brad's "Why doesn't he just [insert tactic that Andy simply cannot execute]?" and Patrick's repeated "He's not going to win doing [insert tactic that Andy can execute]" was pretty funny. As were Andy's ridiculously childish and petulant outbursts contrasted to Fed's seemingly bored "I'm so over this" looks. That was pretty good.
But congrats to Fed for making the final. He'll have a shot to match Pete now. Vamos, Rafa (sorry, Fer, but your run has to end tonight).
From Pete Bodo's write-up of the Serena/Lena semifinal:
It's hard not to feel for 'Lena, but then it's legitimate to ask whether someone with such a glaring flaw really ought to win a Grand Slam event. Given Dementieva's results since last summer, we had reason to think that she'd hurdled that final, hitherto omnipresent obstacle to ultimate success - the conquest of her nerves, the state of which has always been telegraphed to us by her service proficiency. The message she tapped out yesterday told us that we were wrong. It just took a player of Williamses stature to tease out the message.
After the match, Serena was asked what she "did better" today than in her previous and sometimes uninspired performances. She replied: "Well, I definitely served better. It's so important to serve well against her. She's a really good returner. I moved better and I was definitely more consistent and I kept my cool. . ."
While all of that is true, Serena's greatest virtue may have been the last quality she cited. She kept her cool. It was apparent from the start that Dementieva was jacked-up and jumpy, probably convinced that she had to do too much, too quickly, in order to beat Serena. It was a predictable dynamic, and one that Serena routinely relies on in her matches. To a greater extent than any woman player in recent memory, Serena has imposed herself on the game. Great players of the past - Martina Navratilova immediately comes to mind - have been no less intimidating to play, but it's always been the direct result of their form and recent results. The girls knew they would get waxed, because Martina has waxed the last 123 player's she's met - why should today be any different?
But it's different with Serena. Her opponents quake in their tennis boots simply because of who she is, and the extent to which she's shown that each day is a new day. That's usually good news for the aspiring upset-maker, but Serena has turned the cliche upside down: On any day, there a good chance that Serena will just get a notion to go out and. . . destroy you. The WTA exists in a state of this perpetual fear.
On each new day you face a sum total of experience, talent, determination, and skill that is as absolute as it is unpredictable, and unrelated to the previous day. This can be, as they say, stress-inducing. Sit back to sniff the wind and try to get a read on how she's playing that day and you may quickly find yourself running for cover. Attack too eagerly and you get shot to rags. I wonder how many women players have been taught, or told: Now, it's really important to get a good start against Serena. Keep her off balance. She hasn't been playing that great, so if you can get a good jump you can take control of the match. . .
DINARA SAFINA: What did he brought?
DINARA SAFINA: I'm not drinking any alcohol. The most you will see me drinking is some pure water.
Q. Afterwards? If you won?
DINARA SAFINA: I don't drink so much. Maximum I can drink is maybe glass of wine. I don't drink any alcohol.
Q. Are you planning to bring one day a bunch of boyfriends to cheer for you?
DINARA SAFINA: No, I'm not this kind of person. No, no.
But my favorite bit:
Q. If you would have the choice, would you prefer to play with the roof open or closed? Does that make any difference to you?
DINARA SAFINA: No, closed. It's impossible to walk outside.
Q. But it's going to be Saturday night.
DINARA SAFINA: Oh, Saturday night? Whatever.
What really pleased me tonight was the quality of play in both matches. Let's start with the first semifinal. Serena and Lena came out a little nervy in the first few games, but by 4-all in their shoulders opened up and they really started hitting the ball and moving well. In the end the match was decided at the service line. Lena doublefaulted at key points in the match, and Serena was Serena, blasting serves and playing very contained tennis. It was a really mature match from Serena. This is her third straight Grand Slam final (and this woman's not #1 yet?).
It's a tough loss for Lena. She came in with a three match win streak against Serena (including the absolute spanking in Sydney just two week ago), undefeated for the year, and the in form player of the tournament. She had a really great chance to pick up her first major here. But high pressure situations reveal a player's strengths and flaws, and Lena's serve just sputtered a bit when she needed it most, allowing Serena to get offensive from the first strike and run Lena ragged.
All that being said, this was a great showcase for Serena. It wasn't impressive in a "holy crap she killed that ball" kind of way, but it was scary composed. And you get the feeling that she still has at least 2 more gears she could kick it in if needed. She's looking really good to make this odd year a Serena year.
And then there's Baby Sister, who finally stepped up her game and played a dominating match. All credit to Bepa, she somehow stayed in the match, aided by 41 UFEs off Dina's racquet. But those errors were more indicative of Dina's aggressiveness than Bepa's play. Dina was absolutely crushing the ball with purpose, moving poor Bepa around the court at will. Her shots were deep, heavy, and just punishing. Bepa couldn't handle the pace and left balls shorter and shorter, and Dina kept cracking. It was impressive.
BTW -- I'm just throwing this out there. Dina's having an awfully Ana 2007-08 run, no? Wins Berlin, loses the RG final, loses a bunch of weight in the off-season, and now into the AO final. Hopefully for her it ends better than Ana's AO.
So the winner will be the new #1. Could it be that order is slowly being restored in the WTA? I don't know what I'm going to do with myself if that's the case.
I love me some Fed Cup. Play takes place February 7-8.
World Group First Round
RUSSIA vs. CHINA, P.R. (Olympic Stadium, Moscow, RUS (hard court – indoors))
Captain: Shamil Tarpischev
Captain: Qi Zhang
FRANCE vs. ITALY (Palais Des Sports, Orleans, FRA (hard court – indoors))
Captain: Nicolas Escude
Captain: Corrado Barazzutti
USA vs. ARGENTINA (Surprise Racketball & Tennis Complex, Surprise, AZ, USA (hard court – outdoors))
Captain: Mary-Joe Fernandez
Captain: Ricardo Rivera
CZECH REPUBLIC vs. SPAIN (Brno Exhibition Centre, Brno, CZE (carpet court – indoors))
Captain: Petr Pala
Carla Suarez Navarro
Nuria Llagostera Vives
Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez
Captain: Miguel Margets Lobato
WORLD GROUP II FIRST ROUND
SLOVAK REPUBLIC v BELGIUM (Sibamac Arena, Bratislava, SVK (hard – indoors))
Captain: Matej Liptak
Captain: Sabine Appelmans
SWITZERLAND v GERMANY (Saalsporthalle, Zurich, SUI (hard – indoors))
Captain: Severin Luthi
Captain: Barbara Rittner
SERBIA v JAPAN (Venue: Belgrade Arena, Belgrade, SRB (hard – indoors)
Captain: Dejan Vranes
Captain: Minoru Ueda
UKRAINE v ISRAEL (Palace of Sports “Lokomotiv”, Kharkiv, UKR (hard – indoors))
Captain: Volodymyr Bogdanov
Captain: Lior Mor
Man, the fact that Serbia will finally get into World Group is nice. Because their lineup is so ridiculous when compared to the other World Group II teams and half the World Group I teams.
British Baby E won her quarterfinal match today to advance to the junior girls' semifinals. She took the first set 63 and was down in the second 2-5 when her opponent retired. Was it the heat? Did she suffer an injury? Sad for her opponent, but yay for Lil' Miss Robson. She'll play Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in the semis. She beat Lertcheewakarn in the Wimbly final last year.
Speaking of Britain, did y'all hear on ESPN yesterday that apparently Muzz is so sick that the doctors won't let him get on a plane to head back home? What does he have, Sars?
Get well soon, Muzz.
Rod Laver Arena
Elena Dementieva(RUS) vs. Serena Williams(USA) (NB 1:30pm)
Vera Zvonareva(RUS) vs. Dinara Safina(RUS)
Tough matches to call. So many variables involved in this. Lena's a great indoor player. Then again, so is Serena. Lena's been playing great, though she hasn't been tested. Serena's been playing like crap though her second and third set yesterday were fantastic. Lena's beaten Serena three straight times. This is an odd-numbered year.
As for the second semifinal, Vera is absolutely the most in form player. But she hasn't played anyone that has the power and consistency that Dina has. Dina hasn't been playing with much consistency and she's looked like crap. But she's gutted out two tough matches to get here. Vera's never been to a slam semifinal before. Dina's never been a favorite at this stage of a Slam before.
I throw up my hands. I will simply sit, watch, and root for some high quality tennis.
Rafa has yet to drop a set so far but Gilly, as per usual, made him work (62 75 75). He had to adjust his game a bit to deal with Gilly's flat groundstrokes, which were what killed him last time in Madrid. But comparing their Madrid match to this match really showed Rafa's improvement on hard courts. The serve got him easy points, allowed him to hold easily, and his more aggressive hard court game really shined. His willingness to step in and crush his forehand is so great. It was a really fun match to watch.
Afterwards, it was all love between the Spaniard and the Pastry. You just get the sense that Rafa really respects Simon's heart and fight.
A very cool video on the Adidas Player Development Program (warning, it's 12MB). They interview Sven, Gil, Ana, Fernando, Woz, Sam, and Sania.
It's such a smart program from a branding perspective.
It wasn't just the fact that Fernando won. I mean, he beat Muzz the other day. But it was HOW he won. Not only did he do it with intelligent contained aggression and fitness (he took Jo's legs right out from under him), but he did it without any headcaseyness whatsoever. All you need to know about this match is in the stats: Fernando converted 4 of 4 breakpoints. Jo converted 2 of 13. Translation: Fernando was nails under pressure. That? Was unexpected.
So congrats to Fer, who becomes this year's surprise semifinalist. He'll play the winner of Rafa/Gilles, and right now it's looking like Rafa. I just hope, win or lose, he continues with this quality. It's really great to see.
Q. You spoiled the all‑Russian party.
SERENA WILLIAMS: You were expecting an all‑Russian final? Who was expecting that?
Q. How would you describe the heat?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Like I said, it was really an out‑of‑body experience. Like I felt I was watching someone play in a blue dress, and it wasn't me, because it was so hot out there. And I kept trying to tell myself that it's not hot, you know.
But it got hotter, so... Or is it "more hot"?
Q. Playing Elena next.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think she's playing amazing. I think she's actually playing some of the best tennis on the tour. She's really stepped up the level of her game to an unbelievable level. I'm going to have to play really well to do well tomorrow.
Q. What are you going to have to do differently against her? You've lost the last three times you played her.
SERENA WILLIAMS: A couple times I gave her the match. But the last time she played really well.
I'm just going to have to, you know, just play my game.
Q. When your opponent is serving for the match, can you give us an idea what you're thinking at that point? Do you think she's going to be nervous? What are you feeling?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I was thinking, Okay, if you lose, you're going to fly coach all the way back to Florida (laughter), how uncomfortable that would be. That motivated me to do a little better.
Q. Do you fly coach?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I do. I mean, gosh, prices have soared nowadays. I told you, I'm really economic. I wouldn't necessarily want to go back 16 hours. I wouldn't allow myself to have the emergency row either. I would be so mad, I would have to sit like the last row, the tightest row. That way I wouldn't do it again.
Q. Are you mentally strong because you're fascinated by punk rock music?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. But it helps, I guess, me have a punk rock attitude. I don't know.
That's what Kuz is going to be asking herself after this match. The match started under the glaring Aussie sun and Kuz was able to gut out the first set, 75. Then they decided to close the roof. And that's when things changed.
No doubt, Serena raised her game once the roof closed and she got her racquets restrung. She served better and defended better. And Kuz had her chances. Heck, she served for the match at 5-3. She muffed a bunch of volleys and just got nervy and...well..Kuzzie.
But it's hard not to wonder what would have happened if the roof stayed open, or even if the roof had been closed to start the match. I just really don't like changing the match conditions mid-match. It's going to screw up someone.
Afterwards, the normally diplomatic Sveta voiced her displeasure, while still acknowledging that she's a bit of an idiot:
Q. Did the closing of the roof greatly affect your chances of winning?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: It's gave her more chances, I guess (smiling). I mean, I don't know.
Yeah, definitely it was a big change. I was very comfortable playing outside.
Q. What were the conditions? You obviously prepared, did you, for the conditions today?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, yeah, I guess it's two different games. One you play inside; one you play outside. She has big serve. She was using it very good when the roof was closed. I guess it was in her favor very much.
But, still, I tried to do my best and I had my chances even like that. I was 5‑3 up.
Q. Some people that were in the tunnel when you came off court suggested that you were a little bit angry to have been brought off court. Is that correct?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, yeah, definitely angry. Why should I not be? Game going my way. I'm fine playing with the roof. I think the guys yesterday, it was the same weather. Everybody was playing with the roof. Why today they had to close it? I didn't get it.
Yeah, that was why I was angry.
Q. Who are you angry at?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I don't know (laughter).
Q. Did you ask the referee?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: What I have to ask them? It's the tournament, what I have to say. I'm just a player. I play. That's it. It's not in my hands, you know.
Q. Is it difficult for you and the other players to understand how the rule on heat works here?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: I didn't get the rule at all. Closing the roof middle of the match, I don't get it.
Q. Was it especially surprising for you that you started with an open roof and then during the match they closed it?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah. I mean, how you do that? I don't know. You just playing outdoor tennis, and one set you play indoor tennis. It's very good.
Serena was tough. She's playing great. I give her credit. But I don't get this rule. This is it.
Q. In your heart of hearts, do you think if the roof stayed open you would have won the game?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: You know, there is one saying that they say. It's not very good one. I mean, you can say what happen if, if, if? The match is over. She won. This is it.
But it could have been different way.
Q. Did you feel okay out there? You didn't feel any physical discomfort or danger?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: What, in the heat?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: No. I was completely fine. It was not easy to play because it's heat. But we are in Australia. It's normal, no, to play with the heat.
Q. When you were looking at Serena down the other end, did you detect she was having trouble in the heat?
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Well, you can compare her serve with the roof closed and with the roof open. This is it. This makes all difference.
Yeah, I saw it's tough for her. It was the same, not very easy for me, you know. But I managed to move pretty well. I was fine. I was playing well. This is it.
Q. You were serving for the match still.
SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA: Yeah, that's what I said. It doesn't matter. I still had my chance. Even with roof closed, I was 5‑3 up, 5‑4, serving for the match. I just didn't do that.
Definitely the chances with the roof open would be more. But, still, I had my chances. You know, I'm there, I just got to work on some points on my game to improve it. That's it.
As expected, Lena continued her fine form, destroying CSN, 62 62 in the ridiculous Australian heat. It was apparently the hottest day in Australian Open history, and the ladies had to take the stage under the sun.
As for Lena, she's arguably the most in form player. Then again, she hasn't had a quality test yet. Her semifinal match against Serena will be something.
After the match, Lena was none too pleased about having to play in the record heat:
Q. They're closing the roof now. Do you think they should have closed it before your match?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Yes, for sure. I'm really surprised, you know, 'cause when you see the forecast, like it's going to be 41 today, 43 tomorrow, the hottest week in a month, why not to close the roof? Not only for the players, but for the spectators, as well.
Q. Is that the hottest you've ever played in?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: I had some pretty hot days in Sydney playing last week, you know, last tournament.
But, I mean, I think if you have a roof, why not use it?
Q. Did anyone give you any explanation why it wasn't being closed?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Actually, I didn't want to go any discussion or arguing before the match. I was trying to get ready and focus. I mean, but, uhm, yeah, I don't know why.
Q. Do you or any of the other players you know understand the heat policy here, how it works?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, it looks like nobody really knows how it works here. I think when it's 40 and over you have to close the roof.
But saying that in our match was like 39 and a half, well, I don't know, when you're on the court it feels like 45 inside in the center court.
I don't really know how it works here.
Q. While it's difficult conditions, does it make you feel good that you've shown your hard work and physical condition has coped with these difficult weather conditions?
ELENA DEMENTIEVA: I think you can get ‑‑ you know, you can work so hard trying to get ready for the weather condition, but when you have to face 40 or 41, there is no way you can get used to it.
The best way is to play as quick as possible and just get away from the court. I mean, there is no way to adjust with the heat here.
Looks like the only person who'll be sending Craig Tiley a gift basket is A-Rod.
Heh. Nice write up from Tom Perotta on the Dokic/Dina match:
If Dokic is the most inspiring woman in the draw, Safina is the most entertaining. One minute, she clubs four deadly winners, launches three aces, and belts a few swinging volleys. The next she smashes a racquet, draws a code violation for foul language, double faults four times in the decisive game of a set, and spikes a ball as hard as she can. How is it that this long, lean, gifted athlete can do no wrong for long stretches and then, at a moment's notice, become incapable of tying her own shoes? I asked Safina if she is her own worst enemy.
"Most of the time it's me against myself playing," she said, smiling. "You know, I play against me, my shadow, myself, everything against me. If one day I will play only against [my] opponent, this will be the perfect day."
Rod Laver Arena
Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP) vs. Elena Dementieva(RUS) (11:00am)
Svetlana Kuznetsova(RUS) vs. Serena Williams(USA)
Fernando Verdasco(ESP) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(FRA)
Rafael Nadal(ESP) vs. Gilles Simon(FRA) (NB 7:30pm)
Conflicted Sad Face. She had her chances and opportunities to keep this miracle run going, but in the end I just think the Snot Rocket ran out of gas. He fell to Dina in three sets 64 46 64. I loved seeing her fight though. The rest of the girls on tour (*cough*Ana*cough*) could learn from watching her play. Focused, direct, and just so awesomely old school. I think my favorite thing about Snot Rocket is how she'll just serve with any ball that's given to her. So cool.
As for Dina, this was a gift. Plain and simple. Because if she wasn't "Dinara Safina" and we didn't have her body of work to judge her, you know everyone would be reaming her right now. Four double faults to give away a set??? Seriously? She's never looked sharp throughout an entire match this tournament. She should have been dumped by The Cone last round and she should have lost last night.
If she can turn it around against Bepa then all power to her. But right she doesn't look great. Everything about her game looks fragile. Ugh. So frustrating. That said, I'll give her a lot of credit for not going bonkers last night. Her service woes, combined with the crowd, combined with the stress of being the overwhelming favorite in the match, could have led to a third set implosion. Quite a sign of maturity to stay in the match and tough it out.
I hope this really isn't about money. I'm trying to give JJ the benefit of the doubt here.
Of course, you know Nole's retirement is going to just add rocket fuel to the inferno that is the Nole Witch Trials. The poor kid can't win. On ESPN the commentators were all saying that it was useless for him to continue. Andy was basically taunting him to retire and doing everything to get him to retire. And yet fans I'm sure are going to lambaste him for not letting Andy get a clean win.
I get it. I wish the kid had stuck it out and taken his beating too. But I also recognize that there could not have been anything tougher for him to do than to throw in the towel to Andy Fucking Roddick. Anyone else fine, but given the history between these two you know that had to have been the worst feeling. ESPECIALLY as the defending champion of a Grand Slam.
I'm curious to see if this is a chronic fitness issue or an acute one. I'm inclined to think that this is an acute one, that he didn't do a good job recovering from his 3am match with Marcos two nights ago. For a dude who has a full team around him, that's pretty JV. But if it's a chronic one he's in for a long year.
Because if I didn't know, this crap would just be more and more disturbing and sad: