1. Black/Huber vs. Stosur/Stubbs
2. Venus Williams vs. Jelena Jankovic (NB 16.30hrs)
3. Serena Williams vs. Caroline Wozniacki
4. Llagostera Vives/Martínez Sánchez vs. Williams/Williams (NB 19.30hrs; after suitable rest)
I mean, at least she's now 3-12 for her career in YECs. So, yay!
But seriously, did she have to win today? Her win catapulted Venus into the semis, whereas a loss would have put countrywoman Lena D into the semis. Did Sveta take sides? Yeah, based on this quote, I'm thinking no:
“I asked Venus before the game, ‘Will you give me something if I win?”’ Kuznetsova said. “She was like, ‘If you win, it’s good for yourself.’ I say, ‘OK, whatever.”’
Come on, Venus. At least give her an Eleven sponsorship or something.
Dear WTA: In the span of 24 hours you had two of your most promising young players reduced to tears because of physical ailments caused by a combination of a long fucking season and the fact that you've situated your year-end championships in a humidly dry environment. If you don't want to reevaluate things, so be it. But let it be known that the rest of us call bullshit on your entire fucking system.
Poor Vika. Seriously. I really do feel bad for her. After dominating Agi for 2 and 7/8ths of the first two sets, Via somehow blew a 5-2 lead in the second to suddenly drop it 75. Then, after the first game of the third set, she started to experience either more thigh strain or significant cramping. Watching her play after that point was painful and she would eventually retire down 1-4, sending Caro into the semis.
First, good on Agi for not completely rolling over in this match and forcing Vika to play. Then again, Polish blood runs deep, yo. Agi knew that a win would send her fellow Pole, Caro, through to the semis. Leave it to A-Rad to keep things interesting.
- Is Caroline Wozniacki the future?
Watching her slog through two long, winding and surprising matches in Doha—she snuck through in three against Azarenka after losing the first set 6-1, then fought off cramps that had dropped to the court to beat Zvonareva—I’ve been struck by a few things:
Wozniacki’s first serve looks stronger, especially the wide one. Unlike many of her peers, she shows you when she’s enjoying it out there—i.e., she smiles. She’s got great feel on her crosscourt forehand. She’s comfortable settling into a pocket well behind the baseline, but doesn’t move forward or take advantage of winning situations instinctively. She reminds me at times of Martina Hingis, another eastern European transplanted to Western Europe, without the cockiness or the creativity. Like Andy Murray, she gives her opponents room either to hang themselves or to find their games; as we’ve seen so far with Murray, that hasn’t been a recipe for winning majors. More important for fans, though, Wozniacki is a gamer, maybe even to a fault. She played her first match hobbled by a hamstring injury. In her second match, serving for it at 5-4 in the third, she looked finished when leg cramps had her writhing on the court. She got up, served with a tear coming down her face, lost a 31-stroke rally, and still won the game and the match.
Wozniacki will struggle against the more explosive Justine, Kim, Venus, and Serena, but she has the persistence and consistency to beat everyone else on a regular basis—there’s plenty of room for a non-head case in the WTA. She doesn’t have the edge or self-regard of a diva who can bring new fans to the game. But that should only make her more appealing to those of us who watch every day. We know we’ll get her best.
- Or is Victoria Azarenka the future?
Thinking about the up and downs of Azarenka’s season, the early peaks and later plateaus, the first thing that comes to mind is that the length of the schedule makes it tough for anyone to be good all year—there are just so many different phases, places and surfaces to negotiate. The second thing is that it’s tough for Victoria Azarenka in particular to be good all year. She can open up the court and put a rally in the palm of her hand, but just when you think she’s ready to finish it, the ball may fly haphazardly off her strings for no discernible reason. If you could put Azarenka together with Wozniacki, you’d have the next No. 1. Azarenka can hit through the court, but she doesn’t have the feel of her fellow up and comer. And while she’s fiercer and angrier than Wozniacki, the Dane may be tougher mentally—hanging in there is pretty much what she does for a living.
Azarenka should have more upside than Wozniacki; she can make more happen on the court. But sometimes her hands and strings turn to stone—the ball kerrangs off her frame. And while Azarenka’s intensity drives her, it also doubles back and undermines her. Against Wozniacki, she stayed calm and let her mistakes go, until she just couldn’t let them go anymore—the anger is always there. As fans, when Azarenka goes out on court, we know we’ll get her best. The question is whether her best may be too much.
I can't wait to see these two duke it out over the next 5 years. And let's not forget Sabine, Sorana, and Alize. Oh, who am I kidding, forget Alize.
"I don't even know what crystal meth is so, you know, that's what my reaction to it is. I haven't read anything about Andre Agassi's book. All I know is that I have a book coming out."
-- Serena, on being asked for her thoughts on Andre's meth revelation.
Centre Court (from 17.00hrs)
1. Caroline Wozniacki vs. Jelena Jankovic
2. Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Elena Dementieva
3. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Victoria Azarenka
So here's the breakdown:
Maroon Group: If Elena wins, she's in. If Sveta wins, Venus is in.
White Group: If Caroline wins, she's in. If JJ wins, she's in and Caro has to wait the outcome of the Agi/Vika match. Vika gets the second berth if she wins. Otherwise, Caro's in.
All this is to say, GO AGI!!!
Good on Serena for proving me wrong and playing like the world #1 that she is. I wouldn't have faulted her for bailing on this match mentally, but she stayed quietly focused and deliberate with her play. I was intense and methodical. And when Serena is calm, intense, and methodical, she's scary good.
So Serena is the first to confirm her place in the semis. Elena, at 1-1, is still in the running. Serena also remains undefeated which might help her earn some extra cash (there's bonus money if you go undefeated).
I mean, I can't possibly think what she might need some cash for...
"You can tell how much we care about our sport and how passionate we are. We didn't care who was there, whether it was one person or two."
-- Sveta, on the empty stands in Doha
Unless you count that heart muscle.
I haven't watched the match yet, but from what I can gather, more than any other match she's played, this was a statement match for Boots. Everyone can say they're a fighter, but only a few players have a fighter's resume, i.e., singular matches that fans can point to as pure gut out matches. And I'm not even talking about come from behind victories. That's different. I'm talking about matches won on pure guts.
Welcome to Caroline Wozniacki's coming out party.
After bageling Bepa in the first and then blowing a 5-2 lead and two match points in the second to lose it, Boots was up 3-1 in the third when her leg began to cramp on her. She would get treatment and then the drama would begin.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Boots' leg seized violently (think Serena, Wimby, Dani) and she fell to the court writing in pain. But since she already used up her MTOs she couldn't be treated. As a distantly empathetic Lynn Welch looked on, Boots screamed and cried, trying to deal with the pain. And yes, her parents were freaking their shit.
She would eventually get up (after receiving a time violation, I believe) and drop the next point. It looked like she would retire then and there. But she somehow gathered herself and reeled off the next three points to seal the match. She was bawling and could barely limp to the net.
No idea if she'll be ready for her match against JJ tomorrow but she hasn't clinched a semifinal spot yet so it's an important match for her. Regardless, her performance this week is going to win her a lot of matches in the future. Two gutsy performances that showed the world that she doesn't give up and she can play through pain. Good for the kid.
Really amazing stuff. I can't wait to watch it.
Oh, yeah, and there was blood.
Nice article on Novak in the Independent. Some interesting stuff on his new coaching situation and his thoughts on regaining his #3 ranking from Muzzard.
This, in particular, seemed promising:
Martin's influence, as a thoughtful coach and a cool head, has probably been even more significant. Djokovic, a forceful and demonstrative character, may not be the easiest of men to coach. He has had a knack for rubbing up tennis people the wrong way, upsetting some with his mid-match retirements and calls to the trainer and others with his impressions of fellow players. When does self-confidence become arrogance?
For all his ability to entertain crowds – witness his hilarious jousting with John McEnroe at the US Open last month – Djokovic can also turn the public against him. Twelve months earlier he had incurred the New York crowd's wrath with ill-judged criticisms of Roddick.
So how has Martin helped? "He obviously brings his great knowledge and experience – and great calmness," Djokovic said. "He's a very positive person and that's what I like. Before the US Open we had lots of time on the tennis court. We put a lot of work into it. I'm a temperamental player. I show my emotions, even in practice.
"When I get frustrated I throw my racket. Then I look at Todd and I'm kind of scared about what his reaction might be, what he's going to say. But he always says: 'The shot you made before the mistake was good. So keep it going.' He always tries to find the positive in everything. I think that's a great thing about him. He's going to bring a lot of freshness to the team."
Then again, I get very torn when I read about Nole learning to control his emotions. I like my Serbs a little on the cray-cray side.
Another video from Marat's Adventure in Babysitting. But this time we have real footage of him interacting with a kid. And according to those in the know, here's what was said:
Marat: "You smoke a lot?"
Boy: "Noooo! Do you smoke?"
Marat: "I don't, but I also don't cough."
Boy: "I have been sick."
Girl: "Smoking is bad for one's health"
Marat: "Exactly. Tell him!"
Boy: "But I don't smoke!"
Hope that kid doesn't have access to the internet.
After a lengthy hiatus, the FD Podcast is back with Doha, meth, Bali, Marat (duh), some Hopman talk, a geography lesson, and the bestest strawberry beer you've ever tasted.
And I read some hate mail. From Ashley Harkleroad's BabyDaddy.
"Serena is a terrific ambassador for our sport."
-- Stacey Allaster, in her statement congratulating Serena on her year-end #1 ranking.
Here's the thing Stacey. I'm totally ok with moving on. But if you're going to say crazy things like that, I have no choice.
"It's under question the beginning of next year. When I speak to the doctors it doesn't sound so nice. So it's possible that I might not be 100 percent fit for the Australian Open. Maybe I'll have to skip it. At this stage my health is more important. Until I recover fully, until my back is recovered and I can feel that I have no pain, no fear, then I'll not play. Definitely there is no surgery. It's just time. This is going to be a very long procedure."
-- Dina, on whether she'll be fit for 2010.
Singles – Second Round
 V Hanescu (ROU) d I Marchenko (UKR) 63 64
E Gulbis (LAT) d  J Chardy (FRA) 76(7) 63
 H Zeballos (ARG) d [Q] O Dolgopolov Jr. (UKR) 63 61
B Phau (GER) d K Beck (SVK) 64 21 ret. (respiratory illness)
Singles – First Round
 M Youzhny (RUS) d A Golubev (KAZ) 63 62
I Kunitsyn (RUS) d  P Cuevas (URU) 64 63
M Safin (RUS) d R Gasquet (FRA) 76(5) 64
Singles – Second Round
 R Stepanek (CZE) d F Gil (POR) 62 63
 P Kohlschreiber (GER) d V Crivoi (ROU) 62 30 ret. (right shoulder)
 N Almagro (ESP) d W Odesnik (USA) 64 64
Singles – First Round
 G Monfils (FRA) d G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 75 64
J Tipsarevic (SRB) d  J Isner (SRB) 76(4) 64
D Koellerer (AUT) d J Nieminen (FIN) 61 62
[Q] D Hrbaty (SVK) d R Ramirez Hidalgo (ESP) 63 64
Singles – Second Round
 J Benneteau (FRA) d [Q] K Anderson (RSA) 75 62
F Serra (FRA) d  A Montanes (ESP) 75 63
Singles – First Round
 G Simon (FRA) d S Bolelli (ITA) 76(5) 76(5)
 P Mathieu (FRA) d L Mayer (ARG) 76(5) 62
N Kiefer (GER) d [WC] S Grosjean (FRA) 46 76(7) 76(2) – Saved 2 M.P.
O Rochus (BEL) d [Q] V Millot (FRA) 63 62
Those conspiracy theorists out there would probably assume that after Venus won the first set that Serena would kind of roll over and let her sister win. I mean, a win by Serena would pretty much ensure her spot in the semis but eliminate Venus from the tourney.
But as I said yesterday, how many times have we seen Venus take the first set only to lose? Well it happened for the second straight day, as she would drop the second and third sets. For the most part neither sister was able to play well at the same time, save for the very end of the third set, when all of a sudden things got really good. And I was reminded in this match that when Venus is playing well she's really fun to watch on hard courts. So graceful.
But anyway, Serena pretty much secures her spot out of the Maroon group and she gets the #1 ranking.
So drink it up (Lachaim!).
Dina was forced to retire at 1-1 in the first set against JJ due to a back problem. In her presser she said she's been suffering with the back injury for three months now and has been on anti-inflamatories and cortisone injections to try and play Doha:
"It's my low back, I have inflammation there in the bone," 23-year-old Safina said. "I've been playing on in pain, on anti-inflammatories, on everything. It's been about three months. My body just gave up. I did everything possible to play here. I went yesterday to put injections, cortisone, but I could not handle this pain any more. I think I should have taken a break after the US Open but I was chasing this number one, so I was fighting with my body. Maybe I had to stop after the US Open."
Tough to say whether she should have stopped after the USO. I mean, obviously she should have but I'm sure it was a difficult call to make at the time. More on this on the podcast.
But the upshot is that Serena gets the year-end #1 and JJ is given a match. I'm sure that works out well for both of them.
I just love so much that Vika goes out of her way to make me laugh.
Also, it was hot in Doha.
In what turned out to be the most epic and dramatic match of the day (which is actually saying something), Vika and Caro locked horns for almost three hours. And in the end, both players' personalities came through and won/lost the match. Basically, Vika exploded (both out of the gate and emotionally at the end) and Caro was steady. And you know what they say about slow and steady.
Vika dominated the first set, taking it 61. Sure, Caro's a bit hobbled, but I thought Vika played really well in that first set. Then in the second set, Vika came down to earth and Caro steadied herself. Vika was spraying unforced errors everywhere and, boy, if you want to talk about someone who doesn't have a Plan B, it's Vika.
After taking advantage of the heat rule (a 10 minute break after the second set), which confused the crap out of Caro seeing as how it was significantly cooler by that time, Vika seemed to have calmed down and played a good third set. She consistently broke Caro, but for whatever reason, COULD.NOT.HOLD.SERVE.
It all came to a head at 5-5 in the third in a four point sequence: First, Vika started snapping at the ball kids. Then she smashed a ball into the stands and received a code violation. Next, after losing the point to give Caro break point, Vika smashed and broke her raquet, receiving another code violation and automatic point penalty, giving Caro the game. She then proceeded to absolutely demolish her racquet on the changeover, Gonzo style. Caro would serve it out easily after that.
So Vika's loss keeps the White group interesting, as she and JJ are 1-1 after Dina's retirement (more on that in a sec), and Caro is 1-0.
Hopman Cup teams have been finalized, with Asia to be announced after their qualifying tourney. I am obviously very excited for the pairing of Eeyore and Lefty. I hope he doesn't make her cry.
Germany -- Sabine Lisicki and Philipp Kohlschreiber
Romania -- Sorana Cirstea and Victor Hanescu
USA -- Melanie Oudin and John Isner
Russia -- Elena Dementieva and Igor Andreev
Australia — Samantha Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt
Great Britain -- Laura Robson and Andy Murray
Spain -- Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez and Tommy Robredo
Serena scored a very solid 76 75 win over Sveta, saving numerous set points and generally playing from behind for most of the match. This match was a good barometer for where Serena's head is at, as she had a number of opportunities to just let up a little bit and lose the match. But she remained focused and intense and she really made Sveta work for it. And in the end, Sveta reminded us that she's Russian. So she did what Russians do.
And so Serena plays Venus tomorrow (er...today) in a must-win match for Venus. We'll see how Serena recovers. She's got tape for her left knee and she rolled her right ankle in the first set tiebreak today. Sveta gets a day off and will play Lena (I think) on Thursday.
Team Russia is looking mighty awesome right about now.
Team Russia: Marat Safin, Maria Sharapova, Vera Zvonareva
Team Asia: Paradorn Srichaphan, Zheng Jie, Ayumi Morita
Team America: Michael Chang, Venus Williams, Gisela Dulko
Team Europe: Stefan Edberg, Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka
Please let there be Marat/Masha and Stefan/Vika mixed dubs. The former for the awesomeness, the latter for the complete and utter mindfuck.
So do you think the HK organizers changed the format to include the old fogies so that they could convince Marat to play? For a guy who keeps complaining about how much tennis sucks he sure does keep playing. I'm guessing it's because the weather in HK in January is 92% better than the weather in Mother Russia. Either that or the touching/cheezy Asian tributes really touched a nerve.
In other news... STEFAN!!!
Yes, the boys are continuing the grind in St. Pete's and Vienna.
Singles - First Round J Chardy (FRA) d [Q] P Luncanu (ROU) 62 62
Singles - First Round
 [WC] M Cilic (CRO) d [Q] A Falla (COL) 62 63
 R Stepanek (CZE) d L Kubot (POL) 64 61
 P Kohlschreiber (GER) d [Q] D Kindlmann (GER) 61 63
 F Lopez (ESP) d [WC] A Haider-Maurer (AUT) 64 64
 J Melzer (AUT) d M Chiudinelli (SUI) 76(4) 76(10)
*[LL] M Berrer (GER) d S Darcis (BEL) 63 62
J Hajek (CZE) d A Seppi (ITA) 76(4) 57 63
*[LL] M Berrer (GER) replaced P Petzschner (GER) - (left calf)
Doubles - First Round
J Isner (USA) / J Kerr (AUS) d  D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) 46 76(8) 10-6
 M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) d [WC] M Fischer (AUT) / P Oswald (AUT) 64 76(3)
I'd call you "Papa", Marat. But something tells me that's not what you meant.
Thanks to New Balls, Please for finding this.
Serena "confirmed" that she's planning to play Fed Cup. I use quotes because, well, Serena says a lot of things. I'll believe it when she actually serves a ball in Italy.
I stumbled on this quote by an Italian journalist on the Fed Cup site:
The Italian media made the most of Pennetta getting to the top 10 in August, though a few experienced tennis watchers felt the adulation was a little excessive. “It was presented as the biggest thing for our tennis,” says the veteran Italian tennis journalist and commentator Rino Tommasi, “which is very stupid. We have been a bit lucky in Fed Cup, and our men players are so terrible at the moment that it makes the women’s achievements seem bigger than they are. I think it makes people think we can beat the USA, but if Serena plays, it could be decided for the Americans before the doubles.”
Uh, sexist much? Whatever, Rolo Tomassi. You're probably not even real.
I find it a little interesting that Serena is "committing" to Fed Cup given the fact that (1) her leg is taped up and (2) it's being played on clay. That's a lot of grind on a body that's already had a tough year.
According to an "accidentally" "leaked" tweet by an SI reporter, Andre Agassi confirms in his upcoming autobiography that he did crystal meth during his career. So, you know, idiot. That shit will fuck. you. up.
Listen, I've watched a lot Intervention in my time. And 99% of the time, I've been drunk during the episode. I've seen episodes on alcoholism, crack cocaine, speedballs, bulimia, anorexia, rage, gambling, shopping, cutting, heroin, etc. And the one thing I learned from Intervention is that if there is any drug to avoid, it's meth.
Fergie proves my point. She's got crazy meth face and she makes crap music. And it's all because of meth. Fact.
Still don't believe me? Click here to browse through Faces of Meth, a project by some Oregon cops who compared photos of meth users over time.
All this is to say, don't do meth, kids. Or I will literally punch you in the face.
But Lena's win, coming back from a set down, wasn't as big a shock as Elena and the TTC commentators make it out to be. How many times this year have we seen Venus dominate an opening set, only to lose the next two? She did it against CSN at AO, Dina in Rome, K-Bond in Toronto, and Pavs in Beijing.
So Lena notches a big win for her in the tough Maroon group. She'll play Kuz next. Venus on the other hand will have to take out Serena, who just beat Sveta, to give her any shot of moving into the semis and defending her Championship points.
“She has her own team. She tries her best. It’s hard. We are athletes. You can’t always be at the top of the game. Our years are long. It’s not like other sports, where you play for a few months then have a few months off. We always try to play our best tennis, but some years are better than others. That’s part of sport, part of life as well. We have a lot of ups and downs in both. It’s important to just be positive and always learn – to keep learning until you die.”
-- JJ's response to being asked about Ana's crap year.
The WTA Year End Championships should not be held in Doha. Full stop. I will leave it at that.
Ok fine. I won't. I like to hear myself talk. But this is utterly ridiculous. Between last year's "leggings" fiasco to images like this, I just cannot stand the absolute and complete moneygrab that's going on here in the guise of "women's rights."
Women's rights my ass. All this talk by the WTA that they chose Doha in order to further women's rights in the country is totally undermined by pictures like this. You know how you further women's rights? By taking any leverage you have and saying "No, we won't photoshop the women to cover them up" or "No, we won't do any promotional pictures with completely veiled women" or "No, we won't have our tournament in your country until you stop being retarded towards women."
Ok, that last one was mine. There's a reason I wasn't an IR major in college.
And laughed for a very long time.
(Pics from Tennis Forum)
Vika and JJ kicked things off in the Maroon White group, with Vika putting in a really solid performance in a straight set win over JJ. She steamrolled JJ in the first but JJ stepped it up in the second set. Just Vika was impressive in her ability to stay steady and not let JJ take control of the set.
Afterwards, the Duchess of Delusion (let's face it, the Queen of Delusion is Serena) said this:
"I basically gave her everything. I beat myself. That was really unfortunately the case. My game was completely off. I would hit one or two balls and then the third one would go everywhere except in the court. I was a shadow of myself."
To which Vika the Victor, said this:
"I'm glad she gave me the match and she was not in the mood. It worked out pretty well for me."
Winner. Both on and off the court.
And to quote James LaRosa, JJ is officially the WTA pinata.
Vika will play Caro next, assuming Caro plays at all. There are rumblings that she's too hurt to suit up. As for JJ, she will play the other "Shadow of Herself", Dina.
That's a lie. It's the latter.
You know, or not.
Second, I will punch you in the face.
Third, wear a push up bra if you want to get some heft in your chest, not a crooked bow.
First look at the mirror today, ReRe?
Looks like the girls did a number on you in your sleep during WTA Sleepover 09.
Word of advice? Never go to sleep before Sveta. Never.
Many apologies. Halpert is with the Apple folks so without my laptop (and since I don't really go to work much these days) it's pretty tough to keep up with the tennis haps. I am told I should get him back on Monday.
Have a great weekend!
Centre Court (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Kukushkin vs. Odesnik
2. Maria Kirilenko vs. Aleksandra Wozniak (NB 13.00hrs)
3. Vera Zvonareva vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
4. ATP: C.Rochus vs. Tipsarevic (NB 16.30hrs)
5. Lucie Safarova vs. Jelena Jankovic (NB 18.00hrs)
6. Safin vs. Korolev (NB 19.30hrs)
Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Evgeniya Rodina vs. Alisa Kleybanova
2. ATP: Ginepri vs. Granollers
3. Vera Dushevina vs. Agnes Szavay
4. Marchenko vs. Golubev
Court 2 (from 12.00hrs)
1. ATP: Cermak/Mertinak vs. Andreev/Koellerer
2. Monica Niculescu vs. Francesca Schiavone
3. Ar.Rodionova/Savchuk vs. Kirilenko/Petrova
Court 3 (from 14.30hrs)
1. A.Bondarenko/Voskoboeva vs. Kleybanova/Makarova
2. ATP: Beck/Polasek vs. Cuevas/Granollers
Central (from 13.00hrs)
1. Carla Suárez Navarro vs. Shahar Peer
2. Lucie Hradecka vs. Daniela Hantuchova
3. Alizé Cornet vs. Yanina Wickmayer
4. Anne Kremer vs. Katarina Srebotnik (NB 17.30hrs)
5. Patty Schnyder vs. Kim Clijsters
Court 1 (NB 15.00hrs)
1. Medina Garrigues/Suárez Navarro vs. Malek/Parra Santonja (after suitable rest)
This picture makes me sad.
An outstanding performance by MaKiri today meant that Agi won't be playing in Doha (unless she makes it as an alternate). The fucked up thing is that because of the Bali qualification rules (discussed at length in our last podcast), she might not even get to play Bali. So we'll have a player, who will likely finish in the top 10, who will play neither YEC. Nice job, WTA. Seriously, can you do *anything* right?
Flava Flav was forced to retire while up a set to Agnes due to a left knee injury, thus ending her campaign for Doha. And since Bali is scheduled during the same weekend as the Fed Cup final, she won't be playing Bali either, even though she's qualified.
So...well done, WTA.