Look. Marion Bartoli is weird. That's not a knock. That's just a fact. She hits off two hands on both sides, does modern dance between every point, openly crushes on Roger Federer and Pierce Brosnan, lets her dad strap tennis balls to her heels during practice, and insists on wearing the newest Nike kits despite the fact that they refuse to sponsor her.
But you know what? Marion Bartoli is honest. I mean, doesn't all that weirdness prove that? The kid wants what she wants and she doesn't give a fuck if you like it. She speaks her mind at pressers and she is charmingly honest as all get out. She will give you the what's what (according to her, of course) regardless of your question. Last year at Stanford she went off on the FFT, she's gone off on other players, organizations, press, etc.
All this is to say, Marion Bartoli will not be contained. She will keep on keepin' on whether you like it or not. And for that, she has my respect. Trust me, that's way harder to earn than my love.
You were lights out today, 175. You held steady on your home court (maybe not so much in front of your home crowd, which is weirder than you are) and never let Sveta get her teeth into this match. Could Sveta have played better? Absolutely. But Marion gave her enough trouble that she couldn't even focus on her own game. I suspect Sveta severely misunderestimated Mono in this match. Not sure why she would. They're veterans and Sveta should fucking know better. I totally had you as my sleeper pick, Sveta. Way to fall asleep.
So I don't get the rematch that wanted (Sveta vs. Frank) but this one should be interesting. Can Mono wrest away Frank's hold on Chatrier? MEEP!
The Legend continues.
She was down a set and 1-4 to an inspired Pavs. And by "inspired" I mean a Pavs who was hitting the snot out of the ball and holding her nerve. And then, at some point, I think Frank looked up and remembered where she was. She's at Roland Fucking Garros, and she wasn't going to go down to some 19 year-old upstart with braces. That kid will have her time to shine in the future. But the present is now and the now is Francesca Schiavone, Queen of The Moment.
But boy, did Pavs test her. Down 1-5 in the third set, Pavs somehow clawed her way back to 5-5. She did it by taking advantage of Fran's suddenly tentative play, stepping in and cracking winner off both wings. The kid did not give up and she sent a message to Frank that she wasn't going to just roll over and give her the match. If Frank wanted it, she'd have to take it. Which she eventually did, taking the final set 7-5.
As much as Frank is the story here, this tournament (and this match in particular) was a coming out party for Pavs, who has clearly served noticed to the lazy journalists that her name deserved to spelled out and spelled right. Oft accused of being an unfit underachiever (seriously, that makes no sense), Pavs reminded everyone why she was one to watch after her semifinal run at Indian Wells in 2009. The woman can hit with power, she's not as nuts as a lot of the Russians, and she sings karaoke like a motherfuckin' boss.
I send a Forty Deuce salute your way, Pavs. And by that I mean I raise my glass to you. It's empty, but it's the thought that counts.
Oh man. This one's totally on you, Vik.
I mean, that was so epic a meltdown it almost got Muzz to smile.
Andy has a liquid ankle. They scanned it, the scans revealed a partial tendon tear, and he was given crutches. It crunches when he walks. He said he had more pills in him than Ozzy Osbourne. And Vik was up 5-2 on him in their one-set shootout today.
Vik lost 7-5. That's right, after getting to 5-2, Vik lost five straight games. If you don't want to use the word "choke" then let's put it this way: Vik went dumb when victory was in his grasp. He had spent seven games playing a patient, opportunistic, smart game and then he threw the plot into the Seine and hopped on a train to London. It was very very hard to watch.
Oh, and the ballkid had nothing to do with anything. Yes, the kid jumped the gun. But he was standing on the side of the umpire's chair where he couldn't see the end of the point. All he saw was Vik hitting an overhead smash and the crowd whooping and hollering. He ran out. It was a mistake for sure. But Vik went on to break in that game, consolidate the break at 5-2, and served for the match at 5-3. Leave the ballkid out of this.
So it'll be Andy vs. Chela tomorrow for a spot in the semis. I can't think this will be anything but a grinder of a match, so here's hoping Andy's bionic ankle comes out warm. I just want him to make the semis. Is that so bad?
(Pics: Getty, AP)
So a quick summary: RG.com isn't posting full interview transcripts. Word got out that the International Tennis Writers' Association had requested they not post the full interview transcripts. Fans found out. Fans complained. So ITWA wrote a very very long letter. You can read that letter here.
I find the letter a bit odd. Tennis fans aren't dumb. WE KNOW WHY YOU DON'T WANT THE TRANSCRIPTS POSTED. It's the same reason why the record industry went after Napster, why movie studios are constantly revamping their digital copyright technology, and why authors were freaking out about the prospect of e-books. Of course you're trying to protect your business model and your exclusivity. If you lock other people out who might be able to do a better job than you then you get to kick back, throw your feet up, and be the lazy fat cats. DUH.
But let's start by looking at the current landscape of tennis media. One thing that has happened over the course of the last five years, whether it's because of Twitter or the internet or whatever, is the ever-increasing distrust of the mainstream tennis media (I mean, media in general really, but let's focus on tennis). Fans have been given a remarkable amount of transparency over the last few years. If we hadn't (i.e., transcripts weren't previously made widely available) we wouldn't be complaining now.
But the cat's out of the bag. We now know the transcripts are there, tournaments have the capacity to post them with ease, and they yield information that we value and isn't being reported. As uberfandom has become a thing (a very good thing, if you ask me), fans have an insatiable appetite for any and every scrap of information about their favorite players. That appetite leads them to search for the info at the source, and when they have, particularly via transcripts, they have found that the people writing about tennis often get it wrong. Perhaps not "wrong" per se, but to the extent anything is subjective, tennis fans often find themselves disagreeing with tennis journalists on a "definitive" take.
Now, tennis journalists want to take that transparency away. But we, tennis fans do not trust you. Whether that's because you've done a shit job or because we're dumb is not a point I'm going to argue right now. But the debate only works if we just accept that as fact. There is no trust in the system right now. As a journalist, I would think you care about that. Or maybe you don't care and you're just trying to earn a living. If that's the case, fine. But don't act all indignant when the very tennis fans that you're trying to court to read your work tell you to go fuck yourself. Do your jobs well and earn back that trust.
For example, many fans have been left scratching their heads this morning as they read multiple news reports of Rafa's "dominant" performance over Ljubicic. As "relevant quotes" from Rafa's press conference began to hit the wire (journalists are leaking the quotes *they* deem relevant), most Rafa fans' immediate reaction was, "Let me see the transcript. There has to be context to these." As the transcripts did hit the web (Wikileaks-style), Rafa fans felt vindicated. There *was* context. Not only that, but there were great little Rafa quips in the full transcript that were wholly ignored by the MSM. As this happens over and over and over again, tennis fans feel like they're either being mislead or not being told the whole story. Distrust and skepticism grows.
Tennis journalists may want to live in this world where they have complete 100% control over the source material and therefore derive their value from having that access. But that's a dream world. That world simply no longer exists. Information that has value will always get leaked. Look around you. What *doesn't* get leaked these days.
But what leaves a bad taste in my mouth in this instance is this: It's not the tournaments who are making this independent decision, saying that they want to incentivize on-site journalism and have thus refused to put up the transcript. Instead, here you have a PRESS ORGANIZATION lobbying for limited public access. I've spent the last few days trying to think of another situation where I've heard of that happening. I honestly can't think of one.
It just strikes me as laziness. If you, tennis journalist, are worried that a blogger who is sitting on their couch watching the matches on TV and reading transcripts as they're posted on the OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT WEBSITE, can and will do a better job "reporting" than you who are on-site, doesn't that speak volumes as to your value? If what you're doing on-site is no better than what someone's doing off-site, then clearly you're not using your access. You absolutely have an advantage over the couchsurfers. You're there. You can ask for interviews. You can find angles. You see things that we don't see. You can just be a fantastically eloquent writer who can describe the sound of Rafa's shoes sliding in the Bullring in a way that makes me wish I was there. Christopher Clarey, Steve Tignor, Tom Perrotta, Doug Robson. They do it right. I don't read every piece they post because they have scorelines and quotes. I read every piece they post because they see things and write about things that I marvel at. They take the quotes and weave them into a compelling narrative. Their perspectives and their words make me love tennis more.
What the ITWA letter also doesn't address is the issue of a 24-48 hour embargo on transcripts. No right-thinking tennis fan would object to this and no right-thinking tennis journalist would either. If you need quotes for your stories, you need them immediately and you have to file your stories in a 24 hour period anyway. So there's your exclusive access. 24 hours later, us tennis fans get to read the full transcripts, we get to check your work, and we get all the juicy little nuggets that you find trivial or juvenile. Win-Win. How can that go wrong?
Last point. If I am the tournament, tour, or player, I WANT the transcripts to be released to the public. From a tournament perspective, it's a huge hit generator for any tourney website. Need to off-set the costs of transcription services? There you go. And if I'm the tour, I want as many people writing about and talking about my players as possible. More access equals more stories and more chatter. And if I'm a player, I want my quotes out there in full context and I want my fans to hear it all. I don't want to give journalists full control over my words and my story.
So yeah. Those are my thoughts. It's not an easy debate and there are merits to both sides. But tell me: What doesn't a 24 hour embargo solve?
They make the cutest couple EVER. I want them to have babies. Maybe the camera catches them in the back of the car on their next trip. I mean, I'm no TV producer but I'm just sayin'.
I think she's diggin' your cheddar, dude. And she does *not* dig a lot of cheddar. Make your move, Maximus!
You say petulant, miserable git.
I say seductive charmer of my soul.
Outside there's a box car waiting. Let's you and me go for a drive, Moose.
But not before you finish off Viktor tommorrow. Andy came back from two sets down to level the match at two sets all before it was called for light. They'll have a one set shootout for a chance to play Chela.
I think it's a 50/50 call. It clearly took Andy some time to get that ankle warmed up and to feel confident. If he has a slow start out of the gate tomorrow he's toast.
But, you know. Vik is Vik. Like I said, 50/50.
Transcripts. Read them while you can.
Thanks to PoorDoor for the tip.
Gools is way intense, yo. She almost reminds me of Ana in her constant intense cheering and fistpumping at her box. Even when she plays doubles with Petko, she's pretty intense and serious. Against Nads and Rodio, she was all business. Cracking her racquet out of frustration, getting pissed, doing her intense German Goolia thing. I mean, it's hot. Let's not be dumb.
And then, somehow, Petko relaxed her. I think they kind of just realized it wasn't their day and were like "Whatever. Let's make out!" Or at least the tennis equivalent of that.
They were way cute. Petko was slapping her ass and, at only point on a changeover, the two were engaged in a convo when Gools told Petko to hold still and picked an eyelash off her cheek. She showed it to Petko and Petko blew on it for good luck. It was way gay. And soooooooooo awesome.
The Olympics will be awesome.
(Pics: Forty Deuce)
Everyone's ignoring him and it's bugging the crap out of me. He made a fool of Stan "Spit or Swallow" Wawrinka and he'll get a rather tired and Gaelly Gael on Wednesday (who held his nerve to beat Daveed) for a chance to take a crack at Nole on Friday and basically break every Serb-fan's heart.
And you know he wants to. You SO know he wants to.
As those of you on the Twitter know, Roland Garros is not posting full transcripts of press conferences. There are many rumored reasons for this and I'm going to keep my mouth shut because apparently it gets me trouble. But RG.com's decision to not post transcripts is definitely a sucky one. Whether the tennis MSM like it or not, outside of a very very small handful of journalists and writers (and I'm thinking less than five), tennis fans have become extremely skeptical of journalists' use of player quotes. Things get taken out of context on a daily basis. Why can't RG.com just have a 24-48 hour embargo? Hold the transcripts, let the onsite journos get their stories out, and then release the raw information to the public?
And after reading Petko's presser after her win over Jarka, I would think the tours would push for transcripts to be released, too. Do you know how much awesome stuff is in there that journalists didn't bother using? It's fantastic and it makes Petko look great, which in turn helps the marketing of the tour.
Read the full presser after the jump. Thank you to the very kind soul who emailed it to me.
Almost everyone I've spoken this week has been talking about Petra Kvitova. "She's got the game and the draw to win this." Now, I think Petra is very very very good. I think she's capable of beating anyone on any given day. I do think that she can win a Slam.
But I also think she's 21 years old and has major consistency issues. I mean, she won Madrid and then lost a week later to Rybarikova in the finals of Prague, a $50k ITF tournament. That raises questions to me as to (1) whether she can sustain her game over two weeks and seven matches, and (2) whether she can deal with the pressure (ITF or not, it's still a final in your home country).
Big games are big games. The bigger they are the harder they fall. We see that with players like Sam, Sveta, Ana, Masha, etc. When they're good they're very good, and when they're bad they are tragic. That's what happened to Petra today. Coming out on court with some kinesio tape on her shoulder, Petra struggled all day with getting the ball in the court. And we're not talking missing by centimeters. We're talking feet. Meters. I think one of her forehands hit the Eiffel Tower and another one landed in London.
Nails wasn't that great either. But she showed some veteran grit after going down 0-3 in the third by reeling off six straight games. Apparently her husband left the court after she dug herself a hole. He should leave more often. The threat of no credit card nearby is clearly a motivator.
“Even myself, I didn’t believe I can come back, you know, because she has a huge big serve. I don’t know what happened. Maybe just my husband left and I can win six games in a row.”
More Nails press conferences please! Even though we won't get to read them. Pffft.
This wasn't a great match to watch, but I'm super happy for Nails. She's now made the quarterfinals of all four Slams and is the first Chinese woman into the quarters of RG. That's quite something for someone so injury-prone and who seems to be blossoming later in her career.
She said in her press conference that she doesn't like the clay. I'm not sure if that matters, honey. It sure does like you.
There came a point while I was watching Francesca drop that second set to JJ when I thought "I refuse to live in a world where Fabio Fognini goes deeper at Roland Garros than Fran. I REFUSE." But THIS FUCKING GUY.
Did you know that in Italy they call him "Fogna", which means "sewage"? And that he's proud of it? He and his team have shirts. This one is a piece.
For a recap of what happened in this hugely entertaining dumb-ass match, go here.
If Francesca Schiavone is Italian drama done right, Fabio Fognini is Italian drama done wrong. Or maybe not. If I were to compare him to a movie, he's the movie that absolutely sucks so hard that you find yourself screaming at the screen, openly mocking the actors and their line readings, pointing out all the flaws in the plot, and leave the movie theater pissed off that you just spent $12 bucks and spent two hours watching that putrid piece of shit that deign call itself "art".
But you can't deny you were entertained for those two hours. And that's what pisses you off even more. He's the Michael Bay of tennis.
So of course, after all that drama, after basically lying to the chair umpire in order to get a trainer on court to see you mid-game when your opponent is two points from the match (Fognini told Louise he was cramping, when the real reason he couldn't move is because he pulled a muscle), after getting so into Montanes' head he couldn't think straight (Montanes' brain had the biggest cramp of the day), and notching the win and soaking in the boos like only he could (I thought he was going to jizz his pants), the douchebag of course, OF COURSE, withdraws from his quarterfinal showdown against Nole.
This means that Nole will not be able to match Vilas' record of the longest-ever win streak (46) in Paris. It also means that Nole only needs one more win to clinch the #1 ranking and that win might have to come over Fed in the semis. Fed gets the winner of Ferrer/Gael, which was called for light last night and continues today with Gael 2-1 up on Daveed, but having twisted his ankle right before the match was suspended. Either way, both players will be taxed and there's a bit of debate over whether the four days off for Nole (the semi is on Friday) will hurt him. AUGH!
God help me of Fed beats Nole to end the streak, keep Nole at #2, and goes on to beat Rafa, who has looked sub-par almost all week. I will throw things into the Seine. Possibly myself.
We always say that JJ loves the stage. The Drama Serb, nee Glitter Queen, undoubtedly loves the attention. She wants to be watched, she wants to be talked about it, she wants to be in the mix. But if JJ loves the stage, then Francesca Schiavone *LOVES* the stage. She fucking owns the stage. She went down to Home Depot, bought the raw materials, spent years building the stage according to her own personal specifications, and then decided to sell her house and live on her stage. Fed Cup, the Slams, Fran smells the big moments and absolutely seizes them.
JJ on the other hand has never been able to truly embrace her Black Swan (or Pink Swan as it were this week). Just as she had Ana on the ropes in the third set in 2008, JJ totally had Frank on the ropes in the third set yesterday. She was playing terrifically in the beginning of the set, holding easily, pressuring Frank on her serve, while Fran's frustration seemed to reach a boil. It all came down to that 3-4 game, when JJ had 0-30 on Fran's serve. It looked like Fran was just going to give the game away, opening up with two easy unforced errors. Fran took a breath, harnessed her chi, and dug herself out of that game, which sent JJ into a tizzy. She turned and barked at her box, filled with her two brothers (I think) who had been loud and vocal throughout the match. Instead of continuing to plug away (after all, it was still on serve at 4-4), JJ just couldn't get her head out of that missed opportunity. She played tentatively for the remainder of the match, the sting off her backhand wing gone, with body language that screamed to the stadium that she was done.
Frank of course, did what she do in Paris. Inspired after that eighth game, she was bounding about, whooping and hollering, and basically sunk her teeth into the match and never let go. Not that JJ was trying vigorously to wrench back control. It was sad to see. She really had a chance here. But once again, she wilted in the big moment. She let the moment control her instead of forcing the moment to bend at her will.
Fran on the other hand is strong like bull. The moment didn't even have a chance.
Bend, baby, bend.
Take *that* Roger.
But we all know the rules. You gotta call that shit:
Or at least do it once. Just to see how it feels.
In a result that in surprising, unsurprising, expected, and unexpected, Dani dumps out Caro 61 63. Sure, that looks like a straightforward scoreline, but this is Dani and Caro here. Dani was actually up 4-0 in the second set before Caro finally got on the board and made everyone hug their neighbor. It says a lot about both players that once Caro held serve to get on the board at 1-4, everyone was like "Well shit, Dani's gonna lose now." To quote Katie, "SHE CAN HEAR YOU."
Thankfully Dani brought her earplugs today. It was still touch and go there towards the end, but she held her nerve and got it done, showing off her amazing ball striking throughout the match. How great is it to see her get a win like this? More importantly, how great is it to see her smile like that? For a player who works so hard (she is *always* on the practice court, often twice a day) and has had a pretty tough go of things in the past (both on and off court), this is just so heartwarming. I JUST WANT YOU TO BE HAPPY!
As for Woz, the criticism has already started raining down. She's going to have it rough for while. It's not entirely fair but it's part and parcel of being numero uno: you get the perks and the potshots.
She's already won 40 matches in 2011. She didn't win her 40th match until August in 2010. The early loss here at least means she'll get next week off (accent-uate the positive) but she's then scheduled to play not Eastbourne or Edgbaston, both grass tourneys, but her home tournament of Copenhagen, which is an indoor hard court tourney. Clearly the country of Denmark is also conspiring against her.
Caro's always claimed (much like JJ) that she prefers to play matches rather than practice. I mean, I prefer eating mozzarella sticks to salad but I know that it's not good for my body. She played Brussels on the heels of Madrid and Rome, and looked physically and emotionally tired today. She was flat. She couldn't even muster up the energy to try and squeak her shoes on the clay. That's a whole lot of tired.
I don't see Caro having a chance at Wimbledon so we'll see if she can get herself back together for a run in New York. See you in New Haven, Caro!
Sometimes I just have to laugh. Maria went from being 3-6 1-4 down to 17 year old French wildcard Caroline Garcia, to reeling off 11 straight games to take the match 36 64 60. I mean, Jesus, woman. Sometimes you're just such a fucking bitch to your fans.
But before we talk Masha, how about a standing racquet clap for Caroline Garcia. Her forehand is effortlessly HUGE and she's somehow able to find angles on it that are almost Mirza-like. Did you know she was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye? Do you know who else was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye? Momo.
Someone needs to start bottling their water. And wine.
Anyway, I was completely floored by the kid. I've got my eye on you, young Garcia. Do it up.
But back to this fucking bitch.
First off, I have to thank Nicole for swapping tix with me so that I could run over to Chatrier and watch this all go down. Let the record reflect that Masha did not lose a game after I put my fat ass into my seat. She also didn't lose a game after my future husband tried his hand at WTA commentary. He should probably stop that. Leave it to your mum, Andy.
With her back against the wall and the entire of France against her, Masha did what she does best: She transformed her frustration into focus. After spending a set and a half struggling with her footwork and leaving the ball short for Garcia to absolutely pound for winners, Masha finally started stepping into the ball, pushing it deeper and deeper and taking control of the rallies. I didn't think Garcia choked in that second set. Masha just stepped it up and didn't give her a chance to crack winners. Once she pocketed that second set the third set bagel was inevitable. Masha believed, Garcia doubted, and the French crowd went dead silent.
It was pretty awesome. I think my facial expression throughout the third set would best be described as "smug".
TAKE THIS, MASHA. TAKE THIS AND SHOVE IT UP THEIR ASSES.
After AKO suffered a pretty rough loss to Dolonts on Monday, it was looking potentially grim for Team Britain in Paris. But young Hev came through on Tuesday, notching the first first round win at Roland Garros for a British woman since 1995. Bally followed it up a few hours later, making it two British ladies into the second round. They both lost yesterday, but it was nice to see.
Don't know much about Heather? Click above. The kid's got a million-dollar smile. And questionable music taste. Kidding. Not really.
It was looking ominous. I mean the weather, not Kim's kit. But that works, too.
I arrived at Roland Garros yesterday afternoon bundled up in a scarf and cardigan and, for a moment, considered buying one of those cheesy Roland Garros jackets that everyone seemed to be sporting (tags still on, natch). All that is to say, it was really gross yesterday. Cold, windy, cloudy, blech.
If that's how I was feeling as a fan, I can only imagine how the players felt. These were not the conditions that made you say "Man! I'm really looking forward to playing tennis today!" These were conditions that made you pull the covers back over your head and come to terms with the fact that you were going to head into work late, if at all.
So maybe that explains* how Kim went from being 63 52 up on Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus (#114) to dropping 11 of the last 12 games to lose 36 75 61. Momma sprayed unforced errors every which way every time she got the chance (65 for the match). It was...wait for it...Kimpressive.
All credit to Rus, though. With her back against the wall, she saved match points and played steady, solid tennis. The lanky girl can hit the ball, that's for damn sure.
So Kim's out. It's weird. But it certainly opens up the draw for a certain little someone...
*NOT. I just wanted to bitch about the weather.
(Pics: AP, Getty)
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt.
I didn't see. I wasn't there. I have no idea really what happened.
Sigh. I find it very difficult to care about anything Caro does these days. I don't mean that necessarily as a knock, I just don't...care. We all know she's not sunshine and rainbows all the time regardless of how hard she and her team try and convince the world that she is. One thing that has always been clear is that Caroline Wozniacki is a fierce competitor. She really is. Fierce competitors can get themselves into a steaming pile of shit in the heat of the moment. They can raise their hands, they can shake racquets at umpires, they can berate line judges, and they can call MTOs and stall all they can in an attempt to "ice the kicker".
So Caroline's one of those people. That doesn't mean she's a bad person. It just means she's *that* person.
Sabine was up 5-2 in the third set over Bepa. She was absolutely crushing the ball, showing everyone why I call her Boom Boom. Back in 2009, Sabine was always my favorite of the Caro, Vika, Sorana, Aga crew of new talent. She was super nice, German, and had the big serve and forehand that I love. She made her great run at Wimbledon (bumping Caro along the way) and it looked like things were on the up and up for young German. Then she sustained that horrible ankle injury at the US Open and she's been fighting to get herself back ever since. It's been a tough process to watch but her attitude throughtout has been admirable. The kid was plugging away and this year we started to see the results.
So at 5-2 up, it looked like Sabine was ready to score her first big scalp since coming back. Remember this is a kid who beat Venus, Kuz, and Caro before she had injury problems. A win over Bepa would be huge.
And then her body gave out on her. She started cramping and from there, despite her fight, Bepa reeled off five straight games to take the match. Sabine had to be carried off the court in a stretcher and rushed to the infirmary. Word is that she's fine now. Just physically and emotionally exhausted from the match. But man, when is this kid going to catch a break. She's one of those players who, when on, seems unbeatable. The forehand and serve are just that good.
Get a saline drip and rest up, Sabine. It's so nice to have you back in the mix (she's back into the top 100). On to Wimbledon!
If you are attending a Slam and you want bang for your buck, be sure to settle in for any first round match wherein John Isner is scheduled to play. You will not be sorry. The big dude brings the dramz whether he likes it or not. Not only is he "the longest match ever" guy, but now he's the "first dude to ever take Rafael Nadal to five sets on clay" guy. Sure, he's not the "first dude to ever beat Rafael Nadal in five sets on clay" guy, but let's not get greedy, ok?
I'm not one of those weird people who claims to be objective, ok? Let it be known that I am rooting, very hard, for a Nole/Rafa final. I just reaaaaaally want to see what would happen there, and I'd be ok with either result. And yes, that means that Rafa would have to beat Andy (ifandyevengetsthatfarHAH) but what's good for the goose is not always good for the gander.
Ok, to be honest, I have no idea who is the goose or the gander in this sitch. Sometimes I just say things and I have no idea what they mean. I'm sure that's very helpful to you as a reader.
So anyway, as exciting as it was to stand in a hallway under Chatrier for three hours watching this craziness go down on a television screen, and as weird as it was to find myself at times rooting for John simply because he was so adorable in his tryingness, I'm very very pleased it turned out the way it did.
Here's hoping that Toni gave Rafa a stern talking to. Because as well as John played, and he played SO WELL, Rafa was shambolic. I will not tolerate this shambolocity over the fortnight.
Who knows what to expect from these two. I sure as hell don't. Sure, Sam had a solid run in Rome and Frank had an ok run in Brussels, but whatever. Crazy shit happens in Paris. Justine won in 2007, then retired a year later. Ana won in 2008, and well, let's not talk about it. Sveta won in 2009, and well, let's not talk about that one either. So Frank won last year. What happens now?
Well after two rounds they've both looked solid, Sam in particular. All the hesitation and panic that you normally see in Sam's game just seems to vanish in Paris. I dare say she even has a bit of a strut. She *knows* what to do and it's just a matter of executing it.
I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far. Keep it up, you two.
Roland Garros has made me way emo. More on that in another post. But basically I'm so ridiculously sure that all my favorites will lose that I can't even muster up a reaction to Ana losing yesterday. I've gone completely numb.
There was a time when Ana didn't lose first round matches at Slams. My memory is fuzzy, but if I recall, she had the longest active streak behind Serena or something. But three years since she won her maiden and only Slam, Ana returned to site of her greatest triumph to complete a most ominous distinction: She's now lost in the first round of all four Slams.
Do they give you a trophy for that? A Dundee maybe? Perhaps some Prozac?
It sucks, obviously.
Ana said she's struggled with injuries all season. That we all know. The Novak-induced broken abdominal in Australia has bothered her throughout the season preventing her from training as she'd like, and then a wrist injury she picked up just last week that forced her to rest before Roland Garros. Expectations were pretty low for her here, but how do you go from dropping a bagel on someone in the second set to completely falling off the wagon in the third? That isn't physical. That's mental. Which is obviously impacted by the physical. And around and around we go.
Around and around in a sea of tears.
Kim's cut her hair, wearing...whatever *that* is (she apparently asked Fila to recreate a kit she had as a child), and pretty much going out of her way to remind everyone that she's a mom. A mom who grew up in the 80s.
Whatever. It's working for her, I guess. She had an easy go in her first match since April and first match at Roland Garros since 2006. That said, she still looked a rusty, hitting 33 UFEs and losing 15 of 17 points on her second serve. She'll have some time to play the kinks out in the early rounds, but I don't know. I just don't thing the Tennis Gods would allow anyone to raise a trophy over their head wearing that hypercolor bizness.
I'm trying, you guys. I really really am. It's not my intent to tumble around Europe and not tell you guys about it. But when you're doing it on the cheap, let's just say reliable high-speed internet is not exactly a guarantee. So please bear with me.
The anticipation for this year's "oh dear Lord what the hell is going to happen" Roland Garros is finally over. Play has started and so far so good. The ladies are holding up their end of the deal, with Sam cruising to a straight set win over Iveta, Cones coming back from a break down to make the locals happy, and Gisela, Halep, and Pironkova all through with little trouble.
As for the boys, the day started out with some huge Lleyton Hewitt news that you have to give me $5 to tell you. Ah, keep your money. It's not worth it. Lleyton withdrew from RG. Word on the Twitter is that Haas is also questionable, which would mean that Ryan Harrison would slot in as a Lucky Loser. Watch, Tommy will decide to play at the last minute and OC will throw racquets all over the place and storm off like a little baby. What can I say? The kid has a schtick.
Looks like Marin will be the first upset of RG11. Barring a miracle, he's on his way to going out to Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. So that's a thing.
I'm on a train from Bern to Paris but the Roland Garros draw is out so I thought I'd try and do this post by email thing.
So yeah, the draw is out. I'm assuming you know where to find it (read: RG website), though if someone wants to post them in the comments feel free to do so.
Rafa and Andy are on one side, Nole and Fed on the other. Fed's got a first rounder against Feli. Heh. Let's see if Emo can finish what he started in Madrid. I'm guessing...no.
Delpo's got Ivo in the first round (with a potential 3R vs. Nole) and Pico has FeVer. Can we just talk about how hosed Pico's been all year when it comes to draws? I can only assume the Draw Gods are just way jealous of his hotness and are hell bent on making him suffer. He's the Job of draws. (not the GOB of draws, though that would be a total upgrade).
As for the ladies, honestly, I couldn't follow it well enough on Twitter. But I do know there's a loaded quarter with Sam, Goolia, Caro, Mono, and others. Oh, and Gypsy drew Jarka. Bummed for both.
So feel free to discuss in the comments! All I know is that if you weren't excited about RG before today, you most definitely should be now. The first week will be NUTS.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
But while we're at it, here's a quick Roland Garros Roll Call:
Ana and Andy withdrew from Strasbourg and Nice today. They have a week to heal up. So...heal up.
Really really sad turn of events for Virginie Razzano. Her fiancee passed away today from a brain tumor that was diagnosed nine years ago. He told her to play Roland Garros for him. She's going to. That's a picture I took of them walking around Indian Wells last year.
"Four or five days ago, I asked him: 'Do you want me to go and play at Roland Garros?" the Frenchwoman told Tuesday's edition of L'Equipe newspaper. "He answered: 'Yes, you need to play.' Because his intention is that I keep on going in my life, that I play for him and that I continue to be strong and to fight."
I'm already tearing up imagining what the reception will be like for her when she takes the court next week, let alone if she wins. Courageous stuff, woman.
(Pic: Forty Deuce)
Siiiiiiigh. After today's events, you are for sure a sight for sore eyes.
THE MAN CAN ROCK A COWL NECK YOU GUYS.
And he totally knows it.
More Marat in Russian Instyle here. Do yourself a favor. Click. Click lots. Click freely.
In case you haven't heard, I've had quite the last 20 hours. Josh decided to jump out of my backpack to stay in Rome (E tu, Josh?), I boarded my train to Milan walletless, my train from Milan to Zurich literally caught on fire and we had to get evacuated in the Alps (I got to ride a fire truck train!), and I arrived to Strasbourg after all the banks closed, which means I currently have seven Euros to my name and I had to convince my hostel to let me stay tonight without paying on the promise that I'd run to the bank in the morning to exchange some cash. Basically, today has blown ass.
BUT, the hostel actually has high speed wifi, so I spent 1/7th of my current cash flow on internet. This works out fantastically seeing as how I can't afford to eat or drink anything tonight, which means I shall stay in the hostel lobby for hours abusing this badass connection.
So here's some stuff to read:
I guess Madrid just has that effect. I'm guessing it's the altitude. No oxygen to the brain = no capacity to overthink your shit.
Apparently he asked his coach why so many people were watching him practice. Um...he's pretty, but he ain't bright.
...aaaaaaaaaand he's back.
(Pics: Forty Deuce)
In case you missed it, see at :20. Honestly, it's not really clear whether she was calling herself a "fucking bitch" or Masha. But she apologized afterwards, kinda. Masha refused to comment, kinda. I am amused, ABSOLUTELY.
I feel a little bad about not writing about this earlier, but to be honest, I don't want that many people entering because I'M TRYING TO WIN DA TICKETS. But that's not a particularly good reason, so here you go:
It's the 125th anniversary of the Championships at Wimbledon this year, so the fancy fancies are hell-bent on giving away tickets to the tournament left and right.
So basically, if you're thinking about coming to London for Wimby (I'll buy you a Pimm's if you do!) but the only thing stopping you is that whole "I don't have a ticket and I sure as hell ain't queueing like an idiot" thing, here's how you can win them:
So there you go. Give it a whirl. And if you win tickets let me know so I can throw things at you from the queue.
Nole and Andy are the same person, except Nole's an extrovert and Andy's an introvert. The theory ain't perfect but stay with me.
I thought about this a lot last night as I shoved popcorn and beer into my system as if were high. Which I might as well have been as someone in my section was puff-puff passing like it was 4/20. When I wasn't eating my feeling I was holding on to my seat for dear life, trying to make sense of the three-hour passion play that lay before me.
It made sense in the beginning. After an epic third game in the first, which saw the boys show off their incredible movement and shot-making ability, the NoleTron kicked into another gear and completely dismantled Andy. Andy didn't hold his serve once in the first set. WTG, ANDY! There's room in the WTA if you want to grow your hair out a bit! Strong is Beautiful!
So yeah, this made sense. Nole's incredible, he has another gear that can make Top 5 players look like Top 20 players, yada yada yada, ajde. But then Andy found his first serve in the second and Nole started to look...well...human. He looked tired, both physically and mentally, and for a while there he looked completely beatable. I was confused.
But then the third set started. Confuzzlement doesn't even begin to explain my mental state during this one. After breaking to go up 3-1, Nole would lose serve three straight times and next thing you know, Moose was serving for the match. He double faulted. Twice. To get broken back.
WHO ARE YOU, SAM STOSUR???
“I’m one of the best closers in tennis and I very rarely, especially against the best players, lose matches when serving. It is the first time it has happened to me and I’ll make sure it is the last."
It was on to the tiebreaker, where Nole was just solid and apart from that missed volley on the first point, there's not a whole lot more Andy could have done. 61 36 76(2). That's now 36 straight matches in 2011, 38 straight going back to Davis Cup, and 15 hours to recover for yet another final with a hungry and unforgiving Rafa.
"There's no secret that physically it's catching up with me definitely."
No secret at all. The biggest test comes today.
Oh, so getting back to my theory.
Obviously they're both kinda emo. We forget how emo Nole is because he's been on this streak and frankly, there's nothing for him to be emo about. Life is pretty good for the King of Serbia. As for Andy, it's been nothing but depressing emoness, right down to his petty refusal to cut his hair or match his clothes. It's all so "Hey guys. I don't even care anymore."
So watching them last night take turns carrying the "woe is me" torch was quite entertaining in and of itself. While Nole directed his frustration outwardly, looking to the heavens and throw up his hands as if to say "Why are you doing this to me?", looking at his box ruefully stating his annoyance that Andy kept hitting the lines, sarcastically applauding MoLay upon receiving a time violation, Andy's ire was directed at one person and one person only: himself. As the moments got tighter, it seemed like the differences between how these two handle pressure and negativity would be the difference in the match.
It seems to me that when you direct your negativity outward, blaming anyone and everyone else for your circumstances (a) it gives you an outlet, (b) it takes the pressure off of you, and (c) it allows you to relax because you know you can't control what other people do so you just focus on playing your game. On the otherhand, bottling the negativity and directing at yourself only puts more pressure on you to fix the situation. "I'm fucking up. I'm the problem. I need to stop being the problem." With no outlet for the negativity (other than some F-bombs and pulling at your collar) it's just a dark cloud that builds on itself until you reach a point where you're like "Fuck it. I suck. Whatever." You hit a wall because you can't get past yourself. It totally sucks. I know because that's exactly how my brain works.
I thought last night's match really reflected this. Nole gets tired, he tweaks his leg, he takes a massive fall in the third set, and yet, after an initial "woe is me" series of outbursts, he kinda looked like either he had given up, or he had refocused. I honestly couldn't tell until the tiebreak. As for Andy, all I could think throughout the match was "GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY." Bummed me out big times.
I'd elaborate more but I actually have to run off to the site right now. So thoughts? Totally off base here? Dead on? Clearly had too much ganja and Chinnoto?
"I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain't never gonna keep me down!"
Please be sure to watch the fall and the MULTIPLE slow-mo shots. Best not to have any liquids around you.
But leave it to Masha to take a less than glamourous spill on break point to go down 0-2 to Caro, only to get up and reel off five straight games and take the match 75 63, avenging two straight embarassing losses to Caro.
This was a big one, folks. You can tell by Masha's reaction:
Maria Sharapova decisively beating Caroline Wozniacki on clay? This one will resonate in both the Pova and the Woz camps. Papa Woz was beside himself for most of the match, shaking his head and agitatedly gesticulating to or at anyone who would listen. Meanwhile, the Book on Woz gets written and refined with each of these losses: Serve to her forehand, hit behind her, get to the net, and take a whack when you get the chance.
Steadiness isn't going to get it done on the slow red clay for Woz. She's been overpowered and forced to come back to earth on the stuff, with losses to Gools in Stuttgart and Madrid, and Masha here in Rome. I thought she would go into RG in a wide-open field as the odds-on favorite by default (i.e.: none of the above), but her chances of shaking that "No Slam" tag are looking slim.
So. Masha vs. Sam. I shall be sitting back with a box of popcorn and a huge shit-eating grin. My ladies got game, yo.
(Pic: Getty, Forty Deuce)
Hey! Did you guys know that Sam Stosur is actually pretty good at tennis? I KNOW, RIGHT??? I TOTALLY forgot. But then she steps onto this magic red dust and *poof* she reminds us all that yeah, she's pretty good tennis and yeah, she's pretty fucking extra good when that tennis is played on dirt. She beat Bepa in Stuttgart to make her first semifinal (losing to eventual champ Gools, which...is what Sam does), had a bit of a blip on the quick courts of Madrid, and now she's made her first final since Roland Garros (dude...I know), beating some quality opponents, vanquishing some demons, and most importantly, turning in some high-quality performances that served as a reminder to everyone (including herself) that she can be absolutely devasting on clay.
First up, taking out Frank, on clay, in Rome. This was no easy task. Frank told the Italian press that her goals for 2011 were to win Rome and defend Paris, both of which she believed she could do. So....PRESHUH. For sure Sam was in better form coming into this rematch, but Lordie, I just don't know what to expect when these two square off. How would Sam perform playing against Frank, on red clay, in Rome, in front of 12,000 vocal Italians?
As it turned out, pretty damn good. She turned in her best performance since Roland Garros. Dominating tennis from first point to last point without ever having a lapse or allowing Frank (or the crowd) to believe she could get back into the match. I wooted in my pants.
Second up, the resurgent Nails, who's finally finding her form since her Moose-like post AO slump. She's dumped her husband as coach (just as coach, you guys, just as coach) and the change seems to have given her a spark. On Saturday she battled back from a break down in the first set to force a tiebreak, in which she would have a set point. But despite being broken while initially serving for the set, Sam steeled herself and eeked out the tiebreaker 8-6. After that it was all Sam, who quickly dropped a bagel on Nails to advance to the final.
She'll get Masha, who, let me remind everyone, she has never ever in her entire life beaten. Yeah yeah yeah, they've never played on clay. But I'll be absolutely Home-Alone-Aftershave-Scene shocked if Sam gets her first title of the year here. And I'm ok with that. Just don't play like an idiot and I'll be happy, Sammo.
Don't you love my high expectations?
(Pics: Getty, Forty Deuce)
News broke today that Dinara was pulling out of RG and taking an indefinite leave from the tour in order to let her back heal properly. Thanks to Christina, here's the full translation:
Dinara Safina: “I don’t know when I’ll come back.”
Former #1 ranked tennis player Dinara Safina spoke to Sport Express about the reasons behind her decision not only to miss Roland Garros, which starts on May 22, but also to take an indefinite break from playing.
“How long will you stay off the tour?”
“I don’t know how long the break will last, because I don’t want to torture myself and my body anymore. At the beginning of the season I didn’t have any pain or any other problems. But, as soon as I started playing regularly, it all came back. It seems like you’re starting to play better, but then the next day it’s impossible to even turn around. It’s tiring in training to hear the same question from your coach every five minutes: ‘How’s your back? Can you do this exercise?’ I feel trapped on court, because I’m afraid to make any sudden movements. I’m tired of fighting. I want to forget this torture soon.”
“So you won’t even be doing light training?”
“No. Right now I can’t do anything related to tennis. When I can bend over and make sudden movements without thinking about pain, that will be the first sign that I can start training.”
“Is there a particular time you’d like to return to the tour?”
“It doesn’t matter to me when it happens—in the summer during the American tournaments, at the end of the season, or even next year. I want to take as much time to recover as I need, so that I don’t have to think about my back until the end of my career.”
Normally, I'd leave it at that. But people have been hounding me all day for my thoughts on the sitch, so here are my two schillings:
First of all, THANK GOD. It was painfully uncomfortable watching her compete on that back, knowing that it would almost assuredly give out at any moment. Backs don't just heal. You can't just ice them and do some weird voodoo acupuncture mumbo-jumbo and wake up 100%. Unlike limbs, which can be isolated and rested while the rest of the body can continue to work out and get fit, you literally cannot move your body at all without somehow incorporating your back. So this idea of "playing through" a back injury or "letting it heal" while still working out is complete bollocks.
So rest up, do some PT, and get your back to 110%. As anyone who watches Dinara knows, she needs every ounce of strength, coordination, and trust in her body to pull off her game. Anything less and...well...we know what it looks like.
Second, look, let's get real. I understand that Dinara's comments imply that she intends to come back. She might. But she also might not. That's just the reality of a severe back injury, which is what Dinara suffered. We may never see Dinara Safina compete ever again. To the extent that is a reality, I have some additional thoughts.
I get sad when I think about Dinara. And then I get sad that I get sad. Why? Because I realize that all the negative press she's received over the past two years actually had an effect me. All the "Slamless #1", "undeserving #1", and "big match choker" chatter totally crept into my tiny brain, convincing me on some level that Dinara was somehow a disappointment. That she underachieved. That we should look at her and think that something was missing. That she was less than.
But then I pull myself out of that morass of idiocy and realize that Dinara was actually an *overachiever*. No one, not a single person prior to 2008 thought that the chubby, grunting, kid sister of ultra-talented Marat would ever be a threat, let alone an Olympic medalist, multiple Grand Slam finalist, or world #1. No fucking way. Sure, she had fans back then, but really, did you really really think her career would be as successful as it was? If so, I'd like to talk to you about some lottery tickets.
Dinara is a testament to commitment, desire, and work-ethic. She worked SO HARD. All you had to do was watch her practice for 15 minutes and you could see that she worked harder than anyone. She practiced and played with a sense of desperation. She wanted it SO MUCH. Were those things probably what got her into this mess with her back? Probably. But isn't that what happens with everyone? That our strengths are also our weaknesses? Let's not pretend that she's any different.
From the perspective of a tennis fan, I hope her back heals up and she's able to work her way back into relevancy on the tour. But from the perspective of a Dinara fan, I have to be honest. I'm kind of ok with her calling it a day.
(Pic: Forty Deuce)