I'm on it. Sorry.
I'm on it. Sorry.
Blah blah blah, no internet in Eastbourne, blah blah blah, back in London, blah blah blah, lots of catching up to do, I know.
So now that we've exchanged pleasantries...
WHAT'S UP GUYS!
Here's my quick recap:
Sam: "The ball rolled onto the court."
Ump: "I didn't see it until after the point was over."
Sam: "Does it matter when you see it?"
Ump: "I saw it in the middle of the court after the point was over."
Sam: "Well...what did you think the ball was doing before it got to the middle of the court?"
Ump: "That's my call."
Sam: [pointing at Sania and Vezzie] "Look. Even they're laughing about this."
Aaaaand scene. It was pretty classic.
More on Eastbourne soon. I have some great pics and video. But I'm riveted by Rory and I need to hit the sack to queue up for tickets tomorrow by 6am. Tennis fans are nucking futs, you guys.
You'd smile too if you just demolished Andy Roddick on grass 61 63 in less than an hour, playing the best grass court tennis you've probably ever played.
It'll be Andy vs. Jo in the Queens final, which is supposed to start at noon, but the entirety of Britain is currently stuck in the rinse cycle at the moment. Play in Brum, Eastbourne, and Queens has been suspended and everyone's waiting with baited breath for a break to get the tennis done.
Doubtful. Very doubtful.
It'll be Dani vs. Sabine in the finals of Birmingham on Sunday morning, and really, you have to be chuffed (heh, look at me!) for both of them. Dani came back from a set down to break the hearts of Ana fans everywhere (and, yeah, Ana herself), to survive and play on. My choice of "survive" is intentional. Ana had 20 break point chances and converted...two. 2/20, people. That, like, takes effort.
"In the second set, I don't know if I can even count the number of break points I had and didn't use, and obviously that was disappointing. But still I was positive coming out for that third set. I still believed I could come back and win that third set. But the last couple games there was not really intensity and I was still in the previous games and I just let my mind go off wander off a bit, and on grass everything happens too fast. But besides those last couple of games I really felt I created plenty of chances for myself and I feel like I was dominating the match in many cases."
But well done to Dani. She played a really solid match and, not to sound like a broken record, she's played really fantastic tennis this week. It's pretty hard to believe how crappy her results were in the first quarter of the season. She's like a whole new woman this past month.
On the other side of the net is Boom Boom, who is just unbelievably over the moon right now, both in terms of her play and her excitement. She demolished Peng today, 63 61, and the kid is absolutely savoring every moment of her resurgence.
"I think it's pretty much impossible to put it into words. It's been such a great week for me. From the first match on it was a really tough first round and I knew if I could win that one I would be into the grass court season well. It's just going well. I just love the grass."
"After the injury, I always enjoyed being on the court, but after the injury I did even more. I appreciate every minute that I'm on the court with the crowd. That's what I love that's what I miss so much about being away. Being on the big courts with the huge crowds, it's just the best moments."
There's lots of questions right now about whether Sabine's even eligible for a Wimbledon wildcard. They have three cards to give to the ladies and one would think she'd deserve one. But according to WTA rules she's used up her allotment of wildcards already, which might mean that if she gets offered one for Wimbledon and takes it then she would have to forfeit any points and prize-money she gets in the tournament. Still working to confirm this info but that seems to be the chatter on Twitter. I was under the impression that WTA rules don't apply to ITF tournaments, which the Slams are, but seriously, I don't know the rules for shit.
Eastbourne draw. Be sure to put down any liquids. Unless your'e Serena Williams. Because she literally does not give a shit about the draw, I'm guessing.
But seriously, have you ever seen a more stacked draw? I mean, even comparing it to Slams and whatever. This is fucking ridiculous:
This is going to be insane and I'm so happy I'll be there on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Good thing I packed my scrubs.
Martina Navratilova is in Birmingham this weekend and she gave a quick presser to talk, well, about anything and everything. She thinks the grass season should be longer, suggested we bring a jacket to Wimbledon, compared herself to a dolphin (75% play, 25% looking for food) and said that the charity actually got more money because she made headlines for not making up that damn mountain. "It's just like when I was playing. I got more headlines if I lost then if I won. Backhanded compliment, I guess."
Here are her thoughts on the Wimbledon fields:
"I have no idea you know. It's wide open. On the men's side you have to look the top four. I don't see body, maybe Soderling, though he hasn't played that well this year, so the top four are the heavy favorites. Murray more so now because he did so well on the clay, Djokovic is playing the best he's played in his career, Federer played the best French he's played but a lot of that is because of the balls. Basically, with these balls on grass I'd pick Federer for sure. The balls they play with now, from what I understood, are pretty heavy, the players were struggling, which will help Nadal tremendously, I think Djokovic will be ok, I think it'll hurt Roger. But Roger's played some of his best tennis at Roland Garros. So it will be exciting on the men's side.
On the women's side, if Li Na can cope with all of the attention that I'm sure she's getting now she's got a good shot at it. And she does well on grass. She won here last year and her game transfers well on every surface. Maria Sharapova now, I think she's the betting favorite. She'll be ready. She loves the grass and she'll be pretty confident after the French.
The Williams Sisters, it's such an unknown. They could be in the final or they could go out in the second round because they haven't played. If Serena wins, is it because she's that good or is it because the rest of the field of women's tennis is not so good. I think it would be a little bit of both. We'll see how she's hitting the ball when she comes out. She's playing Eastbourne. But it's like betting on a horse that you haven't seen run yet. She's a triple crown winner. She'd be a favorite no matter what. Am I going to get in trouble that I compared Serena to a horse? She's a thoroughbred that's for sure."
She was awesome. It reminded me of when BJK gave a presser at Stanford last year. Two women who are just so comfortable in their own skin and are willing to talk about anything and everything. Great stuff.
She's no longer sponsored by Adidas but that doesn't mean "Impossible is Nothing" doesn't apply. She's had an absolutely stellar year, and if not for that pesky Li Na lady, she'd be holding down the fort for all of China. She's already won more matches this year than she played last year, only Caro, Bepa, Nails, and Mono have been to more semifinals this year than she has, I saw some unverified stats on Twitter that said she's second in wins this year, and she just cracked the top 20 this week.
And she gave this great answer to the question of whether Nails' RG triumph gives her confidence:
"I think it doesn't matter if she win Grand Slam or not win Grand Slam to me. I think I always have to believe in myself because if I don't believe then why I go play, right?"
She's got Boom Boom in the semis tomorrow. First semifinals for Sabine since Luxembourg 2009. She was, needless to say, happy.
The dude with ankle socks or the dude with one ankle.
Man, Dani really hates the kids.
A fairly clean take-out of grass-loving American teen Alison Riske today, 62 64. Asked afterwards whether she thought there was more opportunity for the younger WTA set these days:
I don't think so. I think you've seen that in the last few tournaments and Slams, that there's still a lot of potential for the older players to win the big majors because they have the experience and they've been around much longer. I think it's much tougher now for the younger ones to break through because the overall level of the field, say Top 50 players, anybody can beat anybody. So it's much stronger and I think it's much harder for the younger ones to break through.
Deaaaam. Gramma be cranky. And it's awesome.
Speaking of awesome, it'll be Dani vs. Ana tomorrow in the semis. Thankfully for Old Granny Pants, you can't squeak your shoes on grass. OR CAN YOU???
Dani: "I'm looking forward to that match. I have nothing to lose, no pressure on me. She's the one that's expected to win and I'm just going to try and improve my game again for tomorrow."
Ana: "It's going to be a good test tomorrow. Daniela's has played extremely well the last couple of months. We had a tough match at Fed Cup and I noticed improvements in her game already then. I think she's the favorite, she's been playing really good lately. So I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it."
When told Dani said she was the favorite, Ana smiled "It's always like that, no?" HEEEEEEE.
GAME ON, PRETTY GIRLS.
This is James Ward. He's British (regardless of whether he's winning or losing). He's three months older than Andy Murray, his pop is a cab driver, he trains with a cage fighter, and he's ranked #216.
He beat Stan, SamQ, and a French dude this week and is now a semifinalist at Queens. WHUUUUUUT???
He took out Sam in a one set shootout this morning, then turned around and fought off his nerves (read: the British flag) to beat Adrian Mannarino in three sets to tee up a Queeny Saturday that sees two Brits into the semifinals. Andy advanced after Marin withdrew with an injury.
As for you, you just keep being cute, Jo.
Another nice win for Ana today over the dangerous Lucic. She served really really well and was able to keep holding until Lucic finally blinked, handing over important breaks. Positive stuff.
Afterwards there was talk of her wrist and her never-ending coaching search:
On the wrist injury that kept her out of doubles:
"Trying to stay on top of it. It's a process. It's basically how I wake up. Sometimes I feel it, sometimes I don't. It's still something I have to be careful of and just trying to stay on anti-inflammatories and make sure it's ok for my matches. It was a bit sore yesterday and I thought that if I want to play today then I had to take a precautionary step."
On her coaching search:
"I think it's very hard to find a good match. You travel with that person and you're all the time on the road. It's someone who's going to boss you around and going to tell you what to do and you have to accept it and not get angry. I think it's very hard to find that person, you know? But yeah, hopefully it exists.
"There are lots of great coaches out there. I think Darren is a great one and we're lucky to have him on the Adidas team. I think there are lots of good coaches and experienced ones. But then again, it's someone who sees your game and the best you can be, you know? And not every coach works good for every player.
"I'm a person who needs stability and structure. I love working with Darren. Like I said, I think he's the best coach, one of the best coaches out there. But it's just very hard to get him to commit because he has a few weeks a year and even in those few weeks you have to share him with other players. So it is a little tricky and hard so I'm talking a lot to him and just trying to see how everything works out.
"It has to be mutual understanding and mutual communication, you know? Because coaches can have their opinion but then again, it's what you feel and how you feel on the court so you have to give a lot of feedback to the coach, so there has to be good communication otherwise it can never work. Because if the coach has a narrow mind it's just going to explode very soon. So you need a coach, a strict coach, that's why I said 'bossing around' because it's important it's someone strong. Because a lot of coaches will tell you 'it's good, it's good' just to keep their job. But that's not what you want to hear. You want to hear where your weaknesses are and where you want to improve."
Darn you, Darren!
“It's great to be back on grass. I really enjoyed today's match. First game I had chances and I sort of was feeling like I was passive. I was thinking, 'On grass you have to be aggressive, you have to step in.' And that's what I tried to change and that worked really well. I served great and that really helped.
“I had a few days of practice but you always have to keep [staying low] in mind. Have to keep the glutes firing on the grass and try to keep low. I was a little bit wary of the outside as it was a little bit slippery. But that's just the case, most of the time it is on the grass. Tried to step in when I had the opportunity and yeah, it worked well today.”
-- Ana, after second round win over Tatishvili.
She hasn't been emo, per se. In fact, Ana's been charming as ever in her pressers, talking about books she's reading ("The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Have you read it?"), whether she'll have a new dance with Petko at Wimby, ("It's in her hands. She's the one making up these dance moves.... Our tactics are very simple. We just gossip on the chair.”), and whether they'll do their Miami-wagers on the hallowed grounds of SW19, (“I don't know, I think we're going to keep it at bay a little because I lost all my money. [laughs]").
But there have been moments, when she's actually talked about her tennis, where things got a bit serious. I asked her about how she's feeling physically given all the injury struggles this year. She didn't exactly say "Oh, it's all good. I'm fine now.":
“It's still a work in process. I'm doing a lot of work on a daily basis and just trying to first of all just get back to a healthy state so I can load it more. Because at the moment it's very fragile. It's on the edge. Every time there is some niggles and pains and that's something I want to get rid of so I can actually work hard and get to the level I want to be. I'm just trying to work my way around it and through it and some things just take time. But it's something I'm working hard at.”
And on whether her run at Birmingham (she's into the quarterfinals) gives her confidence for Wimbledon:
“To be honest, after losing in the first round of the last couple of Grand Slams it's hard to set goals for Wimbledon. To actually put myself in a position to play a few more matches and to get that competition going is gonna be huge, you know? You never know what can happen.”
I think I kinda miss delusional Ana. This one knows too much.
Dani has been absolutely killin' it here in Birmingham this week. She's into the quarters tomorrow and sometimes I forget how great she is on grass. She's a regular in the Round of 16 and when she's lost deep in the tournament, she's lost to the great ones.
She's carried her form from the last month into Birmingham and has really impressed. Same effortless strokes, good serving, and solid movement. Keep an eye on her.
I asked her how she felt seeing Nails at 29 and Frank at 29, and Kim and Serena win Slams later in their careers. Her face lit up.
“It helps to have the old bodies around and gives me extra motivation to work hard and it just shows that, probably because of the experience and with age you become more aware of what you want to achieve in your career. It's great to see those girls. I'm so happy for them. More than anyone else. Hopefully I can be one of them too."
Crap. There's that "H" word. Hope that works out better for you than it does for me, Nutella.
This is literally the greatest tennis-fan-picture that has ever been taken in the history of cameras or people who draw things that are awesome.
So I think what I'm going to do is post "relevant quotes" from Birmingham for now, and then after it's over, I'll cut the audio together so you can hear the pressers and interviews yourselves. I wish I could say that I was hiding something but it's really just me being lazy. There's no transcription services here in Birmingham and I'm a horrible question-asker. My questions literally ramble for like, 15 seconds. Noone wants to type my crap up, least of all me.
PLEASE DON'T YELL AT ME ON THE TWITTER!
“I've been playing so well and against Vera, I was actually the better player on court on that day I think. But I started cramping at the end of the second set which disappointed me a lot because there was nothing I could change. I played, I didn't want to retire and it was actually amazing to go up 5-2 in the third set with cramps. I was cramping the entire third set badly, I couldn't even stretch my legs out anymore. I played with cramped legs and I was playing with a lot of pain. I was trying to finish that match somehow. Unfortunately it didn't go my way but for me the most important part is that we're finding out the reasons, we're talking to specialists and its all about adjusting to the gluten-free.
“It's a big change. They found out about it 2 months ago and it's a huge change for your body because all of a sudden you cannot eat bread or pasta for example, and those are the two main things that athletes eat, especially pasta before the match. It's very tough when you travel, you know? If you're at home and can cook for yourself it's not a problem.
"A lot of things where gluten is included where you don't think it is, and I'm still learning that. In Paris I was eating stuff that had gluten and I didn't know, you know? I'm still learning, it's a learning process, but also for your body to adjust so that you have the energy you need on the court. It was very hard for me because I was fit, I was healthy and all ready to play, and then all of a sudden I'm cramping. I guess it's a process. It's good we found out. I guess I have to be patient one more time, but in the long run that's what's the most important thing, that I feel a lot better. I feel a lot better already.”
-- Sabine, in Birmingham, on her new gluten-free diet and what happened in Paris.
So...Queens. It's basically everything you've heard and seen and more. Easily the shwankiest tournament that I have ever been to (yes, I'm looking at you, Madrid). Normally that would annoy the shizz out of me, but given my general love of all things British, meh, it didn't bother me at all. I give credit to the tournament for being able to balance the *heavily* corporate nature of the tournament with still giving hardcore tennis fans what they want: good seats, a great draw, and awkwardly close practice court access.
Not that this doesn't come cheap. I went on the first day and had to shell out 50 pounds for the cheapest Center Court ticket. With the blockbuster lineup on Tuesday I dropped 72 pounds for a second row ticket in a corner sideline. So...yeah. THAT'S FUCKIN' EXPENSIVE, YO. That said, I don't regret any of it.
More like "Out Train The RAIN" amIright?
This is the walkway to the practice courts. They're on the other side of the bushes. If you suck it up and squeeze through the random group of people just standing there and clogging up the entrance (move or leave, people!), then you're practicaly standing on the courts. It's a bit nutty.
I am just...so not looking forward to this. I just feel like this is destiny for Fed. It already hurts.
Rafa took care of a very game Andy Murray on Friday. I'm proud of Andy. He chipped his tooth, he tore his ankle, and he's Andy Murray. He really could have just thrown in the towel against Rafa and saved his body for the grass season (which is already in jeopardy because of his ankle). But my boy competed and he competed well. He did everything he could against Rafa and can walk away from this match with a "too good" racquet clap. Because seriously, Rafa was just too good.
Tough luck, Charlie Brown. Next time wear a collar.
As for Fed, first of all, I told you so. I just need to get that off my chest because I've spent the week being laughed at because I told people I thought Fed was going to stop the streak. Why would he stop the streak? Because Fed takes pleasure in doing things like that to me. It's like he KNOWS.
But in all seriousness, he played the best match I've seen from him in a long-ass time. And I haven't seen him that fired up and intense since Crazy-Eyed Fed made an appearance in 2008. And we know what happened there....
And so The Streak endeth. It's been fun and I'm bummed it had to end at the hands of Smuggy McSmuggerson. Then again, I mean, if you're going to lose to someone I guess it doesn't suck that it took the GOAT to end your ridiculous streak. But...yeah. I still don't like it. AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!
So...Fedal. An emotional letdown from Fed wouldn't be surprising. And I mean, this IS Rafa on clay. He's just that much better than everyone else. But if Fed is able to serve the way he did on Friday, he's got one hell of a chance. And you know he knows that we all kinda gave him sideways glare when he won Roland Garros without beating Rafa. The guy gets hard for a challenge. This is The Challenge of All Challenges.
So...shit. Seriously. I think he can do it. Then again, I thought Frank would win in straights, so...here's hoping I'm still off with my final predictions.
(Pics: Getty, Reuters)
From my perspective, her victory felt like a big deal because, when I saw her holding the trophy, the French Open trophy, a trophy of France and of Europe and of a signature, elite Western sport, the world felt just a little bit smaller.
Even better, though, was to remember all the times Li had hit all those perfect backhands in Indian Wells and Montreal and Key Biscayne, in Paris and at Wimbledon and on the back courts at Flushing Meadows, all those times I wondered why she wasn’t better. So many players never live up to that potential. Something gets in their way, usually exactly what had gotten in Li’s way—nerves, errors, outside problems, the immense difficulty in making yourself believe that you—yeah, you—can be a Grand Slam champion.
Li had a reason not to believe. Nobody from her country, from her part of the world, had ever won one before. Now someone has. Today, she lived up to all of that ability, and more significantly, she might have made it a little easier for someone else to do the same somewhere down the line.
A little wobbly on the dismount but boy did she nail the landing.
No one could have seen this happening five years ago. Back then during the supposed "prime" of her career (24ish is prime, right?) Na Li was a top 30 player and, let's be honest, quite an invisible one. She seemed destined for a Vesnina-like career: Always around, capable of pulling off a mild upset once in a while, but will probably make the chunk of her change off doubles. A clean hitter off the ground who seemed haunted by constant injury (stress fracture to the rib, knee surgery, sprains and strains left and right) she seemed like a good tennis player. Just not one destined for greatness.
And then came the Beijing Olympics. Under immense pressure on home soil, she dismissed Sveta and Venus and narrowly lost to Dinara. Do people remember that she played the bronze medal match against Bepa? She totally did. She would score wins over #1 ranked Serena that year, along with wins over JJ and Vika.
As the wins came so did the airtime, and this one was a ready for primetime player. The fact that she spoke her mind and was comfortable in her own skin caused everyone to sit up and take notice. Her run in Beijing was fucking awesome and to see her fire back at the Chinese fans, shoot glares, scream at herself, and bitch-face like a mofo totally made me a fan. This woman wears it on her sleeve. She accepts no bullshit and she gives no bullshit. There's a reason why Nike made shirts for her team that read "Be Yourself".
But sometimes being yourself means knowing that you're destined for something more. It means leaving your comfort zone and stepping out, knowing that you're good enough, great enough even, to be more than you are being allowed to be. Nails knew that. That's why she broke away from the Chinese Tennis Federation and demanded more autonomy and control over her training, schedule, and coaching. Her declaration of independence worked. She had the best results of her career once she kicked the federation to the curb.
It takes a lot of confidence and courage to make the moves she's made. After pulling an Andy Murray and failing to win a single match for months, there were whispers that Nails might retire. Huh? No. Instead, she "fires" her husband as her coach and brings on Michael Mortensen right before Madrid. He coached Caro as a junior. RUH ROH. WHATCHA THINKIN', NAILS?
Well what she's thinkin' is that this guy is a damn fine coach. After going months winless, she makes the semis of Madrid, Rome, and now she's the first Asian Grand Slam singles champ in the history of yellow fuzzy balls. How is this guy not Caro's coach? YOU DUMB, PIOTR.
It sure as hell wasn't easy, though Nails sure made it look that way for a set and a half. She was on fire, though not in a "I'm playing out of my mind" kind of way. She was cracking that forehand and keeping Frank on the run, opening up the court with ease. The Legendary Francesca Schiavone looked otherwise ordinary today. Nails was taking the ball early from both wings and left Frank with little time on her strokes. Leave it short? Boom. Na nails a winner. Much to the surprise to many (read: ME) Nails was making this look routine and pictures of her goofily hoisting the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen seemed inevitable.
And then, up a break at 4-2, Nails decided to stop moving her feet. All of a sudden she couldn't find the court and balls that were hit deep and flat earlier in the match were landing short. It was now Frank who was hitting winners and Nails was left screaming and glaring at her box. This was starting to look like another nervous collapse for would-be first time champ. And it was horrible.
As if that weren't enough drama, of course, OF COURSE, there had to be some line calling drama. With Nails serving at deuce at 5-6, Louise Engzell overuled a call that would have given Frank set point. Instead, it was "Advantage Madame Li". I mean, obviously Louise overruled the call so she could say "Advantage Madame Li". Who wouldn't? I'd run over a small child if it meant I got to say "Advantage Madame Li". French TV ran Hawkeye and showed the ball to be out, meaning Frank was right. Then again, Hawkeye isn't right 100% of the time. I just think it's a shame that Louise didn't just call for a replay of the point.
The call clearly disrupted Frank. She didn't win a point for the rest of the match. Nails converted game point, and then won the tiebreak 7-0. A really rough way for Frank to go down, but all credit to Nails. She really looked like she had her own hands around her neck late in that second set but she was able to steady herself and play some solid tennis in that last game and tiebreaker to clinch the title. NAILS.
This was one hell of a statement. If Na doesn't have the balls to make the decisions that she's made over the last three years, this day doesn't come. She's just another face in the crowd, a challenger, not a champion. But she got here, she arrived to this day, to this moment by being unapologetically true to herself.
I don't know about you, but that inspires the shit out of me. You're not a role model because you're holding a trophy, Nails. You're a role model because...well...
Because you're Nails. Nothing more. Nothing less.
(Pics: Getty, Reuters, AP)
Frank vs. Nails. Variety vs. Power. Italy vs. China. Defender vs. History Maker.
Strong is Beautiful. Let's go.
I'm bored. I'm a bit tipsy. I'm watching tennis.
Let's do it.
All that Sturm und Drang and here we are. The Top 4 boys battling it out. What was the point of all the other stuff? Gosh, where to begin.
You know how confused I am when I start a sentence with "Gosh".
So we have the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), the GORN (Greatest of Right Now), the GORC (Greatest on Red Clay), and the GAPP (Greatest at Popping Pills). The GORN is one win away from securing the #1 ranking outright. So if the GOAT beats the GORN then he not only stops the potentially record-breaking streak, but he keeps the #1 ranking out of the GORN's hands for at least a few days. The GORN can still take the top spot if anyone but the GORC wins the title here, meaning that if the GOAT can beat both the GORN and the GORC then the GORN still takes the ranking. Which would make the GOAT cry a little bit into his new trophy, methinks.
But the GORC looked awesome against Sod today. He finally found his game and even when Sod raised his level and made things tight in the third set, the GORC stepped it up and stopped his charge, winning in the tiebreak.
As for the GAPP, he will be doing what he does best (popping pills) to try and mount a charge and not make a complete fool of himself on Friday. Can he pull off the upset? Um...I guess? I mean, he took a set off the GORC in Monte Carlo with a numb arm. But unless the GORC eats some bad gambas on Thursday night, no, I don't think the GAPP has a chance. But well done to him for gritting and gutting it out this week to make the semis. He's now made the semis at all four Slams. Not bad for the pill-poppin sonofabitch.
So...the only thing I think I know for sure is that Rafa will be in the final. Past that...no result would surprise me.
(Pics: Getty, Reuters)
Is this happening? Is it really?
Because if it's not I'd like to know now so that I can avoid heartbreak.
Masha's blasted her way into the semifinals, dropping a mere three games to Petko, 60 63. I've always said that if I had to pick one player to play for my life it would be Shazza. She competes like no one else and she does it whether she's on the Grand Slam stage or in some back-alley pick-up game.
Standing in her way are three talented wildcards, each of whom could either show up and perform brilliantly or completely be overwhelmed by the moment and lose easily. I find it completely impossible to figure out who the favorite is at this point. The complete player who has 3.8 billion people behind her, the shrieky blaster gunning for a career landmark, the clay court magician and defender of the Coupe, or the weird hometown genius playing inspired tennis. You have to love the variety that Na, Masha, Fran, and Marion bring to the slate. Every single one of them deserves it, every single one of them has the game to do it, and every single one of them would be a tremendous story.
But if it comes down to which one wants it the most, well, I'm going with the Blonde Banana. I'm scared she's peaking too early, but whatever. Whip it, Shazza.
Na Li is very good at tennis. We forget that. I mean, *I* forget that. She made the final at AO, the semis at Madrid and Rome, and has progressed to the quarterfinals or further in 5 of the last 7 Slams. And no one was talking about her, me included. I'm feeling like a bit of a prat now.
You can't blame anyone. She went three months after Melbourne without winning a match. She dumped her husband as coach, and, I mean, she's inconsistent! She just...is!
So two days after she dumped out sexy-pick Kvitova, she runs up against the oddsmakers' fave, Vika. Vika's been cruising through her very easy draw. She's been coming out on court bopping to music, she's been struttin', and she's been making faces she should just never ever ever make. She's had that swagger, wah-hooing about like she *knew* she had this thing in the bag.
I mean, Nails beat Vika in Melbourne, but again, shit, I FORGOT. EVERYONE FORGOT.
So what does the Badass of Billions do? She takes the court and gets a pretty clean straight-set kill over Vika, who seemed to freeze in the moment and couldn't think her way past Nails' game. While the two stayed neck and neck for most of the first set, Nails pulled away by playing steadier tennis, while Vika fell away by making poor decision after poor decision. Nails rolled from there.
Oh, Vika, Vika, Vika. You almost got me this time. You really did. If I had to put my last $5 on who would win RG before this fortnight began I would have reluctantly put it on you. You're just scary good when you're playing well. But once again, when everyone was talking about you and expecting things for you, you failed to progress past the quarterfinals of a Slam. I won't be fooled again, Vika. I have no doubt you will win a Slam one day. But I won't be betting any money on it. Surprise me.
And so Nails continues her Grand Slam mastery, becoming the first Chinese player and second Asian woman (what up, Kimiko?) in the RG semis and making her second straight Slam semifinal, where she'll go up against one Ms. Maria Sharapova. That is one tasty matchup.
Oh, and you should read Nails' presser. But only if you like laughing. If you're allergic to laughing DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK.
(Pic: Getty, Reuters)