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)
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
For my entire tennis-following life I've been told that "the Channel Slam" is, like, impossible. Only four players have accomplished it. So how is it that it's been done three times in the last three years?
And so another RG comes to a close. All in all, it was an odd tournament that had some unexpected twists and turns that ended in two memorable feel good moments that made you happy and proud to be a tennis fan. You can't ask for more than that.
Autograph request fail. Or win. I'm actually not sure.
Come to Mama. I'll make it all better.
Hey, does anyone have 3-Across?
I'm happy to see you too, Andy. At ease.
Posted by C Note on June 07, 2010 in Andy Murray, ATP, Daniela Hantuchova, Fernando Verdasco, Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Justine Henin, Mary Pierce, Novak Djokovic, Pic This!, Rafa Nadal, Roland Garros, Sam Stosur, Stanislas Wawrinka | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
On this week's FD Podcast, the team recaps the heartwarming event that was Roland Garros, we argue the merits of the women's final, and I try to talk out my feelings.
And Lexi gives us an Anna Chakvatadze grass preview. Unsolicited.
Just a reminder, you can download the podcast directly below (right-click save), listen to it on the page (just click the arrow), listen to it from the Forty Deuce Facebook Page, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes (iTunes lists "0 items" but if you subscribe and then refresh your subscriptions, it'll download).
If there is one thing that unites great champion athletes it's a sense of delusion. For some, that level of delusion can be comical or eyeroll worthy (I'm rolling my eyes at you, Serena). For others it manifests itself in a self-confidence that seems independent of results. I'd put Fed in this category.
In Rafa's case, it's a humility that is independent of results. If you didn't know better as you watched Rafa collapse to the ground on match point, roar in exaltation and relief, and convulsively sob into a towel as he realized not only what he accomplished on this dominant two month run, but also how he had finally overcome the devastating professional and personal trials of the last year, you would have thought this was his first career Slam victory. Leave it to Rafa to make Franny's celebration look mundane and entitled. As the NBC commentator's remarked, you could see in his reaction that he genuinely thought this day might never come again.
And that, in a nutshell, is what drives Rafa. The cynics will say that he's the epitome of false modesty. After all, how can the player anointed "the King of Clay", with the results he's had on this surface over the course of his career, possibly think that, if healthy, he wouldn't ever hoist the Coupe de Mousquetaires again? He ran the table in the pre-tournament run-ups in dominant fashion. He didn't drop a set going into Sunday's final. He was the unanimous favorite as he picked apart and broke down challenger after challenger, ramping up his level of play from match to match. I mean, come on, Rafa. You can't be serious.
But that's Rafa. He's dead serious. He's dead serious when he tells you he gets nervous before every match. He's dead serious when he tells you that he knows that he can play well, create good chances, and lose. He's dead serious when he tells you that he accepts the fact that he can either win or lose on any given day when he takes the court.
Take that practical, if not sometimes delusional, view of his tennis mortality and combine it with the fiercest competitive fire on the tour, and Rafa's results and his reactions make sense. The guy believes he can lose against anyone and therefore he will do anything and everything to prevent that from happening. That explains how he hit the ground running today, Vamosing and fist-pumping as early as 1-1 in the first. It's why he took the game to Sod from the first ball, tracking down every single ball, no matter how hard it was crushed, and forced Sod to hit another ball. Rafa was everywhere. It was a jaw-dropping, dizzying display of defense that I haven't seen from him since the AO09 semifinal.
As for Sod, I thought he played. To put it in WTA terms, he pulled a Sam. He played well enough to win most matches. Just not this one. Rafa was just too good and Sod acknowledge as much after the match. Rafa forced him to hit winner after winner just to get a winner and on this day, his serve wasn't as effective as in previous rounds. Could he have made some adjustments? Sure. Would it have made a difference? Probably not. And so for the second year in a row, he beats the top seed and defending champion, only to lose in the final. And thus begins the rather unfair talk as to whether Sod has the guts to win a Slam. But whatever. Dude played well. He just ran into a delusional madman.
Delusions, while they do have a negative connotation, can be a mechanism for self-preservation. Again, see e.g., Serena Williams. Blocking out the negative to remain in a positive state of mind is understandable and expected among the greats. But Rafa's tact, of blocking out the positive to remain in a neutral to negative state of mind, takes iron-strength character to pull off. Without that character, he's just a Spanish Debbie Downer. He's no different than any other headcasey Negative Nelly on the tour. With it, he's a humble, fiery competitor who plays without a lick of entitlement. That's fucking scary.