Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heard Around - Road Trip Edition II

By Savannah

Yeah there was a lot going on this week - Roger Federer has a new teenaged hitting partner - one Mr. Jesse Levine of Boca Raton Florida flew to Dubai to practice with the world number one. And yes he's a lefty. And while he is Jewish there were apparently no issues about his going to Dubai. Jesse spent ten days in the oppressive heat practicing with Roger. Does this mean Jonathan Eysseric is only his clay court go to person?
Jesse Levine Goes To Dubai

Carlos Moya ignored the brouhaha about his new lady love and made it to the Final at Umag.

The younger Mr. Djokovic, Markko, didn't make it out of Qualies but then his famous brother didn't make it past the first round at Umag either.

Japan seems to have a young phenom on their hands as Kei Nishikori made it to the quarters at Indiana.

Gaston Gaudio is playing qualies at Sopot.

Sania Mirza appears to have found her game. And I finally got to see what all the fuss is about regarding Anna Chakvetadze. In her semi at Stanford against Daniela Hantuchova she came back to take the first set from 2-5 down to a tie break which she lost but she won the next two sets in convincing fashion, 6-3 and 6-2.

Jelena Jankovic has not played since Fed Cup. Is this the first vacation she's taken since...well just fill in the blank. She'll be back in San Diego.

Despite doing all the PR and representing tennis in Los Angeles Serena Williams thumb is not any better. The swelling seems to have gone down (see the Beckham party pics) but it's still in a light cast when she's at less formal events.

Venus Williams released pictures of herself training at the UCLA track and then having lunch with a friend. No pics of her holding hands with her boyfriend this week.

The French women put on another chapter of "As The Ball Bounces" this week. The featured players were Maid Marion Bartoli and Tatiana (Barbie) Golovin. The Russian born Tatiana declared herself more French than the French born Marion. This all started when Marion did not play for the French Fed Cup team because she wanted her father to coach her. That was not about to happen and it's been fun fun fun since then. There is no truth to the rumor that a mud wrestling match will be held between the two women to decide things. Sorry guys. By the way neither woman made it to the semis at Stanford.

Vince Spadea sported a leopard print man bag during his matches. Metrosexual was not the word that came to mind upon seeing it.
All of this is fun and interesting as the Road Trip continues but the main question still remains the one asked by a poster on the ESPN tennis board - "What Is Going On With Our Guys?" by fan " ctl alt del". James Blake went down to Radek Stepanek in the Final last week and to up and coming fellow American Sam Querrey this week in the quarters. The biggest blow was not these two losses but Andy Roddick going down to Frank Dancevic of Canada must have driven some folks right over the deep end. Dancevic drove from his home in Niagara Falls at the last minute to play and will now face Dmitry Tursunov in the Final at Indianapolis. The USTA, rumored to be considering using US Open Series play to assign seeds at the US Open must be in total shock at this point. I don't think that in their wildest dreams they saw a Czech player, a Canadian, and a Russian who wanted to play for the United States but was allegedly given no support by the USTA in the running to win the US Open Series. I have the feeling that trial balloon just deflated somewhere over the Pacific.

The Series, instead of showcasing American tennis at it's best has instead exposed it's flaws. Dancevic didn't destroy Roddick as much as simply outplay him. Andy was hitting the ball well, working hard, and doing his thing. It's just that the rest of the players know what his "thing" is and how to get around it. When hit hard and harder doesn't work there is no Plan A, B or C. The problem is when his team gets Andy to try something new, and his opponent predictably fights back Andy goes back to hit hard and harder. One of the commentators mentioned that Andy looked up at his box asking them where Dancevic's play was coming from. I wonder if Andy had already put this in the win column and found out, to his chagrin, that there was a real player with real tennis ability across the net, a man who was simply playing his game and adjusting to what Andy was doing. I know lots of Andy fans. I wonder if their guy can make the changes he needs to in order to stay top five.

As for Blake the player he was before 2005-6 is back. Tentative, mentally weak, and unable to mount a coherent strategy Blake is in danger of falling out of the top ten after making it to Shanghai last year. I never got on the Blake bandwagon when he was doing well. It's already being noted that Blake has not beaten a top ten player this year. Like another famous ball basher the quarters, when he comes upon the higher seeded players, have become his Waterloo. That other ball basher? Well she does make it to the semi's from time to time though.

I know fans of grass and hard court tennis (I can stand the hard courts and appreciate the skill set a player needs to master it) are sick of hearing me say it but until American players learn patience, point construction and strategic, adaptive play we are in trouble for the foreseeable future. We used to produce players like that. Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi come to mind. During the Hantuchova/Chakvetadze match the commentators discussed how Chris Evert changed her serve to keep up with the changing times brought on by Monica Seles. Why have we stopped producing well rounded players? Sam Querrey served up 34 aces, a record, in his match yesterday. To me that personifies what is wrong with the style of tennis Americans are playing today.

Meanwhile the European and some South American players, except for that guy hanging out in Dubai are playing their optionals on their surface of choice, clay. Some veterans gathered ranking points to improve their seeding at the US Open and some new faces made tennisheads sit up and take notice of them. The Big Girls, minus Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo, who never play California, will be in San Diego this week. A depleted men's field will be in the heat and humidity of Washington DC.

By the way if you were wondering what some players do to get ready for the summer hard court season here's something to satisfy your curiosity...

So as the new week starts one has to wonder if another chapter of "As The Ball Bounces" will be staged or if it will be all about the tennis, which is, in the end, what it should be about.


Karen said...

excellent post. I watched the match with Roddick yesterday and I was quite happy with the way Frank played. He sliced, came in, blocked the power serve. He was described as the poor man's Federer and it is true he played Andy just like how Federer plays him. As well he showed no signs of nerve (contrary to what that little *rick Jimmy Arias was saying). He was settled and deserved to win. Let us see what happens for the rest of the Series. Notice how they are still hyping "Dont call me Shriekapova as I am trying to find my serve" to win the US Open once again. I am looking forward to the draw that will come out

Savannah said...

Thank you Karen. Arias did sneak in a little snark about Ms Sharapova during Tursunov/Dancevic by comparing Tursunov's and Pova's serve percentage.

I'm looking forward to the women's draw for the US Open as well.

It should be very interesting.

Karen said...

Oh yes,very much looking forward to it because if Serena and Justine meet in the quarters again then I know that it is a fix and they are just using them to score ratings points. As to Vince Spadea why does he not retire and go away quietly - Gawd I cannot stand the fellow

Savannah said...

Shush! There are no fixed draws. They're random.

oddman said...

Where did you find that awesome pic of Rafa? I love it!

US Open Series? Road Trip? Guffaw!
I'm enjoying this and the way it's playing out so far... (had an extra dose of catty today I guess)

Anonymous said...

Dancevic played well enough but Roddick was clearly sick. Why did you fail to mention this fact? I don't believe that Frankie have beaten a healthy Roddick.

Savannah said...

Anonymous I watched the match. Both men were flushed and not just from their match. Andy definitely looked a little wilted at the end after his potty emergency and I would've emphasized that more except that he seemed genuinely surprised at how well Dancevic was playing. That question to his box wasn't because he wasn't feeling well.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Andy faked having gastric distress - he works very hard on court and he was sweating profusely. No doubt he was a little dehydrated.

But I think he took Dancevic for granted. And I don't think the point I continue to make about Andy - that he tends to revert to Plan A when pressured has anything to do with heat prostration.

Craig Hickman said...

I'm a day late and a dollar short to this post, but according to tangerine over at Roddick Watch, Andy ate late-night Taco Bell and got sick from it. This choice is even more stupid than some of his on-court decisions of late.

Glad I missed the match.

But I have a question, Savannah, and it's not ssnark because you know I've said this in all seriousness elsewhere. What does Venus possess as a Plan B or C? Her game works so well on grass because she's a ball basher extraordinaire, but I can't help but remember how she hit herself off the court the last two times she played Roland Garros.

Do we overlook that in Venus because it's, well, Venus and point it out repeatedly in Roddick because his results haven't come in the Slams the way hers have?

I ain't trying to start a fight, but I'm curious.

Savannah said...

Neither of us has posted a lot on TOB recently and since when they do a purge they really do a purge you might not remember that I posted, more than once, that Venus needed to change her game.
She does tend towards the hit hard and harder school of tennis. When it works, as it does on grass, it works. When it doesn't, well, we know what happens.
Neither she nor her sister escape the criticism of American style tennis.

But once a Venut...

Craig Hickman said...

Fair enough. Though I have to say that Serena has usually employed variety when Plan A doesn't work. Of course she wants to whack as much as possible, but her rollover agnled forehands and backhands are some of the best in the game and she uses the slice forehand to change up rallies nicely when she's on a roll.

But the mindset is American for sure. I like that.