Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Look Back and A Glance Forward

by Savannah

There will be no crying pictures here. As Craig said in response to an earlier post on the Australian Open Men's Final the powers that be there gave one player preferential treatment. In case you forgot the bottom half of the draw played first. This assured the man making the semi final from that part of the draw would get two days rest instead of one since the good people running things there play the men's semi final over two days instead of both matches playing on the same day. Why? It's all about the chee$e. The women's semi's play on the same day but I'll get to the women later.

Normally it's the number one player who gets coddled but not in this case. The World Number 2 was treated as if his shit don't stink not the World Number 1. The world number one got a brutal draw that tried to assure that if he reached the semi finals he'd be battered and bruised. As we all know that wasn't quite the case. He came into the Final a day and a half after playing the Grand Slam semi final to end them all. Most tennisheads, even his fans, thought he'd be running on fumes and that even his vaunted will would not carry his battered body through a grueling match.

Peter Norfolk Men's Quad Champion
Craig has said over and over "don't believe the hype". The ESPN talking points constantly referred to the amount of time the Crying Man spent on the court highlighting the relatively easy romp he had to the final. It fell to PMac to say that there had been a five setter along the way and that CM had "survived" a five set challenge from one Tomas Berdych.
This was hi-larious to hard core fans sine Berdych bitched out and handed that match to CM. There was no struggle after the second set. Bud Collins didn't mince words about the two day semi final schedule for the men and took a few licks at the US Open for the men having to play their semi the day before their final. He could've mentioned the way they manipulate said schedule if hurricanes are set to arrive but I digress.

The CM does believe his hype and why shouldn't he? He hates being introduced as the world number two so he isn't. Players were simply introduced. Where was an adult to say "Excuse me but you are number two and will be introduced that way. Moving on?"

I think Neil Harman (thanks HelenW) says it best.
Think of three recent examples: the Italian Open final of 2006, when Federer had two match points against Nadal and tossed in two astonishingly poor forehands; the matchless Wimbledon final last year when the Swiss came back from two sets down to take it into a decider and missed a forehand on match point as twilight fell; and the last, and surely the most destructive, which came yesterday as Federer collapsed, his mind frazzled and his right arm failing him as Nadal dug in and refused to countenance defeat.

Federer put a lot of it down to serving poorly and in the middle of the second set, a long way away from the finality of defeat, he missed 11 consecutive first serves. In the third set, which Nadal won by playing a near-faultless tie-break, Federer had break points - two lots of three in consecutive games. Everything was a terrible chore.

But that is what makes Nadal such a champion. Put it into his head that he cannot win - and the schedule here, with one semi-final taking place a full day before the other, is something tennis at this level ought not to tolerate - and he accepts the challenge head on. When the world No1 lost the fourth set, which he really should have won, having allowed five break points to slip through his fingers for a 3-2 lead, one assumed the momentum was with Federer. But that was never the case. At the match's end, and although it took three match points to see Nadal home, Federer was visibly coming apart at the seams.

When he beat Juan Martin Del Potro, the sixth-best player in the world, for the loss of three games in the quarter-finals, Federer said that as the contest drew to a close, he was simply happy to put the Argentinian “out of his misery”. Five days later, and he knew how that felt. Not at all nice.

I've always said if you want to know how Roger is doing watch Mirka. She was in tears towards the end of the fifth set. Maybe seeing her in tears set Roger off, I don't know. Patrick McEnroe who seems to hang from Roger's gonads every time he plays was not heard from for most of the fourth set IIRC. The media is supposed to be neutral isn't it?

Mixed Doubles Champions Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza
On a side note there has always been a xenophobic undertone to the Rafa hate. I found this interesting thread on the ESPN Tennis Boards. The thread title is "Swarthy Southern Europeans dominating tennis" and asks the question when Northern Europeans will reassert their dominance. It's still there. I guess people who think like this will go nuts if the young man from India, Yuki Bhambri (seen here with his mother Indu Bhambri) makes a successful transition to the main tour from the junior ranks huh?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Soft draws do not a champion make. There are two ways to react when the fix you thought was in fails. One is anger. The other is tears.

The Ladies

Women's Doubles Champions Serena Williams and Venus Williams
I rarely make predictions because tennis is such a flukey sport but I did say here that it would be a Williams or Elena Dementieva who hoisted the women's trophy in Melbourne. When Venus Williams went down to a feisty Carla Suarez Navarro it fell to Serena Williams to carry the torch.

Kunieda Shingo Men's Wheelchair Champion
There is talk that Serena lucked out twice on her way to the Final. The first time was the illness of Victoria Azarenka that forced her to retire. The second was when in the blast furnace like heat of the day the people of TA came to their senses and closed the roof that should've been closed from the beginning. Now playing in human(e) conditions Serena regrouped against Svetlana Kuznetsova and won their match. The final was played with the roof open but I don't think it would've made a difference.
Why is it news when some luck breaks Serena's way and malicious gossip when an entire tournament has been set up to favor one player?

Men's Doubles Champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan
By the way does Mike Bryan say he and Serena hooked up in Melbourne? Amazing what you find in official interviews isn't it?

Q. Did you say you were going out with Serena?


BOB BRYAN: We went two years ago. We've been seeing each other at the courts these two weeks. We just said, Let's do a repeat of two years ago. She won the singles, we won the doubles, then we all went out in the club until the wee morning of Sunday.

Q. Is that club still here?

BOB BRYAN: Same club. Right across the street from the hotel.

MIKE BRYAN: All I know is Serena usually picks up the bill.

Q. She didn't beat you guys when you were 10?


MIKE BRYAN: We knew her. They grew up in Southern California. They came up to our club.

No, we were always just way older. I know she said she beat Andy.

I think there is about a four year age difference between Mike Bryan and Serena.

Junior Boys Doubles Champions Francis Casey Alcantara of the Philippines and Cheng-Peng Hsieh of Taipei

End Notes
Life, and tennis, goes on. The women are playing Fed Cup this week. There are three ATP tournaments including the new one in Johannesburg.

I found it ironic that some fans openly wished that Maria Sharapova had competed this year in Melbourne. The last time Maria faced Serena in a Melbourne final she didn't fare any better than Dinara Safina. I guess some find it hard to accept that when either Williams sister is totally fit and totally focused on tennis that no one, and I mean no one, can beat them. I still have issues with them and their lack of pre match preparation - I mean Carla Suarez Navarro Venus? - but even in the "twilight years" of their careers they are still the standard to which everyone is held. Even those who are in the "anybody but a Williams" camp howled when Jelena Jankovic was ranked number one in the world. I'm not rehashing the pro and con arguments here I'm just making the point that no one can say Serena Williams doesn't deserve the ranking she has now. She's said it's important to her. Let's see how she protects it. I think it's safe to say that without Venus and Serena there is no women's tennis in the United States. TPTB know this so stop the sniping.

Junior Girls Doubles Champions Christina McHale of the United States and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia
As for the men I notice that talk of the "Big Four" has stopped. I was surprised that so many tennis fans felt Novak Djokovic would not defend his title. Andy Murray I'd love to see some fair draws and the proper respect given to the world number one player. I'm looking forward to seeing how the newly resurgent French men fare this year. When it comes to Wimbledon will Andy Murray be given a quarter featuring all the juniors and qualifiers? What will the US Open do this year when it comes to it's schedule? Will players like Fernando Verdasco make a serious run towards the upper echelons of their sport?

Junior Girls Champion Ksenia Pervak of Russia
This is the stuff we tennis geeks worry about. When all is said and done the ATP product is still vastly superior to the WTA product. There is a lot of talk, serious talk, about combining the tours under one umbrella. I don't like the idea because somehow it'll be bad for the men's tour.

The Australian Open has always been an anomaly, the red haired stepchild of the Grand Slams. With 2009 it looks as if it's finally come of age. Will the Asia Pacific Slam stay in Australia or move to main land China? If I didn't know Hisense was a Chinese company I would never have found out listening to the US broadcasts.

Esther Vergeer Women's Wheelchair Champion
There was a lot of chatter on fan boards before the end of the second week that the Slam was boring. How you reach that conclusion before an event has ended is beyond me.

There is a long, grueling year ahead for players and fans. Anyone who says they can see what's going to be going on in November is a seer and needs a 1-800 number.


Helen W said...

Thank you, Savannah, for highlighting ALL the champions of the AO. And for sparing us yet another picture of Crying Roger (TM Pending) rather than smiling Rafa.

One last (public from me at least) word on that subject: I have always felt sorry for the loser in a slam having to go through the whole presentation ceremony and media interviews while their feelings are simply battered. But it goes with the territory. ALL the losers feel the pain, every single time. But by the time they get to the point of playing in a slam final, the expectation is that they will have learned to handle their emotions. So OK, sometimes they are overcome. That's human and understandable. What is less understandable is not conducting yourself so as to minimize the impact of your feelings on everybody else.

Anyway, enough of that! Go Rafa!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Savannah,

Agree, agree, agree and agree.

Undeniable confirmation of what I've known all along.

BBC article:

"In a fifth set, anything can happen. That's the problem. Not usually the better player always wins. Just a matter of momentum sometimes.

"Maybe I should have never been there in the first place. But I think he played well. I definitely played a terrible fifth set. I kind of handed it over to him...."

You can tell by the pronouns it's not a WTA player talking about Jill Craybas.

vmw3 said...

I have read and heard that Djok has asthma and an underdeveloped thorax. He's had surgeries for breathing problems. Once, Jim Courier I believe mentioned that it seemed like Djok had asthma. If this is true, then I don't see him winning too much and I think he has done very well already. As anyone knows asthmatics are affected by many things and can have very good non-symptomatic days. I don't think he wanted to lose points at the AO. To announce something like this would ruin his career.

vmw3 said...

Sorry it was Luke Jensen, not Jim Courier.

oddman said...

No more TMF - now it's TCM, is it?

TCM.... cackle.

Anyway, enough of that. After that fabulous Verdasco match, where I was shaking my head and wondering how in the hail did Rafa win THAT one - I thought, if he can get through that, he can get through anything. I reminded myself of Wimby 07, painful as it was, and how Rafa fought for 7 straight days in a slam and made it to the final, AND made his opponent work for the win. I tagged him Superman back then. That boy don't disappoint, ever!

Vamos, Rafa! Owner of slams on all three surfaces! AO 09 Champion!

love40 said...

Savannah, thanks for the 2 great weeks of AO coverage.

On a separate note, P-Mac needs a tennis ball stuffed in his mouth. He has displayed biased favortism toward Federer throughout the entire match. If the finals weren't on ESPN HD I would have gone somewhere else. Commentating needs to be objective.

cate said...

Side note, I'm proud that a Filipino won the boys' doubles.

2Hander said...

Hi all,

I think Roger should ditch that worrying 'partner' of his, rather than his coach! If you see her when he plays Rafa, it's like she's afraid of him losing...almost expecting him to choke! Got a bit sick of seeing her after every second point...!!

Of course, enuff respect to Rafa for injecting some competition into the game. It got to the point where Fed was winning Slams without any real test.

I can see where Fed fans are coming from as his game has grace and finesse. Nadal's game looks very unnatural and forced (probably since he's not a natural lefty). Anyway, Federer has to pick himself up and prove that is a real legend by coming back from this setback.

Psssst...I think Fed's only real chance for Slams are if Rafa gets knocked out earlier on!

Wayne said...

I am really trying to work out how anyone can actually think the draw was rigged?? This is a grand slam for god sakes not some local ALTA league match! At least in Australia they both get at least a day to prepare unlike the U.S where they are back on court the next day.