Saturday, January 31, 2009

It's Serena!

by Savannah

In a dominating display of tennis not seen since she blew Maria Sharapova off the court two years ago Serena Williams refused to allow Dinara Safina into their match destroying the Russian 6-0, 6-3 in fifty nine minutes. Dinara had no answers to Serena's game and the match was essentially over in the first set when Serena returned a 100mph Safina serve at practically the same speed.

The win is Serena's fourth in Australia, her tenth Grand Slam win, and returns her to the number one ranking.

Is she the greatest of the current era? Let the debate begin.

Friday, January 30, 2009

5h 14m

by Savannah

In the end it was two double faults. Forget the 90+ winners by Fernando Verdasco, a number unheard of until now. Forget the head to head coming into this match, 6-0 in Rafael Nadal's favor. It was all about who had been in this place before, who had stared into the ugly maw of defeat and come away with victory instead.

At the end Rafael collapsed to the hard court but willing himself up he stepped over the net and hugged the man who had pushed him to the limit. Brad Gilbert said Rafael could barely stand as he came off court.

Sunday is the men's final. Roger Federer, who took a little over two hours to dispatch Andy Roddick in his semi final match will stand across the net from Rafael Nadal. They're showing the Wimbledon Final now on ESPN. I've been up since 3:30a. It's 9:40a as I type this. I'm hitting the sack.

Rafa's comments on scheduling of the men's semi finals from his PRESSER

Q. You're not only the No. 1 in the world, but you are one of the top players in the politics of the ATP. Is there nothing you can do to avoid this problem of scheduling, that you have one day of rest and Roger has two? Apart from Wimbledon, every tournament is screwed up. The US Open, they do what they want. Roland Garros, they do what they want. Here the same. Don't you think the players should do something?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I think Roland Garros is not like this, no?

Q. They play sometimes one day before the other.

RAFAEL NADAL: No. The last four years not (smiling).

Well, the US Open was for both player the semifinal the same day. Here is the only tournament is not like this. But, you know, you still have one day off. So that's the sport. For sure is a little bit more fair if you play the same day.

But is like this. Last year was for me, and this year was for Roger in this case, no? Last year I played on Thursday. I lost. I didn't play the final. But, anyway, I play on Thursday, and Roger play on Friday.

Well, this little bit unlucky play one match like today, too hard. So for sure Roger gonna be in much better performance physically than me for the final.

But at the same time I gonna try to be recovered for the final and play my best. I don't know if we can do something because we are involved of the council. But the true, right now I not ready for speak about politic.

Fernando was a little more forthcoming in how he felt about the scheduling of the men's semi finals.

About Nadal having one day less to rest, don't you think that players should do something to avoid these problems all the time? At the US Open they play Saturday the semifinal before the final. Here they play one day, then the next. Don't you think you, as players, should start to do something?

FERNANDO VERDASCO: I will speak with them in next tournament (smiling).

No, but I think, for sure, the semifinals supposed to be the same day, both semifinals, because I think, you know, is the most fair for everybody, no? Because like right now, yesterday Federer play three sets, and today Rafa play five sets, five hours, and he will have one day less, and with a semifinal much longer.

I think that for sure they supposed to play the two semifinals like the womans, the same day. And I think also with two weeks, you have enough days to make the schedule right and have it like this.

But I don't know why they did it, no? I promise, I didn't know that Federer was playing yesterday. I thought that yesterday was playing only girls, and today two semifinals. When I saw that he was playing yesterday, I was a little bit in shock. I was like, Why he's playing one day before us? He will have much recover, and in the final he will have a little bit more of advantage because he had one day more.

So I don't know why they did it. And I think that, for sure, they need to change it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dinara vs Serena

by Savannah

Neither woman played her best tennis during this fortnight. There were times both looked as if they'd be leaving the brutal heat of the Australian summer behind but here they are in the first Grand Slam final of the year.

Serena fought off Elena Dementieva who came into the tournament on fire but had not faced a seed until Serena stood across the net from her.
Serena looked as if she was toast during her quarterfinal match against Svetlana Kuznetsova in brutal 130+F heat on Rod Laver Arena. Once the roof was closed Serena found her stride and that was all she wrote.

Dinara had to beat back the challenge of French teenager Alize Cornet of France to get to her quarterfinal match against the woman who became the face of this Australian Open Jelena Dokic. Dinara, who has been the darling of women's tennis for the last few months fought the crowd and a flagging Dokic to make it to the semifinal match against her countrywoman Vera Zvonareva.

Both Serena and Dinara saved their best tennis for the semi's. Who will win? It depends on a number of factors. If the heat wave has broken and the roof is open - this affects the women as well as the men ESPN commentators - you have a toss up. If the heat wave has not broken you still have a toss up.

Both women have shown that they have tremendous will so I expect a battle royale. May the best woman win.

Not so idle chit chat

Do they fine the announcers? Chris Fowler made a comment that I'm sure he wished he had back as soon as he said it. He and Bud Collins were discussing Elena's serving woes which made an unwelcome return during her match this evening. Fowler then said that serving yips were like herpes. Once you have it/them you never get rid of it. Collins was speechless and no one could bail Fowler out of that little faux pas. Let's see how the suits at ESPN respond.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Summer and the City

by Savannah

It was hot as blazes in Melbourne yesterday. The on court temperature was in the 100's Farenheit. But the roof remained open on Laver and the luminaries of the tennis world took the court to do their job. Not everyone can handle the heat and Marion Bartoli was visibly affected by the sauna like conditions. I'm not sure that even if the conditions had been different she would've overcome Vera Zvonareva. She did play out her match though.

Not the same can be said for the ATP #3 Novak Djokovic. After a competitive first set which Djokovic won Brad Gilbert of ESPN said that it appeared that Novak had hit a wall. Of course I said "yeah, right," since Novak has appeared to be on his last leg and miraculously recovered. Ask Richard Gasquet about 2008 Estoril or Gael Monfils about the US Open a few years back. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up to see Novak packing his bags. It took a few seconds for what I was seeing to sink in. The defending Australian Open champion had said "no mas". This is not the first time this has happened. There was that Davis Cup match where he simply walked off the court. Last year a sore throat caused him to abandon a match against Roger Federer. Many felt that he would not repeat as champion here but no one expected him to simply walk off the court.

There's an old expression that goes like this: "If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen." I therefore offer you
The Tennis Kitchen

Juan Martin Del Potro is a growing boy. He ate two bagels that were served up by this man.

Chef Roger looks pleased as punch to have been able to please his public.

Vera added Russian flair to her bagel and served it up with power to spare.

Dinara declined to eat the vegemite the Aussie crowd offered her and instead served up a dish of her own making.

Jelena, while disappointed, is looking forward to reacquainting the tour with all aspects of Australian cuisine.

This pair created their own cuisine - Hantuyama. It's a combination of Slovakian and Japanese food. Cara Black and Liezel Huber didn't seem to digest it well.

Once again Novak served up the chefs surprise.

Andy enjoyed the surprise dish so much he was overcome with emotion.

It promises to be very hot again Wednesday in Melbourne. Let's see what our chefs have to offer us this go around.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Idle Chit Chat - Melbourne

by Savannah
The Tennis Police were busy during the first week of the Australian Open. Here's a list of the miscreants I found.

Russia's Dmitry Tursunov has copped the heftiest dent to his wallet in the first five days, being fined $3,820 for verbal abuse and $763 for racquet abuse
Both fines stemmed from the 29th seed's first round loss to Italian qualifier Flavio Cipolla.

Australia's Lleyton Hewittreceived the next highest penalty after he received a $2,290 fine for verbal abuse in his first-round defeat by Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.

Australian up and comer Brydan Klein was fined $1,527 for audible abuse during his second-round loss to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.

Croatian Roko Karanusic's wallet is a $1,000 dollars lighter after letting slip an audible obscenity.

American Ryan Sweeting, who lost in the final round of qualifying to Algeria's Lamine Ouahab . He received three separate fines totaling $1,000 for racket and verbal abuse.

Other players misbehaving include the following.
Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis $763 for racquet abuse.
Serb Janko Tipsarevic $763 for racquet abuse.
Argentina's David Nalbandian $763 for racquet abuse.

Giancarlo Petrazzuolo, Scoville Jenkins, Amer Delic, Gianluca Naso, Dudi Sela and Xavier Malisse were all fined $381 for code of conduct violations for either ball abuse, racquet abuse or verbal abuse

Nicole Vaidisova was fined $2,000 for not showing up for a mandatory post-match press conference following her first-round loss. So far she is the only woman to have been hit with a fine.

Reports are it was a virus that weakened Andy Murray. Those pesky things turn up at the most inopportune time don't they?

The estranged father of Jelena Dokic now says he will not fly to Melbourne after what his daughter and Australian tennis officials have said about him. I guess all the talk of Jelena showing up bruised and battered while under his care has hurt his feelings.

No one knows how far Jelena Dokic will go in this event but it's clear that she's captured the hearts of tennis heads around the world. She's got work to do as I've said but with good coaching she should be able to fashion a good game for herself. The test is going to be how she performs away from Melbourne once her run is over.

Seen Around - Never Assume Part Two

by Savannah

Fernando Verdasco

Andy Murray

Don't count your chickens before they hatch. I grew up with that expression but I got the visual much later in life when visiting my then in-laws in the Caribbean. I got another visual this morning when Fernando Verdasco won in five sets over Andy Murray. There wasn't all the drama of the Gasquet/Gonzalez match from the other night but in it's own way it was just as spectacular. Verdasco seems to have figured out that tennis matches have an ebb and flow and that just because you miss a shot or two it doesn't mean that yo should pack your tent and leave the premises.

This was the kind of match Verdasco would have lost in the past. He held his nerve and was obviously fit enough to play as long as it was going to take. He'll take on the winner of James Blake vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Who'd a thunk it?

General Hospital

I wonder where Nurse Sheila was?

It was one very bizarre night for the medical staff at Melbourne.

  • Gael Monfils retired allowing Gilles Simon to advance to the quarter finals.
  • Zheng Jie retired after a fall aggravated a wrist problem allowing Svetlana Kuznetsovato advance.
  • Victoria Azarenka had to be escorted off the court after appearing disoriented and staggering around behind the baseline. Serena Williams advanced to the next round. Ms Azarenka was said to be suffering the aftereffects of food poisoning.

In off the court medical news Elena Dementieva admitted that her mother is not with her in Australia due to medical reasons. Guess Pammy and the others can stop saying Elena is flying solo because at twenty seven she doesn't need to travel with her mother.

This and That

The Australia Day firework display is beautiful. It also seems to have stopped the men's round of sixteen match between Blake and Tsonga. Don't ask me. I'm watching this live and it appears the players are going to resume their match after the pyrotechnics. The delay is going to be about eight minutes. The players are still on court. Tsonga is trying to keep warm. Blake, legs crossed, is chillin'.

Sanity prevailed and the match has resumed. Bizarre.

They did a feature on Jelena Dokic during the fire work delay. I kid you not. I'm sure this was supposed to be shown tomorrow.

End Note

January 26 begins the Lunar New Year. This is the year of the Earth Ox

The Ox is the second sign of the Chinese zodiac. Like its predecessor and complement, the Rat, it signifies new beginnings. The main difference is the Ox is associated with building to last and slow but sure action. Even more so than last year we all have to make good choices, as that which is begun now is likely to have long term consequences.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tennis Talk - Never Assume

by Savannah

One tennis head called it a train wreck of a match and just like a train wreck you couldn't look away.

Jelena Dokic''s three hour marathon win against a determined Alisa Kleybanova was must see t.v. in a morbid sort of way. We all know the story that Jelena has told and lived through. Just when it looked like all the nasty little things were over with the family of a deceased Australian drug lord went public demanding payment for assistance he gave Ms Dokic when she was on the down and out. Worse, the poster boy for horrible tennis father, Damir Dokic, is mewling an apology to his daughter and asking to become part of her life again. All of this was going on in the background as Jelena took the court last night.

She is still working the rust out of her game. Her UFE count was atrocious. Her use of Hawk Eye was ineffectual. She should've won the match in two sets. She seems to be working into the place where she realizes that powerful groundies need to be balanced with more nuanced play.

But who wasn't pulling for her last night? Nothing against Alisa who played a cleaner though not perfect match. Anyone who has lived knows what it's like to go through the fire and come out on the other side needing redemption and wanting to prove that your God given talent wasn't wasted, that you can indeed reach the heights you glimpsed before the jaws of hell opened and swallowed you whole?

Jelena will face Dinara Safina next. Will the woman who was the hottest on the tour last year put an end to Jelena's fairy tale run? We'll have to wait and see. Until then we can all marvel at the week Jelena Dokic has had.

I Am Number 1

Marion Bartoli

Marion Bartoli assured that a new woman will be singing that oldie by Nelly by the end of the week. Slimmer and playing the tennis that got her to a Wimbledon final a couple of years ago Marion escorted the computer ranked World Number 1 and ITF player of the year Jelena Jankovic to the exits. Jelena
was never in the match and Marion was determined not to let her go into her act. It looked as if Jelena was too surprised to start cutting up. There were some feeble attempts involving intimtidation of ball kids but otherwise she went quietly. Marion will next face Vera Zvonareva.

I'm Like a Bird...
Nelly Furtado's hit from a few years back came to mind watching Tomas Berdych snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yesterday. Poised to win his match against Roger Federer Tomas got something caught in his throat and went out like a bitch. I'm sorry but there is no other way to describe what happened. Roger didn't have to do anything but keep the ball in play since Berdych was determined to hand the match to him. Roger survived another round and tennisheads in the US were spared the spectacle of Patrick McEnroe crying his eyes out on national television. Roger plays Juan Martin Del Potro next. Juan Martin has played a lot of tennis coming into this round.

Just Stop It

Alisa Kleybanova
Ms Kleybanova is hungry. She wants to be in the conversation about Russian women's tennis. Fitness and tightening up her game are top on her list. I'll tell you what's top on my list for her. There are many women who play tennis with long hair. Elena Demetieva's hair is quite long as is Vera Zvonareva's. Dinara has let her hair grow longer. Caroline Wozniacki's tresses descend down her back when she plays. The list goes on and on. Each of these women cuts an elegant figure on court exhibiting grace with power. You can't play tennis and not sweat. I'm begging someone near and dear to Alisa to tell her that squeezing the perspiration out of your hair is not the way to go. It's quite disconcerting to this fan. If you're going to wear a hat and you perspire a lot find some way to keep that hair squeezing thing out of your repertoire. Yuck!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Seen Around - Melbourne Edition

by Savannah

I have no business being awake. I went to sleep about 8a.

Richard Gasquet and Fernando Gonzalez

Richard Gasquet has nothing to hang his head about. The 2009 Oz Open greatest non final match so far goes to the meeting of these two men on Margaret Court Arena. Fans saw great tennis, true grit, and a marathon fifth set where both men left if all on the court. Gasquet, known for throwing in the towel when the going gets rough fought through problems with both feet that made all the phony medical time outs and heavy breathing of other players look like just what it is - bullshit. He could've thrown it in and no one would've said a word against him. Instead the man who was declared the second coming of French tennis before he was out of his teens showed he was more than a pretty shot maker.

And lets not forget Fernando Gonzalez. He played his ass off. Every time Gasquet looked as if he were going to take it all Fernando found a way to come back. When Gonzo took the lead and then won everyone was on his or her feet cheering what they'd seen. The Chilean fans pushed their man and he rode the wave of their support. They refused to let him fade and he refused to. Let's not forget Gonzo came onto the court with his right knee taped and added support during the match as well. As I said the Chilean fans pushed and he didn't resist.

The end of the match was as surreal as anything I've ever seen on a tennis court. Smoke swirled, fans went nuts and as an American I marveled at how the spirit of what the world calls football and we call soccer permeates the attitude of the fans especially in Melbourne. To my knowledge there were no fist fights and no one jumped anyone outside the arena once the match was over. If you missed it I'm sure that fifth set will be replayed everywhere. Now if I see one more player leaning on his or her racquet sucking wind as if they're about to collapse when everyone in the stadium knows they're going to start running around like the proverbial gazelle within the next minute I might put my foot through my new HDTV. Just kidding. By the way the score in the fifth set was 12-10, no tiebreak.

Fernando Verdasco gave a clinic on how to stop a player from going into their act in his 6-4, 6-0, 6-0 destruction of Radek Stepanek. Even when Radek looked like he might start going into his act Verdasco let him know he was not having it. Verdasco left nowhere for Stepanek to hide and I almost felt sorry for him.

Gael Monfils will face Gilles Simon after defeating Nicolas Almagro yesterday. For fans of French tennis a tennishead calling herself "Madame" is doing something she calls The Frenchies Chronicles" over on TalkAboutTennis. You might also want to check out their exclusive interview with Bud Collins as well. Bud is seen as a national treasure when it comes to tennis. I think you'll like it especially since he's working the mikes in Melbourne.

Elena Dementieva is still going strong.
There's an interesting womens match this evening between Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli. The match I'm really looking forward to is the one between Jelena Dokic and Alisa Kleybanova. Both women hit the snot out of the ball but will Kleybanova have a let down after beating Ana Ivanovic? It's going to be fun hearing the talking heads at ESPN commentate these matches. I mean when they call a routine thrashing by a top four player of a guy ranked much lower a clinic you have to wonder what those production meetings are like. I was watching two matches last night, Gonzo/Gasquet on the television, muted, and the match on Laver on the computer with sound. Wonder how they handled a real as opposed to a manufactured classic. I'll be watching their highlight show this afternoon for sure.

The Moving Image
I'm a little annoyed at Yahoo. It used to be that they would keep pictures up on their active photo section almost forever. Now if you don't grab the pictures right after the match you're out of luck. They only put the most current 200 so if you're looking for pictures of say Verdasco from last night you don't find them because they've got the pics from the latest matches up and nothing else. Kind of annoying but not world stopping you know?

Why is this woman smiling? I'll take a thousand of Serena Williams post match pressers where she is obviously angry and upset at herself if she's lost than pictures like this.

Scott Barbour has been making pictures like this one of Igor Andreev all week. Beautiful work

Friday, January 23, 2009

The WTA Represents

by Savannah

It's late. Or early depending on your perspective. Roger vs Marat is taking place as I type this. Baghdatis is about to play Mardy Fish.

Meh. There were two great WTA matches played tonight. Well, entertaining might be a better word. There were 80+ ufe's between Alisa Kleybanova of Russia and Ana Ivanovic so we're not talking pristine tennis here but it was a great match to watch. Ivanovic was showing emotion. Kleybanova was determined to make it to the round of sixteen and join the conversation the Russian women are having with the tennis world. In the end it was Kleybanova who fell to the court in joy.

Meanwhile Jelena Dokic continued her march towards the elite eight riding the support of the crowd and overcoming a shaky start to overcome Caroline Wozniacki.

Dokic will meet Kleybanova in the next round. I'm going to bed. Here are some pictures to keep you company.

Caroline Wozniacki

Jelena Dokic

Ana Ivanovic

Alisa kleybanova

You may ask yourself why there's a random picture of Marat Safin at the top of this post. As they say, if you don't know act like you do.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seen and Heard Around - Melbourne Edition

by Savannah

Don't ask me what day it is. All I know is that for the first time in awhile I went out and there was this strange light in the sky. Someone told me it was the sun. I responded that it was about three a.m. in Melbourne.

Never Assume

This is what I woke up to earlier today. Keep in mind the time of day is relevant since I went to sleep about 4a where I am located on the East Coast of the United States and got up about 11a. That sounds like a good rest but I should mention that the day before I stayed up until 7:30a watching a men's match and got up at 10:30a because people were coming over. Something about an Inauguration.

Anyway the woman in the picture had just won her first set and while behind in the second I chalked it up to her taking one of her walkabouts and that she would come to her senses and move on. Imagine my confusion when I checked tennis fan boards and there were all these posts saying "sorry Venus fans". Had she hurt herself again? No. She got her ass handed to her by one Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

You remember her right? She's the one who burst onto the scene last year and looked like she was going to be on everyone's watch list? You remember her right? Well it seems Ms Williams didn't. I understand that when you're in VenusWorld it's hard to keep track of all these new young things who come on the scene ready to take your head. I get it, I really do. I also understand your going on these mental walkabouts that you do. But you have been taking short walks lately so a fan can be forgiven for thinking it was safe to go to bed at that point in the match where it was obvious your mind was elsewhere.
The rerun of the match was on in my house a few minutes ago. I switched to Food Network. The chef was making fajitas. I'm going to print out the recipe later this evening.

By the way make sure you have your DVR, VCR or whatever method you use to record live television. You see four years ago Marat Safin kicked Roger Federer to the curb in Melbourne so maybe, just maybe, Marat will do it again. You wouldn't want to miss that right? Snark aside I'll be up. My DVR will also be running. One never knows do one? Besides, those six guys are still in Russia. You know, the ones who held Marat while their boy wailed on him. And just ignore the fact that Marat was on American television going on and on about why Roger is great. Hey, just sayin'.

Gisela Dulko played very well against Serena Williams. If she played like that all the time she'd be known for being more than being first Tommy's and now Fernando's girl friend.
As for Serena she got rid of that home-ec project she wore onto the court for her first match. Now she's wearing some blue number. It's better than the home-ec project.

Jelena Dokic looks like she's ready to reclaim her spot among the top women. She held her nerve and won her match over Anna Chakvetadze in three sets. I'd seen her play a warm up event and she went on one of those Melbourne walking tours that are so popular when the going got tough. After all this young woman went through coming back on a tennis court can't be easy for her. It's going to be uphill for her now. She plays Caroline Wozniacki next.

I get such a kick out of this picture.

Medical Report

What is it with cramps at Melbourne? You're playing in summer near the Equator. Hot and humid conditions are standard. I only mention them because Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in addition to his back issues suffered a little with cramps during his win over Ivan Ljubicic. Jo grabbed his back and took a fall that he had a lot of problems getting up from. Brad Gilbert thinks cramping is lack of conditioning. Tsonga was on the maybe list up until the draw came out so I can understand him not having played a lot coming into Melbourne. Was that hot mess between the teen girls the other night worth so much of our time when other more interesting matches were taking place? It's true both girls, Christina McHale of the United States, and Jessica Moore of Australia, are being tagged as future stars by their Federations but enough was enough. Moore won and promptly lost to Flavia Pennetta.

Did I say anything about James Blake's switch to Fila from Nike? No? Good.

Did I also mention that on Day 1 Lleyton Hewitt's belief that making Laver hotter than the seventh ring of hell would work in his favor is why the players who took the court ahead of him had to play in the 100+F heat of Melbourne? I should've. He lost in five sets to Fernando Gonzalez. Guess no one told Lleyton it can get pretty hot in Chile during the summer too.

End Notes

Australian Fans during the doubles match between Safin/Canas v.Feeney/Smeets on Margaret Court Arena.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


by Savannah

I've been a bit distracted. Back to tennis tomorrow.