Sunday, January 31, 2010

The 2010 AO - A Look Back and a Glance Forward

by Savannah

There is little doubt who the dominant female tennis player of the current generation is. I'm sure people will argue about Belgians but when all is said and done there is one woman who stands head and shoulders above them all. If you count the wrap on her right thigh and the other one on her calf Serena Williams won the 2010 Australian Open on one leg and sheer willpower. Should I even mention she played doubles with her sister on her off days? When Richard Williams said ages ago that his younger daughter would be The One people laughed. I don't hear too much laughter now. Serena got down on herself after failing to break in the second set and with massive help from Carlos Rodriguez Justine Henin raced ahead and won the second set. Serena mentally kicked herself and pounded Justine into the pavement taking the third set easily.
Not much was made of it at the time but Henin, when faced with the prospect of meeting Serena in one of the warm up events withdrew from the tournament. To me it said she didn't want to face Serena. During this match it was obvious why. I think it's safe to say that this match was the best of the tournament.

I watched the mens final on the Tennis Channel replay. I couldn't stand to hear anymore "Baryshnikov in sneakers" quips. Jim McAtee does seem to be a card carrying member of the Monogram fan club but Martina Navratilova, while giving into the mania every now and then still stuck to her "boring" way of letting non pros understand the match. It's because of her that it was perfectly clear why Murray lost. The Monogram has said that Murray beat him when he wasn't at his best. Keep in mind I'm not a fan of either man but Andy Murray lost that match between his ears. His shot selection and decision making at critical junctures was questionable to say the least.
After being up 5-2 and with a seeming lock on the third set Murray went back to the tentative play that cost him the first two sets. In the blink of an eye he was in a tiebreak. He had several set points and lost each one leadng to his losing the match. He has no one to blame but himself and he'll have nightmares about that final for a long time.

As I mentioned above on her off days Serena joined her sister Venus Williams in playing doubles. It was a struggle at the end but they managed to win the Doubles crown. The Sisters are criticized for focusing on doubles play at majors but if it works for them why shouldn't they?

Twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan won the Men's Doubles Championship defeating the team of Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor.

Leander Paes and Cara Black triumphed in Mixed Doubles play.

Tiago Ferandes of Brazil won the Junior Boys Championship defeating the much talked about French junior Gianni Mina along the way.

Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic won the Junior Girls Championship.

End Notes


The most significant thing about the semi finals was the absence of Russian women. Elena Dementieva, perhaps the most talented woman not to have won a Slam was sent packing early. No one seriously expected Dinara Safina to go far and she didn't. Veteran Nadia Petrova made the best showing of all the Russians. Alyssa Kleybanova again showed promise but if she wants to be taken seriously she has to work on her conditioning. Maria Sharapova's game seems not to have progressed at all and while she is still being sold as the face of the WTA there has to be concern at the top levels of the WTA and in her camp.
I have to say it was wonderful watching Serena and Justine play. It wasn't hit hard and harder tennis to the corners but a beautifully played thinking on court (and in the stands) match by both players. Rodriguez calls a good game. There was no screaming or histrionics by either woman just good solid play. It was welcome.
It's too much to ask the tennis establishment in the United States to change it's attitude towards the Williams sisters so I'm sure we'll be hearing all about the next big thing this coming year. The lines have been clearly drawn though. Women's tennis in the United States exists because of Venus and Serena Wiilliams.
By the way Caroline Wozniacki is now number three in the world.


Novak Djokovic is now ranked number two in the world. That would be the same Djokovic who faded physically against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter finals of the AO after having the easiest draw of any top player. Andy Murray is now number three. That would be the same Andy Murray who came apart at the seams during the Australian Open final. With players like this holding down top positions you have to wonder what the future holds for the men's tour.


There were only two American juniors in Australia. Three if you count the kid who played the Men's draw as an Aussie and the Junior draw as an American. I'm not sure why that was but it took me totally by surprise. I never heard of either kid who won until this tournament.


I suppose I should say China. Chinese tennis officials have to be pleased with both Li Na and Zheng Jie making the semifinals. For the second time I watched Zheng fall apart in a semi final match playing tentative tennis instead of the aggressive style that got her to the semi's. Li Na played well but lost to the superior player. Li is now in the top ten. Let's see how she handles it.

Final Thoughts

I have to admit it was hard for me to stay interested in this Slam. Those of you who read this space regularly know why. But in the final analysis I'm a tennishead and I watched much more than I thought I would.
Ironically (or maybe not) I got interested in the women's matches more than the men's since I knew how it was going to turn out on the men's side.
The thing that bothered me the most was the commentary. I'm not going to rehash all the stuff I posted before but anytime I sleep through live coverage so that I can see taped and edited matches just to avoid Carillo and Crew something is wrong. I know that there is no chance of the team changing but I wonder if they pointed out Murray's mental blunders during the Men's Final? I mean if they could talk through Djokovic dry heaving on the sidelines I doubt they'd notice something like that.

The women are playing Fed Cup and the South American clay swing starts this week as well. Venus won Acapulco last year. I wonder if she'll show up this year? I hope so.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Truth, Dare, Consequences...

by Savannah

When we were kids we played a game with the very long name of "Truth, Dare, Consequences, Promise or Repeat". Needless to say there were some embarrassing moments for the players.

But a child's game is something we play and leave by the wayside as we become adults or so it is for most of us. I'm going to take a step back in time and play the game with what I've seen and heard during the 2010 Australian Open.

The Truth

It's one thing for an internet blogger like me, tied to no major sports outlet, rants about the unseemly coaching from the stands and some players. It's another thing when a mainstream outlet prints a piece by one of it's writers about the blatant cheating of a player. This is what has occurred however.

James Martin has written a piece for NBC Sports in which he states that Justine Henin is too reliant on what he has called "illegal" coaching and that the tennis powers that be need to put an end to it. Here's an excerpt.

As her run Down Under has demonstrated, Henin still relies on Rodriguez. If anything, she appears to be depending on him more than ever. And Rodriguez has been none-too-shy about helping her out. In tennis, of course, on-court coaching is illegal at the Grand Slams. But that hasn't stopped Rodriguez from blatantly signaling and communicating with his charge. He doesn't even attempt to disguise his gestures.

In Henin's quarterfinal match against Nadia Petrova, Rodriguez was shown on television motioning a toss, and then moving his other hand as if to say, "move your feet," when Henin prepared to return the ball. On the next point, Petrova tossed the ball for a slice serve while Henin moved to her right to cut off the ball.

The signaling was so conspicuous that commentator Martina Navratilova had no choice but to call out Henin for receiving illegal coaching. But the chair umpire either didn't notice or didn't care. A similar scene played out in a previous Henin match, when it appeared that Rodriguez was trying to help Henin with her wayward service toss.

Needless to say this was a Tennis Channel broadcast. The ESPN Crew would never notice anything like this. They're too busy repeating the same factoids over and over ad nauseam. To actually report what is happening on court and how it affects play is seemingly beyond their abilities.

Anyone who follows tennis closely knows coaching from the stands goes on. It's only when a player has become so dependent on it that they can't think for themselves and they are lost when they have to do so that it becomes a liability to the sport. Maybe now that a member of the main stream press has commented on it the ESPN folks will comment on it.

While ESPN commentators seem to be oblivious to what is going on in front of them they seem to be able to misrepresent the truth when it suits them. They are big fans of The Monogram and it seems they've been on a tear trying to resurrect his FedGod persona when it comes to injury and illness and how he's handled it.

I didn't hear it myself but fans are saying that during Murray's match last night he referenced his back saying it was sore. The comment from the booth? The FedGod would never do that. Murray, of whom I am no fan, did not take a medical time out and continued to play. They then went on to say that the Monogram has never quit in a match. Yet in 2008 he gave a walkover to James Blake. That's not something that happened 20 years ago. It's also something that can be easily checked.

And can I bring up mono-gate? Yes I'm calling bullshit on that whole situation. Mario Ancic has mono. He has tried to come back but he suffers from the chronic symptoms of that disease. Last time I checked he wasn't gallivanting around a tennis court. Didn't the Monogram take time off for that and use it as an excuse for a period of subpar play?

What about his losses at the year end tournaments where back problems were also cited as the reason for his poor play?

It's one thing to be fanboys/girls. It's another thing to fabricate situations out of thin air that are easily refuted.


When you are used to thinking and acting on your own on a tennis court you can do amazing things. The match of the tournament so far was Serena Williams amazing comeback from a set down and being down 4-0 in the second set. Despite all the work and guidance by Viktoria Azarenka's box they had no answer for the sheer guts and mental strength of the world #1. Who knows if Oracene was asleep behind her sunglasses or not? She could've been. But her daughter pulled herself together and ran Ms Azarenka off the court. This is what happens when you are physically and mentally prepared to play.

Li Na lost to the better player but put up a good fight. Zheng Jie was playing Carlos Rodriguez.


I didn't stay up for last night's 3:30a match. From all the hype I thought Marin Cilic was going to send his opponent home. Didn't happen. I'm reading posts from Cilic fans saying he's not ready yet. It's more like Cilic played a lot more tennis than Andy Murray and that he was mentally and physically fried. As I said I didn't see the match.

The man who had the best draw of the tournament was Novak Djokovic. The Joker played his first real match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and didn't make it to the next round. It was kind of funny that the ESPN crew was chatting away about some bullshit while Novak was dry heaving on the sidelines. His request to leave the court because he was about to lose it caught them by surprise. It was not funny ha-ha if you get my drift. They had just finished saying that Tsonga was about to fold physically. Wonder what match they were watching?


Everyone gets on Mary Carillo's case but she is not the only problem. I loved the shot of Mary Jo Fernandez daughter sitting in The Monogram's box. Patrick McEnroe goes into a swoon when the Monogram takes the court and nothing coherent comes from his mouth.

I dare ESPN to hire Martina Navratilova and replace both Mary and MJF. I dare them to get a real commentator not a fanboy to replace PMac. It ain't gonna happen but that is my fantasy.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Congratulations to one Ms Nadia Petrova. She is not in the best shape of her life and is mostly thought of as the woman who can't beat Maria Sharapova. But last night she showed what happens to the Sainted One when you take control of a match from her and don't let go. St Kim was reduced to a pouty, racquet throwing (Don't worry about a warning or a fine. Saints aren't subject to the same rules as other mere mortals. Only players like Serena Williams would've gotten a warning) bitch. She had no answer for the barrage of shots that came her way. Nadia had her by the throat and did not let go.

Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo (!) called the match. Let me rephrase that. They talked through the match. One of them pinged the Saint's manager to ask him what was going on. I asked myself isn't that what you two are being paid to do? All we got from them was weeping and gnashing of teeth. This poor soul lifted her eyes to the heavens and pleaded for the clear eyed non biased analysis of Martina Navratilova. She may be a catty bitch when it comes to her opinions but when she is behind the mike she is a professional. During Jelena Jankovic's match she made you see what was wrong with JJ's game. She didn't go on and on about JJ's mother like the ESPN crew does. That was what was needed last night. How did Nadia snatch control of the match from Clijsters? Why did Kim's attempts to take control back in the second set fail? Why has no one else approached Clijsters like this? What does this mean going forward? Instead of answers to questions like these all we got was that Nadia was "in the zone". Pay me what you pay those jokers because I can say stuff like that all day.

On the men's side John Isner found a way to beat Gael Monfils. I didn't see much of that match but I sure heard enough about it and saw the highlights.

I'm sure there is lots of stuff I'm leaving out but I think I'm doing good for someone who went to bed at 8a this morning. Australian time is a bitch.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mary Carillo Should Be Fired

by Savannah

I didn't see Serena's match last night so I was unaware of Mary Carillo's comments regarding Serena Williams. Click on the link to find the text of the letter Craig sent to ESPN.

Pam Shriver did double duty last night when it came to her female co commentators.
Mary Jo Fernandez went on an anti Venus Williams rant accusing her of not progressing in her approach to the game, of not utilizing strategy, and of having a lousy serve. Pam ripped her a new one. Fans on Twitter asked how Fernandez, who won no major titles during her career let alone five Wimbledon's could give advice to anyone.

It amazes me that after all the Williams Sisters have done for tennis the establishment resents them so much. Name any American woman who can hold a candle to their accomplishments. Name any American who can draw fans the way Venus and Serena do. They showed a brief clip of Serena practicing before her match and the fans were two to three deep. When the couple that won the Tennis Channel sweepstakes for a trip to the Australian Open was interviewed they said they were rooting for Serena. The couple was not African-American.

I guess we have to wait for Melanie Oudin to start winning majors.

It's my opinion that Mary, and especially Mary Jo Fernandez and PMac's on air statements and attitudes reflect those of the US tennis establishment. I'm not aware of any untoward comments made by Patrick McEnroe last night but his idol was playing so maybe he chilled out.

It should also be mentioned that Marcos Baghdatis broke THREE racquets during his match and not a peep was heard from the ESPN team. If you remember during the US Open Serena smashed one racquet and was given a warning. Andy Roddick cursed out the chair after his second round match and not a thing was said nor was he fined. Should Serena comment on the double standard? Why not when it's there for all to see.

It's going to be interesting to see how ESPN responds.

ETA: I sent an email to ESPN and got an answer from a real live person who named Mary Carillo in his response and sent it to the right department in ESPN as well as giving me the right email address to use going forward. If you want to register your opinion send your email to the following address:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

by Savannah

The Australian Open is into it's fourth day and I've been watching without sound for the last day and a half. It seems that the talking heads for ESPN2 are wholly owned by the American/British/Australian tennis axis. You could throw in Switzerland as well but that is a more complex matter. I remember when the US tennis establishment didn't much care for a certain monogrammed gentleman from that country until other players not from Northern Europe began to make noise on the tour. Then he became the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I digress.

I refuse to watch any match involving Kim Clijsters that is broadcast on ESPN2. I think they think she's the only woman to have ever given birth. The way they carry on about her is ridiculous. All of the women broadcasters have children so they should know better than that. She has a nanny. She does not spend her days shuttling between quality time with her child and the tennis court. It's obvious she's been preparing for her comeback for quite some time yet no one can bring themselves to say it. So last night I slept until the men's match came on.
To me she will always be Cupcake Kim. She came back at the end of the season fully rested while all the other women were beat up mentally and physically. Tell me that was not premeditated.

By the way there is a reason I stopped watching her matches, and will soon do the same with her countrywoman Justine Henin. Brad Gilbert felt that both Belgian women should have been seeded. Not just at the lower end of the scale but at 2 & 3. Imagine all the women who played their asses off sitting still for that. His reason was that now they're going to have to knock each other off. I'm crying as I type this.

As some fans have said it seems that the ESPN2 crew and the majority of the tennis media are for anyone they think can knock off The Williams Women. I heard no groundswell of support for the liar who played last night from the stands. It was all coming from her box and over the airwaves.

I'll end this little rant with a quote from tennishead "Rocketta" about St. Kim.
Anyway, it gave me flash backs to the AO when they just knew she was going to win and beat Serena and it looked like it was going to happen then Serena turned it around and won at the last minute.... I thought MJF and Pam were going to actually cry on air. If you are that emotionally attached to a player then you shouldn't be calling her matches OR just be up front about it... don't fake objectivity..

The Other Stah

Listening to Dick Enberg call a Maria Sharapova match makes me feel like I need a bath. The postmortem discussion was amazing the other night for it's bathos. "Where does Maria go from here?" someone whined.

I think Craig and I are the only ones who said there was no major difference in her serve and that her game had not changed. Last night one of the women in talking about how well the Liar and Elena Dementieva moved said that it was too bad Sharapova can't move like Elena and the Liar were. I am really upset that Elena couldn't hold it together and win when she had so many opportunities to do so. It means I have to spend more time watching a television or computer screen with the sound off.

Grand Slam Miscellany

Anyone notice how chunky and round faced Fernando Verdasco has become?

While I applaud his effort and feel bad that he worked so hard and lost James Blake had a snowballs chance in hell of beating Juan Martin del Potro. Delpo had no intention of losing to Blake.

How come no one sent me a memo to tell me Venus is now in her warrior princess phase? That is some dress. (If you don't get the reference Google "Xena".)

Serena added a wrap to her calf to match the one on her thigh during doubles play yesterday.

Caroline Wozniacki spilled something on her dress.

Note to Jeff Tarango who commented that he could never date Jelena Jankovic because there would be too much drama. You're right. You could never date her.

Dinara Safina lost her gut. Good for her.

St Kim isn't so saintly after all. I wonder how her husband reacted to the picture of her feeling up Rafael Nadal?

A fan tweeted the other night that John Isner used an expletive or two during a tense part of his first match. If you watch ESPN2 you would never know.

Andy Roddick's little cursing jag was caught live but due to what I presume was a delay we didn't get to hear his bon mots. The incident was laughed off as "Andy being Andy." Okay.

James Blake used his racquet to point out an unruly fan. I thought the announcers were going to faint.

Donald Young is competing today.

ESPN2 coverage starts at 11p Eastern tonight. I wonder what the featured match will be?

End Note: I'll start posting pictures soon. I promise.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hit for Haiti

by Savannah

Craig has posted the pictures. They're nothing short of marvelous. Follow the LINK and see for yourself.

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been

by Savannah

Never take anything for granted. I had no intention of staying away from blogging as long as I have but sometimes you're dealt an unexpected hand.

Back in December I got sick at home and was rushed to the hospital thanks to the quick thinking of my daughter who goes by the name Haruka in these parts. To make a long story short a medicine I had been prescribed was poisoning my system. It was only through the insistence of my doctor of over twenty years that the true reason for me being sick was found and treated. I'll talk about this more in my non tennis blog "A Reclaimed Life".

I missed doing my year end coaches review and players of the year. I missed talking about Nikolay Davydenko winning the ATP WTF. I'll just list them briefly. No pictures.

Coach of the Year - ATP

Francisco Davin, coach of Juan Martin del Potro. His charge won the US Open. Eduard Davydenko gets honorable mention.

ATP Player of the Year

If you go by stats there is only one man who can be chosen. When you win two Slams that means something no matter what. Congratulations to Roger Federer.
Honorable mentions go to Andy Roddick who has really started to play modern tennis and Juan Martin del Potro

WTA Coach of the Year

Once again my hat goes off to Richard Williams and Oracene Price. Their daughters, one of whom ended the year with the number one ranking while the other is in the top ten show that all the unorthodox things Richard and Oracene did with their girls, especially having outside interests, proved to be right.

WTA Player of the Year

Serena Williams. If I have to explain you're not a tennis fan.

Match of the Year

ATP: Fernando Verdasco vs Rafael Nadal Australian Open Semi Final
WTA: Elena Dementieva vs Serena Williams Wimbledon Semi final

The Australian Open

ATP: We'll find out just who Nikolay Davydenko is. If Roddick is patient he will be the only American in the second week. As for Delpo i really don't know.
WTA: I expect seeds to fall llke rain on the women's side. Serena will either go out early or make the Final. If Venus makes the quarters I'll be happy. I expect to see Elena go deep but I said that last year.

You can tell I've been sick. I don't normally make predictions but this is what I'm thinking as the Australian Open begins at 7p Eastern time. This is the quirkiest of the Slams so it's hard to say anything with certainty.

I will try and do my usual thing for a Slam and give daily or every other day reviews. It feels good to be back.