Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Rear View Mirror - 2011 Australian Open

by Savannah

It's over. Two weeks of living in the twilight zone where day is night and night is day, of sleeping in the afternoon so that you could be up at 7p EST to watch a match starting at 11a Melbourne time. The winners have received their trophies and had their photo ops and the tennis world has already begun it's countdown to the French Open.
There will be thousands of words posted about the meaning of what happened in Melbourne, and I'm adding to the cyber clutter by adding my two cents to the pot.

Let's start with what did happen.

Both tours have spent tons of money trying to grow the sport of tennis in Asia. The calendars of both tours have been adjusted to allow for major tournaments to take place in China, Japan and Indonesia. I suspect that Li Na winning the major warm up event in Sydney and making the Final of a Grand Slam has done more to grow the sport than anything the tours have done so far. Li has always been a thorn in the side of the Chinese Federation fighting them for the right of players to retain most if not all of their winnings. Her comments about the offer of the head of the Federation to buy her dinner have to be seen in that context.

Fact of the matter is Li Na should not have won Sydney or made the Australian Open Women's Final. After all her coach, Thomas Hogstedt, ditched her just before she began her Australian quest to join the team of Russia's Maria Sharapova, something she found out about on line and that was confirmed by Hogstedt via e-mail. I'm sure she and her husband are thinking about who had the last laugh as Sharapova had a dismal showing in Australia.
Not only did she make history with her racquet the tennis public was introduced to a woman who speaks passable English, has a wicked sense of humor, and shared with us that her husband snores so badly she wakes up every hour. I think women all over the world know how that is.
And it wasn't only Li. We got to hear a lot from Vera Zvonareva who came into the tournament ranked #2 in the world. And what must the thinking have been in the upper echelons of the WTA when the best match of the tournament was between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone? What were they thinking when their number one, in a match that lasted over two and a half hours only made ten winners and had to wait for her opponent, who she was spotting ten years, hit the wall after having played a four hour and forty four minute match the day before?

The ATP had different questions answered. When the world number one lost his match in the quarter final round due to injury there was hope that the sentimental favorite would win the Tournament. Instead Roger Federer lost to a focused and determined Novak Djokovic. It takes a lot out of you to defeat even an injured Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer succumbed to Andy Murray setting up the first Grand Slam final in a long time that did not feature Rafa or Roger. Would the quality of tennis live up to the standard those two men had set or would it be a yawner?
I have to admit I fell sound asleep during the first set so I can't say much about the tennis played. I did manage to distract myself enough to see both the second and the third set where Murray seemed to have no strategy other than to keep hitting his returns right at Djokovic. It's true, Li Na did that from the middle of the second set on but she had an excuse. She had played a lot of tennis coming into her final. Clijsters also played the week before. But Na had the expectations of her country on her shoulders and once she became tired she became distracted and that was all she wrote.
Murray has the weight of Britain's 75 year Slam drought on his back but I still don't understand why the man who defeated Ferrer with aggressive play went ass up against Djokovic. I really didn't care who won, I just wanted to see a good match. Instead I saw one man playing to win while the other was doing his best Caroline Wozniacki imitation and waiting for errors that were not coming.
The win gave Djokovic his second Australian Open and all I can say is that he was playing the best tennis in the second week.
Will he be able to win elsewhere? The American Spring hard court swing starts soon and there will be a lot of interest in how he performs at Indian Wells and Miami.
As for Murray maybe the lessening of pressure will be a boon for him. There are some people talking about Wimbledon but if he couldn't even rouse himself to be competitive in a Final tailor made for him what will he do when the draw may not do him any favors?
As for rankings the top three in the ATP stay the same for now. It should be noted that Federer has 7,965 points and that Djokovic has 7,880 points

For the WTA Wozniacki remains the computer ranked number 1 with 8,655 points. The new #2 Kim Clijsters has 8,515 points. She is followed by #3 Vera Zvonareva with 7,405 points. Francesca Schiavone with 5,055 points and Samantha Stosur with 4,862 points round out the top five.
It should be mentioned that the computer ranked #1 doubles pair of Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko fought hard and won their first Grand Slam title.
Unfortunately there was only one bright spot for American tennis. Bob and Mike Bryan won the doubles crown. None of the highly touted men or women, let alone boys or girls, went deep in their respective draws.
Their accomplishments deserve high praise since they've been the only consistent Americans on either tour for a long time now. It still stank of desperation though when all of a sudden, after being after thoughts, they're being put on a pedestal by the American tennis establishment.
As with any Grand Slam there is the usual crap that goes on that makes you ask your self if they're kidding or not.
There are three incidents from the WTA that fall into, as Tina Fey would say, the Whuck Files.
It was obvious that Justine Henin had something wrong with her arm when she couldn't exercise whatever shot it was Carlos Rodriguez told her to hit. She kept shaking her arm as if it were numb, and she had a tape around the meaty part of the arm just before you hit the elbow going up from the wrist. Some found it odd that she would announce her retirement in the middle of the tournament. I didn't. It's what I expect from her and why I could never become a fan of hers. She could've waited until the tournament was over to make her announcement instead of trying to steal the thunder of the women who had moved on in the tournament. Then again she's never been a class act. Ask Amelie Mauresmo.
The second and third both involve Caroline Wozniacki. I'm not even going to get into Kangaroo-gate. That supposedly seasoned reporters accepted her story without fact checking speaks volumes about the tennis media. What really galled me was her fake injury time out during her match against Francesca Schiavone. I mean she's playing a woman who went almost five hours the day before against a determined opponent and who came out with one of her thighs heavily bandaged and SHE's the one who takes an injury time out and comes back with an almost identical wrap on her thigh? Granted it still would've been a miracle for Fran to win the match since it came hard on her win from the night before but that stoppage couldn't have helped matters. Then, to add insult to injury Wozniacki ripped the tape off and proceeded to play unencumbered. During her post match interview with Pam Shriver she was going on and on about how she played the match and Pam had to remind her that she was supposed to have been injured.
Then there was the Tweet she made just as the historic women's final began alerting the world that she and her family were at dinner or some such bullshit. I mean really Caroline? To their credit most of the tennis family on Twitter ignored her tweet although someone did mention the inappropriateness of it.
I don't think that there'll be a rush for Kim Clijster's Fila kit. I know it was meant as a tribute to Evonne Goolagong Cawley but the sweat patterns that emerged during the Final made her a trending topic on Twitter. Kim has also said that this year will be her last full year on tour thus prompting the echo chamber about how many more slams she'll win. The woman has won one Slam outside of the United States and already she's being touted as the next Queen of the Courts.
There was also a big hullabaloo over some Tweets made by Oracene Price that put Clijsters down. I've learned in my old age that when people say things like that there is something to it. The tennis media was in a tizzy about the comments though. They should've been looking out for those marauding marsupials that were attacking Danish female tennis players.


TennisX reports the following rumor re Venus Williams injury in the Australian Open:
Rumor overhear(d) in Melbourne — Venus William’s injury at the Australian Open was the result of not recovering enough after having a secret hip surgery late last year?…

The newly minted South African ATP tournament didn't attract the top of the heap this year. The organizers cite their inability to pay the appearance fees demanded by the big boys as part of the problem.

The South American clay court swing gets underway later today in Chile. Injured Fernando Gonzalez will not play. David Nalbandian is the top seed.

Goran Ivanisevic will play doubles with Marin Cilic in Zagreb. Goran says his leg hurts but he's going to give it his best.

The women will be playing Fed Cup this weekend. Due to Henin's retirement junior An-Sophie Mestach will join the Belgian team.


TennisAce said...

Nice write up Savannah. However, in relation to Henin from where I am sitting she had no nice way of leaving the sport. If she announced it during the tournament she is taking away from what is happening. If she had announced it afterwards, she would have been taking away the limelight from Clijsters. Belgium is slated to play Fed Cup. There are some who say that she could have withdrawn and cited injury as a reason for not playing Fed Cup, but then soon afterwards she would have had to announce her retirement and again the word would be that she could not stomach Clijsters' successful comeback while hers was going nowhere.

She was in a position of damned if she did and damned if she did not. I for one will miss her game. I have always liked watching her play, at least through the v.1. The v.2 I could do without. Too much desperation in those strokes.

Best match I saw her play in her comeback was against Stosur in Stuttgart last year. Glorious tennis from her especially in the final set.

IMV she should never have come back. Her game is too technical and requires too much effort to just up and come back from retirement.

Venus and hip replacement? I saw Venus in November last year and she was moving fine and looking good. Did not seem as if she had surgery or anything of the kind.

Moose said...

OVerall a great read - but I'm surprised that you call out Caro over her tweeting, meanwhile giving Oracene a vastly undeserved pass. No problem with her rooting for Li, and if she has a reason to call Kim "dubious", I'll raise an eyebrow, yet leave it alone. But the "Madusah" (ah, it's "Medusa", Oracene, btw) comment was not only uncalled for, it is inexcusable coming from a woman who I am sure has cringed over less than complimentary things said about her daughters over the years.

I was left very disappointed in her. I've always considered Oracene a first class operator in all regards. She's less than that in my eyes today.

Christian said...

I think the fact that Oracene Price is a first class operator leads Savannah to surmise that something must be afoot. Otherwise, she never would have made the comments. That behavior, for her, is out of the ordinary.

Caroline, on the other hand, is a young girl, given too much too soon, seemingly undeservedly. I think tennis fans are frustrated by her past lack of respect for the game (i.e. not caring whether she wins a slam or not), as well as her other antics Down Under.