Friday, January 21, 2011

What A Day: 2011 Australian Open Day 5

by Savannah

For the first time in her career Venus Williams retired from a match. Some six minutes into the first set against Andrea Petkovic Venus said "no mas" and left the court. Her injury, diagnosed as a hip flexor, would've stopped lesser beings from even trying to play. The good I get from this is that for once Venus is listening to her body and will take the time needed for her hip to heal. This means she may be able to play later in the year. I'm sure she will want to play Wimbledon but if she's not able to I hope she doesn't. Venus you have nothing left to prove on a tennis court and there is no need to torture yourself at this stage of your career.
As for the low life's who booed when you retired they're nothing. Unfortunately I'm not surprised by their behavior. Australia is not a friendly place for people of color anyway so if they don't appreciate your valor so be it. I bet if Kim Clijsters had done the same thing they'd be cheering her effort at the top of their lungs.

When Pro's Comment and Analyze

It's a wonderful thing when professional athletes, in this case professional tennis players, are allowed to talk about the game they're watching without reading from a prepared script. Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova had a conversation about women's tennis last night and outsiders were allowed to listen. I still don't know who the man was in the booth with Martina but after awhile he knew he needed to sit down and STFU. He limited himself to reporting the score, which was fine.

After years of listening to babble about Justine Henin and her powerful game it took a few simple words from Martina regarding her approach to shot making and why it throws opponents off to make me appreciate what she does on court. I'm not about to become a fan of hers but at least I saw what all the hype is about. Lindsay and Martina also gave us a Carlos Rodriguez moment showing him coaching from the stands. It was ironic that the camera showed him giving advice and that Justine didn't execute what he wanted her to.

The same two did the same thing during Caroline Wozniacki's match against Dominika Cibulkova who had beaten Caroline last week in Sydney. The comment that defined what Wozniacki does on court was made by Navratilova and I'm paraphrasing. "You have to play to win not play not to lose". She went on to point out that when Wozniacki plays the big girls, players who are not going to beat themselves she doesn't win because she basically just keeps the ball in play and isn't aggressive enough to hit winners on her own.

Don't get me wrong Martina Navratilova can be the biggest bitch on the block and has said some things that have caused me not to be a fan but listening to her talking with Lindsay and vice versa was a pleasure tennis heads should indulge in more than once.

Tricks of the Trade

Robin Haase tried. I mean he really tried. During the first set of his match against Andy Roddick Haase appeared to injure his foot so badly some thought he had retired from the match due to injury. Some were wrong. Haase got up from his chair and ran around like the energizer bunny winning the first set over Roddick who had to be stunned at his resurrection. At one point Roddick was so frustrated he aimed a shot right at Haase's head. Things calmed down though and Roddick won the next three sets.

Meanwhile in an all Serbian battle Viktor Troicki came down with an unknown ailment that was later called a stomach pull and retired from his match against Novak Djokovic. Troicki hasn't lived up to his Davis Cup heroics over a physically spent Michael Llodra. Djokovic was not going to lose that match. End of story.

Then there was the dead spot on Hisense Arena. Hisense has become, at least during this Australian Open, what the former Court 2 at Wimbledon was. Last evening in Melbourne it got even weirder. At some point during the warm up for Maria Sharapova's match against Julia Goerges a spot was discovered where the ball wouldn't bounce. The chair ump tried it and the bizarre sight of a ball sticking like glue to the court occurred. After determining there was an air bubble under the court a drill was used to let the air out. The ball bounced and all was fine. After Aggie Radwanska's racquet top being shorn off by a Kimiko Date Krumm return I didn't think there was anymore weird in this tournament. When during his post match interview on ESPN2 Andy Roddick was shown the scene and told that his former coach Brad Gilbert had suggested the solution Roddick turned to Gilbert and said "You can't fix breakfast but you can do this?"

How To Seduce the Press
If you follow some of the big tennis writers on Twitter you know who called Caroline Wozniacki's pressers boring so I don't need to name names here. I guess the man involved didn't realize that this is the internet age where any and everything goes viral. A Danish news outlet printed the writer's comments and needless to say Clan Wozniacki found out about them. Wozniacki entered her post match presser by commenting on the "boring" thing saying that if you get asked the same questions over and over there are only so many ways to answer them before you start repeating yourself. She then answered all or most of the questions she gets asked all the time much to the amusement of those present. I wasn't there so I don't know how the experienced press corps members took it. The online press seems to have lapped it up and are falling all over themselves to declare Ms Wozniacki brilliant. It was cute, but pulling a stunt like that won't make the questions go away. If anyone other than Wozniacki had tried that I don't think the press would be swooning.
Staying with Wozniacki this man has caused some of her fans to flip out. Who is he? He's a famous International poker player named Gus Hansen. He's Danish. He's 37 years old. He is known to love to bet on sports (something that is legal in Europe). He is going to be featured in a show on Tennis Channel that deals with celebrity tennis players. He has also been reported to be Caroline Wozniacki's boyfriend. Reports are that Fred Stolle and Hungarian sources have said he is Caroline's boyfriend. Todd Woodbridge mentioned it during his coverage last night. It's now being said that he's a friend of Caroline's family and that they often socialize together in Monaco, Caroline's official residence. There was also a remark made in passing that he is not allowed to sit in the Wozniacki family box at this time. A lot of fan reaction has been "He's too old for her". I don't really care about all that. What I do care about is why the Wozniacki family would have a close friendship with a professional gambler. I still remember Piotr's instructions to his daughter during that match last year IIRC when he basically told her to throw the match thus making bettors who understood what he said millions. I can just imagine the uproar if either Venus or Serena Williams kept company of any kind with a professional gambler.

If you think I've got gambling on the brain here's a story that will make you shake your head in wonder. During his post match presser Roger Federer, President of the ATP Player Council, was told of an investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit involving a match last year between Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia and Filippo Volandri of Italy in St. Petersburg, Russia. The match is said to have been deemed suspicious. According to the report by Richard Evans of Fox News the story broke yesterday morning on the website of Italian journalist Ubaldo Scanagatta. I'm sure many of you will remember that several Italian players, including Volandri were cited for placing small bets among themselves and suspended. Evan's reports that the biggest threat seems to come from betting syndicates inside Russia. Federer's statement was short, sweet and to the point.

"I do not know whether to get more angry or more disappointed. I think it's just unacceptable when athletes or players try to do things like this or play with the integrity of the sport. It is a just a pity to a game that has given us everything. Why would you want to play with that? You're not only taking a chance for yourself but for so many others to harm the sport. That's why it's disappointing to hear those sort of things."

There is nothing else to say. The ITF is waiting for the TIU to finish it's investigation before beginning one of it's own.

End Notes

Juan Martin del Potro was sent home by Marcos Baghdatis in the third round of the Australian Open.

Marion Bartoli tore a calf muscle and will be out at least six weeks.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is playing himself into shape in Melbourne. His reactions are still a tad slow but he's improving.

So far there hasn't been any fan rioting. Let's keep it that way.


TennisAce said...

Aah Savannah, did you see my post this morning on the End of An Era? I had to write something because man I was in tears this morning. So sad to see what is happening to my ladies. They brought me to this sport and without a doubt when they leave the vacuum will be vast.

Did you hear Pam Shriver trying her best to have Petkovic do her dance last night after advancing through Venus' retirement? Talk about someone who needs to get a clue. I like how Petkovic responded. There is hope for her yet.

On another note, I did listen to the commentary of Lindsay and Martina and found that it was spot on, especially as it relates to Justine's game. I have always loved to watch her play because she is an artiste. Many players will tell you that she brings out the best in them. The same thing goes for Serena as well. They play above a level that many players will never ever get to. For her size, she generates an awful lot of spin on the ball and her variety is a joy to watch. It is in the same way that I love to watch Fed play. Lots of variety and the shotmaking is brilliant. This is why when I watch people like Jankovic, Safina, Sharapova etc I get bored because there is just nothing in their games that makes you want to stay up all night and watch.

However, I do have a problem with how they were deriding Wozniacki's game last night. I have been working on a post called "In Defence of Wozniacki" and as soon as I post it I will provide the link to you. Her record is not as bad as people make it out to be and when shown in context against others one will see that while there is room for improvement, ultimately she will get there.

Craig Hickman said...

Wozniacki is a joke.

Let them fawn all over her.

Hell, she can even win a Slam. This Slam, for all I care.

She'll remain a joke.

Nuff said.

TennisAce said...

Craig, one of the things that I do like about Wozniacki is her mental approach to the game.

I think that at some point she will win a Slam. I think her approach to the sport is very professional and perhaps that is why I am admiring her from afar. The thing is that I did become a fan of Wozniacki long before she became World's NO.1.

She has worked extremely hard and when a player does that I can only lift my hat to them.

Her game does nothing for me really as I think it relies too much on what is happening on the other side of the net, but I think in time that too will change.

Wayne said...

Savannah I have always loved your blog where do you get off posting such crap as Australia doesn't like people of colour? Have you ever stepped foot in this country? Are you a mind reader who knows what 22 million Australian's are thinking at all times? It is such an easy thing to cite racism because it makes you feel better about your girl pulling out. It was posted on Twitter before the match Venus was not at 100% but her coach could not stop her from playing. She should never have stepped foot on Rod Laver last night and that is what people are pissed off about. They payed a lot of money to watch a match and when she walked out they expected one. I have heard the New York crowd boo when similar things have happened in the past so don't be throwing out the race card on this.

As for your claim we would cheer if Kim Clijsters pulled a stunt like this you have no idea what you are talking about. Sharapova played her 3rd round match and the whole crowd was giving her crap over her grunt and continually imitating her between points. I guess we have a thing about Russian players as well. Get your facts right before slamming an entire country you know nothing about. Let's hope you have you will actually approve this for posting.

Savannah said...

Wayne you can't tell me that if Kim Clijsters injured herself and came back to win the match and then tried to play her next match the crowd wouldn't have been on it's feet cheering what she was trying to do. The crowd response was tepid at best when Venus came back on court and I don't even have to get into the booing.

Stick around though. I have said in the past and will say in the future that the courtside crowd at the US Open is full of people ignorant of the sport and hostile at best to both Serena and Venus. I've lived in the States all my life so I guess I should only talk about the racism here huh?

BTW if you check any of the fan sites the reaction of the Australian crowd has been attacked harder than I've done here.