Monday, February 21, 2011

The Winners Circle

by Savannah

The Memphis mens singles final between twenty year old Milos Raonic of Canada and twenty eight year old Andy Roddick of the United States did not need to be hyped. A battle between the man who has made the serve the basis of his career and the young upstart who has a booming serve and good court movement should be a classic. For once the anticipation and the hype proved to be right.

Don't get me wrong; it didn't start out that way. Both men focused on their serves and to say it was dull is putting it mildly. I don't think there was even one rally in the first set. With neither man able to break the others serve a tiebreak was played to choose the first set winner. That is when things started to get interesting.
Roddick, no matter how you feel about his game, is an experienced player and he won the first set 7-6(7) over Raonic who appeared mentally and physically fried. As the saying goes looks are deceiving.

The second set featured a little more nuance and there were some rallies but once again a tiebreak was needed. This tiebreak was what got people "all up in this match" as Craig Tweeted. The serve dominated but it was obvious young Raonic was not going without a fight. As the tiebreak wore on I thought we'd end up with a 20-18 score. It ended up 7-6(11) in Raonic's favor and it appeared that just like he had all week Raonic would pull out a three set victory. Andy Roddick, however, was not having it. The third set ebbs and flows were epic and featured flashes of Raonic's reputedly epic temper. He and his coach had a major blowout in Johannesburg and Raonic has stated publicly that he's working on keeping his temper in check. The thing is, and I'm speaking as someone with a very bad temper, you can't let it even think it's got a chance to take over. all reasoning and focus goes out the window. That is what happened in the third set to Raonic. Still he got within 5-6 of Roddick and it looked as if there would be a third tiebreak to decide the match.

But the old warrior, the man who briefly slipped out of the top ten for the first time in years last year had other ideas. Showing that he still has it Roddick pulled out all the stops fighting off all challenges by the young man across the net. When it was all on the line Andy launched himself toward a ball that looked to be on it's way out and that he couldn't have really seen. Miraculously the ball landed in, Raonic couldn't return it and Andy Roddick, stunned at what he'd just done, was the Memphis champion.
Midway through the third set I started pulling for Andy. I thought about his Wimbledon loss and figured that if he lost to this kid his confidence would take a blow he might never recover from. I'm not a fan of his game, the last time I saw him live at the US Open was against Fabrice Santoro and to say that was not a tennis match is putting it mildly. Serve, serve, serve is not tennis in my opinion and it's worse in person BUT men's tennis needs veterans like Roddick. He needs to be there, in the top ten, holding his own. We can debate if he has another Slam in him or if the changes he's made will keep him among the sport's elite till the cows come home. Andy didn't win with his new tennis yesterday. He won with his old style and for one day, in a memorable match up between old and new, old and wise won the day.

First there was the comment Caroline Wozniacki made that she "gave" Kim Clijsters a week at Number One. Now there's this one given during her post match interview today in Dubai.

Q. Do you think it’s unfair when people criticize you or when people talk your game and they say, She gets lots of balls back, but she hasn’t got a big weapon? You’ve got to No. 1 in the world. Do you think that’s unfair when you hear people say that?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Um, well, if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think there’re (sic) not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.

I think Caroline needs to slow her roll. Svetlana Kuznetsova played like she'd never seen a tennis court before. Inexplicably she kept hitting to Wozniacki's strength instead of maximizing hers. Whenever she did step onto the court and use her forehand she won the points. I've sat through miserable finals before but what got me upset was that Sveta was simply playing dumb tennis. I made it through half of the second set before switching to HGTV to watch dreamboat Scott McGilivray redesign someone's income property. That is a first for me. If I didn't know that Sveta can play better, if I didn't know she could think and strategize better I wouldn't have been so pissed off. The thing is Wozniacki's sense of entitlement will only grow because absent Serena Williams, Venus Williams and while I hate to say it Justine Henin there is absolutely no one who plays the type of game that throws Wozniacki off especially in her age group.
What the WTA has managed to do with it's ranking system is make the Grand Slams irrelevant in women's tennis. As long as you can play every week and make at least the semi finals you can be #1. This is why the women's game, and ranking system, is a joke.
As for Kim Clijsters I've said it before and I will keep saying it. She is nothing more than an older version of Wozniacki. She came back during a time when the best players of her generation are in the twilight of their careers and her big competition is a younger version of herself. Who says there's no luck in sports?
Robin Soderling has been on a tear. He won his third winter indoor title at Marseille.
Magdalena Rybarikova won the women's title at Memphis after highly touted Canadian Rebecca Marino was forced to retire due to injury.
Nicolas Almagro won his second title in a row defeating Juan Ignacio Chela at Buenos Aires.
Lourdes Dominguez Lino took the title in Bogota.
Liezel Huber and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez won the doubles crown at Dubai.
Edina Gallovits-Hall and Anabel Medina Garrigues are the doubles champions of Bogota.

In other doubles news the team of Robin Haase and Ken Skupski defeated the French team of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julien Benneteau at Marseilles.

Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor won the mens doubles at Memphis while the team of Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva won the women's title.

ATP Issues Security Warning for Acapulco

The Acapulco tournament, a combined ATP/WTA event has always been a favorite of mine. There is something about the heat, the late night matches on red clay, and the quality of the tennis that just makes me very happy. Despite that I was worried that the tournament might be cancelled when David Nalbandian made it clear that he was afraid to come to Acapulco because of security concerns. At first I thought it was just Nalby's way of getting out of a tournament he wasn't prepared for but two things happened. Reports of another massacre taking place inside the resort area brought me up short. The second was the ATP issuing a security warning to players.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -The ATP has warned players about security concerns at its tournament in Acapulco, Mexico, and has been reassured by Mexican officials that steps are being taken to ensure safety at the largest tournament in Latin America.

The Mexican Open begins Monday as a combined ATP and WTA event.

The Pacific resort city has been hit by a wave of drug violence in Mexico, although little of the violence happens in tourist areas.

In January, the bodies of 14 men with their heads chopped off were found outside a shopping center. A 15th body with its head intact was also found nearby.

The ATP, in a statement sent to The Associated Press, said it had received assurances from all levels of the Mexican government.

"Following an independent security assessment and discussions with tournament organizers, we are satisfied that responsible measures are being taken, and that the event has the full support of the authorities of Acapulco, the state of Guerrero, and the Mexican federal government," the statement said.

Players have received e-mails from the ATP about the situation, cautioning them about going out and suggesting they stay near their hotel. It's also been suggested they arrive as late as possible and leave once eliminated.

Tournament organizers have played down the security concerns, pointing out that the International Olympic Committee and President Jacques Rogge held their executive board meeting in the coastal resort in October.

David Nalbandian said Saturday that he was thinking about withdrawing since he already has a groin injury and could use the rest before Argentina's Davis Cup match against Romania March 4-6.

"It's a great and enjoyable tournament to play," said Nalbandian, who was beaten on Saturday by Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals of the Copa Claro in Buenos Aires.

"But for right now it's a little more difficult because of the security situation. We (players) are a bit scared about this and we're trying to decide what to do."

Defending men's champion David Ferrer has stated he's not afraid and was in the resort town for a few days prior to the start of the tournament.

I'm not aware of the WTA issuing a warning to it's players.


Fred66 said...

Savannah, I don't agree that the ranking system has made the Grand Slams irrelevant. Serena managed to hang on in the Top 5 in spite of not having played for 6 months because of the points she'd earned winning 2 slams. That hardly irrelevant. And when it comes to Wozniacki; if she managed to get to no.1 playing an amped-up junior's game, it's an indictment of her fellow players really, not of herself. You can't blame the girl for seizing the opportunities that are being handed to her, by the likes of Kuznetsova. That Dubai final was a disgrace; I couldn't bring myself to finish watching it. And I'm afraid this is what we'll be seeing for the next few years; headcases and hacks playing right into Sunshine's strenghts.
To finish, I'd like to share a saying we have in my country with you: IN THE LAND OF THE BLIND THE ONE-EYED MAN IS KING. That pretty much explains Sunshine's rise to no. 1.

Savannah said...

Fred66 I totally agree with your closing remarks. Now that Serena has pulled out of that exhibition in Portland Oregon and Venus is still injured I'm afraid that we're seeing the post Williams WTA. It ain't pretty.

BTW we use that expression too. :)

Savannah said...

I also think that the current ranking system, if it stays in place after more of the previous generation retires, will make Grand Slams irrelevant. The Headcases and Hacks will be fighting over the non Slam events and it remains to be seen who will have the mental strength to win the seven matches needed to win a Slam.

Clijsters says 2011 will be her last year on the tour. She's shown she can win Slams. Who will take her place since none of the present crop seems to have the strength of body and mind to do so.