Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Year in Random Blurbs, Part 2

Victoria Azarenka's 2010 was full of drama -- but she wasn't the only one who had a wild year.

San Francisco --

I'll start the second edition of "The Year in Random Blurbs" by wishing you all the best. Because really, as much as our tennis obsessions get our competitive juices flowing, at the end of the day we are all in the same boat, loving the sport and -- hopefully -- joining in the camaraderie, sportsmanship, and passion that makes tennis our life force.

Today, I'm going to look at some of the things that went wrong this year, not because I want to dwell on negativity (that's not how I roll). Actually it's quite the opposite. I'm interested in the low points of the season, because when we watch players react to adversity, we can really get a feel for who they are. And when they respond bravely, we can get inspired. Just look how Rafa responded to all his physical problems of 2009. Now that's what I call uplifting.

I'd have to agree with Darren Cahill when I consider what makes tennis great. I asked him about the subject in an interview earlier this year, and here is what he said:

Me: What are a few of the most important life lessons tennis taught you?

Darren: It’s a great sport for problem solving. You’ve got so many times when you’re out on the court where it’s one on one, things are not going well, you feel like the loneliest person on the planet, and you have to figure out a way to fix it. I think that you can take that skill through life as well. If you can take the emotions out of what’s happening, and just learn to fix a problem, then you can get a lot more done. And I think tennis is wonderful for that. Because it is one on one and you don’t get any help. Most of what you do on the court you need to prepare for before the match, you need to go out there and execute during the match, and then you need a run-down of how you accomplished that after the match. It really does set you up in planning and problem solving as you go through life, so I think it’s a wonderful sport for that.

So, without any further ado, let's take a look at some of the harrowing moments of the 2010 tennis season. Here's to hoping that each will prove, in his or her own way, that life is not about what happens to you -- it's about how you react to what happens to you.

1. Vika -- Oh, Vika, poor poor Vika. You can be so damn mystical. What is it with you and Gisela Dulko anyway? Oh, forget it. It's no big deal. We know you can play Vika, and play with anyone. But what we don't know is what we're all dying to find out: Can you do it without the drama? Can you do it with maturity, a sense of purpose, and a firm resolve?

One gets the feeling that Azarenka's window on a "great" career is closing. Titles in Stanford (an amazing performance) and Moscow are no fluke. Vika is a bona fide baseline weapons dispenser. But the Slam results were all so heartbreaking, so deflating, and so, well, sad.

Can she rise above her own fragility in 2011? Sure. Will she? I'm curious to know, and rooting for her all the way!

2. Sam Querrey at the French -- I think Sam's lacklustre effort vs. Robby Ginepri was the low point of the season for fans of American Tennis. Sure, American tennis fans are always busy looking for the lowest of the lows -- it's been a well-documented suffering period -- but Querrey's lack of interest, both during and after the loss to Ginepri, was SHOCKING.

To his credit, Querrey was forthright with the press. He was emotional toast at the time, and we all know that the rigors of the ATP schedule has done that to many a man. I just hope he manages his time a little better in 2011, and peaks at the Slams rather than burns out.

3. Odesnik -- This was the ugliest of the ugly. Not only was the news of Odesnik's hgh bust in Australia a bummer for all those who loathe the encroachment of ped's on our belovedly pure game, but the way that everybody reacted was equally ugly.

Note to humans: Let's not burn the guy at the cross until we know what the heck is going on. The unabated level of hatred for Wayne Odesnik was a little over the top in my opinion. Please don't mistake me for a drug sympathizer, for that I am not. That being said, I am not one to jump to conclusions and openly chastise people when I don't know them or all the details of their stories.

4. Justine's Tennis Elbow -- I've done a lot of thinking about the psychology of Justine lately. I'm curious to know how she'll respond to the fact that her comeback has thus far fell far short of Kimpossible's. This much we know: Justine is insanely competitive, and as much as she and Kim are amenable to each other of late (very nice to see, imo), you just know Justine is burning up to prove herself worthy of the BBE claim (Best Belgian Ever).

Can she do it? Can she stay healthy, and can she keep the stress of her own expectations from bringing her down?

5. Masha: We keep expecting Maria Sharapova to do two things -- go deeper in a slam, and return to the top-ten -- and we keep getting surprised when she falls just a smidgen short. One things for certain here. It's not for a lack of effort. Maria's added a fiance and a new coach to her entourage -- perhaps it will make the difference in 2011. Let's not forget that her surgery forced her to pretty much relearn her serve. She did some of her best post-comeback serving in the latter parts of 2010, and better serving should improve her chances of overcome her most glaring weakness: footwork.

6. Grigor Dimitrov -- Ah, you punk. Grigor, you had everything going for you, excellent challenger play, the smooth, svelte ground strokes, the net presence, the all-court abilities, the hell-bent-on-moving-up-the-ladder swagger, but you forgot the main rule of tennis in these softer, gentler times: Don't act like a spoiled little baby. (for those not in the know, see this.)

That being said, we all realize, $%!* happens. Just show some remorse, keep gunning for the top-100, and there will be a crowd of crazed fans ready to root for you when you get there.

7. Gulbis -- Deep breath here. Remember Rome, when it looked like Ernests was going to put the hammer down on Rafa in the Semis just a few days after his monumental upset of then No. 1 Roger Federer? Yeah, who could forget.

As we all know it didn't turn out so well for Gulbis. Not that losing to Rafa in a hotly contested three-setter on clay is reason for anything but pride, but Gulbis' follow-up to his near-miss ended up being a huge dud.

He was on many dark horse lists for the French Open, but Julian Bennetteau zapped him in round 1 (a leg injury played a role, if you're scoring at home). Afterwards, a reversion back to the same maddening inconsistency kept Ernests from making a dent in many draws afterwards. He skipped Wimbledon, and lost in the first round of the U.S. Open against Jeremy Chardy.

Though he finished the year ranked No. 24, the 22-year-old still appears a long way from backing up his astronomical talents with consistent results.

But, as is the case with everybody I've mentioned today, hope springs eternal in 2011. Hard work and commitment can take a player further than he or she ever thought they would climb. Anything is possible, for Gulbis, Azarenka, Sam Querrey, or anyone else for that matter.

Just ask Francesca Schiavone if you're not sure of that.

1 comment:

  1. nice attitude, nice piece. keep 'em coming.


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