Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
“I am always surprised to see professional players searching for former professional players in order to solve issues that are linked to coaching. When Lendl was facing up to his four failures in Grand Slam finals, he called Tony Roche and their collaboration changed his career. Therefore learning from the Lendl situation does not mean Murray should call Lendl - but rather someone like Roche himself. The man is the most successful coach in the world, with 14 Grand Slams achieved with three different players.” --
Patrick Moratoglou, in this Yahoo piece.
“For a few balls, for the higher balls, you can hit the ball, you know, with a little bit more flat because the racquet goes faster into the ball. The racquet goes quicker.” --
Rafael Nadal on his racquet, which is three grams heavier, with the weight added to the head.
“I give information for you to write newspapers. But at the end of the day I look like I am the one who always talk about things that must change, and I don’t win nothing on that. I just lose time, energy, and the people can think that he’s always the one who says the bad things, the negative things."
“I didn't say that I lost motivation to play tennis. I say that I played a few matches at the end of last year with less passion than usual - not saying that I am not any more motivated to play tennis.” -- on his perceived lack of passion for the game.
“I try not to bore people with silly things like match results. Because, really — who cares about them?”
-- Laura Robson, as quoted in a New York Times Straight Sets piece.
"Isn't that the Petko dance?" -- Corina Morariu, responding to close-up camera footage of a prehistoric-looking bug that was on the court in Sydney between points of the Na Li Victoria Azarenka final.
“I think Ivan can help him understand how important body language is. That’s one of the four reasons why Andy hasn’t won yet. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic being the other three.” -- Mats Wilander, in an email to New York Time’s correspondent Chris Clarey.
“Who knows if this will last six months or six years, but I’m confident that at the end of this that Andy is going to come out a better player for the experience.” -- Darren Cahill, quoted in the same piece by Christopher Clarey.
"Yeah, I know I can beat anybody. I've beaten the best before." -- Aussie fan favorite Marcos Baghdatis, after defeating Juan Martin Del Potro in Sydney.
''I laugh a lot, so I think that has a lot to do with developing those muscles. I don't really do sit-ups too much.'' -- Serena Williams, on her oft-photographed six-pack.
''Margaret has said her feelings and it's public and it has leverage so I think this is the only way the people feel that they can be heard - through a sign of solidarity. As long as it is done tastefully, that's the most important thing for me.'' -- Rennae Stubbs, on the prospect of protestors turning out to rally against Margaret Court’s anti-gay marriage statements.
My Lebanese food from my grandma makes me feel good.'' -- Marcos Baghdatis, on why he feels Australia is so good to him.
“After that I went home, procrastinated on the packing for the earlier than expected trip to Melbourne, and got some rest. I awoke to all the media coverage of the loss and I can assure you it looked more dramatic than it was.”
-- Samantha Stosur, in her own words, as published in this piece.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Yesterday on The Deuce Court, we looked at some of the most mouth watering men's first round matchups. Today, we'll flip the dial and look at what's happening on the women's side in the first round.
Click here for the day 1 Australian Open Order of Play
1. Lucie Safarova vs. Christina McHale: American tennis fans might be surprised to know that the 19-year-old New Jersey-ite is ranked 2nd to only Serena Williams when it comes to American Women. McHale scored many convincing wins last year, Caroline Wozniacki, Marion Bartoli and Svetlana Kuznetsova among them) and while she may be 18 spots behind Safarova in the rankings, she is not a heavy underdog in this match by any means.
2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Heather Watson: Watson, one of two young Brits that experts are high on (Laura Robson being the other) faces a heavy challenge in Victoria Azarenka in the first round. Azarenka, seeded No. 3 and fresh of the Sydney title, is a clear contender for the title, and many feel that this could be the year she finally takes the final step in her maturation. Watson, meanwhile, proved that she enjoys the spotlight when she nearly upset Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open last year. She is now doubt relishing the opportunity to take a shot at another well-established player.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands: This should be an interesting study in contrast, with the crafty, agile and wonderfully cerebral Radwanska pitted against the brash go-for-brokeness that is Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
4. Serena Williams vs. Tamira Paszek: They each reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year before falling out, but beyond that, the comparisons between the 13-time Grand Slam singles winner Williams and Paszek, who is currently ranked No. 45 in the world, end. Most will be watching this match to see how much Serena Williams is hindered or not hindered by her recently-injured ankle, and if it ends up being competitive, that will be gravy for the paying customers.
5. Madison Keys vs. Zheng Jie: A resurgent Jie, a year removed from wrist surgery, appears to have regained her singles mojo. The diminutive Chinese took her first title in five years in Brisbane, and she promises to be a big challenge in a small package for the very young, very raw, yet very promising 16-year-old American.
6. Samantha Stosur vs. Sorana Cirstea: Stosur has fallen into a bit of a post-glory slumber, winning only one of her first three matches of 2012. She will play her first Grand Slam tennis since defeating Serena Williams in last year's US Open final, and her opponent, long-noted for her promise, will no doubt feel inspired to keep Stosur on the snooze. Cirstea, a former French Open quarterfinalist and a former No. 23 in the world, comes to Melbourne in good form, having nearly made the semis in Hobart.
7. Maria Sharapova vs. Gisela Dulko: Maria has not been in action since she gruesomely sprained her ankle at the WTA Championships in Turkey. It was yet another injury-related setback for the valiant Russian, who has never lost her belief, or her incredible will to win, during her well-documented return to the top of the sport. But Dulko will present a daunting challenge for Sharapova, especially since Sharapova is likely to be shaking off rust in the early going, and may or not be experiencing some mobility issues.
8. Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. Eleni Daniilidou: Hey, anytime you get to watch a 41-year-old woman compete for the second round of a Grand Slam, that's must-see tennis. End of story.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Monday, January 9, 2012
Just like the Australian summer, the tennis is heating up down under. But not all tennis players are created equal, and the first week of 2012 gave incontrovertible proof of that very fact. Some, like Milos Raonic, Bernard Tomic and Andy Murray were fast out of the gate, while others, like Samantha Stosur, Stan Wawrinka and even Rafael Nadal, have yet to find their A games.
Here's a look at who wowed and who was cowed.
Like: Andy Murray
What's not to like about starting the season with a title? Well, okay, since you asked, I'll tell you. Murray won 47% percent of his second serve points last week in Brisbane, which puts him at 66th-best on tour after one week of work. That said, Murray banged down some aces and generally did more damage with his serve than usual, and he won 89% of his service games, which is considerably higher than last year. I've said time and time again that the single missing ingredient in Andy Murray's game is the ability to hold serve like the other members of the big four. Everybody talks about Ivan Lendl being the missing ingredient, and he very well may be, but not if he doesn't place a heavy emphasis on getting his new charge to hold serve more often.
Like: Kaia Kanepi
Wow. I'm speechless. And apparently I'm not the only one, because I read a lot of buzz about Kanepi's game throughout the week. It's probably a little too early to anoint her as a legitimate Grand Slam threat, but with her sterling performance in Brisbane, the former No. 16 and three-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist is clearly setting the table for a banner year. She breezed through her final four matches, taking out top flight competition (Pavlyuchenkova, Petkovic, Schiavone, and Hantuchova) and playing a brand of aggressive first-strike tennis that was, in a nutshell, awe-inspiring.
Like: Bernard Tomic
Yes, he met his match in the Brisbane semis, but take a look at the highlights if you want to know just how unique of a talent Bernard Tomic is. Keep in mind, he was outside the top 200 this time last year, so to have world beater Andy Murray on a string for much of the first set in an ATP semifinal is an achievement to be sure. At No. 37 he won't be seeded this year in Melbourne, but with the right draw, I think another appearance in the second week of a Slam is very, very possible.
Like: Milos Raonic
I should say love. The missile shoots up to No. 25 in the ATP rankings after taking the Chennai title, and he'll be a serious contender to go deep in the Melbourne draw now that he is healthy. And get a load of these stats for the banner week: Aces: 77 Percent of service games won: 100 Percent of break points won: 100 (14 of 14).
Raonic's return is still flawed, but I believe that the big Canadian has a better chance than that other North American monster server, John Isner, at actually making strides on the return game. Raonic is a top 10 player relatively soon regardless, but if he finds a way to win, say 17% of his return games and stay healthy, I don't see why he can't disrupt the big four stranglehold, win a few Slams and challenge for the No. 1 ranking.
Like: Zheng Jie
She's healthy again, after a 2011 that was spent recovering from wrist surgery (ask Juan Martin del Potro if that's easy), and she nabbed her first title since 2006 by beating Flavia Pennetta in the final.
Like: Petra Kvitova and Na Li
Both former Grand Slam winners were strong in Hopman Cup singles play last week. Kvitova served up a statement win over Caroline Wozniacki, then ousted Marion Bartoli in the final. Li was also unbeaten. Prospects for each heading into Sydney and Melbourne look very good.
Like: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Nice start to 2012 for Jo-Willy. He notched his 8th career title in Doha, and took his career record to 3-1 vs. his good buddy Gael Monfils.
It was a tough week for Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Alexandr Dolgopolov, and Roger Federer. All experienced different injuries, and all will have to tread very carefully with less than a week remaining before the Australian Open gets underway. There are also a host of pre-existing injuries, like Maria Sharapova's ankle, Rafael Nadal's shoulder and Novak Djokovic's general state of fatigue to worry about too. The good news? Each is currently very hopeful of recovering in time to be close to 100 percent fitness in Melbourne. The bad news. I can just feel more bad news coming, so I'm staying prepared.
Dislike: Samantha Stosur
I'm not sure why, but whoever has won the last Grand Slam on the women's side is basically destined to fall on her face in the next Slam. And maybe the Slam after that. Stosur appears to be no exception, and she'll limp into Melbourne with one win in three matches in two tournaments this year. Can she break the trend? I'm not feeling it, but I hope she proves me wrong. She's dying to play her best tennis in front of her home crowd, but she'll need to right the ship fast.
Dislike: Agnieszka Radwanska
Why does Aga always have to give her kid sister such a beat-down when they play?
Speaking of likes: Feel free to like me on Facebook if you are so inclined.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
Each Friday at The Fan Child's Two Cents, we will tap the archives and take a look back at a classic tennis memory.
Marat Safin and Pete Sampras met four times in Grand Slams, and, strangely, this nail biter in the 4th round of the 2002 Australian Open was the only meeting that went beyond three sets. With Sampras 30 years of age and Safin still 21 at the time (he would turn 22 5 days later), many have wondered what the matchup might have been like had the two reached their prime at the same time in their careers.
Speculation aside, even though these two titans of tennis were more than 8 years apart in age, their meetings did make for some compelling, even ethereal tennis, and the above clip of their third and fourth set tiebreakers provides concrete evidence of that.
Actually, there's enough tennis gusto in the first point of the third set tiebreaker to make a lot of complete matches look, well, wimpy. Athleticism is one thing, and both Sampras and Safin are clearly gifted in that regard, but what impresses me most about seeing these two battle it out head-to-head is the sheer manliness of the tennis. The word formidable comes to mind, and it can be equally applied to both players. Both are dauntingly tall with broad shoulders, and each generates a massive serve and huge groundstrokes from their frames. Furthermore, each employed an aggressive style that suited their assets. This was manly tennis played by manly men, and its visceral appeal -- the sheer intimidating aggressive nature of each -- was awe inspiring and attractive.
What is intriguing about this particular match is that Sampras, after being boxed around by Safin for the first two sets, is clearly digging as deep as he possibly can to try and stage a comeback. Sampras would play (and win) his final Grand Slam only nine months later, and while he'd clearly lost his superhuman-ness at this stage of his career, he hadn't lost that lust for battle that had always partially defined him.
Safin, no doubt bolstered by his straight set victory over Sampras in the 2000 US Open final even after an injury-marred 2001, would prove himself to be up to the task of weathering the Sampras storm on this occasion. The big Russian was able to fight off not one but two set points in the fourth set tiebreaker by hitting blistering backhands down the line that caught Sampras off guard on each.
"He loves that should doesn't he?" said one commentator after the second match point saved.
"Why wouldn't he?" said the other.
Safin would eventually prevail, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6.
But the former world No. 1 and current Russian Parliament member would eventually fail in his attempt to win his first Australian Open title (he fell to Swede Thomas Johansson in the final).
It's a shame that these two greats weren't a few years closer in age, but they still managed to stage a few epic battles nonetheless, and for that, we should be thankful.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
When I posted this piece about who is trending up during the first week of the tennis season, I regretted that I didn't leave space to mention Zheng Jie, who has reached the semifinals of the ASB Classic in Auckland, and will face Svetlana Kuznetsova for a spot in the final.
For the former Wimbledon and Australian Open semifinalist (and former No. 15 in the world), things are clearly moving in the right direction. Dating back to her semifinal appearance in Guangzhou, this is Zheng's third semifinal appearance in her last six events. Zheng, who had wrist surgery prior to 2011, appears to have finally gotten her mojo back.
She celebrated that fact with some hilariously good-natured hip-hopping, aided by a posse of event media staff. The result is sure to be a viral video. Watch out Petko, the WTA might have itself a new it girl.
It's been a tumultuous week of tennis, and today I'm going to try to make sense of some of the madness by attempting to quantify the early achievements that we've witnessed in Brisbane, Perth, Auckland, Doha and Chennai.
In keeping with the spirit of making sense of the madness, I've elected to go with a nice easy bullet format, so, without any further ado...
- Aussie Kim is Emerging as an Australian Open favorite -- There were moments during her straight set victory over Iveta Benesova last night where I became convinced that Clijsters is going to be the best player on the WTA tour through the Olympics this year. She was tattooing the ball early and often last night, from both sides, and it was easy to see that this was not the same Clijster's who didn't even bother limping to the finish line in 2011. A myriad of injuries caused Kim to pretty much throw in the towel before Wimbledon last year, but if last night's version of Aussie Kim is any indication, she's hell bent on starting the year with a bang. She was certainly banging last night, and what impressed me most of all was her movement. Precise footwork and keen fitness will allow Clijsters -- should she manage to stay healthy -- to produce a daunting blend of knock-your-socks-off power and keep-the-point-alive defense that is sure to make her a very scary opponent in Melbourne.
- Dolgopolov Top Ten? -- I don't know if "The Dog" will ever be one of the more consistent players on tour, but man is this guy electric. Of all the guys on tour, is there any player who has a game that resembles a 4th of July fireworks display more closely than Dolgopolov? This guy is exploding bottle rockets all the way. He may not be a fixture in Grand Slam semifinals this year, but if dolgopolov does go deep in a Slam, get your popcorn ready and your DVD set to "record."
- Kaia Kanepi Surging -- A powerful display that featured 12 aces and a whole lot of sizzling forehands left the Estonian among the last four in Brisbane. She's currently ranked No. 34, but reached as high as No. 16 in 2011. Could this be the beginning of another push for her?
- How will Serena's ankle affect her chances in Melbourne? -- I think the ankle will limit Serena's already limited mobility, and that will be a hindrance for her in Melbourne, should she be fit enough to play, for sure. That said, if there is anyone on the women's side who can overcome mobility with a parade of aces and winners it is Serena. Still, I think this will hurt her chances of returning to the Grand Slam winner's circle quite a bit.
- Tsonga at a new level? -- Doesn't it seem like the always brilliant Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has turned a corner of late? He was always pure poetry in motion, but now he seems less prone to the walkabout virus that continues to plague his friend Gael Monfils. I think the Frenchman, with all his firepower and shotmaking prowess, could make a push to enter the top four.
- Li Na has something to prove, and that is a good thing -- The 2011 French Open champion didn't like the way the rest of 2011 went down, and she's apparently out to prove that she can not only regain the form that saw her play two consecutive Grand Slam finals in 2011, she can do better. Li busted her hump in Munich during the off-season, and here's what she had to say about the experience.
“The training lasted four weeks. Like no photo-shooting, no interviews, just only training, very tough, like six hours a day for training. Two or three hours for tennis but most was for fitness because I want to keep healthy and stay for whole season.
“Before I always have knee injury and some back injury so I couldn’t finish whole season and I didn’t want to do that again. I know now I’m not young anymore – I didn’t have time to waste. I have to focus every tournament, every second, so that’s why I stay in Munich for long time just to keep body healthy and strong.”
- Tomic on the up -- the 19-year-old Aussie has made his first quarterfinal on home soil, and he's added a little muscle (3kg) to help him add some power to his already nuanced game. He'll play a winnable match against Denis Istomin for a spot in the semifinals, where either Andy Murray or Marcos Baghdatis will be waiting.
- Different year, same grinders -- How nice is it to see that heart and soul veterans Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova have already made their first semifinals of the year? I know it's far-fetched, but is there anybody out there who wouldn't enjoy seeing these two battlers reprising their friendly rivalry in a Grand Slam final?
- Masha? -- Well, Serena's got ankle issues and so does Maria Sharapova. But Maria's injury, which happened in October, is a bit more concerning. It's been almost three months and if she plays Melbourne, she'll be coming in with zero matches under her belt.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Q. Are you starting to get a bit of rhythm with the new racquet? Are you starting to get the feel of it?
RAFAEL NADAL: I think I did a few things very well today. I hit very good with my backhand. I really believe that the racquet can help me with the backhand.
With the forehand I felt I hit the ball most of the times where I want to hit the ball. Few days ago and yesterday in the practice, you know, when I tried to hit the ball, sometimes I hit it a little bit left, sometimes too early. That’s why I didn’t have totally the control of that, you know, the speed of the racquet, no?
But today when we have rallies, I really felt that I have really positive control of the ball. Not perfect, for sure, but in general I think I felt most of the shots the right way. So that’s really positive.