Sunday 31 July 2011

Day 4 - Least favourite men’s player

Roger Federer

*Ducks from downpour of rotten tomatoes*
Don't get me wrong here - he's an amazing tennis player. He's the GOAT. He has everything and more.
But he's the one player I'm most likely to root against, no matter who stands on the other side of the net. I tried to change it, I really did. Still, I couldn't root for him even when his win could bring Nole to the #1 ranking (Roland Garros 2011 final against Rafa).
Why? I'm not sure myself. Some combination of the seeming arrogance, annoying nonchalance, the oh-so-perfect... everything, to be honest. I just can't connect with his personality, I guess.

Still haunts me...
(Photos: Getty Images)

Saturday 30 July 2011

Day 3 - Favourite doubles team

Andy Ram & Yoni Erlich

Many-time heroes of the Israeli Davis Cup team, the only Israeli Grand Slam champions (AO 2008), and simply an awesome doubles team. They're playing tonight in the semifinals of the Farmers Classic tournament in Los Angeles, and I really hope they can win and then get the title!

In the meantime, check out the silly video the ATP did with them a few days ago:

(Photos: Getty Images)

Friday 29 July 2011

Day 2 - Favourite women’s player

I wasn't sure at first who I was going to choose today, and based on what - the one whose game I like the most? The one that I'm most likely to stay up late for? The one whose losses upset me the most? I ended up choosing neither of them.

Andrea Petkovic

She has the best personality on both tours, she's funny, engaging, and stays in touch with her fans on every form of social media. And by that I mean that she's answered me twice on twitter already! So she wins, obviously.
And she can play tennis too, once in a while ;)

Honorary mentions: Sabine Lisicki, Shahar Peer, Ana Ivanovic.

(Photos: Getty Images, Andrea Petkovic)

Thursday 28 July 2011

Day 1 - Favourite men’s player

Novak Djokovic

I guess it doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who ever visited my blog. I don't remember the exact time when it happened (around the 2010 US Open, I think), but I do remember what caused me to fall in love with Nole's tennis game. It was this super-bendy-stretching movement that he does so often, whether it's clay (where it's expected), grass or hard courts. I was so impressed by his ability to cover every spot on his side of the court, that I started following more and more of his matches, and... the rest is history. I was lucky enough to get to watch him playing live in the first big tournament I went to - the 2010 World Tour Finals in London, and I've got the autograph to prove it :)

(Photos: Reuters Pictures, Novak Djokovic)

30 Days of Tennis Challenge - starting today

I have a feeling this will be the next viral hit among the tennis online fandom, and I really like the idea. It's very simple - every day there's a different tennis "question" to answer, according to your own taste.
I'm leaving for the U.S. in less than a month, so I hope I'll be able to finish it off there - just before the US Open starts!

You're welcome to post your own answers in the comments section of each day's post.

Thanks to Steph for the heads-up about this!

30 Days of Tennis Challenge
  1. Favourite men’s player
  2. Favourite women’s player
  3. Favourite doubles team
  4. Least favourite men’s player
  5. Least favourite women’s player
  6. Your most memorable match
  7. First player you became a fan of
  8. Earliest tennis memory
  9. Favourite retired men’s player
  10. Favourite retired women’s player
  11. A player that no one would expect you to love
  12. A player that you aren’t a fan of but you respect
  13. Favourite Grand Slam tournament
  14. Favourite Non Grand Slam tournament
  15. Most attractive women’s player
  16. Most attractive men’s player
  17. Favourite women’s tennis outfit
  18. Favourite men’s tennis outfit
  19. Which men’s and women’s player was world no. 1 on the day you were born
  20. Favourite men’s slam champion
  21. Favourite women’s slam champion
  22. Favourite umpire
  23. Favourite mixed doubles team
  24. Favourite tennis couple
  25. Favourite tennis wag
  26. A match that makes you happy
  27. A match that makes you sad
  28. The Grand Slam you would most like to go to
  29. What’s your favourite tennis surface
  30. Post your fave tennis related gif or picture

Double, double toil and trouble

Today I saw for the first time the entry list for the doubles tournament in Roger's Cup (a.k.a. Canada Masters, this year in Montreal). Here it is, as of July 27th:

1 Bryan, Bob (USA)/Bryan, Mike (USA) 2
2 Mirnyi, Max (BLR)/Nestor, Daniel (CAN) 7
3 Bhupathi, Mahesh (IND)/Paes, Leander (IND) 13
4 Llodra, Michael (FRA)/Zimonjic, Nenad (SRB) 13
5 Bopanna, Rohan (IND)/Qureshi, Aisam-Ul-Haq 19
6 Djokovic, Novak (SRB)/Tipsarevic, Janko (SRB) 24
7 Gasquet, Richard (FRA)/Simon, Gilles (FRA) 24
8 Lindstedt, Robert (SWE)/Tecau, Horia (ROU) 25
9 Fyrstenberg, Mariusz (POL)/Matkowski, Marcin (POL) 30
10 Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried (FRA)/Wawrinka, Stanislas (SUI) 33
11 Melzer, Jurgen (AUT)/Petzschner, Philipp (GER) 34
12 Lopez, Marc (ESP)/Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 37
13 Butorac, Eric (USA)/Rojer, Jean-Julien (AHO) 39
14 Murray, Andy (GBR)/Murray, Jamie (GBR) 46
15 Almagro, Nicolas (ESP)/Dlouhy, Lukas (CZE) 53
16 Andujar, Pablo (ESP)/Monfils, Gael (FRA) 54
17 (OS)
18 (OS)
19 (OS)
20 (OS)
21 (OS)
22 (OS)
23 (WC)
24 (WC)

1 Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR)/Youzhny, Mikhail (RUS) 55
2 Hanley, Paul (AUS)/Norman, Dick (BEL) 63
3 Melo, Marcelo (BRA)/Soares, Bruno (BRA) 63
4 Anderson, Kevin (RSA)/Isner, John (USA) 66
5 Knowles, Mark (BAH)/Malisse, Xavier (BEL) 69
6 Cilic, Marin (CRO)/Dodig, Ivan (CRO) 71
7 Lipsky, Scott (USA)/Ram, Rajeev (USA) 79
8 Fognini, Fabio (ITA)/Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) 82
9 Erlich, Jonathan (ISR)/Ram, Andy (ISR) 98
10 Cerretani, James (USA)/Marx, Philipp (GER) 126
11 Bogomolov Jr., Alex (USA)/Ebden, Matthew (AUS) 152
12 Fognini, Fabio (ITA)/Karlovic, Ivo (CRO) 164
13 Cipolla, Flavio (ITA)/Motti, Alessandro (ITA) 241
14 Gong, Mao-Xin (CHN)/Li, Zhe (CHN) 293
15 Poch-Gradin, Carlos (ESP)/Trujillo-Soler, Gabriel (ESP) 457
The rankings seem to suggest that for entrance purposes, the player's best ranking is considered - either singles or doubles. Otherwise, Djokovic (1S, 236D [!!]) and Tipsarevic (23S, 64D) would've never made that list, and surely wouldn't have been ranked above Melzer/Petzschner, who actually play doubles regularly.

Now, this has raised some issues for me, and I actually have mixed thoughts on the subject.

First of all, that's not too fair to the regular doubles players, whose joint ranking isn't high enough to compete with the top singles players. Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Monfils, Almagro, Simon, Gasquet, Tsonga, Wawrinka are all far from doubles most of the time. As soon as the Masters 1000 tournaments start, however, they all rush into net play, for some reason, pushing out the usual doubles teams (Hanley/Norman, Melo/Soares, Lipsky/Ram, Erlich/Ram, to name a few from the alternates list above). The same thing happened during Miami and Indian Wells, where even Federer signed up for doubles (and made the final).

On the other hand, top singles players draw attention when they're playing doubles, attention that's much needed. I've seen people (journalists, mainly?) complain that the courts are empty during doubles play, that the players are unknown, etc. Well, if you increase the coverage (let's say - actually show the matches on TV/stream, for example) you might start attracting crowds. Big names playing definitely helps here too, no doubt.

Then again, the singles players obviously don't give high priority to their doubles matches. Jamie Murray was just complaining about it a week ago:
I'm pretty sure that walkovers in doubles are much more frequent than in singles, and you can see why. Of course, injuries are a factor, too, but a tired singles player will withdraw from doubles whether he has another singles match to play or not. In the aforementioned tournament, Isner actually beat Blake in singles before they withdrew from the doubles.

So, my personal opinion - while I was really happy to watch Djokovic/Murray play [and lose spectacularly] in Miami, and while I'm sure that Murray bros versus Bryan bros might be a hit, at this point I'd rather know for sure that Erlich/Ram will play in Montreal (they still might). But I do see the temptation...

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Congratulations and Commiserations

  • Congratulations to Petra Kvitova for winning Wimbledon, while hitting 222 winners and aces. The video is absolutely hypnotizing.

  • Congratulations to Elena Dementieva, who got married last Saturday! Also, many thanks to Alla Kudryavtseva, who was tweeting live pictures from the event.

  • Congratulations to Juan Carlos Ferrero, who came back on tour after difficult injuries, and won his 16th title in Stuttgart!

  • Commiserations to Fernando Verdasco, who has gone bald, and now looks like Edward Norton in "American History X".

(Photos: WTA & ATP websites)

Monday 11 July 2011

Spanish Davis Cup celebrations

This weekend in the tennis world was dedicated to Davis Cup matches. In the World Group quarterfinals, Argentina dealt ruthlessly with Kazakhstan, 5-0 and France easily beat Germany in Stuttgart, 4-1. Serbia won against Soderling-less Sweden, 4-1, with the new No. 1, Novak Djokovic losing the only rubber he played in - the doubles match.

The most interesting tie was the one held in Austin, Texas - USA vs. Spain. The Americans had the home advantage, the surface advantage (they chose an extra fast court for the tie), the No.1 doubles pair in the world (Bryan brothers) and the advantage of 2 top-10 players who didn't have to face Rafael Nadal.

But Spain had the advantage of having two singles players who could ignore all the opponents' strengths, play their best tennis, and win the tie.

Feliciano Lopez won a long 5-setter against Mardy Fish, 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-7(2) 8-6, clinching the very important first point on Friday. David Ferrer won the second point straight away, winning 3 sets against Andy Roddick, who missed a lot of chances (being up a break in two sets out of three). Then, Marcel Granollers and Fernando Verdasco gave the Bryan brothers a fight, going down 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4 6-4. Actually, scratch that. Marcel Granollers gave the brothers a fight, while Fernando Verdasco missed lots of volleys. And forehands. And... Yeah, whatever.

Finally, Ferrer won his second singles match against Fish, in four long sets which took 4:11 hours - 7-5 7-6(3) 5-7 7-6(5). In both his rubbers, he came back to win the first set after the Americans were serving for it at a 5-4 situation.

No wonder team Spain celebrated as they did!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2011 Champion - part 2

Novak Djokovic returned to Belgrade today, to celebrate his Wimbledon victory and No.1 ranking with the Serbian people. About 100,000 of them.

I don't think there are fireworks left in Serbia...

(Photos: Reuters Pictures,  AP Photo)

Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2011 Champion - part 1

I'm going to tell these two days in pictures and videos. Too much to remember, not enough words to say it all.

First of all, the highlights video from the final - Wimbledon 2011, [1] Rafael Nadal vs. [2] Novak Djokovic:

The match started with the coin toss. Nadal won it, and elected to receive. No doubt, he was hoping for Djokovic's nerves to let him down in his first Wimbledon final. That didn't happen quite as planned...

The first set began with very careful play from both competitors. They were starting slowly, testing each other out, not going for too much aggression or risky shots. Thus, they got to 4-4, with no breaks of serve in sight. At this point, every break would give the opponent the set. Novak served his game out. And then Rafa's nerves were the ones letting him down... A huge down-the-line winner helped Novak get to 30-30, and Rafa made two mistakes that cost him the first set, 6-4.

Now Novak was serving first at the second set, as well. Full of confidence, he chased every ball down, his shots finding the court each time. The point of the match, to me, was here - around 1:42 in the highlights video, this one is a must watch. With two breaks of serve, this set was over very quickly, 6-1 to Novak.

Judging by the perforamance of the two, you'd be right to expect this match to be over in three sets. However, Novak lost the mental edge he had, and started spraying errors all around. And Rafael Nadal will make you pay for every error you make. Towards the end of the set, it seemed to me that Novak wasn't even trying too hard - he knew the set was over, and wanted to conserve his strength for the next one. 1-6, in favour of Rafa.

Then came the fourth set. Not playing his best tennis (which was prominent in set no. 2), Novak nevertheless managed to break, to lead 2-0. However, his play was still too shaky, and Rafa wasn't going to give up that easily - he broke back to level the set at 2-2, with a little help by an amazing net cord (around 7:04 in the highlights). Three games and lots of saved break points later, Novak held - 4-3. This is where Rafa was serving, knowing that if he gets broken - Novak would serve for the match. Something must have clicked wrong in his head at this point, as he got to 0-40, giving Novak three break points. Rafa saved the first one, but hit the ball too long on the second. Novak Djokovic was serving for the Championship. At 30-30, he served and volleyed (this IS grass, after all) successfully, giving him his first championship point. He only needed one.

Novak Djokovic def. Rafael Nadal, 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3. And then he tasted the grass.

He more than confirmed his new no. 1 ranking, which he officially got today, in the form of a (gluten free, I presume?) cake.

Nadal said in his press conference later:
Well, when one player beat you five times is because today my game don't bother him a lot. Today probably against me he's playing better than my level. And find solutions, that's what I have to try and that's what I gonna try.
Probably the mental part is little bit dangerous for me, because when I arrive to the 5 4, I played a bad game with 30 Love. When I arrived to 4 3 of the fourth set, I played another bad game with my serve.
That's what I say: to win these kind of matches, I have to play well these kind of points can change the match.
I didn't play well these moments. That's what happened in Indian Wells, that's what happened in Miami, and that's what happened here. I? Don't want to count in Madrid and Rome because he played much better than me.
But these three times, that's what happened. And to change that is probably be little bit less nervous than these times, play more aggressive, and all the time be confident with myself. That's what I gonna try next time.
As to Nole, you can read his post-match press conference, or watch this interview with the BBC today:

Part 2 - the celebrations - is coming up shortly.

(Photos: AP Photo, Getty Images)

Saturday 2 July 2011

Ajde No.1vak!

Novak Djokovic defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-7(9), 6-3 in the Wimbledon semifinals, and he will be the new no. 1 player in the ATP rankings on Monday!

This match was one hell of a roller-coaster from start to finish, with incredible points like those three:

Which one is the best, would you say?

Just look at the happiness :)

(Have I mentioned yet how much I love those hugs?)

Nothing can stop him now, OK? :)

All I can say is - finally! Nole, you deserve it so much. And it's so good that you got that ranking by winning a match, going into your dream final, and not any other way. Good luck, champion!

(Photos: Getty Images)