Maria Sharapova returns and gets another free ride

I was going to simply continue on as one of the biggest fans of women’s professional tennis quietly, but since Maria is back, then so am I.

I have never seen a tennis player get as many breaks as this one.  Talk about the luck of the draw!  She’s finally coming back on the tour and she picks the Warsaw Open.  Good choice.  It’s a clay court just prior to the French Open and all the big names have already had their practice for the surface (or practice walking off the surface like Serena!  Get well…now!).  She’s accepted as a wild card near the top of the draw and it looks like she’ll at least have to play some solid players to get through this one.  Alas, no.  Radwanska withdrew!  And what do we get from the WTA site?  Another headline for Maria and how she’s “cruising.”  Well, I’d hope so.  She beat a qualifier and then a lucky loser.  Gee, stellar results.  Serena was NOT given a bye in her last tournament though she was the #2 ranked player.  Venus got one and she’s ranked #4.  It never makes sense to me.

Shame, shame, shame the the WTA is just as guilty as the sponsors.  If they aren’t blonde and gorgeous, they will not be at the top of the coverage list.

French Open qualifying rounds are already taking place.  I can never allow myself to see those results until it’s all over.  The number of American and French players who go out in early rounds at this tourny is always very depressing.

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May 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm Leave a comment

Spring Forward to Soggy Second Week at The Championships

So sorry to have missed the opportunity to predict the opening rounds of Wimbledon.  I assure you, my picks were far better than the French.  But I’m American.  And Americans always seem to do well on the grass courts.  Just look at Venus Williams.  She’s been sloppy most of the year and even though she’s only less sloppy now, she’s found her way into a chance to smack down Skankipova while she can still do some cumulative point damage to her ranking.  Because of the current point spread, it’s quite possible that Justin (no longer Justine since that’s a girl’s name), should she lose in the quarters, would leave Maria Sharapova to waltz into first place.  Skanky, isn’t it?  I mean, “scary,” of course.

To borrow from the great Stephen Colbert, a “Wag of the Finger” to sugar-flavored bubble gum tennis reporter Drew Lilley, who wrote this ridiculour piece of journalistic syrup that starts with the oh-so-incorrect statement:

  • Some players court controversy, while others prefer to “take every day as it comes, one game at a time”. Justine Henin belongs to the latter brigade.

Doesn’t court controversy?  She courts it in the final rounds of any Grand Slam that will let her get away with it:

  • The Austrailian Open 2006 where she had a tummy ache in the finals and quit yet still managed to insult Amelie Mauresmo;
  • The infamous French Open semifinal where she displayed the sportsmanship of a World Wrestling Federation villain and, though not by rules but certainly by common standards, cheated.

But that’s not the most egregious.  I believe the worst of his … her recent behavior was Doha where s/he was featured in a lot of advertising with another top 10 player  (since this other player is the rarest of all to get endorsements – I’ll leave her out of it).  S/he obviously got lots of money to appear and this was even hinted in a few WTA tour website stories.  At the same time, s/he’s stumping for the sweeping changes the WTA is trying to install as the Patriot Act version of tennis rules, Roadmap 2010, which include tightening down on the “illegal” appearance deals outside the Association as part of the new regulations. 

But Justin (no longer Justine since that’s a girl’s name) saves his energy for the courts, in case you didn’t notice the end of Mr. Lilley’s article which was perhaps soiled due to the excrement on his nose.  So here’s hoping Justin (no longer Justine since that’s a girl’s name) will only bring himself onto the court in the quarterfinals.

Many have thought I am hinting that Justin (no longer Justine since that’s a girl’s name) is taking steroids because she’s pummeling every player and conceding very few games as her chest rapidly disappears – well, it’s actually gone now.  Just for the record: Oh no I di-unt.

Enough of his drama.  Let’s get right to the acting nominations.  Having won no on-court award this year and receiving no nomination for her performance off court as the sweetheart of tennis with a very hurt shoulder who just needs her daddy, Maria Sharapova, as Jakob the Liar.  Hurt shoulder?  She’s returning 100+ mile per hour serves and slugging aces on her opponents when she forgets she’s supposed to be acting a little bit pained.  Hurt shoulder?  My left butt cheek!

Receiving the acting award and skipping all nominations is Serena Williams for her portrayal of the crowd favorite dropping to her knees in pain, threatening her chance to even get through the match prior to encountering the reigning champion who happens to be a real Justin (no longer Justine since that’s a girl’s name). 

But.  And it’s a big “but” for Serena.  Oh no, I di-unt.  But, when the camera pans to the family, Daddy pulls off a supporting role, Momma almost does, and then child star Venus gives it away.  She was never quite up for this when Serena first brought it up as a way to psyche out he-who-shall-not-be-named-she in the next round.  Now, I’m sure I’m stretching a bit there.  I’m just saying that’s the way it looked on film.  Either way, though:  whether it was an act or whether she truly played through the pain, applause for both.  Great television.

As for the poor guys, how could anyone pay attention to them with all the girls in white, plus Justin …, are causing such stirs?  Only Rafael Nadal could get interesting press and that was for his opponent, Swede Robin Soderling.  Soderling mimicked Rafa’s trademark tugging of the shorts while Rafa prepped for serve and let Robin know with his eyes just how much he didn’t like it.  Only the Clay King may touch himself in public, apparently.

More excitement continues as Amelie Mauresmo just got nudged out by Nicole Vaidisova in a three-setter.  Jelena Jankovic is battling out a third set with Marion Bartoli who just won’t give up.  And Ana Ivanovic and Nadia Petrova are playing see-saw to decide who wins as are Lleyton Hewitt and Guillermo Cañas.

July 3, 2007 at 2:58 pm Leave a comment

Tennis Players Start Smoking on Grass

Out with the clay and in with the Wimbledon preparations.  Three grass tournaments are already under way and one hanger-on, Barcelona (a new women’s event) is sticking with the red clay surface.  Here’s a breakdown of the tournaments for the week.

For the women:

Barcelona KIA – New Event in Barcelona, Spain
Tier IV – Red Clay
Prize Money: $145,000
Top Seed in the 32 Draw: Francesca Schiavone

DFS Classic – long time warm-up to Wimbledon in Birmingham, England
Tier III – Prize Money: $200,000
Top seed is the Maria Sharapova in a 56 Draw (8 Byes) – thank God Jelena Jankovic is there to ensure Maria walks home without another victory.
2006 Singles Final:  Vera Zvonareva d. Jamea Jackson 7-6(12) 7-6(5)
2006 Doubles Final:  Jelena Jankovic/Na Li d. Jill Craybas/Liezel Huber 6-2 6-4

For the men: 

The Artois Championships in London, England
Date: June 11-17, 2007
56 Draw on grass surface
Prize Money: €680,250
Top seed: Rafael Nadal, but I’m envisioning Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick in this year’s final.
2006 Singles Final: Lleyton Hewitt d James Blake 6-4 6-4
2006 Doubles Final: Paul Hanley/Kevin Ullyett d Jonas Björkman/Max Mirnyi 6-4 3-6 10-8

Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany
June 11-17, 2007
32 Draw on Grass surface
Prize Money: €680,250
Top seed:  Roger bowed out so it’s Nikolay Davydenko in the bottom half where it’s heavily overloaded with Blake and Bahgdatis, while on the top half, Nalbandian should have a cake walk into the finals, but he doesn’t. 
2006 Singles Final: Roger Federer d. Thomas Berdych 6-0 6-7(4) 6-2
2006 Doubles Final: Fabrice Santoro/Nenad Zimonjic d Michael Kohlmann/Rainer Schuettler 6-0 6-4

Davydenko got eye-popped this afternoon but still won his match.  Ouch!  I’ve had that happen to me on a lob that passed through bright sunshine.  It smarts.  Don’t try it at home … court.

Nikolay Davydenko Keeps One Eye On the Ball

June 12, 2007 at 9:30 pm 1 comment

Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin Wear Hats of Trickery

Rafael Nadal just completed his hat trick of winning Roland Garros for the third time in a row, beating Roger Federer in a match that played out almost exactly as last year, going to four sets.  Congrats to Rafa!

On the women’s side, it was Justine Henin trouncing Ana Ivanovic in the French Open finals yesterday.  In her two days waiting for the final, Ana apparently worked up signifant nerves and concerns to play unlike she’s played in the past year.  The French fans were no help, but they pride themselves on rudeness and hate, so whatdya expect.  Ana, fortunately, has this first Grand Slam final under her belt and has sufficiently been embarrassed enough that it won’t happen again.  I very much admire Ana, and not just because she’s so beautiful.  It really is the crafty tennis. 

So, should I open the can of worms now and make myself look like a sore loser?  Why not!  Has no one noticed the disappearance of something on Justine?  I know her biggest complaint of the game was that she didn’t like returning Williams-sized serves that have become the norm in recent years.  I find it odd that after a long absence for the flu (I still don’t get that “injury” claim), she came back with chest muscles bigger than most men and her … sorry, I have to go there … breasts seem to have gone away completely.  For all the horrid comments about Mauresmo, no one’s said “Justine looks like a man.”  Although now, someone just did.  Let the arrows fly.

Finally, there’s the drama surrounding the men’s doubles title winners of Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor.  Breaking up after Wimbledon, or so the story goes, would end their relationship, but now they’ve finally won a Grand Slam, Nestor is waffling.  Odd, I would have thought it was Mark looking to dump him, after what played out here.

Onward to the grass season.  Two weeks and nine tournaments to go before All England Club’s Wimbledon.  And yes, I’ll be watching every round of every match leading up to it.  Well, I’ll watch the stats, that is.  I will only be able to see TV coverage of the Slam.  Pity.

June 10, 2007 at 4:39 pm 1 comment

Feder-bear’s Scare and The Nadal was on Djokovic

Rafael Nadal took out Novak Djokovic in three sets to reach the semifinals of the French Open.  Not an easy win but certainly quicker than I’d hoped.  It seemed to get easier for Rafa each set, 7-5 6-4 6-2.  I would loved to have seen Novak get a little more big-stage time.  Someone, someday has to decide to be in a Slam final besides Nadal and Federer.  They’re great players and they’re great to watch, but that Underdog Syndrome of mine gets the best of me.  Last night, I was almost ready to say Nikolay Davydenko was ready to beat Federer because he’d beaten Guillermo Cañas, but that logic never works in men’s singles.  Nikolay did give it his all and though Federer won, 7-5 7-6(5) 7-6(7), the numbers prove that three set matches are not always a Slam dunk!

Over in doubles, the Slam Swammy was hushed once more, not giving credit to the pair of Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo.  Had I known they’d never partnered (bad boy, didn’t do research!), I would have picked them for that reason alone.  Again, this is the kind of crazy thing that the clay at Roland Garros rewards.  Send your good wishes and warm love to Ai Sugiyama and especially Katarina Srebotnik who lost in the finals of both her doubles pairings. 

But it’s all about tomorrow, eh?  Justine Henin goes for three in a row against a brand new shiny battleship (that’s her play style, not her gorgeous looks) called Ana Ivanovic.  I’m not the only one that pegged her as a major finals possibility, especially with Sharapova on her side of the bracket (Maria always gets the easier half of the draw).  But Ana still had some impossible matches that she turned into complete shutdowns.  My only concern with her is that she took three sets to take Svetlana Kuznetsova, last year’s finalist, and that doesn’t exactly tell me me that Ana will have a true advantage.  It’s anybody’s guess.  They’ll play in front of French fans and Ana’s damn fine.  Plus, they’ve been known to turn on a dime, so Justine best beware of depending too much on “home court advantage.”  Then again, given what Justine will do to win a game, her inner she-devil has been screaming for this event since last year.  Ooooo, I hope Ana walks away from this the new darling of tennis.  I would much rather see her face (and other lovelinesses) everytime I visit the WTA tour website or anywhere else tennis or sneakers or cameras are mentioned.  By the way, I noticed there are others who dislike Skankipova.

After all the drama of the ladies’, the men’s doubles takes centerstage as #9 Czechs Lukas Dlouhy/Pavel Vizner take on Mark Knowles (BAH)/Daniel Nestor (CAN), the 6th seed team.  I look for Knowles and Nestor to be having a little bit of stress and perhaps handing it to fresh faces (therefore, ready to fight) the Czechs.  I’ve been preaching the Knowles/Nestor-it’s-our-last-time-together attitude all week, but I don’t know how that plays in the final.

Incidentally, it’s been fun trying to guess the Roland Garros matches, round by round, even though (again) clay is not my game.  Too, I do not get to see any of the matches or watch anyone play (deadly for making good predictions) during Roland Garros time so I was thrilled to get anything correct after the first round.  Still, I’ve acquired my taste for crow and so now am not afraid of sticking my foot in my mouth because I know I can’t get some horrible disease from doing it … like tennis elbow.

June 9, 2007 at 4:33 am Leave a comment

You’re Not Mother Theresa, and You’re Not in the Finals

Mother Theresa will not be in the women’s finals of this year’s French Open.  A collective sigh of relief, please, that Maria Sharapova has been smacked down on the red clay.  Guess she was too busy pretending to be a dead nun because we know she can’t do that and win a match, right?  Oh what a sweet sound it was to hear that Ana Ivanovic won 6-2 6-1.  The same thrashing score Serena Williams had on her in the finals at Australia.  But I was equally crushed that Justine Henin beat Jelena Jankovic 6-2 6-2.  Jelena did such a great job and had some great matches.  Perhaps now Ana can get some well-deserved endorsements.  I still think that should be part of the tournament.  Winner take all, including sponsorships.   Speaking of winners, congratulations to the first Roland Garros champion of 2007.  Mixed doubles team Nathalie Dechy of France and Israel’s Andy Ram took out the seasoned and extremely attractive pairing of defending champs Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic, 7-5 6-3.  I guess I shouldn’t have thought two much about this prediction.   Speaking of wrong predictions, what about Czech pair Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner, huh?  Where did they come from?  I mean, I know where they’re from and a little about them, I mean like an appearance out of thin air kind of “where did they come from.”  Perhaps they’re to blame for Nenad’s doubles loss.  I’m sure Fabrice Santoro didn’t have a great day after the match, either. 

And finally, the talks-of-separation-pair Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor continue playing like they’ve got nothing to lose and the clay gave them thanks in their defeat of India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Hingis’ Radek Stepanek … her Czech, you know. 

 

Tomorrow brings us great play from four of my favorite guys, Roger Federer against Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djokovic will play Rafael Nadal. And then the ladies’ doubles final.  Of course I want to see Novak and Nikolay in the finals and maybe I’ll see Novak, but it’s really just not going to happen.  Federer and Nadal are headed for a repeat, I fear.  At least the match will be pretty awesome to watch.  Then Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama will take the crown from the amazing run of Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo.  And right after that, I’m calling up the voodoo doctor and sending them a barbie doll in tennis shorts, nose pinched, eyes looking beady, and we’re going to have a talk about the women’s finals on Saturday.

June 8, 2007 at 4:08 am 4 comments

Girls Behaving Badly, Welcome to France

Forget that there were some exciting French Open matches today, though a few lacked in dramatic conclusions.  Happy to say, I was wrong about Black/Huber taking the match against Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo, and I am glad.  I like Black/Huber a lot, but I love it when new blood takes the big stages.  Same thing in mixed.  I am disappointed that Yan/Knowles did not make it through, but I am a big Katarina Srebotnik fan when it comes to doubles.  I’ve always felt she’d been passed by for potential power pairs and it was Nenad Zimonjic that has really helped her shine in the mix.  Sure I was cheering for the underdog, but it’s the polite sport.  It’s what we’re supposed to do.  As for who wins tomorrow, my guess would be Nathalie Dechy/Andy Ram and underdog has a lot to do with it.  Otherwise, it’s just stats.  Rare that the same mixed pair wins the French Open.  And it hasn’t happened in a long time.  Not since the days of  Françoise Dürr.  But Katarina has one twice with different partners, with Nenad just last year.  Hmmm.  I’ll stick with the underdog.  Katarina knows that I think she’ll win the women’s, so hopefully she’s not offended.  Hometown crowd (albiet rude and hateful) will be a boost for Dechy.

Speaking of underdogs, can we all please make a collective wish that the numeric underdogs of Serbia move forward after tomorrow’s matches?  Justine Henin has been trying to behave in a not-so-snotty way but hey, to the victor, huh?  It’s always easy to be polite when you got game, you won game, and the rudest crowd in the entire world thinks you’re just darling.  Still, it’s Maria that makes me hurl, still.  My stomach is still churning over her comment about her poor sportsmanship against Patty Schnyder, “You can’t be Mother Theresa and win a tennis match” or some such crap.  No, Maria, you ain’t no saint and we’re all so very glad you know that.  I’m this close to slinging a banana insult, but I’ll keep saving it up. 

Well, whatever happens, huge congratulations to Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic for not only getting to the semifinals, but for a great past year filled with two athletes getting better and better and showing us some great matches.  Nobody’s talked about Jelena winning, but I’ve seen at least one Ana pick.  I’m going with Jelena simply because she’s been figuring out Justine a little bit more with each match and if she pulls that off, she’s finally going to have the goods to beat Ana, which she’s only done once.  But when push comes to shove, I have to say that it’s probably going to be Henin and Ivanovic in the final.  Ana’s only played her once, two years ago.  She lost, but she wasn’t this good two years ago and it was a close (enough) 2 setter.  Ivanovic and Sharapova are 1-1 but Maria ran away from their last match, which she was losing, and claimed injury.  Ivanovic will put that injury back, metaphorically speaking … somewhat, and she’ll march out of Roland Garros as a new hottie of tennis.  I hope.

My tennis friend Kim left me a hilarious message today about Serena’s interview with the press, talking about Justine’s little tricks (she went there!) and how all of them are bitches.  Well, that’s what got me into the tennis thing again anyway.  The soap opera.  Now that Serena is back, her dad is back, too, of course, if anything just to put Papa Sharapova in perspective.  Enter the Shakespearean scribes, there’s gonna be heads rolling and lots of gnashing of teeth.  What a hoot. 

As for the men’s doubles, I’m going to have to go with Fabrice Santoro (FRA)[4]/Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)[4] over Lukas Dlouhy (CZE)[9]/Pavel Vizner (CZE)[9].  And Mark Knowles (BAH)[6]/Daniel Nestor (CAN)[6] over Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)/Radek Stepanek (CZE).  If this is one of their last, or the very last, they’ll play with reckless abandon.  Clay loves that.

June 7, 2007 at 2:19 am Leave a comment

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