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Tennis Musings From New Zealand

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John Isner

By Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

                     The NZ Festival of Tennis came to an end with John Isner prevailing in the Heineken Open final, 7-6, 7-6, over first time ATP finalist Yen-Hsun Lu. The first week of course finished with Ana Ivanovic overcoming Venus Williams. The Festival is my personal favourite of the NZ Summer of Sporting events. The weather certainly turned up for the 2 weeks, although I can remember one afternoon early on with the ASB Classic which wasn’t that great. Nevertheless the play was uninterrupted and the tournament enjoyed sell-out crowds. This posting will review the second week’s tournament and give a line-up and some predictions for the big one, the Aussie Open.

David Ferrer, the widely expected winner, bowed out in the semi-final to Yen-Hsun Yu. He said after that match that it was perhaps one of the worst performances of his career. You’ve got to think about comments in pressers like this that if they aren’t just a bit derogatory of the other player. Federer has been criticised in the past as coming off as a bit arrogant in his pressers. In Ferrer’s case at this time his error rate was very high, so this comment was probably justified. My golden boy from the last posting, Benoit Paire, bowed out in the second round. Arguably the match of the tournament was the Quarterfinal between Phillip Kohlschreiber and Isner, which had three tiebreaks and featured no breaks of serve. I have to say that Kohlschreiber was unlucky not to win that one, as his rallying was superior to Isner.

Going back to the Heineken final, once again Isner’s serve was on fire. At 2.06m tall he is known as having one of the best, if not the best serve on tour. Isner called the final match perhaps his best of the week (his serve was not broken once). First time finalist Yu played well, his one-handed backhand passing shot at the end of the second set (to save the second match point) was testament to that. He just played against a man in Isner who was really hitting his shots on the day. Isner did say after his semi-final, that without his serve he would not be ranked inside the top 500. His serve is just an example that to be ranked highly in this sport you do often need a big weapon. As mentioned in my last post, the winner of this fortnight’s Australian Open will be a player who has a weapon, one which will turn an over wise even match in their favour.

In my first ever posting on here, I predicted that we would see a Del Potro/Nadal final. I will not stick with this, as they have been slated to meet in the Quarter-finals. I will have to go instead with a Del Potro/Djokovic final. Juan Martin Del Potro has just downed Bernard Tomic in straight sets in the Sydney International final, and appears to be in top form. He will not doubt be one dangerous hombre in the Open. Djokovic has been handed perhaps the easiest draw of anyone in the competition. His first real test will come in the Quarterfinals, where he is expected to face-off against Stanislas Wawrinka, who took him too 12-10 in the fifth set (fourth-round) last year. He should come out of this Wawrinka match to take down Ferrer in the semi-final. The Del Potro/Nadal Quarter-final will be a match to watch at the start of the second week. That is assuming Nadal can get past a dangerous Bernard Tomic in the first round. Tomic is a player I have mentioned before as being someone with the potential to win a Grand Slam one day. I just don’t see it happening this year. Nadal I believe, will be too strong for him in the opening round.

On the women’s side I can just not go past Serena Williams this year. Her form with age just appears to be getting better and better and there seems to be no stopping her. She is not a particularly liked player by the tennis public, but you just cannot help but admire the power game she has brought to women’s’ tennis. The two players who I think could create some difficulty for Serena could be Victoria Azarenka or Maria Sharapova. Azarenka was dispatched in straight sets in Brisbane last week, and lost in three tight sets to Serena at US Open 2013. But she can cause the upset on the day. With Sharapova, although she has a terrible record against Serena, on her day an upset could happen. We just have to think back to the 2004 Wimbledon for an example of that. Azarenka and Sharapova are expected to meet in the semi-final, and I would hope that it is not a slug fest, which will leave the winner exhausted for meeting a fit and hungry Serena in the final.

All us sports fans have pet wishes which we hope will happen, but sort of know that they never will. Well, my pet wish for this Open is that Lleyton Hewitt will finally come through to win his home countries slam. Australia has not had a winner on the men’s side since Mark Edmondson won it in 1976; surprisingly with a world ranking of 212 (the lowest seed to ever win a Slam). Hewitt got close in 2005, when he reached the final, but other than that has not gone past the fourth round. The 05 Aussie had an incredible excitement about it, mainly thanks to Hewitt’s run on one side, and the Marat Safin machine on the other. It is in fact my all-time favourite slam, and featured one of my all-time favourite matches, the Safin/Federer semi-final. Hewitt’s win in last week’s Brisbane final against Federer definitely gave some hope that another dream run may again be possible. For the women, Samantha Stousur is my pet wish to be the winner. The women similiary to the men have not have had a winner since Chris O’ Neil in 1978. It would really generate some interest in the Open if we were having a couple of great local runs.

So there you have it. My predictions for the Aussie Open are for a men’s final of Djokovic/Del Potro, and a women’s final of Serena/ Azarenka. Although what I would like to happen is for a Hewitt/Del Potro final for the men and a Stosur/Williams final for the women. Having a surprising local run on one side, and a dangerous power player on the other would make this Open hugely memorable. Whatever happens though, this is a tournament I thoroughly look forward too every year, and it never disappoints in providing us with gripping moments. Watch this space.

 

Comings and Goings from Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland

By Thaddeus McCarthy

Dear Fans,

As I have just returned home from covering the ASB Classic, and the Heineken Open is already underway, I thought that now would be a good time to give you a summary of the Classic and an intro to the Open.

The ASB Classic was a fantastic six day event played at the ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland. It was (pleasantly) sunny, even though the forecast had predicted rain. The play did not disappoint, and from a personal perspective, as it was my first time covering a tournament, it was brilliant, and the experience certainly lived up to expectations. It was also the dream final, the one everyone had wanted from the start, Venus Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic. Now sometimes these sort of the matches can be disappointments; like many of the long awaited finals in our sport e.g. any number of the Federer/Nadal French Open finals. But this was different; it was tight and the tennis was electrifying. In the first set, Ivanovic cruised to win 6-2. Venus saved a match point at 5-4 in the second set, and went on to win it 7-5. In the final set though Ivanovic’s younger legs proved to be springier. She caught a break at the early stages of the set, and did not let go from there, eventually prevailing 6-4, and taking the title.

Both Venus and Ivanovic said in the post-match interviews, that this tournament was the perfect preparation for the Australian Open. I think after watching both players, I would expect at least one of them to go into the second week there. They are both on comeback trails right now, but I think that Ana is the more likely one to do so. She has the younger legs, still only being 26. And has a number of weapons on disposal, such as a blistering ground strokes and strong service game. Whereas with Venus you have to say that age is catching up with her. The other player that most impressed me from the tournament was American Jamie Hampton. I was at the press conference where she announced that she was pulling out of her semi-final with Venus, due to a hip injury. Something about her struck me. She seemed in a way similar to the Mighty Fed, in that she spoke almost in third person. She seemed very sure of herself, and I am certain that if she gets over her injury in time, by the Australian Open she will do well. In her quarterfinal against Lauren Davis, I was impressed by the all-round strength of her game.

The NZ Festival of Tennis continues this week, with the Heineken Open. David Ferrer is the defending champion here, and has come back (now as the World No. 3) to defend his title. The other headline acts will be Tommy Haas and John Isner. Gael Monfils, the flamboyant Frenchman unfortunately pulled out this week citing fatigue. Being the first month of the year this is pretty doubtful, but understandable that if he is not feeling totally right, he doesn’t want to ruin himself for the coming Slam. The tournament organisers were in talks with Andy Murray’s manager about potentially getting him in on a wild card, after his early exit from the Qatar Open. Unfortunately though, this was not to be the case. In reality it was too much of a rush for Murray to suddenly come down here to play a tournament after his Qatar loss. Tournament Director Karl Budge insisted after the Murray and Monfils announcements that the tournament does still have some exciting talent, such as young American Jack Sock, not to mention Marcos Baghdadis, Benoit Paire and Phillip Kohlschreiber. Ferrer’s path to the title, will no doubt still be a difficult one, even without a Murray in his way.

As the Classic proved for the ladies, the Heineken Open will serve as a good preparation for the Australian Open, as that Slam begins on the 15th.  If I were to predict a player from this tournament who has the potential to win it though, it would not be David Ferrer. Although he has a very high likelihood of winning the Heineken again, I just don’t think that he has enough firepower to win a Slam. Yes, he did reach the French final last year (where he was dually shellacked in straight sets by Nadal), but Slam winners traditionally need to have a weapon arsenal at their disposal. It is very uncommon for journeyman (such as Ferrer) to win Slams. One-Slam-Wonder Journeyman who immediately come to mind include Andrei Gomez (1990 French) and Thomas Johanseen (2002 Aussie). Now in both these cases they were lucky; in Gomez’s case, Agassi was more worried about his hair piece falling out than winning the final. In Johanseen’s case, he had a very favourable draw that year, and played the volatile and unstable Marat Safin in the final.

My pick for the surprise run of the tournament is Benoit Paire. He is a tall man, with surprising balance, and of course has a booming serve. Although he has not yet gone beyond the third round of a Slam, the Australian as we all know is notorious for unexpected runs. Marcos Baghdadis, 2006 anyone? Or how about Fernando Gonzalez, 2007, or Tsonga, 2008. All of those players had weapon arsenals; the Gonzalez forehand was, is still is legendary. Whatever the case though, surprise run or not, for all of the players involved in this lead-up tournament, the Heineken will be great preparation for the Aussie Open.

You will hear from me again at the completion of the tournament. So for now, keep well.

Running Commentary In A Moment In Time At The ASB Classic In Auckland

Venus Williams

By Thaddeus McCarthy

By Dear Fans,

As I am sitting right now in the media box at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, I thought that now would be a good time to do some running commentary. Now obviously this article will come out after these matches have been completed, so this is out-of-date technically. But I feel that right at this moment this is a useful conversation to have.

As I write this, the match-up between Ana Ivanovic and Kurumi Nara, the world no. 16 vs no. 81, has just ended. Ana Ivanovic has taken the match 6-2, 6-3. The crowd seated, of which there is about 1,300, got to enjoy some wonderful rallies at the end of the match. A favourite of mine was one where Nara finished the point with a backhand drop volley. The match currently under way is between Lauren Davis and Jamie Hampton. Hampton would have to be the favoured one of these two, as she is about 40 ranks above her. Hampton has just broken Davis’s serve for the 2nd time, and the match stands at 5-1. The next match coming up is Garbine Muguruza vs. Venus Williams. No doubt who the crowd favourite will be in this one.

I think it is the common consensus with fans is that they do want to see a Williams/Ivanovic final, as these are the tournaments two biggest drawcards. There are many players who will be doing their best to stop that happening, Muguruza will be no exception. The top seed, Roberta Vinci was knocked out in the opening round by a largely unheard of player, Ana Konjuh. Seeing the form that Ana displayed in the last match I would highly expect her to reach the final stage. In the Hampton match currently into the second set, and with Hampton the superior player at this stage, I will assume that she comes out on top here. She will move on from this to face Venus in the semi-finals. Venus will find it tough going against Hampton, and I think we can look forward to a very good match tomorrow. In the other semi-final we will see Ivanovic face off against Kirsten Flipkens. My expectation for this match is that Ivanovic will come out ahead, watching the Flipkens quarter-final I noticed that she does not have a top spin backhand shot. I would think that this weakness could leave her open. Time will tell.

In the doubles, we are seeing a similar pattern emerging, although somewhat more pronounced. The top seeds, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The only one’s of the top four seeds remaining are the fourth seeds, Mona Barthel and Megan Moulton-Levy. Again, time will tell whether the top seeds can make it through to the final and become champions. Although I think that is good to have diversity when it comes to tournament winners on the ATP and WTA, I think it is also good to have a strong bunch of players at the top. Much of the hype around the men’s game currently has been to do with having the ‘Big Four’ rivalry. The problem with the women’s game worldwide currently has been that there is not really a strong group of players at the top. Lets hope that the womens game in 2014 will see a very strong bunch of players emerging at the top.

It is my hope that the ASB Classic will set the tone for a great year of women’s tennis in 2014!

What’s In Store For ASB Classic In New Zealand

Ivanovic

By Thaddeus McCarthy

 

Dear Fans,

As I will be covering the ASB Classic in New Zealand for you all , I thought that now would be a good time to give you a rundown of what’s in store.

The tournament will run from the 30th of December, and the final will be played on the 4th of January. Current world no. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska is the reigning champion, but unfortunately will not be defending her title this year. The two big names that will grace the first event of our 11 month season will be Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams, both former number 1’s and Grand Slam winners. Venus is undoubtedly the bigger name of these two. Sister of Serena, 7-time Grand Slam Winner, 44 career titles and arguably the main reason why women get equal pay today. It is for this last reason that I have requested an interview with her. If I manage to get one, I will be sure to let you all know how it goes. Ana Ivanovic won the 2008 French title, and 11 career titles. She has had many struggles since then, dropping to No. 65, but she has since gone back up to No. 16. It will be one of the main interests of the tournament will be to see if she can regain some of her No. 1 form. Ana will arguably be the most keenly watched player, particularly amongst the boys, as she is definitely one of the better looking females’ on tour.

Some other very recognizable names include young Laura Robson from Great Britain, Yanina Wickmayer, Lucie Safarova, and Julia Georges. The latter three are all former top 20 players, and are seeking to regain some of their earlier form. Laura Robson is a promising teenager, and did reach a WTA final in 2012 in China. The expectations for her, mostly as she is the top ranked British female, are very high. Personally I like her playing style, and being a similarly tall individual, I hope she does well. Julia Georges is another tall player, who’s a big hitter and uses lots of top spin. Along with Ana she is another popular player on tour.

Players who I have requested interviews with, include (obviously) Venus, Yanina, New Zealander Marina Erakovic, and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza. With Venus I will talk about gender equality in tennis, and by extension, in sports in general. She was instrumental in getting equal pay for women at the French and Wimbledon, as it was her essay which eventually swayed the debate.  With Garbine I will (hopefully) discuss with her about the development of younger players in Spain, and how they are working to continue producing quality. Following on from this I will talk with Marina about the development of the game in New Zealand, and how we can start to emulate countries (such as Spain) in producing some more tennis stars. My talk with Yanina will be about how she plans to return to (near) the top of the game. If I manage to get an interview with Ana, my chat would be on the same topic.

Well, that’s the end of my discussion today; I would appreciate any suggestions you guys may have in regard to interview topics.

 

Ivanovic

Agassi, McEnroe, Hingis Highlight July’s World Team Tennis Action at New York’s Randall’s Island

Agassi v McEnroe Gala

The Sportimes schedule is highlighted by the July 19 matchup with the Boston Lobsters, in which Sportimes captain and Tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe will battle Andre Agassi, in a match that also serves as a benefit for the Johnny Mac Tennis Project, McEnroe’s not-for-profit foundation.  McEnroe will compete on two other Sportimes home dates, July 24 vs. Boston in Troy and July 25 in the regular season finale vs. Washington at Randall’s Island.

The complete Sportimes schedule at Randall’s Island is as follows (all matches begin 7 p.m.):
July 10    Springfield Lasers (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 13    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 18    Philadelphia Freedoms (Sportimes – Martina Hingis)
July 19    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe; Boston – Andre Agassi)
July 25    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Home matches in Troy, N.Y., include (all matches begin 7:30 p.m.):
July 23    Washington Kastles (Sportimes – Hingis; Washington – Venus Williams)
July 24    Boston Lobsters (Sportimes – Hingis, McEnroe)

Special events on home dates include a pre-match and halftime “Glee” tribute concert by Class Act on July 10; pre-event attempt to set a Guinness World Record for most people bouncing a ball on their rackets on July 18; Niall O’Leary’s Professional Dance Troupe on July 25; and on each home date, nightly promotions such as Shoot Out (Win What You Hit), Clock Your Serve and a bouncy house for kids.

Additionally, on all Randall’s Island home match nights, the Sportimes will provide free bus service from Manhattan to the stadium.  Pickups will begin at 4:15 p.m., from 86th & 3rd Avenue and 126th & Lexington, between 4:15 p.m. and 7 p.m.  A Sportimes staff member will be on each corner to assist.  Buses will also provide return service to both locations after the match ends.

In addition to marquee players Hingis and McEnroe, the Sportimes roster includes veterans Robert Kendrick, Jesse Witten and Ashley Harkleroad.  Returning for his fifth year as coach is Chuck Adams.

Tickets for Sportimes matches are available by calling 888-WTT-NYC1 or by visiting www.nysportimes.com.  For more information on matches in Troy, N.Y., visit www.NYSportimes.com/Albany or call 518-393-0440.

The 2012 WTT regular season runs from July 9-28, with the top two teams from both the Western and Eastern Conference advancing to the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, September 14-16, at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

2012 Sportimes’ partners include USTA Eastern Section, GEICO, USTA, Wilson, DecoTurf, Principal Funds, SPORTIME Clubs, Tennis.com, Arizon Tennis Domes, NY Orthopedics, and Randall’s Island Park Alliance.

Waiting for Murray to finish the unfinished in 2013

Andy Murray after his second round defeat at the AEGON Championships (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

By Ritesh Gupta

Tennis is in me. It reflects. It invigorates me, strengthens me and keeps me going. It appeases me when things aren’t going my way. I want more of it, always. More on the court, more of it on my mobile, PC, tablet…it has to be in my thoughts. Yes, it’s a way of life.

But somehow I wanted all of it to stop on Sunday for Andy Murray.

I wobbled much before Murray lost the battle against now seven-time Wimbledon singles winner, Roger Federer.

It was a moment where I felt what if Murray falters in the final of Wimbledon 2012. At that point of time, I just hoped everything to get blown away as if nothing existed. Yes for Murray, not to go through what he eventually did after losing in four sets to Federer.

May be we can ask Andy Roddick what all Murray felt as he survived that half-hour or so after he shook hands with Federer to wrap up his loss at the net. But Murray, too, gave ample signs of the fact he was trodden from within, only to get crushed slowly. And when he was asked to express at the ceremony, he almost collapsed. He couldn’t look at the player’s box, which is a definite source of strength for all the professionals.

Ah, I couldn’t go on and on.

I rather go back and relive those moments where Murray just fought and fought.

So when did I feel it should stop? It was much before that spell of rain in the third set that forced Federer and Murray to stop their battle.

To be precise, it was at 15-40, 2-2 in the second set when Murray was about to break Federer’s serve and raised hopes of 2-0 lead. It didn’t happen.

Then, in the middle of the third set, Murray led 40-0 and he was all set to hold serve to square the match. It didn’t happen. In fact, in the same game, Murray slipped when he couldn’t kill a high volley and Federer’s lob winner landed on the baseline. Murray challenged the call only to lose it. Yes, all of this did happen!

From there on, it was as if whatever Murray could hurl as a boxer, the punch just wouldn’t land on Federer.

And yes, Federer looked every bit of the champion he was and is again.

That nonchalant toss of serve, that characteristic brushing aside of his hair falling over his bandana, that finesse associated with his majestic backhand…it was Federer at his best. Would it matter if I say the champion played like this when he is about to turn 31 next month. It won’t as Federer, with his larger than life persona, stands out for whatever he does at Wimbledon.

On a parting note, I wonder when Murray’s mother, Judy, and his girlfriend, Kim Sears, cried, was it enough for the Scot’s steely coach Ivan Lendl to melt for one fleeting moment at least.

I wish Lendl didn’t.

He has to push Murray to achieve what he couldn’t on Sunday and what Lendl himself couldn’t do in his career- holding that mesmerizing Wimbledon trophy at least once as a singles professional.

I wish Murray plays in the final again in 2013. And that too with the roof open. And for those raindrops, they should come down. They should fall for Murray to look into the sky and move his fingers up and down – just the way he did after each of his six victories in 2012 – only to say: “I am not closer anymore, rather I am right up there.”

 

For a recap of the final, please read this article on our sister site:  http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/7195

An Estoril Open preview: Milos Raonic, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alisa Kleybanova compete

Juan Martin Del Potro

By Luís Santos

The mens draw

The main draws for the upcoming Estoril Open have been announced. Some exciting match-ups have emerged, especially if you are Portuguese!

Top four seeds in the men’s side got byes, so Soderling, Verdasco, Tsonga and Simon are only second round sightings. Special attention to Fernando Verdasco whose second round opponent may well be Portuguese best Frederico Gil. Verdasco is the clear favorite but Gil was a finalist at the Estoril Open 2010 and is a crowd favorite.

Of his return to the Estoril  Open Gil said: I love to play this tournament so much in front of my friends and family, it is a big motivation and I always try to do my best. I grew up playing here when I was younger, so I know the conditions. I know the pressure and expectation of playing at my home tournament.”

Second man of the Portuguese armada is Rui Machado, who starts against veteran Victor Hanescu.

But for most of us Portuguese tennis fans, all eyes will be on the all-portuguese first round match between Gastão Elias and João Sousa, the hopes of the Portugal tennis scene. No matter what the result will be, we are assured of a Portuguese in the second round.

Other big names to watch at the Estoril this week will be former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and fast rising star Milos Raonic.

The womens draw

On the women’s side, the field is lead by Russian Alisa Kleybanova who will have a first round tussle with big-hitting Olga Govortsova. Jarmila Gajdosova is the number two seed and starts against Renata Voracova. Rouding out the top four seeds are Klara Zakopalova and Anastasjia Sevastova.

Two former champions grace the draw this year with Jie Zheng and Great Arn both making returns to the Portuguese venue. Arn will open against home hope Maria João Koehler, the number two for Portugal. Koehler has expressed her determination to do well on her home turf so Arn may well have her hands full with the Portuguese wildcard.

Also on the list to watch are Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Elena Vesnina, the number five and six seeds, respectively. Also making a comeback is Casey Dellacqua from Australia.

Be sure to to visit TennisGrandstand daily as Luís Santos brings you the headlines of both men’s and women’s action at the 2011 Estoril Open.

Wozniacki Calling the Shots: the Beginning of Real Dominance?

World's number one Caroline Wozniacki of

By Luís Santos

Imagine my surprise when I got home after a fun day out in downtown Lisbon, only to find out that Little Miss Sunshine Caroline Wozniacki crushed Flavia Pennetta with the impressive scoreline of 6-2 6-0.

Do not let the scoreline fool you! The real standout in this win? The staggering amount of winners displayed by the Dane – 35! – a result of her aggressive game that she brought to the court today, a deviation to her usual standards. And while she may sound like a fish out of the water with her game plan, the truth is that she held her own, misfiring a mere seven times throughout but claiming twelve games in a row.

The ultimate question arises: Is Wozniacki ready to win her first Slam? Clearly she’s working towards it and she must be applauded for such effort – very Nadal-ish. And let’s face it: if she can trounce Pennetta – who won over 50 points and blasted 33 winners of her own – this way then are any of the other WTA players safe anymore?

Serena, who just got off the leg cast this week, and Kim: beware, there’s a whole new Wozniacki on the block.

Check these photos of Dubai from last week:

Elena Dementieva Still Wins Rewards: Fan Watch

Bank of the West Classic

By Luís Santos

As a die hard Elena Dementieva fan I was rooting for the fairytale thing to happen at this year’s Australian Open final but alas, I was brought back to reality – just like when she was around.

So Kim Clijsters finally won outside of NYC and she shattered the hopes of millions of people and also of Li’s. Now this might have been yet another Aussie Open that has gone by me without me watching much of it – it’s either that or me failing my college exams to watch countless hours of tennis – but a few things come to mind when reminiscing about Down Under.

First, of course, the notable absence of Elena Dementieva, who would have probably swept away the title just based on elegance, and because it wouldn’t seem right not mentioning, the absence of Serena William whose foot keeps on delaying her.

Henin retiring (for good) was also a headline that  made the news on the eve of the women’s semifinals to the dismay of her antagonists. A kind word for Justine is in order though. Personal preferences aside, she was a great champion, who made the most out of what she had. I just hope she stays retired – indecision is not something a champion should have.

Finally, Li’s superb level throughout the fortnight, and the overall level of tennis displayed by the ladies with names such as Makarova, Kvitova and Schiavone coming to mind.

On a final note and in case you haven’t heard, Elena Dementieva won was well this week. It might not have been on the court but she still pocketed the Jean Borotra World Fair Play Diploma for her sports career. Elena was the fifth female tennis player to win such award and first since Chris Evert won back in 1989. Instead of attending the award ceremony she played a charity match in Moscow to help orphan children in her city.

Grand Slam Gallivanting: Day 1, Part 1

img_4622

By Rishe

And then I went to watch the kind of tennis where they actually write down what you do on these big thingys that blast the numbers out in lights and on chalk and on iPhone applications and scoreboards across computers everywhere. The kind of tennis called Grandslam tennis.

Turns out being day one, we were in for chockablocks, which as a tennis fan, is amazing because it means people are loving my sport. But as a tennis fan, it sucks for me because I want to see my boys, dammit!

Bypassed the showcourts and arenas, just missing out on Sammy Q’s epic fail against Kubot. With the hopes of America failing left, right and center (or courts 3, 5 and 7, to be precise) I skipped the flailing Fish and went straight for Ryan Harrison. I fell in love with my giant-sized Justin Bieber at his epic Grandstand match against Stakhovsky in the US Open, but was completely disappointed to see that Mr America had also imported a serious atitooood to Aussieland.

To be precise, whingeing about the wind. Comparing the conditions to winter in Florida. In a decidedly whingey tone that seemed to question why he bothered coming out to Australia at all.

Because it’s a grand slam, dude.

Felt a tall shadow behind me and looked behind to see none other than my favourite wildcard and current top-rated Frenchie (in my all-important book, to be clear) Benoit Paire behind me. Figured I’d say hi but alas, the English was limited. The hotness? Not at all.

Meandering about next was when things really got interesting. Stopping by to see Xavier Malisse take on Pablo Andujar, I ducked around the corner to find a full-blown fight between some red-shirted Spaniards and security.

My humble understanding of the conversation I cheerfully eavesdropped included a situation where Xavier, unhappy with the Spanish noise-making, had motioned for these spectators to shut up. This was allegedly mid-point, although he had already won the point. Or something. Either way, the red-shirts were adamant that being that he talked to them, they had a right to talk back. And when he asked security to take them away, he should’ve first contacted the umpire. Props go to the lovely Aussie blokes who heard out the whole story and soothed them in that gorgeous Aussie way (beer cups in hand), along the lines of “Yep, but those are the rules… Yep.. I know it’s ridiculous… Happened to us too… but you gotta abide by the rules.”

I love my country.

With time to kill before the long awaited Serbian-army attack, I came to see Rebecca Marino, up-and-coming Canadian girl who was looking just lovely.

And lunge-y.

Couldn’t decide where to go next, but luckily my decision was made for me as I contemplated the scoreboard:

Rainbow-suspender clad Kangaroos, playing the trumpet to the tune of “Tequila!” in Garden Square. Too good.

Waiting for entry between change of ends behind the lovely Pammy who was looking quite the frazzled Mom, I headed in to catch the end of the five-setter between Mardy Fish and Victor Hanescu on Show Court 3. I love our Aussie audiences. The same guys cheering “Victor, Victor” were also the ones clapping enthusiastically when Mardy won a point. Two young girls clutching plastic cups of Jacob’s Creek were enthusiastically cheering for Fishy, and over on the other side, we heard “Fishy, Fishy, Fishy, Oi Oi Oi!”

I settled in near Pammy and the Fish family. Pascal got into a few narrow scrapes, being in a huge show court without Hawkeye, and Victor switched on fire the moment a match point arrived.To quote the kids nearby, “This guy should just always play as if he was on matchpoint.” My three-game stint turned into a half hour ordeal as deuce after deuce rolled by, the Aussie kids cheered the ballboys “You’re the best roller I’ve ever seen, woooo”, and Mardy was – well, looking really svelte, if I must say. Tee hee hee.

And then Pammy ran – nay, sprinted – for her post-match interview. It was funny. I laughed.

Then I heard a thump and a thud. It was Nikolai Davydenko, falling down down down the rankings. Alas.

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