discontent

The LA Open Day 6: Semi Final Saturday

The Beach Boy does it again! Top seed defending champion Sam Querrey fights back yet again, showing some seasoned craftiness, testing his guts to the limit to ward off a match point and set sail for another final at the Farmers Classic LA Open.

It was hotter than yesterday, only by a few degrees, but in tennis everything is margins, inches, nanometers, and things sway by the slightest hitch in the universe, and today was no different. Sam’s opponent was the philosophical, wise beyond his years, Serbian, Janko Tipsarevic, who is seeded sixth in the tournament. Janko has a tattoo of the nineteenth century Russian literary giant Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ on his person and when listening to him in the press conference, one gets the impression that tennis isn’t what Janko only thinks about, but when directing his lofty thoughts on the subject can offer an uncanny insight that is concise, just, well articulated (even in English, which isn’t is native tongue), and is devoid of any pretense. Most athletes when interviewed sound like terminator cyborgs, spewing off rehearsed answers to questions without the slightest note of feeling. If you’ve ever seen a Shaquille O’Neal interview, you know what I’m talking about. I walked into the press room and saw Janko seated in his chair at the head of the room with a look of calm discontent. He wasn’t sad, but he wasn’t thrilled either. I was surprised most of all that a player had actually arrived on time for their meeting of the press, a first for the tournament, and when Janko described the match, whereby he lost in a bitterly fought three setter, I was even more surprised to hear the free flowing candor and wisdom come from this young man. “I should not have lost this match,” Janko said, in response to the first question about his feelings, and he didn’t sound bitter or resentful at all, just right to the point and he supported his statement with a play by play account of what he “should” have done. “I was forcing the ball in big points, instead of returning the ball into play. I was going for too much when there really was no need.” The Serbian was steadfast in his assessment of his serve. “My serve was not there at all today. I don’t know what happened. My ground game was good, and I felt I could hit any ball back but my serve completely left me.”

Tipsarevic’s claim to fame was his long five set war with Roger Federer in the Australian Open of 2008 where the holy one barely got by in a grueling fifth set. One of the reporters asked Janko what he thought of Querrey’s game, and the Serbian spoke without hesitation. “I think he has top ten potential. He is a steady top twenty player, but to be top ten you have to have great results at grand slams and masters series events.” I agree with the soft spoken Serb. He should have won the match. But, I also think that Sam Querrey looked about as good as I’ve ever seen him. Aside from a mental snap toward the end of the first set, where a convincing ace registered for Sam was snuffed by the umpire who called it a let, Sam looked like he definitely could be a potential top ten player. His first serve consistently fired in the lower 130’s and even registered in at 139 once, his fastest for the match. His decision making, to my humble eyes, appeared to finally transcend that barrier between novice green to that of touring professional honing his craft and making choices, which have to be made in a matter of seconds, that provide evidence of a steady evolution. Steadiness, movement, well-timed aggression, and the ability to hold back when he needed to, were on display and Querrey even managed to shoot a few smiles toward his SAMURAI posse of shirtless hooligan supporters after a forehand winner or ace up the T. The fact that he has won two matches in a row that he was losing for the majority of the time, shows me that he is ready to make a deep run at a slam.

Murray and Lopez faced off for the second semi-final of the day under the lights, which makes me wonder how Murray will do playing in the hot afternoon sun against a Beach Boy born and bred under these conditions. All of Murray’s matches have been at night, and he managed to wiz past Mr. Beautiful with relative ease, even though he dropped a level yet again after a first set steamroll handing over the second like a platter of potato salad. Lopez was outmatched, outwitted, and out played. I think if he ever wants to be considered a serious threat he needs to acquire a backhand. The slice and dice game just won’t cut it against top players. Neither will the profile of Adonis. You relinquish too much control with the slice, and if it’s not picture perfect Roger Federeresque, you’re offering up a tee shot for your opponent. Murray was quick to pounce on the mismanagement of the Lopez slice, and turned a second set let down to a third set triumph.

Dare I make a prediction? But of course… Sam in three. The defending champion repeats. I will be there for finals Sunday, please join me at tennisgrandstand.com for all the latest.

PEER POLITICS, HENIN AND THE MAGICIAN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Political Pandemonium – Once again, there was an ugly scene at the WTA Auckland event, as protesters against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians voiced their discontent during Israeli Shahar Peer’s matches. All credit to Peer, however, who managed to block it all out and reach the semifinals before losing to Yanina Wickmayer. Another positive bit of news for Peer is that the WTA has received, in writing, assurances from the UAE that she will be granted a visa to compete in Dubai. For those who remember, Peer was denied the visa in 2009, and the WTA was forced to impose a $300,000 fine on the Dubai event. While things are still far from perfect, it’s nice to see that sometimes sports can rise above politics.

She’s Ba-ack! – The moment tennis fans around the world have been waiting for has arrived as Justine Henin made her official return to tournament tennis at the Brisbane event this week.  With the exception of her quarterfinal match in which she was forced to show her true grit and determination to grind out a third set tiebreak win, Henin has crushed the competition en route to the final, including a dominating performance over former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals.  She now faces the current comeback queen and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final.  Looks the WTA season has started with a bang!

History Beckons – No, Fabrice Santoro hasn’t caught the contagious comeback bug.  He is merely unable to resist the opportunity to etch his name into the record books.  The Frenchman affectionately known as “the magician,” who retired at the 2009 Paris Masters event, has changed his mind and opted to play the 2010 Australian Open.  By playing at the opening Major of the season, Santoro will become the first player to have competed at the Grand Slam events over the course of four different decades.  It’s a great achievement, and I’m sure fans will appreciate the chance to see this crafty player take to the courts as he makes his final curtain call.

Suck It Up – That’s essentially what the ITF will be saying to those players who find themselves wilting under hot conditions or over the course of long matches in all ITF events, which includes the four Slams. I for one was thrilled to read that the ITF was taking a stand on this issue, as it’s been long overdue.  It about time those players who put in the time during the off season are allowed to start reaping the benefits of their hard work instead of having to watch a physically weak opponent break the momentum of a match to receive a massage for cramps, and in some cases, unjustly squeak out the win.  Now, if we could just get the governing bodies to start enforcing the time rule in between points we’d be in business.

Murray Out Of Davis Cup – Once again, Andy Murray has disappointed the people of Great Britain by stating he will not be representing his country in the upcoming tie with Lithuania.  It has to be disappointing for a nation that at one time was one of the top dogs in the tennis world.  That said, it is hard to fault Murray when Roger Federer also appears reluctant to represent Switzerland against Spain in early March, with his reason being a scheduling conflict with the regular tour season.  This is just another blaring example that shows the ITF needs to do something to change the format of the Davis Cup competition, or else blockbuster matchups such as Switzerland vs. Spain are going to continue to go bust in a hurry.