pundits

Marion Bartoli: More Than “Still A Weirdo”

In the hours and days following Marion Bartoli’s maiden Grand Slam win, pundits and commentators have been hard at work spinning the wheel of adjectives (if not euphemisms) to describe the Frenchwoman. “Quirky.” “Eccentric.” “Unique.” All of which are ways of dancing around the word one really wants to use when opining on the veteran top tenner: “weird.”

Compared to her WTA colleagues, it’s true: Marion Bartoli is weird. While her two-handed groundstrokes set her apart from the rest on a fundamental level, Bartoli has made a career of exaggerating the sport’s fundamentals. She takes dramatic practice cuts before kangaroo jumping her way into a widely open-stance return position. She winds up to serve in a hitch-filled motion that looks more like a manual flip book of what a serve is supposed to look like. She is very aware of her surroundings, acknowledging cheering fans with an emphatic fist pump of appreciation.

Even in the context of a tournament so full of surprises and early round upsets that Wimbledon itself was re-dubbed “Wimbleweird,” Bartoli managed to stand out. Though coming into what has been her best major tournament (reaching the finals in 2007), the Frenchwoman had suffered through a middling 2013 highlighted by her decision to extricate her father from his perennial position as her coach and confidante. While bigger names went out in her half of the draw, Bartoli continued to cruise, not only reaching the final without losing a set, but also doing so without facing a top 10 player.

Against prohibitive favorite Sabine Lisicki, Bartoli continued to “weird out” those in attendance. The German had taken out two of the top four seeds, and had won three of her four matches against the Frenchwoman (including a quarterfinal encounter at the All-England Club two years ago). Yet, Lisicki crumbled under the weight of expectation, and Bartoli steadied her own nerves to play with the enthusiastic poise that has seen her conquer multiple Slam champions and reigning World No. 1s throughout her career.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX9zMBNq7Tc

As she closed out victory with an ace and jubilantly skipped over to greet her supporters (including her father with her new hitting partner, Thomas Drouet), I began to wonder if the read on Bartoli was all wrong.

Maybe Marion is one of the normal ones.

As a player, what was weird about Bartoli, whose best results have come on grass, using her on-the-rise groundstrokes to overwhelm seven opponents en route to the title? As a person, shouldn’t the athlete who gracefully stalks about big stages seemingly immune to nerves and tension look more to viewers like the “weird” one?

In this way, Bartoli is the People’s Champion in more ways that one would think. Over the years, she has approached a game often played at immortal levels as methodically as she has uniquely, constantly trying new and better ways of competing with the game’s elite. What many deemed “rituals,” she has seen as formulas for success. Where she has shown fits of greatness, she has also shown human frailty as she struggled with various injuries that derailed potentially earlier title runs.

When she saw she could go no further with her father’s coaching earlier this year, she began opening up to other ideas, and even made amends with the French Federation after years of ostracism and alienation. Fed Cup Captain Amelie Mauresmo and teammate Kristina Mladenovic’s presence in Bartoli’s player box was proof that Bartoli had been warmly welcomed back into the fold.

With these changes came a dip in form; some may have thought her master plan had backfired, but Bartoli refused to buckle under the immediate consequences of major change. As she’s always done, she continued to work and fine-tune her team until they were as formulaic as her two-handed volleys.

In victory and in press, she was charming and unguarded, standing in stark contrast with the high-jumping cartoon character one sees between points. Her pure, unadulterated joy was very human, something we all could imagine feeling after reaching the precipice of our life’s purpose.

If there was anything “weird” about Marion Bartoli holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft, perhaps it had to do with the fact that, despite the changes in technology, the vast accumulation of natural (or superhuman) talent, even the steely nerves shown throughout the tennis world, a normal young woman can continue to grow, change and tinker with her game and rise to the pinnacle of her sport.

After all these years and compared to the surrounding names in the Wimbledon Compendium, Marion Bartoli may still be a “weirdo.” But her fortnight at the All-England Club proved that she was something more.

She’s one of us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUv9AMB9cz8

A Joyful Tennis Summer With Hingis And Kournikova

If you were a tennis fan in the late 90s then you surely must have heard of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis. Those two were my favorite players back then. Anna , who is underrated by most tennis fans, never won a singles title but did  win two Grandslam Doubles titles. Martina Hingis has won many titles including three Grandslam titles (the US Open 1x, Wimbledon 1x,  Australian Open 3x) and nine Grandslam Doubles titles. And she was the number one of the world for 209 consective weeks.

So when I read that the two of them were returning to play the WTT tournaments this summer I was more than happy. Why? Because it meant I’d get to see photos of them playing.  Things were even better when they entered the Wimbledon Legends doubles tournament.  It was the return of the Spice Girls all over.

Fans and pundits from all over the world were elated to see Hingis and Kournikova team up again for doubles and play singles.  Ofcourse this also ignited rumors that Hingis may make a return to the WTA Tour. She told the press that she may play a few doubles games with Lindsay Davenport.  But we haven’t heard much of that ever since.  As a fan I keep hoping that Hingis will return for at least more doubles tournaments.

I even dug up some videos of the two of them interviewed by Harry Cicma for World Tennis Magazine.

Enjoy the photos and videos.  The photos are Anna Kournikova at the St. Louis Aces Vs Newport Beach Breakers match and Martina Hingis at the World Team Tennis tournament at Villanova University. Check the guy Martina Hingis is talking to. Rumor has it that he is her new beau.

I have also added extra bonus pics of Anna Kournikova At The Laureus Charity Gala At The MBB In Stuttgart.

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MARTINA HINGIS: SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND

I woke up this morning, enjoying my cup of tea, reading the sports news on Yahoo! when a headline caught my eye. Martina Hingis to play the World Team Tennis. I was baffled by this news. I have been a fan of Hingis since 1998. When she won, we won. When she lost, we lost. When she cried, I usually turned off my tv or switched channels.  But Hingis won a lot. She continued to win.  Held top ranking on the WTA Tour for 209 weeks in a row.

And then came the sad news that she was forced to retire.

We wouldn’t be able to enjoy her marvelous tactical game that graced the courts anymore. We wouldn’t be able to get into chat rooms and cheer her on as any Hingis fan would. Or post on forums, from results to opinions. We panicked, who would we cheer on now?  There is no greater champion than her.

With her gone, I lost interest in the WTA Tour for a while. There was nobody to cheer for in my opinion. The WTA Tour felt dead, black and empty without her.

Until November 29, 2005.  That was the day Hingis announced her return to the tour.  Fans and pundits worldwide cheered her come back.  The media frenzy that followed made sure that there was no way around letting you know that the “Swiss Miss” was back on the tour.

The chatrooms were filled again with fans. People who kept live scores  updated us throughout the matches that followed.  And new friends were made.  This went on for about a year and a half.

It was great to be part of the community again.

Then on November 1, 2007  Hingis announced her second retirement from the game. She failed a drug test as cocaine was detected in her system. She denied the allegations but was banned by the ITF for two years. Two years would pretty much be the end of her career. According to a lot of fans.  While the chatrooms ran empty, the forums were less visited we never forgot the one player who made us smile when she smiled.

So today I open my browser, drink my tea and read that Hingis will make a return to World Team Tennis tour. I am baffled.

She told the press that she has watched a lot of Australian Open this year.

“Of course it makes you think. Tennis was all my life, and the most natural thing is that it makes you think. It would be sad if it didn’t make me think, don’t you think?” Hingis said.

“Tennis is still my life. Well, part of it,” she continued. “But my life is very comfortable, on the other hand. Tennis gave me a lot of things and sometimes you have to put things behind. It’s a lot of sacrifice, as well. I wouldn’t want to risk it anymore.”

When asked what she missed the most about tennis she replied with the following:

“What I miss is probably … the winning moments—when you hold up the trophy and you know you are the best in the world and you end up winning Grand Slams. That is probably the moment an athlete is most happy,” Hingis said.

“You miss that, but you know that getting to that point takes a lot of years, a lot of hard work, a lot of practice. It doesn’t come from heaven,” she added. “You never forget how much work, how much pain, you go through to get there.”

Now let’s hope that she hungers for those moments and makes a return to the tour. If Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin can do it then why not her?

SERENA WILLIAMS IS A TORNADO

Ofcourse any tennis fan has heard of Serena Williams. No matter how you put it, she is one of the best tennis players ever. An impressive list of achievements and titles she was temporarily distracted by things outside tennis. And despite the criticism at that time from many tennis pundits, I think she has earned it to do some stuff offcourt.

When she made a comeback she did that with brute force and stylish play winning the Australian Open.

I wonder what this year has in store for her. I think that she has a serious shot at the title. Even though I want Sharapova to win, I still think that there is a very good chance of Serena winning the AusOpen 2010 title.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years is that you never ever underestimate Serena Williams. She is like a tornado, taking the titles one by one.

Enjoy the photos of her practicing in Sydney and the interview video of Serena and Venus!

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