One of our readers left a comment about Pat Davis’s take onRoger Federer’s strategy at Wimbledon. He decided that Tennis Magazine writer Peter Bodo had the better explanation for Federer’s decision to stay at the baseline during the final: “He wants to outplay Rafa in Rafa’s style, as he outplays everybody else.”
would he really screw around and lose the opportunity for an eighth grand slam and a fourth Wimbledon title by trying demoralize his opponent?
Peter Bodo is a great tennis writer but why do people believe that? As much as Bodo talks about Federer KAD’s (people obsessed with Federer, or any other player for that matter), here Bodo is trying to exalt him by saying that Federer is so great that he can use a grand slam final to make a point instead of just trying to win the damn thing.
You’re telling me that Roger Federer sat down with Tony Roche and said, “I know I can beat him by attacking the net but I’m gonna beat at his own game and play from the baseline, that way he’ll really know who’s the king.”
I’m sure Federer doesn’t care about a forty-eight match streak on grass but would he really screw around and lose the opportunity for an eighth grand slam and a fourth Wimbledon title by trying demoralize his opponent?
maybe Clijsters should be called Justine and Henin-Hardenne should change her name to Juliette
Athletes have been known to do things like that. There were times that Boris Becker insisted on playing baseline tennis when he should have been at the net because he fancied himself an all court player. But Federer isn’t stupidly stubborn.
I’d be much more willing to believe that he was fearful when he refused to attack the net than I’d believe that he was trying to make a point. It was a tactical mistake at Roland Garros and it made him look bad, but it was the right decision at Wimbledon borne of two weeks superlative play staying, mostly, at the baseline.
What do basketball great Bill Walton and Justine Henin-Hardenne have in common? I’ve just finished reading David Halberstam’s excellent book about the 1979-80 Portland Trailblazers NBA season, Breaks of the Game. Halberstam talked about the small but distinctive ways that Walton tried to establish his dominance on the team. For example, when Coach Jack Ramsay called the players together after practice, Walton made a point of being the last one to join the huddle:
“Ramsay might be talking to the team about that night’s game plan and Walton would take one last shot after the talk had started. Or perhaps two. Nothing big. But something that was always there.”
Henin-Hardenne also does small annoying things that are designed to assert her dominance. Raising her hand to call time out as Serena Williams served then denying she did it when Williams served a fault in the 2003 French Open semifinal. Having a coughing fit right after Kim Clijsters broke her in the third set of their semifinal match at Wimbledon this year which gave Henin-Hardenne the excuse of going to the sideline so she could slow Clijsters momentum. Clijsters is so guileless that she’s ill-equipped to deal with this kind of behavior, a prime reason Henin-Hardenne has won six of their last eight matches.
Perhaps we should start calling Henin-Hardenne Justine De Sade except that the character Justine in the Marquis De Sade’s book – from whence comes the word sadism – was virtuous but suffered for it. It was Justine’s sister Juliette who behaved badly and yet was rewarded. Okay then, maybe Clijsters should be called Justine and Henin-Hardenne should change her name to Juliette.
Tennis Week reports that the ATP doesn’t plan to make significant changes to the tournament schedule until after the 2008 Olympics, meaning that changes would start in 2009. The ATP chairman, Etienne de Villiers, wants to spread the slams thoughout the year and build the tournament schedule around them. For example, the US Open has a series of tournaments called the US Open Series which lead up to the US Open. It’s a good thing someone is finally listening to us columnists. The Australian Open is currently in the third week of the season and Wimbledon starts three weeks after Roland Garros ends, which is ridiculous. Good luck, though, Monsieur de Villiers. The slams have all the money and the power. Moving them might be like moving a mountain.
De Villiers would also reduce the number of Masters Series tournaments which currently stands at nine. I like Masters Series events. Besides the slams, that’s the only time everyone turns up. Look at this week’s schedule: the Stuttgart tournament is paying over $131, 000 to the winner and it doesn’t have one top ten player in the field. I’d be pissed off if I was the tournament director.
For everyone bemoaning the loss of serve and volley, you could have watched unadulterated serve and volley at the Newport semifinal today between Mark Philippoussis and Jurgen Melzer. But therein lies the problem. Newport is an orphan child, the only ATP grass court tournament in the US. The ATP grass court season consists of four wamup tournaments in two weeks followed by Wimbledon with a little spit at the end that few players attend – Newport. So you can lay some of the blame for the demise of serve and volley on the schedule.
If you want to see more of it, not as much as you saw a decade ago because Wimbledon has been methodically slowing the grass and they now use bigger balls – there’s an ad campaign in there somewhere, then put a grass court season into the calendar. Spread the four slams evenly throughout the year and create a series of grass tournaments leading up to Wimbledon.
You won’t get the reincarnation of Stefan Edberg or Pete Sampras but you will get a lot more serve and volley than you presently have. By the way, Justin Gimelstob, surprisingly, beat Andy Murray in the second semifinal at Newport and will meet Philippoussis in the Newport final. They should play golden oldies as the players walk onto the court tomorrow.
One last thing. My estimation of Steffi Graf just jumped a mile. Gary Smith has written one of his typically emotional, overdramatic pieces for Sports Illustated, this time about Andre Agassi’s career. The image of Agassi in the article is a portrait by Graf. It’s a straightforward black and white headshot but it is a naked, haunting image that is unlike any other image you’ve seen of Agassi. She looks deep into his soul.
If have a subscription to Sports Illustrated, you can view the image by going here and clicking on Tennis: Coming into Focus. If not, you’ll have to borrow it from a friend or find it on a newstand. It’s worth it.