Monthly Archives: October 17, 2021


We’re in the quarterfinals and Maria Sharapova has been steamrolling through the draw at Wimbledon. Only one player has taken four games from her in a set. Her opponent today, Nadia Petrova, is the second. They are at 4-4 in the first set and Petrova is facing a break point, the first of the match.

Petrova got this far by playing aggressively and using slice approach shots to counteract Sharapova’s metronomically powerful ground strokes. The laws of physics require conservation of momentum. In other words, the harder you hit the ball at a power player, the harder they hit it back at you. If Petrova can change speeds and throw in a few junk balls, she not only reduces Sharapova’s power, she can throw off Sharapova’s rhythm and mess up her metronome.

Petrova saves the first break point with a good serve then wins the game and goes up 5-4 with two unforced errors from Sharapova. Sharapova then starts her service game with two aces.

A curious thing has been happening with Sharapova’s serve in this tournament. She’s won 99% (!) of her service games. This would be a record if it held up throughout the tournament. It’s curious because women don’t usually have a serve like Andy Roddick or Joachim Johansson that separates them from the other players and gives them a decided advantage in their service games. It’s even more curious because Sharapova is not a big server. She regularly serves in the low nineties, sometimes in the low 100’s and even uncorked a 75 mph second serve today. On top of that, she seldom serves and volleys and hasn’t been going to the net unless it would be silly not to.

It may be that she’s taken a little off her first serve and is focusing on placement instead. If she’s not playing aggressively and doesn’t have an overwhelming serve, she has to put pressure on her opponent exclusively from the baseline. It’s both a testament to her consistency that she’s been able to do that through four rounds here and a weakness that gives her opponents hope.

Petrova gets an ace of her own to go up 6-5 then Sharapova forces a tiebreaker when Petrova hits the return of a 79 mph second serve beyond the baseline. Maybe Maria is hypnotizing her opponents with that slow twister.

Confidence doesn’t just pop up one day and bite you in the behind. You have to fight through five setters and rain delays and great expectations to develop the confidence that allows you to stick with your strategy through heartbreaking losses and disappointing play.

In the tiebreaker, Sharapova signs an aggression pact with Petrova and hits two approach shots. Sharapova gets a set point at 6-4 with a good serve down the middle but Petrova gets out of it with an approach shot of her own. Petrova has never won a tournament before and she has a chance to take the first set from last year’s champion in a grand slam. She HAS to take advantage of the opportunity.

But she doesn’t. She evens the tiebreaker at 6-6 with an ace but Sharapova plays the big points as a top ten player should: she forces Petrova into an error with a forehand down the line then hits a clean winner with a forehand cross court.

Petrova looks a little out of sync at the beginning of the second set. She loses her serve in the second game. She shows sign of life with a return and volley in the fifth game but Sharapova serves two aces to keep the momentum. That’s what veterans do. Petrova is not playing with the combination of aggressive play and change of pace that kept her even with Sharapova in the first set. Sharapova breaks her again to win the second set and take the match, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Surely Petrova was discouraged to lose the first set after getting to 6-6, but why did she abandon a strategy that was working? Did she lose her confidence?

The answer lies in the match between Venus Williams and Mary Pierce. Venus trounces Pierce in the first set, 6-0, but here we are at the end of the second set and we have a tiebreaker.

Pierce is thirty years old and Venus has two Wimbledon titles. They’ve both suffered a lot of personal turmoil. They’ve both survived the brutal British Press. They are veterans. Confidence doesn’t just pop up one day and bite you in the behind. You have to fight through five setters and rain delays and great expectations to develop the confidence that allows you to stick with your strategy through heartbreaking losses and disappointing play.

Petrova doesn’t have that yet. Pierce does.

The second set is as good as the first set was terrible. In the tiebreaker, Venus and Pierce slug the ball as hard as they can and run each other deep into the corners. Pierce gets her first set point at 6-4 then hits two forehands into the net. Venus gets a match point at 7-6 after Pierce runs her wide to set up the open court but sends the backhand volley long. Pierce gets a second and third set point. On this last set point, Venus hits a deep inside out forehand and Pierce gets a bad bounce. Venus gets another match point at 11-10 after hitting a lob off a Pierce floater followed by a winning volley. Pierce hits a backhand long at Venus finally wins it, 6-0, 7-6 (10).

Tell me now, didn’t you expect Venus to fade away and go into interior design fulltime while Serena hung in there just long enough to get to some grand slam finals and win a few of them? Didn’t you expect Lindsay Davenport to be long gone after a series of cortisone shots and a discouraging finals loss? Instead, Venus is into the semis, Davenport has beaten Clijsters twice in a row and Serena has disrespected a grand slam by showing up with an injury and no match preparation.

Things are not always what you think they are.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 285 user reviews.


The first week’s play at Wimbledon wound down Saturday evening, amid cooler temperatures and cloudy skies.

In my last posting I made winning predictions for Rafael Nadal and Marat Safin. Both are now gone. So let me say first off, bring forth to me more fine players, yea, that I may jinx them too!
Both men lost to players they should have beaten. Nadal is pretty new to grass, and was not expected to go far. Safin though had been playing well in the first two rounds. But in Feliciano Lopez he ran across a guy who is actually comfortable on grass, for a Spaniard. Safin could just not find a comfort level he could play in to beat the lefty Lopez. He had a good run though this year, and should be feeling better now about playing on grass in the future. At least he kept his cool.

The top guys kept moving through the draw. Roger Federer donated his first set of the tournament to Nicholas Kiefer, but then recovered to beat him rather easily in four sets. Andy Roddick gets crisper and sharper with each round. He looks like he intends to make that final. So let me stick my head out of the foxhole yet again and predict that it will be Roger and Andy in the final, and Roger will win it all. He is not as picture perfect yet as he could be, but he will probably peak at just the right time.

The British public were collectively gnashing their bad teeth over the performance of Tim Henman. They already had him dead and buried practically before he walked off the court after losing to the Russian Tursunov. But a new hope has arisen in the person of teenager Andy Murray, an energetic player who should have a good future on grass here. It doesn’t matter that he is actually Scottish, the Brits will take him anyway. They have tended to adopt that sometime Brit Greg Rusedski, and would even get behind a guy like Alexander Popp, whose heritage is mixed German/British. The Brits are that desperate for a new god, so that they may pick him to pieces in coming years. I would advise the kid’s parents though to think about sending their child to some fine American tennis family, or perhaps a Spanish one, so that he can grow up outside of the spotlight of the British public, which tends to scrutinize their athletes to death. They do tend to eat their young, those Brits. Andy enjoyed a good run, and was up two sets on David Nalbandian. But even teenagers run out of steam, apparently, as the Argentine came back to win in five sets.

The hot story over the weekend on the women’s side of the world was all about the upcoming confrontation of Venus and Serena Williams. But oldtimer Jill Craybas probably said enough of all THAT talk, and decided to celebrate her 31st birthday (on July 4th) a little early. She beat Serena in straight sets. Craybas is a tiny little squeak at 5’3″, but she is as fit as a fiddle. She used that weapon to run Serena from side to side, and basically made Serena play her game. As Mary Jo Fernandez pointed out in the booth, she forced Serena to become tentative in her movement, and it carried over to her being tentative on her groundstrokes.

Serena probably needs now, in addition to healing her body, to ask why she so stubbornly persisted in playing at Wimbledon. Her father Richard was quite vocal that she should not have stepped onboard the airplane. Her ankle and knee were both bothering her throughout her matches, and on top of that she contracted flu. Sometimes as an athlete you need to power yourself through difficult patches. Sometimes though you just need to know when to turn that power off. Serena kept persisting though. Hopefully she can make better choices in the future. She is still a superwoman, but she needs to realize she is not the only one out there now, and listen to her body better in the future even if she is not going to heed the advice of her dad.

Well, now for the dicey stuff. More predictions!

On the men’s side, Roger Federer will most likely beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in three sets. Ferrero has had long matches throughout, it feels like a struggle for him. But I for one am happy to see him back and playing pretty good on his least favorite surface. “Gonzo” Gonzalez of Chile will beat back the Russian Youzhny, Tursunov will upset Grosjean, Roddick will send Coria hustling back to clay, Max Mirnyi will serve his way past Thomas Johansson, Nalbandian will win fairly easily over Richard Gasquet; Hewitt will make a big dent in Dent, and Lopez will upset Ancic.

The Women: Lindsay will have a routine victory over Clijsters (you see, I really DO like Davenport’s chances); Kuznetsova will punish Maggie Maleeva, likewise Mauresmo over Likhovtseva; Myskina will lose a tight three-setter to Dementieva; the surprising Mary Pierce will crush Pennetta, as will Petrova over Peschke and Sharapova over the Frenchwoman Dechy.
And finally, Venus Williams will revenge Serena’s loss to Jill Craybas.

Dark Horses: Mad Max Mirnyi of Belarus, by way of Brighton Beach, and Venus Williams.

So shoot me.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 284 user reviews.


So the tennis roadshow has shifted from the red clay of Roland Garros at the French Open, just two weeks ago, to the doom and gloom of grass at Wimbledon.

Well, maybe not quite doom and gloom. Actually the weather in London has been quite remarkable, in the 70s and 80s, a veritable heatwave for them. Monday the temperature was 92, the hottest it has been in 28 years. Friday they may get some rain, but so far the weather has been cooperating, and the load of early matches are getting finished. The courts apparently bounce higher and harder when the weather is warm, and the big servers are loving life.

Suddenly we see players who come out mainly for this tournament, people like Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis. Mario Ancic and Joachim Johansson can also pound big serves, and they should work their way further into the draw.

The first man to fall by the wayside was Maria Sharapova’s stalker. He was identified before the tournament started and banned from the grounds. More will follow, we can be sure. Especially if Maria keeps doing those sexy commercials where she magically pulls a camera from out of her underwear. Maria claimed not to even notice the guy, probably true. She is surrounded by so many people now, only some of them bodyguard types, she probably doesn’t know who is part of her retinue and who isn’t. As long as she can identify the girl on the other side of the net.

The shift from clay to grass in such a short space of time ushers in a whole new crowd of grass court specialists, and ushers out the clay court people who barely bother to cross the Channel. The Spaniards generally do not like Wimbledon. Carlos Moya made an appearance last year, but generally before that he usually found reasons to pull out. This year it was his shoulder (legitimate though). Tommy Robredo, the 13th seed, should have gotten through the first round, but he didn’t. But Juan Carlos Ferrero is here, trying to rebuild a career sapped by injuries and inconsistency the last couple of years. He does not make it easy on himself though, his first two matches have gone the distance.

Mariano Puerta, the finalist at the French, at least bothered to show up. He had to tear himself away from the festivities held in his honor back in Argentina, so give him an “A” for effort. He knew he wouldn’t last long though, his long strokes and baseline play are perfect for clay, totally impractical on grass. Bergsmuller took him out in the first round in three sets.

THE GUYS WHO LOOK GOOD

Marat Safin has been very impressive. For some reason this year he seems to feel a lot better about playing on grass. Before that, he used to echo Marcelo Rios of Chile, who liked to say that “grass is for cows.” Winning can do that to a boy’s mind. And Safin has been winning easily, in straight sets, with efficiency and a business-like attitude. Drama free. Let me stick my neck out now and say that the men’s semi here will feature Safin and Federer, and Safin may upset the Fed Man as he did at the Australian Open earlier this year. After that match, I wrote that Marat is the one guy who will consistently be able to bother Roger, he has the power and the game to do it. On more surfaces than Rafael Nadal.

Roger and Andy Roddick have moved easily through their matches. Roger exudes confidence, he fully expects to win this. After all, as McEnroe said, the man has the game of God. Roddick could meet Nadal in the other semi, I think he can beat Nadal on grass.

Lleyton Hewitt will face Safin in the quarters, and I expect Safin will prevail. Hewitt apparently criticized the seedings at Wimbledon, why I am not sure. He is ranked #3, Roddick is ahead of him and Roger is on top. Does he think he should be ranked ahead of Roddick? Beats me. Maybe impending fatherhood is making him uptight. His kid will pop out of the womb with a clenched fist, no doubt, and a hail and hearty “Come on!”

Rafael Nadal is playing better on grass than I thought he would. He actually went out in the first round of one of the tune-up events on grass, so I did not think he would fare well here. Mary Jo Fernandez and Brad Gilbert, in their commentary, were debating the merits of Nadal playing doubles here too, as he did at the French. Mary Jo thinks it will help his volleying, but I tend to agree with Gilbert. It’s a lot of energy expended over a long two weeks. Why not just have a good half hour of net practice in lieu of running around on a doubles court for best of five sets? But hey, that’s a 60-year-old body talking versus a 19-year-old’s.

THE WOMEN

Lindsay Davenport looks awesome. And as lean as we have seen her. I think she is going to win it all.

The only major shock of the tournament so far was Justine Henin-Hardenne going out in her opening round to Eleni Daniilidou, of Greece. And in a way it really was not such a big surprise. Maybe Justine read that article in the New York Times the other day, about how all the top girls in tennis now are nearly six feet tall. Justine is barely 5’6″. The day of the Little People in tennis may be nearly over, now you really need that height and those levers that go with it. I feel sorry about this, but it seems inevitable. I like seeing Justine play, she has a beautiful, complete game. In a way, she did what Martina Hingis could have done: build up her body with more muscle, get more pop on her serves, hit out with more power and develop even more speed. Justine loves to train. Martina was never the grunt though that the Belgian is.

But that may be part of the problem Justine faced with Daniilidou, a very tall, powerful player whose game resembles Amelie Mauresmo’s. Justine did not play any tournaments on grass leading up to Wimbledon. She was nervous about her endurance, obviously, and did not want to play herself into the ground.

But then the draw came out, she saw who she was facing in the opening round, and she probably regretted that decision. This could be the breakthrough tournament Eleni Daniilidou’s career has needed, she has a lot of power, a great serve and all the shots. Now with that she has the confidence that comes from beating one of the tournament favorites on the women’s side.

Power on through, boys and girls.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 239 user reviews.


So the tennis roadshow has shifted from the red clay of Roland Garros at the French Open, just two weeks ago, to the doom and gloom of grass at Wimbledon.

Well, maybe not quite doom and gloom. Actually the weather in London has been quite remarkable, in the 70s and 80s, a veritable heatwave for them. Monday the temperature was 92, the hottest it has been in 28 years. Friday they may get some rain, but so far the weather has been cooperating, and the load of early matches are getting finished. The courts apparently bounce higher and harder when the weather is warm, and the big servers are loving life.

Suddenly we see players who come out mainly for this tournament, people like Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis. Mario Ancic and Joachim Johansson can also pound big serves, and they should work their way further into the draw.

The first man to fall by the wayside was Maria Sharapova’s stalker. He was identified before the tournament started and banned from the grounds. More will follow, we can be sure. Especially if Maria keeps doing those sexy commercials where she magically pulls a camera from out of her underwear. Maria claimed not to even notice the guy, probably true. She is surrounded by so many people now, only some of them bodyguard types, she probably doesn’t know who is part of her retinue and who isn’t. As long as she can identify the girl on the other side of the net.

The shift from clay to grass in such a short space of time ushers in a whole new crowd of grass court specialists, and ushers out the clay court people who barely bother to cross the Channel. The Spaniards generally do not like Wimbledon. Carlos Moya made an appearance last year, but generally before that he usually found reasons to pull out. This year it was his shoulder (legitimate though). Tommy Robredo, the 13th seed, should have gotten through the first round, but he didn’t. But Juan Carlos Ferrero is here, trying to rebuild a career sapped by injuries and inconsistency the last couple of years. He does not make it easy on himself though, his first two matches have gone the distance.

Mariano Puerta, the finalist at the French, at least bothered to show up. He had to tear himself away from the festivities held in his honor back in Argentina, so give him an “A” for effort. He knew he wouldn’t last long though, his long strokes and baseline play are perfect for clay, totally impractical on grass. Bergsmuller took him out in the first round in three sets.

THE GUYS WHO LOOK GOOD

Marat Safin has been very impressive. For some reason this year he seems to feel a lot better about playing on grass. Before that, he used to echo Marcelo Rios of Chile, who liked to say that “grass is for cows.” Winning can do that to a boy’s mind. And Safin has been winning easily, in straight sets, with efficiency and a business-like attitude. Drama free. Let me stick my neck out now and say that the men’s semi here will feature Safin and Federer, and Safin may upset the Fed Man as he did at the Australian Open earlier this year. After that match, I wrote that Marat is the one guy who will consistently be able to bother Roger, he has the power and the game to do it. On more surfaces than Rafael Nadal.

Roger and Andy Roddick have moved easily through their matches. Roger exudes confidence, he fully expects to win this. After all, as McEnroe said, the man has the game of God. Roddick could meet Nadal in the other semi, I think he can beat Nadal on grass.

Lleyton Hewitt will face Safin in the quarters, and I expect Safin will prevail. Hewitt apparently criticized the seedings at Wimbledon, why I am not sure. He is ranked #3, Roddick is ahead of him and Roger is on top. Does he think he should be ranked ahead of Roddick? Beats me. Maybe impending fatherhood is making him uptight. His kid will pop out of the womb with a clenched fist, no doubt, and a hail and hearty “Come on!”

Rafael Nadal is playing better on grass than I thought he would. He actually went out in the first round of one of the tune-up events on grass, so I did not think he would fare well here. Mary Jo Fernandez and Brad Gilbert, in their commentary, were debating the merits of Nadal playing doubles here too, as he did at the French. Mary Jo thinks it will help his volleying, but I tend to agree with Gilbert. It’s a lot of energy expended over a long two weeks. Why not just have a good half hour of net practice in lieu of running around on a doubles court for best of five sets? But hey, that’s a 60-year-old body talking versus a 19-year-old’s.

THE WOMEN

Lindsay Davenport looks awesome. And as lean as we have seen her. I think she is going to win it all.

The only major shock of the tournament so far was Justine Henin-Hardenne going out in her opening round to Eleni Daniilidou, of Greece. And in a way it really was not such a big surprise. Maybe Justine read that article in the New York Times the other day, about how all the top girls in tennis now are nearly six feet tall. Justine is barely 5’6″. The day of the Little People in tennis may be nearly over, now you really need that height and those levers that go with it. I feel sorry about this, but it seems inevitable. I like seeing Justine play, she has a beautiful, complete game. In a way, she did what Martina Hingis could have done: build up her body with more muscle, get more pop on her serves, hit out with more power and develop even more speed. Justine loves to train. Martina was never the grunt though that the Belgian is.

But that may be part of the problem Justine faced with Daniilidou, a very tall, powerful player whose game resembles Amelie Mauresmo’s. Justine did not play any tournaments on grass leading up to Wimbledon. She was nervous about her endurance, obviously, and did not want to play herself into the ground.

But then the draw came out, she saw who she was facing in the opening round, and she probably regretted that decision. This could be the breakthrough tournament Eleni Daniilidou’s career has needed, she has a lot of power, a great serve and all the shots. Now with that she has the confidence that comes from beating one of the tournament favorites on the women’s side.

Power on through, boys and girls.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 199 user reviews.

The byline of this column is: “anything and everything about life, tennis and sports.” With that in mind, here is my sports wish list for the year.

Watch a cricket match. I grew up in a small village in England. My only cricket memory is a bad one. I was playing cricket with my friends one day when I accidentally put my hands in front of the wicket and caught the only ball that was ever going to come close to knocking the wicket off. We were terrible. No-one could throw the ball accurately enough to get anyone out. After my faux-pas we gave up and trooped home.

Watch one of the weekly foosball tournaments held in Orange County. My dining room table is a cool blue acrylic foosball table with see-through sides and two sets of identical acrylic players. Makes it harder to play because the both teams look alike but that’s the price you pay if you want upscale high-tech design.

Check out the rock’em sock’em Roller Derby world. The LA Derby Dolls lost the lease on their space but they hope to be back in action soon.

Find out why lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in this country. I watched a game of box lacrosse and found it almost indistinguishable from hockey. How much did you miss hockey during the lockout this season? Today let’s look at field lacrosse and see if that helps explain its popularity any better.

We are watching the 2005 NCAA Division I semifinal between Duke and Maryland at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the home field of the Philadelphia Eagles. A lacrosse field is a bit longer and a bit wider than a football field. The goals are fifteen feet away from the end lines so we will see a lot of play behind the goals.

The first clue that helps explain the game’s popularity is controversy.

In their quarterfinal game against Georgetown, Maryland’s Bill McGlone scored a goal into an empty net with just over a minute to go to put Maryland up 9-7. The Georgetown coach immediately asked for a stick check. Lacrosse has very strict rules about the dimensions of the stick. The webbing that holds the ball cannot be too deep because that would make it too easy for the attacker to hold onto the ball while fighting through wrap checks, slap checks, poke checks and body checks on their way to the goal. To test the pocket, the umpire rotates the stick upside down. The ball should fall out when the pocket is at a 45 degree angle. The ball did not fall out of McGlone’s stick. He had to serve a three minute penalty which means that his team had to play one man down. Georgetown scored a goal to tie the game but Maryland managed to score a goal in overtime to win 9-8. More controversy, more press.

Athletes are switching from soccer to lacrosse because they can score more goals. It’s also easier to carry the ball on your stick than dribble it up the field on your foot. Unlike soccer, you can substitute on the fly. Whenever a Maryland or Duke player scores a goal, they go to the sidelines for a rest. It’s like playing football because you can lay someone out but you don’t have to stop every single play and stand around waiting for the next play to start.

The offense most resembles a game of basketball. Quick passes, pick and rolls, spin moves, fast breaks and quick passing. Duke’s players are beating Maryland to the ball. They win eight of the first ten face offs and they are passing the ball well. By the time Duke gets ahead 6-1, six different Duke players have scored. Maryland is taking quick shots at difficult angles. These bad shots lead to fast breaks that lead to a lot of goals for Duke. It’s just like watching the 2004-5 Los Angeles Lakers. Thanks heavens Phil Jackson is back.

Duke’s goalie, Aaron Fenton, is first team All-American and he’s playing like it. He stops point blank shots and throws beautiful outlet passes. There is no shot clock in field lacrosse. Imagine that Dwyane Wade could set up behind the goal all day and Shaquille O’Neal could stand in front of the goal without a three second penalty. That’s what is looks like today. Duke is controlling the ball and playing superb defense. By the middle of the third quarter, Duke’s attackers have more fouls than the defenders on the team. That’s a good indication that every player is scrapping for the ball.

Maryland started uncharacteristically slow and never recovered. Duke wins the game 18-9.

It’s an exciting game with fast moves, pinpoint passing and enough bodies sprawling to make it interesting but not brutal. It doesn’t have the aerial acrobatics of basketball, it doesn’t have the sophisticated patterns of football, it’s not as fast as hockey, it’s not as boring as soccer. It has a little bit of each sport and that makes it appealing to a lot of athletes and a lot of spectators. Over 44, 000 turned up to watch the final between Duke and John Hopkins.

That’s a pretty popular sport.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 271 user reviews.