Monthly Archives: January 2006

The Men’s Final: Thank You, Gentlemen

The Australian Open concluded today with the men’s final, this guy named Federer won the cookie in four sets. But does it really matter what name we affix on that fine-looking piece of silverware? Baghdatis, Federer, Federer, Baghdatis. What really counted was that these two great guys went out and put on a good show, and right when we needed it the most. After the abominable play yesterday of Justine Henin-Hardenne in the women’s final, it would have been horrific if the men had left us with a less than stellar match. We needed cleansing, baby, and today we got cleansed. We won’t have to adjourn with our morose selves to the local pub after all, and drown the sorrows with one slab of tinnies after another. A modest cocktail would do just fine though, thanks. We can savor it as we can look back and savor this match.

In the run-up to the match however, some prognosticators were suggesting it might be a blow-out. That did not happen, although clearly Marcos Baghdatis went away in those last two sets. No one is going to hold that against him, because he went out there and for the first two sets he kept Roger in a tight little box. Think Houdini, clamped in chains, in the box, and into the water went he. The fun became in seeing whether Baghdatis could keep him there. Baghdatis has been his own Houdini figure in this tournament too, having escaped from several near debacles in reaching the final. He simply ran into a master magician today.

Federer has beaten Baghdatis several times in the past year, you would think the guy might have the Cypriot’s number. But a different Baghdatis showed up today from what Federer had seen before. His serve for one thing has really increased in power and speed. His first serves were going in today at ten miles faster than they were a year ago. His confidence too, which allowed him to hang in long rallies with the world’s number one.

It took Federer nearly two full sets to get his game on track. He may have been a little surprised Baghdatis came out firing like he did. The occasion did not phase Marcos at all, he was serving big, he looked relaxed, his shots were sticking, and his backhand down the line gave Roger Federer a taste of his own medicine. When Roger Federer loses, he loses to the guys with great backhands down the line, like Rafael Nadal, Richard Gasquet and David Nalbandian.

Federer piled up 16 errors in the first set alone. And Rod Laver was watching from the stands. Gulp. Was there a Laver factor in this match? Yes, in that Fed clearly wanted to play well in front of one of his idols. No way was Roger going to lose. Maybe Coach Roche could persuade Mr. Laver to attend more Roger matches. The guy could bring a bit of luck.

I love watching this man win. He leaps in delight with the joy of a little kid who’s been locked up in the pastry shop overnight. And he overflows in tearful emotion when he hugs Rod Laver during the trophy presentation. Thanks loads to ESPN2 for not even bothering to show the ceremony. They also knocked several games off the third set. It took me a bit to realize they’d flash forwarded, but at first you think your mind is going. It may be, this tournament was long and exhausting to cover. Then they changed the match time. It was scheduled for 12 noon pacific time, but for some reason it got moved up to 9 a.m. I just happened onto it as I was trolling the airways. Thanks guys.

After the first two sets were split, 5-7 Baghdatis, then 7-5 to Federer, you could feel it coming. “The sleeper hold” as Brad Gilbert termed it. Roger started to build confidence, he started coming forward more. Errors crept into the Baghdatis game. Then the ESPN2 guys spin us forward to 5-0. A crucial but correct overrule at the end of the third set goes against Baghdatis. He loses it 6-0, but that call seems to nearly gut the poor man completely.

In the fourth set, Baghdatis has flashes of energy, but Roger keeps shutting the door on him. Marcos begins cramping in one calf and we can see the writing on the wall now. Roger is feeling good enough that he starts in with those drop shots, three of them in one game. It’s like “fooling around,” says Federer. He maintains he doesn’t like to use them all that much because of that. Guy, it’s OK. Come on over and we’ll fool around, we want to tell the man.

Roger breaks Baghdatis to win the final set, 6-2. But no one really lost today in the big view of things. We got the clean taste we were hoping for.

This was an interesting Grand Slam to cover, lots of stuff happened. We saw the arrival of a spectacular new talent, Marcos Baghdatis. A whole new chapter starts for him.

We saw Martina Hingis, losing finally in her dramatic run but really a big winner overall in the singles just by her being here and playing well. A whole new chapter begins for her. Today she notched up a mixed doubles, so welcome to the Dollhouse, baby face.

Tommy Haas will hopefully go on to a great resurgent year. He showed us some good stuff here. His countryman Nicolas Kiefer did too, but unfortunately he had to remind us of what a pain in the ass he really is as well.

And Justine Henin-Hardenne. Should we hope that she might show some sort of contrition in the days ahead? Don’t hold your breath, she never acknowledged what happened with Serena Williams at Roland Garros two years ago. Why start now?

Hey, let’s all give little Justine a leg up as she attempts a recovery from her…ah…stomach whatever. Can someone find her address at home in Belgium? Because I think we should all buy her lots and lots of Tums. And send them to her with all dispatch. God forbid she should be caught Tum-less in future events.

We could at least tie up the mail carriers in Belgium for a month or two.

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For Shame: The Women’s Final

No, those aren’t flames we’re seeing from the summer wild fires that often plague Australia at this time of year. They’re flames of wrath and rebuke, aimed this morning at Justine Henin-Hardenne for her dismal performance last night in the Australian Open Women’s Final. She’s getting it up one side of Australia and down the other, probably in a lot of other places too. Wherever people still love and follow tennis. And deservedly so. Last night was one of the more shocking incidents to occur in a while in a major final. And sickening.

For those of you recently returned from living in a yurt in outer Mongolia, here’s what happened. The women’s final was in the second set. Amelie Mauresmo had won the first with a powerful display of shot making and steady serving. She outplayed Justine Henin-Hardenne every which way, and every sign indicated there was plenty more to come. Henin-Hardenne was on her way to becoming the proverbial deer in the headlights.

Why, it’s enough to make a girl sick right there. Amazingly, that’s what happened. Justine summoned the trainer AND the doctor when she was trailing 2-0. Gee, this must be serious. Both of them are out there. This must be major major. But they didn’t ice her, they didn’t wrap her. Not even a Tums changed hands. And that’s all it took. A Tums. Justine claimed she had an upset stomach. No way could she continue.

The crowd was stunned. Amelie looked perplexed. She should have felt victorious, but instead it was rudely snatched away from her. We all felt, along with Mauresmo, that we had collectively been kicked in the stomach. So call the trainer for us, for God’s sake.

Mauresmo, concerned and gracious as always, walked over to console Henin-Hardenne, who sat there toweling herself. It was nasty to see how HH didn’t even seem interested in acknowledging her, or even making eye contact.

Does this woman have manners or what?

The guys and girls in the commentary booths landed on HH en masse. Brad Gilbert: “I feel robbed.”
Mary Carillo: “Such a sullen way to end it.”

Suddenly, Nicolas Kiefer is starting to look like one of the Good Guys. Eecch, what a mouse!

The internet is humming today with a steady wave of criticism. People from Belgium are chiming in, remembering how Henin-Hardenne has shown herself even at home to be less than charming on many occasions.

There is talk about a fine being levied, why not think about yanking that rather large purse Justine received, of around $600,000, for basically not even throwing up on court. Take that money and refund the people who paid over a hundred bucks easily to see this can of worms. In Italy the fans would probably have rioted by now.

Too bad the Baghdatis contingent wasn’t there, they could have given a massive raspberry to HH. They’ve been witness to one of the most amazing male runs ever at this year’s Open by Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus. This guy has summoned up every resource he has, and we presume all those within fifty miles of him. He’s fought his way back from everything. Would he cave for a prissy stomach? Hell, a broken leg probably wouldn’t stop him. Henin-Hardenne’s big dive makes her appear pretty despicable alongside his fighting spirit.

Other unfortunate comparisons spring to mind. Of Pete Sampras hurling his stomach contents in the ’96 US Open, and going on to win the match. Of Andre Agassi getting whipped by Jarkko Nieminen in a match last year, but not caving and hanging on to let his opponent win fairly and squarely. Justine Henin-Hardenne refused to give Amelie Mauresmo that chance.

Already the chorus is adding this refrain to the fray: why should women get equal prize money when clinkers like this occur? Why should they indeed. Thanks, Justine, for such a lovely ripple effect you’ve created.

Well, now that some of this bile is out of our systems, let’s talk about what was great in this match. Amelie was great. Amelie delivered, and the luster of her achievement will not be diminished by the stupidity of HH. Of course she was lucky, I said that in the earlier column. But she was ready to seize upon her good fortune and make the match hers.

She played the match perfectly, and followed some advice Brad Gilbert suggested at the start: Keep the ball high around Justine’s shoulders, throw her off and force her to take risks, then get ready for the backhand up the line when she saw her chances. Amelie worked this perfectly in the first set.

The rallies were long, deep and suspenseful, Amelie gave every sign of being very steady and consistent today. Justine was too, so it looked like a great match was shaping up. But then Justine seemed to grow antsy or impatient that she couldn’t dominate Mauresmo, and she started to pull the trigger a bit early on her shots. Balls started to fly, along with the score. Justine meekly netted a forehand service return and the first set was gone, 6-1.

Surely everyone expected Justine to fight her way back, as she has done many times in matches. But the Mauresmo power train continued, she was up 2-0 when Henin-Hardenne saw the writing on the wall and called for the medical time-out. She attempted to play the next two points, then called it quits.

It looked for all the world like Justine saw a bagel in her future, and she wasn’t going to let herself go there. So what if you deprive a worthy opponent of her finest moment ever in a tournament? It’s Justine against the world, that’s all that matters. It pretty much become her personal mantra in the press conference following the match. I have to think about myself, she kept saying.

Good for you, honey, it’s good you care about something in this world. Your victories in future – and yes, we know you’ll have them – will be looked at in a new light now. Your entire position within the tennis community is going to be looked at from now on in a new light.

You’re the Richard Nixon of the tennis world right now, lucky little girl. Yes yes, we know all about how you’ve had a tough life, but now I feel sorry for you for a new reason. Because we see now how it has made you parched and constricted and a far from gracious person. And worst of all, it has stripped your game of whatever generosity it may have had.

We’re onto you, babyface.

Go Amelie, this year will be your oyster.

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The Women’s Semis: At The Open

We’re cooking down in Melbourne at the Australian Open now, on and off the court. The heat continued into last night, when the women duked it out in a wonderfully entertaining pair of semifinal matches. Thank them for restoring some semblance of order to the draw. At least the women’s draw. After nearly two weeks, the top women’s seeds all made it to the quarters, with the exception of Mary Pierce. The Number Five seed was replaced in the draw by Martina Hingis, and although she was unseeded we certainly know all about her; she’s no unknown from Pachooch. The women delivered.

The only blight on the evening occurred when Kim Clijsters rolled over on her ankle, spraining it badly enough that she could not continue, even with a tape job and after testing it with one further point. It is ironic that it was Clijsters who most severely injured herself on this surface, an odd mix of pulverized tires that heats up in warm weather and causes shoes to stick to it. Players have complained about this surface from Day One. The Australian Open is consistently regarded by players as their favorite Grand Slam event, but this court surface leaves something to be desired. The organizers of the event wouldn’t consider changing it for Lleyton Hewitt, they probably won’t for Kim Clijsters either.

They still regard Clijsters as one of their own. “Aussie Kim,” they call her, despite the end of her engagement to Lleyton Hewitt last year. So it is unfortunate that one of their favorites has gone down because of this surface. Is it really worth keeping just so you can say it’s a unique surface for a Grand Slam event? Is it cheaper, or what? They wanted something different from clay but not as fast as grass or hard courts, so they came up with… Hhhmm. If I were Clijsters I would feel a little bent out of shape by that. She was in a tough match that well could have turned her way in that third set. Now we’ll never know.

Apart from this unfortunate occurrence, we can say that the women acquitted themselves very very well. Almost brilliantly, in fact, if you compare them with some of the matches leading into the semis. Petrova-Sharapova in particular was an abominable match to watch, by all accounts.

But last night the women played their hearts out. Justine Henin-Hardenne, the Number Eight seed, defeated Number Four Maria Sharapova in three sets. This was just a great women’s match, featuring the best offensive and the best defensive players in the game today. Sharapova was pummelling winners and rocketing huge forehands at Henin-Hardenne throughout the match. She looked rather awesome at just the right time, having looked rather “scratchy” as Mary Carillo put it in her earlier matches. This is a woman with a lot of pride in her game, and the ability to pull herself up in a match and aggressively fight her way back in when she’s down. Does anyone else in the women’s game seem to love being down as much as Sharapova? She needs a target for all that aggression.

Justine put on an awesome display of aggressive defense, running furiously from side to side after Maria’s missiles, retrieving shot after shot, always looking for chances herself to seize the advantage and come forward. Justine had her hands full from the outset. Some would say before the outset, since the Powers That Be turned an outdoor match into an indoor one by closing the roof when the heat inched over 96 degrees. This favored Sharapova, she had more trouble with the windy conditions and the heat in her previous matches. Justine was salivating at the prospect of playing in them. Score one for Sharapova on the roof factor. Some key line calls were muffed in Justine’s favor, however, and they most likely turned the match. ShotSpot is on its way, or whatever they want to call it. Not soon enough, for some of us.

Unfortunately, Sharapova could make the big shots only intermittently. The second game of the first set was a mini view into the match as a whole. Justine held, but with difficulty. She showed a lot of creativity in her defense, but Sharapova had too much power to overcome in the first set. You felt like it was just a matter of time before Maria dialed in her game and ran away with the match. But Justine promised aggression and in the second set she delivered, attacking Maria’s second serve to great effect, and coming out ahead more often than not in the long, intense rallies. She stepped it up as Maria slipped down a notch. Second set to Justine, 6-1.

The third set saw Sharapova struggling with fatigue, and Henin-Hardenne fighting to hold the momentum on her side. You could almost say that, at 2-2 with Justine serving, it felt like a match game. After a long struggle, Justine held serve. Sharapova had her moments, but she had worn herself out. The match concluded with Justine’s trademark shot, a clean backhand down the line that broke Sharapova’s serve and gave her the match, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Number Three seed Amelie Mauresmo took on Number Two Kim Clijsters in the second women’s semifinal match. Clijsters’ physical condition has been in question since before the tournament started. She nearly did not show up, feeling her body was not fully ready to take two weeks of matches after her spate of injuries over the year.

Her body held up though, until the episode with the ankle occurred at 2-3 in the third set. More questionable was what occurred at the start of the second set, after Clijsters won the first, 7-5. What goes on in Kim Clijsters’ mind after she’s won a first set, and starts on the second? Whatever it is, it’s happened before, like in the second set in her match against Martina Hingis. She appears to go on a mental walkabout. Did something happen inside her to tweak what should have been a happy response to winning the first set? Does she feel a twinge of pity perhaps for the beating she’s usually giving her opponents? Questions have lingered about Kim being “too nice” to really win a lot of majors, so it should be raised again here.

“I felt empty out there,” said Clijsters when asked about this after the match. Suddenly she seemed to lose her power supply. An odd comment given how she started the match vigorously, perhaps she took a bit of grief for her hesitant play against Martina Hingis and resolved to play tougher against Amelie from the start.

In the second set, Amelie broke in the opening game, then struggled for her own serve. She got an insurance break on a poor game from Clijsters, who sprayed several shots. Amelie broke another time in the set and then served it out. 6-1, Mauresmo.

The third set did not improve for Clijsters. I realize now the moment when she signalled she was going to lose. She tossed her racquet. Not once. But twice. When have we ever known Kim Clijsters to do this? She knew at that point she was going to lose and there was no way around it. She was already down a break. The outburst seemed to focus her, she counter-attacked, and broke back herself. Suddenly another momentum shift took place. Numerous shifts took place throughout, adding nice little flecks of color to what was a very satisfying women’s match to watch.

How often do we get to say that about women’s matches? I know Mauresmo probably feels a bit neutralized emotionally because of the injury to Clijsters, but let’s hope she can easily accept that luck from whatever source is also a valuable tool for her repertoire. I think Amelie is going to win this tournament. I’m in league with Brad Gilbert here. It’s almost like the universe is looking down on Amelie and realizing now she may be needing a little nudge, so they start tossing the odd bit of luck her way. And you need luck to win a Grand Slam. Along with good health and good shotmaking.

Amelie did not have to test her nerves in a final moment against Clijsters. Will that prove a blessing or a hindrance? I say blessing. Perhaps that will free her up a bit inside, so she can go out and play the really brilliant match we’ve been waiting for from this woman. Her fluid and powerful game is lovely to watch. Clijsters is fun to watch too, but in a different way. Her forehand is a spectacularly blistering shot. But Clijsters is into grinding out matches too much, I like Amelie’s style of play better. She’s the artiste.

Allez, Amelie.

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Fabrice Santoro and bumpy tennis courts

Today we traveled from the south of Kerala, India, to the center of Kerala near a town called Allepey. The drive should have taken two hours but it actually took three and a half. People in India don’t like to say no. They either shake their head from side to side or they tell you something whether it happens to be true or not. I figured this out because our taxi driver was lost and went from person to person to find the correct directions. I wondered why he kept asking everyone and it turns out he didn’t trust the answers he was getting.

We arrived at the our beachside eco-resort hotel in the late afternoon and walked up to the reception desk. A woman smudged a bindi on our third eye and gave us a coconut to drink with a straw. The staff apologized and said that the orginal room we reserved was not available. “Would it be alright if we upgraded you to a pool villa?”, they asked. “Great,” I thought, “a room next to the pool.” Not quite. The rooom has its own pool. And a banana tree patch in the middle of the bathroom. We smiled sheepishly and said, “Yes, I think this will do.” We are paying about $110 a night each.

Went I went back to the reception area, I was over the moon to see that there were two, yes two, I cannot believe it!, two clay tennis courts. I asked the reception staff if there was anyone I could play tennis with and they said that I should speak to Mark.

Mark met me on the court at 6:30pm. It turns out that he is the tai chi and meditation teacher. When he looked at the court and said, in his Liverpudlian accent, “What are all these lines then?”, I knew we were in trouble. I explained the service line and the doubles line, gave him a tennis lesson – which I am not qualified to do – and we had a good time. The court was as bumpy as the roads here and it was most torn up at the baseline so we stayed in the service area and played “short” tennis.

Playing on a bumpy clay tennis court must be similar to playing Fabrice Santoro. You never know quite where the ball is coming from, what kind of spin it might have or what speed it will arrive at. As much as I hate playing junksters – those annoying tennis players who favor winning over technique and their game looks like it – how much do I appreciate Fabrice Santoro? Let me count the ways.

1. Even though he has a two-handed backhand and a two-handed forehand that is particularly weak when he is stretched wide, and a two-handed volley, he serves and volleys at will and approaches the net off returns more than any other player in the game.

2. He rivals the nastiest junkball pitcher in Major League Baseball. The ball will come at you quickly on one serve and so slowly the next that you swing too early and almost strikeout. Serving at 4-5 today against David Nalbandian in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, he hit a first serve at 120 mph and the next first serve at 80 mph.

3. His timing is good. In the era of power baseliners, his slice forehand keeps the rhythm baseliners out of rhythm and gives the power hitters nothing to hit.

4. He’s an aggressive player in junkster’s clothing. Most junksters hug the baseline and get everything back. Santoro probes, approaches, hits an ace or two and constantly applies pressure.

5. At the age of 33, he is the oldest player in the draw. This is his 14th year at the Aussie Open and he’s made it to the quarterfinals.

Today, unfortunately, it was not quite enough.

After a number of typical Santoro points, a drop shot followed by a lob that forced Nalbandian to hit the ball between his legs followed by a Santoro volley winner, or a lob followed by two stretch volleys off Nalbandian passing shots, Nalbandian was frustrated. He couldn’t get any rhythm and he couldn’t control the points because Santoro was taking the intiative. It was nothing particularly new, Santoro had beaten him two out of their three meetings.

That worked until the end of the first set but Santoro had a problem. He was winning only 20% of his second serve points so he had to get more first serves in. To do that he had to take something off the first serve and that took away his changeup and allowed Nalbandian to hit passing shots or low returns to the body when Santoro served and volleyed. Now that Nalbandian had more control, he was able to set up the shot wide to Santoro’s forehand which produces a two-handed forehand slice, a very innefective shot.

After Nalbandian got the upper hand, it was all over. Nalbandian hit passing shot after passing shot and Santoro had no answer. He lost the last two sets 6-0, 6-0.

Another all-court player is down and we are left with more of the stolid, baseline hugging players of today. There is some hope. Federer expects to approach the net more when he starts to lose a step – nice of him to plan for the future – and Roberta Vinci has an aggressive all court game without yet having the experience to know how to use it effectively. Otherwise we can expect players like David Nalbandian and Dominik Hrbaty to hit corner to corner for four or five sets.

Enjoy Santoro while you can.

Eating Crow With Andy

So we’re here today in Melbourne at the Australian Open, and we’re about to have lunch. But it is not a happy lunch, for we are having crow. At least, I’m having crow. This as a direct result of my cherished belief that Roger Federer and Andy Roddick were destined to find each other in the final. Apparently Marcos Baghdatis did not hear this proclamation from the mount, so the 54th seed from Cyprus took Number two Andy Roddick out of the tournament in four sets. He outplayed Roddick for the bulk of the match, going away only in the second when Roddick kept his serve on track enough to win the set, 6-1.

A key moment came in the fourth set, with Baghdatis serving. He unloaded on a monster forehand, then an ace, to consolidate his earlier break and go up 4-2. The power exchange between the two men came at this point. Andy never recovered, and time was running out. He was the bigger man physically with the more powerful weapons, but his timidity held them in check. It was Baghdatis who took it to Andy; Andy could not return the favor. The long first point of the last game seemed to encapsulate the match’s demeanor: you had one guy manning the baseline, the other guy positioned in back of it. Andy lost four straight points on his serve, with Marcos Baghdatis clinching the win with a crushing forehand winner cross-court.

The question would arise, what happened to the so-called Roddick new leaf, which called for more fitness and, more importantly, more aggression? It was strangely absent today. But perhaps we are asking the wrong question of Roddick. Do we really believe it’s mainly a matter of aggression on court, or is it really a matter of how well he perceives the game at that particular moment in a match, and himself within that moment. I’m posing a strategery question here, as Dubya would say.

Does Andy know where he is moment by moment? I am wondering now if he fully does. Because he makes these god-awful shots at times, I find myself yelling, “Why did you try that shot for heaven’s sake?” or “What are you doing hitting it there?” or “Why are you standing way back there?” That last one everybody in the house was asking, it became the refrain of the day. “What is he doing standing so far back?”

Here’s this guy who’s just built for power every which way, from that killer serve to the big forceful forehand. But he hugs the baseline. He’s like Ferdinand the Bull, the most ferocious bull on the block until he makes it into the ring, and there he sits down and smells the flowers.

Patrick McEnroe has offered some excellent insights into why Andy may be reticent to come forward at least to the baseline. When Andy was a youngster he was small, his style of play adjusted for this fact, he became a baseliner, a guy capable of staying back and getting into a rhythm from there. Then, at 16 or so, he got a new surge in growth. Suddenly he was tall and powerful, he developed a forceful serve. But his new weapon was at war with his basic tennis training, to hug the baseline, to stay back. You’d think anything beyond the baseline up to the net was a vast stretch of the Gobi Desert, to be avoided at all costs. It’s only when Andy is getting really burned that he starts serving and volleying more, and trying generally to move his game forward. But by then it’s often too late.

We were seeing some of that war in the match today.

I question whether he is fully attuned to the moment. Because if he were, these choices in shots would disappear and better ones would replace them. Andy would not let himself get pushed around the way Baghdatis treated him today. It takes a bit of time to develop a feel for bigger strategy on court, but the guy has got to make the effort to think his way better through points. Regard it as an extension of the hard work Roddick has put in physically leading up to the Open.

Marcos Baghdatis has a compact, solid game, like the guy himself. At age 20, Baghdatis is barely catching the tail end of that train of guys who have been highly touted as the new wave of men’s tennis. Guys like Thomas Berdych, Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, Gael Monfils. But those guys are all gone from the draw now, and here is Baghdatis, ready for his hot date with Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic, who easily took down Sweden’s Thomas Johansson in straight sets. It probably won’t be a great quarterfinal, as Ljubicic is much more experienced and has had a great year of play. But kudos for Baghdatis for injecting some new energy and pizazz into the game. He deserves to be here.

It must be painful for Andy to lose a match like this, and to lose it because he got outhit, on both forehand and backhand sides. He was even out-aced by Baghdatis. It’s not always about power though, or even being aggressive. I would suggest Roddick spend less time at the poker tables and more time watching someone maybe like Martina Hingis. Does this woman lose her way on court? Does she ever get out of position? Do we ever say of her, “Why did she hit THAT shot?”

Because of her lack of power, Martina has had to develop her game via the gray stuff between her ears. Because of his great power resources, Andy has been able to put that style of playing on hold.

Now he may really have to become a “student of the game.”

Well, our waiter has arrived with the plat du jour and a lovely bottle of Chateau de Garlic, from Gilroy California. The taste is so powerful that they suggest chilling it first. I’m told it helps.

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