Monthly Archives: June 14, 2021

What’s up with that name? ‘s-Hertogenbosch. It looks like part of the name is missing and that’s accurate in a way. It’s name comes from “des hertogen bosch”, Dutch for the Duke’s forest. The name also brings to mind the painter Hieronymus Bosch who painted The Garden of Earthly Delights, a fantastical and somewhat gruesome painting of the garden where Adam and Eve wandered. That would be accurate too, Bosch was born and lived in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

The city lies in the south of Holland and was founded as a fortress town in 1185. It won the award as European Fortress City of the year in 2004. I’m not sure why such an award is necessary in our day and age unless they’re expecting modern day marauders. Probably won’t help. Most violence today comes from within the city, not without.

It was originally name Snotingaham, “the home of Snot’s people, ” after the Saxon chieftain Snot

Nottingham, England, goes back even further. It was founded around the year 650 by Anglo-Saxon invaders. It’s name was shortened too. It was originally name Snotingaham, “the home of Snot’s people, ” after the Saxon chieftain Snot. I’m not making this up. Actually, it should be ‘s-Nottingham.

If you’re wondering why I’m going on and on here it’s because there isn’t much happening in tennis this week. To give you an idea, Nicolas Alamagro, the clay court surprise of the year who has played, and lost, only one match on grass his entire professional life, is seeded at Nottingham. Andy Roddick should be playing after losing to fellow American James Blake just for the practice. Roddick hasn’t exactly been playing deep into tournaments in the last few months.

I have the number one seed at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nikolay Davydenko, losing in the first round to Philipp Kohlschreiber since Davydenko is 1-8 on grass. Juan Carlos Ferrero has a surprisingly good record on grass so I have him through to the semifinals. Joining him are Tomas Berdych and Kohlschreiber and my winner, Mario Ancic. Ancic won his first, and only, title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch last year.

Max Mirnyi has a good record on grass so I have him in the semifinals at Notthingham. I have Olivier Rochus there too because I don’t trust Paul-Henri Mathieu. I’ve picked Richard Gasquet to win it but I’m not being entirely original this week. He also won his first, and only, title at Nottingham last year.

My team is made up of my eight semifinalists: Gasquet, Paradorn Srichaphan, Rochus, Mirnyi, Kohlschreiber, Ancic, Berdych and Ferrero. Doubles team: Martin Damm and Leander Paes, that was the only team I recognized in either of the doubles draws.


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I admit it. I’ve been hostile towards Rafael Nadal as he’s made his way into the headlines of the tennis world. When Nadal injured his foot I said that he’ll probably have an injury shortened career because he plays such a grueling style of tennis. Then I said that his game wasn’t good enough to win anything on hard courts. Then I said that his high bouncing balls wouldn’t be offensive enough on grass.

Wrong, wrong and inconclusive. Nadal lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals at Queens on Friday but he lost because he injured his shoulder and had to retire. Before he injured his shoulder at the end of the first set, he was sailing along.

Meanwhile, as Federer continues to struggle, instead of looking better on grass as the week proceeds, he’s looking worse. I suppose it means that I am a Federer groupie. I welcomed a rivalry from Nadal but not a repeated smackdown.

onIt’s o.k. to be a groupie, even if I’m a journalist – how else can I celebrate marvelous players, but when I started to make exuses for Federer, I knew there was a problem.

[blockquote]It’s not as bad as Mats Wilander makes it out to be. After the French Open final, he said that Federer didn’t win for two reasons then pointed to his crotch. Give Wilander credit for directness and tell Andy Roddick that he should consider Wilander as a consultant if the Jimmy Connors thing doesn’t work out.

(I found myself saying that Nadal had injury problems that would curtail his career due to his hard, grinding style of play. Embarrassing to admit)

I found myself thinking, and saying, “Oh, you know, Nadal, really, he’s just another Vilas. He hasn’t, after all, done that much more than Vilas, has he? Vilas won the Australian on grass you know.” However, that was back when no one bothered to travel to Australia. (who did Vilas play in the tournament?).

The most interesting part of the grass season will be seeing (awkward) if Roger Federer’s confidence has been damaged by his battles with, and losses to, Rafael Nadal. The early reports are in and they seem to indicate that the answer might be yes. First he struggled with Richard Gasquet, winning 7-6(7), 6-7(7), 6-4, then he struggled further with that tower of grass strengh Olivier Rochus, 6-7(2), 7-6(9), 7-6(5). Lots of sevens in there and even a nine.

It’s easy to say he’s struggling, and he definitely is if you compare him to Roddick, but Roddick has had an extra week to practice on grass. Maybe I’m just a die hard Federer hopeful. Maybe I’m hoping for the best as I see Federer slowly crumble before me. Isn’t he supposed to get better as the week goes along instead of worse.

I admit it. A small part of me has not enjoyed Nadal’s rise because, evidently, I am a Federer fan. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless it crowd’s my vision. And it is. I can see that I want to make excuses for Federer, he hasn’t had much practice time on grass, he

Roddick and Blake: start with Roddick’s quote from Davis Cup, “he’ll (Blake) be passing me soon”??? Andy Roddick turned up on grass this week with a new spin. On the ball. Gives him more room for error, I suppose. It certainly seems to be working though the 145 mph serves help. Interesting that he is rumored to be negotiating a coaching agreement with Jimmy Connors, a flat ball hitter.

And now we’ll see who has the biggest, um, game in US men’s tennis because Blake and Roddick are ready to meet in the semis at Queens. Blake is all the way up to number seven and Roddick is clinging to number five. It would be a huge statment if Blake beats Roddick on grass. In the last three years (?), Federer is the only other player to do it.

It’s not the be all and end all for Blake, though. Grass is not his forte and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up with and blow by Roddick in the hard court season.

My man Dmitri(sp?)Tursunov is gone despite a marvelous runback to track down a Tim Henman lob that ended with Tursunov spinning around and hitting a perfect backhand passing shot down the line for the winner. Oh well, I still have four men alive and yet, still I dwell in the cellar of my subleague, tennisdiary.com.

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I admit it. I’ve been hostile towards Rafael Nadal as he’s made his way into the headlines of the tennis world. When Nadal injured his foot I said that he’ll probably have an injury shortened career because he plays such a grueling style of tennis. Then I said that his game wasn’t good enough to win anything on hard courts. Then I said that his high bouncing balls wouldn’t be offensive enough on grass.

Wrong, wrong and inconclusive. Nadal lost to Lleyton Hewitt in the quarterfinals at Queens on Friday but he lost because he injured his shoulder and had to retire. Before he injured his shoulder at the end of the first set, he was sailing along.

Meanwhile, as Federer continues to struggle, instead of looking better on grass as the week proceeds, he’s looking worse. I suppose it means that I am a Federer groupie. I welcomed a rivalry from Nadal but not a repeated smackdown.

onIt’s o.k. to be a groupie, even if I’m a journalist – how else can I celebrate marvelous players, but when I started to make exuses for Federer, I knew there was a problem.

[blockquote]It’s not as bad as Mats Wilander makes it out to be. After the French Open final, he said that Federer didn’t win for two reasons then pointed to his crotch. Give Wilander credit for directness and tell Andy Roddick that he should consider Wilander as a consultant if the Jimmy Connors thing doesn’t work out.

(I found myself saying that Nadal had injury problems that would curtail his career due to his hard, grinding style of play. Embarrassing to admit)

The most interesting part of the grass season will be seeing (awkward) if Roger Federer’s confidence has been damaged by his battles with, and losses to, Rafael Nadal. The early reports are in and they seem to indicate that the answer might be yes. First he struggled with Richard Gasquet, winning 7-6(7), 6-7(7), 6-4, then he struggled further with that tower of grass strengh Olivier Rochus, 6-7(2), 7-6(9), 7-6(5). Lots of sevens in there and even a nine.

It’s easy to say he’s struggling, and he definitely is if you compare him to Roddick, but Roddick has had an extra week to practice on grass. Maybe I’m just a die hard Federer hopeful. Maybe I’m hoping for the best as I see Federer slowly crumble before me. Isn’t he supposed to get better as the week goes along instead of worse.

I admit it. A small part of me has not enjoyed Nadal’s rise because, evidently, I am a Federer fan. That’s not necessarily a bad thing unless it crowd’s my vision. And it is. I can see that I want to make excuses for Federer, he hasn’t had much practice time on grass, he

Andy Roddick turned up on grass this week with a new spin. On the ball. Gives him more room for error, I suppose. It certainly seems to be working though the 145 mph serves help. Interesting that he is rumored to be negotiating a coaching agreement with Jimmy Connors, a flat ball hitter.

And now we’ll see who has the biggest, um, game in US men’s tennis because Blake and Roddick are ready to meet in the semis at Queens. Blake is all the way up to number seven and Roddick is clinging to number five. It would be a huge statment if Blake beats Roddick on grass. In the last three years (?), Federer is the only other player to do it.

It’s not the be all and end all for Blake, though. Grass is not his forte and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up with and blow by Roddick in the hard court season.

My man Dmitri(sp?)Tursunov is gone despite a marvelous runback to track down a Tim Henman lob that ended with Tursunov spinning around and hitting a perfect backhand passing shot down the line for the winner. Oh well, I still have four men alive and yet, still I dwell in the cellar of my subleague, tennisdiary.com.



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The women are doing grass in Birmingham, England, this week in preparation for Wimbledon. It sounds like a broken record, I know, how many more weekly injury reports do we need for the women but here it is: Tennis-X reports that Daniela Hantuchova, Maria Kirilenko, Chanda Rubin, and Meghann Shaughnessy have dropped out of Birmingham due to injury. I have my own injury problems.

Early last year I discovered a service motion that gave me a strong serve after years of hitting popgun serves. I shortened my toss just like Roscoe Tanner, reared back and whacked the ball. One morning, a guy wandered on to the court as I was practicing and asked if he could return my serves. After about half an hour he gave up in frustration because he couldn’t handle my serve down the middle. It wasn’t the most consistent serve in the world but I count that as one of my proudest days in tennis.

I didn’t realize, however, that I was arching my back and definitely not bending my knees. Later in the year I developed pain in my lower sacrum whenever I served and I still cannot serve without pain. That is, no doubt, the only parallel between my game and Taylor Dent’s game.

In an interview with Tennis Week, Dent discussed the injury that has limited him to five matches this year. The article reports that “He initially sustained two fractures after years of bending his back in an extreme arch during serving. The pain is primarily caused by damaged nerves now, which continue to flare up virtually every time he tosses the ball up in the air to begin his service motion.”

What’s interesting about the article is Dent’s optimism, or, you could say, denial. He thinks the problem is “just a matter of finding a solution and I mean that could be in the next couple of days, it could be in a week or two or a month or two.” And this is after a recent unsuccessful surgical procedure which tried to deaden the nerves which are causing the pain.

If you do the same movement for years, especially a movement so extreme that it produces fractures, it’s possible that you can find a treatment which will reduce pain but it’s more likely that you will have to retrain your body to do the movement differently. Changing your service motion would be a start but it also likely that the new service motion will not be as effective. One of the reasons that Andy Roddick has the fastest serve on the planet is because he has exceptional rib and spine flexibility. Evidently Dent does not and he probably has less now than he had at the beginning of his career.

Dent is not alone. Every time I get an injury, and I get a lot of them, I am looking around the next corner for the “fix” and hoping that it will be quick and easy. Last week in a New York Times section on the upcoming PGA US Open, golfer Rocco Mediate was very upbeat about the back pain that has bothered him for much of his career.

“Believe it or not, Augusta National saved me. It showed me what was wrong with my body. It saved the rest of my career. I know I can still play, ” he said in the article. Mediate had been in contention till the last round at the Masters at Augusta National when his back seized up. His fix is to increase his hip strength to take pressure off his back.

A little further down the page, though, you’ll see a bracketed paragraph reporting that Mediate had to pull out of the last two tournaments leading up to the Open. Rather than asking Mediate if he didn’t seems a tad bit optimistic given the reality of the situation, the writer included that paragraph as if to let readers draw that conclusion for themselves.

I am an eternally hopeful person and I have the results to show for it. I play tennis three or four times a week and that’s after a back injury so severe that I couldn’t sit for more than half an hour without throbbing pain for the first few years of the injury. I’m just saying that a chronic problem borne of persistent movement habits, particularly in the physically harsh world of professional sports, is not likely to respond to a quick fix. The process is more likely to take months and possibly years of small improvements that will lead to incremental improvement in reducing pain over time. If a particular movement is causing the injury – in tennis, the serve is critical and in golf, obviously, the swing is everything – the athlete will have to change that movement and that will significantly change their game.

Tiger Woods managed to find a way. After knee surgery, he realized that he had to smooth his swing out and he was willing to completely take his swing apart and reconstruct it at a time when he was the number one player in the world. Another reason that he is an exceptional athlete.

But that was also his knee, not his back, and surgery was sufficient to repair the damage. If Dent is back on the tour and playing pain free and if Mediate wins the US Open, I will be wrong. If so, you can criticize me all you want. But I don’t think I am.

For you ATP fantasy people, not much is happening on grass. Andy Murray went out at Queens but that’s no too surprising. He should, as the rumors suggest, sign Brad Gilbert up as soon as possible before someone else gets him. I’ll weigh in a little more in a few days, meanwhile here are the current draws.



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When my co-writer Nina Rota and I spoke last week about the likely final at Roland Garros between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, she said, “I really want Roger to win, otherwise this is not a true rivalry.” I was just as eager to see him win.

Well, a match so over hyped as the final was on Sunday is probably due to disappoint nearly everyone, even Rafa fans. On that score, it did live up to the billing, unfortunately. It was something along the lines of eating Chinese food. It seemed yummy at the time, but a few hours later we’re complaining, there’s a gap opening up in my tummy already.

There were certainly gaps in this match. Somehow it just didn’t satisfy our hankering for a lovely, substantial tennis meal. Let’s hope though that the new recruits to the game – who probably turned on their TV sets lured by the hype over this match – don’t get disappointed and go back to NASCAR or whatever else it is they catch sports-wise on the tube. Come to think of it, would NASCAR refugees be here in the first place? Maybe not.

This should have been a marvelous poster ad for men’s tennis. It wasn’t, but the rivalry between the two men is certainly still there. But where does it go from here? I think what needs to happen is that their different styles of play really start to interpenetrate the world of the other, on surfaces other than clay.

Just as Nadal seems to have gotten deep inside the head of the Fed, I think Roger has to really step it up during the grass and hard court seasons, whenever he faces Nadal, and hopefully they will face each other on those surfaces. On grass, it will be Nadal’s turn to scramble and find his way, against an opponent whose game is just as tailor-made for those surfaces as Nadal’s is for clay.

Clay is suited to Nadal for another reason. He can win on clay because of his overwhelming physicality. That is as big a weapon in his arsenal as that hooking forehand, or his relentless court coverage. On grass, that aspect won’t matter so much. Rather it’s all about the shot-making. You need to serve and volley. Grinding? What’s that on grass?

Nadal is going to get fitted with a new suit at Wimbledon, and he may find it a tight fit. I for one am very curious to see the pace at which he proceeds to learn on grass. And of course we get the added thrill of watching an ebullient Latin temperament fitted into the drab and green lawns of the All-England Club. In my screenwriting courses at the AFI, they used to talk about the different genres in film writing. The “Fish Out of Water” is a very popular one. A guy from one world basically gets plopped down in the middle of a totally different one. Often with wild and crazy results.

This is Nadal, going into Wimbledon. The game that Roger Federer termed earlier this spring “one dimensional” is now going to have to open up to incorporate new skills. We all hope he can do this, to a large degree. We want that rivalry, and this is how we get it. They each keep learning the skills of the other’s world.

And what about Federer? Part of me is very upset that he did not play up to his level in Rome, at least. I felt though I got a look into Roger’s soul a bit on Sunday, and for a minute there I caught a glimmer of…well, sorry to say, a burgher. He may be too complacent now, everything has come ever so easily. And perhaps that has taken a toll. But perhaps it also served as a good wake-up call. We won’t know what the results of that are until the Big Red One that is Roland Garros rolls around next spring.

On Sunday, it seemed that Roger was shocked almost by how well he handled Nadal in the first set. And that first set may indeed have been equal combinations of Roger playing aggressively and well, and Nadal not quite with his morning Starbuck’s under his belt. And then, almost like a sleepwalker, Federer opened his eyes and looked around and had a sudden panic attack. He scared himself. Maybe he is too nice a guy a lot of the time. He couldn’t stick the knife in Nadal.

Would Roger dare to eat the peach? No, apparently not. His feet are not made of clay, but Sunday they looked for all the world like they were certainly stuck in clay. Federer pulled a bit of a Mauresmo on us, and we could pose the same question to both: what’s the point of having such beautiful, well-rounded games when you guys don’t seem to want to PLAY them in the big moments of tournaments? Hey, give me your game then, if you really really don’t want it.

But Roger will get another shot at it next year, he will win Roland Garros at some point. Maybe right at the point when everyone thinks, “He can never win this one.” The pressure of keeping his Slam run alive won’t be there next year. Well, unless of course he gets real annoyed with himself and just goes off on a tear for the rest of this year and gets ANOTHER Slam run going. Who knows, maybe each guy crosses over next year, with Rafa making a serious run at Wimbledon, and Federer finally taking the French.

That peach is going down, one way or the other.

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