Monthly Archives: September 22, 2021

Not Paris exactly. More like Jerry’s Famous Deli in West Hollywood which is adjacent to Beverly Hills, both of which are surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. A group of tennis fanatics who frequent Peter Bodo’s Tennis World, a popular blog, got up before sunrise on a Sunday morning and drove to Jerry’s Deli for the 6am broadcast of the French Open men’s final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Except for European soccer crazies and Formula One fanatics, who else does that?

Among us we had a former journalist who’d seen McEnroe play Becker in Davis Cup, a sixteen-year-old (here with her mother) who had her picture taken with Nadal, and a resident pro: our organizer Hank Moravec. Hank played qualifying at the U.S. Open when it was on clay at Forest Hills. Now we know why his online handle is Dunlop Maxply.

A woman named Gloria settled in and immediately requested a three set victory by Nadal so she could celebrate and be on her way. She had things to do. Early on it looked like she’d be disappointed. Federer had three break points on Nadal in the fourth game of the match and an incredible five more in the sixth game but came away empty. Even the mighty Federer couldn’t get over that disappointment. He lost his next service game at love, squandered two more breakpoints, and Nadal had the first set.

Federer improved his first serve and imposed his forehand on Nadal in the second set and it allowed him to get to the net. He broke Nadal in the middle of the set and that was all he needed to even the match at one set all. Gloria would have to wait.

But not too long. In the third set, Nadal lifted his game to the point where Federer lost his serve and the set despite an 88% first serve percentage. Nadal’s strategy was clear: send 90% of the balls to Federer’s backhand and that included the serve. Nadal did not hit one first serve down the middle to the ad court.

Federer’s strategy? He wanted to attack but that was difficult. The ball kicks up higher here in Nadal’s private corner of the red dirt world than it does at Hamburg, the site of Federer’s only victory over Nadal. It’s tough to attack when you’re swatting at flies with your backhand.

And then there was Hank’s theory and we were off on a live version of the anonymous thread that pops up daily on the Tennis World website. These people know their tennis! According to Hank, Nadal and Guillermo Canas are unique on the tour because they are so defensive that they don’t give Federer anything to work with. Hank started tracking points. When he saw a rare point where Nadal was aggressive and tried to hit corners and angles, he pointed out that those angles gave Federer opportunities to hit offensive shots. It’s much harder to hit winners from the middle of the court after all.

I wondered how Nadal held serve so effectively with that softy serve and Hank had a good theory for that too. Nadal’s first serve averaged only two miles per hour more than Justine Henin’s serve when she beat Ana Ivanovic in the women’s final on Saturday. Nadal uses spin and location to confuse his opponent but Hank thought that Federer was also being stubborn. Federer mishit so many returns because he was going for too much instead of just getting the ball in play.

Nadal’s exceptional play continued into the fourth set and he broke Federer one more time. With Nadal serving for the match, the former journalist playfully leaned over and asked whether I thought Nadal’s serve would go to Federer’s backhand. It did, of course, and then the match was over and Nadal had his third straight French Open title. Like many people in the tennis world (except for Gloria), we were sad for Federer but not surprised.

After a multilingual award ceremony featuring three-time French champion Gustavo Kuerten, we stood around in the middle of Jerry’s Deli trying to figure out if Nadal gets the number one ranking at the end of the year if he wins the ATP Race. Anyone know the answer to that?


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See all of our French Open coverage:
From Roland Garros: The Women’s Final
B**tch and Singe Dept: Henin Tops Williams at the French
How Far Will Maria Sharapova Go?
B**tch And Sing Dept: At the French Open
Suicide Pools and Richard Gasquet
B**tch and Sing Dept: Springtime in Paris
Serena, Roger and Posh Spice
Familiar Final at the French Open (French Open preview)

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 282 user reviews.

Ana Ivanovic can beat Maria Sharapova on the court but can she compete with her in the land of endorsements?

When I opened my email box this morning, I found this curious bit of information courtesy of Bob Larson’s Tennis News: Ana Ivanovic will try to beat Justine Henin and win the French Open title on Saturday without the services of her temporary coach, Sven Groeneveld. Groeneveld has been working with her at the French Open as part of an agreement with apparel maker adidas but therein likes the problem: Groeneveld’s contract forbids him from helping Ivanovic in the title match because Henin also wears adidas.

Essentially, adidas loaned a coach to one of their players for a slam event but only as long it didn’t threaten another adidas player. I have tried but I cannot think of any reason why this should be. Can you? Since when do apparel companies choose coaches for their clients? Aren’t managers supposed to do that?

I find Ana Ivanovic every bit as beautiful as Maria Sharapova so I was wondering: can Ivanovic become the endorsement magnet that Sharapova is? Can you be big and dark or do you have to be blond and skinny?

Anna Kournikova was the endorsement queen before Sharapova and she was a different story. She was all about sex. Sharapova is more like the imperious fashion model and less the alluring sex kitten. Ivanovic is the wide eyed girl who grew up amidst the bombs in Serbia and now lives in Basel, Switzerland.

Because Ivanovic does not reside in the U.S., she may have to take the same path to endorsement riches as her fellow Basel resident, Roger Federer. He didn’t get a GQ spread with photos by Annie Leibovitz until after he’d won ten slams.

Kournikova never won a singles title in her career but that didn’t stop her from getting a television commercial featuring Mary Jo Fernandez advising us that players were jealous of Kournikova’s, ahem, “portfolio”. That’s just how it is when you’re one of the sexiest people in the universe. You could be a bricklayer and you’d still get endorsements. Ivanovic comes across more as the friendly fashion model type with a bit of wide eyed wholesomeness thrown in. She may have to win a few slams before we see her beautiful face plastered all over our television sets.

I, for one, will be happy to see that.

Pollster – here’s the new poll (go to the sidebar to cast your vote)

Ana Ivanovic can beat Maria Sharapova on the court but can she compete with Maria Sharapova for endorsements off the court? Yes or no?


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Novak Djokovic joins Federer and Nadal at the top of the rankings and Mariano Puerta rejoins the tour after a drug suspension.

The Frozen Four

If any of you college hockey fanatics wandered over here by accident, no, the NCAA hockey championships have not been relocated to Paris (the NCAA hockey final four is called the frozen four). While you’re here though, how about those Anaheim Ducks!!! The NHL Stanley Cup comes to my part of the world – Southern California – for the first time ever. Wooohooo!!!

This is a tennis column and I’m referring to the frozen state, past and future, at the top of the ATP rankings. Roger Federer has been ranked number one since February 2004. Rafael Nadal has been ranked number two since July 2005. Nikolay Davydenko has been bouncing back and forth between number three and four since November of last year.

The frozen three is about to become the frozen four. Novak Djokovic is now the number four. It won’t be long, though, before he’s number three and then we’ll have a frozen three. Davydenko is likely to fall as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open come along because other players such as Andy Roddick will overtake him on fast courts.

Djokovic played Igor Andreev for a spot in the semifinals today. In the first game we saw why Djokovic should stay at number three for a while. Djokovic hit a sharp angled shot and Andreev ran wide to get to it. The ball wasn’t that deep but Djokovic was perceptive enough and aggressive enough and quick enough to get to the net and cutoff Andreev’s response for a winner.

I’ve not been all that thrilled to see Djokovic rise through the ranks. I was looking forward to seeing more of Andy Murray and Marcos Baghdatis. I like Murray’s intelligence and toolbox game – whatever shot he needs, he reaches into his repertoire and pulls it out. And I like Baghdatis because he’s magnetic, bigger than life, joyful, and plays to the occasion and we could have used that here because the tennis was boring. It was a day of straight set matches. Nadal wore down his best pal Carlos Moya, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0, and Djokovic beat Andreev with an even more boring score: 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

As hard as Andreev hit his forehand, Djokovic stayed with him shot for shot until he got Andreev on the run and came to the net. It’s exactly what we’ve been asking for, another true all-court player. Djokovic is a smart guy, he has Mark Woodforde in his players’ box. Woodforde has 12 grand slam doubles titles to his name. Djokovic probably watched Roger Federer import Tony Roche to improve his volleying and decided to do the same thing himself. Hard hitter, all-court player, smart guy: he’s the whole package.

Okay, how long do you think this frozen three will last? Two years, three years, four years? Any guesses?

Another Argentinean Returns to/from the Court

I just noticed that Mariano Puerta has a wild card entry into a clay court challenger in Sassuolo, Italy. This is interesting for a few reasons.

It’s Puerta’s first tournament back after a two year suspension for using the banned stimulant etilefrine. He was initially hit with a career ending eight year suspension because it was his second positive test for a banned substance. He appealed the suspension and got it reduced because he inadvertently used a glass that contained a liquid form of etilefrine that his wife used to treat pre-menstrual symptoms.

That was his explanation anyway. He and his wife just happened to remember exactly what table they were sitting at and who was sitting where and how the contaminated glass came into contact with Puerta’s mouth. Is that the truth or was it a good story? How could you prove it either way?

Not easy to prove and here is where the process of handing down a drug suspension for an athlete is different than determining guilt in a court of law. To be found guilty in a court of law, the court has to prove criminal intent. If a person possessed illegal drugs but didn’t know they were illegal, they would not be guilty.

For an athlete, though, they are responsible for any drug they take, inadvertent or not. Fellow Argentinean Guilermo Canas completed a 15 month suspension for a banned substance last year. In Canas’ case he didn’t read the label on the prescription he allegedly got from a tournament doctor, and he didn’t enter it onto the drug control sheet, so he gets a suspension.

Athletes complain that this makes the anti-drug agencies quasi-legal but I think it’s the correct approach. The players are held responsible for whatever goes into their body. They’re given a wallet size card with a list of all banned substances and there’s a drug control officer at every tournament to help them.

As for the quasi-legal argument, Canas appealed his suspension to the Swiss Federal Tribunal – Switzerland’s supreme court – to try to get his suspension voided. On more than one occasion, the Tribunal has affirmed an anti-drug agency’s jurisdiction in these matters.

The second interesting part of this story is Puerta’s wild card. The ATP players asked the tour to stop giving wild cards to players returning from drug suspensions. Some players are unhappy that Canas has pushed his way up the ranking so quickly after serving his suspension. Canas started his journey back with four wild cards into challenger events.

I’m with the “he’s already done his time” crowd on this one. Once you’ve served your suspension, you should have the same privileges as anyone else on the tour. If a tournament director wants to give a returning player a wild card, so be it. No need for more punishment.


See also:
B**tch and Singe Dept: Henin Tops Williams at the French
How Far Will Maria Sharapova Go?
B**tch And Sing Dept: At the French Open
Suicide Pools and Richard Gasquet
B**tch and Sing Dept: Springtime in Paris
Serena, Roger and Posh Spice
Familiar Final at the French Open (French Open preview)

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 227 user reviews.

Big hype but no surge today

Justine Henin beat Serena Williams today in rather straight-forward fashion in two sets, 6-4, 6-3, denying fans what looked initially like a barnburner of a quarterfinal match. This match showed us exactly where the two players are this weak in their respective games.

Williams got here by the seat of her pants, working her way through lesser players by dint of her greater physical strength and her competitive zeal. Henin, by contrast, showed off her variety and her consistency, the two elements that have helped her dominate here at Roland Garros. She was dialed in from the beginning, she held her ground steadily and did not allow Serena a way back into the match.

Basically what cost Serena was that she hasn’t played that much high-quality tennis. And when she meets a quality player like Henin, the gaps in her preparation start to show. It was not a flattering match for Serena. While she can play her way into things with most of the other players, she couldn’t do that against Henin. There would be no repeat of their meeting in Miami when Henin blitzed Serena 6-0 in the first set only to see Williams come back and win the match in three.

Serena started slow, gave up the early break, then embarked on a game plan that took her away from her normal aggressive style. It’s one thing to learn how to be patient when playing on clay. It’s another thing when you try to convert your game in midstream to that of a clay court player. Serena took a detour, in other words, from her offensive style. She tried to rally with Henin too much, attempting a lot of slice off her backhand side, and the errors started creeping in. Fortunately her serving game looked pretty good. A lot of first serves landed in but Henin had all the defensive answers she needed.

We kept waiting for Serena to make a move, but the surge never came. Surely Serena would get it going in the second. They traded breaks, then Justine got her fourth of the day and it was enough. Serena needed more fitness and more match play. The top women are too competitive now for her to coast along. Hopefully we will see better from her at Wimbledon, although personally I think that could be Venus’s tournament. Today the clay was not at all to Serena’s liking.

“I didn’t do anything I was supposed to like move up and the other things I was supposed to do, ” said Serena after the match. “I stood back and let her take advantage of me.” She spoke of how she felt violated, but it was more at her own hands.

Sharapova-Chakvetadze

A few other people played today too, and one of them, Maria Sharapova, may actually stand a chance of winning her first ever clay final. Her bruising match with Schnyder sent Sharapova a definite wake-up call, and today she upped her game big time. Serving problems, what serving problems? Her forehand pushed her countrywoman Ana Chakvetadze every which way. The final score was 6-3, 6-4.

Kuznetsova-Ivanovic

Maria is a monster competitor, maybe the best in the women’s game. She’ll need all her stuffing to cope with the other Anna still alive here, Anna Ivanovic. She beat up on Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets, surrendering the second set before blitzing the Russian in the third, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1. A Sharapova-Ivanovic semifinal would be an interesting pairing of similar styles. Both hit big forehands, Maria’s travels quicker through the court but Ana hits a heavier ball. Ana’s serve is a little bigger and heavier too, and more consistent. But if Sharapova can continue to improve her serving, she could out compete the Serb.

Jankovic-Vaidisova

Jelena Jankovic, variously known as Jelly or the Alien (and both are meant affectionately, by the way), had relatively little trouble with the big blond bomber, Nicole Vaidisova. This match was won/lost on their respective styles of play too. Jankovic was far steadier, played well within herself, and retrieved nearly everything hurled at her. Vaidisova wanted to cream every ball every which way. She takes her serving very very seriously and can even kick a big serve out wide that few women on tour can match. She can open up angles and go for shots. That’s the problem though, she doesn’t know how or when to rein herself in. God help the women on tour if she ever figures out a way to harness that power.

Jankovic now faces Henin in the semis. They’ve had interesting matches before but Henin has held sway. She holds a 5-0 record. Jelena will have to serve well, especially on her surprisingly timid second serve, or Henin will be feasting on her all day. If she can play without fear and keep her mind under control too, Jankovic has got a shot.

And now, Les Girls:

Henin in three over Jankovic (I want Jelena, but she may not be quite ready yet for a first slam win)

Sharapova in two over Ivanovic (While I would love to see a first-time all-Serbian final, I think Maria is sinking her teeth into life now, and Ivanovic is going to be her next victim).

The Final:

Sorry to say, I can’t stand these two women. Pardon me while I hold my nose and grit my teeth for a Henin win. Given my druthers I want the Serbian girls. Oh well. Their day is coming.


See also:
How Far Will Maria Sharapova Go?
B**tch And Sing Dept: At the French Open
Suicide Pools and Richard Gasquet
B**tch and Sing Dept: Springtime in Paris
Serena, Roger and Posh Spice
Familiar Final at the French Open (French Open preview)

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 247 user reviews.

Not much happening at the French Open today. Novak Djokovic, Carlos Moya, Rafael Nadal and Igor Andreev all won their matches to complete the men’s quarterfinals while the women had the day off. I have to get back to my life for one day. Pay some bills and get an MRI for my aching back.

Pat Davis will take up again tomorrow and I’m sure she’ll cover the Serena WilliamsJustine Henin match. Meanwhile, let me leave you with two interesting ideas.

From the “I Wish I’d Written That” Department

My first love was Tai Chi but I had to stop practicing it because my knees hurt. Every martial art has healing, fighting, and spiritual parts to it and I view current sports as very young versions of the ancient martial arts. However, I find myself waving my hands in the air and stuttering when I try to explain the spiritual side to tennis. Next time I’ll just say this:

It is difficult to describe the serenity one attains from striking a tennis ball with authority. Gravity, geometry, and all the forces of nature collaborate, and the fuzzy yellow orb spins as it should. Intent becomes action, and action becomes reality. That is the high. For some, tennis is a hobby; for others, it is a compulsion. For the most stricken, like me, it is a religion that, like Buddhism, allows devotees to transcend time and space and glean insight into the true nature of existence. — Andrew Clark in Walrus Magazine, as reported by Inside Tennis

From a Double Helix to a DVD in One Lifetime

This has nothing to do with the tennis but everything to do with the speed of life these days and I consider it my duty to bring this to your attention.

Last Thursday, James Watson, the scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA in 1953, received two DVDs containing his entire genome. Think about that: before 1953 we had no idea what DNA looked like. Fifty-four years later, we can clone a horse and hand someone their complete genome on two small storage devices.

In 1953 they didn’t have much in the way of computers. In 1970 a computer took up an entire room. Today the whole damn genome fits on two DVDs and our cellphones are computers. The world is moving way too fast for me. Evidently it’s moving too fast for Watson too. He doesn’t want to know if he has the gene which could give him Alzheimer’s disease so that information was left off his DVDs.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 210 user reviews.