B**tch and Sing Dept: Got Coach?

Another screwy week in tennis, but tasty tidbits abound.

It’s up to the northern climes this week on the ATP Tour, we’ve abandoned the sunshine of Rome for the dour look of Hamburg. And dour it is. We know we’re in Germany because the weather is off and on, the people look cold and bundled, and the men are all running around in jeans. Some of them actually look good enough to be seen in jeans. Gone are the colorful styles and warmth and crazy crowds that inhabit Rome. Sniff sniff.

Yesterday saw one interesting upset in Hamburg, Chela took out Canas in three strangely scored sets, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. My co-writer Nina and I joke about looking at the weekly draws and finding out where Canas is placed so he can bother Roger. He’s located on the far side of the draw from Federer, so they would not have chanced to meet unless it were the final. Contrary to earlier rumors, Federer and Nadal are both here, and so far give no sign of bailing out.

By now everyone on the planet of tennis, if not indeed THE planet itself, knows that Roger Federer is coachless. Tony Roche got the sack over the weekend, although the official word was that the parting was amicable on both sides. Well, ok, take that one with a good dollop of salt. Roger needed to do something different and new, I just didn’t think he would take this step quite so soon. Hell, for all we know the roller coaster ride is just beginning. Before he’s done he’ll probably dump Mirka, dye his hair blond (again), and convert to Islam. “That’s tennis,” Roger would say.

The AP reports him saying, “I‘m definitely not going to take a coach for the French Open and Wimbledon because I know what it takes and I don‘t want anybody interfering with my preparation and with my tournaments.”

Touchy touchy! Keep your arms away from the cage, please, the lion is restless right now.

“Maybe down the road I’m going to look again for someone who’s going to be able to help me out for practicing.”

Practicing, he calls it. Biff bam socko! I kind of like his man-against-the-wilderness attitude. After all he was coachless for quite a long spell, he can do it again until he lands the proper man. It will be fascinating to see who he picks, and why.

Roger’s situation was one of the many interesting tidbits to emerge out of the week in Rome. Here are a few of the others….

  • Good Boys, Bad Boys: Gasquet, Berdych, Djokovic and Gonzalez started off in Rome looking good in their early matches. Then Gasquet and Berdych ran into Volandri and the upstart had his way with both of them, with a tasty slice of Fed beef in between. What’s with the young lions that they play well on a Monday and then just vanish in their next round? Djokovic and Gonzalez had a great week in Rome also, yet both must feel rather letdown that their games didn’t have enough left for Nadal. They failed to make what they would probably consider a decent showing against the world’s number two.
  • The second best thing I will take out of the Rome event was the intelligent play of Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-finals against Rafael Nadal. That match should have been the final. Who would have thunk it that Nadal could be pushed around by Davydenko and his uncanny ability to hit the ball so early? What a great tactic against the Spaniard! Everyone thinks in terms of hitting big forehands out wide to him, or even just up the middle, and of course serving well on first serves especially. But not enough praise is sung for those early strikers of the ball. Quite a tactic to use on Nadal, and hopefully one that will be tried again. It’s just not enough players seem able to do what Davydenko did. Maybe hitting early is one of those skills you either have naturally or you don’t. You have to see the ball so well so early to play like this. It may be nearly impossible to teach. Most guys (and girls) seem content to let the ball roll into their comfort zone a little more, whereas Nikolay moves out to greet it. Necessity imposes this style upon him: he is neither very tall nor very strong and he has no capacity for thunderous shots. But just by stepping in and lasering a ball he had Nadal scrambling for his life. By far this was the most entertaining match of the week. Good to see the Russian getting back into form, he’s had a tough opener to his year what with injuries and inconsistency.
  • The highlight of the week has to be the play of Filippo Volandri, number 53 in the world, a clay court player of decent strength who put together a fantastic week for himself. He beat Gasquet, Federer and Berdych before going rather quietly at the hands of Fernando Gonzalez. His play was all heart, all crowd-driven. Don’t you love the names those Italian moms give their kids, like Potito and Daniele and Filippo? With a name like Filippo Volandri, no wonder this guy was flying high. He comes with wings! He has a so-so forehand, and an even more so-so serve, but they both were firing away with remarkable pace and consistency. He wailed repeatedly on a lovely one-handed backhand that seemed hit with so much joy and confidence. God, I want to kiss the man, but I suppose I have to wait in line. They should make a bust of him and put it on the grounds of the Foro Italico, to join the other gods. He certainly played like one. In a week where one of the big sporting idols in Italy, cyclist Ivan Basso, was embroiled in further doping headlines, the inspired play of Volandri probably came at just the right time. Good fortune continues to smile on him into this week. He suffered a miserable first set at the hands of Andy Murray today in Hamburg, only to find himself getting the win anyway after Murray tweaked his wrist and had to retire.
  • Most luscious sighting of the week: Ana Ivanovic’s mom watching her equally beautiful daughter win a juicy WTA title in Berlin. On Mother’s Day we like to thank moms for being supportive, for being good cooks and housekeepers and whatnot, but how about thanking them for just looking absolutely HOT! in a cream-colored jacket and top with a lovely matching choker, streaked blonde hair and dark shades.
  • Even in Rome, she would have stood out like a sore thumb. Happy Mother’s Day!