Category Archives: Australian Open

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Roger Federer will not be in his eleventh consecutive slam final thanks to Novak Djokovic. What effect will this loss have on Federer’s legacy?

Novak Djokovic had his own booster club in Rod Laver Arena during his semifinal match against Roger Federer. His parents and two younger brothers each had one letter of Djokovic’s nickname spelled out on the front of their black and white Adidas outfits and when they stood up you could read it: N O L E.

They stood up a lot. Nole knocked Fed out of the semifinals at the Australian Open and for the first time in 10 slams, we will not be asking ourselves if so and so can beat Federer in the final. He’ll be on his way home. The king of tennis has been deposed.

He will not win the grand slam this year and he will not win the golden slam – all four slams plus the Olympic Gold medal. And I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that it’s very unlikely that he’ll win a grand slam in the future and that means something very, very important.

Fed can move ahead of Pete Sampras in the Greatest of All Time conversation with three more slams, but Sampras has always had to share that title with Rod Laver. Laver won two grand slams and Sampras never got close. Laver might be the Greatest of All Time 1a, but the conversation will always have to include him and that makes Fed’s loss to Nole huge. Federer got close to a grand slam, very close, and he still could win the French Open, but he will not stand alone as the best tennis player ever to play the game.

I am eternally thankful that I live in an era where I’ve been able watch Roger Federer do his magic. I liked nothing better than to sit down to a slam semi or final and know, absolutely know, that Fed would come alive at some point and take over the match. He’d hang around and poke and prod his opponent until he turned the switch on and cruised to the finish. And in every match there’d be at least one shot that would make me freeze then turn to the person next to me and ask, “Did I really just see that?”

The truth is that what a champion loses over time is the ability to raise his level on command. There’s no pill for that. None that are legal, anyway. Nole was cracking the ball and Fed couldn’t respond.

There were signs. There were those consecutive losses to Guillermo Canas, a Wimbledon final that Fed won by attrition more than anything, consecutive losses to David Nalbandian, and then the five set squeaker over Janko Tipsarevic, of all people.

The reign is over and now that it is, well, I’m sad. But I also have to say that these last two days have been as exciting as any I can remember in my long love affair with tennis. I can literally feel the body of tennis jump up out of its chair and throw its arms to the sky. The world is watching tennis again.

Everyone is talking about Nole Djokovic and the perfect match unseeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played to knock Rafael Nadal out of the semifinals. Wimbledon is now up for grabs and people want to know how long it’ll take Nadal to overtake Fed for the number one ranking or will Djokovic be the one to do it and is Tsonga really that good?

Most of the tennis season lays ahead of us and right about now, it looks like it’s gonna be a whole lot of fun.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 262 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Serena and Venus Williams lost their singles matches and their doubles match at the Australian Open. Are other players passing them by?

As Ana Ivanovic powered Venus Williams off the court in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open – Ivanovic won the match by the score of 7-6(3), 6-4 – I couldn’t help wondering if I wasn’t seeing the tail end of the Williams sisters era.

Venus’ sister Serena lost to Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and the sisters also lost their doubles match.

Both sisters were injured but neither one would reveal her injury. Serena was moving awkwardly and Venus walked onto the court with a slight limp and her thigh wrapped with enough bandage to cover a mummy. This is what Serena had to say about her injury situation:

I was having some issues, but I don’t like to make excuses. We won’t discuss those.

Neither Venus’ mother nor her hitting partner knew why Venus was limping and Venus wasn’t telling. Here’s what she said about the subject:

I never talk about my injuries.

Listen, nobody thinks you’re making an excuse if you divulge an injury after a loss. Justine Henin said her knee was bothering her after her lopsided loss to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals and nobody is complaining about her today. Players refuse to reveal their injuries so they can maintain a mystique of invulnerability but Serena and Venus have been injured so much that there’s no mystique left.

I am apparently not the only person wondering about the sisters. Someone asked Venus the following question after her match with Ivanovic:

Has to be a long time, if ever, since you and Serena lost singles and doubles within 24 hours at a big tournament. If people start talking about the Williams era being over, what would you have to say to them?

What can she say? Yes, you’re right? What she did say is that she’s a champion and she expects to be a champion. It’s hard to count out either sister and we’re not sure how much Venus’ thigh was bothering her but there were points in her match when it very much looked like Ivanovic was passing her by.

Both players started out slowly. Ivanovic has a bad habit of being very nervous coming out of the gate. When she got to the French Open final last year, she was so nervous she couldn’t serve properly. Venus couldn’t get her serve over 100mph (160kmh) herself.

By the end of the second set, though, both players looked strong and Venus was just pounding the ball. At 4-4, she pounded a bunch of balls at Ivanovic’s backhand then sent a ball down the line. Ivanovic ran the ball down then got Venus on the run for few shots before putting an inside out forehand away. Ivanovic then leaned back and let out a big “Oh yeahhhhh.” Venus had hit her with her best shot and ended up playing defense.

Venus didn’t give up. She pounded a few more balls and got two break points as Ivanovic was serving for the match, but Ivanovic had found her serve by now and a few good serves put the match away.

It was a great show by Ivanovic but I wouldn’t say she’s ready to win a slam just yet. It’s those nerves! She should have rolled over Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals but she started slowly again: she lost the first set 6-0. She won the match, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4, and she’s into her second slam final but she won’t get away with that against Maria Sharapova who ran over Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the final.

Blake is Getting Better, Really He Is

I’m encouraged by James Blake’s play. I really am. He looked sharp against Roger Federer in their quarterfinal match and that’s progress.

Federer wiped him off the court in Cincinnati last year. Blake doesn’t have enough game to beat Federer. He doesn’t have enough variety and his strength – hard flat shots – feeds right into Federer’s strength – quicksilver defense. Blake also has an average serve and he’s not going to outduel too many players from the baseline. But he kept attacking Federer and played a very high level of tennis. Check this out.

Blake was serving at 3-2 in the first set when he got to the net and hit a drop volley. Fed ran from one corner of the court to the other to get to the ball and hit a lob that landed just inside the baseline. Blake spun and raced back to the baseline and when he got there – no lie – he hit a between-the-legs lob! I have never ever seen a between-the-legs lob before, have you? Fed hit a soft overhead in response then followed that up with a forehand error. Definitely a top ten candidate if not top five for best point of the fortnight.

Blake is now back in the top ten and it looks like he really is getting better at age 28.

The question now is: can Novak Djokovic beat Federer?

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 212 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Jelena Jankovic beat a strangely subdued Serena Williams to get to the semifinals at the Australian Open.

Jelena Jankovic beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open by the score of 6-3, 6-4, and it was the strangest match I’ve seen in a very long time. Serena was out to lunch but we don’t know why.

After winning the first two games of the match, Serena lost four straight. She wasn’t getting to balls and her movement was awkward. Did she have an injury? Was she upset that the Green Bay Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl? I mean, what was the problem?

Her trainer said she received treatment earlier in the day on her quadriceps but she seemed surprised that Serena was struggling. If you’re struggling with your lower extremities, Jelena is the wrong player to take on. Her serve is weak and she doesn’t generate a lot of power on her own but she can track anything down.

With Jelena serving at 4-3 in the first set, Serena hit four straight shots that would have finished off most players. At the end of the point Jelena hit a strange short hop slice that went wide, otherwise it would have take Serena four or five more shots to win that point.

In the next game, Serena bent awkwardly and swiped at a ball as if it was uncomfortable to bend over. Two points later she put a sitter right into the net to lose the first set.

Then an even stranger thing happened: Jelena, not Serena, called for a trainer at 3-2 in the second set after she felt a sharp stab in her quadriceps. If Serena had a quadriceps problem, why wasn’t she getting treatment for it? Instead, she received treatment for a blister on her toe.

I now officially censure myself for having doubted Jelena. I had her practically sliding down the rankings because Ana Ivanovic passed her and Maria Sharapova looks like she’s healthy again. I miscalculated Jelena’s heart.

She somehow managed to hold on and win a 22 game third set in her first round match and struggle through another three set match in the third round even though she is beset with injuries. When someone asked her to list her injuries she said, “I cannot give you all the details, because if I would begin I would never stop.”

How does she do it? She has fun. Look at these comments from her post-match media session:

Q. All that twisting the trainer does with your leg, does that give you relief, or are you going to have to get a new leg before the tournament is over?
JELENA JANKOVIC: I think I need to change my oil and my wheels. They’re a little bit old.

And this:
Q. You said you were looking forward to your day off. Is there anything that takes your mind off tennis during those nearly 48 hours?
JELENA JANKOVIC: [My friends] keep telling me they want to take me on a helicopter, and they want me to drive them. I don’t know how safe is that. Actually, I did it last year in Auckland and I drove my mom and some friends in the back. They turned so pale, they were so scared. They couldn’t wait until they landed. But it’s so much fun. I love doing that, and I want to see Melbourne from the top.

At the end of the match, Pam Shriver said, “Whether it was Serena’s toe, her quad, her mood, I don’t know but something wasn’t quite right.” Serena would not let moodiness keep her from winning a slam. Her spirit wasn’t wounded, only her body. She smashed a racket in frustration and fluffed her feathers a bit when Jelena dared to upstage her.

Jelena successfully challenged a call early in the second set then smiled and waved at the crowd in her usual entertaining way. Serena followed that with a hard ace down the middle, took a few steps into the court, then slowly circled back to the baseline just to let Jelena know who she was dealing with.

Nah, it wasn’t mood, it was something else. I’m just not sure what.

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

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Philipp Kohlschreiber have performed well at the Australian Open. We’re still not sure about Roger Federer.

Is Tsonga Only a Serve and Volleyer?

I let out a sigh of relief after David Nalbandian lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero by the score of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round at the Australian Open. It’s not that I wish David any ill will, I’d love to see him win a slam, but I would have felt like a total idiot if he’d won this tournament because it would have been the third time I doubted him and paid for it. I didn’t pick him for my fantasy tennis team in Madrid or Paris and that knocked me out of the ATP fantasy tennis game top 100.

What’s up with that lopsided score, and to Ferrero too? Did David’s back spasms finally catch up with him? I couldn’t find any injury information about him and he didn’t talk to the media.

On the other hand, I picked Richard Gasquet to beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and now he’s gone. He was beaten by his good friend and countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-3 in the fourth round. Tsonga is a serve and volleyer in my mind and I expected the slow court here in Melbourne to limit his results. Either the players are lying and the court is not that slow or Tsonga is a more complete player that I gave him credit for. Let’s see which it is.

On thing is for sure: Tsonga is driving his opponents crazy. He knocked Andy Murray out in the first round by attacking him nonstop early in the match. Something happened to Gasquet too. How else could you explain 73 net approached in one match. I doubt Gasquet has ever done that before but he had no choice, nothing else was working.

Tsonga attacked Gasquet early too and he was also winning the baseline game. Gasquet is the shotmaker but it was Tsonga who made the shots in this match. He was up 4-3 in the third set when he ran Gasquet first to one corner then the next and followed that up with a sweet forehand dropshot winner.

Tsonga is quick and it showed in his defense. In the third set tiebreaker, Tsonga hit his bread and butter shot, an inside out forehand approach. He backed up to get to a deep passing shot then ran to the opposite corner to track down a Gasquet approach. Gasquet followed that up with a pretty hard overhead shot but Tsonga tracked that down too and Gasquet put the ball into the net. On the next point, Tsonga dug another ball out of the corner and Gasquet put the ball into the net again to give Tsonga a set point.

You can see why Gasquet was trying to attack. He was lucky to stay as close as he did in this match .

Tsonga is still a bit inexperienced. He ran around his backhand too much and got himself out of position and he wasn’t always sure when he should attack. But all the tools are there and he deals with pressure very well judging by today’s match. He hit three aces when his serve was under pressure early in the fourth set and he hit another passing shot at the attacking Gasquet to win that game. That’s right, at this point Gasquet was attacking and Tsonga staying back. So much for being a serve and volleyer.

Federer Wins – Roddick Doesn’t

Tsonga is the second player to have a coming out at this party. The first was Philipp Kohlschreiber who beat Andy Roddick in the third round by taking the fifth set 8-6. Roger Federer almost suffered the same result at the hands of Janko Tipsarevic before finally winning 10-8 in the fifth set.

Kohlschreiber played a very good match and Roddick couldn’t do much about it. The question is: Was this a coming out party for Tipsarevic too?

No. Kohlschreiber should keep moving up the ranking but Tipsarevic will most likely continue to ping pong back and forth between the 40’s and 60’s in the rankings.

Tipsarevic played inspired tennis but Federer converted exactly five of 21 break points. That is bad tennis. And he had problems with his forehand. You think David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal – those energizer bunnies of the baseline – didn’t take note of that? Nadal can’t pass Federer in the rankings here even if he wins the title but I’m tellin’ ya, he can taste that number one ranking.

Blake Takes Advantage

James Blake beat Marin Cilic by the score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals and that’s exactly where he should be. Both Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez were knocked out before Blake could meet up with them and that’s what we call the luck of the draw. Blake got to the fourth round here last here so it’s fair enough to expect him to reach the quarterfinals.

Lest you think I’m being too demanding, I do not expect him to beat his next opponent: Federer.

Okay, people, here’s the question of the day: Can Federer win this tournament or not? Please chime in.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 243 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin in five sets in the second round of the Australian Open, but Baghdatis’ career might look a lot like Safin’s by the time it’s over.

To be a championship tennis player you need the appropriate balance between intensity and amnesia. You need enough fire in your belly to slog through five set matches in ungodly heat for two weeks straight and enough amnesia to forget a stretch of bad tennis.

While I was watching Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, I spent a little time placing both players on the intensity/amnesia spectrum. The exercise brought up a number of interesting comparisons between these two players.

First of all, we know Safin does not have amnesia. He not only doesn’t forget his last bad shot but he’s very likely to respond to a stretch of bad tennis by getting into an argument with the chair umpire, or any other willing participant.

You could never, however, accuse Safin of lacking intensity or lacking effort. Safin had game point at 4-2 in the third set when Baghdatis hit a beautiful running forehand down the line. Safin was at the net and he lunged towards the sideline and hit what could only be called a stretch stab volley. I mean, he launched all six foot four inches of his body horizontal. The volley was perfect.

Baghdatis, on the other hand, is short on intensity. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. He’s my top candidate to take Safin’s place as the player most likely to fail to fulfill his potential. Here’s a guy who made it all the way to the final at the 2006 Australian Open and got up to the number eight ranking and he’s been rattling around with a 15-20 ranking ever since.

Whereas Safin is a tall powerful tennis player who’ll attack the net – he’s the most powerful tennis player I’ve ever seen, Baghdatis has a lot of baby fat on that body and he ventures to the net only when the situation requires it. He could impose his game on opponents by moving forward much more but he seems to float above the game instead of get down and dirty.

Baghdatis started the match off doing what he does well: aggressive counterpunching. He was on fire for the first two sets and got out to a two set lead. Safin fought back to win the next two sets as he went through is own patch of exceptional tennis.

When the fifth set came around, Safin went on a walkabout. As he put it,

..unfortunately my concentration and my — everything went a little bit downhill, and he was just preparing himself for the fifth set. So it’s a little bit unlucky.

Consistency is neither player’s hallmark but I have hope for Baghdatis. He’s only 22 years old and he’s playing more aggressively than he used to. He plays very well indoors and on grass courts – he has a semifinal and quarterfinal at Wimbledon already. I could see him winning a Wimbledon some day, maybe even two.

Two slams. That exactly the number of slams owned by one Marat Safin.

Grinders/Retrievers

Safin hit the shot of the tournament but Roger Federer and Fabrice Santoro played the point of the tournament and it tells you why grinders and retrievers are such a pain in the butt. Those are the players with ugly games that get the ball back no matter what you do.

Here is a point from that match that demonstrates what I mean.

Santoro blocked a wide serve into the court then ran deep to the ad corner to retrieve Federer’s response. Santoro’s response was short so Federer came in and hit an approach to deuce corner. Santoro got to it and hit a lob to the middle of the court which Federer hit softly to the ad corner. Another short response by Santoro was followed by yet another Federer approach. This time Santoro’s lob hit the sky and landed just inside the sideline. Federer telegraphed his overhead and off went Santoro to retrieve it. By the time he got there he was at least ten feet beyond the sideline, but get to it he did and his lob pushed Federer back to the baseline where he….yup, shanked the ball and lost the point.

Federer beat Santoro easily, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, but this point shows you why most people want to strangle player like Santoro. Have any of you readers had a similar experience? I know I have and I was none too successful at dealing with it either.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 151 user reviews.