Category Archives: Wimbledon

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

The Men

Richard Gasquet had come back from two sets down and had his third chance to push his match against Andy Roddick to a fifth set. After exchanging a few ground strokes Gasquet unleashed a backhand down the line and let out an escalating cry of dominance as the ball landed out of Roddick’s reach.

Gasquet turned to his box and punched his fist and so we had the exclamation mark announcing the arrival of the latest member of the current crowd of young ATP players. Gasquet had officially transformed himself from an inconsistent and fragile player into a confident young man.

At the beginning of Wimbledon, youngsters Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, and Gasquet had yet to reach the quarterfinal of a slam. Murray didn’t show up because his wrist had not healed and Berdych joined Gasquet in the quarterfinals today but lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal.

After getting up 7-6 in the fifth set, Gasquet got two match points on Roddick’s serve – two chances to close out the match. Roddick’s coach, Jimmy Connors, leaned forward with a worried look on his face. Gasquet hit a shot at Roddick’s feet and Roddick volleyed it into the net. The U.S. had just watched its Wimbledon future passed by the present. Roddick was the U.S.’s best shot to win Wimbledon and Wimbledon was Roddick’s best shot at a second slam.

The youngsters move better than Roddick and their all-court games trump his big serve and forehand. It’s not likely to get easier for Roddick and Murray has already beaten him here. James Blake could win the U.S. Open or the Australian Open if he gathers himself mentally. We know Blake has never won a match from two sets down as Gasquet did today because Blake has never won a five set match. Blake is also 27 years old to Gasquet’s 21, but there’s always hope.

There was an even better match on the same court and it was a meeting between the two most advanced members of the youngsters: Marcos Baghdatis and Novak Djokovic. At first it looked like this match might mirror the classic match between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi at the 2001 U.S. Open. Sampras won that four set match which featured four tiebreakers with neither player losing his serve.

The first three sets were decided by tiebreakers with Djokovic winning the first two and Baghdatis the third. It would go five sets. Baghdatis had the trainer out to look at his arm and Djokovic had his back massaged before Djokovic finally pulled it out, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5. Could it be? Is another rivalry forming on the ATP tour? Aaaaah, sighs of relief all round. The future for U.S. men might not look good but the tour is in good hands.

Djokovic gets Nadal in the semifinals for his reward and Gasquet gets Federer who had a much less exciting four set win over Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The Women

Over on the women’s side, another French player made a huge breakthrough and unlike Gasquet – we were expecting him to stand up one of these days – Marion Bartoli shocked us. Until two weeks ago, she’d never been past the quarterfinals at a Tier I or Tier II event let alone a slam, and now she’s in a final and she did it by beating Justine Henin.

You have to think that Henin ran out of gas because she has the game to play on fast surfaces. She reached the final in six of the last seven slams and won just two of them. It’s a testament to her mental strength that she got that far because she still battles a virus that affects her immune system. I have the same virus she does and a few others to boot. The minute I overwork myself, I come down with something or other. Playing two slams within a month of each other cannot help her situation.

We won’t know until tomorrow whether France will pass the U.S. women because that’s when Bartoli will meet Venus Williams in the women’s final. We do know, however, that the future is even bleaker for the U.S. women than the men.

Look at it like this: there have been 40 slams in the last ten years and U.S. women have won half of them. Fourteen of those slams were won by Venus and Serena Williams, the other winners have now retired, and there’s no one coming up behind them. For as long as Venus and Serena want to play, however, the U.S. is in good shape and if one sister goes down, the other will pick up the pieces.

Serena went out to Henin in the quarterfinals after injuring her calf and thumb in a dramatic fourth round win over Daniela Hantuchova. Venus took up the slack by putting a fourth round whomping on Maria Sharapova reminiscent of Serena’s two victories over Sharapova earlier this year. Serena lost just three games in each of those matches, Venus lost only four.

No, Sharapova doesn’t have a Williams sisters’ complex, she has a strategical problem. Sharapova’s entourage told us she would develop a better all-court game as she matured but it hasn’t happened yet. You can’t hit the Williams sisters off the court and Sharapova doesn’t move as well as some of the younger players.

Unlike Roddick, Sharapova’s competition isn’t quite as strong except for the sisters. Do you really think Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic will win more majors than Sharapova? If so, leave a comment and back it up. Come on, jump in here.

See you bright and early Sunday morning when Pat and I will be live blogging the men’s final.


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See also:
Mauresmo Goes Home, Serena Should Go Home, and the Rain Continues
B**tch and Sing Dept: Peek-a-Boo Tennis
James Blake the Confidence Man
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 271 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Serena has a big heart, Amelie doesn’t, and don’t make fun of Rafa

Serena and Venus Williams are on opposite sides of the draw here at Wimbledon. If they both end up in the final, NBC will be delirious but the sisters will not. They’ve never had a good match against each other because they don’t like to play each other.

That’s one of the few pressures they don’t relish. There’s one more: the pressure of being the only U.S. women likely to do well in a slam with no promising U.S. players behind them.

Serena couldn’t take time off from tennis to recover from her sister’s death and various injuries without hearing that she was wasting her talent. She was also subject to repeated comments about her big booty. Neither sister will be able to amble towards the latter part of her career at her own pace because U.S. fans have no other women players to obsess over.

Pete Sampras was allowed to wallow around for his last two years of his career and win nothing, absolutely nothing, until he finally took the 2002 U.S. Open and left us for good. That was o.k. because Andre Agassi was still around and Andy Roddick was making his way into the top ten. Agassi was allowed to limp through his last years with tea and sympathy because by then the U.S. had James Blake to supplement Roddick.

Serena has ping ponged back and forth between injury and strong slam performances to the exasperation of desperate fans. Her third round match with Daniela Hantuchova was more of the same. She strained a calf muscle and the pain brought her to tears. The rain came along and gave her enough time to get ice and massage for the calf but she could hardly move.

That didn’t stop her from winning the match and afterwards she explained what motivated her:

Q. Were you irritated when she[Hantuchova] hit the dropshot in the fourth game?

SERENA WILLIAMS: That pretty much set it off for me. After that, I was so motivated to win. I was like, you know what, I’m going to do this. You know, I’m going to die trying.
You know, I just — I don’t know why that particularly made me so upset, but it was just like, you know what, this is it. I’m not going down today. I mean, no. There’s no way.

It reminds me of the 1995 five set final between Pete Sampras and Jim Courier at the Australian Open. Sampras’ coach Tim Gullikson had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and he’d recently suffered a third stroke. In the fifth set, a fan called out for Sampras to win the match for his coach and that was it, all the grief and sadness that had built up over Gullikson’s illness flowed out of Sampras in sobs.

Courier yelled across the net to his good friend, “Are you all right, Pete? We can do this tomorrow, you know.” It annoyed Sampras and woke him up. “I think once he said that, I thought he was giving me a hard time, ” he said later.

Sampras immediately served two aces, won the fifth set, and went on to take the Australian Open title.

Serena and Pete have hearts as big as the world. Serena’s father expressed it in his own unique way: “She’s a young Mike Tyson. She feel like a pit bulldog…” Her father also said that Serena should go home because she now had a tear in her calf.

Amelie Mauresmo is going home. She lost her fourth round match to Nicole Vaidisova. Mauresmo was up a break in the first set when Vaidisova started coming to the net despite the fact that it’s not her favorite place in the world. It energized Vaidisova’s game and her confidence to the point that her serve – that had not been working well – started popping.

James Blake should take note. He failed to change his strategy against Juan Carlos Ferrero when Ferrero started taking over their third round match and now he’s on his way home too.

Mauresmo lost that first set in a tiebreaker but fought back to take the second set. In the third set she was down a break at 1-4 when she hit two double faults. The serve on the second point was actually good but she was too discouraged to challenge it. She followed that up with a forehand drop shot that cried uncle and it was all over.

Before Amelie won her first slam I said she’d win her first slam and that would be such a great accomplishment that one would suffice. I was almost right. The first one didn’t count because Justine Henin gave it to her by retiring at the 2006 Australian Open. Mauremso beat Justine for real in Wimbledon the same year and now it looks like that was enough.

Mauresmo gets to a certain place – in her match with Vaidisova that meant winning the second set and evening the match – then she says that’s enough. I’m done. That doesn’t get you a high ranking on the heart monitor.

It’ll be interesting to see where Rafael Nadal rates in the heart department. We know he has the most mental toughness but is that the same thing?

In their third round match – yes they’re still in the third round – Robin Soderling made fun of Nadal by pulling on his pants to mock Nadal’s habit of giving himself a wedgie in his long playing preparation routine. Soderling had already annoyed Nadal by stopping Nadal’s serve to get a new racket and Nadal got him back by sarcastically holding up the new tennis ball in his hand to belatedly indicate new balls.

That would be more than enough to turn Serena and Pete Sampras into your worst enemy and it was enough to push Nadal past Soderling when their match resumed, but is it enough to propel him to the final?

When Tomas Berdych played Nadal in Madrid last year, Berdych motioned to the crowd and told them to be quiet after Nadal’s homies applauded his errors. Nadal lost the match in straight sets and lectured Berdych about his manners when they met at the net. Rafa, you’re supposed to decapitate him with the ball, not lecture him. That’s not ferocity.

Maybe Nadal is too nice. Maybe he should adopt some of Serena’s attitude. When a reporter asked Serena how she’d feel if she were Hantuchova and had just lost a match to someone who could barely move, this was her answer:

If she was Serena Williams, I wouldn’t feel that bad (smiling).


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See also:
James Blake the Confidence Man
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 207 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Intermittent Tennis, With Frequent Showers

So far there have been 347 rain delays in this year’s Wimbledon through Monday of this week, but what really counted was the one Serena Williams got yesterday in her match against Daniela Hantuchova. Was that 345? Or 346? Anyway, it allowed Serena to regroup from her painfully obvious calf cramp and – after yet another rain delay – she came out and held her own to defeat Hantuchova in three sets. She is probably in no shape at all to play Justine Henin in the quarterfinals, at least according to Richard Williams, who felt she should have retired.

But still we feel anticipation. Serena was a force of nature out there in the size of her determination and ability to work through pain. This would be a wonderful story if she could break Henin in two. Personally I would relish that but we can’t count on it. Brad Gilbert likes Venus Williams’s chances better at this point than her sister’s, and I would go along with that. Venus over Maria Sharapova sounds more likely than Serena over Justine.

Apart from the Serena Williams story we could echo the sentiments of Nikolay Davydenko who summed it up succinctly: This is one BORING tournament. What’s wrong, Nic? Not having any fun? You’ve only managed to get further along on grass – your least favorite surface – than you ever have before at Wimbledon. So quit yer grippin’, guy! The weather does that to a disposition. Sitting around waiting for the endless rain delays to end can be pretty tiresome. It’ depletes energy to wait and deal with all the pent-up feelings.

Roger Federer, not having played since Saturday, probably has a hard time remembering what a tennis court looks like. I’m having a bit of trouble remembering what Roger Federer looks like. He won’t play his quarterfinal match until Thursday against Juan-Carlos Ferrero, and we’re knocking on wood with the weather on that one. It may turn out to be too much of a good thing for Roger: you want your body fresh during a Grand Slam, but five days of inactivity is not a good thing.

It took a somewhat dour Swede, Robin Soderling, to finally be the guy who took it to Rafael Nadal in the Butt Picking Department. Nadal was serving with new balls but he apparently forgot to hold them up to Soderling. Either because he was ticked off by that show of disrespect or maybe because he forgot he needed a new racquet to hit new balls, Soderling trotted quickly to the sidelines to retrieve another racquet.

Now it was Nadal who got ticked off. He bounced the balls for an eternity, like he normally does. Then he stopped, held up the new balls for his opponent to see, and started the ball-bouncing all over again! Annoyed with this, Soderling turned away from the service box. Then, wonder of wonders, he reached around and PICKED HIS BUTT! Great shot, I thought, hooting with laughter. He picked it deliberately, almost lovingly, it was a shot of purpose, intensity, cloth even flew up from the offending backside. The crowd yukked a bit too when they saw that. These guys should take their act on the road when they get done. If they get done.

But guy, doing that to Nadal could end up being the kiss of death. Nadal held serve next at love and then broke Soderling. I don‘t want to see what Rafa is like when he gets, like, really mad. Nadal may have gotten fired up by that episode but Soderling got more fired up: he roared back from the break early in the fifth set to break himself. The match is now deadlocked at 4-4 awaiting yet another day in which they can hopefully conclude this meandering epic. Assuming we want to see it end. Maybe we should make them stay out there longer. We could get more yuks out of these guys. They could become the Flying Dutchmen of the tennis world, who knows?

Part of the problem with all the rain is that the tournament feels like it’s slipping into a watery bog. Players go on court and come off court, they hang around and wait and try to occupy themselves during the rain and wonder when and if or what they should eat. Not good for morale, and certainly not for momentum. If you are a server who relies on your serve, your timing is going to come and go like the weather.

Amelie Mauresmo probably lost that final set 6-1 against Nicole Vaidisova because her game had been completely disrupted by all the rain. Not an excuse, but another hurdle for the players to navigate through. Mauresmo just went away in that final set and for a defending Wimbledon champion it was a disappointing thing to witness. Jelena Jankovic suffered a surprising upset for the same reason at the hands of Marion Bartoli: Jankovic needs rhythm going in her groundies for her game to work and the rain disrupted that.

It seems unfortunate the tournament directors can’t show some flexibility and schedule the middle Sunday for play, particularly knowing how bad the rain was already and what was coming down the road. It was a beautiful day last Sunday. People should have been on court taking advantage of that. But no, it’s Wimbledon, we’re special. And we’re different, thank you very much. So no, we won’t help the players out by having them play on Sunday.

I guess because they granted the women equal pay for the first time this year that the powers that be think that’s enough in the concession department. We won’t get anything else out of them now for probably the next decade, except that retractable roof they propose to have built by 2009.

But tomorrow is another day. Hopefully the waters will recede. Then I am half expecting Marcelo Rios to pop up and say, with that wonderful sneer, “You see? I told you – grass is for cows.”


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See also:
James Blake the Confidence Man
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 227 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Is James Blake in denial about having confidence problems? Depends how you look at it.

After James Blake won his second round match at Wimbledon, a journalist told him that Patrick McEnroe called him a confidence player – in other words, a player who needs a few wins before his confidence starts to build in a tournament. Blake agreed with the assessment:

I hope Patrick’s right, that everyone needs to watch out when I do get some confidence. That’s the way I always feel.

He also talked about confidence problems when he was young:

… as a young player, I wasn’t consistent. I would lose a match, lose confidence immediately. That could spiral in[to] three, four, five losses in a row. Now I don’t let that happen. I don’t let the dips in confidence happen.

Blake has transformed himself from an average player with model goods looks into a top ten player. Along the way, he’s shown a propensity to get easily discouraged. It happened in his next match – he lost in the third round to Juan Carlos Ferrero – and it’s fair to ask whether Blake is in denial about having dips in confidence.

Ferrero discouraged Blake by winning the second set without losing a point on his serve. Still, it was only the second set and Blake had already won the first set. You’ve heard it a million times before but here it is again: Blake has never won a five set match, he’s 0-9.

In any match, it’s entirely possible that your opponent will enter the “zone” and experience a temporary period of perfection. It seldom lasts the entire match and it almost never happens throughout a best of five match. It if does happen, it’s imperative that you try something to nudge your opponent out of his perfection. Mix up your strokes, come to the net. Hell, stand halfway between the baseline and service line on the return if you have to. It’s been done before.

While Ferrero was getting 85% of his first serves in, Blake didn’t change anything. He stood in the same place and played the same way. And when he gets discouraged, he starts speeding up his play and hitting the ball as hard as he can therefore producing more errors. I recognize this behavior: “Oh yeah, I’ll show you. You won’t beat me because I’ll beat myself.”

Is that not a dip in confidence?

Eventually Blake got his feet moving and those hard hits were staying in the court. After losing the third set, he played Ferrero even in the fourth set and got to the tiebreaker. At 4-5 in the tiebreaker, Blake hit an easy volley into the net and Ferrero took the match, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4).

You could say that Blake’s approach improved his play. He got mad and got even, at least in the fourth set. And it is an improvement over his performance here last year. After going up two sets to one on Max Mirnyi in the third round, he proceeded to win exactly one game in the last two sets.

Blake lost in the third round again but having a smaller meltdown this year than last year counts as progress. You could also see it as an improvement in confidence.


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See also:
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 293 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Today the weather interfered with life at the Big W in a major way. Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova moved easily through their matches just before the deluge but a whole flock of other players are backed up on the runway.

On Friday we saw the shedding of the first real blood. James Blake lost in four sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero. A bit of a surprise perhaps but Ferrero played Blake well last summer in Cincinnati and Blake has been all over the place this year. A bigger upset occurred when number 5 seed Fernando Gonzalez lost a rough five-setter to yet another Serb, Janko Tipsaravic. And just when I started to think Ivan Ljubicic might have a chance to enjoy another round or two, he lost in four sets to Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Mathieu has started to make good noises this year. He is another one of those crossover French guys who can play on surfaces other than just clay. His compatriot Richard Gasquet is still in the draw and moving easily through his matches too. On the women’s side, Martina Hingis was not expected to do that well here after some weeks off due to injury but I did not expect her to go out in the third round to….Laura Granville?

We keep hyping upcoming matches that promise good stuff only to have them peter out into rather ho-hum affairs. From my perspective at the end of the first week, it has not been a thrilling tournament this year. The Williams sisters blew hot and cold in their initial offerings. Venus especially had to maintain her poise before she was nearly booted out while Serena looked a bit scratchy. Now they are getting themselves in gear and their opponents are paying the price. So are we. ESPN2 is rubbing our noses in their slaughters, over and over again.

Ditto the Henman-Moya classic five-setter, which really was a classic when it happened. But now we’ve been so beaten over the head with the repeats of it during rain delays that I frankly don’t care if I ever see these two again – playing each other or anyone else for that matter. ESPN2, we love you!

We were also salivating at the prospect of Roger Federer meeting his first real challenge from Marat Safin. Someone should have told Safin I guess. He tried to make a bit of a run in the third set but the train had left the station by that point. Federer rolled through him in three straight sets.

In fact, if anything has generated heat here at Wimbledon it’s been all the flaming comments from fans who don’t exactly adore ESPN’s coverage right now. I added my own snide comment on a rival site about Dick Enberg, saying the remote buttons of the world were probably designed with him in mind. When he comes on the mute button is my stalwart ally; I keep the TV muted for long stretches. It’s not worth turning it up to hear the ping and pong of the ball hits because Enberg is talking right over them. Have we ever heard such a useless stream of drivel? It used to be that most commentary stopped when the play began; now it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The level of public uncouthness has spread to the commentary booths, so now it’s pretty much continual babble that we get to hear. And those little tidbit stories of “entertainment” the network tosses out to fill time really have little to do with tennis but we’re going to get them anyway, so shut the hell up and act like you’re enjoying the tennis. And they wonder why the rankings of the sport have plummeted over the years.

Wimbledon.org gives you a nice package online for about $25 to watch the whole tournament and next year I may sign up for it and just bypass ESPN2 altogether. Unless of course The Tennis Channel does us all a big favor and acquires a few more rights to tournaments. I would much rather hear their guys because they tend to be far more technical and less interested in the trivia.

Roger Federer’s wardrobe has been another source of heat. A lot of people hate it, they think it reflects an arrogance. Has anyone looked at the wardrobes of Americans lately? I’m not even talking the gang banger styles, just those of normal people. We’re all so incredibly dressed down now – and it’s all, like, kind of gross. So to see a guy like Fed waltz out in the white long pants and matching blazer with the gold trim, well, we’re in another world. I think it looks hot as hell. One thing some of us females like about Roger: we won’t ever have to take him shopping, like we would Vince Spadea. Federer could take us shopping, truth be known.

We did get one nifty match on Friday. Jelena Jankovic and Lucie Safarova played a tense three-setter that felt like a semi-final. Jankovic pulled it out but just barely. When I saw her draw I knew Safarova could be a real challenge to Jankovic who has pretty much buried her opponents here. Lucie played attacking tennis early on, she had lots of errors but also a lot of winners. Jankovic found herself playing a ton of defense. After grabbing a tight first set 7-5, Jankovic figured she’d better not count on Lucie making mistakes and she started going for her shots more.

In the second set she stepped it up. The key game was at 3-3 where Lucie finally held serve through eleven deuces. Did Jelena go away in disappointment? No way. She fought back, broke Lucie, even had a set point, but then gave the break back to. Jelena won the tiebreaker then clinched the match with a break in the third set that held up. Safarova should be near the top ten by the end of this year. She’s a lefty with a good powerful serve and deep, well-paced shots off both wings. She still gets a little tight in big moments but she’ll get over that. I like her game a lot. These two will have a good rivalry.

Good matches on tap for Monday include David Nalbandian facing Marcos Baghdatis. I look for Marcos to take that in four sets. He is starting to look consistent now and, besides, he is one of my Fantasy Tennis picks. Rafael Nadal also takes on Sweden’s Robin Soderling. This may be one we have vast hopes of being competitive when we all know it will turn out to be anything but.

The Pit Bull Contingent should take up some slack for us, namely Lleyton Hewitt who will face off against Guillermo Canas. I keep forgetting Canas is even in the draw. He has had mixed results since his earlier two triumphs over Federer this year, and I guess no one really expects much from him on this surface. It’s a battle of two counter-punchers but Hewitt will probably spend a fair bit of time at the net where he can use those attacking moves. I think this one will go the distance with Hewitt pulling it out.

Now, let’s all pray for a heat wave.


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See also:
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 268 user reviews.