Category Archives: Maria Sharapova

How would you describe Maria Sharapova’s tennis career, or anyone else’s for that matter, in six words or less?

Just before that Ray Davies piece in The New Yorker, there’s a story about a new book called Not Quite What I Was Planning, a book of six word autobiographies. Not Quite What I Was Planning, get it? It’s a six word autobiography.

If I were to write my own six word autobiography it might look like this: “Honest, I’ll eventually get it right.” What about tennis professionals? What would theirs look like? Instead of exactly six words, we’ll allow six words or less.

Maria Sharapova is finally developing a net game or, maybe it’s safer to say, her allergy to the net has improved much as I can now drink milk without, well, you don’t want to know. Still, her game is power so I nominate the following for her career autobiography: “If I could hit it harder…” The obvious unsaid ending is “I would” but we’re only allowed six words.

Roger Federer’s might be “Fly like a butterfly sting like a bee” which is more than six words and is completely stolen from Muhammad Ali, so how about this: “Most dominant except for Tiger.”

Pete Sampras, poor guy, he gets so much grief for his charisma shortcomings so we could go with this: “Everything was boring but my game, ” but I prefer, “Will throw up for a win.”

Martina Hingis has now retired to her horses and her boyfriends, but when she was playing, there was no smarter player out there and that little grin of hers let you know that she knew it. Therefore I give you: “The cerebral assassin strikes again.”

In this month’s issue of Tennis View, a new lifestyle magazine by Teresa Thompson, Teresa asks James Blake to complete the following sentence: “I wish journalists would stop asking me…” I’ll let you guess his answer but I will offer you this as his six word tennis autobiography: “Stop asking me about my goals.”

When Daniela Hantuchova turns her back to her opponent at the beginning of each point to psyche herself up, I always assume she’s singing the refrain from the Pointer Sisters song, Yes We Can Can. I imagine her singing, repeatedly: “Yes I can can, can can.”

Many six word autobiographies could describe Ana Kournikova and most of them would focus on her many assets, but here is one that highlights her assets without directly mentioning them: “Who needs titles to be famous?”

Lastly let’s tackle one of the best ever, Chris Evert. She was a conservative little miss in her earlier years. That changed over time as only it could if you were thrown into a locker room with rabble rousers Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, but one thing that never changed was her dominant will. I offer this with all due reverence: “Less than perfect, don’t be ridiculous!”

As you can see, this kind of thing is not exactly my forte so help me out here in two ways:

1. Give us your autobiography in six words or less.
2. Give us an autobiography in six words or less for your favorite and least favorite player.

Best set of autobiographies gets a copy of the book, Not Quite What I Was Planning. For real.

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 194 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: 4.9 out of 5 based on 298 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: 4.7 out of 5 based on 192 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.

If Maria Sharapova is the diva, what does that make Lindsay Davenport? How about inspiring?

Lindsay Davenport just passed Steffi Graf to become the highest career money winner on the women’s tour. She’s currently at $21, 872, 217. That figure is partially due to inflation. You can bet that Graf never made $1.4 million for winning the U.S. Open and that doesn’t include a $1 million bonus for winning the U.S. Open Series.

Davenport hasn’t had heavy endorsement income for a few reasons. She’s not classically beautiful or sexy, and she’s not a self-promoter. Maria Sharapova is both of those things. It’s not a wild guess to say that Sharapova will earn as much in endorsements by the end of her career as Davenport will have earned from prize money by the end of hers.

Sharapova is an intense diva who commands the court and fights to the very last drop. She’s the self assured product of a family which lives for her tennis career. She’s supposed to succeed and she does. And her success is not limited to tennis.

For all the extra curricular activities Venus and Serena Williams involve themselves in – Venus now wears her own line of clothing and Serena consults on her Nike clothing line, Sharapova will probably outdo them both. She just signed a contract with WTA sponsor Sony Ericsson that includes acting as a design consultant for some of their products. Sharapova is, by the way, only 20 years old.

And so we find ourselves in the second round of the Australian Open to watch Sharapova, the present moment of tennis, play Davenport, the past champion. I feel bad about putting Davenport into the past tense because I’m ecstatic that she’s rejoined the tour after retiring to have a baby.

But she is 31 years old and it’s not quite the same as the Martina Hingis return tour. Davenport is a strong hitter and a big server but she never moved all that well. Hingis could always move and she was still a young 24 when she unretired from a three year hiatus with foot problems.

Sharapova isn’t a good mover either so both players tried to end the point as soon as possible once their match started. You’d have to go back to old movies of serve and volley at Wimbledon to watch a match with shorter points. These days Wimbledon courts are much slower.

Davenport was completely overwhelmed in the first set. It’s understandable considering that she’s only played Tier III and Tier IV tournaments since she returned to the tour last September. Sharapova repeatedly hit behind her or too far in front of her. Sharapova was already up 5-0 in the first set when Davenport ran Sharapova deep into a corner. Sharapova recovered with an emergency forehand slice but the angle of the shot was out of Davenport’s reach. Most women players today would get to that ball.

Davenport recovered in the second set, though, and managed to hold her first three service games. Now she was winning some of those cross court rallies. Two consecutive breaks of serve gave Sharapova the match, 6-1, 6-3, but Davenport could probably have made it to the third or fourth round with a bit more luck from the draw.

I think Lindsay can make it into the top ten. She beat number three ranked Jelena Jankovic twice last year and she also beat number 12 ranked Daniela Hantuchova. I don’t think she can get into the top five and I’d bet a lot of money that she’ll never win another slam. What do you think? Am I wrong? Am I more or less right?

[Correction: Davenport beat Jankovic once last year. In fact, until Davenport met up with Sharapova, she was 19-1 on her return tour. Her one loss was to Jankovic. Thanks to Anon for setting me straight.]

In either case, it’s wonderful to have Lindsay back on the tour. Tennis was never the beginning and the end of the world for her and that’s especially true now that she’s a mother. And don’t take my word for it. Serena Williams, who seldom has many positive things to say about her opponents, had this to say on Saturday:

I’m speechless because she looks better than me and she’s seven months out of having a baby. I’m convinced if I had a baby, seven months later I’d probably still be in the hospital trying to get over the pain. She is my ultimate role model. I’m really so motivated … she’s just taken it to a new level.

Tall Tennis

Ivo Karlovic is 6’10”(2.08m) and John Isner is 6’9”(2.05m). There’s no doubt they were the tallest doubles team ever to play a professional tennis match when they took the court in Melbourne today. They lost their match in straight sets but the trend worries me. Sharapova and Davenport are both 6’2”(1.88m) and if tennis continues to go the way of basketball, maybe we should consider raising the net. On the other hand, if people were abusive towards me just because I liked round robins, what will they say about raising the net? They’ll probably come after my head!

Watch out for Richard Gasquet. He beat Feliciano Lopez easily today and is looking good. As long as he doesn’t stub his toe or get a slight fever, I think he can go a long way.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 205 user reviews.

Can Serena Williams defend her Australian Open title? Can Jelena survive another 22 game third set?

Serena

While Serena Williams was obliterating Jarmila Gajdasova in her first round match at the Australian Open today, I wondered if Serena is in the proper state of mind to defend her title.

Serena can’t sneak into town this year and run off with a title like she did last year. She’d been missing for most of two previous years and her opponents no doubt relaxed just the slightest bit. This year they’ll know better.

How is she emotionally? While her sister Venus recently got engaged to her boyfriend, golfer Hank Kuehne, Serena is working through a breakup with her boyfriend, Jackie Long. All you have to do is read a few sentences of this very personal blog Serena posted about the breakup to see the pain she felt. The timing of her sister’s engagement must have some sting to it.

Physically Serena should be happy because she played all four slams last year and did no worse than the quarterfinals. On the other hand, she suffered injuries at critical times. She injured her calf at Wimbledon and reinjured her surgically repaired knee at the year end championships. At least she made it to the year end championships. That’s a victory in itself.

All things considered, Serena is in pretty good shape but that will not be enough to defend her title. Justine Henin skipped the Australian Open last year to deal with her divorce and Serena’s three quarterfinal losses last year were all to the same player: Justine.

Jelena

Here’s the main reason to push the Australian Open back to the end of February: nobody is in match shape, people. If you’re a French player and you live in Switzerland to avoid the high French taxes, you can run up and down mountains all day long, it doesn’t matter, you still won’t be match tough by the third week of the season.

Look at the opening round match between Jelena Jankovic and Tamara Paszek. After splitting the first two sets, they got to 5-5 in the third set and both players forgot how to hold serve.

Nine straight breaks of serve followed. Yes, nine. Paszek served for the match five times unsuccessfully. It’s not that there weren’t some great points, there were. Jankovic hit a beautiful stretch volley for a winner after a protracted rally featuring sharply angled shots that pulled both players off the court. That shot ended Paszek’s third attempt at serving for the match.

But for each of those points, there were two gimmes hit into the net or beyond the baseline. And neither player could serve anymore. Jankovic hit 14 double faults in the match and Paszek served five straight faults at one point. Jankovic also needed two injury timeouts for lower back pain that was visibly bothering her.

They were like two drunken sailors throwing punches at each and missing badly. Here’s the next suggestion for the Australians: join the 21st century, use a third set tiebreaker. It’s not tennis after awhile, it’s survival.

Jankovic managed to find a way to win the match, 2-6, 6-2, 12-10. She deserves a lot of credit for that but it’s not clear how long her body can last. She retired three times during Hopman Cup matches and now she’s injured her back.

Jankovic’s fellow Serbian, Ana Ivanovic, passed Jankovic in the standings last week and moved into the number three spot. Jankovic has repeatedly said that she plays tennis for one reason only: to reach the number one ranking. I think her shot at that may have passed, especially as Maria Sharapova seems to be healthy again.

If I’m right and Jankovic does slide down the rankings to no better than fifth or sixth, I’ll be interested to see how long she sticks around.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 288 user reviews.