Del Potro Cashes In
I don’t have a lot of time to go into the entire match today, but I do want to say this. When I chose Juan Martin Del Potro as my most improved player last year, the tennis world didn’t exactly jump up and applaud, and that’s mainly because those four consecutive tournaments he won last year were small fry. Today that pick is looking good after Del Potro beat Rafael Nadal to get to the semifinals in Miami.
Del Potro stormed back from two breaks down in the third set to get to the tiebreaker and put the match away convincingly once he got there. He finished off what his Argentinean compatriot David Nalbandian couldn’t do with five match points against Rafa in Indian Wells and he did it on his first match point.
There were a few hiccups in the tiebreaker. Rafa hit a lob volley and Del Potro wheeled around in perfect form to hit a winner in to the open court only to hit the ball dead in to the net thereby giving up a gimme mini-break. Rafa had a hiccup himself. After getting his own mini-break on a net cord return of Del Potro’s serve, Rafa telegraphed a drop shot which gave Del Potro plenty of time to get his long legs to the net and hit a shot Rafa couldn’t get back into the court. Rafa looked distraught afterwards and wrapped his arms around his head in despair. You don’t see that every day.
For sure, Del Potro watched that Nalbandian match as has everyone in the top ten and he used the same tactics. He hit behind Rafa whenever possible – that’s how he got his match point, he hit to Rafa’s backhand repeatedly to set up the flat inside out forehand, and he ran Rafa corner to corner to set up those short court shots down the line.
It took Del Potro three hours to do it so I’m not picking him to beat Andy Murray – especially as Murray took less than an hour to completely dismantle Fernando Verdasco, 6-1, 6-4 – but I’m happy to see my guy do something special.
The Ismene Complex
Dinara Safina reached the French Open Final last year and lost. She reached the Australian Open final this year and lost again, this time badly. She got bageled by Serena Williams in the first set. Safina had a few opportunities this year to take the number one ranking away from Serena but she appears to have mixed emotions about the whole thing. If she’d reached the final in Miami, she’d have been number one no matter what Serena did. Instead, she lost to Samantha Stosur in the third round by the snively score of 6-1, 6-4.
Is there an Oedipal complex for sisters? You may remember that Oedipus was the guy who killed his father but didn’t realize it until after he’d already wed his mother and had four children with her. Freud went to town with that story and ascribed certain childhood neuroses to the male child’s unconscious wish for his father’s death so he can have his mother’s love all to himself. Freud called it the Oedipal Complex.
Oedipus banished himself after he realized what he’d done and his sons ended up killing each other in a fight over Oedipus’ throne. Oedipus’ daughter Antigone defied a royal decree by burying one of her brothers. Her sister Ismene refused to defy the decree and bury her brother so I’m calling this the Ismene complex.
There may be other reasons that Safina hasn’t gathered up the wherewithal to win a slam or take over number one, but maybe she doesn’t want to bury her brother. Maybe she doesn’t want to surpass his two slams or the seven weeks he spent at number one. Maybe she doesn’t want to reach her potential because he never reached his.
I had a rakish, unpredictable brother and he was the apple of my mother’s eye – an Oedipal setup if ever there was one. My father’s attempts to discipline him were lost on my mother and that was only partly because my brother turned up less than nine months before my father returned from the war. The point is that I did not find it an easy situation to deal with and my confidence was severely challenged, to say the least.
Considering all that, Safina has done well to make two slam finals. Hopefully there’ll be a few more slam finals because she’s only 22 years old. She’s in an excellent position to go far considering that she’ll be around a lot longer than Serena and her sister Venus and the WTA is a free-for-all at the moment.
The ATP Cup
Everyone and his brother knows that James Blake likes to play at a fast pace. They also know that he gets upset at bad sportsmanship. If you want to beat James, you slow the game down as much as possible, especially on his serve. Tomas Berdych followed that formula and beat James in the third round in Miami, but what was notable was the way the chair umpire handled the matter. The chair umpire eventually gave Berdych a code violation but when the microphone picked up their conversations, the umpire was subservient in his attitude towards Berdych and Berdych was dismissive in return.
The players run the asylum in all of pro sports today but there’s a problem with that and we saw it in the match between Fernando Gonzalez and Radek Stepanek. Stepanek was making Gonzo wait to serve and Gonzo’s response was to stare at the chair umpire as if to say, “Why the hell are you letting him get away with it?” That was his first response anyway.
By the time the fifth game came around, Gonzo decided to take matters into his own hands. He put a hard serve down the middle and got a short return from Stepanek. Gonzo then ran to the net and tattooed Stepanek’s right butt with the ball and you can imagine where it would have landed if Stepanek hadn’t turned away. Gonzo didn’t bother with even the slightest hand wave of apology.
If the ATP doesn’t give their chair umpires enough power to handle the match, players will take things into their own hands as Gonzo did, and if that happens, well, players will start taking to the court wearing protective cups. Oy, I can see it now. Instead of tugging at their pants, toweling off and bouncing the ball ten million times, players will tug at their pants, towel off, adjust their cup and bounce the ball ten million times. It’ll be worse than watching a baseball game except for the spitting. Thankfully tennis players don’t spit.