Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Miami: Sunshine v. JuJu

Sunshine the Golden Retriever put up a good fight against JuJu the Allez Bitch for a tight rope during the day session but did not prevail: 7-6 (5), 3-6, 4-6. JuJu needed one medical timeout for her hip, which had been a problem for a few days as she admitted in her post-match presser. The difference in the match was that JuJu did a better job of breaking serve and putting pressure on Sunshine.

Henin Wozniacki
Aces 4 3
DF 5 4
1st Serve % 54 63
1st Serve % Pts Won 46/60 (77%) 42/65 (65%)
2nd Serve % Pts Won 25/52 (48%) 18/39 (46%)
Break Points Won 5/9 (56%) 3/8 (38%)
Total Service Points Won 71/112 (55%) 60/104 (55%)
Total Points Won 115/216 (53%) 101/216 (47%)

Sunshine has taken a lot of flak lately for her counterpunching style. While I certainly think she needs to do more than counterpunch to be a Slam contender in the long-run, I tweeted that she has more game than people give her credit for. It seems I'm in good company, as JuJu said this about her:

Q. Were you surprised how she kept points alive for so long when they seemed won by and you they were still going?

Yeah, it was incredible. She has such a good defense. First time I played against her. I watched some videos and everything, but a lot balls were coming back into the court. And like I said, she's really smart. She never hits two balls in the row with the same rhythm. She does a lot different things, especially with her backhand. So that wasn't easy for me to find a good position in the court. Sometimes I was too far; sometimes I was too much in a rush. So finally, the third set I could find the good rhythm.

As expected, JuJu never underestimated Sunshine.

[Winning this match] gives me confidence. She's the number two player in the world. It's a great test for me. It's my fourth tournament back and I can play a good level against the best players in the world. I was surprised the way she played. I don't know her at all. I knew she's from the new generation, playing very consistent but when you're facing her she has been really tough

One thing that I don't think enough people notice about Sunshine's counterpunching is that it ain't just her movement. She's very tactically smart and puts a lot of spin on the ball. The highlight reel below mainly shows JuJu dictating play, but I'll focus on Sunshine.

In the first point, after a long crosscourt long rally, Sunshine demonstrates her athleticism by making a great BH smash after recovering a drop shot, and then retrieves JuJu's inside-in FH DTL approach with a lob. Notice in the set point she converts at 1:58, she teases JuJu into an error by hitting a high looper to JuJu's vaunted BH.

While I'm a big JuJu fan, the WTA needs a young 'un like Sunshine who is mentally tough. Sunshine, you lost to a great champion, and it's part of your learning curve. Here's to hoping that you pick up a few tricks from JuJu's game.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Miami: Federer's Slump Continues

In his last tournament at Indian Wells, Fed felt he never be in a tiebreaker, as he's more comfortable winning the set outright. To be sure, against Bags, he had a 4-1 lead before he went into a breaker. Against Big Berdy (4-6 7-6 [3] 6-7 [6]), the Greatest Shanker of All Time decides to get tiebreak practice and comes out on the wrong side of tennis karma. With a close match like this, the stats indeed showed it was a crapshoot with the total points won evenly split.

1st Serve %5556
1st Serve % Pts Won42/57 (74%)51/76 (67%)
2nd Serve % Pts Won25/46 (54%)32/59 (54%)
Break Points Won2/10 (20%)3/4 (75%)
Total Service Points Won67/103 (65%)83/135 (61%)
Total Points Won119/238 (50%)119/238 (50%)

The most revealing stats were the failure to convert break point opportunities (a theme in Fed losses) and the ghastly number of unforced errors. Time and time again, Fed's forehand would sail past the line, or his backhand slice would clip the netcord. The errors were so horrendous, that it stunned spectators like Boom Boom.

Fed looked totally frustrated out there and I was almost expecting him to give Bozo the satisfaction of a racquet smash. In his post-match presser, Fed was acknowledged that he was in a slump.

Q. Obviously backhand was off tonight. A lot of errors. Unusual for you. What was the problem out there? He was playing well, obviously.

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, it was a tough match. Look, it's no secret I've struggled the last, what is it, five matches I've played here in the States. It's disappointing, I think, my performance overall, if I've got to analyze right now after the match.
But I fought as much as I could under the understood circumstances with my game having issues at the moment. Definitely lack timing. I don't know where that comes from because I played so nicely in Australia. So it's disappointing to not be able to back it up.
Maybe the sickness did take it out of me more than I thought. Maybe the break was quite long. I'm kind of used to those things, and I still, you know, think I could have done much better.
I was a couple points away this week and then also in Indian Wells had my chances. It's disappointing having had a chance to move on. Maybe I had a chance to sort of turn around my game.
But, you know, we'll see how it goes forward.

Given that his timing was off, Fed knew he had to hang in there and tough it out.
Look, I never felt great the whole night. I just fought with what I had. I knew it was gonna be a tough third set, because thank God he wasn't in too many of my service games in the second set, which made it a bit easier for me to relax and concentrate on the return games.
But, look, I had tons of chances at the end. Match point was my serve, I mean, what more can I do? I tried everything I could. It's just not happening for me at the moment.

It's admirable how he stays in the moment and focuses on doing what he can to win when he's playing like crap. So to the rumor among FedKads that Fed doesn't care about Master's, that's bollocks! He's a competitor like anyone who has dragged his ass out on court. He wants to win and hates losing, especially when he has a chance to close it out.

Even when Fed plays like crap, he does hang in there by hitting one more ball to give himself a chance to win the point.

Definitely not one of his best points ever, but fun to watch how both players kept their composure.

Still it's hard not to believe that at some level Fed's mental focus at a Masters is less than at a Slam. Whatever the case may be, he's not beating himself up over this loss and using his practice time to get his game back on gear.

UPDATE: even though he didn't say so, Roger is ready to move away from the hard court season and to begin defending his Roland Garros title. He posted this picture of his practicing on the clay courts the day after his loss.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Miami: Survivors

Vee survived a tight match against Dani (1-6 7-5 6-4), raising her head to head to 0-10. Starting out, Vee's form on her forehand and serve were out of whack as she couldn't keep her head still. After Vee found her form, the coaching sessions between Killer and Dani were the stuff of opera. Killer kept telling her that she was playing great and that she needed to stick to the game plan (hit to Vee's forehand and hit it hard down the middle to take away angles). In the last coaching changeover after Dani's serve was broken in the 3rd, she looked she was about to cry.

Greatest Shanker of All Time did just enough to squeak by journeyman Serra [7-6(2) 7-6(3)], struggling to find some consistency, committing 35 UFEs, wasting 3 breaks. Still, Fed pulled out some amazing shots on defense, including a sick running forehand starting from outside the doubles tramline to place the ball right in the deuce corner. Then in this video Fed "recovers" to the middle to fake Serra into volleying into his FH corner.

Fed, I know you want to entertain your amigos, but it's alright to live less dangerously.

Allez Bitch put in a routine dispatch of Casper (6-1 6-4), who looked wobbly in a lot of points. Casper, I'm sure all the coaches you've fired told you this, but your footwork can still improve. JuJu will face everyone's favorite golden retriever, Sunshine, and I expect to see an on-court clinic demonstrating these criticisms.

In other news, Gonzo found his rhythm to roll over Pico (6-7 [4] 6-4 6-2). Vika folded to Champagne Kimmie (6-4, 6-0). Mono took out Sveta (6-3 6-0) who was struggling with shoulder problems. Lady JaJa joined the twitterati but got the throwdown from Sam (6-1, 7-6 [9]).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's Wrong with Him?

Wow! I didn't think Muzz and Nole's chances looked good in Miami. But surely they could have lasted longer than the first match.

Muzz had an uncharacteristically large number of unforced errors, and just looked mentally out of it as Mardy Fish's serve gave him all sorts of problems. Maybe Muzz is still hurting after losing to Fed in Australia. If you add all the sniping he took for experimenting in Dubai, and skipping the Davis Cup tie, it's understandable how most human beings would be just mentally worn out.

Sony Ericsson Open - Day 5

Still, if Muzz really wants to be a Grand Slam champion, he'll probably have to stop cursing at his entourage and have to find a way to focus better when things aren't going his way.

By all accounts, the fans booed Nole for his sloppy play (62 unforced errors) as he lost to Oliver Rochus. After a few games he looked weary and his serve rarely exceeded 120mph. Clearly, Nole's serve has regressed, as he piled up 10 double faults and only converted 31% of his second serve points.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia

Nole admitted:

I wasn’t attacking. I was just kind of waiting for him to make the shots, and it wasn't the right approach. He was making me run a lot, so points were really long. That was exhausting.

Nole, I think you've got to improve your fitness especially in humid climates.

Then again, what do I know about how to be a professional tennis player, being a total wannabee?

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Fed is Not Enough

As if one Roger Federer is not enough, look at a whole horde of them crossing the street to hit forehands.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Miami Preview: Foolish Prognostications.

Professional tennis now moves to Miami for the Sony Ericsson Open.

Tourney Site: here
Draw: here

As I haven't learned my lessons, I will make some foolish prognostications, because well, it's fun. At any rate, the top seeds aren't coming back from late-winter vacation, the tournament organizers are crossing their fingers that the big names will show up to earn their keep.

Women's Singles

1st Quarter: Sveta might be on a mission to prove all her haters back home in Russia wrong. With friends like these, who needs enemies? But will she turn to the dark side and let anger drive her? Or will she decide to let go and just play freely?

In other to get to the semis, she might have to deal with Whoopie, Nails and Mono. Hopefully Whoopie has learned that she needs to deal with spin-mistresses like Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, but it looks like she's facing the baseline bashing game for a clear path to the semis.

Sleepers: Dulko
Semifinalist: Whoopie

2nd Quarter: Vee, ReeRee's big sister, will carry the banner for Williams' fans.

Vee is facing relatively dangerous players in potential opponents such as Daniela, Nads, Flavs, Lisicki and Aggie. But she's a Williams, and knows how to win. The most interesting part of this draw (sadly) is this may be the last tourney that NaturAna's gets a bye until she gets her ranking back up (hopefully). Will she crash and burn early? Or can she stop thinking about her drought and just enjoy competing again?

Sleepers: Date-Krumm

Semifinalist: Vee

3rd Quarter: Vika will be looking to defend her title. She won't have to beat ReeRee who withdrew with a knee injury. Note to media: yeah the Williams make a great story and they're popular, but look at how great champions have been able to take care of themselves over the long haul so that they can play without injury.

Vika has a tough draw with potential contenders: JJ, JZ, Sam and Champagne Kimmie. If things follow form, look for those who did well at IW to fade, and those who didn't to be well-rested enough to move forward. Probably a tossup between Champagne Kimmie and Vika.

Sleepers: MJMS, Peer

Semifinalist: Vika/Champagne Kimmie

4th Quarter: Sunshine is now #2 in the world, which shows how far consistency (pushing) can get you on the women's tour. Given her sunny disposition, why hasn't she picked up surfing? What's a sweet cutie pie like her doing by taking up boxing?

Sunshine won't be able to learn to a play Plan B of attacking tennis this week but her counterpunching ways should be enough to get her to the quarters. But this quarter has the wildcard nobody wants: Allez Bitch. Allez Bitch will have to get past Craybas, Lena in the 2nd round (again!), Domi and then Kleybs. As long as she keeps keep the ball in play (and the humid conditions should help), her versatility should enchant Sunshine.

Sleepers: Allez Bitch (if that is the right term for it).

Semifinalist: Allez Bitch

Men's Singles

1st Quarter: Look for Fed to be on a mission. He will be eager to play matches after only getting to play two out in the left coast, and show everyone who is king. Then an angry Roger might revert to racquet smashing instead of hitting inside-out forehands into the corners. I like you Feddy even when you smash a racquet. You can afford it.

Fed is seeded to meet Cilic in the quarters but faces early a mostly non-descript array of counterpunchers such as Moya and Montanes. Things get interesting if he can overcome more offensive players like Berd or Nando.

Sleepers: Bags (maybe in for a letdown)

Semifinalist: Fed

2nd Quarter: Muzz is returning to his training ground(s) and looking to defend his title. Or perhaps he will be washed out to sea by a flock of brainless ball bashers?

The Muzz doesn't have an easy path to the semis as potential opponents include Feli, Gonzo, Pico, Misha, Stan the Man and Sod. One thing many of these folks possess in common is the ability to really hit the snot out of the ball. If they can keep the ball in, Muzz's chances aren't very good.

Sleepers: Nico

Semifinalist: Sod

3rd Quarter: Rafa might have been working too hard on his golf game out last week (he putted around with Fred Couples). Will he keep his forehand in court? I still want a Fedal match, but it looks like it won't be in the finals.

(Come on, Ana, you know you want him). Rafa looked great last week out in IW until he lost his head in a TB against Ljubs. Guys have figured out how to play Rafa but none of the uber-mondo hitters such as Sod are really in his quarter.

Others: Kohly, Tree, Ferrer, Dr. Ivo

Sleepers: Nalby

Semifinalist: Rafa

4th Quarter: Death, taxes and the Djoker horsing around are certainties. Has he recovered enough to win a Masters 1000? Or does he need more vacation time?

This quarter looks like a series of upsets waiting to happen. ARod's grinding might not cut it against IgorA. Ljubs might not have recovered from winning IW. Oh, and Nole might be tired of playing tennis. And LeMonf is still a head case. Got nothing to lose, might as well call for Head Samurai to make a breakthrough.

Sleepers: IgorA

Semifinalist: Head Samurai

Sunday, March 21, 2010

King and Queen of the Desert

After a week where counterpunchers were rewarded for playing consistent tennis, the tide changed this Sunday out in Indian Wells.

Sunshine just couldn't switch to a Plan B of attacking tennis, when Drama Queen kept taking control of the points.

In the end, Drama Queen couldn't lift her 35 pound trophy, but takes home a big enough check to go toward her huge home in San Diego.

ARod's grinding ways could not withstand Ljubs cunning attacks.

Aww. Isn't it sweet to see an ordinary-looking couple share their joys by kissing?

Methinks, the glamor index at Indian Wells was kept from exploding as we didn't get to see ARod and BDeck kiss.

IW's Finals Preview

Well Indian Wells this year turned out totally unexpected in terms of who survived. Who would have thought ...?

ARod toughed out a semifinal win against Sod ...

so that he gets to face a 31 year old guy who only hits about an hour a day, and who beat the most evil topspin forehand in tennis (i.e. Rafa).

Drama Queen was gifted a place in the finals because Sam forgot to keep the ball in,

and she hopes to be mentally tougher (not!) than Miss Sunshine, who now owes her best friend Aggie dinner.

Now to stop blogging and watch some tennis.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Federer Chokes

If you're a tennis nut like me, you probably know by now that this douche bag shanked his way out of Indian Wells.

Fedshanker had 3 match points: 2 in the second set and 1 in the third set tiebreaker. To be sure they were all on Bag's serve. He could not convert his chances. In contrast, the tennis gods gifted Bags with one match point which he converted.

Bag's record against Fed is now 1-6.

The match statistics tell part of the story.

1st Serve %6059
1st Serve % Pts Won54/63 (86%)48/65 (65%)
2nd Serve % Pts Won21/42 (50%)30/46 (65%)
Break Points Won2/8 (25%)2/4 (50%)
Total Service Points Won75/105 (71%)78/111 (70%)
Total Return Points Won33/111 (30%)30/105 (29%)
Total Points Won108/216 (50%)108/216 (52%)

At 50-50 in points won, a match will be a crapshoot. But with three match points, Fed had the match on his racquet but he just couldn't close it out. After the match, both players had contrary analyses.

Roger Federer: "I just couldn't find the way to win. I was maybe one shot away, maybe wrong choices at the wrong time, maybe playing too passively."

Marcos Baghdatis: "Roger was a bit too aggressive. He was missing a lot of balls. I was more calm than him."

For the interviews, see here and here.

Hard to say what was going on mentally for Fed, as playing aggressively is his game. For sure he was serving well, but returning mediocrely.

Kudos to Bags for hanging in there for the win!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rafa on his "grilled steak shorts"

I've usually never been too crazy about the choices Nike makes for Rafa, but this time seems the shorts seem to be a real loss leader.

Check out Rafa's ambivalent response at about 1:06.

By all accounts, the Rafa we know and love is back, hitting an aggressive reverse forehand, and beat Super Mario 2 & 2. Still crossing my fingers for a Fedal final.

In other news, Vika and Splits were upset. Perhaps this is Sunshine's tournament to lose, but there are still a lot of ball bashers waiting to add the bad pusher to their scalp list.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Playstation Broken

This is a bummer. Just after he got his endorsement deal from Dunlop (finally), and folks are finally giving him some respect, it looks like Playstation is broken. He is withdrawing from Indian Wells with a fractured left wrist that was missed by his doctors, and may be out for three months.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Something in Desert Air

Something really must be in the desert air, as there was a string of upsets.

Sveta scattered errors all over the court in a loss to Carla Suarez Navarro

Cilic lost in straights getting bageled in the last set.

As expected Playstation outsteadied Gulby

And the Hit for Haiti got ugly as AA let his tongue get too loose in trying to josh Pete. See video here. Regardless of whether you think Pete was too thin-skinned or AA was too cheesy, it seems safe to say that Rafa and TMF present such a nice contrast of how two rivals can be friends.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dulko def. Allez Bitch

Well, my prediction for a Henin making it to the finals isn't coming true.

Allez Bitch loses to Dulko (6-2, 1-6, 6-4), and the stats reveal the key to the match.

1st Serve %4367
1st Serve % Pts Won9/12 (75%)12/22 (55%)
2nd Serve % Pts Won4/16 (25%)5/11 (45%)
Break Points Saved0/3 (0%)2/4 (50%)
1st Return % Pts Won10/22 (45%)3/12 (25%)
2nd Return % Pts Won6/11 (55%)12/16 (75%)
Break Points Won2/4 (50%)3/3 (100%)
Total Service Points Won13/28 (46%)17/33 (52%)
Total Return Points Won16/33 (48%)15/28 (54%)
Total Points Won29/61 (48%)32/61 (52%)

Kudos to Dulko for taking advantage of her opportunities, and tough loss for Allez Bitch as a 2 point differential made all the difference. Clearly, her serve is still a work in progress as her 1st serve percentage was atrocious. In all fairness to her, she changed her serve from a platform stance to a pinpoint stance, and to stick to a change in your strokes in match situations takes awhile. That didn't stop her from playing in the Hit for Haiti, where she showed great touch in winning doubles with Navratilova.

In other news, Nails lost to Baltacha [7-6 (6) 2-6 7-6 (7)]; Sunshine survives a close one from gamer Vania King [5-7 6-2 6-4].

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great Britain's Tennis Woes

It looks like heads are going to roll over Great Britain's embarrassing loss to Lithuania, most notably the man formerly married to Chris Evert.

Poor Johnny, the LTA will go into panic-driven management, and try to appease the bloodhounds. The root of the problem, as Muzzard points out, is deeper:

I'm away a lot of the time but I turn up at the National Training Centre in Roehampton, the multi-million pound headquarters of British tennis and no one is there. I'm often looking for a partner to hit with.

A large number of British players only practise half the days in the year. The LTA have built the facilities but the players don't make the best use of them. When I go to the gym there never seems to be anyone in there.

There is something wrong with the mentality and work ethic of most of the British players. There doesn't seem to be anyone who's brutally honest about it either.

Not sure what can be done about this, but somehow the British system does need to be made more cutthroat (and supposedly less country-clubbish). Then again the Brits have all these talented young athletes trying to play football like the young man above :)

Update: Tim Henman, who had been rumored to be a replacement, ruled out interest in the job. After all, as he points out: "[y]ou're still going to have the same players. A coach or a captain is only as good as the players he has, and we need to produce better players."

Indian Wells Men's Singles Draw

Draw: here
Tournament's You Tube channel: here
Seeded Quarters: TMF v. ARod, Muzz v. Sod, Playstation v. Rafa, Cilic v. Nole

1. Top Quarter: TMF is seeded to meet Bags, TRob/Worm and then ARod. Given that TMF has owned ARod, I expect him in the semis (unless he's really rusty from his lung infection). Expect LeMonf to crash out of the tournament playing dumb tennis.

2. Second Quarter: Muzz is seeded to meet IgorA, Dr. Ivo/Ferrer, Sod/JoWilly. Expect Blah to challenge Ferrer and fail to close it out in a hail of unforced errors. Muzz should advance to face off TMF again but be left crying.

3. Third Quarter: Rafa is seeded to meet Benneteau, Playstation, Q/Tree and then Nando/Playstation. From inside sources, it looks like Rafa has recovered. A lot will depend on Playstation's form after his wrist injury. Let's see whether Gulby can get his head together. Expect Berd to collapse.

4. Bottom Quarter: Nole is seeded to meet Kohlschreiber, Simon, Ferrero and Cilic. If Nole has recovered from working hard in Dubai and in DC, he will face a real challenge in Cilic, who made a great run Down Under to the semis.

After a good two months off (except for Nole), the top men should be able to pull through to the semis. This fan is hoping we get the two boys below facing off again.

Semis: Rafa v. Nole, TMF v. Muzz
Finals: Rafa v. TMF

Monday, March 8, 2010

Indian Wells Women's Singles Draw

It's Spring, and a tennis fan's thoughts turn toward the run up to Paris, starting in sunny and dry Indian Wells. Not that a Californians notice a difference. (Psst, I'm allowed to poke fun at my old home state).

Draw: here
Official Site: here
Seeded Quarterfinals: Sveta/Drama Queen, Vika/Sam, ARad/LenaD, Nails/Sunshine

1. Top quarter of the draw: Since the Williams sisters skip out on Indian Wells, Sveta is the top-ranked seed but she might have to beat Splits who beat her at MSG. Drama Queen's form hasn't been so great lately, though most of her potential opponents are counterpunchers like Flavs. Look for Splits to break through to the semis.

2. Second quarter of the draw: The highest seeded player is Vika but it sure looks like a lot of name players could go home early. Daniela H is coming off a great showing in Mexico but in the 3rd round could meet Whoopie, who made a great run to the semis at the USO. Likewise Bepa and NaturaAna could meet in the 3rd. Look for Vika to make it to the semis, though I wouldn't be surprised if Whoopie pulled off the upset.

3. Third quarter of the draw: This one has the wildcard no one wants to face, Allez Bitch, which is a bummer for ARad. Unfortunately, Allez Bitch is just a better player than ARad and will probably take out Lena D (again) to advance to the semis.

4. Fourth quarter of the draw: Sunshine and Nails are seeded to battle it out in the quarters, but an upset should surely happen here. Shrieka will take out JZ in order to face Nails. If Nails can keep her unforced errors in control and force Shrieka to move, she should advance to the quarters. The most dangerous player for Sunshine on the way to the quarters is Nads who can be streaky. But Sunshine probably doesn't have the firepower to take down either Nails or Shrieka. Look for the winner of Nails/Shrieka to advance to the semis.

Semis: Nails/Shrieka vs. Allez Bitch, Splits v. Vika
Finals: Allez Bitch v. Splits

Looks like a repeat of Brisbane.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ivanovic as a Pet

Check out this choice line from Bozo's latest blog entry.

Ivanovic meets the world with a smile, and her laughter is unmistakably nervous; I take all that as a sublimation of her essential shyness. You just know that someone so prone to the breathless and cheerful has something to hide - herself. And that's not a criticism. The behaviors are a psychic olive branch, offered by one who's not entirely comfortable as the center of attention, perhaps not even in her own skin. If it could be done in a seemly, lady-like manner, Ivanovic would probably roll onto her back at the sight of you, exposing her tummy with her paws in the air.
I'd sure like to tickle that tummy.

Toast to tennis fandom

This is the first post by a tennis fan/wannabe. Why "forehandshanker"? because I shank a lot of forehands like my favorite player, Roger Federer. Only problem is that he shanks forehands that are coming at him with more pace and spin that I can only dream of ever hitting. I shank forehands that should have been easy putaways.

Federer has the ability to make grown men admit:

that he can cry like Roger but can't play like him.

At least I can dress like him, it's too bad I can't play like him.