Friday, July 03, 2009

W.11- Everything Old is New Again

So, the Federer vs. Murray final that so many Brits were hoping for won't come off after all. Honestly, I'm really not at all broken up about it.

Displaying a more varied game than he ever has in all his years of play at Wimbledon, Andy Roddick took out Andy Murray in four close sets on Day 11, reaching his third SW19 final and his first at any slam since the 2006 U.S. Open. With his usual solid serve, great net play and better fitness allowing him to play the ENTIRE court, after for too many years being a better version of Ivo Karlovic -- all serve, but with little else to call upon in a pinch if things started to go against him -- Roddick was without question the best player on the court in this day's matchup. I'm glad he was able to pull off this run, too. And not just because I predicted him to do it two weeks ago, either.

I've got nothing against Murray, but to this point I've just never been able to "get" him. I don't DISLIKE him or his game, but I have so far found myself with zero excitement to see him play since he climbed into the upper echelon in the ATP rankings. That'll probably change, as I often tend to take a while to warm up to certain men's players. For a long time, I actively disliked Lleyton Hewitt. Now, though, I found myself pulling for him at this Wimbledon. Roddick, too, has often been the object of slight disdain in the eyes of Your Friendly Neighborhood Backspinner.

Roddick was unlucky enough to be born into the same tennis generation as a pair of all-time greats in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, virtually swiping away at least two or three additional slams he might have won since his '03 U.S. Open victory six years ago had the landscape been slightly less crowded. Hard to believe TWO players could make it seem crowded, but they surely have... and it's no coincidence that he's reached another slam final once one of them was taken out of the equation before the tournament began.

Still, while it's often been easy to feel bad about Roddick's predicament, he's sometimes made it difficult to do so. For years, he's been ever-present in ads on American television while winning nothing of true significance, and so often coming up very small when he played Federer. Add to that a certain smart-ass quality to his press conferences and interviews (such as the tiff that developed a while back when he started griping about Novak Djokovic), and it was easier to semi-sneer at his not-unexpected failures than pull for him to find his way back to something resembling relevance in the men's game.

Finally, though, that seems to have changed. Maybe it was his coaching switch to Larry Stefanki, altered game or long-overdue committment to fitness that did it. Maybe it was a settling down in his off-court life, courtesy of Brooklyn Decker. Whatever it was, it's worked.

As far as how I view Roddick, though, it was something else that was the catalyst. Ever since Roddick became the ONLY player to actually speak out in defense of Shahar Peer during the Dubai debacle earlier this year, I've viewed him differently. He pulled out of the men's event in the U.A.E., citing Peer's treatment as the reason, while so many others remained silent or played on. Even players who didn't play Dubai after the fiasco, like Federer and Nadal, listed injuries as their reasons for withdrawing and otherwise kept mum. Not Roddick, though. He stood up, and I think deserved to be given a large amount of respect for his position.

Ever since then, as his results have gradually improved, and I've found myself rooting for him, too.

While I still want Federer to win the title on Sunday, for history's sake, I wouldn't feel bad at all if Roddick took the crown. I never like rooting for a player simply because of them being an American -- I think it's akin to mindlessly voting for a straight ticket on election day -- but I do feel at least a small amount of pride that on Independence Day weekend, the only player who actually stood their ground when one of his or her fellow players was publicly wronged, was an American. And if he were to win Wimbledon, it'd probably make me smile.

Corny? Yeah, probably. But sometimes that's not so bad.

...earlier in the Day, Federer took out Tommy Haas in straight sets to reach his seventh consecutive Wimbledon final and, get this, his SIXTEENTH appearance in the final of the last SEVENTEEN slams. A win on Sunday over Roddick and he'll break his tie with Pete Sampras for the all-time career slam mark with what would be his fifteenth title.

Before the tournament, I dubbed this year's men's competition at Wimbledon as a "Back to the Future/Back to the Federer" re-make, with the Gentlemen's final matchup being a carbon copy of the one that took place the last time Rafael Nadal didn't play in it. Before the trilogy of Roger/Rafa finals, Federer faced off agaisnt and defeated Roddick in the final from 2004-05.

Hmmm, that little history-tinged hunch turned out pretty well, I'd say. this Wimbledon, American tennis has managed to trump the previously more-talked-about players from other countries. Three of the four main draw singles finalists are American. The Bryan brothers are in the Gentlemen's Doubles final, and Venus & Serena are in the Ladies' Doubles final. Meanwhile, Jordan Cox, a semifinal winner over fellow American Devin Britton in a 16-14 3rd set (the pair lost in doubles as a tandem later in the day), will face Russian Andrey Kuznetsov for the Boys singles final. the Girls semifinals, the current junior #1 and the former top-ranked teen both advanced to the final. #1-seed Kristina Mladenovic ('09 RG Jr. champ) defeated Timea Babos 6-2/6-0, while '08 Wimbledon Girls RU Noppawan Lertcheewakarn reached a second straight SW19 final by way of a 6-1/6-2 win over Miyabi Inoue. With the two finalists already having a history of slam junior success, #6-seed Babos and unseeded Inoue will share this year's Wimbledon "Junior Breakout" award.

...FINAL PICKS: On Saturday, we might finally get to see what it's like to have BOTH Venus and Serena in top form in the same grand slam final. Serena's classic escape against Dementieva aside, both of the Sisters have pretty much run roughshod over all of their opponents (though, in comparison, it's nothing like what they've done to everyone in doubles). Often times, the only player who has seemed capable of defeating one has been the other. After a decade in which they've dominated the field at SW19 -- filling thirteen of twenty spots in the final, and now assured of winning eight of the ten titles -- this fourth all-Williams Wimbledon final is the natural conclusion to this final fortnight of the 2000's. Even if Centre Court is covered tomorrow, it wouldn't be a shock if the Sisters blew the roof off the place with something akin to the Nadal/Federer clash from a year ago. PREDICTION: VENUS IN THREE TIGHT SETS, with at least one of the first two sets going to a tie-break and the third going into "extra time," with the winner needing to win at least eight games to emerge with the title

On Sunday, it's difficult not to view the men's final as something of an offical coronation of Federer as the all-time slam champ. While Roddick has played better against Federer in recent meetings, the King Roger that's shown up in London this year off his pressure-relieving win in Paris once again has that invincible look of old. I could see Roddick possibly winning a set in a tie-break, and maybe even pushing another set into a breaker, but there's no way Federer is losing this one in any alternate reality. While I can't imagine Roddick winning it, though, I won't sneer when he likely loses as I often have had a tendency to do in the past. After his "transformation," he's due a measure of respect. PREDICTION: FEDERER IN FOUR

...and, finally, the latest edition of "Backspin Time Capsule" has been posted. "The Thrill and the Agony" deals with the infamous collapse of Jana Novotna in the 1993 Wimbledon final, as well as her triumph on the same Centre Court lawn five years later.

#3 Venus Williams/USA vs. #2 Serena Williams/USA

#6 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #2 Roger Federer

#4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA vs. #3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS)

#1 Bryan/Bryan (USA/USA) vs. #2 Nestor/Zimonjic (CAN/SRB)

#1 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) vs. #9 Groenefeld/Knowles (GER/BAH)

#1 Kristina Mladenovic/FRA vs. #4 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA

Jordan Cox/USA vs. Andrey Kuznetsov/RUS

Lertcheewakarn/Peer (THA/AUS) vs. #5 Gavrilova/Kirillova (RUS/RUS)
Capra/Trevisan (USA/ITA) vs. #2 Mladenovic/Njiric (FRA/CRO)

Bokuda-Purkiss/Souto (ESP/VEN) vs. Herbert/Krawietz (FRA/GER)
Obry/Puget (FRA/FRA) vs. Georgoudas/Vasilevski (GER/BLR)

2007 Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Jessica Moore/AUS & Arantxa Rus/NED
2009 Ksenia Pervak/RUS
2007 Mariana Duque Marino/COL
2008 Simona Halep/ROU & Elena Bogdan/ROU
2009 Daria Gavrilova/RUS
2007 Urszula Radwanska/POL
2008 Laura Robson/GBR
2009 Timea Babos/HUN & Miyabi Inoue/JPN
2007 Kristina Kucova/SVK
2008 Coco Vandeweghe/USA

TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Victoriya Kutuzova/UKR
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #2 Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Vesna Manasieva/RUS d. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn/THA 6-7/6-4/6-1
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Ana Ivanovic/SRB d. Lucie Hradecka/CZE 5-7/6-2/8-6 (saved 2 MP)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 4th Rd. - Melanie Oudin/USA d. Jelena Jankovic/SRB 6-7/7-5/6-2
FIRST SEED OUT: #23 Aleksandra Wozniak/CAN (1st Rd.-Schiavone/ITA)
IT GIRL: Sabine Lisicki/GER
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Elena Dementieva/RUS
CRASH & BURN: Maria Sharapova/RUS - lost to Gisela Dulko/ARG in 2nd Rd.
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Dinara Safina/RUS - in 4th Rd., down set and a break, then 3-0 in 3rd to Amelie Mauresmo/FRA; advanced to first Wimbledon SF
LAST BRIT STANDING: Elena Baltacha/GBR (2nd Rd.)
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: Timea Babos/HUN & Miyabi Inoue/JPN

All for Day 11. More tomorrow.


Blogger Diane said...

I do like Andy M., but I'm thrilled for Andy R. I also like Tommy, but I knew he wasn't going to get past the semis. He should be really pleased with his performance at Wimbledon, though. He and Lleyton both surprised a lot of people, I know.

Fri Jul 03, 07:53:00 PM EDT  

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