Friday, January 21, 2011

AO.5- Down and Out Down Under



And on the second point of the second game, in the two hundred and fifty-eighth grand slam match of her career, Venus Williams finally was forced to say "no more."

Venus' retirement from her 3rd Round match with Andrea Petkovic provided a supremely anticlimactic moment for the end of Day 5, which had seen the pair's night match on Laver be the scheduled "main course" following the session's Stanislas Wawrinka/Gael Monfils contest. But in just the seventh point of the match (she lost six of them), Williams lunged for a Petkovic serve and screamed out in pain just as she had when she suffered the original lower-torso injury two days ago against Sandra Zahlavova. But THIS TIME there was no question what was going to happen next. After not doing so against the Czech, Venus walked to her chair and waited for a trainer (and the inevitable decision she'd help her make). Moments later, Williams hobbled past the umpire's chair and disappointingly hugged the Petkovic, signalling the first mid-match retirement of her grand slam career.

Earlier in the day, the match-up between Justine Henin and Svetlana Kuznetsova had its own disappointing aspects, but it also contained more than a few notes of hope. For Kuznetsova, anyway.

In an uneven match, the Russian was the better player. Noticably fitter than she has appeared at times in the past, on a shot-by-shot basis, Kuznetsova was the more aggressive of the two throughout and was less prone to ill-timed errors (well, except for one brief stretch), while Henin's timing often appeared off as she failed to rise to the occasion when the match was in the balance. At 4-4 in the 1st set, Henin finally had her first two break points of the match, but failed to convert either. Kuznetsova held for 5-3, then served out the set at 6-4. In the 2nd, Kuznetsova grabbed an early break, shrugged off a third break point in game #5 and soon found herself serving for the match at 6-4/5-4, 30/15.

It was at this point that Henin scrambled and got her wayward forehand under control long enough to get herself back into the match. A Kuznetsova double-fault gave her a break point, and then when the Russian missed a backhand the Belgian finally had her first (eleventh-hour) break of the match. Kuznetsova broke back in the next game, only to flub a drop shot volley attempt to give Henin a chance to break for the second straight game. She did, too, pushing the 2nd set to a tie-break and seemingly setting herself up for another of her snatching-victory-from-the-jaws-of-defeat comebacks.

She'd already done this sort of thing against Kuznetsova before, saving match point against her in Paris in 2005 en route to winning a Roland Garros title. Losing matches like this have been common in Kuznetsova's career, too. She held match point against eventual champ Anastasia Myskina at Roland Garros in 2004, and served for the match against eventual champ Serena Williams in Melbourne in '09. Just last week, she blew a 6-3/5-3 lead against Li Na in Sydney. It seemed fated to happen again on Day 5.

But it didn't.

Even while continuing to wrestle with herself and her forehand, Henin still found herself up a mini-break at 4-3 in the tie-break. Then she double-faulted to even things at 4-4, then netted a drop shot to fall behind 4-5. She saved two match points, one on Kuznetsova's serve and one on her own, before putting away an overhead to get herself a set point at 7-6. If Henin won it, it would have been easy to think she'd carry her momentum over and cruise through the 3rd as she had at this tournament a year against Alisa Kleybanova on her way to the final.

But Kuznetsova didn't let things get that far. Instead, the Russian put away a crosscourt backhand to end a long rally and wipe away Henin's set point for 7-7. Henin saved a third match point at 8-7, but then threw it away with another double-fault to give Kuznetsova a fourth MP. She wasn't going to squander another one. Kuznetsova closed out a 10-8 tie-break to win 6-4/7-6, preventing what might have developed into a classic match from going to distance.

While Henin is left to go back to work out the kinks in a game that hasn't seen much action over the last seven months (and is showing it), this could be an VERY BIG moment for Kuznetsova's season. With this win, Kuznetsova is 3-16 against Henin in her career, but maybe more importantly she seems to be past the in-the-dumps-and-angry mood that dominated her '10 season. She's obviously spent her offseason preparing well for '11, and there's already evidence that the Russian might be ready to have another of her bounce-back campaigns. Now, she's managed to avoid another in a line of slam moments that have haunted her career, even while she's still managed to win multiple major titles through the years.

There are a lot of questions about the players in the top half of the draw, but Kuznetsova is the only player in the bunch who's not battling some sort of injury (of the after-effects of one on her game) AND has already proven that she can win a hard court slam. It's too soon to say that she might be the favorite to reach the final (she faces Francesca Schiavone next), but it isn't too early to think that she might only be a few more days from assuming such a role.



=DAY 5 NOTES=
...by the way, what brainiac decided to schedule the Venus/Petkovic match second-up on Night 5, anyway? Any slight knowledge of the situation would signal it as a potential disaster for the fans in attendence since Williams' condition could very well lead to a quick retirement situation like the one that actually happened. As stupid as it was for some of the crowd to boo Williams as she left the court, that particular moment could have been avoided had she been scheduled for a late-in-the-day match elsewhere, or at the very least placed in the opening Laver night match just in case she wouldn't be able to complete the contest.

Hopefully, she'll be back soon... but you get a bad feeling that we might be waiting for Venus to return even longer than we're going to be waiting for Serena to step back between the lines this year. It wouldn't be a shock if we'll be eyeing the start of Wimbledon before both are back on the court.

...meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki got some measure of "revenge" against Dominika Cibulkova for her loss to the Slovak last week in Sydney. The Dane seemed pleased with her performance, as she won in straight sets. But, honestly, there wasn't any real evidence to be seen that she's done much this offseason to improve her chances of winning a slam and/or taking down the sort of big-time players she'll likely need to in order to accomplish the feat.

Granted, it IS in C-Woz's usual gameplan, but Cibulkova was allowed to dictate play. The winner/error numbers display it perfectly, as Wozniacki's were 11/11, while Cibulkova's were 31/41. Wozniacki can find ways to wait out opponents like Cibulkova, who had a shot to seize the 1st set but faltered in the closing moments while Wozniacki stayed steady (perhaps showing why the Slovak has yet to win a tour title, while no one has won more than C-Woz in recent seasons), but it's not the sort of step forward one might expect/desire if she's looking to improve and add things to her game. Actually, she WAS showing signs of working in such necessary in-point aggression leading into last year's U.S. Open, and her more stream-lined plan of attack last summer made her look like she might be ready to win a slam. In the end, though, she wasn't. As of January '11, she still doesn't have that look. Her steadiness and defense are her bread-and-butter, but at some point she's going to need to step things up. As she says, she has time to improve... but JJ probably thought the same thing two years ago, as well.

That said, as often happens in her matches, Wozniacki is a slow-building player whose game improves the more she plays. She's never been a great 1Q player, and has always been better later in the year. Maybe she'll get lucky in Melbourne, and the up-and-down players in her draw will play out their usual rollercoaster games, her consistency will outlast their hit-and-miss tendencies, and she'll be able to slip into the final. If Clijsters trips up and isn't there waiting for her, who knows? Most of the other contenders in the bottom half of the draw, even if their games could overpower Wozniacki, have shown that they'd be just as likely to crack in the final as outplay her. How her next opponent, 19-year old Anastasiya Sevastova, will handle the moment is anyone's guess, though, since she's never found herself in a position as big as playing the world #1 for a berth in a slam quarterfinal.

We shall see what happens next.

Afterward, Caroline had a little fun in the press room. There's some great video of Wozniacki "taking control" of her post-match press conference, answering all the "same old boring questions" that she always is asked, and getting out of the way all the "same old boring answers" that she's heard that people complain that she gives. It was probably more charming than laugh-out-loud funny, but she gets points for trying to lighten the mood. Hey, she's not a comedian, and she only had a few minutes to write some notes about what she was going to say and do... so I'll give her a B+ for her presentation.

...Maria Sharapova wasn't exactly sporting championship form, either. But she still advanced past Julia Goerges, 4-6/6-4/6-4. Again, though, her serve often acted as an anchor around her neck. Example: serving at 4-5 in the 1st, she double-faulted to open the game, then did it again to give Goerges a break point. Soon afterward, the German took advantage of the openings she was being given and blasted a forehand up the line to take the set. Moments like this, which turn instances when Sharapova is either even with her opponent -- or holds a slight advantage -- ultimately against her are still preventing her from solidifying up her confidence and allowing herself to become a force to be reckoned with again (later, she squandered a 4-0 3rd set lead befor scraping out the match). Sharapova at her best would be the sort of player that Wozniacki would have trouble defeating, but THIS Sharapova is one that she'd probably beat (as she did last September in New York) if they were to meet in the semifinals in Melbourne.

Sharapova IS working her way through the draw, though, and that can only be a good thing. The more she plays, the more likely she'll clean up her game and draw closer to being the "old Maria" she wants to be. And now Venus isn't there as a Round of 16 opponent (it'll be Petkovic, and it won't be easy... I actually picked the German to win the match-up before the tournament), which probably is a check-mark in her favor. She's surely not the favorite to advance to the final from the top half, but she's now only three matches from doing so. The old Sharapova never needed to build steam to win a slam. She usually hit the ground at top speed and never slowed up. THIS Sharapova, though, might need to gradually climb that two-week hill. You know, sort of like a diesel... so, it's interesting that her next opponent is The Diesel herself.

...actually, at the moment, I think the favorite for the final might just be the winner of the Li Na/Victoria Azarenka 4th Round match. Both easily moved past unseeded opponents on Day 5, and the two players who threatened, but ultimately lost to, Serena Williams in Melbourne a year ago will get another chance for AO second week glory in 2011.

...the Hisense Arena "dead spot?" How freakin' otherworldly weird was that when the chair umpire bounced the ball and it seemed to literally be sucked into a vortex? It's a good thing no one in the stands likely watches the TV series "Fringe," because if they did they might have screamed "run for your lives!!!!"

...and, finally, how wonderful, in theory at least (since not as many people would actually be able to see it, compared to the wide coverage of ESPN2), would it be if Tennis Channel could cover the ENTIRE tournament rather than ESPN2? Sure, technically, things might not look as sharp or be as (over)produced, but at least there'd be some sensible decisions and actual analysis of match play and players. Last night, as the Henin/Kuznetsova match was reaching the end of the 2nd set on TC, as well as the end of the coverage window before ESPN2 took over at the top of the hour, it was a wonderful moment when it was announced that TC would stay with the match until its conclusion because, honestly, it was a legit question in my mind whether or not ESPN2 would have even picked up coverage mid-match. At best, it probably would have taken twenty minutes of set-up from the talking heads in the makeshift Melbourne studio going over everything that'd happened in the four hours when the network wasn't covering the tournament last night before someone would have thought that maybe the people who'd been watching the match on TC might have wanted to see the rest of it on their television. That's a pretty sad commentary on the network's tennis "smarts. As it turned out, such a delay would have meant the Henin/Kuznetsova match was nearly over.

(Side Note: I didn't mention this the other day, but before the Sam Stosur/Lauren Davis match, Chris McKendry and Darren Cahill were discussing what would happen in the match. They ended with Cahill saying that the first four games would be the key. Then, seconds later, ESPN2 picked up coverage of the match in Game #4, with Stosur a couple of points away from already going up 4-0. As usual, the network thought it was better to talk about the match rather than actually show it.)

With no Venus or Henin left to air, I wonder how much women's tennis ESPN2 will even air from here on out until it absolutely HAS to (Sharapova matches excluded). While TC featured the more intriguing women's matches (Wozniacki/Cibulkova, Henin/Kuznetsova) on Thursday, I can't help but think that ESPN2, had it been on the air, would have shown mostly the match involving Andy Roddick that took place in the same time period. Really, I don't think, I KNOW that's what would have happened.





*LAVER NIGHT MATCH RECORDS - BY NATION*
[women/men]
2-0...Belgium (2-0/0-0)
2-0...Switzerland (0-0/2-0)
1-0...Cyprus (0-0/1-0)
1-0...Czech Republic (1-0/0-0)
1-0...Germany (1-0/0-0)
1-0...Serbia (0-0/1-0)
1-1...Argentina (0-0/1-1)
1-3...Australia (1-2/0-1)
0-1...Spain (0-0/0-1)
0-1...United States (0-1/0-0)
0-2...France (0-0/0-2)
0-2...Russia (0-2/0-0)



*WOMEN'S ROUND OF 16*
#1 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. Anastasiya Sevastova/LAT
#23 Svetlana Kuznetsova/RUS vs. #6 Francesca Schiavone/ITA
#30 Andrea Petkovic/GER vs. #14 Maria Sharapova/RUS
#9 Li Na/CHN vs. #8 Victoria Azarenka/BLR
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD

*MEN'S ROUND OF 16*
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD
TBD vs. TBD
#6 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs. #9 Fernando Verdasco/ESP
#14 Nicolas Almagro/ESP vs. #3 Novak Djokovic/SRB
#8 Andy Roddick/USA vs. #19 Stanislas Wawrinka/SUI
Tommy Robredo/ESP vs. #2 Roger Federer/SUI




TOP QUALIFIER: Vesna Manasieva/RUS
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #3 Kim Clijsters/BEL
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Sloane Stephens/USA def. Liana-Gabriela Ungur/ROU 7-6/1-6/8-6
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - Ekaterina Makarova/RUS d. #19 Ana Ivanovic/SRB 3-6/6-4/10-8 (on 6th MP, 1:31 3rd set)
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): xx
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F/Jr.): xx
TOP NIGHT MATCH:: xx
=============================
FIRST WINNER: Evgeniya Rodina/RUS (1st Rd. - def. WC Olivia Rogowska/AUS)
FIRST SEED OUT: #28 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK (1st Rd. - lost to Kulikova/RUS)
UPSET QUEENS: Russians
REVELATION LADIES: Czechs
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Vesna Manasieva/RUS (3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: xx
MS. OPPORTUNITY: xx
COMEBACK PLAYER: xx
CRASH & BURN: Early Rounds: Jankovic only Top 8 seed not to advance to Final 32
ZOMBIE QUEEN: xx
LAST SHEILA STANDING: #5 Samantha Stosur/AUS (in 3rd Rd.)
LADY OF THE EVENING: xx
DOUBLES STAR xx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xx




All for Day 5. More tomorrow.

12 Comments:

Blogger Diane said...

I don't know.....I think Goerges may have handed Sharapova a big gift of confidence with a bright bow on it. I don't mean that in a derogatory way to Juia--I thought she was great--just that Sharapova had to really pull herself together to win the match. And she saw that she could pull herself together. Petovic could give her another challenge--or not. (Though I have to acknowledge that Dance Party is getting stronger in the mental department.)

The match I'm most looking forward to right now is Stosur vs. Kvitova.

Fri Jan 21, 04:12:00 PM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

I have to be a little cross with you this time. YOU are not fair against Caro.Not dictating the game against Cibulkova??? - why do you think she had so many unforced errors? She knew exactly what she was doing. Now to a few critical remarks - and I hope you bare with me because I'm a bit sour. First you don't mention her game against Dulko where she showed her new aggressive side, netapproches winning 17 of 19 net approches - not seen from her before.Brilliantly played as many other reporters wrote. She is working against a top using the games - the only place you say something WITHOUT wearing a NO-hat. First - Caro is in no condition to decide who she is meeting next round. Second - she can't do anything to meet Henin or other of your favourite players if they are out. Third - it's completly rubbish to say that she can't beat any from the other half. Fourth - she is the only honest person answering questions on tour - WITHOUT talking bad in ANY ways about her opponents. That's why she can talk with most girls on tour, because she's no primadona - like the Russian Blow Up Queen Sharapova - wonder why you look so fanlike at her. Fifth - you say Svetlana is the only NOT injured person - again you oversee Caroline who is almost on top. The only thing I like is that you are positive against the ONLY other player of quality - Kim Clijsters. Thank you for the word - phew. Hope I still can write a few things here :-)

Fri Jan 21, 05:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zidane said...

I'm sorry, Hoergren, but I think it would be time for you to step back a little. Having your vision too focused on the tree, you don't realize the forest around. And when this is the case, what we read is not what is written, and what we understand is far from being what is meant. Your reading of this post is totally besides mine.

I like Wozniacki, she's a nice and good player, a bit of a "female Nadal" (though I'm a Federer fan). If she can do like Nadal, i.e. having a great defense-based game, and then develop an offensive one, she will become an amazing player. Only when Nadal developed his offense game did he start winning Slams elsewhere than in Paris. Similarly, until she does such, Wozniacki is confined to similar limitations.

And this is exactly what Todd quoted from Navratilova (who is no Glenn Beck, i.e. her opinion is worth listening to). The problems Navratilova analyzed from Wozniacki's game. And what Todd highlighted out of his own analysis.

To reply to your points:

First and second: well, these are facts. Todd basically stated the same thing, bringing the idea that Wozniacki has more and more chances to reach the final. And it didn't seem to me to be said in a negative way, more in a matter-of-factly way.

Third: reread the text. "Most of the other contenders in the bottom half of the draw, even if their games could overpower Wozniacki, have shown that they'd be just as likely to crack in the final as outplay her." This seems to me more like "she would have a 50-50 chance to beat a finalist from the other half" than a "she can't beat one".

Fourth: again, I felt Todd mentioned the anecdote in a positive way (towards Wozniacki; negative way towards the journalists), to show how it was interesting of her to do that interview, not negatively.

Fifth: reread the text: "Kuznetsova is the only player in the bunch who's not battling some sort of injury [...] AND has already proven that she can win a hard court slam". "AND" in capital letters is not a word you can simply ignore in a meticulous reply.

I hope you don't take this comment negatively or personal, it is not meant as such. It's just that blindly-supporting comments are why I usually don't read any blogs' comments (disagreements are correct, good even, if they fit with the actual article at point, which did not seem, to me, to be the case here at all). And your comments on Wozniacki in the last couple of months were interesting enough that I wouldn't want to stop reading you.

Fri Jan 21, 10:43:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Diane-

I have to admit that I missed most of the end of the Sharapova match (the overdue-sleep demons konked me on the head for an hour), so I didn't really get to see much of the details of how Sharapova pulled everything together down the stretch. If she gets something good out of winning a close match like that, all the good. I think one of her problems in the slams is that she hasn't been able to string enough wins together since she's come back in order to develop that big-stage match toughness that used to define her. Bad draws at the last couple of slams (vs. Henin, Kirilenko, etc. the first week) have held her back. She might have finally caught a break here, though.

Sat Jan 22, 01:42:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Hoergren (& Zidane) -

I have to echo a lot of what Zidane (thanks, again, Big Z... ha, does that count as a Backspin nickname?) said about your comments about what I wrote. I think you took a great deal of it the wrong way. Maybe in some cases the language difference caused some of these misunderstandings, but a couple of times I do think your well-intentioned defense of Caroline probably led you to quickly read through a few of my comments and miss some of the key words that I used that would have shown that I wasn't being unfair to her.

I understand your defensive posture, since I used to get angry at commentators when they'd only harp on all the things wrong with Dokic's game, including, as was the case with C-Woz the other day, Navratilova. Many years ago during an HBO broadcast, Navratilova very effectively broke down all the things that were keeping Dokic from being the best player she could be (I even did a "State of Jelena's Game" story about it on Jelena-Dokic.com), and once I picked myself up off the floor I realized how important it was to respect comments like those from Navratilova (or other commentators that I feel deserve such rapt attention), for the same things are likely being said about a player by her opponents and their coaches while preparing for a match against her. I wasn't trying to be harsh in regards to Wozniacki, just a bit realistic. In some way, I almost look at it like taking medicine... unpleasant initially, but necessary in order to make things all good in the end.

I'll skip some of the responses I'd normally give here, since Zidane's on-the-nose points about what I thought I was clearly referring to sort of make them unnecessary. But here are a few things that I'll say about your comments, Hoergren:

One, I was quoting Wozniacki herself about her "boring answers" to questions, hence the quotes around the phrase. She was half-jokingly talking in the media room about how she hears that people think she always gives the same answers after every match, so she decided to just get them out of the way up front in her press conference before she could get all the same "boring questions" from the reporters. It was a fun, charming little moment, and you could tell she sort of came up with the idea on the spur of the moment.

Secondly, as I noted, I realize that it's part of Wozniacki's game to play steady and wait out/force other players to make errors. These days, most tour matches are determined as much by which player makes the most mistakes as they are by which player hits the most winners. Agnieszka Radwanska's gameplan is very similar to Wozniacki's, as she wins a lot of matches without hitting many winners. A player can win a slam that way, but it's a much more difficult road than when being able and willing to risk committing errors in order to not have a result be determined by whether or not the opponent is able to keep the ball in the court. As Navratilova noted during the coverage, the very best players on tour (Serena, Clijsters in top form, etc.) usually aren't going to be so giving, so a Plan B is essential.

The fact is that while Wozniacki can handle 95% or more of the players on tour playing a defensive style, it's that other 5% (or less) who have prevented her from winning slams so far. She hasn't exactly gone out of recent slams by being nipped in a classic duel. Actually, I think the word I've used a couple of times in the past was that she seemed a bit "flummoxed" by her opponents in those slams, including Zvonareva in the Open SF last summer, when she didn't have an offensive answer when the player on the other side of the net didn't fall into the trap of beating themselves. Wozniacki had to TAKE those mathches if she wanted to win them, and she didn't pull out the weapons necessary to do it.

(cont'd)

Sat Jan 22, 01:45:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Thing is, she CAN do more. You noted that she went to the net more vs. Dulko. She should work that into every match. I mentioned (either on this post or in a comment on another) how she was being more forwardly aggressive leading into the U.S. Open, allowing her to pick her spots to go for winners and control more points with offense, change things up, be more unpredictable and tougher for players to defeat. Occasionally, she'll show pop on some shots and make you wonder why she doesn't try to do it more often.

I know you've been reading Backspin during Wozniacki's rise, not to mention the few email notes that we've passed, and I think it's been pretty obvious that I want her to succeed. That fact is that I fear that she might become too comfortable with where she is NOW, and not be willing to do what she needs to do to continue to improve, adding things to her game that will allow her to finally be able to knock down the players ranked around her in the slams and finally win one. Fact is, she doesn't have a good record at all against the big-hitting likes of the Williamses, Belgians or other Top 10 players. Unless things fall just right in a slam, though, those are the types of players she'd have to beat to win.

As I noted in my preseason preview series, I DO think that Wozniacki IS gradually improving enough to think that she might be sufficiently armed to win a slam (especially as some of the players that have been winning them now begin to reach the end stages of their careers), but I wonder if sometime in 2012-13 might be the more "natural" time for it to happen as she (hopefully) continues to build up her game. Problem is, being #1, people are going to expect her to be able to do it NOW. She might not quite be ready yet. I hope I'm wrong, though. That's why I was really rooting for her to win the Open last September, because she seemed ready in that singular moment, and it would have shut down all the questions from all corners about whether she "deserves" to be #1 before they ever really had a chance to get any footing.

The best thing about Wozniacki, though, is that she seems so grounded that I don't think she's as likely to succumb to the pressure of the situation if she fails to get a slam this year. And that probably includes trying to do too much too soon in order to address her lack of power shots, which Jankovic showed two seasons ago isn't the way to go, either. I think she feels she's doing it all the right way, and that she'll get there eventually if she continues on her steady-as-she-goes path. As I noted, she says she "has a lot of time." But you never know... freak injuries and unforeseen circumstances sometimes snatch thought-bright and long futures away in a flash. I'm sure when Andy Roddick won the US Open in '03 he (like everyone else) thought it'd be the first of many... then some guy named Roger won his first slam, then another guy named Rafa starting winning them, too. Eight years later, Roddick still has just that single slam, and the prospects of him getting #2 don't look good at this point. I'm just saying that Wozniacki shouldn't make the mistake of taking anything for granted, including time. Better to do all you can NOW and insure you have to regets later. I'm just sayin'. :)

(cont'd)

Sat Jan 22, 01:47:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

As I said, I think I was being pretty fair with Wozniacki, not letting the fact that I do wish her to do well to obscure the fact that she needs to do more to put herself in the best position possible to do just that. I don't want to be blind to that reality. I can't even do that where Henin is concerned anymore.

Actually, on a side note, I was somewhat struck by how little disappointment I felt when Henin lost to Kuznetsova. Even though I picked her to reach the final, I knew a match like that wasn't out of the question considering how she'd been playing even before her elbow injury last July. But I guess that's a point to ponder for another day.


Zidane -

I like your point about Nadal's defensive-minded game. Really, he plays such "aggressive defense" that he sort of flips points in his favor offensively in the process. A neat trick, I'd say.

Plus, he's shown the ability/willingness to change his game for each surface -- while moving from the clay to the grass to the hard courts -- in order to improve and increase his chances to be successful. That's such a rare thing these days. So many players play one way and only one way, and surely don't make the decision to play different styles and change strokes from surface to surface. It took him a few seasons, but he eventually was able to make it work everywhere. And now he's one title from a RafaSlam.

Of course, Nadal's something of an athletic freak, too. Just because HE can change things and be successful everywhere doesn't mean everyone can do it, I guess.

(Cripes, that comment was almost as long as a post.)

Sat Jan 22, 01:48:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

(And now I have to add another just to make sure a typo isn't misunderstood.) :)

Of course, I meant to say...

"Better to do all you can NOW and insure you have no regrets later. I'm just sayin'."

Sat Jan 22, 01:58:00 AM EST  
Blogger Hoergren said...

I apologize to you an Zidane and whoever reads this blog. I'm a little bit too fast sometimes and then the top blows off and you write what you feel. It's sometimes ok but it can also provide you with a slappy face. I bow and say thank you for the lesson and I'll try to be more accurate in the future. I want to say that this is the blog I like most about tennis. Blow up queen a nickname - maybe - but I actually like Sharapovas play sometimes. But in the media she's a bit blown up - I think :-) Hope you forgive me and remember to slap me if I forget myself another time.

Sat Jan 22, 03:14:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

That's okay. Like I said, I understsand the impulse. :)

And I agree with you that Sharapova still gets the coverage that she used to deserve as the player she was pre-shoulder surgery. She hasn't been that player recently, so the attention probably is a little disproportionate when balanced against her results.

But I think so much of tennis coverage is based on who's the "most famous" female player because outlets like ESPN2 are usually too lazy to try to make sure people learn about the newcomers. I hesitate to think about how the WTA will be covered once the Williams Sisters are totally gone because, for many who make the decisions in the media, the tour probably will as good as not exist.

Sat Jan 22, 04:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Diane said...

As a final note: What do I know? :)

Tue Jan 25, 03:44:00 PM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Haha. I know the feeling, Diane. :)

Tue Jan 25, 04:58:00 PM EST  

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