Monday, March 14, 2011

Wk.10- 44 Short Thoughts During Indian Wells

It's Monday. Are you feeling more unflappable than ultra-cool chair umpire Kader Nouni?



Ha! Not bloody likely.

(Almost) mid-way through Indian Wells, it's time for a "commercial break." With there still a slight lingering buzz remaining at Backspin HQ from Jelena Dokic's win in Kuala Lumpur last weekend, I figured I'd steal the old "Short Thoughts" format that I occasionally used in my Jelena Corner columns (including the last official edition in January '06) and finally -- belatedly, really -- bring it into the Backspin light.

And we're off...

JELENA DOKIC post-KL QUOTE MOST LIKELY TO BE BROUGHT UP LATER THIS YEAR (if things go well): "I have to especially thank the two people who were here with me. My boyfriend (Tino Bikic) and my brother (Savo). I love you guys. Without you I wouldn't have been able to do this." I'm glad to see that Savo is back in Jelena's life, since that relationship always seemed to be the one most sadly interrupted by the battles between her and her ultimately-jailed father Damir. The necessary estrangement from her family could have potentially damaged what had always seemed to be a loving bond with her little brother. It's nice to see that, for once (and at least for now), all is good in the land of Dokic.

FACT: Bojana Jovanovski and Urszula Radwanska met in Indian Wells for their third match in a month.
GOOD FACT, for Bojo: Jovanovski had won the previous two, coming from a set down in both, and winning a 13-11 3rd set tie-break in Kuala Lumpur.
GOOD FACT, for U-Rad: Radwanska won the final act in the trilogy, taking a 2:50 match that ended in another tie-break. Jovanovski served for the match once, while Radwanska finally put away a victory on her own second attempt to serve it out.

DID YOU KNOW?: Indian Wells is the first-ever event in which all courts are covered by the HawkEye replay review system. All eight courts are equipped with the technology, and the same should, at the very least, be the case with all the courts used at the grand slams.

SAD REALIZATION: I really don't expect much of anything from Maria Sharapova anymore. If she'd dropped that 3rd set to Anabel Medina-Garrigues on Saturday, I'd have simply shrugged.
HOPEFUL PREDICTION: That, contrary to previous thoughts, the Russian will persevere and WON'T walk away from the sport if she begins to think that her chances of ever truly contending in a slam again are slim to none.
CURRENT THOUGHT: That I need to come up with something to identify Sharapova as "The Player Formerly Known as the Supernova," or TPFKATS. You know, sort of like how Prince used that weird symbol as a name when a dispute with his record company caused him to stop using his actual name.

HOPE: We get a Nadal/del Potro men's semifinal in I.W., then one of those two meeting either Federer, Djokovic or Raonic in the final.
FEAR: We'll see another "are-you-kidding-me?" men's champion, ala last year's (Ivan Ljubicic).
CHUCKLE-INDUCING: Andy Murray losing yet again... to Donald Young, no less.

NUMBERS: Even after qualifying and losing in the 1st Round in Indian Wells, Sorana Cirstea is 9-7 this season. That's a far cry better than the pre-2011 sub-.500 record she'd put together since she reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals in 2009.
NOT-THAT-GREAT NUMBERS: Jarmila Groth is 4-4 in WTA main draw matches since she won the Hobart title.
ROTTEN NUMBERS: After her three-set loss to Peng Shuai, Li Na is now 0-3 since she reached the Australian Open final. She's lost four straight matches.

FASHION SHOUT-OUT: Caroline Wozniacki's frilly neckline on her McCartney outfit the other day made her look very unique... although it was difficult NOT to think she looked like she might be wearing an Hawaiian lei, which would be a very odd look on a tennis court.
FASHION SHOUT-DOWN: On Tennis Channel's coverage, Lindsay Davenport and Brett Haber noted how C-Woz is able to be a fashion plate AND play winning tennis, while not-so-slyly taking a shot at "some other players" who couldn't say the same. Oh, her name wasn't mentioned, but we know who they were talking about. So, just to keep things based at least a little in the mostly-forgotten reality, I should say that Miss Kournikova did manage to rise to #1 in doubles, the Top 10 in singles and reach a slam semifinal before her career ultimately ended after a succession of injuries. Citizen Anna might not have had a "great" career, but it's a bit unfair to act as if she didn't have one at all.

DID YOU KNOW?: That watching ESPN and Tennis Channel is starting to resemble the Washington D.C. TV/radio/newspaper market more and more every day? Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on "PTI." Ex-Redskin Mark May on NCAA football. Sara Walsh, Michael Kim and Sage Steele on SportsCenter & ESPNEWS. Chris McKendry on ESPN2 tennis coverage, and even TC's Justin Gimelstob (who was a regular on the "Sports Junkies" radio show, the same one where he made those remarks about the aforementioned Kournikova a few years ago). Now, as I just said, ex-ESPNer (and current D.C. CBS affiliate sports anchor) Brett Haber is all over TC with the Indian Wells coverage. Teaming with Davenport, I generally give him good reviews. He must have sought out TC work because of an affinity for the sport, since I find it hard to believe he'd pick up extra work there otherwise. It makes one wonder, had ESPN been as heavily invested in grand slam coverage back when Haber was there, might he have been installed in a major role then, and possibly still be there now? It would at least have spared us from Hannah Storm stooping to "slum" on the tennis set, I guess.

BACKSPIN RESOLUTION: If Kim Clijsters doesn't win this tournament, I won't pick her to win another title in 2011.
BACKSPIN FACT: While Davenport (likely correctly) noted quite often over the weekend how KC is the best player in the world and you can never pick against her, the Belgian has somehow managed to NOT win four times when I'VE picked her to be a champion over the last season and a half. And the way she once again fell into error-strewn patches in her match with Sara Errani shows why you still never really know what you're going to get with her.
BACKSPIN RESOLUTION AMENDMENT: All right, I might have to pick Clijsters on North American hard courts later this summer even if she doesn't win in Indian Wells. But nowhere else.

FACT: Daniela Hantuchova has won two Indian Wells titles.
ANOTHER FACT: With her 2nd Round loss to Dinara Safina, Hantuchova has only advanced as far as the QF one other time in her eight other trips to I.W., and she's now lost three straight matches there.
STILL ANOTHER FACT, THOUGH I SORT OF DOUBT IT'LL HAPPEN THIS WEEK: Clijsters could regain the #1 ranking in Indian Wells. It'll happen if KC reaches the QF, while '10 runner-up Wozniacki doesn't. The players still standing in the Dane's path to the QF are MJMS (they play today) and either Alisa Kleybanova or Flavia Pennetta.

DID YOU REALIZE?: WTA "Golden Girl" Kim Clijsters had more bad offseason press than Jelena for a change... though the Belgian's headline-grabbing incidents DID have a somewhat familiar ring to, say, ANOTHER blonde tennis player's past attention-diverting moments in the spotlight, as the world #2 dealt with the lingering sting of her charged comments about Justine Henin-Hardenne (she accused her of faking an injury and "disrespecting the game"), chose not to officially reprimand or object to her father's insinuations that JHH hadn't gained her new-found physical strength "naturally," attacked press stories about her as false in her official website's personal diary, and had a dispute with her country's tennis federation that led her to boycott the Olympics.

...oh, sorry, that's a leftover from another "Short Thoughts" edition of "Jelena Corner." I just thought I'd leave it in the template I transported from there to here. You know, for old time's sake. (Well, and as some sort of "warning" to KC that she might need to win this event for me to continue to ♥ her much longer.)

I WONDER: ...if the news that Clijsters wants to adopt a child might be a sign that her success is making her think about sticking it out a little longer on tour, and not walking away and getting pregnant again as quickly as she's previously stated that she might?

SPARE THOUGHT #1: Washington Redskins radio broadcasts used to run a "Sherwin-Williams Sure-Win Touchdown Sweepstakes" during games. Wouldn't a "Sherwin-Williams Serena-Winners Sweepstakes" be a good fit? She could even do a promotional ad for the paint company in which she says "I paint the lines with winners."
SPARE THOUGHT #2: Washington Nationals teen phenom Bryce Harper was plunked with a pitch in a 9th inning at-bat against the Yankees over the weekend. With it being a tie game with a runner on 2nd base, it was obviously not intentional, and fisitcuffs didn't break out... though a dirty look was exchanged with the pitcher. Which led me to wonder why baseball doesn't have a tennis-like -- though probably just as potentialy phony -- raised hand "apology" in such instances that magically wipes away potential animosity. There might be fewer brawls. In contrast, maybe that move could be legislated OUT of tennis. I mean, an occasional tennis brawl might be fun, you know?
SPARE THOUGHT #3: Roger Federer and the meteoric Milos Raonic could meet soon in Indian Wells. Might we be witnessing the passing of a former Wimbledon champ with a future one on a hard court in California? If the Canadian were to win THAT one, too, just how incredibly high will the bar be set for the rest of his season?
SPARE THOUGHT #4: Seriously, how little does Raonic look like a great player when he's just standing still behind the baseline between points, with his shoulders down and his slightly ill-fitting shirt tugging in so many seemingly-uncomfortable areas? He looks a little like the kid you'd see behind the counter at McDonald's or something. But then the ball is put into play, and everything instantly changes.


COMEBACKS: Dinara Safina/RUS & Marina Erakovic/NZL
...Safina defeating Daniela Hantuchova in Indian Wells -- where the Slovak has twice been crowned champion -- has to be one the best signs of life for her in quite come time. Meanwhile, 23-year old Croatia-born Kiwi Erakovic won a $25K challenger title in Irapuato, Mexico with victories over Olga Puchkova, Julia Cohen, Ivana Lisjak and Andreja Klepac in the final. Ever since Erakovic made that successful push to make the New Zealand '08 Olympic team, then won her last ITF crown and reached the Birmingham WTA event's semi later that summer (a stretch over which she defeated the likes of Yanina Wickmayer, Alona Bondarenko, Yaroslava Shvedova and Sania Mirza), she's had a pretty tough road. She lost ten straight matches later that season, missed six months with injury in '09 and had a hard time returning to form in' 10. With this title, though, she's now 12-5 in '11.
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FRESH FACES: Urszula Radwanska/POL & Christina McHale/USA
...U-Rad finally got over the Bojo hump in I.W., while a properly-hydrated McHale upset Kuznetsova.
=============================
DOWN: Petra Kvitova/CZE
...losing to countrywoman Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova in three sets in the 2nd Round in I.W. isn't a "bad" loss, but it IS her second straight loss since defeating Clijsters in Paris. Since then, she's had issues with fatigue and an abdominal injury... but it's here that it should be mentioned how she went into a multi-month swoon last year after reached the Wimbledon semifinals, not to mention wondered whether a repeat temporary-lack-of-performance might be in the offering.
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ITF PLAYER: Ajla Tomljanovic/CRO
...the 17-year old Croat won the Clearwater, Florida $25K with a win over Sessil Karatantcheva in the final. She also notched victories over Karolina Pliskova and Michelle Larcher de Brito.
=============================
JUNIOR STAR: Alison van Uytvanck/BEL
...the Waffle was as it again last week. She won yet another title, this one a $10K challenger in Dijon, France. After first qualifying, she bumped off #1-seed Ana Vrljic in the QF, then topped Claire Feuerstein in the final. In case you're counting, van Uytvanck is now 25-0 in 2011 -- 15-0 in ITF action and 10-0 in junior play.
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**2011 ITF TITLES**
2...Lara Arruabrrena-Vecino, ESP
2...Lu Jing-Jing, CHN
2...Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
2...Aleksandrina Naydenova, BUL
2...Alison van Uytvanck, BEL

INTERVIEW WORTH NOTING: Andrea Petkovic talked with USA TODAY on Friday, and here's a brief recap of a great exchange:
USAT: Your goal is to get one million (Twitter) followers. In America the fastest way to get to a million is...
AP: Is being Charlie Sheen?
USAT: Or stealing. Or going to prison... what can you do?
AP: I could buy 30 male models and sit them in my box every time I play a match.
USAT: I'm sure you could get them for free. Just post the job description on Twitter: "Looking for hot dudes to root for me."
AP: If they're naked I get 2 million!

GOOD NEWS: Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova are back playing doubles together in Indian Wells, while Sam Stosur decided to employ the "if you can't beat her, join her" motto by teaming up with Francesca Schiavone.
BAD NEWS: Stosur/Schiavone have already lost, as have Dulko/Pennetta and Peschke/Srebotnik.
BETTER NEWS: King/Shvedova might have a shot to win the title, at least keeping alive the flickering hope that my pre-season prediction that King would rise to doubles #1 at some point in '11.

SERENA QUOTE THAT WILL (hopefully) BE YET ANOTHER EYEBROW-RAISING SNAPSHOT OF THE PAST WHEN SHE LIFTS HER NEXT SLAM CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY: Williams said that her blood clots ordeal was "the scariest moment in my life."

I was going to include my All-Time "All-Backspin" team here, but I think I'll wait for the mid-way point of Miami to do that so I can go a bit deeper into the reasons why I include the players on that list that I do. So, essentially, that's a two-weeks-out preview for a semi-Special Edition, I guess.

All for now.

2 Comments:

Blogger Hoergren said...

Just wittnessed Caroline and Victorias silent message to the Japanese - a touching moment and well placed. I then wondered - how often have we seen that in tennis games through the years. I'm sure it must have been used a few times. Has there been reactions for and against? - would be nice to hear a bit about such things also, because I think that it's important that sportlers are trying to show their opinion if it's major things like the flooding in Australia and now the disaster in Japan.

Fri Mar 18, 01:38:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Off the top of my head, I'm not sure about a lot of specific moments such as that one, but Federer did put together that pre-Oz exhibition day in support of the people effected by the floods in Australia in January that you mentioned there.

Also, Dementieva spoke after a match a while back after something had just occurred in Russia (was it a bombing or something like that?), and I believe there were probably similar situations after 9/11, as well.

Mon Mar 21, 11:17:00 AM EDT  

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