Saturday, August 04, 2012

Dancing with Herself

This summer in London, Serena Williams has been virtually dancing with herself. And after her over-in-barely-an-hour 6-0/6-1 destruction of Maria Sharapova in the Gold Medal singles match, she has every right to do so.

And here we thought Serena's dominance last month at Wimbledon was mind-boggling. Fact is, while Williams' SW19 run to a fourteenth career grand slam was powered -- and made possible by -- her all-powerful serve, she didn't really need her biggest weapon nearly as much while going about backing up her Ladies championship at the All-England Club with a follow-up Gold Medal-winning run back on the lawns a month later. Oh, make no mistake. Serena served at the Olympics just like the awesome tennis spectacle she's so often been this summer (and over the past thirteen years), but the rest of her game was so good this time around that her serve, without which she wouldn't have advanced through a few tight matches at Wimbledon, sometimes felt like an additional, hardly-hidden (or even necessary) weapon she'd find reason to pull out of her back pocket to bludgeon her already beaten, bloodied and bedraggled opponents just a little bit more. You know, simply to remind them who they were dealing with.

Truthfully, it was almost overkill. But not really. For Serena-at-her-best is all about the absolute destruction of anything in her path. In the Olympic women's singles final, that poor soul was Sharapova. You know Maria. A couple of months ago, she completed her Career Grand Slam in Paris, returned to #1 and was the toast of tennis once again. Remember? My, can things change in a hurry when Serena gets involved. Williams came into the final having spent a week blowing through the field, not losing a set while being broken only once (by Urszula Radwanska in the 2nd Round), and not even facing a break point in her last two matches, the latter of which came against #1-ranked Victoria Azarenka.

There was a time when "Serena vs. Sharapova" brought about good memories for the Russian. It was on this same Centre Court that the then 17-year old Siberian-born Hordette went Supernova on Williams back in 2004, beating her at her own power game in the Wimbledon final and permanently implanting her name into the WTA conversation with one of the best big stage debuts the sport has ever seen. Later that year, Sharapova beat an injured (but still battling and dangerous) Serena in the WTA Championships final. Apparently, Serena hasn't forgotten. Since then, coming into the Gold Medal Match, Serena had gone 7-0 against Sharapova, dropping just two sets and delivering upon her some the most dominating beat-downs she's experienced in her entire career.

But, oh, Maria had never before seen the lethal-beyond-reason Serena she faced on Saturday. The force of Williams' game in the final was even more spectacular than her "usual" when she's in top form. Her shots were deeper, handcuffing Sharapova more often than not, and her technique was perfect. With her confidence sky-high, Serena went about doing to Sharapova what she sometimes does to far-more-inferior opponents -- she made her "goals" change almost as soon the match got underway. Sharapova arrived intending to win, but soon realized it was going to be hard to even win a set... then a game. Heck, even a point. By the time the 2nd set rolled around, her day was about "saving face" and telling herself that Silver isn't so bad.

And for Sharapova, it isn't.

After all, she'd missed the Olympics in '08 due to the shoulder injury that nearly cost her her career, and her actions over the past week in London put on full display just how much the opening ceremonies flagbearer wanted to win a medal for Mother Russia. Throughout, she's been more visibly angry when she made mistakes, and happier than ever when she didn't. No player seemed more determined than she. But when Williams puts her mind to something, none of those things ever really matter. Today was one of those days.

The proceedings started late due to unscheduled bathroom breaks before the players were called to the court, then Serena went back a second time after warm-ups, delaying the start of play by twenty minutes. When she returned, she was greeted by a few boos from the stands. But it was last time she'd do anything that warranted anything but cheers. Well, cheers, awe and maybe a little bit of healthy fear.

Serena opened the match by holding at love. She was just getting started. Williams won the first eight points. Down 0/30 in Game #3, she won four straight points to take a 3-0 lead, emphatically sealing the game with her fifth ace (already) of the match. Sharapova got to game point on her own serve in Game #4, but double-faulted. 4-0. In the fifth game, Sharapova asked for a replay challenge on a called ace for Williams on game point. The ball was ruled out, then Serena served again and double-faulted for the first time. But it didn't matter. She simply hit another ace to go ahead 5-0 a few seconds later.

And she wasn't finished.

Sharapova took a 40/love lead on her serve in the following game, but try as she might she could not break the ice and win her first game of the match. On her fifth game point of the set, she double-faulted. Serena got the break to take the set at love. As was the case throughout the past week in London, Williams was untouchable on serve, winning 92% of her 1st serve points, while the REST of her game prevented Sharapova from winning more than 50% of HERS.

Nothing much changed in the 2nd set. Serena began with an ace, then crushed a forehand return to take a 2-0 lead. 3-0. Finally, forty-five minutes into the match, Sharapova won her first game when she finally converted a game point on her sixth attempt of the match. For a brief moment, Serena's momentum was stalled, as well. In Game #4, for the time in three matches, Williams faced break point on serve. But the Russian failed to convert her two BP shots, and then committed a loose forehand error that gave Serena a game point. As her shot hit the net, the look of resignation on Sharapova's face told the entire story. She knew her ONLY chance to get into the match had just been lost.

Showing a knack for prophecy, Maria was proven right about twenty seconds later when Serena held for a 4-1 lead. Two games later, naturally, Serena smashed an ace on match point (the fitting ending that had eluded her in the Wimbledon final last month), winning 6-0/6-1. She then let out one of her patented SerenaScreams... with the hint of a not-quite-hidden smile on her face. Williams didn't crumple to the turf, or start to cry in joy, this time around. No, she stood tall like the overwhelming champion she has become... all over again. And then she started dancing around the court in the sort of celebration we've never seen from her after taking a major title.

Her career "Golden Slam" -- all four slams and Olympic singles Gold -- secure, and an even-more-rare career "Six Pack" -- the slams, Gold and a year-ending championship for all six major singles titles available to a player -- attained, as well, Serena's performance pretty much rendered her speechless in her post-match interview immediately after her victory. Luckily, her best tennis usually speaks for itself. Williams entered these Olympic Games as the #4-ranked player in the world. It's the sort of fact that is really a bit silly, for while the players currently ranked ahead of her are deserving of their spots, Williams has shown once more this summer what we've known for a decade -- that when she's in form she's as untouchable a force as there is -- and maybe ever has been -- in the sport. At Wimbledon, she thrashed players ranked #2, #3 and #4. Back in London again, she did the same (even more comprehensively, as impossibly hard as that is to believe) to the world #1 and #3.

At this rate, Serena will be dancing her way back to the top of the rankings again soon. Of course, we really don't need "official" confirmation of what we already know. When she's on, she's THE best. And, baby, she is "on like Donkey Kong." the Bronze Match for women's singles, Victoria Azarenka defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-3/6-4 to claim the medal. It was a oddly-structured match, with both players taking turns stringing together multiple games. In the 1st set, Vika went up 3-0, then saw Kirilenko go 3-0, followed up by another Azarenka 3-0 stretch to end the set. After committing just one unforced error against Petra Kvitova in the QF, Kirilenko had seven in the 1st set today.

We saw very nearly the exact same scenario play out in the 2nd set. Azarenka went up 3-0, then Kirilenko again won three straight. Vika won two in a row after that, but Kirilenko stopped the string there, winning one game before Azarenka closed things out. Just days after celebrating her 23rd birthday, the world #1 from Belarus reacted to her Bronze Medal-winning feat in a joyous way that was very similar to how she'd likely have reacted to winning Gold, or a slam title at Wimbledon. Maybe we'll get to compare the two someday... if Serena ever allows it.

...with one Bronze in hand, Azarenka will get a brighter-colored medal tomorrow. She and Max Mirnyi will face Andy Murray & Laura Robson in the Mixed Gold Match on Sunday. Both teams had to win 10-7 3rd set breakers in the SF to advance. Azarenka/Mirnyi defeated Lisa Raymond & Mike Bryan, while Murray/Robson defeated Sabine Lisicki & Christopher Kas.

BEST SOUVENIR OF THE DAY: Murray's Scotland wristbands, tossed into the stands after the match.

ODD SIGHT OF THE DAY: Kirilenko's boyfriend, Washington Capitals' star hockey player Alex Ovechkin, signing autographs from the players box for fans who'd passed him things from the stands during the match.

...Kirilenko, also, isn't through with London. She'll play in another Bronze match, as well, as she and Nadia Petrova, who lost in the SF today to Venus & Serena (but not until forcing the Sisters to take six MP to finally put them away), play Liezel Huber and Raymond. The Williams Sisters, going for their third doubles Gold, take on Czechs Andrea Hlavackova & Lucie Hradecka.

Of note, the Sisters' win today means they're assured of winning a fourth career medal, tying Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario for the most in Olympic tennis history. Of course, a Gold would give them a record four in singles and doubles... breaking the already standing Olympic tennis record held by a couple of sisters from Compton.

...late addition. Have you seen the flag mishap from the women's singles medal ceremony? The wind blew the U.S. flag off the hanger! Serena said maybe it was so happy that it wanted to come hug her.

GOLD: Serena Williams, USA
SILVER: Maria Sharapova, RUS
BRONZE: Victoria Azarenka, BLR
4th PLACE: Maria Kirilenko, RUS

GOLD: Roger Federer/SUI vs. Andy Murray/GBR
BRONZE: Novak Djokovic/SRB vs. Juan Martin del Potro/ARG
4th PLACE:

GOLD: Williams/Williams (USA) vs. Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE)
BRONZE: Huber/Raymond (USA) vs. Kirilenko/Petrova (RUS)
4th PLACE:

GOLD: Bryan/Bryan, USA
SILVER: Llodra/Tsonga, FRA
BRONZE: Benneteau/Gasquet, FRA
4th PLACE: Ferrer/F.Lopez, ESP

GOLD: Azarenka/Mirnyi (BLR) vs. Robson/Murray (GBR)
BRONZE: Raymond/M.Bryan (USA) vs. Lisicki/Kas (GER)
4th PLACE:

=2012 London Olympics - Day-by-Day Updates=

**DAYS 1-2**
Week 30

**DAY 3**
...Azarenka has to go three sets to defeat Begu after going 1-for-8 in BP attempts in the 2nd set. She won MP on a net cord shot, then kissed the net after the match. As long as we don't have another AnaIvo "Kiss of Life" situation brewing.

...typical Kvitova: a close 1st set vs. Peng (which she won with a late break and hold, despite a 12/15 winner-to-UE ratio), major slippage in the 2nd, then a dominating win in the 3rd over Peng. I'm wondering if some sort of medal run in London might finally get her over the hump for '12 and push her into a final or two in the 4Q. But matches like this make you wonder.

...a strong comeback from Lisicki, who dropped the 1st set against Jabeur (really, Sabine?). She won 4-6/6-0/7-5.

...Venus looked good today. And Serena took out the last Radwanska... though they still have to play doubles today, so ALL the melons of London aren't safe just yet.

...a good result from Wozniacki, but one wonders how long she can ride the three-set rollercoaster

..."Luckiest" player: Laura Robson, who wasn't even in the original singles draw, but got added when Petra Martic pulled out. Today, she got a 1st Round win over Lucie Safarova. There are two Brits in the 2nd Round, and both play Russians named Maria next.

...Tsvetana Pironkova is gone, though. Flavia Pennetta, the "First Seed Out" at both Wimbledon and the AO this year, beat her in straight sets.

...meanwhile, the Radwanskas are still alive! They defeated Cibulkova/Hantuchova (so Dominika is now 0-2 at this Olympics, having lost to The Pironkova and the Rads) today. British melons are once again quaking in fear. Poor things. They've had a very frightful summer.

**DAY 4**
...Venus is STILL looking good. Her biggest issue against Wozniak was that she broke a nail during the match. Afterward, she even had the mind to add to her Olympic pin collection from fans in the stands -- she said she got pins for Bermuda and the Bahamas.

...the Sharapova/Robson scoreline -- 7-6/6-3 -- was the same as the one when they met at Wimbledon two years ago.'s Vika's 23rd birthday! Venus or Serena in the Mixed. I'd still probably go with an all-American final, with #3 Raymond/M.Bryan and #2 Huber/B.Bryan, though. Azarenka/Mirnyi is the top-seeded team, while A-Rad & Matkowski are #4. Unseeded Mirza/Paes, even with all the off-court stuff, is surely a team to be reckoned with, as well.

...whew! Tsonga def. Raonic in an Olympic record 25-23 3rd set. Overall, Raonic won more points, 180-178, but Tsonga won the 3rd set 129-128.

...LIKE: the streaming tennis coverage on Probably because you don't have to listen to any commentators. :) It's sort of like you're actually in the stands.

...Lisicki was at it again. She went three sets against Shvedova. She got a break for 6-5, then found herself down 30/40 on serve. Naturally, she hit an ace (and Li Na, somewhere in London, felt a chill go down her spine and didn't know why... should she maybe think of it as a foreshadowing event prior to her work with Carlos Rodriguez?). Lisicki won 4-6/6-3/7-5, outdoing Shvedova 47-17 in winners and 12-3 in aces.

...the Radwanskas are close to pushing #1-seeded Huber/Raymond to a 3rd set...

...ah, and more melons are safe. Huber/Raymond def. Radwanska/Radwanska in straights, avoiding a 3rd by winning a 2nd set tie-break. Of course, there are still a few Mixed Doubles melons that are still in jeopardy.

**DAY 5**
...Kerber def. Venus 7-6(5)/7-6(5)

Kerber had a few moments in the 1st set that might have brought back memories of her Eastbourne collapse against Bartoli, but she held on. She served at 4-3, and 6-5, but was broken both times. Venus even had two set points at 5-4. Venus forced the 1st set tie-break after a great backhand down-the-line shot gave her a BP. But while Kerber let things slip away there, it was Williams that let things slip in the tie-break.

Venus led 5-2, only to see Kerber storm back with five straight points, the last coming when Williams ran for a short ball at the net, then fired her own ball beyond the baseline.

As Rennae Stubbs noted in the 1st set, with her illness, Venus really needs to win these sort of matches in straights, or at least take the opening set so she doesn't have to battle uphill for most of the match.

She just couldn't quite take that advantage today, and her serve (7 DF) really failed her in the clutch down the stretch. Kerber has a few "wobbly" moments once in a while, but she's got a nice determination streak in her. It served her well today. know, this things is finally starting to feel like a REAL honest-to-goodness major tournament. It had a weird feeling early-on, what with all the SW19 "newness," but things have kicked in big-time the last couple of days.

...after having a woeful year, Zvonareva, the only returning women's singles medalist from '08, made a nice comeback at these Olympics. But, after today, one wonders if it was all worth it. Harkening back to when Vera was at the top of her game, reaching slam finals, only to be destroyed by her opponent once she got there, the Russian met Serena Williams in the 3rd Round in a rematch of the '10 Wimbledon final. Williams won handily 6-3/6-2 two years ago, and had an even easier time today. In the only match played under the Centre Court roof today, she won 6-1/6-0, leading 32-3 in winners, and 53-23 in points. Zvonareva won just 27% of her first serve points. Ouch.

...oh, Nadia. Petrova led Azarenka 6-3 in the 1st set tie-break, only to drop the final five points. Vika, rockin' a green headband and skirt, won 7-6/6-4.

...shocking! Kvitova had a quick day. She defeated Pennetta 3 & love.

...same with Wozniacki, who DIDN'T have to go three sets against Hantuchova. Of course, she'll face Serena next.

...Lisicki put up a fight in yet another Wimbledon match with Sharapova, but the Russian -- more emotional, from angry reactions to lost points to pure happiness in the late goings-on -- was up to it. After failing to convert three SP in the 1st, Sharapova saw Lisicki take the set in a 10-8 tie-break on HER 4th SP. Sharapova took the 2nd, then got a late break for a 5-3 lead in the 3rd. She served it out, 6-7/6-4/6-3.

...yet again, Huber and Vesnina faced off on the doubles court. I don't think anything extracurricular went on. Huber & Raymond defeated Makarova & Vesnina, though. So I'm sure the Russian wasn't happy this time, either.

...and, finally, all the melons are now safe in London. Stosur & Hewitt took out A-Rad & Marcin Matkowski in Mixed Doubles. Of course, now The Radwanska can prowl the London streets at night with no commitments for the morning. Shudder.

**DAY 6**
...the difference between Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka this season has been that Vika, even after some shaky moments, has more often than not risen to the occasion in the biggest moments/points, while Kvitova (Fed Cup being the exception) has not (example: all those lost break point attempts in semifinals against Sharapova). The same thing occurred in today's QF. Azarenka served at 4-2 against Angelique Kerber in the 1st set, but was broken. But she bounced back and broke the German on a hard-hitting, 23-shot rally on break point to win 6-4. She was up a break in the 2nd, only to give it back, as well. But, again, she came back late to break for 5-3, gave her edge back again, then ultimately made another push and won 6-4/7-5.

Kvitova, meanwhile, after an easy day yesterday, had quite the opposite today. She lost a 1st set tie-break to end a tight opening stanza against Maria Kirilenko. Things were on serve until late in the 2nd, but a Kvitova forehand error (into the net rather than the usual long) gave the Russian a break for a 5-3 lead. On match point, Kirilenko was the last one standing on a neat little battle of short, crosscourt-angled shots. She fell on her back in delight. Once again, at least one Hordette will be playing for an Olympic singles medal. The stats told the story: Kvitova's 1st serve percentage (it WAS windy, though) was just 57%. And while the Czech led Kirilenko 23-10 in winners, the Russian had just ONE unforced error to Kvitova's 21 (hmmm... does Maria think she's Aga or something?). Kvitova was broken just once (Kirilenko was 1/4 on BP attempts), but never even held a break point on the Russian's serve.

...whew! Can one match undue a decent amount of good through three rounds? Well, I guess we'll find out on North American hard courts the rest of this summer, based on what Caroline Wozniacki does. After playing tough and winning two three-setters, then straight-setting Hantuchova yesterday, C-Woz faced Serena today. Not good. Williams double-bageled her in the 1st set, doing pretty much what she did against Zvonareva one round earlier -- winning 89% of her 1st serve points, while allowing Wozniacki just 31% on hers. The final score ended up being 6-0/6-3. She had 30 winners to Caro's 7, while the Dane never held a break point. Serena has lost just thirteen games in four matches in London, and has now won 15 straight matches overall. The only longer '12 streaks were Vika's 26-match run to start the season, and Serena's own 17-match undefeated streak on the clay.

Talking with Rennae Stubbs after the match, Serena didn't even know anything about the draw. She thought she was scheduled to play Sharapova next, but Stubbs had to inform her that she'll be playing Vika. With another player, that'd probably be a bad sign... but with Serena, it just says that she's playing so well that she maybe thinks it doesn't matter WHO her opponent is right now., Kim Clijsters has just one more event (the U.S. Open) before the Official Backspin Goodbye Letter will go public. She lost in the QF to Maria Sharapova, 6-2/7-5. Sharapova will meet Kirilenko in the semis, meaning that four years after the Russians swept the Medal stand they're at least assured of one medal, and could still fill two of the three positions.

Kirilenko, with Petrova (the #3 seeds), is also alive in the doubles semis (Maria K. will get the chance to play for TWO medals), joining #1 Huber/Raymond, #4 Hlavackova/Hradecka and the unseeded Williams Sisters. In Venus & Serena's win over #2 Errani/Vinci, the sisters had an almost-scary collision when both chased after a short ball on the left sideline, with Venus getting clipped at the hip by Serena, who actually undercut Venus and sort of flipped her into the air and deposited her with pretty good force on the grass. She limped around for a while, but played on. Even if she's okay, I'm sure she'll be sore next time out. After all, getting knocked over by Serena is surely different than if it'd been, say, the much tinier Errani doing the honors. Mixed, Robson & Murray survived a 10-7 3rd set tie-break to defeat Hradecka/Stepanek and reach the QF (they'll play Stosur/Hewitt). #2 Huber/B.Bryan lost to Lisicki/Kas. I actually picked #3 Raymond/M.Bryan to win the Gold, so I'm still alive in that one.

**DAY 7**
...can a match get any more classic than Roger Federer's 4:26 win over Juan Martin del Potro in the semis via a 19-17 3rd set? Federer and Centre Court, after "The Greatest Match Ever Played" vs. Nadal and that marathon 5th set vs. Roddick in recent years, are putting together quite a catalog of ridiculous moments.

Del Potro was amazing today, while Federer toughed out a match in which he was sometimes "off," missing easy shots in response to all the pressure the Argentine was putting on him to try to be perfect. Federer was only 2-of-13 in break point attempts. But, boy, those were important breaks in the final set (even if he did squander the first by getting broken at love one game later).

As big as it is for Federer to now have a shot to join the "Career Six Pack" list in the Gold Medal Match, this could be huge for del Potro, too. The del Potro we saw today looked an awful lot like the Argentine who knocked off both Nadal and Federer en route the '09 U.S. Open title, the only slam won by someone other than the men's Big Three in the last thirty majors. His disappointment at losing this match to Federer will likely doom him in the Bronze Medal Match, but if he can take this form back with him to North America he could have a VERY nice end of the summer.

...can Serena be stopped? Do we even want anyone to? Her brilliance on the grass this summer has been astounding. It continued today against Victoria Azarenka. Serena sent a message with three aces in the first game of the match, and it was never close. She won 6-1/6-2, with Vika only really getting any sort of push-back late in the match when she forced Williams to use five match points over two games to finally put away the win. As has been the case this summer, Serena was untouchable on serve. Again, she faced no break points, had an 89% 1st serve win percentage (31/35), and out-hit Azarenka 33-5 in winners. Remember, Vika is the world #1 -- and it's a more than well-deserved ranking. This is Serena's fourteenth career win over a reigning #1, tying her with Lindsay Davenport for the second-most all-time. Only Navratilova, with 18, has more.

...Sharapova won the battle of the Russian Marias, defeating Kirilenko 6-2/6-3. Next up: Serena. Sharapova hasn't beaten her in eight years. Azarenka and Kirilenko will play for Bronze.

...the "Six Pack" honor roll is assured of adding at least one member, as either Serena or Sharapova will join Andre Agassi & Steffi Graf with all four slam titles, Olympic singles Gold and a season-ending championship crown. Federer could double the number of club members with a win.

...Huber/Raymond's disappointing summer continues, as they'll be relegated to playing for Bronze after losing to Hlavackova/Hradecka., Murray gets another shot at Federer in a final at Wimbledon, but not Wimbledon, after his 7-5/7-5 win over Djokovic (the Serb will play del Potro in an attempt to duplicate the Bronze he won in '08). It's hard to gauge, at this stage, what it would mean as far as rating his career if the Scot won Gold. Is Dementieva rated a great deal higher because she won in Beijing? This isn't a slam, but it IS an important event. As Murray himself said, the atmosphere on Centre Court is "more like a concert than a tennis match." Surely, knocking off both Djokovic and Federer would be a major-level accomplishment, though. A win on Sunday would probably only grow more and more in importance if it proved to be a stepping stone to even "bigger" things.

As far as the "All-Time Olympic Tennis Moments" list, a Murray Gold Medal run would surely rank very high. Certainly a Top 3 moment, likely higher than LPT in Athens, and maybe a legit challenger for Graf's '88 "Golden Slam" spot at #1.

In some ways, the men's Gold Match is a win-win no matter what happens. For Federer, it'd be a career-capper (though he seems fairly certain to be still be around for Rio in '16). For Murray, it'd be a singular, once-in-a-lifetime moment. Several generations of lifetimes, as far as British tennis is concerned. The last time a Brit played for Olympic tennis Gold in singles was 1920, the last man to do it was in 1912, and the last man to win was in 1908. Take that, Fred Perry. And, of course, a Murray win would still allow SOME people (hmmm...) to be able to say he hasn't won a grand slam. Like I said, "win-win." ;)

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

Regarding your medal stand picture:

- I dislike the Nike medal stand clothes...I know the jacket is devoid of national colors so that they can sell them as "multi-purpose"...but seriously, would it hurt to add a small flag or something?????????

- Wouldn't it have been weird to see Serena standing on the side? She always seems to be in the middle of things...

Has anyone just dismantled top players like this before?

Also...I think Serena's recent accomplishments put Venus' accomplishments into light...I mean...Venus hasn't won anything since 2010...and Serena is just now catching up to things that Venus accomplished years ago (Olympics singles; Wimbledon titles; number of titles)...Just shows how great Venus is too.

Other Olympic notes:

The Russians have had a very strange Olympics...They've only won 3 golds (kind of unusual)... They have 15 silvers so that means that they've been in contention a lot. But after the Serena/Maria match today, I watched US Volleybal against Russia...Russia was actually favored, but the US won...they played well, but Russia didn't seem to be at their best. The commentator was saying that they were probably "in shock from the shellacking Maria Sharapova received from Serena Williams this morning"

I think Allyson Felix made the wrong decision in choosing the 100 over the 400. She's better at the 400 and she'd be in medal contention. The 100 is so competitive with Jeter and the Jamaicans... I don't know what she was thinking. Does Sanya Richards-Ross scare her that much in the 400?

Have you seen the Jason Priestly/Andrea Zuckerberg (I don't remember her real name) Old Navy commercial where they make a reference to their characters' love for each other? I don't understand why they're in the commercial...Is 90210 still popular? That was like 15 years ago. Will it increase their sales...seems unlikely...

Sat Aug 04, 10:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...


Do you know how many doubles teams have the six pack?

I could only think of The Bryans...and I bet Navratilova and Shriver possibly??


Dan Hicks is married to Hannah Storm?!?! I didn't know...

Sat Aug 04, 11:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I can understand why the U.S. jackets might not be liked by some. Style-wise, I do think it's interesting how they read "The United States of America" in rather plain lettering on the back, though.

Russia's jackets are g-r-e-a-t, though... even if their results haven't been quite as much.

I think the Old Navy commercials have always supposed to have a "retro" look and appeal, so maybe that's their angle the new ads.

Oh, I just saw the moment in the Serena medal ceremony where the wind blew the U.S. flag off the banner thing on the way up. I loved Serena's comment about how maybe the flag was happy and wanted to come hug her. :D

Sat Aug 04, 11:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


HS... hmmm, you spoke the name of which I cannot speak. Well, except when I'm complaining during a grand slam. As far as what you said. Yeah, I believe that is the case... but I try not to think about it. :)

Do you know how many doubles teams have the six pack?

From what I can tell (after a quick look):

Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde (team)
Bob & Mike Bryan (team)
Daniel Nestor (as an individual)
Pam Shriver (as an individual)
Gigi Fernandez (as an individual)

Venus & Serena Williams

You'll notice the Williams Sisters aren't on the "Six Pack" list. That's because they've only played the SEC once (and didn't win).

If the Olympics had included tennis during Navratilova's prime, of course, she'd surely be on the list, as well. Shriver won the '88 Olympics Gold with Zina Garrison (I'm not sure why Navratilova didn't play in those Games), while Gigi Fernandez's usual partner was Natasha Zvereva, so they couldn't get together to win Gold as a duo (she won Gold twice with MJF).

Sun Aug 05, 12:08:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks, Todd.

Yeah, Navratilova tried to get it with Raymond once...but they didn't get it...

Sun Aug 05, 01:03:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

I've been reading around the web...and the implication of Serena's dominant performance totally didn't register to me...I just thought she won gold...but now it's really sinking in:

- you mentioned that she demolished the No.1 & No.3 players in the world
- jon wertheim and tracy austin pointed out that her last three matches were against the last three players ranked no.1
- steve tignor compared the performance to Borg/Rafa's famous RG runs

And then I really got to thinking...
- 5 of her 6 opponents were currently in the top 20 (3 in the top 10)
- 5 of her six opponents are grand slam finalists
- 4 of them had been ranked no. 1
- 2 of them had won majors this year

I mean you can't even say that sometimes about the quality of competition you face at the YEC.

And she dominated all of them, losing only 17 games. And doing it on such a grand stage.

Whether or not she's the greatest of all time or most athletic/talented/frustrating/etc...I think it's safe to say that her performance at this Olympics has to go down as one of the greatest tournament performances of all time.

Sun Aug 05, 01:28:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

saw this pic of the vika being presented the medal. don't you just love her reaction? like a little girl given her favourite toy... :)

i think vika has a great run in olymmpic singles, losing to serena is no shame, and having won the last match for a bronze medal leave her with a positive confidence going into the next tournament. from here onwards it can only be better as she enters her favourite hard court season again. in retrospective this year she is riding her rise to the top quite well, granted she is no djokovic of 2011, but she came through a roller coaster ride from playing fearlessly to trying to wear as the top play and plunged during RG, to picking herself up again during the grass season. through that she has to learn to combat her emotions, play through shaky tennis and to hang on patiently. she is in the right place, thrashed by serena so she will still need to improve her game.

did you see the ceremony when maria was given the medal? you could see that she was still thinking about the last match, forcing out a smile.

we have the best WTA this year since a long 5 players are consistent, they make more winners than errors. who woiuld have thought from last year that 1. serena would be back at the top 2. maria finally got the RG slam after 4 years 3. vika actually made the breakthrough after seeing her emotionally unstable for so long.

i still think that petra is so much like the previous version of maria, great when she hits through it, but doesn't know how to play badly to win. or maybe just rising up too fast last year that she is not able to handle that added pressure?

i also think that caro is playing slightly more aggressive tennis too. a little too late but finally she is realizing that she will not win if not playing a winning game. but it's also just that apparent that she doesn't have any weapons to hurt anyone when the tour doesn't produce as much errors now.

Sun Aug 05, 08:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


And Serena herself said that she didn't think she's ever played as well from start to finish at a tournament, either. And that's saying something.


I knew what picture that was going to be before I went to the link. I saw it yesterday and almost used it, but went with the flag one instead. :)

Needless to day, the Olympics are the only event where finishing 2nd or 3rd can elicit little kid-like reactions like that. ;)

Sun Aug 05, 09:24:00 AM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

murray, what a match! he carried the momentum of beating djokovic to this very match. federer was completely outplayed, was never let in the match. it still puzzled me how he couldn't convert the 6 breakpoints in 2nd set to make the match more even.

now i guess murray suddenly is back to the 'big four' eh. :o wouldn't that be great that if he can carry the form to US open a few weeks later?! what a 2012.

Sun Aug 05, 12:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...


I agree with everything you said!!

And yay for Vika! Actually everything turned out the way I hoped. After so many disappointments, Murray and Vika both got gold. I'm not a huge Murray fan, but I'm glad that he had his moment in front of his country. And same with Max Mirnyi. He's been putting in the hard miles for so long and isn't from a tennis power house...and he got gold!! And Robson got something too...I didn't think she deserved gold yet...especially since I think her spot should have been given to Watson...but hey, whatev...that's their drama to figure out.

But yay for Vika!!

Sun Aug 05, 02:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...


"Big 3.5" maybe? Winning a grand slam is still a whole lot different in terms of pressure. I was nice to see that Murray didn't take the bait after the match and say in his interview that, yes, a Gold is as good as or better than a slam. Instead, he talked about his goal of winning the U.S. Open. A good sign, I'd say.

Still, it's a HUGE career high... at least until further notice.

Great day for del Potro, too. I figured he'd be too disappointed to win the Bronze. Could be big for NYC.

Sun Aug 05, 03:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

todd, yeah same here. i thought del potro would lose because of the previous match. he held up for his country he said during an interview. nice to see him back up and yes, he could be quite damaging at US open, and got to have fond memories of winning that time too. :)

very proud of vika! and to admit, i was too sleepy to watch through and what the heck i thought when i saw how well murray played in the first few games, was thinking vika has to settle for silver in mixed. oh wow.

Sun Aug 05, 09:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

Yeah, I loved watching del Potro in '09, too. So much so that I picked him to finish #1 in 2010... and "cursed" him.

I have to be careful not to do that again. :)

Sun Aug 05, 10:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

it's funny how olympics gives an entirely different favour to the tennis sports. winning a bronze is a redemption to reboot the confidence level, while settling for silver leaves you defeated.

Mon Aug 06, 02:34:00 AM EDT  

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