Australian Open Memories: Andy Roddick vs. Younes El Aynaoui

I guess that in an era where 9 hour 70-68 5th sets are the norm (ok, slight exaggeration there, but bear with me), there really isn’t too much point in lamenting on a match that lasted a mere 5-odd hours, and was *only* extended to 21-19 in the 5th set. But at the time, the Australian Open quarterfinal between Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui was, in addition to being the longest match to take place at the Australian Open, widely regarded as one of the greatest matches in men’s tennis, and it still is.

It feels really odd to look back at the pictures of this match. Seven years really isn’t a very long time at all. The memories of the event are still raw and vivid in my mind, yet those pictures tell a completely different story. While Younes has barely aged in the 7 years since, Andy looks worlds apart from the Andy Roddick of the old days. Back then he was young, fresh faced, long haired, Reebok-clad and, of course, armed with that hideous visor thing. The rackets were different, the court was different, most of the players were different too. However, one thing that remains after all of these years is the fact that it was an incredible match.

What made this such a memorable and classic match was that, outside of mere numbers and statistics, the level of play was sky-high from start to finish. Both players engaged in lengthy, gruelling rallies – slicing, approaching the net, hitting dropshots, blasting serves and groundstrokes alike. Playing at that level for a straight sets best-of-three match is impressive enough, but the pair managed to keep this play going through the whole match. And even more than that, the level continued to rise as the match and fifth set wore on. Both competitors, such massive personalities, wore their hearts on their sleeves throughout the battle and by the end of the match, it was one of those rare moments where the crowd wasn’t cheering for a specific player, they were cheering for tennis. Because, without sounding horribly clichéd, tennis was the victor that day.


Foot Fault’s 46 Predictions for 2011

With 2011 fast approaching and the excitement of a brand new season slowly mounting to a fever pitch, I’ve taken to my trusty crystal ball to see what awaits us in the new year. I still wear my Schiavone French Open prediction like a crown, so will lightning strike twice in 2011 or will I be stuffing my face with humble pie this time around? We shall see. Remember, this is all in good fun so don’t take my word for gospel or anything.

1. Serena Williams will win the US Open.
2. Rafael Nadal will complete his Rafa(rena) slam.
3. There will be yet another nationalist drama at the Australian Open (possibly involving chairs again.)
4. Fernando Verdasco will shave.
5. Caroline Wozniacki will fall out of the top 4 with no slam, Azarenka and Radwanska will also make minimal progress.
6. Nikolay Davydenko will return to the top 10.
7. Sabine Lisicki, Polona Hercog, Julia Goerges and Anastasija Sevastova will all take massive steps forward.
8. Lleyton Hewitt will not reach the top 15.
9. Jarmila Groth will glide into the top 20 – possibly further.
10. Tomas Berdych will find himself in another slam final. This time against someone less accomplished than Rafa Nadal.
11. Svetlana Kuznetsova will fight her way back into the top 10 and make the French Open final.
12. Robin Haase and Thiemo De Bakker will both find themselves in the top 30.
13. Anastasia Rodionova will get disqualified from a match.
14. Gilles Simon will return to the top 15.
15. Francesca Schiavone will mount a respectable defence of her French Open title.
16. Andy Murray won’t win a slam.
17. Aravane Rezai and Yanina Wickmayer will come to blows on-court.
18. Ernests Gulbis will disappoint.
19. Venus Williams will finish 2011 higher than in 2010.
20. Viktor Troicki will make the top 20.
21. Justine Henin will contract Herpes again won’t win Wimbledon.
22. Novak Djokovic will make another slam final.
23. Maria Sharapova will reach the semis of the French Open and make a lot of progress.
24. Marin Cilic will fall out of the top 25.
25. Jelena Jankovic will smile and become fabulous again.
26. Heather Watson will finish 2011 comfortably inside the top 100 and as the highest-ranked ’92 player, Laura Robson will finish on the brink of the top 100.
27. Ricardas Berankis, Grigor Dimitrov, Ryan Harrison, Filip Krajinovic and Benoit Paire will all record big results in 2010.
28. Agnes Szavay will finally break out of mid-ranked obscurity.
29. Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova will become engaged.
30. Ula Radwanska and Jelena Dokic will both finish in the top 50.
31. Americans will stop crying long enough to realise they have a talented bunch of players on the rise in the form of Lauren Davis, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. The former two will leapfrog both Coco Vandeweghe and Christina McHale in the rankings.
32. Andy Roddick will reach the semis of a slam.
33. Maria Sharapova and Camilla Belle will rekindle their love
34. Rafole will surface for more doubles in 2011.
35. Dinara Safina will reach the top 20, but no higher.
36. Sergiy Stakhovsky will be the ATP’s surprise package.
37. A prominent WTA player will make or announce a comeback by year’s end.
38. Roger Federer will win no more than one slam.
39. Fernando will date another WTA player and Kim Kardashian simultaneously.
40. A player will fail a drugs test.
41. James Blake will retire.
42. France will win the Davis Cup.
43. Kim Clijsters will no longer be able to get away with playing at 40%.
44. Richard Gasquet will reach the top 20 again.
45. French WTA players will have more media battles.
46. Maria Kirilenko will reach another slam quarterfinal.

And finally, 2011 will be a massive improvement on 2010 with more drama, jucier off-court feuds, and most importantly – quality matches between the very best players of both tours. Bring. It. On.


Because, Believe It Or Not, We Also Cover The ATP

With all the players slowly arriving in Australia and New Zealand, check out this video of Andy Roddick and Ryan Harrison hitting ahead of the Brisbane International.

Going to be interesting to see how Andy performs this year. From the sounds of it, he is pumped and raring to go in 2011. There are undoubtedly many who believe his glory days are well over, and coming off a year that saw him shafted out of the top ten for the first time in centuries, there is good reason. But who knows? The great thing about the new year is that the players start with clean slates and clear minds. There are infinite possibilities at the beginning of a season, and so I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds in 2011.


Australian Open Memories: 2007 Final

Usually, 6-1 6-2 drubbings aren’t even considered noteworthy. Especially in Women’s tennis where they seem to happen so frequently in Grand Slam finals, and are usually met with the same ol’, same ol’ skepticism. But if there ever was a beatdown that has bypassed the usual rules, heading straight into the history books, it’s the 2007 final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Why? There are just so many reasons. Too many reasons.

We all know the story. At the end of 2003, Serena’s sister Yetunde Price was murdered. In 2005, after being sidelined with some physical problems, those emotional grievances came to the surface. She fell into depression, and that depression spilled over into 2006 as she steered clear of tennis and steadily gained weight. After only playing a handful of events in 2006, she arrived in Australia overweight and with only a loss to Sybille Bammer in Hobart as preparation for the Grand Slam. The press criticized her, attacking her weight, commitment, Chris Evert was writing an “open letter” to her, and Nike officials even threatened her with the dissolution of her contract. It was absolute mayhem.

In the two weeks that followed, an incredible transformation took place as she gradually shook off the rust from her game and visibly lost weight with seemingly every match that passed. With 5 seeded scalps to her name, Serena fought her way all the way to the final against top-seeded Maria Sharapova. Still, people gave Serena zero chance of defeating Maria. No way, they said. Serena had completely exceeded expectations, sure, but Maria was just on a different level to any of Serena’s previous opponents. They were right about that, and so what did Serena do? She stood up to the occasion, elevated her level and went out into the final all guns blazing. Just over an hour later and we had witnessed one of the greatest performances in the history of the game. If not “the” greatest. It was sheer perfection – serve, return, defence, offence, netplay, mentality – everything was absolutely perfect. She was so good that Maria had to fight tooth and nail just for those three games.

The speeches (1:13 onwards) that took place afterwards only enhanced the occasion. Maria went out first, and she was the epitome of class as she congratulated Serena and told self-deprecating joke after self-deprecating joke. She ended with hoping that she would take the title the next year which, of course, she did. Then Serena came out. So many times we see Serena guarded and weary of cameras, but after all of her excited thank you’s, she took a deep breath and, while holding back tears, dedicated the victory to Yetunde. It was touching, heartfelt and one of those poignant memories that you just don’t forget.


Uh Oh, Laura Robson Joins Forces With Patrick Mouratoglou

Following Ana Ivanovic’s recent appointment of Antonio Van Grichen and Jelena Jankovic’s hiring of Andrei Pavel, it was revealed today that young British star Laura Robson is to be coached in 2011 by Patrick Mouratoglou. For the last few years Robson, 16, has trained sporadically at Mouratoglu’s academy with her ex-coach Martijn Bok. However, after her split from Bok and Mouratoglu’s split with Rezai, the pair will join together on a full-time basis next year.

I’m not going to tempt fate or attempt to predict how this partnership will turn out, but I can’t say it’s an exiting prospect. Mouratoglu did a good job with Rezai, who obviously, under his influence, stormed her way though Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Justine Henin to the Madrid title. However, I’m just not a big fan of his approach to the game. He’s all about the gung-ho aggressive approach to tennis, and rejects variety, consistency and other less obvious approaches. Watching Rezai this past year comfirmed all of this. She has always been an aggressive player, but under Mouratoglu she just took that aggression to new, unseen levels. When it worked, it was brilliant. But when it didn’t, it was disastrous.

Laura Robson is, of course, an aggressive player by nature. However, she isn’t the type of player who can dominate a match the way in which Rezai can. For someone of her height and build, she drastically lacks natural power and the ability to muscle the ball and opponents around the court. Her talent lies in her soft hands which enable her to not only create deft angles and maniplulate the balls in ways that most can’t, but it also means that she creates most of her power through her crisp timing of the ball. Thus, if Mouratoglu approaches Robson in the manner in which he has with Rezai and many other of his students in the past, this partnership could be bad, bad news.

But who knows? All shall be revealed in 2011.


Yanina Wickmayer Sexes It Up In Recent Snaps

Check out this pic from one of Wickmayer’s recent photoshoots. I will bite my tongue and refrain from commenting, but it’s quite funny and completely ironic to see here smiling so much here. Like that ever happens in real life.


Merry Christmas!

Just wishing all the readers and followers the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year. Here’s to hoping for a 2011 jam-packed with both personal success all of you, and success for the sport that we love.


Not That You Don’t Already Know This, But…

Sorana Cirstea is bloody cute.

(Via Facebook)

“MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!i wish u guys all the best in the world,health,happiness,peace,courage to reach all your dreams and strenght to look forward to the challenges and not be afraid of them.Im in Adelaide,Australia for 3 days with my coach Darren Cahill and his family.Its the first time ever that i spend Chrismas away from home!!!big hug and i hope everyone is having a wonderfull day.Love,SORI”


Agnieszka Radwanska To Play Australian Open

A couple of months ago we heard that Aga Radwanska had suffered a stress fracture in her foot and would be out for the next 9997 months. Doctors had told her to pull out from the Australian Open, but she stubbornly refused to do so until the last moment. Crazily enough, it turns out that she made the right decision. As of today, it is confirmed that she will be competing in Melbourne next month. Much to the shock and surprise of her team and doctors, she is now hitting for around four hours per day with sister Ula Rad, and though she is still afraid to push her foot to the limit, she is apparently completely pain-free.



Lauren Davis And Ryan Harrison Capture US Australian Open Wildcards

Lauren Davis and Ryan Harrison took the reciprocal USTA Australian Open wildcards on sunday, after winning their respective playoff finals. Davis, 17, romped to a 6-2 6-2 victory over the more experienced Coco Vandeweghe, while Harrison, 18, gained his wildcard with a hard-fought 7-6 (3) 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-4 victory over US Open Junior champion Jack Sock.

Over the last few days, it has been quite surprising to see just how unknown Lauren Davis is to the press and many of the most diehard fans. This year she has won three major junior titles in addition to transitioning a $10k futures and $25k Challenger title in her resume already, and so I assumed that there would at least be a buzz surrounding her. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you cast your minds back to 2008 when Coco Vandeweghe won the US Open at 18, the hype was almost unbearable. She was being widely being touted as the “next Lindsay Davenport”, and wildcards were being thrown at her left and right. Even though her immediate results earlier on were completely underwhelming, there was still a massive hype surrounding her and she has an abnormally large following. When she finally broke through with some solid results throughout this year, the hype machine went into overdrive. I think this match is a big reminder that hype doesn’t equal results. While Vandeweghe has been basking in all the attention, Davis has been working hard to continue to improve her game, and though she is three years Vandeweghe’s junior, it is Lauren Davis who will be going to Australia with a wildcard into the main draw.

As for Harrison, this is a great victory for him. It seems like he hasn’t been playing particularly well this week, but his work ethic and fight has driven him through this draw. After his strong showing at the US Open this year, he will be looking to do even better in Australia. And you know what? I think he’ll do just that. Sock has also had a very encouraging week, and from the various reports from this event, it seems like he is bonafide talent for the future. Definitely worth keeping an eye on in 2011.