Talkin’ About The World Number One

Caroline Wozniacki, Caroline Wozniacki. This woman forever perplexes me. On one hand there’s just so much about her that makes me dislike her, and then on the other hand, like a smelly fungal infection, she’s really, really growing on me.

After Wozniacki’s second round victory over Kucova, the Stuttgart PR person came into the press room and asked us (in German, so I couldn’t reply) all if we wanted a presser from her. That in itself I thought was funny because most of the other prominent winners had pressers arranged with no questions asked, yet here he was asking us all if we wanted a press conference from the top-ranked tennis player. Even more shocking still is that the response was a resounding ‘no’. And when I say “resounding”, I mean that every single person in the press room said no. Every. Single. One.

And so I asked a couple of people around me why they said no. Again, they replied as one with comments to the effect of “she’s boring”, “she always says the same thing” and even “it would be a waste of my time”. Ow.

After the reporters at the Australian Open called her boring, she responded by criticizing their questions as being boring and repetitive and leaving her with no choice but to rehash the same answers over and over again. And so I decided to put this theory to test in her press conference after the Petkovic match. After yet another boring question followed by a similarly bored and dry answer from Wozniacki, I finally had enough and chipped in;

Me: You obviously joined the player council last year. Why did you want to join it?
Woz: First of all I think that as a top player I think we have some possibilities to change a few things on the tour. And just make it better with the players. I felt that if me, Serena and Venus are on there we can make a few decisions. Serena and Venus asked me a few times if I wanted to join so I decided I wanted to do it, I think it’s a good way to get involved and really make it better for everybody. Not only the top players, but everybody.

Me: What specifically did you want to change?
Woz: Well, there are a few issues. Obviously next year with the Olympics coming up, we have a few questions about the scheduling of tournaments. And then a few things with the roadmap that, you know, could be changed to be better for the players

Me: You also tweeted that you came here on a private jet. How did that come about?
Woz: Yeah, I did. I have good friends[laughing]. You know, my friend he was in monaco. He asked where I was going and I said I was going here, and he said “ok, I can drop you off on my way.”

Me: You think maybe you should get Turkish Airlines to get you your own one?
Woz: Yeah, I actually asked them… I saw that Barcelona has their own plane with their colours on it…
Me: Yeah, you can get one with your face on it
Woz: [laughter] yeah, I made that joke – that I should get a plane with my face on it [laughing].

She’s no Petko, Serena, Jelena, Venus, Martina and even Maria etc. who can create interesting or hilarious answers out of seemingly nowhere, but if you put just a little effort in, then she can, at the very least, deliver answers worth quoting. Maybe the problem is that people don’t try hard enough.

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Going For The Repeat

Sam Stosur is the first player through to the semis here in Stuttgart, with a 2-6 6-3 7-6(3) victory over Vera Zvonareva.

I don’t even know where to start, so I’m just going to start with the most ridiculous fact. VERA MANAGED TO BREAK 9 (NINE!) STRINGS in this match. It was just so weird. We saw her break 4-6 back in the US Open semi against Wozniacki, and it came back here again. Back then, she really held her nerve and didn’t let it bother her too much, and it seemed like she would do the same here, until the impossible happened.

The impossible being that she managed to break every single racket in her bag, forcing her to play with her coach’s babolat racket while she waited for the stringers to do there thing. That’s really when she broke and went from dominating off the ground to spraying errors and losing three games in a row from a set and 3-3.

More weird was to come as both began to serve well and the match quickly became akin to a hardcourt match. They literally one-two punched up until the tiebreak. And while Vera was returning exceptionally well before, that quickly went out of the window in the third set.

She left the court in tears, and it goes without saying that something has to change. Whether it be the rackets, the design or the actual racket sponsor. Frankly, I hope it’s the latter.

But full credit must go to Sam. She was smart enough to reign in her game when the errors flowed drom Zvonareva and began to play very well in the third set, playing the clutch points particularly well and powering through the tiebreak. It’s definitely good to see her back in the mix. She called it her “best match of the year”, and I can’t argue with that.

Oh, and the match finished at 5pm with three matches to go. So, yeah, it’s going to be a long one tonight.

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Queen of Morocco

Yesterday Nadia Lalami became the first Moroccan female player to ever reach the quarterfinals of a tour event when she fought past top-seeded and 24th-ranked Aravane Rezai 2-6 7-5(5) 6-4.

I’ve been following this girl since Fes last year, and she looks like Ana, plays like her and managed to choke like her too – collapsing from *5-1 up in set two and *5-2 in set three. However, her resilience was so impressive. Most players would have given up both sets from that point, but she dug in so deep and was the deserved winner.

Regardless of what happens from now, it will be really interesting to see how she fares in her next tournaments. With her big forehand, strong serve and good movement, I’m sure this won’t be a one-off fluke result.

But for now, she is probably the happiest woman in the world. And she deserves it.

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Quotable Quotes: Jelena Jankovic on Ana Ivanovic

Before, during and after the epic Fed Cup World Group I tie between Serbia and Slovakia, it has been exasperating looking at the number of people who are so determined to pit Ana and Jelena against each other for no reason. Clearly, Jelena fells the same way and here she is talking to the media a couple of days ago;

“We cannot achieve anything for Serbia without each other. This victory is very much Ana’s, just like all the other girls. Because of my condition I could not sit on the bench all the time and cheer for her the first day, but I was watching on Sunday when she played against Cibulkova” – says Jelena.

“It is ridiculous to say that I have something against her and that I do not care that she wins and is happy. I was overjoyed when she won against Hantuchova, this victory meant a lot to us. I’m sorry that she got injured, it was a real setback for her, but I want her to recover as soon as possible and start winning again.”

Yeah. You tell ‘em.

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A Ramble on Andrea Petkovic and All Things German.

Tuesday was Germany Day down in Stuttgart, with the three German Muskerteers, Sabine Lisicki, Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic all taking to the court to play their first rounders in front of full crowds. All three won through.

First up was Julia Goerges. After going fown a break early in her match against Michaella Krajicek, she quickly broke back and went on to record an easy 6-3 6-1 win. I have so much love for Miss Gorgeous and her game. When she’s on, everything about her game just seems so effortless – her blistering serves, groundstokes and she’s also competent at the net to top it all off.

Sabine Lisicki was up next, and she too put on an impressive display to see off newly-crowned Queen of Class Dominika Cibulkova in straights. I think it’s safe to say the serve has returned, as she fired fown 14 aces en route, with only 2 DFs – the best Ace/DF ratio all year. However, what most impressed me was her fighting spirit in the match. Since her comeback, she has lost so many tight matches, dropping substantial leads and looking extremely fragile. It looked like it was all about to go horribly wrong again as she messed up on match point at *5-3 and promptly lost three games in a row, giving Cibulkova the chance to serve for the set. But instead of panicking, she composed herself, broke back and then served out the tiebreak without a care in the world.

Now can someone please get this woman a clothing sponsor please?

With all that said, the queen of German tennis, both on and off-court is still Andrea Petkovic. on court, the German number one was taken all the way to a third by a resurgent Tamira Paszek in an extremely high-quality match. For a set and a bit, Paszek dominated proceedings – her backhand pummeling ball after ball like nobody’s business, but the inevitable dip eventually came in set two and Petkovic lost control, never relinquishing it. From being a set and a break down, Petko lost a measly two games to close out the match, and everyone went home happy.

The presser afterwards was just like any other Petko presser. Even speaking in German and with the fact that I spent more time chatting up girls and what not in my six years of German lessons as opposed to actually, you know, learning the language, she just draws you in and forces you to listen and laugh. The questions eventually concluded, and as everyone was getting up to leave, I literally had to jump up and wave my arms in the air like a crazy person, shouting “English questions!!” to get attention. Petko replied “oooh, English” and to cut a long story short, our short exchange went something like this;

Me: You’ve obviously had a great 2011 so far. How different does it feel to be back in Germany, compared with 2010?

Petko: I felt the pressure, the expectations rising from the audience, from the media. But I think I handled it well in Fed Cup and now the only new problem was, you know, to redo it in a normal tournament situation only two days later. But I think I managed it quite well, and I’m happy that I won

Me: Do you feel like a superstar?

Petko: Like a superstar? (giggling) No. (laughter) I don’t feel like a superstar. In my town Darmstadt, when I walk through the city nobody ever talks to me – only one guy and he always tells me ‘you parked wrong’ (laughter).

Me: If you go back there now, it would be different though

Petko: “Yeah, maybe but.. No I’m still normal. I’m not Paris Hilton.(laughter)”

And that’s why so many people love this woman. She sure ain’t Paris Hilton – she’s just a down to earth, nice woman trying to make it in tennis. Lets hope that never changes.

(Pic via AP photo)

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Quotable Quotes: The Inner Monologue of a “Crazy” Person.

Me: Pavlyuchenkova obviously came out playing really well. How do you adjust your game? Is it more instinct or do you kind of think about what shots are troubling her?

Vera Zvonareva: Yeah, I was thinking ‘you know, I think it’s too early to get instincts on the clay yet’, so I was always finding myself, you know, thinking about ‘ok, from this position I better go for this kind of shot’. Sometimes I felt like I was making wrong decisions, but I was just trying to adjust. I kept telling myself ‘ok, if you’re in this position next time, just play deeper – put more rotation on the ball. Don’t go for a winner because it’s impossible on a clay court. So I just, you know, kept talking to myself like this. And at the end, I think I was able to manage to play like I should play on the clay, a little better in that third set. Of course still it wasn’t perfect but overall, I was able to change the momentum of the match, and I’m really happy about that’.

Yep, crazy indeed.

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The Boss Is Back In Town

After over six months out with injury, Juan Carlos Ferrero made his ATP comeback this week in Barcelona and owned it, brushing aside Xavier Malisse 6-4 6-2. I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed.

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Marchin’ Back

One of the most prominent memories I have from Sam Stosur’s 2010 claycourt run has actually nothing to do with her actual tennis. It was the way she rhythmically marched around the courts between points as if she owned every court, every stadium and every person in them. And she played accordingly, smashing past her opponents with brute force and embarking on the best run of tournaments in her career.

But this year? Not so much. Both the form and march of old are long gone, and so far in 2011 her walk has been complimented accordingly by ever-slouching and shrugging shoulders as she has fallen to a slew of lesser opponents. It was a similar story in her first round match today against MJMS – after powering to a first set 4-1 lead, that lack of confidence quickly caught up with her after a couple of loose shots. Soon she was spraying errors and quickly lost four out of five games to find herself locked in a bitter first set struggle.

However, unlike so many times this year, she did manage to find a way through. At 5-5 deuce, out of nowhere came two blistering winners to secure the break, and then she served out the set with ease. From that point onwards, she radiated with the confidence as she bludgeoned forehand winners from everywhere and anywhere in the court, closing out the second set and match 7-6 6-2 with apparent ease.

Up next for her is Daniela Hantuchova. If she values her place in the top 10, she damn well better win that one.

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Ryan Sweeting Clinches Debut Title In Houston

Ryan Sweeting pulled off quite a shock victory in the final of the Houston ATP 250 event to capture the first ATP title of his career with a 6-4 7-6 (7/3) win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

After being a former junior #2 and top college player, it must be so satisfying for Ryan to finally be realising his potential and playing some great tennis. Just last year, Ryan was a perennial Challenger player who always seemed to just miss the boat when he stepped up to play ATP events. But not any more. Today he stands tall at a career high of 67, and the only way is up.

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Yes, WTA. Now Would Be A Good Time To Panic.

So yesterday, during the Charleston final, news broke that in addition to her wrist/shoulder injury picked up in Miami and Indian Wells, Kim recently fell while dancing in heels at a wedding, twisting her ankle and leaving her a huge doubt for the French Open.

Usually, the idea of Kim jivin’ around at someone’s wedding, possibly drunk, and then embarassing herself by falling down would be at least semi-funny, but at this point it’s just depressing. Everything looked so exciting eighteen months ago with what we thought would be the resurgence of one of the greatest four-way rivalries in either tour’s history. But now just look at them.

Six months into her comeback, Justine was essentially finished as a tennis player after slipping on the Wimbledon grass and injuring her elbow beyond repair. Then Serena quickly followed, stepping on glass at a restaurant which would leave her injured for the next 8 months. Then pretty much as soon as she was finally out of the medical boot and prepping for a comeback, bloodclots formed in that inactive foot and threatened her life by flying all the way up into her lungs and causing a heamatoma in her stomach. Then we watched as Venus, live at the Australian Open, let out a blood-cudling, heartwrenching scream as she injured a body part that no one even knew existed. And then this week Kim rounded it off appropriately by picking up her own freak injury.

(6:12)


www.youtube.com/watch?v=EShZWxFfPb0

Surely this is unprecedented in any sport? Not just the fact that four women who have combined to win 31 singles slams and well over $100m in prize money alone are all out cold with injuries, but also the nature of those injuries and the magnitude of them.

Can you imagine if Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro (that’s 28 slams) were all simultaneously wiped out with freak injuries on the men’s side? It would be complete mayhem, and that’s how it is right now on the WTA. Sure, there are a load of other great personalities and players on the tour, but as much as I want to say that they’ve all siezed the opportunity with the generation’s greats out of the picture, most just seem to be unable to find form even close to the previous highs they reached when the ‘big 4′ were constantly forcing them to better themselves.

It’s really a sign that things are bad when it’s gotten to the point where most commentators are seemingly spending more time hypothetically discussing how Venus, Serena and Kim would fare if they weren’t injured, as opposed to talking about the actual matches they’ve been paid to talk about. But at this point, can you really blame them?

I can’t, and so get well soon, you three. You’re needed.

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