Category Archives: Paris
It was announced today that, after much deliberation, the French Open would be staying at its current home in Roland Garros. The decision recieved mixed reactions, and one of the biggest critics came in the form of Amelie Mauresmo.
[Excuse the whack graphics]
After two matches ending 7-6 in the third, it was stupid to even think that Petra Kvitova would reach the final of Paris here in one piece, let alone demolish Kim Clijsters to take the title. Yet here she stands, the champion of the Open GDF Suez.
I’ve always been pretty torn on Petra Kvitova. Such an insanely talented ballstriker, but she has always been so, so inconsistent. However, her transformation over the past year has been unbelievable. Not only is she now in the best shape of her life, but she has finally learnt the art of winning ugly. Before, there were only two sides to Kvitova – the huge hitter that bulldozed through opponents, finding every line on the court. And, then, well, the huge hitter that self destructed, finding every part of the stadium but the court.
But as witnessed by her matches this week, she now knows how to reign in her game when not playing well and find away through. Those matches only helped her confidence, and from then on it was plain sailing.
As for Kim, I don’t think she can or will be too upset with this result. A good week for her still, and even though she doesn’t care very much, rising back to number one on Monday will be a pretty good consolation prize, no? And if that isn’t enough, she still has those Grand Slam titles to keep her warm.
But there are an exciting few months ahead for the WTA. I expect Petra to be exhausted in her next few tournaments, but with the Williams sisters on the way back in the near future, these two playing extremely well, and then a series of other contenders waiting to pounce, this clay season could well prove one of the most exciting in years.
(Pic via Getty)
I guess it’s only fitting that the two players with the best records so far this year (16-1 for Clijsters and 15-1 for Kvitova, with one loss each) should complete in the final here in Paris.
It should be intriguing at the very least. We saw Kim breeze past two big hitters in her last two rounds, but Kvitova undoubtedly has more to bother Kim than the other two at this point in time. When playing Kim, for aggressive players I think there are two pillars that must be followed religiously;
Firstly, it’s about using the whole court. We watched yesterday as Kanepi attempted to hit deep and heavy down the centre in order to push Kim back behind the baseline and wait for the short ball. That tactic works well against most, and Kanepi’s reigning in of her game was the driving force behind last year’s two quarterfinal runs and the reason why she will move into the top 15 for the first time on Monday. However, Kim feeds off pace and deflects it back into the corners with minimum effort, so it’s all about dragging her off the court, getting her on the run and putting the ball as far away from her hitting zone as humanly possible. Kvitova, of course, has that swinging lefty serve at her disposal which will help a lot, and she enjoys creating angles and moving opponents around, which is a good starting point.
But that’s not enough. The other vital ingredient will be to get forward behind those big shots and finish them at the net. Remember the Australian Open final? Na had step one down to a tee, moving Kim around beautigully. But. Those. Damn. Drive. Volleys. They were so bad that it got to the point where I, and practically everyone else on the planet supporting her was screaming at the TV “LET THE MOTHERF$%£*$£ BALL DROP!”. But when she did, it simply gave Kim a chance to recover back into the point, and usually win it. And so confidence in the forecourt is vital. But again, Kvitova also excels when moving forward, and she has really shown some brilliant net instincts and touch almost reminiscent of Navratilova herself, both this week and in general.
So, in a nutshell, Kvitova has the tools to beat Clijsters, but whether she can execute perfectly, and whether Clijsters will give her a chance to execute perfectly, is another question altogether. The pair have played twice before, both in 2010, with Kim dropping a mere 5 games in both matches combind. When asked to recall her previous meetings with Kim, Kvitova hilariously exclaimed “They were so quick!” But it’s a new day, and Kvitova’s form this week doesn’t compare with the error-strewn confidence-lacking Kvitova of those periods in 2010, so we’ll see what she brings to the table in the final showdown of the Open GDF Suez.
So buckle up kids, it should be a good ‘un.
As I said in the earlier post, I’ve seen a lot of hate and criticism for her recently, solely because of that bark. Apparently, it somehow makes her a horrible person.
But it’s stupid. Even after spending just a couple of minutes in the same room as her, you realise that she’s nothing more than a young girl just living her dream. It doesn’t come across in sound-only, but there were quite a few funny moments here because of her facial expressions and gesturing. Especially after the first question (that I stupidly only rememberd to press ‘record’ midway through), when I asked about Wickmayer and her bad sportsmanship. Hopefully her English will continue to improve, because though she’s no Petkovic or whatever, she’s entertaining, and it’s always great to just see an honest, nice girl on tour.
The one thing you always look for in a young player is their mental strength and fighting qualities. This week (as if it wasn’t obvious before), Petra Kvitova passed that test with flying colours. Yesterday, we watched as she fought back from match point down to defeat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in straight sets, and today it was a similar story as she fought back from Wickmayer’s *5-4 30-0 lead to again take the match on a tiebreaker.
It was a pretty interesting match. Not always the greatest quality in the world, but still entertaining. Wickmayer looked to have the upper hand at the beginning, and it became pretty obvious early on that Petra wasn’t a big fan of the lightning-fast surface. I think it’s more a preference issue rather than a technical one though, as she has easily one of the most technically sound sets of strokes on the tour. But it was bothering her. On the other side of the court, Wickmayer was doing the usual – hitting the ball as hard as she possibly can. The thing about Wickmayer is that though she is aggressive and everything, there is something lacking in her game and strokes, And even when she worked her way all the way up to *5-4 30-0 in the third, you just knew that the match was on Petra’s racket and she could still turn it around.
And turn it around, she did.
One thing I’ve noticed recently is that though Petra is a great girl with a brilliant game, everyone seems to be up in arms over her constant screams of “Pojd” (the Czech variant of ‘C’mon’) AKA “the bark”. It certainly is disturbingly high-pitched, theatrical and downright annoying. But anytime I see or hear people talking about it, my mind always wanders back to when Maria spoke some of the other player, saying that for a lot of the players who pump themselves up, and really just they are just doing it for show. But then you look at Petra, and you look at some of her results over the last year, and it’s clear that she isn’t one of those players. Nobody comes back from the brink of defeat two days in a row and nobody fights back from 0-4* down in the third set of a Wimbledon quarterfinal, saving match points, without believing in and meaning everything they do on court. Nobody.
Also, that is a pretty epic match point there. It really highlights just how much Petra has improved her movement and fitness. There’s no way she would’ve reached that just a year ago. Meanwhile, Yanina is classy as ever in the handshake.
She did it. She won. I don’t know how, when, or where this came from, but Jelena Dokic is through to the quarterfinals of the Open GDF Suez in Paris.
To call her life and career a rollercoaster would be one of the biggest understatements in history. The story just never ends. Every time you think there could possibly be a happy ending, there is, without fail, some kind of huge setback that throws her all the way back to the start – whether it be physical, mental or otherwise. And everytime you think she will just pack it in and call it a day, for the sake of her own sanity, she ends up coming back and pulling off victories not unlike the ones she pulled off this week.
I really can’t overstate how well she was playing today. The serve and groundstrokes were all firing on all cylinders. Before the match, I was adamant that Nadia would have to have one of her famous brainfarts for Jelena to stand a chance, but that wasn’t even close to what actually happened. Nadia wasn’t great, no, but really she was just brushed aside by a player with a far more devastating game, playing at an extremely high level. All that kept her in the match was her serve, and as soon as Jelena had looks at the second serve, she would punish Petrova.
Jelena has visibly improved with every single match this week, and she’ll need to continue to do so if she wishes to stand any chance tomorrow, because awaiting her in the quarterfinals is only the de-facto number one, Kim Clijsters. I don’t think there’s any point in trying to predict the outcome of this match, though. There are just too many variables. Historically, the matches between Jelena and Kim have always been a steaming hot pile of mess. And considering both players are below the level they were at back in those days, we could well see a similar scenario.
I will say one thing though – if Kim plays at the level she played in her last match and Jelena continues to play at the level she has been playing herself, an upset could possibly be on the cards. It’s a big “if”, of course, but an important one.
Bring it, Madusah.
(Pic via Getty)
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is globally hated, and for good reason. On-court, she’s a brat, a crybaby – she throws tantrums and attempts to emulate John McEnroe by constantly shouting “you cannot be serious” at umpires and linespeople. She moans, she cries. She throws, smashes and obliterates rackets. And all with the most annoying bitchface ever.
But I can’t help but like her.
I don’t know. She just plays a brand of tennis that appeals to me – she is resourceful and smart, with great touch and hands at the net, and I can’t help but being entertained when I watch her. I don’t even like the fact that I enjoy watching her, but it is what it is. Thankfully, she was up against Petra Kvitova, and I’m loving that girl right now.
It’s always great to watch opposite playing styles face off against one another, and today was no different. Contrasting Zahlavova’s guile was Kvitova’s unrelenting aggression. The first two traded sets were fairly high quality. As expected, Petra came out of the blocks quickly, playing her typically risky, aggressive tennis. But as soon as she cooled down, in swooped Zahlavova – slicing and dicing her way through Kvitova. After some remarkable serve and volleys, dropshots and all that Hingis crap, we were tied at one set all.
It was a great match up until that point. But as we know, and what us WTA fans simultaneously love and hate (AKA love when it’s happening to anyone but our favourites) about the players is that as soon as the shit hits the fan and the finishing line draws closer, unless it’s Serena or another Grand Slam champion on court, the quality drops, the nerves come, the breaks flow, match points are missed and it becomes a contest of which can hit the ball in the middle of the strings enough times to win the match.
And it was no different here. Zhalavova served for it, messed up a forehand on match point, they exchanged around five breaks and soon they were in a tiebreak. Kvitova has really proven herself as a mentally strong and clutch player in her short career (Wimbledon final, anyone?), and so I expected her to run away with it. Of course, I was naive, foolish and sorely mistaken. Her first match point came – error. Second match point. Error. Third match point? Error. Fourth match point, error.Then, and only then did she put us out of our misery/chronic fits of laughter.
And on Kvitova goes. Awaiting her in the quarterfinals is Yanina Wickmayer, in a rematch of their US Open fourth round and Linz final in 2009. So KILL HER. I want her blood, guts and vital organs all on a platter tomorrow, Petra. Don’t let me down.
Sorry for the lack of blogging, but I’ve had some technical problems with the site this week, and I really just haven’t had a great urge to work. Just been taking everything in and getting used to the new surroundings. Because believe me, they are completely different to the usual tennis fan’s experience.
As I said in an earlier blog, my biggest aim of the week was to just watch as much tennis as possible. I am, after all, a tennis fan before a blogger, aspiring journalist or whatever. But as soon as I arrived, it became crystal clear that the week was going to be a massive mental tug of war. On one hand, I want to experience a side of tennis that, as a regular fan, I have never experienced before – sitting in on players’ press conferences, listening to the CEO and other important people speak, and generally just having the opportunity to say things, anything, to the players. But then there’s just sitting around, chilling out with a cool beverage (alcoholic, of course) and just watching the sport I love.
But the negatives of having a press pass are also paradoxically the positives. Having such a great variety of different things to do here is such an exciting prospect. Even disregarding the behind-the scenes things, just being able to strut around with a piece of plastic around your neck and gain access to any place on court is almost a dream for any tennis fan. I took full opportunity of that yesterday, sitting so close to the court I could reach out and touch it, to watch Jelena against Safarova. And though it physically hurt - not being able to cheer, express frustration and fistpump wildly (to the point where I finished the match with a headache and no nails), being able to sit so close to a player you have followed for most of your life as they complete such a gigantic, emotional and momentous victory was just such a great experience.
I do have one big disappointment thus far. And it’s that I STILL HAVEN’T SEEN TATI. I can’t even lie and act like one of my biggest reasons in choosing Paris over Rotterdam, as stupid as it may sound, was the possibility of just bumping into her in a hallway or something, and being able to talk to her and ask questions in some way, shape or form. Everyone needs closure! GDF Suez (the tournament sponsor) has forever pimped her around all of their events since she stopped playing, and she was everywhere at this tournament last year, but ah well, I’ll live.
It’s still so early in the week, so I can’t name the player that has impressed/surprised me the most, but I will say that the sound of the ball contacting Petra Kvitova’s racket is something that every single person should witness live once in their life. And for that, and that only, I hereby crown her the new Lindsay Davenport.
I can tell you who hasn’t impressed me though, and it’s the player currently playing in front of me – Saint Kimothy. She’s currently a set down to Barrois, although she just broke back. I’ve have had a lot to say about Kim recently, though a lot of people don’t agree with me, but that’s fine. I’m just yet to watch her play and thing “wow, she’s playing at a level that no one can reach”. Instead, she has greatly benefitted from the quality of the players she has been up against, and the fact that most of the best players are struggling in some form or another. You can only beat those in front of you of course, but judging by the way you just double faulted away that break, Kim, you’re not doing much to prove me wrong right now.