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Category Archives: Tournaments


Though I caught brief glimpses of her earlier in her career, my first vivid memory of a full Dominika Cibulkova match dates back to her breakthrough tournament at Amelia Island in 2008. Not only was I taken aback at the fact that she stood at just over 3ft8, I was also shocked to see her game wasn’t the scrappy ten-inches-behind-the-baseline retriever it seemed destined to be. Sure, her style of play then revolved around her lightning-quick feet and strong defence, but the shocking part was when she found an opening or a short ball. That’s when she would launch both feet off the ground whilst simultaneously rotating her entire body as she unleashed one of her now trademark nuclear forehands for a screaming, clean winner. During those nice, innocent years, her game was pleasant marriage between defence and offence.

Nearly five years on and in a post-Zeijko Krajan world, adjectives like “pleasant” and “nice” are merely antonyms of the player she is today. Today, she is angry, she is scrappy and she is gritty. She has attitude and she is unafraid to “POME!” in her opponents’ faces with all the authority of a Sharapova or Azarenka nearly double her height. Above all, her sole aim, intention and tactic in tennis these days is to crush every forehand and backhand with seemingly every single muscle, fibre and ounce of effort in her being. That’s how Dominika Cibulkova plays tennis today.

With this new style of play, her scalps and achievements have been undeniable. In addition to finally ending her comically long wait for her first title, she has scaled as high as a slam semi in addition to reaching the quarters of a slam every year since 2009 whilst defeating current and former #1s such as Azarenka, Wozniacki and Sharapova. Even this week she disposed of two top eight players with the loss of only five games before ousting top 5 Kerber to reach the final. At the very least, she was primed to give top-seeded Radwanska a test, right?

Wrong. Instead, she was subjected to an embarrassing and humiliating double bagel.

To Radwanska’s credit, the Pole was on top of the match from the very beginning (well, she hit a double fault on the first point, but you get what I mean). As usual, along with the standard craftiness, she was consistent and sensible and her plan of action was clear; she looked to either cut off Cibulkova’s angles with central balls or else initiated crosscourt rallies, tempting Cibulkova into attacking down-the-line and almost inevitably committing an error. Lather, rinse and repeat. She also read Cibulkova’s groundstrokes like a children’s book. By the end, the Slovak had a shocking 36 (THIRTY SIX) unforced errors in 12 games, even scarier considering the figure probably doesn’t account for the countless botched service returns which usually fall under the forced error category.

The most abhorrent aspect of a result like this isn’t even the score or Radwanska managing to extract a Li-esque error count out of the Slovak. It happens. The biggest issue is that many players who stand inside the baseline and play this unwaveringly aggressive style of tennis have absolutely no choice but to do so, often because their biggest weaknesses are easily exploited in neutral and defensive positions. As mentioned above, this is far from the case with Cibulkova. Her height may leave her susceptible to bigger players overpowering her, but against a player like Radwanska there is no excuse for not once stepping back and at least attempting to tread water a little whilst searching for other ways to insert her aggression and penetrate the Radwanska defence.

And yet, she didn’t. Instead, she finished the match just as it begun - the final game sealed with a smash error, a forehand error, a backhand error, and finally a double fault to complete one of, if not the worst loss of her career. If Cibulkova really wants to bridge the currently realistic gap between her current ranking and the top 10, this must change immediately.

Bernard Tomic: The Hall Of Famer

In the iconic and legendary words of Justine Henin: “Now It’s Time.” Now it’s time to formally induct Bernie Tomic into the Hall of Fame for the most quotable tennis players in history. The Australian has always been candid and entertaining in press - remember when he blasted the Australian Open organizers in 2010 for scheduling his match so late? There was also him laughably claiming in 2011 that he would break into the top 10 a year later, and who can forget last year’s US Open when he hilariously issued a reporter with a The Godfather-style threat. Rarely has he shied away from offering himself a gratuitous self-pat on the back, but over the last few months he has taken this over-confidence to new, unheard of levels. And. It. Is. Brilliant.

It all kicked off mid-December when Pat Rafter and Tennis Australia booted him out of Australia’s first Davis Cup tie in 2013. He responded by essentially branding them liars, before then claiming in all seriousness that he was back on course to being “the greatest player, one day, to [ever] play the game.” He has quite simply hit a Peak Mary Pierce-esque purple patch of quotable quotes and so far in Sydney, plenty of his comments appear to something a top 5 player would utter, rather than someone ranked a glorious 64th on the ATP rankings.

But he’s not all talk.

The year and even this week may be young, but it’s difficult to see how Tomic could have started 2013 any more positively. Though an exhibition, his tennis impressed at the Hopman Cup. Firstly, he dug out an uncharacteristically gritty victory over Tommy Haas, before straight-setting the world number one and finishing with a 3-0 singles record overall. He later noted that Djokovic approached him afterwards, telling him “Good stuff. You were serving really well. I couldn’t do anything. Off the ground you were playing well.” This undoubtedly only reinforced his likely belief that he is God’s gift to mankind.

So far in Sydney it has been much of the same. A straight-sets win over current Aussie #1 Matosevic in the first round, followed by a hugely impressive performance over a nemesis in 2012, Florian Mayer. The improvement in Tomic’s serve has been immediately noticeable, and even more-so in his intentions off the first ball following his serve. Previously, he enjoyed easing into points slowly with a slice or a higher percentage strike, but today every single time his serve presented him with an opportunity to immediately shorten the point against Mayer, he grabbed it with both hands and attacked mercilessly.

He also appears to have a far clearer understanding of how to construct points. For a player who prides himself on his court sense and tennis IQ, his shot selection would often appear so random and illogical. Perhaps it was pure arrogance rather than naivety or a lack of awareness, but he would so frequently be seen monotonously slicing shot after shot while the point was free to be won, then slapping around inane winner attempts when pushed out of position with no realistic chance of making them. Such reckless decision-making was passable in juniors, but easily dealt with by most top 50 players in 2011 and 2012. He hinted that he has worked on specific shot patterns, and his unique strokes are certainly combining far better in 2012 while still maintaining the changes of pace, spontaneity and unpredictability in his shotmaking that makes him both dangerous and entertaining to watch.

Most importantly, he actually looks like he gives a damn. Of course, we will wait with baited breaths to see whether he will turn up and care tomorrow, let alone further down the line once the yearly attention and celebrity he enjoys in January dies down. We will also wait to see just much progress this so-called “new” Bernie T makes on the self-confessed “revenge tour” that is his 2013. But one thing’s for sure, triumph or trainwreck, all of Australia (and the tennis world) will be watching.

Grigor Dimitrov - When Style Is Mistaken For Substance

Fact. Regardless of the channel, country or tournament in question, Grigor Dimitrov’s tennis receives more love than most seasoned pros. Commentators bow to his image, comparing the Bulgarian to the greatest player of all time, essentially professing their undying love for his game whilst seemingly wanting nothing more than to take his forehand, backhand or serve out on a lavish date. This was certainly the case during last week’s Brisbane final, in which the Aussie commentators spent much of the contest adoringly narrating his every move - their eyes probably assuming the shape of hearts. During the final, one of the commentators even went as far as to say: “He’s a good looking player, and I say that because he does look good.” Well, nice to know.

I mention this because the hype, predictions and expectations placed upon him are essentially based on just that - his style and the superficial similarities to Federer’s game. It certainly isn’t his negative tour win-loss record or the fact that he is yet to grace even the third round of Grand Slam or win a title. One would expect the career of Richard Gasquet to serve as a cautionary tale towards those quick to launch the “Baby Federer” hype machine, but apparently those covering Grigor Dimitrov missed the memo. Instead, people are quick to falsely equate the style that Dimitrov’s tennis exudes with the actual substance and level required to reach the top echelons of the game.

Having said that, there was much to be impressed about from Dimitrov against Murray. The match itself was both engrossing and disappointing. On one hand, it featured entertaining, rapid all-court tennis. However, it was also frustrating in its utterly predictable mental collapse from the Bulgarian. He arrived on fire and looked to have the better of Murray until serving for the first set. Then, after a nervy collapse whilst leading 5-4 with a break, he briefly recovered only to fall apart in even more dramatic style in the tiebreak. The second set saw Murray’s level fall off the face of the earth, but once again Dimitrov squandered yet more chances and hammered the final nail to his coffin. It had the potential to be an entertaining and tight contest, but instead closer resembled a damp squib.

What impressed was the brand of tennis the 21 year-old exhibited. In the past, his athletic gifts and raw all-court style have shone brighter than any other aspect of his game, but Sunday made for completely different viewing as it was the finer aspects of his game that demanded attention. Most notable was his notoriously weak backhand. Murray unsurprisingly focused most of his attention to that wing early on, but rather than the backhand breaking down easily as usual and offering mostly ineffective slices and a weak spot for Murray to smother, Dimitrov responded by showcasing such impressive and improved variety on his backhand wing. He infused his driven backhand with powerful and flatter blows, weightier topspin, some loopier balls and the occasional angle. His slice too appeared a completely new stoke as he combined a variety of different types of slice - deep floating slices, more penetrating slices, and short and low slices with no pace. Rarely did the Bulgarian execute the same shot twice and this elaborate variety caught Murray off-balance, with the Scot unable to settle into any rhythm and forced to find solutions himself.

He also impressed with his instincts around the court. Court sense is generally an innate, natural talent and certainly an area in which Dimitrov has previously left much to be desired. But against Murray he approached the net at the correct moments and made sensible, logical decisions around the court. He also appeared especially observant of how Murray dealt with different aspects of his game. An example being in the first set when Murray began to struggle with short and low slices to his forehand. Dimitrov wasted no time in mercilessly exploiting that weakness with a slew of dropshots and no-pace low slices to Murray’s forehand side. In other words, he looks like he’s growing up and maturing before our eyes.

The question remains just what this maturity is and how far it will take him. Just a couple of days later he arrived in Sydney and shamelessly tanked the match away, quickly reminding us of exactly what we’re dealing with. Hype won’t reveal his true potential, but time will, and 2013 promises to be the year that tells us all we need to know about Grigor Dimitrov.

Video Vault: How to play a Match Point - by Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Bernard Tomic and Ashleigh Barty


It’s safe to say that not everyone is a fan of mixed doubles, but when executed correctly it can be just as entertaining as either of the other two disciplines. Look no further than today’s Hopman Cup deciding rubber which saw prolific Serbs Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic scrape past Aussie youngsters Bernard Tomic and Ashleigh Barty in an epic 3 (more like 2 and a quarter) set match.

For better or worse, crazy things happen when the ATP and WTA collide. But even so, I can’t think of too many more surreal sights in any sport than watching the 5-time Grand Slam winning current ATP world number one and greatest returner on the planet gravely struggling to read and return the serve of a 5ft4, 16 year old girl ranked 175 on the women’s tour. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the above jaw-droppingly outrageous 29-stroke stroke rally between the four on Serbia’s first match point. (Mixed) Doubles? Love it.

Believe It Or Not, Nadal’s Withdrawal Doesn’t Signal The End Of The World

So, let’s have some facts, eh? Today, Rafael Nadal dropped a nuclear bombshell on the Olympics build-up as he announcing his withdrawal from the event. His infamous chronic knees are to blame. The signs were there - not only have rumors and talk about his knee injury been swirling around long before Wimbledon even concluded, but it has always been fairly evident that aside from his knees, Nadal’s biggest enemy has been the ticking clock as the Olympics draw ever closer. But even so, considering just a couple of days ago Benito he was posting pictures of himself doing rehab in the gym with an insanely gleeful smile plastered on his face, the alarm and shock at this turn of events is more than warranted.

Discussions on whether or not Tennis deserves its place in the Olympics have raged on for years now, but regardless of whether tennis as a sport is suited to the competition, there’s no doubt that Nadal himself is. He stands as one of the players (also look towards Venus Williams) who genuinely cherishes and truly understands the significance and honour of being an Olympian. For him, the Olympics is clearly more than the pursuit of nice, shiny medals. He gets it, and in a sport like tennis, not every player does. He called the withdrawal one of the toughest decisions he has ever made and one of the worst days of his tennis career, and it’s not difficult to see why.

But aside from disappointment and sympathy towards Nadal, I’m struggling to understand the point of speculating about much else. People are already collapsing into hysterical wrecks and proclaiming Nadal’s career over, or else pointedly suggesting that the knees must *clearly* be in awful condition for him to withdraw. Perhaps the doomsaying and worrying has some merit, but one thing we do know is that we saw this all before in 2009 and a year later he went on to have the best year of his career. He isn’t the first player to suffer from tendinitis and he won’t be the last. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s something he has managed and will continue to do so.

And finally there’s the case of Mr Federer and people subsequently expecting him to waltz to his first singles Olympic Gold. Despite Nadal standing as the sole (ahem) relevant active player to defeat Federer on grass, the Spaniard’s fairly appalling 21-11 record in three-setters off grass over the past year pull him straight back down to earth. Massive opposition remains in the form of Djokovic and Murray, the Brit holding an exemplary 8-5 record over three sets against Federer over three and Djokovic who will undoubtedly be hungry for revenge after Federer wrote a new chapter into ther rivalry at Wimbledon. I would even venture to suggest that Nadal’s withdrawal is far from being a pivotal or draw-altering.

But while I close my eyes, place fingers in my ears and hum away the blind speculation, others are… not. Namely Uncle Toni who stated that London was the last Nadal’s Olympic opportunity, implying that he will be retired within four years. Not only is writing Nadal off for the next Olympic games as premature as Novak Djokovic when retreating into the shade on a hot day, it’s just, well - to quote Federer - I mean, puh-lease. Are you kidding me?

From The Vault: Jennifer Capriati

Jennifer Capriati. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about this woman? She stands as one of the greatest, most talented and divisive players in a generation bursting at the seams with greatness, talent and controversy. In her wildly scattered 14 years on tour, the American amassed a total of three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic Gold Singles medal, 17 weeks at number one and countless classic victories (and losses) against the greatest players over two separate generations.

It’s tough, however, to pinpoint her single her most memorable moment. Was it her supernova rise up the rankings while barely a teenager? She made her tour debut on the WTA tour in 1990 aged 13 and immediately stormed to the final of two of the first three events before reaching the semis of her first Grand Slam in Paris. A year later she broke into the top ten, and in the following year dispatched of Sanchez-Vicario and Graf - the top two players in the world - to take the Olympic Gold in Barcelona aged 16. Not too shabby.

Of course, there’s also that small issue of the “c” word. We’ve all heard about her famed comeback - the burnout, the shoplifting arrest, the marijuana possession, that mug shot, her resulting lengthy break and the desperate struggle (and initial failure) to regain anything resembling previous form, the reporters who smugly wrote her off. She could have easily allowed herself to swept away into the tsunami-sized wave of burnt out young prodigies. But she didn’t. She persevered, slowly building her way back to the top. After completely falling out of the rankings in 1994 and failing in her initial comeback a year later, she picked up her first Grand Slam win in 5 years at the 1998 Wimbledon. A lowly title and #23 finish followed a year later. A slam semifinal and top 15 finish in 2000. And finally, the fairy tale was completed in 2001 as she eased past second-ranked Davenport and top-ranked Hingis in succession to capture her first slam title in Australia. But you already new that all.

Two of Capriati’s single most memorable moments were her famed epic slam finals. The first at Roland Garros in 2001 when a young Aussie Kim burst into relevance by reaching her first slam final. Despite the young Belgian matching both Capriati’s supreme athleticism and power with ease, there was no panicking to be seen from the reigning Australian Open champion as she was swiftly delivered a shock first set breadstick. Instead, she embraced the challenge, putting her head down and finding her range to level up the match. By the third, both women were in full-slugfest mode with their lightning-fast movement, intricate footwork and spectacular shotmaking simultaneously cancelling each other out and enhancing the other. The third set wore on well into overtime, with Capriati twice serving for the title while a resilient Clijsters pegged the American back each time. But eventually the champion‘s extra grit and mental strength proved the difference between the two and she edged out the title..

Capriati’s third and final slam title would come in Australia the very next year in conditions so difficult that the heat practically radiated through the television set and left Capriati even pissier and more vexated than her, well, usual pissy and vexated self. Hingis raced up a set and break, looking ripe for her sixth slam title. In response, Capriati dug deeper than ever before, first hunting back the break before fighting off multiple match points. Her effort was painfully visible as she collapsed into the linesman chairs between most points, but she refused to succumb, saving yet another match point and spectacularly surviving the second set tiebreak. Before long, the script was flipped on its head as Hingis ditched her trademark overly self-confident and carefree demeanour and retreated back into the shade, panting, exhausted and defeated. The 2002 Australian Open may have proved to be Capriati’s last great victory, but she saved the best til last.

None of this answers the original question, however. Probably because she herself is far more interesting than the titles she collected. She’ll always be remembered as the complex figure she cut - the tennis player whose game was not defined simply by defence or offence, the person who paradoxically stood as the ultimate role model in the art of never giving up, yet was notorious for her vulgar attitude and behaviour. In other words, Jen-Cap will be remembered as Jen-Cap.

Quotable Quotes: Martina Hingis Discusses WTA Depth

Though often a critic of many of the WTA players on tour, when asked about the supposed lack of depth on the WTA during yesterday’s press conference, Martina Hingis’ reaction to the suggestion that there is no depth on the WTA in 2012 was very telling.

Are you serious? Are you kidding? I mean, now with the great matches we see, Lisicki played already against Kuznetsova. That was a great match. Now she plays Sharapova and it was a great match. I don’t know.

First rounds, come on. How about Djokovic killing everyone in the first three rounds or Federer not losing a set, more than three games in a set.

I mean, it’s just sometimes that’s the way it is. If champions are champions, they’re well‑prepared and they’re going to play well from the beginning.

I hear no lies.

Sharapova was actually asked an identical question last week, and it is hilarious that for most of the last three years, the WTA has seen such a myriad of different players of different ages, gamestyles and nationalities breaking through into the later stages of Grand Slams. And yet the one rare time that the semifinal lineup is filled with only Grand Slam Champions and top 5 players, it automatically means that the sport has no depth.

Though they attend the events and act the part, it’s tough to believe that many of the people who ask such questions truly pay much attention the sport they are paid to write on.

Roger Federer and Rod Laver Share Their War Stories On ESPN

It is probably not often that Roger Federer gets starstruck and nervous from merely being in the presence of a person, but judging by the amount of nervous smiling on show from the GOAT, sitting down in the ESPN studio to chat with Rod Laver was one of those rare moments.

Tomas Berdych Feels The Wrath Of A Drunk Australian Crowd

Late in their titanic four-set battle, Tomas Berdych and Nicolas Almagro found themselves in an entertaining exchange which finished with Almagro drilling a ball so hard at his opponent that the seventh-seed ended up in a heap on the ground. The incident was not quickly forgotten by Berdych, and after clinching the match he made his thoughts on Almagro’s body-blow clear by refusing to shake the Spaniard’s hand at the net.

To say the crowd didn’t take kindly to Berdych’s actions would be the understatement of the century.

This whole incident was the epitome of overreacting. Did Almagro need to smash the ball straight at Berdych? Probably not. Should Berdych have shaken Almagro’s hand? Of course. The biggest overreaction, however, came from the clearly intoxicated crowd who put Roland Garros to shame as they booed mercilessly during Berdych’s on-court interview. Even worse still, as he attempted to carry out his Eurosport interview, a man nearby interrupted the interview, repeatedly shouting at Berdych and calling him a “prick”. An appalling overreaction for what was still a relatively minor incident.

Marion Bartoli Discusses Her Exclusion From London Olympics

After spending the last couple of months appealing to the powers-that-be for a reprieve to the FFT’s ruiling that Bartoli would not be participating in the Olympics, it appears that Marion Bartoli finally all but admitted defeat while addressing the issue after yesterdays victory over Jelena Dokic.

“It’s really heartbreaking for me. Honestly I really do feel I have a chance to make a medal over there and especially at Wimbledon, on grass, where I had so much success in the past, and can’t go there just for some stupid reason [...]”

The “stupid reason” Marion is referring to, is one that requires teammates to train together as a (*gasp*) team during the week of the tie. Rather than training with the team, Bartoli has always requested for the rules to be changed in order to allow her father coach her during Fed Cup weeks.

This issue is also one that has actually been previously visited. Back in 2002, then-Fed Cup Captain Billie Jean King made the decision to exclude Jennifer Capriati - her number one player - after she was caught receiving illegal coaching from her notorious father on the evening before the first match.

Capriati learnt her lesson however, and she didn’t ever attempt to challenge the rules afterwards. On the other hand, four years after facing her first Olympic snub in Beijing, Marion is still complaining and refusing to comply with the rules. If she really wanted to represent her country at the Olympic games, then she only has herself to blame.


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