Ridin’ With Gilles Simon

Is he not amazing? His deceptively smart and cunning game, for many tennis fans, pales in comparison to the likes of Monfils, Tsonga and Gasquet, but in interviews I feel he’s more entertaining than all of them. He just always seems like such a chilled and happy guy, and even when the most monotonously boring question is asked, regardless of the language, he’ll manage to make a joke out of the answer and get a laugh out of whoever is present.

That said, picking Rafa as the champion so quickly, even after that nightmare first round? You crazy.

Posted in Gilles Simon, Rafael Nadal | 1 Comment

Quotable Quotes: Wozniak Tells The Truth About Wozniacki

Yesterday, in her match against Aleks Wozniak, we watched as Caroline Wozniacki pulled the mother of all tantrums while down 3-6 in the second set tiebreak. She argued (or rather shouted) that Wozniak had purposely circled the wrong mark, gesturing over to her opponent and yelling towards her from the net. It got to the point where the camera panned on papa Piotr who, for lack of a better word, was repeatedly telling her to shut the hell up and get on with the match. It was clear that, from far behind the baseline, her own view was obstructed by Wozniak, who was standing right between her and the mark. This prompted many watching to believe that her antics were nothing more than petty gamesmanship. Wozniak agreed;

“The No. 1 players in the world play games some times,

“It’s obvious that for her it was to try to distract me or whatever. There are all kinds of tricks that the players use to take more time, maybe to get their concentration back again.”

Needless to say, Wozniak should not have let the situation bother her. But she did, squandering all three set points with poor errors, before playing one of the most hilariously awful points in history on Wozniacki’s match point. However, the fact that Wozniacki felt the need to resort to such dirty tactics in the first round of a slam, against the world number 160-something, also widely known to be her friend, speaks volumes.

(via Love Means Nothing)

Posted in Caroline Wozniacki, French Open | Leave a comment

Quotable Quotes: Courage.

We all heard the sad news that Virginie Razzano’s fiancée and coach, Stephane Vidal, passed away a week ago, telling her in his last days to go ahead and participate in the French Open. With a heavy heart, she did play, losing in her first round on Chatrier 6-3 6-1 to Jarmila Gajdosova. She said afterwards;

“I felt a lot of emotion, a lot of pain on court today,” Razzano said. “The pain is permanent within me. It’s very hard. But it felt good to be surrounded by so many people and to be here.

“I tried to pay tribute to Stephane today. It was almost a ‘mission impossible,’ but I did my best.”

It took an incredible of courage for her to honour Vidal’s wishes and play in Roland Garros. Hopefully now she can go back home and grieve in peace.

Posted in French Open, Virginie Razzano | Leave a comment

Ernests Gulbis Is An Idiot, But You Already Knew That.

Over the years, Ernests Gulbis has come to be widely associated with and often compared to Marat Safin. I get it, I really do. They’re both lazy, laid back free spirited under-achievers with great talent. When you look at their games, the similarities between the two are even more prominent. However, the comparison is simultaneously so, so wrong.

There is no doubt that Marat Safin ticked all the aformentioned boxes. But he will be remembered just as much for his looks, charisma and craziness as he will be for the fact that there were numerous times when he did bring discipline and seriousness to his game, and when he did it was quite simply un-freaking-believable. Anyone who managed to see either his US Open final demolition of Pete Sampras or the unbelievable 5-setter epic vs Federer in Australia knows exactly what I’m talking about. Some say that though he finished his career with 14 slams less than Federer and 12 less than Pete Sampras, at his best he reached a level far higher than both players. I don’t disagree.

On the other hand, here we have Mr Ernests Gulbis. Again, they certainly share similar characteristics, but while Marat still went on to achieve great things, Gulbis is about as relevant to the ATP tour as a clown is to a Shakespearean tragedy. Yesterday he reaffirmed that embarassing irrelevance by falling in straights sets to Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic in the first round of Roland Garros. And the stats speak for themselves; that loss meaning that he has lost 6 straight Grand Slam first round matches. Six. His last win at Grand Slam dates all the way back to Wimbledon.

One thing that really annoys and frustrates me about him is that he really seems to take pride in this “bad boy” persona and the Safin comparisons. In an interview to the Independent earlier this year, he came across as almost boastful about his lifestyle, speaking about his celebrations and partying after losing to Nadal on a couple of occasions, he said;

“We arrived in Riga at one o’clock in the morning and we went straight to a nightclub. I can’t remember how late we stayed. I met some friends. Then afterwards I went back with them to my apartment.”
“[I] went back to Latvia and had the best week of my life. Obviously it didn’t do my tennis much good, but I had fun”

He may still be only 22 years old, and the vast majority of 22 year olds do love to party, but the time will soon come when he’ll have to decide whether he wants to simply remain an insignificant little comic device in the large soap opera of professional tennis, or if he wants to dedicate himself fully to tennis and maximize his shining potential. As a fan of both him and his game, I really hope and pray he chooses the latter.

Posted in Ernests Gulbis, French Open | 1 Comment

It’s Tati Time!

Tatiana Golovin is once again down in Paris to do her thing for French Television during Roland Garros, and on day once of Roland Garros she simply picked up from where she left off last year. She managed to flirt with Novak Djokovic, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and co-presenter Laurent Luyat, she repeated on national TV a private conversation between her and Jelena Jankovic, in which JJ moaned about feeling old and not enjoying tennis anymore, and then she topped it all off by throwing some massive shade in the direction of her long-time enemy and rival Marion Bartoli, implying that she believed Bartoli’s injury that forced her to withdraw from the Strasbourg final last week was fabricated.

I’d say that we’re in for an action-packed fortnight. And I’m not talking about tennis.

Oh, and also, DEM LEGS!

Posted in French Open, Tatiana Golovin Spam | Leave a comment

Roland Garros Day 1: Balls, Balls and More Balls.

With the tennis not exactly setting the world alight on Sunday, day one of Roland Garros was ruled by talk of balls. That’s tennis balls.

Just a week before the tournament, the Roland Garros officials made the decision to switch from the dunlop tennis balls usually used to new Babolat balls. The Babolats are said to be much firmer than the oldies, flying through the air quicker and favouring more powerful players.

Not that he ever is, but Muzz wasn’t very happy about the change.

“I practised with it in London before I came over here. I don’t mind the ball but I would just rather we played with the same ball throughout the clay-court stretch and the same throughout the hard-court stretch.” He said

“It happens in the States as well. At the US Open they play with Wilson, and at the hard-court events in the build-up they use Penn. I just think for the players’ joints, your wrist, elbow and shoulder, it makes sense to stick with the same ball.”

And nor was Novak, to be honest;

“The courts are dry and therefore there’s more speed,” he said. “That’s why, even if the balls’ specs are similar to last year, the sensation could be quite different.”

“very, very fast, so it’s really difficult to control. Maybe it’s going to favor the servers and the big hitters.”

Hilariously, of all the tennis players currently in Paris, the voice of reason came from one Jelena Jankovic after her 6-1 6-3 victory over Alona Bondarenko.

“It tends to take off and really move around. That’s the biggest difference actually,” she said. “You just have to get used to it. It’s different to the other balls which are a little bit heavier and stick to the racquet a little bit more.”

Hell has truly frozen over.

Posted in Andy Murray, French Open, Jelena Jankovic, Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros | Leave a comment

Nicolas Almagro Mops Up in Nice

Nicolas Almagro scraped past Victor Hanescu 6-7(5) 6-3 6-3 in Nice to pick up his third title of the year and tenth of his career.

He stormed through the South American claycourt season earlier this year, blew out in the big European events and now is back to winning ways in Nice. If that isn’t the definition of the clay court specialist, then I don’t know what is.

Still, it has been a very good year for Nicolas Almagro thus far, and he has been rewarded with a generous draw at Roland Garros with an injured Melzer and unconvincing Murray the biggest names in his section. In other words, if he is to ever have a big run at a Grand Slam, it will be sometime over the next two weeks.

Posted in Nicolas Almagro, Other ATP Events | Leave a comment

Martina Hingis Endorses Maria Sharapova Ahead of The French Open

As the second Grand Slam of the year fast approaches, an article in the Daily Telegraph has surfaced, with two-time finalist Martina Hingis assessing the women’s field and giving her prediction of this year’s French Open Champion. Of all the possible winners in with a chance, the five-time Grand Slam champion picked Maria Sharapova as the player most likely to go all the way this year. She wrote;

“Sharapova is undoubtedly a great competitor, so strong in the mind, and that is often key in Paris, as it is the most mentally draining of the grand slam tournaments. When Sharapova is playing well, she just never lets go. I suppose that could be seen as being mean on the court, but I have always viewed it as professionalism.

“Winning matches and titles tends to be even more satisfying after returning from an injury, than it was before, as you have had to deal with so many obstacles to get back to where you were.

There is no real reason, though, why Sharapova, whose victory in the Italian Open in Rome came against last year’s French Open runner-up Sam Stosur, cannot also win this year’s title at Roland Garros.

The key with Sharapova has always been whether she stays healthy or not. She is still young, just 24, so she has many more years left in her if she can avoid injury, and her shoulder is OK.

Every girl finds one tournament where she immediately feels comfortable and I am sure Schiavone will be at home again in Paris when she walks on court to start the defence of her title. However I think this just might be Sharapova’s year.”

I, for one, won’t be disagreeing with you, Chucky.

( Full Article)

Posted in French Open, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis | Leave a comment

French Open 2011: Dissecting The Women’s Draw

Four times every year, tennis fans around the world are forced together as they deperately await news on those dreaded Grand Slam draws. Sometimes, the pain comes all as once as we are given real-time visuals of the draws as they unfold before our eyes, and other times the tournaments seemingly take a sadistic pleasure in toying with our emotions, leaking out the draw drip by drip and line by line. However, regardless of when, where or how long it takes for the draws to be released, the reactions are always the same; from the great big sigh of relief when the news is positive, to the indignant Soderling-esque fistshaking at the computers screen, accompanied by the obligatory cursing of the imaginary ‘Tennis Gods’ when all hell breaks loose.

It was exactly the same today as the French Open draws was conducted, and we were finally given an idea of what the next fortnight will hold. This time last year, I almost fell into post-traumatic stress disorder as we all learnt shocking truth that Serena, Maria and Justine had all been cruelly shoved into a tiny little quarter of death, while acres of space were left open in practically every part of the draw. Thankfully, that isn’t the case this year.

The biggest talking point for the women since the start of the clay season has been the fact that, following Justine Henin’s retirement in January and the eerie absence of the Williams Sisters, it really is one of the most open French Opens in decades. Back when Justine first retired, all eyes immediately shifted onto Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic who looked set to take the helm, and they did, meeting in the semi-finals and contesting a brilliant (and oh-so-dramatic) de-facto final in the semis, with Ivanovic scraping through into the final before cruising to the first Grand Slam of her career. But 2008 was a long time ago, and along with most other active players with strong clay credentials, both sadly come into Roland Garros in poor form and zero confidence.

Naturally, the clay season has seen a number of new contenders emerge, with Julia Goerges finally coming of age by capturing her first big title in Stuttgart and then storming to her first Tier I (yes, we’re still calling it that over ‘ere) semi-final in Madrid, dispatching world number one-niacki twice en-route. Then we saw the ever-inconsistent Petra Kvitova blast through the field to capture the Madrid title, beating up on the tour’s in-form player Victoria Azarenka in the final. And then finally, Maria Sharapova, the Queen of clay, dusted off, polished and majestically placed her crown back onto her head as she stepped back into the limelight and announced herself as a huge contender for the French Open by winning her first ever big clay title in Rome.

What I love about this draw is that, for once, all the main contenders have managed to stay well away from each other. There’s no nightmare second round match between two big favourites that make us want to collectively jump off buildings and smash our head through walls. Instead, it’s all nicely spaced out and balanced with so many different possibilities.

In the top half, all eyes will be on Miss Karolina, Goerges, Stosur, Zvonareva, Junkovic and defending champ Schiavone, It really is there for the taking, and I have a sneaky suspicion that, with the respective forms of all involved, the winner of the projected quarterfinal between Goerges and Stosur could well go all the way to the final. As for the second quarter, just about a million questions are begging to be answered. I can see Vera continuing her stellar form in the slams and making the semis, but in addition to her racket problems and confidence issue, there’s also that gigantic elephant in the room regarding her current coaching situation and “the Karen guy” in her box. The Empress could undoubtedly also surprise us all by finding some form here and making the semis, but then again she seems to really be suffering from a crisis of confidence and there are clearly some issues that need to be addressed in both her psyche and game, so who knows? And, of course, we all watched in awe and shock last year as Francesca stormed to the title, incredibly playing the best match of her career to lift the French Open trophy. She caught the holy ghost last year, and though she has been in poor form so far in this claycourt season, she could certainly do it again this time ’round.

The second half is a similar, yet completely different affair. Just like the first half, there seems to be a similar number and spread of contenders for the title, but the main consensus seems to be that the 2011 French Open champion will come from the bottom half. And I have to agree.

Everyone has been going cuckoo over Petra Kvitova recently. Some still think she’s just an erratic ballbasher, while others believe she is the real deal. I’m inclined to think that she is, well, the erratic real deal. There’s no doubt that her game is taylor-made for the grass, and that the 2011 Championships will be incredibly important and could be immeasurably fruitful for the young Czech, but regardless of how clumsy her movement is on the clay, she is just such a naturally brilliant and clean ballstriker that she’ll always be in with a chance, wherever she goes. She has landed in the same quarter as Victoria Azarenka and the question question on everyone’s lips is whether she can get past Vika. I don’t think that’s a valid question. Just as at Wimbledon last year, in the Madrid final we watched as Petra, who wasn’t even playing very well, exposed Vika’s flaws for the world to see - highlighting the fact that though Vika is relentlessly aggressive ball-after-ball, both the speed and weight of her shots and her movement are distinctly average. The gulf between the pace of their shots was unbelievable, and Azarenka, both unable to go toe-to-toe with Kvitova’s pace and unable to effectively defend against it, was forced to stand in the middle of the court, helplessly watching both the winners and errors fly by. So if Kvitova is playing well enough to reach the quarterfinals without too much erratic play to lesser opponents, she will most likely beat Azarenka. But that’s a big ‘if’, as far as I’m concerned. If not, Azarenka will likely move through to her first slam semifinal unless her body falls apart or Ivanovic, who has been placed in her section, finds some form (and, again, if Ana plays well enough to reach the fourth round without too many problems, it’s certainly a possibility).

And that leaves the final quarter. The quarter that is home to, by a country mile, the two most successful players in the draw. The titans. I’ve rambled on for so long in the hope that I’d have something to say when I finally reached this quarter - you know, the one that really matters. But I just don’t have anything to say. All I know is that Rome was brilliant from Maria. Even when she reached the semis and final of Indian Wells and Miami this year, I was so unconvinced of her game and form, but in Rome something just seemed to click. The the fluidity in her strokes and confidence in her technique that I have been near-obsessing over for the past year finally seems to be back with a vengeance. Naturally, the Sharapova hype train has come flying back into business and many believe that it really will be the year she takes the French Open and closes out the Career Grand Slam. She certainly has a great draw to reach the quarters, but with Kim, there’s just no telling how she will play. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

But that’s enough from me. What about the rest of you; who do you all think will be the Roland Garros Champion once the dust has settled?

Posted in Caroline Wozniacki, Francesca Schiavone, French Open, Jelena Jankovic, Julia Goerges, Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Sam Stosur, Vera Zvonareva, Victoria Azarenka | 2 Comments

The Queen of Clay Graces The Red Dirt Once Again

The ‘Cow On Ice Watch’, AKA the most highly-anticipated period of each and every tennis year kicked off today as Maria Sharapova, the most successful active claycourt player in the world, moved into the second round of Madrid with a 2-6 6-3 6-2.

It was a typically rough start for the Queen (OC), but to her credit, she recovered and seemingly eased into the second round without too many problems after the initial hiccup. The main thing is that she got that big ‘W’; after all, we can’t expect her to just ease back into her old majestic self - serving and volleying like old and hitting stunning dropshots from every part of the court. Even for someone as natually gifted as Sharapova is on the red stuff, it takes a lot more practice and matchplay than that. And I’m sure she’s saving all the fancy stuff for when she graces our TV screens with her majestic presence.

But if one thing is for for sure, it’s that it will come, so buckle up, kids.

Posted in Cow On Ice Watch, Madrid, Maria Sharapova | 4 Comments