TENNIS.com
Home       About Tom Perrotta       Contact        RSS Categories       Archive
<<  Your Answers Butterfly Feet  >>

Headlights and Shadows 01/27/2009 - 9:06 AM

Good evening from Melbourne, where a heat wave is on the horizon. Temperatures will reach into the 100s the rest of the week and are bound to affect the remaining day matches. (You think Fernando Verdasco wants to play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with the roof closed? I don't.)Federerpotro

Will Serena handle the heat and the volatile Svetlana Kuznetsova? Can Carla Suarez Navarro, the tiny Spaniard who upset Venus Williams, stand her ground against Elena Dementieva's rugged baseline game? Can Gilles Simon, the clever Frenchman, set a trap for Rafael Nadal? We'll learn that and more later today. Until then, here are my observations from Tuesday of week two at the Australian Open.

Big Talent, Bad, Bad Night
Can Juan Martin "Deer in the Headlights" Del Potro become a great player? Many people believe so, and I want to agree with them. Two years ago, when the Argentine had a string of retirements and poor showings, I wondered whether he had the resolve to compete on the game's biggest stages. Last year, the 20-year-old erased many doubts by winning four titles and becoming the youngest man to finish inside the Top 10. The doubts returned last night in Melbourne.

Del Potro played an absolute stinker of a quarterfinal. Yes, Roger Federer was in form--by far and away his best form of the tournament--but it takes two to produce a 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 score in a men's quarterfinal. Federer rattled off the final 13 games of the match as a sulking Del Potro retreated from the challenge.

Del Potro showed poise when he defeated Marin Cilic in the fourth round (he lost the first set before winning the next three). Clearly, though, he wasn't prepared to play Federer under the lights in a major tournament. We'll see over the next few months how much this hurts him.

Federer was fabulous. He drilled forehands, dinked drop volleys, served aces, and generally made the 6-foot-6 Del Potro seem like a boy of 12 years old. I can't help but wonder if Andy Roddick's victory over Novak Djokovic earlier in the day gave Federer an added burst of energy. He likes playing Roddick--they have a good relationship, whereas his rivalry with Djokovic is a bit more strained--and holds a 15-2 record against the American. Right now, the tennis world is just as Federer wants it. The Big Four is no more; instead, Federer and Nadal are on top, and everyone else lags miles behind. Are we on track for our first Federer-Nadal final at a hard court major?

Fast and Fit
Make no mistake, this was Andy Roddick's most important victory at a major tournament in quite some time. Since he won the U.S. Open in 2003, Roddick has played in two Wimbledon finals and one U.S. Open final, losing to Federer on all three occasions. In all those years, though, he has never beaten a Top 5 player at a major.

We all know what people say about the best-laid plans. Well, Roddick and his coach, Larry Stefanki, are not listening. So far, their approach to the Australian Open has been perfect: Lose weight, run fast, withstand the heat, serve big, and watch your opponents wilt.

Djokovic, who retired with cramps early in the fourth set, was at a disadvantage in this match. After his Sunday evening contest against Marcos Baghdatis, Djokovic went to bed at 5:30 a.m. He didn't practice on Monday; he also requested a night match on Tuesday, but the request was denied (not surprising considering Federer's popularity here--he belonged on prime time television). Still, the long night isn't the only reason for Djokovic's loss. He had to adjust to a new racquet and he also started his pre-season preparation a bit late. Djokovic didn't seem quite as fit, or composed, this year as last year. Credit to Roddick for exposing those weaknesses.

Me, Myself, and I
Dinara Safina did it again: She beat her opponent--the remarkable Jelena Dokic--and narrowly escaped defeating herself. Dokic's run to the quarterfinals has been the highlight of the tournament. She has overcome depression, ended her relationship with her temperamental father, and regained the form that once took her to No. 4 in the rankings. Here's hoping her good fortune continues.

If Dokic is the most inspiring woman in the draw, Safina is the most entertaining. One minute, she clubs four deadly winners, launches three aces, and belts a few swinging volleys. The next she smashes a racquet, draws a code violation for foul language, double faults four times in the decisive game of a set, and spikes a ball as hard as she can. How is it that this long, lean, gifted athlete can do no wrong for long stretches and then, at a moment's notice, become incapable of tying her own shoes? I asked Safina if she is her own worst enemy.

"Most of the time it's me against myself playing," she said, smiling. "You know, I play against me, my shadow, myself, everything against me. If one day I will play only against [my] opponent, this will be the perfect day."

Sign of the Apocalypse
I'm not trying to stir up trouble here, but I just can't resist a little speculation. What if Serena Williams falters in the heat, or if Svetlana Kuznetsova plays way over her head on Wednesday afternoon? I don't give Kuznetsova much chance, but if she does win, we might well have four Russians in the semifinals. And not just any four Russians, but Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Kuznetsova, and Vera Zvonareva, who crushed Marion Bartoli on Tuesday. Yes, that's right, these are the four Russians most incapable of winning big matches at majors, the ones most susceptible to dramatic collapses and mind-blowing defeats. Kuznetsova is the only member of the group who has won a major, and she did it with a lot of help from Dementieva, who couldn't cope with the pressure of the U.S. Open final. If it happens, what we lose in quality tennis we'll make up for in fine theater.


80 Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
Previous<< Previous     1 2 3 4     NextNext >>

Posted by Anthony Beckman 01/27/2009 at 04:26 PM

I'm sorry Believer, but your theory is rather off here. This has nothing to do with sportmanship or fitness. Does someone have to die before reasonable restraint is shown at the AO?

The Aussies need to give up their holiday preference - the nerve of not even bothering to curtail the fireworks after insisting on keeping the tournament during this time of year! It's positively ridiculous.

Which is not to say the Djoker isn't just a tiny bit precious... :)

Posted by Beeks 01/27/2009 at 05:00 PM

I don't think anyone discounts the heat. It's nasty for everyone and people handle heat differently. But Djoko gives up at Wimbledon, Paris, Monte Carlo, you name it. And even that would be forgiven if he was not so darn cocky. All players at some point in their careers suffer injuries, exhaustion, etc. and they are generally sympathetic about each other's problems. It's rather telling that other players on the tour either pull his leg about it (Roddick at the US Open) or honestly comment on it when asked (Federer, albeit diplomatically, last night). It's also telling that the other people who had to quit their matches yesterday due to illness or injury did not face the same scrutiny.

Posted by M. 01/27/2009 at 05:06 PM

I'm so tired of hearing excuses for Djokovic. He quit. And if you take the top 4 players, I'd be willing to bet that between them in the future Djokovic will be the one that quits a match first.

Posted by Kayla 01/27/2009 at 05:37 PM

Having watched the quarterfinal matches with Djokovic & Roddick, Federer & Del Potro I've got to say a few things. First and foremost the temperatures on the court were 61c at one point during the Djokovic and Roddick match"

that temperature of 61 celsius is in dispute. Frankly that's about 140 degrees fahrenheit! If it was THAT hot, people WOULD have died, and Andy Roddick wouldn't have looked so peppy out there. It's been printed that the true outdoor temperature was in the high nineties, and the court temperature should have been about ten degrees higher than that, so about 108 degrees, not 140! People can't even sit in a room that is 140 degrees let alone play tennis in it. I read that the thermometer people were seeing on ESPN was not showing the actual temperature,something about it not being insulated from the sun, etc and showing a distorted reading.

Posted by TennisFreak 01/27/2009 at 05:41 PM

A defending champion does not quit....ever! Shame on Djokovic for giving up his crown...I would rather lose on my feet do surrender in shame! Federer would have blasted him! Hope to see a better semi-final and final with Federer on top!

Posted by Betsy 01/27/2009 at 05:44 PM

Novak is a professional and should train for everything in a major. He was there for a few weeks before...he is soft and quits when it gets tough! Andy Roddick was also in the heat...no excuses....he has a happen of quitting! Check his history!

Posted by Nick 01/27/2009 at 05:47 PM

My bet is on nadal for all four grand slams. I said it last yeah nadal was going to be number #1 and I'm never wrong. Nadal has games. Fed seem to be old lol ...He was good last night tho lol wait he beat that kid 3 times already..I don't know fed is like a hit and miss. Nadal is the man. I doubt fed will win, roddick is going to make him tap out. Nadal on the other hand is going to win, my bet is on him..I can't trust fed anymore.

Nadal:
Speed
Power
Ability
Durability


Fed:
Ability
Durability


You make the call lol. No doubt nadal is going to win.

Posted by Adarsh Salian 01/27/2009 at 06:03 PM

i hate how people are making som many excuses for why novak lost the match. he lost, and thats it. he had to take tkae control of the things that he had power over, and he didn't so he lost. Roddick was the better player in that match, so he won.

Posted by lol Nadal Federer Djokovic Murray 01/27/2009 at 06:12 PM

The last year with upcoming Nadal and Djokovic challenging Federer (that succeeded in changing of the rank to "Who will be No.1?") were grand and exceptional events to watch. Clearly Nadal improved his game ranking him as No.1. A young Djokovic brought strength and power to the courts and players consciously began applying these disciplines and a new Murray appears in the mix. Without these players the matches would be ordinary so I salute them for their devotion/contribution to the game of tennis. Best to the field and the players who keep raising the bar!
Federer a disappointment with his comments related to this incident should retract them immediately and show his professional traits rather than covering over his fear of becoming second by hurling uncalled insults directed at the justifiable misfortune of a peer. tsk tsk
As for wanabee Roddick the pictures reveal the stare of the need to distroy instead of the need to improve and win on the courts. McEnroe and company need to quite this subject immediately for they sound like a bunch of hags. Haven't they learned you can't tote talent no matter how well he serves and how much weight he lost. In the States I find the need to watch tennis muted!!
An "A" Player defending his title who played to 5am in a second challanging match (two of the best matches of AO for the fans)
requested a pm slot that was rejected, the overhead of stadium not close, abnormal temperatures but the organizers of this event could not accommodate this player. Hogwash! The Romans had more compassion for the gladiators! It reads as an intentional setting for defeat!!!!
What a calamity!
My best regards to Nole and family as they weather (sorry for the pun) another bashing from the media, players and some fans of the game of tennis.

Posted by 01/27/2009 at 06:41 PM

>>An "A" Player defending his title who played to 5am in a second challanging match (two of the best matches of AO for the fans)
requested a pm slot that was rejected, the overhead of stadium not close, abnormal temperatures but the organizers of this event could not accommodate this player.

Puh-leeze, Mama Djokovic, why the sense of victimhood and entitlement? Here in Melbourne and at the US Open, plenty of champions have had to rebound after a late-night match to play an afternoon match two days later. Does your precious Nole want to be a warrior or a whiny little boy? This tired refrain of "it's the tournament organizers' fault" is the province of fools and one-slam wonders.

Posted by AndrewD 01/27/2009 at 06:47 PM

TOM,

I've said it before and I'll say it again (and I'll keep saying it until someone involved with the men's game can provide a sane excuse)- the two majors played in the most difficult conditions are the Australian Open and the US Open. However, they are played on courts which are only medium-pace and with balls that are specifically designed to blunt the player's power. Due to those constraints, players do not have the opportunity to employ a style which shortens points (a more valid reason for the death of serve-volley tennis than the racquets and strings). The longer the players are forced to be on court the greater the risk of distress (illness or injury).

Common sense dictates that those two events (the Aus Open and US Open) should be played on faster surfaces and with balls that are not so 'dead' than the French Open and Wimbledon where the weather is not so oppressive and the natural surface is kinder to the body. In adverse conditions players should be allowed to employ a game style which shortens points and, therefore, conserves energy. However, with the slowing of court surfaces and the utilisation of slower tennis balls, players are not given that option.

The very simple answer is to increase the speed of the courts and the balls at both the Australian Open and the US Open. Give the players the chance, if they want it, to pull the trigger earlier in a rally or attack the net - any attacking move which could allow them to shorten points. I am absolutely certain it would be attractive to viewers and far more so than the current baseline bashing or grinding which, I believe, has turned people away from the game.


***Can I also add - at both the US Open (where the heat is considerably more brutal due to the added humidity )and Aus Open I've seen Pete play through heartbreak and illness, I've seen Ivan, Boris, Mats, Pat, Andre, Steffi, Monica (never the greatest physical specimen), Venus, Serena and Lindsay play through far more intense heat. Novak quit because he didn't want to be handed a beating. Using the conditions and scheduling as an excuse is deplorable but, sadly, does seem to be part and parcel of his MO.*****

Posted by Nick 01/27/2009 at 06:48 PM

Djokovi has speed but no heart. Murray is not even on nadal or fed level. Honest, murray doesn't have the mental that nadal has. Sure murray has power... I think that kid is on steroid, sound funny but he has that roid-rage going on everytime he's on court. I wouldn't be shock if he's on it.

Posted by Jack The Man 01/27/2009 at 07:06 PM

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is so overrated. I hope he get knockout.

Rafe nadal is one of the reason to watch tennis now days. He got the look and the skill to back his claim up. Number one , need I say more?

Federer is boring as hell..I swear I'm going to fall asleep as soon as he get on court. I can't stand that guy ..What the hell is up with his bad hair cut? He got lucky in his five setter win. Without the sun I give you my word he would be out. Luck is the keyword.

He call himself a gentleman? A gentleman not letting the women play first at night? How selfish this guy is? Federer your a disappointment.


Posted by Nick 01/27/2009 at 07:11 PM

Amen.

Posted by Lynne Danley 01/27/2009 at 07:16 PM

You can bet your sweet bippy that Djokovic would not have retired if he had been winning the match against Roddick, or if he thought he had a good chance to win it. He only retires when someone is beating him. In the meantime, he whines, cries, gasps, retches, doubles over, breaks the 20 second rule by 30 more seconds, and calls the trainer for everything he can think of in order to break his opponent's rhythm and momentum. If he wins, he puts on a display like that disgusting "legs, head, heart" gesture he gave when he played against Tommy Robredo (who really did play his heart out and did not deserve such disrespect). What did that little bit of drama say? "See, I'm so good that even when I'm on my last legs I can beat you anyway because I have more fitness, courage and brains than you do." He's the best and most heroic man in the game in his own mind. He is a petty, whiny, mean-spirited little punk and I'm sick of his gamesmanship, his game delays and his obnoxious parents. Well, Federer is back and Nadal is better than ever. Murray may have been defeated in the AO but he is a better, more talented player than Djokovic and will soon pass him in the ratings. Novak hates being called "the Djoker" and wants to be loved and adored like Federer is? Hah! Then he should try to develop an ounce of Federer's class, honesty, kindness and true love for the game and those who play it. Nadal, too, is a modest and respectiful kid. It was hot for everyone at the AO, and no one has carried on like the Djoker did. Good riddance to him!

Posted by Mayes 01/27/2009 at 07:58 PM


Well said, Lynne Danley. Though a little bit mean, it does point right to the root of the series of Djokovic retirements: he just craves for psychological advantages/illusions for himself. Being a psychology graduate student myself, I cannot help but to clearly see that deep inside, he does not want to acknowledge defeat in any way. He retires so he can later tell himself that he succumbs to the conditions/illness/injury rather than his better opponents. He has only himself to fool (and some of his silly fans, I pity you though).
Well, he's not the only person in the world with this kind of mentality, I've seen plenty along my years of experience. Always thinking that he/she is the best, disregarding any evidence that says otherwise and trying to twist the evidences so that they can fool themselves. I don't think they even deserve the dislike from other people - that will only make them feel more self-important. I only symphasize those poor tennis fans who have been fooled by this Djoker.

Posted by Fot 01/27/2009 at 08:19 PM

Just 2 things that stands out for me (well, 3)

1. Federer has made 19 consecutive grand slam SFs! 19!!!! Even if you think he's boring or whatever, that is a record that just can't be ignored.

2. Djokovic has NEVER defended a title! That is just weird. When he wins a title one year, he hever defends it the next!

3. Roddick is doing well, but history shows that Roddick usually does well with a new coach (for a little while, anyway)...then the 'new-ness' tends to die down later. But he is playing better at this tournament - so far.

Posted by Tony 01/27/2009 at 08:26 PM

"Del Potro played an absolute stinker of a quarterfinal. Yes, Roger Federer was in form--by far and away his best form of the tournament--but it takes two to produce a 6-3, 6-0, 6-0 score in a men's quarterfinal. Federer rattled off the final 13 games of the match as a sulking Del Potro retreated from the challenge."

You hit the proverbial nail on the head, dead center, Steve. It takes two to tango and I must say del Potro was absolutely horrible. Federer played celestially, but one can't help thinking that this was because del Potro did not have the game to bring him down to earth or even induce vertigo in hell. Del Potro had no plan B; there is something missing between his ears I think, when it comes to playing Roger strategically and tactically. He did not even try anything new or different to offset Federer's rhythm of play. One is of course glad to see Roger climbing the heights of his talent again, but I wonder whether a different player could have given Federer fits, planting doubts in his mind, and shaking his body this way and that way.

Posted by Almond49 01/27/2009 at 08:36 PM

Nole is NOT a faker. The heat was unbearable. He could have died on the court.

Posted by ndk 01/27/2009 at 08:50 PM

I don't think Fed warmed up to Nadal immediately- I think one has to "prove themselves" in Fed's eyes- I thought it was ludicrous that Murray was the "favorite" considering he is the one of the four never to have won a Slam..

Regarding Djokovic, I think he truly was hurting (I am not a huge fan of his, but did feel that he was truly wilting).. As far as the disadvantage of when his match finished, let's not forget that Hewitt's match finished later than Novak's in 2008.. AND Novak benefitted from that as his opponent.

Posted by tina (double-posting amnesty, please) 01/27/2009 at 08:50 PM

What I'm still sincerely trying to figure out is why they have that roof on Rod Laver at all? Didn't they put it on after they already changed from Rebound Ace, which used to literally melt, resulting in a lot of twisted ankles? When the on-court thermometer shows 61 degrees, wouldn't that be a good time to use the roof? Now that Wimbledon is adding a roof, will they also choose not to use it, just so everyone can suffer through the rain delays, like always?

And it's a bit of a stretch to compare it to Henin's retirement against Mauresmo - that was the championship match, for starters. And the timing was far worse.

Don't pity me, Mayes. (talk about self-important...)

Posted by tina (double-posting amnesty, please) 01/27/2009 at 08:50 PM

What I'm still sincerely trying to figure out is why they have that roof on Rod Laver at all? Didn't they put it on after they already changed from Rebound Ace, which used to literally melt, resulting in a lot of twisted ankles? When the on-court thermometer shows 61 degrees, wouldn't that be a good time to use the roof? Now that Wimbledon is adding a roof, will they also choose not to use it, just so everyone can suffer through the rain delays, like always?

And it's a bit of a stretch to compare it to Henin's retirement against Mauresmo - that was the championship match, for starters. And the timing was far worse.

Don't pity me, Mayes. (talk about self-important...)

Posted by Nick 01/27/2009 at 09:02 PM

Gilles Simon is going to get beat hands down tonight. Nadal is 100%. Unlike last year nadal is moving better than ever...Oh yeah I hate nadal new t-shirt look.

I agreed they should use the roof more often...But then again I would rather see the players give it 100% no matter what.

Posted by sallym 01/27/2009 at 09:14 PM

If I hear one more thing about Djoko's retirement..I swear...

Now, I'm not a huge Djokovic fan. In fact, most times I can't stand him because he's so arrogant. But I saw that match, and Djoko was clearly not well. He's a perfectly capable player, but sometimes you can't help the way your body functions in the heat -- or in the cold. Cut the guy a break! The ESPN commentators have said that DJ trains in the COLD in Monte Carlo, whereas Roddick trained in Las Vegas. Slight difference in temperature, no?

Two bones to pick:

STOP RULING FEDERER OUT. At this point, it's impossible to call. Nadal and Federer are playing ridiculous tennis at the moment, so it could be between them. Or who knows...maybe Roddick and Simon may be able to do some giant killing. With this sport you never know what will happen, so I wish that people would stop trying to predict the future based on past results. It's like Geometry -- you're using inductive proofs which are NOT reliable.

Though, as an avid, yet unbiased FedHead -- it's been said before, and I'll say it again: WRITE OFF FEDERER AT YOUR PERIL.

One more bone to pick:

Sports "band-wagonists". Especially in the case of Federer. If their player is winning all the time, they're happy. If not, they sway. Being a fan means taking the good with the bad, I mean...you win some, you lose some. I find that the ESPN & the British commentators are some of the worst.

So yeah, that was my two cents. Looking forward to an interesting Simon - Nadal match this morning. :)

Posted by Wayno 01/27/2009 at 09:25 PM

Tina the roof has been on Rod Laver since it was built 20 years ago and it is used when it gets extremely hot-there has been at least 2 women's finals played under the roof in the past couple of years. Yesterday was no where near getting to 61 on the court, he is just a prima donna who can not hack it. I mean come on it was no surprise that it would actually be hot in January in Australia he should have been training his arse off to be ready instead of staying around in Europe for so long! As someone yelled at Safin the other day 'Suck it up Princess' and stop following in the foot steps of the other Serbian drama queen Janokivic.

Previous<< Previous     1 2 3 4     NextNext >>

We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Your Answers Butterfly Feet  >>




Showtime
High Stakes
Wide Ball
Old Times
The Yips
Forehand Madness
This blog currently has 98 entries and 4639 comments.