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Your Call, 2.10 02/10/2009 - 1:17 PM

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by Pete Bodo

Hey, how about that call on the USA squeezing out a Fed Cup win? You know, it was hardly on the media radar, and in the grand scheme of tennis things, it probably isn't destined to be what they call a "historic moment" when compared to, oh, Spain's upset of Argentina in the 2008 Davis Cup final, but I guarantee you this: these American girls who turned back Argentina over the weekend are ecstatic, and none more so than Melanie Oudin. After all, she provided WTA staple Gisela Dulko with some pretty firm opposition in the first match, only to lose. Then, in her second match, she endured a 2-6 nightmare of an opening set only to claw her way back into the match and win in three. The comeback win ensured that the tie would go the distance, decided by the final match - the doubles.

Pause a moment to appreciate this: Jill Craybas got the USA off to a good start by hammering Jozami, two-and-one. Oudin then had to play Dulko, with pretty much nothing to lose. Dulko is no. 44 in the world; Oudin no 147. Dulko was playing an underdog to try to keep Argentina's chances alive in the tie, while Oudin could swing from the heels, knowing the USA had a match in hand. If it was a high-stress situation, but only for Dulko. But within 24 hours, it was a different story indeed.

Dulko handled Craybas with ease in the third singles of the tie, so Oudin had to meet Jozami with the US on the brink of elimination. Okay, on paper Jozami had to be the nominal favorite; after all, at no. 134, she was ranked 13 places above Oudin. But the reality on the ground was that Oudin was looking at a winnable match, against an equal, with her team's survival on the line.

The funny thing about "pressure" is that it's something felt equally by all players. The degree of pressure that a David Nalbandian faces upon meeting a Fernando Verdasco, or Nikolay Davydenko encounters when he squares off against James Blake, is no different in intensity or substance than what Oudin must have felt before playing Jozami. You don't feel less or more pressure depending on your status, unless it's notably higher or lower than that of your opponent, or some extraneous factor comes into play. And let's face it, one of the reasons top players are ranked where they are is because of their superior ability to handle pressure - not because there is any more or less of it. Pressure is all about the conditions, and the degree of pressure is created by a potentially volatile mixture of temperament, the match-up, and whatever vibe is in play - in this case, the whole cluster of issues that arise from an international, team competition.

And on that playing field, it's pretty easy to forget that when it comes to any competitive athlete, there's a point where it doesn't matter who is - or isn't - watching. It isn't about the hype, and it isn't about the press. It isn't about the endorsements, and it's not about size of the trophy. It's about you, the team, (vaguely) the nation you represent and, in a small way, about the record books. You go into the books as someone who pulled your team and nation through a tough but winnable tie, and it's. . . sweet. Oh, so sweet! And at some level that we fans and pundits easily ignore because we're so focused on Roger and Wimbledon, Serena and the Masters Series, Rafa and the Davis Cup final, this matters in a way we can understand, but rarely sit back and appreciate.

But this, in a nutshell, is also why people like Melanie Oudin (and Betina Jozami, for surely there will come a time when the shoe is on the other foot) continue to play this game, despite triple-digit rankings, and it's the moments like these when the differences between them and Serena and Ana and Maria are, well, irrelevant. The truth of the matter is that a Wimbledon final is played a few thousand times each year on the tour, on clay, indoors or out, by individuals destined never to decorate the cover of Tennis magazine. Every once in a while, conditions congeal to create a special moment of importance - a break from but also a payoff for all those hours of frustration, tedium, matches whose significance, win or lose, is pretty hard for anyone - including the person experiencing it - to fathom.

But there's also this: Players exist to be found by moments like the one that located Oudin on Sunday, and such moments will enable them to look back on their careers one day and allow them to feel satisfied, to say something like: Yeah, it was tough, I always felt the blow of a setback like a slap in the face, and I know the sting of defeat. But it was worth every hour and ounce of effort I put into it.

So let's share Melanie's moment here, and also acknowledge first-time Fed Cupper, Julie Ditty, who joined with reliable Liezel Huber to clinch the match with a fine performance against Dulko and Jozami in the doubles. Happy 30th birthday, Julie! Here's to hoping it was, indeed, worth the wait.

Any further questions on this, just address them to the ultimate Fed Cup warrior, Flavia Pennetta. But she's a story for a different time. Enjoy the tennis, everyone. I am working on a red-meat coaching post, which I may or may not get done today. Stay tuned, enjoy the tennis and leave your always insightful comments below.


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Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 10:41 AM

Oh please, tennis gods, can we have this Amelie back full time? Not the other one, this one.

Thanks Syd, I don't really know where that came from.

Posted by lira vega 02/11/2009 at 10:41 AM

Eugene, find a proper coach, please.
And you might wanna convert a BP here or there, too.

Amelie's really looking good today, I expected this to be much closer.

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 10:41 AM

Alex...I know..Rafa and Andy look cute all bundled up :) although Andy actually has shorts on-tough guy!

Annie-yah-he looked a tad annoyed with that reporter...I also hated to see him get mobbed at the airport when he arrived home (time to charter a private plane?) I can't imagine how that must be but, he does make a living playing tennis so I guess there are trade offs!

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 10:41 AM

Did you guys saw the vid of Rafa hitting with wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer? for those who hadn't see it here is the link, this woman is amazing.

http://tinyurl.com/bxycaz

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 10:41 AM

Whatever happened Fyrstenberg ?

No excuses for losing this one, Leander.
None.

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 10:43 AM

God, I hate pagination. It just jumps to a new page, pffff.

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 10:44 AM

I saw that Stella...did you see her 360s? Amazing. She would kick my ass, for sure. I like how they ask Rafa if he is going to play in a wheelchair and he says "too deefeecult". :)

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 10:44 AM

What about Frsytenberg GH?

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:45 AM

Nancy, I always liked Blake, don't know why, it seems like a guy I would like to have a beer with. And, of course, I like his game.

I also enjoy watching A-Rod play, maybe more for his frequently "chats" with umpires... ;)

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 10:45 AM

Surely even Amelie can't choke away a 6-2, 4-0 lead ...?

Posted by Milla 02/11/2009 at 10:45 AM

any live streams?

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 10:46 AM

He's Matkowski's regular dubs partner, ptenisnet.
But now I see he's playing with Andreev.

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 10:46 AM

the "too deefeecult" that was just too adorable for words.

Posted by Rosangel 02/11/2009 at 10:46 AM

At Queen's I got to sit next to Rafa's box for one match - the result was that I got a load of shots in which he appeared to be looking straight at me, because he so often directs his fist-pumps and other gestures towards his support team.

http://tinyurl.com/adxa2h

Posted by alex 02/11/2009 at 10:49 AM

Anyone know what time rafa's on court - I can't open pdfs just now

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 10:49 AM

Thanks GH. I guess I sort of knew that.

May I say, very hardcore of you

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:49 AM

rosangel, I envy you. I always wanted to be at a big tournament, but the only one we have is in Rome, and it's quite distant from where I live...

Posted by Rosangel 02/11/2009 at 10:50 AM

As for me, I miss sleeveless Rafa a lot more than longhaired Rafa. I may never again have the opportunity of taking such unimpeded closeups of his left bicep. Tragic.

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:50 AM

Meanwhile, festival of errors continuing in rotterdam...

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 10:50 AM

Great lob.

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 10:51 AM

Bagel! Bagel!

Posted by naughty T, next!!!!!! 02/11/2009 at 10:51 AM

Beat down!!! Croissant serves Bagel.
nice
sorry for our new found Italian friends.

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:51 AM

Bagel?

Posted by alex 02/11/2009 at 10:52 AM

Fabio - wish I could see the stupid thing. None of the streams work for me. No pdfs, no streams ... think I'll give up and go:(

Posted by naughty T, next!!!!!! 02/11/2009 at 10:52 AM

wow wouldn't it be amazing if MoMo finally learned to love playing at home?

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:52 AM

naughty, np! When one is so clearly superior...

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 10:52 AM

Thanks, ptenisnet. I wear that badge with pride.

Speaking of odd doubles pairings, I really wanted to ask Bopanna about Nieminen yesterday. I mean, how random is that??

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 10:53 AM

Seriously. That Momo performance was so good, I feel like I just took a whole heap of drugs.

Please don't let this be a one-off, Amelie. Please!

Sorry Errani fans.

Posted by lira vega 02/11/2009 at 10:53 AM

Kinda cold handshake from Errani there. Amelie totes killed her spirit.

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:53 AM

alex, try this: http://media002.is.nl/ahoy

Posted by alex 02/11/2009 at 10:53 AM

this guy galung can't be a muppet, really making Tsonga work for it

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 10:54 AM

Fabio

Bagel = 6-0 set.
So you either eat a bagel or feed one.

Posted by Rosangel 02/11/2009 at 10:54 AM

Tennis in Rome for me last year was a tough one...Rafa goes out tp JCF, and then both semifinals infamously suffered from retirements.

Posted by Annie 02/11/2009 at 10:54 AM

rosangel: woman, i feel your pain on missing those upper arms. *sigh*

rafadoc: are you gonna be around later for rafa's match? i gotta go now but will be back for that later.

ciao folks!
Fabio, that's it for me on the Italian. Welcome to TW!

Posted by naughty T, next!!!!!! 02/11/2009 at 10:55 AM

Bagel = zero Fabio.

Jesse will not go without a fight. Lovely passing shot. He is in the top 200, maybe we will get to see a bit more of him this year.

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 10:56 AM

Seems someone is still angry about Fed Cup. Good for Amelie, I really like her.

Posted by Fabio 02/11/2009 at 10:56 AM

Got to go too! I'll surely be back tomorrow! Bye!

Posted by alex 02/11/2009 at 10:56 AM

thanks fabio but that one doesn't do it for me either - I need to get onto another pc

Posted by alex 02/11/2009 at 10:58 AM

C u all again

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 10:58 AM

Annie-yes-I will be around for Rafa's match.

Rosangel-I would have fainted dead away before I got that picture-It DOES seem as though he is looking at you. I forgot how long his hair was...he has kept it "short" since Wimbly.

Posted by lira vega 02/11/2009 at 10:58 AM

"killed her spirit". Does that expression exist or did I make that up too?

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 11:00 AM

And speaking of looking at you,
Steps was staring at me and my stupid ass camera yesterday, when I was trying to get some half decent photos of him. But with his look, I couldn't tell if he was pleased or pissed.

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 11:01 AM

I also going to miss the sleeveless, is the end of an era. But I do like Rafa's new kit, especially those magical shorts.

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:03 AM

I'm with Stella on the magical shorts :)

Also Rosangel, now you can get some nice tummy-when-serving shots, not quite the left bicep i know...but still.

The Cling factor of the new kits is also quite lovely!

Posted by Vie 02/11/2009 at 11:04 AM

This guy Juta-Galung doesn't have much lateral movement. I think that's a problem for all the other surfaces.

Thanks for the links to Rotterdam. Welcome Fabio!

Posted by naughty T, next!!!!!! 02/11/2009 at 11:05 AM

right I need to get out of the house. It is finally sunny in Lisbon...so I will go and sit in a darkened room and watch Doubt. LOL
bye y'all

Posted by lira vega 02/11/2009 at 11:05 AM

Oooh, you saw Steps, greenhopper? That's awesome.
He was probably pleased that you were taking pics while trying to strike a badass pose. He likes those

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:05 AM

weird, so long as i don't try and up the volume on my rotterdam stream, it works fine...is tennis trying to tell me to be quiet??

Posted by Rosangel 02/11/2009 at 11:07 AM

In this pic, Rafa doc, it was me he was looking at - I'd stood up to take a picture:
http://tinyurl.com/2hmpx7
Yes, he does look pained.

Me and my camera can be seen in the TV coverage of this match, as I was sitting in the front row. This was long before I ever got a media pass to represent TW.

Posted by maedal (Vamos Rafa and the Armada!) 02/11/2009 at 11:07 AM

Rosangel, thanks for posting all the shots...Sleeveless Rafa ...

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 11:07 AM

But with his look, I couldn't tell if he was pleased or pissed.

Maybe he was planning his post-vaidisova life.

Posted by Rachael 02/11/2009 at 11:09 AM

Nancy - dear god, THIS is what I missed by not getting to Queen's until Wednesday last year:
http://i44.tinypic.com/141jy47.jpg
sooo much more glorious-looking than at Notts. I'll never forgive myself.

Posted by Master Ace 02/11/2009 at 11:11 AM

Francesca Schiavone/Jelena Jankovic match to start in approx 60-75 minutes from now

Posted by sblily (Gil Reyes KAD) 02/11/2009 at 11:14 AM

Patty's husband/coach looks so disreputable.
~~~~~
WORD, gauloises.


Awww, Ferru. :( You go and lose to a man recovering from head trauma? Way to mess up my morning.

*consoles self by looking at Rosangel's Rafa pics*

Posted by Arun 02/11/2009 at 11:15 AM

mariej: Great post @ 8:02.

"Cask of Amontillado"
G: Good one. Glad that Amelie won.

GH: P/L baking some eatables. ;-)

Overall, favorable results @ Rotterdam so far, except maybe PEHK's loss. And I hope Youzhny builds on this success.

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 11:16 AM

Wow Rosangel-great picture-what an expression! Are you planning to see any Rafa matches this year or are you still recovering from last year's "slam"?

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 11:19 AM

good bye Huta Galung. You fought well.

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 11:20 AM

Jo wins 7-6 7-6 , both sets in TBs.

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:20 AM

loving the photos this morning , Rosangel
and Rachael , too

hmmmph - luck of the draw
I want to curse the draw gods - why couldn't Richard have drawn Huta Gabunk or whatever the Dutch W/C was named instead of a pissed off PHM wanting payback for the Davis cup mess from last April

and Ferru ??!!! Youzhny wakes up from his coma to beat Ferru -I am sad

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:20 AM

nice match for Jesse and Joe, i guess Joe's not so tired from winning in S.A. on the weekend :)

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 11:21 AM

Wait - did Nikki V and Steps break up?

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 11:22 AM

Not as such, gauloises.

Posted by bluesunflower 02/11/2009 at 11:23 AM

I d forgotten how hot sleeveless Rafa is
Thanks Rosangel for those pics

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 11:23 AM

That Jesse is a cutie pie.

Hi Beth! I know...wtf Ferru?

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:24 AM

so - is Nicki V in San Jose with the worm ?
or is he on a guy weekend trip to NorCal

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 11:24 AM

OK, pt. I thought I'd missed something for a minute there.

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 11:24 AM

How come Jesse got the on court interview and the hitting-the-ball-into-the-stands thing?

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:25 AM

rafadoc - I am totally dismayed to wake up and find Ferru gone from the draw
this Rotterdam tournament is quickly losing all my favorites
hope this is not a continuing trend , Rafa

Posted by Sandra 02/11/2009 at 11:26 AM

When is Rafa scheduled to play?

Posted by ptenisnet 02/11/2009 at 11:27 AM

7:30 pm rotterdam time.
Which is like 1:30 EST.

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:27 AM

California tournaments are totally into the hitting the ball to the crowd thing
last summer in LA all the winners did that
I caught a ball from Sparkles Spadea
I was overwhelmed with joy

nope , Safin - Moya - Hott Sauce and F Lo were all there
and I catch the ball from Sparkles

cursed I tell you - cursed

Posted by rafadoc 02/11/2009 at 11:29 AM

lol Beth...oh well, at least you got one! I once caught (okay, chased after it, after it dropped) a Sammy Sosa foul ball.

Posted by Master Ace 02/11/2009 at 11:29 AM

Beth,
No Nicole with Radek. Nicole lost her match in Paris yesterday and is scheduled to play in Dubai next week.

Posted by Stella 02/11/2009 at 11:30 AM

No Nicki V was in Paris and surprise she lost again in the first round.

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 11:31 AM

very funny, pt.

lira vega, yup, I saw him play doubles in San Jose.

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:32 AM

I was yelled at by a chair umpire during a masters match feat Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe when i was i high school. We weren't even talking THAT loudly and we were in the nosebleed seats, still, they heard.....they heard.... :(

Posted by greenhopper 02/11/2009 at 11:34 AM

Arun, yeah, they're on song.
And Mario and Jo won too. This isn't a terrible day for me.

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 11:35 AM

I forgot Mario was even playing. I'm a bad fan.

Posted by Nancy 02/11/2009 at 11:37 AM

Merci beaucoup, Jo.

Oh my Rachael! this is the best looking dubs team ever. And their results haven't been completely crap either.
well, make sure you don't miss any bit of them this year (they're playing again at Queen's right?)

on another note, I Flove PenBol.
http://tinyurl.com/atwoab
http://tinyurl.com/d2pl3k

He should do mixed dubs more often.

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:40 AM

thanks, MA and Stella - yep no surprise she lost
she is in a downward spiral in her career

just saw the photo of Jesse Huta Garung - what a cutie
he does have a Marat look - sort of - and a Gasquet crooked smile
of course, like someone said - he will never be heard of until next year when he gets another wild card in Rotterdam

rafadoc - trust me - there were few people at the match- so as I was sitting in the stands ( and from a distance - Vince mistook me for a hot blond chick - not someone who could be his much older sister :) - he just threw me the ball . Catching a foul ball is much more challenging and dangerous
We have come pretty close to catching a few balls in Dodger stadium when the kids were little - in fact - one time the outfielder saved Jake's teeth by taking the ball on a spectacular leap right out of his face . Jake thought he was going to get the ball - but , it would have smashed him right in the teeth and crushed all his facial bones - try telling that to a six year old who thinks he is a baseball all star - That ball was coming well over 100 mph - right at his face - I thank god for Raul Mondesi every time Jake smiles
The nice thing was next inning - Raul came out and tossed him a ball - apologizing for taking his souvenir

Posted by Arun 02/11/2009 at 11:41 AM

Yep. I loved the team of Bol/Flav too. They both played together fantastic in all the Fed Cup matches.

Posted by Jackie 02/11/2009 at 11:42 AM

Or BolPen! Like, bullpen? Yeah? Get it?

Sorry. Not feeling well. And herro, good TWibers. :)

(GAHHHHHH, does anyone else feel like the stars aren't aligned? Something's not right in the universe right now ... )

Posted by Nancy 02/11/2009 at 11:43 AM

Dlouhy/Paes beat Igor"I don't do first rounds"Andreev/whoever 2 and 1.
Igor sucks in doubles. Lately singles too.

Ah Igor, I'm in awe of your results. Seriously, easy on me with your winning ways.

Posted by beth 02/11/2009 at 11:44 AM

Jackie - we get it - we have been discussing foul balls
baseball is getting close
:)

Posted by Syd 02/11/2009 at 11:44 AM

Jackie, yes. The stars are completely out of whack. Nothing's working one minute my boss is at my feet, the next minute he's whacking at my head. grrrrr.

Plus Jo's match looks as if it's being played inside of a bubble.

Posted by Jackie 02/11/2009 at 11:45 AM

beth, thanks for humoring me. :)

RIGHT, Syd?! What's going on? I feel it in my bones. It's the moon or the stars or SOMETHING. Can't wait 'til it passes.

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 11:45 AM

Jackie, I know. Everything's wrong. What's up with that?

Posted by Jackie 02/11/2009 at 11:46 AM

gauloises, you too???

And just today, some thief stole a bunch of laptops from our office! What's going on?!

Posted by Aubrey 02/11/2009 at 11:49 AM

Rosangel, thanks for the Rafa pics from Queen's. You didn't happen to get a shot of that moment when he broke into a complete genuine gorgeous smile in the middle of the Karlovic match, did you. Remember that? Sorry for all the slobber.

Posted by Syd 02/11/2009 at 11:50 AM

Jackie, it's likely an employee. that happened to us in nyc and they pretty much thought they knew who it was but did not even fire the guy for fear of causing, la scandal. wimps.

Posted by gauloises 02/11/2009 at 11:51 AM

Seriously. Even my bones don't fit together right at the moment.

The January blues certainly are lingering this year.

Posted by Rachael 02/11/2009 at 11:51 AM

Nancy - haven't seen any thing post-clay confirmed for Bolelli.
he didn't do great at Queen's last year, so I'm worried he'll opt for a change of scenery and go to Halle.
VERYWORRIED. I may have to go to Halle.

I'm sure wherever Bol goes Sep is sure to follow.
although I do like the odd bit of Tito & Bol. they always looks completely in love with each other too..
http://i41.tinypic.com/wio8k1.jpg
http://i41.tinypic.com/r8gefk.jpg

Posted by Nancy 02/11/2009 at 11:52 AM

*Hugs* Jax.
Oh wait - did I read that my man DIED in your dream?
I'm not content with your subconscious, girl.

Posted by Syd 02/11/2009 at 11:53 AM

Eliot got it wrong, February is "is the cruellest month"

Posted by Jackie 02/11/2009 at 11:54 AM

Syd, one of our people saw the guy walking out with a suitcase (it happened this morning - odd) and didn't recognize him. I don't doubt that he works in the building, though. Crap!

Nancy!!! I KNOW. Not sure if this helps, but I felt HORRID when I woke up.

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:54 AM

Everybody not feeling up to snuff should check out failblog on youtube, some hysterical moments, guaranteed to make you laugh!!!

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 11:56 AM

Rachael...who is Tito?? he has eyelashes for days!!!!

Posted by Rachael 02/11/2009 at 11:58 AM

neil - Tito is shifty ol' Potito Starace
http://i42.tinypic.com/jja24g.jpg

christy I still remember doing that. sad times.

Posted by Jackie 02/11/2009 at 12:03 PM

Beloved Potito Head.

Worry not, Rachael, I remember it, too. :) And your Rock/Bol comparisons. Love.

Posted by neil in toronto 02/11/2009 at 12:03 PM

thanks Rachael :)

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