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The Spartan Believer 03/29/2010 - 10:47 PM

96475752 by Pete Bodo

Well, it wasn't exactly Borg vs. McEnroe, Wimbledon 1980, but Sam Stosur and Jelena Jankovic played an entertaining and meaningful tiebreaker this evening under restless, roiled skies in breezy Miami.

It ended badly for Jankovic, the No. 7 seed and winner at Indian Wells last week, as Stosur held on to win the breaker 11-9, and with it the match. Jankovic's chance to win back-to-back Premier Mandatory events went pinwheeling off into the night like so many chickadees buffeted by the wind, but the palm fronds surrounding the court continued clicking and rattling, taking Jankovic to task for blowing an interesting opportunity.

Stosur had already laid a little wood on Jankovic's fanny when I walked into Court 1, under the erroneous impression that I had plenty of time to settle in and enjoy the show. I might have suspected the direction things were taking by the pair of menacing turkey vultures that rode the gusts like a rollercoaster right above the court. They dropped low often enough to make me wonder if one of them wasn't about to descend and peck out Jankovic's eyes, but some things are better left to coaches, moms, agents and other professionals.

I say that only half in jest, for while windy conditions are equal opportunity irritants, they ought to have been more manageable for Jankovic, one of the most lithe and adaptable of players. Instead, they seemed to have an unduly deleterious effect on Jankovic, at least judging by the scoreboard, and the way her sherbet-green dress kept boiling up around her waist, as if our favorite WTA flake were doing an interpretation of that famous Marilyn Monroe subway-grate photo, but on behalf of Anta.

It ought to have been the other way around. Slammin' Sammy Stosur's game is, on the whole, more dependent on precision and timing (more on that later), and acting out something very like set pieces, all based on her outstanding serve. That serve, she would tell me after win, has been the cornerstone of her recent success. "I've had some good results starting about this time last year, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm serving well. I've been getting a good percentage of first serves in, and no matter how well you serve the ball, if you're not getting it in, who cares?"

Jankovic, by contrast, is at her best when she's free to improvise, counter-punch, and use her natural flexibility to retrieve her opponent's most invasive questions. In fact, she's a lot like a yellow lab, or similar retriever breed of dog. She goes into a serene, focused state when when she's scampering east-to-west along the baseline, at full stretch, making desperate reaction-born fetches. She can do wonders chasing a ball, and never seems happier, or more in tune with what she's cut out to do. But like that lab, there isn't a whole lot she can do if you just give her the ball with the command, Okay, Jelly, now do something...

Whether it was the difficult conditions or Jankovic's flair for the dramatic, or some combination thereof, she was error-prone, grumpy and out of sorts; time and again she would drive a backhand into the net, or miss with the forehand, then volubly rue her fate, addressing the crowed with a slender arm elegantly extended - until she had to drop it to quell the hemline fluttering around her waist. 

Jankovic began to pull herself together in the second set, but she was up against a young lady who's as practical and disciplined as Jankovic is flighty and profligate. Stosur has gradually evolved into something like the consumate professional. When her own hot-salmon dress rode up, the serious tan lines on her upper thighs told the story - this is a woman who has spent a lot of time in shorts, presumably whacking balls under a broiling sun. The dedication shows in her game, too, and not just in the familiar ways. There's a point of diminishing returns where focusing on technique and execution, on maximizing your strengths and hiding our weaknesses, eventually leaves you with a game that, apart from anything else, looks studied. 

But such hard work has its rewards, even if it's at the expense of the natural. The serve is the one shot over which a player has absolute control; theoretically, at least, a player could go an entire match without having his or her serve returned. Stosur plays as if that's her aim, and the priority and focus she assigns the task is palpable. She's learned to trust her serve, and to try to get the most out of each delivery. She's built her game around it in a way that suggests that screwing up is not an option, and that's unusual on the WTA tour.

Jankovic returned her share of Stosur's well-placed bullets, but she was backed into a corner  throughout the second set. Stosur's ability to hold, and to work her way out of potentially sticky situations (15-30, or deuce) with the serve must have had a corrosive influence on Jankovic's game. Oh, the Serbian star kept finding ways to stay with Stosur, for that's what she does best; she's the human equivalent of the philanthropic world's "matching grant." But Stosur set the pace, and her ability to hold, slamming the door of opportunity shut each time she leaves it open a crack, eventually took its toll. It always does.

In the tiebreaker, however, Stosur served up a mortifying double fault at 1-1 (let's remember, it wasn't all that long ago that Stosur was a poster child for head case tennis players worldwide). But Jankovic responded in kind (see what I mean about "matching grant?"). From there on, though, both women played pretty tight tennis. Jankovic started points, then tried to figure out ways to win them. Stosur figured out what she needed to do, then started points - and tried to end them on her terms.

The tiebreaker points went on serve until Stosur reached match point, at 5-6 (with Jankovic serving). Stosur made a forehand error and in the blink of an eye Jankovic had a set point. But Stosur brushed it aside. Stosur had another match point at 8-7, but blew it with a wild forehand error. Then it was Jankovic's turn again, with a set point, but Stosur erased it with a good forehand. She ended it two points later with a backhand laser down the line.

Stosur is aware of her shortcomings and she's built around them just as much as she's based her game on her signature stroke. She's developed a streamlined game plan on her journey from electric but sometimes ghastly shotmaker (think Amelie Mauresmo, or Hana Mandlikova). She's become a spartan believer in "the game plan."

Of course, tennis isn't entirely about figuring it out; you have this little matter of physical and even mental limitations, a complex and inter-related set of strengths and weaknesses. Every player's game is unique, like a fingerprint. When a player does due diligence, the way Stosur has, it tends to heighten the visibility of her shortcomings as well as her strengths. In Stosur's case - and it really seems a novel one for a player with such natural feel and athleticism - the outstanding flaw is, ironically, something as fundamental and seemingly second-nature as body positioning relative to the ball.

You'd think that any world-class player would have this distance-to-the-ball thing down pat, but it's surprising how often Stosur overruns a ball, or ends up playing it too close to her body (one by-product of that is a slice backhand that lacks sting). I suppose it's a sign of bad footwork, or slow reflexes. The conditions certainly had something to do with her positioning difficulties tonight, but it was still clear that Stosur doesn't - make that can't - adjust nearly as well to the ball as does Jankovic. Never mind. Stosur compensated for the shortcoming by having a clear idea of what she was going to do, and deciding that nothing was going to stop her. She had the game plan.

When I asked if she was worried that the tiebreaker might slip away and leave her dead-even despite the great start, she merely shrugged and said: "Well, I knew what I wanted to do in that match (serve well, take the game to Jankovic, end points with crisp, positive tennis), so it didn't really matter. I had to keep pushing her. If I'd lost that second set, I would have gone on in the third doing the same thing."

And that's the spartan way, isn't it?

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Posted by crazyone 03/29/2010 at 10:51 PM

Pete, just one correction: Jankovic is with the Chinese company Anta, not Reebok, though she used to be with them. One interesting thing about Indian Wells is that both champions were sponsored by Chinese companies...Li Ning for Ivan, Anta for JJ.

Posted by Jimbo Fan 03/29/2010 at 10:56 PM

Pete, just another correction. I think you are referring to Borg vs. McEnroe at Wimbledon 1980. Borg had retired by 1984, and the 1984 Connors vs. McEnroe final was quite one-sided (McEnroe's easiest victory over Jimbo).

Posted by jb (go smiley fed!) 03/29/2010 at 11:15 PM

lol - pete - i'll just say, nice post. interesting thoughts on sammy's game. she's really made great strides in the last year. Too bad I missed the match (that dang work thang) but nice to have you on the ground there!

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 03/30/2010 at 12:59 AM

Well Aussie,Aussie,Aussie,Oi,Oi,Oi, Pete,

I had to rely on SB for this rematch between JJ v Sam and the t/breaker did in a way turn out to be a marathon.Sam had a break in the 2nd set then lost it.Focus I thought to myself.You have been the first Aussie singles woman player in the top ten for a hundred years just kidding,well since Alicia Molik then one has to go back further into Oz folk tennis history Wendy rabbit Turnbull a long time between drinks.Thank goodness for Sams serve which has always hepled her or not helped her in matches.

It was in Miami this time last year she made the q/finals and in a way was the start of her singles campaign.She also made the semis of Roland Garos the last Aussie woman to achieve that was Wendy rabbit Turnbull.

So I blew a huge sigh of relief that she turned the tables of her IW defeat today.I also liked her thoughts on the match.

Yes Sam that is the Spartan Way.

Posted by Pspace (Proud Rafaelite since Shakira) 03/30/2010 at 01:02 AM

Interesting thoughts, Pete.

And that's the spartan way, isn't it?

Knowing what you want to do and doing it even if the evidence tells you otherwise? I don't know about Sparta, but I can think of more recent policitical examples, which shall remain un-named.

I thought the Spartan way was more about kicking a guy down a well, while yelling "WE ARE SPARTAAAAAAA!"

Posted by Evelyn W. 03/30/2010 at 01:03 AM

I know it's an unpleasant subject, but can any regulars/in-the-know-ers objectively address one question:
Does "Slammin' Sammy" juice?
For sure she either has a very unusually high concentration of endogenous testosterone for a woman, or...does she juice? Sammy's getting big lean bigger and leaner, and cut, and coincidentally moving up pretty late in the game. Also very unusual. The only comparison I can think of (more ways than one) is Navratilova. Any firm evidence she juiced, or is hers simply a case of massively unusual endogenous testosterone? We all know how hard she worked etc etc etc etc as did McGwire.
Is tennis really that clean?
'Preciate thoughts.
Queerly enough, got to wondering about her as she honestly seems to lack joy for the game, on or off court. It really seems like a job to her, a grinding one at that, but one she's darn good at.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (The Youz for the top 10) 03/30/2010 at 02:09 AM

Nice post Pete. I think with Sam it has just taken her a bit longer to develop her game as a single player. She has gone through plenty of coaches over the last few years, at one stage she was working with Gigi Fernadez. With Sam being from Queensland I think she had that Aussie laid back attitude and only now is realising her potential. I still think she should cut back on the dubs and save some of her energy.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (The Youz for the top 10) 03/30/2010 at 02:12 AM

Dam my post has got eaten up. I didn't think I had anything bad in the post.

Posted by Lauren 03/30/2010 at 02:20 AM

Woo, Stosur!

I love it when Aussies do well and we get so little of it these days :((. Congrats to her!

Posted by Jenn 03/30/2010 at 03:10 AM

Thanks, Pete. I missed this match but I enjoy both of these players. I like that JJ usually seems to enjoy herself out there and when its on, her BHDTL is one of my favorite shots in tennis. Your piece confirms that Stosur is a great thinker out there, although sometimes she thinks a bit too much and allows nerves to creep in. Good for her to pull this out in 2.

Did anyone else watch Vee v. Hantuchova today? Nice win for Venus but I felt so badly for Daniela. Her face in the 3rd set when Darren Cahill was trying to tell her that she could still win the match was just painful. She did not seem to believe it.

Posted by geellis 03/30/2010 at 03:32 AM

Pete has his critics, but this is a good article. That's first.

@Evelyn W., I've been wondering this myself as of late. I don't want our speculation to start a viral rumor or anything, but her late ascendancy and lean muscle mass makes one wonder. That said, this wondering is exactly the toxicity of PE drugs in sport, that their presence makes us question athletes on the basis of little or no evidence. That's too bad for sport and too bad for Sam specifically.

Posted by petrovic 03/30/2010 at 04:32 AM

I enjoyed this. I also enjoyed watching Stosur outlasting Jankovic in the second set tie break. I hope Sam betters Alicia Molik's career high no.8 ranking. I dont know why, perhaps as an Australian, Sam Stosur seems more approachable,down to earth and altruistic than Molik, who seemed quite aloof when she entered the top ten.

Also, aussiemarg, yes it has been a long time between drinks since Sam Stosur reached the SF at the French since an Australian woman had done so last..but you have forgotten Nicole Bradtke did in 1988,and that was after Wendy Turnball :)

Posted by matt 03/30/2010 at 05:31 AM

at the club where I play there's a female coach who has a very similar build to Sam's.
so it is possible for a female to have that build naturally.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/30/2010 at 10:20 AM

Enjoyed this post very much, Pete. :)

I don't know, looking at a picture of an athlete and going "oh, they look muscular" seems like an absolutely terrible way of determining whether they're using drugs or not. *shrug* I don't see any reason not to believe that Stosur has simply put in the physical work required to be a professional athlete.

As for her late impact on the game, well, I guess she took some time to develop which may be unusual now on the WTA side; and I always thought of her more as a great doubles player up until last year - didn't she have a very successful partnership with Lisa Raymond? She also suffered from Lyme disease and had to take time off back in 2007 - think she was off the tour entirely from after 2007 USO until about May 2008? (I think she was ranked in the 40s and 30s before the illness, and rising as a singles player.) So perhaps her ascendancy isn't really so sudden after all.

Posted by Master Ace 03/30/2010 at 10:36 AM

Good points in your post about Samantha rise was delayed in 2007 to 2008 thanks to Lyme disease and she did win a lot of titles with Lisa in doubles as they were the number 1 team in that time frame before Cara and Liezel started to perform well.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 03/30/2010 at 10:36 AM

petrovic oops forgot about Nicole making the s/finals of RG in 1988.Though I was thinking more of Aussie woman in the top 10.Where Nicole was more of a dubs player.Anyway thanks for reminding me.

Posted by Sandra 03/30/2010 at 10:46 AM

Yes, one look at an athlete's body can tell us for sure that s/he is juicing. Just look at Petr Korda's body - all those bulging muscles had to be juice! And Davydenko must be juicing too.

Posted by antoinette 03/30/2010 at 10:50 AM


Posted by antoinette 03/30/2010 at 10:53 AM

I am so happy that the Tennis is on TTC today as after being told off about my moral ambiguity in watching illegal streams I was afraid to put my soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation by watching any streams today!!

Posted by Nam1 03/30/2010 at 10:56 AM

"I am so happy that the Tennis is on TTC today as after being told off about my moral ambiguity in watching illegal streams I was afraid to put my soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation by watching any streams today!!"

Hee Hee, me too!! i was really afraid after we got told off yesterday that we were breaking the law by watching the streamed tennis!!

Posted by thebigapple 03/30/2010 at 11:05 AM

Watching streams is illegal???

I must do more of it then. Makes me feel all-bada$$$! I am such a bandit.

Posted by Jo 03/30/2010 at 11:11 AM

Nice post Pete. I wish you'd write more often about lesser known top players like Sam, rather than all that asterisk nonsense.

Evelyn: I don't think Sammy's on anything illegal. I agree with some of the posts above that her recent (and relatively late) success in singles is because she was originally a very accomplished doubles player. I really enjoy watching her play, and hope she becomes a serious contender at the slams.

Posted by Coby 03/30/2010 at 11:21 AM

Happy Birthday to Sammy ... and to Mario Ancic ... both turn 26 today!!

At yesterday's rematch with JJ, it seemed like the "action" on Sam's serves -especially in the windy conditions- gave JJ issues the whole match. Sam was only broken once, and the 3 break points she faced in that game were the only 3 she faced in the match.

Sam's serving always seems to determine her overall play in a match. When her serve is on, the rest of her game is on; if it's off, her overall level of play, and confidence, many times drop as well.

Right now, the thing for Sam is consistency. She has a hard time serving really big (effectively) for more than 3 or 4 matches in a row. That's a big reason why she has only won one tournament ... it takes 5-7 good matches to win a title, at least at bigger events and Slams. But she's gradually improving her consistency, as well as learning that she can pull out matches even when the serve is a bit off, so hopefully bigger and better results are in her future.

Posted by great gams 03/30/2010 at 11:22 AM

regarding @Evelyn W.'s comments about juicing: it's interesting looking back at Navratilova's physique how small she appears compared to women players today. athletic and cut, sure, but she'd be a pip-squeak next to Serena or Stosur. and i agree with Jewell: musculature is an unfair way of determining who is a drug cheat. everyone's metabolism and work ethic is different.

Posted by antoinette 03/30/2010 at 11:23 AM

@ thebigapple

All this while I did not realise I was living on the wild side!! lol

Posted by CL 03/30/2010 at 11:49 AM


Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 03/30/2010 at 11:52 AM

CL: from the other thread, yup on all counts, I totes understand skipping MC, skeptical about Estoril but then I realize the Fed just wants more practise on clay in a more relaxed setting, so maybe he can work out the kinks in his FH and ROS...

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 03/30/2010 at 11:53 AM

Juanqui getting killed...Zonger looks good...

Posted by thebigapple 03/30/2010 at 11:53 AM

Antoinette...if a few more sign-on, we could start our own gangster reality show.... "The Tie-Breakers" or something such...

Posted by CherryNYC 03/30/2010 at 11:56 AM

so coverage is only on Tennis Channel today? Damn. This is one of the handful of times during the year when I get close to calling Time Warner Cable and paying extra $$$$ for it. My cable bill is through the roof already, though....

Posted by Peg 03/30/2010 at 12:27 PM

I feel compelled to speak up for the person who pointed out that the free streams are illegal -- IIRC, she was responding to people declaring that the dodgy ads that show up on those streams ought to be outlawed.

I make use of the free streams myself, so I'm in no position to throw stones, but it does seem to me inconsistent to be outraged about any aspect of (let's be blunt) stolen goods. Kind of like the woman in the news a couple weeks ago who got angry at her neighbor for putting up a firewall so she could no longer freeload off his internet.

Posted by Rsquared 03/30/2010 at 12:30 PM

Gosh, does Justin Gimselstob ever take a breath?! Sheesh. The guy talks non-stop from the commentators' both.

Posted by just a note 03/30/2010 at 12:32 PM

CherryNCY (and anyone else:)), most of us are on the Yikes! thread, pg. 8 right now watching the Bellucci/Almagro match on TTC (Tsonga just finished with a win over JCF).

Posted by antoinette 03/30/2010 at 12:38 PM


I was the one who posted my alarm about the pornographic ads that pop up with the tennis streams. I had never seen them before and I was alarmed because I have turned my underage daughter into a FEDKAD and she often will resort to streams when there is no live tennis on the telly. I guess we were spoilt when we lived in London as the tennis coverage was much better and more readily available. It is only since we have come to live in the USA that we have had to resort to "illegal" streams.

Posted by tina (ajde, Marine!) 03/30/2010 at 12:54 PM

antoinette - I wouldn't worry about it. The person who brought the whole matter to your attention yesterday is someone I know - who pays for streaming instead of cable television!
I get pop-ups, too, but they are mostly in windows behind the match I want to watch, and it's easy enough to close them out with nary a glance at anything. I pay for Tennis Channel here, and simply got lucky the past couple of days with rain delays and such - instead of taped coverage, they actually showed matches live in their broadcast window, which has been maybe 9-11 pm? OH - TODAY IT'S ON ALL DAY! I knew there had to be a reason some of us pay for TTC.

Posted by tina (ajde, Marine!) 03/30/2010 at 12:57 PM

Oh, and good for Stosur. Much as I would have enjoyed seeing JJ follow up Indian Wells with a stronger showing here, I'm sticking with my love of upsets.

Yes, even if Nando beats Čilić.....

Posted by Peg 03/30/2010 at 01:18 PM

@Antoinette: Ah. I totally get not wanting that stuff to show up on your kid's computer (or even your own).

That said, as far as I know, there's zero question about the illegality of adhte, fromsport, etc. - when they rebroadcast the matches, they are not paying the license fees that the official channels (tennistv, espn, tennischannel, et al) are charged by the ATP/WTA/ITF in order to cover the matches.

There are occasionally legal free streams: ESPN360 is one, when they have the rights. The USTA provided free streaming during USO (and it was excellent quality, too!), and I very much hope they do that again this year.

It's an issue I'm hugely ambivalent about, because I fear that when I resort to non-licensed streams I may be contributing to the problem of poor TV coverage: since the users of non-legal streams aren't tracked, the existing interest in live coverage of tennis isn't visible to the programming powers that be, who can then argue that there isn't sufficient interest in tennis for them to expect a profit. (There's the side issue of not seeing capacity crowds at 90% of the matches for recent tournaments -- as much as I'd love to see better doubles coverage, I'd have a hard time justifying it if I were a media exec based on % of tickets sold.)

I won't bore you with the reasons I haven't yet ponied up for tennistv, but in spite of its flaws, at some point I probably will. Aside from the hassle and iffiness of the non-licensed streams, there's the fact that watching them is pretty much the equivalent of buying a pirated CD instead of the original, and since I want *my* percentage whenever I sell a poem or image, it's not cool of me to begrudge the broadcasters theirs.

(Sorry about going on at length - I went into detail in part because it does seem like there are several folks here unaware of the differences between pirated and licensed streams, and also because, well, ongoing wrestling with my conscience.)

Posted by Aube,I'll never drive and talk again!!! 03/30/2010 at 01:24 PM

Venus,get it going fast and do not stumble like yesterday,lease pretty please!

Posted by Ren 03/30/2010 at 01:48 PM

any livestream for the Venus match?

Posted by Nam1 03/30/2010 at 01:54 PM

"any livestream for the Venus match?"

Do you mean licensed or "illegal"? all joking aside, I have no idea which is which.


Posted by mwu 03/30/2010 at 02:30 PM

I do think tennis action shots distort the apparent musculature, especially of women, where that extra bit of fat can make an arm swell up like a balloon when the whole body is springing forward in one direction.

Most of those who claim 'steroids' at every turn have apparently never seen these women in person. Even the most muscular -- Serena, Sveta, Sam, Amelie -- wouldn't look out of place at a collegiate gym (sometimes doing more pull-ups than Andy Murray can do!).

As an aside - I can't believe the podcast couldn't figure out that my email signature of "Michelle (TW, mwu)" was just me listing my TennisWorld handle!

Posted by Saw The Match Live! 03/30/2010 at 03:40 PM

Nice post Pete BUT! The wind was BRUTAL!!! Swirling and gusting.....really hard to get the distance to the ball just right. You didn't mention what a puss and 'tude JJ had on!!! Nasty to ball kids, every miss with an excuse to her corner. Sam just went back to work...not looking for excuses. Wind blows on both sides of the court and the same after every change over.
Maybe the press likes players better when they are head cases (ie. crazy Vera) but when Sam gets her head and training together after a terrible illness AND split with Lisa you don't like that!
I'm American and I love to watch Sam play and root for her over any Williams any day. She's just great for the game!

Posted by Ren 03/30/2010 at 03:52 PM

Congrats Venus!

Posted by tina (ajde, Marine!) 03/30/2010 at 04:21 PM

How anyone could be under the impression that Pete Bodo didn't admire Stosur's performance yesterday on the basis of what he wrote here is beyond my comprehension. Why mention JJ's unpleasant demeanor when we are praising Stosur, the winner of their match?!

Oh, and here's a tip: it's a legal stream if you pay for it, with tennistv being the most obvious example. ESPN360 is free but they only stream tournaments they also broadcast - Melbourne being one of them. Free streaming of the USOpen on their own website last year was brilliant, as someone mentioned. Streams on fromsport, ATDHE, channelsurfing, and are free but "illegal". As someone who enjoys being thrifty, I have used them all, guilt-free, and having to close pop-ups is a minor inconvenience. I think tennis on justintv has come under scrutiny recently, because I can never find tennis there anymore.

Indeed, I will probably need a stream to watch Verdasco/Cilic, with Nadal playing on Tennis Channel.

Posted by TennisRone 1000 03/30/2010 at 05:09 PM

It's too bad we seem to go back to the PED discussion if someone works very hard on their fitness and they achieve higher results. It's as if the two automatically go hand in hand. Would I say that it's an impossibility SS is taking something? No. If there is no evidence....than I don't think it should be significantly discussed.

PLus....the ATP/WTA policies are pretty strict on the top players. It's difficult for them to take unapproved substances.

At the same time....I'm now personally of the belief that I really don't completely care about the effect of PEDs on athletes. The fact of the matter is it's a health issue they all have to deal with. It's pretty much a definite that you will suffer from some kind of negative side effect related to taking these substances. I guess nothing shocks me anymore....I don't hold athletes to some altruistic level. Those days are control your own legacy......ask Tiger Woods.

Anyway....kudos to SS for trying to accentuate the positive elements of her game...esp. the *gasp* serve. It should differentiate her....except when the Williamses stop by or Kimmy C. But best wishes to her.....

Posted by roberta 03/30/2010 at 05:41 PM

It seems like every time a female players gets her body in shape someone is taking pot shots at her.

Posted by AB 03/30/2010 at 05:47 PM

Thanks, Pete, for a thought-provoking and well-written piece. I've thought for years that women pros were missing the boat on the serve. Having played competitive volleyball for years, it's comparatively the most important move in the game. We were punished for a missed serve in the olden days when it didn't even cost you a point. The drills were to impress upon you the importance of the serve as the 1st move of a play, which is just another name for a scoring opportunity.

Do you think if they got rid of the "let" there would be a shift in the way the women used the serve? I hate the let. Volleyball never had it, then they got rid of the side out net ball, too. I think it improved the game immensely and changed the way the way players thought about the serve.

Posted by AB 03/30/2010 at 06:07 PM

I'm with TennisRone re Performance Enhancing Drugs

The only way to have transparency is to give up the facade of enforcement. Anyone ambitious enough to attempt to compete at the elite level, whether pro or college, will use whatever they can to gain an edge. If the general public thinks they're all doing it, what do you think the athletes themselves think? Of course, they all suspect each other. In many cases they have first-hand knowledge.

Only the most fearful and risk-averse elite athletes will not use banned substances. Let's not be naive. Tennis isn't even testing for HGH and it's been around for years. HGH is not that difficult to obtain. We're way behind the curve on what athletes will put in their bodies to gain an edge.

I second letting them use anything that is a legal substance. It's on them. The only real issue is the message it sends to kids. That's what parents and coaches are for. We have that problem anyway. In fact, our current message on PED is quite hypocritical and kids and young adults are quick to pick up on that. I don't think they have less incentive to boost in the current climate. The only incentive is not to get caught.

Posted by JJfan 03/30/2010 at 06:34 PM

It really upsets me that they did not broadcast this match but they chose to broadcast the boring radwanska match. It was 2 of the 10 ten matches and they didnt choose to broadcast it? It makes me question who decides to broadcast the matches. This is another example of womens sports not having as much media coverage as the men.

Posted by JJfan 03/30/2010 at 06:35 PM

Sorry I mean *players not matches

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 06:59 PM

A question for the board, if you have two players with these achievements. First player ranked 42 in the world, never won a singles titles and makes it to the quarters of a GS. Second player is ranked almost in the top ten at no 12 in the world and has won a WTA title, and made it to the semi of a GS. Comparing the stats, which player would you give new comer of the year to?

Posted by Master Ace 03/30/2010 at 07:17 PM

Samantha Elin,
This must be the Melanie vs Yanina debate. Yanina did get most improved for 2009.

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 07:21 PM

Patrick, you're right, but that wasn't my question. Which player achieved more?

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 07:30 PM

Correction, the second player has Three WTA titles, while the first has O.

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 07:37 PM

Correction on the stats for the two, the second player has 3 WTA titles as compared to O for the player that actually won the award. Since when does O titles, Quarters GS run, ranking of 42 beat out a ranking of no 12, 3WTA titles and a semi final run at the same GS. This is reality smacking hype in the face. Awards should be based on achievement, not where a player is from or the wishful thinking surrounding a player.

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 07:38 PM

Sorry for the dup, typepad is moving slowly.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 03/30/2010 at 08:16 PM

hmmm, SamE, what if mystery player #2 is two years older and has been playing on tour two years longer than mystery player #1....does she still qualify as a 'newcomer' regardless of her superior credentials?

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 08:28 PM

Yes, she does because she was up for the award.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 03/30/2010 at 08:48 PM

SamE: I had no idea she was also up for the award! Where can I find the other tennis players up for each award?

Posted by Samantha Elin, supporter of all things Scandinavian 03/30/2010 at 09:11 PM

Mr. and Mrs. D. I saw it over at another site when someone else compared the two, not sure where you can get a list of all the players.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 03/30/2010 at 09:18 PM

Thanks SamE. I'm just curious because I noticed Yanina (I'm assuming she's player #2) has been playing on tour since 2004...seems kind of a long time on tour to be considered a newcomer.

Posted by Christopher 03/30/2010 at 09:20 PM

Yes, I think this is made up. The WTA does not seem to actually name the nominees publicly. A certain poster is just trying to spew more vile about Oudin (who I personally couldn't care less about, but I can't stand a certain poster trying to invent controversies the players she dislikes).

I'm happy to be proved wrong on this.

Posted by jordn 03/31/2010 at 01:26 AM

one quick thing:

I've noticed slammin' sammy is surprisingly slow given how fit she looks. I think Pete's point is spot-on, I've seen so many matches where she just starts moving to the ball LATE - which definitely has to contribute to the streakiness/shankiness of that heavy, heavy topspin forehand.

Interesting how movement is a gift in itself that can be modified by fitness training, but not created by it. Take Kleybanova, for example.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/31/2010 at 07:32 AM

Christopher, I didn't make it up, I would never do that. I saw the stats comparison over at the ESPN site , on their poster board. This was right after the award was announce, but you're free to believe what you have clearly already made up your mind about.

Posted by Sunsets 03/31/2010 at 07:43 AM

To those people question Sam's physique:

Sam, to my knowledge, didn't suddenly become bigger and leaner. If she did become bigger, it was over many years. Besides, as someone else here mentioned, she was on the rise before she got Lyme disease. This isn't something sudden - as Sam as said many times before, this is the result of everything she has been working on through many years of hard work and training. If she didn't have Lymes disease, maybe she would have reached this ranking a year ago use crying over spilt milk.

Evelyn, I know you said to answer the question objectively but it's impossible for me to do that as a long-time Sam Stosur fan and as a gym rat myself. One of the reasons I believe in Sam so much is because people question my physique as well. I'm not even a professional athlete - just a normal woman who happens to go to the gym a lot and I sure as hell never been near PEDs. If a non-professional athlete can get a muscular physique without the use of PEDs, why can't a professional athlete have the same or slightly more muscular physique?

I'm not blind - I know there are people in tennis using drugs. However, I believe with all my heart that Sam is not one of them.

Anyway, good article =).

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/31/2010 at 07:52 AM

Moving on, I think it's foolish to think you can just look at a player and guess whether he/she uses performance enhancing drugs because through diet and body building, players are fully capable of building up their bodies.

Posted by Christopher 03/31/2010 at 09:43 AM

Samantha- O.K., I believe you. I also suggest you don't take a random comment on a discussion board, not verify whether it's true, then bring it over here to complain that it shows the WTA is biased and only gave Oudin the award because she's American. I completely agree that she was hugely overhyped at last year's USO, but some of us get so sick of the crap you constantly throw at players you don't like for some reason.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:05 PM

Christopher: this whole newcomer thing came up on the other thread last night. I looked up wickmayer on wiki and she's been a professional since 2004! So clearly she was not even elegible for the newcomer award...

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:07 PM

I have suggested to others, like MA, on the Yikes! thread which is at 29 pages, to come here for the remainder of the day. Leaving the fish post as a red-meat topic post. So we'll see what people decide to do.

i think we inmates are running this asylum currently. ;)

Posted by Diane 03/31/2010 at 12:11 PM

Annie, I'm with you in the sleep deprived mode!!!!
No live scores showing up, I thought things were to start at 11:00 AM.

Posted by Diane 03/31/2010 at 12:14 PM

OK, finally the scoreboard is showing the women's dubs match.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:21 PM

Diane, my sb is showiing that match as over. 6-3, 6-2

Posted by Tennissy 03/31/2010 at 12:25 PM

Hiya everyone.
I read that Fernando Verdasco has signed up with Dunlop. Isnt he very close to team Adidas???

Posted by Grant 03/31/2010 at 12:30 PM

High-five to Christopher @9:43.

P.S.: all the cool kids now post here.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:30 PM

tennissy: does addidas make rackets? i think he's signed up with addidas for clothing and shoes so that would leave him free to sign with a racket company.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:32 PM

Grant, i'm telling. no, i'm going back to tell the folks on the Yikes thread that the cool people are here.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/31/2010 at 12:34 PM

Grant, not sure I agree as we are free to scroll past a poster rather than excuse them of something they didn't do.

Posted by Paul Ryan 03/31/2010 at 12:35 PM

BTW I'm not too worried for Federer. He at least added to the points he had from last year at the same point. The same can't be said for the other members of the Big Four:

Federer +215
Djokovic -680
Murray -1185
Nadal -655 (if he wins Miami)

Posted by Tennissy 03/31/2010 at 12:35 PM

I am talking about his apparel. Rackets? Why would he change rackets? Dint he switched one this year???

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 12:36 PM

Okay, more on Verdasco's dunlop deal.

Reposting from the other thread.

chicklet, he's still playing with Yonex here in Miami, but signed a deal with Dunlop yesterday I think.

[The 26 year old Spanish ace has signed an international contract for rackets, strings and accessories, while also agreeing to play a key role endorsing Dunlop’s junior talent identification programme – D-Squad.

Verdasco commented: “Becoming a brand ambassador for Dunlop is a very proud moment for me and I look forward to joining the great players already associated with the brand. I am continuing to work hard and with the help from Dunlop I hope to be able to make this my most successful year to date.”

Verdasco will immediately commence testing of Dunlop’s new 2011 technology. ]

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:37 PM

oh then i misread the post where someone asked if he was playing with a dunlop racket yesterday.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:39 PM

Wow, so does this mean nando's leaving team addidas? je suis shocked!

Posted by Tennissy 03/31/2010 at 12:39 PM

Huh?? Change of racket mid-season? And isnt Davydenko Dunlop's brand ambassador???? I am totally confused.

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 12:40 PM

He used Technifibre through San Jose. Then briefly used Yonex, back to Technifibre briefly, then back to Yonex for Miami. Now on to Dunlop. All of this in 3 months. I confused.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 03/31/2010 at 12:40 PM

Grant: Since I sooo wannabe a 'cool kid' I will post here!

Posted by CL 03/31/2010 at 12:40 PM

Joining the cool kids table:

Yeah, we need a new thread for match calls AND to put Fed on the couch, like we did with The Djoker and Muzz.

Reading last nights thread was both painful and hilarious. On balance, worth the pain. Sort of like a pie in the face...but a tasty pie with Grant infused crustiness.

If I was going to put Fed on the couch, I would say that last night he seemed mostly fine..some slumped shoulders, but who wouldn't given his level of play? Which was TRULY horrendous. Some of his fist pumps seemed a bit perfunctory, though others heard it differently. Movement ranged from a bit sluggish to spectacularly good. So, overall, I think other than the fact that he often couldn't keep the ball in the court, Fed was pretty much Fed last night.

But here is a weird thing I DID notice in Federworld. If you watch a lot of Fed matches you see a lot of Mirka. And win or lose, up or down, Mirka, blackeberrying aside, is fully involved. She yells encouragement when he is down and screwing up, and support when he is playing well. She smiles and applauds his winners and cheers him on when he is struggling. Last night, from the get go, Mirka, (besides being apparently the coldest person in Miami), seemed tense, anxious and withdrawn. And she seemed that way when Roger was playing dreadfully and when he began to play better. A couple of times they cut away to her after he pulled off some really TMF shot and she STILL looked tense, anxious and withdrawn. Even Mary Jo couldn't seem to engage her. None of this probably means anything...I mean these days Mirka has more important things than tennis matches on her mind, but still, I couldn't help but notice, in the way of a true Fed fanATIC. ;-)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 03/31/2010 at 12:41 PM

*is not cool but here anyway* *waves hello to everyone*

Really hope Caroline can put up a good showing against Henin...

Posted by Christopher 03/31/2010 at 12:42 PM

Samantha-- Please note that I didn't accuse YOU of making up anything. I said that "I think this is made up." It is, right? Just not by you.

You were, however, the person who used the made up fact as the basis for the claim that the WTA picked Oudin purely because she was American that you posted on multiple threads. Yes, we can all scroll by, but it seems a bit absurd to post something like that and then get annoyed when people respond to it. If you don't want people to respond to things (in this case by pointing out that what you said was factually incorrect), then keep the thoughts in your head rather than posting them on a DISCUSSION thread where people, you know, discuss such things. Heck, you even made your original post in the form of a question! That kind of implies you WANT people to respond to it, right?

Posted by CL 03/31/2010 at 12:42 PM

Oh, and I read on that tomorrow is Mirka's birthday. Nice going Roger! The rock to make up for this is gonna be so big that she won't be able to lift a hand to blackberry, applaud, or burp a twin.

Posted by chicklet 03/31/2010 at 12:43 PM

Copied from the old thread.

Found this from a quick google search. Apparently there was no deal with Yonex:

"Meanwhile, tennis agents have also been buzzing about Verdasco. One agent said he went up to Yonex officials to congratulate them on signing Verdasco, only to find out the deal had never occurred. Verdasco’s agency, CAA Sports, declined to comment."

Don't know how great the source is, but that just seems weird.

Posted by thebigapple 03/31/2010 at 12:44 PM

Spoke alreaday with notso cool group where I am more at home. ....

Mirka was all bunched up. Cold. Looked miserable and bored.

Fred keep flicking his legs as well...not sure why. Cold too prolly.

Posted by Christopher 03/31/2010 at 12:45 PM

CL-- I notice that too with Mirka. She seemed almost unhappy that it was going to a 3rd set when they showed her just after Fed won the TB.

Posted by Sherlock 03/31/2010 at 12:45 PM

I think we should get Pete to ask Caro about her thoughts on Oudin. :)

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/31/2010 at 12:46 PM

"Yes, I think this is made up." Again, use the scroll button rather than accusations which aren't true. Thanks.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 03/31/2010 at 12:49 PM

Maybe Mirka is just not feeling to well or the twins have colds. I must say my admiration for her knows no bounds after seeing her sit through the Wimbledon final last year. I can't think of any other tennis wife who has more stoicism.

Posted by Samantha Elin 03/31/2010 at 12:50 PM

Christopher, when you went on to say that this was made up to spew more vile about Oudin that was clearly an accusation. Again, I borrowed the information from another site, I didn't make it up.

Posted by Annie (Vamos Heavenly Creature) 03/31/2010 at 12:51 PM

yeah, looks like the gang's all here! or on their way...

CL, mirka knows fed so well that maybe she sensed he was going to lose before he did and you were seeing her disappointment? maybe she's pregnant again and feeling morning sickness. j.k. but it could be anything. absolutely anything.

Posted by greenhopper 03/31/2010 at 12:51 PM

Interesting. Verdasco played and won the title at San Jose with Yonex racquets. So what like he just went to a store and picked a few up?

Posted by crazyone 03/31/2010 at 12:51 PM

I'll say this about Berdych: his volleying improved. He did quite well up there, whereas that was what setup his downfall in Australia.

Posted by Diane 03/31/2010 at 12:56 PM

I admire Mirka also but lets face facts here, she has some fab, great husband, fame, two healthy children and plenty of hired help to allow her to enjoy all this good fortune.

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