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Can Anyone Stop Safin? 06/25/2008 - 2:08 PM



Mornin', everyone. I want you all to know that the indispensable Greg Sharko, who gets my vote as the hands-down MVP of the ATP Tour (Roger, Rafa and Novak nonwithstanding), must have been checking out your joys and lamentations because he wrote me this note yesterday at 9 PM (when he should have been reading his kids bed-time stories in Ponta Vedra, Fla. Then again, you don't make the MVP short list without some sacrifices):

Hope you're doing well. . . I wanted to pass along a note that some of your readers were asking about after Nadal's 17 ace performance on Tuesday.It was the second-most aces he's hit in 376 career matches(fifth time double digits), trailing only the 18 he hit against Agassi in the 3rd RD two years ago at Wimb. He actually mentioned this in his press conf. and he was right on.

Many thanks, Greg, on behalf of TennisWorld.

Moving on, I have to admit that the routine for me has become more or less the same for every Grand Slam but the U.S. Open, which I cover from start to finish. At the other three majors, I have a curious reaction to the opening proceedings. I tend to shut down. It's a form of withdrawal comparable to "analysis paralysis" (you know, when you get so into analyzing anything from personal relationships to the different reciprocating saws on the market that you end up deciding nothing). There are a million - okay, a mere 356 - potential stories on the eve of a major. How do you choose one or five or nine to focus on, and even if you do, what does it mean, say, 48 hours later?

Most often, nothing. Was the Sam Querrey-Juan Carlos Ferraro first-round match really that significant? By midday Tuesday, it was not - it might not have even happened, for all anyone knows (or cares) with the exception of those with a vested interest. Let's face it, the pros play a boatload of matches every year, and very few of them have great resonance. Tennis is like nature that way: wildly profligate, inexorable, self-sustaining, every-changing and responsive to the nature of the day. I've said before that I don't even want to hear about the draw until a good two rounds have separated the wheat-of-the-moment from the chaff-of-the-day. Then it's time to get down to business.

Of course, this is different when I'm actually covering an event, the way Steve Tignor presently is until I arrive in London on Sunday, because then every match has potential significance  because each one is a potential writing opportunity. What that really means is that each of those early matches gives a journalist a chance to post a first-hand report on a player of interest. It may even be only the reporter's interest, but that's precisely where what we do might be called valuable. Covering the early portion of a major is a fine time to collect information and impressions, to weigh and assess individuals who may not be around to be weighed or assessed in a few days time, when the Roger Federers and Serena Williamses of this world get hung up on the weight hooks for public evaluation.

As you might imagine, I feel a little conflicted about my own appalling indifference to the early stages of a tournament. I'm supposed to be wildly interested in how Gisela Dulko's forehand is going to hold up against Aravane Rezai's backhand, right? Or I ought to be preoccupied with deciphering the emotional climate inside Marcos Baghdatis these days. Well, if I'm there and the timing is right, I might be interested in those things, and for the aforementioned reasons. But my default setting is this:  Get to the third-round, Gisela and Marcos, then let's talk. . .

At the same time, there usually comes a moment on day 2, 3 or 4 of a major when the tournament suddenly leaps to life, and I'm reminded that all of those first and second-round matches are not just the equivalent of floor exercises. That's just what happened today, with Marat Safin's win over Novak Djokovic, followed by the cliffhanger in which Ana Ivanovic survived a match point and quelled the insurrection of Nathalie Dechy.

It finally feels like Wimbledon has started, because I have real events and results to evaluate. In other words, the hint of a narrative is beginning to emerge from what is, of necessity, a battlefield seen from afar, filled with smoke and din and not much else.

Marat It's funny, but on Monday morning I walked into the conference room and caught a glimpse of TW's favorite Alpinist,  Marat Safin,  playing Fabio Fognini. Man, this dude knows how to hit a tennis ball, I thought, It's a fine thing to see. . . Then I went where that usually goes; I found myself wondering, Could you could drill into Safin's skull with a standard quarter-inch drill bit you'd use for wood, or would you maybe have to go with a high-speed Titanium carbon nitride bit meant for steel?

Federer fans the world over undoubtedly breathed a deep sigh of relief to see Safin dismiss Novak Djokovic so handily today, but that begs the question: what if Safin is in the midst of one of his periodic (although increasingly less periodic) revivals? What if beating Djokovic drills into his head the idea that he might still wreak havoc and perhaps even dominate the event that's traditionally coaxed self-loathing out of Safin's considerable reserves with depth and color that the other majors can only fantasize about? Dare we contemplate that possibility? Is Safin capable of winning another major, and one on grass no less, putting him on track to complete a career Slam in, oh, 2013?

Laugh if you will, I wouldn't put it past this guy. He's big, he's strong, and he ain't afraid of nothin' except maybe success. And it would be just like Safin to achieve his most significant results at a time when his complex and simultaneously self-sabotaging and narcissistic spirit seems most disinterested. It's too early to write this, but if hold off for a round or two I may not get to write it at all, so to hail with prudence and let's shout it from the rooftops: The cannon is loose!

Man, am I gonna pay for saying that, or what?

Take comfort in this, Federer fans, because the best formula for inducing Safin to let us down is to expect something of him. What a fine line this is to walk for a guy who's actually had a hall-of-fame tennis career. The burning question of the moment would be Can Anyone Stop Safin????, were it not for the fact that we all know the customary answer to that one: Of course, moron. Safin can!

Meanwhile, tennis was the lead story briefly on my Yahoo Internet home page, and a whopping three  stories out of Wimbledon were listed on the main news menu. The bad news is that none of the three items were about tennis, per se. The lead piece linked to this story about the pigeon-killing elitists of the AEC. The second-story was the letter PETA wrote to pigeon-killing elitist-in-chief Tim Phillips; it was accorded an item of its own (why is it that every time PETA says "jump", the media asks, "how high?"). The third featured item was a photo feature on Maria Sharapova's new luxe-tux look.

Oh well, I supposed we should celebrate the fact that tennis has commanded attention for something. Heaven forbid that the mainstream news sources do anything as radical and bold as, say, publish a piece on what a critical tournament this might turn out to be for the two players whose fortunes are so closely linked, Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Or a headline posing the question on everyone's mind: Can Anyone Stop Safin?

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Posted by afwu1216 06/25/2008 at 02:10 PM


Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 02:11 PM

no rest for the wicked, eh, afwu1216? ;-)

Posted by lulu 06/25/2008 at 02:14 PM

"Anyone" will stop him quicker than a big name, that's how he is. He'll sooner lose to a lesser player than to a big name. Bless him, I hope he goes far, he's been working so hard...

Posted by Jamaican Girl 06/25/2008 at 02:19 PM

for the past few years Safin has mamaged to disappoint me time and time again, maybe now that his sister his doing so well he will be more focused and determined to play better. (IF) Safin keeps going at this rate he could be quite a handful for Fed in the semi, so everyone(players) you had better watchout Safin is on roll

Posted by crazyone 06/25/2008 at 02:19 PM

This is not to diminish Safin, but he didn't play an opponent playing A grade tennis today. We all know Safin has in the past beaten the top players playing well, but we didn't get to see that, at least not yet. What I saw of the third set was absolutely atrocious from Djokovic.

He has a good section of the draw though, with Nalbandian and Djokovic out.

Posted by L. Rubin 06/25/2008 at 02:22 PM

Mr. Bodo,

Didn't Safin once echo Rios, Lendl, and countless others by saying that "grass is for cows?" Well, he played like a possessed cow today, and here's hoping he'll make a real run at this tournament.

When do you arrive in London, Mr. Bodo? Will one of the TW girls pick you up at the airport?



Posted by Voks 06/25/2008 at 02:27 PM

Safin was very good, focused (uncharacteristically), but Djokovic was away. If he meets some better resistance form an 'unheralded' opponent, its same old, same old I'm afraid.

Doubt Marat can make it past next round, let alone take the whole thing. But it would be an awesome picture as far as Im concerned.

Posted by 70's tennis fan 06/25/2008 at 02:27 PM


I went with my heart and picked him for my final 8. They said I was crazy!!!!

Poor Novak looked tearful when the BBC interviewd him, and apparently Marat had had his flight to Moscow booked for this evening!

Ana only just hung on! Nail biting stuff. Loved it when she kissed the net.

Posted by ptenisnet 06/25/2008 at 02:29 PM

C'mon Pete. What was the second story?
I wouldn't be too disappointed if Marat does win the whole thing unlikely as that is. But Safin seems to do best under "unlikely" circumstances.

Posted by Mush 06/25/2008 at 02:33 PM

Can anybody stop Safin?

Erm, okay one great match in the second round, and best of luck to him, great to see things shaken up ..But it's not exactly Nadal at the FO is it?

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 02:34 PM

Ms Rubin - "possessed cow" has to be in the running for TW image of the year. . . and yes, I am being gathered up at the airport on Sunday evening.

You know my life, it's a regular Van Halen video!

Posted by codge 06/25/2008 at 02:34 PM

Hopefully he'll make it to the semis.
Saf has always been one of my favourites.

Posted by Rosangel 06/25/2008 at 02:34 PM

I've been saying it for a while - Nadal's serve has improved. More weight, a bit more variety. I saw him fire down a decent number of aces at Queen's Club, and had no fears for him in the third-set tiebreak yesterday - was so sure he would win it that I switched teleconverters early on to get closer-up celebration pictures.

I'd be interested to know what Nadal's recent record in tiebreakers is, compared to, say, a year ago. Or two.

It wasn't just aces that I saw yesterday, also a fair number of moments when the second or third shot from him was the point-winner. His serve looked rather safe throughout - despite a couple of 0-30 moments.

As for Marat, his next opponent is Andreas Seppi, who he really should beat..... ;-)

Posted by Or 06/25/2008 at 02:35 PM

Ah, I'm not sold, Pete.

I watched the match today. Safin played well, he made some good shots. He didn't make great shots.

Djoko helped him with that win, a lot. He's a king for taking it (that was me who said it, Asad) when offered, but yeah, Djoko was bellow par.

When Safin beat Roger in 05, Roger didn't hand him the match, Safin took it. botched MP Hotdog nonewithstanding.

I don't think he's capable of taking a three-setter from Roger again, never mind that Roger knows his game a hell of a lot better than Nole.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 02:36 PM

"Federer fans the world over undoubtedly breathed a deep sigh of relief to see Safin dismiss Novak Djokovic so handily today"

I am Federer fan and I don't feel relief for not having Djokovic still in the draw. Haha, like Federer is scared of him for God Sake! The total opposite! I wanted Djokovic to make there to be destroyed by Federer in straight sets, just to see what kind of thing Bodo would come up with to make Federer's win not as good as it WILL BE.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 06/25/2008 at 02:36 PM

Can anyone stop Safin? Yes -- Safin. But what a great win, it will certainly burnish his "mad genius," squandered talent rep for a few more years. Boy, did those commentators in the morning have to eat some major crow (or marksmen-downed pigeon, maybe?).

It's funny, having no vested interest in any one "star" player, I do agree with Pete it's not that fun to watch them pound some qualifier early in the tournament. Rather, I enjoy seeing the players who are unlikely to go deep and therefore unlikely to be on my TV screen for the next few weeks. To me watching Shrieky beat up on someone, and then see her do that 6 more times (or more, if a few of the matches are repeated) is less interesting than, say, an early matchup of Harkleroad/Dechy or Gasquet/Isner because I know those players will probably be vanishing pretty quickly from my screen one way or the other.

Posted by Rosangel 06/25/2008 at 02:38 PM

I'll see what I can do to make your life look more like a Van Halen video on Sunday evening, Pete - I'll also try not to lose my Heathrow car-parking ticket this time around.....

Posted by Darth Federer 06/25/2008 at 02:39 PM

Not only Safin can stop Safin. Federer can stop the best of Safin (or anyone) on grass anytime, get it straight Bodo!

Posted by Master Ace 06/25/2008 at 02:40 PM

Even if Marat wins Friday, he still has a potential matchup with Wawrinka in R16 and the winner of Baghdatis/Lopez in QF. However, he has a nice opportunity to go deep since Nalbandian is gone also.

Also, congrats to Nathalie Dechy for a good match against Ana Ivanovic. Can not wait until I see the replay of that and Marat's match on Tennis Channel tonight.

Posted by Jamaican Girl 06/25/2008 at 02:40 PM

Like Jelena Djokovic has been playing lot of tennis and its catching up with him. Also bursting on into the tennis scene at such a speed, then winning his first GS, he was on cloud 9 and he's finally settling down, so the fact that Safin played a lackluster Djokovic is no surprise to me, now Djoko can get some much needed rest.

Posted by L. Rubin 06/25/2008 at 02:42 PM


Don't be such a party pooper! How long has it been, after all, since any of TW's sane members wrote "Safin" and "contender" in the same sentence? We can surely entertain ourselves for one day.


Posted by harini 06/25/2008 at 02:44 PM

i love the first week of a grand slam. to me all the early matches (well, some of them) are thoroughly entertaining. like today's safin vs. djokovic matchup.

i would love nothing more than for this to be a safin revival but even though i have faith that he can possibly win this year's wimbledon...i shall wait to see what happens friday and so on and so forth.

davai marat!

Posted by 06/25/2008 at 02:45 PM

safin playing at his best is better than Federer

Posted by Rick 06/25/2008 at 02:46 PM

great picture with the perfect shirt!

since he probably has few good runs left i'd love to see him hold the trophy. just for the hail of it. would certainly cement his "one never knows" reputation and be great fun.

to hail with the record books, c'mon Marat!

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 02:47 PM

"safin playing at his best is better than Federer"

No way. No one at his best is better than Federer at his best in history. How many times have the experts said it already? I think I'll take their word over yours any day of the week.

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 02:49 PM

Yeah, Swissie, I'm just layin' here in the weeds waiting to ambush Federer any way I can, any time I can; it's my life's obsession. . . Sadly, though, even the novelty value of your incessant p***ing and moaning has worn off, making my sad vigil that much more lonely. ;-)

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 02:51 PM


Hahaha that was funny. You can get nasty too! haha

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 02:53 PM

I will be honest though and tell you when it is that I breathed in relief. Today, when Federer broke Soderling back in the 3rd set to keep the Swedish from winning it and going into a 4th.

Posted by Mike 06/25/2008 at 02:54 PM

I don't get the whole "Federer should be happy that Djokovic is out' thing ... what fear has Federer ever shown regarding Djokovic? Am I missing something? ... aside from a fluke in Canada and a mono ridden Fed, Down Under ... where is this fear stemming from?

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 02:55 PM


Exactly what I tried to imply. Thanks.

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 02:55 PM

Darth, meet Swissie; Swissie, meet Darth. You two will have loads to talk about. . .

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 03:00 PM

Mike - On paper, Djokovic was a greater threat to Federer, his potential semifinal opponent, than is Safin. This is because recent Grand Slam winners and Top 3 players are perceived as a greater threat to all opponents, including Roger Federer, than are dissolute, self-tormenting Russians who haven't seen a semifinal since the Potemkin went down.

Now you get it. Or I sure hope you do.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:01 PM

"Swissie"... great!!! Just like Federer got "TMF" and Nadal got "jetboy". You got it down for nicknames...

Posted by hmmm 06/25/2008 at 03:01 PM

Safin is not going to beat Fed if he gets that far...

I would think it would be great for tennis if it was start of Agassi like revival or a slam but I think he need to have good tough 5 set win against someone to do it.

Hewitt would of been ideal , but maybe bagman instead ?

Posted by RogiFan1 06/25/2008 at 03:02 PM

As a Federer fan, i am mildly dissapointed at Novak losing since I was relishing the prospect of a beatdown by Roger. I was NEVER afraid of their meeting up. The only person I am slightly afraid of is Nadal and that has to do with the match up issue.

However I am delighted for Safin, hope he does manage to make it to the semis!

Posted by Syd 06/25/2008 at 03:03 PM


Not so much a "sigh of relief" as a Supercharged Gloat of Glee.

* Of course, moron. Safin can! *

Agree. But add Roger to the list.

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 03:05 PM

RogiFan1, watch your back, that's entirely too reasonable!

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Killer Cardigan!) 06/25/2008 at 03:07 PM

ha Swiss, you're fighting a losing game on this one, because no matter what Federer does this tournamnent, ultimately the big story will be someone else (Nadal, Roddick, Safin, etc)..its been that way for two years as Nadal was really THE story of both years, and this year is a carbon copy ... Oh, that Federer guy won again, yawn, but here's the real story...

no matter, I really only posted this so I could show off my fabulous new moniker :)

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:08 PM

I'd say there are only 2 matches in which Federer and Safin were both at their peak.

'04 TMC SF. Federer wins 6-3, 7-6 (18). The longest tie-nreaker in the history of the TMC.

'05 AO SF. Safin beats Federer 9-7 in the 5th after Federer held 1 Match point in the 4th. One of the best shot making matches I have ever seen, from both sides.

Other that those 2, Safin has always failed to keep up his part of the bargain.

Posted by MrsSanta 06/25/2008 at 03:09 PM

Does the t-shirt say "missing in action"?

I'm surprised at how calm and patient Safin was. I thought he hated the weather but apparently not today. He had better get to the semis now.

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 03:09 PM

Syd, now way Federer beats Safin! Just compare their records! '-)

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:10 PM


Sure. The story of the past 2 years has been Nadal. He can keep on being the history this year as well as long as the final outcome remains the same: Federer winning again.

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 03:12 PM

I new I'd smoke you out of the chapel, Tim!

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 03:13 PM


Posted by Mrs Tennis 06/25/2008 at 03:14 PM

Can anyone stop Safin? Good question.
An even better question is Can anyone show live tennis on TV??????

Posted by ptenisnet 06/25/2008 at 03:16 PM

Of course, we expect Federer to breathe easier now that his half has been cleared of a major hurdle. And of course Safin is, on paper, a lesser threat. But we who have been students of Safin for 8 long years know that this is when he is most dangerous.

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Killer Cardigan!) 06/25/2008 at 03:18 PM

Pete i couldnt keep the cardigan under wraps any longer... Im oddly bummed that Djoker lost so mildly, flat and almost giving up ... I wanted that SF showdown, now it's all kind of heavy favorite stuff to the final for Fed ...

Major reality check for Djoker this week, taking over men's tennis might be a little bit tougher than he, his parents and fans expected a few months ago ... well duh, if it were that easy everyone would do it! Fed and Rafa are otherworldly to maintain their standard for so long... I sense a few kinder media stories for Fed in the coming days

Posted by afwu1216 06/25/2008 at 03:20 PM


Nope no rest at all. I love being first.

Posted by Grant 06/25/2008 at 03:22 PM

"But we who have been students of Safin for 8 long years know that this is when he is most dangerous."

Yeah, when he is able to win two matches in a row, all bets are off.

Posted by MattBryan 06/25/2008 at 03:23 PM

BTW shows all BBC-s with Wimby.

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Killer Cardigan!) 06/25/2008 at 03:23 PM

Safin just made the third round, the semis are a LONG LONG way off...three, 3 of 5 set matches, to be specific... take a breath, Safin kids :)

Posted by Syd 06/25/2008 at 03:24 PM

Pete: 3:09

Oh, say it ain't so. You know Roger had match point against Safin at OZ in 05...

Posted by Staz 06/25/2008 at 03:24 PM

I'm pleased as a Safin and Federer fan(although I do like Djokovic too) but I'm not sure that I see Safin getting that much further, let alone winning the event. Even if, and the chances aren't that great, he gets to the semis and then, chances rapidly diminishing here, beats Federer, I think that Nadal has the game to thrash Safin. So I would put his chances of winning the event at 2%. Who knows, maybe it can happen, anything can happen. If Nadal and Federer go out then I'll have to rethink, but right now I just don't see Safin winning Wimby.

Posted by Syd 06/25/2008 at 03:29 PM

Pete: Pulling my leg eh?

Roger is 8-2 over Safin.

Posted by ptenisnet 06/25/2008 at 03:31 PM

Yeah, when he is able to win two matches in a row, all bets are off.

Fair enough grant, but, even considering it is safin, one has to consider the way he won and the opponent.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 06/25/2008 at 03:33 PM

Just goes to show you that a good draw isn't necessarily a good one, if you can't get past round 2 ! When I first saw the draw I thought Djokovic and Roddick had the easiest sections by far, with Federer and Nadal having the tougher opponents. Now with Djokovic's and Gonzalez's early departures, suddenly Fed's draw is looking pretty good. Of course, the mercurial Russian is perfectly capable of changing all that ...

Posted by Jamaican Girl 06/25/2008 at 03:34 PM

As much as I like Safin and want him to good, there is NO way he can win the whole thing. Even if he some how manage to get by Federer, Nadal will be standing in his way, and Raging Bull Nadal is not about to give it up to Safin

Posted by jem 06/25/2008 at 03:35 PM

It brings me no joy to say this, but, the real story of this year's Wimbledon has been (and will be) the continuing slowing down of the hallowed lawns.

I loved Wimbledon (over the past four decades) for the constant stream of highly skilled players who possessed the requisite talent and panache to win the greatest tournament in tennis history. In the near future it will be the prize for all those unimaginative, two-handed Spaniards and South Americans.

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 06/25/2008 at 03:36 PM

In the past, I've always wanted Fed to have the pleasure of facing and beating Djokovic and Nadal. But this season, being what it has been so far, I'll be the first to admit that I'm perfectly happy with one of Fed's closest rivals losing in round 2, and hope the other one will soon follow ... you know, the one who is in Fed's head like nobody's business !

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:38 PM

Santana won the whole thing in a time when the lawns at Wimbledon where at their fastest.

Posted by Tim (2008 Year of Killer Cardigan!) 06/25/2008 at 03:42 PM

Rafa was 'in Federer's head' at this exact date in 2006, like nobody's business, and somehow, wow, Fed managed to battle those cobwebs and beat Rafa twice at Wimby, twice in Shanghai and once on clay! not bad for a headcase who can't figure out Nadal's game...

... take clay out of the head to head and Id say Federer is in Nadal's head ...

men's tennis needs some new story lines..

Posted by jem 06/25/2008 at 03:42 PM

there are always exceptions.

Posted by Rama 06/25/2008 at 03:43 PM

To say that Safin did Federer a service is so insulting to Federer. Roger has been awesome in the first two matches. I for one do not see how anybody can beat him in this tourney. Djokovic had no chance against Federer in this form. Get real guys.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:45 PM

If only Nadal would have managed (from 2005 through to 2007) to make it to plenty more finals on anything other than clay the H2H would certainly not look the way it does right now.

Posted by vetmama 06/25/2008 at 03:48 PM

"As a Federer fan, i am mildly dissapointed at Novak losing since I was relishing the prospect of a beatdown by Roger. I was NEVER afraid of their meeting up. The only person I am slightly afraid of is Nadal and that has to do with the match up issue."

Poifect! Exactement!

I was never truly worried about the spectre of a Djokovic semifinal, and in fact looked forward to it so Fed could show Nole true class on grass. Now we will have to wait until next Wimbly.

Rafa's the one that makes me nervous...

Posted by jem 06/25/2008 at 03:48 PM

I think I disagree, Pete. I think Safin is only great on paper, whereas Djokovic is approaching "great" on the court.

Posted by vetmama 06/25/2008 at 03:49 PM

BTW, love the manly Safin pic above.:)

Posted by Grant 06/25/2008 at 03:50 PM

"Fair enough grant, but, even considering it is safin, one has to consider the way he won and the opponent."

Oh for sure he was good, but I'm still expecting him to snap at any time and lose to some random he should beat.

I think Safin fans fall into two camps. There are those who say "He has one more big run still in him and it COULD BE NOW!!!" but I tend to side toward the "headcase half empty" camp. He has one more run still in him, but I'll believe it when he's in the semis.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 03:53 PM

I pick Baghdatis to make it to the SF's against Federer.

Posted by Liwa 06/25/2008 at 03:53 PM

I would be joining the Safin bandwagon if it were at the Oz or in New York but I think it would be too much to ask at Cardigan.

At the hard court slams he could draw on reserves of comfort and good memories but even in his prime he couldn't cope with the specific problems of the AELTC and he is more fragile now. (I would never say Safin COULDN'T beat Federer in the abstract but I don't see him beating Federer on Centre Court specifically. If - very big if - he got there. Fed feels at home at Wimbledon; Safin palpably does not.)

Posted by Christopher 06/25/2008 at 03:56 PM

"It brings me no joy to say this, but, the real story of this year's Wimbledon has been (and will be) the continuing slowing down of the hallowed lawns."

Jem-- Really? A number of players and commentators have been saying the opposite, that the courts feel a bit quicker than last year.

And is it really possible to think that the "two-handed Spaniards and South Americans" (none of whom, by the way, have yet to win the event, unless Hewitt changed citizenship without telling anyone) are playing less imaginative tennis than, say, Goran (or even Sampras at times)? Watching Goran's win was one of the emotional highlights of my tennis-watching life, but let's be serious, what's so imaginative about serve-and-maybe, -if-it-was-a-second-serve-and-the-returner-got-lucky, -volley tennis? The serve and volley of the 70's and 80's was one thing, but we really did get to the point where matches were getting boring by the mid-90's. I admire the big serve game, but I don't always want to watch matches where most rallies are a shot or two long. Federer is winning with an all-court game and that seems pretty ideal to me.

Posted by Nancy J 06/25/2008 at 03:56 PM

As a Novak fan, I was really fearful when I saw that he drew Safin in the second. First, Marat seemed serious about this years grass season. When Dinara was working her way to the French finals, all I kept reading was how her brother probably couldn't be there because he was working so hard on his grass game in London. He was putting in the time, unlike certain women players who will go unnamed (oh, alright, lets start with Ana, who almost got her rusty behind handed to her today).

With Safin's hard work in mind, I knew this was no usual second round opponent for Novak. I thought it was gonna be a war, and that perhaps Safin would come out the victor. What I didn't know was that Novak was gonna go down like little vitch in three! Aaack!

I smelled blood with Ana. I was hoping that Dechy could pull it out, but Ana, with a little luck, showed some championship spirit to pull out the V. I got your vitch! Go girl.

Posted by vetmama 06/25/2008 at 03:57 PM

"In the near future it will be the prize for all those unimaginative, two-handed Spaniards and South Americans."

jem -
I disagree. Wimbledon used to give the edge to serve & volley players, but now favors all-court players, like Fed, Safin, Murray, Haas, etc.
It also favors Nadal, who has become an all-court player over the last several years. He is not just an unimaginitive baseliner, but has great net skills as well.
Djokovic has a great all-court game, but he needs to improve his movement on grass to get to the next level.

Posted by Grant 06/25/2008 at 03:57 PM

"Or I ought to be preoccupied with deciphering the emotional climate inside Marcos Baghdatis these days."

Partly cloudy, scattered disappointment.

Posted by Tari 06/25/2008 at 03:57 PM

I sort of agree with Rama. But I'm getting used to the thinking that Roger "needs some good luck", or something to that effect to defend his title on his best surface. I hope he just gets it done.

And yes...anyone can stop Safin. :) But all credit to him for today's victory. Very nice to see.

Posted by Nancy J 06/25/2008 at 03:58 PM

As for the quicker pace of this years grass, I heard Martina Navratilova say a couple of days ago that the center court wasn't playing necessarily quicker, but that the ball was bouncing higher, but that perhaps a few of the outside courts were playing a bit quicker. But she also said that the courts were not as fast as they had been in the past.

Posted by vetmama 06/25/2008 at 03:59 PM


Nice to see your pithiness again!

Posted by Christopher 06/25/2008 at 04:00 PM

There is no question that Djokovic played a poor match. Double faulting on the last two points says a lot. At the same time, I don't get this line about him being mentally tired, getting a well-earned rest, etc. Sure, he's played a lot of tennis since January. So have Federer and Nadal (some of it while quite ill in Federer's case). These two have also been doing this for a few years running. I don't doubt that Djokovic is being honest here, but if he's that tired at the halfway point of the season, it does not bode well for his future.

Posted by ptenisnet 06/25/2008 at 04:00 PM

Naturally grant. You do expect him to snap at any given moment. I mean, seppi might be it.
I am firmly in the "he has one more run" camp, but I am never able to attach the "It could be now" rider. And given that he has killed giants to get to the finals and lost a couple of times, the event is not exactly predictable. It happens if/when it happens.
As for this Cardigan, someone has to make the semifinal from his quarter, so why not him? For the first time, he has expressed the opinion that the surface doesn't have it in for him. And having said that, his next match is on some obscure court. So who knows what's going to happen there?

Posted by vetmama 06/25/2008 at 04:00 PM

The most likely one to stop Safin is...Safin

Posted by Jamaican Girl 06/25/2008 at 04:02 PM

Does anyone know how much raking points will Djoko loose?

Posted by Pete 06/25/2008 at 04:05 PM

Hey Grant! stick around. . .

Posted by jem 06/25/2008 at 04:07 PM



I have yet to read one quote noting the grass is quicker this year. As a matter of fact, the subject of our discourse today, Safin, credits a continuing slowdown of the grass with his victory today (among other reasons).

Those players with contrasting styles have always produced the more thrilling matches, in my humble opinion. You know, baseliner vs serve-and-volley as in: Navratilova/Evert, Borg/McEnroe.

I am not longing for big serving, necessarily; Roddick would be my favourite,if that were the case. I do lament the demise of the serve-and-volley style, however.

In the main, my comments were pointing to the "near future."

Posted by Grant 06/25/2008 at 04:07 PM

Hey Pete! what else am I gonna do, work?

Posted by [Edited.] Come up with a decent name 06/25/2008 at 04:10 PM

I'm glad at least some one agrees that Fed being afraid of Djoko is a joke. Thanks SwissMaestro. Both on clay as well as grass, I'd pick 10:1 Fed over Djoko. On hard courts maybe, Djoko has a better chance, but still my money would be on Fed, especially if its a 5-set. This whole notion of Djoko being a threat to Fed on grass is cooked up by these dumb media talking heads who have nothing else to say.

Posted by Sandra 06/25/2008 at 04:11 PM

Out of pure sentimentality, I hope Safin does have one more good run in him. But he's more likely to pull this off at a 1 week tourney - I fear for his sanity over a 2 week event. But he may surprise us all.

Posted by Nancy J 06/25/2008 at 04:11 PM

It's only mid year and the players (and some fans) are moaning about the amount of tennis that they've played?! I'm so sorry that they had to go to work -- NOT! No more excuses about how much tennis they've played. Either that, or the people governing the sport need to figure out what changes need to be made so that the players can perform at least through mid year without complaints of being worn out. This is one of the downsides of the "modern" game for me. I used to like it when the players had to tough it out every week like the rest of us in order to pay their bills.

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/25/2008 at 04:12 PM

No problem. =)

Posted by Jeremy 06/25/2008 at 04:14 PM

novak CLAIMS he is a greater threat to federer....but he has beaten him only twice....on hard courts. everyone else is just dumb enough to buy into his bravado.

therefore, i doubt federer is feeling anything other than relief that he doesn't have to hear any more jerk off statements about his current form from novak.

Posted by Tennis Fan 06/25/2008 at 04:17 PM

"Russians who haven't seen a semifinal since the Potemkin went down."

Watching what happens will be like watching the famous baby buggy out of control going down the steps scene in "Battleship Potemkin"!

However, I don't think that Safin is playing the Joker or TMF. I think he is really playing against his sister. If little sis can get to the finals, why can't I? Who his male opponent on the other side of the net is, is irrelevant. Watch out FED and Nadal!

Posted by Veruca Salt: Grass Loving Elitist 06/25/2008 at 04:25 PM

I'm not going to go on too much about Nole's loss. However, looking at some highlights and seeing the score I can conclude:

1). He played like crap.
2). Contrary to assertion that he respects Safin, I don't think he went into the match taking him seriously enough. His mind was already 2 to 3 rounds ahead.
4). His movement of grass is good, but not stellar. He'll need to work on that.
5). He played like crap.

Posted by Arthur 06/25/2008 at 04:27 PM

You know, Pete watching Safin today i was reminded of a line you have in one of your books (that Steve and the gang were reading in their book club) about Nastase by Tiriac... He doesn't have a brain, he has a bird fluttering up there. It struck me as i was reading what you wrote about Nastase that there are uncanny similarities between Nastase and Safin.

Posted by Sandra 06/25/2008 at 04:29 PM

I'm not sure why people are expressing all this consternation about players being tired already at the end of June. This is what players (Nadal included) have been complaining about - the compression of the clay court season and the change to the grass courts without any time between the FO and the start of the grass court season. Playing a professional sport like tennis is a little different from having a desk job or playing golf. I remember it was either last year or the year before when both Federer and Nadal talked about being tired both physically and mentally after Wimbledon - Federer took 6 weeks off in Dubai and Nadal took 4 weeks off in Manacor after that Wimbledon. And I doubt they did this just because they are lazy or unfit.

Posted by Nancy ( free drinks in honour of Captin MARAT ) 06/25/2008 at 04:31 PM

"Can Anyone Stop Safin????

Of course, moron. Safin can!"

yeah , well....
i refuse to be a realistic or reasonable person today , i'm loving the feeling of "impossible is nothing" and i'm happy in my delusional world right now so i'm gonna keep it that way until further notice

have a drink on me Pete :)

Posted by Syd 06/25/2008 at 04:32 PM

oh, Tennis Fan: You may have a case there. Hadn't thought of that.

Posted by Syd 06/25/2008 at 04:33 PM

Nancy! Glad to see your moniker! Captain MARAT, indeed. Here's to Marat. gulg.

Posted by courtwiz 06/25/2008 at 04:34 PM

Djoko has proven he can play Fed since last summer(montreal and NY). It appears that Nadal and Djoko are learning every tournament and improving while Fed may be slowing down, but he's still the man to beat. However, even if Fed looses here he'd still be the man to beat at the USO.
If Fed wins this one then it's history making and if he doesn't then it gets quite interesting afterwards....

Posted by 1FedFan 06/25/2008 at 04:35 PM

Safin is more of a natural talent than Novak. His movement is more fluid, he follows through beautifully, he is great at net, a great server and a beautiful 2 handed backhand. When he is on, he is a better player than Novak, no question.
If he STAYS on, watch out Roger and Nadal. That is a big IF though.

Posted by jem 06/25/2008 at 04:37 PM

I think if players pace themselves throughout the year they should be able to maintain the pace. Nadal tends to overplay the clay season for obvious reasons, usually with a payback exacted by his body.

Federer and Nadal would have had to be androids to play back to back finals at the French and Wimbledon as they did last year without taking at least a month off.

We must remember that Djokovic, for all his success, is only 20 years old.

Posted by Nancy J 06/25/2008 at 04:37 PM

I'm sorry Sandra, but players have survived the change from the clay season to Wimbledon grass for a long, long time. That's part of the excitement of the game for me. Who is iron man enough to do the clay season and then rally to get themselves back for grass.

Although, admittedly, in the old days more tournaments were played on grass, so there was more opportunity to play on that surface throughout the year. I agree that that made a difference. I so wish that were still the case. But its not. It's the way that things are. So I say that until the governing body decides to change things, or lengthen the time between the FO and Wimbie, the players should DEAL with it and stop the vitching!

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