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Talent Happens 04/20/2009 - 4:40 PM

By Pete Bodo

Well, maybe it's a good thing there's no video action streaming from Barcelona until at least Thursday - it will give everyone a chance to savor the recent feats of Rafael Nadal and Sabine Lisicki. I've been thinking about Nadal for a few days now and will post on him tomorrow or Wednesday. It all depends on how much headway I can make on my piece on Venus Williams for Tennis magazine - she'll probably be our cover subject for the July issue. It's only fitting, given that Venus is a seven-time finalist and five-time winner at the All-England Club.

Sabine Speaking of Venus - no doubt you all saw she was beaten by Sabine Lisicki last week in Charleston. You may remember that when I visited Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy back in December, I watched Michaela Krajicek and Lisicki work out (separately), and wrote: Memo to WTA: both of these girls serve huge and, purely as physical specimens, made me think they might be to the WTA what Terrel Owens is to NFL receivers,

During the workout, Bollettieri tried to wean Lisicki off a habit of running to the ball with her racket head up in the air, in front of her. He wanted her to begin her take-back much sooner, too, and to keep the racket-head relatively low, to save a little time and produce a more economical stroke. He also worked on the footwork in her return game (with one of Nick's pros serving to her, but from right on top of his own service line, in order to make her react faster), and finally Nick made Sabine do a volley drill in which she kept her off hand (the left) behind her back, in order to make sure she got a good shoulder turn, and to firm up the shot itself, as it no longer had help from that "off" hand.

Well, those details hardly matter. What does, though, is that during a breather Nick walked over to me and said, "She's a worker, Pete. She's a worker. . . "

He also introduced me to Lisicki's father and coach, Richard. The Lisicki's are Germans of Polish descent, and they struck me as having the kind of bouyant optimism you find among immigrants, at least those who have a superior appreciation for the value of opportunity. Richard Lisicki was a volleyball and club-level tennis player in Germany; he reminded me of Monica Seles's father, Karolj. Neither man struck me as being especially wrapped up in the trennis "lifestyle" per se, nor even pretended to have any great expertrise in tennis. Sometimes, these tennis careers aren't planned, at least not in the intense, calculated way that some cynics really want to believe.

Sometimes, talent just happens, and it leads the gifted one - along with a parent or some other loved one - down an unexpected, challenging path. I'm pretty sure that success in tennis isn't as complicated as some people would make it. A nice combination of talent, ambition and determination can take a lot of the mumbo-jumbo right out of it. Another way to put this is that nothing that was done to or with the Williams sisters (for example) is nearly as important as who the Williams sisters are/were. The truth is that there are a million wildly different tennis success stories, and you can pick and choose among them to reinforce whatever point you want to make, or embrace. The only thing that validates one way over the other is the success of the player, and that isn't determined by a player's background and past - at least not in any obvious way. It's determined by his or her character (in a loose sense of that word).

You know the old expression, Hindsight is 20-20? Well, something like really shapes our thinking about tennis. When someone succeeds at a high level in the game, the assumption is that he or she did something right, perhaps even something wise, or brilliant. But I'm not sure that kind of causality is at play in tennis, and I certainly believe that even if it is, it can't be adequately proved. The one thing I am sure about, and it may be the only thing, is that a lot of things have to go right for someone to have a good career in pro tennis.

So maybe hard-working Sabine Lisicki is on her way. She certainly has the tools - a big, big game (this seems more and more valuable as time goes on) capped with a 125-mph-plus servce, a big appetite for work, and a great attitude. As Nick told me, "She gives me energy, which is unusual, but it's like that sometimes. Sabine is very open. She listens. She works hard, and the progress she's made is fantastic."

Right before Lisicki left Bollettieri's (before she left for Australia for the start of 2009), Nick pulled her over and gave her some unsolicited advice: "Stay by yourself . . . Select the few friends you have very carefully, and make sure they share your mission statement."

"Is she grounded, that way?" I asked.

"Oh believe me, she's grounded," Nick said. "It's going to take a hell of a lot to sway her off path."

Bollettieri said that if she kept her game at a high but sustainable level in 2009, she could go Top 20. Maybe she's even better than that.

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Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 04:43 PM

"Bollettieri said that if she kept her game at a high but sustainable level in 2009, she could go Top 20. Maybe she's even better than that."

Whoa, that's a pretty bold wish-prediction, Pete. *off to read*

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 04:47 PM

One lighthearted note: The pic above doesn't flatter Lisicki much. She looks like a long-lost sis of Gilles', with too much eyeliner for comfort.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 04:53 PM

Maybe Gilles was a bad example. The chick is 5'10" tall and weighs 154 lbs, too "athletic" to be Simon's sis. No wonder she's got a 125-mph-plus service.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeeeeee!) 04/20/2009 at 05:00 PM

Ugh. Sorry to hear that Vee will be on the cover of Tennis in July. Cover curse, anyone? :(

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:01 PM

Lipsicki was great throughout the entire week. Her serve and ground strokes were excellent. Pam Shriver made an interesting comment about her, she said that she runs hot and cold, and she wasn't ranked "in the sixties for nothing". It will be interesting to see if she can maintain this high level of play. For me, I will take a wait and see attitude, but it would be great to have another young gun in the WTA. Her serve was very impressive. Go Caro, Scandinavia's#1, 2008, new comer of the year, winner of 4 WTA titles, and the first Scandinavian women to be ranked #11 in the world.

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Lovin Lisicki 04/20/2009 at 05:02 PM

Lovely post Pete. . . . love when you talk bout WTA!!!!!LOL

Sabine played phenomenally well last week. .. .. . . . . the most consistent i've seen her ever .. . . . . .. . maybe this cud be her Dina-like awakening??!!LOL . .. . . another example of a player who had some talent. . . . . but worked their way to the top thanks to hard hard work . . .. . . .

i like that Sabine is a worker. . . . yesterday i posted that i like her fighting spirit, intimidation and fearlessness. . . . . all this i feel comes from the hard work . . .. . .you can even see this work when she scrambles to try and get down every ball . . . . . . . .i think this ability to get down and get it done is a talent in itself!!LOL . . . . . . .the beauty, originality and natural flow in her strokes and shots . . .. . thats just extra talent. . . .curse those talented peoples!!!!!!!LOL

i think that you cud compare Sabine in a way to new No1 Dina . . . . . another example of a player who had some talent. . . . . but worked their way to the top thanks to plain and simple hard hard work . . .. . . . i feel thats the problem with some young tennis players. . . . .. as a junior myself. . . . i find that sumtimes the most talented players just feel they dont need to work .. . .. and end up losing bad. . . . . . .talent is of small importance compared to determination, hard work and willingness to learn. . . .. . the players who succeed are the ones who have talent. . . . maybe not the most talented. . . . . but the one's who give the most to tennis. .. . . .commiting to everything they are asked to do and just giving 100% out on the practice court!!!

Again . .. .great post pete . . . .*loves*. . . . .hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more sabine this year!!!!!LOL

Posted by 40 L'Oeuf 04/20/2009 at 05:02 PM

Buzz off NP. This article isn't about Gilles who's actually 5'11 by the way and already a Top 10 player unlike Lisicki...Don't be a troll !

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:04 PM

BTW, I think she's a very pretty girl.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 05:08 PM

40 L'Oeuf, you need to take a Valium or some other strong tranquilizer. Seriously.

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Lovin Lisicki 04/20/2009 at 05:08 PM

*seconds sam elin's comment*
i think sabine is a really pretty girl . .. . maybe not the prettiest on tour. . . . . but she just seems like a fun girl either way . . .. . . she seems like she knows how to hav a good time!!!LOL. . . . . .. . despite her constant work!!!!LOL. . . . .. . and i love the eye makeup ;. . . . .. gives her an emo-ey feel!!!!LOL. . . . .. and the WTA needs an emo!!!!!!!!!LOL

Posted by tennisesq. 04/20/2009 at 05:11 PM

"The Lisicki's are Germans of Polish descent"

The Polish are taking over the WTA! There's the Radwanska sisters. I don't know how Polish they are, but Tamira Paszek and Aleksandra Wozniak definitely have Polish names. Now Sabine is Polish too! I'm sure there are more out there that I missed.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:12 PM

Jacko, emo, ah, you're too much. LOL! Great article Pete, I really enjoy reading about her and look forward to the one on Venus, another favorite.

Posted by Master Ace 04/20/2009 at 05:12 PM

As we know, Sabine has a high risk, high reward game. Therefore, she can double fault on her serve and she can spray errors all around the court. Perfect example of this was last year when she defeated Lindsay Davenport at 2008 Fed Cup but lost to Ashley Harkleroad,who was having a nice season for herself until personal issues came up. Now, will she be able to be consistent for long periods of time and the first answer will be coming up in Stuttgart where the red clay will blunt her serve and her ground strokes.

If you believe Samantha Elin's theory on having a serve to win a Slam(s), Sabine could win a Slam within the next 5-6 years. However, her first Slam will not be at the French Open.

Posted by tennisesq. 04/20/2009 at 05:15 PM

And how could I forget Caroline Wozniacki.

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Lovin Lisicki 04/20/2009 at 05:16 PM

LOL Sam . . .. i'm looking for a tennis emo . . .and i'm putting it all on Sabine!!!!!!LOL
oooooohh. . . cant wait for the Venus read either. . . .. . . i'm not really a Venus fan. . . . but i really love to see her play in wimbledon . .. .. . . .its like watching Justine at Roland Garros. ... even when they hav a bad match. . . .its still great . . . .and beautiful to watch!!!!!!LOL

Posted by Master Ace 04/20/2009 at 05:16 PM

Add Caroline Wozniacki to the Polish list. Even though she has been a Dane all her life, her father came from Poland.

*don't hit me Samantha Elin, just posting a fact*

Posted by tennisesq. 04/20/2009 at 05:17 PM

Yes Master Ace,
And Caroline and her father communicate in Polish during on-court coaching.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 05:18 PM

*don't hit me Samantha Elin, just posting a fact*

That's a good one, MA, especially coming from you.

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Lovin Lisicki 04/20/2009 at 05:21 PM

MA. . . . . at least Sabine makes DF's for going for her second serve. . . . she hit a couple of second serve aces last week . . .. . better than just rolling it in . . .. although she did that on the MPs. . . . . . but i suppose if she had a bad serving day. . .. .the going for the second serve strategy. . . .cud be very painful to watch!!!!!LOL

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:22 PM

Patrick, good points about the high risk of her game, and how she can spray balls all over. This is why I said I would take a wait and see approach before I believe she can be a top 2O player. To be top 2O, there must be consistency and the ability to play like she did yesterday over several tourneys and not just one. This is what seperates the greats from the just good.

Posted by tennisesq. 04/20/2009 at 05:23 PM

I just could not believe the number of winners Sabine was hitting during the final. I know, I know green American clay is a different surface that red clay. But, still it was scary.

I'm glad Venus got a chance to play her this early. Hopefully next time she'll be ready.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 05:29 PM

Sabine vs. Venus:

Posted by Master Ace 04/20/2009 at 05:31 PM

If you thought hitting over 30 winners against Caroline was a feat, she also had about that many in her win against Elena Vesnina and Marion Bartoli.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:34 PM

It's Ok Patrick, but I just wanted to clear this up on Caro, she was born in Denmark, spent her entire life there, speaks the language as good as I do, and has NEVER lived in Poland. According to Danish law, a child born in Denmark is considered Danish particularly if both their parents were Danish citizens as Caro's were. She plays for the Danish fed cup. Caro is as much Scandinavian as I'm, or any other person born in that area. When asked, she will say she's Danish and will paint the Danish flag, NOT the Polish on her nails for luck. Caro is Scandinavia's #1. Aggie is Polish.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 05:36 PM

Sab's got some good DSs.

Posted by gauloises 04/20/2009 at 05:40 PM

Nothing about the new no. 1 in women's tennis?

Ah, well.

As for Sabine, I hadn't seen her play before this week and was enormously impressed with her game and attitude. I love how quickly she moves between points and she certainly exposed the weaknesses in Wozniacki and Bartoli's games.

However, I remain not quite sold on her ultimate potential. She should be top 20, for sure. But I haven't seen her play a match where she wasn't playing at her best and ripping winners at will, and still managed to win. What's her plan B?

Anyway, she was adorable and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her.

Posted by Master Ace 04/20/2009 at 05:44 PM

Her lack of a Plan B at the moment is why she is only 43rd at the moment. My example in an earlier post on her high risk, high reward game was a good one on 2005 Fed Cup last year.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 05:45 PM

One last thing, if a child of Italian parents is born in America, that child is said to be American. Sharapova alway says that she's Russian. Why? Because that is where she was born.

Posted by gauloises 04/20/2009 at 05:49 PM

Hey, I was born in the United States, I'm certainly not American. Perish the thought.

Thanks MA, I must have missed that. Honestly, the extent of my familiarity with Sabine pre-Charleston can be summed up by seeing her name on the SB in an early round and thinking vaguely, 'Hey, isn't that that girl who's supposed to be quite good?'

I'm worried she might be a bit of a Nikki V. That said, the commentators were raving during her match about her ability to hit winners from defensive positions. Apparently, that's what the WTA needs to take it to the next level.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 04/20/2009 at 05:52 PM

Sabind did impress me in the final of Chharlestown,

First impression she just goes for it? fearless?

Her big serve will be her assest for sure as she climbs up the rankings.F/hand not bad either.

Are we jumping in here? proclaiming more results before they actually happen?

Congratulations for her win.I will just sit back and observe.

Sometimes when a player has or gets high expectations placed on them,reverse can happen.

Remaining positive and focused is the key for Sabine.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 06:22 PM

You can never tell where a young talent will go. If somebody had told me Nicole Vadisova would fall this far, I would have never believe it and just look at her. If you were to give an award for a young player who had so much promise unfurfilled,she would be up there.

Posted by linz 04/20/2009 at 06:31 PM

Thanks for the great post Pete. I mentioned this morning how incredibly impressed I was with Lisicki during the Charleston final, and I hope that she will get to the Top 20 this year, as I enjoy watching her and think she is incredibly well-adjusted. I'm glad you and Nick prove this to be true!!

I can't wait for your article on Venus...I do hope she is able to defend her Wimbledon title!!

Posted by GC20 04/20/2009 at 06:39 PM

I haven't seen a lot of WTA since the retirements of Henin and Hingis but actually watched the entire Lisicki/Woz match. As I was viewing, I thought she reminded me a little of Hingis with the wide and soft hook shots and James Blake with the crushing go-for-it power. Later, I read that Mary Pierce influenced the power side and that made sense. She's definitely someone I would pay to see play.

Posted by Markic 04/20/2009 at 06:51 PM

I love Lisicki's game, but she's an interesting contrast in her demeanour with Wozniacki. I find Lisicki a bit too highly strung, as evidenced by the 7 mps she needed to finish the job (but, most importantly, she did). Caro's an infinitely smarter player, but perhaps too relaxed sometimes? I certainly wish her dad would cool it - but his on-court lectures seem to be a successful formula...

Posted by Bismarck 04/20/2009 at 07:03 PM

i´ve seen her matches vs venus, the maid and the final vs c-woz.

and i´ve been very impressed by sabine, awesome week, really.
that said, who knows how far it´ll take her? top 20 seems reasonable to me given her tools, but indeed the week-in week-out consistency has yet to be proven.
for now, i´ll just enjoy what i saw during charleston. and that was great tennis, played by sabine lisicki.

Posted by gauloises 04/20/2009 at 07:06 PM

Well-put, Bis.


Has her win garnered a lot of attention in Germany?

Posted by Ginger 04/20/2009 at 07:27 PM

Well stated Pete - especially about character being the key factor to success as a player. I would also take it a step further and say, regardless of background, a person's character and attitude are deciding factors when it comes to succeeding as a "human being"...

I also loved Sabine's reaction and was very touched by Caroline's generosity. I wish both of them well

Posted by Pete 04/20/2009 at 07:37 PM

Gauloises - I find it so distressing (in a professional sort of way) that DS is the new No. 1 that I don't really want to write much about it. I did post on it over at ESPN though, and maybe will revisit it later here this week. In my experience, no player, male or female, who hasn't a major really deserves to be no. 1.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 04/20/2009 at 07:44 PM

Pete In regards to a player being the no 1 in the world and being slamless? isnt this where the points system comes into play.

Is it fair to deem a player not worthy because of not having a slam behind her name.

The Wta is a merry go round to me at the moment.The no 1 position is like musical chairs?

Safina has the points to be deemed no 1 at the moment how long she will last remains up to her.

Posted by Bismarck 04/20/2009 at 07:50 PM

not really, gauloises.
i think the usual tiny spots in various media which are reporting from time to time when a german does something noteworthy in tennis did their duty and reported, but i wouldn´t say her win made any mainstream waves whatsoever.
tennis has careened off the cliff in germany post steffi+boris as far as public attention is concerned.

i think it would need a slam final or so from sabine to get noticed here "big time".

Posted by tommy 04/20/2009 at 07:58 PM

It is an unusual situation. The WTA gives 2,000 points to a slam winner. 1,400 for the finalist. 900 for a SF, 500 for a QF. They probably should lower the finalist to 1,200. Safina was fortunate to be the Jankovic/Ivanovic half of the AO draw.

She's not the tour's best player. But she's been to 2 slam finals and a SF in the past year, and the Gold medal Olympic match. And won several tournaments.

Serena hasn't won a title outside the majors in a year,so it would be close no matter how the slam points get distributed

Posted by PC 04/20/2009 at 08:04 PM

Right before Lisicki left Bollettieri's (before she left for Australia for the start of 2009), Nick pulled her over and gave her some unsolicited advice: "Stay by yourself . . . Select the few friends you have very carefully, and make sure they share your mission statement."

Wasn't this from an article in Tennis mag? or here online? The article portrayed an American and Lisicki.

Good on her for winning Sat. After I watched Woz melt down in the Semi Final, I figured Lisicki would win on Sunday.

It was an entertaining match. I think she's attractive too. She seems very un assuming, and at easy with her self. Her Dad seemed genuine and happy (not looking like a freak like Sharapova's Dad when she won Wimbledon).

I have trouble imagining myself quitting my job and coaching my teenage daughter (knowing she has to become the breadwinner or we starve). And staying sane in the process.

Posted by gauloises 04/20/2009 at 08:04 PM

Fair enough, Pete, I thought that was probably the case. Read your post on it at ESPN.

I do think the system should be changed - but right now, Dinara is the world's no. 1, and she's done it by getting to two Slam finals and capturing a bunch of major titles. The system may be broken, but it's still a great achievement for her.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 08:24 PM

wow, so few comments on such a great post. The curse of the WTA I guess.
I too am very happy for Sabine and her heavy eye makeup. I love her go for it attitud and no monkeying around between points.
Who knows Bismarck maybe she will be the one to steal some of those pasta ads away from Steffi. Here's hoping that this talent will be the one to go the extra mile.

Posted by Diane 04/20/2009 at 08:24 PM

Lisicki's game has changed a lot, just in the past few months. She has gone from hitting and hoping for the best to actually using strategy on the court, and the strategy is working. Her returns are getting better and better, and she's also using some finesse. Her confidence has increased, too. I spoke with her on several occasions in Charleston, and found her to be bright and pleasant.

Posted by ptenisnet 04/20/2009 at 08:32 PM

If we really believe that it is not right for DS to be no. 1 without having won a major, then maybe, being no. 1 isn't such a valuable thing after all and it is ok for Safina to be no. 1. There is intrinsically no measurable value to the no.1 ranking. Its value is what is established by consensus.

Ultimately, she is going to have to do well to retain the no. 1 spot (and hopefully that includes a slam).

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/20/2009 at 08:34 PM

I did not see any of Sabine's matches but I have seen some clips on youtube and the highlights on the WTA website. I liked what I saw but very much agree with Bissy on proving if she can maintain week in week out the consistency of her high risk high reward game. But she definitely has game and it is good that more and more ladies are picking up their game and getting into the mix. It only means it will take a while for a *dominant* player in the WTA. Part of me likes that lack of predictability ;-) which brings me to the issue of Dinara.

Pete, I also read your ESPN piece on Dinara and while the system may not be the best (I'm not sure there can be a best system), she won three tier 1s (Berlin, Montreal, and Tokyo) and one tier 2 (LA), an Olympic silver, finalist (FO 2008 and AO 2009), SF (USO 2008) within the 52-week period starting from Apr 20, 2008. I think she earned it just as Serena earned the points she did to get back to no. 1 when she won the GS titles she did during the same period.

And whatever the case, you cannot be *dominant* by simply winning winning the GSs. Even Serena during her most *dominant* year (2002) won GSs and other top titles (10 of 13 finals, winning 8 of those ten, four of them being GSs) to get to and stay at no. 1. So she has to do better than just winning the GSs. I had mentioned it before that had she won Dubai and defended KB, she would have had an additional 800 ranking points right now and would probably still be #1 (679 points separate her and Dinara now). Rafa is not number one simply because of the GSs. the IWs and MCs etc of the ATP world is what puts him there. So until you can have a player that can be dominant at both GSs and other tier 1s, as tommy noted above the rankings will continue to shift.

Posted by ptenisnet 04/20/2009 at 08:35 PM

About Lisicki,
all through that second set I was waiting (reluctantly) for her high risk game to fall apart. At when she went from 40-0 to deuce, serving for the match, I was sure c-woz had turned the match around. Lisicki played some fearless tennis to lose out the match and I was very happy that she did.

C-Woz for her part played some very entertaining tennis she displayed murray - like anticipation on some of those points.

Posted by Ginger 04/20/2009 at 08:38 PM

Hi Ptenisnet - how are you? hope all is well

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 04/20/2009 at 08:44 PM

Bodo: You are a WIMP!! Say something about Monte Carlo. Your beloved Roger did not win. "Jet Boy" (you stopped calling Rafa this) is King of Clay and god of Tennis. Shame, shame, shame!!!! Nothing wrong with writing about women's tennis, but you are simply pathetic. Grow up!!!!!!

Posted by white line fever 04/20/2009 at 08:52 PM

Oh good gracious - I have to follow that?!

Anywho... thanks for the WTA article. I, too, was lovin' the Licki this weekend and it was my first time getting to see her play as well. I agree with ptenisnet - the most impressive thing about her effort was her ability to overcome her nerves at the end, as she kept hurling herself against the Wall of Match Point until she finally broke through. Good stuff, and I hope it bodes well for the future.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/20/2009 at 08:53 PM

"Oh good gracious - I have to follow that?!"

wlf - LOL! ;-)

Posted by Christopher 04/20/2009 at 08:54 PM

"Sharapova alway says that she's Russian. Why? Because that is where she was born."

Does this mean John McEnroe is German?

Just kidding around with you, Samantha.

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 04/20/2009 at 08:57 PM

No, you are following Bodo.....

Posted by VE 04/20/2009 at 09:01 PM

It was nice watching a good WTA match where both players were worthy champions and neither player just completely fell apart. I'm sick of the paper tigers, Sabine was a nice anitdote this weekend.

Posted by Christopher 04/20/2009 at 09:03 PM

RafaFan-San Juan-- I'll go out on a limb here and try reasoned discussion...Do you really think that Rafa winning MC again is a bigger story than what Lisicki did last week? If you want your fill of glowing words about Nadal (and very accurate ones too), go read Steve Tignor's post. He captures Nadal's present dominance quite nicely.

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 04/20/2009 at 09:06 PM

This is a direct quote from you: "I've been thinking about Nadal for a few days now and will post on him tomorrow or Wednesday. It all depends on how much headway I can make on my piece on Venus Williams for Tennis magazine - she'll probably be our cover subject for the July issue"

WIMP!!!!!! WIMP!!!! WIMP!!!!!!

Tell you what, if it's tomorrow or Wedenesday, or if your piece on Venus is complete or not, don't do it!!! Don't write about Rafa, he has too much class for a PUBLIC clown like you. Does Tennis Magazine have an early retirement program? Go for it!!! Sorry, but you deserve it. Go Rafa1!!!!

Posted by Master Ace 04/20/2009 at 09:20 PM

RafaFan-San Juan,
I agree with Christopher and go to Steve Tignor's thread on Rafael. It is well written with accurate description about Rafael. Some of us here do like a good story like Sabine Lisicki winning Charleston defeating 3 top 20 players(Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli, and Caroline Wozniacki) to take the title. Therefore, a story needs to be written about her and Pete saw her a few months ago in Florida so there is the connection b/w what he saw and what happened in Charleston yesterday. By the way, when Pete does write about Rafael, it is going to be very good.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 09:24 PM

"Just kidding around with you, Samantha."

Big mistake, Christopher. Brace yourself for Samantha's dead-serious recapitulation.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 09:26 PM

wow, rabid here all of a sudden. I was actually going to joke about how weird this post had not been turned into yet another Fedalian horror show... but looks like the joke is on all of us
Anyway, I for one cannot wait to say what this woman says next(notice my sly implication there?)

Posted by RafaFan-San Juan 04/20/2009 at 09:26 PM

Master Ace: Appreciate your comment, but Pete has a problem. I mean, read the press in England, the rest of Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, etc. They're going apesh__ over Rafa....Pete is out of touch, kind of like General Motors.....

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 09:27 PM

LOL. You give me Fever!!!!!!!

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 09:35 PM

Rafafan for gods sake this post is about the WTA and the Lovely Licky. Does everything have to be about Rrrrrrrrrrafffaaaa. As pointed out, there is a post by Steve on GoNads or the Monday net post where you can witter away to your hearts content. Seriously you are just looking dense now.
And if Pete is such an awful writer why would you want him to put finger to keyboard regarding the talents of the Mallorcan Marauder??
cake and eat it much??

Posted by Sherlock 04/20/2009 at 09:36 PM

Christopher, you are too patient. :)

Talk about giving Rafa fans a bad name. Go to vamos brigade or something, RafaFan-San Juan. Please. Soon.

Is that what it's called? :)

Posted by Christopher 04/20/2009 at 09:39 PM

Pete-- You've no doubt been called a lot of things in your time, but I'm willing to bet this is the first time someone has attacked you for being like General Motors.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 09:42 PM

Lockster, I thought you were posting at VB these days. eheheh.
on a serious note I was sure Pete was Chrysler

Posted by ptenisnet 04/20/2009 at 09:48 PM

hi ginger. things are satisfactory. hope the same with you.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 09:51 PM

Ptenisnet, I too thought Caro was ready to go the distance in that match, but I think at times, she can be mentally fragile like in the match when she had match point against Serena and wasn't able to close it out, or in the second set when she allowed Demmy back in the match. She's getting stronger and tougher and in the match against Demmy she wasn't to be denied. Ptenisnet, your girl, sure can scream. I thought she was in a torture chamber. I think sometimes players are in the zone as Lipsicki was throughout the week and nobody is going to stop them. The trouble with Lipsicki is that in the past she has been very inconsistent and has rarely played at the level we saw last week. Rafa fan, Rafa gets his fare share of attention around here. Besides I love the attention given to the WTA and enjoyed this blog. Go Caro, Scandinavia's #1, 2OO8 new comer of the year, winner of 4 WTA titles and the first Scandinavian woman to be ranked #11 in the world. NP, I do have a sense of humor, I thought Christopher's post was LOL!

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 09:57 PM

And Ptenisnet comparing Scandinavia's#1 to Murray is a nice compliment. Thank you.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 09:59 PM

hey Sam. I really hope Caro does not become a victim of the stupidity of the on court coaching fiasco. The idea that a player can call a coach on court is just absurd in and of itself, but given the fact that it cannot happen in a grand slam is a recipe for disaster for players that do not learn how to work out matches on their own. Caro's reliance on her father and his manic machine gun chatter are very very worrying signs for her mental toughness. Something that Licky clearly has in spades.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 10:03 PM

NT, agree. The yelling at her was so not cool. You have some crazy tennis dads and hopefully he's not one. Also, I agree that she needs to figure things out for herself.

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 10:09 PM

Aww, Samantha, so are you saying Christopher is funnier than me? I take that very personally, U know.

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 10:17 PM

Sam, I had a Polish father... I suspect he is absolutely stark raving bonkers.
just sayin'

Posted by naughty T.... tennistically 04/20/2009 at 10:22 PM

...Plus this whole on court coaching I think is playing to the notion of hoping that there will be crazed behaviour and yelling from the coaches. It is titillation and reality tv style tennis to go along with the idiotic airbrushing "sexing up" of the WTA.

Posted by Christopher 04/20/2009 at 10:25 PM

NP-- I'm funnier than you, but mostly on clay, so it throws my overall sense of humor into doubt :)

You're definitely funnier on grass (yes, that worked out even better than I thought it would).

Posted by NP 04/20/2009 at 10:31 PM

Ah, Christopher, but there are more events held on clay, which gives you the advantage. Of course I'm sure you had no such thing in mind.

Posted by Tennis Fan 04/20/2009 at 10:44 PM

"One last thing, if a child of Italian parents is born in America, that child is said to be American."

Even if born in America or any other place, if your parents or grandparents were born somewhere else you may have dual citizenship or at least a intense connection. Jennifer Capriati benefited from her italian name and background in her sponsorship deals. So does Panetta due to the large Italian American population she now sponsors some American Olive Oil company who imports Italian Olive Oil. Don't be so senesitive about it. Sabatini while a spanish speaking Argentinian, was loved and loved playing in Italy probably because of her Italian heritage.

Sharapova alway says that she's Russian. Why? Because that is where she was born.

While Sharapova was born in Russia for all intensiver purposes, she is an American. Even the Russians call her a "passport Russian" and really have a connectiton to her. That does not mean she does not have longings and a deep connection to her country of birth.

There are now three WTA well known players of Polish desent Wozniak, Wozniacki, and Lisicki who seem to have friendly relations, even though most WTA players are not friends, precisely because they are dispora Polish. They all speak Polish and English fluently besides the language of the country shown on their passport. I find this refreshing. So what is wrong with considering them Poles in addition to citizens of the country of their birth? However, the Radwanskas might take issue with that. I wonder if they get along with the Radwanskas?

We need a good polish WTA player joke right now?

How may WTA poles does it take to win a slam?

An Italian/American, a Danish/Pole, and a Russian/American were sitting at the the juice bar at Roland Garros...........

Like everyone else here, I had never seen Lisicki play but like what I saw yesterday. She has a big serve and a big game. Hopefully, she can continue to rise in the rankings. She does seem to have it but we will see. I do think JJ would have given her a harder time of it. Although Wozniacki has played a lot of tennis lately and was probably a bit tired she was blown off the court in the first set. She seems to need something more to take her to the top of the rankings, but she is only 18 and think the time with Gil Reyes will pay dividends in the future.

Clay: Clay Court tennis is my least favorite, especially European Red/Brown Clay but I really like the American Green clay. Maybe they should expand the use of the Green Clay to Europe - it seems more like tennis to me. It would be interesting to see Rafa play on the green clay.

Posted by Tennis Fan 04/20/2009 at 11:00 PM

"Caro's reliance on her father and his manic machine gun chatter are very very worrying signs for her mental toughness."

Does anyone here speak Polish? How do you know what he was saying? Maybe he was saying stay away from that Verdasco guy, he just wants one thing, listen to you Dad who knows, even though I was not like that with your mother. Or maybe he was saying hurray up or we won't be able to get to Bush Gardens in time.

I don't know if she took that and then went and played well I would say she is mentally tough.

Or maybe the noise of her father is like watching TV to put yourself to sleep - its like the normal background whitenoise and is actually calming or a New Yorker in the country missing the city noise.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 11:07 PM

Tennis fan, I don't want to argue, but I think it's very sad when people want to deny others like me the right to be proud of a player from their part of the world. Scandinavia has never produced a great female player and we haven't had a great champion in almost 3o years, and now we have one and you're are trying to claim she is Polish has if we don't have a right to claim her or to be proud of her achievements which is unfair. Caro is Scandinavian and that is a fact. I'm proud of her and what she is doing to put Scandinavian tennis back on the map. Again it's very unfair.

Posted by Jenni 04/20/2009 at 11:19 PM

Samantha, don't worry. When Caroline wins her first GS I have no doubt that she'll bring the trophy straight home to Denmark, with no pit stops in Poland. :)

I'm excited to see what the future holds for Lisicki - I was only SB watching that last game but she seemed to hang in there to finally get the victory. That showed some guts.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/20/2009 at 11:34 PM

Thanks Jenni, one last thing tennis fan, the fact that Caro will frequently paint the Danish flag on her nails, what does that say about how she feels about being Danish? If she feels so Polish, whyn't paint the Polish flag? Hmmm!

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/21/2009 at 12:05 AM

Firstly, thanks a lot, Pete for not writing about Roger or Rafa. I am always looking forward to reading your articles on someone else beside the top 4 as they have been written about to death.

Also thanks for sharing those detials about Sabine's background and her attitude. If she shares some of Rafa's qualities, she automatically gets into my "players I like" list :-)

As I said before, for me, she is Ernie of WTA. Sincerely hope she is better then him upstairs.

Posted by Tennis Fan 04/21/2009 at 12:06 AM

"the fact that Caro will frequently paint the Danish flag on her nails, what does that say about how she feels about being Danish? If she feels so Polish, whyn't paint the Polish flag?"

You are way too serious about this issue, just because she is of Polish desent is not to negate her Danish citizenship.

However, if I were to add to your seeming slight paranoia on this issue I would say: if you were born in American and confident of your citizenship, the American flag is probably collecting dust somewhere in the attic if you even have one, except during the bi-cenntial and after 9-11. Some Americans, most likely ones from Charleston and some other deep south regions, still wave the Confederate Flag even though they are Americans and should be waving the red, white and blue. If you were an immigrant or you felt you have something to prove, for whatever reason, you'd be waving the flag all the time and painting it on your nails. Same goes for Danes. Some people, that are very much into flag waving and flag waving etiquette, would even consider painting "the flag" on your nails a denegration and against the law.

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/21/2009 at 12:11 AM

Also, correct me if I am wrong but these high risk/high reward players gradually mellow a bit as its not possible to play that game consistently. One fine example is Djokovic. He employs controlled aggression now compared to the high risk tennis he started with.

Posted by Djerkovic 04/21/2009 at 01:03 AM


Posted by linz 04/21/2009 at 01:03 AM

Avid sports fan- your 8:34 post was incredibly eloquent, I completely agree with everything you said.

It is tough to swallow a #1 not being a Grand Slam Champion, but the #1 ranking looks at the past 52 weeks. Grand slams are obviously the most important, but only account for 8 weeks out of the year, so obviously the #1 ranking HAS to look at more than that, otherwise, what would be the point of the rest of the WTA calendar? Dinara has reached (by my calculations) 9 finals and won 4 events this past year. In the Grand Slams she has reached 2 finals and 1 semi-final. Serena, however, in the past 52 weeks has only reached the final in 3 events and won 2. I know that all 3 were Grand Slams, therefore making this argument much more complicated, but the rankings system, while it needs to favor the 8 weeks of Grand Slams, cannot be solely based on those 8 weeks. Serena barely played (due to injury I think) last summer during the US Open series and had a very poor showing after the US Open. Peaking at the grand slams is incredibly important, and I would definitely put my money on Serena over Safina most days head-to-head, but I do believe Dinara earned this. (Dinara has made 9/17 finals the past 52 weeks, where-as Serena has made 3/15- and since 17 tourneys is the minimum, it goes down as 3/17)

Sorry for the rant, reading over Avid's beautiful post got me riled up =)

( bring this back on topic, go Lisicki!!! I will be rooting for you the rest of the year!!!)

Posted by Djerkovic 04/21/2009 at 01:04 AM


Posted by Djerkovic 04/21/2009 at 01:08 AM

Oh no!
a world number one without a Slam
what has happened to tennis?
This just

Posted by Spacenoxx (El Stupido aka The Moron From Majorca) 04/21/2009 at 01:18 AM

This Ranking points and Grandslam debate is a tough one.

If you increase ranking points for GS so as to increase thier importance, then players wont play much during the rest of the year as its not rewarding. They will pick and choose just enough to meet their monetary requirements. But then if other events arent given importance, then Tennis would only mean 4 tournaments a year and the rest of the year there wont be much of tennis to watch and Tennis will lose its popularity.

If you keep them as they currently are then all tournaments become inportant and then you sometimes may not have enough in tank to go deep in GSlams.

No matter how you slice it, the current setup (in ATP) is probably the best way to have a system where it rewards both the GS winners as well as those who perform consistently over a 52 week period.

IMO, as the Ranking system is, just that, a pure math of the points collected over 52-week period, it should be whoever collects the maximum, period.

For wining a GS you get to be called a GS winner, for wining most points you get to be called No.1

Posted by Hey bodo 04/21/2009 at 01:24 AM

Hey Bodo,

Talent happens on clay lol

Ho read how your weak article on players having to "dumb up their game for clay" has been refuted, ten times over, again:

Can we now agree, after this weekend's play, that clay is the best surface for the men’s game today? Seeing Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray hit every shot imaginable and run down every ball possible, I’m willing to say yes. Clay, which keeps topspin from skipping though the court while at the same time enabling players to slide themselves into position for hard-to-reach balls, allows the current generation to show off all of their skills like no other type of court.

First, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray, like most of their peers, hit heavy topspin forehands and back them up with penetrating two-hand backhands. If you’ve ever played on slow clay, you know that, the surface’s reputation aside, you need to generate enough pace and spin to hit a heavy ball that goes through the court—Lleyton Hewitt, a consummate grinder and winner of many hard-court titles, has never been a master of the surface because he can’t push his opponents off the baseline. Second, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray all have touch; clay, even more than a slow hard court, gives them the time not only to set up and hit that shot, but to slide and reach a very good drop from their opponent. Third, these guys can all play defense, which we know is a prerequisite on dirt—Pete Sampras was about offense at all costs, and clay was his bete noire.

Now that the serve and volley is nothing more than a change-up play, clay is the surface that demands the most complete game from players. Instead of an all-world serve—none of these three guys ever hold just by blasting aces—the foundation of the sport today is a mix of accuracy and power from the baseline. While Murray won without doing much attacking on the hard courts in Key Biscayne, he was forced to show everything he had to stay with Nadal in Monte Carlo. His game became much more varied and entertaining when he did. Ditto Djokovic. In Miami, Djokovic was generally content to put the ball in the middle of the court; Mary Carillo even said he looked tentative. Compare that to how he played the final in MC. The hooked forehands that sent Nadal wide; the frozen-rope backhands that had the Spaniard at full stretch; the ability to change directions with the ball and hit corners from anywhere: This is the old Djokovic, the real Djokovic, and hopefully the one we’ll see again in the future. As for Nadal himself, I don't need to mention how much clay suits his skills, the same ones that have made him the best and arguably most complete player today. It hardly seems an accident that he developed them on clay and extended them to other surfaces afterward.

Posted by tenisistka 04/21/2009 at 03:10 AM


I don't mean to offend you or take away your Danish pride. But to me, Karolina is as much Polish as she is Danish. The sad thing is, one of the main reason while she is not playing for Poland and not living in Poland, is that Poland (Polish Tennis Federation) is not embracing players, even young and promicing. A couple years ago Wozniacki parents (both Polish, her mom was handball player on the polish national team) were going with Karoline to Poland so she could play junior tournaments. Her dad even paid for her membership dues, so she could join the federation. They were not interested, not supportive, not helpful, so after three years, Wozniacki let the idea go. Aleksandra Wozniak parents emigrated to Canada, she is coached by her father, speak polish at home, keeps close relationships with her family and friends in Poland (just look at the recent WTA video ) Karolina, Aleksandra, and Radwanska's sisters are close friends (Ula and Karolina dined together before they Indians Wells match) There is much more polish emigrants children all over the world (look at Australia juniors, Olivia Rogowska

Monika Wejnert)
Germany- Angelique Kerber

just a few examples.
There was huge exodus from my country in the 90, a now we have those kids sprouting all over the world, hard working, dedicated, not taking anything for granted. And Radwanska family is exception from the rule, Agnieszka was born in Krakow, Poland, then family emigrated to Germany, where Ula was born, and her father worked there as a tennis pro. Their coming back to Poland was big sacriface of the whole extended family, and their determination paid off. But believe me, it is not that great. While Ola Wozniak, Karolina Wozniacki are welcomed and pampered by their adoptive homelands, it seems, that in Poland Radwanski's family success is not appreciated at all. There beloved Krakow doesn't want to allow them to build tennis facilities (even if they would use their own money to pay for it) the tournaments are cancelled because of lack of interest and sponsorship, there's constant critique in the media every time the girls are not winning the match, expectations are huge, but nobody is doing anything for them!
So when you are saing Caro Scandinavia number 1, yes, but to me she will be always Polish star as well, the star the Poland did not want:,249816.html

No offense.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/21/2009 at 03:12 AM

Hey Pete and everyone.

*loves the lovely post on WTA* - more, please. :)

With avid and gauloises and ptenisnet and others on Safina. Also - I guess the system is all a bit in transition at the moment, so I'm not sure how significant it is. And I'm quite certain she would LOVE to have been #1 with a Slam win under her belt.

About Lisicki - agreed about the consistency, but since she's young and just breaking through I'll give her some time to develop it. It'll be interesting to keep an eye on her through the clay season and at Wimbledon and on the hard courts.

*splashing about in the shallow end* - I think she's very pretty. And expecting anyone to look their best when they're, you know, playing their heart out on the tennis court would be just ridiculous. Heart and commitment wins over keeping your make-up fresh, I say.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/21/2009 at 03:30 AM

Also, for RafaFan-San Juan - if you read the British press after Monte Carlo, you will see that the main story is "Nadal tips Andy Murray for Roland Garros glory." The whole world really *isn't* going gaga over Rafa.

I must admit, I was giggling over the idea that Pete would write a post about Roger today...(yesterday?)

And, objectively, Rafa winning Monte Carlo may be a great achievement, but it is not that exciting a tennis story. Hence some of the writing about Murray's potential challenge on clay.

But Lisicki's win is absolutely an exciting story, one deserving of attention, especially, as Master Ace said, it's kind of a follow-up to a post back in December in which Pete mentioned Lisicki (and Michaela Krajicek) as one to watch.

Not everyone is a Rafa fan (surprising though that may be to us KADs) or a Federer fan. *shrug*

I'd love to read Pete's take on Rafa - even if it is critical - but I don't think as readers we have any right to demand that he writes one or to say that he should write one. Rafa (or Federer, or Fedal) is not the only story in tennis.

As others have said, Steve has a lovely post up all about Rafa's eyebrows - well worth a read. :)

Posted by tina 04/21/2009 at 04:27 AM

samantha - I won't dispute your Caro's being Danish, but you are Swedish, right? And did I miss something in the news, did "Scandinavia" recently become a country? Or did Sweden annex Denmark? I do know the languages are very similar, not at all like Finnish, which is also considered "Scandinavia". I'm not saying you shouldn't be proud of her accomplishments, but if you're Swedish and claiming pride in her being from your country - I refer to an old post here - then there's something I don't get.

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 04/21/2009 at 04:36 AM

I'm starting to find the way Samantha goes on about the so called #1 player from Scandinavia not just silly but increasingly tedious. I totally agree with Tenisistka about Karolina.

Posted by tina 04/21/2009 at 04:38 AM

ok, disregard my 4:27 post - you responded to this question on the Monday Net Post after I went out last night.

Posted by tina 04/21/2009 at 04:47 AM

p.s. As someone with much Croatian pride (yes, my mother's parents were born here) I feel I must note that national heroes Ljubicic and Cilic were both born in Bosnia.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/21/2009 at 06:24 AM

Tina, my father although from Sweden was part Danish, so yes I feel pride in her achievements. Also, were are the complaint about Murray being British, as the great Margaret Court call him when she attended his match. You don't think she felt proud of him. I guess she's silly do. And yes some might find having national pride silly or tedious or not to be taken serious. I don't agree with that.

Posted by Corrie (not Carrie or Cory) 04/21/2009 at 06:32 AM

One reason I like tennis as a sport is that it's about individuals NOT playing for countries, except in DC and Fed Cup, which are nice as a change, but I'd hate it to be all like that.

The media, who know no better, will keep bringing national pride into it, as with Murray and the British media's over the top response.

Nor do I like the attitude of "Ra,ra ra, Scandinavia's (so called )#1 is going to thrash the daylights out of the rest of you non-Scandinavian ninnies".

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/21/2009 at 06:51 AM

Go ahead, try telling the British that Murray is Scottish, you would get a big fight on that one. And as far as Sharapova being anything close to American. Sharapova, "I want to defeat the American on their own soil." Painting the flag of your home country on your nail is a symbol that you're proud to belong to that country. BTW, Caro was asked this question and she said she was a Dane. Case close.

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