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Why Rock the Boat? 05/14/2010 - 12:57 PM

99297923 by Pete Bodo

As I settled in to watch the Roger Federer vs. Stanislas Wawrinka match yesterday, I wondered: Given that both these guys are Swiss, doubles partners who bagged Olympic gold, and that we all know who the man is in Switzerland, what chance is there that Wawrinka will go out there hunting trouble against his vulnerable but beloved countryman?

This wasn't an enviable situation for Wawrinka. It's one thing to take the sledgehammer to an icon from a rival nation, or to one with whom you have no real relationship. It's quite another to turn on a countryman and doubles partner who helped write your ticket to glory - especially when you both come from a relatively small nation that's flush with pride because it's punching well above its weight when it comes to impact on the pro tour. And to top it off, Federer is such a classy, low-key guy that the status quo in Switzerland is one that the pros in any nation on earth could only hope to emulate.

I have no doubt that Wawrinka is aware of his implicit obligations as a professional tennis player, playing for money before spectators who hope to see a good show. But a big part of getting a job done, and certainly of getting it done well, is wanting to do it. It's hard for me to imagine Stan Wawrinka wanting to beat Federer with the degree of unfettered determination and aggression called for by that difficult job, a degree that tennis pros under most circumstances have no trouble attaining because that's what they do. Or that's what they do under normal circumstances, which were not quite in play yesterday in the Caja Magica at the Madrid Open.

Wawrinka did nothing in the course of the subsequent match to make me think my line of thinking was off the mark or inappropriate. In tennis, as in anything else, it's a wise idea to choose your battles, and I felt watching the match that Stan the Man had decided that he's just as soon pass on this one.

You could make a big deal out of this, call out Wawrinka, ridicule him, or feign something like moral outrage, but that would be posturing. If you ignore psychological realities, or try to pretend that they don't exist in order to make your point, you're not playing a fair hand. And if the two men happen to meet at the French Open or at Wimbledon in a few weeks time, the dynamic might be different because the dynamic is shaped and influenced by the conditions. I think every seasoned pro feels that in a major, all bets are off - the glory is there to be seized, and unless you're a Federer or Rafael Nadal, your chances of grabbing it are limited. Pass on them at your peril.

But this was Madrid, why rock the boat? So the upshot is that I'm still withholding judgment on Federer's game. I still need to see him have to scratch and claw, to whatever degree Federer ever does that, against a quality opponent before I feel comfortable looking ahead to Paris.

On the women's side of the draw, a different element was in play a little earlier today, as Venus Williams sallied forth to meet Sam Stosur. Coming into this match, Stosur had positioned herself as a sorely needed role model for the WTA (I have more to say about the state of the women's tour in that regard in a post over at ESPN). Stosur has been playing the best tennis of her life (she won 21 of her last 24 matches going into the quarters at Madrid). She's been maximizing her talent, which isn't at quite the same level as the talent of the leading ladies of the WTA. But she's been all about the tennis, and nothing but the tennis - a refreshing change when you look at the WTA tour these days.

Venus has done her share of the heavy lifting this year as well. She was 22-3 going into the match with Stosur. And Venus has far more big-match experience, as well as superior talent. You know the old saying, class will tell. . . It's even more appropriate in athletics than in the original, (and wildly insupportable) social context. Venus routined Stosur 6-3, 6-3, to continue what can best be described as a clay-court revival.

Venus has pretty much made Wimbledon her home these past few years, but her results in the other majors have been disappointing - and puzzling. If you ignore her outstanding Wimbledon record, Venus hasn't won a major since the fall of 2001. I find that baffling, even though a large share of the responsibility for the situation could be laid at the feet of her sister, Serena. But if Venus is truly feeling it on clay, she'll be a force in Paris.

It's funny, I always expected Venus to do better on clay. She certainly has the physical gifts, in the form of her speed, strength and stamina. Over the years, her strokes seem to have become less rather than more reliable, which doesn't hurt her as much at Wimbledon, where she's got the serve and off-the-ground power to force three-to-five stroke points. But on clay, a little it of inconsistency can go a long way toward ruining your chances, no matter how spectacular your shotmaking or how impressive your athleticism. We saw how inconsistent Venus can be in her last big tournament final (Miami), but she's certainly capable of performing on a higher plane ,  even if the stuff at ground level is red dirt.


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Posted by ks 05/14/2010 at 01:04 PM

One word 'minion' may have described what Pete wrote about Stan. lol.

Something Stan has in common with Almagro and Verdasco when they play Nadal for example ?

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2010 at 01:14 PM

Hmmm. Not convinced. It could be that Stan played the role of minion, but he also took Federer apart at MC last year in straights. By all means, withhold judgement on Federer's game, 'cos it's been pretty shaky of late. But I don't think Stan bumped into Mirka and learned that the twins were going to get no birthday presents because Dad hasn't been earning enough lately.

Posted by Kenneth (13-7, 6-2) 05/14/2010 at 01:14 PM

So true, this article. I felt the same way last year during RG, especially once Soderling had pulled off the impossible, that none was truly interested in stopping Federer from tying the record with the very major Sampras couldn't bag. But then I realized that Federer was still the magician a month later and of course the rest is history. Long may he and classy Venus continue to play.

Posted by badri 05/14/2010 at 01:18 PM

A sidenote to the minion discussion: any male equivalents to the JJ-Ana/Kim-Justine love-hate relationships?

Posted by Jamaica Karen (coming out of lurking town to celebrate Venus No. 2) 05/14/2010 at 01:19 PM

Pete, I read your post over at ESPN and I have to say that I am sorely disappointed at the shots that you have been taking at women's tennis these days. Women's tennis does not need one player. What women's tennis needs is better marketing at all levels of the game. I know I am beating a dead horse but if Larry Scott had spent half the time that he spent marketing the Tour as a whole rather than Sharapova and if the media had done 20% of the marketing of the Tour as they did with the Sharapova juggernaut the Tour would not be encountering the problems that it is now seeing where people hardly know who players are. It annoys me when I hear seasoned commentators ask each other about a player (Wickmayer) and wonder where she came from and her background and all because they have not spent the time to really get to know the players. You say that the Tour does not need another pretty face, it needs a tennis talented player, well there are lots of them. There is Rezai, Petkovic, Shahar Peer Li Na, and many others too numerous to mention. They play in tournaments that have fans glued to small live streams to catch a glimpse of them. Since I have been working from home I have been able to see more of these women playing their hearts out before packed crowds.

I agree that the tournaments in Europe have not seen big crowds at the women's events this season, but that had more to do with Rome having the men passing through the week before and then the women immediately after. At this year's AO, the women put on a much better show than the men. The stands in Australia were packed for almost every match that I saw on live streams. I watched the Paris indoors, huge crowds. Madrid had standing room only for Rezai v Petkovic and Nadia v Serena. I am not sure what else can be said. The WTA Tour needs to stop promoting its players as sex toys and more along the lines of professional women.

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2010 at 01:21 PM

Kenneth: You'll need to explain to me what Del Potro, at the very least, was up to breaking back at 2-3 in the final set of RG 2009 SF, and then coming back from 0-40 in the next game. Seemed to me like the big lad was very interested in stopping Federer. And Tommy Haas gave a pretty good impression at 2 sets up, 4-3 with a BP.

Posted by Master Ace 05/14/2010 at 01:24 PM

Roger will get a true test against Ernests in about 35 to 40 minutes while Venus have made the QF or better in all events she has played in 2010. Will Venus surprise the world and finally capture a Slam other than Wimbledon or USO in a few weeks?

By the way, WS leads Shahar and Francesca 4-2

Posted by Ku 05/14/2010 at 01:26 PM

Is it just me who thinks the only place tennis is really suffering is in the US? I mean, I understand that in Europe there were empty seats, but was it ever the case that seats would be filled for a non-grand slam event in Europe?
And maybe I'm too young to remember, but were Graff, Evert etc THAT great? They didn't DF at inopportune times?

Posted by Ku 05/14/2010 at 01:28 PM

Oh BTW, I completely disagree with the idea of pitting men's and women's tennis against each other. They are different sports! I cannot think of a single sport where the women draw more attention than the men by and large (except maybe Figure skating)

Posted by Caroline 05/14/2010 at 01:29 PM

Not convinced, either. Roger didn't look as if he was expecting to be given anything. I'm not sure that Stan is quite as much of Roger's minion as people think. Maybe I'm imagining a tiny bit of resentment in Stan.

Tonight it'll be interesting to see how Gulbis plays with that not always helpful partner .... expectation.

Going back to Roger's comments discussed on the previous thread, there is a radio interview on the BBC website which is definitely worth a listen. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/jonathanoverend/2010/05/federer.html

Posted by Kenneth (13-7, 6-2) 05/14/2010 at 01:30 PM

Delpot was interested in redemption Andrew. He had been the recipient of a handy beatdown by Federer, no? Something distasteful too I think, bagels and all. But, my views changed in light of Federer's very strong performance a month later, AND when he went on to put himself in the USO final, once again making the finals of all 4 majors.

Posted by Kenneth (13-7, 6-2) 05/14/2010 at 01:34 PM

In fact, how many major finals in a row is it now? I think 8?

Posted by Jamaica Karen (coming out of lurking town to celebrate Venus No. 2) 05/14/2010 at 01:47 PM

Have I been moderated or are posts now disappearing again. Ugh

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 01:48 PM

I find this article completely offensive for Stan, so what your'e saying is that Stan didn't want to win all that bad because Federer is from Switzerland and he didn't want to rock the boat, pray tell where was this understanding last year in MC where for all intents and purposes the Fed was apparently in "crisis" and had the mini meltdown in Miami, why didn't Stan roll over and give him the win, since I would assume the Fed needed the win more then than now...this is just unfreakingbelievable and I'd have more to say but I'm just not going to go there...pfffttttt

Posted by Emma 05/14/2010 at 01:51 PM

Ha Bodo I like you but is this a serious article? Check out how Stan accepted Roger's handshake at the end, he was annoyed at losing. It's not easy being the guy mostly overlooked from the same country as a big star - I remember reading a press conference with Stan ahead of his match against Murray last Wimbly and he got about 5 questions in a row about how he felt Federer would play against Murray. Stan and Roger are friends, not BFFs, but Stan doesn't like to play second fiddle to him. Maybe Stan got a bit lazy chasing shots down in the 2nd - like most are when they're a couple of service holds away from losing - but there's no doubt Fed was on his game yesterday. If Roger forgets about all that progress from earlier this season when he plays Gulbis I'd criticize his play as much as anyone else would. But the Wawrinka match was a big improvement from the Becker match, which itself was a big improvement from the rest of the season.

Posted by CherrtNYC 05/14/2010 at 01:54 PM

Caroline -- thanks for the link to that BBC interview with Fed. Great.

Beckham -- is the wet bar on the bus fully stocked? It's early, but I'm home today....

Posted by CherryNYC 05/14/2010 at 01:57 PM

OK--my name is CherryNYC --that's one of my better typos. I was trying to type with one hand and hold a Little Cherry in the other

Posted by JohnC 05/14/2010 at 01:57 PM

More bullsh*t amateur psychology. Might be more convincing if you actually analysed the match that was played rather than Stan's head.

Posted by Caroline 05/14/2010 at 01:57 PM

You're welcome Cherry. I'm sure Beckham's well stocked. I'm very fortunate to be in Europe and this evening's match coincides with the Friday evening cocktail hour. I'm all poured and ready to go ...

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:00 PM

Ku
gymnastics

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:01 PM

This match should be really good. Too bad I'll have to miss most of it.

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:04 PM

Fed wins the toss and elects to receive.

Posted by CherryNYC 05/14/2010 at 02:07 PM

Take an extra sip on my behalf Caroline! Everybody ready?

Posted by Kenneth (13-7, 6-2) 05/14/2010 at 02:08 PM

Lol, of the four times Federer and Wawrinka have played, the Monte Carlo win was the only win by Stan.

Posted by Texastennis 05/14/2010 at 02:11 PM

Yes Graf and Evert were that great, Ku! Of course they had ups and downs but nothing like we see now (besides the Williams). No comparison. And women's tennis was very popular at tournaments in the US and Europe. (Although it's not only the women who don't draw spectators today - I recall the US open series last summer had week after week of the men playing the US summer hard court season in front of a tiny number of spectators...)

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:12 PM

yowsa shankalicious already

Posted by CWATC 05/14/2010 at 02:12 PM

As several have pointed out, Stan beat Roger in MC last year. They also played a close and tense match in Montreal last summer. So I see no support for this hypothesis.

As for Stan fading in the second set, didn't he do the same against Nadal a few weeks ago? He's a good player, but his record against the top 5 has always been poor.

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:12 PM

Lets go JJ and Ernie!

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:15 PM

JJ from 0-40 to deuce

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:15 PM

Fed's movement doesn't look great today.

Hmph.

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:18 PM

horrible game from Fed...

Posted by TeamNadal 05/14/2010 at 02:19 PM

Go Ernie!!!!!!!

Posted by Samantha Elin(Caro stay world's#3 05/14/2010 at 02:19 PM

I have to admit there are tremendous problems with women's tennis, some of the great rivalries which we expected never happened, but I still love it over the guys because I love the pretty clothes and catty talk from the girls. Go Rezai!

Posted by Caroline 05/14/2010 at 02:19 PM

The old gunslinger's got shaky hands today!

Posted by JohnC 05/14/2010 at 02:20 PM

Starting with a DF is not the best omen, but we haven't really got started yet.

And before we know it, Fed's at 15-40, and before we know it we're at 2-0 Gulbis to serve.

Posted by ack 05/14/2010 at 02:20 PM

Not sure what to think about Fed vs. Stan. But I have seen Stan play much better on clay than he did yesterday -- maybe Fed just knows Stan's game better? Don't know.

Just finished watching Rafa v. Monfils. Good job by Rafa, not so good job by Monfils. And those matching "picnic" pants were sure confusing. Very odd indeeed -- Obviously one company had a "secret spy" infiltrating the other company's design headquarters. :-O

Looking forward to Fed vs. Gulbis (battle of the hair) and Muzz vs. Daveed. Vamos one and all!

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 02:21 PM

I guess the personality for today is Fred, at least he isn't shanking at will at the moment...when did he start tossing in such horrible service games, he started with a DF, I'd laugh but it isn't funny...

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:21 PM

Hubris eyes gleaming with that break of serve
Roger is a little sluggish, Hubris has antsy feet, he's still a little gittery

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:21 PM

Rezai holds for 1-1

Posted by rafadoc 05/14/2010 at 02:22 PM

Ernie has a very good drop shot.

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:22 PM

love hold by JJ, good serving

Posted by TeamNadal 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

Execellent start for Ernie!!!

Posted by Carrie *Humorless and full of "stunning self importance"* 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

any livestreams, por favor?

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

wow, Ernie is 3-0 up? Good going. Come on, Ernie!

Posted by CPM 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

Strong serving by Gulbis to escape a love-30 hole and consolidate the break -- also a nasty drop-shot at 15-30.

Wish I could stick around to see the rest of this one.

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

sokol
thanx for the updates

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:23 PM

Ernie's sitting there like he owns the place.

Let's get on the board, Fed.

Posted by Anne 05/14/2010 at 02:24 PM

Ugh-not the best start for Rog. Ernie's not having to do anything special and he's at 3-0. I think I prefer to watch Monfils be a puching bag to this.

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2010 at 02:24 PM

Well, that could have started better. Gulbis leads 3-0, with a break. A Federer DF to kick off his service game didn't help, and a stinging BH pass at Federer's feet earned the break. Then Gulbis back from 0-30, courtesy of a nice DS and a Federer missed FH return.

Posted by vetmama 05/14/2010 at 02:25 PM

WTF?
I just show up to see erratic Fed has shown up for the beginning of the match.

No. No. No.
>:(

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:25 PM

good dtl backhand by Rezai

Posted by CherryNYC 05/14/2010 at 02:26 PM

Carrie -- this is working for me: http://www.fromsport.com/video-249597.html

Posted by rafadoc 05/14/2010 at 02:26 PM

Carrie: There are links here: (You have to scroll down a bit.) http://www.fromsport.com/

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:26 PM

JJ start talking to herself already as she was 0-30 on Rezai's serve, and then Rezai won 4 points in a row

Posted by Anne 05/14/2010 at 02:27 PM

Rog got away with a stinker of a drop shot. Maybe Rog wants to give Ernie another shot at Rafa this week. Hey, Rog is on the baord 1-3!

Posted by ActionFlunky 05/14/2010 at 02:27 PM

That was, arguably, the dropper of the year. And Fed almost put it away.

Posted by rafadoc 05/14/2010 at 02:27 PM

Roger says "I can do that too" Nice dropper.

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:27 PM

uuuhhh Roger, you're not supposed to be the mouse today

Posted by Nitish 05/14/2010 at 02:27 PM

So many drop shots in 1 game. Fed vs. Ernie.

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

man, Rezai's shots are so powerful somtetimes

Posted by JohnC 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Roger's on the board, but he needs to reclaim the break quick smart.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Can I have one match where both Ernie and Le Shankerer are playing well or is that too much to ask?!

Posted by CPM 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Easy hold by Federer there. We'll see if Gulby remembered to wear his "Oops! I cr*pped my pants" adult diapers to this match -- doesn't look like it took Fed long to show up.

Posted by vetmama 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Roger looks nervous. Very tentative volley.

Posted by rafadoc 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Yep-gonna be lots of cat and mouse in this match. Very entertaining.

Posted by Neveah( Go Queen Vee!!My Clay King FTW)))))) 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

Sorry Rafa but I have to say....GO FED!!! You cant let Wild Thing beat you twice!!

*dances around doing the Summon TMF ritual*

Hope that helps guys!*giggles* I felt like I just cheated on my boyfriend.*blush*

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:28 PM

JJ holds for 3-2 with her trademark dtl bh

Posted by CherryNYC 05/14/2010 at 02:29 PM

Really, has the sun made an appearance anywhere in Europe in the last month. It looks awfully chilly

Posted by vetmama 05/14/2010 at 02:29 PM

Ah. Good DTL BH, Fed.

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:30 PM

yay, a long rally.

Posted by yello fuzzy 05/14/2010 at 02:30 PM

meow!

Posted by rafadoc 05/14/2010 at 02:30 PM

Nice shot there Roger.

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:31 PM

Rezai just bombards JJ, holding at love

JJ complains to herself like "what can I do"

Posted by ActionFlunky 05/14/2010 at 02:31 PM

"Really, has the sun made an appearance anywhere in Europe in the last month. It looks awfully chilly"

Looked like it appeared for a spell during Rafa/Bambi.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 02:31 PM

Well he's playing better, Ernie's serve is getting him out of all sorts of trouble and le shankerer can not read Ernie's serve at the moment...

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:32 PM

JJ is winning longer rallies

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2010 at 02:32 PM

Two holds, Gulbis leads 4-1 with a break. As we thought before the match - Federer will need his A game today. Gulbis is a bit like an Andy Roddick who knows how to move on clay.

Posted by sblily (Wheeeeeee!) 05/14/2010 at 02:33 PM

One word 'minion' may have described what Pete wrote about Stan.
~~~~~

Basically.
Bleh.

Happy to see Vee/Serena win and wishing I could watch JJ/Aravane for the drama alone.

Posted by crazyone 05/14/2010 at 02:33 PM

Fed's playing much much better now, but the problem is that he gave up that one break and Ernie's serving too well.


Posted by Sherlock 05/14/2010 at 02:33 PM

Thanks for the comments, Sokol. Much appreciated. :)

Wish these 2 matches weren't at the same time.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/14/2010 at 02:34 PM

OMG...Federer down 1-4???

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:34 PM

Rezai breaks for 4-3

Posted by TB 05/14/2010 at 02:34 PM

Yeah, not buying the premise of this article. Federer goes through a bad patch and the writers are all doom and gloom again, so when he starts playing well again they have to reverse engineer some type of argument which is consistent with their already established points of view. Lets just talk about something more meaningful, like how nice feds hair is or nadals new shirt.

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 02:34 PM

C1, yup Federer is playing so much better than that horrendous 1st service game...

Posted by Nitish 05/14/2010 at 02:34 PM

I think the sideline linesman feels bad making those out calls against Fed. Can see it in his face. ;)

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:35 PM

"Wish these 2 matches weren't at the same time."

agree

appreciate all the comments on the men's match

Posted by ActionFlunky 05/14/2010 at 02:35 PM

Have to say, I like these new court threads of Fed's.

Posted by CPM 05/14/2010 at 02:35 PM

Fed's definitely picking up his game -- but yeah, barring some serious pants-pooping in the serve department by Gulbis, this is going to be a tight, tight match.

Posted by ladyjulia 05/14/2010 at 02:36 PM

Why are Ernie and Federer wearing identical outfits?

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:36 PM

Rezai hits so hard, too strong for poor JJ

Posted by Nitish 05/14/2010 at 02:36 PM

Yeah Fed playing better now. Will help him in the long run. Darn my stream died!

Posted by Beckham (Gulbis, 2010 USO Champ!!!) 05/14/2010 at 02:37 PM

Yup unless Ernie's serve goes on vacation, I don't see him breaking him back, he's barely getting returns in play off Ernie's 1st serve...and I don't feel any sympathy for him, he shouldn't have thrown in that ridiculous service game...

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:37 PM

Rezai served an ace that flied like a bullet by JJ and holds for 5-3.

Posted by CherryNYC 05/14/2010 at 02:38 PM

I can't believe how great Ernie's serve is --- how did this happen?

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:38 PM

7 winners for Rezai and 4 for JJ

Posted by tennisesq. 05/14/2010 at 02:39 PM

Allez Rezzie!

Posted by Anne 05/14/2010 at 02:39 PM

Rog keeps dumping forehands into the net, blech. Not sure I'd call 5-2 a tight match!

Posted by sokol 05/14/2010 at 02:39 PM

Commies are talking that if Rezai can sustain the play like that she can take this tournamnet. The questions is can she?

Posted by Andrew 05/14/2010 at 02:40 PM

Two more holds, 5-2 Gulbis with a break. Federer getting no traction after Gulbis' opening service game - as someone said above, Gulbis is sitting at the changeover looking as though he owns the place. Nice depth on his shots, height variety, coming to the net well. Federer tried a weak slice instead of a topspin pass - sign of the times.

Posted by Anne 05/14/2010 at 02:40 PM

Cmon Rog, at least hold and make Ernie serve for this.

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