Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Oz: The Bs, the Cs, the D
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Oz: The Bs, the Cs, the D 02/04/2009 - 6:05 PM

VaMore than most major sporting events, Grand Slams linger in the mind. That’s due first off to their length, and to the sheer amount of tennis that our brains must process in that time. Do you remember the first-week classic between Fernando Gonzalez and Richard Gasquet? I’d forgotten all about it until just now. But Slams also linger because there’s so much weight attached to each of them by players and fans. When we look back at any tennis season, a good 80 percent of its historically significant events will have been crammed into the eight weeks in which the majors were running.

So before we leave Oz and begin to consider what’s happening at Viña del Mar—a tournament that always looks cool on TV, perhaps the only one that qualifies as sultry—I’ll draw up one more report card from the last fortnight.

Dinara Safina
In general I prefer to watch the women of Serbia rather than the women of Russia. While the Russians’ athleticism and fierceness is undeniable, Ivanovic and Jankovic move and swing a little more smoothly: they seem like tennis players first, jocks second. In the past it was the same with Safina, who always looked clunky, red-faced, and angry when I happened to catch one of her matches.

I’m still not drawn to her game, especially her serve, but I admit there’s satisfaction in seeing her slug her heavy shots—even when she chokes—rather than push the ball back or motor around all day and grind her opponents down. She’s also developing an intriguing, if unfortunate, persona as a terminal second-fiddle: Younger sister to a star, French Open finalist, Olympic silver medalist, Aussie Open finalist. Her current ranking fits her to a T for the moment, and she even admitted after the final that the thought of becoming No. 1 had made her more nervous. This was clearly not the case with her opponent: When Serena walked over to her box after winning, she had to be reminded by a guy in the front row that she was, “No. 1, baby.” Serena, a younger sibling who has never had much trouble getting out of her older sister's shadow, didn’t seem to have given it much thought.

Still, Safina—by the way, can we go back to saying Saf-EE-na? I can’t get into SAF-ina; it sounds like the brand name of a mattress—has been one of women’s pleasant surprises over the last 12 months. She’s established herself in the WTA’s elite in a short amount of time after living outside of it for so long. As her body’s fitness has improved, her self-belief has jumped along with it. It’s been a gradual process, but Safina, as she proved against Cornet and Dokic here, doesn’t accept losing to the rank-and-file anymore, even when she’s not playing well. That’s the first step to winning a Slam. It may not look like it so soon after she was booted off the court in Melbourne by Serena, but she’s at least positioned herself to win one in Paris. She might surprise us again. A-

Fernando Verdasco
There are some things, whatever we do in the off-seasons of our lives, that we can’t change about ourselves. For Verdasco, it's the curse of the shaky serve on the crucial point, of the nerves that seem banished but return from out of nowhere. Otherwise, the guy has improved just about everything else. Like Safina, I’ve never found his game appealing; that is, until his matches with Murray and Nadal in Melbourne. You could do worse than watch tapes of Verdasco’s forehand—the set-up, the balance, the easy-but-full shoulder rotation—if you wanted to internalize the mechanics of the stroke. Too bad, in the end, he’ll be remembered at this tournament for making his friend look even better. A-

There’s too much chatter and more early round Williams sisters—and, sorry to say, Bud Collins—than is absolutely necessary. But the network is covering a tournament that takes place halfway around the world and in the middle of our night, and they’re bringing us multiple hours of it—maybe even, I began to think as I watched Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Jie Zheng, too much of it. When we think of how festive and entertaining the Aussie Open seems, where do you think we get that impression? A-

Andy Roddick
I admire him for continuing to do everything he can just to bang his head against the ceiling known as Roger Federer. But for some reason, his efforts have created one of the most schizophrenic games in history: Biggest serve ever, then pure defense afterward. It should be enough to get him to plenty of semis this year. B

Elena Dementieva
Again, there are some things we can’t change about ourselves. Dementieva had two fatal flaws in Melbourne: Her serve, of course, and having to face Serena Williams, who is better than she is at tennis. B

Vera Zvonareva
I thought she was ready to make the final, but Safina was stronger in their semi. Still, Vera played some of the best tennis of the women’s event and didn’t maim herself in the process. B

Marion Bartoli
Her demolition of Jankovic was eye-popping. Against my better judgment, I get the feeling she might sustain that kind of play at a Slam someday. B

Richard Gasquet
He lost another heartbreaker, but he showed more fight in defeat than usual. Maybe too much—I thought some of his fist-pumps were mistimed. Whether or not he learns how to marshall his desire, à la Nadal, Gasquet reminded me again of how much I like to watch him play and how much I wish I’d get to see more of him at the big tournaments. B

Victoria Azarenka
History won’t record it, but Serena Williams was down a set in this tournament when one of her opponents had to retire due to illness. Before that, Azarenka brought a confident service motion and a new level of post-contact noisemaking to Melbourne—we’ve left the meager grunt way behind and moved toward the birdcall. Whatever she might sound like, she looks promising. B

Andy Murray
You could say that he ran into a buzzsaw known as Fernando Verdasco and there wasn't anything he could do about it. Or you could say that his feel-your-way-into-a-point style, while nice to look at, gives those saws too much room to buzz. I'll just say that if he wants to hang with Federer or Nadal, losing these kinds of matches is no longer an option. B-

Jelena Jankovic
You can pretty much repeat what I said about Murray for Jankovic. She gives her opponents too much room to get hot. That's OK if you want to reach the semis of 30 tournaments, but it's a bad way to make your way through seven rounds in a row. B-

Tomas Berdych
Along with tears and heat, this was a sub-theme of the Aussie Open: Bad old habits die hard. Berdych simply overpowered Federer for two sets—he could have won them by more lopsided scores—then let the elements distract him just long enough to turn the tables on himself. Or, more likely, his nervousness about finishing the match made those elements harder to ignore. B-

Tennis Channel
While ESPN brought out the Aussie Open’s vibrancy, TC made it look like any other event. The network obviously doesn’t have the same kind of resources, and it didn’t have the same access to the best matches. But it could still find a better-matched commentating pair than the oil-and-water team of Martina Navratilova and Bill Macatee. B-

Ana Ivanovic
She's gone in the opposite direction from Safina since their French final last year. Maybe her strokes are too low margin, maybe she doesn't have the killer instinct after all, maybe she was out of shape, maybe she has too many distractions and possibilities and doesn't need to be great. C+

Novak Djokovic
He can be a cagey competitor when he wants to be, but Djokovic can also walk into the ring with the tennis equivalent of a glass jaw. Heat or no heat, he has a habit of looking for reasons to lose when events start to go against him. At the moment, it’s hard to imagine him winning a major this season. C+

Juan Martin del Potro
The Argentine is also a cagey and intelligent competitor, as long as the stage isn’t too big or the opponent too famous. His quarterfinal night match against Roger Federer was both. C

Gael Monfils
Gasquet showed more fight, while his countryman, despite playing as well as he’s ever played, showed less than ever. How long does it take an injury of "the mind" to heal? Probably not before the end of Monfils’ career. D

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Posted by Frances 02/04/2009 at 06:16 PM


Posted by Jlee 02/04/2009 at 06:30 PM

Murray and Djokovic are going to be really interesting to watch this season. I feel like Djokovic hasn't lived up to any of his potential since last year's Aussie Open...and Murray may or may not be able to get it together in time to compete with the game's two stars this year. More than ever, this tournament proved that maybe we should be more concerned with the Big TWO than the Big three, four, five or six. Djokovic, and especially Murray, have yet to prove themselves worthy.

Posted by imjimmy 02/04/2009 at 06:49 PM


Thanks for your comments. I thought an A- to Verdasco was a bit harsh. I would give him at least an A. The kind of tennis he played against Nadal in the SF was beyond awesome. We also need to credit his physical fitness because after 1 marathon five setter and one four setter, Verdasco still looked fresh against Nadal in the SF and nearly won. Yes, he double faulted twice in the final game. But that happens to everyone. Slight bit of nerves should not detract from Verdaco's achievement.

Posted by Pspace 02/04/2009 at 06:49 PM

A little harsh on Novak and Murray, no? Maybe Novak really was in pain, induced both by the heat and Roddick. And, maybe he just has a lower threshold for pain than others. Ok, a little cricitism for retiring, but it's still way too early in the season to belittle his chances at other Grand Slams. The new racquet has obviously affected his form to some degree.

Doesn't Murray get a pass for being a little under the weather, as well as running into a hot opponent? Rumor has it that he was pretty sick during the match. And, he intentionally avoided mentioning it.

Posted by Ryota 02/04/2009 at 07:05 PM

Steve, how come you haven't given props to Jelena Dokic? She played a heck of a tournament and if not for that iffy second serve against Safina, she might have played Serena in the final and given her a workout. :)

Venus deserves a C for her singles play but kudos to her for sticking around and winning the doubles trophy with Serena.

Posted by darthhelmethead 02/04/2009 at 07:06 PM

Please Gasquet, please make a breakthrough this year.

And I just don't like to hear Navratilova call matches.

Posted by zolarafa 02/04/2009 at 07:10 PM

ESPN did a great job. I think A- or even A is good.
I think Fowler said that Murray had severe cold and after Verdasco's match he had to take antibiotics and had to stay in till Friday or so to get back. I think he was a bit unlucky. Some sort of Fed luck from last year. Poor health and an opponent on fire.

and Viva SAF-ina. Hard to pick between him and Serena.
Agree with C or even D for the defending champion. Del Potro should get an F for giving up mentally against Fed. That was even worse than Djoko retiring.

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 at 07:19 PM

I didn't like how Patrick McEnroe talk during the match Nadal-Federer. It was very obvious his preference towards Federer.
I think that wasn't very professional, commentators have to be more fair, it doesn't matter who is playing. And also, they were talking too much

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 02/04/2009 at 07:22 PM

A mistake to write off Djokovic. Just as people were wrong to expect him to overtake Nadal and Federer after his stellar start to the year last year. He'll be back, and I expect him to make his presence felt at a couple hardcourt Masters events and at either Wimbledon or the USO. Whether he actually wins a slam this year depends upon whether Nadal, Murray and Federer allow him to.

Posted by 02/04/2009 at 07:32 PM

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 @ 7:19 PM

I didn't like how Patrick McEnroe talk during the match Nadal-Federer. It was very obvious his preference towards Federer.
I think that wasn't very professional, commentators have to be more fair, it doesn't matter who is playing. And also, they were talking too much

I have to admit- i feel exactly the same way about that matter-- I dont think I even recall him acknowleding that NADAL won but he keeps on talking about how FED lost..... but actualy I'm OK with that because I know his "more famous" brother John prefers NADAL.. everybody has favorites:P

Posted by skip1515 02/04/2009 at 07:35 PM

Steve, I realize this is a grade that has meaning for only some of us, but still.....

I'd put up a big A+ for Direct TV and their multi-court coverage during the first week or so. All you have to do is click on the "Choose A Court" channel, and voila!, you get to watch any one of 6 courts. To top it off, some of those courts feature dubs and even.....drum roll......legends' doubles!

Given the choice – and in a discussion covering nothing but tennis at the majors – I'd rather be in the UK and have a lifetime subscription to Sky network, but barring that Direct TV rocks.

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 at 07:39 PM

Posted by, you got it!!, at least his brother John treats "to be" more fair

Posted by sally 02/04/2009 at 07:41 PM

fed-D for choking once again to nadal. see a shrink and get a coach.
or say goodbye to your legacy.

Posted by Peter M 02/04/2009 at 07:43 PM

I love Venus, but how about a D- for her at best. After finishing last season as the winner of the WTA Championships and starting the season with a win in Hong Kong (granted an exo, but still against quality opponents), only Dementieva arrived in Melbourne in as estimable form as Venus. And yet, Venus wilted to Suarez-Navarro in the 2nd round after having led 5-2 in the third and holding a match point. Maybe SN is the poor man's second coming of Henin, but Venus had a great opportunity at this slam, and she totally blew it. I think Venus was the tournament's biggest disappointment. Guess there's always - and now only - Wimbledon.

Posted by Sabi 02/04/2009 at 07:47 PM

Well done, thanks for these reports. Any thoughts on Tsonga, Ivanovic, Jankovic, Dokic, Cornet, Simon, Kleybanova? I go with D, C, C-, B, D, B, no idea/just confused. Maybe a bit harsh for Tsonga, but he's too talented to play such lazy tennis! I keep thinking he's got it - then no. I want to give Cornet an F. Thumbs up to Bartoli, Azarenka, maybe even Dulko. Cilic, Gulbis? I should stop, lol.

Posted by Veruca Salt 02/04/2009 at 08:09 PM

I agree with all of your grades-especially Murray's He was my pick to win the AO (and I'm a Rafa fan) based on his improved fitness, great results, and new demeanor. But his performance against Hot Sauce was uneven and he was again petulant and surly. I would give him a break concerning his health if it would have been a straight set loss. The uneven score and the 50 kabillion break points he had leads me to think that it was more than just the flu that contributed to his loss.

As far as Nole is concerned, well..he's just going to have to do better on and off the court. Otherwise he's going to get passed by Murray and Del Portro and Tsonga.

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 at 08:09 PM

I think that it is important to have a lot of early round williams sister matches, women's tennis is often overlooked and if it were american men, I don't think you would be complaining!

I love bud collins!!!!!!!

Posted by Master Ace 02/04/2009 at 08:15 PM

Agree about DirecTv getting an A+.

I have no grade for ESPN as I watch DirecTv and livestream other matches. ESPN2 and TC did show replay of key matches during the day while people slept during the night. What about Jelena Dokic grade? She was the story of the AO before the ATP semifinals. I have to analyze the other grades later.

Agree about giving Verdasco an A since he won a tough 5 setter against Murray then rebounded to beat Tsonga in 4 before he played the match of the tournament.

Posted by Takver 02/04/2009 at 08:38 PM

I'm with you Peter M. Could not agree more. Her baseline and mental game was a disaster. Too many horrible short mid-court balls, a failure to time the ball properly and hit through her shots which lacked their customary depth and penetration, static feet, and no Plan B or discernable tactics to counter Navarro who beat her with the same cross-court, short angle bh over and over...and over again. Running around and trying to hit bh returns out of position, because her forehand imploded. Putting extra pressure on her serve because she couldn't trust in her. Allowing herself to be ratteld by the crowd. Blowing a match-point, and failing to convert on bps in a manner even worse than last year's USO. *eye-roll* Not impressed.

And I'm waiting to see whether Navarro ends up as a top player or joins the endless queue of Schett, Sprem, Pironkova, Karanchetva etc.

And capturing the doubles with Serena(where she demonstrated extremely good net-play but a shaky baseline game and dodgy serving) but doesn't make up for missing out on singles glory.

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 at 09:04 PM

Agree about Verdasco A-, I'm still in shock how good he played at OA, that was not normal, too good, too perfect to his abilities, cramps in the legs and still his shots were impecacable.
I don't think he could do it again

Posted by 1963USCtennis 02/04/2009 at 09:05 PM

"I didn't like how Patrick McEnroe talk during the match Nadal-Federer. It was very obvious his preference towards Federer.
I think that wasn't very professional, commentators have to be more fair, it doesn't matter who is playing. And also, they were talking too much"

Agree on that. Quite a log grade for Patrick- hu, Roger is so great- McEnroe

And since we're giving D's...

Shouldn't Roger Federe's FIFTH set get a major D- ????

just wondering.

Posted by MZK 02/04/2009 at 09:10 PM

Agreed with the other posters on handing out a D to Venus. She may have fallen to the in-form Dementieva anyhow but what a sorry way to crash out early in a blaze of self-combustion. But apart from the one final reached (where she played the best match against her sister prior to last year) she's always been a messy disappointment Down Under for some reason. The Pironkova upset a couple years ago wasn't as atypical as it should be. :P

Also, by now I don't think anyone is ever genuinely disappointed by Nalbandian anymore, but he's actually deepening his downward spiral at the majors. After several QFs and SFs that saw him lock up the #3 spot in 2006, he slipped to sub-par but respectable fourth-round finishes, but now hasn't gone past the third round in more than a year. He actually won an event going into the AO, but got no momentum from it, losing in five sloppy sets to a guy barely ranked in the Top 100 who in the next round was destroyed by the hardly-fearsome Robredo. He finished last season relatively well also, coming very close to defending his Paris title and winning another one in Stockholm, falling just short of Shanghai a second year running. And in the only singles rubber he got to play in the Davis Cup final, he dealt a drubbing to his sometime nemesis Ferrer. D- for sure. For all the flak Roddick gets, he still consistently reaches the late stages at Slams and maintains a perennial Top 10 presence; Nalby should be capable of that much.

Posted by mac 02/04/2009 at 09:10 PM

i agree venus is the biggest disappointment given that she & dementieva were the hottest players coming in and that she blitz carla n in the 1st and up 5-2 plus a matchpt. venus has time and again allowed her opponent into the match after a dominant 1st set. if she wants to avoid these upsets and win at ao or even the french she has to stop underestimating her opponents in the 2nd set. when u do a proper count venus has lost several grandslams ( at least 3) cuz she either let up the pressure or is too confident (think qf agst myskina in 2004 french, qf agst ivanovic in 08 ao, this year's agst cn, 2004 & 2006 wimbys agst sprem & jankovic))

Posted by claudia celestial girl 02/04/2009 at 09:14 PM

I think your grades for TTC were a bit harsh. It's true their coverage did not have the flash of ESPN, and also true that Martina can be a bit 'dry' in her remarks. On the other hand, when you wanted to enjoy the tennis (and not be distracted by chatter and side features), TTC was the place. And in the end, Martina's insightful commentary was hands down better than BG, Pat McEnroe, Darren Cahill, and ahem ... Bud Collins. I ended up taping the tennis from both sources, and I"m watching the tapes about equally from both. They each had plusses and minusses.

ps Justin Gimelstob makes me crazy. But I really love Bill Macatee and wish he were around more. He probably works better with a guy/buddy sort of locker-room style commentator than with Martina, and I wish they could find someone good without losing Martina. I have my doubts that Jimmy Conners is going to be the right personality.

Posted by mac 02/04/2009 at 09:19 PM

plus she had a great draw to the qtrs to face dementieva whom she beat in the championships and semi agst her sister where she has at least a 50 % chance of overcoming. really thought this was her year to capture the ao after looking so strong at the wta championships and routing jankovic twice at the exo in hk.

lets hope venus finlly learns from this yaer's shocking fiasco cuz at best she has only 2 more title chances at the ao; she's already 28.

Posted by mac 02/04/2009 at 09:28 PM

i thot 3 players deserve an a+ : nadal, serena & verdasco in that order.

if nadal ahd been fresh he would have routed fed in straights. he was obviously a step slow and not as energetic.

i used to like fed but am increasingly surprised at how bad a loser he is beginning to prove to be. he didnt give murray credit for beating him at dubai (the beginning of his 2008 collapse) and despite murray having beaten him 4 times in a row since the uso all he has done is scoff at murray's potential, even challenging murray to a 5-set match!

and he's too much a cry-baby, no one champ even comes close; he's cried like 4 times whether he wins or loses a slam. hence a d for attitude for fed.

btw i think dokic deserves an a for her unbelievable performance; if she had failed at the 1st hurdle she would have been a retirement case, yet out of the wilderness she won 4 straight matches and gave safina a run for her money.

Posted by 02/04/2009 at 10:12 PM

Rumor has it that he was pretty sick during the match. And, he intentionally avoided mentioning it."

Pspace, that's kind of like Fed saying AFTER the AO 2008 that he had mono all along. Why mention it after he lost?

Posted by Eddy 02/04/2009 at 10:34 PM

"lets hope venus finlly learns from this yaer's shocking fiasco cuz at best she has only 2 more title chances at the ao; she's already 28."
Historically Venus has not had strong results at the AO, so she is not going to be especially dissapointed with that loss. She is looking for Wimbledoms and U.S. Opens. As long as that happens, she won't be dissapointed about the rest.

Posted by 02/04/2009 at 10:44 PM

mod: typepad is really acting up on this thread.. there are only two pages of comments.

Posted by Papo 02/04/2009 at 10:57 PM

"...and they’re bringing us multiple hours of it—maybe even, I began to think as I watched Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Jie Zheng, too much of it."

Steve, err, are you actually criticizing ESPN for televising a lot of tennis?

Unfortunately I can't get Direct TV because my apartment faces north and you can only get a good signal from the south. The more tennis ESPN and TC televise the better as far as I'm concerned. They did a pretty good job.

Posted by Joe 02/04/2009 at 11:08 PM

And I don't understand why, the other page "Your call,2.4" the comments are soooo boring!!

Posted by mac 02/04/2009 at 11:10 PM


quite the contrary i think venus really thot she could really land this year's ao and she was really disappointed this time; early interviews had her saying she could win it this year after such strong yearend results. oracene was quoted as saying she'll probably be so disappointed at what she had missed.she'll come back firing

Posted by repattermann 02/04/2009 at 11:13 PM


Great post, but something is missing. Hmmm, let me think about it. . . oh yeah, Jelena Dokic!!! I really think you should have at least given her Honorable Mention. To come out as a wild card, and after all the drama she's been through, and beat some incredibly tough opponents (Chakvetadze, Wozniacki, and Kleybanova) the lady deserves some props.

Posted by cg 02/04/2009 at 11:17 PM

C- to James Blake for not being more than mediocre, and showing no fight in his loss to Tsonga

Posted by mac 02/04/2009 at 11:18 PM

the way i look at it, fed's not happy about losing after having won so much. quite natural i guess but i thot he was over the top with his scorning of murray some one who has beaten him 5 out of the last 6 times.

then again it could be a case of making up excuses so that the losses dont look so bad.

in today's tennis where endorsement deals are so financially huge, match losses can really hit the top players in terms of continuing and future endorsements.

if you look at what michael phelps has done basically shot himself in the foot he stands to lose more than $100 m in endorsements although it's substance abuse rather than competition losses.

still competition losses can very quickly diminish the shine off a top player or athlete and cost them heavily in endorsements

Posted by Anne 02/04/2009 at 11:25 PM

Some people think Venus is jinxed in Melbourne; she somehow always finds a way to lose early regardless of the competition.

I dont think she'll ever win the Aussie but then again having said this maybe I have neutralised the jinx agst her!

Posted by 02/04/2009 at 11:33 PM

I feel that if Gasquet gets some big results (big as in winning big) he won't go backwards...but that breakthrough is a long time coming...

Posted by g 02/05/2009 at 02:12 AM

take a look at this guyz

Posted by kim 02/05/2009 at 03:13 AM

take a look at this guyz

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 07:22 AM

No offense to Murray or doubting the sickness, but he did mention it, in the way of- I could blame the loss on having been sick but I won't -thus giving the UK press free reign to blame the loss on him having been sick.

Posted by NDMS 02/05/2009 at 08:00 AM

Steve wrote: Verdasco: Too bad, in the end, he’ll be remembered at this tournament for making his friend look even better. A-

That is SO not true. Verdasco will be remembered for sparing Nadal the Tsonga/Murray SF. Verdasco will be remembered for taking Nadal to the longest game in AO history and anybody who thinks that Nadal didn’t heave a massive sigh of relief for the costly double faults Verdasco made in the 5th was not giving the match the impartial perspective.

I think you failed to include Santoro. His grade should have been a B+. This is his last AO and what a finish - wins over Ferrero and Kohlschreiber and a pretty decent losing scoreline (6-3 6-4 6-2 ) to Roddick.

When an icon of tennis Navratilova deigns to commentate for the no-frills TTC coverage, I listen and I listen carefully and no grade of yours will take away my enjoyment of Navratilova’s dead-on commentary and deadpan humor.

Posted by Sandra 02/05/2009 at 09:37 AM

I'll be surprised if Venus makes any changes to her game given her age.

Posted by Syd 02/05/2009 at 09:53 AM

hmm, what does this mean? "maybe even, I began to think as I watched Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Jie Zheng, too much of it. When we think of how festive and entertaining the Aussie Open seems, where do you think we get that impression? "

Now a tennis writer is calling for LESS coverage and LESS exposure? Great, thanks Steve. And I have no idea what you're trying to say in the last sentence? Is the missing word "from"? Still don't get it.

As for "SAF-i-na"—that is the way her name is pronounced, that's the way most Russian names with more than two syllables are pronounced in English. What possible difference could it make to you?

Posted by Syd 02/05/2009 at 10:00 AM

Also, Steve; what are you talking about re Gael Monfils? Are you saying that the wrist injury was all a ruse? That he was faking, tanking, too scared to continue play? Come out and say it then, but otherwise that is a ridiculous grading of Monfils. Maybe you thought there was too much tennis going on so you didn't bother to watch him.

Posted by tennisville 02/05/2009 at 10:23 AM

I agree with your gradings. Good job.

I did enjoyed both ESPN's and Tennis Channel's coverages of the OZ, in spite of the odd hours (which couldn't be helped). I liked all of the TV commentators save for Patric McEnroe (may posses a great tennis mind, but shows his bias a lot while trying to appear not to) and Mary Carillo (appears too confrontational on almost everything).

Can't wait for the next slam.

Posted by Ioana 02/05/2009 at 10:36 AM

Steve,you are wrong about Djokovic! You will see :this season he will win at least one major! He is a very talented player.

Posted by AndyDoesntLookDandy 02/05/2009 at 10:47 AM

Can anyone comment on the fact that Andy Roddick is the most unpleasant tennis player to watch in history, style wise? His serve motion is ugly and everything else follows from there.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 02/05/2009 at 10:58 AM

Monfils gets the lowest grade? I thought he had a wrist injury!

Posted by Carl 02/05/2009 at 11:11 AM

Re: "But it could still find a better-matched commentating pair than the oil-and-water team of Martina Navratilova and Bill Macatee. B-" Cimon. I would much rather listen to Navratilova's commentating than Carillo, Fernandez & Shriver who are way too partial to the Williams.

Posted by Andyhyd 02/05/2009 at 11:13 AM

This may be out of the discussion. I agree, Nadal beat Roger. But, I need people should pay attention to Nadal's games of play. Whnever he plays Roger, he takes bathroom brakes and injury timeouts. In the final in Hamburgh, he was loosing and gets an injury time out. In Austraila, he does the smae in the final. I can't bring any more instnaces, but it happended quite abit. Any thoughts?

Posted by AC 02/05/2009 at 11:17 AM

Novak deserves an F. He embarrassed himself. He will have to overcome his reputation now for retiring in high stakes matches. He did not look sick.

Verdasco deserves an A+. That guy came out of nowhere and looked absolutely awesome.

Posted by mainetennis 02/05/2009 at 11:30 AM

Gimelstob is insufferable. Malapropisms, stepping on his partners' observations and commentary, over-the-top forced excitement and enthusiasm, and shallow analysis== he's got it all. I could feel the hair on the necks of those sharing the booth with him going up as he maundered on and on and repeated the same cliches and not-so-witty ripostes. He needs to go. Also, as others have observed, it's time for Bud to sail off into the sunset. And on that topic-- when will we be rid of Dick Enberg? He's not even good covering the sports he knows something about, and tennis is not in that category.

Posted by Fudoshin 02/05/2009 at 11:49 AM

Jelena Dokic deserves a mention. The ESPN commentators talked way too much about the Williams sisters. They might have produced the opposite effect from what they had intended to achieve and turn people away. Actually I think the best in the team is Mary Carillo. We can do without Bud Collins. Colorful pants are not the way to add anything to tennis.

Posted by Cole Altizer 02/05/2009 at 12:06 PM

lay off the espn bashing!! I thought this was one of their best majors ever. They talked less than normal (too little if you ask me) and they showed us more tennis than normal. Not all people are as knowledgable about tennis as you MR. Tignor, so some of us want to hear the commentators. Maybe except for Bud Collins who seemed out of it to me.

I would give them an A for their job down under. well done

Posted by moxie 02/05/2009 at 12:19 PM

A B? Roddick should get an A for beating a top three player to get the semis which nobody, including Steve Tignor, did not think he could do. It's not Roddick's fault Djokovic is out of shape and can't take the heat.

Posted by FFF 02/05/2009 at 12:19 PM

for anyone pulling for Fed this loss was heartbreaking but it only serves to make things sweeter when he finally reaches 14, 15 and beyond (not to mention his next defeat of Nadal) which Nadal himself has to know will come.

Federer is too talented and loves this game too much to fade away. No one understands what happened but him in that fifth but it's not the end of anything but Oz 09'. Clearly Fed lost the match rather than N taking it and this is something mental that he can fix.

Before the final Fed looked liked the pre-mono version of himself blowing people off the court again and dealing with adversity in a victorious fashion(Berdych) as he did for years, absolutely scary. This is the first tournament that everyone watching could tell he looked like himself again and that will only intensify as the season progresses.

The few here who are grading Fed's performance badly aren't showing proper respect for the man who just reached his 19th straight semi and 14th final out of 15. keep it in perspective people.

N is on a significant tear against F right now but that won't last forever. The manner in which F plays has preserved his body to the extent that he'll be more effective at 32 than N will be at 27.

N injured his legs during this AO. Injured in the FIRST major of the year because he refuses to respect his body. These perpetual leg strains have no other outcome than to shorten his career. Fed will most likely be on the tour after N has to call it quits.

Posted by BrooklynNY 02/05/2009 at 12:26 PM

ESPN was terrible...I am unsure of the night, butthere was a 5 setter going on, i think verdasco/murray, and they opted to show over an hour of some 16 year old Christina McHale, wimp around the court cramped up, because she is not fit enough to play tennis is australian weather. American or not, do not show unworthy tennis matches on TV, especially since there limited outlets showing the Open, and a 5 setter.

Andy Murray is the 3 set wonder...ya he beat nadal and federer, in 3 set matches. Step it up to the big boy stage, and prove you're not coincidentally winning 2 sets, and calling it a victory.

Posted by BrooklynNY 02/05/2009 at 12:30 PM

oh yea more ESPN,glad it was in HD...but.. yea Patrick Mac, we like you. But we like Johnny Mac more. Your brother Johhny has had a more successful tennis career, and is more entertaining and insightful the way he calls matches.

Oh well.

Posted by Homuzu 02/05/2009 at 12:35 PM

I believe Tignor might be confused on what Gael Monfils said after this match. His quote after the match was that at first he thought the injury was in his mind...that he was psyching himself out. Then he realized he was really feeling it and stopped the match.

A very unjustified grade, at least given the incorrect reasoning. He said it was a real injury, not a mind injury.

Posted by billy 02/05/2009 at 01:53 PM

Not everyone can be #1 and at the top of their game all the time.

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 02:02 PM

claudia celestial girl: "I have my doubts that Jimmy Conners is going to be the right personality."

You obviously don't know Jimmy Connors! He will be the best the Tennis Channel will ever have as a commentator. He is the most passionate and intelligent commentator you can have (as good as, if not better than, John McEnroe)! Plus, he has a great sense of humor, too, and is a very likeable person.

Posted by KAMRET 02/05/2009 at 02:04 PM

claudia celestial girl: "I have my doubts that Jimmy Conners is going to be the right personality."

You obviously don't know Jimmy Connors! He will be the best the Tennis Channel will ever have as a commentator. He is the most passionate and intelligent commentator you can have (as good as, if not better than, John McEnroe)! Plus, he has a great sense of humor, too, and is a very likeable person.

Posted by Red 02/05/2009 at 02:11 PM

Nice post steve. I thought was you said about Roddick was perfect. I've never understood his tactics while facing Federer. He could take a lesson from watching Berdych in how he won the first two sets against Federer. You just can't play paddy cake against the guy and expect to win a set. Where is his flat forehand; and isn't that what helped him win the U.S. Open in the first place? I'd just like to see him try to overpower Federer even if he goes down swinging. He won't win any other way.

I also think you might have given Verdasco an A for effort and seeing what getting into such great shape can buy you. This is his first semi at a major and that is heady stuff. For anyone in this position for the first time, the nervousness on big points would be expected especially against someone like Nadal, who's been used to being in that position and who obviously knows how to handle it.

Posted by Geo 02/05/2009 at 02:21 PM

You forgot to grade Dick Enberg.
Tennis knowledge: B
Hilarity: A+, for example(don't quote me on this quote) " Federer doesn't like the challenge system, but as long as the Kangaroo keeps jumping he'll get more challenges." )

Rafa: A++ "Valedictorian" Masters Thesis: working on holding the records for the longest matches in all the Majors.

Roger: A+ "Salutatorian"

I missed the first half of the Super Bowl trying to finish my DVRs of the matches without knowing the outcomes. When can they play again?! I've got to go work on my New Verdasco Forhand.

Posted by Carrie 02/05/2009 at 02:26 PM


Monfils said in his press conference after the match that he wanted to make sure that the injury was not in his mind. He realized after a while that it was legitimate and not just something in his head. I recommend you look at a video of the presser where his intention is more clear.

Why is he being graded so harsely for having the self-awareness to realize that the injury could have been in his head and wanted to make sure it was legit? I think you are being very unfair to Gael.

Posted by Andre 02/05/2009 at 02:27 PM

I'm giving ESPN a D. I'm sick and tired of seeing scores scrolling across the bottom of the screen. I was in Australia for the first week and it was so nice to watch full screen tennis without that distraction. It may have been nice years ago, but if I want info on anything other than what I'm watching I can use my computer. ESPN now has the US Open too. I already miss the USA networks coverage.

Posted by Chris Oddo 02/05/2009 at 02:35 PM

Great piece! I was looking for more analysis on Jankovic, as she was # 1 coming in. Your brief asessment is right on (that she lets people in the points, thus giving them a chance to get hot) but her main barrier to winning a major to me is her lack of maturity and focus.

Her mental game is not on par with the others, and with her marginal serve and lack of "A" power, this is what she needs to develop (if she just can't fix that serve, she'll have to fix something, right?).

She needs to get hungry and play with a chip on her shoulder. It will be really sad if she disappears in the next year or two, because there is something special about her.

The way she behaved in that Bartoli match was inexcusable. Has anyone seen the footage of her changing beneath her towel at a break, and laughing about it flirtatiously? Where is her head at? Cmon Jelena, grow up please, before its too late!

(shameless plug!)

Posted by oz 02/05/2009 at 02:37 PM

An F to the commentator who said Dementieva's service yips are like herpes.

Posted by Joe 02/05/2009 at 02:58 PM


Posted by Eric 02/05/2009 at 03:03 PM

Once again Steve, does a C+ showing from a one-slam wonder, who doesn't exhibit much fight these days, belong on the Concrete Elbow banner alongside two of the best fighters in the game? What an awkward juxtaposition. We might as well throw some Harkleroad in there or something.

Re: glass jaws, come to think of it, is Ivanovic the Djokovic of the womens' game or vice versa? And doesn't Jankovic fit the glass jaw bill pretty well? It's a veritable Serbian glass jaw triangle!

There's no hate in this post. I promise.

Posted by Ethel 02/05/2009 at 03:05 PM

I am always cheering for Venus too, but at the same time I realize we will never understand the complexity between her and sister Serena. Serena doesn't seem to have the same problem. I saw an old poster of Venus from 2001 after she won the US Open. It was amazing. She was so fearless; it showed all over. But that was another time, before Serena came into her game. She's still my favorite. Maybe it's because I am a big sister.

Posted by Mary 02/05/2009 at 03:21 PM

Great to see Andy Roddick doing well in the Slams again,hope he continues to do so this year.

Posted by jerico 02/05/2009 at 03:24 PM

with due respect, i'm just surprised regarding the grades that you gave particularly to Murray and Monfils...

Murray, in your forecast, was to be in the finals... While Monfils was supposed to be through to the semis, as you boldly predicted that he will pull an upset against Nadal... Of course you would have given them better grades if the results they produced in the aussie open would have been in all square with your fearless forecast...

Though I do not subscribe to the ridiculuously misplaced and exagerrated branding "big 4" in men's tennis (because i see nothing from Andy, not yet at least for now, as grand as Roger's or Rafa's magna accomplishments), I still think that Andy did fine and good in the just concluded OZ open... So a B- for Andy is quite an unjustified hyperbole... It's just that along the way, he met a rejuvenated Verdasco, who does not only deserve an A- but an A...

As for the grade given to Monfils, that's quite a slap on his face and his person... We do not know how tennis players feel when they are injured while on court... Though I must say that I hate seeing tennis players retire in the middle of the match, but what can we do if it is their health which is at stake?... And giving Monfils a D seems to blind us from the fact that he had his good shares in the earlier rounds...

I am not so much a fan of Murray or Monfils, but I think they deserve more than the grades that you sized them up...

More power and pax!!!

Posted by DG 02/05/2009 at 03:26 PM

People was I the only one who thought that ESPN 2 had too much talk and interviews and not enought tennis?

Also they never seem to keep quiet like they used to, the talk even in the middle of the point!!!

I wish they had a button to just listen to the crowd and not have to listen to commentary all the time!!..

Posted by Liz (for Federer 4-ever) 02/05/2009 at 03:59 PM

I have three words for Djokovic...

Djokovic = one slam wonder; his grade is well-deserved

Jankovic I would give a D frankly, because with her results she should not be anywhere near a #1 ranking.

Monfils I would definitely give a F for a questionable retirement

Posted by bigbangman 02/05/2009 at 04:17 PM

Berdshot gets B for being a clown ?

Since when did choking get the same grade as heat cramps, hot oppenents etc

While i agree - Murrya needs to win those matches you could argue it took Nadal ( barely ) to win it in 5 hrs - far more than fed pushed him.

Djoker didnt look well to me .

Posted by bangman 02/05/2009 at 04:25 PM

The funny thing is you gave Fed an A for probably single worst match hes ever played in final - aside from perhaps the FO last year.

Lets put it this way , if Fed really played at A level are you saying he would of served that bad in the 5 th ?

Murray saved 2 match points even if he was struggling is that really any worse than Federer who just capitulated altogether in that final set ?

I'll tell you one thing Murray aint going to be questioning himself the way ROger must be right now - esp if thats the best he can expect ..

Posted by lollipop 02/05/2009 at 04:25 PM

hmm... C+ is a little harsh for Novak, right? He was dissapointing, but a c in my opinion is a bit harsh. anyway, I think that it's a little early to say that he wont win another major. He's still only 21, and he's been pretty consistent, I mean lately not so much, but the guy has potential. i think its a bit early to discount him just yet.

Posted by etheralx23crisis 02/05/2009 at 04:31 PM

Federer = F- in that fifth set. that was just like what the heck. he didnt try, then he cried. Djokovic is one of my faves and to see him bail out id say C since it was an average performance. Simon should get a B+ since he got to the quarters of his first slam and i love his tenacity =D

Posted by silverqueen 02/05/2009 at 04:48 PM

I agree with Claudia - TTC was a calmer venue (except for Gimelstob) to watch the repeat of the matches - and I really appreciate Martina's observant comments. I too like Bill McAtee - but could they PLEASE get rid of Justin!! There's just too much "expert opinionizing" by the commentators on ESPN - although thank God, the channel dedicated many wonderful hours to the AO. I do like Killer Cahill - and God love him, Brad Gilbert is tolerable. P. Mac & Enberg - well they talk WAY too much, both during points being played and just all the time! TTC's coverage of the trophy presentation was actual coverage - ESPN over-rode much of it with more commentary.
All in all, though - I won't complain about any TV coverage of tennis - it's better than not getting it! Just don't like having to mute the commentators and miss the wonderful sounds of the court.

Posted by AC 02/05/2009 at 05:13 PM

The only lamer #1 than Jankovic is Ivanovic.

Posted by rasta man 02/05/2009 at 05:31 PM

yep, yep all true the frenchmen were disappointing, the coverage lackluster (I enjoy Macatee and love his commentaries at the French Open, sans Martina Navritolova)
You were too gentle on Venus Williams by not mentioning her second round exit. Suarez Navarro was tough but Williams gave up the mental edge -- as usual.

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 05:49 PM

hates, please leave the ws sisters alone. they have more money and grand slam than any other females. you people are just haters, haters, jealous, vicdictive. They the WS are the best, best tennis player in the world. get over it.

Posted by tito 02/05/2009 at 06:14 PM

Venus has a strong legacy its Dementieva who is running out of time,if Venus was to retire today she will go down as one of the greatest to play the sport and her resume is very impressive.Venus is still good enough to play for 5 more years before she retires,she is stronger than most girls on tour look at they way she dismantled Hantuchova and 33yr old Sugiyama.She will eventually win she finally won the yr end event maybe the french open this time but either way she is winning a slam this year and still out running those young girls.

Posted by Mike 02/05/2009 at 06:17 PM

Methinks Fed received that grade for making it to the final ... only one other guy can say that, and he got an A+. ;)

Posted by Calavan 02/05/2009 at 07:14 PM

I believe that Andy Murray was sick, no. Therefore, I believe you are to harsh on him. He made it to the Quarters, thats not bad.Try and play in extreme temps. like that and I'll grade you.

Posted by tina pisawis 02/05/2009 at 07:17 PM

what about sharapova? i think she can fight back in making the no. 1 this year..go maria!!!!

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 07:18 PM

"fed-D for choking once again to nadal. see a shrink and get a coach.
or say goodbye to your legacy."

Even with this loss, how do you disregard his other accomplishments? goodbye to legacy?? That's about as absurd a comment I've seen on this website.

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 07:24 PM


Posted by RoastLamb 02/05/2009 at 07:30 PM

I agree with the comments about Pat Mac being totally pro-Fed. He - sadly - wasn't the only one. All of them were pro-Fed except for Brad Gilbert. Unfortunately, Brad was only seen at the beginning and end of the match. I missed Johnny Mac. Where was he?

And I love Bud Collins. I want more of him. His knowledge of tennis is second-to-none and his sense of humour makes a nice change from the ultra serious Cahill and Pat Mac. If anyone needs to go it's Dick Enberg. ARGH!

I'd give Nando an A because he was the story of the Oz Open. But had Andy not been sick, I reckon the Scotsman would have been in the final.

Posted by kathleen 02/05/2009 at 07:51 PM

Martina and Justin do too much talking during the match...much of it a duplication of what the viewer sees. An occassional opinion of what they would do/coach is interesting. Too often, their chatter interferes with the dramatic arc of the event itself. I live by the Tennis Channel, but the I wish the commentators would be comfortable with more silence.

Posted by Michelle 02/05/2009 at 07:55 PM

F for chair throwing?

Posted by Julia 02/05/2009 at 07:58 PM

Yes, agree with all your comments and yes, commentators at the AO on the tennis channel need to go - great, you mentioned Gasquet, as felt the same and hope he can come through to be the great player I think he is capable of being, maybe a little help with his thinking on court and he will be good to go - Nadal comes out to win in every match and nothing else comes in his way of achieving this.

Loved the final and Nadal truly deserved to win because he is mentally stronger than Federer. HE IS SUCH A WARRIER this boy. If Gasquet had this mental toughness he would be NO 1.

Thanks for your input.

Posted by Marie 02/05/2009 at 08:27 PM

I love the ESPN coverage. There is no one more professional than Mary Joe Fernandez or Darren Cahill. They avoid the personal swipes at players that (career high 27) McEnroe and others can't resist. It totally cracked me up that Mary Joe went into a completely different personality when she was interviewed on the sidelines during some men's matches. Bud is in small enough snippets on ESPN to be tolerable. Brad I could live without. Same goes double for Mary Carillo. Speaking of unprofessional, could Brad, Mary (and Tignor) *try* pronouncing players' names correctly?

Posted by zolarafa 02/05/2009 at 09:54 PM

I give type pad an "F". This is stupid. The comments are divided between pages and there is no page number. One can press "next" forever!

I agree with those who want an A for Dokic. Djokovic should watch how she sprained her ankle, yet refused to give up or retire and even managed to win the match. Great effort.

Posted by mac 02/05/2009 at 09:59 PM

fff, it was quite obvious fed lost in the 5th cuz he ran out of steam both physically and mentally. fed was quite fortunate nadal was obviously half a step slow and tired after his 5 hr duel with verdasco.

if nadal had been as fresh as fed, he would have routed him in straights.

Posted by mac 02/05/2009 at 10:04 PM


i agree re venus. i fully expect v to win at least 1 ao and 1 french in the next 2years.

Posted by Gertrude 02/05/2009 at 10:10 PM

Murray has been unfairly given too much flak for losing to Verdasco.

Sure a loss is a loss but Andy was always a set ahead and lost a tight 5th set to a phenomenal Verdasco who almost took out this year's champ.

It happens all the time. If not for a redhot player like Verdasco Murray would probably have won the AO.

So I wouldnt rule Murray out for the other slams in fact I am tipping him to win at least 1 either Wimby or the USO.

Posted by 02/05/2009 at 10:16 PM

roastlamb, just do what i do; mute the tv.

there are unfortunately an awful lot of ultra-annoying commentators who are biased (usu. pro-fed tho ) and wont stop. just tune them out.

Posted by Joe 02/05/2009 at 10:24 PM

Nadal won the final not just because was mentally stronger, but he played better than Federer
I give type pad an "F" too, I don't like at all

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