Note, just like forecasting the weather, with a certain amount of (acceptable) error, the same goes for this picking of winners and more. That said there are some darn interesting matchups in the next few days, as well as some excellent tennis that was played over the weekend.
Caroline Wozniacki. Somehow I think the press needs to give her a break. It may not be her fault that the ranking system places her at Number One, when she simply wins more matches than any other (why she is ranked 1st) but as yet to capture a Grand Slam title. Over the years I have had the chance to participate in a few of these press interviews and in the main the questions are desultory if not downright boring. I would prefer a dialogue with Caroline as well as others that had more to do with how they play the game, than whether their results are meeting the expectations of others (meaning the expectations of the press).
On the “how they play the game” thing, Caroline is the consummate defensive player. Outstanding movement and fitness, we saw just that as Svetlana Kuznetsova faded in the third set. But more, Woz plays nearly every ball either cross court (when cornered) or up the middle (when centered). And even when Svetlana was up a set and 4-1 in the second, Brad Gilbert saw a likely comeback. Gang, it is near impossible to beat a player who is more consistent than you, more determined than you, and where your only chance of winning is if you can hit winners again and again and again. Finally, as Svetlana gradually “lost her legs” the notion of first strike tennis appeared yet again as a liability. If you hit the ball hard, attack at the start, but move poorly, these first strikers appear hurried. For this one the stats tell the tale, Caroline made 6 more unforced errors than winners (26 to 20) where Svetlana made 38 more unforced errors than winners (48 to 40). The third set, unfortunately, was a formality, 67 75 61.
Gilles Simon and Juan Martin del Potro played a fascinating match, where Simon moved quickly and somehow without effort, while Delpo seemed slower and slower as the match wore on (another victim of first strike tennis?). But with Simon up two sets to one, serving at 4-5 love 40, he snatched the game and ultimately the match with some heady, offensive tennis. I often wonder about Simon and others who grew up within the French system, where as a teenager he must have practiced so much with the older and wiser Fabrice Santoro. And truly one could have no better on court mentor than the “Magician.” Fabrice used every inch of the court with offense, defense, under spin and guile. To my mind Gilles played a version of that game to beat Delpo (but without Santoro’s wicked two handed under spin forehand) .
Thinking out loud. At the end of nearly all the men’s matches, the hand shake is personal and generally includes a tap on the others back as well as some conciliatory or congratulatory words. Somehow the women’s post match routine appears cold, perfunctory, rarely anything resembling a gracious acceptance of the result. Anyone have a n idea of this? And or can you suggest a female player who appears gracious in the post match scenario?
It appears it will rain most of Tuesday the 6th, but going forward here are some thoughts on the draw and more.
Men’s draw. In the top half the following men are through to the quarterfinals. Djokovic will play Tipsarevic, and Federer will play Tsonga. Tsonga has beaten Fed in their last two outings, and certainly his comeback in the Wimbledon quarters when down 2 sets to love was to that point unheard of. The stat on the tele showed Roger 178 and 0 when leading two sets to love. But the last three sets showcased an unusually passive Federer. And actually I saw something similar in the 2009 US Open final, where perhaps Delpo’s power and strength about the court took something from Roger. Certainly Jo Wilifred presents a similar daunting physique and game. I am always rooting for Roger, and for this one he will have to serve extremely well, and keep the Tsonga forehand at bay.
In the bottom half the men are still within the round of 16. Isner plays Simon, Young plays Murray, Ferrer plays Roddick in a rematch of the recent Davis Cup in Austin where Ferrer defused both Andy and the American team with a straight set drubbing of the local hero. Finally within this half Muller plays Nadal. To my eye Murray appears very strong, he is moving exceptionally well, and sooner or later he will rise to the occasion. John Isner at 6’10” is daunting and might even be the most dangerous player in the draw, and Rafa has yet to assert himself. How neat if Simon could make it through to play the likely Murray. Roddick may be the happiest, flying under the radar, no real expectations on him – look for Andy to surprise everyone.
Women’s draw. In the quarters Wozniacki plays Petkovic and Serena battles Paylyuchenkova in the top half. In the bottom half Kerver plays Pennetta and Stosur plays against Zvonareva. With the single best stroke in the history of the women’s game, Serena and her indomitable serve still appear to be the story.
PS. Aleandr Dolgopolov. Gifted, a shot maker, unpredictable, with a serve reminiscent of Roscoe Tanner or Kevin Curren (that’s right he just tosses it up and hits it almost as it is rising). Darren Cahill described his game as “funky” but I disagree. He is the contrarian, the outlier, the Black Swan (sorry Nasim this may be a stretch), the guy who is so difficult to play because of his unpredictability. I look for him to crack the top 10 and more – just give the kid a little time.
Video Courtesy of Jim Fawcette