Archive for January, 2009

 

Crowd Clashes in Melbourne

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

When you think of riots in sports crowds, there are certain sports which lend themselves to the image more than others. Football, for example. Tempers and pride run high, and with some international tensions thrown in, violence often ensues. For tennis, however, the image of violence in the spectators seems farfetched. Tennis is a passionate sport, but one never associates it with riots.

Unfortunately, there are such incidents of fights breaking out in the crowd in tennis. And the Australian Open seems to carry the biggest reputation. The outbreaks are few and far between during the actual tournament, but incidences have occurred for the past four years. Day 5 gave the tournament its fourth consecutive year of outbreaks, with some fans throwing punches with others and even managing to knock a woman unconscious. The fights started after Novak Djokovic beat Amer Delic on Court 2 at the Melbourne Arena, with two groups clashing outside the arena not long after the match.

Anybody who knows anything about the history of both Djokovic’s and Delic’s home countries will have understood why such a thing may have occurred. Matches between the  more »

 

In Spite Of Her Father

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Last night Australia’a Jelena Dokic continued her return from the tennis wilderness, beating 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki in three sets to advance to the fourth round.

Over the years we have seen some terrible tennis dads, but there were none worse than Jelena’s father, Damir. Every summer in Australia it almost became a sport unto itself – what was Damir going to do.

I started doing a little bit of research for this post, fully intending to give the readers some insights into this troubled family, and what Jelena has been through to get here today.

And as I was looking through the stories (and there are many) I couldn’t stop laughing. Now I’ll preface this by saying the struggles Jelena has gone through are no laughing matter. She has battled severe depression, mental abuse, a harsh Australian public, a media set against her as well as inumerous cultural issues related to her Slavic upbringing, and the political tensions between various factions in that region.

That she has come through this and is now again showing the tennis ability we first saw 8 or 9 years ago is a testament to her mental fortitude.

Having said that, some of the things her Dad has said and done over the years are so far fetched, you cannot help but laugh, and shake your head in amazement – his mind is most definitely in a class of its own

So today I am going to give you…Damir’s Greatest Hits

In 2006 he threatened to kidnap his duaghter, and kill an Australian for her returning to more »

 

The First Upset

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

And so, the crushing upsets of the top players has begun. Naturally it’s a lot more exciting for us to watch than it is for a player to experience. You can’t help but respect a lower-ranked player who dethrones one of the favourites.  And to watch a legend in tennis taken down always carries an element of shock too; their mortality within the sport is suddenly revealed for the world to see, and you can’t help but stare open-mouthed. It’s also not that common; there’s a reason why these ‘favourites’ are favoured so, and why they are ranked so highly above the underdogs.

Today, it was the turn of Venus Williams to take an early bow from the Australian Open and to face the music of being beaten in the second round. Williams seemed a shadow of the truly awe-inspiring player we know her to be, the score of defeat being 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. 20 year old Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro was the unseeded player who showed Williams the door, a player who had never really been given a second glance with an opponent like Venus.

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Pacing Yourself

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Jim Courier said something yesterday which immediately rang true for me – it was quite obvious and yet still insightful. He was commentating on Federer’s second round match and said “…you don’t have to play your best tennis every match to win a Grand Slam, you just have to play better than your opponent in each match…it all comes down to being able to win the last point”.

To win the Australian Open you need to survive 7 matches each of which could possibly go to 5 sets. One of the skills you need to learn is to pace yourself. Do what you have to do in the early rounds to get through. Gradually improve your game as the fortnight goes on so that you reach your peak for those last two matches.

Watching Murray tonight there were no over exertions. He used his first set to size up the game of his opponent, decided upon his strategy and executed well. The result – a straight sets victory. The last twelve months have seen him take on an enormous amount of knowledge about how to win big matches and tournaments…but I’m still not convinced he will win here. His dominance of Federer in their last couple of matches will count for nothing at the end of this tournament.

I think tomorrow night’s match between Federer and Safin will give everyone a true idea of where Federer is at. These two have a history of big matches at this tournament, and everyone is excited about the potential for more of the same here. Safin is the player in the draw most feared by everyone else – the more »

 

Beware The Underdog

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

As I turned on the tennis this morning, the sight of the first competitors of the day standing at the net reminded me again what it is about this game that is so great.

There on one side was Ana Ivanovic, the glamourous Serb standing well over 6″ and with $6 million in match winnings by the age of 21.

Her opponent for the day was Alberta Brianti, a diminutive Italian qualifier dwarfed by her opponent in stature and rankings, who at the age of 28 is in the form of her life. With lifetime earnings of less than $400,000 and a rank well outside the top 100, there would seem to be a mis-match of epic proportions on show.

Except no one told the Italian. While the scoreboard will forever show a comfortable win for Ivanovic, at times the Italian traded shots with her opponent like a player of ability higher than her rank would suggest. Playing on the main court at a major against a top five player will forever be something she remembers with pride.

And while there was to be no upset today, the possibility is always there. For the underdog there is always the belief that today is going to be your day. Today you are going to topple a giant and reveal to the world what you knew all along…that you belong on this stage.

Throughout every major, and especially so in Australia with the New Year not far gone, it is commonn to see run’s deep into the tournament by an unknown that defies their rank and perceived ability. Last year it was Tsonga, two years before that more »

 
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