Archive for January, 2012


Two Different Champions, Two Different Stories

Monday, January 30th, 2012

You couldn’t have had two different finals. On the one hand there was the straight sets demolition of a former champion by a 22 year Belarusian who 11 months ago was about to throw in the towel. On the other hand, there was a just-under six hour epic battle in which the winner was hardly definite even on championship point.

Not to say that one was definitely better than the other. They are two different tournaments, four different players, and two very different stories. Djokovic was the man to beat; Azarenka was the challenger to Maria’s crown. You can’t really compare the two.

The first, then. Victoria Azarenka had come so close to completely giving up tennis, and she went onto the court on Saturday as the second favourite to Maria Sharapova’s more experienced game. What happened afterwards was a surprise for everyone on the court, including Sharapova.

It wasn’t just that Maria lost and Victoria won. Victoria destroyed her opponent, blasting through any sort of game plan Sharapova might had had – and if she did have one, it was hardly one worthy of a final –  to win the final on a 6-3 6-0 scoreline. She might have had the experience, but Sharapova didn’t have the game and when it all fell to pieces, Azarekna just had to keep her head and drive through to the final point.

Even though it must have seen cut and dry from the end of the first set, Azarenka still couldn’t believe her win when it happened. The look of disbelief she gave to her team in the player’s box  more »


Murray’s chance slips through his grasp yet again

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Another Grand Slam, another bitter disappointment for Murray as he gets so close, yet leaves still so far from gaining an Open title. Pat Cash rightly said that Murray was going to have to play the tennis of his life to get past the world number 1 on the form he is currently in. And Murray played a near-perfect match. But despite general opinion, I wouldn’t really class that as Murray’s best game ever. Going down in the third set 6-1 was definitely uncharacteristic. Murray may lose games, but he fights for every point with all the power he has. Although that was certainly true of many games in this match, it was hardly a consistent performance.

Not that you can blame the guy. At the other end of the court prowls a man who last year won 3 of the 4 grand slam titles, and won 43 matches in a row. Never mind that Djokovic seems to have lost his fear, that mental block that used to make him choke at the moment of success. With his ability to shrug off the pressure, it was a wonder the game got to four sets.

Murray had his chances to take the game by the scruff of the neck. By evening the scoreline out, there was a level playing field going into the deciding set. However, there needn’t be. Murray seemed so fixed on the furthest points – the fifth set – that he seemed to forget about some of the ones before that. The fourth set only took twenty five minutes. 6-1 isn’t just bad for the overall scoreline, it’s a serious confidence boost to an opponent. The last thing you want to more »


Roger and Rafa

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

It wouldn’t be a Grand Slam final without a Roger and Rafa showdown. Not a good one, anyway. That’s my opinion, and it was obviously the opinion of all those bums on seats at the Rod Laver Arena.

Well, the two greats in the modern game didn’t disappoint. For three hours and 42 minutes, the two players battled it out to get to the final of this year’s  Australian Open. But unlike many of their former clashes, there was a slightly bizarre note to this particular match. Bizarre because – in what seemed to be an attempt to disarm Nadal – Federer hit 63 unforced errors. About half of those were on his usually exquisite forehand.

It’s like seeing a lion with a claw ripped out. Federer without his wonderful forehand. But it just shows Federer’s talents that he can still force Nadal to have to come from a set down to win. Whilst on one side of the net, Federer was struggling with his forehand, Nadal seemed to be trying to use his own forehand over his trusty backhand.

This match wasn’t the sort of epic that we have seen before between Roger and Rafa in the past. But Nadal having to come back from a set down, after being moments away from pulling out of the tournament just before it began, is another fairytale to add to the list. He was calm when he needed to be, he was explosive when it was required. And when it came to the final game, Federer sealed his own defeat. Het nets a forehand, sends one long, then even a backhand misfires, and soon he was hitting his 36thmore »


Is Sharapova regaining her former glory?

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Maria Sharapova was the name on everyone’s lips when she emerged as a contender back in Wimbledon. She was the third youngest woman to win that Wimbledon title, and she did so playing Serena Williams who was arguably at the top of her game. She was young, beautiful, and the papers had got hold of her life story: a girl who had arrived in the US to advance her tennis career with her father and no ability to speak English. She charmed and delighted everyone by beating the favourite and bringing about a huge upset.

Since then her media spotlight has been constant, but her performance and fitness has been up and down. The fluctuations mean that although she has secured two more Grand Slam titles since her first in Wimbledon, there have been dark moments in between.

Last year, she was runner up to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon. And after she secured her place in this year’s Australian Open, it seems she may be currently on a high.

In today’s women’s semi-final, Sharapova had a chance to enact some revenge on Kvitova. Not that Petra went down easily. The match lasted a long two hours, with the finally scoreline 6-3 3-6 6-4 not really doing justice to the battle. Looking at the serving statistics you’d have every right to be confused at the final scoreline. Sharapova committed 10 double faults and this nearly lost her the game, with Kvitova using those little wobbles to her advantage and pushing the game into the third set. In fact it seemed like Kvitova had the steadier head  more »


Does calmness make the player?

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Although Roger Federer beat Ivo Karlovic in straight sets, there were moments when you would have forgiven Federer for acting out in frustration.  In any given match, no matter how good you are, there must be moments when things just don’t turn out the way you want them to. In those moments you’d forgive a player for venting his frustrations.

But what if you are Roger Federer? His reputation for having a cool, calm head no matter what the circumstances is well deserved. He has gone through hellish matches with the same measured calm as when he is comfortably winning (at least, on the outside). After his match with Karlovic, Federer told reporters that he sometimes just wants to go crazy. Like other players who scream and shout and throw their rackets around, Roger sometimes feel the emotions sizzle and wishes for the chance to throw a wobbly.

So why doesn’t he? Apparently, it’s because nobody remembers his early days. Anyway who does know Federer’s history knows that he used to throw some tantrums in his time. He threw rackets, kicked water bottles, all relatively minor stuff but completely unheard of in the Federer nowadays.

After 10 years of being the Buddha of the tour, he now has a reputation to uphold. As he states himself, he is now a role model to thousands of people young and old. He needs to maintain his calm because that is what is expected of him. When it comes to incentives to stay cool, that’s a pretty useful one.

As one of the best players ever to gr more »

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