Monday, 2 February 2009

Australian Open 2009 - A Summary: The Final!

And about fecking time. Okay, so Nadal beat Fed on a hard court, it went five sets (but the fifth was a huge anti-climax as Fed shockingly collapsed), Nadal has three of the four slams and is looking a better bet to win the US Open than Fed to win the French. Plus he's won Olympic Gold. Suddenly, all that arse-licking Fed-is-the-greatest-ever talk of the past five years isn't looking so certain. 'Twas a good, if predictable, final to end the Australian Open. Me, I'm just not that bothered about Fed-Nadal matches. I like them, they're an entertaining watch, but I'm a neutral, ultimately. Which is why I can't really bring myself to write more than a few sentences about it (well... that and also I'm sick to the back teeth of writing at this point). To sum up: Nadal fought and fought, despite his exhausting semifinal, and thoroughly deserved it. Fed disintegrated, and his tears in the trophy ceremony looked like a beaten man who had ran out of answers. Although I'm not writing him off yet. He can still beat anyone on his day. Except, maybe now, Nadal. We'll see.

Me, I'm still pissed at Mathieu for breaking my heart for the umpteenth time in the second round. Such is life when you're a fan of has-beens and never-wases. I'd like to just support whoever's winning, but I just can't bring myself to do it. If one of my guys breaks through and does something, whether it's a slam, a lesser title, or even just a significant win, that means more to me than watching someone I have no connection towards win a hundred slams.

Oh, in all my meandering I almost forgot the women's final. Well, Dementieva lived up to bridesmaid status once again by losing tamely to Serena in the semis, and Serena went on to annihilate Dinara Safina in the final 6-0 6-3 for her 10th grand slam title. She's not even as good as she used to be. But it's a rant for another time. I'm done for the evening. To sum up: a memorable AO. But personally, could have been better. As usual, eh.

Australian Open 2009 - A Summary: Quarters, Semis

I don't even care, at this point. I've been writing for ages and I can't imagine anyone, ever, EVER being bored enough to wade through half the crap I've already posted this evening. I can only assure anyone out there reading - anyone? really? no? damn - that this blog WILL. GET. BETTER. I have so many ideas. I thought the round-up would be a good one, but halfway through round two I realised most of the players I actually cared about had gone out, and with Murray and Baghdatis falling in the last 16, I lost any sort of emotional investment I had in the tournament and watchded it as a neutral, somewhat bemused, observer.

So, the quarter finals then. Easy - AGAIN- for Nads over Simon. I like Simon - he fights his arse off and wins matches against players twice his size, despite his skinny frame, but God that defensive style of play he has can be dull. At times I can just feel myself muttering irritably "Just f***ing go for it! Finish it off!" And he never does. Nadal-Simon matches are generally sleep-inducing. Glad I missed this one.

Verdasco-Tsonga. Now here's two entertaining players with exciting, go-for-broke styles. Unless they go off the boil, in which case it's a comedy of errors. I called the upset here; it was always going to be difficult for Tsonga to get to the final two years in a row, especially since he was talking about injury worries before the start of the tournament. Still think that this guy can do something special; if he stays clear of injuries could be just a matter of time.

Roddick-Djokovic. Djoke obviously affected by the heat. Still, it's pretty cowardly to give up the defense of your title with such a lame excuse as - what was it? - "general soreness". Come on, give it a bit of fight Nole. I might not like him, but at least I'd respect him more if he stuck it out and fought for it when things don't go his way, but he quits. Continuously. Could be wrong, but I think his gargantuan ego might have more than a bit to do with it. Anyway, 'grats to Roddick. Don't like hisgame and he acts like a brat at times on court, but without a doubt one of the funniest and most personable guys off it. In the interview room, at least.

Del Potro-Fed. Lol.

On to the semis. Nadal-Verdasco. Five hours of drama, tension, brilliant shot-making, comebacks, everything. You want an example of a classic tennis match, then here it is. There's superlatives about it all around the internet, and I can't really sum it up any better, than it already has been. Match of the Australian Open, and maybe of the season. Disappointed for Verdasco; of the final eight, he was the one I wanted to see break through and win, even though I knew it was unlikely. You could see how much he wanted it in this match. He needs to take the positives here and build on his form rather than fade away to mediocrity again. Still, finally made a name for yourself as more than just a pretty boy, eh, Fernando? Hats off to Nadal too. Played much more aggressively, fought like hell, and earned the win.

Roddick-Fed. Nothing much to post on this one on the other hand, other than what did you expect?

Australian Open 2009 - A Summary: Rounds Three And Four

I'm already wishing I'd found the time to post updates throughout the tournament - it's pretty tiresome posting in retrospect so-this-happened-then-that-happened-and-then-he-beat-him-and-took-five-sets and it's not making for a hugely entertaining read - we all know what happens at the end! Still, I can hardly ignore one of the four slams and, well, I've started, so I might as well finish.

Round three then (sighs). Nadal, Djokovic, easy wins, blah di blah, you know the drill. Safin ended his most successful slam with a straight-sets defeat to The Fed. Better than losing to some nobody, though, eh, in your final match? Another cruise-control match for Murray over Jurgen Melzer, while still-not back-in-top-10-form (and maybe never again) Mario Ancic faded out against Gilles Simon. Richard Gasquet, obviously attempting to emulate his countryman Mathieu from the previous round, played one of the matches of the tournament with Gonzalez, but despite a two sets to love lead and a match point in set three, eventually went down 12-10 in the fifth. Ho-hum, not my tournament, as I said before. Baghdatis continued to provide some cheer with a straight sets beatdown of the hated Fish. Woo-hoo!

Mauresmo lost early yet again to screechy bint Victoria Azarenka, and bang went my interest in the women's event - although I did watch the final out of a sort of morbid curiosity. More on that story later.

Round four. Nothing much to report here. Berdych blew a two set lead against The Fed (shock horror), Baghdatis's good run came to an end against Djokovic (annoying but inevitable) and the Great British Media Hype around Andy Murray came crashing down around our over-optimistic ears with a five sets loss to Verdasco. Okay, so he had a cold and ran into a opponent who had been crushing decent players left, right and centre, but there was a touch of the Henmans about it all - the build-up, the expectation, the seeming inevitability that it was finally his - our! - moment... and then, the end. Again. Still, months ahead to build it all up again for the French and Wimbledon, eh? In other results, EVERY OTHER ONE of the top eight seeds progressed. You bastards.

Australian Open 2009 - A Summary: Round Two

On to round two - routine for the top four, neither Murray, Djokovic, Nadal or Federer facing any particularly stern tests with some rather nondescript matches - Federer's opponent Evgeny Korolev catching as much attention after posing for these shots on the ATP website as for his tennis.

Gasquet 'routined' Denis Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-4; Mario Ancic posted a not-entirely unexpected five-set win over Ivo Karlovic - condemning his fellow Croat to the worst five-set record in the open era with Karlovic having played ten, lost ten to overtake Markus Hipfl, who finished his career at 0-9; Fernando Verdasco showed ominous signs of later form, dismissing the experienced Clement for the loss of just five games; Kohlschreiber disappointed once more - Fabrice Santoro proving he can't be written off even at 35 with a 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3 win; David Nalbandian was the most shocking second-round loser, out to little-known Yen-Hsun Lu; Baghdatis and Bolelli were up against two of my least-liked players in Robin Soderling and Mardy Fish (more on those two later) - Marcos showing some of the form from his 2006 run with a four-set win; Simone, meanwhile, continues to struggle against big servers, with Fish the victor in straights.

Gilles Muller, presumably still exhausted from his struggle with Lopez in the first round, must have thanked his lucky stars to be playing the inexperienced teenager Bernard Tomic, winning in four; Safin eased through past Garcia-Lopez, although few (including myself) were giving him much of a chance in his next match against Federer; so the stage was all set, of course, for the inevitable Paul-Henri Mathieu nightmare defeat. And he didn't disappoint: somehow turning a two-set lead of 6-1 6-3 into a 1-6 3-6 6-3 7-6 9-7 loss, against Amer Delic, of all people, who had scraped into the draw as a lucky loser upon Kiefer's withdrawal and had lost two sets 6-0 to Florian Mayer - yes, Florian Mayer! - in qualifying. Paulo may have been right to complain about some of the crowd's behaviour - but the fact remains, this was (yet another) match he should never have lost. I knew as soon as I saw that result, that it wasn't going to be my tournament.

As for the women, most of the top seeds cruised through with little trouble, but Venus Williams went down 2-6 6-3 7-5 to Carla Suarez Navarro - the biggest upset of the tournament on the women's side. Mauresmo continued to look a shadow of herself as she beat Baltacha in three; and the fortnight looked as though it would be decided on a likely semi-final match between Serena Williams and perennial bridesmaid, but recent Olympic Gold medallist (and unbeaten in '09) Elena Dementieva. Yawn.

Australian Open 2009 - A Summary: Round One

So the first major of the year is all over. Before, ridiculously, I even managed to get this blog up-and-running! Never mind - I thought this round-by-round summary would also serve as an introduction to those I'll be keeping a close eye on over the remainder of the season.

First Round

Withdrawals before a ball had even been hit for Nicolas Kiefer (ankle injury) and Filippo Volandri (three-month ban).

Easy as you like for the top seeds: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic et al advancing in straights. Pre-tournament favourite Andy Murray, unbeaten in 2009 after wins at both the Abu Dhabi exhibition and Doha for the second year running, had an even easier passage against veteran Andrei Pavel, who retired midway through the second set of their match with a back injury. A far cry from Murray's classic five-set tussle with Pavel at the 2005 US Open, which resulted in the Scot vomiting on court midway through the fifth set - Pavel, sadly, announcing his retirement from the sport after the match.

Home favourite Lleyton Hewitt, coming back from a six-month layoff with a hip injury, was handed a tough first round against the 13th seed Fernando Gonzalez, and duly went down in five. Other notable first-rounds on the men's side included Gilles Muller - Luxembourg's sole representative - winning an epic against 27th seed Feliciano Lopez - 16-14 in the fifth! Former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, fading away from the top 100, suffered another setback against 35-year old Fabrice Santoro, playing in his last Australian Open. Another former number one, Carlos Moya, failed to show much form against qualifier Evgeny Korolev, the 1997 finalist losing tamely in straights. German Phillip Petzschnner, winner in Vienna a few months previously, lost a shocker against outsider Brian Dabul. Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Xavier Malisse, having come through qualifying following what seems like years of injury nightmares, upset Michael Llodra. Seeds Rainer Schuettler and Dmitry Tursunov- the former a respectable loss to Israel's Dudi Sela, a good player on his day, but Tursunov really has no excuse losing to a poor player like Flavio Cipolla.

What else on the men's side? Having already covered many of my favourites - Kiefer, Murray, Muller, Llodra, Schuettler, Tursunov, Petzschner - how did the rest fare? Richard Gasquet did enough to get past Junquiera; Mario Ancic, originally scheduled to play Volandri, needed four to get past the decent-but-not-spectacular Wayne Odesnik; Teimuraz Gabashvili, as expected on a non-televised court against Marcel Granollers - I expect his usual temperamental, racket-bashing-against-the-head antics were on offer during a four set defeat; Nicolas Lapentti - almost a decade removed from his days in the top ten - was an unsurprising loser against Radek Stepanek; Arnaud Clement, another former finalist, needed five to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky; Phillipp Kohlschreiber surprised me with an easy win against potentially dangerous Sam Querrey; Alberto Martin, away from his beloved clay, went out to Vic Troicki; 10th seeded David Nalbandian took care of Marc Gicquel in four; Paul-Henri Mathieu had a lucky break when Jarrko Nieminen was forced to retire; Marat Safin's last season on tour kicked off with a win over Ivan Navarro; Marcos Baghdatis and Simone Bolelli won through against Julien Benneteau and Kristof Vliegen respectively; Robby Ginepri, given a tough draw against Tomas Berdych, the 20th seed, went out in straights; and finally, an ageing Agustin Calleri faded away against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. A lot to sum up - I often forget just how many players I actively root for on the men's side.

A briefer summary of the WTA - I'll save for a later blog post the reasons why I'm no longer following women's tennis as closely as I once did. Slovenian Katarina Srebotnik was out before the tournament began. Ana Ivanovic survived a horrendous match against Julia Goerges - despite wild errors and huge problems with her ball toss. Lucky Ivanovic, her opponent was as erratic as she was most of the match. Routine wins for Jankovic, the Williams sisters, et al. Amelie Mauresmo, still trying to regain something of her 2006 form, eased to victory in straights. Hungarian Agnes Szavay, suffering through a year-long slump, went out in round one again to Galina Voskoboeva. As for the Brits, well, four women in the main draw for the first time since 1993 was impressive, with three coming through the qualifying. Anne Keothavong, on the edge of the top 50, impressed for one set against the seeded Anna Chakvetadze. Katie O'Brien and Melanie South went out in straights to Monica Niculescu and Marion Bartoli respectively. Elena Baltacha, on the cusp of the top 100 for the umpteenth time, however, provided some cheer with an easy straight sets win over one-time top 20 player Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

Something of an epic post this I admit, and I don't intend this blog to serve as a summing-up of a bunch of random results in any given tournament. Hopefully, though, these opening posts will serve as both a 'catch-up' on the year's first slam and a brief overview of those players I have more than a passing interest in.


Hello and welcome to 'On The Deuce' - a tennis blog created (for the most part) for my own personal diary of the ups and downs of being a (so I'm told) hardcore tennis fan. There'll be no attempt at serious dissections of technique or the game itself (I'm the first to admit, I just don't know enough) and I also make no apologies for being hopelessly biased towards the players I like (and the few I dislike). Hopefully, there'll also be links to tennis videos, tips on good matches to bet a few quid on, random scribblings about tennis and other thoughts, and some other bits and bobs.

With work (and today, the weather itself) snowing me under, I haven't been able to start this blog as early as I would have liked, so I'll kick off with a brief summary of the year's first Grand Slam event, the Australian Open, where Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams picked up the first majors of the year. Followed after by a closer (and better worded) introducion to myself and the players I'll be watching with interest this year. Kind of an arseways-to-backwards way to do things, I know, but I'm still getting the hang of it all (being something of a latecomer to the blogging community in general) - not to mention trying to get the look of the blog updated to exactly how I want it (with my perfectionist streak, not to mention my laughable lack of technical knowledge, this may take some time.)