Let’s Talk About: Frederrrico.

April 15, 2011

I think about Frederico Gil sometimes. Not because I have too much of a clue who he is, because I don’t (though that should change by the end of this piece). I mean, it might be because he’s Portuguese, and I love humans from that side of town, but no really, it’s because I like to extend out people’s names as far as possible to create some semblance of an interesting nickname. I have a friend called Freddie, he is called Frederico, and as any other deranged tennis fan can tell you, it’s not uncommon for a first name associated with a tennis player to automatically conjure up said tennis player in one’s brain at the time. Try it. Andy! Okay, that was too easy. Let me try a different one. Marat! Okay, I was tricking you (actually not, because for some reason it still conjures up the evil old French revolutionary, but that’s for another day when I finally get to write a weird history blog). Um, okay, let’s try… Frederico! See? I bet it worked for you too.

(PS. One name that tends to defy but also conform to this convention is Guillermo. Only because Guillermo Garcia-Lopez is so scarily similar to Guillermo Garcia-Gomez, that I’m not sure if I’m doing a tennis or a weeds reference. Try it.)

So let’s talk about Frederico Gil. We’re gathered to talk about him today, ladies and gents, because he’s the sole Portuguese player, and we love Portuguese people nearly as much – in fact maybe just as much – as we love Spanish people, because they’re so goddamn nice. And since we never had a chance to talk about him before, I’m taking advantage of today’s achievements to talk about this dude.

Frederico Gil, the highest-ranked Portuguese player ever, beat Gael Monfils today in Monte Carlo to make it to his first ever ATP Masters 1000 Quarter Final. He’ll play Muzz next tomorrow, which, in other breaking news today, is an exciting thing because it means Andy Murray is in a Masters Quarter Final. Who woulda thunk it.

I know he’s not pretty, but he sure has got some guns.

It also means we could be seeing more of this gentleman this week, which is great form from the 26-year-old, who has finalist points to defend in his home tournament of Estoril coming up shortly. Last year in his run to the final in Portugal, he became the first player of his country to reach an ATP final, so let’s hope he can ride on the confidence of what this week’s given him – and what may be yet to come – and go one better in 2011.

In an excellent Deuce profile from 2009, Gil discussed his goals for the future, his changes to his game, his family, and the meaning of his sport in a country like Portugal, where football rules (hi, Cristiano) and tennis is more of an afterthought.

Since we’re playing a getting to know you game here, I thought I’d snip out some extracts of the article so we can understand a little more about the dramas of playing tennis in a country where it isn’t part of a particularly strong tradition… Especially one such as Portugal, that has an insanely strong tradition of another wee little sport that a few people like to play in their backyards – football slash soccer (no I will not capitulate!)

The article quotes Manuel Perez, an RTP television commentator and a writer for the Portuguese sports newspaper O Jogo:

“For me Frederico’s rise up the rankings has been a great surprise. If you asked me two or three years ago if he could reach the Top 100, I would have said ‘no’. But now I must say everyone in Portugal is surprised by his current ranking.

“I have never seen a Portuguese player so mentally strong in 23 years of following the sport,” admitted Perez. “His greatest strength is his mentality. He isn’t a talent like Nuno Marques, who everybody said could be a Top 30 player but [who] made mistakes during his career. Frederico knows how hard the tour is. He knows how to practise and how to manage the press intruding in his personal life.”

“My parents had no experience of playing tennis before I was born, but my father started when he was 31,” explained Gil. “In his youth he had played football for Benfica juniors as he had been inspired by my grandfather, Rui Gil, who played professionally for Benfica. I started playing tennis at the age of five, when my parents built a court in the courtyard garden of our home. Another grandfather had built four houses together and had given one house to my mother and another to my uncle.”

I highly recommend reading the entire piece, as it gives an insight into something most tennis articles fail to cover: The plight of the journeyman tennis player, struggling between winning challengers for a place in the top 50 and then falling back out as mandatory tournaments have him losing again in the first round. It also highlights the difficulty of playing tennis in a country with little history: Every small victory means a huge amount for the populace (yes, I said populace, like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess) but also a huge weight of expectation for their next move.

So, I dunno what’s happening in Portugal right now, but I kinda love Portuguese people, so I’m gonna strap into my supersonic travel machine and hang with them for the next couple days. That way, instead of people hanging their heads “oh no Muzz lost again” tomorrow, we can be happy for someone else. Someone called Frederico, to be precise. Or, Muzz can win, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

Fair Point, Dave.

April 14, 2011

It’s Media Day for Fed Cup! Yay!

Aside from providing lots of photos of my favorite non-Eastern-European-tennis-playing-ladies in adorably unflattering gold tracksuits (why can’t we take the green side of green-and-gold more seriously, for reals), Tennis Australia works really hard to put together videos for us of press conferences and whatnot. You’ll also have a chance to play “pick-the-accent” of our players and coach to determine international influences. Hint: There are many.

According to Dave Taylor, Australian Team Fed Cup Coach (and coach of another lady you might know, Ms Samantha Stosur), we’re not to worry about Sam skipping out on a return to Oz to play for her country, opting to strap on a helmet for the barrage of ranking points that are about to fly on her head if she doesn’t gear up pretty quick (I’m viewing it as when you’re trying to pull out one board game from underneath a stack on the shelf at the top of the cupboard, and they’re all about to come flying over your head… anyone? OK…) by staying in Europe to get ready for clay season.

And rightfully so. We must chillax. Stubbsy has retired, Jelena Dokic is just plain tired, and Sammy is doing what any top-10 player would do in her position: Avoiding an extremely exhausting and difficult ordeal that tends to take more than a day or two to recover from, in order to maintain her level – in fact, at this stage, it’s just about living up to it. No blameskies here. To quote DT, Sam’s played ties for the last nine years, except for when she had Lyme Disease. That’s a helluvalotta patriotism all stacked up nicely for London 2012.

(Read more about it at The Age)

Though this brings in a question which the good journalistic folks at The Australian have dared to breach: Who decided to have the tie this week, anyway, and what’s up with that whole home-and-away thing?

Who woulda thunk you’d ever hear me complain that there is world-class tennis being played in a small local court not far from my home (okay, measure in kms and Kooyong and Melbourne Park are probably closer, but Glen Iris just feels all homey and local neighbourhoodish), which is why I’m not bashing Home and Away, at least not right now. But the timing is difficult, and as someone who’s braved the Australia-to-Europe-via-Asia flight once or seven times, I can whinge gracefully and tell you that it bloody sucks. I know tennis players travel all the time and are expected to be superhuman wonderpeople with tiger blood that’s immune to any type of.. oh wait, what was that, Serena? Anyway. Heading over to the other side of the world at the start of clay season is tough on anyone, and for Sam, it’s a completely respectable decision to opt out.

Much appreciation to Jarka and Rodi for making the trek over, despite both having bits of serious defense to do on clay next month. And we know Sophie Ferguson’s a gun on clay, so it’s great to have her on board the team.

And isn’t it lovely having Sally Peers join us! This girl is adorable. I can’t wait for you to get to know her. Girly group hug, everyone!

Photo: Tennis Australia

So basically, we’re screwed.

April 12, 2011

So it’s bad enough that Samantha Jane had to pull out of Glen Iris (or Glin Oiris, if we’re doing the Kath-and-Kim thing) Fed Cup tie to try and reverse the slump-that-I’m-pretending-isn’t-happening and prevent the slide-that-I’m-going-to-ignore-even-though-it’s-about-to-happen by getting into gear for clay court season and some mammoth points defense work.

So to compound that piece of lovely news, it turns out that now Jelena Dokic won’t be in Melbourne either…

But guess who will be!

Jarmila Groth, now Australia’s #2 player at 30 in the rankings, looks like she’ll be spearheading the team… followed by Anastasia Rodionova, proud winner of one main-draw WTA match this season. Sophie Ferguson, who we are relying on vs Ukraine as a Bondarenko-slayer will be around… and now with Jelena out, the next bet is either Our Case (Dellacqua), back in town after winning Bundaberg last week, or perhaps gorgeously peppy Sally Peers.

Love all my girls, but I’ll say it if you won’t: We’re kinda screwed.

Got a game plan, DT?

Goin’ Country

April 12, 2011

In case my Twitter feed hasn’t given it away, I’m happy to inform you all that over the last several weeks – since I discovered Netflix on demand, to be particular – I have been lapping up every tasty morsel of a serious 30 Rock Marathon. This means I finally had a chance to see a clip that I’m assuming most of you noticed a year ago that promptly skimmed right over my radar – which is a downright shame, because if there’s a few things I love in the world, I think combining tennis, country music, and the awesomeness that is Jenna Maroney would have been the perfect concoction.

I dunno about you, but I was at Tennis Night in America the last two years – and they totally could’ve used this as a promo.

How much do you love the “upcoming match” with two hard-to-pronounce Eastern European names? Reminds me of the story of my life, most evenings of the week.

A Word from @Noleksa: Nole’s Numbers – or Top 9 Reasons Why Novak Djokovic is Particularly Amazing

April 8, 2011

One person who’s been making a fair few headlines lately is the incredible Novak Djokovic. A long-time favourite on this blog, we’ve been more than delighted to see the awesomeness streak that Nole’s been leaving across Australia, the Middle East, and the USA – in fact, Dubai excepting, pretty much any continent where I’ve been over the last few months. Huh, how’s that.

But there’s one continent that matters more than the rest, and that’s Nole’s home of Belgrade, Serbia. Luckily there’s one lady who knows better than the rest of us just how fabulous this man has been – because she’s our resident Serbian on Twitter, and lover of all things Nole. Even my Davis Cup envy can’t get in the way of jumping into a Nole Love Bubble with this girl during his matches.

To wax lyrical from her fountain of knowledge, I present to you… the lovely and fabulous NOLEKSA!

9. Nole finished ATP World No. 3 for the four straight years and he achieved it in the era of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (2007-2010).

8. Novak has won 7 ATP Masters Titles which makes him the 6th player on All-Time list of Masters Champions behind Rafael Nadal (18), Roger Federer (17), Andre Agassi (17), Pete Sampras (11), andThomas Muster (8).

7. Only four active players have reached semi-finals of all Grand Slams: Roger Federer, David Nalbandian,Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. And the feat was achieved in that chronological order.

6. Also, in 2008 at 20 years of age by reaching Australian Open semi-finals, before winning his first Grand Slam Trophy, Nole has become the youngest player in Grand Slam Open Era history to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam events, separately and consecutively.

5. Nole is the fourth player since 1990 to win the three biggest titles (Australian Open, ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells, and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami) in the first three months of theseason (Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras).

4. Nole is the first player since Roger Federer in 2006 to win both Indian Wells and Miami in the same year.

3. Nole has won 24 straight matches since the start of 2011, which is the third longest streak to start theyear behind Ivan Lendl (started 25-0 in 1986) and John McEnroe (started 39-0 in 1984).

Bearing in mind that during the aforementioned streak Nole has achieved 5:0 score vs. the Rafael Nadal and the Roger Federer we can arguably call it “the mother of all hot streaks”.

It takes greatness to inspire greatness.

2. Nole is 23 and Rafa is 24 and yet they have played each other 25 times already.
Rafa leads their H2H 16:9 but Nole is the only player to score 9 wins against Rafael Nadal.
Out of these 25 matches Rafa and Nole played thus far seven (7) were Finals matches, eleven (11)were Semifinals, three (3) Quarterfinals, three (3) were Round Robin matches at the ATP Year End Championships (World Tour Finals), and one (1) was Round Robin match in Davis Cup World Group tie.

1. Nole is the most loved athlete in Serbia, a very sport-centric country, and is a proud double winner of the award ‘The Best Sportsperson of Serbia’ and award for ‘The Best Sportsman by Olympic Committee of Serbia’.


Now I’ll say my bit… Here are some of my own reasons we love this man:

He’s hilarious when he talks, entertains anyone and everyone, looks fabulous with his shirt off and, oh yeah, he plays a mean game of tennis.

Also, along with a lovely little elf called Juan Martin Del Potro, he is the only man aside from The Big Two of Nadal and Federer to win a Grand Slam within the last six years.

I rest my case.

You’re Funny.

April 7, 2011

His award-winning blogs might no longer be featured on the ATP site, and his tweets may have begun resembling “One Man’s War Against the Establishment”, but Dmitry Tursunov can still look lovely and be funny when rifling through a tennis bag on some lush-looking green grass.

The folks from Wilson have posted a Bag Check which frankly I’m beyond curious when it was filmed. Doesn’t seem to be all that recent to me. It’s supposed to be uncut. If I was a journalist, I’d find out when the original was posted. But as a blogger, I’m happy to just sit back and watch. *lalala*. Oh look, isn’t he pretty?

“That’s all my prizemoney for the year.” Actually, I take that back. How well do challengers pay these days?

See you soon, Dima. I’m still watching you sweat it out in first-round five setters on the back courts, so, you know, it’d be nice doing the same in a third-rounder.

As for the pacifiers? Whatever works, baby.

Rant Warning: Is this a global tennis site, or what?

April 6, 2011

I’m first to admit that despite this blog being about tennis, it leans heavily to the side of those competitors who prefer to wear gorgeously ugly green-and-gold trackies when it’s Fed Cup, Davis Cup and Olympics time. Being that my love of tennis was first cultivated on the holy blue (then green) courts of Melbourne Park, I’m an Aussie tennis fan, first and foremost. Sure, I find it hard to love and embrace some of those purveyors of my beloved sport on home soil (Lleyton, meet Bernard. Bernard, Lleyton) but the adorable ones more than make up for it (Hey Sam! ‘Sup, Jarka? G’day, Patty Rafter) and anyway, blood is thicker than water. I’ll yell my guts out for Lleyton til the fifth set in the freezing cold at 2am if need be (that was so unfair, Nalby) and alienate myself from the rest of the Flushing Meadows crowd (I’m looking at you, Paul Henri Mathieu). So while I understand the importance of patriotism and whatnot, I’m also a lowly blogger and acknowledge the fact that it’s okay if I discuss my country’s players, because, after all, that’s what most of you are after. Australian Open fans want to know how Aussie players are doing – so I make sure to let them know, and bask in a bit of glory once in a while.

Now, this is not what the wonderful folk at ATP World Tour dot com believe, as evidenced by the latest spate of headlines bemoaning the lack of Americans in the top echelons of our sport. (If they can use cliches, so can I). Sure, Tennis Australia are more than welcome to focus on Australian tennis results, and The Age is all over when Sammy makes it to the next round with a bit of Rafa and Fed sprinkled in. That’s what they do. The Australian Open site is always highlighting photos and video of Aussie players – because that’s what people are visiting their site for.

ATP, on the other hand, last time I checked, was an international brand with an international appeal. Allow my Twitterfeed to back me up, which is filled with only a percentage of American fans and bloggers, with the rest coming from diverse nations such as Australia (oh yeah) and New Zealand, the UK, Europe, Asia – pretty much everywhere that tennis is played. Sure, I have a higher percentage of English speaking fans than the lovely French and Argentinean fans who occasionally pop up, but that’s called language commonalities. It most certainly does not affect which players we support… as evidenced by the high number of American fans who are quite happy to support Rafa over Roddick, or Aussies going for Feli over Tomic. We’re tennis fans, first and foremost, though obviously nationality plays a part, as mentioned above.

Which brings me to where we get our tennis news from, and the importance of journalists who are being fancypants high-profile oracles of the truth. If you’re writing for the New York Times, talk to me about American tennis, and I’ll pretend to be the dude in Westchester reading the news over coffee who likes to get out and have a hit on the weekend. Write for The Age, and I know you’re targeting a Mum who likes to take her kids to Melbourne Park on sunny summer days and wants to keep up with “Our Sam” and “Our Case” along with the big guys. If you’re a British media correspondent – oh, I won’t even start. Keep your thesaurus handy and a cricket bat, and you’ve got bashing Andy Murray down to an art. Be a blogger like me, and hell, write about whoever you feel like that day – the nicest proponent of a well-shaped torso, perhaps, or the lady who shares a nationality with you. Or just post a video of the girl with the cutest smile or the guy with the funniest accent, and you’ll be apples, mate.

Write for ATP World Tour dot com, dearies? Talk Muzz, talk Rafa, talk Nole, talk Fed. Ruminate over Muzza’s headcaseyness and slamlessness; ask the umpteenth question over Fed’s decline; and analyse Rafa’s muscle twinges just like we expect you to. Talk about Nole all you want – the man deserves it, and rightfully so. You can even debate whether Caro deserves to be number one, reference Kim’s role as – whaddya know – a wife and mother, and mourn the state of women’s tennis during the long-term absence of the Williams sisters. They’re overdone journalistic topics, true, but it’s okay for you to talk about them – because that’s what you’re supposed to talk about.

You can mention Mardy Fish going to number 11, you can talk about the lack of American top 10s, you can gasp with horror at Roddick’s “plunge” to number 14 – but don’t try to tell me it’s headline news in a way that displaces any other national sporting phenomenon.

In case it hasn’t come across, I happen to love the ATP site. It’s full of awesome news, videos, tidbits, player profiles, and a great design and layout. I check it religiously and love the iPhone apps. It’s the email news that’s gotten me down lately, with news of Mardy Fish’s rankings rise deemed more important than other, larger jumps last week; and news articles headlining the dismal nature of American sport making links and front page above and beyond all else. If this site is an international tennis site, built for international tennis fans, the Americano bias has got to go.

Or, you know, start a blog. Cos that’s what I’ve done.

That’s One.

April 6, 2011

Remember this lady?

Anastasia Rodionova has won her first main draw match of the season in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup, defeating Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czech Republic, 4-6 6-1 6-2, in the first round. Her only previous match win this year came in the first round of qualifying in Doha, against Yung-Jan Chen, before she proceeded to lose in the next round to Peng Shuai (Shuai Peng?). As a voluntary resident of the greatest country in the world, a new Aussie citizen, Fed Cup team member and perhaps a co-dweller of my own lovely Melbourne suburb, Rodi is a lady I like to support, so haters to the left, please.

In other Aussie Charleston news that I will mention really briefly because if I don’t talk about it it didn’t happen, the newly resurgent Jelena Dokic lost her first round match to Anna Tatishvilli this morning, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. Sam Stosur, hope of the nation, has a first round bye before she runs off to defend her title and another gazillion points on the dirt. Also something I’d prefer not to talk about.

So, how about Rodi, hey! Done, done and onto the next one! Woot woot! Aussie Aussie Aussie! Sigh.

Ok, I’ll shut up now.

“Positive Thinking”

April 5, 2011

The lovely people at Tennis Australia decided to provide us with footage of our latest leading lady, my girl Jelena. (Not Novak’s girl Jelena, and not Petko’s bestie JJ. My girl Jelena. You know who I’m talking about).

Keep reading about positive thinking there, Jelena love. We’re already so proud. *tear*. Like a mama, I am.

“They’re my favorite band.”

April 1, 2011

Lucky I’m a geek, because geeks read tech media, and find out technogeeky bits and pieces, such as this little gem that was released in honour of the fifth birthday of our tennis Godmother and Queen of the Net, Twitter.

Any tennis fan worth 140 characters or more knows of the benefits of using Twitter to keep up with scores, get links to the latest news and blogs, find out what our players are up to, and commentweet alongside our grainy streams during tennis matches. Most importantly? They give us grab a front-row seat to any soap operatic shenanigans between players, coaches and media.

Except for the lady at 0:43. She likes to keep up with some punks called Greenday between spruiking accessories on television.

They’re her favourite band, you know.

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