Never Forget, January

January 16, 2012

For those of you who have been following this blog of mine since its inception, you would be well aware that today is not just any day – not just the first day of the Australian Open or the Golden Globes or the freezingest day New York has had all year or the day Fernando Verdasco decided to single-handedly blind the entire tennis watching population:

No, it’s also the day when two years ago, I decided to start this little blog of mine.

Back then it was ours, actually, a joint project of my lovely tennis-watching partners in crime and dear sisters, M (resident photographer) and L, resident stalkerazzi who always knows when to find the match or practice court that’s heating up at the time. Then I started talking tennis to all the Twitties (R.I.P, Dinara Safina – the R is for retire, obvs) and suddenly writing about tennis was one of the funnest things I could spend the wee hours of the morning doing, coming only a close second to watching grainy streams on illegal Romanian websites.

Then some interesting things happened after my Fabulous Tour of the Universe TM, and I relocated to another pretty city, though not as pretty as my home where courts sparkle blue, Melbourne. This city also has a Grand Slam to its name, and so I learned that aside from sparklelicious Plexicushion and beer-toting banana loungers in the grass, there are other tennis tournaments out there, among them the biggest and sometimes nastiest of them all (I mean it with love) – the US Open. Blue replaced navy and all my golden experiences in Rod Laver were replaced by binocular-necessitating nosebleeding moments in Arthur Ashe. Relocating to New York, I had to cope with a whole new set of tennis time differences, the kid-in-a-candy-store array of tennis tournaments on the continental US to contemplate holidaying to each year, and most importantly, the concept that perhaps one day, come January, I wouldn’t be able to make it to the courts that sparkle blue.

So when last year the tennis gods had me home in Australia during the US Open, and now, back in the US during the Aussie Open, it’s all giggles and laughs and rainbows and – WHAT AM I TALKING ABOUT, BUCKETS OF TEARS, DUDE – as I discover the concept of watching a Slam from afar. And blogging it, when I can.

So here’s my apology:  There are no guarantees that the years of practice porn and outside-court recaps will continue. I will admit to having some sources on the ground who will do their best to Whatsapp, Facebook, Tweet and Picasa me as many pictures and bits of tennis juice as possible. So if you’re with me, let’s do this together. It’s January. #neverforget

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You’re Welcome, Sam!

September 20, 2011

I will most definitely come out and support you then.

Still proud of you. *tear*


Paris In the Spring

May 26, 2011

Today in New York we got our first real spring day. I don’t mean a hint of sunshine in the air and no coat weather – I mean full on, summer-is-around-the corner HEAT. And it was lovely.

So while I contemplated the concept of relegating boots to the underbed storage compartment (yeah, I’m fancy like that) I was able to more adequately comprehend the notion that somewhere on the other side of the world, under a blazing sun in a pretty city we like to call Paree, there’s a host of ladies and gents lined up ready to compete for one of the toughest championships in the world (we tennis fans like to call it that. Other sportsmen can step aside, ahoy). There are stories aplenty as we embark on this two week adventure in Paris in the spring, and being that this year I’m not racing around town looking for wifi and streams and friendly bars that will play said streams for me*, I can actually pay a little more attention to the huge rush of mediated content that descends on us starved tennis fans and choose a few pieces for anyone who wants to read it. (Probably being, none).

If you’ve been exploring the sunshine and meadows outside of our very comfortable-thank-you-very-much tennis-fan cave, you might want to catch up on some of the big stories we’re contemplating this week. Such as:

– Novak Djokovic, man of the moment. No, really. The cyborg, crafted by a bunch of mad scientists attempting to see how long it’d take before we noticed that a man was actually a robot, was let out of his lab to wreak havoc over the last six months, winning every match from his December heroic patriotic showdown in Belgrade’s Davis Cup Final to the Australian Open to sweeping the American hard court masters in Miami and Indian Wells, and absolutely demolishing Rafa Nadal – the Rafa Nadal – on clay courts in Europe. That’s a lot of matches – 40, to be precise. So now the streak is on the line, the number one ranking isn’t far out of reach, and everyone who’s spent the last few years facepalming at Nole’s confidence breakdowns and asthmatic breakdowns while falling in love with his clownish, adorable personality is jumping for joy as he delights us on court, Sunday after Sunday.

– Rafael Nadal: Aside from a very sad day in June 2009 that Rafa’s fans try not to remember too often, the man’s been indestructible on the red dirt he likes to call his own, and in the House he has built, also known as Phillipe Chatrier Stadium in Paris. Last year he swept the clay season – this year, he snagged titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona while giving up the Rome and Madrid Masters titles to the man – or machine – who was once the object of a fairly adorable bromance. Rafa’s holding on to the number one ranking, he’s in contention for a number six Roland Garros title (up there with Bjorn Borg), and he’s not quite sure if he can handle taking the respectful rivalry he’s had with Fed all this time to the bromancey, football-watching, doubles-playing love he’s got with Nole in the trivalry.

– Roger Federer: Yeah, remember him? The news outlets are wondering the same thing. Watch those spaces for lots of “is-he-or-isn’t-he” on his way down prewritten pieces, especially when the inevitable “early” round loss happens. But honestly, with Nole running loose and Rafa charging like a bull, is anyone even paying attention?

Then there are the ladies:

– Caroline Wozniacki, The Williams Sisters, and the State of the WTA – Slamless number one is a phrase we’ve uttered before (Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina, and a slew of others before they won their maiden titles) but never for as long as twenty-year-old Caro’s been sparking that conversation. The Williams sisters are out, and everyone is bored of ladies tennis. And I’ve just summarized approximately 95% of the tennis-related articles published on mainstream media these days. Wah.

– The Women’s Draw is Wide Open: Said at the start of every tournament but never truer than here. We’ve got the up-and-comers like Julia Goerges and Victoria Azarenka coming off great clay seasons; we’ve got last year’s champ-and-runner-up Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone apparently able to contest it; we’ve got Mommy Kim flexing her Slam-Only muscles; and the “indie-hits” known only to tennis fans who wouldn’t surprise if they made a run here – Andrea Petkovic, Petra Kvitova, Peng Shuai. Last year this time, Vera Zvonareva and Francesca Schiavone were ranked in the 20s and teens. Now look at them. It’s amazing what a good run in a Slam can do, hey?

Other boring stories:

– The Death of American Tennis: Wah, wah, wah. We heard you the first time. You know what, having two men ranked 10 and 11 in the world, or is it 11 and 12 this week isn’t so bad, even if Andy Roddick is the 2nd not the first. And having a bunch of guys trail the skirts of the top 100 isn’t so bad either. Check out Australia and get back to me if you want to talk about a Grand Slam hosting nation being too gracious and granting their trophy to other nations. And, oh yeah, the British and French are moaning too. Woo.

So far the stories are a’creepin’. The British ladies have made history, there are no Aussies left, and despite the whingeing the Americans aren’t doing too badly. Caro is dismantling her opponents and Sam, lovely Sam, has cruised through her first two matches and pleaseohpleaseohplease will stay calm and collected as the week goes on.

So halfway through week one, the stories are still abuzz and now ones are being created every day. So let’s jump into the springtime and waltz down the dark green leafy streets and inhale the red dust and get DIRTY ON CLAY!

* Shoutout to the wonderful staff at The Gov in Jerusalem, Israel for looking after me so well last year, plying me with Stella and keeping me in streams; and the fabulous barstaff slash receptionists at Peace and Love Hostel in Paris for showing me the way to RG.


So why don’t you… Slide

May 11, 2011

While the US is lamenting the sad state of the first year in just about FOREVER (no really, FOREVER is the word being bandied about) that there are no Americans – male or female – in the tennis top ten, and player development coach Patrick McEnroe (whose book I am currently reading, and let me just say it makes for riveting stuff and you should all grab a copy from Amazon today because it is cheap and fun and tells you things about tennis) is running about getting nervous and everyone is making comments about the future of tennis in this tennis-starved country where fuzzy yellow balls and pretty green courts are the realm of country clubs and college kids who aren’t good enough for track, and Grand Slam finals are cut short by major television networks in favor of other far more obscure sports that involve balls on tables….

Well, while all these shenanigans are happening, the Aussieans have gone – that happened to us already, yes indeed it did, sir! And it won’t happen to us again, no indeed it won’t, sir! (except in Australia no one ever really says sir).

And the lovely folk at Tennis Australia, who I tend to wax lyrical about on occasion despite the fact we haven’t produced a Grand Slam Champion in a year or two or ten (nine, to be precise) have proceeded to try and find ways to make sure that the new crop of kiddies are well and ready to battle the Europeanoid dirt-rat-hard-court-whizz-hybrids who are currently dominating our hearts and our tennis courts… by sending a bunch of kids off to Roland Garros! Yay!

Isn’t it lovely?

There are blogs you can read about it on tennis.com.au and hear all about how the kids went to the supermarket for fruit bars, and heard from a lady who made funny noises, and ate pizza and pasta in Paris and yes! Even learned to SLIDE! ON CLAY! ON CENTRE COURT AT ROLAND GARROS!

That, my friends, can only be a good thing. Go forth, ye young uns! Make friends with Spaniards and Serbs and STEAL WHATEVER IS IN THEIR DRINK.

While the gorgeous Maddison Inglis (whose blog you must read here) has gone to Slovenia to practice her slipping and sliding and being awesomely European, there’s another one of particular adorableness who will be playing in the kiddie version of the juniors event during the actual tournament, the  Longines Future Tennis Aces round-robin, and seriously, 12-year-old Chase Ferguson, I’d like to adopt you.

See you in five years, kid, when the Aussie Open are handing you wildcards and you are poster boy for Court Thirteen.

Pic: Rebecca Hallas


Let’s Talk About Lleyton

May 11, 2011

Remember him?

The Australian media have given us our latest Lleyton update, informing us that he is strong, tough and ready and able to contest the Roland Garros title. According to the excellent Darren Walton, or more likely the subeditors at News Limited, this is an “audacious” bid and a “shock comeback” – and this lady here who is purely a basement clicker-clacker is inclined to agree. Wanna call it the ‘Slam-oriented stripped-back schedule’ a la late-career powerhouses like Kim and last-year Serena? This is one-man bandaid-application operation, with surgery after surgery with a tournament thrown in the middle… and the weight of a nation behind it. Then again, there’s been no retirement announced yet, so why is it a shock comeback? (I’m still waiting for Tommy Haas to debut in singles, personally…)

Based on an interview with Tony Roche, the Aussie supercoach-to-the-stars talked all about lovely Lleyton: He’s big, he’s strong, he’s lean, he’s mean, he’s ready for a comeback and we’ll probably see him win the title at Wimbledon, if that’s what “very, very well” means.

Roche gives Lleyton a title I feel may be credible – “the toughest competitor that I’ve seen” – “prepared to play through the pain barrier” despite recent foot surgery, numerous surgeries last season, and his creeping age (thirty, to be precise).

“I think he’s used to that. Look, he’d be,” Roche told AAP on Monday. “He’s had a lot of setbacks the last couple of years but he keeps bouncing back. He keeps wanting to improve and he’s so keen, which is great for Australian tennis because we need him to hang in there.”

Thing is, even if he’s tough competing, and whatnot – other guys may actually be better, well, players these days….

Of course, this is Roche’s “highly qualified” opinion, so we just need to bite our tongues and say, oh yes, Australia will have another Slam champion one day. And we do need him, because there are Davis Cup ties to be played, and Australian Open posters to pose for, and young ‘uns who need to see a great player on TV much like Rafter and them boys before him, who can say, “I wanna be a tennis player one day.”

History shows that Lleyton has been good at surgical recoveries, this is true – the article mentions his beating Federer for the Halle title during last year’s grass season and coming close to topping Nole at Wimby, all following an earlier half of the season that saw him give the fabulous Aussie health-care system a run for their money.

The stats for Roland Garros are also pretty impressive: According to the piece, here are some handy facts:

–          Hewitt is the ONLY active player, including Federer and Nadal – to have made the last 32 on over the last 10 years in Roland Garros.

–          Four of the last five years, his losses at Roland Garros have been to – guess who? None other than king of the Court, Rafa Nadal

Which means that all going well with seeding, he needs to win a few rounds, get some match practice, unleash all hell in Halle and – here’s the clincher – show his stuff in SW11.

“I know he’s looking forward to Wimbledon, getting on the grass,” Roche said. “He sees that surface as being well suited to his game…. So if he gets the matches under his belt and good preparation, he can do very, very well at Wimbledon.”

But citing tales of previous victories with little preparation or still-lingering injuries  – 2006 US Open quarterfinals with a knee injury, apparently, and a marathon five-setter against Ferrer at Roland Garros in ’08 without any clay-court match practice – isn’t really going to change the fact that the difference between 2006, 2008 and 2011 is a lot of years – and years tend to do things to bodies, if the beauty companies (damn them!) and the medical industries and all them people who know stuff about the human body are to be believed.

I want to believe it, I really do. I want another Grand Slam trophy in the pool room as much as anyone who’s not Spanish or Swiss (though maybe a little less than those scary Brits – I won’t crucify a man to get it, for example). But as Aussie fans once again bust out their yellow-and-green singlets and blue-and-red-flag-printed-headbands (thanks to the girls at Flushing Meadows who lent me theirs) and start hoping and praying for the man we once knew I tend to wonder… will it ever really happen again?

The strange thing about seeing a former top player struggling in minor tournaments and losing in early rounds is that it’s incongruous with our mindset. In my head, and probably many other fans, Davydenko, Ferrero, Nalbandian and of course Hewitt – are supposed to be winning all the time. Ditto for Tsonga, Verdasco and all those others who did their time in the top 10 only to flounder outside it for far longer. Lleyton can meet a seeded player in the first round and out he goes – but it just seems wrong to me, somehow.

Now ranked 64 in the world, Hewitt has only a handful of points keeping him from obscurity outside the top 100 – including his title in Halle last year, where he defeated Roger Federer in the final, bringing hope to the hearts of many Aussies who don’t want to acknowledge that we are without a champion on the men’s side, for the time being. So he’s welcome to Paris, I invite him there with all my heart. If he can scrounge up some points, I will be forever happy and wave my flag and leave it flying. There’s no one who wants to see Lleyton succeed more than me. I spend my days trying to get Aussies to care about tennis – of course I want him flying high. But there are other places I don’t want him either… And it may be time, before that inevitable downslide where Marinko Matosevic becomes Australian #1 – that he hang up that sweaty backwards cap of his and go out with a nice-and-classy, tastefully-farewelled (not holding my breath for that either) – well, bang.


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?


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