Re: Novak News!!
By Steve Tignor
06/09/2010 - 1:18 PM
Ar Yes, a Grand Slam is all about the champions in the end. But because every player at the top of the sport gears his or her season around the four majors, these events also serve as convenient benchmarks. They tell us where each player stands in his 2010 campaign for global dominance. Before we follow the pros into the next segment of the tour—think clouds, drizzle, chalk, serves, maybe a volley or two—let’s take a last look back toward Paris and rate some of the less-historic performances that we witnessed there.
The aging Austrian was the tournament’s bearded Cinderella. He pummeled David Ferrer, survived Novak Djokovic, and gave Nadal his only (minor) scare of the tournament in the third set of their semifinal. It took a decade, but Melzer finally put two of the finest shots in pro tennis—his two-handed backhand drive and his drop shot from the same side—to good use. He’d make an interesting addition to the upper echelon of the game, but I’m not counting on seeing him scale these heights again. A
For the first 12 days she showed us her strengths: movement, consistency, press conferences, ability to handle multiple racquet bags on court. And then we saw her fatal weakness—power—in the semis against Stosur. A-
Some of the gutsiest tennis we’ve seen from her, in beating Rezai, and some of the most devastating, in beating Venus Williams. Then she lost. B+
She went down, fist clenched, to four-time champion Justine Henin after having her on the ropes in the third set. Still, the way Sharapova got there, by digging herself out of a deep early hole, was a feat of pure willpower. This might, maybe, could be, the tournament that makes her feel like a contender again. B+
This major but long-misdirected talent has looked better and more focused than ever over the last two events. Two tiebreakers against Rafa can be claimed as a moral victory. Too bad there aren’t more clay events in the immediate future. B+
An energizing run was topped by what I think was my favorite moment of the tournament. I say “think” because I’m not sure it happened. When Nadia Petrova reached match point for the first time against Rezai, she choked to the point where her second serve barely reached the net. The crowd went nuts and in the mayhem I thought I saw Rezai pound her heart, as if she’d just shown the world what she was made of. Hilarious, and even if it didn’t happen, Rezai was so theatrical at this tournament that it might as well have. B+
Is this a blip or the beginning of the end? If it’s the latter, the end may take a while to reach. OK, Federer didn’t make the semis of a Slam for the time since 2004. He made the quarters. At his worst major. And he lost to last year’s finalist. That said, there is one mini-trend to mention: Along with the 2009 U.S. Open final, this was the second time in three Slams that a younger, taller opponent overpowered Federer. The men’s game isn’t going to get shorter, or older, or less powerful, anytime soon. B
Considering his allergies and off-and-on preparation, a quarterfinal finish wasn’t a bad result. But considering that he was up two sets to love against Jurgen Melzer in that round, it will be remembered as another inexplicable disappointment. He still gives you plenty of entertainment value, but thinking about this loss and his physical problems at the last Slam, in Melbourne, you might just begin to get the feeling, even at 23, that the prime of his Grand Slam career is starting to pass him by. B
A surprising slip from the queen of confidence. With the best chance she may ever have at another French Open, and with it a calendar-year Slam, staring her in the face, and with a makeable passing shot that would have completed yet another improbable comeback, over Stosur, she missed by an inch. B
Was she just not ready yet? Was she looking ahead to Wimbledon? Was she beaten by a better player, Sam Stosur, on the day? I thought Henin lost because at some point in the third set she lost her backhand. She got tight enough that she suddenly couldn’t hit her signature shot—it went away; it happens. By the final game, it was a meek and abbreviated shadow of its usual glorious self. What this means for the future is impossible to say, but now Henin knows it can happen, which is never a good thing. B-
The Brits—by whom I mean Murray and Tim Henman—don’t quite know what to do with the French Open. How seriously should they take it, how much should they put into it, right before things get nuts at Wimbledon? Henman was so loose one year that he made it all the way to the semifinals in Paris. Murray has a game that, in its bedrock consistency, can work on clay, though his lack of a putaway forehand will likely keep him from taking home a French title. This year he was a victim of his draw—a five-set first-rounder with Richard Gasquet on a hot day—and rain, which forced him to play a lot of tennis in a very short amount of time. He worked hard and ended up playing as well as he has since the Australian Open. But by the second week he was burnt, and had little to offer in resistance to Tomas Berdych. It was time to let the insanity begin. B-
No, Roddick’s preparation wasn’t ideal. He skipped Rome to go on a second honeymoon (if Federer had done the same thing and then lost to Soderling, he would have been burned in effigy by us press types) and then got sick in Madrid. By now, though, Andy’s issues on clay aren’t going to be solved in one tournament. As his loss to Gabashvili showed, his strokes aren’t constructed for today’s power-dirtball game. It’s a weird thing to say for a guy known for power, but, as Roddick himself said, he doesn’t swing big enough. B-
He bolted town early, saying he was tired of competing and tired of the road. On the one hand, it’s a little like going AWOL from your job—you might be tempted, but you know it doesn’t work like that. On the other hand, he can’t be the first pro tennis player to feel that way. Credit him for honesty, if not tenacity. C-
He had no answers to Fabio Fognini, which cannot be a heartening development for anyone who believes he has a Slam in him some day. D+
She may just want to bail on this tournament next time. Safina followed up her memorable meltdown in last year’s final with, if anything, an even more cringe-worthy opening-round collapse to 39-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm. Safina led by a break in each of the last two sets, but by the end she couldn’t put a ground stroke in the court. Her piercing eyes often communicate determination; this time all you could see in them was a fierce vulnerability. D
Grass chat soon.
Novak Djokovic nº1!
The Golden Era of Novak: Australian Open * Dubai * Indian Wells * Miami * Belgrade * Madrid * Rome * Wimbledon * Montreal * US Open * Abu Dhabi * Australian Open * Miami * Toronto * China * Shanghai * World Tour Finals 2012 * Australian Open 2013 * Dubai * Montecarlo * Beijing * Shanghai * Paris * WTF * Indian Wells * Miami * Rome * WIMBLEDON 2014 * AUSSIE OPEN 2015
Federer to Nole: "Amazing year. Amazing tournament. Amazing match. You are THE BEST!"