Posts Tagged ‘Andy Murray’
There’s been a sharp increase in the number of gay-related search terms used on my blog. I first noticed it a few days ago when my blog dashboard showed an increase in internal site searches for variants of “marion bartoli lesbian”. Yes she had a dramatic first-round match at this year’s French Open, but why were there searches for her sexual orientation?
Here’s the list from that weekly top 10 (in order from 1-10): taylor townsend, kevware.com+tennis, marion bartoli lesbian, marion bartoli gay, aggie Radwanska, marion bartoli lesbi, tennis gay, graphene speed pro discussions, logo head speed mp 315 djokovic, bartoli marion homo.
Four of the ten were about Marion Bartoli’s sexuality, which is surprising given that there isn’t anything I’ve seen or read that would lead anyone to that conclusion – other than Marion’s inability to walk in high heels.
Delving deeper, I took a look at the all-time top 500 search terms used for internal searches on my blog. “Taylor Townsend” was number one, probably owing to my heavily-read piece about Taylor Townsend and her past issues with the USTA. The second was “Aggie Radwanska”, again owing to my heavily-read “What’s the Deal with Aggie Radwanska?!” The third struck gold with “grigor dimitrov gay”, and from there the flood gates opened.
Nearly 100 of the terms were a player name along with “gay”, “lesbian”, or “homosexual” in various languages. After cleaning, the list yielded the names of 14 players and 2 hitting partners:
Grigor Dimitrov, Sara Errani, Milos Raonic, Marion Bartoli, Dani Vallverdu (hitting partner), Sam Stosur, Francesca Schiavone, Justin Gimelstob, Xavier Malisse, Angelique Kerber, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sascha Bajin (hitting partner), Andy Murray, Victoria Azarenka, Marin Cilic, Ryan Harrison.
(click here for complete list in pdf form)
Why the increase, and why searches for these particular players? There are a few reasons I can think of, legitimate and otherwise. But the main one that comes to mind is Jason Collins’ decision to come out as the first openly gay player in the NBA, and its’ effect on the public psyche about gays in professional sports.
Immediately after Jason came out, there was speculation across all sports as to who would be next, and how they might be received by fans and fellow athletes. Given the high profile nature of his decision, it stands to reason that people might come to the site of an LGBT writer for information on potentially gay athletes.
But even if the “Jason Collins Effect” is the primary reason for these increases, I’m fairly certain that there are a few other reasons as well. Let’s start with the women.
For a few of these players, I’d say that the user is looking for confirmation. At least one of the women listed is quietly going about her business on tour with her partner in tow for support. If someone sees pictures of this player with the same woman multiple times, they’re looking for confirmation.
Others are most assuredly on the list because of their on-court mannerisms. Schiavone, Errani, and Kuznetsova all come across as fairly masculine when they play, fueling speculation about their sexuality. I love them as players, but all three walk like truck drivers between points. Walking like a truck driver, however, is hardly proof of someone’s sexual orientation.
With others, the speculation seems silly, as with Azarenka. Anyone who’s followed the top women is aware that Redfoo of LMFAO has been heavily linked to Azarenka. Her inclusion on the search list feels like a tabloid talking point.
As for the men, good looks have always had a lot to do with perceived sexuality. There is an unspoken belief that a good-looking and well-groomed man must be gay. Several athletes have dealt with gay rumors because of their looks, including Derek Jeter, Oscar de la Hoya, David Beckham, Cullen Jones, Jeff Gordon, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Nothing has been proven, but the perception exists.
Similarly, there are guys on my site search list that are likely questioned for that reason. Grigor, Dani, Milos and Sasha are excellent examples of how good looks probably lead to a false perception on their sexuality since they’re all very good-looking, and highly desired by both women and gay men. (So I hear.)
Conversely, you have players who have never been questioned about their sexuality because they could care less about their looks. Juan Martin Del Potro isn’t in the search list, but then again he often wears a scruffy beard like Wolverine of the X-Men. Outside of the gay “bear” community, scruff doesn’t convey gay.
Justin, Andy, and the others are harder to figure out. There could be genuine interest in their personal lives; though searching for Andy’s orientation makes no sense because his girlfriend Kim Sears is well-known on tour. And Justin’s beautiful model-esque wife is clearly not his “beard”.
As with some of the women, I imagine that a few of these searches were done for gossip sake. But it’s curious that this list doesn’t contain names of guys who’ve actually been rumored to be gay. Richard Gasquet, for example, dealt with rumors about his orientation for years because of a friendship with an older businessman. Rumors have also existed, to a lesser degree, about Rafa. This suggests that maybe the searches are more about desire than reality.
The one good thing about all of the search terms was that none were negative or pejorative. This suggests that, at least in theory, the searches were more out of curiosity and less about finding dirt or creating hate.
For the record, being gay gives me no greater authority on or knowledge about a player’s sexuality than it would their taste in furniture. Furthermore, I’d never engage in an irrelevant discussion of a player’s sexuality. Even with this piece, I make no claims about the sexual orientation of any player. My goal is to always show as much respect for the game and its’ players as I can. A discussion of a closeted player’s sexuality has little to do with respect of any kind.
That’s not to say that I haven’t written pieces from an LGBT point of view, because I have; and I think they’re pretty decent. These include “Dominika, Sam, And A Very Poor Choice Of Words”, “SAP Open 2012: 15 Thoughts Before The Quarterfinal From an LGBT Perspective“, or “Sara Errani is a Tough and Spunky Gal”. I’ve also written many pieces on the United States Gay Open (USGO), the GLTF’s big annual tournament. (I’ve been a GLTF member since ’98.)
Topical and relevant pieces about LGBT perspectives, or pieces about players living life as out gay athletes, a la Amelie Mauresmo, is one thing; outing someone for amusement and titillation is another. If you’re here for the latter, I’d suggest Perez Hilton.
- Before the start of the Rome tournament, I had even odds that Serena would finish the week without a withdrawal. It wasn’t a question of her fitness, it just wouldn’t have surprised me to see her be overly cautious heading into the French Open. Well, she proved me wrong and then some, laying a beating of gargantuan proportions on each of her opponents not named Anabel. Her destruction of Vika in the final, along with her destruction of Maria in the Madrid final, underscore the huge difference between Serena and the game’s other elite women. If not GOAT, Serena is hands down the Greatest of Her Generation (albeit GOHG is a much less catchy acronym).
- Vika had minimal preparation for clay this season as she recovered from her nagging foot injury. Still, it must have been disheartening to play as well as she did to reach the Rome finals only to score four games against her nemesis Ms. S. Williams. Just when it seemed as though she was finally turning around their one-sided rivalry after her win in Doha, Serena schooled her on the art of clay court power tennis. It remains to be seen whether this will make her work harder in Paris, or just simply hope for an early round Serena upset.
- Part 1: Rafa’s victory over Roger, his 20th in 30 meetings, cemented his status as favorite for the French Open. Though he didn’t get to meet Novak Djokovic in the semifinals as many had hoped, he still managed to dispatch Tomas Berdych after epic battles against Ernests Gulbis and David Ferrer. By the time Rafa got to the finals, he’d already played the equivalent of three and had come out on top in each. Only one man realistically stands in the way of Rafa’s eight French, and he’s played less than his best in the final clay tune-ups. So I guess maybe no man realistically stands in the way now…
- Part 2: Sadly, Rafa’s victory over Roger also highlighted the desperation that Roger feels when playing the one man he hasn’t been able to figure out on tour. His strategy of running around his backhand to hit forehands, and bad ones at that, felt panicky right from the start. In fact, it felt like a strategy that you’d see in my 4.0 league with guys who don’t have decent backhands: not something you’d see from a man who is commonly referred to as the greatest of all time (GOAT). I realize that Rafa’s lefty topspin cross court forehand to Roger’s singlehanded backhand is a BAD match-up for Roger, but that strategy felt undignified. And more to the point, it was about as bad a strategy as one could have used. Honestly, things don’t look very good for Roger’s French Open prospects.
- Men’s Doubles: The Bryan brothers won yet another title in their stellar career over the very accomplished pairing of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. It was their 88th title overall, their 6th of the season, their 24th ATP Masters 1000 title, and ONLY their 3rd Rome title. These numbers are simply astounding. The best part is that they still love the game and look forward to many more years of playing. So we better start looking for suitable adjectives now to describe their accomplishments if they keep this up.
- Women’s Doubles SHOCKER: Italians Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the No. 1 doubles team, lost in their home tournament to the Chinese team of Su Wei Hseih and Shuai Peng. I’m pretty sure that NOBODY saw that one coming.
- Aga Radwanska pulled out of her last clay court warm-up tournament this week because of a bad shoulder, and is in doubt for the French Open. The same is true for Andy Murray, who retired in his match against Marcel Granollers last week in Rome with a back injury that also left him in doubt for the French Open. I hate to say it, but these items would be more newsworthy for both if either of them were playing at the level you’d expect from them on a surface that is well-suited to the smart, defensive play in which they both excel. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case this spring.
- I was chatting with a buddy today at the tennis courts about possible contenders to Nadal at the French Open, and a guy walking by said “Dimitrov”. Hear me now: Grigor Dimitrov is not a serious contender in Paris. He’s a nice guy and great talent, but you can’t be considered a serious contender if you can’t play three solid sets without cramping. And in case you haven’t watched him play, he cramps easily and often.
- I’ve often viewed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych as two guys who were both on the cusp of big breakthroughs into the top group with the Big Four (plus David Ferrer). Based on results this spring, I’d have to give the edge to Berdych. His game has always been strong, but now his resolve is better and he’s stepping up on the big points instead of wilting. If he could tough it out against Djokovic in Rome, you never know what might happen in Paris.
- Speaking of Djokovic, Novak has had some uncharacteristic breaks in concentration the past few weeks. I’m not sure why, but he needs to rediscover whatever he’s lost so that he doesn’t get sidetracked in Paris. The French Open is the one Slam he hasn’t won, and winning it would make him the newest member of the career Slam club. An early round loss to an inspired opponent, like his loss to Dimitrov in Madrid, would be devastating.
**Special Mention 1: Anabel Medina Garrigues, world No. 63 from Spain, was two points away from beating Serena in Rome. She even handed Serena her first bagel set since 2008. Though she lost the final four games in the third set to lose the match, she came closer to beating Serena than many others with much higher rankings, including Sharapova. If that doesn’t deserve a special mention, then I don’t know what does!
**Special Mention 2: Viktor Troicki arguing a line call with Cedric Mourier at the Italian Open was an epic meltdown that included a threat to retire from the match, and grabbing a TV camera (and cameraman) so that he could broadcast the true mark on TV for the world to see. He lost the match 1-6 1-6 to Ernests Gulbis.
Rome’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia began a few days ago. And though there are already a few casualties of note (Dimitrov and Ivanovic come to mind), that doesn’t change the fact that the stakes are very high in this final clay court tune-up for the remaining contenders.
There’s a lot riding on this title for pretty much everyone except Serena Williams. After her victory in Madrid, Serena has nothing to prove by winning in Rome (and typically likes a break before the start of a Slam). Everyone else – including Rafa – needs some form of affirmation from this tournament before the start of the French Open.
For the women, it’s all about establishing “Me too” credibility. This particularly applies to Maria Sharapova after her lackluster showing against Serena in Madrid. She might be the reigning French Open champion, but she’s still not taken seriously for the title as long as Serena’s in the draw. If she can successfully defend her 2012 Rome title, it would give her a nice boost into Paris. But if Serena’s her opponent in the final (again), Maria could be in for back to back losses in Rome and Paris.
Victoria Azarenka has only played two clay matches coming into Rome, which is hardly the best preparation for her to do well. She struggles on clay with her movement and the diminished power in her shots. Serena serves well enough to compensate for the power issue, Vika does not. If she wants to be taken seriously on clay, then Rome is her last hope.
Li Na, champion in Paris just two years ago, fell short against Sharapova in Stuttgart, and was bounced in her opening round in Madrid. A good showing in Rome could give her much-needed positives heading into Paris.
Surprisingly, Sara Errani hasn’t EVER done well in Rome. Her best showing was a R16 loss to Serena in 2008. I guess the upshot is that she doesn’t have many points to defend, and could possibly use a good Rome showing to steel herself for Paris, and a defense of her finalist finish.
There are some outliers who could make things interesting in Rome, but who lack the consistency to get to the end against the top 3 (plus Errani). This includes Kerber and Kvitova. I’d put Sam Stosur in this group if she weren’t still dealing with the aftereffects of her leg injury and diminished match play.
Carla Suarez Navarro, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova, Roberta Vinci, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova could also make some noise, but that’s about it. For Rome (and probably Paris), it’s Serena, Maria, Li Na or bust!
The men are a more interesting proposition. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer, and even Rafa all need a good showing in Rome to set themselves up well for Paris.
Novak needs to prove that his fitness isn’t in question with respect to that bum ankle. Andy needs to remember that he’s an Olympic and Slam champion. Roger needs to prove that he can still contend for the biggest titles while fighting rust and age.
Even Rafa has something to prove in Rome. He needs to show that he can face Novak and come out with the win before the French starts, because if he waits until Paris it will mentally be too late. There’s also the issue of his knees, which are reportedly sore coming into Rome, and are affecting his confidence in his movement. (We’ll see how that plays out after his first couple of matches).
Notably, David Ferrer doesn’t have anything to prove. He’s maximized everything he can in his game to be at No. 4, and knows that his title hopes ride on the performance of others. Rome is a futile proposition for David, with potential matches against Rafa in the quarters, Novak in the semis. And unfortunately, Paris will probably look the same for him.
Outliers for the men in Rome include Del Potro, Wawrinka, and Tsonga. Beyond these guys, I don’t see anyone who can make a serious run past the winner of the Rafa/Novak semifinal.
Though I’m loathe to make predictions these days given the turbulent results we’ve seen, here are my thoughts on how the men’s and women’s draws could pan out heading into the weekend:
Novak Djokovic v Tomas Berdych
Rafa Nadal v David Ferrer
Juan Martin Del Potro v Andy Murray
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Roger Federer
Novak Djokovic v Rafa Nadal
Juan Martin Del Potro v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Rafa Nadal v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Serena Williams v Carla Suarez Navarro
Roberta Vinci v Li Na
Petra Kvitova v Victoria Azarenka
Sara Errani v Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams v Li Na
Victoria Azarenka v Maria Sharapova
Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova
(For the record, I wouldn’t be surprised if Serena retires like last year)
- Serena Williams won her 4th title of the year, the 50th of her career, and her first on red clay since she won the French Open in 2002. After slow starts (and less than stellar serving) in the quarters and semis, Serena came out on fire against Maria. She thumped the reigning French Open champion 6-1 in the first set, and came out on top from a much more competitive second set for the win. This was a vintage Serena win. I still wouldn’t give her “favorite” status for the French Open, but she’s about as ready as she’ll ever be to follow up on her 2002 Roland Garros success.
- This might be a harsh thing to say, but there are no positives that Maria Sharapova can take away from this Madrid final. Her loss to Serena in Miami, rather than giving her hope for an eventual victory over her nemesis, seems to have affirmed in Maria’s mind that she can’t beat Serena on any surface, or on any day. And that’s a shame. There’s so much to respect about Maria, her work ethic, and her accomplishments. But there’s nothing to respect in how Maria folds against Serena.
When Martina Navratilova kept losing to Chris Evert in the early days, she realized that she needed to make bold changes in her training in order to get better and get on top of the rivalry. Maria has simply tried to play the same way, only better, and hope for a win; and it’s not happening. After nearly a decade of losses, Maria needs to (figuratively) go bold or go home.
- Rafa Nadal won his 5th title of the year by defeating Stan Wawrinka in Sunday’s Madrid final: it was his 5th title (4th on clay) in seven tournaments after his seven-month layoff due to injury. Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe Rafa, his clay court abilities, or his desire to be the best clay court player ever. Stan might have had a chance against any other opponent. But not Rafa, and not on clay.
We still don’t know what this means for the next time he faces Novak, but hopefully we’ll find out this week in Rome. THAT will tell us all we need to know about each man’s prospects for the French Open.
(Note to Rafa: Please stop complaining about the enforcement of the time violation rule. You are the only one complaining of the Big Four, and it diminishes you!)
- Bob and Mike Bryan continued to build upon their record as the best doubles team ever by winning their 5th Madrid title in straight sets. Sometimes I think that they win so often that people don’t realize just how good these guys are. Personally, I think people also take it for granted that we can even enjoy doubles in ATP tournaments, which wouldn’t be the case if not for their heroic efforts to keep doubles from being dropped on the tour. Men’s doubles is going to be a lot less interesting when we lose these guys.
- Novak Djokovic’s loss to Grigor Dimitrov is no cause for alarm in and of itself, but his continued struggles with his hurt ankle are a real concern. We all know that Novak can win matches even when injured, but winning a match on a bum ankle and winning the French Open over Rafa on a bum ankle are two very different scenarios. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t do more damage playing on it in Rome.
- Roger Federer took a significant amount of time off after Indian Wells to rest and train for the clay season. Instead of looking well-rested and ready to go, he looked rusty and a step slow, especially in his loss to Kei Nishikori. With nothing left to prove in an illustrious career, Roger could be commended for the effort he puts into maintaining his place at the top of the game. But there’s no denying that his age is really starting to show these days.
- Regression: the act of going back to a previous place or state. That’s how I’d describe the current state of affairs for Andy Murray, who looks more like the 2011 version than the Olympic/US Open champion of 2012.
- You can add Victoria Azarenka onto the regression list with Andy. Her temperamental outburst in her 3-set loss to Ekaterina Makarova was vintage pre-Slam Vika, and not at all representative of the positive mental work she’s done the past couple of years. Yes, I’m writing this with a straight face knowing full well that Serena has done much worse with significantly more Slams in her back pocket.
- Speaking of Grigor Dimitrov, you gotta admit that he and Maria make an amazingly cute couple, yes?
- Apart from Serena, Maria, and Sara, the consistency of the top women is still a little lacking in terms of making it to the later rounds. But there were several noteworthy performances to celebrate in Madrid. Ana Ivanovic (semifinal showing), Madison Keys (d. Li Na), Ekaterina Makarova (d. Victoria Azarenka), Laura Robson (d. Aga Radwanska), and honorable mention to Anabel Medina Garrigues for her second-set bagel of Serena Williams.
Here are some quick thoughts at the end of a great day of quarterfinal action…for the men! Because of broadcast rights issues, the women were nowhere to be seen until later in the day on Tennis Channel. I’m really hoping that I’m not the first to say this, but this situation is wholly unacceptable!
The men’s quarterfinals, however, were very satisfying. David Ferrer gave his all against Rafa Nadal, and almost came out on top. Unfortunately, there’s a huge distance between “almost” and a win. Up a set and 4-2, David ended the match with a third set bagel. (Admittedly, Anabel Medina Garrigues had it worse today since she was only 2 points from victory over Serena before losing 3 straight games.)
Stan Wawrinka continued great form, and belief, in taking down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The same could be said of Tomas Berdych in his win over Andy Murray. Pablo Andujar? He’s had a great Cinderella run to the semis, but that’s where it ends.
From what little I know of the women’s matches, a Williams-Sharapova final seems destined. That is, unless Serena plays as inconsistently against Sara Errani as she did against Medina Garrigues. And Ana Ivanovic looks to be gaining form and momentum with each match, and could prove to be a spoiler.
Here are my semifinal picks.
 Serena Williams (USA) v  Sara Errani (ITA)
H2H: Serena leads 4-0
I’d hate to give Serena the edge and then see her play like she did against Medina Garrigues, but I’m hard-pressed to see any other way that Sara even has a chance in this match.
 Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v  Maria Sharapova (RUS)
H2H: Maria leads 6-2
Maria leads the H2H, but that doesn’t seem to making much of a difference for many of the matches in Madrid. Ana easily beat Angelique Kerber, and Maria had a solid win over Kaia Kanepi. Given her newly-found clay prowess, my nod goes to Maria.
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) v [WC] Pablo Andujar (ESP)
H2H: Rafa leads 1-0
They played once on Clay at the French Open and Rafa won in three tight sets. Even if Pablo keeps it tight, it still won’t be enough for the win.
 Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) v  Tomas Berdych (CZE)
H2H: Stan and Tomas are tied at 5-5
Stan is looking confident and, more importantly, confident on clay. Beating Tsonga was big for him, and this match against Tomas should play out the same way. Nod to Stan.
Andy Murray 2.0 is having a hard time remembering his lessons learned from 2012 and is looking like Andy 1.0. He needs to step it up in Rome to be considered a legitimate threat for the French.
David Ferrer played one of his best matches in a long time against Rafa in the quarters, and still lost. To his credit, he seems to shrug off suggestions at what he can do to overcome the Big Four by acknowledging what we all know: “I think they’re really good … They’re the four best players of the world.”
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a heartbreaker!
Enjoy the semifinals.