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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Stosur’

PostHeaderIcon Petra, Genie, Novak, and Old Man Federer: My Wimbledon Final Thoughts

Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon Facebook page)

Novak Djokovic (Wimbledon Facebook page)

Much was made about a possible changing of the guard with all of the talented youngsters making waves on both tours. Though it never really materialized, we got a few glimpses of the future, and it looks pretty terrific. (Hello Genie, Madison, and Nick!) But for now, let’s get back to the matter at hand with my 25 “Final Thoughts” from the lawns of the AELTC.

  1. Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Petra Kvitova – I’ve been waiting since early ’12 for Petra to step up and show the type of dominance that she showed this past fortnight in winning her second Wimbledon title. It was vintage Petra (strong serves, sharp angles, and blistering pace) without the also-vintage walkabouts that have accompanied her play the past couple of years. I’ll only mention her former boyfriend, Radek Stepanek, for the purpose of showing that, since their breakup, she’s regained focus, improved her fitness, and looks to be back on track for a well-deserved shot at the top of the WTA food chain.
  2. Novak Djokovic – Even though I’d picked Novak to win the title in my pre-tournament preview, I had no idea his journey would be so fraught with angst and peril. Usually one of the cleanest players in the game, Novak struggled badly at times in the later rounds. If not for a missed overhead and a few ill-timed double faults from Roger, this could have been one more dispiriting Slam final. To his credit, he hung in there after Roger saved Championship point in the fourth set, and eventually came away with the title in five. And if you couldn’t tell by his tears, this one meant a lot to him. I’m still not sure Boris Becker had that much to do with it, but it makes great grist for the commentator mill.
  3. Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

    Genie Bouchard (Jon Buckle/AELTC)

    Genie Bouchard – A semifinalist in Melbourne and Paris, and a finalist in London, Genie Bouchard continued her meteoric rise up the rankings after yet another astounding run at Wimbledon. Her confidence could easily border on arrogance if it weren’t so well backed-up by gutsy and aggressive play. She’s all business on and off the court, looking only for the “W” in her quest to be the best. This attitude makes her a legitimate future No. 1, but also could be problematic. It was troubling to hear Genie say, “I’m not sure I deserved all the love you gave me today” on court after the match. Hopefully her coach, Nick Saviano, can help her be mindful next time that you shouldn’t discount the love of fans that are proud of you no matter the result. Be gracious, keep your head down, and get ready for the next opportunity; because I have no doubt that it WILL come.
  4. Roger Federer – I hate to say that the old guy’s still got it, but the old guy’s still got it! With his back troubles from last year in the rear view mirror, Roger played, more or less, like the Roger of old against an opponent who was slightly better on the day (186 total points for Novak versus 180 points for Roger). Even in defeat, I’d say this was sweet revenge for a guy who everyone was pushing out the door at the end of 2013. When healthy and comfortable with his equipment, Roger can still play like the Roger we remember. A lot still need to go right for him at the Slams in order to have a legit shot at the title, but it feels like a lot less than last year.
  5. Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock (Wimbledon Facebook page)

    Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock – PopSock, as the newly-crowned Wimbledon doubles champions have become known, bested the great Bryan brothers in a hard-fought 5-set battle to win the Gentlemen’s doubles in their first tournament together. Given the rigors of the ATP tour, this probably won’t become a weekly occurrence. But after years of lamenting the lack of younger singles players in doubles, how great was it to witness their shotmaking, energy and enthusiasm? My only hope is that someone on either of their team’s has copyrighted that great name.
  6. Bob and Mike Bryan – In one of the few successful “passing of the torch” moments at this year’s Wimbledon, the Bryans battled hard but often looked their age against a pair of guys who could almost be their sons. The Bryans are one of the greatest doubles teams ever, if not ‘the’ greatest, and have done an immense amount to legitimize doubles at the top of the tennis food chain. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine it’s gonna be easy for them to keep working this hard to overcome Father Time, injuries, family demands, and younger, stronger opponents like PopSock.
  7. Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani – On the heels of a disappointing final loss at the French Open, Vinci and Errani won the Ladies doubles title over Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, giving them a career Grand Slam in doubles. It’s well-deserved, and hopefully makes up for a disappointing singles showing.
  8. Nenad Zimonjic and Sam Stosur – With her miserable record on grass, any title on the green stuff is a good thing for Sam!
  9. Simona Halep – Simona may have lost the Wimbledon semifinal battle of emergent WTA stars in straight sets to Genie Bouchard, but I’m sure there are great things for her on the US Open horizon.
  10. Serena Williams (AP)

    Serena Williams (AP)

    Serena Williams – I had a feeling this would be a tough Wimbledon for Serena, but I don’t think any of us knew just how tough it would be. It started with her loss to Alize Cornet. Two days later, Serena appeared on court for a brief but notable bit of drama on Court 1 with her sister Venus before their first-round doubles. (They ultimately retired down 0-3 in the first set after 4 Serena double faults.) I was critical of Serena at the time because I felt she should have foregone the drama and not played, especially when the tournament doctor says, “If you can’t see the ball then you shouldn’t play.  But I’ve had a hard time listening to all of the ridiculous theories on the incident. One person I know even went so far as to say that he’s convinced she has a pill addiction because of her past medical issues. Come on people: STOP THE NONSENSE!
  11. Venus Williams – Venus played a tough 3-set match against Petra Kvitova that was worthy of a final. It was a pleasure to see from a player we love who’s struggled mightily with fitness in the wake of her Sjogrens diagnosis. On a per match basis, she can still play phenomenal tennis. But that was only a third round match. Her ranking is such that she will likely have to play at least 3 or 4 of these types of matches if she ever hopes to reach a Slam final again.  Though that’s probably never going to happen, we can (and should) still appreciate her best level at those few and far between moments when she’s able to bring it.
  12. Li Na – I just don’t know where to begin with Li Na. There are many who dismiss her disappointing results at the French and Wimbledon by saying that she’s best on the hard courts. To those apologists, I’d like to point out her loss to Serena in Miami and remind them that those results were NOT an aberration.
  13. Maria Sharapova – She may have come up high and dry again at SW19, but that’s okay. She’s got Grigor AND a French Open title to keep her company.
  14. nadal2-wimbledonRafa Nadal – Rafa avoided another Lukas Rosol upset, but still lost in four sets to young Nick Kyrgios of Australia. I’m not necessarily surprised that Rafa was knocked out of the tournament. I am, however, surprised that Rafa lost in the middle rounds, not the early or later rounds. I hope he takes enough time off before the summer hard court season so that he can come back relatively fresh, physically and mentally.
  15. Andy Murray – Andy, please don’t blame your horrific play on Amelie Mauresmo’s coaching, or Ivan Lendl’s spring departure. This dispiriting loss to Grigor Dimitrov was all on you. It’s your duty as an elite player to surround figure out what you need to help propel yourself forward, not back.
  16. Milos Raonic – It’s been impressive to watch Milos work hard with his team to overcome his physical and technical deficits on court. It was also fairly sobering to watch how surgically he was cut down by Roger in a straight-sets semifinal loss. I hope that he was able to enjoy his first solid showing on a surface that’s so well-suited for his big serve game. Okay coach (Ivan) Ljubičić, help him figure out those next steps!
  17. Grigor Dimitrov – For years, Grigor has been burdened with expectations of greatness. From his Federer-esque single-handed backhand game (earning him the nickname “Baby Fed”) to his scampering defense, Dimitrov, along with Raonic, has been touted as one of the next wave of ‘Young Guns’. The big problem for Grigor was that his fitness, and shot selection, was never sufficient enough to withstand the grind of tough matches against the top guys… until now. Off-court conditioning has rendered his all-too-frequent bouts of cramping almost non-existent. On top of that, he’s a more mature player now and has a better handle on shot selection with all of his tools.  Next time (because there will be a next time), I hope the nerves of the moment won’t be quite so cruel to his serving arm (double-faultitis).
  18. Marin Cilic and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova both lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual champions after some very fine play. I’ve always rooted for both but was disheartened to see people respond to positive tweets by bringing up their past drug suspensions. If someone has served their suspension, and fought their way back to a respectable ranking in order to have a chance at Slam success, give them their due. We all make mistakes, and all deserve to be forgiven if put in the work for redemption.
  19. Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

    Nick Kyrgios (from his Twitter)

    Nick Kyrgios – This kid has a ton of talent and the physical stature/attitude to go with it. He came into Wimbledon with 3 Challenger titles under his belt and now a Slam quarterfinal for good measure. Though his mid-match exuberance can come across as brash he’s exciting and LOVES the competitive fight. I wonder if there’s a way that the USTA can lure him away from Australia without starting a war?
  20. Noah Rubin and Stefan Kozlov – Noah and Stefan, the all-American duo that contested the Wimbledon boy’s final, should help dispel rumors that all isn’t completely lost for American tennis…at least for a few more weeks.
  21. I have a few broadcast notes. The first is that the popularity of tennis, and potential ad revenues, will continue to be hurt if the average Joe can’t get adequate match coverage without special cable sports packages. And even if you have a few of those packages, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll see all available matches. Take it from me, a Sonic.Net ISP user and DirecTV viewer: not everyone has access to ESPN3!
  22. My second broadcast note harkens back to this piece on Sloane and Paul Annacone. I don’t want to single them out, however, because the conflicts of interest abounding in the commentary booth are almost too numerous to count at this point. I can accept conflicts of interests, but you’ve got to be more upfront about it to your viewers. Who’s getting paid by who makes all the difference in the world when you’re listening to “expert commentary”.
  23. Raise your hand if you’d like to see if Andy Roddick in the Centre Court commentary booth is better than Andy Roddick on Twitter!
  24. Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing commentators saying “How bitterly disappointed Player X will be” after missing a shot!
  25. Wimbledon schedulers – Was it really necessary to leave several notable matches on court so late that fireflies started to come out?

That’s all for now. Until next year

PostHeaderIcon Sloane, Paul, and Conflicts of Interest: A Wimbledon Day Three “Shock or Not”

Sloane Stephens (Chris Raphael/AELTC)

Sloane Stephens (Chris Raphael/AELTC)

Sloane Stephens, and her coach Paul Annacone, lead the way for my first tournament upset “Shock or Not” of the fortnight. Wondering why I included her coach? Let’s just call it a case of “Conflict of Interest” Shock. Read on for those bits, in addition to thoughts on losses by Stosur, Gulbis, Ferrer, and more.

Maria Kirilenko defeats Sloane Stephens: Shock or Not? Sadly, but predictably, NOT.

Kirilenko, someone who’s coming off of an injury-plagued year, played a very good match. However, that has nothing to do with the ever-growing body of disappointing efforts from Sloane.

I’d hate to say that I’ve kind of given up on Sloane, but I’ve kind of given up on Sloane; at least until she can stop playing the martyr. We (in the media) are not the enemy, and we don’t all want her to fail. We simply want her to stop acting like an entitled American player who enjoys the perks/money of sporting fame but doesn’t put in the effort that’s necessary to continue warranting those perks.

What was once a genuine freshness in the interview room has turned into (way too much) attitude for the on-court display of nonchalance. For what it’s worth, my advice is cut the snark, put your head down, get to work and prove us wrong!

Sloane coach Paul Annacone from her Twitter account.

Sloane coach Paul Annacone from her Twitter account.

Paul Annacone, Sloane Stephens’ coach, once again did NOT recuse himself from on-air analysis after her loss: Shock or Not? Label this a “Conflict of Interest” Shock.

Paul Annacone shouldn’t have said one word about Sloane’s match in the Tennis channel commentary afterward on Wimbledon Primetime. But he did. And what he said was stunning for its’ lack of objectivity in breaking down Sloane’s performance in that match. This may not bother others, but I’m going to have a difficult time taking him seriously after this one.

The conflicts of interest in tennis are numerous and sometimes almost legendary. For example, think back to all of the times Mary Jo Fernandez would commentate on Federer only to join her husband, Fed’s ex-agent, in his Roger’s player box at big matches.

Mary Jo’s actions always bothered me, but this one with Annacone bothered me more. Sloane pays him. So it only stands to reason that he’s not going to give as honest a critique of her efforts as other commentators will who aren’t on her payroll. That is the appearance that was suggested to me from his analysis, or lack thereof; particularly so because he offered little more than an agreement with her own assessment of the match.

Integrity matters, and the appearance that it could be lacking in the commentary booth matters more. I’m not saying that Annacone doesn’t have integrity, but I am saying that his comments on his employer appeared disingenuous because of their relationship.

Samantha Stosur (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Samantha Stosur (Billie Weiss/AELTC)

Yanina Wickmayer defeats Samantha Stosur: Shock or Not? Absolutely Not.

Back after 2012 disappointments at Wimbledon and the Olympics, I asked Sam if she was glad to finally be off the grass for the season, she said: “Yeah. I’m not that sad that I’m off of it for another year or so.” Take a look at her record on the green stuff and you’ll quickly understand why this was no shock, no matter what her seed was coming into the tournament. Hopefully she regains some mojo back on the American hard courts.

Sergiy Stakhovsky defeats Ernests Gulbis: Shock or Not? Shock.

Ernests has never done well at Wimbledon, but I’d hoped that  his maturity as a player over this past year would translate to a better performance at this year’s Championships. Perhaps I should have known otherwise after hearing that he made quips about not wanting to be a quote machine, then followed up by promptly talking about vampires in his next press conference.

Andrey Kuznetsov defeats David Ferrer: Shock or Not? Shock, but…

It’s never a good sign when a player’s camp is silent to the extent that Ferrer’s camp was prior to the start of Wimbledon. Stomach issues kept him from playing last week, and that surely had to play into his loss against the upstart Kuznetsov. Lack of play isn’t great preparation for a grinder like Ferrer. It also doesn’t help that Kuznetsov is a former junior champion at Wimbledon.

Lauren Davis defeats Flavia Pennetta: Shock or Not? Not.

This was a great win for Davis, who’s managed a few upset scares over the past couple of years. Apart from Davis, Flavia had her moment in the 2014 sun at Indian Wells. Unfortunately, it’s going to get any brighter than that for her the rest of the season.

Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini

Fabio Fognini reaches the third round: Shock or Not? Yep…Shock.

I expected an early exit for Fabio, but he proved me wrong. However, he did NOT fail to disappoint on the court; amassing $27,500 in fines for unsportsmanlike conduct. Now THAT’S the Fabio we’ve all come to know and love!

Bojana Jovanovski defeats Victoria Azarenka: Shock or Not? Not.

In my preview piece of the women’s draw, I said that Vika was going “to have virtually no impact at this Wimbledon”. That was pretty much the case after a tough first-round win that was immediately followed by and even tougher second-round loss. I knew she wouldn’t go far, but I didn’t expect the screaming Bojana Jovanovski to send her packing.
(Yes, there was value judgement in that comment.)

Tereza Smitkova defeats Coco Vandeweghe: Shock or Not? Disappointing, but No Shock.

With a wonderful serve and power to rival Serena, many of us would love to see Coco consistently perform at the top level of her game. This is especially true after her first WTA title win at the Top Shelf Open. But it all came crashing back to earth in a second round loss. Still a great run for her…

PostHeaderIcon Ernest v Roger, Maria v Sam, and a Serena Photobomb: An R16 Weekend “Shock or Not”

Ernests Gulbis (© FFT)

Ernests Gulbis KO’d Roger Federer at the French Open (© FFT)

This weekend, while officiating in Napa, I was watching some spectacular play by the Napa Open juniors when I got a message from one of the site directors that Gulbis had beaten Federer. I instantly knew what had to be done, and began writing as soon as I got home last night. So without further ado, here’s my take on Roger’s KO, Maria’s escape, Serena’s photobomb, and a few other blips on my “Shock or Not” radar screen.

Ernests Gulbis defeats Roger Federer: Shock or Not? Absolutely Not!

Roger Federer (© FFT)

Roger Federer (© FFT)

On one level it’s easy to admit that seeing Roger leave Paris before the semifinals is indeed shocking, if not downright sacrilegious. But nobody, I repeat, NOBODY, should be shocked that Ernests Gulbis won this match. Though he’s easily one of the most enigmatic players on tour (in layman’s terms, flaky), Ernests is a modern-day Marat Safin: brilliant yet prone to long periods of having his head inserted firmly up his…well, you know where.

This year, after realizing that he’s often his own worst enemy, Ernests has worked hard to improve and show that he deserves a spot at the top of the men’s game. As a result, he’s enjoying a great year with title runs in Marseilles and Nice. He still runs his mouth too much for most people’s liking (“A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more”), but is now mostly able to back it up with results.

Turning to the other side of the court, Roger’s loss had little to do with his age, his racquet, or his back. He might be older a step slower than in his prime, but he’s still one of the best in the game. Simply put, he was beat by the better player on the day: much like Sampras by the aforementioned Safin at the US Open. Brilliance is never eternal.

Also, though Roger would be loath to admit it, it’s hard to imagine that he can realistically maintain 100% focus on court with four children in tow. That slight dip is all it takes to make a huge difference in match outcome. (But they sure are cute, aren’t they?)

“The clay-court season was fun, but we are moving on.” Hopefully the grass court season will prove more fruitful for Roger. Good luck in Halle!

Maria Sharapova defeats Sam Stosur: Shock or Not? Not.
Maria defeats Sam by winning final 9 games: Shock or Not? Absolutely, and Absolutely Not.

Maria Sharapova (© FFT)

Maria Sharapova (© FFT)

The shock of this match comes with the fact that Maria won nine games in a row to come back from the brink. This is a feat usually performed by Serena as she adds to her Hall of Fame CV. In fact, Maria was the ignoble recipient of one such run back in the 2013 Sony Open final. Up a set and a break, she lost the final 10 games of the match in what surely must have been one of the most embarrassing defeats of her career.

I’m not shocked that Maria “Yes, I double-bageled Paula Ormaechea” won nine in a row. She’s one of the strongest competitors out there. I am, however, shocked that Sam buckled so badly and allowed her to do so. Admittedly, I didn’t see the match. So I’m at a disadvantage to comment on its’ specifics. But it pains me to see such a great player, a woman who beat Serena for one of the game’s biggest titles in “her house”, become so fragile.

Who knew that, in the absence of Serena Williams, Maria would “Serena” someone? Not I.

Apart from the manner in which it happened, there is absolutely no surprise that Maria beat Sam. She has an overwhelming 13-2 head-to-head against Stosur (now 14-2), and she’s beaten the Aussie on hard courts, clay courts, and grass. Given her own one-sided beatdowns that she’s received from Serena, it’s gotta feel good to be on the other side.

Serena Williams crashes wedding in leopard-print leotard and steals all focus: Shock or Not? Shock with a SMGDH!

Serena Williams photobomb from her Instagram account

Serena Williams photobomb from her Instagram account

Speaking of Ms. Williams, I have one thing to say: Come on Serena! We get it. You’re “all that and a bag of chips”. However, this was HER special day, not yours. I’m sure that you thought it would be a great moment for them when you joined them for pictures with your lovely leotard, but it was a moment that was all about you and not them or, more importantly, the bride. If you really wanted to honor THEIR special day, you could have sent Esther over with a check or some other gift. Next time, maybe?

Second-Tier Shocks

Ajla Tomlijanovic defeats Aga Radwanska: Shock or Not? Mini-shock.

The stats (30-10 vs 14-12, 13 career titles vs none) pointed to an easy win for Aga, but it wasn’t meant to be. However, a straight sets loss to the unheralded Croatian does bring up some pointed questions regarding Aga’s ability to maintain her top status while her body takes a huge battering. Tons of match play over the past few years seems to be taking a toll. Some suggest that she’s trying to make as much as she can, while she can. I hope not. Physio tape can only do so much to help her once she retires.

Eugenie Bouchard defeats Angelique Kerber: Shock or Not? Not.

In spite of some earlier clay disappointments, Eugenie is generally riding high in 2014. Angelique? Not so much. I’m not expecting an appearance in the finals, or an upset title winner, but Miss Bouchard is one heckuva poised, intelligent, and talented young lady!

Novak Djokovic crushes Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Shock or Not? Shock.

Three words: Come on Jo?!?!?! Six games? Really?

Sara Errani defeats Jelena Jankovic: Shock or Not? Mini-shock.

One would have thought that Jelena could finally turn the tables on a less-than-totally-fit Sara. Then again, one would have been wrong. Sara won in Rome, and now again in Paris. I guess Sara is immune to Jelena’s “tennis theater”.

 

PostHeaderIcon Aussie Champ Li Na Ousted In An Epic Day Three French Open “Shock or Not” (VIDEO)

Li Na (© FFT)

Li Na (© FFT)

A lot of notable names bit the dust on Day Three at the French Open: some due to upsets, some due to injury retirement, and one simply said “Goodbye”. So let’s dive right into an epic upset day at Roland Garros, starting with the ouster of the women’s Australian Open champion one day after the Australian men’s champion was sent packing.

Kristina Mladenovic defeats Na Li: Shock or Not? Epic Shock, But…

It’s reality check time for Li Na and her coach, Carlos Rodriguez. Upsets happen in almost every tournament, but there’s a level of ‘acceptable’ sloppiness that permeates Na’s game. And I say ‘acceptable’ because she appears to be perfectly okay with it.

When she lost to Serena in Miami after being up two breaks at 5-2, winning only 1 more game of the final 12, she said “I think it was a pretty good match” afterwards in press. When she lost to Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells with nine double faults and 52 unforced errors, she said, “I think it was pretty high level match”.

Grigor Dimitrov (© FFT)

Grigor Dimitrov (© FFT)

If your bar for a high-quality match includes 52 unforced errors, something is very wrong and very broken with your quality barometer! Mladenovic, a mixed doubles Slam winner, is a fine player. However, Li Na is a two-time Slam champion (including former French Open champion) who needs to play like one. I repeat, it’s not acceptable to play this poorly to later declare, “That was good, wasn’t it?”

Ivo Karlovic defeats Grigor Dimitrov: Shock or Not? Total Shock…Unless You Watched Match.

Dimitrov came into the French Open as a legitimate dark horse for the title. He’s improved his game and fitness, and even won his first clay title in Bucharest during the lead up to Roland Garros. On the other side of the net was Karlovic, a player who’s arguably past his prime but still manages a good win or two in smaller events. Easy winner pick, right? Wrong!

Karlovic’s serve was ‘on’, and his slice game was working effectively on the clay. Dimitrov was kept off-balance, and struggled to dig the low balls up without having them get put away by the big man at the net. On paper, this loss was a total shock. But Karlovic’s level of play against Dimitrov was reminiscent of the Ivo that, back in the day, few top players wanted to meet in the first round of a major. Still, it was a shocking loss for this young gun. Maybe some Sugarpova will help ease his pain.

Ana Ivanovic defeats Caroline Garcia: Shock or Not? Shock For Relative Ease, But….

The young Frenchwoman, with maiden title in hand from Bogota, cracked under the pressure of French Open expectations and won only 4 games against Ivanovic. What should have been a dangerous outing for Ivanovic ended in a routine first-round victory. But if we learned nothing else from Amelie Mauresmo, it’s that playing at home in France is often your biggest opponent at the French Open.

tomic-french-jacket

Bernard Tomic at his post-match press conference

Samantha Stosur defeats Monica Puig: Shock or Not? Actually, I’m Kinda Shocked!

Sam Stosur, one of the tour’s most disappointing Slam champs in the past couple of years, routed one of the tour’s better newcomers with the loss of only two games; with stitches in her leg. This might seem harsh, but given Sam’s struggles this year, I was pretty much expecting a first- or second-round loss. As I always say, I LOVE to be proven wrong.

Richard Gasquet defeats Bernard Tomic: Shock or Not? Completely Shocked at Tomic’s…

…bad taste in post-match attire. Otherwise, I have no other comments on Tomic’s ongoing issues of questionable commitment to training, proper attitude, and way-too-staunch defense of his coach/father. I’m “over it”.

Caroline Wozniacki (© FFT)

Caroline Wozniacki (© FFT)

Yanina Wickmayer defeats Caroline Wozniacki: Shock or Not? Sadly, Not Shocked.

Poor Caroline attempted to play this year’s French Open with a bum knee and a broken heart. Either one by itself would be a challenge, but the combination was too much. As Erik Gudris wrote in his piece Wozniacki Stands at Crossroads After French Open Loss, Wozniacki is in a tough place right now. People sometimes forget that players are just like us, and are affected just as much in their job performance as we are by similar events. A loss of confidence due to injury and a broken engagement would affect anyone, let alone a 23 year-old. I feel for her, and hope she gets it all sorted before the 2014 season is a washout.

Camila Giorgi defeats Bojana Jovanovski: Shock or Not? No Shock, Just Happiness

With a grunt/screech that puts Vika Azarenka to shame, I’m never sad to see a noisemaker on the receiving end of a loss. Sorry.

Marinko Matosevic defeats Dustin Brown: Shock or Not? Majorly Shocked At His Reaction!

Matosevic finally won his first Slam match in his thirteenth attempt, and this is how he reacted:

Also, I’m a little sad to see the colorful @DreddyTennis knocked out. (Especially since the avatar I’m using in my Sega virtual tennis game looks like him.)

Injury Retirement Shocks

Jack Sock defeats Nicolas Almagro via retirement (foot injury). Withdrew from match with Wawrinka in Monte Carlo due to similar injury. Not a good sign…

Jurgen Zopp defeats Tommy Haas via retirement (shoulder injury). I don’t know how much longer Tommy can keep this up. He probably doesn’t either.

Actual Retirement Shocks

Nikolay Davydenko will definitely NOT be playing Wimbledon, and is mulling retirement.

Et enfin, au revoir a Michael Llodra!

PostHeaderIcon The Myth of Sam Stosur’s Slide From Greatness

Sam Stosur at the BNP Paribas Open

Sam Stosur at the BNP Paribas Open

After a third-round loss to qualifier Coco Vandeweghe at the Sony Open (7-5, 5-7, 5-7), Sam Stosur continues a ’14 season that started on a positive note in Hobart, but has since returned to a disappointing norm.

stosur-miles

Sam with coach Miles Maclagan

Words are useless these days in describing the torture of watching a Sam Stosur loss. Rarely has an ex-Slam champion and top-ranked player frustrated so many with exasperating results from one week to the next. Need proof? Think back to last year’s puzzling Stanford loss to Olga Govortsova followed by an equally puzzling Carlsbad title win over Vika Azarenka.

The “how’s” and “why’s” of Sam’s performance fluctuations aren’t easy to answer. An obvious go-to is always a player’s coach. David Taylor, the longtime coach that helped her achieve the big win in New York, was let go after the win over Azarenka in Carlsbad. There was no animus in the split, simply a mutual parting of ways. In short, nothing that would explain a drop in her results.

Sam flew solo from the summer season through Sofia, and then realized that she preferred having a coach. So she hired Miles Maclagan, a noteworthy from his past work with Andy Murray. She began working with Maclagan in December, and the results so far in 2014 appear underwhelming.

Looks can be deceiving, however. One can’t really be underwhelmed with Sam’s results when the prevailing evidence, her WTA win-loss record, actually points to a “more of the same” performance level. An examination of her record over the past five years reveals a remarkably consistent, and winning, win-loss percentage.

2009 39 wins – 21 losses (.65)
2010 47 wins – 19 losses (.71)
2011 45 wins – 23 losses (.66)
2012 44 wins – 24 losses (.66)
2013 42 wins – 23 losses (.65)

stosur-practice

There’s a slight uptick from 2009 to 2010 as she made her move up the rankings, and an equivalent downtick as she settled into her new status. Overall though, the numbers are fairly consistent in terms of the mid-40 range for her # of wins, and low-20 range for her # of losses.

In spite of her relative consistency, the perception is that Sam comes up short in big matches, and under-performs on a weekly basis. One could quibble that the plus/minus range on her losses represent potentially career-changing matches, but we can’t speculate in what could have happened if only…

Such discussions are often lively, but players don’t win titles via “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. Sam’s missed opportunities are what they are, and need to be replaced with new ones. Whether Maclagan is the one to help her get there is anyone’s guess. A coach can only do so much if the player isn’t able to effectively execute.

That leads to a larger discussion of what many feel is Sam’s biggest liability. Her lack of winning results, at least in the big matches, seems to be more one of Sam’s temperament affecting her ability to execute under duress than of technical or strategic issues.

Sam is a likable player, but there’s an air of vulnerability that comes across when talking with her. Unfortunately for her, it’s also readily apparent on court to her opponents. When pressed, Sam starts to press in her game, and eventually succumbs to her demons (and defeat). The only time I remember NOT seeing that side of her was in her winning US Open final match against Serena.

For once, there were no nerves; just the flawless execution of a clear strategy to take down the favorite. The frustration comes for us when we’ve seen her do such a great job of it one moment, then crashing out in a late-night flourish as in her match to Vandeweghe.

The truth is that tennis has never been that simplistic. Though we all would have loved to see her continue in that winning vein, she might never see another Slam final. Some players learn from their matches, regardless of success or failure, and some don’t. Her record speaks for itself: Sam will win, but not the matches we want her to win, and not on our timetable.

So rather than bemoan Sam’s great slide from Slam champion to forgotten player in the upper echelons of the WTA, we should celebrate a player who consistently performs at a top level. Maybe it’s a level that’s below our expectations, but that’s our issue and not hers. For better or worse, Sam is right where she’s always been.

PostHeaderIcon An Australian Open “Shock or Not” Weekend Edition Feat. A Serena Stunner

Serena Williams (Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia)

Serena Williams (Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia)

With the ouster of Serena Williams, the women’s top seed and prohibitive favorite for the 2014 Australian Open title, I felt compelled to write a quick “Shock or Not” celebrating the defeat of the current #1 by a former #1…along with a couple of other nuggets from the past two days. As always, let me know what you think about these matches, or some of your own that you think qualify in the “Shock or Not” category.

WTA

Ana Ivanovic defeats Serena Williams: Shock or Not? ALL CAPS SHOCK

f_ivanovic_d7_18

Ana Ivanovic (Ben Solomon/Tennis Australia)

Ana pulled off the stunner of the tournament by coming back from the loss of the first set to beat Serena in three sets for a spot in the quarterfinals. As fragile as her tennis has been at times during the past few years is as solid as she was against Serena. Her serve was solid, her service return was impeccable, and her forehand hurt Serena from start to finish. I was bothered by Patrick Mouratoglou’s immediate dismissal of Serena’s loss due to injury via “blocked back”, because it took the focus off of Ana’s brilliant execution in beating Serena for the first time in her career. Serena was gracious in her interview, and did her best to downplay Patrick’s injury revelations. She’s been burned enough times in the past for not giving credit where credit was due that she took great pains to compliment Ana. No matter though. The Serena Haters, however, will still find a way to hate…

Flavia Pennetta defeats Angelique Kerber: Shock or Not? Shock

Maybe it’s not so much the shock of this particular victory more than it’s the shock that Flavia has made it so far in this tournament. What looked to be a bad wrist injury at the Hopman Cup, the same wrist she’d had surgically repaired in 2012, turned out to be simple inflammation. With the inflammation gone, she’s quietly worked her way through to her first Aussie quarters; and maybe further.

Garbine Muguruza defeats Caroline Wozniacki: Shock or Not? Shock…kinda

Caroline started this year’s tournament on fire with the loss of only two games, but faltered badly in the last round; beating Christina McHale in three shaky sets. That’s not the kind of thing you want to do against a player who came into Melbourne on a roll after winning the title in Hobart. Garbine might not be a household name, but the World #38 has started the season strongly in 2014. Bye bye Caroline.

ATP

Grigor Dimitrov (Reuters)

Grigor Dimitrov defeats Milos Raonic: Shock or Not? Not

I’m not shocked by this result because these are two of the brightest prospects on the ATP horizon. The perpetual hype of “Future Grand Slam winners” is annoying, but that’s not their fault. Nonetheless, both guys “got game” (Milos has 5 career titles, Grigor has 1). And it was a great match of power serving and ground strokes versus excellent defense and all-court prowess. What’s really shocking is the fact that this is Grigor’s first-ever R16 showing i.e. making it past the third round at a Grand Slam.

Roberto Bautista Agut defeats Benoit Paire: Shock or Not? Not

Hate to put it so bluntly, but Paire is French, prone to temperament issues, and lost to Bautista Agut in Auckland a couple of weeks ago. Not the best combo for him heading into this match.

Easy Peasy

Rafael Nadal defeats Gael Monfils: Shock or Not? Not

It’s not a shock that Rafa beat Gael, but it is a shock that he beat him in straight sets 1, 2, and 3 after such a tight encounter in Doha. Gael has tons of talent, tons of flash, and (unfortunately) no substantial Slam results to back it up.

Dominika Cibulkova defeats Carla Suarez Navarro: Shock or Not? Not, but…

It’s not a shock that Dominika won this match, because we all know how well she can play. It’s extremely shocking, however, that she only gave up one game in giving Carla a bagel and a breadstick. She did the same thing to her second round opponent too. Can she make it a carbohydrate “hat trick”?

Men’s Dubs

No shocking matches in particular; just a general note that, besides the Bryan brothers, the men’s top seeds in doubles are dropping like flies.

Women’s Dubs

Alize Cornet/Caroline Garcia defeats Svetlana Kuznetsova/Samantha Stosur: Shock or Not? Not

This one should be a shock, but sadly it’s not. <shaking my head at Sveta and Sam>

Women’s Legends’ Doubles

Nicole Bradtke/Rennae Stubbs defeats Martina Hingis/Martina Navratilova: Shock or Not? Shock

Can someone please tell me how these two legendary Martinas got beat??? My mind just can’t comprehend that scenario. 🙂

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