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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Sept. 10, 2008

9/10/2008 12:25:00 PM

Larosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Welcome to LaRosa's Sweet Spot, your weekly, slightly off-kilter, sometimes sharply angled look at the wondrous, rapturous, soul-crushing world of professional tennis. You'll get some kicks, some sneaky drop shots. They won't all be winners. But the unforced puns will be off the hizook.

Thanks to Bob, aka Dan G. from Los Angeles, who named my baby. Please let me know what this mysterious Tennis Channel prize is. Does it cut glass? Does it spread well on a cracker? Huge thanks to everyone else who submitted. There were really so many good ones to pick from (so much so that some of your entries, including the top vote-getter, are actually already blogs elsewhere - are you trying to get me sued?). But the Sweet Spot won out in the end. It's got lots of meanings which I'm too lazy to try and figure out. One thing's for sure though - it's a pun!

It's pretty amazing how little things (like, say, entering an online writing contest) can set off great big mighty chains of events one couldn't possibly have predicted. I was thinking about that when mulling what my big debut thesis would be. Yeah I could write about all the stuff that's out there now, how impressive Serena's return to #1 is, how electrifying Roger's 13th Slam win was. 'Tis all true, but I've always been more interested in the little buried treasures no one thinks about. Like Hopman Cup or Fruit Stripes gum.

So in my first official act here, I'm going to unearth a few of tennis's unheralded nuggets. Matches actually, that, sort of runty and insignificant at the time, ended up setting off their own wondrous, rapturous, soul-crushing chain of events that are not only still being felt today, but are shaping up to be monster stories going into this fall.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you: Where would we be without them?

Andy Murray pre "funkified" beard.
5. Tsonga/Murray, Australian Open, 1r.
 Forget Tsonga's dream run to the final and focus on his other great achievement Down Under. By exposing Murray's unwillingness to play aggressive so publicly, Tsonga single-handedly created a Scottish terminator who'd pound his way to a killer '08, leaving a trail of destruction that led to his own Slam final nine months later. Thanks to Tsonga, there's no longer a top three, but a top four. And also more photographs of that funkified beard than had ever been taken before. With zero points to defend at this upcoming Australian, how high can Andy go?

4. Safina/Davenport, Miami, 4r. Coming into Miami, Dinara was 4-6, losing to such fabled players as Sabine Lisicki and Ashley Harkleroad. In a rage, she downed Davenport for the first time in a match she credited as finally giving her the belief she could roll with the big dogs. She kept rolling to the Berlin final (knocking out Serena and retiring Justine Henin) and beyond. Guess who's #3 in the Race? I know. But can she stay there?

3. Starace/Nadal, Hamburg, 2r. Thanks to injury and exhaustion, Rafa'd just been sent packing in Rome by Juan Carlos Ferrero (has anyone plastered his face on the back of a milk carton yet?). He'd shown up in Hamburg graciasing his dios to have a first round bye, then faced the feisty Italian in round two. At 6-points-all in the second set tiebreak, Nadal looked like he might not last a third. Which would not only have effectively cost him his #2 ranking, it would also have thrown the next two Slam seedings all out of whack. Would he have the same French run? Would we have that all time classic Wimby final? Rafa won the next two points, and all would be right with the world.

2. Ivanovic/Dechy, Wimbledon, 2r. French Open champ Ivanovic appeared just fine in her first round 6-1, 6-2 drubbing of Rossana de los Rios. Then came French vet Nathalie Dechy, who came out guns blazing and pushed the shocked top seed to 10-8 in the third. Dechy ended the match sobbing into her towel, unaware of what she'd truly done - sent Ivanovic into a tailspin she's yet to recover from. And set the table for the upset bug that swept the women's side of the draw in which no top 4 seed made it past the round of 16 for the first time in the Open era. Venus and Serena were left to maintain order, which they've been doing ever since. Can they keep it up?

1. Tipsarevic/Federer, Australian Open, 3r. You say mono, I say Janko. Before the tattooed Serb came along, Roger was more than taking care of business. He allowed Diego Hartfield 3 of 21 games in the first round, ditto his good buddy Fabrice Santoro in the second. But Tipsarevic wouldn't back down, something Fed seemed wholly unprepared for. Novak benefited from Janko's hard work, and so did the rest of the tour, who all saw what someone with guts could do. It was a mutiny that continued all the way to the U.S. Open final. Is the mutiny over, or is it just a temporary cease-fire? Stay tuned.

So here's to life's unsuspecting little moments. Is the next one just around the corner? Or has it already happened?

As for The Sweet Spot, who knows what it'll spark. Maybe some good-natured debate. Maybe the end of civilization as we know it. Or maybe, just maybe, more puns! And is there anything sweeter than that?