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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Feb 25, 2009

2/25/2009 1:44:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Feb 25, 2009
Euthanasia. Sometimes it's the kindest cut of all.

Usually when I talk about players I'm dissatisfied with (and there are many - I'm shockingly easy to rile), I'm really only banishing them to a sort of timeout chair. Go sit in the corner until you've thought about what you've done wrong, win a few matches and then we're cool again. Only now there's a new breed of player, one I think putting down would not only be kind to me, but it would be kind to them as well.

There's no bigger mope than Ivan Ljubicic (literally, the guy's like 7' 15"). Now 2-5 for the year after dumping out to David Ferrer in the first round of Dubai (I can't even type the word now without my fingers turning to claws. "Dubai." There, did it again.), the former #3 this week grumbled about possible retirement. If there was some way I could help push him along, I would. Like a grandparent suffering from dementia hinting to me in a rare state of lucidity, hey, hold that pillow over my face for a second, would ya?, this is as good a sign as I need to intervene. He's tortured, I'm tortured. It's win win.

David Nalbandian is another one. He has the goods to be, at minimal, the top 3 in the world. But he gets in his way more than anybody else. His miserable performance in the Davis Cup final, both on and off the court, have only reinforced his rep as a grump par excellence. His loss to Juan Monaco last week, after serving for a straight sets win, along with dumping out in the first round in Acapulco this week, baffle. And seem to threaten his own sanity. David, do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Do you know? Mull on it in this bathtub. Here, hold my toaster.

Can you be too young to face the Reaper? Two WTA-ers seem to have exhausted themselves (and us) early, leaving nothing but spent carcasses all around. In Acapulco this week, 2007 Newcomer of the Year Agnes Szavay not only had to go through qualifying, but lost. As a lucky loser, she won her first round main draw match...her first first round win of the year, including hack jobs at the Australian, as the defending champ in Paris and in Dubai (there, my fingers did it again). Szavay has not only stepped off the bridge into a stunning freefall, she's not even screaming for help. Splat.

But that freefall is nothing compared to the trajectory of Nicole Vaidisova, who went from wunderkind top tenner to, god, how would you describe her now? Would you describe her now? It's to the point where you don't even register her spectacular losses these days. 6-1, 6-1 to Mara Santangelo? Straight sets to Emilie Loit? And if you take away her QF points at Wimbledon (which I think she won at a silent auction), I think she officially becomes a ballgirl. Cite her marriage all you want, but other women swing it. She's got something else going on, and I fear it's terminal. I have the sheet to cover her body at the ready. Just waiting for her to cool.

Safin. the Grand Poobah of Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here.
No player best fits the bill than the Grand Poobah of Who Am I and What Am I Doing Here, Marat Safin. Safin's shown himself the most kindness by not waiting for anyone to yank the life support cord out of the wall. He's pulling the plug himself, with the flatline emanating around Paris come November.

I've made no bones about how much I love this guy. But he's also been a frustrating enigma. Ferocious on the court, except when he wasn't. Hilarious in press conferences, except when he was nonplussed. Focused on his career, except when he was chugging cigarettes and getting in drunken bar brawls. Did he want to be a champion? Who knows. He certainly put in the hours. But injuries and motivation battled to spin his wheels in the mud for years. Making it to the semis of Wimbledon last year (on that darnfangled grass!) was a fanboy's dream. Losing to scrubs at nearly every other tournament was a nightmare. Clearly one for himself too. So when the Ruskie takes his leave, I can't help but feel both sadness and relief. 

There are players gutting it out out there despite humiliating losses, but they're gutting it out. Players like the aforementioned Juan Monaco, Dominik Hrbaty, Amelie Mauresmo, Jelena Dokic. And unless these other players join them by showing some signs of life, don't be surprised if you see me creeping around their (mental) hospital rooms with a big springy pillow.


And true to my word of hanging out late match retirees for shame and ridicule, add Sergiy Stahhovsky to the list, retiring down 3-5, love-30 on his serve, two points from losing to Andy Murray this week in Dubai. Sergiy, this toaster's for you.