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LaRosa's 2011 Aussie Open Blog - Week 2

1/30/2011 3:00:00 PM

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Week 1


Day 14 - Jan 30 - 3:38pm EST

If the 2011 Australian Open gave us anything, it’s a ^%#@ heart attack. Surprises leapt out of our closets like beloved birthday party guests or serial killers. While we catch our breath, let’s take a moment to celebrate the good, the bad and the WTF of the Happy Slam. Ladies and gentlemen, the DUNLOP AWARDS. LOOK OUT, THEY’RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!

Most Breathtaking Performance: NOVAK DJOKOVIC. Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Andy Murray all took the court against him playing lights out, and not only could none of them take a set, they couldn’t impose their will on him in any way, shape or form. A changing of the guard? No. But definitely a definitive statement about the future of men’s tennis. And how lucky are we the future is a giant goofball?

Biggest Bully: KIM CLIJSTERS. She destroyed fan favorite Dinara Safina in the 1r with a 6-0, 6-0 beatdown, humiliated Todd Woodbridge at work (and in front of millions of people) and broke the hearts of 1.3 billion people in the final. For someone who’s so gosh darn lovable they call her Saint Kimmie, Clijsters is kind of a monster.

Novak is estatic to win a Dunlop Award

Best Match (WTA): 16-14 in the third was more than just a stat. It represented the blood, sweat, tears and heart of FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE and SVETLANA KUZNETSOVA, two women who by sheer strength of will breathed life into women’s tennis again. It was the longest women’s match in Grand Slam history, and I could’ve watched it go on forever. Very respectable Runners Up: EKATERINA MAKEROVA/ANA IVANOVIC and VENUS WILLIAMS/SANDRA ZAHLAVOVA.

Worst Match (WTA): You know what, while there were certainly some snoozefests and some lopsided clashes, the women by and large owned this tournament. So I’m giving the ladies a pass on this one this time. They earned it.

Best Match (ATP): While the women romped, the men’s draw failed to offer up the usual fireworks Down Under. Leave it to vets and bitter rivals DAVID NALBANDIAN and LLEYTON HEWITT to serve up the big winner, taking it to 9-7 in the fifth after nearly 5 hours of brilliant shot-making and more twists and turns than the curly fries at Wendy’s. When it ended with a topspin lob that dropped in over Hewitt’s head, the men were exhausted, and so were we. It was the first round, and while we hung around for 2 weeks waiting for another match to outdo it, none did. Take a bow, grandpas. Runners Up: ROGER FEDERER/GILLES SIMON, NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ROGER FEDERER, ANDY MURRAY/ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV.

Worst Match (ATP): NOVAK DJOKOVIC/ANDY MURRAY. Novak did nothing wrong, Andy did nothing right. I can’t begin to imagine the psychological strain that Grand Slam-sized gorilla on Murray’s shoulder causes, but this was a Grand Slam final. And it was a bust.

Serena Williams Cockroach Award: LI NA literally clawed her way back from match point down in the second to book her historic spot in the final while FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE did it 6 times in her epic win over Svetlana Kuznetsova. Ask me to choose between the two and I’ll punch you in the face.

Biggest Upset: ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV d. ROBIN SODERLING. Darth Sod hadn’t dropped a set all year, but against an on fire A-Dolg (wow that doesn’t roll off the tongue) he completely lost the script. And with it, any chance of undoing his hateful track record in Melbourne.

Breakdown Performance (Male): SAM QUERREY, who once again looked like the kid in gym class who just did not want to be there in his first round loss. If you don’t want to be there, why should we?

Breakdown Performance (Female): JELENA JANKOVIC. Is there an exorcist in the house?

Biggest Bummer: RAFAEL NADAL was three matches away from holding all four majors, something that hadn’t been done since Rod Laver. Did a fresh new injury hurt? It certainly didn’t help. Meanwhile, JUSTINE HENIN hung her racquet up for good thanks to that nasty fall she took at Wimbledon. Of course life is unfair, but that doesn’t mean we need it shoved down our throats.

Most Missed: MARY CARILLO, who parted ways with ESPN, taking all of her absolutely fearless commentating with her. Independent thought takes a big hit.

Biggest Game Changer: The MOONBALL, which pulled the right seam in Li Na’s game to allow Kim Clijsters to take over the match and hoist the trophy. Runner up: the medical time out, which reared its head at opportune moments in both Radwanska/Date-Krumm and Wozniacki/Schiavone.

The Pam Shriver ‘Best Use of a Microphone’ Award: Between CAROLINE WOZNIACKI’s renegade press conference to battle her dull rep, KIM CLIJSTERS pantsing a dude on live television for saying she looked pregnant and every single moment LI NA opened her mouth, the ladies rocked the mic. And they rocked it hard.

Most Memorable Quote: “She looks really grumpy, and her boobs are bigger.”

Worst Use of a Microphone: Whoever forced Caroline Wozniacki to hold two press conferences in one day to apologize for making up a story about being mauled by a zoo creature. Seriously?

Breakthrough Performance (Female): LI NA. It wasn’t just that she was the first Asian player to contest a major final, it was how she got there, declawing Victoria Azarenka and Andrea Petkovic and fighting back from the brink of disaster against the world No 1. She represented her country beautifully, but she also represented herself beautifully. 2011 is looking mighty fine for the brand new No 7.

Breakthrough Performance (Male): MILOS RAONIC, BERNARD TOMIC and ALEXANDR DOLGOPOLOV, oh my! Lots of (ridiculous) talk of a passing of the baton from Fedal to Djurray (Noldy? Murrkovic?), but the real shift is lower down the ranks, as all three showed he makings of Grand Slam-winning form. In a couple years, tennis is going to be redonkulous.

Okay, that’s a wrap kids. Thanks to Jim Courier, Heather Watson, Jack Sock, and my bestie Lindsay Davenport for stopping by, and thanks to you for reading. Check back in this Wednesday and every Wednesday for the Sweet Spot. On behalf of a deliriously happy Dunlop and myself, see you next time!

James

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.


Day 13 - Jan 29 - 4:28pm EST

Hello peoples! Is Dunlop here to do the live blogging of woman’s final! Is going to be big battle as two old married ladies have big slapfight over silver trophy. Dunlop will try to concentrate on historical event, he is the hangover after hot tub party celebrating that NOLE IS IN FINAL!!! We drink the Zimas, snort the Milk Duds and go crazy like the Pat O’Brien! Can you imagine if he wins?

CAN YOU IMAGINE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!

Where was Dunlop? Ah, the woman.

:11 – Pam Shriver look amazing! Dress is so pretty. Like fancy Snuggie from Lion King show!

:13 – Mary Joe Fernandez is beautiful too, with big turtle neck and poof hair! With both woman is like having match discussed by RuPaul’s Drag Race! Start the engines!

:22 – Tiny yellow ball boys carry out giant statue. Australian Open is like sweat shop! Dunlop wonders if they know how to work sewing machine.

:28 – Green mother and China have giggly chat in hallway. This makes no sense to Dunlop. He wants to see hair pulling and face scratching! Nole will pull Brit’s hair AND scratch face!

:31 – Players walk on court. Their outfits are so boring compared to Williams sister and my Nole (WHO IS IN FINAL!). Dunlop downloads patterns for ball boys.

:40 – Green mother serves ace first point! She is going to win!

:45 – China finally wins point. How do you say Ajde in the Mandarin?

1:05 – China makes green mother do split after split after split! Is like she is trying to snap her in half like wishbone! Make a wish!

Green Mother wins it all



1:13 – Green mother sweats in, how do you say, unfortunate way.

1:18 – China gets wish, wins first set! She is going to win! You know who else is going to win? MY NOLE!!!

1:23 – Something called a Melissa George is in audience. Sranje, Dunlop finds more celebrities on Carnival Cruise ship.

1:29 - Turtleneck and Lion King lip-sync for their life.

1:33 – STOP HITTING THE OVERHEADS!!! AAAHHHH!!!

1:38 – So many breaks! Lion King say “I’m completely confused.” Dunlop too! Dunlop wonders what Nole is doing right now. Does he do the stretches? Is he eating a sandwich..?

1:50 – China holds for first time in 5 hours! She celebrates by yelling at umpire to make rest of China in stands be quiet.

1:53 – China complains again.

1:57 – China complains again.

2:08 – First moonball by green lady! China hits into stands. Dunlop thinks is no accident.

2:10 – Mother wins second set with big come on!

2:14 – China coming apart faster than clothes from Dunlop’s sweatshop. Another moonball! Is like kryptonite!! My Nole must try this amazing shot!

2:20 – Moonball. Error.

2:23 – Moonball. Error.

2:31 – Moonball. Error. China hits ball at wall, almost strikes ball boy. BE CAREFUL WITH DUNLOP’S WORKERS!

2:38 – China complains about photographers. She is everywhere but on court, like Lady MacBeth with tennis racquet. Dunlop must hire extra photographers for pasty Brit’s side of court. Not that he will appear in pictures because he is VAMPIRE! AJDE!

2:45 – Green mother wins! Tears! Hugs! Sweat stains! Nole will hug Dunlop like this!

2:58 – China receives trophy. She does not cry, she has big smile! She gives speech that no matter if husband is fat or skinny or handsome or Andy Murray, she will love him always! Now Dunlop cries! AJDE CHINA!

3:00 – Green mother holds up trophy, talks about missing teeth and say she is now “Aussie Kim.” China gives better speech but they let her keep trophy anyway.

Is all over, thank you for joining Dunlop! Tomorrow we will see crowning of AUSSIE NOLE! (Perfect name for Dunlop’s new clothing line!) Pat O’Brien will never see hot tub celebration like this! AJJDEEE!!!!!!

Poljubac,

Dunlop
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Day 12 - Jan 28 - 1:28pm EST

False alarm! I didn’t die. The horse tranquilizer just slowed my heart rate to two beats per hour. If that’s enough for Agnieszka Radwanska, it’s enough for me.

With the finals upon us, what better time to check back in with our pre-tourney MOST UNFUNNEST DRINKING GAME EVER? To catch everybody up, this is where you CAN’T drink when something on the list happens. Why would I do such a thing to my readers, most of whom are clearly alcoholics? Because I wasn’t held enough as a baby.

Let’s begin, shall we?

1. Andy Murray isn’t tipped to win it all because he’s ‘under the radar’ or ‘there’s no attention on him.’ Take two swigs if his tears from last year aren’t replayed over and over while discussing how little attention is on him.

Before the first point was played, Aussie press picked Murray to win, and for that very reason. The tears flowed…while discussing what a difference a year makes. No swigs. (But who’s looking like a smarty-pants now?)

2. Bernard Tomic doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth…and punch it.

Well spank my badunk and call me Susie, not only did Bernie not say something abominable about Tennis Australia, he actually made good use of their main draw wild card, riding it all the way to a verrrry respectable match v. Rafa. And he was the last Aussie standing to boot. Clutch crosses that he stays on the straight and narrow. Or at least keeps winning to back up that mouth.

No swigs for Vegemite

3. A commentator isn’t asked to try vegemite on-air. Take two swigs if they don’t mug for the camera in mock-horror, three if they don’t outright spit it out.

Not only was a commentator asked, EVERY commentator was asked, including Mary Joe Fernandez, Brad Gilbert and the blonde anchor lady who bless her heart really tries but I still can’t remember her name. It was like crack in a jar, each of them reveling in devilish delight as they shoved it in each other’s faces, up noses, etc. And boy did they mug! I haven’t seen this good of acting since Stella McCartney looked Caroline Wozniacki straight in the eye in a fitting room and said “flawless.” Even Vera Zvonareva had some shoved down her gob. Go ahead and take half a swig because there were no napkins involved. They all gamely swallowed, and so should you.

4. Novak Djokovic’s breathing problems aren’t referred to constantly. Take two swigs if his breathing problems in fact do not come into play at all.

Thanks to a bunch of night matches and some seriously stellar play, we barely saw Nole crack a sweat, much less breathe heavy. Pour your glass, but hold onto it: it’s supposed to be baking for Sunday’s final.

5. Esther Vergeer loses.

HAHAHAHAHAHA.

6. A certain No 1 isn’t asked incessantly about the flu. Take five swigs if, when invariably questioned about how he’s feeling, he replies “you know, just awful.”

Crickets.

7. Gael Monfils doesn’t make one unnecessary dive in each and every one of his matches. 

Do you even need to ask?

8. Justine Henin doesn’t downplay her chances after demolishing her opponent each round.

Not only did she downplay them, she went ahead and RETIRED. Not only can’t you swig, I get to pump your stomach of the swig and a half you already downed.

9. John Isner doesn’t lose his body weight in sweat.

Isner/Cilic anyone?

10. Juan Martin del Potro doesn’t get a hero’s welcome on his return to Grand Slam play after a year away. Take two swigs if he doesn’t draw someone crazy juicy crazy early.

Does Marcos Baghdatis qualify as crazy juicy? I guess if you judge by his ponytailette.

11. Kim Clijsters isn’t asked about being a mom. BECAUSE SHE’S A MOM!

By wearing an outfit inspired by the last mom to win a Slam, Australia’s very own Evonne Goolagong, I’m gonna say Kim brought this one on herself. And by this I mean your dry mouth.

12. Lleyton Hewitt and Venus Williams aren’t asked about retirement. BECAUSE THEY’RE OLD!

No swigs. Except by them.

13. Michael Llodra keeps his pants on.

Sadly Llodra was pantsed by Milos Raonic in the second round.

14. Nadia Petrova takes the court wearing something demure and understated. Down a 40 if she does not look like a PAAS Easter Egg.

MY EYES, MY EYES!

15. Oracene Price goes her entire stay in Melbourne without tweeting something fantastically blunt. Take an extra shot of Patron if she apologizes for it.

Does Oracene saying she hopes Na Li isn’t “to [sic] nervous to kick some butt” in the final and that she’s “not pulling for the other one” because “I dislike dubious people” count? What could Saint Kimmie have possibly done to her? Ponder that one while you wait for an apology that isn’t coming. (Incidentally, let me say I love Oracene. Agree with her or not, the woman has COJONES.)

Petrova in Purple

16. We aren’t treated by at least one round of epic Patty Schnyder 3rd set hair.

Okay who decided not to tell me chick had bronchitis all month long forcing her to withdraw from both her warm-ups? Not only couldn’t she even last three sets, she’s another one who was talking up the possibility of retirement afterwards. SWIG!

17. You aren’t pissed that Nicolas Mahut was made to qualify. Take three swigs if he doesn’t do something adorable that makes you want to jump on his back and ride him around Melbourne like a My Little Pony.

Despite a failed rage-filled Twitter campaign for a wild card, Nic played himself into the main draw. And how cute is this - he wound up causing the stomach strain that forced Viktor Troicki to retire from his match against Djokovic. Adorbs, right? Okay fine, SWIG. Ya drunk.

18. Roger Federer doesn’t attempt a single tweener. Down a cerveza if Rafa doesn’t then attempt one himself the following match.

Not only did Fed try one (and succeed), he was in position to try for a second one IN THE SAME POINT against a thoroughly outmatched Stanislas Wawrinka. Even Rog  thought that would just be too cruel. Speaking of cruel, Rafa couldn’t attempt one in his next match because HE HURT HIMSELF. Down that cerveza, then chew the glass.

19. A player isn’t carried off the court with sunstroke. Fasten your lips to a keg tap if that player isn’t Victoria Azarenka.

Milder than normal weather and scary ghostface sunscreen (hi Stan!) kept everyone conscious. SWIG. Have another just because Vika didn’t drop dead. That’s worth celebrating.

20. The top 4 women’s seeds all make the semis. Or the quarters. Or the 4r.

Ugh, Venus. Major props to the top 3 though, who made it all the way to the semis. Still, NO SWIG.

21. Andy Roddick doesn’t berate at least one umpire.

Unless I missed something (and better you not correct me because I need this to be true), A-Rod kept himself in check, even when battling with Robin Haase and going down to Wawrinka. He did find a way to both lambaste a linesperson, take their place and belittle their job during the Rally for Relief, but hey, it was for charity and he was wearing a funny hat. SWIG.

22. Fernando Verdasco wears a shirt.

Due to the fact that he may or may not have made a stopover to the Krispy Kreme en route to Melbourne, FeVer kept it covered up Down Under. 491 Verdasco fans were lost after hurling themselves off the roof of Rod Laver Arena as a result. SWIG!

23. Caroline Wozniacki isn’t held up as the personification of all that’s wrong with the ranking system. Take four swigs and a giant rip of salvia Miley Cyrus-style if she isn’t made the personification of all that’s wrong with women’s tennis altogether.

HOW SAD ARE YOU?? You could be drunk AND high by now. Instead you’re looking at a stupid inflatable kangaroo wondering how it all went so horribly wrong. SUCKER.


24. A certain female player will not have to answer any questions about an alleged XXX home movie blowing up the interwebs. Down a six pack of Schlitz if you haven’t already or won’t immediately Google the identity of said player. Down a whole case if you’re not a filthy liar.

You’re a filthy liar. A filthy sober liar. Though said player’s 1r exit also meant no one had a crack at her. SWIG!

25. You don’t hate me even more for doing this to you yet again.

Your death threats are thanks enough.

26. You catch any Zzz’s over two weeks of mind-numbingly questionable tactics, baffling fashion, expletive-ridden tirades and psychotic meltdowns, and that’s all just by me in my daily Aussie Open blog.

WHO AM I, MISS CLEO? Even without me, this Aussie was a hot mess. A glorious, sleep-depriving hot mess. And by my count, that’s 7 swigs. More than enough to get your buzz on. Just don’t get handsy with me, I’ve got keychain pepper spray and I’m not afraid to use it!

Okay you can get a little handsy.

Tomorrow: Dunlop live blogs the women’s final.

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Day 11 - Jan 27 - 5:02pm EST

Can you read this? Two straight days of stroking out on MTOs and injuries have left me in the hospital. I’m weak. Fragile. And with this tube down my throat, all I can do is type. But I love you and I love tennis. And these damn hospital bills won’t pay themselves. So away we go.

Caroline Wozniacki and Na Li are up first. Just thinking about what a cupcake draw the No 1 has had over the last week and a half makes my blood boil.  [Calm down, James, calm down.]  But really, anyone who could’ve been a threat either crashed psychologically (Cibulkova) or physically (Schiavone). Landing in the semis without a true test just makes me…just makes me…

Sorry, I’m back. Apparently when my EKG-thingy gets to beeping it sets off some kind of alarm. Where were we? Oh, so Na Li is the only in-form player left in the draw, and Caroline should have no answer for her. Especially after injuring herself against Schiavone. [Calm, calm…]. Wait, what’s going on? Why is everything Na is hitting going out?  Stop. Na, stop. STOP DOING THAT!  Match point?!

Sorry, back again. Wait, Na won the second set? Seriously? And she’s playing like herself! Finally, a true test. Here’s why true tests are good: it makes a player step it up, and a Woz tested is a Woz impressive. Except she’s still not hitting a single winner. Break to Na!  Break to Woz! Match point Na! SHE WINS IT! The first Chinese player into a Grand Slam final!!!! xwdfbcc rejhdsc bhjsc ---  ****

Whooo I didn’t even see that one coming.  I was gone for awhile. Apparently Kim Clijsters won. The highlights look fantastic. No walkabout by Kim, no meltdown by Vera. The better player just won. Ahh… Perfect time to have this applesauce.

Game time. Roger Federer v. Novak Djokovic. Novak’s got crazy confidence thanks to Davis Cup, but Roger’s nearly bionic after he got 40cc’s of Annacone shot in his backside. [um, that sounds wrong. Must be the meds.] I don’t see Federer losing to him, or anyone now that Rafa’s out. And even then it would’ve been 50/50.

First set tiebreak. Mini-break Novak. No problem, Rog will surely get it back on serve. Djokovic takes it! Wow Roger’s gonna be pissed. Wear a cup in the second set, Nole.

Ah, true to form, Federer is rolling. This one’s going 5. Wait, is Novak coming back? Holy crap he is.  Dude can’t miss.  HOW IN THE HELL did he take that second set?  Why in the hell is MY backside cold? Oh, I’m on my feet. Peek-a-boo gown. What’s that beeping? Uh-oh.

Back again. I guess there was some foaming at the mouth. Typing with one hand now – they tethered me to the bed rail so I can’t get up again. They said they injected me with some sort of horse tranquilizer but somehow this is still keeping me awake. How much more can my heart take today? 

It’s still the third set.  Huge hole for Federer to dig himself out of. But he will. He’s taking out Andy Murray in the final, we were already handed the script. WHA--? MATCH POINT DJOKOVIC?! GAME SET MATCH DJOKOVIC?! STRAIGHT SETS, SECOND STRAIGHT GRAND SLAM FINAL ARE YOU KIDD--

Time of Death: 10:30 pm Melbourne time.

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So far we’ve had two Junior Slam champs and an Aussie titlist. What can we do to top that? How about a TWO-time Australian Open men’s champion? Who also happens to be the U.S. Davis Cup captain to boot. Please give an Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi! Oi! Oi! to Mr. Jim Courier.

The happy slam

As the U.S. Davis Cup captain, you've got quite the crowded house. Andy Roddick says he wants to play, you've got John Isner, Sam Querrey, Mardy Fish, Bob and Mike Bryan... How much of what you've seen Down Under comes into play in making your decision on who to take to Chile? Thoughts so far?

Form and fitness matter of course as we look ahead to our first tie in Chile, and I got a chance to spend some quality time with the guys in Melbourne which was very helpful. It's early in the year and there are more events ahead in the coming weeks that the guys are playing in and we'll be naming the team sometime in the coming weeks.

You umpired the Rally for Relief, which was comedy gold. Any backstage hijinks we didn't get to see on TV?

It was all out there for everyone to see as far as the comedic gold goes. The players were very generous with both their time and their talents. We definitely have some characters in the sport.

Why aren't you on Twitter anymore and what can we do to get you back?

Twitter is not really the right medium for me. I found it to be a distraction and not a good use of time. I am sure it is very helpful for many people who use it but the value proposition is not a good one for me.

Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova have both gone through a racquet change, and now after playing with the same stick for 25 years, so have you. Why the switch?

I wanted to get with the times and have a racquet that could give me some more power and a bigger sweet spot while allowing me to feel the ball and swing in the same way I have been accustomed to doing for all of these years. I tried a bunch of different sticks and settled quickly on the Donnay. It's nice to join the 21st century.

Last question: who's your pick for last man and woman standing at this year's Aussie Open?

Kim and Roger.

Uh-oh, we may need to check on Jim’s heart too after last night. The 2011 Aussie, chock full of surprises people.

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Day 10 - Jan 26 - 3:00pm EST

I thought about just leaving today’s entry blank since that’s exactly how I feel. I thought about filling it with 500 F-bombs because that’s also how I feel.  I thought about posting a single photo of my head in an oven because that is also, this very moment, how I feel.

First, Rafael Nadal. Whether it was the Grand Slam, the Rafa Slam or just 4 in a row, what Nadal was going for was truly epic. Something rarely rarely seen in tennis, and here he was 3 matches away from achieving it. It hasn’t been an easy road, with a nasty virus riding shotgun the entire way. But like the warrior he is, he soldiered on.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not devastated he lost. Four in a row is rare for a reason. It’s damn hard, and had he cleared an apparently plutonium-powered David Ferrer, he still had Andy Murray and either Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer to contend with. All massive hurdles that could have tripped him before the finish line.  It’s HOW he lost.

Tennis can be cruel

ANOTHER &%$# injury?!

For the second year in a row, we’re forced to watch Rafa gimp around Rod Laver while the fireworks of Australia Day explode around him.  By no means am I taking anything away from Ferrer – I’ve never seen him play so well, he absolutely earned his victory, and the result could just as easily have been the same virus and injury be damned – but with so much on the line, that it should end this way is, simply, cruel.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s another nasty case of déjà vu as Justine Henin just announced her immediate retirement from the sport. Unlike last time, it wasn’t by choice. The elbow injury she sustained at Wimbledon just wouldn’t let her play on, at least to her standards. I have to be honest, I wasn’t the biggest Justine fan the first go-round. She was prickly and hard to root for. But Justine v 2.0 was so much more open, so much more human. In her statement, she said:  “If I only regret one thing, this would be that I've protected myself too hard and that I couldn’t stand closer to you.” At what point is Justine Henin supposed to make us cry?

My parents raised me not to dwell in sadness. But instead to bottle up that emotion so tight it gives you a migraine and instead lash out in blind rage until the pain goes away. And so…

$%^$^ you, injuries!!!  $%^$ you for wrecking a shot at history! $@&# you for forcing a woman from her career just as she was beginning to really enjoy it, and us her. $%^@ you for forcing Venus Williams to retire from her first Grand Slam after putting up the fight of her life!  @$%@ you for preventing Serena Williams from being here to defend her title in the first place! $%^# you for savaging Juan Martin del Potro’s career the minute he won the U.S. Open straight through all of 2010!! #$%# you for bringing world No 1 Dinara Safina to her knees!! #$%# you for wrecking Elena Dementieva at the French Open semis, $#%^@ you for destroying Maria Sharapova’s shoulder and throwing her career into a tailspin, #$#@ you for Jie Zheng and Yaroslava Shvedova, #$%# you for Laura Robson and Ana Ivanovic, #$%@ you for Viktor Troicki and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, #%$# you for David Nalbandian and Nikolay Davydenko, and for Fernando Gonzalez and Tommy Haas! $%^# you for Sabine Lisicki and Carla Suarez Navarro and Mario Ancic!! @$%@ you for Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Andre Agassi, Mary Pierce, Gustavo Kuerten and every other player you ever #$%# with in life!!!

Basically, $%^$ you.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa

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Day 9 - Jan 25 - 3:14pm EST

Thou shalt not kill. Unless it’s to put everyone else out of their misery, in which case wear a party hat.

Roger Federer could’ve worn two party hats and a pair of cha cha heels with the amount of mercy he showed all of us in taking out Stanislas Wawrinka. In Stan’s defense, I don’t agree with the general consensus that he owes every tennis fan a public apology for a sucktacular effort. Was it his A-game? No. But in the match I saw, Roger Federer was just too good. He ran down EVERYTHING, squished Stan’s brain through his fingers like it was kindergarten Play-Doh and never took his foot off the gas for a second. Maybe Wawrinka made it easier for him to have his way, but Rog isn’t a frontrunner to win the whole shebang for no reason. Stan’s just not on his level, and we can hardly blame him for that. Still, it made the experience no less excruciating for spectators and Stan alike, so by the time Fed finally stepped on his throat, it was a mercy killing.

Tomas Berdych acquitted himself much better in his match against Novak Djokovic, and he was still force-fed a pair of breadsticks in a straight set loss which too felt like, you know, it was for the best. I could almost hear a nurse’s voice. “Tomas is resting now…” Both Djokovic and Federer are looking unbeatable, and their U.S. Open semi last year was positively mind-blowing. When these two take the court for a spot in the Australian Open final, we may all be begging for mercy, cuz it’s gonna hurt so good.

A final mercy killing on Day 9, and the hands doing the choking are mine. RIP the medical time out. 

For the second time this tournament, I’ve seen someone’s passion play interrupted by a well-timed temporary tap out. First it was in the Radwanska/Date-Krumm match after KDK fought and clawed her way to a 4-1 lead in the final set. A-Rad took an MTO while Kimiko’s muscles atrophied. If you think I’m joking, read her presser afterward where KDK explains that, at 40, opponents’ MTOs make her literally go cold, and fast. Radwanska would win the final set 7-5.

The second time came in the Wozniacki/Schiavone QF. Franny fought through the fatigue of winning the longest Grand Slam match in history to take the first set from the No 1. Her inspiring story would continue. Until Caroline called for the trainer in the beginning of the second set. Game set and match, Wozniacki.

Neither KDK nor Schiavone would fault their opponents. MTOs are within the rules. And I’m not saying Agnieszka or Caroline didn’t require medical attention (though both players appeared as unhampered before their MTO as after, with the thigh strapping Wozniacki walked off court to receive disappearing faster than Schiavone’s lead). But having something a player can whip out of their arsenal that breaks hard-earned momentum, frankly, pisses me off.  Would the result have been the same?  Quite possibly. But now we’ll never know. And that sucks.

I used to be a proponent of the MTO, but this Aussie has me seriously thinking that if you need it to win a match, the match might not be yours to win in the first place. So I’m killing the MTO. And showing it no mercy.

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The coolest name in tennis

He’s the reigning U.S. Open Junior Champ, one of the hottest prospects in U.S. tennis, and he hasn’t even graduated high school yet. Ladies and gentlemen, the guy with coolest name in all of creation, 18-year-old Jack Sock.

I’m obsessed with the name Jack Sock. You must get that a lot.

I do.  A lot of people think it’s a cool name. It’s simple, it kinda flows I guess, is what people say.

So if I wanted to change my name to Jack Sock, do I have your permission?

Yeah, go ahead, it’s all you. I’m not going to copyright my name.

You should, you’d make a ton of cash.  So what’s the deal, are you going to college or going pro?

I’m gonna see how these couple months go [playing Futures], see how I do, what my results are like, where my ranking’s at and then make a decision. I’m not gonna rush it.

Okay, we’ll live in the moment. The Aussie. Who’s your pick to win? Ladies first.

I’m gonna go with Wozniacki for a first title.

How about men’s?

It’s hard to count out Rafa. Fed’s looking really good. Um…uh…

I’ve got a gun to your head now.

I think I’m going to go Fed on this one. He’s looking strong. But a close second with Dolgopolov.  He’s crafty, he’s fast, he gets a lot of balls. He could frustrate some people.

And he’s got great hair.

(laughs) No comment.

Root Jack on as he grinds his way through the Futures…and math class. I think he’ll go far, or my name’s not Jack Sock.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa

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Day 8 - Jan 24 - 3:08pm EST

Besides the hara-kiri inducing GOAT debate, nothing makes me want to suck face with a double-barreled shotgun more than a spirited discussion on the state of women’s tennis. Not because I don’t like fightin’ (see Day 5), but because both seem to exist only to passive-aggressively (or outright aggressively) slam one or all of the players involved, and neither reaches any kind of conclusion (I’m OCD, I like neat and tidy).

And then the 2011 Australian Open happened.  More to the point, the WTA happened.

It started innocuously enough with Sania Mirza. Sure she came through qualifying, but every lower-ranked player knows, when you step on court v. Justine Henin, you’re meant to play one or two solid games to acquit yourself well and then you roll over and show her your belly. But Sania played her hard for three sets, booming that forehand consistently and fighting for every point. She wasn’t beating herself, Justine had to beat her.

Then came Ana Ivanovic and Ekaterina Makarova, who played a blistering 1r 3-setter that built and built to the point where one of them would, has we’ve seen time and again, crack. But then it pushed past it, with incredible shot-making, wicked angles and unbelievable gets. Again, the match wasn’t gifted, it had to be earned.

Sandra Zahlovova matched Venus Williams’ intensity banshee scream for banshee scream in their 2r slugfest, and likewise Julia Goerges and Bojana Jovanovski took Maria Sharapova and Vera Zvonareva the distance. Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova’s taking down of hometown hero Sam Stosur was the single most vicious performance of the tournament.

More ballsy 3-setters came courtesy of Flavia Pennetta/Shahar Peer, Ekaterina/Nadia Petrova and Agnieszka Radwanska/Kimiko Date-Krumm. And was there a tiebreak more intense or better played on the men’s side than the one between Vera Zvonareva and Lucie Safarova? Not to say the women’s success has to come at the expense or derision of the men - I for one am much happier when both are firing on all cylinders - but the men’s draw has yet to yield the consistent fireworks we’ve come to be been spoiled by. The women are, frankly, bringing the heat.

Epicness!!

And then came Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova’s record-shattering 16-14 in the third blockbuster in which Fran saved 6 match points en route to the win. No one cracked. There was no painful double-faulting away of games. It was a war, plain and simple. And we all won.

Much of the credit has been laid at Serena Williams’ booted feet. The cat’s away so the mice will play. But Serena wasn’t at the US Open either and I don’t remember needing a cigarette after that one. I’m looking at a carton and a half here, and it’s only the quarters. Whatever the reason, the WTA may have just turned a corner Down Under. To which I can only say, hot damn.

If Rafael Nadal wins the title here, thus holding all four major titles at the same time, will it stick a fork in the GOAT discussion too?  Rub a lamp. God can only grant but so many miracles at one time.

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We can’t talk about kick-ass women’s tennis and not back it up with a kick-ass women’s tennis player. She’s one of the cleanest ball strikers the game’s ever seen, she’s an Australian Open champion and Tennis Channel’s got her.  A big Aussie welcome to my personal GOAT, Lindsay Davenport.

Lindsay, I could start with the state of women’s tennis, I could ask you about making a comeback, but I've gotta know: How hilarious was Kim Clijsters calling Todd Woodbridge out for saying she looked pregnant?

(laughs) It was great. Most women would maybe be a little embarrassed by that, but it shows how confident Kim is these days. And uh, how you probably shouldn’t tell Rennae too much. (laughs) I felt bad for Todd. He was obviously super embarrassed, and he is a nice guy. But good for Kim. She’s calling him out. I love it.

How about that Francesca Schiavone/Svetlana Kuznetsova match?

Most impressive women’s match I've seen in a long time. The high level they were able to maintain even passing the 4 hour mark and with all the ups and downs! Remarkable. Inspiring. 

Who’s your pick to win it on the women’s side?

I picked Kim long before this tournament. It’s in her hands. I don’t think anyone out there is as good as she is, so for her to not win, she has to play bad, make a lot of errors, kind of give the match away. I don’t think anyone will outplay Kim even if she’s 80, 85%. I think with the experience of winning, and just being with her here… She’s so relaxed, she’s in a great place. I would be surprised if she didn’t win.

How about the dudes?

Well, you’ve got to really only go with two. I go with Fed here. He’s still talked about obviously, but there’s so much attention on Rafa, can he win the Slam. And Fed has changed some stuff in his game since starting with [coach Paul] Annacone, coming into net more, trying to be more aggressive, and you have to admire that. I mean, he’d only fallen to 2 in the rankings and he’s like, I gotta improve my game still. And I just think he’s comfortable playing here, he’s won here four times. I think the pressure’s on Rafa, he doesn’t look 100% healthy... I just think Roger’s gonna do it.

You'll deny it, play the humble game, but you're killing it doing commentary, and you just signed a long-term deal with Tennis Channel. For someone with a past of avoiding the spotlight and maybe struggling a little with some self-image stuff, what do you think teenage Lindsay would think about this new on-camera career?

(laughs) That’s a funny question. Oh God. She’d probably be appalled. You know, you kind of just transform in life. And there was no way when I was a teenager would I think that after playing for 15 years that would I want to be around the slams and work at them. I was really surprised when I started doing a little TV a year and a half ago how much I did enjoy it. I certainly wouldn’t do a job that requires this much commitment and work if I didn’t absolutely love it. And it’s been great. I have to tell you, I’ve really really enjoyed it. It’s the first thing I’ve ever done in my life where there was no coaching or help as well. So you kind of go in a little blind. You’re not sure how to talk and all that stuff. But I’ve been working really hard the last three months and I’m committed to trying to get better at it.  And it’s fun to have an outlet even now as a mom, to go work.

You mix so well with Martina Navratilova. You both really just call it like you see it.

She’s a total team player, and that’s so great and refreshing. She’s just been a fantastic mentor and I’ve learned a lot from her.

You won a doubles title last year in Stanford. Will you be playing more doubles in ’11? Please say yes.

No, I’m not playing doubles. I’m going to enjoy the TV, my family. Might play a little bit of World Team Tennis, but at my age, 34, 35 this summer, there’s a big difference in recovering and being able to play.

You just broke my heart.

If you saw me on the court right now you’d think, good choice, good choice.

Fine. Last question: My favorite player is taking over my favorite network, and by doing so becomes my co-worker. Can you imagine how exciting that is for me?

(laughs) Well you should be happy, because now maybe we’ll get to work together.

That’s the goal. Eventually we’ll be best friends, hit the clubs…

You know what, the weekend after the Australian Open I’m doing Fed Cup at like 2, 3am. We can bond then.

It’s a date!

Catch Lindsay break down the Aussie live and in big babe fashion this week only on Tennis Channel.

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa