James LaRosa won our writer's contest for Roland Garros last year and did such a great job, he has been our resident blogger for everything tennis. For the next two weeks James will offer his funny and witty take on Wimbledon. Check back daily throughout the tournament for blog updates.
Make sure and read James' other blogs to catch up on all the information you may have missed and to get an introduction to his friend Dunlop (Hint: He is the tennis ball in the picture)
James' 08' Roland Garros Blog
| James' 07 Roland Garros Blog
| James' US Open Blog
| James' Aussie Blog
Wimbledon 20087/6/08 - 2:25PM PST
So much to cover, so little time. Strap yourselves in for THE DUNLOP AWARDS
! Best Match (ATP):
Rafael Nadal/Roger Federer. The. Single. Greatest. Tennis. Match. I. Have. Ever. Seen. Best Match (WTA):
Since Rafa and Roger didn't play in skirts, this one goes to Dinara Safina/Shahar Peer. Was it the highest quality? The most at stake? No. But shot for shot, there was no higher drama on the women's side. And that's saying something with Williams squared in the final. Worst Match (ATP):
Players would have to finish it for it to qualify. And with the record number of retirements the last two weeks, I'm afraid there's near nothing left to pick from. Rotten strawberries and curdled cream for all of you. Worst Match (WTA):
Elena Dementieva/Nadia Petrova. As Jack McFarland would say, Love you, love everything about you, thinking about being you for Halloween. But I needed Dramamine just watching this. Breakthrough Performance (Male):
Can a four-time French Open Champion dethroning the King of Grass hoist this trophy too? Cuz if this wasn't a breakthrough, I don't know what was. Runners up: Marat Safin and Rainer Schuettler. Are you back or was this just a wild ride? It's up to you, guys... Breakthrough Performance (Female):
Lots of K-named Russians (and one fashion forward Mattek) in the mix, but it's Jie Zheng who busted from the pack to give lovers of consistently great tennis something to cheer for. Mono Be Damned Award:
Mario Ancic, Nicole Vaidisova, Roger Federer, Rainer Schuettler and Sam Stosur, all of whom (finally!) got their groove back on the green stuff. Welcome back! Oddest Sight:
Christophe Rochus, hiking down his shorts during an entire changeover to adjust tape. And sip water, and look around... Saddest Sight:
Vet Nathalie Dechy, crying into her towel following her match point blown (net cord!) 10-8 in the third loss to upset-determined #1 Ana Ivanovic. Coolest Sight:
A trophy ceremony at night. Jelena Jankovic Cockroach Award:
Elena Dementieva, who, despite some shoddy playing (by her own admission), survived multiple three setters and her own nerves to claw all the way to the semis. Breakdown Performance (male):
Novak Djokovic had the Wimby success Nicolay Davydenko never did, and the warm up matches Andy Roddick was denied. Marat played well, but not without help. Breakdown Performance (female):
Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, you can thumb wrestle for it. Don't hurt yourselves. Best Use of a Gun
: The one that recorded Venus' Wimbledon record-shattering 129-mph serve in the final. Worst Use of a Gun:
Pigeon slaughter! Best Dressed:
Maria Sharapova's tux shirt, jacket and shorts. Sorry. Loved it. Best Dressed (runner up):
Nadia Petrova in EleVen. Now that's a fashion statement. Worst Dressed:
Any guy in Adidas sneakers. When he gets up from slipping on his backside for the 15th time he'll tell you why. Big Bully Award:
Serena Williams, who not only had to beat up both Radwanska sisters, she also had to manhandle Agnieszka and Bethanie Mattek twice (in singles and doubles). Big Bummer Award:
The Bryan Brothers, who lost in the semis despite having never had their serve broken the entire tournament. Best Quote:
"Do you know anything about ladies' bras?" Sue Mott to Patrick McEnroe and Brad Gilbert in the ESPN2 studio. Golden Shame Stick:
To whoever signed the deal that kept live tennis from West Coasters nearly the entire second week of the tournament. If they wanted to push even more viewers to the internet, this was a great way to do it.
But for those of us who got to see every minute of Wimbledon 2008, we were treated to plenty of shock and awe. And a men's final that will be talked about for years and years to come. All England Club, you done good.
See you on the hard courts.
______________________________________7/5/08 - 1:07PM PST
Dunlop here! James say I suffer so much this tournament with all the cheating by foul mouthed Russian, Thai grandmother and little Chinese devil that he give me the, how you say, plum assignment of bringing you Ladies' Final.
He also say I am heartless enough to enjoy two sisters biting and scratching and digging out each other's hearts with rusty kitchen knives. He's like tennis ball whisperer! Bring on the Milk Duds.
Sisters come out onto the court with big question. Who is mean enough to kill the other? In the box that family sit in, the father is gone but the mother is there with popcorn. She must be meanest!
Serena draw first blood. She wins 9 of first 10 points. Venus hides it but she is crying like baby inside. How could you do this to me Serena? I loved you, I thought we were best sisters! Serena even hits the ball right at Venus at the net. You are no sister of mine!
Venus gets mad and fights back. She steps inside many feet when Serena has to serve second time. For revenge, Serena nearly sits on net for Venus' first serve. Venus break to even match. The screaming begins.
Uh-oh, Serena scream too loud, the judge give a point to her sister. Her sister laugh big on the inside and call her a fool. She does not show it on her face. I am Williams sister whisperer.
Venus gets set point. Is she mean enough to take it? She is! This creates rage inside Serena. She imagines hitting sister with big racquet over and over. She will have her revenge!
The sisters come back out for the second set. They both want blood. But Venus have bigger machete. At 1-1, Serena is 1-11 in break points. Venus is 2-3. Ruthless! After many deuces, Serena finally breaks. In the time it takes me to open up new box of Milk Duds, Venus is 3-4 in break points won.
The crowd is terrible. They are so quiet! Everybody wish there were Serbian fans there. I am crowd whisperer too.
Serena yells out her first "Come On!" It is like knife in sister's soul. The next point, Venus is doing all the screaming, making her sister run side to side to side to side to side like rag doll.
Finally, we are at Championship Point. It is the first time I hear crowd at all. Go back to sleep, useless seat fillers! Venus polishes off machete and then polishes off Serena. She wins Wimbledon for fifth time. "Come on!" Venus screams. On the inside.
Serena blames wind. I blame hot air too.
For Wimbledon, they sacrifice their family, now in ruins. They are dead to each other. A terrible terrible tragedy, and even though I am giggling I am very sad on the inside.
UPDATE: The sisters spoke to each other afterwards and reunited to help each other win doubles title. They hugged and smiled. Their family is not in ruins. This officially is worst Wimbledon ever.
7/4/08 - 1:18PM PST
Roger Federer. Marat Safin. A place in the Wimbledon final. Can anyone think up anything sweeter? Well, maybe Novak Djokovic.
Fed leads Safin 8-2, but Marat knows a thing or two about knocking Roger out of Grand Slam semis. Okay he;s done it once but that's all I can hang my hat on this morning.
They walk out onto the court. Marat seems bemused. He's got a sneaky plan in mind, I can tell. Off comes the cardigan. It's on.
Fed starts with a quick hold. Uh oh, break points right away on Marat's serve. Roger converts, holds and is up 3-0 in no time. Whatever Marat's sneaky plan is, he needs to implement it immediately.
Marat holds! (My enthusiasm for a simple hold is yet another troubling sign.) While Safin is now in the match, Roger refuses to release his grip on the first set. Or the second, despite Marat's picking up his return game big time and taking it to a tiebreak.
Marat, you're down two sets, but I know you've got this in you. I believe in you. Feel those? They're my good vibes. Take them and run.
Run Marat does. To 4-5, 15-40. Two match points for Fed! Safin takes all his rage out on his racquet. I don't blame ya big guy, that thing had it coming. Safin takes his new racquet and does the unthinkable. He saves the points! Marat holds, then breaks, then serves out the third.
The fourth set is just a clinic, as Safin unleashes vicious backhands down the line and one sick serve after the next. Fed keeps looking to his box, completely flummoxed. He does his best, but there's no stopping this freight train as Marat wails a passing shot past Fed to take the fourth.
This is tennis at its finest.
Fed calls for the trainer. His pride is gushing all over the place like a severed artery. Bandaged up, Roger starts the fifth by ramping up his game to a level we've never seen. He has no choice. They stay on serve in just a spectacular display of sport.
The crowd is going ape. A woman in the crowd passes out. A baby pops out onto Centre Court (it's a boy!). And boy oh boy, this match is going to go down in the history books. Roger breaks! Marat breaks back! At 21-20, both men are exhausted. But they battle on.
The sun sets, but the court is drenched in flash bulbs. And stripped bare of a single blade of grass. As midnight approaches, so does Marat. In a thrilling show of grass court tennis, he slams an overhead, ripping a three foot hole in the ground and exploding dirt all over Roger's face.
Marat wins! The crowd roars, passing him around in a wave so epic it carries him right to the press room.
"It was just all part of the plan," Safin smiled.
Mirka carries a limp Roger off on her back as Marat immediately hits the practice courts. Where he's knighted.
Ahhh. Good times. Thanks for coming. More Fair and Balanced coverage tomorrow for the Ladies Final between Serena Williams and Billie Jean King. She's lost 25 pounds and she feels great! Should be a scorcher.
7/03/08 - 11:50AM PST
The Top Ten Reasons Why Venus and Serena Williams Were Always Going to Make the Wimbledon Final
10. Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic decided over mani-pedi's that American tennis needed a boost.
9. The depth of women's tennis...in Great Britain.
8. You know the kind of ratings an all-Williams Wimbledon final is gonna generate? That's a lot of EleVen orders.
7. All the coach seats were booked for that $25K Challenger this week in Bastad.
6. Nikolay Davydenko told me so.
5. Despite their best efforts, neither woman's ridden in an ambulance in the last 60 days.
4. You tell Serena Williams she can't have the point.
3. Elena Dementieva.
2. When they were little girls, Venus and Serena sat together in a handmade tent in the living room and pinky swore on their My Little Pony dolls and Garbage Pail Kids collection to win lots and lots of Grand Slam titles. And to marry Joey Lawrence. (You're next, Joseph!)
1. Court 2. ________________________
7/2/08 - 11:10AM PST
I'm sure it'll be Rafael Nadal I'm cheering for in the final and I'm sure the winner of the Rainer Schuettler/Arnaud Clement QF will someday recover from the semifinal humiliation they're sure to receive at Rafa's hands.
But today all I care about is Marat Safin and Mario Ancic.
And of course, they're going on at the same time. What other choice do I have but to perform that time honored superfan tradition and watch them both simultaneously?
Now it's not easy. It requires a TV, a high speed connection and a lot of caffeine. But we do what we have to, don't we?
Already amped, I have a few things thrown in my face before play even starts. Mario's calf is crazy wrapped, Mirka's got a sassy new haircut and Feliciano Lopez is the ace leader in this tournament.
Wait, what? When did that happen? Why didn't anyone tell me? That's fine, whatever. You've been returning great, Marat. You can beat this pretty boy. With his pretty face and his pretty headband. F-Lo comes out of the gate firing. And Safin's already fuming. He fires a ball into the crowd. Dude, it's 1-1. Calm down!
It may be 1-1 on Court 1, but on Centre Court it's 4-1. Fed's playing with a vengeance. Like, a you-beat-me-here-6-years-ago-and-now-you-must-pay vengeance. 20 minutes and poof, the set is over. A sexy brunette in the players' box cheers him on with a wink and a smile. Fed's cheating on Mirka! Wait, that's the Safin/Lopez players' box. I'm so confused. I wonder who she's there for, Marat or F-Lo? Ah, the life of a tennis player...
Ugh, rain. I hate the rain. So does the sexy brunette as she runs for cover. I love watching pretty people suffer. Sadly, when we come back from the delay, F-Lo isn't suffering as he takes the first set.
So I'm looking at my two faves, bottoming out in mirror matches. I need something a lot stronger than coffee.
Feliciano's winning 90% of first serves. A pretty nightmare. Still, these second sets are remaining competitive. Marat is breaking while Mario is managing to keep his nose ahead. Until Fed chops it off with about as much finesse as Mario's hitting his volleys (what’s the deal, M-dawg?).
Oh God, Marat's getting his calf wrapped! No, that's Mario getting a maintenance job. This dual watching is going to give me a heart attack. A glimmer of hope breaks through the thick dark clouds as Marat takes the second set! Signs of life!
On to the third, where Marat wails a ball at F-Lo's head. Wait, that was Fed. FED? He claims it was an accident. Yeah right, tell me another tall tale, monster. Rog goes over to apologize. Okay, we forgive you. Maybe he'll let Mario win a game? Nope. It's amazing how quickly Roger's come back from mono. Unlike SOME people. Oh Mario, I kid because I love. Just like I said I thought you had a chance before this match. As Fed beans match point, I can now tell you I was lying. But I'm proud of you.
But I'm more proud of Marat, as he takes the third set in a bullying tiebreak (7-1!). The fourth set is all Marat (which is a lot of Marat). Safin wins! Another pretty person suffers. I love the rain.
I've survived my tennis viewing schizophrenia. And I'm left with one great big giant question. Will it be Nadal I'm rooting for in the final after all? Could Marat take out Fed in yet another Slam semi?
What do you think? _______________________
7/1/08 - 10:08AM PST
I was wrong. It's not 2005. It's 2003. Roger Federer and Mario Ancic are about to face off on Centre Court. Rainer Schuettler and Arnaud Clement are going to tussle in a quarterfinal. And Venus and Serena Williams are headed for the Wimbledon final.
But wait, who's that in the distance? The two women standing in their way. They seem out of place, out of time... I can almost make them out. That can't be right. Elena Dementieva and Jie Zheng!
And they've got microphones!
(cue Elton and KiKi) ELENA
: Don't go breaking their hearts. JIE
: I couldn't if I tried! ELENA
: Honey if I get my serve on... JIE
: Baby you're not that kind. ELENA
: Don't go breaking their hearts. JIE
: I'm only four foot three. ELENA
: Honey when Ivanovic knocked on your door. JIE
: I gave her the heave. ELENA and JIE
: Woohoo! Everyone knows it. ELENA
: When I was down. JIE
: Camerin, Bacsinszky and Petrova were your clowns. ELENA and JIE
: Woohoo! Everyone knows it. ELENA
: Right from the start. JIE
: I gave it my heart. Whoa-oh. I gave it my heart. ELENA
: So don't go breaking their hearts. JIE
: They want a Williams repeat. ELENA
: Well maybe only in the States. JIE
: Baby, don't be naïve. ELENA
: What could I throw at Venus? JIE
: I'd have to throw myself at Ree. ELENA
: What would Maria do? JIE
: If she did it she’d be here singing with me. ELENA
: What? JIE
: Nothing. ELENA and JIE
: Woohoo! Everyone knows it!
: Everyone knoooows!) ELENA
: Nobody chose us. JIE
: 'Cause nobody knows us. ELENA
: But now it's up to us babe. JIE
: I think we can make it. JIE
: So let's go breaking their hearts! ELENA
: Let's go breaking their hearts! JIE
: (Let's go breaking their...) ELENA
: (Let’s go breaking their...) ELENA and JIE
: Let's go breaking their hearts!
Wow, didn't see that coming.
The high kicks were a little much though. _________________________
06/30/08 - 1:11PM PST
The Round of 16 is a special day. Sure all 32 remaining men and women in the draw are going to be on court. And yes, half are going to be sent packing while the other half say hello to the quarterfinals. But it's special because I get to be "home sick" in my pajamas eating Lucky Charms all day.
You watch Wimbledon your way, I'll watch it in mine.
Brad Gilbert so eloquently tells us today separates the men from the boys. No, he said today shows who's in it to win it. No, that's not right. Wait, it was who's a pretender and who's a contender. That's it. Pretender and Contender. Got it.
For some, the answer is clear. The Federers and Nadals, the Sisters William. But what about the others, who've squirreled their way through crazy upsets and seemingly endless retirements to make their way to Week 2?
So squirrels, grab your bags, hustle out there and show us which of you has nut...er, acorns.
The Jie Zheng/Agnes Szavay match certainly qualifies. When I first saw Jie in Paris, she was on the practice court with Vania King and a couple other girls. While the others were all business, Jie was all smiles and would giggle and apologize for each and every ball hit out. I remember thinking, how can this chick beat anyone being this nice? Fast forward to your new 2008 Wimbledon Quarterfinalist. Who's giggling now? Contender!
Another squirrely match, and one giving Jie her QF opponent, Nicole Vaidisova/Anna Chakvetadze. Vaidisova, who continues to flower on the grass (sorry) weeds out Anna Chakvetadze (really sorry) and shows who the true Contender is. One of these women will be a Wimbledon semifinalist. No kidding.
On Court 11, Fernando Verdasco and Mario Ancic slug it out. Fernando powers his way to a two set lead, and Mario is looking very much the Pretender. Until he manages to take it to a fifth set, which he finally takes 13-11. Both men are gonna need one serious ice bath. But only one will take it as a Contender. (I feel like I need some sort of sound effect here.)
Who's got the goods between Nadia Petrova and Maria Sharapova-scalper Alla Kudryavtseva? It's Nadia (!), who allows her only five games. She must not have liked your outfit, Alla. Meanwhile, Shahar Peer turns out to be a Pretender, following up her dramatic win over Dinara Safina with a very anticlimactic loss to Elena Dementieva. Either Elena or Nadia will be another semifinalist (still not kidding).
Not joining them, Pretenders Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Each had a shot at taking the #1 ranking here. Jankovic only had to win two matches. Say what you will about injuries, both women cracked. After Justine Henin left the building, I've been waiting for someone to please step up. Having seen the top four women all buckle under the pressure here (for the first time in the Open era, none of the top three seeds here will make the quarters), I need a hero. (Cue new WTA campaign starring...Tamarine Tanasugarn?)
Speaking of, how sweet was Tamarine's making her first quarterfinal after six runs to the Round of 16? A huge moment for her, and still, at net, the first words out of her mouth to Jelena are "Are you okay?" Mmm, I'd say no.
Also soul crushed, Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic, Stanislas Warwinka and Janko Tipsarevic, falling to Feliciano Lopez, Arnaud Clement (!), Marat Safin (!!) and Rainer Schuettler (!!!) respectively.
As Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet grind away into the darkness for the final spot in the quarterfinals, Day 7 goes down living up to the hype. With, by and large, some excellent tennis being played. What more can you ask for? Besides more Lucky Charms. Which, with Federer, Nadal and the Sisters William all getting through in straights, some of our Contenders are gonna need tomorrow… _____________________
6/29/08 - 11:14AM PST
How come James get to be good guy and me, Dunlop, I have to be bad guy? He get to say how nice everybody is, how pretty they look. I get to hit them with sticks?
Because I like it this way.
And what better way to spend Middle Sunday than to make big people cry, no? So out come the shame stick to say "No, big baby. Bad. You do better next time." Just be thankful I leave Wimbledon Lead Pipe of Dishonor at Martina Hingis' hotel last year. NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO
: You lose in first round to guy ranked 116 who lost in first round of last six major tournaments. I never bet on you again. - Three whacks with shame stick. MARIA SHARAPOVA
: You win only 6 games in second round match against girl who has never been in TV commercial or magazine spread. - Four whacks with shame stick. AMERICANS
: James Blake, you let old man drive you kookoo nuts. Sam Querrey, you lose to invalid. Mardy Fish, you lose to mental invalid. Andy Roddick, your only win is against someone named Schwank. - Five whacks with shame stick. IVO KARLOVIC
: Big man, big game. You come in with grass title. You lose in first round for fourth year in row. - Four whacks with shame stick. DAVID NALBANDIAN
: You lose against Canadian who lose against American who lose against naked Spanish guy. - Four whacks with shame stick. This is your second time in a row on list. - Three more whacks with shame stick. JIE ZHENG and MARAT SAFIN
: You use dirty tricks and cheat to beat Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic. Jie, you raise net every time Ana serve. And Marat, you give money to line judges to call all Nole's shots out. Enjoy your 'victories,' snakes in the grass. And enjoy this beating! - Fifteen whacks with shame stick. And a poke in each eye.
: I try to give fancy new score bar a chance. But I still can’t figure out who is up and who is down. And in a first week that is more kookoo nuts than James Blake playing an old man, that is not a good place for Dunlop to be. - Repeated whacks with shame stick until you bring back old score box.
The milk duds they call my name. Until next time!
6/28/08 - 11:55AM PST
We're halfway to crowning the King and Queen of all things green. The perfect time to celebrate the folks making this Wimbledon so darn fun and exciting. The Alla Kudryatsevas and Janko Tipsarevics are gonna have to sit this one out. Today is dedicated to the true heroes of Wimbledon 2008 - struggling veterans, rising like phoenixes from the ashes of their seemingly flatlined careers. MARAT SAFIN
: By beating Novak Djokovic, he caused the upset of the tournament. By following up with a win over Andreas Seppi, he did something even more shocking. Won back to back to back matches. Could Marat be (gasp) back? God I hope so. SHAHAR PEER
: When your belief is your biggest weapon, losing it can be dangerous. For Shahar, it's been fatal. But somewhere in that third set against Dinara Safina (a player who's recently found her own mojo), the old Shahar clicked in, taking it 8-6. Suddenly I'm scared for Elena Dementieva. TAMARINE TANASUGARN
: Talk about finding her mojo! Tamarine took her own triumph over Safina last week straight to the fourth round here for the 7th time. With a hobbled Jelena Jankovic next up, she has a very real chance of making the quarters for the first time in her career. Not bad for an old lady. MARIO ANCIC
: Working tirelessly to regain his form after mono knocked him on his butt a year and a half ago, Ancic gutted out a third round thriller over David Ferrer to return to his rightful place in the second week at the All England Club. Welcome back, Super Mario. RAINER SCHUETTLER
: Another former top tenner, but from even wayer back (he may have even played in bell bottoms, I'm not sure). He'd won four matches this year. Not a typo. En route to the second week, he knocked out Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and James Blake. Not bad for an old dude. NICOLE VAIDISOVA
: It seems shocking to say Nicole made it to the quarterfinals here last year as she's been flailing so publicly ever since. But on a surface famous for slipping, she's finally found some traction. Hold on tight, Nic. NADIA PETROVA
: Another one surfing in on some shiny new momentum, Nadia dismissed Victoria Azarenka in the third round in straight tiebreaks. A strong sign of confidence from a woman who could teach Jelena a few things about injuries. If she stays strong in body and mind, she's got the best shot of anyone in her half to make the semis. And wouldn't that be sweet.
Wouldn't that be even sweeter if one of these men or women actually held up some hardware next weekend?
Less sweet, tomorrow's entry, brought to you by one mean little tennis ball with one warmed up shame stick.
Bring a helmet. _____________________
6/27/08 - 12:08PM PST
In just four days, Wimbledon has gone from a dignified tournament to a circus to a complete freak show. Amidst the fashion parade and the sniper fire (RIP Wimbledon pigeons), Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick are all out, and Marat Safin, friend-of-blog Nadia Petrova and last remaining American male Bobby Reynolds are in.
So step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and enjoy Day 5!
First up on Centre Court, the Indestructible Man, looking for his 62nd straight grasscourt win. He's taking on Marc Giquel, who begins by breaking Roger Federer for just the third time this whole tournament. That's all he'll get, as Fed swallows him whole and moves on to the fourth round. He'll face the Human Come On!, Lleyton Hewitt, who barks Simone Bolelli into the ground.
Meanwhile, on Court 2, the Invisible Woman (wait, wasn't she a super hero? Whatever, you'd buy tickets to see her), Svetlana Kuznetsova, battles a woman with somehow a even lower profile, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. Sveta handles her business in convincing style. But does anyone see it?
Two Incredibly Shrinking Women clear the hurdles of the heart and mind to set up their own fourth round clash. Quick, your life depends on predicting the Anna Chakvetadze/ Nicole Vaidisova winner - who's it gonna be? Ah, time's up, you're dead.
Speaking of fragile, would Amelie Mauresmo, the Destructible Lady, have anything to throw at Human Battering Ram Serena Williams besides crutches and gauze? Surprisingly, yes. It's like the Amelie of old (or at least older), as she slices her way to a tiebreak. The Battering Ram is too tough though and Serena takes the first set. The hip injury kicks in, and Amelie's ground to dust in the second. The crowd applauds her, knowing full well the only shot Amelie has of returning to the All England Club is if she's wheeled in on a gurney. But I'll keep that candle lit.
Serena's fourth round reward: The Living Doll, Bethanie Mattek, who trounced Marion Bartoli in straight sets. So far Mattek has teased us about all the shock and awe she has waiting to be modeled in her suitcase. Bring it, Bethanie!
Bobby Reynolds, The Last American Male (normally not enough to qualify as a sideshow act but here a full blown freak), lays a little too hard on Feliciano Lopez's bed of nails. (Did Feliciano need to bounce up and down so hard at the end?) We're forced once again to rest all our hopes on doubles as the Two-Headed Boy, Bob and Mike Bryan, makes it through in straights.
Marvel as Daredevil Ana Ivanovic takes the court against The World's Smallest Woman, Jie Zheng. We thrilled as Ana flirted with disaster against Nathalie Dechy. And she thrills us again as she walks a tightrope of self-destruction and tears, losing the first set and going down a break in the second. Ana plays with fire once too often, and gets burned. Another seed falls. Splat!
So not only will either Nicole Vaidisova or Anna Chakvetadze make the quarters, but they'll be taking on either Agnes Szavay or Jie Zheng. That's right, one of these four women will be your Wimbledon semifinalist.
A freakshow indeed!
And I love it._____________________
6/26/08 - 10:12AM PST
It's deja vu all over again.
Just like in Eastbourne (and the Pilot Pen two years prior, and...aw, nevermind), Lindsay Davenport was forced to withdraw today due to injury. It's the first time she's been out before the quarters here since 1997 (and it's most likely her final appearance at the All England Club.) The bum knee is nothing serious, she beams in an in-studio interview. Well I'm glad she's so fine with it. My heart hurts.
But the show must go on.
Or rather, the deja vu must go on, as Venus Williams faces her second Brit at 1pm on Centre Court. Naomi Cavaday was a wild card though. Anne Keothavong earned her main draw entry, surely the match itself would go differently. But no. It's a strong first set push that ends rather abruptly, followed by Venus taking care of business in the second. Followed by wild applause by the crowd for their plucky sacrificial lamb sent out to give England something to cheer for only to have her be mauled by the big bad lioness.
Rafael Nadal takes out another youngster in four after losing the first set, Andy Murray knocks out a second guy just past his prime in straight sets...
This is creeping me out.
Dinara Safina faces her second player from Chinese Taipei (there's a ton of those...right?), and handles her in straights. Oh hey look, there's feisty Carla Suarez Navarro making a run at a Grand Slam by taking on...Jelena Jankovic, the woman who knocked her out of the last one.
I'm officially freaked.
Argh!, James Blake is struggling in a Grand Slam against an inferior opponent! Wait, that happens every match. Whew. I can relax, it's all in my head.
Maria Sharapova takes the court against Alla Kudryatseva, the woman who so famously had Venus on the brink of defeat last year. Obviously Maria's heard that story, as she comes out all nerves. And Alla's all firepower, nailing shot after shot and taking the first set from one of the oddsmakers' favorites to win the whole shebang. Suddenly I'm back at the US Open 2007, when some chick named Radwanska was running her left and right.
Kudryatseva breaks (something she's able to do ridiculously easily this match) and goes up 4-2. Maria breaks back, only to get broken again. Alla to serve for the match! Wait, Maria challenges the call and holds. We're back on serve.
So whose history is about to repeat? Alla's inability to close out a former champion or Maria's stunning early exit before she's able to properly showcase her hot Nike sportswear?
Alas, the tuxedo shirt goes back in the closet. And as Blake officially dumps out after yet another winnable Grand Slam match, the only one who will break the curse of Groundhog Day is Alla Kudryatseva (will "Praise Alla!" be the headline? Can't wait to find out). She rewrites history, and with Davenport and Sharapova out of that quarter, she's got a great chance to blaze a whole new trail._______________________
6/25/08 - 9:57AM PST
It's a Clash of the Titans. And by Titans I mean Marat Safin and Novak Djokovic, my past and my present favorite player, on Centre Court.
They've played once before, back at the '05 Australian Open. It was the height of my love for the big guy, and my dislike for the spiky-haired pipsqueak. A lot can happen in three years. And a lot can happen in three months. Marat's dedication and play have picked up, and so has Nole's big mouth. Anytime there's been a microphone nearby it's been Roger this and Roger that. He apparently knows more about what goes on in Fed’s mind than Mirka or his therapist. And just when Roger was poised to respond on the court in Monte Carlo, Novak retires.
So now I'm torn, to be honest. Not that Marat's been an angel (just ask his sis, looking to his empty seat in the players box during her French Open final). I always go for the problem children...
The good thing about being torn is I can actually put my panicked rooting aside and enjoy the match. (I suffer from tennis anxiety - anyone?) So as play begins, all I'm really hoping for is that Novak doesn’t beat him up too badly.
It's an impressive start for both, but especially Marat, who has break points in Novak's first two service games. Until finally he does break. And gets broken back. And breaks again. He's somehow serving for the first set - and takes it. The crowd (and I) are a bit stunned. But in a good way.
(Meanwhile on Court 1, Nathalie Dechy takes the first set off of Ana Ivanovic - it's 2005 all over again! - and Dunlop has dipped into daddy's Vicodin.)
Marat and Novak are on serve, taking the second set to a tiebreak. Novak is falling...apart... And taking on the Safin fuming role. Marat is doing to Nole what no one else has been able to do all year - making him look like a boy. He wins the second set.
Suddenly my impartial cheering is becoming very partial. The only reason I stepped away from Marat is because he shoved me away. With his playing, with his lackluster efforts. If he wins this, he might just win me back.
I wonder. Will Novak retire?
(Elsewhere - as if there could possibly be an elsewhere - Dechy has two match points on Ivanovic. For some unknown reason I want Ana to eat it here. I think it's being pro-Dechy. I think. A net cord. Lady Luck smiles on Ivanovic. Ah well.)
At the exact same time, Lady Luck is vomiting all over Novak, as he double faults the match away. Safin wins! But has he won me back? I'm not so easy. But if he's okay with an open relationship with a certain Serb, I'm willing to hop in his Firebird.
Speaking of the Serb, this is one huge setback. His semi points here are lost, and having made the US Open final, there's not a ton of ground to make up in his grab for year end #1. With him out of the draw, there's no one to tire the current #1 out in the semis, making his chances to win his sixth Wimbledon, and 13th Grand Slam title, that much better. And suddenly Roger gets the last laugh.
Someone not laughing is poor Nathalie Dechy, who took Ivanovic to 10-8 in the third, only to end burying her face in a tournament towel. It may not be 2005 all over again, but it's certainly a lesson. There's always a chance for old love. ____________________
6/24/08 - 11:23AM PST
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, at least with a judgmental sod like me. (Sod! It's a British term, look it up.*) There are a lot of things I'm going to casually observe today and then make harsh snap decisions about.
Like how will Venus come out of the gates? Like she finished last year, taking the biscuit*, or like she started, wonky* as all get out? I get my answer pretty quickly, as Venus takes the court and proceeds to play cracking* tennis. Not sure I like the outfit though. Which seems cruel to say about someone when they're also the designer. But that's what judgmental sods do! She finishes Naomi Cavaday off with a screaming service return winner. Naomi is all smiles afterwards, just thrilled to be playing the champ. How lluvly-jubbly.* But no double kiss! WHY WILL NO ONE DO THE DOUBLE KISS? Where did it go? I fancy* it so.
This asterisk thing is either fun or really quite naff.* Help! I can't stop!
I can't help but notice how mean the American commentators are being to the Brit players. Besides bringing in an expert to talk about the Trouble with Murray, we also learn Anne Keothavong is old, Cavaday is fat... I hope the international press returns the favor at the French. Incidentally, I'm not telling porkies* (oh my God somebody shoot me) when I point out the Americans aren't doing so hot here either, as Vania King and Mardy Fish (who it turns out will NOT be doing Playgirl) dump out to put the US 4-10 in the hole.
Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova make killer first impressions of their own. And after Nicolay Davydenko makes a dog's dinner* out of his match against Benjamin Becker, Court 2 is cleared for another American, Lindsay Davenport, who hasn't played here in donkey's years*. Wait, Court 2, Court 2... Isn't that the Graveyard of Champions? This is where you stick a wounded woman returning to Wimbledon for the first time since that classic '05 final? What a load of cobblers!* Cruelty thy name is...whoever made this decision.
I'm worried it's going to be 4-11 as Linds hobbles onto the court, calf wrapped. I sanely and rationally predicted this woman to win the whole tournament. Don't make me look like a fool, Lindsay. She takes the first set off Renata Voracova (whew!). The calf looks fine. Until it doesn't. And at 4-all and about a hundred deuces I'm losing years off my life. I harken back to her first round match at the Australian this year and realize, with all the titles she's won in her return, she's also put about a thousand gray hairs on my head. (I hide them well.) She holds, squanders a match point and then spits up the set.
She can't possibly tough out a third set limping around like that, can she? (no asterisks – I'm clearly in shock.)
Ah, Lindsay receives treatment. Another flashback to three years ago. She's poppin' pills, getting the knee wrapped now. But she'll keep playing. I can't watch. (But I will.)
She aces her way to a win (her arm being the only thing still working), defeating both Voracova and the Graveyard of Champions. And now Americans are 5-10 (whoo-hoo?). But the celebration is short and it's clear Lindsay's not in this tournament for the long haul. I've clearly dropped a clanger* (last one, I promise) in picking her to go all the way. And had a very public hissy during her first round match.
Please don't judge me too harshly...
6/23/08 - 1:15PM PST
Well hello AGAIN. Either I've never left or it's been about a minute and a half since the French Open ended. But as the players must adjust, so do we. IT'S GRASS PEOPLE! There, we're adjusted.
We're in for two weeks of good good stuff, as unlike the French, the winners of Wimbledon aren't exactly forgone conclusions. At least on the men's side, no one was betting against Rafael Nadal on his home turf. And the last four years, no one was betting against Roger Federer here on his. But after being, as Mary Carillo says, thrown down the stairs by Rafa in Paris, Roger's grip on the title isn't so iron tight. So hold on to your cardigans.
On the women's side, it's somehow even more open as well. Even on crutches, Venus Williams will always be the favorite on the green stuff. But with her sister Serena not on crutches for a change, recent trophy hoisters Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic parading in on their golden chariots, and the woman who had championship point against Venus three years ago making her Wimbledon return (hi Linds!), things are looking downright juicy.
Add to that, we could end up with a new #1 on both tours.
To honor my newfound giddiness, I'm going to do things a little differently on Day 1. Rather than report on what I'm sure will be Roger Federer's beatdown of poor Dominik Hrbaty and Ana Ivanovic's dismantling of sacrificial lamb Rosanna De los rios, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict the entire tournament. That's right. Ladies and gentlemen, in advance, The Dunlop Awards
. Best Match (ATP):
Rafael Nadal/Roger Federer. In a five-set thriller, the King of Clay became the King of Grass. Vamos! Best Match (WTA):
Lindsay Davenport/Venus Williams. Lindsay found that championship point she lost in '05, and rode it all the way to the final, capturing something shiny and new for baby Jagger to play with. Worst Match (ATP):
Juan Martin Del Potro/Novak Djokovic. The first time in tennis history that both players retired from the same match. Well done, boys! Worst Match (WTA):
Samantha Stosur/Nicole Vaidisova. Game, set and match: Mono. Breakthrough Performance (Male):
Simon Stadler of Germany, who came through qualifying to hand Ivo Karlovic his fourth straight Wimbledon first round loss. He outlasted a cramping Marcos Baghdatis in the third round and nearly upset a mentally cramping David Nalbandian in the fourth. (Don't you dare say you heard it anywhere else!) Breakthrough Performance (Female):
Bethanie Mattek. Once known primarily for her wild on court ensembles, it's her tennis that lit up the courts in the first week. In the third round, Pierce Brosnan came for Marion. But he left with Bethanie. Best Dressed:
Serena Williams, who brought back the cat suit, in white. Meow. Worst Dressed:
Andy Roddick, who, to switch it up, forewent his usual polo and cap for dreadlocks and a monocle. Which I was fine with. The scarf was a little precious though. Least Dressed:
Mardy Fish, who was so inspired by Ashley Harkleroad's Playboy spread that he made Playgirl an offer they couldn't refuse. Game, set and match: America. Refusing to be left out,
Dunlop is insisting on going out on his own limb. Though his limb is more of a stick. A shame stick, which he's warming up for a couple of combatants. He doesn't think they're going to do badly. He's just waving it in their faces threateningly just in case. He means you, Richard Gasquet and Svetlana Kuznetsova.
I don't have any strawberries and cream. I do have leftover Chamarre wine, which is a lot stronger. I think Dunlop and I are gonna need it. UPDATE:
Both Stadler and Mattek played on Day 1, and both made it through As did Kuznetsova, barely. Here's looking at you Richard. Here's looking at you, Stosur and Vaidisova, who have booked your second round clash.
And here's to two weeks for the history books.
Care to go out on any limbs yourself? What are your predictions?