Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Mixed Bag Results

Sigh...a deep sigh not quite of relief..but that order is being restored to the world.

My boy is back in the top 100, where he belongs.  (Actually he belongs in the top 10, but baby steps). I refer of course to Big J Murray who has won 3 titles recently, and is now at 97 (up from 130).  A glance at his ranking stat on the ATP page (well worth a gander, but not a lady in sight) and the most surprising figure is that of 37, which is the number of tournaments he has played this year.  Of course when you keep losing in the first round its not quite as tiring, but Andy Roddick has played 3 and is 10 places higher ranked.  This is in doubles, and this just shows how bad Big J got, and how many tournies he's had to play to get somewhere respectable.

In the women's game the seeds are falling and Sharapova and Jankovic are doing well.  Seems like so long ago that the two of them were poised to take over the world.  Maria slightly better poised having won 3 grand slams already.  But this time last year I wasn't alone thinking the current world number one (Jankovic) would definately win a grand slam in 2009.  She was playing great and very consistent.  Sound similar to another number one we all know (Safina, duh).  Possibly all this playing great tennis, high level, and consistently rather takes its toll.  Kim Clisjters former coach put forward the very sensible thought that a key factor in her US Open win was that she had trained for 7 months without the pressures of playing on the tour. 

And then there's Ana Invanovic...but she seems dumber than a box of hair so I find it hard to care about her...

Saturday, 26 September 2009

What do you mean..we won?

Wow- suddenly its a good thing to be a British tennis player.  We've had a good week.  I say 'we' because by sitting on my ass watching the tennis, or reading about it online I feel like an integral member of the team.

Coline Fleming and Ken Skupsi (who I think sounds a bit like a pokemon) reached their first ATP tour final at the Open de Moselle (Moselle Open), which gets them into the top 100.  I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if they win but a good result nontheless.  Oh, by the way these were the doubles players who were not deemed good enough to play in the doubles match in Davis Cup last week- you know the won we lost.

I checked to see if my Jamie (Murray) was doing well and found that his ranking has moved to 106 (from around 130) and he and his partner Jamie Dalgado (Jamie2) had won their 3rd title in 5 weeks at the ATP challenger in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

And Elana Baltachea and Katie O'Brien both moved into the top 100 when Baltachea beat O'Brien in the ITF challenger in Shrewsbury.  I saw an interview with Baltachea and she said her aim was to move into the top 100 so as to qualify for the Australian Open.  Let's just hop she can maintain this ranking as these things can be precarious.

Alright so they're not the most pretigious events but they still attract a decent amount of tough competition- imagine playing against people of a similar abilty and ranking all of whom are desparate to win.  If these players can build from these results we could lay the foundations for a great 2010.  Shame Anne Koethathong is missing out on the fun (injured).

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hope for the Future...Again!

It's a very British thing- part of our psyche- and possibly something Gordon Brown's gonna have put into the constitution (if not the British constitution then the LTA's guidebook at least)- that a young tennis player losing her match is seen as signs of potential for the future.

Heather Watson is only 17, from Gurnsy (wherever that is), and playing in her first senior tournament in Canada (hmm I know where that is).  She is ranked somewhere around 760 and played a player of 133.  It was a close match and she took 18 games from her opponent before losing in straight sets.  It definately does show her potential, after winning the US Open junior tournament, that she can transition from junior to senior.  Something her 'colleague' Laura Robson (2yrs younger) has managed to do also since winning the girls Wimbledon.

I imagine that people may criticise an attitude that looks for good-performances-to-show-potential-for-the-furture and would quite like us to just start winning stuff.  And I would quite agree if a player starts a match looking beaten and hoping to do well (meaning I hope I dont fall over too many times), which really seems to be embedded into the national psyche.  But losing to an opponent who is higher ranked and played well is nothing to be ashamed off. 

The confidence and determination to play well and win seems to applied liberally to tiny players in other countries- I think Americans get an injection at birth so they already have an advantage.  And I mentioned before (you'll all remember) I think British players are rather left behind.  But our young girls and women seem to catching up quicker than the men.  Even if they are world beaters (yet) they perform well at lower level tournaments, and beat players they are 'supposed to'. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Henin Returns

Justine Henin who retired about 15months ago is to return to tennis next year, and I can't think of any who would be less than delighted by the news (well perhaps some of the other female players?).  Henin triumphed at 5"5 when the average height of the women players is 5"10 (and this 5"6-er thinks thats cause for celebration), she packed her tiny frame with muscle and actually hit the ball pretty damn hard, but also beat the other women with her excellent movement.  She also had a backhand that could kill a goat...

Inevitably, her return will lead to disscussions that 'the women's game really needs her', and general implications that women's tennis is falling to pieces.  While I would never suggest that women's tennis is perfect or without need for improvement, it interests and angers me the men's tennis is never put critical scrutiny.  When the grand slam prize money was made equal people were complaining that the women did not deserve it because they weren't as good as the men.  Ignoring the fact that the percieved quality of a tennis match is rather hard to measure, those commentors rather missed the point.  Men were not played more because they were better (or even because they play longer matches, as most the time they play best of 3 to gain ranking points for entry into grand slams) but because they were men.  Consider two players, male and female, playing one match at wimbledon and losing in 3 sets, the matches may have been the same length in time but the man will still walk away with more money.  Or he would have before the equal prize money.

As in most sports the womens game has missed out on decades of support and financial aid and has fought hard to catch up, but they are under a much more constant and severe scrutiny than the men.  When Rafa Nadal beats his opponent 6-2 6-3 6-2 or something similar he's looking like a potential champion, when Serena Williams beats someone 6-3 6-3 its an example of a lack of depth in the women's game.  And if a top seed falls early in a major tournament (just what on earth happened to women at Flushing Meadows? ) it always 'says something'- as in 'what does this say about the women's game?'.

The tennis player with the most criticism recently is probably Dinara Safina- for what I hear you cry- for becoming worl number one without winning a grand slam.  Dinara has been to 3 grand slam finals (two this year) so to say she does badly in slams would be more than a little unfair (I suppose it doesn't really help that she plaued more like a frightened child that a champion in those finals but still..).  She has collected her ranking points by being consistent and successful throughout the year.  Serena Williams has described herself as the 'real number one' an arrogant and obnoxious thing to suggest in my mind- yes she has won 2 grand slams this year and that is a fantastic achievment she rarely plays to her full potential in smaller tournaments (if she did she would have won them all).  Serena cares about tennis when there's a spotlight to shine in and has become a tennis star absolutely but hardly the greatest player.

I started this by mentioning Justine Henin's return and it's interesting to note who it was that beat Justine in her last match, in Berlin 2008, in three sets, coming from 5-2 down in the second; Dinara Safina.

Monday, 21 September 2009

A Deserving Loss

Great Britain did indeed lose their Davis Cup Tie against Poland- no real surprise, Andy Murray won his match fairly comfortably which meant the 5th and decisive match would be between our current number two (not by rankings just by who they've picked for today, a filtering process which I would recommend they change) Dan Evans and their number 2 Pryzsiezny (I spelt that from memory, I though you should know). Przysiezny ranked about 380 places below Evans who is just outside the top 300 should have been easy to beat.  But never underestimate the British ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.  Evans lost in 3 sets, and it seemed obvious to me from the outset that he would- not based on his abilty as he is tipped to defo break the top 100 (we're really aiming high).  But rather his body language during his first match, which he also lost in straight sets.  He was hanging his head and looking like a beaten man after the first set, he never looked dynamic or confident, not even a pretence of it.

Post match he said that he believed he played ok, and just needed to do 'more of the same' on Sunday.  Now I know that the score line doesnt always tell the full story and there are numerous factors within any sports, but to lose in 3 sets and say you're just gonna do 'more of the same', seems, well, mental?  Apparently this was also the advice he had recieved from his coaching team, kinda makes you wonder whether this was an elaborate punk- but who was being punked its hard to tell.  During these enlightening mini interviews I delcared aghast (to an entirely empty room, but thats a different story) 'its another andy murray'.   While some like Andy's monosyllabic-i never smile or look like I enjoy what I do- rough around the edges- totally not a media darling attitude to life, and while young Dan Evans is still only 19 and 19 yeard old men are , you know, like 12 and cant really be expected to be a press delight, I compared this to other tennis players of a similar age and fear the Brits come up short. 

Rafa Nadal won the Frech Open when he was 19, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin the US Open when they were 20, and although they may all have had unfortunate experiments with facial hair and probably written guitar ballads or epic poetry for their girlfriends entitled 'Jessica- A Ballad' or something... erm... Oh yes  Tennis wise they were mature physically and mentally, prepared for the pressures and ready to win.  Not all professional players will be that successful, in fact most wont be but for whatever reason our players appear to be mumbling and shuffling in the grand tradition of British teenage stereotypes, while in other countries teenage sports people are confident and mature.  Just something to think about.

It might be why Dan Evans ranked 380 places above his opponent lost, I should point out that his opponent had been as high as 190 (at least 110 places above Evans) in Spring this year...Dropped a rather alarming number of places, wonder what happened...I think though the most important factor for me, is that while I read in the paper today Andy Murray may not be motivated to play Davis Cup anymore as we are now relegated to Euro-Africa group 2 and he's far too fancy for that, Przyseizny described Davis Cup as the most tournament in his season.  Reason enough to say they deserved to win, and we deserved to lose.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Davis Cup again?!!

Why, yes once more it is Davis Cup time boys and girls, although I dont think this the final...or maybe it is...or it is for some teams but not others...or something.  Irrelavent anyway as Britain are playing to prevent further relegation.   But its always nice to see tennis on TV and doubly nice to see doubles.  The athletic overbending to reach impossible lobs, the superhuman flicks of the wrist to chip and win, the rush to the net and so on.  So  much more exciting than the singles, Im sure we all agree...or perhaps not. 

Because doubles tennis is so often relegated to tea-time matches on untelevised courts for a fraction of the money and glory.  These days they don't even play best of 3 sets but 2 sets and a tie-break.  A silly way to make the macthes shorter and fit it around the real tennis- mens singles of course.  I hate the new formula but maybe its just me and the players love it.  We'll never know of course because their comments are never reported.   I don't claim to love doubles as much as singles, how could I - I never get to see it.  As most people in Britain I see doubles a little at Wimbledon and in Davis Cup.  Which makes the doubles match in Davis Cup ties all the more significant.  How nice to see real doubles players playing real doubles...

The fact that half the British team was made up with a singles player undermined this slightly.  Where was Jamie Murray?  After seeing Murray/Hutchins on the list I harboured dilluded hopes of seeing my fave fuzzy haired scot- but no.  Big J (as I like to call him) has not been at his best lately and seen his ranking drop from around 27 at the early part of the season to around 130.  So our pathetic excuse for a Davis Cup Team was lead, anchored, and messiah-ed by A Murray (my least fave fuzzy haired scot).  With all the constant prattle about making a sustainable Davis Cup Team and not a 1 man show, this Liverpool tie seem determined to put on a remarkable 1 man show.

Not down to the genius of Murray Jnr(despite what the commentators say, and if Andy would just let them all have a fresh A4 picture to take to bed, as the old copies have started to wear), but the fact that they decided to put him in 3 matches and talk non stop about him.  Andy Castle (former tennis player, part-time GMTV presenter, and current commentator) let it be known that Andy Murray was the only 'world class player' out there. The fact that the Polish doubles team have played 20 ties and are ranked in the top ten is apparently meaningless. Surprise Surprise they Polish team have just won in 4 sets, as they were clearly the better team, even if they can't quite walk on water like Andy probably can.

Dan Evans also lost his first singles game (which means he'll probably have to win the 5th and final match of the tie for Britain to win). I wonder who exactly picked him.  I mean maybe hell go on to do great things, but I miss Alex Bogdanovic.  At least Bogo gave you 5 sets of excellent tennis before he lost.  If the Davis Cup team want to produce a good performance, or really shake things with a win, they need to cultivate a real team.  Or alternatively forfeit the other two singles matches, and have the other guys carry Andy Murray out on a throne??  But as Andy doesnt seem to be able to play 3 matches without hurting his wrist or bruising his knee.  Maybe they should find a couple of doubles players to play the doubles?

It's Tennis-tastic or My First Blog

Just in case you couldn't tell this be a tennis blog. I used to think tennis was rather dull, strangely around the time ole Tim used to play, but then when I was 17, in the middle of my As exams, when I should have been studying it suddenly got really interesting.

I maintain that sport is fantastic, its passionate and exciting, and there's nothing else that makes you feel so involved when you're sat at home in your living room and PJ's as live sport. (highlights do not count). But if you don't understand the rules, or know who the players are that you dont know who's winning and you probably don't care.

That's one of the reasons I think there should be more tennis on tv, instead of just a 2 weeks manis at wimbledon. Oh yes before I forget, I'm British (in fact I'm English but I cover for it be saying I'm British), so I don't have 59 sports channels to pick from, and most of my tennis knowledge comes from the scraps of information from the BBC site.

I'm also dyslexic, so expect spelling errors (but I make up for it with lots of commas and brackets). Enjoy.