Monday, 30 May 2011

Into Week Two

Well the women's side of the draw seems to be falling apart with the top three seeds all out before the quarter finals, Wozniaki beaten by Hantuchova, Clijsters by Rus, and Zvonerava by Pavluchenkova.  Wozniaki, as always made the mistake of playing too much by playing a tournament in Belgium the week before the French Open started.  Although she could push through any physical tiredness, the mental fatigue seemed clear, to me at least, as she never looked convincing or determined at Roland Garros.  It's great she wants to play but doing anything week in week out would make you jaded, if she wants to jeopardise her chances of winning a grand slam by playing too many other tournies that's one thing, but she seems to be jeopardising her love for the game she has another ten years to play (all going well). 

Clijsters, similarly, never looked convincing here (although I did leave the house thinking she was going to trounce Rus of France only for her to come back and win it in three sets when I was at work (crafty French).  She hurt her ankle at a wedding and has been out of game for a few months but it was her casual attitude to the matches she played- an attitude I've noticed and despised since her return from retirement.  Since she already had a career, then retired, the wins she has now are fun, a bonus, and a bit of a game, with none of the determination and focus a pro athlete ought to have. 

I feel bad for Zvonerava- she had a big year last year getting to two grand slam finals and is struggling this year to have the same impact.  Pavluchenkova on the other hand is the up-and-comer of the women's game.  Sam stosur, last year's runner up, who was playing well, has also gone out.    But Sharapova, Schiavone, Azarenka, Li Na, Pavluchenkova, Kuznetzova, Bartoli are through to the quarter finals, with Kirilenko and Petkovic fighting it out for the last quarter final spot. 

In the mens game nothing that interesting has happened really- Soderling will play Nadal in the quarters (the only man to have beaten Rafa here), Monfils plays Federer, and Djokovic is already through to the semis after Fognini pulled out of their quarter final match.  And Chela awaits either Troiki or Murray who are playing currently- with Murray down 2-1 sets, and down 2 rackets after throwing a couple of tantrums.   Alas Jamie Murray and partner Chric Guccione lost in their second round match against top pair Bob and Mike Bryan, but is in the quarters of the mixed with Nadia Patrova (mixed only has 5 rounds).  Unfortunately I don't think mixed doubles counts towards ranking points.

And how was your week?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The First Hurdle for the King

Nearly had a major upset to report- I mentioned in my last post that Rafael Nadal was in a tough 5 setter against John Isner, and boy was he- honestly at one point I thought Isner would definately win it.  But Nadal pushed through.  Rafa won the first set 6-4 but Isner has shown his mettle before (by winning that crazy long Wimbledon match against Mahut 70-68) and managed to stay with Nadal in the second and third sets.  They went to tie breaks and Isner walked them with his giant serve making Rafa look rather ordinary.  Into the fourth set it seemed that Isner had the momentum and all he would need would be to hang in there and get to another tie break.  The only other time Nadal had been 2-1 down at the French Open was when he lost to Soderling two years ago, and he had never played a 5 setter here before.   But Nadal came back hard in the fourth set and raced through to win it 6-2, and he broke Isner early in the fifth- but Isner had broken Nadal back before in the match to level the score and never gave up fighting.  It wasn't over until Nadal won the very last point 6-4 7-6 7-6 6-2 6-4. 

No other major upsets or almost upsets to report yet but Djokovic up to 41 winning streak plays del Potro in the next round, Murray is up against Bolelli but should win it, Tipsaravic against Federer might be interesting as Tipsy can play super well sometimes, Jankovic plays Mattek-Sands who became the highest ranked American with her recent win, Shuai Peng plays Schiavone, Vania King who has a nice singing voice plays Elena Baltacha, and Heather Watson who is now in the top 100 plays Kaia Kanepi. And Jamie Murray won his first round Mens Doubles match with Chris Guccione against Clement and Chardy.  So we'll see what happens...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

French Latest

Heather Watson
It may be day three but we're still in round one at Le Frenche Opene.  Nothing super interesting to report- Cilic is out, Keothothong is out, Murray is through as are Federer and Djokovic (Nadal currently in super tough 5 setter with Isner), Ivanovic is out, Heather Watson is through, Jankovic, Sharapova, and Stosur are through.  The outfits this year have been delightfully multi-coloured and I thought I'd share some. :)

Jelena Jankovic in pink.
Caroline Wozniaki in dark blue

Zheng Jie in light blue

Students from Ecole de Military or something.

Nadal in light blue and muscles
Ana Ivanovic in pink and green

Anne Keothothong rocking orange

Rezai in black and pink

Monfils who is kinda like the Ian Poulter of Tennis imo

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sam Stosur

Regarding my previous post on the WTA's Strong is Beautiful campaign (I had a few criticisms not least that the women are so glammed up they don't look anything like themselves, or athletes), I thought I'd compare a picture of last years French Open finalist Sam Stosur campaign photo and a photo from today's play the this year's French Open.

 She seems to be wearing a pre-sweated red dress with long flowing locks, and make-up.       

Sam Stosur in the Strong is Beautiful campaign
She seems to be playing tennis...

Well I know which one looks more strong and beautiful to me, although I also know I don't care whether she's beautiful if she plays a good game. 
She won her match today in straight sets.

Friday, 20 May 2011

French Open Prep

Everyones getting very excited- the French Open starts on Sunday.  I don't know why we're all giddy about it, it's the most boring one of the lot. It's on clay so it's dirty, the weather's been rubbish for the past few years, the crowd never shows up (long french lunches), and Nadal's gonna win.  Well that last ones not looking quite as certain as it was since Nadal has been beaten in four final this year by Djokovic who hasn't lost a match yet.  But he has yet to beat Nadal in 5 sets on clay at Roland Garros (in fact only Soderling has). 

The women's side has some interest too as Maria Sharapova comes into form (the French Open is the one grand slam she hasn't won), Kim Clijsters is back after hurting her foot at a wedding (I don't know, I wasn't there), the Willam's sisters are out so we are at least spared Venus's new take on lingerie sports wear, and Sam Stosur (last year's finalist) was playing well last week before being beaten by Sharapova. 

From a British perspective Andy Murray remains the only man in the singles draw- and has said recently that he can win the French Open, despite never doing that well here (clay is like British Kryptonite).  He was supposed to play in some group exhibition tennis this week but pulled out with a groin strain (I don't know, I wasn't there), but thank heavens he is fit to play.  Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothothong are in the main draw and Heather Watson has won her first two qualifying matches.  She plays the third later today, fingers crossed.

Juan Martin Del Potro is also fit, after pulling out of a tournament a few weeks ago with a hip thing, but Ferrer and Roddick not so lucky and both pulled out injured.   The draw for the tournament comes out today, and the commentators of the exhibition match I was watching (Tsonga v Mahut, remember him?) suggested players were getting edgy waiting for the draw.  Someone needs to remind them, it aint Wimbledon, kay?

Monday, 16 May 2011


Well I nearly had a big upset to report to you all two days ago as our Andy was two points away from beating Novak Djokovic, breaking his unbeaten run, getting to the Rome final to play Nadal, and generally coming out of his own slump.  Djokovic had run through the first set 6-1 with Murray making too many mistakes but he pulled himself together for the second set, got the decisive break and took it 6-3.  The third set was extremely tight, Andy broke Novak to lead 5-4 and served for the match only for Novak to break back after a tough game in which Murray was only two points from winning.  It went to a tie break and Djok pulled away winning the tie break 6-3 and the match.  

He went on to the final to face Rafael Nadal for the fourth time this year (they played the finals of Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid with Novak winning them all) and, it may not surprise you to learn, won the title.  Novak has now won 7 titles this year, and is on a winning streak of 39 matches!  Nadal will keep his number one ranking for now but it could come under pressure at the French Open.

And where was Federer?  He was beaten in the quarter final bu Richard Gasquet who is in good form finally after a few months out ages ago for failing a drugs test (he had cocaine in his system because he kissed a woman who has just taken some), but Richard fell to Nadal in the semi. 

On the women's side of things world number one Caroline Wozniaki was beaten in the semis by an in-form Sharapova who may be looking to add the French Open title to her grand slam collection soon as she played her best in years.   She went up against Sam Stosur who had beaten both Schiavone (who she lost to in last years French Open final, I know it all gets confusing on the ladies side of things) and Li Na (who lost to Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open final this year- women's tennis does seem to collect finalists).  Stosur has really been struggling to get herself together since last years French Open loss, and a poor start to the year with an early exit at the Aussie Open (her home tournie) but she's back on the red clay and looking good.  But come the final she was no match for the Sharapova who won the final 6-2 6-4. 

Round Up- Juan Martin Del Potro had to pull out of last week's tournament with a hip injury and is a doubt for the French Open, Dinara Safina has taken an indefinite break from tennis due to her injury problems, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish reached the doubles final in Rome but pulled out due to Roddick's bad shoulder, Venus and Serena are both out of the French Open which comes as no surprise, and Sharapova is engaged to a tall Basketballer called Sasha who wore a pink shirt to her match.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Beauty Myth

Hmmm... WTA once again you baboozle me.  I just don't know how to respond to this- your new 'Strong is Beautiful' campaign for the women's tennis tour.

Regular readers may know I have some issues with the WTA and how it promotes its female players and the womens tour.  For example I have taken issue with the 'Women Are Getting A Call' ad for the End of Tour Finals which feature the top women at the time walking in the park, laughing with friends, talking on their mobile phone (ah it's the Sony Ericsson Tour, didn't you get that yet?), and generally looking pretty without doing anything sporty at all.  The mens tour equivalent advertised a fight to the death (or close to it) between the top players with shots of them looking tough and...gasp...playing tennis! 

But the WTA doesn't need tennis to get in the way of a good pictorial, especially when attractive women in short skirts have proved incredibly easy to market- although this does raise the question of what the WTA are trying to sell.  Within this context it's easy to see why Maria Sharapova would earn most of her millions off court with Sports Illustrated swim suit specials, Ana Ivanovic went topless, and Venus Williams wore her underwear to a match to 'bring sexy back to tennis'.  

Female tennis players suffer from less respect than their male counterparts, their performance often criticised and scrutinised, while their achievements relegated to the realm of 'women's' tennis.  Their good looks and appearance can often be a saving grace in that in can usual garner them some praise, attention, or, at the very least, some cold hard cash.  Although obviously working your cute, toned ass off at tennis every day only to have people tell you it looks nice in your shorts would get rather irksome after a while, I assume (not really being an issue I have to deal with). Simultaneously female athletes must also deal with a world that does find athletic women all that attractive- if you hadn't noticed slim is in this century. 

Daniela Hantuchova  
Cut to the WTA latest campaign 'Strong is Beautiful'.  It features top players and up-and-comers photographed as their rackets hit the balls, in strong athletic poses.   Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA was saying the right things, "The personal stories are inspirational. The unique combination of athleticism, strength and determination on the court and success, interests and inner beauty off the court is what makes women's tennis so attractive to millions around the world."

In a world where professional female athletes can't get their names in the paper despite great success because male footballers have stolen all the headlines it is gratifying to see a large scale ad campaign that promotes the women's tour.  It is also nice to see that strength and determination are being recognised as attractive in women as they have long been in men, and that female tennis players are recognised to have such qualities as they are so often criticised for lacking heart by commentators. 

I suppose my question is why does strong need to be beautiful?  (Similarly I wondered 'why does tennis need to be sexy' when Venus strolled out in skin coloured shorts)  Why can't the campaign ads say 'Strong is...Really Good For Tennis'...ok yes much less catchy but hopefully you get my point.  It is still the beauty and glamour of the athletes that's being celebrated, particularly when you look at the pics in which the players are oiled up, wearing make-up, and glamour outfits designed to show just enough leg and, as usual, it is very difficult to recognise certain players due to the pose, make-up, and air brushing.  I find it a little strange that the campaign is saying these athletes are strong and beautiful so you should support us but we still felt the need to cover them in foundation because they were looking a bit peaky...

Victoria Azarenka

Lucie Safarova

Petra Kvitova

The title of this blog is 'The Beauty Myth' and I think the myth I am referring to is the believe that changing the parameters of beauty, by saying strong, athletic, and determined is attractive for a woman when so long it has been considered undesirable, has solved the problem.  It hasn't.  Picking a new way women can be beautiful endorses the idea that beautiful is best, and encourages further discussion of female tennis players bodies.  I guess what I'm saying WTA is that I like this idea better than your others but I just don't get why the ladies have to look lovely to play tennis?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

New King of Clay

Nadal's two year run of 37 unbeaten matches on clay just came to an end as Djokovic's 34 match winning streak (on all surfaces) continued- Djok just beat Nadal in the Madrid Masters final.  It signifies Djokovic as the player of the moment (and that moment is lasting) and rise up the rankings (he's at number two now, but could be number one even before the French Open).  It also suggests that Nadal may be...gasp...on the decline?  Strange to suggest as he is still over 2,000 points ahead of Djokovic in the rankings, but once upon a time he was unbeatable and terrifying to opponents but Djokovic has beaten him a few times this year and today it was a straight sets victory.  Apparently if Nadal fails to reach the Rome semis and Djok wins then he will be number one, failing that it seems not only possibly but likely to happen at the French Open.  Djoko only got to the Quarter Finals last year while Nadal won- meaning Nadal has tons of points to defend but none to gain, but Djokovic would gain over 1500 if he won the tournament.  Whether Djoko could beat Nadal in a Grand Slam is another question though...

Petra Kvitova who, not only proves Easter Europeans get the best names but also whacks a ground stroke at 80 mph regularly, beat Victoria Azarenka in straight sets in the Madrid tournament.  The first set was close and full of winners particularly from Kvitova early on who took an early break before Azarenka broke back and it went a tie break- which was full of errors especially from Azarenka.  The second set was somewhat topsy turvey as Kvitova suffered a little from nerves (although her demeanor didn't change) and her killer ground strokes became a little wild and a few breaks were exchanged but Azarenka failed to capitalise on her chances and when Kvitova served for the match she held to love.

In British tennis, Andy Murray lost to Bellucci in the third round of Madrid, Elana Baltacha lost in her first clay semi-final at the ITF Suez Open, and Heather Watson lost in the second round.  Erm, look for the silver lining here...Murray's poorly elbow has healed, Baltacha reached her first clay semi, and Watson has already got her ranking up to 122- next stop top 100.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

It's been a long while since my last post, so I apologise to my adoring fans but I've been a bit out of the loop since I started working this month!!!  And there's not been much tennis on my TV.  So I'll give you the headlines:

Dinara Safina moved back into the top 100 after time off with a back injury last year, got to a semi-final but had to pull out sick, but she's now 65 in the world and playing in the Barcelona tournament this week.  But she's up against Gorges the plucky German who beat Wozniaki in the Stuttgart final, although Wozniaki was clearly not at her best, Gorges played well and will be a test for Safina.
Gorges winning Stuttgart

Novak Djokovic continued his winning streak- now up to 27 since last November, by winning the Belgrade tournament.  Bit if cheat though as one of those wins was a walk over against Tipsaravic, but he beat Lopez in the final fair and square.

Juan Martin Del Potro- the crazy tall Argentinian who won the 2009 US Open then had to take nearly a year off with a bad wrist, his real ranking dropped to 484 in February but his protected ranking of 4 allowed him to compete in big tournaments- has won another tournament this year by beating Verdasco in Estoril, Portugal.

British player Naomi Cavaday, who's only 22, has retired from tennis (apparently she suffered from an eating disorder and depression during her career) and is planning to go into coaching.  Fellow Brit Heather Watson failed to qualify for Estoril, and Elena Baltacha lost in the first round of Barcelona.  And Laura Robson, teenage sensation, seems to have fallen off the face of the planet- or she's at school or something. 
Naomi Cavady

Jamie Murray's ranking has risen nicely into the top 50 since playing well with little bro, but seems to have been inactive the past few weeks and doubles barely gets a mention in the news so we'll have to wait an see what happens.  Andy Murray started playing better again, getting to the semi-final of Monte Carlo before losing to Nadal, he then pulled out of Barcelona because of a gross elbow injury, and will play Madrid this week.

And how was your week?