Fifty thoughts (cont.)
Aside from the obvious (Stosur, Soderling), here are three other names for the players-to-watch file: Tom Beullucci, Yaroslava Shvedova, Olivia Sanchez, Anastasia Pivovarova and Thiemo de Bakker.
When was the last time Serena Williams squandered a match point and lost a close encounter? All credit to Stosur for being that rarest of species, a WTA player who stands up to Serena. All the more surprising she couldn't discover a way to come through in the final.
Is it just me or does Nicolas Almagro strike you as a fun guy to go drinking with?
Honk if you had Robbie Ginepri in your bracket as the last American male in the singles draw.
Here's what I don't get about these majors: if you're going to hoard wild cards for your nation's players -- allowing the likes of Laurent Recouderc in the draw while making Gaston Gaudio, a past champion, qualify -- and if you're going to dump the profits back into your own national programs, why not take the leap and let your nation's best players take an extra day off if they're injured or sick? (This is like robbing a bank, but then having the getaway car avoid the handicap space in the parking lot outside.) Specifically, the two best Frenchies, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, both genuinely ailing, should have had their requests for a later start honored. If the French Federation really wanted to appear unbiased, they'd be diverting a portion of their proceeds to Mallorcan tennis. As it stands, Rafael Nadal is essentially underwriting academies from Nice to Nantes.
Apples and oranges, OK. But again: Roger Federer reached the semfinals -- the equivalent of a top four finish -- of 23 straight majors. Tiger Woods' longest streak of a top four finishes at golf majors? Five.
Justine Henin turned in one of the more puzzling performances. She was supposed to cement her run to the Aussie Open final by coming to Paris and reclaiming the major she's essentially owned since 2003. Instead she played insecurely and was bounced the middle weekend. Lots of pressure on her slight shoulders heading to Wimbledon, the lone major she's never won. Interested to see how she'll handle it.
Perhaps the most heartening story of Week 1: Kimiko Date Krumm, born within a few weeks of Andre Agassi, beats Dinara Safina, the world's top player a year ago. I mentioned her feat to a friend who responded, "Kimiko Date? For real? Last time I heard that name, O.J. Simpson was best known as a football star."
Note to college kids studying for the MCAT (or simply, if inexplicably, fond of Grey's Anatomy). Hang around tennis. You'll never hear more references to sprains, strains, pulls and tears; and, better yet, most every body part is implicated. When do the "leaders" finally say: "You know what? Enough is enough. We've rationalized this for way too long. We need to solve this, even if the measures are drastic. And if it means outlawing Luxilon or reducing sets to four games or encouraging players to practice less, so be it."
Not to beat a wounded horse currently undergoing a 10-minute medical timeout for treatment, but the WTA sent around a release recently declaring that withdrawals are down 43 percent this year and the Roadmap is working. Really? We all know how statistics can mislead (and insult), so let's just look at this anecdotally. Consider, for instance, the top five drawing cards. Serena Williams wins the Australian Open and then, citing injury, doesn't play again until Rome, roughly 100 straights days of inactivity. Kim Clijsters, a defending Grand Slam champ, pulls out of the French Open -- the major closest to her home -- with an injury. Still plagued by shoulder trouble, Maria Sharapova has been damaged goods for more than two years and her pullouts include Miami and Charleston. Venus Williams, uncharacteristically healthy, still misses Indian Wells by choice. Justine Henin is sporadically injured. Keep going? Caroline Wozniacki, a promising flavor-of-the-month gets to No. 3 in the rankings, but injures her ankle in Charleston and then complains that she continued playing on only because of WTA rules. Elena Dementieva retired midway through a Grand Slam semifinal with tear of the calf muscle and is questionable for Wimbledon. Dinara Safina has many struggles, chronic back pain among them. Viktoria Azarenka has won only two of her last seven matches, in part because of leg injuries.
The men aren't immune either. Nikolay Davydenko and J.M. Del Potro, were among those MIA in Paris.
For all the gushing announcements about the prize money increases at the various Slams, are they not often rendered meaningless by the currency markets? When then Euro is trading at $1.50 it's one thing for a European to win the U.S. Open (Or, theoretically, an American to win in Paris.). When, a year later, the Euro is under $1.20 it's quite another.
If you work in the financial services sector, the automotive industry, media, advertising, law, home construction, public education, state government, academia -- actually pretty much anywhere -- you've probably heard some variation of this speech. "I'm on the right path, and I'm doing lots of things right. I have a plan in place, and I have a really good team around me. I'm very happy with the improvements that have been made." It's a leader attempting to project confidence in the face of some humbling result. Only in this case, the above quote comes from Ana Ivanovic, following her desultory second-round defeat.
Novak Djokovic will take some heat for his Melz-down (confession: I stole that from a reader), squandering a two-sets leads to Jurgen Melzer in the quarters. Since winning the 2008 Australian Open -- with his mom gloating "the king is dead" with reference to Federer -- Djokovic hasn't so much as made a Slam final. Still, I give the guy credit. He's usually around deep into the second weeks of Slams. And in Paris he fought heroically for five sets, losing because he was outplayed by a zoning lefty, not because of any physical shortcomings.
Jelena Jankovic plays inspired tennis to reach the quarterfinals. When she arrives there she faces Sam Stosur, a player she soundly defeated mere weeks ago. The other two remaining players are Elena Dementieva and Francesca Schiavone. That, friends, is a golden opportunity smelt to its essence. Then Jankovic goes out and wins three games against Stosur.
Bruins get their eighth straight victory with win over Hurricanes
Roberto Luongo, Panthers get best of Cory Schneider, Devils