Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Desiree the cow, and Myla & Charlene celebrate their birthday

The tournament organizers did good when they planned an opening ceremony in Gstaad to honor the star of Switzerland, Roger Federer.  He hasn't played in this particular home tournament since 2004, when they gave him a cow named Juliet.  Today they continued the tradition by gifting him with another cow by the name of Desiree.

No player can probably be fully appreciated during their career, instead receiving criticism for every loss, or suggestions of retirement with any slight slump.  But the fact of the matter is that the little country of Switzerland has the greatest player of all time in their midst, and any honor and appreciation they can give is so deserved.

I imagine Myla and Charlene, Federer's little twins who turned 4 on the same day, will be the ones in the family to get real excited about Desiree, the newest addition to the family.  It's amazing they are already 4 years old, as cute as can be and following their Daddy around from place to place all over the world.

Hopefully the Federer family got to spend some special time together on their special day. enjoying the beauty around them.  And hopefully Daddy will play well this week.  But if not, the hard court season is just around the corner waiting for an exciting comeback by the tennis GOAT.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Intense quarterfinal action in Hamburg

What an intense day of tennis in Hamburg, Germany.  It was quarterfinal day and there was certainly no lack of drama.  I didn't get a chance to catch all the action, but three of the four matches went to three sets, complete with back-and-forth breaks of serve, inability to capitalize on break points, and see-saw tiebreaks.  Almagro came out on top over defending champion Monaco, Delbonis got the best of Verdasco, and Fognini surprisingly beat Haas in straight sets

The match I was most intent on, though, was the Roger Federer-Florian Mayer match, which got a much later start than expected.  It would have been a good time for one of Fed's short but sweet matches with the whole thing happening in an hour.  That's wasn't to be, however.  The first set was a tight affair with each of them playing well and holding serve.  After that one was done I was already thinking about how I was planning to write that Roger seemed to be playing well, getting the feel of his new racquet, hitting great shots, etc.  However, then the match got, shall we say, puzzling, and continued that way until the end.  

He came out in the second set sporting a new addition to his match attire - a sweater vest to keep warm in the cool Hamburg evening temperatures.  But whether he couldn't play quite right with it on, or just a basic dip in form, soon he was down one, and then two breaks of serve.  Some of it was due to good solid playing by Mayer, but a lot of it was balls just going astray.  Though he did manage to get one break back, to where I was wondering if he might be able to break again to save the set, all of a sudden he was broken again to lose the set instead.  What in the world!

The third set was no less crazy.  In spite of an early break, he ended up losing that too.  At that point it seemed it certainly could go either way.  I admit I was starting to wonder if he was going to have another one of those losses in an oh-so-close match that at this point could prove majorly detrimental to his confidence.  Suddenly, however, he seemed to find a new gear and came up with some brilliant play to break serve and go on to serve it out at 7-5 in the third.  I think at this point these types of tough wins are very important for going forward.  He needs to remember that feeling of coming through those very tight ones, fighting through and coming up with the winners instead of the errors in the tight moments.  Who knows, maybe this will be a big help for him in turning around his season.

He definitely has the disadvantage going into the semis.  His opponent, Delbonis, finished his match quite a bit earlier, and is also quite a bit younger.  However, considering that he is ranked #114 in the world, hopefully Federer can come through that one in spite of much fewer than 24 hours in between.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Racquet success early on

A quick update in the midst of a busy week, in which I at least had a chance to watch Roger Federer's first match in Hamburg with his new racquet he is experimenting with.  Everything  looked good initially in the first set.  What I often find so surprising in tennis, however, is how quickly things can change with dramatic results.  In what seemed to be no time at all, Federer was suddenly down a break and Daniel Brands (who gave Rafael Nadal some problems at the French Open this year) was serving for the first set.  Maybe Roger just wanted to make him feel good on his birthday, which is today, because in the second and third sets he was back in control again without too much worry, other than taking a little longer than I would like to close out the match at 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Sometimes tricky matches can be helpful in the beginning of a tournament and I'm hoping this will be the case in this situation.  He needs time to get used to this new 98 inch (compared to the 90 he has been using for years) Wilson racquet.  I personally am very glad he is giving this a try.  He has been called stubborn at times by some, which great champions often can be, wanting to continue to use the techniques that have worked so well in the past.  After his surprising early round loss at Wimbledon this year, though, it became obvious something needed to change if he wanted to continue at the top of his game, having already dropped to #5 in the rankings.  Hopefully this move will give him some new power and a larger sweet spot to work with for his ultra-sweet shots.  Confidence is also key as he goes into the second half of the season and some wins, especially a tournament win, would certainly help him in this regard. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

77 year British Wimbledon drought ended on 7/7

A new national holiday should be declared in the U.K. on this 7th day of the 7th month, the day the 77 year drought of having a British Wimbledon champ ended.  The tension was palpable as Andy Murray served for the championship at 5-4 in the third set.  Having three championship points at 40-love it seemed like it was a done deal.  However, #1 ranked Novak Djokovic is never one to back down, no matter how unlikely a comeback looked down two sets to none.  But it seemed in a heartbeat it was suddenly break point instead, three times to be exact, which Murray fought off with everything he had.  When his 4th championship point came along he took it, raising his arms toward the press in exhilaration.  After the tears and disappointment last year when he had been so close in his loss to Roger Federer he had finally done it, bringing fans all across the United Kingdom to their feet in joy and relief.  For all of history he will be remembered as the man who brought them another Wimbledon crown after what seemed like (per Roger Federer a few years ago) 150,000 years.

I had the privilege of watching the final with a friend who grew up in Scotland, who even brought some strawberries and cream for us to enjoy to commemorate the event, so I got to be even more involved in the joy the country was experiencing after such an extended time.  Now that it's over I think they would say it was worth the wait.

Though the match had its moments of stress for Murray fans in the long rallies, breaks back and forth, and especially the last service game, overall it could have been a lot more stressful.  Surprisingly Andy was able to win this in straight sets, which I never would have guessed from the start.  Djokovic just seemed a bit weary out there, probably worn down from his epic match with Del Potro, and simply didn't have the same ability to fight it out this time.  Andy played some very strong and smart tennis and fully deserved his straight set win to etch his name forever with the champions of Wimbledon.

Marion Bartoli was also a first time Wimbledon champion this weekend, as well as being her first major title.  I'm sure there was hardly a person in the world who would have had her name in the winners box in their draw before the tournament started.  It doesn't matter that she didn't have to beat a top ten opponent - no one will remember that in the history books - and that her opponent took out both last year's champion and finalist.  It's the last match that counts and Bartoli played determined tennis, while her opponent, Sabine Lisicki, emotionally exhausted from all that the fortnight had required of her, simply didn't have what it took to hardly even make it a contest.  You couldn't help but feel for her as she struggled with tears at different times during the match.  But in the end, no matter who you were cheering for, how could anyone not be happy for Marion Bartoli, the joy evident in everything she did, including her climb up to the player's box to collect hugs from her team.  She is also the first person who plays with both hands on each side to win Wimbledon.  Since I also play the same way, that novelty couldn't escape my attention.

And finally, history was made again by the amazing Bryan Brothers, who now hold all four grand slam titles simultaneously, as well as the Olympic gold medal.  What an incredible achievement by these highly talented and very likeable guys.  And now in a couple months they will have the opportunity to go for a calendar year grand slam at the U.S. Open.

So Wimbledon is over for another year and soon we will be fully into the build-up to the final hard court slam of the year.  More stories to be written, more curiosity as to who will  hold the next trophy, but in the meantime history has been made in several ways and we will long remember many of the stories created in this wacky and wild fortnight.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Epic semis set up Wimbledon final

After all the crazy upsets the first week of Wimbledon, here we still end up with the predicted (by many) final, for the men anyway.  The fans of Roger Federer still were adjusting to him not being at least in the quarterfinal, and couldn't help but wonder what the outcome would have been if he had been in the semi, but that's irrelevant at this point.  The fact is that it is again Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray facing off on Sunday.

For those who didn't get a chance to watch the match between Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro you missed an epic!  Everyone was wondering how Delpo would fare with his knee injury against the greatest mover in the game.  How about if we just say "no issue."  The level of tennis in this match was one rarely seen.  The amount of power, the jaw dropping gets with awe inspiring returns, the sheer determination on both sides was no less than incredible.  I kept thinking I had seen the best and then they would come up with something more.  It was really a shame someone had to lose that one, as they both gave it their all and both deserved to win it.  And I never realized Delpo could be so funny.  From his instruction to the ball of how to go over the net after a barely missed shoelace volley, to jumping up on the edge of the player stands and giving a guy a high five, along with a few others really gave the crowd a new appreciation for the gentle giant, along with his amazing tennis.  I would have loved to see him make it through to another final, but if nothing else this showed himself as well as the fans what he is capable of.  Hopefully he will be able to put a run together again soon.  It would be fun to see him with another grand slam trophy - well, as long as it's not Roger Federer he's beating, that is.  :)

The second men's semifinal wasn't the same high level of tennis as the first one, but it still had its drama.  For some reason I was expecting this to be a fairly easy win for Andy Murray.  Jerzy Janowicz had other ideas, however.  After splitting the first two sets I was pretty surprised when Andy gave up a break in the third, thinking once he had found his game he would cruise.  But all of a sudden things turned around again.  I think Janowicz's drop shots were starting to really irritate Murray, and when Jerzy acted rather unsportsman-like by hitting the net with his racquet after a missed shot, with boos from the crowd, I think it triggered something in Andy, causing an amazing round of aggressive play getting the break back and also another break, finally closing out the third set.  There was no coming back after that, in spite of the delay for the roof to be closed (much to Andy's frustration) and he closed out a quick final set at 6-3 to seal the deal.

I really don't know who is the favorite between Murray and Djokovic.  Personally I would like to see Andy get his win at home after last year's heartbreak.

As for the women, the first semifinal ended up being a blow out match for Bartoli to reach the final, followed by a see-saw match in the next one which Lisicki finally took.  Either way we will have a first time grand slam champion.  In spite of the fact that Marion Bartoli can about drive you crazy with her quirkiness on the court, when you actually listen to her in interviews she can be rather endearing.  And of course who can't love Sabine Lisicki's contagious smile, plus the fact that one of the giant killers finally came good and actually followed up their big win.  What a Cinderella story that would be for her to end up holding the trophy in the end.

So even though Wimbledon was full of surprises and disappointments the first week, we still have ended up with some compelling tennis and some good stories.  I am looking forward to a weekend with some very good matches that really could go either way.  And even the men's doubles final has some excitement to see if the amazing Bryan Brothers can hold all four grand slam titles simultaneously.  Should be an exciting next couple days.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Another big surprise - what will the final outcome be?

Nine days ago if someone would have said that the quarterfinals of Wimbledon would be minus Nadal, Federer, Tsonga, Serena, Sharapova and Azarenka, who in their right mind would have believed it?  But that is exactly what we have.  

Serena's loss in the Round of 16 was another huge shock, for some more shocking than Federer's was (though I am not one of those).  It sure seemed, after a surprising collapse in the second half of the first set to lose it 6-2, that Serena had found her form as well as her fierce determination when she quickly won the second set 6-1 and then went up a quick break in the third.  In fact, two times she was up a break, but somehow grass court specialist Sabine Lisicki kept fighting and kept finding a way back in.  To find a way, though, not just to get the break back, but to get an additional break against powerful Serena and then be able to serve it out on her own serve was truly an inspiring fight.  If only Sabine could find a way to transfer her grass success to other surfaces, she could be at the top of the rankings.

You know, anytime all of the media and all the odds makers put all their bets on one person it almost makes me want them to lose.  NO ONE is invincible - no, not even Serena Williams, though that's what at least the commentators that I listen to seemed to believe.  It seemed they all thought Serena was unable to be beaten at this stage of her career.  So although I live in the U.S and it's always good to see someone from my country win, it seems to me that putting people on such a huge pedestal is never a good idea, no matter how super human they may seem to be for a while (kind of like those who seem to think that Roger Federer is God - no matter how much I love him, he is just a person!).

So in the end, on the men's side, will it be as many odds makers predicted with a Djokovic Murray final, or are there still more surprises to be seen, such as a Jerzy Janowicz , Tomas Berdych or Juan Martin Del Potro holding the trophy at the end?  As to the women, the eventual winner could be any number of ladies - maybe last year's finalist Aga Radwanska, or how about the young American Sloane Stevens, if she can hold her nerve?  Or maybe Petra Kvitova will find her magic again from a few years ago to claim the grass court title again.  In spite of the fact that my favorite, Roger Federer, no longer has a chance this year, I'm not one of those using hash tag WimbleDone - there are still good story lines to be had for the rest of the fortnight.