Another Grand Slam so soon? That can only mean one thing: More VANtage Point, where our slogan is “The place where Schiavone was predicted to make the finals of the French Open!” (Sorry, RiCH: I promise that’ll be the last time I mention my prediction!) It’s that time of the year again, where even the non-tennis fans follow what’s going on in the sport. But first...
A Look Back: The last time I was here players were slip-sliding away on the clay at the French Open, where Rafael Nadal won his fifth title and Francesca Schiavone her first. Congrats to both of them!
This Week’s Spotlight: Wimbledon - Do I have to say anything else? Well, yeah, I guess I should! The most prestigious event on either tour kicks off in a matter of hours, and Roger Federer, the six-time champion, is looking to equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven titles. The road won’t be easy with Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and 125 other guys trying to do their best to stop him. Defending women’s champ Serena Williams knows how to get it done there too as she tries for her fourth win. Big sis Venus really knows what it takes with five tiny plates from the All England Club lining her trophy cabinet. The sisters, the top two seeds, will be facing a number of contenders looking to break their dominant streak.
Players to Watch: Because there are so few standouts on grass, I feel this is the best surface to point out some players who could have their moment in the sun (provided there's enough to spare and there aren’t many rain outs). For instance, on the men’s side watch how Feliciano Lopez makes out (I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who would love to see how Lopez 'makes out'!) Seriously, though, if he was just a couple of notches better I’d say he would have a great shot at taking Fed out in the fourth round. In my heart of hearts, I see Lleyton Hewitt beating Novak Djokovic in the Sweet 16. And there’s this guy named Rafael Nadal who won the Big W a couple of years ago. He’s not your typical grass-court specialist, but he’s obviously gotten it done before. I think his draw is super, super tough so catch him while you can!
As for the women, I’m intrigued by the prospects of two players that are probably on a lot of “favorite” lists: Kim Clijsters and Jelena Jankovic, who are drawn to meet each other in the quarters. If neither one of them made it that far, I wouldn’t be surprised. And don’t sleep on former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli making a run.
The Final Fours: For the men, I’m going with a repeat of last year’s epic final on the top half with the same result: Federer over Andy Roddick. On the bottom half, it’ll be Andy Murray stopping surprise semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis. As for the ladies, I’m picking Maria Sharapova (who I think will win a slugfest over Serena in the fourth round) to top Sam Stosur and Venus knocking off Justine Henin.
And the Winners Are … : I don’t think they’ll keep doing this forever, but Federer and Venus still have some cup- and plate-kissing, respectively, to do in their careers. Watch them continue that in two weeks.
Enjoy the tournament!
Van Sias writes the blog Tennis Talk, Anyone?
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Looks like I'm not the only happy Wimbledon commences next week, though you won't see me sans knickers. Unless you ask nicely.
Anyway, the singles + doubles draws were announced today. Check 'em out:
Van Sias will be breaking down the brackets in another VANtage Point post. So, as always, STAY TUNED!
The annual pre-Wimbledon party was held at The Roof Gardens in West London's Kensington last night and the lady ballers of the WTA came out to play.
Check out the photos and fashion from the night. There are also a couple of videos at the end: an inside look at the evening's action and Maria Sharapova answering fans Facebook questions with some cute Brit (who IS that?)
So my overall thought on the evening's fashion is the usual: the WTA needs to hire me as their resident stylist. Oh and they need to hire a make-up artist. No one, I mean NO ONE, should have to deal with sock/strap lines or, worse, putting their face on while traveling in a car to the event. Get it together. (Sorry to be so brief but I'm on deadline with another piece - feel free to leave your thoughts on the night's stylings in the DtL Peanut Gallery.)
[Photo(s): WTA, Getty Images]
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The vuvuzela, the ubiquitous and some would say 'annoying' stadium horn that has gained worldwide popularity due to the World Cup, has been banned from Wimbledon.
The All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie released a statement today asking people not to bring them to the grounds:
Out of courtesy to the players and their fellow spectators, we make a point of asking spectators not to bring items which could either cause a distraction or interfere with the enjoyment of the occasion.
Rattles, klaxons and vuvuzelas all fall into that category and they will not be allowed into the grounds. Our message is do not bring them in the first place.
They will not be showing any World Cup matches on the jumbo video screens either. "We fully appreciate that a number of our visitors will be interested in the football World Cup," Ritchie said. "Equally, however, the tennis is our first priority."Fine with me. It seems more Aussie Open than Wimbledon anyway. Might we see some next January?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
- Coach Carlos Rodriguez on Justine Henin's chances at Wimbledon next week
Carlos seems to be playing down the pressure since Justine said winning the Big W was the main reason for her returnament. Out loud. In public. But he'd know more than anyone where her game is sitting at the moment.
Still, I'm torn on this one. On the one hand I could see Justine doing well just because she's reached two finals at The All England Club and knows how to play on grass. There are so many lady ballers who don't have enough experience or aren't comfortable playing on the slick stuff.
On the other hand she can be overpowered on this surface and if her serve isn't working (which it hasn't been since her return) she could go out early. So much depends on where she lands in the draw.
I'm thinking a title run at Den Bosch this week would do wonders for the confidence in both of them.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]
Gilles Simon is on a mini-roll.
The Frenchie baller, who had been recovering from knee issues, captured his first win of the season on Monday when he beat Evgeny Korolev in his opening match at Eastbourne. And, today, he won his second consecutive match when he defeated Andrey Kuznetsov 6-1, 6-7(3), 7-6(2) to reach the quarterfinals where he'll face compatriot Michael Llodra. It must be nice to have that winning feeling again.
So now I remember why I missed Sneaky so much. This photo brings back all kinds of memories like this and THIS. Welcome back, boy.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]
Clothing giant Polo Ralph Lauren is hosting its first ever Legends Clinic to celebrate its fifth year as Official Outfitter for next week's Wimbledon. The live interactive virtual tennis clinic will be held on Thursday, June 17, at 11 am EST and will feature 3-time champion Boris Becker answering e-mailed questions, demonstrating techniques and offering tips on how to improve your game.
The clinic will be streamed exclusively over at RalphLauren.com/Wimbledon. You can also submit your questions to the tennis legend at the site as well!
[Photo(s): Ralph Lauren]
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Guardian has a revealing interview with a philosophic Maria Sharapova on the eve of Wimbledon, a tourney she grabbed as a tall yet slight 17-year old with a ball-bashing game. She gives us insight into the questions she faced while dealing and recovering from the injuries to her shoulder and elbow, the strain of being separated from her parents while building her game at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida and that special day in 2004 when she defeated Serena Williams to become the Wimbledon champion.
On deciding to return to the WTA tour while dealing with her injuries:
I had so many ways I could have got out. I had so many excuses I could have made that it would have been easy to walk away. I could have said that no one else in tennis has ever come back from a serious rotator-cuff injury to their shoulder. I could have said I've made enough money to last me the rest of my life. I could have said I've done this and done that.On being separated from her mom, Yelena, during the Bollettieri years:
My family and I built my whole career from scratch. It wasn't like I had a famous boyfriend who made my career. I didn't have a magazine that made my career. So I could have chosen to stop playing because we did it ourselves. But I love the sport too much to wake up and say I no longer want to do it. I missed it. It got to the point where I would look at books and pictures of some great moments I had on court just to remember what it felt like.
I didn't see my mom for two years. Back then there were no cell phones and, oh my goodness, no email! All I had was a pen and some paper, and so I wrote letters that would arrive back home a month later.
I was young and happy. I was in Florida, in the sunshine, learning a new language and playing tennis. But it was very difficult for my mom to lose her husband and daughter.
It was very tough for her. She was about 27 when I left for America with my dad. I'm not far off that age myself now and so I can imagine what it must have been like for her.
On her experience at the Nick Bollettieri Academy:
I was much younger than the other girls who boarded at the Academy. I was teased a lot by them. I was never a part of their groups. But [t]hat's the way it was. It was really tough but it was also a good learning experience. It matured me in many different ways. It made me realise at a young age that, sometimes, you have to be on your own. There are going to be tough times but you'll get through it. And then you'll see your dad on the weekend and it'll be easier then. I think I came out of it much stronger.On winning Wimbledon as such a young age:
I didn't have much time to socialise but there's no doubt I had my share of tough days when you don't quite know why you feel so bad. Why didn't I play as well? Why did I lose when I should've won? But those lows are important. If everything was going smoothly you would never build your character.
It was a shock to me. I never thought I was physically and mentally ready to last two weeks and seven matches against all kinds of opponents. And looking back at that moment of victory, when I was just so happy after beating Serena Williams in the final, I also think how fearless I was. To win Wimbledon at 17! Sometimes in life you get these little door openings and I just took it and played some great tennis.On the value of learning:
I started taking French lessons when I was out with the elbow injury. I went to a language school every morning and it was really fun. I have my homework with me right now in this thick folder. I'm keeping up with it.[Photo(s): Getty Images]
[Boyfriend Sasha Vujacic will] try to come over for Wimbledon but I'm doing my homework until then. I love it. I had to get my high school diploma via the internet and I remember being so excited when I got my books at the start of it. And before that, when we were reunited as a family, my mother made me do a lot of school work. I would study history and even mathematics in Russian. I'm so grateful now.
I hit a ball for a living, but I have that passion to keep learning. I have those values my parents gave me, and they constantly remind me that the first thing is to be a good person and the second is to be a professional – without even having the word 'tennis' in front of it. It's been a tough journey, but I wouldn't change anything about it.
- Francesca Schiavone on her Wimbledon prospects after losing her opening round match at Eastbourne to Sorana Cirstea
Normally I'd find someone speaking in the third person about their own rallying cry a bit corny. But with Fran it somehow seems, eh, just right.
Give that girl a pass.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]
Elena Dementieva has pulled out of next week's Wimbledon with the calf injury she sustained in her second round match at Roland Garros. The Russian was forced out of her semifinal against eventual winner Francesca Schiavone because of the injury, her first retirement in 43 major appearances.
I still have fond memories of that epic Wimby semifinal last year between Elena + Serena Williams, the best ladies' match of 2009. *sigh* The World No. 5 will take a huge hit in the rankings since she won't be able to defend those points.
Can you imagine a WTA Top 10 without a single Russian holding court? Bizarro.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Sam Querrey became the first baller to win a title on three different surfaces this season after defeating compatriot Mardy Fish 7-6 (3), 7-5 at Queen's Club. He won his first title of the year on hard at Memphis, second on clay in Belgrade and this week on grass. It's a tremendous win for Samurai especially when you consider who was in the draw at the start of the week: World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick to name just a few. He seems primed to do better than his career-best second round appearance at Wimbledon.
Lleyton Hewitt decided 15 straight losses were enough and shocked Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 at Halle where the Swiss holds a lifetime contract. It was the Aussie's debut at the tourney and, more importantly, his first win over the 16-time Grand Slammer since he beat Fed in five sets at Davis Cup in 2003. As for Fed he lost for only the second time in his last 78 matches on the slick stuff, the only other one being the epic Wimbledon final in 2008 against Rafa.
Lleyton will be, what's the word, RELIEVED to have that monkey off his back and he'll no doubt like his chances to make a good run at Wimby now. But what about Fed, who hasn't won a title since capturing the Aussie Open in January? Well, he's on his best surface entering the tourney he loves the most so he should be feeling good about that. But his confidence isn't living at its usual heights (as evidenced by his recent losses) which might make him vulnerable early on at Wimby. He's an expert at managing his game over the two weeks of a major, though, so if he gets through the first one relatively unscathed he could still go all the way.
Li Na went one further this year in Birmingham but needed to defeat Maria Sharapova again to get there. The Chinese lady baller, who ousted Shrieka last season in the semifinals but lost in the final, once again bested the Russian 7-5, 6-1 to claim the crown. Nice win for Li and a good effort by the former Wimby champ to get to another final. But Shrieka threw down 7 DF's in the match after smacking 12 aces in the semifinals which shows real inconsistency in her serve. She'll be looking at another early round loss at The All England Club if she doesn't get that part of her game under control.
Dinara Safina lost her fifth straight match going down this time to Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round of Novak Djokovic & Jonathan Erlich were REALLY happy about the men's doubles title they won at Queen's Club:
Let's hope they double up s'more.
[Photo(s): Getty Images]