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Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

Women’s Singles Finals, Australian Open 2007

Posted by Sports Snob on January 27, 2007

How things change! It was about 30 months ago that we saw an extremely pretty Russian girl play on the hallowed center court at Wimbledon against the Serena. Nobody gave her any chance of beating Serena but in a display of absolutely confident tennis, Serena was stunned and a star was born. 30 months hence, women’s tennis has seen major changes: Davenport is gone, Clijsters about to go, Henin spends more time injured, Mauresmo actually won a grandslam (!), Sharapova has shown us she is no Kournikova and the Williams sisters are more interested in fashion than tennis.

Deja vu

The showdown will be repeated a few minutes from when I write this post. Serena, overweight and in bad shape has scraped and scratched her way into the finals and Sharapova has been scorching on court at times.

I had written about Serena here: “…Nobody, ever, can wake up one fine day, come out on court and expect to win.” I think Serena has the capability to prove me wrong, I guess by getting as far as she has, she already has proved her point. She is far too good for me to write her off but I don’t expect her to do a Sharapova. Will Serena make me eat my words again?

Go Maria. Let’s watch some good tennis.

Talking of good tennis, what did you guys think of the men’s semi-finals. Federer demolishing Roddick and Gonzalez repeating that against Haas. Would it be too much to expect that both of them will turn in those kind of performances come Sunday?

Prof

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Sania crashes out, Roddick to meet Safin

Posted by Sports Snob on January 18, 2007

Sania, disappointment

Sania Mirza disappointed yet again and crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round. She lost to Akiko Nakamura of Japan who is ranked 10 places below her in the WTA rankings. Coming off a good run in the Hopman Cup and the other lead-up tournaments, there was a promise of better things to come at the first grandslam. But unfortunately for her “billion fans” and her, an inconsistent performance proved inadequate. Let us see how she handles this loss and how the rest of this season shape up.

Roddick versus Safin 

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If there is any player in the Australian Open draw that Roddick should want to avoid like the plague (other than Federer ofcourse), it is Marat Safin. The Russian who is making his billionth comeback is probably the second most talented man on the ATP circuit. And, he is the only guy to have beaten Federer in a Grandslam on a surface other than clay since the beginning of 2005. It is unfortunate for both players that this matchup had to happen so early in the tournament.  Blame it on the mercurial Russian whose performances belie the talent he possesses.

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Roddick is in the finest form he has been in for 12 months now. The serves are powerful and clicking, the powerful backcourt shots are in place and he appears fairly confident of his place on the court. Even given all this, he would be well advised to take Safin seriously. That man coming off two exhausting five set matches must be feeling like a polar bear in Chennai. But give him an opening and he will demolish you, if he fails to self-destruct that is. Safin is his own cyanide pill. You can find a previous post on Safin here.

Given current form, Roddick should win. But I would rather watch Safin progress in the tournament because he is capable of better tennis and in my opinion, has a better chance of beating Federer. Go Marat (ideal point to crack a Borat joke or pun… none come to mind right away)!

– Prof

Posted in Australian Open, Tennis | 1 Comment »

Sania Mirza moves into Round 2 of the Australian Open

Posted by Sports Snob on January 16, 2007

Women’s Singles – 1st Round
Olga Savchuk UKR 3 5

Sania Mirza IND 6 7

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Sania Mirza beat Olga Savchuk of Ukraine to advance to the second round of the Australian Open. If she moves to the third round, there is a potential matchup against the Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis.

Anybody for Mirza in the 3rd round? If yes, can she beat the Swiss Miss (whom she might meet)? How far in the tournament will Sania go?

Nice article about Sania and Anna Ivanovic finding fitness to improve their power.

Quote of the day- “The heat in Australian tans you. You can feel the sun burning your legs during changeovers. In Hyderabad, the sun isn’t that hot. I don’t know if it’s the ozone or whatever.” – Sania

Prof

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Australian Open 2007: Preview

Posted by Sports Snob on January 14, 2007

Roddick beat Federer! Under normal circumstances, when two players who are in the top five in the world meet each other, we wouldn’t think this is that much of an upset. But Federer’s record over the last two seasons have given him an aura of invincibility. Roddick has beaten the Fed only twice in fifteen meetings and Federer last lost to Andy Murray quite some time back last season: not invincible, but close.

Australian Open Preview

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It’s the middle of January and the first major of the tennis calendar is upon us. The Australian Open doesn’t get the noise that Wimbledon and the US Open generate but it comes early in the year and tennis fans starved of grandslam action for five months eagerly lap it up. It is time for self appointed critics to comment on players’ strategies and serves, predict winners and comment on who will make it big in the next two weeks, months or even years. And yours truly is going to embark on such a mission though I restrict myself to just the next two weeks.

Men

Does Roddick’s victory mean anything different for this year’s Australian Open? Does anybody change their predictions on the basis of this result? You would be a fool to bet against Fed based on this match. It is a new season and even Federer might require sometime to get back into his groove. But even when he is not in form, you are going to need a flawless performance and a bad Fed day to beat the man like Safin got two years back at Melbourne. So, Federer it will be again this time around.

Nadal hasn’t started the season too well either, losing at Chennai and pulling out of a tournament with a strained groin muscle. Rafter turned down Hewitt’s practice request for some personal reason and this probably dents the fairly flimsy chances that Hewitt had of doing anything at all. At this point, I would bet on Roddick to do some damage but not quite enough to topple Federer. Then the other names, Andy Murray, Baghdatis, Tursunov pop-up: no serious challenge here. The dark horse could very well be James Blake. He played well last season and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few strong performances this season too. If one of these players can mount a serious challenge to Federer, we could be in for some rivetting tennis.

History suggests an Opportunity

The best time to challenge Fed is at the Australian Open. The new season implies the champ is still rusty from the lack of match practice and the early rounds could be crucial especially against a dangerous opponent such as say, Karlovic. Looking back at the results of the last ten years, we see that the Sampras name figures only once. And he was the most dominant player of his time. Agassi has won it thrice. He was always the one for meticulous training in the heights during the Australian summer. Further, there have been unlikely champions: Petr Korda, Yevgeny Kafalnikov and Thomas Johansson (really!!!). Add to this list, Marat Safin (the 2005 winner) and you can see what I mean when I say the best time to beat the top guy is at the beginning of the season. In cricket terms, before he is well set and has got his eye in.

Women

The women’s field looks fairly weak to me with the pullout of Henin and the retirement of Davenport. I predict a Sharapova victory and I am certain the organizers would love for her to be there till the end of the tournament. This Russian is a showstopper, both with the game and the looks. She is not just another pretty thing. She is focussed, talented and does not look like she will fritter it away. Clijsters and 2006 champion Mauresmo will have to be contended with before she can lift the Daphne Akhurst memorial cup.

As I was recollecting the men’s winners of the past, I looked up some of the women’s winners of the last decade. And guess what? The women victors have been more consistent with the then rankings and stuff. Hingis won thrice in a row at the peak of her powers. Capriati won twice in her glorious comeback run. Lindsay won once and yes, there was a Wiliams winner, Serena, twice. Does this mean that the women’s game is weaker outside the top few? Is that the reason no serious challenge is mounted on the reputed players? Old winners’ lists give some interesting things to wonder about.

Sania Mirza’s chances:

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Sania has had a fantastic start to the 2007 season. She was in good form as India nearly qualified for the final of the Hopman Cup and made the semifinals of the tournament in Hobart losing eventually to the top seeded Russian Anna Chakvetadze.

Sania has an easy draw at the Australian open. She has been drawn against an unknown Ukranian (another East European!) Olga Shevchuk in the first round. If she manages to win that she will meet either Emma Laine (another unknown!) or a qualifier. Sania may well face Martina Hingis in the third round and that match is going to generate a lot of interest! Besides Sania had actually defeated Hingis last year.

Here’s wishing her a great Australian Open and a fantastic 2007!

Pretty Russian

And before I end this one, I have a question to raise. I would like readers to post their views on this. How do those Russians manage to produce all these pretty women players! Saying that they don’t play that well is missing the point I am trying to make. Here is the new additon that I noticed, Anna Chakvetadze (who is seeded 12 at the Australian Open):

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– Prof and Z

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Federer wins Tennis Masters: Somebody stop him!

Posted by Sports Snob on November 20, 2006

 

Federer has beaten Blake and won the Tennis Masters. Anyone had a doubt about the winner?

This guy is incredible! He has won everything in sight, except the French Open, beaten everyone within sight and is so far ahead of his nearest competitor that people are constructing a beast from players across ages to even compete.  

I don’t see how the next season is going to be any different. There isn’t a competing compatriot. He is pretty much playing against himself and his demons (does he have any?). Federer has to beat history, inconsistency and Nadal at the French, at best.  If he does these next year, he will be hard to bet against as the greatest player to play tennis in the Open era.

I mean, he will then only need to play doubles as an individual to prove himself.

PS: Nirmal Shekar writes about Federer here and Keats makes such an obvious choice to describe the Swiss maestro’s game. Nice article.

– Prof

Posted in Tennis | 10 Comments »

Sania defeats Hingis!

Posted by Sports Snob on September 28, 2006

Sania Mirza has just defeated Martina Hingis in the second round of the Hanso Korea Open in Seoul. Mirza defeated Hingis 4-6 6-0 6-4 and avenged her defeat in last week’s Sunfeast Open in Calcutta. In Friday’s quarterfinal, Sania will face doubles specialist Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain.

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Hingis is now ranked number 8 in the world and this definitely has to be Sania’s biggest victory of her career. Sania’s career is now starting to resemble the perfect sine curve. Just when people were starting to write her off as a one-season wonder, she seems to have picked up her form and after a semifinal appearance in Calcutta looks set to progress far in the Korean Open.

This victory should do wonders to both her confidence and her ranking! We all know what Hingis is capable of and beating her can be no easy task. If Sania can keep herself injury-free for one or two years, she can possibly work towards becoming a real contender at the grand slams. (barring the French obviously)

It has to be said that the people at Sportsnob are huge fans of Sania for a number of reasons and hopefully she will give us a lot of things to write about!

Z

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Update:

Sania Mirza lost to Virgina Ruano Pascual 6-7 6-4 6-7 in the quarterfinals of the Korean Open. The match was bound to be tough. Pascual is a tough and experienced campaigner. Pity she couldnt go through. The fact that the third set went to a tie-breaker shows how close she got.
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US Open: A Review

Posted by Sports Snob on September 12, 2006

US Open is my second most favourite grandslam (I think most people’s). It is by far the most vociferous slam, the glamour of tennis in New york and under lights as opposed to the quiet applause on the green lawns (except Henman hill of course) of Wimbledon, has a unique appeal. US Open has got spirit and it keeps the audience entertained something rarely seen on the dusty clay of Roland Garros. you have Spaniards all over the place and the tennis is a slug-fest, the matches are rarely, if ever, enthralling. The Australian Open: less glamorous than the Big Apple but it is good fun to watch and most importantly, rain is kept at bay and the indoor tennis is awesome (that king of indoor tennis, Becker performed ever so well when the roof was closed). But, for sheer entertainment, the US Open is unparallelled.

This year’s Open is over and it was great entertainment. The familiar sights of Roger Federer holding the trophy aloft and Martina Navratilova saying she’s done with the game; the media being more interested in the banana than in the wonderful tennis that Sharapova was playing; another Brit failing; Roddick hitting his powerful serves. They are good times, when the grandslams are on.

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Federer is on a different plane. It’s like what Chang said about Sampras when at his peak: The guy is from a different planet. Sharapova, it is intimidating enough when someone plays tennis that well; couple that with the way she looks and you wonder if the world is a fair place :). Paes has won after a long time. He is older, slower but you can see the passion, emotion and love for the game. Indian tennis owes him a lot; Indian sports in general does. He is the only superstar we have had in individual, truly global sports (other than Anand).

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Agassi has retired. I still can’t believe it! It doesn’t seem like very long ago when I saw a tremendous four-set display in the US Open. Two old men standing across the net from each other and showing the world how tennis is supposed to be played. If there had been no tie-breakers, they would till be playing set 1. The level of tennis on display that night, I am yet to see again (I doubt I will). That man is now gone: the rebel, the rival, the champion, the old man of the game.

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Navratilova is gone. I can’t say enough about her contribution to the sport. Her best tennis years were long over by the time I was an avid watcher. But at fifty she plays the game better than some of the divas of the modern game. Davenport will probably not play again. She was a good player and was one of the original powerful hitters in the women’s game. She won more than I thought she would.

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There were a few upsets: Baghdatis, Nadal, Nalbandian, the Williams sisters, Andy Murray. The new video challenge, a good addition I think. But on the whole, it was a great tournament and no one can debate it when I say, the best players won.

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Now, it’s a long wait for the next grandslam, early next year. Let’s see how the draw pans out, new stars, old stars, whether the Federer phenomenon continues, whether Mauresmo is really a choker, will Andy Murray be a phenomenon, will Safina do things that Safin has failed to, will Safin make a comeback, what is happening to Hewitt… waiting for Australian Open 2007.

-Prof

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Maria, Queen of Hearts

Posted by Sports Snob on September 10, 2006

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A striking figure standing across the diminutive Henin, dressed in black,a lovely chain around the neck, black hair-clips in place and the hair being tucked behind the ears every two points and squeals after every shot and fist-pumping!!! Maria Sharapova has won her second GrandSlam. And what a victory it was; Henin never really had a chance.

She started off playing nervously but once she was set in her groove, there was absolutely no chance for Henin. Henin didn’t play the tennis she is capable of but I don’t think it would have mattered much today.

Sharapova was inch perfect, brilliant power-hitting. She was kissing the lines, hitting deep shots and moving Henin all around the court. Sharapova was serving at her best and hitting that inside out forehand perfectly. The match was hers to win or lose. And after disappointments in her last two years, she has proved to us, she is no one-slam wonder.

Maria burst on to the scene when people had written off that diva, Kournikova. She came out and showed us she wasn’t just another pretty pair of legs. I mean, to beat Serena at Wimbledon, playing the way she did! There was ambition, determination and hers was a story the crowd loved: the six-year old with her non-English speaking father, out in a country where they knew no one and all they had was her talent!
She is absolutely gorgeous, carries herself very well and yes, she grunts but then it is very easy for the crowds to forgive her for that (easy for me to, definitely!!). After the match today, she went off-court for a few minutes and got her phone, and ‘told her Mom to start breathing again’.

It is heart-warming to see her succeed. She is going to be around for a while and fans, sponsors and tournament organizers world-over are going to be praying for her success. ‘Maria, you have won our hearts!’

Martina

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What do you say about this woman? She been everywhere, won everything there is to win, retired, come back and competed against players about twenty years younger… and she has won, again. How does she do it? No one knows. Where does the motivation to carry on come from? And the fitness…? She might not be as sharp or fast but then she can still win.

Martina retires, again. And finally, the career is over… it is, isn’t it?

– Prof

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Why Marat Safin will never be a great player

Posted by Sports Snob on September 8, 2006

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Just when you thought he was back again, he goes out and loses a five-setter to Tommy Haas. No offence to Haas but he isn’t really a player that will give the Federer or the Nadal a sleepless night; but then it seems Safin won’t either!

Safin burst onto the scene with a stunning victory over Sampras in the 2000 US Open. And six years down the line, we are still searching for that player. Anybody who could make Sampras look like a novice in a grand slam final is, no doubt, precociously talented but then talent alone does not do the trick.

At the highest levels, to be recognized is one thing to be remembered is quite another. Talent gains recognition, temperament makes one a champion. This is the reason why Sampras, Schumacher, Tiger Woods, Sachin are talked about synonymously with their respective sports. Safin will play the occasional stunning tennis and then come out the next day and get beaten by a player like me! Yes, he brings a human element that can be appreciated and all that jazz but then so did McEnroe and that never deterred him from winning.

So, what does Safin need to do? I don’t know if there is anything he can do. He has been around long enough to learn and adapt. He has failed.

Serena and Venus

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The biggest disappointment in women’s tennis! These two had such prodigious talent, power and natural athletic skills that between them, they could have broken every record in women’s tennis. I must admit that I didn’t really like them when I first saw them play. They just seemed to be hitting it more powerfully than the rest (it seems prettier when Sharapova hits that powerfully, doesn’t it?). But what I overlooked was the natural athletic skill they possessed. What happened then? Acting, fashion, interior designing robbed us of two wonderful tennis players. Nobody, ever, can wake up one fine day, come out on court and expect to win.

They seem satisfied with what they have achieved. Have you ever heard Schumacher say anything about being happy with the number of grand prix victories, a Sampras saying after five Wimbledon titles that he had had enough? To be great requires an insatiable thirst for competition and victory. These two don’t have seem to have that (and if they do, it can’t be achieved by playing just one tournament before a grand slam).

Safin, Venus and Serena have so much talent that it is a pity to see how their careers have gone. Players with much lesser talent – a Courier- have achieved more than what their talent would have allowed. To be great you need temperament and drive as much as you need talent. These three have failed; they have disappointed me and fans world over, I am sure. Their careers are not over yet but will they come back and prove me wrong? I sorely wish they do but I doubt it.

Prof

PS: Ironic, Venus Williams won the US Open Women’s singles in 2000.

Venus and Serena have won quite a few titles but not as many as they could have (should have?).

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Wikipedia Mischief!

Posted by Sports Snob on September 6, 2006

Although I have read a lot about how mischief on wikipedia. Like how John Seigenthaler Sr. was accused of being involved in the murder of John. F. Kennedy (go here) I have never come across a case myself (or maybe I simply didn’t know)

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Until today. Go HERE. Scroll down to the trivia section! 😀

Hilarious! Wonder how long this has been there. Maybe people have already included this “trivia” in their quizzes!

Z

P.S: Don’t tell me there IS such a lake!

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