Roger The Great's Tennis Spot

Friday, July 14, 2006

Putting Wimbledon To Bed

I was going to post on the great tennis Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet are continuing to play this week, but my heart just wasn't into it. I love both of those guys but my thoughts (and a lot of others it seems) are still with this past Wimbledon fortnight.

One thing I've taken away is that tennis' two top players genuinely like each other. Whether you hate one or the other as a player, it's hard to argue that both are really nice guys. Both generally speak well of each other when asked. Roger occasionally has been accused of bad mouthing Rafa or his game but I think his comments are simply being misconstrued. And Rafa never says a bad word about anyone. He's such a likeable kid off the court, it's amazing the transformation that takes place when he's hitting a tennis ball. We've seen and heard small things that also lend to their friendliness: Rafa and Roger low fiving while presenting their trophies to the crowd; and Peter Bodo's story about Rafa telling Fed in the locker room how amazing he played versus Ancic. These guys may say things in the heat of battle in the future that may not be flattering, but I really believe they get along great.

Another hot topic in the past week has been Roger's burgeoning metrosexuality. I appreciate and admire Roger's sense of style and that he takes great pride in his appearance. In that I have no problem at all. However, I do agree that Roger was being a little silly constantly clinging to his custom white sport coat like Linus with his blanket. In the beginning of the tournament he had stated it would just be worn for the first match. Soon however, they were inseparable. Along with that, Roger also managed to sneak on a nice watch before the trophy ceremony Sunday. By the time he was holding the trophy he looked less like a player and more like a GQ cover model. Maybe it was a bit much.

Finally, this was the spring board that will lead to the stretch run of the grand slam season. What will we have to look forward to this summer? As stated at the beginning, some young guns like Murray, Gasquet, and Berdych may be big factors on the fast hard courts. Marcos Baghdatis has shown he lifts his game when the prizes are the greatest. He is no longer looked at as an up and comer but one who is expected to begin delivering titles. Andy Roddick seems motivated to play anything and everything this summer in order to find his game before he reaches Flushing Meadow. Andre Agassi will be making his farewell run. And how will strong hard courters like Ljubicic, Nalbandian, Hewitt, and Safin fare? But of course, it will likely be a two horse race: Federer and Nadal. Neither man will play a ton before the Open but both will come prepared. I really like Federer for the US Open this year. I believe that surface favors him almost as much as the grass does right now. Bring on the hard courts!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Back To The Same World I Left

Well, it was a great two and a half weeks off for me and as I return I just hope I've returned to a few remaining readers who have missed my posts. *L*

I was fortunate that I was able to watch quite a bit of Wimbledon while I was away, sometimes to my wife's chagrin. One of the important matches that I did miss was the Nadal-Agassi clash. I happened to catch the score on one of the scrolling tickers while I was in Times Square. I was disappointed to know that I would never see Agassi on the grass again. That match was part of a two week period where the tennis world was almost turned on it's head.

As I returned home this weekend before the big Fed-Nadal final I truly believed this was the most important match tennis had seen since Federer won Wimbledon in 2003. Why, you ask? Well, this wasn't just another final and it wasn't just another match in this growing rivalry. If Nadal had managed to win this match, I truly believed it was the end of the Federer era in tennis. I'm not saying that Federer wouldn't go on to win more slams or be successful, but his era of dominating men's tennis would be over. Many would look at Nadal as the best player in the world and he would command a 7-1 head to head including beating Roger in his house. Roger's legacy he's working toward as the greatest player ever would also begin to be tarnished as he wouldn't even be the best player currently. On top of that, it would have to destroy Roger internally for any future meetings with Rafa. There was so much at stake here for Federer and so much to gain for Nadal.

However... Roger didn't allow this to happen. He played a solid match and defeated his arch-rival in four sets: 6-0 7-6 6-7 6-3. This was such a huge win for Roger. He claimed his fourth straight Wimbledon title, maintained his status in people's minds as the clear #1, and built some positive foundations toward future clashes with Nadal.

Let's not forget the great run by Nadal here to shock the world by making the Wimbledon final this year. He took advantage of a pretty soft draw and played great tennis for two weeks. If Roger hadn't been on his game, he had given himself a shot at being the first guy since Bjorn Borg to win Roland Garros and Wimbledon back to back. This was a great run for Nadal and he will be a serious threat at the US Open this year.

Tennis is also the better for Sunday's clash. Federer's win takes this rivalry a step further and I believe will increase interest even more to draw people to the game right now. We're all fortunate as fans and we should all enjoy the ride.

On a side note, another thing I saw while I was in Times Square was the Federer ESPN commercial on the big screen above ESPN Zone. I just figured I'd take a picture and post it here for all of you. I thought it was kind of cool.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Vacation Time

Well, after my work day today I'm now free for 16 days of vacation in which I'll be traveling with my wife and kids. This is great in the sense that I'll be getting away from everything but it's bad in that I'll be away during Wimbledon!! Two years ago I was traveling during Roland Garros and that was bad enough but missing Wimbledon will be very tough. I'll still get to catch a few matches, but you probably won't see a blog until the day before the mens final or the day of. It should be an intriguing tournament considering the murderous draw Federer has gotten. If he can make it through the first two rounds though, you've got to like his chances again. On the other end, Nadal has been given a Ljubicic-like draw from Roland Garros this year. He could be surprised by anyone but I like his chances to make the second week here.

Since I need to be getting ready to leave I'll make some quick predictions.

For the quarters I like:

Federer-Ancic, although Gasquet-Djokovic could be the dark horse picks here;
Nalbandian-Mathieu, though I really like Blake as a possibility as well;
Hewitt-Murray, with Roddick finally bowing out early here; and
Nadal-Lopez, in an extremely suspect quarter.

I'll let you guys decide where it goes from there. I'm so tempted to predict another Fed-Nadal final due to Nadal's draw but I have a feeling he'll lose somewhere along the way. It should be another great two weeks!

Talk to you again in another two weeks. Take care.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Back On Track

With both of the major Wimbledon warm-up tournaments complete, we stand about where we expected to going into the year's third major. Both Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt got back to winning ways this week on their favorite surface.

In Halle, we had some great matches. Most of these involved Roger Federer as he struggled to find his form and overcome fatigue after Roland Garros. Even the mighty Fed had a hard time playing on clay Sunday and then on grass a few days later. His supporters should be proud however, as he clawed through three set victories over Gasquet, Rochus, Haas, and Berdych in the final. All four of those players showed some great grass court play this week and all will have their chances at Wimbledon. With few dominant grass court players on tour, young guys such as Gasquet and Berdych have great games to be successful at Wimbledon for years to come. Maybe this could be the year that they make a breakthrough at Wimbledon.

Queens allowed for a few more surprises this year. Andy Roddick was unable to defend his crown again, which allowed Lleyton Hewitt to win here for the fourth time. Hewitt had gone title-less for almost a year and a half and with Roddick's decline, he could be the second favorite for the Wimbledon title this year. Hewitt overcame tough matches from Vincente, Mirnyi, Nadal, and Henman before straight setting American James Blake in the final. Henman and Blake both played very well this week and are in good form for Wimbledon. One player who did not surprise me but seemed to surprise many is Rafael Nadal. I truly believe that if he did not have his shoulder injury he could have defeated Hewitt and possibly have won this tournament. He showed solid grass court prowess and I think with the right draw people should not discount his chances next week.

Well, we still have one week to go before Federer opens play on center court at Wimbledon. This week we have play in the Netherlands at the Ordina Open and another tournament in Nottingham, England. Who will throw their names in for contention this week? Stay tuned as the grass season comes and goes in the blink of an eye.


* On a side note... For anyone interested in seeing matches from Halle or Queens this past week, go check out http://www.sladinki007.net/index.php?showforum=139

Friday, June 16, 2006

Roland Garros Final Taking It's Toll

Just when you think the clay season is behind us, it's influence rears it's head. Today in Halle and in London, #1 escaped while #2 was not so lucky.

After two tough opening matches in Halle, Roger Federer continued to show the mental and physical strain that he hasn't had time to recover from. Olivier Rochus pushed Roger to the brink with four match points but Roger kept his grass court streak alive with a 6-7 7-6 7-6 win. I haven't seen the match and I'm sure little Ollie played great, but I think this is more about Roger being empty and needing a break. If this wasn't Roger's only grass court warm up I don't think he'd even be here. You could argue that this match will make him stronger, but all I think it did was take more out of him. I absolutely believed that Roger's great streak on grass could end this week and I think his next match may be the time. Haas or Soderling will both be tough customers, whoever wins.

In the other big grass tune-up, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Rafael Nadal after Nadal retired at one set all with a left shoulder injury. Again, this is a matter of fatigue and strain with so little time in between the Roland Garros final and these first matches. For Rafa, it'll be good to get some rest but here's to hoping this injury is not serious and we'll see him at Wimbledon.


Earlier this week, we were fortunate to get the return of Andre Agassi to the tour. Agassi, who has played little this year, decided to give it a go for the short grass court season. Unfortunately for him, lack of match practice did not serve him well as Tiger Tim Henman knocked him out in the first round in straight sets. I can't help but think Agassi is at the end. I'm all for him playing until he decides to retire on his terms. However, it's becoming clear that we will probably not see top level tennis from Agassi again with his deteriorating body not holding up. You can only do it for so long at 36. I for one hope that I'm wrong though and Andre can make one more great run at Wimbledon or more likely at the US Open.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

New Post Coming...

Sorry, everyone... I've taken a few days off blogging after that debacle of a Roland Garros final. Thankfully, we have new things to enjoy as the green stuff is here. A new post on this week's action will be coming tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks for your patience!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nadal Lifts Trophy In Repeat

As I expected (And much to my dismay) Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer yesterday 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6, in what was definitely not a classic. Rafa retains his Roland Garros title and at the age of twenty has definitely established himself as one of the greatest claycourters of all time.

This match did not quite live up to it's billing as both men played some very spotty tennis early. As the match wore on, Nadal raised his game and played his usual gritty, consistent tennis. Federer meanwhile, looked hapless for much of the match. Chatrier court was offering huge bounces which had Roger spraying errors and pushing his backhand all day long. Unlike in Rome, Roger made few trips to the net and rarely hit through his backhand. These were the things that put Roger in a winning position in Rome and without those weapons in his arsenal, he rarely seemed threatening to Nadal.

After the match, Roger talked about how much harder it was to hit through the court here. Watching on TV it's quite noticeable. The play seems much slower here than anywhere except maybe Hamburg (where the ball seems to stay lower) and the court really takes hold of spin to give wicked bounces. If there is one court in the world that seems to have been built for Rafa's game, it's here.

Nadal's second Grand Slam title prevented what I believe would have been the greatest accomplishment in tennis history: Holding all four slams simultaneously on four different surfaces. People love to talk about Laver's calendar slam, but you have to remember that three of the four were played on grass. These days you have four very distinct surfaces that makes it nearly impossible to hold them all at once.

For Nadal, he miraculously defended all of his main point totals from last year's clay season. Amazing job Rafa and congratulations on an incredible spring. I really believe he'll be much more of a factor on grass this season, especially starting at Stella Artois where he's been given a very easy draw.

For Federer, I'm sure the disappointment is palpable. However, this was his greatest clay court season ever and he reached his first Roland Garros final; Something that Sampras was never able to do. On top of that, Roger actually prevented Rafa from gaining ground on him in the rankings. So his number one status looks very secure for 2006 unless he has major slips the next few months.

As the grass season rolls around it's now Roger's time. Hopefully, he can put this loss behind him and focus on his best surface. These next four weeks are when Roger can really re-establish his dominance and secure his #1 ranking. On Wednesday he starts his season in Halle. He's been handed a very tricky draw and I wouldn't be surprised if he fell to Gasquet in round two.

Regardless, clay season is over. Bring on the grass!!