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Meltdown of the Week


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Entries in Pro Tournaments (23)


Wimbledon: Tennis Hate Flows into Week 2 with Serena Upset

Tennis Hate continues to be as thick as the clotted cream on the strawberries at this year's Wimbledon.  The latest Greatest to go down: Serena Williams.

The reigning Queen of Wimbledon, uncharacteristically humbled. Courtesy Agence France Presse/Getty Images

Sabine Lisicki, the 24th seed, improved her record against the defending Queen of The Grass to 1-2 with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 upset.

Lisicki pulled it off despite being 0-3 down against Serena in the third set.  Normally, with the kind of tennis Williams has been playing lately (she came into the match with a 34-game winning streak), that kind of lead has pundits talking about who Williams will play in the next round.  Heck, after Maria Sharapova's upset in Wacky Wimby Week One, everyone had given Williams her 8th Wimbledon title.  

To add more nails to the coffin that everyone thought Lisicki was building out there on Centre Court, the German was 0-40 down, after having clawed her way back to 3-4 in the deciding set. Haters, it was Tennis Hate at its finest.  After a string of errors, seemingly bewildered by Serena's strong, deep returns, Lisicki made some big, clutch serves and leveled the game to deuce.  Wow!  

Lisicki does a victory face plant on Centre Court. Courtesy Getty Images.Then, serving for the game, Lisicki moved up to a short reply from Williams and decides to dink a little drop shot into the deuce court.  Huh?!  Serena put it away to bring the game back to deuce.  Lisicki shook it off, slammed an ace wide, then drew an error from Williams to wiggle out of what could have been a confidence-deflating loss.  

Here's how the WTA website described Lisicki's unexpected escape from Serena's clutches:

"[A] few huge serves here and a couple of big forehands there and Lisicki was right back in it, catching up to 4-all and, after an overhead that just missed the baseline from Williams, getting an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4. And she converted - with one last inside out forehand winner, the No.23-seeded German finished off the No.1-seeded five-time Wimbledon winner." 

Lisicki was shaking and crying in her post-match BBC interview.  

"I'm so happy!" she cried.  

Uh-oh.  That's not the thing to say when Serena's around.  She recently mocked Maria Sharapova in  Rolling Stone for cooing the same phrase in interviews about her love life with Williams' former flame, tennis player Grigor Dmitrov, "the guy with a black heart."

Williams has called such sentiments "boring."  Her exit from Wimby spells the end, for now, of that delicious little story line.

All smiles on Centre Court for Lisicki....except while hitting. Courtesy Getty Images.Asked by the BBC interviewer how she was able to keep from dissolving into self-defeating self-loathing and other aspects of Tennis Hate when facing 3 break points -- and blowing a match point -- Lisicki said she just "hung in there."

"I was able to enjoy it," she said of the match.  Indeed, she SMILED, even when Serena got two successive points after her shot hit the net and wobbled weakly onto Lisicki's side of the grass.

She also said she was feeling some mojo from the clay court season.

“[It] gave me a little more energy knowing that she won the French Open and I beat the French Open champion three times in a row in my last three appearances, so…good omen."

Williams acknowledged that Sabine "played really well."  She also flatly said she should have done better.  "I definitely, probably should have made some shots.  Huge room for improvement."

When those sorts of results can happen to a player as good as her, there's absolutely no reason why it can't happen to me.” - Andy Murray on Serena Williams' loss

When SERENA WILLIAMS, one of the best female players of all time, says there's "huge room for improvement" in her game, it takes a bit of the bite out of my own despair at ever getting this game.

Meanwhile, Serena's ouster is acting as a weird omen of sorts for Andy Murray, who worries that he, too, is going to be hit with the Upset Virus going around the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

"When those sorts of results can happen to a player as good as her, there's absolutely no reason why it can't happen to me," he gulped. "That's why I'm not getting ahead of myself, and no one else should.”

Murray straight-setted Mikhail Youzhny and will face a resurgent Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals, who's playing better since ridding himself of that super-gelled mohawk he'd been sporting.  The product was limiting his movement on the court.

The other quarters in the men's draw:  Novak Djokovic (no surprise there) vs. Tomas Berdych; David Ferrer takes on Juan Martin Del Potro, through to the Wimby quarters for the first time;and  an all-Pole match between sleeper Jerzy Janowicz vs. Lukasz Kubot.

Sabine Lisicki is on to the quarterfinals, where she'll take on Kaia Kanepi.  In the other quarterfinal matches, it's Aggie Radwanska against Li Na, Petra Kvitova vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Marion Bartoli against the last American standing, Sloane Stephens.

The Sloane Ranger rallied from a set down to beat Monica Puig, who has had an outstanding first Wimbledon as a pro.  She said patience is what has helped her get over her own recent bout of Tennis Hate.

This photo says it all about winning and losing, Tennis Hate and Tennis Love. Can't we just wave at the winner? Must we TOUCH them? Puig and Stephens at the net.

As the WTA's website noted, Stephens hit a plateu after a breakthrough run at the Aussie Open.  

She won only two of her next nine matches and stayed put at No.17 in the world. But in the last month and a half she has won 11 of 14 matches, and is now primed to keep clawing up those rankings - how did she break out of her spell?

"I just kept believing in myself," she said. "I mean, it was a bad time. But just knowing that I am a good tennis player helped. I'm Top 20 in the world for a reason. I didn't all of a sudden snap my fingers and get good. I put in a lot of work, a lot of sweat, bad hair days, all that other stuff, to get where I was.

"I realized I couldn't just let that go to waste."

Haters, I've got the sweat and the work down.  All I need is the bad hair day.  Anyone want to grease me up for a mohawk?

I'm happy for Sloane, but I'm rooting for the veteran, Marion Bartoli.  She's come close to winning Wimbledon, losing to Venus Williams in 2007. She's such a grinder.  She's a loner.  Everyone mocks her wacky warm-up swings, her unconventional double-handed forehand, her herky-jerky service motion.  

A victory for Bartoli at the end of this wild Wimbledon of slips and falls, upsets and injuries, would be fitting.  


Monte Carlo: Djokovic Will Try to Stop Nadal's 9th Straight Title

The excitement around a Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer final feels so five years ago.  The match-up generating words like "blockbuster" is the one on Sunday at Monte Carlo between Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic.

He huffed and puffed and blew Tsonga's surge down. Rafa and his "champion luck" escape a 3rd set against Tsonga. Courtesy Getty Images.

It will be their 34th meeting (Nadal leads 19-14) and a re-match of last year's final, which Nadal won handily in straight sets.  

Fed and Nadal have played fewer matches, just 29, but they're the stuff of awe and history.  Nineteen of those matches were finals, including the epic, twice-rain delayed 2008 Wimbledon championship match that Nadal won in the dark.  

But those legendary Rafa-Rog moments appear to be waning.

Click to read more ...


Miami Men's Final: March Madness Overtakes Ferrer, CBS

David Ferrer beat himself in the Sony Open final against Andy Murray, succumbing to heat, humidity, cramps, and the US Open and Olympic champ in a third set tiebreak that didn't have to be.

Courtesy Getty Images/Matthew Stockman.

Ferrer suffered a brain fart during championship point, 5-4, against Murray's serve

Click to read more ...


Indian Wells: Lob Rally Draws Tennis Hate From ESPN

ESPN's Chris Fowler sent me running for my laptop when he mentioned the "epic moonball rally" last night between Caroline Wozniaki and Angelique Kerber.  He said "moonball" with such disdain!  


And yet, it was what allowed Wozniaki to eventually triumph over Kerber for the first time in their last four meetings and to advance to the Indian Wells 2013 final.



Caroline was ahead in the third and decisive set, up 3-1, but it was a pressure point, 30-all.  Kerber returned with a deep backhand right at Wozniaki's feet, prompting her to react defensively with a moonball.  Kerber took the high ball out of the air with her leftie forehand, hitting a sharp, cross-court angle that got yet another moonball response from Caro.

Two can play at that game, thought Kerber, and she joined in.  A murmur starts to swell through the crowd: "Hey, are we watching pro tennis, or a USTA 3.0 women's league?"

Yet no 3.0 player I know, including myself, could have kept it up for a 38-shot rally.  Most of the time, those high bouncers have me flailing helplessly deep behind the baseline, as I fall back into the cold embrace of the bubble.  

About 20 shots into the rally, Wozniacki goes for a hard, flat cross-court backhand, but Kerber's been knocked senseless by the lack of oxygen in outer space.  She replies with a moonball, setting up another rally that Kevin Ford, Evgeny Terelkin and Oleg Novitskiy might have enjoyed on the International Space Station, had they not been preparing to come back to earth today.

On center court at Indian Wells, the tennis ball's space mission finally ended when Wozniaki came up to a short sitter from Kerber and hit a flat, hard backhand deep into the deuce court to end the point.  

"I think she was moving better and hit the ball a little bit higher," Kerber said after Wozniaki defeated her, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.  She admitted it changed the momentum of the match.  "I was not expect these balls."

Neither did anyone else.  A journalist asked her what she was thinking during the moonball rally.  Was it, "I haven't played this way since I was 5"?  Or, "I'm going to kill myself if I end up being out-moonballed"?  Or, "God, I hope Tennis Channel took a commercial break!"

"What I'm thinking... I don't know. I try to play the point. Doesn't matter if it's high or if it's flat. It's a different style of game, but it's tennis," said Kerber.

Yes, Haters, it's tennis.  Moonballs are a legitimate shot.  

Or, as Caroline Wozniaki put it afterwards, "I was trying to figure out a way to win. And it doesn't really matter how."



Indian Wells: Azarenka, Stosur, Withdraw; Nadal Beats Error-Prone Federer

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells continued its bid to be the most Tennis Hate-filled tournament of the 2013 season with the quarterfinal withdrawals of top seed and defending women's champ Victoria Azarenka and Samantha Stosur.

Let's go to the (physio) tape: Azarenka throws in the towel after crying into it over injury withdrawal.

It's the latest weirdness to happen in a tournament that saw aging Aussie Lleyton Hewitt oust last year's finalist and 15th seed, American John Isner, and South African Kevin Anderson taking an hour and 55 minutes to kick the Spanish Bulldog and 4th seed David Ferrer to the curb.  Or to the cactus.  After all, it IS the California desert.

Azarenka was set to meet Caroline Wozniaki before she pulled out of the tournament with tendinitis and inflammation in her right foot and ankle.  It's a holdover from an injury she sustained in Dubai.  According to Sports, the feisty, competitive Belarussian was seen hobbling around during her practice session and crying into a towel.

"I tried absolutely everything I could to do, but I have been advised by the doctor, by my own team, that it's just a very, very high risk already," she said.  

Wozniaki will face Angelique Kerber, who's beaten her in their last three meet-ups.

Stosur pulls calf, pulls out of Indian Wells. Sports Illustrated says it's only the second withdrawal in her career. Photo courtesy Getty Images.Stosur's withdrawal handed Maria Kirilenko a walkover and sets up a Kirilenko/Maria Sharapova semifinal.

If Sharapova wins, she bumps Azarenka out of the world number 2 position.  

It's a shame.  Azarenka is unbeaten on the court so far this season, with a 17-0 streak that includes her second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Stosur also realized the extent of her injury during practice.  In a statement, she said she "felt something go" in her right calf muscle while serving for the match against Mona Barthel.  


"I had a bit of a rough start to the year and I feel like now my tennis has really picked up, and I've been playing really quite well these last few days," she said in a statement.  "I don't know if you can get any more unlucky than that."

It FELT like a walkover: Nadal breezes past Federer in quarters, 63, 62. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.Unlucky is not the word to use for defending champ Roger Federer, who was felled by long-time rival Rafael Nadal in straight sets.  The word of the match, instead, is sloppy.  They say the most telling statistic in the men's game is the second serve percentage.  Federer won the point on his second serve a measly 29% of the time, compared to 52% for Rafa.  Mr. Bad Knees now has a 19-10 record against Mr. Bad Back.



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