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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 Maria Sharapova (7)


Cincy Open: Who Suffered More from Tennis Hate, Ivanovic or Sharapova?

There was no finer display of Tennis Hate than the semi-final match between Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic. It messed with their heads, their serves, their strokes and, in Ivanovic's case, her tummy. 

Ivanovic, seeded 9th, eked out the victory, but just barely, toppling fifth-seed Maria Sharapova in a nearly three-hour-long see-saw battle, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.  

Here comes lunch: Ana Ivanovic's loss of a 4-0 second set lead makes her sick to her stomach during her Western & Southern Open against Maria Sharapova.What was worse?  Ana letting slip a 4-0 lead in the second set, losing five games in a row to Maria?  Or Sharapova double faulting, twice, while serving for the third set and the match to allow Ivanovic to pull even with her, 4-4?

I really got a little tight," said Ivanovic.  No kidding.

Ivanovic said that, in the second set, she had stopped moving her feet.  "I really got a little tight," Ivanovic said later. "I wasn't moving my feet forward enough and played a little passive."

Any movement seemed to be coming from Ivanovic's gut.  In the third game of the third set, between points, Ivanovic bent over, her hands and racquet between her knees.  She walked over to her chair and called for a doctor, who ended up instructing her to lie down on the court to have her blood pressure taken.

Maria Sharapova winces after blowing another shot in her match against Ivanovic. A blood pressure check for Ivanovic made Sharapova's blood boil.Nerves, or food poisoning?  Ivanovic said she thought she ate something funny.  In her on court interview after the match, she said she started feeling poorly in the second set.

Interesting, how that sick feeling coincided with her plummeting forehand accuracy and her waning focus. 

“I think I ate something bad today,” she told reporters later. “When my coach was coming out, I kept telling him I don’t feel good, like my stomach is really upset. Then it really built up in the third set, and I was not feeling fine. They gave me some pills, and after some games it was better.”

Check her blood pressure!" sniped Sharapova.

The pills, she said, were for nausea.  Sharapova, meanwhile, could have used a chill pill.  She was seething at what she thought was Ivanovic's gamesmanship. Broken back serving at 4-3 in the third set, Sharapova looked at the chair umpire and tapped her upper left arm with her racquet, indicating a sphygmomanometer cuff.

"Check her blood pressure!" she sniped.  

Hell, check mine.  It just went up, typing sphygmomanometer.

Not quite the ground stroke technique Maria was looking for. A rare moment of on court self-criticism for Sharapova.According to The New York Times, Sharapova blamed her Tennis Hate on court officials not telling her what was going on down there, on the side of the court, with Ivanovic being attended to like some 1920s noblewoman at Downton Abbey who just spotted a water bottle on her marble mantle.

“All of a sudden, there is an interruption. You don’t know what’s going on. Is it an injury? And then you don’t get an answer. I don’t think they even know. That’s the tricky part, I guess.”

Sharapova broke right back to make it 5-4.  ESPN coverage showed her shaking her head ever so slightly, and oh so disapprovingly, as she passed Ivanovic near the umpire's chair. She remained so rattled by Ivanovic's courtside doctor's visit that she committed two consecutive double faults while serving for the match, giving Ana a 6-5 lead.

That is so unlike Maria Sharapova.  She has that oft-mimicked pre-service routine for a reason.  She does it to hit the reset button and wipe away whatever happened in the previous point. To see her all unSugarpova-like on the court, frowning, sighing and making snide remarks, was surprising.  To answer my own question, Sharapova suffered the most from Tennis Hate and was unable or unwilling to use her mental tools to fix what ailed her on Saturday night.

This says it all: Elation for Ivanovic, disgust for Sharapova. Who's feeling queasy now?Ivanovic did not buckle this time.  She even hit a vicious cross court winner for match point.  Guess she wasn't feeling tight anymore.  And any throwing up on the court came when Sharapova tried to stretch her 6'2" frame to get that drive.  Her stab backhand framed the ball and sent it sky-high.

Too bad she couldn't take it to Serena Williams in the final.  Williams beat Ivanovic handily, 6-4, 6-1, to win her first title at the Western & Southern Open.



Australian Open: Oh, How the Mighty Are Falling

Another towering threat in the Australian Open has been felled.  Number 3 seed and four-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova, all 6'2 inches of her, came crashing down in the Round of 16 at the hands of 5'3 Dominika "Diminuka" Cibulkova, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Dominika was dominentika over Sharapova in the Aussie Open Round of 16. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Some light is now filtering down to the forest floor.  Seedlings like 30th-seed Eugenie Bouchard, Simona Halep and Garbine Mugaruza -- Garbine Mugaruza! -- are now getting Miracle Gro pep talks from their coaches. 

Cibulkova was thisclose to letting Sharapova slip through to the quarters in straight sets.  Cib was up 5-0 in the second, but got tight, letting Maria reel off four straight games.  To her credit, she knuckled down and closed out the set, holding up a clenched fist in triumph.  She learned her lesson in the third set and never let her foot off the gas.  

"I came into this match believing 100 percent that I could win it," she said in her on-court interview.  Cib credited her victory to confidence.  But, as with Ana Ivanovic's upset of world number one Serena Williams Saturday, journos will likely give more of a nod toward Sharapova's injury.

After losing the second set, Sharapova called for the trainer and received a ten-minute medical time out for what what Maria said later was a hip strain. 

It was just maybe few seconds I let my thinking go away." -Dominika Cibulkova

As I watched on TV, I thought, gamesmanship.  Maria's going to use the bum butt to regroup and come out firing, and Dominika is going to let the long wait rattle her.  But it didn't.  "I wasn't thinking about it," she said in her post-match interview.  She WAS thinking about Maria's service toss, which she caught a couple of times near the end of the match.

But that long break didn't phase Cibulkova.  What was getting to her was Maria's ball toss.

"I was getting like a little bit angry about that, you know.  I was keep talking myself, like, Why she doing that?  I thought it was on the purpose."  

I know the feeling, DC.  I burn with fury whenever Mark starts chatting during a changeover about the little adjustment he's made that has him cracking forehand winners down the line against me and my Worthy Comrade.  He's doing this on purpose. He's rubbing it in.  He hates me.  I hate him more.  I'm calling an attorney after this match. 

I haven't called an attorney. Yet.  And Cibulkova stopped the mental bleeding.  

"It was just maybe few seconds I let my thinking go away," she said.  "That what I was also working on during my preseason, you know, to let me stay focused and not to let my thoughts go away."

Cibulkova has beaten Maria on a big stage like this before.  She dominikanated Sharapova in the quarters of the French Open, 6-0, 61.  But that was five years ago, in 2009.  She must have a scrap book of that match, a little memory shrine in her head that she visits to remember what that felt like, because she rode that feeling all the way into her first quarterfinals Down Under.

When Ivanovic stepped inside the service box for Serena's second serve, it was like watching a New Yorker cross Eighth Avenue 

Ivanovic's victory was more unexpected.  The 14th-seed had never won a match against Serena in their four previous meetings, never even took a set from Williams.  She's been in one quarterfinal since her French Open victory in 2008.  You've got to get into the Way Back Machine to remember that victory, before her toss went awry and her confidence crumbled.  

But here she was, doing what no one on the women's tour does: cracking winners off of Serena's vaunted serve. Ana had 33 winners to Serena's 22.  She won 60 percent of second serve points, compared to a paltry 41 percent for Serena.  When Ivanovic stepped inside the service box for Serena's second serve, it was like watching a New Yorker cross Eighth Avenue in front of a line of cabs at rush hour: Bold.

On center court, in Rod Laver Arena, defending men's doubles champs Bob and Mike Bryan were shown the exit by Minnesota native Eric Butorac and his doubles partner, Raven Klaasen of South Africa, 7-6 (9), 6-4.  It's the first time in 10 years that the twins haven't made the finals.  

Even more stunning is that they were beaten by two guys who've only been playing doubles together for four months.  


Wimbledon: Djokovic: Path "Not Easy" to Final, Eyes Roll 'Round the World

Novak Djokovic wants to convince you that it's going to be hard work, not an easy draw, that pulls him into the Wimbledon men's final in a fortnight.  

"Some people would say I was lucky with the draw," the world number one and 2011 champ said. "But it's a Grand Slam, so I don't think there is any easy way to the title."

Thanking his lucky stars: Nole gets easy draw at Wimby. Photo courtesy Getty.

Puh-leeze.  Nole is the only Top Five player in his half of the draw.  His toughest opponent is the 35-year-old German Tommy Haas, seeded and ranked 13th, whom he wouldn't meet until the fourth round.  

Let me pause here, though, to say I'll be looking forward to that match, and rooting for the old guy. Haas is seeing a late bloom on the rose bush of his career.  He upset Djokovic in the 4th round in Miami, the third oldest to beat a Number 1 since August 23, 1973, when the ATP rankings began.  His other two wins in his 3-5 record against Djokovic came in 2009, at Wimbledon and at Halle, another grass court tournament.  If Nole is feeling over confident, or is tested at all by, possibly, American big server Ryan Harrison or Jeremy Chardy in a third round, Haas could slip through.  

The grass is DEFINITELY greener on Djokovic's side of the Wimbledon draw.Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal gets to make Roger Federer's life miserable in a likely quarterfinals matchup, while Wimby runner up and Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray could see trouble in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their section's quarters.

Don't tell me Djokovic wasn't high-fiving everyone in his camp when he saw his draw. 

As I write, Roger Federer opened the tournament by calmly dispatching Romania’s Victor Hanescu in straight sets, 63, 62, 60. There was no sign of any sweat as he pulled his bandana off his head following match point.  All in a day's work, folks.  

On the women's side, who is likely to beat world number one and defending champ Serena Williams?  Except, maybe, herself.  Serena stirred up a bunch of grass clippings coming into Wimbledon with her thoughtless musings on the Steubenville rape case and Maria Sharapova while in earshot of a reporter for Rolling Stone.

"Do you think it was fair, what they got?" she said, referring to the two high school football players who were convicted of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl while others watched and texted the details.  "They did something stupid, but I don't not.  I'm not blaming the girl, but if you're a 16-year-old and you're drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don't take drinks from other people."

Ugh.  And then there was her end of a phone conversation with sister Venus, in which she appeared to be talking about Sharapova, who's dating a guy Serena used to date.  

"She begins every interview with, 'I'm so happy, I'm so lucky' -- it's so boring," Serena sniped.  "She's still not going to be invited to the cool parties.  And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it."

According to the New York Times, Serena said she approached Sharapova at one of those cool parties (it had to be cool, Serena was invited), last Thursday's WTA pre-Wimbledon soiree, to apologize in person.  

"I said: ‘Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation.’ ”

I'm sorry if anyone was offended: Serena's apology tour stops at Wimbledon.IF Maria was offended?  I suspect she was.  In her pre-Wimby media interview, she took a swipe at Serena's relationship with coach Patrick Mouratoglou. 

"If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship, and her boyfriend that was married, and is getting a divorce and has kids,” Sharapova hissed.  

Oooh, cat fight!  Let's hope they get a chance to settle the score with their racquets, on Centre Court, in the final.  That's where Serena and Maria would meet, as they are on opposite sides of the draw.

In first round news, fifth-seed Sara Errani was bounced by Monica Puig of Puerto Rico in straight sets, 63, 62.  It was Puig's first match on grass as a pro.  

Sports Illustrated sums up the Tennis Hate for Errani, the runner-up in the 2012 French Open and a semi-finalist in three of the last five Grand Slams:

The loss marked another humbling Wimbledon exit for Errani.

Last year, the Italian went an entire set without winning a point in losing 6-0, 6-4 in the third round to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan. Shvedova was the first player in a Grand Slam to achieve a so-called "golden set" by winning 24 straight points.




Serena Completes Career Golden Slam, Says Disneyworld is Next

Why does everyone bite their trophies? Serena clamps down on gold after chewing up Maria Sharapova. Courtesy Associated Press.It wasn't much of a championship match.  Serena Williams took just 64 minutes to beat down Maria Sharapova in the Olympics women's singles championship match, 6-0, 6-1.  

By winning, she became the second woman in history to win all four Slams and an Olympic gold medal, a Career Golden Grand Slam.  Steffi Graf was the first, securing a gold medal in the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

"I didn't expect this. I can't even... oh my gosh. I have a gold medal in singles, oh my gosh," Williams gushed in her on-court interview. "I got the gold. I'm just so happy. I don't know what to do."

Really, Serena?  You didn't expect this?  Well, everyone else did.  The WTA's website summed it up pretty well:

She has now won 34 of her last 35 matches; she has now won her last 13 matches against Top 5 players, 12 of those wins coming in straight sets; she now has 44 WTA titles, passing Venus Williams for most among active players and now a standalone No.10 all-time.

"Who, me? A gold medalist? Shucks!"  Here's where I wish Serena would cut the crap and be a little more Roger Federesque: "I played brilliantly out there.  I'm really impressed by all the amazing shots I made.  I took my own breath away."

Serena on the war path. Courtesy Associated Press.

Williams, who also has two doubles gold medals with sister Venus (in 2000 in Sydney and 2008 in Beijing), told reporters, "Now I have everything, literally. I have everything there is to win in tennis. Where do I go from here?"

Wait for it.......wait for it.....

Now I can go to Disneyworld."

Silver medalist Maria Sharapova. Courtesy Associated Press.Poor Maria must have felt like Minnie Mouse out there on Centre Court at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.   Williams bombed 24 winners and hit just 7 unforced errors.  Ten of those winners were aces.  Numbers 9 and 10 were the last two points of the match.  Now that's confidence.

Sharapova saw it that way, too.  "Serena was playing incredibly confident tennis today," she told reporters. "There are always things you think you could have done better, but my opponent just played too well today; she was too quick and too powerful. She wasn't making many mistakes either."

Sharapova said she'll try again in 4 years in Rio.  "I want that gold medal!"


Sharapova Gets Career Slam, Beats Errani for First French Open Championship

Maria's serve has gone from strength to liability to strength: Sharapova hit 6 aces to 0 for Errani. Copyright FFT.

And to think there was a time people thought Maria Sharapova's moment at the top of tennis was over.

Two years after shoulder surgery, and matches where she collected more double faults than endorsements, the statuesque Russian claimed her first French Open championship, beating Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2.  Sharapova now has a career Grand Slam, one of only ten women in history to have won all four majors.  

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