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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.

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Entries in Novak Djokovic (12)


These Swiss Don't Miss: Federer, Wawrinka, in Monte Carlo Final

It's an all-Swiss final at the Monte-Carlo Rolex tournament on Sunday, with Stan Wawrinka going up against Roger Federer.  How convenient for the citizens of the Principality of Monaco that they share the same national colors of red and white with the Swiss!  Fans can don face paint for either player and not draw the ire of Prince Albert II.  

The Stanimal feasts on David Ferrer, 6-1, 7-6(3), to reach Monte-Carlo final. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

In a twist, it's Stan who enters the match as the top Swiss men's tennis player in the world, not Fed.  Wawrinka is ranked third in the world, behind Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and Fed is fourth.  Roger could elbow his Davis Cup teammate aside with a win tomorrow.

Federer defeats an injured Novak Djokovic, showcases his healthy wrists, in Monte-Carlo semifinal Saturday. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Beside that bit of ranking friction, there are other story lines that recommend this match.  Fed has never won Monte-Carlo.  It, and Shanghai, are the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies that have eluded the Greatest of All Time.   He has come close.  He was runner-up to Rafa, King of Clay, three years running, from 2006 to 2008.  

While Federer has 22 Masters 1000 trophies to dust, Wawrinka has none.  He, too, has come close.  This is third Masters 1000 final (there was Rome in 2008 and Madrid last year).  Though he's a daunting 1-13 against Federer, Wawrinka has been having the year of his career.  He won his first Slam, the Australian Open, in January.  To get it, he had to shake off another losing streak by beating world number one Rafael Nadal for the first time in 12 matches.  A month earlier, Wawrinka snared the title in Chennai for a second time.  He is 19-3 since the start of the season.  As my husband often says as he stares at his cards at the blackjack tables, "he's due."

And if all of that isn't compelling, Serena Williams' coach, Patrick Moratoglou, likes the Monte-Carlo final because it's a one-fingered salute to all those teaching pros who are coaching their kids to hit two-handed backhands.

It was Wawrinka's backhand that demolished David Ferrer, 6-1, 7-6 (3) in their semifinal.  Stan avoided Ferrer's fierce forehand as much as possible, wearing him down through backhand-to-backhand duels.  He raced out to a 5-1 lead in the first set in under 30 minutes.   He reined in his unforced errors for the second set tiebreak quickly enough to get a 4-0 advantage early on Ferrer.  

"It was important to move well, be aggressive. That was my plan," said Stan.  At one point in the match, after handing his towel to a ball kid, Wawrinka crouched down on his haunches, sprang up, and did a series of football-player-running-through-the-tires steps  while waiting for Ferrer to serve.  I thought, uh oh, is he cramping? No. He was just reminding himself to move his feet.

Roger Federer reached the final by upsetting defending champ and wounded world number 2 Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-2.  Nole's been nursing a wrist injury all tournament long, but it didn't seem to hurt him until today.  He walked onto the court with his right forearm heavily bandaged and a heavy look on his face.

"It's unfortunate that when you're playing at this level against Roger, big tournament, that you are not able to play your game because something else is taking away all your energy and effort," Djokovic was quoted as saying in USA Today. "This injury has been present for last 10 days, and I tried not to think or talk about it. I did everything I could, really. I was on the medications every day, I was doing different therapies, injections." 

Djokovic said he's going to take some time away from tennis.

"I just rest now. I cannot play tennis for some time. How long, I don't know," Djokovic said. "I'm going to rest and see when it can heal 100 percent, then I will be back on the court."  His next scheduled stop on the tour is in Madrid, which starts May 4.  And the French Open is beckoning.  It starts May 25.  


Indian Wells: Obligatory Post About the Winners

The tennis world's attention has turned to the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, but I still have an hour before first round action begins to talk about Indian Wells. I love a deadline.

World number 2 Novak Djokovic takes home his third Indian Wells trophy. Photo, courtesy BNP Paribas

Oops, I should have given you a spoiler alert.  That guy, pictured above, Novak Djokovic?  He won.

You want to see this kind of tennis in a championship final, the kind Djokovic and Roger Federer delivered at Indian Wells. Amazing get-out-of-jail free shots, powerful hitting, close games and a deciding set tiebreak between two well-matched opponents with a history, one that just got a lot more interesting.

Alright, you know already that Djokovic beat Fed, regrouping after failing to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third set, to gobble up the tiebreak for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory at the BNP Paribas Open. What you may not know is that Nole is now 16-17 against Roger, making their match-ups more compelling than the much-vaunted rivalry between Fed and Rafael Nadal, where the discrepency is larger. Nadal has a 23-10 record against The Greatest of All Time, making Nadal more of a mountain to climb for Fed than a sparring partner.

These Worthy Opponents were so evenly matched in this final. Both had 6 aces. Federer double faulted 4 times, Djokovic, 5. Djoko won just one more point than Fed overall, 99 to 98. Wow.

What the numbers show is that Federer was pushed further during his service games than Djokovic was. Fed faced six break points, fighting them off 4 times, while Djokovic only stared down three break points, losing two of them.

One of those break points, of course, was the one at 0-40, 5-4 in the third, that let Fed back into the match. It was the second time Djokovic faltered when serving for it all. Two times, he was serving for the match against John Isner in the second set of their semifinal on Saturday.

Federer: "I have been on the winner's side more often. Maybe that softens the blow a little bit." Photo, courtesy of BNP Paribas"The way I won this title is something that makes me very happy and gives me mentally a lot of satisfaction because I have had specifically these three matches against [Marin] Cilic and yesterday's semi-final and today's final, situations where I played three sets where it was very tense, very emotional," said Djokovic.

"A few points really here and there could go either way, and then it went my way. I stayed mentally tough, and that, for me, is something that gives me a lot of encouragement and hopefully a confidence boost for the rest of the season."

Federer acknowledged his worthy opponent's victory over Tennis Hate.

"At the end he made sure he kept the ball in play and I might have made a few too many errors when it really mattered," said Fed. "But credit to him for toughening it out and winning that second set and getting the breaker in the third."

Federer said he's happy with how he played, after struggling with back problems and a drop in confidence last season.  

"A few weeks ago, months ago, a few people said I couldn't play tennis anymore," he sais of the haters.  "So for me, I need to focus on my own game, my own routines, hard work, make sure I keep a good schedule for myself, for my family, and, you know, enjoy it. But at the same time, that fire, wanting to win, is important, and right now I have that.  I think have a really good balance right now."

Haters, this sounds like a man on a mission.  Slam number 18 at Wimbledon, perhaps? The way he's been playing, I don't doubt it.  He's 19-3 this year, won Dubai, finaled in Brisbane and made the semis at the Australian Open.  His recovery from back problems and his embrace of a bigger racquet are working.  

The women's final between victor Flavia Pennetta and Aggie Radwanska was not as edge-of-your-seat satisfying. Radwanska, the number 2 seed, was injured, and Pennetta, seeded 20th, upset her easily, 6-2, 6-1. But the headline for I Hate Tennis is that the 32-year-old Pennetta almost quit tennis at this event a year ago.

Flavia Pennetta wins the biggest title of her career, moves to 12th in world. Photo, courtesy BNP Paribas

"I think this one is after so many years so much work and everything, this is the moment I always waiting for, no?" she said. "Finally I have a good trophy in my hands."

Radwanska was super-bummed, and look at times on court like she was going to cry.  Haters, when it gets to tears, it's over.  I can think of players who smash racquets and shout at their box and then go on to win, like Ernests Gulbis or even Djokovic, who had such an outburst against John Isner in their three-set semi.  Anger can motivate you.  Sadness and fear just throw sand in your gas tank.

"I think it's just the worst thing for a player, you know, to not giving the 100%, especially in the final of the big event. And I just couldn't run as much as I normally do.  And, well, just bad luck," she said.

Could she rise above the Tennis Hate, and see some good things in her two-week run? A reporter at Radwanska's post-match press conference must've read my mind. 

Q.  Aga, is it the disappointment that you feel from having to be injured in the final?  I mean, this is still, you know, the first final that you have made here and a positive week.  Is it hard to focus on the positives, or right now do you just feel disappointment?

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA:  Well, I think disappointing feeling always comes first, I think, especially when you really, really, you know, have ambition to win the tournament.  Of course still good two weeks.  First final here. Big event.  And, you know, still good result.  But it's always disappointing that, you know, I really couldn't play my 100% today.

In doubles, the world number 1 women's team, Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, won their first BNP Paribas Open title, beating doubles veteran Cara Black and Sania Mirza, who were seeded 5th.  Hsieh and Peng are now 11-0 in WTA doubles finals.  

On the men's side, world number 1s and top seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan kept their men's doubles crown by beating second seeds Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares, 6-4, 6-3. It's the twins' 27th ATP Masters 1000 title and their 95th overall.  

I'll close this post with an observation: Bob and Mike are so twinned, even their wives look alike.  

The twins and their families celebrate title #95. Photo courtesy of BNP Pariibas


Australian Open: Wawrinka Ends Djokovic's Winning Streak

What in the devil was Novak Djokovic thinking when he served and volleyed, 30-40, on match point against Stanislaus Wawrinka?  He hadn't done that for the entire match, now in its fifth set in their quarterfinal match.

 Wawrinka Wins: Nobody beats Stan 14 straight times! Photo: Amy Eddings

Nole will have plenty of time to think about it.  He blew the volley wide into the deuce court, giving Stan a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 3-6, 9-7 victory that ended his three-year reign as the defending Australian Open champion.  

Djokovic lost because of a brain fart.  Wawrinka had just stabbed at the backhand return.

Wall Street Journal tennis reporter Tom Perrotta Tweeted, "Amazing to see Wawrinka upset Djokovic by just getting that last ball in play."

The relief on Wawrinka's face was palpable, even half a world away.  He'd been close to outlasting Djokovic before, losing a heartbreaking fifth set, 10-12, to the Djoker in their Round of 16 match one year ago on this same court.  Stan couldn't squelch Novak in another five-set dust-up just five months ago at the US Open.  Wawrinka was 2-14 against the world number 2 going into this match.  

"I always fight, I always try," he told commentator Jim Courier in their on-court interview afterwards.  



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.




Australian Open: Djoker Pushed, But Prevails in 5 Sets vs. Wawrinka

NOOOOOle continus march toward 3rd consecutive Aussie Open title. Courtesy: Australian Open.comI'm so glad my cats get hungry at 5:00 AM, because I got to witness the exciting, dramatic match between defending champ Novak Djokovic and on-fire 15th seed Stan Wawrinka. All 5:02 of it.

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