First times

WOW it’s been a while. I can’t even remember the last time I used this space to talk to you, but I’m sure it was during the US Open – the last tennis match I remember watching from beginning to end is Sam-Serena.

Quite a while. Lots happened since. Asian swing, started on a new job, and NFL. These three factors, plus the lack of Robin Söderling and convincing Andy Roddick runs kept me away from the sport that, from the first day of the Aussie Open and the second-to last of the US Open, is my favorite. I am not ashamed in assuming NFL is my all-time favorite sport. In fact, I’m warning you: I might use Daily Scores to post football-related articles. Be aware.

Just a clarification: This post is not meant to start a comeback. Hell, no. I don’t have much time. And there is not much tennis left out there this year. I am writing this just because this is a special occasion.

Tomorrow, for the first time ever, I will attend a tennis match.

I have already traveled the world… in front of my TV. But had never had the opportunity to watch two professional players battling for actual money and actual ranking points from the stands of a gymnasium before.

There aren’t many tennis events in Brasil, you know. Okay, we’ve got a Future in every week of the year, and there are quite a lot of challengers, and the Brasil Open. But hey: Only one or two of the challengers are in São Paulo – which happens to be the city I live in. And until this year, the Open was in Bahia. I recommend you to check on a Brasilian map. It’s not close. Not cheap either.

But good news: Koch Tavares and the ATP decided to adapt O2’s World Tour Finals, but with a much lower profile, left a wildcard available and brought it to my ‘hood, you know.

So well. I will try to get you as many pictures as I can – most of them taken from my cellphone. I will also try to write about the matches I watch – still don’t know if tomorrow’s OOP has been already unveiled. But I’m probably going to watch the last two matches of the day – likely to be both from the Green Group (Bellucci-Klizan, Beck-Reynolds).

I’m not sure what to expect. Have no idea how does it feel to watch a tennis match from somewhere else than the TV, or to sit down for hours (ok, more than one, less than two, probably). But I do expect it to be awesome – my first time on a tennis stadium, after all. Will keep you updated. For the old times.

See ya tomorrow, then. And Saturday and Sunday too, of course.

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Pete’s highlights: The US Open in fourteen facts

Should I have done this earlier? Yes, I should. But a mix of laziness + lack of time + lack of will to sit at the laptop to write delayed the process. Better late than never. Here, I present you, my final analysis of the US Open. A day-by-day commentary on all the action in Flushing Meadows.

 

This girl is gonna be a thing real soon.

Day 1 – The future is bright, my friends – If the first day of the US Open told us something (other than Kvitova’s consistency), it was that there are a bunch of young girls out there ready to make some noise. Americans Irina Falconi, Christina McHale and Madison Keys all survived the August, 29th, with wins over Zakopalova, Wozniak and Craybas, respectively; Heather Watson gave her best to Sharapova – and Maria barely survived; her countrygirl Laura Robson, who debuted at the main draw of a Slam, advanced to the round 2 after Ayumi Morita retired in the second set. Thing is, they may now be winning in the first Monday of Slams. Soon, it could be second.

 

Simona Halep celebrates: The last of the 2011 Slam champions fell to her hands

Day 2 – Meaning of ‘Open Field’ – As Simona Halep finished off with Li Na in two sets – 6/2, 7/5 – another thing was clear, after only two days into the Open: For the first time since 2008, WTA would crown four different Slam champions in the same season. With Kim out for the year-and-maybe-more and Petra Kvitova’s surprising-but-not-so-much loss to Dulgheru, Li Na was the only reining Slam champ alive in the draw. As she lost, 2011 Grand Slam winners left the US Open bearing an outstanding 0-2 record at the remaining Major. Good? Bad? I’m going for the first.

 

Waves after beating Dolonts; Let's just all hope this wasn't her last US Open win.

Day 3 – We are gonna miss Venus Williams – Whether you like the Sisters or not, you must admit they are true legends of the sport. Seven-time Slam champion Venus Williams, after getting through Vesna Dolonts in the first round, set the anticipated, big-serving meeting with Sabine Lisicki. A meeting which never happened – Venus was forced to withdraw due to an auto-immune disease that causes her retirements galore. At 31, and with health problems, Williams’ future as a tennis star doesn’t seem like a long road anymore. Which only shows how we are gonna miss her exotic dresses and big serves when she calls it a career.

 

Day 4 – Some people are stupid and should never be allowed to touch a computer – Seeded #29 and en route to an imminent third-round meeting with Wozniacki, Jarmila Gajdosova, or simply Jarka, had her run halted by doubles-specialist Vania King in the second round. Winning only two games – both in the first set – Jarka, who was born in Slovakia, said goodbye, to Flushing Meadows. And to Twitter. Thanks to some shitheads who offended her, Gajdosova announced she would no longer be part of the TwittFamily. The decision, however, was not permanent, and she is already back. What is, unfortunately, permanent is the prickness contained in some lost souls, who ramble around the Internets to harass players. Go get a life, morons. Or better. GFY.

 

Day 5 – Balance is maintained – Anyone who closely follows tennis could have called it: From the beginning, it was 100% certain Sharapova wouldn’t win the US Open. And I’m not saying that just because Serena was in the draw. No. Just because of this: Maria Sharapova has a 3-2 record in Slam finals, being 3-0 in even numbered years and 0-2 in odd ones. In the event that Masha had been the last woman to survive, I’m sure the balance that keeps the world as we know it would be disrupted, and we would be locked in a black hole that transgresses the limits of time and space. Truth or not, she lost to Flavia Pennetta in three sets, the first big win for the Italian in 2011. That automatically assured an “underdog” in the semifinals – since the other seed in this half, Kvitova, had already said goodbye.

 

Ashe's lights were too much for her and McHale; Soon it won't, anymore.

Day 6 – Easy, USA – First of all, let’s cut this “USA teniz iz dead!!!!!!11111!!!”. It is not, mainly on the ladies’ side. But still, let’s be patient, shall we? For the second consecutive day, the organizers put one of the up-and-coming players to play on Ashe, night session. Just like Christina McHale in the day prior, Sloane Stephens couldn’t show her best tennis, as she fell to (a reborn?) Ana Ivanovic in two sets. Can’t blame neither Sloane or Christina. They are still teens, with lots to learn. Better not expect anyone to sub in for the Williamses like, now. We all know what happened to Oudin. Giving time to time is the key.

 

This was from her McHale match, but really, I could not leave this pic out.

Day 7 – Ladies’ nite in Queen’s – Anyone who stayed for the night at the BJK complex and truly appreciate this sport can’t say they felt disappointed. On the Grandstand, Samantha Stosur and Maria Kirilenko played an instant classic – besides the longest WTA Slam tie-break, with Sam squandering eight match points and Kirilenko battling her way to a third set. In the end, the Aussie, as you can imagine, survived a clash that showed all the grit, fighting and skills that women’s tennis have, proving that strong is beautiful, yes, but beautiful beyond photoshopped athlete-models and Stella McCartney dresses.

 

Yeah.

Days 8 –  AWESOME. (While it lasts) (And it’s not a lot) – Wasn’t that hard to figure out I was talking about Svetlana Kuznetsova, right? The crafty Russian, who has two Slams to her name, showed once again her enormous potential in the match v. Caroline Wozniacki, in the fourth round. Sveta, alongside Schiavone and Stosur, has one of the most interesting and plastically pleasant styles in the whole WTA. However, Kuznetsova is like a time-bomb these days. She was hitting forehands with a good depth and volleying like awesome (though her overheads were simply ludicrous). She kept the level until the 7th game of the second set, if I’m wrong, when she squandered a break lead (she was holding her games with certain ease before) and everything went boom. Caro won 6/7, 7/5, 6/1, and not only sent Kuznetsova packing, but also “helped” sending Juan Monaco home in a quicker way.

 

Bored Pavs is bored. And cute.

Days 9 and 10 – Rain rain go away rain – The morning of the ninth day of the US Open saw rain. The morning, noon and night. Play was called off before anybody even thought about calling it on. The very next day saw another ‘wet problem’, as the discussion about a roof began to surface again. As a result, only 10 games were played (3 in Muller-Nadal, 3 in Young-Murray and 4 in Roddick-Ferrer) that day, that even saw the ladies’ coming out to warm up. Play was once again canceled, though. HOWEVER, thanks to rain we had this EPIC pic from Anastasia Pavlyuchencute.

 

Day 11 – WTA is not ready for Serena – As I’m used to say, you can’t blame someone for being too good. You can’t also force other people to love it. That’s more or less how I feel about Serena Williams (by the way, I know this topic would fit better in other days, but apparently the other days were already taken by better headlines). Thing is, as she made a typical-WTA first set, but picked up the pace and demolished Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second, it was clear that that woman, who stayed almost a full year away from pro-tennis and was back into a Slam semifinal without dropping a set, is way above the others. You can’t really blame her. Her opponents? Maybe. But still, while she keeps hungry the way she is, only someone playing the match of a lifetime will be able to beat her. As for the others, expect beatdowns and sleepwalks through the late rounds.

 

Day 13* – There is nothing wrong with Caroline Wozniacki’s game – And this affirmative is justified by the last topic. Let’s say Caro suddenly changes from her comfort zone, morphing into a more aggressive – therefore more susceptible to errors, like, say, Cibulkova. I can already see people claiming her style is “dumb”, mere “ballbashing” and that “she doesn’t deserve to be #1”. Caro is what she is, guys. Can’t blame her for dating a golfer, can’t blame her for making whatever capitol sins she commits on Twitter. It’s not pushing – it’s defense-oriented tennis. (I think). It’s not pretty, but has assured her a lead by over than 3000 points on the #2 Maria Sharapova.

 

This pic is pretty lovely

Day 14 – Samantha Stosur is a FREAKING MONSTER – #1, she’s Australian and #2, she is a former doubles #1. These two factors combine into the fact Sam has the variation running through her veins. And she indeed does! Very few players can mix it up like Stosur these days – with an outstanding kick-serve, slices and volley. Sam is, however, also a paradox: her best results as a singles player came in the slow clay surfaces, like Charleston and Roland Garros. And even though she is already a grown woman (27) who’s not part of the “blonde” group of WTA players who sometimes drag more attention thanks to their looks rather than their tennis, she is also keen to having blackouts, walkabouts and then it’s done.

The former #4 did, however, leave all the downsides of her game in the closet when she left the hotel room that day. Samantha brought her A-game into the final and, counting with Serena’s inability to work with the first set, the Aussie literally ate her up with the 2nd serve forehand return winners to clinch her first Major title, 6/2, 6/3 scoreline. Quite good for her debut on the Arthur Ashe stadium, huh?

I would also like to leave my sincere wishes that this title triggers Stosur’s A-game more often. I know she has been in the top-5 and now she is a Slam winner, but with her skills, she should have way more than three singles titles. She should be a permanent contender for any and every WTA tournament held.

 

* – The day 12 of the US Open was used only to play the ATP semifinals.

The right way

I had to reissue this post in the middle of the writing process. All because Venus Williams’ unspecified illness turned out to be Sjogren’s Syndrome, autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. I really have no words to describe how saddened I am, so I only leave here a wish for a speedy recovery.

Now the happy part of this post. I’m back to writing about the ladies! It’s been a good while, really. I can’t even remember – but I suspect the last time I had aired a post with WTA as main subject was back in Wimbledon. So let’s talk McHale, shall we?

I once wrote a post about the situation of the American tennis – talking about this ‘between harvests’ (I think I used this very same term) period, when the Williams sisters weren’t around, and the US women’s tennis was left in the hands of girls like Mattek-Sands and King. I also mentioned about the up and coming teenagers.

Among them, Christina McHale.

She is decent at tennis.

Well, she is here. Not here like, ‘hey, look at me Caro, I’m coming for your ranking’. It’s more like ‘hey, look at me Caro, I might be coming for your ranking someday really soon’. All normal, as predicted – we are beyond the point 15-yos could win Slams.

I got to watch her for the first time today. And, well, I was really impressed. I follow her since the start of the year, I think, when she would either have WCs or qualify. First time I took a closer look, she was taking Sveta out of Indian Wells. Back from the digression. Today, playing Bartoli – who, in other news, is not quite the same since Wimbledon – she felt no fear. She totally went for it – just like Marion, in fact; the French showed some A-display of tennis, hitting hard and even making some cash at the net, breaking Chris twice and serving for the set at 5/4.

But then McHale broke her, and I have no idea how, because my stream just puff, died, and the whole match changed after. Bartoli even had a confident hold at 5/6, yes, but that was it. Her gameplan totally failed in the tie-break, and Christina had it in the bag, 7-2. In the second set – which I barely watched – the young American broke her twice in the first three games, lost one of the breaks, but re-broke and ended up sealing her way to the 3rd round with a 7/6, 6/2 win over seed #8.

How she used this forehand pretty much impressed me today

Darn good, highlighted by her backhand – some killer winners she hit – her conscience – she craftily moved Bartoli around to hit winners into the open court – and total and complete absence of fear. And the results of course: In her last three events, the Jersey native took out world #1 Caroline Wozniacki (Cincy), two-time Grand Slam champion Sveta (Dallas) and now Bartoli.

Of course, she’s not ready yet – and I (who am I to say something?) didn’t even have to tell you this – one who’s aware of her post-upset results will understand and concur. The consistency – against everybody, and through a week – is not there, just like big, important results outside the USA.

But for a 19-year old, who has just broke through the top-60 and is almost in the second week of the US Open, I dare to say she is in the right way.

Happy Birthday, Andy!

Today is a veeeeeeeery special day. On this day, in a town east of Omaha (Bob Seger, anyone?) Andrew Stephen Roddick was born. Twenty-nine years later, here we are.

The number represents his level of awesomeness - in a 1-100 scale.

For the top-ranked American for many many years, and the last Yank to top the rankings, no words make a fair tribute. So I decided – alongside my friend and biggest fan of A-Rod I know, @cacwhere – to put together 29 Andy Roddick facts for you – and, even more important, for him.

There we go. Be ready to take a fucking bow to the man who was the GOAT before the term came into popular use and still is, up to date.

 

1- Grand Slam title, the ’03 US Open

2- Miami titles (2004/2010). He’s also won the Cincinnati shield twice (2003/2006)

3- Times a Wimbledon finalist, in 2004, 2005 and 2009

4- Continents on which Andy Roddick has won a title: America, Europe, Asia and Oceania

5- Masters Series titles.

6- Titles in 2003 – his most prolific year: St. Poelten, Queen’s, Indianapolis, Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open

7- Ranking of Carlos Moyá, Andy Roddick’s very first opponent as the leader of the ranking, at the ’03 Masters Cup; Roddick won, 6/2, 3/6, 6/3

8- Finals reached in 2003 and 2004 – best marks of his career; Roddick went 6-2 in 2003 and 4-4 in 2004.

9- Consecutive years with a top-10 year-end ranking. Only Roger Federer, among actives, has a similar record

10- Titles outside the United States: Queen’s (4x), Brisbane, Lyon, Dubai, St. Poelten, Montreal and Beijing

11- Consecutive years winning at least one singles title: He’s one of two active players to do so; this is the 5th longest streak of all-time

12- Decisive Davis Cup wins – the clinchers; Also his US Open participations completed in 2011.

13- Weeks as #1 – from 13.11.2003 to 01.02.2004, ranking him as the 15th all-time.

14- Year-ending ranking in 2001 – his first full year as a pro; He had finished 2000 at #158

15(5) – Miles per hours, his fastest serve – an ace struck at a Davis Cup tie v. Vladimir Voltchkov, from Belarus. For years to come, this was the fastest service ever recorded

16- Age on 17.05.1999 – date of his first professional match, at the Vero Beach F4; He lost to then-512 Nicolas Todero from Argentina, losing 3/6, 3/6.

17- Years when turned pro, in 2000

18- Years old – his age when beating a top-10 for the first time: #4 Pete Sampras at the 2001 Miami Masters; Roddick was also 18 when won a title for the first time, at ’01 Atlanta.

19- Matches won between Montreal and the US Open, in 2003 – his longest winning streak.

20- Titles won in the United States: Memphis, San Jose, Houston, Washington (3x), Miami, Cincinnati, Indianapolis (2x), Atlanta and the US Open

21 – Wins shy of his 600th career triumph, ranking him second among active players.

22- Player to ever top the ATP rankings since the introduction, in 1973.

23- Tournaments played in 2003 – still his record for most events played in a single season.

24- ATP 250/500 titles.

25- Ties played for the United States Davis Cup team – with 18 wins.

26- His age in April/2009 – when married actress and model Brooklyn Decker

27- Matches at Challenger level – with an outstanding 23-4 record, three titles and one final.

28- Years-old – Andy’s age when he won Memphis earlier this year – his 30th career title.

29- candles blown by the birthday boy today. Happy birthday, Andy! And please, never ever change.

 

"What? Me? Nah, I'm just relaxing."

Not pretty. But works.

I digress. It’s amazing how, even though there are some players out there who really made me feel for them – in good and bad times – I have realized I only write posts like this one about two of them. Andrew S. Roddick and Kimberly H. Clijsters. What does it mean? Don’t know. Maybe I like them more than I like the others – and sometimes I’m not sure I can self-proclaim as a Roddick fan, with guys like my buddy @cacwhere out there. But the truth is, constant posts like this one, just about them. Make of it what you will.

YES, it is a backhand. AND no, it is NOT a slice. #Progress

HE IS BAAAAAAAAAAAACK. That’s a player worth the hyperbole, or whatever you could call this. But my point is, HE IS BAAAAAAAAAACK! For the first time since Wimbledon – and with some glimpses at the Davis Cup and, 37 days later, Cincinnati, with catastrophic results – I can say Andy Roddick is back to business.

Maybe falling out of the top-20 was the last warning he needed. I don’t care, not a bit at ALL, but it IS working.

Making an analysis of his style, it is, in its deepest essence, the 2.011 version of Andy Roddick software. The big serve? Hell, still there, up and running, the beating heart that pump blood through his veins – and brains. The backhand? “404 Error”, Google’d say, but that’s understandable. He is back into flat groundies, instead of the annoying and useless slices (yo, Andy, you are no Petzsche, glad you finally realized it).

Even better, Roddick has finally learned he must MIX IT UP. This means, slices ONLY WHEN NECESSARY. Back in the dark days of the Australian Open and Indian Wells, his revolutionary push-and-volley style only earned him frustrations. Him and his fans, let’s make this clear.

Clutch. As always.

Also another fact is, his game is ugly now, for whatever reasons: a physical decline, injuries, he’s aging. It has mostly come to this: He serves. Most of the times, the return will go out. If it doesn’t, then rally – on his backhand, of course – and he either eats the winner or makes the opponent eat up an UFE.

But hey, I said it before: it IS working. He played so far three guys he should beat. And he did it, easily: 2 and 4 over LL Vasselin, 1 and 3 over Giraldo and 1 and 4 over Monaco. Roddick also didn’t face a single break-point. This means his game is like the ’00 Ravens: No offense, but who cares, since your defense and the special teams are doing the job? Ugly, but successful.

Another point that deserves note, his temper. Roddick has not lost it so far this week. The ease with which he won his matches certainly helps, but we know Roddick. We know how a foot-fault could just unleash the beast inside him and spread mayhem. Instead, he is focused, shouting loud-but-respectful-and-contained ‘Come On’s after winning the big points. And moving on, after missing break-points and wasting opportunity points, like a 0-30.

I have already said it here before, and usually train went off the tracks after I did, but hell, I will buy another ticket and go for it again. I’m truly enjoying Mr. A.S.R. this week. How far can he go? This week, all the way to the title seems a reasonable guess – though it won’t be easy to get past Big John Isner tomorrow. At the US Open? With the positive draw he has – Russell, Sock/Gicquel, Benneteau/Almagro likely in third round – it’s not a distant dream to think he can at least improve from his last year’s performance. In an eventual R16 match up, the highest seed he could face is David Ferrer.

But heee, hold on to your knickers there, peeps. One step at a time, right?

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Day 27: A match that makes you sad

Lots of matches make you sad. Break-points wasted, ridiculous points played at important moments, stupid challenges, tantrums in all the wrong moments, a mental breakdown, match-points squandered, one poor game that costs the match. All reasons to piss you off for a good while.

Lots of matches made me sad. None of them more than the second round of Roland Garros, this year.

They were opening the Chatrier, at 6 a.m. local time, and even though I could – yes, I indeed could – wake up a few minutes early to watch it, I opted for not to. It was Tuesday, I remember well.

She was coming off a long lay-off caused by a controversial injury, but had won in the opening round without drama. In fact, she had some troubles to finish the match, but hell, who doesn’t? And despite my awareness of her remarkable inconsistency, I thought – yes, I thought – she could overcome another obstacle. Winning ugly is still winning, right?

Heck, I woke up, didn’t put my glasses on, turned on the TV. Up a break in the first set. Fine, I convinced myself everything was fine and she would do it. TV is off, the glasses are on, the bus is taken, I’m on my way to college. Arriving there, I learn the first period professor didn’t come. I go to Latin, then, which I should have in the second period.

I turn on the wireless, and log onto the Mobile Twitter. Bum. She is down match points after being up match points.

Dead inside. It was a matter of time, then. I feel drousy, empty inside. It’s like someone I love so much has just died. I can’t stay there anymore. I get up, leave the classroom, walk to the library, and, on the computer, I log on to Twitter – fuck those people who are waiting, really. Ten or eleven tweets in a row, only saying what I feel. I logoff, get my stuff in the classroom and start my journey back home.

I arrive here earlier than I should. Talk my sister into not turning me in to my mom, sleepwalk to my room, slip into my bed and… I fall asleep.

Lots of matches already made me sad. Lots of matches will make me sad. But like this? Never happened before. And I really wish it will never happen again.

30 Days of Tennis Challenge – Day 22: Favorite umpire

No drama this time.

I really barely pay attention at the umpires – but I know some of them are around all the time, dudes like Lahyani, Lars Graf, that spanish referee and the one with the baritone voice. There are also some WTA umpires I always heard about, like Eva Asderaki and Mariana Alves – but generally speaking…

So, I pick Carlos Bernandes. Just because he’s Brazilian. And because he looks like a nice guy.

And by the way, I’m not sure he was already in the list of ‘umpires that have already argued with Andy Roddick’. Well, he is now, since Monday night.

 

Useful:

Prologue and explanation

Day 1 – Favorite men’s player

Day 2 – Favorite women’s player

Day 3 – Favorite doubles team

Day 4 – Least favorite men’s player

Day 5 – Least favorite women’s player

Day 6 – Most memorable match

Day 7 – First player you became a fan of

Day 8 – Earliest tennis memory

Day 9 – Favorite retired men’s player

Day 10 – Favorite retired women’s player

Day 11 – A player nobody would expect you to love

Day 12 – A player that you aren’t a fan of but you respect

Day 13 – Favorite Grand Slam tournament

Day 14 – Favorite non-Slam tournament

Day 15 – Most attractive women’s player

Day 16 – Most attractive men’s player

Day 17 – Favorite women’s outfit

Day 18 – Favorite men’s outfit

Day 19 – Who were the #1 the day you were born

Day 20 – Favorite men’s Slam champion

Day 21 – Favorite women’s champion