The deserved title


I’m not a big fan of the “deserving” motto for sports. I believe sports are ruled by the heart, not by the brains – therefore, you want your favorites to win, whether they are kicking ass or playing a crappy match.

But Marion Bartoli deserved this Eastbourne title. And I’m not saying that just because I particularly like her (BartoGORGEOUS), nor that Kvits winning it all would be an indignity. No. The thing is, Marion deserved it more.

By the start of the year, Bartoli, despite still being a top-20, was coming off a final-less 2010, and her glorious 2007 – highlighted by Wimbledon final – was just distant past. Little ol’ myself gave nothing for her – sincerely, I thought she would wander around, reaching eventual semifinals here and there, but never capitalizing it in titles; she was faded to be a perennial top-25 until the end of her career.

I was wrong. Only a few times before I was so glad to admit that.

It wasn’t before Indian Wells – albeit having two semifinals already – Bartoli got back in the spotlight. Her final run, knocking players like Kim and Ana, reminded us she was still there. She showed some fight – as always – but ended up losing to Wozniacki, thus giving a heart-warming speech. This sealed her return to the top-10 for the first time in three years, though she didn’t stay for long; Sharapova’s final run the very next week in Key Biscayne got Marion out again.

Then the clay season – openly, her worst surface. Prior to Strasbourg, Marion had compiled a mediocre 3-5 record on the swing. But the tides changed. Without facing a player ranked higher than #44, Bartoli made it to the finals, but the 6th title was delayed again, by Petkovic and a thigh injury.

Any expectations for Roland Garros? Historically, no. But, well, she kept winning, beating en route to her first Grand Slam SF since Wimbledon/07, clay sensation Julia Goerges and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. A dream week, capping her first Grand Slam on her worst surface and in front of the passionate French crowd? “No”, said Schiavone.

But Eastbourne, yes, Eastbourne. Grass that made her famous in 2007. A Safarova, Mary-Jo Martinez, Azarenka and Stosur later, there she was, in the final again.

Marion fought Kvitova – who imploded in the first set – and the wind to take the first, 6/1. In the second, the momentum changed. Kvitova started zoning, rallied from a break down and I once again doubted; thought it was all over when Petra prevailed 4/6. But well, she came through.

The exotic-styled, hyperactive, coached by her father Marion Bartoli came through, despite blowing an opportunity to serve it out at 5/4. She was given another chance, but this time, cashed in. Final: Bartoli def. Kvitova, 6/1, 4/6, 7/5, for her sixth career title, first on grass, first since Stanford/09.

Her YTD W-L record now stands at 36-15 – while she compiled a 34-21 record throughout 2010. So much deserved. Never change, Marion. Never stop hitting imaginary aces into the crowd or bouncing around the court during a match.



PS: Vika continues 100% this year: after four retirements – Indian Wells, Stuttgart, Rome and Eastbourne – the players against whom she retired won the title.


Thursday in Eastbourne

Any given (grass) Thursday…

THIS smile.

Daniela Hantuchova beat today Venus Williams for the first time in 11 meetings. Dani was helped by a poor serving day from Venus, but I believe the fact Williams is “coming back” is nullified when you put in perspective she has double digits wins against the Slovak. And was playing on grass. And her surname is Williams. Only good news from this one, anyway. Lovely to see such a skilled player as Dani finding her way back into top-level pro-tennis (last time she had made consecutive SFs was in 2007). Not any less amusing verify that Venus – despite turning 31 on Friday – is still a big fish and a top contender for the upcoming Wimbledon tournie. Final result: 6/2, 5/7, 6/2 Danka.

Could not find a pic from Eastbourne. This one is from RG.

– Said it before, will say it again: I’m glad I was wrong when predicted Bartoli would merely play a secondary role until the end of her career. The 26-year old, owner of an unique, very pleasant style, reaches her fifth consecutive Eastbourne semifinal, and the sixth overall this year, seeking her third YTD final and the first title since 2009 – quite a while; she’s already deserving one.

– On her flip side, Victoria Azarenka. She suffered her 10th loss in 2011, but the fourth by retiring. In the previous three – Indian Wells v. Caro, Stuttgart v. Goerges and Rome v. Sharapova – her opponent went on to win the title. And even though her Wimbledon participation is not endangered, retiring four times in six months and 12 tournaments is clearly not a good sign. In fact, this is becoming annoyingly common right now.

– Opposite feelings and outcomes for Samantha Stosur and Vera Zvonareva. The last two players to beat Serena (the former, at Roland Garros last year and the latter last round) squared off for a place in the semifinals, and Vera quickly jumped ahead for a one set, one break lead. And then boom. Just like that. Sam forced a tie-break, and albeit Zvonareva had a 4-2 lead, she couldn’t close it. In the third set, Stosur was the one to get the double-break. She lost three games in a row from 5/1, but finished at 6/4 anyways. Sam, whose least favorite surface is grass, goes on to reach her 2nd consecutive AEGON International semifinal. It seems like she’s finally being relevant this year!

We all wept, Vera.

– As for Vera, who barely survived Serena (Williams would have mercilessly crushed her if she wasn’t just returning from a one-year lay-off), it might not feel good losing a match this way. Even more when she’s only a few days away from starting the runner-up defense at Wimbledon.

– In the other match of the day, Petra Kvitova beat AggieRad, 1/6, 6/2, 7/6. The Czech reaches her 2nd consecutive grass semifinal – the other being ’10 Wimbledon. Hmm…

Semifinals to be played tomorrow – Dani vs. Kvits first, followed by Marion vs. Sam. P.K. leads D.H. 1-0 and S.S leads M.B. 2-1. None of the four matches were played on grass.


Oh hello there, Beautiful

W00t, w00t! Wait no longer, the grass season is here!

(In fact, it is here since, uuh… Sunday. But I had no free time to write this post before. Whatever)

Okay, okay. It will be gone before you can correctly spell “s’Hertogenbosch” and win the national Spelling Bee, but I quote the old saying again: “All the good things go fast”. Or something like. I’m not very good in translating Gaellic idioms into English, sorry.

W/e, w/e, goodbye and good riddance to the slow surfaces, be welcome, our dear and beloved Lawn! Plain and simple, the schedule: This week, ATP events in London and Halle. Next week, in the Nederlands (Den Bosch) and in Britain again (Eastbourne), we get two combined events. The ladies will step on the ‘césped’ and battle for the AEGON Classic title in Birmingham this week (city of my glorious Aston Villa!). Then, the third Grand Slam of the year, the most traditional of them all. And, closing it, the Hallf of Fame Championships in Newport.

I’m not going to lie to you, though. This grass season is far from being Epic (unless for Haas’ comeback).

In the Gentlemen’s (Get into Wimbledon mood, shall we?) side, no big surprises. Only the usual suspects, but with some extra condiment: There’s the Djoko-Threat and the Fed-Menace. The former will arrive at the All-England Club, in theory his worst surface, poised (again) to take over the #1. But for the first time in 2011 Nole enters a tournament following a loss – and ‘we don’t know he will behave’ (to keep the suspense, let’s pretend his mighty mental strength could go down).

And the latter… well, I’m not going through his record at Wimbledon, because that involves talking about the Three-Finals-We-Don’t-Talk-About (the Lord Waldemar of Tennis). But he is straight out of a Major final (oh) and willing to shut up a little more the mouth of everyone who predicted he would never win a Major again (me included [?]). In other words, it’s Rafa against the world – Nadal doesn’t lose a match on the Holy Lawn since ’07 final. Yeah, yeah, he skipped 2009, but that’s quite a while anyway.

Yeah, yeah, the supporting cast? Brit Andy & Texan Andy chasing the dream, Birdych with the finals to defend, King Söd with a decent run to back, Milos and the big serve… but then, they are still the supporting cast – unless you proof me wrong.

Entertaining? Yes. Somehow. Surprising? Don’t think so. It’s a same cast, different plot situation.

Game on.


I would really like to talk about the ladies, but this is already getting a little longer than expected – I really can’t control myself. And I know that the chances you are reading a longer post = -2, so, I’ll leave it to another opportunity, finishing with a single double-line:

Serena and Venus are back! That must assure all the fun.

// Or the total and complete absence of it.


PS: New personal goal: Jump on a grass court and do a grass angel – just like you, people who come from snowy countries, do on the iced water that falls from the sky.