Archive | June, 2013

US men. Down and out

30 Jun

Andy Roddick US Open 2009 368 crop.jpg

Andy Roddick: the last American man to win a slam.

Spare a thought for the contingent of American men  – all 11 of them – in Wimbledon’s draw. How many left now? None. It’s the first time in 101 years that there has been no American in the men’s 3rd round. There will be lots of soul searching done in the corridors of the USTA, and the shock waves should probably reach out to other tennis nations, especially those who have unashamedly modelled their programs and pathways on the US system. It has been an amazing 39 Slam events since there was a US male winner – and that was now retired Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open.

John McEnroe put it simply. “In the USA girls are more likely to play tennis. The greatest American athletes play football and basketball. We are lower down on the totem pole”. And McEnroe concludes “We’re certainly not where we want to be”. Check out last month’s blog from The PRO on the resurgence of US women – and the concluding question – where are the US male tennis players? is even more relevant following only 3 days of Wimbledon.



Wimbledon. Fools rush in, and win.

28 Jun

Roger Federer Wimbledon loss

Strange days indeed: Roger Federer in the gloom. His 9 year run of Slam 1/4 finals or better all over, red rover.

I loved the quote from tennis star maker Nick Bollettieri yesterday. “Who knows what the hell is going to happen? You really have no idea.” This said following a day when Wimbledon was rocked by both shock defeats and withdrawals. Bad enough that The Championships lost Rafa on day one, but this was like “the perfect storm.” Federer, gone. Sharapova, gone. Azarenka, gone. Tsonga, gone. Jankovic, gone. Isner, gone. Hewitt, gone. Wozniacki, gone. Cilic, gone. Ivanovic, gone. The only winners – most probably the guys selling the program – as hapless fans had to research who they were looking at.

Kamikaze net rushing was the tactic of the day – and strangely it worked. Sergiy Stakhovsky was a throwback to days of old, looking to get in to the net at every opportunity against a flat Roger Federer. And rastafarian Dustin Brown simply flattened Little Lleyton with his el toro charges to the net. On this day serve and volley was alive and kicking. This Wimbledon is looming as a case of last man standing. – watch the you tube clip for THE most famous last man standing…

The PRO.


Lleyton done and dusted

26 Jun


Qualifier Dustin Brown crashes down another ace.

Swashbuckling dreadlocked and carefree. No not Captain Jack Sparrow, not Bob Marley. It’s tennis journeyman, German Dustin Brown. Brown was in scintillating form out on Court #3 at Wimbledon against little Aussie battler Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt had his loyal fanatics egging him on but, to use one of their AC/DC motivational songs – was Thunder Struck by Brown’s all out assault.

Dustin Brown is a Jamaican beanpole. 6′ 5″ and 78kg, he speaks Jamaican, German and English and today played the match of his life. Brown (Dreddy to his friends) spent his early pro career driving from event to event in Europe in his camper van. No five star hotels for him. He came into the match ranked 189 in the world. Lleyton Hewitt had coach Tony Roche scout information on him, he didn’t have much to go on, he’s “unpredictable” you could almost hear Coach Roche say – and neither Roche nor Hewitt would be much the wiser after this match. 

Brown served enormously – 21 aces – but more than that, served to solid target areas in the big points. A telling statistic in the match, Hewitt had 10 break points and could only convert 1 of them, by contrast Brown only had 6 break points but converted 5. Hewitt appeared flat, and was unable to answer the barrage from Brown. 74 winners from Brown’s racket, saw Little Lleyton looking skyward and wondering what was coming next. Brown, unpredictable right to the end, left the court in tears, a very happy camper.


Caroline Garcia – school’s in.

26 Jun

Youth Gone Wild

French 18 year old Caroline Garcia. “Yes, I have a dream to be No. 1.

While Aussie Bernard Tomic, at 20 is the youngest player in the Wimbledon men’s draw, the women’s singles is littered with youth. And they are from all parts of the globe, not just traditional tennis strongholds. File away these names Monica Puig from Puerto Rico, Eugenie Bouchard from Canada, Brit Laura Robson and Anna Schmiedlova from Slovakia for starters. Big hitters, flair, talent and paving the way for others to follow from their homelands.

Another blazing a very bright trail, is France’s Caroline Garcia. At 18 Garcia is destined for greatness – a big call, but when Martina Navratilova is the person making the proclamation- we listen. Athletic with a pounding forehand, Garcia is drawn to meet Serena Williams – and in one of those strange quirks of tennis draws, she also met Serena 2 weeks ago at the same stage of the French Open, losing 6/1 6/2. Serena is in ominous form – a fact borne out by her current career best winning streak of 32 matches. It took her all of 19 minutes to win the first set last night against Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella. Ouch.

So what will Caroline Garcia do? From my perspective there is a macabre fascination – Garcia should still be in school – but in her chosen school, the WTA tour, the “exam” has come very early. Will Garcia have learned from the French Open loss? Her comments following that match suggest she has a strong analytical mind. “Serena’s accuracy is impressive, she strikes the ball hard, and I was running around a lot. Many balls were difficult to return. I have a lot of things to take home with me. I need to work on my game if I want to give her problems next time we play”. Study time is over, the exam is tomorrow.


The Shark circles – Rafa mauled.

24 Jun

Rafael Nadal

Raphael Nadal. Gazumped by Belgium’s Steve “the Shark” Darcis

Raphael Nadal fell victim to the white hot form of #135 ranked Belgian Steve Darcis. Darcis, who has had a penchant for sharks from a young age, sports a shark tattoo on his shoulder, and even uses the shark moniker on his twitter account, was in a predatory mood. Like most sharks, Darcis showed no sign of fear, winning in straight sets and sealing the victory with a thumping ace. Rafa could only look on as the 29 year old Darcis struck an amazing 52 winners for the match.

In true Rafa style, when persistently asked if his knee was the reason for the loss said quite emphatically, “I don’t gonna talk about my knee this afternoon. Only thing today is congratulate Steve Darcis. He played a fantastic match. I don’t put any excuse when I’m losing a match like I lost today. He deserve not one excuse”. Rafa –  a true champion – all class, even in defeat.

Steve Darcis is one of the nicest guys you could meet in the locker room and his form today serves as a reminder to all. Despite struggling with form on the Challenger Circuit for the past 12 months – in his words – “I was playing really bad, with no motivation”, he kept working, and more importantly kept believing. So to all the sharks out there: work hard, dream big, and circle your prey.


Linesmen ready. Ballkids ready. Players ready. Play.

24 Jun

Federer practices at Wimbledon

Roger Federer contemplates Wimbledon title #8.

With the countdown to Wimbledon entering the last few hours, it’s time to leave the ugly verbal jousting between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova aside, and focus on some really entertaining match ups the draw has thrown up. While many are distraught that Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal are in the same quarter (due to Rafa’s ranking of #5), it does remind us that tennis tournaments, despite allegations to the contrary by Damir Dokic, are subject to the vagaries of “the draw”.

Have at a look at these 1st round matches. In the women’s there are a couple of standouts. In a battle of emerging young USA talent Sloane Stephens (seeded 17) takes on in form Jamie Hampton. Hampton has risen from a ranking in the 50’s to sit inside the top 25 following her runner-up result at Eastbourne this week. A week earlier and that ranking would have had her also seeded at Wimbledon. Tough for Stephens. Tough for Hampton. My tip Hampton in 3 sets. And in a battle of big hitters – Angelique Kerber takes on Bethanie Mattek-Sands in what is sure to be a slug-fest or the diminutive fast feet of Maria Kirilenko against the hope of the British, lefty Laura Robson.

The men’s draw has thrown up some cracker match ups. Baghdatis versus Cilic, Lopez v. Simon, or the battle of the Serbs – Troicki v. Tipsarevic. All enticing for the fans – but the hottest 1 st round seats may well be at the Aussie matches. Perhaps we may learn something about the mental toughness of Bernard (sans Dad / coach John) Tomic. Tomic is already something of an enigma on tour – he challenges conventional thinking, appears to “coast”, and often leaves us with more questions than answers. In a defining moment in his fledgling career, Tomic plays big serving American Sam Querrey. Will Tomic’s guile and court craft be enough to get him across the line? Where is his head at?

THE match of the 1st round is undoubtedly Swiss ball striking maestro, Stan “The Man” Wawrinka against Little Lleyton Hewitt. These two have history, and a genuine respect for each other forged from their tie deciding Davis Cup battle on grass at Royal Sydney Golf Club. That particular match was an epic affair, where Wawrinka dragged himself across the line in 5 brutal sets. The match had to be stopped due to bad light, as neither player would wilt, and a broken Lleyton Hewitt – yes his BIG heart broke his little body – AGAIN – meekly surrendered his serve the next morning to lose the match. Hewitt has a long memory – and that match hurt. Hewitt in 4 for me.

The PRO.

Woz not was

19 Jun

Caroline Wozniacki hits a volley during her match against Tamira Paszek.

Caroline Wozniacki looking comfortable at net, Eastbourne 2013.

Caroline Wozniacki’s horror run, in which she has seen her ranking drop from world #1 to #9, may be over courtesy of  a forfeit from Tamira Paszek in the 1st round at Eastbourne. Following first round losses in 4 of her past 5 tournaments, Wozniacki looked far more comfortable on the grass and was up 6/2 and 2/2 when Paszek was forced to retire with a quadricep injury that will put her in doubt for Wimbledon. Paszek must be rueing the timing of this setback, as Wimbledon has been her happy hunting ground with 1/4 final appearances the past 2 years. She has a mountain of points to defend, and the popular Austrian’s ranking of #29 will plummet if she is unable to play.

Also continuing her breakthrough season, American Jamie Hampton (WTA #41) had a strong straight set win over #4 Agnieszka Radwanska. She could be a very dangerous early round match up going into the Wimbledon draw unseeded. Also winning comfortably were Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova and Li Na.

Wozniacki seemed to put the past few months behind her, and said “the clay season is over, which I am happy about. I love the grass. It’s so much fun to play on”. With golfing superstar boyfriend Rory McIlroy watching on who’s to say Woz not “Was” may prove she still has what it takes.