Serena Loses, Didn’t Play Well, Yada Yada
When a Williams sister loses a match, generally they will say they played poorly or their opponent played far above their level. But apparently both were in effect Wednesday in Hobart, Australia, the site of Serena Williams’ return to tennis where the American, appearing heavier than her Grand Slam-winning days, lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to unheralded Austrian Sybille “The Whammer” Bammer.
“I think she played the match of her life, I’ve never heard of her quite frankly,” said Williams, playing her first event since the US Open, coming off a 2006 season where she was sidelined for most of the year with knee and ankle injuries. “You just wish these players would play like this all the time instead of just against me.”
Thank god Serena can bring out the best in these “lowly players.”
Williams led by a set and a break before faltering.
“I didn’t play that well,” Williams said. “I made a lot of unforced errors. I just think I’m a little rusty.”
The 25-year-old Bammer has never won a title and last year had to qualify at all four Slams.
Also at Hobart in a battle of wildcards, India’s Sania Mirza put it to doubles partner and Aussie Alicia Molik 6-4, 6-1.
“I was very impressed by Sania today,” Molik said. “There’s no reason she can’t be there on Friday. She played exceptionally well. She probably has one of the biggest forehands in the game. She definitely hurt me with that shot of hers.”
Other quarterfinal winners were (1) Anna Chakvetadze (d. (7) Zheng 6-1 in the third) and Russian qualifier Vasilisa Bardina (d. Castano in three).
Davydenko Says No One Cares About Sydney
While ATP and Sydney officials are wracking their brains to see if they can possibly spin it as “lost in translation,” Russian Top 10er Nikolay Davydenko gave a lesson in how not to support your sport at the Medibank International in Sydney Wednesday. Davydenko retired from the event with a stress fracture in his foot, then went on to say that no one cares about the event anyway compared to next week’s Australian Open.
“It’s a small tournament,” Davydenko said of the Sydney stop. “Noboby care about here, tournament. If I want to win, I try to win here. But if there’s some injury, you feel tired before a grand slam, better retire from here and go there (Melbourne).”
Davydenko’s ATP PR nightmare illustrates that injuries will again play a huge part in 2007 as they did in 2006, when players pulled out with injuries, real and unreal, a staggering 383 times according to the ATP.
Also retiring from matches in Sydney this week were world No. 2 Rafael Nadal (thigh injury), Paradorn Srichaphan (wrist injury) and Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova (illness) and Nadia Petrova (abdominal injury). Russian Dmitry Tursonov pulled out before the event began with a wrist injury.
“Normally if I got a stress fracture, I need to rest like six weeks,” said Davydenko, eager to participate in next week’s Australian Open. “But, I am from Russia — I never take six weeks off.”
For good measure, Davydenko assured journalists that in less serious injury cases he simply tanks the remainder of the match.
“Normally I can finish match, just stand on court and lose second set,” Davydenko said. “Better I take rest and just try to prepare for Australian Open…If I get some pain, some tight muscles, for what I need to play? For what I need to finish matches?”
Lleyton Hewitt skipped Sydney with a calf injury, while the tournament also had drop-outs from Mark Philippoussis (knee), Anastasia Myskina (toe), Nicolas Kiefer (wrist), Mary Pierce (knee) and Tim Henman (knee).
Meanwhile officials on both the men’s and women’s tours are disinterested (as the racquet companies rule the sport) in investigating whether the racquet/string technology that has turned the sport into a shooting contest is contributing to the rash of injuries, hoping that adding a few more off-weeks to the calendar will solve the problem.
Both tours sell more off-weeks on the calendar as a panacea — that is sell it to the media, tennis fans and the players — knowing it won’t work, but it will keep people happy that they’re “working on it.”
When November and December roll around each year, most of the top players hit the exhibition circuit — to line their pockets with obscene amounts of cash, raise cash for their favorite charities, or both. Even if your body can profit from some rest, your bank account profits even more when someone offers you six figures to fly to Asia. Next time a player decries the lack of an offseason, check out their exo schedule during November-December. Players like Roger Federer who can see past the money (or have enough money) to give their bodies proper rest are rare.
Players like to play, and unless the tours can get players to sign something saying they won’t play exos if additional off-weeks are added to the calendar, more off-weeks will mean more exos.
Also of note in Sydney, seeds into the quarters Wednesday were (3) James Blake (d. Healey), (4) Marcos Baghdatis (d. (Q) Hernych in three), (5) Tomas Berdych (d. (Q) Minar in three), and (6) Richard Gasquet (d. Becker).
Austrian Jurgen Melzer ended Aussie Chris “Penthouse” Guccione’s pre-Aussie Open prospects in straight sets, Carlos Moya saved three match points to struggle by Spanish countryman Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco, and American Robby Ginepri received a mental blow that will likely take him a while to recover from, beating Russian Evgeny Korolev 6-0 before then dropping the next two sets 4-6, 4-6. Ouch.
In Auckland they finally completed the rain-delayed first round with upset-makers in Chile’s Nicolas Massu (d. (6) Ferrero) and Spain’s Nicolas Almagro (d. (8) Wawrinka in three).
On the women’s side in Sydney, into the semis were unseeded Jelena Jankovic (d. (1) Mauresmo, bagel in the second), (3) Kim Clijsters (d. Peer 2-and-1), (8) Nicole Vaidisova (d. Ivanovic), and China’s Na Li (d. Srebotnik).
“I’m just disappointed about the way I feel and I feel there is a lot of work to do on my game, physically,” Mauresmo said after eating the bagel. “I think I still need to work on the quickness around the court and the reaction. It’s the final parts and the final details which at the end of the day are not details any more but are very important.”
AROUND THE DIAL:
Roger Federer on changing the tennis calendar around: “Honestly, I don’t want to start anything here, but it would be nice if the Australian Open would be a bit later…we would have a bit more time in the off season. But because the first grand slam is just around the corner, basically that’s why we don’t have any rest. If it would be in March, people could take a rest all January and February as well.” — Two more months of no tennis? I’m sure the ITF/ATP will jump right on that Rog…Kim Clijsters on another reason she is looking forward to retirement at the end of the year: “You get very spoiled. You realize that when you’re in a hotel room and you don’t have to change your sheets yourself, you can push the button on the phone and order food and it’s right there. When you are at home, I’m doing all of that myself, cleaning the house, cleaning the windows and that’s fun. I don’t know if I’m going to enjoy that in seven or eight years but at the moment I enjoy doing that.”…From Leo Schlink writing for Australia’s Daily Telegraph: “World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko faces possible censure after last night making the staggering claim nobody cared about the $1.3 million Medibank International. Davydenko, who trawls the world contesting more events than any other top-10 competitor, retired from the event yesterday citing a possible stress fracture of his right foot. But, as with many of the Olympic Park wounded, there was a sense rest before next week’s Australian Open is more important than fulfilling Sydney obligations. Davydenko, who almost certainly received a handsome guarantee to appear in Sydney, admitted as much…Davydenko’s comments are certain to enrage ATP chairman Etienne De Villiers, who has described player withdrawals as “unacceptable madness” after the men’s tour was struck by 383 pull-outs last year.”…Tennis.com reports that German Davis Cup captain Patrick Kuehnen’s contract is renewed until 2009 and the ATP World Team Cup event signs on to stay at its current location of Dusseldorf for another five years…Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open citing a left wrist injury…From the AP at the Kooyong exo: “Roger Federer shook off some rust in a 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) win over Radek Stepanek in a belated start to the season Wednesday that took longer and was hotter than he anticipated. Stepanek, wearing a camouflage-style outfit of his own design, almost ambushed Federer in the first round of the Kooyong exhibition tournament. After saving match point in the second set, Stepanek led 5-2 in the third-set tiebreaker.”…David Nalbandian pulled from Kooyong with a bad knee…Roger Federer on skipping the Doha event last week: “You have to look at the big picture — I needed a break. I wasn’t really in the mood to play a tournament the first week of the year. I also wanted to have a life — have Christmas and New Years’ and take it easy a little bit. For me, it was most important to come to Melbourne in the mood to win the Australian Open, not feel like it’s a pain.”…Jimmy Connors may not join protege Andy Roddick in Australia next week after the death of his mother…Andy Murray again welcomes Tim Henman back to the Brit Davis Cup, yet sticking the ‘It would be great if some of the younger guys could play’-knife in his back: “It’s great that the guys get to spend time with Tim at the Davis Cup…but it’s still completely different sitting watching him, to actually playing one yourself, and you only learn that through playing.”…From Tennisnews.com: “Tennis players Andy Roddick of the US, Mark Philippoussis of Australia and US Actress Shannon Elizabeth attend the 2007 Aussie Millions Poker Championships Celebrity Challenge at the Crown Poker Room, Crown Casino on January 10, 2007 in Melbourne, Australia. The Aussie Millions No Limit Holdem Celebrity Challenge forms part of the Aussie Millions Poker Championships, and sees competitors play to win AUD2000 for a charity of their choice.”…From tennis writer Matt Cronin: “A quick Sony Ericsson WTA Roadmap update: Miami and Stanford submitted applications on Monday, Miami as a high priced A-level, 12-day tournament, and Stanford, presumably as a “B.” That leaves three US tournaments out there that haven’t filed: Carson, Charleston and New Haven. Larry Scott told the LA Times’ Lisa Dillman yesterday that he’s still thinking there is a room for compromise before the USTA goes ahead and launches a rival circuit. But here’s what’s troubling: Why hasn’t a compromise already been reached? Is that B-plus level (an ability to recruit Top-10 players if you are willing to up the prize money to $600,000) on the WTA Roadmap application just an illusion, or is it possible that the tour is going to allow some B-level tournaments to upgrade a bit to where thet can survive. It seems like to me that if the WTA had already said yes, that this battle would have already been settled. But it hasn’t.” And Cronin on getting slammed by TennisWorld: “How unsurprised I was that Peter Bodo’s chat room leader gave me a low grade for 2006, but wouldn’t go after any other writer of substance. Steggy showed some real courage there…For the most part, Steggy’s review came off as nothing more than a personal attack, with references to journalistic incidents that she has no firsthand knowledge of, saying that I brag too much (I suck, I suck!), and that I somehow insulted my own readership, when she was actually referring to Bodo’s readership. Little of it made sense to me, and, by cracking me again, she could defend a couple of Pete’s positions. Here’s what was a little silly: a review of tennis.com writers and the ESPN tennis writer by a tennis.com chat room leader. (ESPN has a commercial deal with tennis.com). Big surprise how that turned out. Three tennis.com “B” grades were given and then written with “A” level descriptions. In the ESPN case, it was an “A” grade. Maybe the world-wide sports leader will take a few extra columns next month. Someone who is not affiliated with the website like Steggy should have done those reviews.”…Marat Safin on coach Alexander Volkov: “I needed actually a change, a big change, and I asked him (Volkov) to travel a little bit with me to help me for a couple of months because he had nothing to do in Moscow, so I offered him a few trips, a little bit of cash. And it worked, you know — full hospitality — and also for this year. Of course, he won’t be able to travel full-time, which is pretty good because otherwise we can get tired (of) each other. Hopefully, it will work because it worked for that few months of the season. Basically, I came back from 104 to 26 in the world — 80 spots in three months is pretty good, actually.”…From Lisa Dillman of the LA Times: “The U.S. Tennis Assn. said Monday it essentially has taken its key summer tournaments in Carson and New Haven, Conn., off the table for now by not applying for slots on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 2009, a decision that raises questions about the future of those events. The USTA owns the New Haven tournament, and holds 25% of the event in Carson, which is held at the Home Depot Center. The Anschutz Entertainment Group owns the other 75%. Both hard-court events are part of the U.S. Open Series, and USTA executive Chris Widmaier spoke about the possibility of using them to create a rival circuit. Sources said that organizers of the clay-court event in Charleston, S.C., also did not complete an application for a slot on the 2009 WTA calendar. The USTA’s decision, which is not set in stone, reveals the simmering dispute over the WTA’s commitment to change its schedule as it seeks to boost participation by the top female players by minimizing the wear and tear of tournament play. “Our belief is that the Roadmap is detrimental to tennis in the United States. We’re going to keep all of our options open,” Widmaier said, adding that the USTA has $10 million earmarked “in the event we begin our own circuit.”
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