Notebook: Charleston, Monte Carlo


SIX PACK: Rafael Nadal became the first man in the Open Era to win a single Masters tournament six straight times.  He’s now won 37 ATP events, including 26 on clay.  His Monte Carlo title ended an inexplicable 11-month dry spell that traced back to the ’09 Italian Open.  In Monte Carlo, which he said was his favorite tournament, he won all 10 sets he played, was 60-14 in games, and won $584,895.

TAPPING HER INNER SARAH PALIN: A couple of months ago, Sarah Palin drew much comment when, at a Tea Party gathering, she wrote notes on her hand prior to delivering a speech: “Energy…Tax Cuts…Lift American Spirit.” Similarly, Family Circle Cup winner Sam Stosur wrote two words on her hand wristband: “Attitude” and “Composure.”

AWFUL COMMENT OF THE WEEK: Pam Shriver noted that Stosur, in her 6-0, 6-3 demolition of Vera Zvonareva, “has been a lot more impressive than Zvonareva has been awful.”

JUST WONDERING: Coming off her impressive play, how far can Stosur (who supplanted Kim Clijsters at No. 10) go, and will she be a force at Roland Garros, where she reached the semis in ’09?

TWO WORDS: Cliff Drysdale said Stosur’s performance in Charleston was “beyond spectacular,” and then went on to compare to great Aussies like Emerson, Stolle and Newcombe.  Shriver added that Stosur’s performance was “the best final by an Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong won Wimbledon in 1980.”

WHY ARE WE HAVING TROUBLE CONNECTING THE DOTS?: The bright, appealing Zvonareva has won of the most explosive tempers in women’s tennis.  (Remember he snit-fit from the U.S. Open last year, when she ripped one bandage after another off her leg?)  Yet the Russian is studying to become a diplomat.

AT LEAST SHE WAS WILLING TO GO TO PLAN B: In just over a half-hour, Zvonareva found herself down 6-0, 3-0 in the Charleston final.  At her coach’s suggestion, she first tried to take Stosur out of her rhythm by offering a few moonballs – a tactic that briefly proved effective.  Then she unleashed an authentic meltdown, and with four swats and a good left-footed kick that totally demolished her Prince racket.  Shriver noted, “A good temper tantrum deserves a round of applauds.  That’s the best one I’ve seen since I stopped playing.”  After the implosion, Zvonareva reeled off four straight points and got on the scoreboard.  (Perhaps she should pulverize her racket more often.)

BAGEL CITY: Stosur and Nadal — the winners of the Family Circle Cup and the Monte Carlo Masters, respectively – began their finals with 6-Love first-set wins over Zvonareva and Fernando Verdasco.

SOMETIMES THERE’S ONLY ONE ALTERNATIVE: Deep into the Monte Carlo final, when Verdasco was being thumped by Nadal, Verdasco got to a short ball with plenty of time to put it away, prompting The Tennis Channel’s Robbie Koenig to quip, “I thought Vedasco would knock the ball through Rafa’s chest, and get the walkover.  That’s the only way I saw him winning this one.”

ADMIRAL RULES: Nadal’s victorious run in Monte Carlo came at the expense of his fellow Spaniards.  Rafa pushed aside J.C Ferrero 6-4, 6-2; David Ferrer 6-2, 6-3 and Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in succession en route to the title.

CAUTION — IF YOU’RE UP’TIGHT’ ABOUT POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, DON’T READ THIS ITEM: When reflecting on the curious let cords at the Monte Carlo Masters, The Tennis Channel noted, “One of those nets was made in Scotland – very tight.”

WHY DIDN’T DAMIEL WEBSTER THINK OF THAT?: The Tennis Channel suggested that “‘Phenomnadal’ is a word we’re going to have to invent.”

THE BATTLE OF THE POIGNANT MOMENTS: Which was a more poignant moment – when Verdasco — down 6-0, 4-1 and clearly on the brink of defeat —managed to outfox Nadal and win a stunning 29-stroke point (after which he fell to his knees, dropped his racket and offered a wry kiss to the tennis gods in the blue Monte Carlo sky), or when Nadal, moments after winning his sixth straight Monte Carlo title, heaved and wept into his towel in his own private world?

AN ANKLE IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE: For two straight years now, players at the Family Circle Cup have suffered ankle injuries.  Last year, Zvonareva tweaked her ankle in Charleston and subsequently struggled for months.  This year, Caroline Wozniacki, arguably the hottest player (and most appealing draw in the absence of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic) crushed her ankle after an eight-stride sprint to get to a Zvonareva drop shot.

NOT NECESSARILY THE KIND OF CHARTS YOU WANT TO CLIMB: The Bryan Bros. may be No. 1 on the ATP doubles charts, but their song “Autograph” currently sits at No. 9 on a list of all-time worst songs by professional athletes. Tweeted Bob upon hearing of the song’s new status: “Yes!!!! We’re climbing the charts!!!”  (Who’s No. 1?  Olympian Carl Lewis and his not necessarily memorable song “Break It Up.”)