THE RINGS OF SATURN AND THE HEADBANDS OF THE ATP: Some say Ivan Ljubicic is the ATP’s answer to Mr. Clean. But, according to S.L. Price, when the Croatian dons his head ban he looks like Saturn. (BTW: With his headband, James Blake looks a bit like a Jesuit monk.)
SHIVER ME TIMBERS: The appreciative Frenchwoman Arazane Rezai reflected on the enthusiastic Paris crowd: It’s something that gives you the shivers and I’d like to thank them.
“We’ve only won one French Open and we’re trying to give our trophy a brother and sister.” — Serena Williams on her and Venus’ effort to win the doubles crown.
“I’ll be back. It’s just a matter of time.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova after she lost her French Open title
A DROP-IN SESSION ON DROP SHOTS
Some sports have finesse built into them. If you can’t putt, you might as well stash your Titlists up in the attic.In other sports subtlety plays a small but significant role. There are bunts and change-up pitches in baseball, no-look passes in hoops and shuttle passes in football.
As for tennis, the New York Times’ Christopher Clarey just wrote an opus on drop shots (which Roger Federer has recently added to his considerable arsenal). Clarey noted that the delicate shot requires “touch, intuition and, depending on the circumstances, either boldness or desperation, because it is generally a much riskier shot than your average groundstroke.”
France’s Julien Benneteau claimed, “It’s a double-edged thing. In some cases it can be a bit like soccer where you attack and attack and it doesn’t work, and all that’s left is the long shot from 30 meters away.”Jurgen Melzer also noted the problematic sides of the shot. “It’s like a virus. Once you’re infected, it’s tough to get rid of. It’s just in your head. You play a few good ones. You always win the point and then you want to keep continuing and then when you miss some, you say, Well this cannot happen. I have to play a better one.”Our favorite drops shot came when Aranxta Sanchez-Vicaro was deep into a Wimbledon when stuck on the baseline and facing match point she uncorked a drop shot winner.
NOT WILLING TO SPEND HIS PR CAPITAL: Before the sports fanatic Andy Roddick headed off to England (where he achieved huge favor by his inspired Wimbledon last year), IT asked him who would win the upcoming World Cup match between the soccer teams from the U.S. and England. Roddick replied: “I’ve got the British crowd on my side right now. I’ve built up a lot of goodwill over the last couple of years that I don’t want to ruin by answering this question.”
JUST WONDERING: Is Venus No. 2 in the rankings because she is playing well or because so few players are bringing .
NO KIDDING: Reflecting on Wayne Odesnik being busted for drugs on his arrival in Australia, Lleyton Hewitt quipped, “coming in with steroids is pushing your luck.”
NOT TO ‘TARP’ ON THIS BUT: Follow us here, please.
- A Wimbledon court attendant, who tripped one slippery London day, was almost smothered by a Centre Court tarp.
- The Russian coach Shamil Tarpischev is arguably the best Davis Cup (and Fed Cup) since super-Aussie Harry Hoppman.
• Andy Roddick is known for his critiques of refs, officials and umps. During an early round match, he disagreed the chair ump and informed him “I am not here for a physics lesson.” Than today he had a major complaint. He explained that “one of the things I have a problem with is the tarps in the back of the court. They dry the whole court, but then they leave the tarps soaking wet.
So if a ball rolls through a puddle enough times, can you tell me what happens to it? Then when clay attaches to it, it doesn’t get lighter … It’s something that I’ve been pretty adamant about complaining about behind closed doors for a long time.
Even the umpire said to me, ‘Well, it happens every year.’ [So] I’m going, Is that supposed to make me feel better? I didn’t understand that logic.
So then I want to go through the proceedings of what he did to make sure it didn’t happen again. He told me he talked to Brian. Then I said, Well, okay, do you know who Brian [Early] talks to? He said, The big chief. I said, Who is the big chief? He goes, I don’t know. I said, Well, now I understand why nothing gets done. [The] only thing is I think that’s preventable. I don’t think that’s something that needs to happen all the time.”
DEATH ON ‘THE SUE’ AND OTHER DISASTERS IN PARIS: When the gray clouds of Europe descend on Paris the mood tilts. A certain “life is a glass of burgundy” sensibility shifts just slightly and the often dodgy hopes of American tennis players often plummet. So it was hardly surprising that Martina Navratilova, noting the steely skies, quipped “the conditions are not good for Americans.”
Previously, observers had noted, with some glee, the sweetness of Roddick’s draw. He had labored past the aging Finnish veteran Jarrko Nieminen in the opening round in five not-so-pretty sets. In the second round he dismissed a guy named Blaz in a breeze.
Yes, in third round he would have to survive his personal graveyard – “The Sue” … Court Suzanne Lenglen. But his beloved fashion model wife Brooklyn had just come into a town (which yes, is the fashion epicenter of the universe.) Surely the stars were aligning. More to the point, A-Rod was to face the lowly veteran journeyman Teimuraz Gabashvili. Only ranked 116, the Russian had come through the qualifying and then beaten a couple of little-known Euros to reach the third round. In other words, things were looking good for Austin Andy to once again reach the fourth round at RG on his off-surface.
But the result was sour. The power-meister, looking slow and outclassed, was promptly dismissed in three semi-dismal sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Roddick, spoke of Gashvili, saying “he’s been around for a while. The tricky thing is for him normally is having enough time to take those kind of swings at the ball.Today he definitely had plenty of time … It was tough for me to penetrate him. He was similar to Soderling last year. His swings are big enough to where he can create length even when it is heavy.My swings are a little bit more compact and more based on timing as opposed to kind of long, kind of fluid, kind of lengthy‑type thing … I’m probably gonna come up short against that on conditions like these.”As for playing on Lenglen, Andy admitted, “I’m … in a difficult position here because I’m not, one of the bigger names that’s gonna get on center court all the time … I understand. I just probably wouldn’t prefer it.”The user friendly Bryan Brothers would not have preferred their outcome either. Recently on TV (that would be 60 Minutes) and on a run of tying the Woodies record for most career doubles wins (that would be 61), the Brothers said they were confident, unleashing great power tennis, using their instincts more than ever and were playing their best ever.
The brothers, who always go deep in Slams, would be welcoming the Woodies – Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge – who would be in town to see them go for their record.But Woodforde was cautionary. He told IT that he had informed the Brothers that “once you close in on a record it can be a bit of a hassle.”
You could say that.
The brothers dropped the first set to a couple Brazilian of talented dirt- meisters – Melo and Soares – and then lost four straight points in the second set tie-breaker to go down 6-3, 7-6 (8).Afterwords, Mike Bryan was philosophical. “Sometimes you are going to have sticky matches. They were fired up for us. Teams are gunning for [the] No. 1[team]. We have won some tough ones before … Maybe we didn’t come in with enough high energy and desperation.” As for breaking the record, the brothers said “We have a little time to do it.”The Bryans have taken plenty of bad losses including in Davis Cup (think of Carson in ’05) and seven Grand Slam finals. But this year’s French Open exit was, in their minds, was not one of their worst. “We tried to manufacture some energy,” they confided. “But it was too late.”After almost two months in Europe, the Brothers admitted they “were a little tired mentally” and would be flying home for some American food and probably won’t play Queens.The return home will mean that they will be able to watch an NBA playoff game for the first time in their lives.As for Serena, she too landed up playing, so to speak, for her life. Not feeling well and looking out of sorts, incredibly (after cruising through the first set 6-1) she was bageled in the second set by the 18-year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. One theory was that the younger Williams, whose focus often wanes, was a bit bored. In her first five sets she had dropped just eight games. “Sometimes you are numbed by your own excellence,” suggested analyst Matt Cronin. “You lose interest.”
In fact, Williams felt dizzy and took a pill. Fortunately, for Yankee patriots on this holiday weekend, Serena rallied to stave off a trifecta American loss. Using her best in the game serve, her best in the game return and her best in the game ferocity, she rallied to score an unlikely 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 victory.
Unlike Roddick and the Bryans, the clouds remained at Roland Garros and so did Serena.