A SHAKESPEAREAN SCOT: Of Andy Murray’s woes, The Guardian’s Kevin Mitchell opined, “Nobody suffers so painfully as the Scot, his naturally drawn features growing more mournful with every passing excuse. He is the Hamlet of tennis.”
HYDE AND SEEK: The Sun-Sentinel’s David Hyde lamented, “Look around. Finding an American tennis player winning right now is like finding my wallet at home. Is it on the desk? No. The stairs? No. The couch?”
GOOD-BYE DUOPOLY, HELLO TRIVALRY?: Just when we were getting used to the word “duopoly,” Mary Carillo has introduced the term “trivalry.” Translation: The Federer-Nadal Duopoly is now, with all the success of Novak Djokovic, one of the better three-way competitions in tennis history. Today’s trivalry brings to mind Jimmy Connors vs. Bjorn Borg, which was then joined by John McEnroe. Or the Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova rivalry, which was joined by Steffi Graf.
DJOKOVIC THE DAREDEVIL: The biggest ham in tennis used to be Ham Richardson, America’s former No. 1 player and Davis Cup star. But in recent years, clearly, the premier ham in our game has been Novak Djokovic. No Djok. The Serb’s imitations and post-match on-court interviews are always must-see events. More recently, a Facebook fan posted a grainy, black-and-white photo circa the roaring ’20s of daredevils Ivan Unger and Gladys Roy playing tennis atop the wings of a biplane in mid-flight. He asked, “Has anybody ever tried this?” Head promised to give it a shot with its marquee endorsee – Djokovic. The result is a short film featuring Djokovic atop the wings of an old Antonov II biplane.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: This year at the Sony Ericsson Open there was no Serena or Venus Williams, Justine Henin or Elena Dementieva.
CLIJSTERS SIDELINED: Serena isn’t the only elite player to be sidelined by a freak off-court foot injury. Kim Clijsters injured her right ankle at a wedding party and will miss not only the Fed Cup semis, but likely the French Open, too. The No. 2-ranked Belgian was reportedly wearing high heels when she stepped on someone’s foot, resulting in stretched ligaments and a torn ankle joint and leaving her in crutches. Clijsters had already hinted that she would take a month off to heal her shoulder and wrist problems.
A CHEEZY ANSWER: Long an advocate for revamping the Davis Cup, Andy Roddick said, “The fact that a defending champion wins in December and has to play the first round in February is ridiculous. So you [should] start with a two-team bye. Then you can’t get relegated. It’s amazing that you can win, then lose in February, and then be relegated out of the World Group a year later…that’s ridiculous. You can be sitting there at No. 2 in the Davis Cup rankings that nobody really cares about, and all of a sudden you’re being relegated. It’s like Swiss cheese. There’s a lot of holes in it.”
GOOD DAY, BRAD DAY: Darren Cahill tweeted, “Definition of a bad day…when you sign an autograph for a kid at the tennis and he looks you square in the eyes and says..thanks Brad!”
JUST WONDERING: Is Nadal the most popular foreign athlete to ever play in America? And is he the most humble No. 1 of the Open Era?…What’s been more important in Mardy Fish’s late career excellence – gaining the support of a loving wife or losing the weight of unneeded pounds?… When has women’s tennis been so devoid of anything that hints of a compelling, go-to rivalry?…Were the Djokovic vs. Nadal clashes the most compelling back-to-back finals in Indian Wells and Miami history?
CURIOUS QUESTIONS: The amiable Caroline Wozniacki was asked, “Are you friends with everyone?”…After she ousted Jelena Jankovic in Miami, a reporter asked rising German Andrea Petkovic, “Who are you?”
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: No. 1 Wozniacki has no wins over Clijsters, the Williamses or Henin.
NO GUTS, NO GLORY: After Wozniacki hit a timid, powder puff serve on match point, a stunned Lindsay Davenport said, “That did not just happen. This is what shocks me. A No. 1 player in the world goes up to the line with a match point on her serve and she spins a 73 mph serve in the court. You have to take matters into your own hands sometimes.”
BEING NO. 1 IS NOT HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY: While reflecting on the top-ranked but still Slam-less Wozniacki, Ted Robinson said, “Being No. 1 isn’t something you have to apologize for. You don’t have to explain it. It’s something to be proud of.”
OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: After a reporter asked rising Ryan Harrison if he was nervous playing Federer, the 18-year old quipped, “The first clue was that I missed my first five serves.”
GIVING NEW MEANING TO THE PHRASE ‘MINSK MEAT’: The pride of Minsk, Belarus — Victoria Azaranka — beat Clijsters, Vera Zvonereva and Maria Sharapova in straight sets en route to the Sony Ericsson title. She then added the Marbella title, having won a personal-best 11 straight matches, and eight consecutive matches without dropping a set. So one wonders, will the 21-year-old become the next great force in tennis.
OF COUGHS AND COUGH SYRUP: Sharapova said the best thing that will happen when she stops playing is that she won’t have to get WTA approval every time she wants to take a pill or some cough syrup …After his tough loss in Miami, Sony Ericsson defending champ Roddick pulled a reporter’s tape recorder close and said, “I’ll give you a really good answer right now.” He then gave an extended cough into the recorder.
GO FIGURE: Roddick was a caddie for golfer Zach Johnson at the Augusta Masters…Former No. 9 Paradorn Srichaphan, 31, is going to be running for Parliament in Thailand…Fish (that would be Mardy) swam with dolphins at a Miami theme park…It took resurgent Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro just six weeks to jump from No. 484 in the world to No. 45.
IS PETE FORGETTING WHO SAMPRAS WAS?: Pete Sampras told Christopher Clarey, “You kind of live your life with your wife and your kids, and you sort of forget who you were a little bit.”
WHY MARIA’S MARIA: After Sharapova’s comeback against Dulgheru in Miami, Lindsay Davenport said, “That’s why she is who she is.” Davenport added that Sharapova is “one of the toughest athletes in women’s sports — maybe in all of sports…My level of respect for her was insanely high, but it’s at a different level now.”
OBVIOUSLY: Before the Sony Ericsson Open final between the game’s two premier shriekers — Sharapova and Azaranka — Bill McAtee said, “It might get loud.”
WHAT MAKES RAFA RUM: Nadal, who recently signed an endorsement deal with Bacardi, says it’s not unusual for an athlete to be sponsored by a liquor company. “I’m not presenting alcohol party, you know,” he said. “It’s a responsible campaign, a social campaign. Anyway, I think alcohol is inside our lives, so is nothing new, no?”
QUESTION: Was Sharapova’s gutsy, “I’m-back-in-the-top-10” 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) win over Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru in Miami the best effort by an elite player since Francesca Schiavone outlasted Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 at the Aussie Open? Or does that distinction go to Clijsters, who scored an incredible comeback from 5-1 down in the third set in Miami, in which she saved five match points to overcome Ana Ivanovic 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(5)? The match, which was played on a backcourt with no TV accessibility, was certainly one of the most dramatic matches virtually no one saw.
AUSTIN POWERS: The Davis Cup is coming to Roddick’s home turf. The University of Texas at Austin will host the July 8-10 Spain vs. U.S. Davis Cup quarterfinal. The U.S. is 4-0 in Texas, including the ’92 final in Ft. Worth, when the U.S. Dream Team of Courier/Agassi/McEnroe/Sampras defeated Switzerland 3-1. A 10-year-old Roddick attended that match as a fan with his family.
ANOTHER MONTH ANOTHER SERENA DRAMA: Even when she’s on the sideline with an injury, Serena can’t avoid controversy. An embolism, revisiting an old brouhaha with Henin, slashing her foot on glass in a German bar, unleashing a world-class snit at the U.S. Open, et al. The International Working Group on Women and Sport recently took Serena to task for her risqué ad for 2K Sports. Pictured in skimpy outfits and provocative poses, the ad bills Williams as “The World’s Sexiest Tennis Player.” The women’s group claims that, “If she’s good looking that’s fine, but there’s a difference between being good looking and looking after your body and actually using the body just as a sexualized object to gain media coverage.”
GREATEST OF ALL TIME: In women’s tennis, the GOAT debate often zooms in on Graf or Navratilova. But for Clijsters, the answer is clear: “Serena, to me, is the best player ever…Serena as an overall athlete, power, speed, is a step ahead of everybody.”
STATS AND DAMN STATS: Serena didn’t play the Sony Ericsson Open, but still managed to rise two points in the rankings to No. 10, which is a good thing, because at least for another week America had at least one man or woman (that would be just Serena) in the top 10.
PROGRESS REPORT: When Nadal was asked whether his game has improved overall since ’09 he responded, “Sure, I serve much better… My backhand is better and the forehand is similar. But the better thing is I am playing closer to the baseline. I am able to play more inside the court, going more times to the net. So that’s a very important factor, no? It’s much easier when you play three meters behind the baseline than if you play one meter behind the baseline. That’s 100 percent. The biggest improvement in my game is the position on court.”
SPANISH WHINE: During his 7-5, 6-2 Sony Ericsson Open loss to Fish, the usually mild mannered David Ferrer appeared to lob a ball into the stands toward a crying baby. Said Fish, “He’d probably take that one back if he could. He’s a very nice guy.”
FRENCH FRIED: After being run around like a yo-yo by Wozniacki in the Indian Wells final, Marion Bartoli said she cried “tears of exhaustion.”
BARTOLI THE BRAINIAC: Regarding Bartoli’s claim that she has an IQ of 175, Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim quipped, “I’m thinking maybe Bartoli’s figures underwent some sort of Eurozone conversion rate.”
WHO SAYS TENNIS IS A COUNTRY CLUB SPORT?: A prime sponsor at the Sony Ericsson Open was a Swiss truffle candy manufacturer.
THE LAST DAYS OF ‘THE PETKO DANCE?’: Andrea Petkovic calls her joyous victory celebration as the “Petko Dance,” which, according to the German, stems from a bet with her coach, Petar Popovi, at the ’10 U.S. Open. “I was playing really bad beforehand and I got Nadia Petrova in the first round, so it was obviously a tough round for me…He said, ‘If you win, you have to do something special.’ That was the first thing that came to my mind. Actually, I wanted to get rid of it after the U.S. Open, but the fans said, ‘Hey, we are just coming to see the dance and you’re not doing it anymore!’ So I brought it back. But this is definitely the last tournament where it’s going to happen, and then I’m moving on to something else.” How sad. A few years ago, we lost Djokovic’s hilarious imitations. Now we lose Petkovic’s jolly jig.
“I don’t think anybody is unbeatable. I [am having] the best period of my life on the court, but nobody is invincible.” — Novak Djokovic
“She cannot win everything. She’s no robot.” – Caroline Wozniacki’s father, Piotr
“You should see my racket. I kind of broke my racket and then cried a little bit, and then I was okay.” — Ana Ivanovic after squandering five match points against Kim Clijsters in Miami
“Andy [Roddick] could put his career on top of mine 15 times. So I don’t think I would ever feel like the No. 1, even though if I were to win tomorrow the number next to my name would be smaller than his.” — Mardy Fish on being the top-ranked American
“Sometimes I feel like, ‘Is it okay to play tennis right now? If I can do something, I want to help.’ But at the same time, it’s my job, and that’s something I can give them — like joy, happiness.” — Japan’s Kei Nishikori on the disaster in his homeland
“My sense is she is really missing tennis for the first time. She realizes she’s not going to have a whole lot of years left, so I could see her making one last great Agassi-like push. If anyone can do it, Serena can.” — John McEnroe
“It takes a lot to convince Sharapova she’s not going to win a match.” — Mary Carillo