SIMONA MATTERS: One player was coming back from a rugged year. That’s Angie Kerber. The other has long been dealing with demons. That’s Simona Halep. Pam Shriver said of her, “A player has never had more demons in closing out a big match.”
Others were critical. Chris Evert said, “Halep is not being kind to herself in the heat of the moment and Kerber is.” Chris Fowler noted, “She has No. 1 by her name, but she has a long history of not closing out big matches.”
Still – after yet another compelling marathon that was packed with liquid movement, scrappy defense, corner-to-corner marathon points and extraordinary swings – the gritty, full-of-fight Halep came through to reach Saturday’s final, where she will face Dane Caroline Wozniacki. Both have been down match points during the Aussie, and the Dane and the Romanian are both seeking their first Slam, after falling short in two other Slams. The winner will be No. 1 in the world.
Expect lots of running. In a tennis landscape sans Serena, the semi was another example of how fabulous women’s tennis is – time and again.
FEDERER KNOWS THE WAY TO SAN JOSE: For the second time in ten months, Roger Federer will be returning to the West Coast for his wonderful “Match for Africa” one-night fundraiser for his foundation, which focuses on education for children in southern Africa. Last year he raised $2 million in one far-from-sleepless night in Seattle. On March 5th he will be at San Jose’s SAP Center, along with Jack Sock, Bill Gates and Today Show star Savannah Guthrie. Tickets go on sale Friday.
Roger could play five times in the US this year: San Jose, Indian Wells, the US Open, the Laver Cup in Chicago in September – and perhaps in Cincinnati.
UNDERSTATEMENTS ‘R’ US: Andrea Petkovic tweeted, “Kerber/Halep are okay at tennis, I guess.” When referring to Nadal’s physique, Federer said, “My arms aren’t like his.”
A REAL KOREAN SMOOTHIE: While reflecting on the appealing breakthrough star Hyeon Chung, Jim Courier said, “if you put Lleyton Hewitt and [smooth Slovakian] Miloslav Mecir in a blender, you’d get [semifinalist] Hyeon Chung.”
GO FIGURE: Cilic spelled backwards is Cilic…When all is said and done, the woman’s final will feature the top two seeds…Before he went to bed the other night, Federer texted the injured Nadal to see if he was all right…At a time when tennis is dealing with Tennys Sandgren’s divisive views, the NFL (which has had plenty of problems) launched an initiative called “Let’s Listen Together”
SPLENDID HALL OF FAMERS: The International Hall of Fame will induct two greats in July. Former Wimbledon champ and No. 2 Michael Stich and Helena Sukova, who won 14 Slam doubles.
2016 – TENNYS ANYONE: The reactions to Tennys Sandgren’s controversial comments drew different approaches. Some were flippant. One writer joked: “Mr. Sandgren is challenging the call on the alt line.” Others were far more serious. For instance, writer Jerry Bembry adeptly noted certain elements of Tennys’ social media that weren’t widely covered. He wrote: “Sandgren has had numerous Twitter exchanges with several white nationalists, including Nicholas Fuentes, a well-known figure who has attended numerous white nationalist rallies, including the gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia, in October. When Sandgren won his fourth-round match, Fuentes congratulated his ‘longtime mutual, supporter, and friend” via Twitter, offering, ‘We have the best athletes, folks.’ Who is we?”
“Sandgren responded in 2016 to an email about Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory that linked Hillary Clinton to human trafficking, tweeting that “the collective evidence is too much to ignore.” After fans at the 2013 US Open booed American John Isner in his match against Frenchman Gael Monfils, Sandgren tweeted, ‘NYC doesn’t deserve the US Open. It needs to be moved south where we still have some pride in our country. #disgraceful.’”
“In a 2016 Twitter exchange with James Blake, Sandgren wrote, “I just don’t know how a country that practices systematic racism elected a black pres, twice.”
OLD MAN FEDERER: Scot Andy Murray didn’t even enter the Australian Open. The Stanimal, Stan Wawrinka, was a shell of himself and lost early. Novak Djokovic’s elbow let him down in the fourth round against Hyeon Chung. Rafa Nadal retired against Marin Cilic. But Old Man River – Roger Federer – just rolls on. The 36-year-old has yet to lose a set. His longevity is as impressive as his technique. And his technique is a key reason for his longevity.
IT JUST FEELS ODD: Roger Federer, standing by the ump’s chair, protesting at length against an ump’s decision.
COURIER’S WIT: With Mary Carillo, Jim Courier has the quickest wit in the game. He has an extraordinary edge. He’s also a fabulous commentator on Channel 7 in Australia. It’s a shame that the insightful and entertaining analyst doesn’t get more air time in the U.S.
“Chung ‘out-Djokovic-ed’ Djokovic.” – Channel 7 TV
“You will see the most random of shots.” – Rennae
Stubbs on Taipei’s astonishing Su-Wei Hsieh
“The boy had a good run, didn’t he?” – A voice with a
distinctive British accent commenting on semifinalist Kyle Edmund
“Now we get to see Roger in the daylight.” – Channel 7 on Federer finally being scheduled, on Wednesday, to play a day match
THAT COULD NEVER BE: Federer confided that when he was young, Nike had him briefly test-drive the Capri pants that Nadal wore for many years. BTW: If you are not a fan and feel like blaming someone for all the players who wore pink at the AO, call out Roger, who approved Nike using the flamingo shade that was so prominent in Melbourne.
ORIGIN TALE: The best new “origin” story on how a tennis star first began to play relates to Hyeon Chung. As a child the Korean had problems with his eyesight. His doctor told him that if he wanted to improve his vision, he should focus on the color green. [Think tennis court, although here they are blue.] Supposedly, the eye is keener and sharper when focusing on green. After all, it’s said that humanity traces its origins to the jungle where it was kind of handy to distinguish shades of green.
GOLDEN BEAR IN MELBOURNE: Cal grad Ben Mclachlan made a run to the semis in men’s doubles, defeating the ninth-seeded Lopez tandem of Feliciano and Marc and top seeds and world No. Ones Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot along the way. Mclachlan, now a Japanese national, had nothing but praise for coach Peter Wright and his Berkeley experience, saying, “He’s just a great guy. He’s always been just awesome, a really nice guy who’d help me out with anything. He was really fun to play for.”
KEYS COMMENT: Madison Keys suffered another tough loss deep into a Slam. But she is a huge talent. She’s still so young, just 22, and should have a fabulous future.
SERENA WATCH: Serena and Venus will be playing America’s Fed Cup match against Holland in Asheville, North Carolina. Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson will be on our Davis Cup team, which goes to Serbia. John Isner is not on the team.
SIX WORDS WE WISH WE NEVER HEARD: Tennys Sandgren said in a one-word tweet that Serena was “disgusting,” and when asked about the alt-right, he said, “Some of it is interesting.” Serena responded to Sandgren, saying, “I don’t need or want one. But there is a entire group of people that deserves an apology. I can’t look at my daughter and tell her I sat back and was quiet. No! She will know how to stand up for herself and others – through my example.”