I aaaam the cham-PION

my friennnds… dun dun dun…
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I vastly prefer singles to doubles. Vastly. But working on both anyway.

I’m obviously moving up to the next ladder the next go ’round. I look forward to getting my ass kicked. Well, not looking forward to, but for a little bit. Until I dominate there again.

US Open 2009

A few thoughts:

First off, because no one wants to scroll, one of the greatest shots of all time from the Fed-Djoker semifinal (go to ~2:20):

Awesome.

Women’s final just finished Great story for Clijsters, and a remarkable achievement (for those that don’t know, she was near the top of the game, decided to become a mother, came back 27 months later and in her third match back she wins the US Open). She’s fun to watch, a great athlete, a clean ball striker, and … doesn’t grunt.

The end of the Serena-Clijsters match was unfortunate. The lineswoman made a horrible call at a critical juncture (foot fault (that wasn’t) on Serena at 15-30 in a match-deciding game). Serena’s reaction was understandable, but the threats made were unconscionable. She’ll be fined and suspended, but not, of course, before she and Venus play in the doubles finals tomorrow. Can’t have that.

I picked Wozniacki for good things a bit over a year ago – her game is steady, she’s a great athlete, but primarily because she’s got the right mental fortitude. Solid player. Also, doesn’t scream. Her problem is nearly the same as Murray’s – she’s a counterpuncher without a big weapon. That means she’ll have a much harder time being on top (though easier than Murray, the women’s game has a lot more room for that kind of play than the men); someone with a big weapon or someone having a great day is going to run her off the court and she’s got nothing to respond with. If she makes her serve a weapon, like Murray has, she could be a top-3 player for a long time. Particularly given the sorry state of women’s professional tennis.

Speaking of the sorry state of the women’s game, as a whole, they serve like club level players. It’s really, really sad that professional athletes can’t seem to play 2 sets without reaching double figures in double faults, and the ones that don’t fault that much don’t use pace.

Except the Williams sisters, of course. They’re the exception.

It’s also sad for the women’s game that the most promising players they have are either aging greatest of all timers (Serena, Venus), have come back from 3 years away (Clijsters, Dokic), or are thinking about possibly coming back (Henin).

And the screaming. Oh! the screaming. The fucking screamgrunts that 80% of them use makes watching the matches tedious (even when you’re not comparing the lesser level of play to that in the men’s game. Yes that’s, by definition, sexist. Unfortunately, it’s also true.). Back in the day, I used to enjoy watching women’s tennis more than men’s – not because of the sex factor, but because they actually had rallies, constructed points, and made for much more interesting tennis than the men’s constant serve and volleying. Serve-return-volley-over makes for an excruciatingly boring watching experience. Nowadays, the men rally. Fitness, a little racquet change, and a lot of string tech (and slower balls and surfaces), and the men’s game is a joy to watch. Unfortunately for the women, they’re still playing the same game, only at 80% of the speed of the men and without any real differentiation in their games. Whereas the men have a number of styles competing and contrasting, the women have 2: flat hitters who go all power all the time (can’t really serve and hit a ton of unforced errors) … and the counterpunchers (which, right now, are really only Wozniakci and Jankovic.. at least the successful ones).

Needless to say, my women’s bracket was hosed by about the second day. I did have Serena-Clijsters semifinal, but Serena as the winner. Wozniacki I had losing to Kuznetsova. I did pick Oudin for 3 rounds, though.

On to the men’s draw:

Over the past six months, I’ve been evaluating more (not posting here, though), I take back what I said about Murray being the next great. He’s the Jankovic of the men’s game (solid, a grinder, but not a top player, though will have a high ranking due to number of matches played) and unless he develops a weapon other than his serve, I think he’ll be out of the top 10 as soon as he loses a step. He’s closer to Brad Gilbert v2.0 than an Agassi. He also seems to be letting the pressure get to him on the bigger stages a bit – I have hope that will go away in time, but unless he changes his game, the limitations of his style will always be there.

I love watching Fernando Gonzalez – he just goes for everything, all the time. But in an entertaining way. He’s like a nearsighted bullfighter – you never know if you’ll get a trainwreck or some spectacular work, but you know there will be blood. Think: Shrek’s Puss-in-boots meets Ricky Ricardo.

I new Nadal wasn’t going to make it this year – after watching the Cleveland tourney it was obvious his abdomen injury was going to keep him from doing particularly well. When you’re spinning your first serve in at 106, you’re not going to win the men’s majors. That he made it to the semis is a testament to his grit and determination and skill. Hopefully, he’ll heal up and his parents’ divorce won’t be on his mind after a while. He lost to Del Potro (which I predicted, woot, me), which is going to be a matchup we’re going to be seeing a lot of in the future.

Just as Nadal is a bad matchup for Fed (Nadal’s spin to Fed’s one-handed backhand is kryptonite), DelPo is a bad matchup for Nadal (DelPo is 6’6″, so Nadal’s big high spin just brings it into his wheelhouse). JMDP isn’t the most exciting guy to watch – unlike 90% of the other players, he’s not pretty … he’s also not flashy or particularly emotional. He’s more Lurch than an Ambercrombie model. He also may be the only 20 year old hairier than Robin Williams. But personality/excitement aside, I think he’ll be in the top 3 for a long time: he’s moves well for someone that size, has great groundstrokes, strong serve, and is still going to improve. Did I mention he hits huge? Just an incredible amount of power from that guy.

The three hardest forehands in the men’s game right now (flat division): Fernando Gonzalez, Jo Willy Tsonga, and JMDP. If Verdasco hit it flat (which he did at the Australian this year) he’d be in that discussion too, as would Nadal.

My bracket was nearly perfect – I picked Isner (though not over Roddick), and my only real deviation was I had Tsonga beating Gonzo. I predicted a JMDP-Fed final, with Fed as the winner … we’ll see tomorrow if I win the big kewpie doll. It’s going to be a tough match – right now, I think it’s much closer to a tossup than anyone realizes. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Update: DelPo in 5, in a not particularly well-played match. No kewpie for me, but I did mention it was close to a tossup.

Strings 9

This one was using baby jesus gut. Surprisingly durable, very comfortable, very powerful. Not as good as the polys on the spin, though. I love how gut explodes when it breaks; much more exciting than a simple wire snip.

tf320-9-001

Global gut / Pro Supex Maxim Touch @ 57/59. Cost $9

Broken Strings 7 & 8

tf320-7-001

Tecnifibre Black Code 1.24 / Bab VS Gut @ 57/60 – $22
Liked it, was a surprise break actually. Thought I had a few more sessions in that one. Not particularly durable.

tf320-8-001

Genesis Black Magic 1.24 / Pro Supex Maxim Touch @ 52/55 – $9
Lasted 4 hours, tops. Multis on the crosses just don’t last for me.

Strings 5 & 6

tf320-4
Genesis Spin X 1.23 / Big Ace Micro 1.15 @ 50/52

tf320-5
MSV Focus Hex 1.18 / Big Ace Micro 1.15 @ 50/52

Neither lasted as long as I thought they would. SpinX = much softer and much more power at same tension, greater durability. Both snapped within minutes of each other, though SpinX job had more playtime.

Broken Strings 2 & 3

Good day on the courts.

The Big Money Break:
tf320-2

The mains are Babolat VS Gut ($45 a set or so), the crosses are Babolat Addiction ($13), so a $29 break. Good thing I string these myself.

It is unfortunate that the crosses broke before the gut mains; all of the good (as defined by popular acclaim and reviews) just aren’t holding up for me, even with gut. I can understand a cross breaking if the main is a poly, but with gut? That’s ridiculous. Addiction is a nice string, but for someone like me with heavy pace and spin, not worth the cost.

Setup: VS / Addiction @ 57
Racquet: Tecnifibre 320 VO2

The Mercy Kill:
v321-2

It was just a standard synthetic gut, Prince Synthetic Gut Duraflex. About $6 or $7 for a full job not in a reel. Syngut lasts me about 3 hours, tops. I rarely use it these days. It was strung too tight for my tastes anyway (they were in there when I got the racquet). The Vantages are my backup racquets or for when I need something a little more arm friendly, so it had to go. 30 backhands and 1 forehand shot to finish it off.

Setup: PSGD @ 60
Racquet: Vantage 321

Broken Strings

Finally have internet again (it’s been a long month+, but I’ll update later. Short: got a house, many annoyances in between). In honor of that … here’s today’s set of broken strings. I decided since I’m OCD’ing on the racquets and keeping a database of my strings and all, I would add pics of the breaks. Too bad the only camera I have handy is the phone.

cyberblue_powerfibre320break.jpg

Cyberblue 1.24 on the main, Volkl powerfibre 18g on the cross. This set lasted 3 hours before I snapped the crosses.

Note the awesome placement of the break – dead center. I was hitting well, y’all.

The most amazing point of 2009


If you can watch this and not be in awe of Nadal then … you must not be a tennis player. Djoker was doing great too, but JFC, Nadal is a force of nature.

Update: video deleted. Bitches. Trust me, it was awesome.

No, wait, don’t trust me. Here it is from the French channel. Holy crap, that’s awesome.

Once more into the breach

It’s about that time again…
Once More into the breach

Just to prep for my trip to TX. The two orange ones are my current co-lead favs and need to be strung. In addition to these 6, I have 2 more that need a redo so I can better judge the quality, but I’m going to play those out a bit more until I don’t feel like a jackass cutting out super nice strings (gut and poly) that I just happened to string at too low of a tension. I know, I know, sunk cost and all… wev.

Update: done!
Once more ... done

Side note: somehow the pumpkin racquets (the orange ones below) are amazingly heavy. I never noticed before, and I love the racquets, but they’re actually heavier than the notoriously heavy K90 (the Sampras/Federer racquet… well, public versions. There’s a public new “Sampras” racquet that is actually heavier but I digress). Anyway, truly a racquet for a beast. A beast like ME.

Slightly Frustrating

… is having the 4th nice day in the past 5 weeks come along and you have to cut your planned second-day marathon tennis practice session short because of … blisters.

Seriously?!? I’ve got calluses up to (points chin) here, I religiously go and see Miss Rosy Palm, and now you lay some soft hand shit down on me? Why, tennis gods, why?!? (Proper form is a bitch, I guess.) I did play until the one in the heel of my palm burst and I got blood all over my overgrip so it wasn’t a 30 second surrender, but still… Captain Never Enough strikes again!

Oh, and I’m back to getting nice and red in approximately 0.7 minutes of sunshine apparently.

Other than that, it was a great day. Seriously. Ghostfinger was awesome and we got lots of time together. We fed a squirrel some grapes (and my still good-and planned to be eaten-peanuts!). Saw some cool birds. Watched stuff. It was cool.

Oh, also: nuskin or superglue are pretty good, athletic or medical tape not so much. I only had tape on the courts, so I alternately cut off blod flow to my hand and/or got blood all over the racquet. Good times. Problem with nuskin is that everything smells like that stuff for at least 7 hours after you put it on. Dinner? Nuskin. Toothpaste? Nuskin.

That was some amazing tennis

Australian Open 2009 finals


Match statistics from Spaniard
Rafa Nadal's 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2 victory over Switzerland's
Roger Federer in the men's singles final at the Australian Open
on Sunday.

Nadal Federer
1st serve percentage 64 52
Aces 4 11
Double faults 4 6
Winning % on 1st serve 74 of 112 - 66 66 of 90 - 73
Winning % on 2nd serve 30 of 63 - 48 37 of 82 - 45
Winners (including service) 50 71
Unforced errors 41 64
Break point conversions 7 of 16 - 44% 6 of 19 - 32%
Net approaches 15 of 26 - 58% 43 of 60 - 72%
Total points won 173 174
Match duration four hours 23 minutes

Nadal won, but all you need to know is that after 4 hours and 23 minutes of play, Federer was ahead in points 174 to 173, but Nadal ahead in games 26-25. Nadal became a truly great player now that he can play on all courts and Federer remained one. I don’t think I’ve seen any player as mentally tough as Nadal. He’s like the fuckin terminator. A singular focus and intensity and determination, it’s remarkable.

I still like watching Fed and Murray more, but Nadal is a sight to behold.

Update: Rewatching the match, I was struck by just how psyched out Federer was. he has the skills to beat nadal, but he came into the match seemingly pre-defeated (or ready to admit defeat at the first adversity), but the key thing was he had no plan with which to attack Nadal. I was shocked, really, but just how aimless and passive Federer was throughout most of the match.

against Verdasco, you could see Nadal was vulnerable on service returns (particularly those out wide) and his own second serves and Federer did not seem to attack that at all. nadal, on the other hand, obviously had a plan to hit federer’s bh and hit it hard and frequently.

part of federer’s problem is that his skill set is a poor match against nadal; that one handed backhand is tough to hit with authority when the ball is at shoulder height. but i think if federer actually had a coach who convinced him of a game plan (as above, plus early attacking on balls for hard angle winners – when he did this in the match, he won the point like 70% of the time).

Given how Fed basically beat himself, it’s remarkable that he actually won more points and almost won the match. a couple little changes and a proactive approach and we wouldn’t be having this self-reinforcing death spiral of Federer confidence.

It’s really the first consistent adversity Federer has ever faced, so … Rog, … get a coach and listen to him, wouldya? It doesn’t hurt to admit other people may know some things every now and then.