Archives for July 2013

Bartoli Aces Crisis Management and Reaches Final


Bartoli was willing to live through ups and downs

WIMBLEDON – Give partial credit to anyone you want to for Marion Bartoli reaching the Wimbledon final again: Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo, who is helping advise her in Paris, her hitting partner Thomas Drouet (he of John Tomic head-butting infamy) who has been with her for about six weeks now, or the French Tennis Federation physio and trainers who are aiding her cause, too.

Of course, a load of credit needs to go to her father Walter, who taught her the game and has been with her just about every second of her career except for a few critical months in 2013.

But most of the credit should go Marion herself, who is a very driven person who never gave up on her Grand Slam hopes, even though time and time again over the years she has fallen short against other elite players. She’s been a very good player over her career, but not a great one and if she can beat Sabine Lisicki in the final and win this  Wimbledon, she will have earned the accolade, at least for this year.

Throughout most of her career, Bartoli has seemed to be engaged in some kind of combat. She is very smart person for someone who did not receive much of a formal education. She is engaging and she always tries to be honest, although there are things about her life that perhaps she should have met head on earlier her career, such as that it’s not easy to mature as  player or person when you have a parent around your 24/7, and that was the case with Marion and Walter.

Because of that, she never socialized much with the other players. She isn’t the only player who was in that situation, but players like Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams who also don’t hang around a ton with other players travel with large teams who keep them company. Bartoli did not. so there were times when you would see her alone. And when Walter stopped coaching her, she admitted to being lonely.

“There are moments when I feel very lonely and there are some very tough days and I am getting back to my hotel room and I turn around and say ‘Dad’ and there is no one anymore,” she told me back in March. But then she added hopefully:  “In a way it helps me on court mentally.”

From a media perspective, the now 28-year-old has been one of the most cooperative players on the tour over the past decade. She is opinionated and gives a lot of herself and most of what she says is insightful.

But having a high IQ and being open doesn’t always translate to on court success. She is not the most athletically gifted player out there, even though she is terrific ball striker and has improved her movement over the years. She hits with two hands off both sides so she still can be had on the move and while her first serve is pretty formidable despite her odd motion, her second serve can be attacked. Her hyper-aggressive return is simply legendary when she gets t the ball in her wheelhouse.

I had nothing to do against her,” said the hobbled Flipkens after her 6-1, 6-2 defeat.  “She played an amazingly well match. I tried my slices. She didn’t have any problem with that. I tried the drop shot.  She got it. I played a passing, she came to the net. I tried a lob. I tried everything, actually.  I was trying to give myself 100%, but it didn’t work out.”

Really, it looked like a nightmare year for Bartoli in the spring. After she reached the quarterfinals of the US Open for the first time back in the fall, Walter was very satisfied that she had managed to do it for the first time. She had also reached the final eight of the other three majors so the circle was complete. He was done and wanted to spend more time at home

She was very excited about the prospect of striking out on her own, but it looked better on the outside than it did in reality. She hired  Jana Novotna to coach her and the Czech was gone after one tournament, Indian Wells. She then hired Gerard Bremond away from the Patrick Mouratoglou Academy and he lasted all of one tournament, Monterrey. There she said she played her worst match ever as a pro in a loss to  Coco Vandeweghe. She returned home, said her father knew she needed help and he tried again, but his heart wasn’t in it and he needed a rest. So after Roland Garros, she let allowed him to stay home again.

Other than the fact that she is a terrific grass court player, how  Bartoli has managed to reach the final when so much turmoil has been going on in her life this year is slightly befuddling, but she isn’t that surprised. She is used to making mid match adjustments on court and seemed to have done the same in her off court life.

“I believe as a sportsperson you cannot have always some highs, and you have to go through some low moments to enjoy even more the highs,” she said. “But, yes, I’ve been having some tough moments ‑ most out of the court than on the court, to be honest with you.  But I think carry on the same attitude every single day on the practice court and in the gym and whatever helped me to really bounce back and to come back in the great shape that I am right now.  Obviously it shows that determination and truth for every single day always pays off.”

Perhaps more importantly, Bartoli seemed to believe it was her destiny to return to the final. In 2007, she stunned Justine Henin in the semis and due to earlier rain delays then had to come back a day later and face Venus Williams and went down.

Six years later, she believes she is much better all around player. Does she see her return to the final as inevitable? No, but  all those late hours she put in after losing matches when others were back in their hotels rooms did yield a reward. That’s another shot at Wimbledon glory. “I felt I deserved it,” she said.

Grass court specialist: Lisicki outlast Radwanksa to reach final

There have been way too many occasions over the past few years when some analysts and ex-players have said the grass has slowed way down, but if that is the case how to explain the fact that Sabine Lisicki – who has only twice reached the fourth round of other Slams – has reached the final? The reason she has is because she serves huge, returns big when the balls are in her strike zone and can rip groundstrokes. No discredit to the German, who showed tremendous heart in outlasting Aga Radwanska 6-4 2-6 9-7 in an epic semifinal, but she is by no means a terrific all around player yet. She has reached the quarterfinals or better or Wimbledon four times precisely because she is a big server, and attacking lass who can bend low and whack winners.

The 23-year-old Lisicki has improved since she reached the semis in 2011, especially mentally. Radwanska did not play her best, but she played well enough to best most players and even after she was broken back when serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Lisicki didn’t bend and fired away. She has taken down a slew of very good to great player en route to the final: Francesca Schiavone, Elena Vesnina, Sam Stosur, Serena Williams, Kaia Kanepi and now Radwanska. That’s about as difficult of a road as anyone could have traveled. And only a player with grass court skills could have managed it.  Perhaps when she leaves Wimbledon, she’ll take all that newfound confidence and develop more skills of other surfaces.

“I had a tough draw, but I think it made me ready for each and every single match that I had to play the next round>” she said.
Having Francesca in the first round and Vesnina, the Eastbourne champion, all those matches were different challenges.  They made me ready to play against Serena, as well.  I just keep going from there.  I gained so much confidence also in my shots and playing long rallies. I feel great out there.  I was fighting for every point. I fought my heart out.”


Andy Murray’s Biggest wins and losses at Wimbledon

Murray will face Roddick who once knocked him out at Wimbledon

Murray will face Roddick who once knocked him out at Wimbledon

Flipkens leads list of improbable Wimbledon finalists

flipkens wimby 13

Wimbledon 2013 Picture of the Day


Manic Monday: Serena stunned & two unlikely Poles to face off in men’s quarters


A joyful Flipkens reached her first Slam quarter.


WIMBLEDON – Kirsten Flipkens boomed an ace down the T to start her match against Flavia Pennetta on Court 18 just past 11:30 AM, and Manic Monday at 2013 Wimbledon had taken off.

David Ferrer had taken Court 2 versus Ivan Dodig nursing an injury, while the seemingly revived  Petra Kvitova took to Court 3 versus Carla Suarez Navarro.

Court 12 featured the somewhat forgotten Jurgen Melzer against the men’s flavor of the tournament, Jerzy “Oh My God! “Janowicz, while Court 14 featured an almost unthinkable fourth round contest between another Pole, unseeded Lukazs Kubot, and a French player who was once considered an up and comer, but who has to date failed to reach his potential, Adrian Mannarino.

Since she took out Venus Williams at the 2009 Aussie Open, Suarez has been a bit of an underachiever. She’s not tall, but she’s fast and strong and has ample power off the ground. Her one-handed topspin backhand is a sight to see when she’s on, but she can also frame it when she gets nervous and on grass, she  has to flatten it out on occasion as it’s harder to sweep the racket over the top of the ball when it is staying low.

But she has pushed herself inside the court at Wimbledon, has added pop to her serve and her forehand, which made her a clear threat to Kvitova. The Czech went into the zone in the third set if her win over Ekaterina Makarova in the third round, perhaps playing her best set of the season against a very good grass court player: she was aggressive, motivated and accurate. But she began sporadically against the Spaniard, which is commonplace for the 2012-2013 Kvitova, who remains one of the games greatest talents, but does not seem to have improved much since her splendid 2011.  Will “Enigmatic-vitova” ever be the player  that she can be?

Flipkens has a hell of a backstory.  She is also a player with game that should be well suited for grass: she has a excellent slice backhand that bites, she loves to volley and when she’s in a good headspace competes well.

All of sudden Melzer, who had lectured Roger Federer on how to return serve against net rushers a couple of days ago, nails a few big returns and wins the first set from the 22-year-old  Janowicz, who is brimming  with talent but who can be stretched out.

Kubot versus Mannarino is one of the most surprising fourth round matches at a Slam in the past decade. The 31-year-old Kubot camw into the contest  with a 17-15 record in Slams, not bad unless you consider that that having played ONLY 32 matches in the majors at his age means that the world No. 130  failed to qualify for many. Mannarino is 25, ranked No. 111 and has only own six Grand Slam contests. How in creation is this a week two contest?

Pennetta break Flipkens back  o 3-5 in the second set but it doesn’t matter. The Italian, who has struggled in her return back from wrist surgery, has a very inconsistent serve these days and Kim Clijsters protégé break her to win the match with a  hard forehand, crisp volley and leaping overhead,. She kisses grass and has tears in her eyes she has reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Kvitova is appears to have a sharp stiletto in her left hand and after a rough and trouble  first set she knifes through Suarez 7-6(5) 6-3. Despite a shaky season, she has become the favorite on the bottom half of the draw.

The seemingly tireless Ferrer is playing on sore ankle and he drops the first set to Dodig 7-6. His movement is a bit compromised but against anyone out side of the top 4 he is very confident and competent. His serve has improved, his volleys are under rated  and of course as the world knows and has been emphasized and re- emphasized, he give every ounce of energy on every point.

Dodig is a dogged fighter and keeps coming forward but Ferrer won t give an inch. At 5-5 in the second set tiebreak Dodig takes a full dive to his left while charging the net, but Ferrer scorches a forehand return past him. At 6-7, Dodig dumps a forehand volley into net. It’s one set all and before the fans on Court 2 can have a quick bite to eat, the Spaniard is into the quarterfinals with a 6-7(3) 7-6(6) 6-1 6-1 victory.

Serena Williams is now up 2-1 on Sabine Lisicki on Centre. Laura Robson has just begin her match against Kaia Kanepi on Court 1 and Li Na and Roberta Vinci have come out on Court 3.

Now its starts to get crazy.

Janowicz is survival mode in the second set  breaker. With a low growl, he crushes a  booming forehand crosscourt and screams  C’MON!, Melzer dumps an easy volley into the net, Janowicz is in control now and eventually lopes away with a 3-6 7-6(1) 6-4 4-6 6-4   victory.

Anyone who though that Serena was going to cruise to victory over Lisicki if the German played well had never seen the service bomber play at Wimbledon. Serena was concerned going into the match because she knew that Lisicki had wreaked havoc on the draw before and would be very tough to break, which could put her into some tight spots if she didn’t play well.

Through the first five games games Lisicki has nine forehand winners to none from Williams. That does not happen often. She breaks Serena to 4-2 after four straight unforced errors from the defending champ, who looks she did last year when Zheng Jie nearly took her out – in a fog.

Up 5-4 in the tiebreak, the teenager Robson double faults, which gives the stout Kanepi all the breathing room she needs. She’s playing more freely and grabs the breaker.

Over on 18, Monica Puig and Sloane Stephens are throwing big body blows at each, but it’s Puerto Rico’s finest is playing more accurately and  aggressively. She’s painting the lines with her two-handed backhand and she squeezes of the first set 6-4.

Lisicki breaks Serena at love on inside out forehand return winner and takes the first set 6-2. Kanepi steals the first from Robson in the breaker.

Meanwhile, Li Na moves into the quarters with  6-2 6-0 win over  Vinci. In what appeared to be a problematic match going in, Li never allowed the Italian to yank her around. China’s top player is again in position to win another major, but even with the brilliant coach Carlos Rodriguez at her side, she’s still tough to figure day in, day out.

Serena wakes up and closes out Lisicki in the second set  with just one unforced error.  She appears to be ready to race away.

Martina Hingis watching is Stephens vs. Puig courtside and  is  wearing what appear to be 3-D sunglasses. She looks borderline scary

Kubot defeats Mannarino 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 and goes into entertaining high leg kick celebration. Who knew he was such a showman. Two Poles will face each other  in the quarters, the same quarter that housed seven time champ Roger Federer and two time champ Rafa Nadal? The chances of that occurring when the tournament began was about as good as Radek Stepanek not taking interest in another Czech female player.

Robson has a load of talent, but returning good serves is not her forte and on match point the Estonian hits behind her into the open court and Britain’s top prospect shows she’s not ready for primetime at Wimbledon yet in a 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat. She walks off court quickly “because I lost and I was just trying not to cry.”

Serena jumps out to a 3-0 lead in the third set but she is not serving well and is pretty predictable. Lisicki breaks back and it’s back on serve at 2-3.

Meanwhile, Sloane is still in a battle with Puig, grinding away once again and even though she is being out-hit she is winning enough key points. Its 5-5 in the second.

A drenched with sweat Serena falls down moving to her left to pick up a forehand  pass but is still up 4-3

Puig is serving with her back against the wall at 5-6 and in this game, four shots land just out and Stephens finally shows some emotion as she fist pumps after taking the set 7-5.

Serena misses a leaping overhead, and is broken to 5-4 in the third. She is playing so nervous, about as nervously as she did in losing to Virginie Razzano at 2012 RG.

At 30-all, Lisicki swings a serve out wide that Serena can’t handle. She has a match point but flubs a forehand. She double faults and with Serena holding a break point, she nails an ace down the tee. She then hits another serve out wide that Serena should be able to handle but she pushes a forehand into the net. Match point number two and  Serena plays super conservative point – she is literally pushing groundstrokes she should be able to stroke hard and deep – and finally Lisicki hits a forehand into open court. She has stunned the defending champ 6-2 1-6 6-4 and weeps with joy.  Later I asked Serena why she played so tight. “I just definitely feel like I could have went for it a little more on some of the shots,” Williams said. “Definitely should have made some shots.” Read more about the upset here.

A now red hot Stephens cruises a 4-6 7-5 6-1 victory and is the only American left amongst the 25 who were in the main draw of singles.

Fernando Verdasco is playing a Frenchman with a Dutch name, Kenny De Schepper over on No. 3. Verdasco hasn’t been relevant in three years but can still a serve and forehand. Today he keeps them inside the court.

Marion Bartoli, who has had the worst season of her career, is on Court 12 knowing she has a huge chance to win her first major. She looks a bit out of shape but still cruises 6-2 6-3 over Karin Knapp. She’ll face Stephens, who will try to run her into the turf.

“Sloane has a really good chance of winning,” says Serena, even though Stephens had given her a hard time during the spring. “ She has a great draw.  I think she can take it. It would be really nice to see her win.

Verdasco comes out of the tennis wilderness to best De Schepper6-4 6-4 6-4.

Over on Court 2, two super creative players are trying  blind the other with magic dust but the more accomplished one, Aga Radwanska, comes through and beats Tsvetana Pironkova 4-6 6-3 6-3 on stretch slice crosscourt forehand passing shot. With Serena out of the draw, the Pole can see her first Slam crown waiting on the horizon, but not so fast, as she’ll play Li who destroyed her in Melbourne.

Britain is tuned into Andy Murray’s battle with Mikhail Youzhny, who can be troublesome to many players, but not to Murray who is too solid and self confident now to be coaxed into playing an awful match. Murray take another step forward in his sweet draw and wins 6-4 7-6(5) 6-1.

Juan Martin Del Potro is dealing with  a knee injury and cannot extend his leg as far as he wants to, but he is still too powerful for Andreas Seppi and takes a 6-4 7-6(2) 6-3 win. He is concerned that if he can’t repair his wheel that he will be unable to hit through Ferrer.

There are only two matches left to be played : Tomas Berdych against Bernard Tomic on Court 1, and Novak Djokovic against Tommy Haas on Centre. Both matches have the potential to be suspended for lack of light. The young Aussie serves well, and mostly stays with Berdych on the backhand side, but once the big Czech figures out his patterns he takes control of the action and comes away with a 7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-4  win.

Haas has beaten Djokovic twice on grass before but that was before Novak 2.0, the great and more expansive player, and the German can’t find anywhere to go, which is the case with most players on tour against him now. Djokovic finishes his match at almost the exact same time as Berdych did and wins  6-1 6-4 7-6(4).

He and Berdych have played at Wimbledon once before, in 2010, when the Czech reached the final, The Serbia has beaten him many times since then. With Manic Monday having eased to halt, the 2011 champion reflected on his last match ageist Berdych, which was a career turner. Berdych hopes that this time around, if he gets the win, a more advantageous man in the final won’t stop him.

“I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010, “ Djokovic recalled as the lights faded to black in the press conference room. “The semifinals of Wimbledon came in the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me.  From that moment on everything started going uphill really.”