Surprised. . . Not
by Pete Bodo
It's always nice to get a break from whatever it is that you do for a living, or even from your abiding daily interest or consuming passion- even if it's just a few days at the beach, or in the mountains. I'm coming off just such a week. It felt really strange not knowing who won the Legg Mason event in D.C., even three days after it was over. Or the WTA battle at Los Angeles. So let me go browse back through some of the recent headlines and see what was - or wasn't - striking. BTW, check out the compression on the strings of Robert Kendrick's racquet in this shot, above. And you ladies thought I only put it up there throw you a little red meat, eh?
Surprised . . . that Ernests Gulbis beat Kevin Kim in his first match in the Legg Mason, gutting it out after an upset stomach and dehydration left him swooning.
Surprised, Not!. . .that Gulbis lost in the second round - again. He's lost in the second round (this is pre-Montreal) 13 times this year. He lost in the first round in every other ATP Tour or Grand Slam event he entered in 2009, hence his fall to no. 101. Be the glass half-full part is that - as most of you know - the US Open qualifying tournament is free to the public, so you might get a chance to see the youngster who has often been called The Next Big Thing in action without having to fork over a dime.
Surprised! . . . that the ranking controversy surrounding no.1 Dinara Safina continues to have a life of its own; it's become the stock parenthetical in almost any tournament results story these days - the question the bored guy looking to stir up a little trouble in the interview room invariably asks.
Surprised, Not. . . that Safina's defense: “Ranking is ranking. I didn’t do the ranking system." This entirely logical explanation for Safina's awkward dilemma continues to fall on deaf ears.
Surprised!. . .that Safina added, “If she (Serena Williams) has some questions she can give those questions to the WTA, who is doing the ranking system.” Like they say: Now it's personal! Although putting it that way just adds fuel to the fire, which is but one of the many definitions of what that bored guy really does for a living.
Surprised!. . . that qualifier Somdev Dewarman upset no. 6 seed Marin Cilic in Washington, in straight sets no less. Dewarman, of India, is the two-time NCAA Div I singles champion (representing the University of Virginia), yet as I understand it his requests for wild cards into the US Open in both those years (2007 and 2008) were denied. Trust me, I heard plenty about it via email from Somdev's fans.
Surprised, Not!. . .That a search at the ATP website under "Dewarman" pulls up only one match: you get a nice picture and navigation tools for. . . Robert Kendrick. I presume this is because Kendrick (who has gotten wild cards into the US Open) has beaten Dewarman somewhere on the trail and the loser's name appears somewhere on Kendrick's Player Activity sheet.
Worse yet, Google Dewarman's name and the first entry links to discussion in some chat room on how Dewarman has "no chance" to make it as a pro. Remember, fellas, as Pat Cash used to say with that wicked little grin, Every dog has his day, mate. . .
Surprised. . . that the ITF has appealed the ruling in the Richard Gasquet cocaine case. Granted, the rules have to be applied across the board evenly, but sheesh - the independent tribunal drastically lowered Gasquet's penalty because the cocaine in his system was about the size of a "grain of salt," and it just didn't seem to make sense to maybe destroy a guy's career with a two-year suspension for such a trace amount of a drug that doesn't even enhance performance. The anti-doping authorities are Draconian in this area, and the ITF seems itself to be tilting at windmills - resolutely ignoring the potential for collateral damage.
Surprised, Not! . . .that the ITF feels a need to put the hammer down on recreational doping offenders, as per the precedent - the Martina Hingis case. You'll remember that Hingis's successful comeback was aborted by a similar cocaine-related doping offense, for which she received a career-ending trwo-year suspension. Granted, Hingis chose not to appeal, which she may now regret in light of how Gasquet's penalty was severly reduced to, in essence, time served (fewer than three months). But pursing an appeal in the Gasquet case makes it at least appear that the ITF is trying to be even-handed and has a consistent anti-doping policy. No matter how stoopid.
Surprised!. . . that Roger and Mirka Federer chose to introduce their newborn twin girls to the world with a photo that appeared in Facebook.
Surprised, Not!. . . We all know that the crowd at Roger Federer-dot-com consists mostly of front runners, ready to leap over to the Rafael Nadal bandwagon as soon as the wild boy of Manacor gets a few more majors under his belt. . .
Surprised! . . .that Maria Sharapova, still in comeback mode, took out Victoria Azarenka in the second round at Carson. Afterward, she trotted out the familiar mantra: I knew I was going to have to dig deep and try to find ways. I’m pretty happy with the way I was able to hang in with her and really step up when had to. That was the difference between us. But note also that Azarenka hadn't played since she reached the Wimbledon quarters.
Surprised Not!. . . that Sharapova went down in 3 sets to Flavia Pennetta (who went on to win LA) in a supernova of spectacularly ugly tennis, confirming that all questions about the sturdiness of her shoulder may be irrelevant if she doesn't find and settle into something like a comfortable serving motion - something she's struggled with in the past. Woe be to the player whose serve - the one shot that can be (or ought to be) hit the same way, every time - is a work in progress. It's funny, but if your serve isn't on auto-pilot by the time you're 21 or 22 (that is, if just before you toss you must remind yourself: Now remember to dip that off shoulder when you do the knee bend and rotate your trunk 38-degrees!), you'll never get the most out of it, especially under the strain of a tight match.
Surprised!. . .that Andy Roddick looked so sharp in his return to tennis after that devastating loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final. Roddick went all the way to the final, and to the final of the final, so to speak, against defending Washington champ Juan Martin del Potro. The match was decided by Hawkeye, when it denied a Roddick challenge on the 14th point of the third set tiebreaker - a cross-court forehand by del Potro that seemed to land for a clean winner to give Delpo the tiebreake, 8-6.
As Roddick said, “I actually thought it might have been out, and I asked him (del Potro) and he said it might have been out. So imagine the disappointment when it wasn’t.”
This is a guy who knows from disappointment in finals.
Surprised, Not!. . . Nobody argues with Hawkeye - not Roddick, not del Potro (who had expected to play on), not even Roger Federer, the only person on the planet who actually seems to have a hate on for Hawkeye. Not that it makes a difference.
Surprised!. . .that Sania Mirza, who's toned it down considerably since positioning herself as a Valley Girl, India division, lost to Stephanie Dubois in the final of the Odlum Brown VanOpen (just what the hail that means, I can't even guess). That made Dubois the first Canadian to win the Odlum Brown. . . oh, let's just call it the Odd Brown Van. . . which may not be a feat on the same order of magnitude as, say, Amelie Mauresmo winning Roland Garros (keep dreaming) or Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (ibid), but it isn't like Canada is a tennis superpower, so let our northerly neighbors bask in passing glory.
Surprised, Not!. . . This Dubois girl wasn't exactly a long-shot at the Odd Brown Van, having lost last year's final to the UK's Anne Keothavong. To some of you, Mirza losing to Dubois is a head-scratcher, as Dubois is ranked 40 spots below Mirza, at no. 104 (and Mirza is perhaps the toughest no. 74 in WTA history, except when she's not).
Not me, though. Can you say. . . destiny, pour Canada!
Surprised!. . . that Champagne Kimmy Clijsters beat no. 12 seed, recent WTA ournament champ, and former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in Cincinnati, in the first match she's played since the spring of 2007. Granted, Bartoli isn't exactly a model of reliability, but it was a tough first-rounder for the wild card from the land of tulips and windmills. So I guess all that I love puppies and babies and long walks on the beach but I hate pro tennis and everything about it phase of Kimmy's life is over - for now.
Surprised, Not!. . . Even at the peak of her game, Clijsters wasn't given to having big letdowns or choking until at least the quarterfinals, and we know she's got enough talent to ride herd on all but the top women of the WTA. So the jury is still out.
Have a good day, or what's left of it. Back with y'all tomorrow.