Friday, August 29, 2008

US Open; Nadal out, Roger , Djokovic in Semis - Djokovic moves to Finals to meet Andy Murray

Ok I know that lots of matches are yet to be played before these predictions can come true but my observations are based on the very few matches completed and that few practice matches I got to see. Here we go;

1. Nadal - Not only will he not make the semis but he will fold up at the first hard core resistance he meets, in other words, any guy who can take him to five sets or wins the first two sets from him will defeat Rafael. Right now he's just riding on sheer will power and some great talent BUT he has no juice. He's tired and will not go beyond quarters, specially because he will end up meeting either Blake or Nalbandian in the quarters and specially if he ends up meeting Blake, he'll lose it.

2. Roger - Everyone and the media in general is going all gaga over his first win and saying that he's back on track based on how he played against Maximo Gonzales BUT I'm not buying it. He's still hitting many erratic shots, playing in a somewhat casual fashion and not closing out the points and to top it, still refuses to admit that he needs a strategy and/or game change. Even though his side of the draw should easily take him to the Semis since his true good poential opponents are Verdasco and Stepanek, I'm so unsure of him that I put him into Semis gingerly. At the moment though, I don't see him overpowering Djokovic in the Semis so that should be the end of the road for him. If however it is Andy Roddick who ends up defeating Djokovic and meeting Roger then I give Roger a 60/40 chance.

3. Djokovic - So far looking good but he's mentally a wee bit less sure than he was at the end of 07 and start of 08. The early exit from Wimbledon has definitely made a dent on his psyche and both, he and his opponents know that he is vulnerable. He does have enough though to make it through to Semis. He will be looking at some potential good opponents like Marat Safin (revenge time!), Cilic , Moya. Even the quarters could be against Andy Roddick and that will be a tough test.

4. Andy Roddick- So far I have only seen his first match and he came out looking the best of the entire lot of players, but again, even though Fabrice is a very good player, he has his on & off days so I'll give Andy 75 out of 100 for that match and that's a high rating from me. To me he's got an easier draw and than makes him potential Semis candidate. He is capable of defeating Djokovic, specially if he can take Djokovic to four or more sets. Djokovic's stamina to me is a real question mark and smart players should be able to use that fact to their advantage. Irrespective of that though, I don't see Andy winning the title.

5. AndyMurray - looking good and impressive early but not hugely impressive or let me further clarify - Andy will certainly fly into the quarters because the most tough opponent he will meet is Wawrinka and though Waw is playing well, Murray should have a slight edge. Again he's potential Semis candidate to me because he's capable of defeating Ferrer or lets say Ferrer is capable of losing to Murray. Makes Sense! To me yes, to you I don't know! Based on sheer determination he could find himself be an a very good situation.

Now couple of guys that deserve a mention
6. Monfils - Man, this guy looks good. I'm not sure how far will he go but I saw him practice, and then also his first match and he looks good. He has a tough matche coming up against Nalbandian but if he maintains his confidence he should do well. He's an emotional athlete and so it would matter that he win the first sets of his match.

7. Juan Martin del Potro - Can this man keep his winning streak running! Considering that he plays Giles Simon and then Ferrer - could this be the end of the road for him in the Open or would he continue his big strides ! An exciting player to watch for sure.

8. Cilic - Is he playing well or what! The only issue is that if he wins from Bobby Ginepri then he meets Djokovic and I'm giving Djokovic the advantage between the two.

I would have liked to mention Tsonga here but haven't seen him play at all so need to skip it but I hope he does well.

I have to end this post here, but it's on a happy note. Fedex (not Roger) just delivered my US Open Men's Semifinal tickets and boy am I excited even though I'm paying far more than the list price.

I'll share the experience of my first grand slam attendance when I get to that.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

US Open - Reporting Live for your convenience - Day 4 of qualifying rounds

Can you imagine walking to the grounds of US open and smacking straight into Youzhny! That was me today! That was also the first and the easiest autograph I got, I just couldn't believe my luck and I knew my day was going to be a good one. I was not disappointed.

Though much as I want to talk about the players I met and the autographs I got, as you already know, the qualifying singles began on the 20th and today was the fourth day, so lets talk first about a few matches that I saw.

I got to see a few qualifying matches including that of Bjorn Phau of Germany against Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania- it was a good match to watch and Bjorn made it through, though not too easily.
The match right next to theirs, was being played between Robert Smeets of Australia and Ginaluca Naso of Italy. Naso shows some signs of brilliance but had no answers for Smeets tough returns. Smeets looks really young and his tennis is very impressive.

On the women side I saw bits of the Shenay Perry (USA) mtach, that she won 6-4, 7-6 over, Olga Savchuk of Ukraine - actually it was a tighter match than the score shows but Perry managed to eke out the win.

In fact, qualifying rounds matches were much better than the practice games played by the top ranked players- Safin, Murray, Monfils, Moya, Ferrer, Mathieu, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Robredo et al.

On a personal front, the best part of the whole experince, was that I got to have autographs of Murray, Safin, Moya......well, everyone that I mentioned above. A bit disappointing part though, was that even though I saw Jankovic, Serena and Venus from close quarters, I couldn't get their autographs. Serena, I don't care because she acted like a diva but I would have loved to have Jankovic's signatures - the girl has a genuine smile and is very charming. Though we spectators were separated by a screened fence, you could see that she was enjoying the attention but very focused and practicing hard with her coach. I think her mom was on the side line and even though she was sitting close to the fence, I never got to see her (mom's) face since she had ber back to us.

One very interesting fact, I want to share with you is that, almost every player, looked much younger than what we see on the TV. Maybe there are a couple of players who don't appear young compared to their TV images, but everyone I saw at close quarters today, was definitely better looking in person.

I have to mention that, when Safin took off his shirt during his early practice on one of the practice courts, you could hear all the girls - young, old and very old, shriek and swoon with delight. He got almost all the attention, when he came in, even though, Venus was practicing on the left most court and Jankovic on the right most court. I think the court numbers were 8 and 10, but I wasn't really noting down the court numbers. It was too heady an experience to watch the players up close and personal and also too hot at that time ( around 10.30 am).

Before I ramble on, also worth mentioning is the fact that, when I asked Safin to pose for a picture as he was walking the tunnel in the grandstand after finishing his game with Mathieu, he was a perfect gentleman. More of that later though.

First for sightings and autographs - Ladies and Gentleman, I'm proud to announce that as of today, I'm the proud owner of autographs of;
Safin, Murray, Monfils, Moya,Mathieu, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Shahar Peer, and of course YOUZHNY!

NOT only that, I have the videos of everyone signing their autographs except, Youzhny - I didn't get to take my camera out at all when I walked to him- I had just walked into the stadium grounds and there he was, walking with his coach and a girl (friend, hitting partner, girlfriend???) .

Regrets - Serena, Jankovic, Ferrer, Gasquet - I was either too late in the tunnel or just missed them - excpet for Serena - she has too much of an attitude and lots of spectators were pissed at her for not signing their papers/hats/shirts - I certainly didn't appreciate her attitude.

As for watching the action, if I go just by the way all the players were playing their practice games, the only players who looked like they deserve the top ranks, were Andy Murray and Monfils.
Safin was playing so bad that I think he lost the set to Mathieu; 6-2 or 6-3, no one was really keeping the score except for the players and their tense looking coaches, who were on the courts and I mean coaches were right on the courts as the players played on. Safin was erratic, his serve was completely off and his volleys were not going beyond the net. As expected though and to the delight of the majority of watchers, he slowly started getting angry and then his frustration caused a mini explosion, he smacked a ball in anger, that sky rocketed to the big TV screen , bounced-off back towards the court and interestingly enough landed in the stretched hands of an off-duty ball boy sitting in the lower court side seats.

Everyone knew who was playing.

To me the surprising part was that as Safin finished the game and came out, I was hesitant to ask his autographs, thinking that his unhappiness could spill all over me, but Man, was I wrong! He smiled, stopped, signed and continued on his way. I was highly impressed. This man is so different than what I had imagined all these years, based on the TV coverages and expert commentators, that talk of his volatile nature. On-court he may be explosive but off-court, the man is a gentleman.

Honestly, I have to say that every player with exception of Serena was nice. Andy Murray was so nice that even though my camera refused to work as I chased him for the photo, he kept asking me - are you ready yet, are you all set - all this while continuing to walk, but he asked with a genuine care rather than just to parry me off. He is so mature beyond his age.
Monfils was another one who didn't hesitate to stop and sign and of course, with a great smile.

All in all, it was a great day for me and for the tennis lovers. I'll try tomorrow and see if I can put the edited video online for your viewing pleasure - the challenge is that I have never tried converting and putting a video from the camcorder to the computer. If I can put it together, I hope Sportingo has provision to host a video inclusive article, if not, you may be able to see it on my blog .

We'll see about that, but all in all, a great Tennis day for the thousands of the spectators.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ooh. Losing hurts! Grow up Blake

So Olympics are on and as expected, the tennis fun continues and so does Federer's downward slide.

Of course, not withstanding Fedex's loss, some scintillating tennis is on display. If you watched Nadal/Djokovic match, you know what I mean.

Can you imagine this kind of intense rivalry in an Olympics tennis tournament! Such rivalries always seemed only to be meant for Grand slams. I would have loved to see this level of competition in the earlier Olympics, but this one is compensating for all the previous ones! I'm so glad that top tennis players decided to play in this Olympics and give us fans, such a treat.

Before I go on, I have to say that I didn't like the bitching and moaning coming from James Blake about Gonzalez, he kept on saying;
-how it was unsportsman like for Gonzales,
-how he lost faith in a fellow competitor,
-how Gonzalez should have conceded the point,
-how who Gonzales does everything in his power to win, “usually” within the rules.

In effect, Blake brought everything possible into press conference about his opponent EXCEPT the fact that he failed to convert three match-points in the final set. The real reason for his loss.

I have high respect for Blake, and if you have read his biography, you'd agree with me too - the man is fighter. He has faced high odds and lost his dad to cancer, a man who shaped him and his career and inspired Blake to achieve these lofty heights. In fact, he mentioned his dad in the post-game conference too though I wish, he had used his Dad's reference in a better context.

Blake just came out as a bitter man, venting out his frustration, of losing in a crucial match, winning which could have gotten him to a Golden final.

What is surprising to me is the fact that if you look at the match TV footing, you can see that Gonzales genuinely didn't seem to have felt the brush of the few fibers of the ball on the BACK of his racket.
Sure, Blake was close to the action and even if we presume for a moment, that Gonzales knew for sure that ball had hit his racket but didn't acknowledge it, would you blame him!

I mean, its a match and a crucial one at that. I've seem many a top players, simply look at the umpire and wait for the chair to call a point and not concede a point on their own, EVE when they know that the point belonged to their opponent.

By crying out like he did, Blake has only come out as a cry baby and not someone who can take a rough day stoically.

Oh Nadal! Man is he good and lucky or what! If you watched the match you know what I mean! Poor Novak- he blazed through Nadal in the second set only to get a little tight and then smash himself out of the match and for chasing the gold. I don't blame him for being emotional in the end. He was so close.

Novak, my man, its not you! Nadal is on an unbelievable run and apparently supprted by Gods of Tennis.

Now to my favorite Federer - he just doesn't have the confidence, does he! I was already thinking that he's not gonna go far when I read the news that he had decided not to stay in the Olympic village and was lodged in a hotel. This is what he said;
"It's not possible for me to stay there," he said. "There are so many athletes who want their pictures taken with me. "I don't mind it, but every day? I can't escape it. It's not the ideal preparation for winning Olympic gold."

Doesn't it sound like he's almost afraid. Some would say its arrogance but, I don't take his statement as a display of arrogance. I've always thought that this man speaks the truth, always, though at times, it can appear that he has airs.

I just think the Fedex is suddenly hugeky unsure of his game and, what seems to be worst is that, NO One in his entourage has the guts to tell him that by tweaking everything except his confidence, he's only losing a chance to make a forceful come back.

I always thought that a key legacy of Federer will leave behind is, his humbleness, his graciousness, his style and the fact that he's a perfect gentleman. Looks like he may lose a bit of the gloss on his leagcy by the acts like staying away from olympic village.

Even more intriguing was his comment after winning the doubles matches against Bryan brothers - “I’m very excited,” Federer said. “Having beaten the best in the world and going for gold, it’s an incredible scenario. This is a big moment in my career.”

So should we think that he's reconciled to the fact that he's no longer a force in the Singles and is resigned to being a good doubles player! I knew it had to happen some day but so soon!

Big moment in the Career! Get out of here!

McEnroe tirade - you have likely already read the news " McEnroe got tossed from his opening-round match at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup on Thursday for cursing, arguing with the chair umpire and making an obscene gesture at fans."

Somethings will never change! I recall that couple of years back I took my kids to the US Open on Arthur Ashe day - a dfay meant for kids to involve and indulge in tennis. As we were going around, we saw that McEnroe was on one of the tennis courts playing with some one, (I think the guy was a ski athlete and good one at that). So my kids pleaded that they would like to watch the game and wait to get his autograph at the end of the friendly game. We all patiently waited in the hot sun for McEnroe to come out of the gate and get his autograph, once the game was over. Imagine our shock when McEnroe walked off the court and in a high voice went on to say someting to the effect that " I'm late for appearance at another court so I can't scribble on your booklets", I felt so bad for my and other kids who had braved the sun for more than an hour for this man to just move two fingers and here he was almost yelling to the people, kids really, who were his fans. I silently said, shame on you McEnroe - this day is meant for kids and you choose to insult them! I really thought that he was pits as a man.

Later as the days went by and I watched him on the TV speaking so well as a commentator and oh so gently, about all the players, coupled with the last year's American Express dispute-resolution commercial, in the commercial he travels to meet an an umpire from the 1985 US Open to mend fences with the umpire who McEnroe had called "Evil" for an 'Out' Call.

The magic of TV make-believe led me to presume that, this McEnroe was a changed man, a mellowed man, boy, was I wrong!

The man is a raging lunatic and will remain so.

Now for the the last word , everyone talks about how China and India are going to be superpowers. Just going by Olympics medals , looks like there is a great disparity between China and India.

India Shining - well not in Sports at least. With its gowing middle class I would like to see a growing Medal class!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

English can't write English! WTF!!!!

Indians better at English than the British, say lecturers

Ok, for a change, I am not writing my thoughts, just reproducing the astonishing news that I saw a few moment ago. So Britishers can't speak English now. That's true gobalization, ain't it!
What is interesting about this news, if you are not British, is that even though British are going down, they would still like to rub the noses of those who are humbling them at their own home turf - see the enlarged words to see what I mean...

Indians better at English than the British, say lecturers Students from India
and other former colonies (so my friend had this comment - colonies, like US, right! you've gotta be kidding me. Is that the best you can do to hide English embarrassment - call other countries former colonies - do you see how fast those colonies are becoming world powers! Beware Englishmen! At this rate You will be someone's colony in next two decades), have better English language skills compared to their local British counterparts, academics feel.

Many undergraduates in British universities have such low competence with spelling, punctuation and grammar that despairing lecturers often spend time teaching the basics of English to the English.

Lecturers say that international students from India and other former colonies often have higher standards of basic English than their British colleagues in the same classroom.

Some of the most common mistakes are in spelling, often using 'their' when students mean 'there', 'who's' for 'whose', 'truely' for 'truly', 'occured' for 'occurred' and 'speach' for 'speech'.

An Indian-origin university lecturer said that British students even in their second year of degree study, use 'atrocious' English language in their assignments.

He said that he often found it challenging to figure out what students wanted to express in English. International students, in contrast, had better English language skills, he added.

English language standards have deteriorated to such an extent that one leading academic has been forced to ignore common errors altogether.

Ken Smith, a senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University, told The Daily Telegraph that many students failed to apply basic rules, such as 'i' before 'e', except after 'c'. The words 'weird', 'seize', 'leisure' and 'neighbour' are regularly misspelt by students, he said.

Some universities have already extended courses by a year to give weak students extra tuition in core subjects that they failed to pick up in the classroom.

Bernard Lamb, a Reader in genetics at Imperial College London, said those from Singapore and Brunei made fewer mistakes in their work, despite speaking English as a second language.

Many British students appear to have been through school without mastering basic rules of grammar and punctuation, or having their errors corrected, he said.

Writing in the Times Higher Education magazine, Smith said mistakes were now so common that academics should simply accept them as 'variants'.

He wrote: "Teaching a large first-year course at a British University, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell."

Jack Bovill, Chairman of The Spelling Society, said, "All the data suggests that there are more and more students at university level whose spelling is not up to scratch. Universities are even finding they have masters-level students who cannot spell.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nadal does a Federer, Djokovic does a Nadal and Andy is the (not so) Surprising Winner

" More things change, the more they remain same".

Federer is a OK, hard courts will favor him - Ivo Karlovic proved that wrong
Nadal couldn't be defeated in his current form- Djokovic proved that wrong
Djokovic will make a strong return after Wimbledon- Andy Murray proved that wrong

So you say Andy is the best right now - not so fast my friend.

Tennis as seen from my point of view;

Lets start with Fedex ; Federer looks far from OK.
Iis he a great player - no doubt!
Is he in his best elements - NO,
Will he win Olympics and US - can't say though you can bet that he will make the Semis in both tournaments.

Just when I thought he was getting more realistic - he actually joked that he was on a "one game winning streak" after his first match win at Cincinnati, and then he comes up with this " The bigger picture is the Olympic Games and the U.S. Open. Those are the places where I want to win." WTF!!!

Really Roger!! I mean after you lose a tournament you talk about the next one as if nothing happened in the one that you lost! As one of your fans, I am getting concerned that at this rate, if you lost Olympics and US, you will say " This was a good year but my focus is on regrouping for 2009"

I think instead of focusing on anything else, he should only focus on his confidence level - both overconfidence as well as bouts of low confidence. This may sound absurd - but he needs to make sure that he's confident of closing - closing a point, a game, a set and the match.
He needs to play tight, even play safe like how every player does including Nadal & Co., when they know that a single point can tip the match one way or the other, but since Roger refuses to do it, my assessment is that he will remain in trouble. In my mind still the greatest but still the most obstinate in not making the badly needed adjustments during a match. He seems either overconfident or starts playing over anxiously and then seems surprised that he lost! Whew!

Nadal - the guy is so much improved in his determination, his game and knowing that other players get mentally fickle when he makes those unexpected results - he's truly unbelievable. You can say so many things about this guy - how he is winning on all surfaces, how focused he is on his pursuit of number one position and how he as taken his game to next level, but there is no need. Everyone can see it clearly, so;

Does he deserve # 1 ranking - Absolutely.
Is he self-effacing and humble - Yes
but here's my thought;
Is his game as complete as Roger - I don't think so.
C'mon. don't pretend to be shocked. Roger on a good day is still ahead of Nadal, Nadal surely is snapping at the heels of Roger, in fact, he has taken Roger's # 1 position but Roger is Roger.

Djokovic - He seems to be getting his groove back. Looks better prepared and determined to retain his number # 3 position after the stunning loss to Safin in Wimbledon but his stamina is not the same as others in the top 10.
He can win his matches on skill and talent but I'm gonna say that every time a match goes to four sets or more and his opponent retains the mental poise, Djokovic can be defeated, In fact, looking at the young and veteran players, he may have tougher time retaining his # 3 position for too long.

Andy Roddick - can you step it up and make a comeback! I know it looks impossible right now, but the guy has got game. He's in a bit of Roger situation! Over Anxious most of the time.

and now to the latest sensation - Andy Murray!

Man, isn't he showing glimpses of Nadal in his game! Unbelievable returns, great passing shots, speedy running all over the court!
If anyone can truly take the tag of MOST IMPROVED Player in top 10, it has to be this kid and what I like about him is the same humble streak as Nadal - realistic in what he says!

So Andy is a great winner but I'll repeat what I said at Wimbledon time - this kid is OK when he wins the first set but when he doesn't, Lord have mercy!

Not to take away anything from him but if you watched Cin. final - you know that Djokovic in second set was trying to lose and not playing to win. Couple of good shots from Novak and Andy's body language hit a down turn. In fact it looked more and more, that it would be tough for Andy to win if Djokovic could get his breath back. Again, I think Djokovic lost rather than Andy won but in the end I was happy for the result and for Andy.

He has put in hard work and it was paid. I still think though that Andy has a long way to go - the good news is he can.