1. If you were ever wondering what kind of music Andy Murray listens to, he shared a Spotify playlist here.
2. I was impressed with Sabine Lisicki backing up her win over Serena Williams by routining Kaia Kanepi to reach the semis. It’s never easy to back up a huge upset, and Lisicki isn’t really the most reliable player to begin with, so it was nice to see her show some consistency. She showed some nice variety and played an extremely smart match against Kanepi. Lisicki moved Kanepi around and gave her tall opponent short, low balls she couldn’t deal with, a strategy that made it impossible for Kanepi to hang with Lisicki for most of the match.
3. It will be fun to see a first-time slam winner on the women’s side, with the draw now down to Lisicki, Radwanska, Bartoli, and Flipkens. Winning a slam would drastically change the stature of any of these women’s careers, but Radwanska probably has the best opportunity to join her peers at the top of the game by winning her first slam title. If she does win the title, many will minimize her victory by pointing to her draw, but in tennis you can only beat who’s in front of you.
4. I love tennis and hockey. So naturally I love it when hockey players show up to watch tennis. Future hall-of-famer (and former Philadelphia Flyer!) Jaromir Jagr, who often shows up at tennis events to support his fellow Czechs, stopped by Wimbledon this year.
5. Christopher Clarey took a look at Novak Djokovic’s outstanding flexibility for the New York Times:
Asked how much of Djokovic’s flexibility was natural and how much due to training, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch, Djokovic’s fitness trainer, said that it was both. “It’s a lot of work,” said Gritsch, who has been part of the team since 2009. “You can see his commitment to every detail; to stretching. It’s boring stuff to do it every day, day after day.”
What is striking about Djokovic is that he does not limit his stretching to warm-up and cool-down sessions.
“When he’s waiting for a car, when he’s doing anything around the grounds, it seems like he’s always stretching something,” Courier said. “He’s doing his arms or his trainer has his hands behind his back, and he’s pulling. Or they’re just doing some neck. He’s so limber.”
6. Can we do away with the “Sabine Lisicki loves to play on grass!” comments? I can’t even count how many times I heard a commentator say that in her last few matches. While it’s true, it’s also getting repetitive. It’s the new “Mardy Fish lost weight!”
1. The “Year of Li Na” is nothing more than “Just Another Year in the Life And Times of Li Na.” I still can’t get over the fact that the former French Open champ decided against challenging what Hawk-Eye showed to be an ace on set point at 5-4 in the first set. At the time, I thought that if I were a tennis player, I’d always challenge such close calls in that specific circumstance: Li Na was serving from the Ad court, and she hit her serve out wide. That means that the out call came on the far sideline: the one that’s the most difficult to see for the chair umpire. Li Na asked the (very shaky) chair umpire for the match what she thought, and when the official told her the serve was out, Li Na decided to trust her and not to use one of her three available challenges. A very, very costly decision.
Anyway, all my other thoughts on that occasionally brilliant match can be read by clicking here. Oh, and if the Chinese media want to make a huge deal of Radwanska’s MTO at the end of the second set, they can just do a big copy/paste job from all the stuff written by the American media after the Stephens-Azarenka Australian Open semifinal. In PseudoFed’s words, you’re welcome.
2. Sabine Lisicki is looking a lot like Robin Soderling did in 2009 and 2010. Back then, the since disappeared Swede produced titanic upsets well before the final, and went on to make the deciding match of both French Opens. Sadly for him, he performed this feat in the Big Four era, so while he took down Rafael Nadal in 2009, Roger Federer was waiting for him in the final. The reverse was true in 2010.
Sabine Lisicki will face no such difficulties after taking down enormous favorite Serena Williams in the Round of 16; the German won’t have to play any all-time greats on her path to a potential title. Heck, she’s not even playing anybody who’s ever won a slam. At best, Lisicki will have to play two women who’ve made the Wimbledon final and lost to a Williams sister.
What an opportunity this is for Sabine Lisicki. All I’m asking is that she avoids injury. Because unlucky physical issues have impeded her rise more than anything.
3. I always find it amusing when fans of certain players scoff at the notion that luck is a very significant factor when it comes to tennis careers. Take what happened to poor Petra Kvitova at this year’s Wimbledon: the draw opened up for her in a huge way (good luck), and she got to face Kirsten Flipkens for a spot in the semis (even better luck). However, she woke up today with a virus, and felt like crap. She eventually lost in three sets.
Despite what our current culture makes us think, we don’t even come close to controlling everything that happens in the world. This is why I always wish good luck to everyone when they’re off to do something, no matter how small a task it is.
4. Speaking of pretending we can control everything/be everything we want, I found the Christopher Clarey piece referenced by Amy above to be both fascinating and problematic. Why fascinating? Because it’s always interesting to read about the seemingly insane habits of a world class habit. Who on earth does a full split after waking up? Novak Djokovic, that’s who.
Why did I think the article was problematic? Because it doesn’t even try to dispel the (correct) notion that Djokovic’s flexibility is mostly a (insert your preferred divinity of choice here)-given talent. There is such a thing as natural abilities, particularly when it comes to one’s body. The thought that someone could become as flexible as Djokovic by following his regime (or that you can turn a kid into Djokovic by following what Jelena Gencic allegedly prescribed) is at best naive, and at worse, perverse.
What I took from that article was that many smart people (Djokovic included, naturally) figured out that the World No. 1 had extraordinary flexibility from early on, and did what they could to maintain that natural skill intact, or even enhance it. As a result of that (and many, MANY other things), Novak Djokovic is the player he is now.
But let’s stop pretending that a novel training regime can make a human routinely do this and not tear multiple tendons in his lower body:
Djokovic will get Berdych. (AFP) pic.twitter.com/LM9Jlcc9Te
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) July 1, 2013
Sitting down on the job works amazingly well for Radwanska (AP photo) pic.twitter.com/yjjlDojqxY
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) July 2, 2013
Again, there is such a thing as natural talent. And no, it’s not fair it is distributed. But such is life, so it’s better to accept that fact and move on.
As for Djokovic, I’ve always maintained that he’s made out of rubber. So no tale about his flexibility will surprise me.
5. I mentioned on our latest podcast that all the memories I had about Flipkens before her late-career revival were of her getting crushed in the early rounds of slams. As the 27-year-old booked her spot in the semifinals of Wimbledon today, I went back and looked at her slam record, just to confirm my memory hadn’t played tricks on me. This is what I saw:
Fascinating, no? Full kudos to her – her run here is a remarkable, inspiring story for everybody – not just unheralded tennis players.
6. Marion Bartoli is one tough woman. The Court 1 crowd turned on her completely after she threw a fit during the 5-4 game in the first set, since they were being told to keep playing in some light drizzle. The argument from the officials was that they wanted that specific game to be finished before halting play. But Bartoli (correctly) had none of it, and eventually got her way. The score at the time? Deuce at 5-4, Sloane Stephens serving. When the players came back after a somewhat lengthy rain delay, Stephens sent a backhand long, and then a short forehand of hers clipped the net and landed out. Thus ended the first set.
I will never criticize a player who wants to stop playing on grass because of drizzle. It’s grass, and any small amount of water can make the courts even more slippery than they already are. Have we forgotten about all the slips, falls and injuries from the past week already?
Apparently the Court 1 crowd did, so they resorted to booing Bartoli, cheering wildly for any Stephens point, and even resorting to cheering Bartoli double faults, which I thought was simply disgraceful. Hence, I did smile when Bartoli sealed her place in the semis and stuck it to the crowd that had been so hostile to her (for no good reason).
1. Can I fangirl for a minute? OHMYGOD AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA. Okay, just had to get that out of my system. There are not many players left that I consider myself a “fan” of, in the traditions/frazzle/pre-tennis-covering sense, but Radwanska is one of them. I thought she played a phenomenal match against Li Na today, and I really do hope that the day off allows her to recover enough to be at her best in the semifinals against Sabine Lisicki.
For two sets today, Li Na played very high quality tennis, and Radwanska figured out a way to sneak it out. What an enjoyable match.
This is a phenomenal opportunity for Radwanska, though not necessarily an easy one. I think Lisicki has the edge on grass, but Radwanska might get back just enough balls to rattle her. It’s a very intriguing match all the way around, and one that I might just have to watch in the fetal position.
2. Sabine Lisicki likes to smile. I get it. This does not make her an alien. What a weird thing for the media to harp on.
3. I think that Marion Bartoli’s maturity is going to pay off. She knows what a huge opportunity this is and that these chances don’t come every slam. She knows how long it took her to get back to the Wimbledon semifinals. She was focused and ready to go today, and played at an extremely high level. After an up-and-down year filled with a coaching carousel and father troubles, she is pulling her best tennis out of her back pocket when it matters the most.
Sloane Stephens did not play a bad match today at all. But Marion Bartoli played a better one. It’s a treat to have her back in the late stages of a slam, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her finally holding the winner’s trophy on Saturday. Of course, at this point absolutely nothing would surprise me.
4. I thought today was a great day for women’s tennis. Set aside the parity jokes and the desperate need for stars to sell the game. Today had four intriguing matches, great stories all around, underdogs winning, favorites backing up wins, and–most importantly–some really fantastic tennis. I had a lot of fun.
5. What a terrible day for Petra Kvitova to wake up with a virus.
6. That being said, KIRSTEN. FLIPKENS. What a match she played today. What a tournament. What a year. What a story. Standing ovation. Love it when players dig down deep and turn their own careers around.
7. Speaking of turning careers around, I really enjoyed this presser from Lukasz Kubot with information on how his doubles success helped him prosper in singles later in his career. Also, I found it interesting that he mentioned he didn’t have anyone pushing him to try and qualify for Grand Slams–he just figured he belonged on the Challengers and either that would get him into the top 100 or it wouldn’t.
Q. What made the difference as a singles player? Obviously you come into singles, or your record in singles has been far better in the last three years than it ever was early on in your career.
LUKASZ KUBOT: Yes, I think the transition from doubles to singles. I have played a lot doubles big events, and I try to play also qualifications on the big tour events. I had the chance to practice with the big guys, so I was always trying very hard. These matches, like I said in the big events on the big courts on doubles helped me a lot, you know. When I had a chance to compete in singles, I use it, and it wasn’t anything new for me to stay on the Centre Court or big show courts. You know, was also lucky with the draws, you know, to be honest. When I had chances I used them. That’s how I came into the top 100 and top 50 three years ago.
With the transition from doubles, when I played the big, high tour events, all main draw, we were playing twice Masters with Oliver Marach, and I was playing very relaxed in the singles. I came to the top 100 and top 50 and I am there since last three years, so I’m happy for that.
Q. So when you were younger you didn’t like playing or didn’t react very well to playing on the big courts, the big matches?
LUKASZ KUBOT: Well, to be honest, when I was younger I didn’t have anyone who could tell me to risk and play maybe qualifications in the big tour events. I was trying to play challengers and wanted through challengers to go to top 100. I had a chance, but I didn’t make it.
Suddenly I decided to play full‑time doubles and then also try to play singles. This all happened all together, like i said. These transitions with playing doubles main draw every week and have a chance, a possibility to practice with all the top players, you know, gave me a lot of, let’s say, practice and chance.
So I didn’t feel surprised. It wasn’t something new for me when I pass the quallies in the Grand Slams and then I had a chance to play on the big courts.
I also love that he and Janowicz praise the Radwanskas for helping raise the profile of tennis in Poland, and they both say that they’re watching her and cheering her on. Yay, women’s tennis!
8. Hang your head high, Sloane Stephens. Bring some consistency to the main tour please. Keep getting better. I’m very excited for the future.
and as a dancer I can tell you Djokovic will not stay injury free.. he is asking his body for flexibility where it does not exist.
… also I suspect Sexanek has given Kvitova something ghastly.
Andy’s taste in music is as bland and uninspiring as he is.
Stephens 2013 Wins : 12 ITF 11 WTA
This comment will be all about Aga
Lindsay- OMG AGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Anyway this is so huge for her!! I’m taking today to celebrate her win but I’m probably going to die tomorrow night waiting for her match…
Amy- If Aga were to win people would definitely take offense to her draw and the lack of the top 3. However these people I feel just don’t understand/watch tennis. Keys who blasted 67 winners, Pironkova, Li Na, Lisicki(if she were to beat her) and Bartoli(former Wimbledon finalist) or even Flipkens are not players that make up a “cupcake draw”. Maria Sharapova won the French Open by beating one top 10 player and Errani in the final. Azarenka also only faced one top 10 player on her way to this years Aussie Open as well.
Juan Jose- I know your point about the MTO was that the American media had an extreme bias against Vika because Sloane was from the U.S. However, it wasn’t just the American media that blasted Vika. She was also blasted by the press in Australia and by the crowd over there. She has a history of injury time outs(which Aga does not) and she just is not liked by the majority of people.
You know that the Bryans are 2 wins away from their Golden Slam and a chance at the calendar Slam.
A thing that I learned today: Petra Kvitova woke this morning with a virus. Seriously, had no idea till I saw mentions of it after the match.
It makes me more impressed that she got that close to winning the match. I can’t get out of bed when I catch a virus, let alone play a tennis match.
About athletes’ bodies and natural abilities: I’ve always found it somewhat frustrating when tennis commentators suggest that “Player X needs to do such and such to become a champion,” usually because the changes suggested are hardly ever technical. An athlete has a certain body, and there are limits to how much that can be changed. Athletes also have instincts and tempermanents that lend themselves to certain styles of play. Sharapova plays the way she does because she’s tall, strong and can’t imagine doing anything else. Likewise, Radwanska is small, shockingly flexible and in love with the geometry of the court. These things can not easily be changed, and even if they can it’s rarely useful. Remember when Jelena Jankovic plummeted in the rankings? Her explanation is that she went to the gym and added muscle to give herself a “weapon” as the commentariat put it and in the end never got Ivanovic’s forehand or Lisicki’s serve but did lose the speed that made her a number one player.
Oh, and about luck. I can’t think of a single match where luck played no role. How many mishit shots land in? The grass at Wimbledon is kinder now, but the bad bounce was the bane of even great players. In some matches you can even argue that it is luck, more than skill or courage, that determines the winner. The infamous Djokovic return winner down match point against Federer in the 2011 US Open semifinal is remembered as a brilliant, gutsy shot. But we all know he had only general control over the flight of the ball. Had it gone a few milimeters on the other side of the line, he’s an idiot and a loser.
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