August 19, 2013
Sometimes, the perfect ending isn’t the happy one.
Six weeks after winning the 2013 Wimbledon Championship without dropping a set (and without beating a player ranked higher than she was but who has never been lucky?), Marion Bartoli lost a second round match against Simona Halep 6-3, 4-6, 1-6 at the Western & Southern Open and then announced her retirement from the WTA Tour. “Well it’s never easy and obviously there is never a time to say it or whatever, but that was the last match of my career,” she told reporters.
She continued. “It’s time for me to retire and to call it a career,” she said, “I feel it’s time for me to walk away, actually.”
Bartoli has always walked to the beat of her own drum, using two hands on both the backhand and the forehand. But even knowing this, it comes as a shock. She might as well have dropped the microphone after speaking to reporters in Cincinnati because that’s the effect the announcement has had. And anyone who says otherwise is lying.
The Wimbledon title that Bartoli won this year was the very first Grand Slam of her career. She came close in two other instances, losing in the 2007 final against Venus Williams at the All-England Club and then in the semifinal against Francesca Schiavone at Porte d’Auteuil in 2011 in the capital of her home country.
But Bartoli’s relationship with France was never one of just love. The 28-year-old passed up on the chance to represent the country at the 2012 London Olympics when she refused to stop being coached privately by her father. A year later, she was vindicated in winning Wimbledon.
And six weeks after that, here we are with the champion having retired with a career 489-297 record, eight titles and over $11 million in prize money. Bartoli will be missed, and it’s not only because she was a great player who reached a career-best No. 7 in her late twenties. She was not guarded when she played. Every time that she competed, she left a little bit of herself on the court. She wasn’t afraid of what the public would think when she jumped around between points, or when she had a weird serving motion, because she understood that it absolutely doesn’t matter. All that matters is how she played. And she played well. That’s why she’ll be missed.
Not every tennis player has to be the greatest player of all time, some probably just want to accomplish what they had dreamed of accomplishing and then, leave it all behind once they have. Maybe that’s why she stopped, on her own terms. “I made my dream a reality,” she told reporters in Cincinnati, “and it will stay forever with me but now my body can’t cope with everything.”
It’s inspiring. She might have been just started with her career, what with the Wimbledon title captured this season, and maybe that’s why that she ended it all right away.
And perhaps, the ending was a happy one, still. At 4:55 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the day after she announced her retirement, Bartoli (@bartoli_marion) tweeted the following: “Hey to all of u! 4:55 am can’t sleep of course, reading all your sweet messages, and it makes me cry, thank u for sending me all this love”.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
July 22, 2013
The next time, all of us will need to say that this is a pattern.
The first time this season that Roger Federer lost to an unknown player, in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon, it might have been a fluke. Sergiy Stakhovsky was ranked No. 116 at the time, and he played the match of his life. He won in straight sets and yet, Federer only lost one total point less over the match. Usually, those matches break differently, which is to say that they tend to go the way of the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
It may be just a coincidence that it happened once more, this past week in Hamburg, against fellow unknown, and No. 114-ranked Federico Delbonis by a score of 7-6 (7) and 7-6 (4). Once more, it’s possible to rationalize this as bad luck. Federer doesn’t play much at this time of the year–especially not on clay–ran into a player who was feeling confident and he lost a tight match.
It happens, some would say. Others would counter that it doesn’t happen to King Roger–and that’s essentially the problem.
Still, this is one more crack in the aura of invincibility that was Federer’s not too long ago. Well, that aura is definitely gone now. For the past year, probably, players have played the Swiss and believed that they had a shot. At his peak, opponents stepped on the court and probably felt like they were already down a set and a break–but no more. Julien Benneteau almost beat him at last year’s Wimbledon, and that might have been where it all started. Now, when opponents are pitted against the former world number one, they walk on the court and believe that they have a shot if they’re willing to go after their shots. And for the most part, they do.
Federer’s title at the 2012 Wimbledon notwithstanding, the last calendar year of Roger Federer has brought a cavalcade of subpar results, and it brings up another point. At almost 32 years old, just how close to the end is he? Right now, the Swiss is ranked No. 5 on the ATP World Tour. It’s a testament to his excellence that it can be shocking to see him ranked at the low end of the top 5.
But that’s what Federer has accustomed us to–excellence. In 2013, that excellence is lacking, and he sure looks like a king without a crown. The typical reaction–and this happens for every great player as he or she gets to the later stages of his or her career–is to find it sad when a great champion simply can’t perform as well as he or she used to. But why is that so important?
Why is it important that a great champion not play subpar tennis at the age when this is to be expected? Why should he retire before he reaches that moment? Why is it important that he understand when to retire, as if there really was a perfect moment to do so? Surely the tennis fan is entitled, but he’s not entitled enough that he can expect to dictate to his favourite players when it is that they should stop playing, right?
I’m the opposite, really–I celebrate the old champion who still carries on and competes with the younger, and by then better, crowd. Because the alternative, that this champion simply stops playing, is so much worse.
That’s why I hope to see a trend emerge, here, and witness a third Roger Federer loss to an unknown player if anything. That would mean that the Swiss is still playing, that he is still chasing a dream and a passion, and that he is still competing.
Let’s let him leave on his own terms. He’s already said, multiple times, that he’ll stop playing once he can’t compete at an elite level. That day is arriving sooner than we think. And once he’s gone, then he’s gone. There’s no more King.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
July 15, 2013
Nouveau réalisme is a recent artistic movement that appeared about 50 years ago as an answer to abstract painting. The nouveaux réalistes preached a return to reality, away from lyricism and figurative art.
Marion Bartoli is nouveau réalisme on the WTA Tour. She’s currently ranked No. 7, but was ranked No. 15 entering Wimbledon. Of course, Wimbledon is the tournament that she captured for her very first Grand Slam title.
It quickly became obvious that this year’s edition of the event was unlike any in recent memory due to major upsets and injuries, and Bartoli understood it. She understood that she could be potentially lucky and win the tournament without defeating a player ranked higher than her. (Sloane Stephens, at No. 17, was Bartoli’s toughest opponent, and the Frenchwoman won 6-4 and 7-5.) Call it luck, or whatever else, but she still had to compete and win matches. At Wimbledon, Bartoli did precisely that and didn’t lose a set of the 14 that she played. She was dominant, not lucky.
Bartoli has now equaled her career-best ranking after winning tennis’s most prestigious prize, the Grand Slam of all Grand Slams. The new reality is that from now on, she’ll get to play in, and perhaps win, tournaments without needing to play many who are ranked higher than her—and it will all be because she’s ranked so high, not because a draw broke right.
The 28-year-old remains the odd player on the Tour, and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon. She does whatever she needs to do to win a match and if her hair is all over the place and not perfectly groomed like Maria Sharapova’s, it’s because she understands that it has no bearing on how she plays. There is no lyricism in her game, only power and confidence.
Bartoli doesn’t mind how she looks on a tennis court—which isn’t the case for everyone—because that has no impact on her successes or failures. She isn’t super slim nor super tall, though she is, yes, fit and tall. She’s sponsored by Lotto, because who cares. It’s just a sponsor. And—this is perhaps her biggest sin—Bartoli has a two-handed forehand to go along with her two-handed backhand.
All of this isn’t what the Tour is used to, but the new reality is that it works. It works for Bartoli, whether it be a two-handed forehand or talking to herself, or shuffling around and playing shadow tennis, between points—it all works for Bartoli, which means that maybe it can work for someone else too.
In a sport where traditions are celebrated and the status quo is embraced, Bartoli stands out. Not necessarily in a good way. That’s why it’s so great to see her win the Holy Grail. It shows that anyone can, that there are no blueprints on how to reach the top, or how to hit forehands.
Wimbledon is the Cathedral of tennis, and I’ve been writing for the past two years that this cathedral is in dire need of some redesign (e.g. exhibits a and b). Marion Bartoli is such redesign. She’s French Nouveau réalisme.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
July 8, 2013
Andy Murray, here. How’s everyone doing? I must say, this feels great. I’m still not quite sure exactly how I did it, but I did. I won Wimbledon, and it’s one of the best feelings ever.
I had been, essentially, in hibernation for six months prior to the start of the tournament—essentially since I lost in the Australian Open final against Novak Djokovic. Sure, I had reached the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open, and then had captured the Sony Open but those are peanuts. In tennis, you play to win the game Grand Slam tournaments.
The calendar then turned to the clay court season and, really, that’s when I went missing. I sucked during the clay court season. Point blank. But in July, in my home tournament, I awoke and came out roaring. I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I roared. Boy did I ever roar!
I’m so humbled at having become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 28,128 days ago. Think about how long ago 1936 was. Most of my fans were probably not born yet! …Laugh. That’s a joke. My fans definitely were born in 1936. (HA!)
I won, and everyone is happy for me, even the man that I defeated in the final as he hugged me after the final point. “I know how much it means to the whole country,” Djokovic said. “Well done. I am aware of the pressure [on Murray]. To pull out a championship after being in the finals a year ago is a great achievement.”
That great achievement was probably facilitated by my decision to team up with Ivan Lendl prior to last season. Lendl was his generation’s Andy Murray in that he kept hitting his head on the glass ceiling until one day he realized he could wear a helmet. That helmet would hurt less and, with time, actually help him break through the glass ceiling.
It’s what worked for me at Flushing Meadows last year. And since that time, there were two schools of thought: would I play looser at Wimbledon now that I had already won one Grand Slam, or would pressure mount even more given that I now had one fewer reason not to win at the All-England Club?
Considering what happened, the answer is pretty clear. “I think I persevered,” I said after the win. “That’s really been it, the story of my career probably. I had, yeah, a lot of tough losses, but the one thing I would say is I think every year I always improved a little bit. They weren’t major improvements, massive changes, but every year my ranking was going in the right direction.”
Everyone’s happy for me, and it’s an amazing feeling. Was this an easy victory? Well, some might say that I got breaks along the way, first with the defeats of Rafael Nadal (i.e. in the first round) and Roger Federer (i.e. in the second round) that decimated what was supposed to be an incredibly difficult draw. And I understand, of course, any sane person would tell you that he or she would rather avoid those two if he or she could. I get it. Then in the final, some would say that Djokovic was definitely not at his best after a grueling four-hour and 43 minutes semifinal match against Juan Martin Del Potro.
They may be right, but I don’t care. I still needed to go out and win the matches! A win is a win is a win, and nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.
I’m Andy Murray, but I’m not the Andy Murray of before—you know, the one who was everyone’s second favourite tennis player (after Roger Federer, or should that be Rafael Nadal?) if only because he had for so long been the lovable loser who competes and falls just short.
No, this is Andy Murray—the new Andy Murray, the one who is about to become everyone’s new favourite tennis player.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
June 25, 2013
Rafael Nadal was the man with the skeleton key that worked against all the top players, undoing their game plan, regardless of rankings and form. He was always more of a threat against Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray than those three ever have been against each other. But now he’s out of Wimbledon.
The immediate impact to Nadal’s bracket is clear: Murray and Federer’s chances both increased the second Steve Darcis completed his unlikely ousting of the two-time champion. Djokovic should be relieved as well, though odds were in his favour on grass but with Nadal, the threat of defeat always managed to feel nearer.
However, in a season where mixed results and untimely injuries prevented a clear favourite from standing out at Wimbledon, and coming off a year that saw each of the big four pick up a slam title, the path to the finals has never seemed so up in the air.
And frankly, a bit dry.
Unless you’ve got a long-time personal favourite, the storylines that follow any of the remaining top three to win Wimbledon seem equally worn. Of Djokovic, Federer and Murray – really, any one of them could win. Is it awful that that’s a tad boring?
All apologies to Djokovic, but rooting for the favourite seems to go out of style each time Federer loses the number one ranking. If Djokovic were to win Wimbledon, nobody would be too surprised, and the matches will likely have gone pretty much according to plan.
Federer, on his favourite surface, going for his eighth title at the All England Club, caught a huge break with nemesis Nadal’s exit. Sounds fun for the monogramed man to take an eighth, and I guess he’ll want to match Rafa’s magic eight at Roland-Garros, but if he were to get there, it’d include another defeat of Murray in London, something that took some wind of out last year’s victory. Does that ultimately matter to Feds? Of course not, but waning fan support is something that seems to irk the Swiss champ.
Side note: Orange is not gold. I guess it was getting a little sad either way, but Federer abandoning the gold trim on his Wimbledon set seems a little deflating, too. Even Tiger Woods kept stubbornly wearing red each Sunday.
Back to the contenders…
Sometimes-hometown man Andy Murray almost seems like a sleeper cell this year. Maybe all that buildup to his breakthrough grand slam took some gusto out of his underdog status as the guy who could usurp the favourites because the pressure seems less urgent now.
His injury-prompted absence was felt at the French, which also left question marks about his health going into Wimbledon. While winning another Queen’s title should have addressed that concern, the potential for both excitement and disappointment feels dampened. If he were to make the final and lose, well, he’s losing to Djokovic, the number one seed. He’d also have been coming off an injury, so that’s forgivable. Plus, he has his title to defend in New York, and proved himself on grass at the 2012 London Olympics, where he won gold on the very same courts. And if he wins? England would celebrate, for sure, but it’s definitely less shocking than it would have been last year. It’d still be an incredible moment for Murray, something arguably more meaningful to him than Djokovic and Federer, who have won it before, but that doesn’t make him the favourite.
As the rounds go on, the pressure on the top three will build, and hopefully, anticipation with it. Although the homing missile that is typically Nadal took some danger out of the equation for the usual suspects, Wimbledon won’t be spoiled by parity.
What we’re actually spoiled by, is that the level of tennis played at Wimbledon climbs higher every year, and whoever remains standing at the end will surely deserve it.
Follow @lyrapappin on Twitter.
June 24, 2013
At this point, it’s a wonder why Serena Williams even said anything.
The larger public nowhere near adores the great champion, so it’s a wonder why Serena even answered anything to a question when only one thing would have satisfied everyone. She voiced her opinion, I guess, but she should have anticipated the backlash that it would bring out.
When an item on the Steubenville rape case, which is about a year old by now, flashed on the news as she was with a reporter from Rolling Stone, Serena should have kept her mouth shut. She should have kept her mouth shut, or acknowledged that the entire ordeal was a tragedy, or smiled and just told the reporter that, “Why yes, I do condemn the actions of these two young men,” and kept it moving.
Really, anything would have been better than what she actually did say. It’s so bad that the quote deserves to be included here in its entirety:
“Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
(It’s so bad that I’m even inclined to side with Maria Sharapova, here, which I don’t normally do. Beyond the Steubenville comments, Serena had a few choice words in the Rolling Stone feature for the Russian blond who is rumoured to now be dating Grigor Dimitrov, one of Serena’s exes. To this I say, “Where’s Sean Avery when you need him?” Sharapova countered this week with a scathing criticism of Williams just before the start of Wimbledon. It still doesn’t matter though—Serena will beat Sharapova should they play each other.)
And yet, let’s at least acknowledge that Serena might have strictly been following the Rolling Stone reporter’s lead. Here’s how the feature starts: “Who is the most dominant figure in sports today? LeBron James? Michael Phelps? Please. Get that weak sauce out of here. It is Serena Williams. She runs women’s tennis like Kim Jong-un runs North Korea.”
Comparing one of the greatest tennis players in history to the ruler of North Korea? Yikes.
But this is about Serena Williams, of course, so let’s carry on. She erred in judgment, at the very least, in her comments. It’s quite impressive truly that there can be so many things wrong in what is essentially such a short answer.
When Serena Williams says that, “I’m not blaming the girl, but…” then she is essentially saying that she blames the victim. There is no excuse for what the two young men did, and there is no need to feel sorry for them. Then, Serena wonders what the 16-year-old girl was doing that she got so drunk for. I have the answer and, really, it’s rather simple. She was drinking! That’s what teenagers do, and I hope I’m not teaching Serena a lesson here. Teenagers drink, whether they’re allowed to or not. Period. Finally, the 31-year-old says that things could have been “much worse.” I’d like to know how, or where, things could have taken a turn for the worse. Being the victim of a rape is traumatic enough, scarring for life and, unless Serena is alluding to death, then I don’t really know where this situation could have gone worse.
It’s a problem when a society tends to have the victims of such horrific crimes shoulder part of the blame and responsibility in the events that unfolded. It’s wrong, and it’s disgusting. Two high school football players raped this Steubenville victim, and the law has recognized as much. In this case, there’s one victim, a young, 16-year-old girl.
Maybe the girl put herself at risk, but really the problem is that the risk exists. Maybe the parents of a young teenage girl need to tell her not to put herself at risk, but there’s another discussion that needs to happen too. Parents of a young teenage boy need to tell him that under no circumstance is it acceptable to rape a girl.
In the wake of the controversy that her comments have stirred up, Serena put out the following statement:
“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved—that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written—what I supposedly said—is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.
I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields—anything I could to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”
This is much, much better, but it’s still not perfect. Serena says that she is sorry, which is good, but she tries to cast shadow on the veracity of Stephen Rodrick’s reporting. The Rolling Stone reporter, meanwhile, has countered by telling Poynter that he has her comments on tape. “The interview is on tape. Other than that, I’ll let the story speak for itself,” he said.
Of course he would. Despite many problems with journalism as a whole, there are still standards that a journalist, at least one working for a publication like Rolling Stone, will respect. A journalist would not, ever, publish such comments if he or she wasn’t completely sure of their accuracy, and if he or she didn’t have the proof of it.
Stick to tennis, Serena. Let your play do the talking. Will the London public cheer you on over the next two weeks, especially considering how unpopular your dance routine was last year after winning the gold medal at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club? It might depend on whether the London folks read Rolling Stone.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
April 22, 2013
The war of attrition is back.
That’s what I’m telling myself as I’m watching Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic hit ball after ball after ball after ball. Surely they can’t keep at it like that for this long, right? “These guys are hitting haymakers left and right, it’s unreal.”
But I forget that these two players can go at it for, seemingly, ever. They might be the two most fit players on the ATP World Tour and remember, they once battled for just short of six (!!) hours at the 2012 Australian Open final.
In the final of the 2013 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, the match didn’t last six hours—Djokovic won 6-2 and 7-6 (1) after (only) 1:52 of play.
It’s my favourite rivalry in all of tennis, and it is definitely back. But it took a while, the beginning of Sunday’s final delayed due to rain. And yet, what’s an extra 51 minutes when we’ve been waiting for this match for about 11 months anyway, right?
Because Nadal sustained an injury at last year’s Wimbledon, him and Djokovic hadn’t battled in a while and it wasn’t sure that they still would. First, the Spaniard needed to reestablish himself and show the world that he was back at full strength. Once he did that, however, it was Djokovic who sustained an injury of his own, in a recent Davis Cup tie against American Sam Querrey.
Nadal has so many points to defend this year, at least until Wimbledon, that there’s little chance that he can improve his No. 5 ranking. While he did have a seven-plus-month layoff in 2012, that didn’t come until after his annual breeze through the clay court season. His haul, as usual, was impressive with titles at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.
But already this year, he lost 400 points with that loss to Djokovic. And now he needs to win, and win, and win—but he lost against Djokovic.
The head-to-head series is now at 19-15 in favour of Nadal. It was all Djokovic in 2011, because everything in the ATP was all Djokovic that year. In 2012, Nadal came back because that’s what he always does. He attacked and had Djokovic pouncing, winning three finals against the Serb after having lost seven in a row.
Then, Nadal got injured and didn’t play a match for seven months and change. The last thing on his mind was probably a match against his rival—until this week, and the return of what I think is tennis’s most compelling rivalry.
The difference, this time, was Djokovic’s resiliency and capacity to take the ball so, so early because he always stood on top of the baseline. With a ball striker like Nadal, who puts possibly as much spin on his shots as anybody else, ever, this is an exploit. Djokovic’s backhand, especially, was lethal and looked a lot like the shot that helped his ascent to the top in 2011, except that now Djokovic is using it both cross-court and down the line.
By comparison, Nadal’s backhand wasn’t up to par. While it had some good moments, the shot wasn’t dangerous enough, and Djokovic seemed all too happy to exchange cross-court on Nadal’s backhand until he found an opening.
And for that reason, Nadal wakes up with his first loss in Monaco in 47 matches. The 26-year-old had won eight titles in a row at Monte Carlo and had lost only 7 sets in his career at the tournament. When Djokovic won the first set, so convincingly too, it was the first time in 7 years that Nadal lost the first set of a match in Monaco.
Simply put, the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters is the cake that Nadal gets, and that he gets to eat too, year in and year out. It had always been the Spaniard’s court right in the backyard of the Serb (i.e. Djokovic lives in Monaco), but no more.
This is an absolutely great win for Djokovic, but Nadal still has the trump card—a Roland Garros title. That tournament gets underway on May 26. Djokovic is my favourite for the event, and I don’t care that he’s not yours. Your favourite, I know, is Nadal because you’ll take Nadal over anyone at the French Open.
That’s the same reason you took Nadal for Monte-Carlo—he never loses in Monaco, right?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 20, 2012
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon has a special edition of the column–one that doubles as a profile of Tamira Paszek.
AS SHE TALKS ON THE PHONE, Tamira Paszek doesn’t sound like a player who has just pulled out of a tournament. She’s seems happy, thrilled almost. “Finally. We made it!” She says that, not me–though I’m certainly thinking it. (I’ve been on and off the phone with the WTA Tour PR rep, a woman named Tessa, for the past three hours trying to set up the interview and, at long last, I’m speaking with Paszek.)
Paszek is in Cincinnati, for the Western & Southern Open, but she’s just withdrawn. She was playing Sofia Arvidsson and was down 6-1 and 2-1 when she decided to stop. She had a migraine yesterday, and the headaches have carried over to today. “There was not much that I could do on the court,” she says.
Just 21 years old, the native of Dornbirn, Austria, is a rising star on the WTA Tour. If she’s in Cincinnati when she speaks to me, she was in Montreal before that, and she’ll have lost her match against Sloane Stephens in the first round of the New Haven Open by the time I’m finished writing this feature. That’s the life of a professional tennis player, but Paszek doesn’t mind it because she likes traveling and has been on the Tour since 2005. She says that it “always feels like coming back home” whenever she’s in Canada, and for good reason. “My father has lived in Toronto for 15 years,” she says before adding that she has family in Calgary and Ottawa as well as Toronto.
But none of these cities are her favourite in Canada. That’s Quebec City, where she loves “walking in that old part of town.” While Paszek is neither the first nor the last to succumb to the beauty of the Château Frontenac, her love story is also due to Quebec City being the site of one of her first great successes on the WTA Tour–a 2010 title at the Bell Challenge.
Yet, Paszek isn’t quite a star yet, although she has played like one at times in her career–in her first-round match at this year’s Rogers Cup for example, when she defeated No. 21-ranked Julia Goerges 6-2 and 6-1. Montreal is kind to her as it’s also where she recorded her first victory over a No. 1-ranked player, in 2008 against Ana Ivanovic.
“I’M OUTGOING, AND DOWN TO EARTH,” PASZEK SAYS ON THE PHONE. On Twitter (@tamira1990), she writes things that are similar to what you or I write, like the fact that she loves going to the hairdresser or watching The Change-Up. To me, she says that she loves to walk her two “crazy” dogs, Joe-Joe and Paris, as much as possible whenever she’s home.
After her win in Montreal over Goerges, Paszek answers questions from the media and she’s told that a reporter from Toronto also wants to interview her via camera. Most reporters from Montreal leave the room, but I stay back and pretend to write something down in my notepad–which I actually do for a while. I soon realize that she and the woman from Toronto are speaking in German. I understand nothing, but it seems funny–they’re laughing together, and it’s more a conversation than an interview. “I’ve known her for a long time,” Paszek says as she leaves the room.
AT 1:30 P.M., IT’S WARM OUTSIDE, 27°C TO BE EXACT. Looking back, that Wednesday, August 8, will be the last day of the 2012 Rogers Cup without rain but that’s not what we’re thinking about then. It’s just warm, humid and the air is sticky. Paszek has been practicing since 12:45 on court 2 with her coach. About 20 of us are sitting in the stands and watching her hit, because that’s when tennis players are most impressive. Paszek hits the ball flat and her shots fall deep near the opponent’s baseline. It’s tough to pull off, but it’s very effective if you do. When the shots don’t fall, though, that’s when Paszek has a hard time. She’s only 5-foot-5, but Paszek’s groundstrokes are as heavy as anybody else’s and truly, she’s better than her No. 33-ranking would suggest. This isn’t to say that being ranked 33rd on the Tour isn’t great, because it is. But Paszek can be higher.
In 2012, she has been hampered by inconsistencies and injuries, but she turned a corner this summer when she won the AEGON International in Eastbourne, and then reached the quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships and lost a close match against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka–6-3 and 7-6 (4). A month later, she was competing at the All-England Club again, this time for the 2012 Olympic Games. “I was at the opening ceremony and stayed at the (Olympic) village,” she says. “It was an incredible feeling.” In Montreal finally, Paszek will equal her best performance at the tournament and reach the quarterfinals where she’ll lose to eventual winner Petra Kvitova.
But for now, Paszek is stuck on a tennis court inside Uniprix Stadium, practicing with her coach Andrei Pavel. Now 38 years old, Pavel is a former ATP pro who was ranked as high as No. 13 in 2004 and who won the 2001 Rogers Cup. They’ve started working together this year, a little bit before Roland Garros. “He’s a great guy and a great person, and we get along well,” Paszek says. “He’s tough on the court, but when the day is done we talk about nothing that has to do with tennis.”
Meanwhile, Pavel says that it’s time for Paszek to capitalize on what she’s hinted at possessing. “It’s her time now,” he says.
The Austrian has been working on her groundstrokes for close to 40 minutes, but she’d rather be in a pool. That’s what she tells the fans. “Phew, it’s so warm. Are you using sunscreen? It’s dangerous with that weather,” she asks a woman. (She tells her that she is.)
Now a man starts talking to her. He says he’s been playing tennis for over 20 years–which, you know, just might be true–and that Paszek has a bright future ahead of her. “The next three years are the most important of your career,” he tells her. They shake hands, because the man is actually polite and respectful if a little odd. (Not all players would react like Paszek–and I tell her as much–but she thought he was hilarious. “What are you going to do, right?” she says.) The man starts giving Pavel coaching advice and saying that Paszek needs to spend time in a pool–she’ll like to hear that. He explains that it will help her body get rid of lactic acid, or something like that. Jokingly, the coach yells to his pupil that, “He’s saying you have too much gas.
-No, I’m saying you have too much lac-
-He’s saying you have too much gas.
-No, no. Lactic-
-What is this? I don’t like this conversation…about gas, or whatever else!”
Mercifully, the man leaves, Paszek and Pavel laugh it off, and then continue their practice. After returning Pavel’s serves, she practices volleys then works on her serve–which remains her weakness. “Hit 100 to 200, then we’re done,” Pavel tells her. He doesn’t say what’s next. Paszek probably hopes it’s the pool.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 2, 2012
by: Lyra Pappin
Last time Andy Murray played at Wimbledon the montage to open his match told us that the Scot “toiled under the weight of Great Britain’s collective desire”. American television isn’t exactly known for its subtlety, but the London 2012 games have shown that the Brits aren’t interested in understatement either. While drama and tension are prime goals for the games, the UK is safely on board with 15 medals, so perhaps the “collective desire” has been slightly alleviated. Of course there’s still the personal desire of Murray, which should be raging on into his semi-final match against world number two, Novak Djokovic.
While a win for Murray would be terrific, if not surprising, how much will it mean for his legacy as a tennis player? Not enough, I’d argue. If Murray gets past Djokovic, he gives himself a shot at a gold medal, a shot that’s long at best. Plus, regardless of the outcome at the Olympics, the reality is that until Murray wins a major, there will always be an asterisk beside his name, even if he wins in London. Taking Olympic gold is a real feather in your cap, sure, but it would be endlessly noted that his path there was built on best of three matches, rather than best of five. The final is played as a best of five, but every betting man puts Roger Federer in that match, the “Greatest of All Time”, who is especially bent on proving his ongoing greatness these days, and not having much trouble doing it. With Olympic gold being the only remaining empty spot in the litany of achievements in Federer’s career, it seems like Murray would have to pry gold out of the Swiss champion’s dead cold hands before he gets to have his moment under the British sun.
Another intangible to consider: is it worse for Murray to lose back-to-back finals against Federer or for him to lose in the semi-final to Djokovic? Putting silver or bronze aside, the ongoing midgame that is men’s tennis puts me more in the camp that Murray thinking he can’t beat Federer when it counts is an enormous problem. The silver lining of not being the silver medalist might be that Murray wouldn’t face Federer in a heavy match again until the US Open, a tournament the Scot loves and one that suits his game.
It’s also a rather big assumption that Murray has an edge on Djokovic, going into this semi-final and their first meeting on grass. Djokovic has something to prove at Wimbledon, after he was prevented from defending his title a few weeks ago, being taken out by Federer. Djokovic’s remarkable consistency in 2011 has been MIA in 2012 and going all the way at the Olympics would deliver a much needed confidence boost. The chances of Djokovic beating Federer are greater than Murray beating Federer, as the Serbian is exceptionally motivated by playing for his country, as evidenced by his strong Davis Cup play, and the pride he took in winning with his compatriots last year.
Federer’s semi-final opponent Juan Martin Del Potro has not been mentioned; sometimes you say more by saying nothing at all, you know?
- Federer d. Del Potro in two (Confidence: 100%)
- Murray d. Djokovic in three (Confidence: 65%)
- Final: Federer d. Murray in three (Confidence 85%)
For more tennis talk, follow Lyra Pappin on Twitter at @lyrapappin.
July 10, 2012
Lyon, France – July 9, 2012 - Babolat is very happy to announce its new partnership with The Championships, Wimbledon. Starting January 1st, 2013, and for a period of five years, Babolat will become the official shoe brand of The Championships, Wimbledon.
“Wimbledon is an iconic tennis tournament and an international tennis brand. We’re proud to be able to establish a partnership between Wimbledon and our Babolat tennis shoes. With Wimbledon, we share both being at the origin of tennis and being on the cutting edge of the sport. Our high standards for equipment are demonstrated each day, on courts
everywhere in the world, and from now on, on the grass at Wimbledon,” said Eric Babolat, Chairman and CEO of Babolat.
As from 2013, Babolat will equip the ball boys and girls during The Championships.
Mick Desmond, Commercial Director at the All England Club said: “We are delighted to be in partnership with Babolat for the provision of shoes for our ball boys and girls on the grass courts at Wimbledon. Babolat and Wimbledon share many of the same brand values as well as a strong heritage in tennis and we look forward to a long association in the years to come.”