Tag Archives: tennis players

Tennis players and Google

28 Jun

Watching tennis can be quite time-consuming – I’ve realized this due to having to study for an exam while Wimbledon has been going on. Quite a task I’ll have you know, and also the reason for my blog entries being so few and far between. Nevertheless, the exam went well and I plan on making up for my lack of entries over the next three or four days.

 The very handsome, Greek-god-like Feliciano Lopez who despite making one of the more successful runs of his career at this Wimbledon – he took out three-time former finalist, Andy Roddick and today staged a comeback from two sets down against Lukas Kubot – has been in the news over the past week or so mainly for his attractive looks, the moniker Deliciano, and a few unsavoury lines from Justin Gimelstob about Lopez’s fixation on his looks, which Gimelstob has since claimed “were taken completely out of context”.  This seems to often happen to Justin Gimelstob.  Much of the furore about the physical appeal of Lopez, occurred as a result of Judy Murray and Andrea Petkovic bantering on twitter – in a very public and tongue-in-cheek manner – about how handsome the 29-year old is, and how this would affect Petko’s ability to focus while playing mixed doubles with him. Petko also jokingly teased Murray about the time that she would get to spend time with him. So as I was reading one of many articles about the Deliciano themed twitter exchange, I involuntarily giggled out loud at the content of their discussion, which in my defence were quite funny. I was however discovered while laughing away at a computer screen by a few family members. After being coerced into telling them about the source of my amusement, I was promptly instructed to Google image search the Spaniard by my mother – who is about Judy Murray’s age – and sister. They were quite impressed with the results, and now continually ask me if Deliciano is playing whenever the tennis is on.

 Other than gaining Lopez two new fans among my close family, the search also lead to Google recommending some zinger-related searches. I searched the term ‘Feliciano Lopez’, and Google suggested the related searches ‘Feliciano Lopez and Rafael Nadal’, ‘Feliciano Lopez Jockstrap’ and ‘Feliciano Lopez Bulge’ in that order. Naturally more laughter ensued, and while I promise that I didn’t actually click on any of the “suggested search terms”, it did get me thinking – what would the terms image searched in conjunction with the names of the other players be – and what does is say about the player if it says anything at all. Naturally I made a study of it.

 Rafael Nadal: Armani, shirtless, wallpaper, girlfriend, arms and body.

 Novak Djokovic: 2011, shirtless, wallpaper, hot, model and girlfriend.

 Roger Federer: Twins, logo, wallpaper, Wimbledon, wedding and wife.

 Andy Murray: Wimbledon, wallpaper, shirtless and girlfriend.

 Bernard Tomic: 2010, Australian Open, shirtless and girlfriend.

 Mardy Fish: Wife and shirtless.

 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Girlfriend

 While most of the other gents have somewhat less risqué search terms than the original Lopez search, (except perhaps for Nadal – his Armani campaign was after all an underwear one) I find it really surprising that backhand, forehand or serve don’t feature at all. It seems the searched terms reflect far more on tennis fans than players of the sport. Further proof that good personalities (and faces and bodies) are a major draw-card for tennis.

I initially planned on including the women’s quarter-finalist in this study too, but the terms were a bit dodge, so I think I will leave you to decide if it is a study you wish to make…

Remember to check back later for my list of the Wimbledon Top 10.

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Wimbledon: A review of the ladies’ draw

19 Jun

 

Reviewing and discussing likely winners of a major tennis tournament is a hazardous business. On the men’s side it is close to impossible to pick a winner among the top three, with Andy Murray further complicating matters. At least there is some security in picking the semi-finalists in the men’s draw. On the women’s side – no such luxury exists. Essentially the entire top 10 and additionally the Williams sisters have a fair shot at the title going into Wimbledon 2011. To determine who will be the woman to make it through the draw and walk away with the title is hardly a science set in stone. My point, read this as a summary of the draw – not so much a guidebook on betting.

Wimbledon 2011 sees the return of two of the greatest tennis players of the current era. Both Venus and Serena will be playing for the first time following long layoffs from the sport, with Serena recovering from a near death health scare. While Serena hasn’t played in close to a year, she was merited with a top 8 seeding, due to her performance at Wimbledon in the past, which includes her being the defending champion. Venus is also seeded 10 spots higher than her WTA ranking, likely also via her Wimbledon history. While their ability to challenge the current crop of top ranked players has been questioned in the last few days, it is unlikely that they will be undone by an inability to compete with the top ranked players. I think it far more likely they will succumb to the pressure of playing as many matches consecutively as required in a grand slam. If either fails to progress late into the second week of tennis, it’ll surely be due to a lack of match fitness.

While these two stalwarts return, Kim Clijsters has been forced to take yet another leave of absence from the tennis world due to injury. She leaves the draw devoid of any inform veterans of tennis, which means the draw is incredibly open, with hordes of players being capable of putting in good runs at the Championships in 2011.

Quarter-Final 1: Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova

Like most of the other top seeds Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova have fairly straightforward draws through the first few rounds at the Championships. Wozniacki’s sternest test prior to the quarter finals ought to be a fourth round match against young-up-and-comer, Julia Georges. The young German, who has not made it past the second round at Wimbledon before, will have to put in her best performance yet in order to have a shot at taking out the world number one. Her lack of grass court prowess favours Wozniacki to win with relative ease. Wozniacki’s primary challenger in this quarter of the draw is Maria Sharapova.

The Russian is one of only two women that have managed a title win at Wimbledon over the course of the last 11 years in which the Williams have shared the remaining nine titles between them. Prior to her facing Wozniacki in the round of 8, she will likely have to defeat Peng Shuai, a Chinese player, who plays double fisted on either side, hitting the ball very flat in a manner optimal for grass. Should Sharapova be the victor in this likely third round match, she will come up against tenth seeded, Sam Stosur in the fourth round. Stosur is a renowned doubles player, with two appearances in the finals of the women’s doubles at Wimbledon. In addition her fast paced serve means that she will be a significant threat to Sharapova’s success in the draw. Sharapova has however been in as fine a form as ever, and her recent semi-final run at the French Open, a tournament in which conditions aren’t well suited to her playing style, would have given her the confidence she needs to progress fairly easily though the first week of matches at Wimbledon. While I anticipate the likely Stosur-Sharapova match up to be competitive encounter, Sharapova should by all accounts walk away the winner.

Quarter-final 2: Li Na vs. Serena Williams

While Li Na was slowly progressing through the French Open draw, I continually expected her to fall at the next hurdle, but frequently predicted she’d be the player to watch at Wimbledon. The Chinese player surprised me with her win on the clay courts of Roland Garros, but I for one will not be surprised to see her go far at the grass court major. This has after all been the location at which glimpses of her true potential has been seen over the years with her reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2006 already, some 5 years prior to her final run at the Australian Open. On paper Li Na’s draw seems fairly simple through the first few rounds, with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, currently famous for her tennis ball dress, her likely opponent in the third round. Li Na being the superior player ought to win and face either Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round. The match between Radwanska and Ivanovic could potentially be one of the best matches of the first week at Wimbledon. According to the rankings, and recent form Radwanska should have the edge, but if Ivanovic’s serve is on (as it rarely is these days) she has every opportunity to beat the former junior Wimbledon champion. Either way, Li Na ought to beat the victor of that match with relative comfort in the fourth round.

In the other part of this quarter, Serena is the player seeded to progress to quarter-finals. She could however find herself in quite a competitive encounter against Marion Bartoli in the round of 16. The woman from France has previously reached the finals at Wimbledon, and won at Eastbourne in the lead up to the Championships this year, indicating a high level of skill on the grass courts. Serena is of course far more accomplished on grass, but considering her lack of match play, and Bartoli’s good form over the past few months which included a run to the semi-finals at the French Open, indicate that she could potentially upset the defending champion. I fully expect this to be closely contested three set encounter, which logic and knowledge of tennis history indicates ought to be edged by Williams. As such the quarter-final in this part of the draw is likely to be played out between Serena Williams and Li Na.

French Open Champion, Li Na, seen here during her successful Roland Garros campaign, will likely have to overcome Serena Williams in order to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

Quarter-final 3: Andrea Petkovic vs. Victoria Azarenka

While Francesca Schiavone is seeded to reach the quarters ahead of Andrea Petkovic, I think the younger player has a great opportunity to knock the major winner out at this stage of the tournament. While Schiavone’s flat one handed backhand will be employed to full effect, the rest of her game is slightly ill-suited to the grass. In addition Petkovic’s forceful game will be able to exploit the Schiavone flaws optimally. As such I predict Petkovic will reach the quarters by virtue of a win over the play of Schiavone.

Andrea Petkovic, seen playing a volley during a match at the French Open, will likely have to overcome Francesca Schiavone and Victoria Azarenka, should she make the semis at Wimbledon. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

The top seeded player in this quarter of the draw is the ever temperamental Victoria Azarenka. I fully expected her to overcome the deficiencies in her mental resolve at the French Open. I was however disappointed, and she has yet to live up to her talent at a major. Hopefully her potential will be realized soon, a semi-final or final run at this year’s Championships could go a long way to cementing her status as a top 5 player. Her path to the quarter-finals is perhaps more difficult than those of the other top four players. In order to progress she will likely have to beat Daniela Hantuchova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in consecutive matches. Both players exceeded expectations with their play at Roland Garros, and Hantuchova has followed up that display with a win over Venus Williams at Eastbourne this week. Clearly Azarenka will require all her focus and a high level of play to upend the Slovak’s good form of late. Pavlyuchenkova, whose steady rise in the rankings over the past few years has gone relatively undocumented should also provide a high quality match against the winner of the third round encounter between Hantuchova and Azarenka. All-in-all if Azarenka is at her best (and not held back by the injuries of which reports have been surfacing) she ought to prevail and reach the quarter finals.

Quarter final 4: Petra Kwitova vs. Vera Zvonareva

The 1/8 in which Petra Kwitova is the top seed is somewhat lacking in high calibre potential matchups with Yanina Wickmayer, Roberta Vinci and Svetlana Kuznetsova being the other seeds in this section. Kwitova thus has the opportunity to reach the quarter-finals with relative ease.

Petra Kwitova, pictured serving at the French Open, has a fairly easy route until the quarter-finals, where she is likely to face Victoria Azarenka, in what is sure to be a fiercely contested battle for a semi-final spot. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

In stark contrast the other 1/8 of this section is probably the most competitive of the entire draw with 2nd seed, Vera Zvonareva and 5-time champion Venus Williams both being in this section, in addition to Jelena Jankovic and Tsvetana Pironkova, a 2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist also contained in this section. Pironkova is likely to fall to Zvonareva, with the winner going on to face the victor of the expected Jankovic-Williams encounter. While Jankovic’s superior head-to-head record against Venus seems to suggest that she’ll be the victor, it’ll be a bad move to bet against Venus who has been the best player at Wimbledon over the last decade. I do however think that with her lack of match fitness she’s unlikely to win two tough matches consecutively. It’s my opinion that the winner of this match will succumb to the top ranked Russian, Zvonareva in the subsequent match.

Jelena Jankovic, pictured at the French Open, will in all likelihood have to defeat Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva in consecutive matches to reach the quarter-finals at The Championships. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

To recap, my predicted quarter-final pairings are Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova, Li Na vs. Serena Williams, Andrea Petkovic vs. Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kwitova vs. Vera Zvonareva.

Semi-final 1: (Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova) vs. Li Na

Should the likely fourth round encounter between Serena and Bartoli be as tough a match as I expect, I doubt that Serena will be able to maintain a high enough level of play in the match following to beat Li Na, who is most likely to be her opponent. As such I expect Li Na to reach the semis at Wimbledon for the first time in her career. Picking her semi-final opponent is the most difficult task of this analysis. Wozniacki is after all the top ranked player in the world; her motivation seems heightened prior to Wimbledon starting. At the same time she seems relaxed, going as far as to provide comedy by crashing Novak Djokovic’s press conference on Saturday. These are all possible signs of a good (read: semi’s or better) run at Wimbledon. Sharapova has however been in excellent form of late; Wimbledon truly is the optimal hunting ground for her style of play. As a result picking a winner from this match is a momentous task with the winner likely to have a very good shot at winning the title at the end of the fortnight. If forced to pick I would probably go with Sharapova on the basis of her experience and frequently cited never-say-die-attitude. Either way, this could potentially be the best match of the tournament; it’ll certainly be one I won’t miss.

Semi-final 2: Victoria Azarenka vs. Vera Zvonareva

Azarenka is currently the superior player to Kwitova. Should she be consistent and play at her regular level throughout this match, she ought to win with relative ease. In the other quarter-final, I expect Zvonareva to prevail. If she beat Serena which is likely a prerequisite for her to reach this stage of the tournament, it is likely that she will be very confident coming into this match. As a result she is likely to reach the semis.

So the semi-finalist according to the logic employed in this discussion will be (Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova) vs. Li Na and Victoria Azarenka vs. Vera Zvonareva.

I know I’m cheating by leaving both Wozniacki and Sharapova on the list. I do this due to the fact that the winner of that match is in an excellent position to reach the finals, with either being highly capable of beating the French Open champion, particularly following the confidence inspiring victory, which the winner of the match between Sharapova-Wozniacki would carry into the encounter with Na. In the other half, Zvonareva and Azarenka will be very closely matched should they meet up in the semi-finals. If history is any indicator it seems the winner of this match will be the one with greatest mental steel. Going out on a limb I’d say this will be Azarenka.

Final:  (Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova) vs. Victoria Azarenka

(Side note: Wouldn’t it be a great story if the two close friends, Azarenka and Wozniacki played in the final?) The final ought to make for a great match, with the superior experience of Wozniacki or Sharapova probably proving to be the difference against the Belarusian player who is still frequently affected by her wandering mind, and nervy moments. As a result the winner of the Sharapova-Wozniacki quarter-final is the most likely title winner at the Championship in 2011.

Who do you think will win?

 

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Top 10: Roland Garros 2.1

5 Jun

Part 2

(Note that this article is a continuation of Top 10: Roland Garros 1.0 which you can find by either scrolling down or clicking here and a correction of Top 10: Roland Garros 2.0 which was incorrectly published earlier.)

Will

At number five on this list is Maria Sharapova and Francesca Schiavone. Despite not being considered title contenders by many prior to Roland Garros starting, they were among the few top players to surpass their seedings at this year’s French Open. Sharapova has not been particularly successful at grand slams since she came back from major shoulder surgery, this in addition with her not being a great clay court player resulted in few expecting her fortunes to turn around at the French Open this year. Schiavone wasn’t expected to win the title last year, and really wasn’t considered capable of defending the title prior to the tournament starting. (I too was guilty of this and now have to admit that her title last year was fully deserved – she truly is a great champion.) She however put in an amazing run yet again, all while playing a beautiful style of tennis. Both these ladies made it far in the tournament after being involved in matches which they came very close to losing – Sharapova was a set and a break down in her 3rd round match against the young Caroline Garcia, while Anastasia Pavlyunchenkova was similarly close to knocking out the Italian veteran in their quarter-final encounter. Through their frequently quoted never say die attitudes these respective grand slam champions fought back to win not only those, but quite a few matches at the French Open with Sharapova making the semi’s and Schiavone being the losing finalist. A great display of will and determination by two otherwise very contrasted players.

The New World: China

Ranking number four is the French Open victory of Li Na. The 29-year old, first time grand slam winner, has always been a threat at Wimbledon, frequently putting in decent runs at the grass court major. She was however unexpectedly a force to deal with during the French Open fortnight, taking out big guns, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova in consecutive matches and beating the defending champion, Schiavone in straight sets in the final. What her victory might do for tennis in China will likely only be accurately measured a few years down the line, but if it resembles the surge of popularity which tennis has experienced in other countries which provided grand slam winners in recent years – Serbia, Russia, Italy among them, it is likely that hordes of Chinese children will pick up racquets over the next few weeks. Considering the sheer volume of people in China, the law of averages indicates that a few new Chinese grand slam champions should be along shortly as a result. This in addition with the huge numbers in viewership which having a Chinese audience brings to tennis, means that Li Na is not only a great player, but her win will also do great things for tennis and she is likely to leave have a lasting legacy for the sport.

The Epic Battles

Five set matches comes in at number three on the list. The longer version of the tennis match is truly capable of providing the most amazing imaginable situations in tennis. It was no different at Roland Garros this year. Nadal’s almost loss to Isner would have been one if it weren’t for the match being played over five sets as opposed to three. He is now in the final, with a very good chance of being the eventual champion. Andy Murray too would also have lost earlier were it not for the men’s matches being played over five sets at the majors – against the Serb, Victor Troicki in the 4th round. There were several more high drama five setters played in the 4th round – Albert Montanes vs Fabio Fognini, Juan Ignacio Chela vs Alejandro Falla and Gael Monfils vs David Ferrer. Not only do five setters cause the better player to win more often than not, but it also has the potential to result in an absolutely thrilling match with no apparent end in sight, capable of testing even the fittest player’s resolve and drive to win.

One might even be able to credit five set matches as the reason why there were far fewer upset results in the first week in the men’s draw as opposed to the mass exodus of seeds which happened in the women’s draw. I’m not suggesting women play five sets – but purely hypothetically if they were to play matches over five – the draw might play out as the seedings indicate it ought to.

Goliath and Goliath

Number two on the list is the Federer vs Djokovic semi final match. It was best described by Nadal as being the “best player of the moment against the best of the history”. This match truly lived up to this billing and was played at immense pace of shot, with overwhelming pressure on the man on a 43-match winning streak to win. The stakes were certainly high – not only was a spot in the final up for grabs, but the number one ranking was also a possibility for the Serbian man, should he have won. Unfortunately for the younger man, Federer was in devastating form, and played the match close to perfection. Particularly surprising was how demoralized Djokovic seemed in the second set, he came across as being somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion or rather the Federer play. All-in-all this was a great match between two giants which serves as excellent advertising for the sport of tennis. Both these gentleman are top fit, played with very little error and proceeded to wow the crowd for a good four hours before Federer left as the victor. It’ll be great to see if he can maintain this standard of play in the final and finally win a final against Nadal, who deservedly carries the King of Clay moniker.

The Rivalry Continued

For the fourth time in the finals at Roland Garros, Federer will have to overcome the much favoured to win Nadal. Whether or not Federer can tame the lefty topspin forehand which Nadal will direct to his one-handed backhand will surely provide some clue as to the winner of this match. If Federer is capable of hitting through his backhand and getting the result he craves, this match is likely to go down as his finest
grand slam victory ever. If Nadal executes his tactically superior game plan, as I suspect he will, it’ll be a record equalling sixth French Open title for him. As a result, this match will be one for the history books regardless of who wins, and as such tops this list at number one.

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