Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some feel-good stories

This won't be a post about how Mardy Fish finally won a big match for me that I predicted (which is a feel-good story in its own right!) but rather about two players making their way through the draw at the Open: one who this much wasn't expected of for at least a couple of more years, and another who should've been doing this years ago.

Since this is the juicier story of the two, I'll mention the older player first! Anna-Lena Groenefeld is through to the fourth round. Who, you might ask? Well, that's what I'm here to do: Tell you! She was an up-and-comer from Germany a few years ago who was definitely on to some big things. But her career, unfortunately got derailed, in a story that I found pretty unique as it developed. She started being coached by Rafael Font de Mora, who coaches (and formerly dated) Meghann Shaughnessy. Groenefeld and Font de Mora fell out, then he proceeded to go about destroying her confidence, according to her, by criticizing her weight and seeking out her opponents to give them tips on how to beat her. Her ranking pretty much bottomed out with all that going on. She's been on a comeback tear this season, racking up ITF titles and qualifying here, where she's beaten Daniela Hantuchova and Alize Cornet so far. Glad to see such a show of resilience, and hopefully she can get back to where she used to be if not higher!

As for the young player, well, what else can you say about Kei Nishikori? The kid outgritted one of the grittiest players on tour, David Ferrer, in five sets to make it to the fourth round. I just knew that when Ferrer got to 5-all it was gonna be a wrap, but Nishikori hung tough and pulled it off. I thought when he won Delray Beach earlier this year, it was kind of a fluke, but he's definitely got the goods. It would be cool to see him continue doing so well and challenging for the top 10 in a couple of years.

(Photos: Groenefeld, Reuters; Nishikori, Getty Images)

And THAT’S why I picked Mardy Fish for the quarterfinals!


At last!

He’s actually still a round away, and who’s to say Gael Monfils won’t stop him before he gets to the elite eight? But Mardy Fish has FINALLY gotten deep in a draw that I expected him to before the tournament started.

If you were to look back through the archives here at Tennis Talk, Anyone?, my Grand Slam quarterfinal predictions are littered with Fish picks, but he’s never come through. I just had a feeling, though, that since he’s been playing pretty well over the past couple of weeks that when it got to the third round, he’d be able to take out his buddy, James Blake.

Fish played well (honestly, I’d count him among the top 15 fast-court players in the world), but I think Blake was flat the whole tournament, and I have a feeling as to why that’s the case: That Olympics experience really hurt him. And truth be told, I don’t think it’s the whole racquet-tipping fiasco. Those match points lost against Fernando Gonzalez have to be killing him, despite the positive spin he’s been putting on his Olympics experience. I mean, how do you beat Roger Federer and basically come away with nothing to show for it? That’s too bad, but here’s hoping he shakes it off. And here’s to Fish for a great win and finally making me look like I know what I’m talking about!

(Photo: AFP)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

THAT'S why I picked Mauresmo vs. Safina in the quarters


The number-one player (this week, at least), Ana Ivanovic, got dumped in the second round by qualifier Julie Coin in three sets. I knew she was going to go out, but not this early!

This is what I think: Ivanovic needs to shut it down for the rest of the year. The only time you step on the court can't just be in tournament play. Then, if she keeps going like this, her confidence could eventually take a hit. Take some time off and get that thumb healed!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Times is not right


So this is my first post since I got back in town and it's kind of U.S. Open-related, but it also deals with a little pet peeve of mine.

First, if you couldn't tell by now, I'm a big tennis geek! What can I say? Following career stats of players is kind of a hobby. Aside from that, in my alter ego, I work as a professional copy editor for a magazine (I'm managing editor for HFN, plus I do freelance copy editing for a newspaper, The Journal News). I like to think that I can spot something that might be wrong, particularly in tennis-related stories.

Today, I'm reading The New York Times' coverage of the Open, and I couldn't believe what I saw in a feature on Marat Safin and Dinara Safina, And I quote: "Marat Safin, 28, the once incandescent and later insufferable older brother came to revive his career, having failed to advance past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament in more than three years."

Ummm, aside from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer playing one of the greatest matches of all time this past Wimbledon, what was the second-biggest story of the tournament? Oh yeah, Safin making the semis!

Then, in the same quote-unquote Paper of Record, there was a story about Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams, and their first-round matches. In it, there was a mention that Serena's won seven Grand Slam titles. Ummm, again, at my last count, it was eight, and just in case I had any doubt, Wikipedia and the WTA's Web site confirms it.

Now here's my pet peeve: What happens most of the time during Major tournaments, newspapers often tap beat writers whose sports are off-season to help with the coverage. And unfortunately, because tennis is considered so little a priority to the majority of readers, fact-checking is neglected and stories are underwritten or extremely overwritten, like the above Safin story I mentioned. What happens, too, is that the stories then get picked up by the wire services and the incorrect info gets spread around.

And this happens all the time, especially around the U.S. Open, which provides the opportunity for more domestic reporting.

So next time you see a tennis story written by a name you don't recognize, or you do recognize it, say as a beat reporter covering insert city and mascot here, be careful. You can't always believe what you read, as the old saying goes.

P.S. If you're looking for the above-mentioned error about Safin, you won't find it on the Times' site, as it has an abbreviated version of the story. Hmmm...

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, August 22, 2008

I had such grand plans

I was going to write about the three best matches I've seen in person at the Open.

I was going to give my detailed quarterfinal predictions for both the men and women's tournaments there.

I was even going to tell the story about how I got dehydrated out at the Open just WATCHING the matches and had to spend most of the day in the first-aid area under Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But alas, my time has run out. I'm going out of town this weekend and won't be able to do any blogging until Tuesday for sure. Monday's a possibility, but I'm not sure.

Since I won't be around, please check out the links to your immediate left, particularly the blog roll over there. Great stuff! And if you want to really test your knowledge about the U.S. Open, check out this quiz at Topspin Tennis Blog. It's insane, but fun!

You know, I'm just gonna jot down my predictions from the quarters on: No details; I still have to pack!

For the men:
Rafael Nadal vs. Mardy Fish
Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Andy Murray
Fernando Gonzalez vs. Novak Djokovic
Dmitry Tursunov vs. Roger Federer

For the semis:
Nadal vs. Murray, Djokovic vs. Federer

For the final:
Federer over Nadal

For the women
Amelie Mauresmo vs. Dinara Safina
Serena Williams vs. Agniezka Radwanska
Elena Dementieva vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Vera Zvonareva vs. Jelena Jankovic

For the semis:
Safina vs. Serena Williams, Dementieva vs. Jankovic

For the final:
Safina over Dementieva

That's it! Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Breaking on through to the other side

You know what's the best thing to do if you live in New York the week before the U.S. Open and you're a tennis fan? Hint: It's not going out and playing.

It's watching the pros play, and for free, no less!

The qualifying tournament to try to get in the main draw at the Open kicked off Tuesday, and let me tell you, it's a great thing to do. If you're in the area and you're reading this, then stop reading it and get out there! I'm tempted to tell go up to my boss and tell him that I quit so I can go catch some matches.

Over the past few years, I've managed to catch the full range of players competing: from the ones you know are going to be stars (David Nalbandian, Andy Murray) to players looking to break out of long slumps (Vince Spadea) to veterans trying to play in one more big one (Stefano Pescosolido, Diego Nargiso). While they're putting together the draw this morning, the hopefuls are trying to fill some of those empty spots. Oh, if only I were out there today! Here's what I'd try to catch:

• Nicolas Massu (9) vs. Rui Machado: Wouldn't it be cool to catch an Olympic gold medalist in action? I saw he and Fernando Gonzalez play doubles after they won the big one in Athens a few years back, but I haven't had a chance to catch him live in singles. If you've cracked the top 10, you're a definite player and one well worth watching—especially if it's free!

• Tzipora Obziler (12) vs. Shenay Perry: Now, if I were to tell you I knew anything about Obziler, then I'd have to watch for lightning coming through my window and striking me down. I do remember Perry, though: She had a pretty deep run at Wimbledon in '06 and looked like she was poised for a breakthrough. I think injuries have slowed her down. Here's hoping she gets back on track.

• Sesil Karatantcheva vs. Julie Coin: Coin falls into the Obziler category, but Sesil was supposed to be in the top 10 by now, but a little thing like a positive doping test and two-year ban got in the way. She started back playing this year, and has had some success on the lower levels.

• Gilles Muller (15) vs. Adrian Mannarino: Everybody knows Muller as the guy who killed American Express' Andy Roddick campaign a few years ago. He was in the top 50 for a while, but has really fallen back a few notches, though. He's got game as I've seen him play in the qualies before. Well, actually, if I were to think about it, does he really have game if he's always playing the qualies? Hmmm.

• Alexa Glatch vs. Katie O'Brien (29): Glatch has gotten some press over the past couple of years, as a young American hopeful. Will she make it or is she headed for journeywoman status?

There's other names out there battling all with their own story, such as Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Lilia Osterloh, Kevin Kim, Rika Fujiwara and Hugo Armando. It's a great thing, the qualies. You know, I think I am gonna go in and quit my job. If I hurry, I can make it out for the Massu match!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A gold rush


That's it for the Olympics; all of us tennis fans can start gearing up for the U.S. Open!

Just kidding about the Olympics being over, of course. But the tennis event has wrapped up with all the medals being awarded. I just want to reminisce about what I thought was a pretty good event; actually, the best Olympics ever tennis-wise:

• Rafa rolls on: Rafael Nadal did what a number one is supposed to do: dominate. There was an early hiccup, but he stormed through the rest of the draw, and blasted Fernando Gonzalez in straights in the gold-medal match. Here he comes, New York!

• A clean sweep: Elena Dementieva won the gold, beating one of the hottest players on the planet, Dinara Safina. And the two Russians were joined on the medal stand by another countrywoman, Vera Zvonareva, who took the bronze. A special congrats, though, to Elena, who as I mentioned before, is as determined an athlete as they come.

• Proving his mettle: Roger Federer bounced back from a tough loss in singles to take the gold with Stan Wawrinka. Like Jimmy Arias and Barry Mackay said while they were calling the match, it was great to see one of the best players ever get so pumped up for a doubles match. Maybe THIS will be the win to get R-Fed back on track.

• The Major difference: Whenever Venus and Serena Williams decide to play doubles, which they only do at the big events, the rest of the field can pretty much forget about it. They, like Federer, put their quarterfinal defeats behind them and went on to take the gold in doubles.

And congrats to all the other medal winners and players that made deep runs in the draw. You know, way back in the year, I was worried this Olympics might follow others of the year in being kind of mediocre. I'm glad I was proven wrong!

(Photos: Getty Images)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

WOW!!!!



I really don't know what else to say. I think the headline kind of says it all!

Well, one thing, and I sincerely hope it doesn't offend any international readers: U-S-A! U-S-A!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An open letter to A-Rod


Yo Andy,

I know it's a long trip.

I know it's right before the U.S. Open.

I know there's warm-up tournaments right here in the U.S. of A.

But Andy, old chum, you should've gone to the Olympics.

Some might think that sounds kind of strange coming from me since after Wimbledon, I was practically begging Roger Federer to stay home. My thinking for him was that the Open should've been the priority after that tough loss to Rafael Nadal. However, losing to Gilles Simon and Ivo Karlovic over his next two tournaments might've been a blessing in disguise since he looks pretty rejuvenated so far in Beijing.

Anyway, when you said you weren't going to the Olympics, I didn't mind at the time because I thought that was a good move. But especially last week after getting blasted by Juan Del Potro in L.A., that couldn't be further from the truth.

After getting a first-round bye, you proceeded to blast through a few scrubs on your way to the final. Washington appears to be set up the same way with the only players that could pose a threat being Del Potro and Marat Safin.

Now, if you were in Beijing, you'd be going up against the guys that really are contenders for the Open, not players that are happy to just be playing an ATP-level tournament.

But this just reflects some issues I have about your career and have had in the past. Let me digress for a second to something that's really been bothering me:

What's up with that coaching situation? I have two words for you: Darren Cahill. I was a pretty vocal opponent of your Jimmy Connors dalliance and was real happy when that ended. But you need someone to get you back into the top five again, and unless you're gonna hook back up with Brad Gilbert, "Killer" is your man.

I read somewhere that Cahill told you to take the rest of the year off to work on your game, but there's no need for that: Just drag him out of the booth!

Let me tell you: First time I watched you play was years ago in Miami, you know the one where you beat Pete Sampras? Anyway, I said afterward: "That kid is the truth!" When I'm watching your matches, I still shout at the TV, "Come on, Truth!" Dude, you're still young but you gotta make some moves now. And maybe when 2012 rolls around, you'll be in London for the Olympics, ready to take on all comers.

Later,

Van

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The incredible shrinking tour

I'm sooo confused!

I've written before about the first-round bye situationgoing on with some of the ATP tournaments lately, namely that I don't know why this is being put into play, and also that I'm not a big fan of it.

But the stop in Washington this week really has me confused: Traditionally a 56-draw tournament, there's only 32 spots available this week! Is it the economy? Is it the Olympics? I'm sure there's 24 players that could have filled out the draw not in Beijing!

Did I miss something?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Emerging from the battlefield (women's Olympics quarterfinal predictions)


As Michael Stipe of R.E.M. once sang, "Everybody hurts, sometimes."

That would be the best way to describe the women's field at the Olympics. Lindsay Davenport has already dropped out, and there's some scuttlebutt that top seed Ana Ivanovic might be heading out, too. The Williams sisters have two healthy knees between them and there's no telling what else is ailing the top players.

Before anyone else drops out, though, here's my Olympics quarterfinal predictions for the ladies:

Patty Schnyder (13) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (8): I was thinking Schnyder was going to take out Ivanovic anyway, if Ana decides to play. Being unhealthy against such a tricky player can be bad news. Radwanska could potentially be pushed by Francesca Schiavone or Vera Zvonareva, but I would still expect her to win. And she should be able to motor through Schnyder, too.

Serena Williams (4) vs. Elena Dementieva (5): Williams has some potentially tough opponents in her section, such as Sam Stosur and Alize Cornet, but if Serena's going to bother to make the trip this far, then you can better believe she means business, unless the knee gives out. Former medalist Dementieva will give her a go in the quarters, but not too much.

Victoria Azarenka (12) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Wait, where's Venus, you might be asking yourself. Well, rust and a pretty good player in Azarenka will do her in, I feel. I think Kuznetsova will cruise up to this point, and should be able to handle Azarenka in the quarters.

Dinara Safina (6) vs. Jelena Jankovic (2): Safina, aka Ms. Summer Hard Court '08, will keep her hot streak going, I feel, and even if she gets into trouble, expect her to fight her way out of it. Jankovic, Ms. Soon-to-Be-Most-Undeserving-Number-1-Ever, will breeze through the first few rounds before going out to Safina.

Here's what I think the semis will look like:

Williams over Radwanska: Experience wins out here. It'll be tough, but Serena will get her in three.

Safina over Kuznetsova: Svetlana becomes another bump on the Safina Express. I just don't think she has enough to stop her.

For the Bronze Medal match:

Kuznetsova over Radwanska: Kuznetsova does get to add her medal to the family's haul (her brother was an Olympic cyclist.)

And for the Gold:

Safina over Williams: I think it's a heroic effort to Serena to get this far with so little match play, but Safina's just playing unreal right now. Plus being healthy helps. And she has to win a Major title eventually, so why not here?

(Photos: Getty Images)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Golden opportunity (men's Olympics quarterfinal predictions)


Jordi Arrese. Andrei Cherkasov. Leander Paes. Arnaud di Pasquale. Mardy Fish.

Those are a few of the less-heralded men's singles players that have won Olympic medals in tennis over the years, in competitions that have had Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Roger Federer, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick among them.

In other words, you really don't know what's going to happen on the biggest world stage of them all. (If you were to say you picked Nicholas Massu to take the Gold in '04, then they should start calling you Nostradamus!) And this year looks to be the toughest Olympics ever.

But I'm going to give it a go with my quarterfinal breakdown I usually reserve for the Slams. I think there'll be six players under the age of 23 to make the quarters, which is pretty remarkable: that is, if it happens, of course!

Anyway, on to the predictions!

Roger Federer (1) vs. James Blake (8): I'm not going to go into any details because it's been the biggest story of the year, but everyone knows Federer is struggling. Right off the bat, he has to go against big-banger Dmitry Tursunov. I'm expecting him to get revenge on Tomas Berdych in the round of 16 for that Olympic loss last go-around. Blake's draw is definitely tricky, too, because he could possibly face Gilles Simon or Robin Soderling in the 16's. A lot of times, I think Blake's ripe for an upset, but not here. However, facing a (what-I'm-assuming-to-be) rejuvenated Federer will be it for him.

Ernests Gulbis vs. Marin Cilic: Gulbis plays Nikolay Davydenko in the first round, which I'm thinking will be the first big upset of the Games. Cilic is in the same section of the draw with five-seed David Ferrer, who might even go out in the first round to Janko Tipsarevic, and Fernando Gonzalez. But I think that will be the kid's first upset, taking out Gonzo in the second. I like Ernie in this one; he just loves playing on a world stage.

Gael Monfils vs. Novak Djokovic (3): Monfils hasn't done anything since the French, but his path up to the 16's is so winnable, that he should be able to get through on ability alone. Djoko should have no worries up to this match, and he should be able to handle Monfils, too.

Andy Murray (8) vs. Rafael Nadal (2): Murray's pretty much been one of the players of the summer, but so has soon-to-be number one Nadal. As much as Murray's gotten better, I still don't think he can handle the sheer brutalilty (how's that for a description?) of Nadal's game. Too bad, because I think Murray deserves a medal: maybe in '12?

Lot of kids in that lineup there! Here's what I think will happen going forward:

Federer over Gulbis: Gulbis has made amazing strides this year and I bet will make even more before the year's out (he has to because at the beginning of the year, I said he would end '08 in the top 15!), but R-Fed should be able to take him.

Nadal over Djokovic: With Nadal getting to number one, at least they won't be playing at this stage for a little while at least in the big events. Nadal sends him off with one last beatdown to make up for that recent Cincy loss.

In the Bronze medal match:

Djokovic over Gulbis

In the Gold medal match (I think this is the first time I've ever said it):

Nadal over Federer: If Federer has trouble with Nadal on grass now, what's he going to do on hard courts? Nadal's really on the verge of doing even more special things in his career.

(Photos: Getty Images)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The lady killers (The TTA? top 10: women's edition)


If you aren't among this group of elite players, then there's a nine out of 10 chance you'll be packing your bags before you know it if you have to go against one of them.

Or at least that's how it should be!

I'm taking the criteria I put together for the previous post and bringing it over to the WTA Tour to create the Tennis Talk, Anyone? Women's Top 10 list. And remember the rules: I'm throwing out the vast amount of injuries many of these players have suffered, as well as the mental maladies that may have hindered them. Determination goes a long way here, and of course, talent does, too.

So here you go: The TTA? Women's Top 10:

1. Serena Williams: Clay, grass, hard courts, Rebound Ace, carpet, nails: It doesn't matter what surface she's on. Remember that little thing called "the Serena Slam?" Plus, while it may seem like she's all offense, all the time, how many times have you seen her get one more ball back in play until she's back in control of the point?

2. Venus Williams: A powerhouse who can out-and-out dictate with her strokes and athleticism. I know that forehand of hers can break down at times, but I think that's more of a mental issue than a technical one—and mental issues don't count here!

3. Amelie Mauresmo: Mauresmo's probably the most versatile player out there—she can slug it out from the back and has good hands around the net. A physically healthy, mentally fit Mauresmo would have about seven to nine Majors in her pocket—and that would include at least one at each of the Big 4.

4. Maria Sharapova: The strategy's simple here: Serve big, crank the reply, hit sledgehammer returns. She's so high on this list, though, because with all the outside stuff going on in her life, you know her biggest thrill is getting out there and competing. She hates to lose.

5. Dinara Safina: I would've had her on this list before her recent run, since it's primarily talent-driven. This new "you'll-have-to-shoot-me-to-win" determination of hers makes her even more dangerous.

6. Ana Ivanovic: A big game and a stated desire to want to win Slams brings her up. She's still pretty young, too, and has plenty of potential to only get better.

7. Jelena Jankovic: Just imagine: an unbandaged, no choking in big matches Jankovic! That would be a sight to see, and many Majors would be hers for the taking.

8. Agnieszka Radwanska: In three years, she'll be number one in the world. Right now, though, she'll have to settle for being number seven on this list. She's already winning titles and making deep runs at tournaments on every surface.

9. Patty Schnyder: If you were to put a quarter in the corner of the Ad service box, I think she would hit it nine out of 10 times. She has tons of options on what to do with the ball—loop it, slice it, drive it—all in the middle of a rally!

10. Elena Dementieva: She's made over 20 career finals in singles, among them two Slam runner-up finishes—all with that serve! Talk about determination! There's players with more talent, but few with her fighting spirit.

There they are. Anyone that shouldn't be here?

(Photos: Getty Images)

Monday, August 4, 2008

In a perfect world (The TTA? top 10: men's edition)


Just imagine a world where flakiness didn't exist, where injuries didn't derail progress and your talent reflects where you should be in the rankings. Determination also pays off for any technical shortcomings you might have to help you climb up the rankings.

Well, that's what I'm doing here: imagining!

Andy Murray's great win in the Cincy Masters yesterday got me thinking: If you were really to look at it from an ability standpoint, he should at least be number four in the world, right behind the guy he knocked off, Novak Djokovic. He moved up to six, but does anyone think that he couldn't take out David Ferrer or Nikolay Davydenko?

I decided to make up my own version of the top 10: the way it would be in a perfect world. Talent, as I mentioned above, is a big part of making the list, and if you have that single-minded determination, a la Rafael Nadal, that helps too.

So here goes: the debut of The TTA? Top 10 Male Players! From the top:

1. Roger Federer: He's slumping now, but is there any doubt he's the best player? Few players have matched his versatility in history.

2. Rafael Nadal: The soon-to-be number one has the sheer physical ability and force of will to overcome most of the people on this list, despite some of them being more naturally talented.

3. Novak Djokovic: I think he's probably the most versatile player after Federer, but can still wilt in big situations against the two in front of him.

4. Andy Murray: Bagging Cincy was the beginning of big things for him, I feel. I don't think he's strong enough yet to handle Nadal and his clay-court game might be kind of lacking, but I think he'll only get better.

5. Richard Gasquet: You're probably thinking, "That dude's a headcase! No way!" But remember, mental lapses don't count here! Young, strong, a threat to win on all surfaces: He makes the cut.

6. Jo-Wilifried Tsonga: Forget Max Mirnyi: This guy is the real beast! Who knows if he'll ever get healthy again, but as with his fellow Frenchman Gasquet, deficiencies don't count here!

7. Marat Safin: The veteran of this group should only lose to the above players alone. Ever.

8. Marcos Baghdatis: One of the most versatile shotmakers out there: You have to think he has the potential to beat anyone on any surface.

9. David Nalbandian: Perfect groundies, good hands at the net, smart serving: What else do you want? Being older than most of the other guys ahead of him is all that's keeping him back. (Remember: No knock for mental or physical deficiencies!)

10. James Blake: One of the most imposing games on tour, which should translate to any surface.

There you have it, the first TTA? top 10! Any omissions?

(Photos: Getty Images)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

'Someday they'll be calling me Dinara's big brother'


That was a quote made a few years ago by Marat Safin in regard to his baby sis.

If she keeps going the way she's been going this year, by next year that could definitely be the case. Dinara Safina won her third title of the year today, beating Dominika Cibulkova at the Rogers Cup.

Now, I have a thought on the Safin, Safina siblings: She's showing way more fight and desire than her brother has shown over most of his career, if not all of it. I like Marat, but look, when have you had the feeling that he wanted it more than anything? He's got two Majors, when he should at least have about six or seven (the final loss to Thomas Johansson at the '02 Aussie was horrible).

Every time Dinara's out there now, I get the impression she'll do whatever it takes to win and she's definitely the best player on the women's tour right now.

I don't want it to seem like I was taking a dig at Marat in the previous paragraph. I was just saying as far as I'm concerned, she has definitely stepped out of his shadow with the way she's going about the game, and here's to hoping she keeps it up!

(Photo: Getty Images)