Sunday, June 28, 2009

You ever seen "Sixteen Candles"?

Well, just like that Molly Ringwald classic, where her family forgot her birthday, Tennis Talk, Anyone?'s second birthday passed and I completely forgot it!

Happy belated birthday, dear blog of mine, and thanks to anyone and everyone who's come by and checked this site out!

— Van

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Three is the magic number

So how do you like Wimbledon so far now that we're at the third round? Why, it was just yesterday we were in the second!

I know I'm digging it, and it's pretty wild to think that the round of 32 is upon us. I guess the biggest names to go so far in the tournament have been James Blake, Maria Sharapova, Juan Martin del Potro and Marat Safin. The Sharapova loss is shocking, and I thought Blake would've done better.

The matches have been of a pretty high quality, and there are a few on tap tomorrow that should continue that. Here's a few that I'll be keeping close tabs on:

* Mardy Fish vs. Novak Djokovic: I said earlier in the week that I thought Fish would get Djoko and I'm sticking by it! This could be a career-defining moment for Fish.

* Roger Federer vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber: Federer's going to be OK in this one. I just think it could be entertaining from a high-level-of-shotmaking perspective.

* Ivo Karlovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: INSANE firepower in this one!

* Francesca Schiavone vs. Marion Bartolis: Yes, I really will care about the outcome of this match, mainly because I like Frannie's game, but I think Bartoli will pull it off.

* Gisela Dulko vs. Nadia Petrova: Can Dulko follow up her upset over Sharapova tomorrow? I guess it's something we'll all see!

(Photo: AP)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Long live the queen (Wimbledon quarterfinal predictions, women's edition)

Oops, the start of the tournament got away from me before I got this up! Sorry about that, but a little thing called day-to-day life got in the way. Looking at the draw—and what has happened in recent years—I think the cream of the crop is Venus Williams, and I don't think she's ready to give up the crown anytime soon.

None of my intended picks lost on the first day of action at the tournament, so I figured it was safe to share my thoughts with everyone! : ) So here it goes:

Dinara Safina (1) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (9): If you hadn't seen it, check out Naf's QF breakdown at Tennis With Attitude. She's going with Amelie Mauresmo to make the quarters out of Safina's section. I think it's a good call, and one I was real tempted to make myself. Mauresmo's definitely the most accomplished grass-court player in that bracket, but I'm going with intangibles on picking Safina, such as her realizing she has a lot to prove to justify her ranking. I think she can at least get to the quarters. Wozniacki just won a tournament on grass over the weekend and looks to have a pretty good draw. She's definitely capable of beating Svetlana Kuznetsova if they meet in the fourth round. Catch her first-round match with Kimiko Date Krumm for some old-school entertainment.

Venus Williams (3) vs. Agnieska Radwanska (11): If by chance Venus doesn't at least make it this far, you'll have either Sam Stosur or Bethanie Mattek-Sands to blame. See, Venus can come up with unpredictable losses at times. I don't think that will be the case this go-around, but just to hedge my bets... Radwanska's been playing solidly, but she'll have to watch out for Na Li in the third round. Jelena Jankovic is a non-factor, as is Ana Ivanovic up in Williams' bracket, I feel.

Marion Bartoli (12) vs. Elena Dementieva (4): They both won their first-round matches easily, but they've had some spotty results lately. However, they have better Wimbledon results than anyone else in their sections. I think Bartoli's biggest threat will come from countrywoman Virginie Razzano, while Dementieva will have to be wary of Alisa Kleybanova, Maria Sharapova's conqueror last year.

Maria Sharapova (24) vs. Serena Williams (2): On Wimbledon Primetime, Martina Navratilova made a point about Sharapova that I thought was pretty interesting: She said she didn't think Maria, with her shoulder problems, would be able to serve hard enough to win. I think that could be the case, but there's no reason she shouldn't be able to get to the quarters. As for Williams, her early-rounders could give he a little workout, but not too much.

For the semis:
Williams over Wozniacki, Williams over Bartoli.

For the final:
Venus over Serena: This is really Venus' home now and I like her to keep adding to her title haul. Most players barely have the opportunity to win six regular titles, much less Wimbledons. But add to it she shall!

The return of the King (Wimbledon quarterfinal predictions, men's edition)

As the saying goes, the show must go on!

Our Rafael Nadal-less Wimbledon kicks off in a matter of hours. It's a shame because I really thought he was going to make a go of it. The draw's been reshuffled to accommodate his absence, but even if he were there, I was still going with Roger Federer to pick up his sixth title. Andys Murray and Roddick might have other things to say about it, but that's my call!

Anyway, I have to do a little bit of bouncing back after my disastrous French Open quarterfinal predictions, so here's my lineup:

Radek Stepanek (23) vs. Andy Roddick (6): Juan Martin del Potro got shuffled up to Rafa's spot in the draw, but I don't think he's ready to make a mark on the grass yet. Someone has to come out of that part of the draw, so I'm going with Stepanek. Lleyton Hewitt's a threat up there, but I'm just not feeling it with him here. I think Roddick should be in pretty good shape for his quarter, but he has to be wary of Ordina Open champ Ben Becker and always-dangerous Tomas Berdych.

Andy Murray (3) vs. Fernando Gonzalez (10): Murray's supposed to have clear sailing to the finals, according to a lot of folks, and I agree with that. I don't think anyone in his section is particularly worrisome. I'm going with Gonzo as his QF opponent just because I see that section as so weak and unpredictable. Gilles Simon is a nonfactor as far as I'm concerned. Nicolas Kiefer could make a run, especially with being the most accomplished grass-court player in that section, but you never know with him. The whole section's a crapshoot, so I'm putting my stake on Gonzalez.

Marin Cilic (11) vs. Mardy Fish (28): I picked Cilic to go far at the French a few weeks ago (and we see how that turned out!) and I'm going to do it here at Wimbledon, too. Halle champion Tommy Haas, who's really been playing well lately, is around in his section, but I'm going with the rising star in their potential third-round match. I like James Blake to finally make the fourth round here, but he'll also fall to Cilic, I feel. As for Fish, you might be asking yourself, "Dude, what about Novak Djokovic?" I think he's ripe to be upset here and I believe Fish is the one to take advantage of that in the third round. Janko Tipsarevic is lurking in that quarter, but he's someone you never really know what is going to happen.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (9) vs. Roger Federer (2): You know who should be dominating on grass? Ivo Karlovic. However, I just don't think he has the mentality to do well in Slam tennis. That's really why I like Jo-Willy to come out of that section. Federer's Federer. 'Nuff said on that.

For the semis:
Murray over Roddick; Federer over Cilic

For the finals:
Federer over Murray: I know Murray's really eager to win a Slam, but this is Roger's time. Sampras, book your ticket to London and get ready to watch Fed take the Major title record.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Representing the Andy Roddick Complaint Department

I don't know if Andy Roddick's people are making a complaint about this or not, but if not, I got their back!

Why won't the seeding committee at Wimbledon make him the fourth seed? I wrote about this last year after he was behind Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer, who had meager, at best, grass-court credentials between them. This year, my contention is that he's behind Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in the just-released-today seedings at the six spot.

Djokovic does have a Wimbledon semi on his resume, but del Potro has nothing near that with only two second-round trips to show for his time playing over the past couple of years. Roddick, on the other hand, is a two-time runner-up and a four-time Queen's Club champion. The committee's always made a big deal over past performances and grass-court ability: Why does Roddick get snubbed?

If you were to really look at the credentials being weighed on the placement, then you could make the argument that he should be above Andy Murray as well. But I guess that would be taking it too far!

My major beef with the whole thing is that grass is such a specialized surface and there are only a handful of players that do well on it, such as Roddick. What if he's now drawn to play one of the top three in the quarters? Doesn't that hurt a tournament to have what could be a potential final early on?

But I know that the mind-set Roddick has to take is that it doesn't matter where he was put in the draw, it's still up to him to get it done. I just wish that if the rules were to recognize past success, then the committee would stand by the tradition it's created. If Maria Sharapova was moved up thirty-something spots, couldn't Roddick gone up two?

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mowed down

I know that sometimes it's hard to take something from warm-up tournaments right before Slams, but if you were to, then Wimbledon on the women's side could be a real interesting affair.

A lot of the big names, such as French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dominika Cibulkova, Team Serbia (Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic) and Nadia Petrova have all lost early between the Eastbourne and s-Hertogenbosch events. Grass isn't the natural surface for any of those players and Kuznetsova had this to say, which I think you can apply to a lot of players, especially the ones that played pretty solidly over the past few months:

“It’s really tough for me. I played for two months on clay and I have it almost in my blood. On this surface, everything is opposite. For me, it’s too much to change in three days.”

I think you can expect a lot of top names to go out within the first three rounds or so there. With the exception of the Williams sisters, Dinara Safina and I'm going to say Maria Sharapova, almost no one's safe, I'd wager. Because if you aren't adjusted now, it might be just a little too late!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Playing favorites

To think, Wimbledon's only a matter of days away! Especially after a pretty eventful French Open ending week before last. But I guess that's the schedule for you!

But before that gets going and all, I just wanted to take a look back at last week's Queens Club event won by Andy Murray, who became the first Brit to win that tournament in 70-or-so years. It's a very impressive result—especially the way he did it without dropping a set—and he's landed atop many a favorites list going into the big W. I think he will win the tournament, but I just can't see it this year.

Rather, I'm going with the big dawg, Mr. French '09 himself, Roger Federer. I know the draw isn't even out yet, but as questionable as I was about Fed's Slam prospects earlier this year, I've reversed course and feel as strongly as I did, but contradictory to that. That make sense? I think I lost myself on that one!

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I really don't see Federer losing many Major matches the rest of the year. Actually, I don't see him losing many more regular tour matches, either. I'm assuming that he must just be so relaxed now, because in his mind, I imagine, he can't see much more he has to do on a tennis court. I know Murray's been beating Fed a lot lately, but going into such an intense situation could have an adverse affect on him as well.

The fans could be in a treat with a relaxed Federer going about things!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

For some, the grass is always greener

Funny thing, but when I first started watching tennis, I hated the grass-court season!

I guess it was because in what seems like eons ago, you had to serve and volley on it, and as a kid with my favorite players being Mats Wilander and Andre Agassi and me trying to emulate them, the s-and-v game just really seemed dull. But as I grew a little older, I began to appreciate that style more and realize how impressive those old matches between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were.

And another thing about it, too, dipping into my personal playing past: The local tennis center used to have these courts with artificial turf that was covered with sand to simulate the conditions of playing on grass, and I actually used to do pretty good on them. Usually, the only time I was at the net was to shake hands, but I did OK because I could return good, my two-handed backhand was pretty flat and could stay low, and I let the surface help out my mediocre serve. (Ah, the glory days!) So I came to like anything that i could play decently on and my attitude about watching lawn tennis has changed.

It's definitely a different game, though, from the old days as I wrote about last year. But I think I'm moving past my old fuddy-duddy ways and finals like last year's at Wimbledon between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would change anyone's mind!

Anyway, the grass-court season has gotten well under way this week with the quarterfinals already set at this week's tournaments. I'm expecting good shows to be put on by Andys Roddick and Murray over the stretch, and on the women's side, watch out for Maria Sharapova. Funny how just last year, one wouldn't tag her as a "player to watch" since it would've been a given that she'd do all right. I think she can do some damage over the next few weeks.

It should be a good time this season, and I know some players are happy to be back on the lawns.

(Photo: AFP)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

State of confusion

Sorry I haven't been on the blog the past couple of days, especially since we all got to witness a bit of history in the making. I haven't been particularly busy or anything.

You know what I have been, though?


Yep, that's it. I've been wrestling with the idea that the tennis world as I've known in and thought I would know it has been turned upside down and I don't know how to react. I still don't, really, which adds up to me being confused. If you notice, I have a little poll posted asking if Roger Federer's the greatest of all time after he completed his career Slam. It's hard for me to argue against his numbers, but by the same token, it's hard for me to support his numbers compared to what others have accomplished.

I do know for sure Federer is one of the most likable, captivating players I can recall ever watching and I was so happy to see him win the other day because nobody deserves it like this guy. And I didn't post anything adding to the GOAT debate because I didn't want my little meager thoughts to intrude upon a joyous moment for fans everywhere, including me. I don't want that to sound like I was going to say something negative about him. Maybe it's just not really the time to debate it or think about his standing in history. I'll leave that poll up, though, over there on the side. Funny thing is, I haven't even voted on it yet. Know why?

I guess I'm still torn.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'd like to thank the fans for their support

I'm speaking those words on my behalf, even though I'm sure Roger Federer feels the same after that epic match against Juan Martin del Potro. And I'm not referring to the readers of TTA?, at least not this time. (But don't think I'm not grateful to you: I am, each and every day!)

No, who I'm referring to now are the fans of the sport, particularly my fellow tennis bloggers and Twitterers out there, and especially Freakyfrite's GoToTennis blog after yesterday's events.

If you didn't stop by there, FF was hosting a live chat on her blog and embedded a stream of the Fed-JMDP match, which basically saved the day for me because of the broadcasting fiasco between everybody that's been providing coverage of the sport in the U.S. the past two weeks. Here's what I was thinking was going to happen yesterday when I saw that NBC had first broadcast rights of the day:

They would cut in on the Robin Soderling-Fernando Gonzalez match, then when that was over, go to the beginning of the second semi. Then, ESPN2 or The Tennis Channel would've picked up the conclusion of it. Would that really have been so hard to do. Instead we got a condensed Soderling-Gonzo match and had to wait for Fed-JMDP on tape delay! Ridiculous and horrible all around.

Luckily, I thought if anyone was going to make sure others are watching her guy, it's Freakyfrites! I went there and was able to catch the match. I know it was streaming elsewhere, but here's the thing, too: I was so discouraged, I didn't feel up to going through the trouble of searching for it. I'm glad I didn't have to!

But it's efforts from fans like FF that keep the game going. I've given shout-outs to my fellow bloggers before and if you come by here, check out the ones on the links on the left as they're all doing great work. And not just those as there are tons more out there.

I hope I don't sound too cornball, but I'm glad to be in their company!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Inside the mind of Van Sias, part 2

Thank God for Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, two players that I actually got right on predicting to advance at least to the quarterfinals at the French.

Why did the draw go so wrong for me? I don't know, that's what I'm trying to figure out here! Recapping it will clear my mind and hopefully convince you out there that I have some inkling of what I'm talking about! : )

So, here's how I saw the women's draw:

1st quarter:
My call: Dinara Safina vs. Carla Suarez Navarro
What happened: Safina vs. Victoria Azarenka
Why I made my call: Like I said, Safina's making me look like a genius (yeah, riight)! She was as sure a bet as any in the draw this year. It's sad to say, but I knew in the bottom part of the bracket that the eight seed and defending champ Ana Ivanovic was going nowhere. What in the world is up with her? Injuries? The head? Anyway, I liked Suarez Navarro to take out Azarenka, but we see that didn't happen.

2nd quarter:
My call: Sabine Lisicki vs. Kaia Kanepi
What happened: Maria Sharapova vs. Dominika Cibulkova
Why I made my call: Even though I could barely be more off, I think this is a bracket where it looked like I knew what I was talking about, if that makes sense! This was the section of the tournament where I knew the high seeds, Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva, weren't getting through. Vera didn't even play! So I thought it was totally up for grabs here. I actually almost went with Amelie Mauresmo to get far! I thought about Sharapova winning a couple of rounds, but didn't think she'd be match tough enough to keep going.

3rd quarter:
My call: Jelena Jankovic vs. Elena Dementieva
What happened: Sorana Cirstea vs. Samantha Stosur
Why I made my call: Now, I know Jankovic hadn't been such great shakes this year and Dementieva's really been in a bad way for months now, but I thought just on pedigree alone, they would go far. I'm shocked by this run Stosur's on! Who woulda thunk it? And I'm surprised Jankovic lost that fourth-rounder like she did to Cirstea.

4th quarter:
My call: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Flavia Panetta
What happened: Kuznetsova vs. Serena Williams
Why I made my call: Technically, I should probably just mark Williams down for at least a quarterfinal spot come Slam time, no matter how bad she's playing, but I really thought Panetta would've gotten her. Flavia got blasted in the first round by Alexa Glatch, which gives a hint at how unpredictable the whole tournament has been!

There's your peek into why I made the calls I made. Stick with me, though: I'm bouncing back at Wimbledon!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Inside the mind of Van Sias, part 1

Why didn't I go with that guy in the picture?

Half the semifinal brackets in both the men and women draws are set at the French, and I can't help but think of this:

Man, did I blow it.

See, one of my favorite things to do come Slam time is to make quarterfinal predictions and I usually do pretty good, with about four to six right in each draw. This year's French is officially the worst I've ever done with only 3 out of 16 picks right! Now, I had a pretty good deal of players make the round of 16, but they fell short of the Elite 8.

What I figured I'd do now to put my mind at ease as I gear up for Wimbledon is show you how I went about making my picks and why they didn't come to fruition. I figured if I at least do this, you'll know my mind was in the right place! You can find the post where I originally made my picks here:

Here's how I saw it for the men:

1st quarter:
My call: Rafael Nadal vs. Fernando Verdasco
What happened: Robin Soderling vs. Nikolay Davydenko
Why I made my call: To me, this bracket was a no-brainer. You have to go with Rafa getting that far. We all know what happened there! As for Verdasco, I thought Davydenko wouldn't be healthy enough yet. I was even thinking Verdasco could've challenged Rafa. So much for that match-up! Now Soderling is all the way in the semis. I didn't even consider him a threat, figuring David Ferrer would've gotten him.

2nd quarter:
My call: Marin Cilic vs. Mikhail Youzhny
What happened: Andy Murray vs. Fernando Gonzalez
Why I made my call: You know how the only time you hear of Janko Tipsarevic doing anything is around the Slams? Well, I thought that was going to be the case here with him taking out Andy Murray, who I still wasn't convinced had a decent clay-court game. Guess I should stop saying that! And then I thought Cilic would knock out Tipsy. I was really tempted to go with Gonzo, but I knew he was injured at some point in the clay season, so I went with the player that had been playing decently the past few weeks in Youzhny. As far as I was concerned, Gilles Simon and Marat Safin in that section were nonfactors and they proved me right. (It's something I got right!)

3rd quarter:
My call: Juan Monaco vs. Novak Djokovic
What happened: Juan Martin del Potro vs. Tommy Robredo
Why I made my call: A result that I considered to be kind of surprising was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga knocking out Monaco, especially as how I thought the opposite was going to happen! Clay is definitely Tsonga's worst surface and Monaco's best. I thought Monaco was going to get both Jo-Willie and JMDP. Djokovic was another no-brainer to me. I thought he and Robredo in the 16s would've been a decent match, but I guess Phil Kohlschreiber had other plans!

4th quarter:
My call: Andy Roddick vs. Roger Federer
What happened: Gael Monfils vs. Roger Federer
Why I made my call: Wow! Federer is the only quarterfinalist I got right! I liked his draw from the start, even though I was a little concerned about him possibly playing Tomas Berdych in the fourth round. I was torn between going with Jurgen Melzer or Andy Roddick for his opponent. Monfils wasn't a possibility for me because he didn't even confirm he was going to play until the last minute! Even if he did decide to, I thought Melzer would've gotten him. Now, Roger better watch out tomorrow!

See? There's a method to my madness! The women's breakdown is coming later.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Plenty in the 'tank' (A 'love' story)

There were a couple of interesting matches scattered about the grounds of the tournament today, huh? The biggest ones in my mind were the almost-upset and the definite-upset, and both had 6-0 sets involved that I think had a major impact on the outcome.

First, how about that Roger Federer-Tommy Haas match? It looked like we were in store for another major upset after yesterday's mind-blowing Rafael Nadal loss. Man, Haas was thisclose to pulling it off, and it looked like Fed came out feeling some of the pressure of winning the whole thing. Once Haas lost that third set, though, I kind of figured he was done. But one thing he did really kind of threw me for a loop.

In the last couple of games of the fourth set, it seemed like his effort level really dropped (and I know John McEnroe was advocating this in his commentating). Now, I don't mind seeing players conserve energy for the final set when it looks like things are going against them, but DUDE: This is Roger Federer we're talking about!!! What in the world was a past-his-prime Haas thinking? That he was going to be able to beat Federer in a winner-take-all final set after he's won the prior two? Come on!!! I think the only player out there that could afford to think like that would be Nadal, and then it would have to be a match on clay, where Nadal has the edge. You give Federer a chance to get on even ground, he's going to take it and run with it, as he did today.

The other match where a love set seemed to make a big difference was in the Jelena Jankovic-Sorana Cirstea fourth-rounder. How does it happen that a contender for the title wins the first set and gets bageled in the second to the 40th-ranked player in the world? In this instance, I can see where Jankovic's thought process might be to let the set go and then smoke the kid in the final frame. But what happens, too, is that kids can take a little bit of confidence from that situation and hang tough — and even fight off match points, like Cirstea did to come away with a great win.

So, does the old tank job really work? I guess it depends on the player. Haas and Jankovic sure didn't get any love with the move!

(Photo: Getty Images)