Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Elena D is still in the tourney!

You guys are missing out. Elena Dementieva of Russia will be playing a semi-final match vs. Serena Williams on Thursday at Wimbledon. She's a terrific player and has been one of my favorites for quite a while, mostly because she seems very sweet and genuine. Wish her luck!

In other news...Roger faces Ivo "Dr. Ivo" Karlovic of Croatia tomorrow in the quarterfinals. This guy is nearly seven feet tall and serves out of...well, a tree. I'm worried.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Tommy, Tommy Haaaaas!

Went for the glamour shot. Heh. How could I not?

This is Tommy Haas of Germany. He's a veteran tennis player at 31 years old. I've always loved watching him play, but have only sporadically rooted for him. I don't know, something about his attitude (and pretty boy looks, maybe?) turned me off. But now, at the end of his career, I find myself rooting for him mostly for sentimental reasons. It does help that he has a beautiful one-handed backhand, which for me has always been a big attraction as far as tennis goes.

Tommy was hailed early on as the next Boris Becker in Germany, along with Nicolas Kiefer. Neither lived up to the hype, and honestly, after reading some of the German pressers I have felt for both of them. The German press has been brutal on both them as far as expectations and disappointment goes. Tommy did reach a ranking of number two in the world, but has never won a Slam title. In addition to this media pressure, Tommy's parents were involved in a horrific motorcycle crash at the height of his career. They were apparently very lucky to be alive, in fact his dad was in a coma, and the recovery for both was a long process. This had to have a devastating effect on his concentration. (As a side note, by the way, his parents are friends of Arnold Schwarzeneggar's, and Tommy received a call from him following the accident.)

Haas has also suffered a shoulder injury which led to surgery on his rotator cuff. This kind of surgery is usually career ending in tennis, but Tommy worked extremely hard to come back to the tour and is still in the top 30. A couple of years ago, he was warming up for a match at Wimbledon and stepped on a tennis ball that had rolled in front of him as he was practicing serves. He sprained his ankle and had to pull out of the tournament. Ouch. Some very tough luck for the German over the years.

In the last major, the French, Tommy was up 2 sets to love against Roger Federer and was close to breaking Roger's serve in the third. Roger somehow pulled that match out, partly due to some drop in Tommy's level of play, and it had to be a heartbreaking defeat for the German. Not many 5 set matches are lost after winning the first two, and the term "choker" is often applied after such losses. Rather unfairly, I think.

Tommy unfortunately had to re-live this same scenario at Wimbledon yesterday. He led Croatia's Marin Cilic two sets to love and then lost the next two. They were 6-6 in the fifth when the match was suspended due to darkness. Most hard core tennis fans were glued to this match today as they resumed play, trust me. My heart was beating fast as I watched Tommy serving for the match at 9-8 and then face a break point! He saved that and went on to win, 10-8.

What am I doing rooting for this guy, by the way? He's in Roger's half of the draw! He also won a pretty prestigious grass court title coming into this year's Wimbledon. I guess, like Scarlett, I'll choose to think about that tomorrow.

(By the way, the "Tommy, Tommy Haaaaas!" comes from some silly cartoon my kid used to watch where the fighting characters would yell something like "Kamekameha!" I never figured out what they were saying, but I would yell my little reply and drive my kid nuts. Hee.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

So I was browsing around and.....ooooh!

Big babe tennis.

Daniela Hantuchova from Slovakia. I have been a fan of hers for a while, starting when she was around 19 and won Indian Wells in 2002, beating Martina Hingis in the final. Big serve, lethal backhand. Not exactly fleet of foot though, probably due to her nearly six foot lanky frame. Daniela has struggled pretty much ever since that first big title. She got too thin after reaching the spotlight and being hailed as a glamour girl (I resisted the glamour shot, but google...there are plenty!), and then actually got a little chubby trying to recover from that. She appears to be very fit right now, but with Daniela, a lot of the time the struggle comes from between the ears.

Daniela is an excellent doubles player with a couple of Slam titles to her credit there. Despite her height, she has remarkably "soft hands", meaning her net game - where volleying comes into play - is very good. Doubles play will develop that, as it is a fast game with lots of volleys, but generally you have a real talent or you don't.

Anyway, she'll face Serena Williams in the next round of Wimbledon, where I'll definitely be rooting for her. She's very capable of producing the upset in that match.

ADDED: Oooh...forgot to mention the drama involved the last time these two played each other at Wimbles. Dani was playing a spectacular match and then Serena sustained a cramp in her leg and was looking finished, but hobbled through - sometimes just laying on the court clutching her leg - until a rain delay suspended the match. Some thought that was a bit of gamesmanship, and it (natch) got into Dani's head and she fell apart, losing the match after they resumed play. Come on, Dani! Revenge time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


See? ;-)

Say hello to Gisela Dulko. She beat Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon today. Although Maria has been struggling since returning from shoulder surgery, she is still tough as nails to put out of a tournament. The relatively petite Argentinian stood up to the big babe tennis today admirably, and I'd still call it a great win and an upset.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Championships at Wimbledon begin tomorrow!

I've been in "waiting impatiently" mode. Last year, Federer went into this tournament a 5 time in a row champion (tying Bjorn Borg for the record). He then faced Rafael Nadal for the third time in a row in the finals. I've said before that the matches between these two have always caused great anxiety in me, and this last Wimbledon final proved to cause more than that for me. In a long 5 set match which ended in near darkness, Nadal finally succeeded in wresting the prized crown from Roger's grasp, and it was incredible and heartbreaking to watch all at once. I haven't been able to watch this match again.

Since 2005, Roger had gone into The Championships at Wimbledon carrying disappointment from Roland Garros (the French Open), and each time as a result of being defeated by Rafael Nadal. As a fan of Roger's, I'd been watching Nadal chase Roger for years, succeeding in preventing him from claiming the one title he was missing to round out his career. You see, there are four major tournaments in the tennis season - called Grand Slam tournaments or Slams for short, and Roger had won all but the French Open. Many tennis analysts and fans considered the lack of a French Open title to be a major hole in trying to proclaim Roger the greatest tennis player ever. And there was Nadal, in the Wimbledon 2008 final, taking what I saw as Roger's last refuge. So you can see how, after losing his prized title at Wimbledon last year and then finally capturing the Roland Garros title this year, the drama was building for a possible rematch at Wimbledon - with me hoping for him to get some revenge, right?

It ain't gonna happen. Roger can still reclaim the title, but Rafael Nadal, defending Wimbledon champion, will not play due to...well, I'll let you be the judge. Is it an "injury" when you have pain but doctors say you can play without further risk? Is it too much mentally to play through the pain, so in effect, more like he's mentally unfit? I'm wondering how I'd feel if this were Roger and he pulled out of a tournament of this magnitude like this? Thankfully, I haven't have to wonder so far. He hasn't missed a Slam for injury or otherwise in his entire career and has played several at below his best, including one where he had undiagnosed mononucleosis.

I'm still very excited about this tournament. A win here for Roger would be huge and no less a feat than if he were to face Nadal here, in my opinion - and he'd not only reclaim his title, but the number one ranking! I'll be on the edge of my seat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Alrighty! What now?

So...last I left things, I was a wee bit upset at a major sporting disappointment. But remember how I hinted at having some other sports to fall back on? Yeah...like my Tigers, right? Well, they're getting ready to lose three in a row now as I'm watching the Cards have a field day in only the sixth inning, ahead 11-1. Not lookin' too promising there, guys! (And I am not mentioning the name of the team that scored the previous two wins, either. That city is now on my list, if you know what I mean. Heh.)

And then there is Roger. So you can kind of forgive me for posting the hot pic, right? A girl needs some inspiration right about now.

Speaking of Roger Federer...Wimbledon is right around the corner. I'd really like Roger to take back his crown there. He lost it in a tough, heartbreaking, instant classic five set match against Rafael Nadal (remember him?) last year. Dare I ask for another sports dream to come true this year? Yeah. I dare. To dream, anyway.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Penguins win the Cup

Congrats to them. And didn't I say they were scary? Yeah, well I knew they would be tough. It's hard enough to get back to back championship wins, but when you face the team you denied the Cup to the year before? You'd better bring something special.

I'm not sure if the Wings couldn't bring it, or the Pens just didn't allow them to - though I think I'm leaning toward the latter. In the last two games the Wings seemed pretty off, but honestly, the Penguins seemed to be everywhere. I think that's just a good indication of great hockey being played.

I couldn't watch the end. I'm like that. I get too emotional seeing the looks on the players' faces, to be honest. I love those guys! I don't watch Roger lose much, either. When I sense it coming, I turn it off. But it's never about being disappointed in my team or player - or disgusted with the winner. Heck, even when my team or player wins a big game or match I find it tough to look at the loser.

So again, congratulations to the Penguins and their fans. And congrats to my Red Wings for a great season. I'm so proud of them.

Hockey chick out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What is your favorite sports memory?

For me, it was attending a Detroit Tigers playoff game with my mom and 2 of my sisters in 1984. You see, my mom was the sports nut in the family. She was not only a big sports fan, but basically an athlete herself. Whatever sport my mom "dabbled" in, she tended to do very well at, though golf was really her main sporting hobby. And boy, was she good. So good that my sisters and I never beat her, even into her 70s. Not that we were very good, but sheesh.

But back to the Tiger baseball game...my brother's friend owned season tickets right behind the Tigers dugout. He generously gave them to us. I can't remember which game it was, but I do remember that they won it and how excited my mom was to see her Tigers up close. I remember her waving to Aurelio Lopez. "Hi, Aurelio!", my mom said, as he approached the dugout. He smiled and she giggled like a schoolgirl. What a magical day that was! Sitting with my mom, under the lights, five feet away from some of our biggest sporting heroes.

I really think that had to be one of my mom's biggest sports dreams come true. Well, that, and the Tigers winning the World Series that year. I'm so glad I got to share that dream with her.

Wings lost last night - I can't complain.

What's up with that?

Well, they did win it last year, and the Penguins got all the way to the finals again this year to stage a rematch...that's a hungry team. Not to mention scary good when they're "on", and I think they were last night. I think the Wings are lucky the score was so close.

So I was crabby afterward. But not for long. Ok, a little longer than I would have liked, but it didn't take me long to remember my blessings, and I mean beyond sports there (so many!), but even in my sports world, how could I complain?

My Wings are a great hockey team. They're still in contention for the Cup. My Tigers are very watchable - and for baseball, that's all it takes for me. And then there's Roger...in theory, I should not dare ask for another sports dream for a while.

In theory.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Mighty Federer

I couldn't talk about it pre-match. I could barely hope for it. After four years of losing to Rafael Nadal (first in a semi-final, and then 3 consecutive finals)I had come to believe the dream may never come.

It has come. For Roger and for his fans. Roger beat The Great Soderling, conquerer of the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the French Open (Roland Garros) today.

With this win, Roger has tied Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slam title wins for most ever. Some (John McEnroe) are already calling him the greatest of all time because Pete never won the French Open. I'm just glad he's up there now. Never to be questioned as far as his greatness again, I would hope.

Congratulations and thank you, Roger. For becoming my favorite tennis player ever when you were 19 as I watched you end Sampras' run at Wimbledon; for allowing me to witness some of the greatest tennis ever played; and for persevering, through all of your recent adversities and the race against time to deliver this dream for all of your fans.

(Photo courtesy of my friend Sam - that's his glass of Amaretto - thanks, Sam! Cheers!)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Kuzzy wins!!!

Congratulations to Svetlana Kuznetsova for her French Open title win over Dinara Safina today!

I was so torn between these two...one, Safina, trying to prove her world number one status by finally winning a major (Slam) title, and the other trying to prove that she's not a "one-slam wonder", having claimed the U.S. Open several years ago as her only Slam title.

Kuzzy had the poise today, and as a result, the better game. Classy ladies, both. Well done, ladies!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I don't dare post about it now. It's too big of a deal to me...

And I'm not superstitious really, but when it comes to sports I don't take any chances! My son once talked me into making the same dinner every game night during a Wings series. Not fun (but...they won?) LOL. But this isn't about the Red Wings. Though they lost last night...grrr. (And someone is happy in the comments of the post below this! Hee.)

Mum's the word from me on the subject I won't broach here. Yet. But it would be a big time sports dream come true for me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chicken Little wants a post about my Wings!

I love that I turned chicken little on to the Red Wings! I feel so proud! Hee.

Unfortunately, I can't be as detailed about the Stanley Cup finals as I can with tennis. At least so far. I watched the two Stanley Cup finals games on Saturday and Sunday, but not with full focus. The Wings make me nervous at times and I have to look away when there is a prolonged stretch where the Penguins are pressing and keeping the puck on our end. I did see a couple of spectacular saves by Osgood.

There was a bit of a dust-up at the end of game two, and I got nervous when some Pens went after Zetterberg and some fights broke out. I'm a hockey chick, but I've never liked the fighting! Tensions were high, and apparently there is some discussion going on as to whether a Penguin or two will serve a game suspension but I didn't get all the details. I do know that the Wings coach Mike Babcock is on record as saying he didn't feel anything that went on warranted any suspensions.

Pavel Datsyuk is still out with an injury, which I really believe is a broken foot and he won't be back (he took a puck to the foot - ouch!), but the Wings are being coy about that injury. Day to day. It just shows how deep this team is though, when you consider how key of a player they're missing.

Anyway, the Wings are up 2-0 in this series, both games played at home so far, so now they head to Penguins territory. We'll see how they do in their house. I think these last two games were a lot closer than the scorelines show (both games 3-1). The two teams are very evenly matched and I'm afraid of the Penguins, to be honest. The Penguins' play literally put me on the living room floor last year in agony over some very close games. If the Wings can take one of these next two...well, I'll be an insufferable fan. Are you with me, chicken little?


Monday, June 1, 2009

Soderling beats The Clay King!

"I kept telling myself, this is just another match. Regardless if it is the fourth round against Rafael Nadal"

- Robin Soderling

Did anyone happen to hear my squeal of delight when I learned that Spain's Rafael Nadal - the number one men's tennis player in the world - had been knocked out of the French Open yesterday?

Sweden's Robin Soderling achieved what Roger Federer has failed four years in a row to do, beating Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 and it was beyond impressive. More about the match in a bit. I'd like to set this encounter up a little, as these two players have a bit of colorful history.

Nadal met Robin Soderling en route to the 2007 final of Wimbledon. The scoreline was 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6 and it was the beginning of the fifth set - a very tight match which Soderling looked very capable of winning.

Let me begin by explaining that Rafael Nadal is famous for his "ticks" on court. Various things he does as he sets up to serve with the whole routine pushing the time limits for serving - one notorious tick being that he digs at his briefs from behind. Yes. And on every serve. It's pretty unsightly to watch, but apparently it is something that he can't stop - kind of like an OCD habit? So not only does he have this really gross habit, but add to that the fact that he takes way too much time for all of these ticks, and you often get frustrated players (and viewers) watching this. He disrupts the flow of the match. Granted, what he does is mostly within the rules. But if it isn't a deliberate tactic, it sure feels like it sometimes.

Anyway, during this match, Nadal had, in his usual manner, made Soderling wait to receive serve and had also held up Soderling's serve for his little routines. A player can delay the server by raising his hand to indicate he isn't ready to receive serve, which Nadal often does and then takes his time settling. Again, within the rules, but not often done - at least so regularly. Some consider this a bit of gamesmanship. Well, Soderling at one point looked ready to receive the serve, but apparently needed to run back to his chair for something...put his hand up, but Nadal didn't see it and nearly served before he realized Soderling wasn't ready. Nadal gave a disgusted head shake. Yeah, can you believe it? Neither could Soderling. Watch what he does in response in this clip from the match.

So, if you watched the clip you'll see that Soderling mocked the digging at the briefs. I watched this live and I have to tell you, I laughed. Of course. And then I also knew for certain that Soderling had just lost the match. Nadal glared at him and found a new inspiration, and it was over pretty quickly after that. This little exchange has not been forgotten by avid tennis fans, and NBC showed it yesterday during the match to show this history between the players.

I did watch the match on NBC when it was broadcast in taped delay, and Soderling was sublime. He has a lot of firepower - strong, powerful shots that he kept deep in the court, which is a must against Nadal. That and his great movement continually seemed to have Nadal on his back foot. Amazing. Nadal generally is like a human backboard. He gets everything back and wears his opponents down. But Soderling jumped on seemingly every short ball and did something special with it. His serve was very effective as well. And here's the thing...just like when playing Federer in the years past, players have a tendency to lose belief when playing Nadal. And who can blame them? If you've ever seen Rafael Nadal play on clay, you would understand how a sense of futility can creep into his opponent's consciousness. That's a killer right there, and there was no sign of this from Soderling. He just kept his cool and didn't seem to show the nerves that this occasion could bring out. That all by itself is just incredible.

Look what all of that earned for Soderling: his place in the record books for ending Nadal's four year undefeated reign at Roland Garros, and great chance to take this prized title for himself. Ending Nadal's streak is a very big deal in tennis even if he doesn't win another match at this Open. I hope he does. He certainly deserves some more success after this historic defeat. I want Roger to win this, but I'd be more than happy to celebrate a title for the man who beat The Clay King in his house.

ADDED: I'm being a bit obnoxious about Nadal in this blog, if you can't tell. And part of that is just sports, you know? Rooting against the guy who you consider to be your fave's nemesis. It really is a compliment to Rafael Nadal underneath it all, and as I have many friends who are great fans of his, I really have no desire to rub salt in this wound. I really hope they don't read this. If you are a big sports fan you really do understand how this stuff hurts, and I certainly have no wish to add to any of my friends' pain.