Wave that [French] flag!

Is France doing some media marketing?

It seems that this week, France has managed to capture the bulk of the headlines in the press in the international section.  And there is a captivating, if not liberating theme!

  1. The liberation of the two French France Television journalists, cameraman Stéphane Taponier and reporter Hervé Ghesquière, after 18 months (547 days) in captivity at the hands of the Taliban
  2. The captivation of the world’s media with DSK scandal in NYC and his potential incarceration
  3. The nomination of Mrs. Christine Lagarde (N.B. her name = The Keeper), current Minister of Economy, as the first woman at the head of the IMF {BRAVA!}
  4. And, finally, Tsonga’s cuffing of the Feds in SW19.  A brilliant come from behind.  Roger looks like a prisoner of ghost’s past!

Is it just because I live here in France that I think that the French marketing machine was on overdrive?  If France were a brand, is this a good way to be top of mind on the world’s stage?  Your thoughts?

Roger Federer is William Tell. Just amazing!

Roger rogered this one…twice.

If you needed any extra proof that there is talent behind those hard hitting, charming chestnut brown eyes, you need to see this. Whether or not you play tennis, you will appreciate the unedited skill. Note that he is NOT wearing a tie.  Still, I don’t think that suit can feel like a Nike outfit.  Posted on Eurosport’s site, there has been a grand total of two views of this video since being posted mid August… Bizarre.  Presumably, Eurosports’ settings are off.  In any event, imagine this, he is just the third best player in the world (although he’s still number 1 in my eyes).

I certainly hope there will be a few more views herewith!

Beautiful, no?

US Open Tennis 2009 Winners

In a slew of late-in-the-tournament rain delays, the US Tennis Open 2009 provided two shocking winners for both the men and women’s tournament. Both sides produced what I might describe as wonder kids (or if you prefer wunderkinder), but with a twist.

On the Women’s side, the Belgian Kim Clijsters took full advantage of a wild card entry to sweep through 5 seeded players — not least of which both of the Williams sisters — to win in comfortable style 7-5, 6-3 against another surprise finalist, #9 seeded Caroline Wozniacki, from Denmark. Clijsters, who ‘retired’ prematurely in 2007, had taken off 2 years to have Jada, her daughter, who came on court (with father and basketballer Brian Lynch) to help her mother with the Trophy. Not since 1980, when Evonne Goolagong Cawley defeated Chris Evert at Wimbledon, has a mother won a Grand Slam title.  Along the way, Clijsters also became the first wild card entry to ever be crowned US Open champion.  The unseeded Clijsters jumped to 19th seed in the world immediately after the victory, now that she has completed her third professional tournament. A fairy tale tournament and year for Clijsters, whose father died at the beginning of the year.

In the Men’s draw, it was Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, the 20-year-old sixth seed, who twice came back from a set down to win a monster five set match 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 against the perennial favourite Roger Federer. Federer had been carrying a 40-match, 5 crowns-in-a-row unbeaten streak into this final. Ironically, another Argentine, David Nalbandian, was the last man to beat Federer at the US Open (in the fourth round of 2003). Del Potro joins Guillermo Vilas (1977) as the only other Argentine to have won the US Open. And it was the first time in 10 years that the final had gone to five sets. Federer was undoubtedly flustered yet again by the hawk eye, a technology that has earned Roger’s general disapproval (“I think it’s nonsense…”). So Federer will go down in history with five consecutive wins at the US Open, behind Bill Tilden’s 6 wins (each time over the feckless William Johnston) and Richard Sears (7 in a row at the end of the 19th century). Del Potro was an unlikely winner as far as I was concerned to the extent that he even managed to get beyond the high-potential Cilic in the quarters. Then he blew aside a lame #2 Nadal 6-2,6-2,6-2 in the semis.

For the doubles, on the men’s side it was the fourth seeded Leander Paes (IND) and Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) who beat third seeded Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) and Mark Knowles (BAH) in three sets 3-6,6-3,6-2, having also beaten the top seeded Bryan brothers (USA) in three sets in the semi-final.

And on the women’s side, the 4th seeded Williams sisters (USA) powered to victory over top seeded Cara Black (ZIM) and Liezel Huber (USA) by a score of 6-2,6-2, to redeem their singles performance.

Interesting fact on the men’s front: a right hander has won the title every year since 1985 (Lendl). However, from 1974 to 1984, it was a left hander who won (11 years in a row, and featuring four different players: Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Guillermo Vilas and Manuel Orantes). See more US Open Stats here.

Wimbledon Tennis 2009 Winners – A fine vintage

Wimbledon Tennis 2009 LogoAfter Roland Garros, the tennis world turned its attention to Wimbledon 2009. Perhaps to help us forget about the economic woes and, certainly, to usher in the summer, we were treated to another glorious green grass tournament. If the French had a bad tournament, the US contingent of tennis players did themselves proud on the grass courts and, on the men’s side, like the U.S. men’s football (soccer) team at the 2009 Confederation Cup, were proud losers in both of the hotly contended finals. On the women’s side, the Williams willed it all.

Roger Federer, Tennis at Wimbledon 2009Wimbledon 2009 Men’s Singles Winner: Roger Federer (world #2 but top seed at this year’s Wimbledon) outlasted a highly determined Andy Roddick (seeded #6) on a score of 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14 in a 4H16 match that, with hindsight, turned in the second set tiebreak in which Roddick squandered four points to go up 2-0 sets. The historic men’s final, featuring the longest ever 5th set (1H35) in a final and the highest number of games (77), brought Federer to the summit of 15 Grand Slam titles, eclipsing in six years what the on-hand Pete Sampras (14 titles) achieved in 12 years. Little known fact: the man who has 12 titles whom Pete beat and who is now 3rd on the all-time list? Roy Emerson. In winning Wimbledon again, Federer reclaimed in the process the #1 world ranking. Roddick’s game, to his credit, was at its best and it was only in the 30th game of the 5th set that he was broken for the first time in the match, after having held 37 times consecutively. Surprisingly, in this match, Federer (27 years old) out-aced Roddick (26 years old) by a wide margin, as he hit a career high 50 aces to Roddick’s 27 — even if Roddick had a tournament high 187. Roddick has now lost three Wimbledon finals, all to Federer, his seeming nemesis. Final stat that I liked: since his first title in 2003, Federer has won 30 of 34 tie break sets at Wimbledon. Now that’s called clutch play.

Of note, in the men’s draw, one must also tip one’s hat to the great tournament by homegrown Andy Murray (#3), if only that he was stubbed out by Roddick in a quality semi-final Battle of the Andy’s match. I also would call attention to a stirring tournament by the unseeded Aussie, Lleyton Hewitt, who walloped Juan Martin Del Potro (5) in straight sets (6-3, 7-5, 7-5) and then came back from 0-2 down (for the sixth time in his career) to beat Radek Stepanek 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. The Hewitt-Roddick match was also another great match, where Roddick evened the career matchup 6-6 in a veritable 3H51 5-set slugfest 6-3, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4. The final good word goes to Tommy Haas (#24), the 31-year old ‘veteran’ whose form surged at Roland Garros and clearly extended into Wimbledon. His 3rd round 5-set triumph over Marin Cilic was only trumped by his 4-set dumping of the 22-year-old number 2 seed Novak Djokovic 7-5, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

Wimbledon 2009 Men’s Doubles Winners: The returning champions, Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonijic (#2) saw off the top seeded Bryan twin brothers (USA) in an exhilarating match which featured many “huge” points where literally all four men were exchanging multiple blows and volleys at the net. The four set thriller was settled with just one break in the second game of the fourth set. The final score: 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Wimbledon 2009 Women’s Singles Winner: After having battled through a 3-hour grind in the semi-final against Elena Dementieva (#4) and staved off a match point, Serena Williams (#2) took it to her sister Venus (#3) in straight sets, 7-6 (3), 6-2 to win her 3rd Wimbledon singles title and 11th Grand Slam, one less than Billy Jean King on the all-time leader board (still way back from the record 18 singles titles by Navratilova and Evert). Serena avenged her loss to Venus in 2008; moreover, each of Serena’s 3 Wimbledon titles has come at Venus’ expense. Serena now holds a 6-2 edge in Grand Slam finals against her sister. Great stat: This was the third time that Serena has won a Grand Slam having fought off match points in prior rounds.

Wimbledon 2009 Women’s Doubles Winners: Whereas the American Bryan brothers were not able to pull off the Men’s Title, the American Williams sisters stormed to victory 7-6 (4), 6-4 over the Australian duo, Samantha Stosur and Renée Stabbs. In so doing, the Williams siblings won their 4th Wimbledon doubles title and 9th Grand Slam doubles victory overall. For Serena, that meant that her Wimbledon winnings eclipsed GBP 1 million ($1.4 million) at GBP1.08 million. (I didn’t check to see if by any chance Serena also played in the mixed, but I doubt it).

Wimbledon 2009 Mixed Doubles Winners: Mark Knowles (Bahamas) and Anna-Lena Groenefeld (Germany) seeded 9th beat top-seeded Leander Paes (India) and Cara Black (Zim) 7-5, 6-3.

Roland Garros French Open 2009 Winners – A Career Grand Slam signed Federer

Roger Federer Winning Roland Garros 2009
Roger Federer pulls off the Career Grand Slam

French Open 2009 Men’s Title
Roger Federer (#2) rolled over Robin Soderling (#23) in 3 sets, 6-2, 7-6 (1), 6-4, the ninth time in a row that Federer has beaten the surprising finalist. The young Swede had been the giant killer for four rounds in a row, but folded against history, horrid weather conditions and a hat-bearing intruder.

Roger Federer Winning Roland Garros French Open 2009Federer’s win is a triumph overdue in many respects, but the overwhelming tears as he dropped to his knees upon winning, showed the pent up emotion. In the six matches leading up to the Final, Federer had pulled off two five-set victories, battling back from being down 2 sets to 1 against the Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro (5th seed), in the semi-finals [3-6,7-6(2),2-6,6-1,6-4], and in the fourth round, from 2 sets to 0 down against the unseeded German, Tommy Haas. [6-7(4),5-7,6-4,6-0,6-2]. On top of that, Federer also had to see off two popular French players, Paul Matthieu (4 sets) in the third round and Gael Monfils (3 sets) in the semi-finals. With this win, Federer finally earns his record-tying 14th Grand Slam and closes out the last of Slam titles that hitherto had eluded him because of his Roland Garros nemesis, Rafa Nadal who had been eliminated by Soderling. In so doing, Federer becomes the sixth ever career Grand Slammer. Kudos. Proof that the title was a draining experience, he pulled out of the Wimbledon warm-up grass court tournament in Halle, Germany.

French Open 2009 Women’s Title
An all-Russian affair, Svetlana Kuznetsova (#7) outnerved Dinara Safina (#1), to claim her second ever Grand Slam title and first French Open title, 6-4, 6-2. It was an ugly game, loaded with unforced errors and not that much fun to watch. Kuznetsova has won two titles this year, and now has 11 overall. For Safina, it is the third Grand Slam final she has lost, victim of fragile nerves.

French Open 2009 Men’s Doubles: Lukas Dlouhy (Czech Republic) and Leander Paes (India) (seeded #3) fought back to win 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over the unseeded Wesley Moodie (RSA) and Dick Norman (Belgian), who had themselves knocked off the Bryan Brothers coming back from losing the first set to 0, then winning the second set in a tie break.

French Open 2009 Women’s Doubles: Anabel Medina Garrigues-Virginia Ruano Pascual, Spain defeated Victoria Azarenka (BLR) and Elena Vesnina (Rus) in a fairly one-sideed 6–1, 6–1.
French Open 2009 Mixed Doubles: Liezel Huber-Bob Bryan, both US, overcame Vania King (US) and Marcelo Melo (Brazil) in a gargantuan battle: 5–7, 7–6(5), 10–7.

Tennis Wimbledon 2008 Winners

The grass may have slowed Wimbledon down, but the epics kept coming.

As with virtually any Wimbledon fortnight that I have known, there was a bit of rain to slow down the event. But, this year, the ‘new’ grass Wimbledon 2008which was introduced in 2001 just seemed to make the bounce rather too regular. According to this June 18, 2008, Time Magazine article (or Boschendal’s Wine Blog), the new grass is 100% perennial rye (rather than a mix of 70% perennial and 30% creeping red fescue). If English sense of humour is dry, then Wimbledon’s is rye. And the court’s speed means baseliners are ruling the day. Of course, it is true that a decade ago, at times, it felt like the serve-and-volley (Sampras, Ivanisevic…) was too expeditious.

Rafa Nadal wins Wimbledon 2008As slow and predictable as the grass may have been, the standout match — and another thrilling epic between the two men — was the amazing five-set men’s final between Roger Federer (#1) and Rafael Nadal (#2). Nadal jumped to a 2-0 set lead, which was erased by a combatant Federer to even up the match 2-2 with two consecutive serious tie-breaker sets. In the end, Nadal managed the momentum reversal, overcame 3 failed match point conversions in the fourth set, several rain delays, and eeked out a monumental 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 win. Nadal won 209 points to Federer’s 204. Each had 13 breakpoint opportunities, with Nadal capitalizing on 4 of them to Federer’s one. While sending out 25 aces, Federer also committed 52 unforced errors (to 27 for Nadal). Therein lies the rub. Thus endeth Nadal’s Wimbledon drought and Federer’s magnificent run of 65 straight victories and 5 consecutive titles.

One of the other highlight finals of Wimbledon 2008 will surely be the wonderful men’s doubles, won by the Canadian doubles veteran, Dan Nestor with his partner Nenad Zimonjic (2nd seeds), overcoming Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet (8th seeds) 7-6,6-7,6-3,6-3 (who earlier had dispatched the #1 seeded Bryan brothers in the semi-finals in a tight-as-can-be 7-6,5-7,7-6,7-6 victory). Nestor and Zimonjic pulled off the first set 14-12 in the first tie-break.

Women’s Results

On the women’s side, the singles final came down, one more time, to the Williams sisters. [And, so too did the women’s doubles title.] Venus (#7) toppled her younger sister Serena (#6) 7-5, 6-4 to take her fifth singles title. Venus’ draw wasn’t particularly difficult, but to her credit she never dropped a set. It was the 7th time the sisters have met in a Grand Slam Final, with Serena having won the grand majority ever since Venus’ 2001 win at Wimbledon, including Serena’s two championship wins in the last two sisterly confrontations at Wimbledon. In the women’s doubles, the 11th seeded Williams’ beat 16th seeded Lisa Raymond USA and Samantha Stosur AUS 6-2,6-2.

And in the other final featuring sibling rivalry (the Byran brothers), Bob Bryan and Samantha Stosur (loser in the women’s doubles) upset top-seeded twin brother Mike Bryan and Slovakia’s Katarina Srebotnik in the mixed doubles in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.

All England’s Tournament was another fine fortnight of famous fights– despite the grass.

Double-handed backhand dominating if not dulling women’s tennis

The double-handed backhand: dominatrix of women’s tennis

I read with interest in USA Today, June 25, 2008, an article entitled, “Women’s one-handed backhand becomes mostly a dropped shot.” The article points out there are 7 women players in the top 100 that have a one-handed backhand and the highest ranked is Francesca Shiavone (20th). The ages of these seven players features one 19-year-old and the remainder are between 25 and 34. The precocious retirement of Justine Henin took out the only bona fide champion with a single hand backhand (and a beautiful one at that). A few women have a single-handed slice backhand (Ana Ivanovic, for example). However, the game, its style and creativity, seem to have run the single-handed backhand out of the system. Evidently, the Eastern European machine is fabricating top class double-handed backhanders (Serbia and Russia together own 7 of the top 10 slots). Kudos meanwhile to the Williams sisters for penetrating into that fold and dominating Wimbledon...again. Too bad Serena wasn’t named Mars though. How much more fun would it be to see Venus facing off against Mars? As we know, Mars never dominates Venus.

As much as the double-fisted Jimmy Connors was exciting to watch in the 1970s and 1980s, a double handed backhand in men’s tennis is common currency today–if not the norm as well (13 of the top 20 in the ATP men’s ranking today have a double-handed backhand). There are still many single-handed backhanders in men’s tennis, including Federer‘s; but, trailing Roger in the rankings are six straight double-handers. If it is a less common site in men’s tennis, a “beautiful” [single-handed] backhand has become an exceptional thing to see in women’s tennis.

As a single-handed backhander, I feel nostalgia for the era when single double-handed backhands and net games were common, since it was also when the game was far more varied in style and creativity. Is it possible that tennis, like music, needs some good old fashioned bases? For tennis’ sake, the game will need to find an edge to keep the larger public interested. The general elimination of net and finesse players is doing tennis a great disservice. The thumping 2001 Wimbledon men’s final between Goran Ivanisevic and Patrick Rafter (38 aces and lots of net action) seems to be in the distant past. I, for one, now watch much less professional tennis (would rather be playing, yes). Maybe the uncovering of the [oh so evident] doping among the top players (read: Nadal in particular) will help stem the tide of power. What else can be done? Change the rules? Make the balls lighter?

Roland Garros French Open Winners 2008

The French Open 2008 came to a close with yet another resounding victory for Rafael Nadal as the Men’s Champion and the win of Ana Ivanovic on the Women’s side coinciding with her ascension to the #1 world ranking.

For Nadal (at right with his bionic muscles), on the men’s side, it was hisRafael Nadal - Bionic muscles fourth title in a row, with the last three coming at the cost of Roger Federer. The score in this year’s final was particularly punishing: 6-1,6-3,6-0. Nadal has now won 28 matches in a row (he has never lost at Roland Garros), tying Bjorn Borg’s record of four French titles in a row. And, along the way this year, Nadal didn’t drop a set, including in the more hotly contested match with Novak Djokovic 6-4,6-2,7-6(3). For Federer, it’s back to the drawing board. He may need a steroid-induced injury to Nadal to allow him to conquer the elusive French Open.

The men’s doubles were taken by the South American duo, Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay) and Luis Horna (Peru), pacing to a 6-2,6-3 score against Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serbian Nenad Zimonjic. The 2008 winners probably deserved their title, having knocked off the Byran brothers (USA) in the quarterfinals in a thrilling three set match 6-3,5-7,7-6(1).

On the women’s side, Ana Ivanovic took the singles honours and along with it the women’s world number 1 ranking, displacing Maria Sharapova in what seems to be a field dominated merely by Russian and Serbian players. Having lost in the final last year, this was a strong performance and just reward for Ivanovic, trouncing the surprise finalist Dinara Safina 6-4,6-3.

The women’s doubles were won by the 10th seeded Spanish duo, Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, 2-6,7-5,6-4 come from behind victory over Dellacqua (Australia) and Schiavone (Italy).

All in all, an Open with little by way of scandals or major surprises. Nadal will surely break Borg’s record at the start of 2009 in terms of consecutive wins.

Tennis 2008: Men’s Field Wide Open

Mardy Fish embraces his win over FedererThe defeat of Federer and Nadal in the semi-finals this Easter weekend at the Pacific Life Open 2008 (Indian Wells) has me thinking this year will be a wide open year in men’s tennis. Not only has Federer not won a tournament this year, but he is getting beaten by mere mortals. Mardy Fish (seeded 98th in the world ATP) produced the latest fine upset (see the BBC writeup). Federer, who won this tournament 3 of the last four years, is definitely facing a serious challenge to his authority. Kudos to Mardy’s run, where he posted consecutive wins on 5 seeds (Andreev #31, Davydenko #4 and Hewitt #24 and former two-time champion and before the Roger scalp, the unpredictably good David Nalbandian #7). Mardy Fish had lost his first four encounters against Federer, so this was truly a great performance on his part.

On the other side of the draw, Novak Djokovic’s (#3) defeat of Rafael Nadal (#2 and defending champion) is a little less surprising in itself, if it weren’t for the double whammy (ie Roger losing too). Djokovic is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Australian Open 2008 wunderkid Tsonga put in a good match against Nadal; we surely haven’t heard the last of him!

To make the weekend all the more surprising, both “upsets” were by the same score 6-3, 6-2.

So, it looks like this year, the men’s field is opening up and that the domination of the mighty Federer and the mighty-armed Nadal may be put into serious question. While equality makes the field wide open, the Game of Tennis will need to have some superstars in order to keep attracting a paying audience. Let’s see how 2008 shapes up then!

UPDATE on March 24th: The 20-year-old Serb, Novak Djokovic beat Mardy Fish 6-2 5-7 6-3, in a tight match with plenty of swings in momentum (BBC writeup). Djokovic’s win here means his third Masters Series title of his career. Great tournament by Mardy Fish all the same. On the women’s side, Ana Ivanovic (BBC writeup), another 20-year old Serb, won 6-4, 6-3, against Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Serbs keep marching on (see a recent post on Serbian tennis wave – Eastern Revolution).

Australian Open Tennis Winners 2008

Australian Open Tennis 2008Thus endeth the Australian Open 2008.

Well, on the men’s side, Novak Djokovic pulled off the win against Federer and then saw off Tsonga in a closely contested 4-set final match (4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (7-2) – see the BBC report here). It was the first ever Grand Slam men’s singles victory for a Serb. Kudos. As Djokovic said in his post-victory conference, it was a strange match with ups and downs; but “[t]he difference is if you stay focused in the end.” This was a great example of the importance of psychology since, as the favourite between the two suprise finalists, Djokovic had to get over a blistering start from Tsonga. As for Jo-Wilfried, a great tournament having laid claim to some heavy scalps along the way, including 9th seeded Andy Murray in the first round, then Gasquet (8th seed, no respect!), Youzny (14th) and last but not least the big-armed Nadal (2nd). Not bad for the 38th ranked player.

On the women’s front, Maria Sharapova took the honors over Ana Ivanovic, avoiding a Serbian sweep in the singles. Note that Serbian Nenad Zimonjic (and female partner Sun) won the Mixed Doubles title. Also, local boy (Aussie that is), Bernard Tomic, won the Junior Boy’s Title… but you know that with such a name, he might just also have some Serbian blood.

All in all, a great tournament with some revelations in the men’s side. Still, I ask myself when are they going to start getting serious about cleaning up the drug trade?