Archive for May, 2009


Day One: It begins again

Monday, May 25th, 2009

The clay at Rolland Garros is baking under the Parisian heat. The brown, green and lime colours of the French Open are just that bit more exciting in the bright sunshine. If the hordes of fans mobbing the likes of Nadal and Murray as they leave practice sessions are anything to go by, then I am not the only one excited to see it begin.The French Open is the pinnacle of the clay court season, and the true start to the summer that we Europeans in particular recognise.


But there’s one issue rumbling under the surface at this 2009 French Open: the women’s and men’s draws in this Grand slam couldn’t be more polarised. You could see it brewing in the Australian Open, and there have been whispers of it throughout the last few months. Finally, thedifferences have been cemented.


The men’s: a contest to find someone not  more »


Women’s French Open Draw Wide Open

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

With all the talk over the past few weeks about Nadal’s drive to make it five, there has been very little said about the women’s side of the tournament.

And while there is no doubt that the men’s side is the more interesting of the two at the moment, the French Open is the major that the Williams sisters have the greatest trouble winning, and this along with there being no real standouts makes for a fascinating fortnight.

The Williams’ Record At Roland Garros Is Not Great

Between them Venus and Serena Williams have won a total of 17 Grand Slam singles titles…but just one of those was at the French Open in 2002 when the pair met in the final, with Serena claiming victory on the day.

This is obviously their least favourite major, and for the rest of the field this will be an encouraging thought.

The Rest Of The Field Is Vastly Inexperienced

Of the current top 15, there are just two women apart from the Williams sisters who have won a major – defending champion Ana Ivanovic and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. The only other major winners in the tournament are Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova.

Mauresmo’s form has been less than spectacular, and Sharapova might have been considered a chance if she had been able to make her comeback from injury a few months ago as opposed to a few weeks ago.

Ana Ivanovic has steadily dropped in the rankings ever since her French Open win more »


The History of Tennis and the French Open

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Every sport has its roots, and tennis is no exception.  As most origins of sports, they are a bit bizarre. Tennis, apparently, began as a pass time for 12th century French monks who found themselves with a ball, a long empty room, and a bit too much time on their hands.

The word ‘tennis’ is viewed amongst historical circles as deriving from the French verb ‘tenez’, as in ‘take this’. Not quite as violent as it sounds; the monk who threw the ball into play would have shouted this to announce he was about to do so. There were no racquets in 12th century tennis; just your hand and a ball, a glorified version of handball.

It wasn’t long before the game was picked up as a form of procrastination for royals. French kings enjoyed whacking the roughly sewn balls around with big wooden bats for hours on end (the bats being the first racquets, created earlier on in the 13th century). Their servants were the first ball boys, and were responsible for throwing the ball into play so the likes King Henry VII would not be inconvenienced by doing it himself (many argue this is the origi more »


Federer Wins Madrid & His Timing Couldn’t Be Any Better

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

The past few weeks have seemed like Groundhog Day in the world of clay court tennis.

This week the Monte Carlo Masters…Nadal wins.

This week the Barcelona Open…Nadal wins.

This week the Rome Masters…Nadal wins

This week the Madrid Masters…Federer wins???

What…Nadal got beaten…at his home tournament…a week before the French Open?

I don’t want to get too optimistic about the result, but in terms of creating excitement just before the second major of the year I don’t think there could have been a better scenario.

Nadal just seemed to be steamrolling everyone he came across, barely losing a set let alone looking vulerable enough to get knocked out of a tournament.

The Swiss underdog (it’s not often you get to use that phrase) not only won the match, he battered his opponent in straight sets to claim his first victory over Nadal in their past 6 encounters, three of which were defeats in the finals of a major.

Now before anyone starts getting too excited, there are a few things that need to be mentioned which partly explain why the defeat was so emphatic.

The clay at Madrid is faster than the surfaces at the other venues, including Roland Garros, which is always going to make things a little more comfortable for Federer.

Then there is the matter of Nadal needing four hard fought hours to defeat Novak Djokovic the day before, with the Spaniard being troubled by his knees throughout that match.

Federer on the other hand coasted more »


Neanderthals and Tennis

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Recently I sat in a lecture on the origins of humans, religiously scribing all of the morphological characteristics of a Neanderthal. Homo neanderthalensis certainly wasn’t a pretty sight; big flat nose and brow-ridges that would only seem useful if you needed to see something in a strong downpour. But as we were going through the way in which the arm was built, my lecturer made an interesting comparison: ‘the Neanderthal shoulder is strong, showing signs of heavy stress. It looks very similar to the shoulder of a professional tennis player.’

It was a comparison that certainly got me thinking. Which sport would I associate all the connotations of ‘Neanderthals’ with? For starters I’d consider a ‘Neanderthal-like sport’ to be brutish, rough around the edges, requiring strength and stockiness and not a lot of complicated rules. So what sport would that be?

You could possibly draw a comparison to rugby; I swear there’s a few Neanderthals on the England rugby team trying to disguise themselves as modern humans. But rugby is quite a confusing game when you don’t know the rules, and the Neanderthal features seem to be limited to only a few more »

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