Monday, August 1, 2011

A weekend of satisfying results

Welcome back Serena Williams. It's such a joy to watch you play. It’s so great to have you back on the tour. It’s so emotionally satisfying to have you back in the winner’s circle. Third tournament back, first win, taking out the woman who destroyed your Wimbledon effort. That victory must have tasted so sweet.

I love me some Marion Bartoli, but she has long been on the list of women tennis players whose physical appearance annoyed me to no end. But overweight shapeless Marion is no more. The Marion playing in the Bank of the West Classic was a fit, sleek, tennis machine. She gave Serena more than she could handle in the first set. But I never count out Serena. She is too much of a fighter, too mentally determined to just roll over and play dead. It was so great to watch her deliver on the promise of her return.

Over in LA, Ernests Gulbis maintained his focus to come from behind and spank Mardy Fish. Gulbis is another player with talent so long promised but who just did not seem to deliver. Indeed, at times I despaired. Who would have guessed that it would be his pairing with the Argentine Guillermo “Willy” Cañas that would produce the magic? Only 33, Cañas is young enough to remember what it takes to beat the best, and experienced enough to inspire confidence in his charge. I like their partnership.

On the other side of the court was local favorite Mardy Fish. I get that Fish is clearly trying to win the Olympic US Open series. But frankly I think he is playing too much tennis. If he keeps showing his hand like this, there will be no magic by the time he gets to the US Open. Indeed, I expect him to be so burnt out – literally and figuratively given the horrific heat wave we are enduring – that he may not even make it to week two.

I did not attend the inaugural Citi Open tournament in College Park, Maryland. I seriously thought of it. In fact my dream is to one year be able to afford not working for July and August and spend those 60 days just crisscrossing the US to watch tennis. It’s a nice dream. I must start saving. But for now I had to settle for the Tennis Channel.

It was nice to see that Shahar Peer has made the crossover from doubles to singles. But Peer has no weapons to speak of; indeed, she plays the same game whether she is playing doubles or singles. Which is why I picked Petrova for the win. Like Bartoli, Petrova is looking trimmer and fitter than I ever remember. I expected her to bring her experience and athleticism to bear on this match. And she did. This was her first win since Quebec 2008. This victory was a nice reminder that her coffers are not yet empty.

Over in Gstaad, Switzerland, Marcel Granollers – the cute Spaniard with a French name – became the seventh Spanish player to win a tournament this year. Robredo got the series started with a win in Santiago, Chile, in January. In February, Almagro won in Brazil and David Ferrer took Mexico. Almagro would win again in May (Nice, France).

In April, Pablo Andujar had a breakthrough win in Morocco. That same month Nadal won back to back events in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and would win Roland Garros for a historic sixth time. Juan Carlos Ferrero then showed that the Old Goats still had cojones with a sweet win in Stuttgart last month. And along comes Granollers – who got past Wawrinka and Youzhny – to add his name to the list of Spanish dominance.

It was kind of bittersweet that Granollers’ opponent was Verdasco. Fernando has worked brutally hard to improve his fitness this year. And he has done the least well of his compatriots. That must sting.

And finally there was my newbie love, Aleksandr Dolgopolov, who won his first ATP title, defeating homeboy Marin Cilic in three sets at the Croatia Open. When Dolgopolov lost to Almagro in the Brazil finals, I did not really mind. I felt that he could benefit from the extra experience of competing at a high level. I have to admit that his breakthrough win came sooner than I expected, despite the fact that I made such a to-do about his tremendous promise.


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