Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Big W, Week 2

The first week of Wimbledon has ended and now we've got the final 16 players remaining on the men's and ladies' draw.

The big upset on the men's side was Argentine 5th seed JMDP (that's Juan Martin Del Potro) losing to oldster and former #1 player (before the era of Federer) Lleyton Hewitt in the second round. Hewitt is also a one-time Wimbledon champ (again, before the era of Federer), so while it shouldn't be a huge shock, I expected more from JMDP, who plays well on the fast hard court surfaces. I guess he hasn't figured out how to play on grass yet. Also going out early are:

  • Russian #14 seed Marat Safin, who is making his final Wimbledon appearance this year after he lost to American qualifier Jesse Levine
  • #9 JWT (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga), who lost to Croatian ace machine Ivo Karlovic
  • #10 Gonzo (Fernando Gonzales), who lost to another former #1, pre-Federer, Juan Carlos Ferrero (or as I'd like to call him: Juanqui) (Great result for JCF, who has fallen even further in the rankings than Hewitt)
  • #12 Nikolay Davydenko, who lost to big-hitting Czech Tomas Berdych, in a not-so-huge-upset.
  • Croat youngster Marin Cilic lost in an epic match (10-8 in the fifth set) to Tommy Haas, but I was expecting Tommy to get to the semifinals here, so I wasn't that surprised of the result even if Cilic, at #11, was the higher ranked player.
A few years ago, it would've been easy to predict that most of the upsets would come from the men's side, because the higher-ranked ladies would usually just breeze through the first few rounds without breaking a sweat... But that's not the case anymore. Whether it's because the depth of competition among the women has improved or because the top women are just much more vulnerable to playing badly these days is hard to say (I'd say it's a mixture of both...) If anything, at least the upsets make the women's draw a bit more unpredictable.

The big upsets on the women's side are the losses of French Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and former #1 Jelena Jankovic. Sveta Kuz lost in straight sets to 19 year-old German Sabine Lisicki, who is ranked #41, while the Serbian JJ lost to 17 year-old American Melanie Oudin. Oudin is currently ranked 124, so she had to go through the qualifying stage before getting into the main draw. She won 3 matches in the qualies, and 2 more matches in the main draw before beating JJ, so this has been a great tournament for her.

Other players who lost early were:

  • #7 Vera Zvonareva, who had to pull out because of an injury
  • #12 and former finalist Marion Bartoli of France
  • #14 and recent French Open semifinalist Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia
  • #15 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who lost to former #1 and 2006 Wimbledon Champion Amelie Mauresmo, in a slight upset
  • and #16 and last year's surprise semifinalist Jie Zheng of China, who lost to my awesome girlfriend Daniela Hantuchova. Daniela is back in the 4th round of Wimbledon after she defeated her doubles partner Ai Sugiyama last Friday. Woohoo! She'll be facing #2 Serena Williams in the round of 16. That's gonna be a tough match for sure.
  • Maria Sharapova, seeded #24 here thanks to the Wimbledon seeding committee's power to give out random seedings to players they like, lost to unseeded Gisela Dulko (who's actually ranked higher than her.) Shazza was seeded by the Wimbledon powers that be despite being ranking #60, having played only 2 tournaments this year because of a shoulder injury, and having not gone past the 4th round of Wimbledon in the past two years. Yup, I'm pretty sure looks counted in the "formula" for figuring out the player seeding.
Can't wait for the second week action to start!



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Now playing: Bjork - Human Behavior
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Big W

Wimbledon is on the TV right now... (at last, a Grand Slam tournament that my cable provider covers!)

Earlier, I caught the the Roger Federer-Yen Hsun Lu 1st round match, and Fed played a good match there, showing some flashes of genius especially in the 3rd set. Rafael Nadal isn't defending his title here because of an injury (tendinitis on both his knees), but just because Rafa's not playing this year doesn't mean it's gonna be smooth sailing for Roger. The main contender (in fact, the only main contender) to Roger winning his 6th Wimbledon and a 15th Grand Slam title is local hope Andy Murray. After winning his first grass court title at The Queen's Club last week, Murray has Britain all hyped up, as he might finally end the drought of British champions in Wimbledon since Fred Perry last won in 1936.

I think the final will be between Murray and Federer, and while I want Federer to win #15 in two weeks' time, I wouldn't mind seeing Murray win against Federer, as long as he challenges Fed the way Rafa did in last year's epic final.

On the women's side, Venus and Serena are the obvious choices for the final, since every other top player is either coming from injury (Sharapova), or are having trouble finding their form (the Serbians), or are just generally chokers (the rest of the Russians.) On the other hand, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka are two young players who could sneak through the semis. I've been waiting for these two to have their Grand Slam breakthroughs first at the Aussie Open last January, and at the French Open earlier this month, but that hasn't happened yet. Maybe they're just waiting for Wimbledon to come around, nothing like making the big splash at the most prestigious tournament in tennis after all.

Caroline just won her first grass court title over the weekend, and she has won Wimbledon before (albeit as a junior), so she know her way around the grass. Vika on the other hand, essentially has the same power game as Sharapova, and that power game is bound to bring her success on the grass, just like it has for Masha. Unless she goes the way of Nicole Vaidisova...

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I just came back from Gumaca over the weekend, to attend my grandmother's (on my mother's side) funeral. She suffered a mild stroke a week before, then suffered another one last Friday. The second stroke took her. Before going to Gumaca, I have to admit that I was feeling really numb. I wasn't sure how to react, so I started writing a blog post (that I won't be publishing), about the sad things that happen in life, and how I generally deal with them. I just had such a hard time articulating how I felt at that time, and I thought writing about it would calm me down and help me understand what was going on.

Once we got to Gumaca however, I started to feel much better. There's just something about being in my hometown that grounds me. And when we got to my grandparents' barrio, the mood at the wake was actually very good. The whole family was in good spirits, and my aunt was even telling us some funny things that happened while they were at the hospital, in between the days of my grandmother's two strokes. That's when I realized the wake was there to celebrate my grandmother's well-lived life. And in a way, it made accepting the facts easier.

Side note: One thing that bothered me though, was the gambling that was going on at the wake. I guess gambling is traditionally part of wakes especially in the province, but man... when I die, I DO NOT WANT PEOPLE GAMBLING at my funeral. I guess that would be one of my dying wishes (also: no cheesy dramatic ballads on the procession to my final resting place.)


Our Inay was 83, lived a very humble life, and I'm nothing but proud to be one of her many grandchildren.


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Now playing: Dave Matthews Band - The Space Between
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Friday, June 12, 2009

Ang Kambing

a.k.a. The GOAT

a.k.a.: The Greatest Of All Time.

There's nothing more awesome than watching Roger Federer play tennis. I'm a Federer fanatic (yes, a Fedtard), obviously, and it isn't just because of how many grand slams he's won (a record 14, in all 4 grand slams events), or how long he has stayed at the #1 ranking (that would be 237 consecutive weeks, another record by the way). It's about how great this man is at playing the sport. From the booming aces and forehand winners, to the deft volleys and smooth drop shots (and those half-volleys and no-backswing groundstrokes from the baseline that only he can do), to his footwork and fitness... He has also played and won without the help of a coach for most of his career, which speaks volumes about how sharp his thinking game is.

Roger Federer is simply the most talented man to have ever played the sport.

Winning the French Open meant that Roger Federer is now undeniably part of that ultra-exclusive group of Greatest Tennis Player Ever candidates, together with Rod Laver and Pete Sampras on the men's side.

Laver, of course represents the old school. He won THE grand slam (all four grand slam events in the same year) twice, first in 1962 when grand slams were still an amatuer-only affair, and again in 1969, in the Open era, when pros were allowed to play in Grand Slams, ushering in the fame and multi-million prize money era of tennis.

Pete on the other hand represents the school of quantity (not that he lacks quality.) He won 14 grand slams (the record recently tied by Federer) which includes seven Wimbledons, but no French Opens. Pete also ended as the year-end world #1 six consecutive years, a record on the men's tour, and kept a winning record against his rival Andre Agassi.

Roger is probably a hybrid of the two: employing a great mixture of the old school game filled with fluidity and finesse, and the all-out aggression and power game of the more recent breed of champions. At his peak, he absolutely dominated the sport, holding a 92% match win percentage from 2004-2007. With the barrage of much younger competitors like Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, 27 year-old Federer has ceased to be the sole dominant force, but he has still managed to stay at the top-most level, winning 2 of the last 4 grand slams (and making the finals of the other 2.)

It feels fitting for Roger to claim his piece of history at the French Open: the very tournament that has eluded him so many times, at the exact venue that wounded his champion stature exactly a year before. But now it's no longer elusive, and no matter what happens, he will never again be a wounded champion.

Congrats on the career grand slam Roger! (And good luck at Wimbledon! Let's go for Grand Slam #15!)












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Now playing: Wolfgang - Matter of Time

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Before it starts...

I realized that I never got to blog about Soderling's super-sized upset over Rafa last week... So before the French Open men's final starts, let me just summarize my initial reactions (via facebook, twitter, tennis forums, and YM) right after Nadal lost that 4th round match:

Fuck! Nadal LOST???

Alvin: i'm still in shock
Alvin: biggest shock since justine lost to bartoli
Alvin: but this was insane haha
Alvin: soderling isn't even a clay courter

That was a huge upset! I'm a bit speechless.

HOLY SHIT! NADAL IS OUT???!?!!?? CRAZY. (And I really am screaming at my laptop right now)

insane, right?

OMFG

Wooooaah! Is Rafa really out?!?? Shit shit SHIT... don't fuck this up Roger!!!

And let me just add my facebook status right now: Be the Legend, Federer!



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Now playing: The Libertines - Narcissist
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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Svetlana is Not a One-Slam Wonder. (Anymore.)

I just finished watching the Roland Garros women's final, where #7 Svetlana Kuznetsova convincingly defeated #1 Dinara Safina to win her second Grand Slam title, adding to the US Open title she won as a teenager back in 2004.

Svetlana kisses her trophy after easily winning the champhionship match, 6-4, 6-2.

I think a lot of people were expecting Dinara to win her first grand slam title today, since she's been the most dominant player on clay this year, riding a 16-match win streak after getting victories at big tournaments in Rome and Madrid (beating Kuznetsova in Rome.) She did finish runner-up to Kuzy in Stuttgart though, but that the first tournament in the European clay season. Dinara also won her first four matches at the French Open in devastating form: 6-0, 6-0 in the 1st round, 6-1, 6-1 in the 2nd, 6-2, 6-0 in the 3rd, and 6-1, 6-0 in the 4th.

But in today's final, she played like shit. I was expecting a tight 3-setter from the two fo them, but Dinara just came up short, which was too bad, and just reinforces the stigma that she can't handle the big match pressure. She was making too many errors and wasn't really controlling the points. She also had this scared/nervous look on her face all throughout the match which was a pretty clear signal that she wasn't gonna be able to pull this one out. And just like Ronnie, I knew she'd hit a double fault on match point.

Hats off to Svetlana though, she just didn't allow Dinara to play her game at all. She hit with loads of power from both wings, and her some of the forehands she hit were just sweet. And I loved it when she started bouncing a tennis ball on her foot towards the end of the second set, like she wasn't feeling any pressure at all.

Congratulations Kuzy! You are no longer a one-slam wonder.


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Now playing: Garbage - A Stroke of Luck

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