It isn’t often that mystical clay court seasons just line up by the grace of gods, and the stars align to make the typical one-hander who likes to see entertaining, shot making tennis genius and the validation of such genius. Well, there was 09 of course, when Roger completed the career slam. We mean, the way Nadal got upset by Soderling, out of nowhere, meaning that the attacking player, the magnificent artist, the man himself, Roger Federer, was going to get the RG crown and the career slam. And by the way. We don’t throw the word slam around. We are tennis purists. There are career slams, and there are calendar slams. You win them all in your career or you win them all in calendar order. Since nobody ever wins them in calendar order to the point that it is rarely a discussion, you have a few slam conversations going on, but not many.
Might Clijsters get it? Those looking at the woeful women’s tour and Clijsters fans had to think, with her flakiness, and the God awful women’s top 20 right now, that she can’t be counted on to play for too many more majors, but she could have been counted on heavily at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year. Ah well. There are the injuries that we are hearing will limit her. We see a good chance for Clijsters to win these tournaments if she is healthy, and here’s why: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Justine Henin are all not playing, Kuznetsova is playing as bad as she has ever, career, Sharapova is not all the way back, and there are questions as to her ability to ever return to the top of the game, and then…we mean, we could go all day. That’s why another clay court season for the shot mking purist was last season, on the women’s side, with Francesca Schiavone winning her first major title. I love Schiavone–the top one-handed female until Justine Henin hopefully returns, and she has great flair, but in a healthy field, we doubt highly that we are all suffering a Schiavone-Stosur finale. These are girls that the Williams sisters, Henin, and several others trounce on a regular basis. In fact, Venus Williams has never lost to Schiavone in 8 meetings. Stosur? Must we really? A representative top ten of the most talented women in the world, regardless of who is shuttered off in a Belgian bowling alley and who, unfortunately, cut her foot and went through so many sins with recovering from that.
We are not trying to denigrate Francesca. In fact, we’d love her to repeat. Considering the shoddy field again. We have got to look at a woeful top 20 right now. Former champ Ana Ivanovic, whose game we actually don’t quite terribly mind, is outside the top 20, which says a lot about her plight, and you’ve got one of the least talented and diverse top 20’s there has ever been. Kaia Kanepi? Shahar Peer? Petkovic? Bartoli? Radwanska? Pavlyuchenkova? Please don’t get us started about Jelena Jankovic, who feel is the most incomplete player in the women’s game. Besides being an advertisement for how not to play, she hits most of her shots off of her back foot, can not take an overhead out of the air, can not make a volley, and has no serve. This women’s game is an insult, and perhaps then we shouldn’t take as such an insult the fact that America got dusted in Fed Cup two weeks ago, but we still do. Pitiful.
If Clijsters doesn’t play, then we’d count 5 players when healthy and right, and maybe a sixth–Ana Ivanovic as being bigger favorites going into Roland Garros than the current field. BTW, we count Dementieva in that group. A lot is on injuries, obviously, but we can’t tell you we are happy a Dementieva or a Henin stepped away from the game in their prime. You watch a Justine Henin match? Listen, she may have cheated against Serena, but her matches were beautiful things. Her backhand is text book. She is a beautiful shot maker and she lit the game up for almost 2 years. It was pretty to watch. So we aren’t too happy, and we won’t be next Thursday when the draws come out for Roland Garros. That Stosur was such a big favorite last year, and looks so strong again? We apologize, but we don’t feel this caliber of player deserves to win a major. Winning a major is special. Will we see it from Wozniacki? When she pulls it off with those putrid vollies, and her go is death game. And you know what? We like her next week. What does that say? Because we despise her style of play. But this is France, and the most vile style usually wins out.
Except when Roger won it. And the time Mac had Lendl 2 sets and a break. Kuerten? Here’s the thing. He didn’t have near the shot making ability on other surfaces, so we didn’t go crazy when he won here. We rooted for Courier and against Agassi, and f0r Federer a boatload of times, and when we were young we watched a lot of guys who we didn’t have business winning majors win this thing. But that’s the French Open, for the women especially, and it looks like we may get a very shaky champ again, which speaks volumes about the women’s game. If Clijsters can go hard, she is going to have a great shot to pull off the career slam, because she’s the only one around with the focus and the talent. And so you know, we hate her counter punching style, but will concede she goes for more winners now and is easier to watch. You see, the French Open, on special occasion, has not been the home of the shittiest tennis champion of them all. The years when a Navratilova or a Williams or a Graf didn’t win. The years when it was the Moyas, Andres Gomez’s, Chang’s, and Costa’s.
Would those guys, any of them, win a real major on a court that required brilliance and not doggedness? We think not. So here’s to our Roland Garros wishes that if a shitty woman has to be champion, let it be Schiavone, because little girls around the world may model their game after hers, and so that she can build a little legacy for a one-hander, even though she hasn’t ever beaten Venus Williams. Because that’s a lot better than one of these hacks like Wozniacki, Jankovic, and Radwanska. Either of those three would horrible for the game. Zvonareva? You know we love her, and we like the way she’s went deep at majors lately, building a resume, but we’d say she has a much better chance on Wimbledon’s lawns than on the disgusting mud at Roland Garros.
Tomorrow on the women’s side in Rome:
Wozniacki: – 200 (bet 200 to win 100)
Sharapova: +160 (bet 100 units to win 160, plus the initial wager)
Li Na: + 170 (bet 100 units to win 170)
Stosur: – 220 (bet 220 units to win 100, plus initial wager)
Here’s what we think. Even though we hate Wozniacki, she has the game for clay, if not really any true talent tennis or weapons, and Sharapova doesn’t. It might help Maria that Azarenka retired today, allowing her to conserve energy, but we’d have to to go with Wozniacki, who is the better mover and the better clay mover. Mark our words. You rarely see a match won on clay on a given day by the player who doesn’t use his feet best. In that vain, we’d have to take the exercise and conditioning freak, Stosur, who is now building quite a little resume for herself on clay, and she’s another poorly talented but favored woman of Roland Garros nontheless. And the loss last year? There are Australians we know who lost their shit over it.
We’re not ready to pronounce Sharapova completely dead yet, but without the lights out serve, she really isn’t gonna hurt too many people, and RG has never been her thing. So we are thinking Wozniacki/Stosur on Sunday, and when we see the odds, we”ll give you our thoughts. But we aren’t buying at these rates. The biggest favorite is Stosur at – 220? If you are going to do something, you shoud be buying dogs.
Then there’s the men where there figures to be a compelling day of tennis, even for clay. Lines have been shifting the last few hours, as Nadal and Djokovic are becoming bigger favorites. As of now:
Nadal: – 1200 (wager 1200 to win 100 plus your initial wager)
Gasquet: +700 (wager 100 to win 700)
Djokovic: – 700
Murray: + 450
Without getting too into the RG breakdown, we’d like to give you our quick thoughts. Much better values in the dogs once again, especially on the men’s side. Personally, we have seen a lot of lines, and Andy Murray is probably a plus 450 2 or 3 times only in about the last 3 years. This guy is a very good player, and the difference in odds is steep considering the match will probably be won over a couple points. And Nadal/Gasquet? That’s a match where you have a guy who has never beaten the other guy, and the other guy is on his favorite surface where he rarely loses. Gasquet just does not match up with Nadal very well, never did. Doesn’t serve well enough. That about covers it. Very talented player, but nearly enough weapons. But the little extra rest a loss for either favorite might do could go a long way in what could be very close matches, ones the odds don’t seem to respect. We wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a long day of tennis tomorrow. And we again hope for a classic day of clay court tennis.
Djokovic goes for his 36th straight…vying to also set up a meet with Nadal, who he could conceivably beat two weeks in a row.
Catch it on TTC.