Winners and Losers

Novak Djokovic has had the best year of his life in 2011, winning three Grand Slams but today he had to retire in the Davis Cup semi-final between Serbia and Argentina, giving Argentina a place in the finals. I write about this because I find the picture terribly strange. Can you really celebrate when someone is on the ground in pain? I don’t like Djokovic, but this is a bit much even for me.

Sports can really bring out the best and the worst in people.

Maybe Britain should have sent Adele instead?

We watched the Eurovision Song Contest yesterday (well, I had one eye on the amazing Murray vs Djokovic match of course) and it wasn’t as bad as I usually think it is. I guess the question on everybody’s minds right now is how to spell Azerbaijan and how this rather poor country should be able to afford hosting this massive earache event.

Anyway, while you google Azerbaijan I’ll let you listen to this fantastic song by British singer Adele. I don’t normally “do” ballads, that’s more Lenah‘s thing, but this is special. Just compare it to all the screaming ballads in the Eurovision Song Contest, and tell me if this isn’t better by miles.

By the way, Adele does a fantastic acoustic set in the Tiny Desk Concert series I wrote about in a previous post.

Today it’s Sunday. Tomorrow it’s Monday. So make the most of today and enjoy it with your loved ones. (And remember Mondays don’t always have to be so bad, if they are, maybe it’s time for some kind of change?)

Federer’s “failure” in Dubai

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Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim (author of the fantastic book Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played) wrote this in his post on SI.com:

“Faulty Federer falls. Both the gleeful Federer buriers and concerned Federer loyalists were out in full force this weekend. Their man dropped still another match to Novak Djokovic, a shank-o-rific Dubai final that saw Federer lose 6-3, 6-3. While Djokovic played stellar, complete tennis once again, Federer did himself no favors, framing shots, hitting destinationless backhands and finding few answers when Djokovic posed the difficult questions. Federer is now like a stock whose beta/variance is starting to widen. He’s still capable of greatness — that London win over Nadal wasn’t even 100 days ago. Yet the dismal matches are becoming more common. Realistically, we knew the ride couldn’t go on forever. And Federer’s performance is in keeping with the life cycle of a champion. The consistency is the first thing to go. The old weaknesses, such as they are, start to surface. (In this case, the drive backhand.) There’s still magic left in the wand, but it’s not automatically discharged. I directed Federer fans to the 2002 U.S. Open in which Pete Sampras, struggling with his game and arriving with little momentum, found the touch for seven matches. I think that’s pretty much what we’re looking at for the rest of the journey. Know he’s capable of greatness; know it’s no longer a given.”

Being a Fed fan, the natural thing would be to defend, to say that Federer has slumped before to come back even stronger. If you look at the recent results of Federer, he is not doing badly though. He won the ATP Masters final, reached the semi’s in AO (where he lost to an amazing Djokovic) and has beaten all lesser opponents pretty easily in 2011. The only problem for Federer has been Djokovic and the Serb has been a major problem for anyone he’s faced across the net recently.

So is this erratic loss a tribute to Djokovic and a changing of the guards (everybody’s using this expression it seems)? No, I don’t think so. The guard in this case is not Federer, it’s Nadal, and I think Djokovic has a lot more to prove before becoming nr 1 in the world. Also, Federer does seem much more relaxed about his game (not necessarily a good thing) and I think a loss in an ATP 500 tournament to a good player doesn’t really hurt as much as it used to. He picked up some ATP points, won some money, stayed in one of his favorite places on the world map and got some training for the upcoming Masters.

This attitude you can criticize of course, because it doesn’t really become a top sportsman to be content and relaxed, but on the other hand you have to understand it with the career Federer is having (it is also somehow related to his playing style, which is so confidently relaxed it looks nonchalant). The you can’t win it all-attitude has got to get to you when you in fact have won them all.

So I although I think Wertheim has a point in that we can’t expect Federer to win a slam without losing a set anymore, I think it’s a bit over-the-top to compare it to Sampras who actually was very tired of tennis at the end of his career and just wanted a final triumph before he put the racket in the bag for good. In contrast I think Federer enjoys the game more now that he is allowed to lose (again, not necessarily a good thing) and that his love for the game and the sport together with his supreme talent should give him at least two more slams and a few nice victories before it’s time to take on the ol’ legend status and start hitting balls with the twins.

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Today in Monte Carlo

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The Monte Carlo Masters is on a roll and there are some great matches to look forward to today. Below you will find the odds at Betsson.

Berdych vs Verdasco
Berdych is on fire at the moment. He only gave away 2 games to poor Richard Gasquet who must be desperate for excuses for why his “Baby Federer”-potential is still just “potential” and hardly so. He has a 6-3 h2h on Verdasco which also counts for clay and has won the two last matches. These are two huge talents with extreme ball-striking skills and they are both in good form. It is just a gut feeling that Verdasco will come out on top in three sets. The odds are similar, 1.85 for a Berdych win and 1.89 for Verdarsco.

Cilic vs Montanes
Montanes is a competent clay courter but Cilic is a top player who has all the shots and the right mentality. It will be a straight sets win for the tall croat.

Ljubicic vs Ferrer
Ljubicic is in good form (after all he won a Masters shield a couple of weeks ago!) but Ferrer will run down everything and loves the clay. Ferrer is along with Monaco and maybe also Verdasco the fittest guy on tour and this will play a factor in this likely marathon encounter. Also he has 4-1 in the H2H. Ferrer in three tight sets.

Berrer-Nadal
This match is not even worthy of a write-up. Nadal will give away 3-4 games, max.

Tsonga vs Ferrero
Tsonga is a volatile player, if he is feeling the ball he will win today. But you got to love JCF who aspires to come back to the top ten. If his forehand is on today he has a chance of disturbing the firy Frenchman. Tough one to pick. In the end I think youth will take it. Tsonga in three.

Robredo vs Nalbandian
Two solid guys on clay, Nalbandian looks to be back in good form after injury. They have met twice in Monte Carlo before, in 2008 Nalbandian won 6-1 6-0, but that is not really a telling figure for this match. Nalbandian seems really inspired right now and I think he will be too tough this time. Nalbandian in 3.

Djokovic vs Wavrinka
These guys have played many tough matches in the last few years, Djoko winning the last six of them and being up 7-2 in the H2H. This will go the distance, but in the end Djokovic will be too good, again.

Petzschner vs Kohlschreiber
I don’t really get Petzschner to be honest, what is he doing here? I mean he has a good serve and an OK forehand, but that you since he slices on the backhand side 90% of the time you should be able to take advantage of that. Kohli won their last meeting just a couple of weeks ago in straights and that was on hard court, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be as simple this time.

The odds at Betsson.com (times in UK time)

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