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Too bad for Li Na and Andy Murray! January 31, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Sport, Tennis.
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What a fantastic weekend of sports.  I’ll start off with the biggest news — the Australian Open.

I’m not much of a tennis player (the fact that I won two consecutive ‘Most Improved Player’ awards at school and still suck says it all) but I do love watching it, especially the Grand Slams.  Unfortunately, both players I was rooting for lost.

Women’s Final

Sadly, Li Na won't be able to celebrate Chinese New Year with a Grand Slam title

In the women’s, Belgian Kim Clijsters beat the sentimental favourite, China’s Li Na in three thrilling sets (3-6, 6-3, 6-3) to claim her first Australian Open title and her fourth GS title.  As a friend of mine told me recently, GS finals usually disappoint, but this one really didn’t.

Clijsters has long endeared herself to Australians and earned the nickname “Aussie Kim” because she once dated Lleyton Hewitt (when he was the world’s top player and did toilet paper ads on TV) — and managed to keep that nickname long after they broke up because she actually wins (kinda like how Russell Crowe is Australian when he wins Oscars and a New Zealander when he throws phones).

Li Na is also a fascinating story because she’s the best tennis player China has ever seen and will probably inspire a whole new generation of Chinese tennis players.  She’s funny and charismatic too, which is a bonus.  At 28, Li is probably heading towards the twilight of her career, but the current world no. 7 is certainly not done yet.  She had actually defeated Clijsters in a tournament just before the Australian Open and won the first set of the final in dramatic fashion.  However, in the end Clijster’s poise and experience guided her to victory.

I would have loved to have seen Li take out the trophy because it would have been quite historical, and more importantly, I find it extremely embarrassing that Aussies latch on to “Aussie Kim” simply because she’s a winner.  But then again, when the media makes a big fuss because Bernard Tomic didn’t get completely wiped off the court by Rafael Nadal (well, it was in straight sets), I guess they do need someone to root for.

Men’s Final

Sadly, this unappealing expression will continue for Andy Murray

It was great to finally see a GS final that didn’t involve Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal (as much as I admire both men).

But this was an intriguing matchup.  Novak Djokovic was searching for his second GS trophy (having won the Aussie in 2008) and Andy Murray was looking for his first (having lost two finals to Federer before, including last year’s Aussie final).  The two came up the ranks together as juniors and have been friends forever.  With Federer declining and Nadal a potential timebomb because of injury concerns, this was the perfect opportunity for one of them to step up.

My wife dislikes Djokovic because, let’s face it, he looks like and sometimes acts like a bit of a dick.  But I actually quite like him and thought he has embraced the occasional villain role quite well.  And he’s one heck of a player too.

However, on this occasion I was definitely going for Murray.  I felt sorry for the guy after he lost to Federer twice in previous finals, despite being a legitimate chance in both matches.  He, like Tim Henman before him, must have been feeling the pressure of all of Great Britain on his shoulders, so I wanted him to finally relieve that tension.  Besides, he’s too good of a player to never win a GS.

But this one turned out to be competitive but one sided.  Perhaps it was the experience from winning one before, but Djokovic just seemed so much more comfortable than Murray, who served poorly and failed to execute the big shots.  Luck certainly played a part in it — Djokovic’s shots were landing on the line and Murray’s were hitting the net.  In the end it just wasn’t Murray’s day (6-4, 6-2, 6-3), and it looks like that perpetually frustrated, constipated look on his face will live on for yet another GS tournament.

Nevertheless, a good start to 2011 and a great end to the week!

PS: I wouldn’t feel too sorry for either loser though.  The winner took home AUD 2.2 million while the loser got AUD 1.1 million.

Hewitt ridicules Becker’s man-crush praise June 28, 2010

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Boris Becker

One thing Australian tennis star Lleyton Hewitt loves is being the underdog.  He loves it when critics call him over-the-hill, when they say he is too short, too old, too injured — because it gives him extra motivation to prove them wrong.

Accordingly, when German great Boris Becker decided to develop a man-crush following the Aussie’s unexpected straight sets victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils at the third round of Wimbledon 2010 (6-3, 76, 6-4), Hewitt was not impressed.

“I wouldn’t call him a darkhorse because he’s won the title before” Becker said with ardour in his eyes.  “On a good day, he’s still one of the best grasscourt players around.”

Hewitt did not enjoy the compliment.  “Of course I don’t consider myself a dark horse.  Look at me.  I’m white.  You know, I’ve always had a good record against guys like Monfils.  Look at him.  And look at James Blake.  Now you tell me what the similarity is.”

Of course, this reference harks back to Hewitt’s controversial attempt to get a black linesman removed during his US Open match against African-American James Blake back in 2001.

“It’s good to see him back and healthy and jumping,” Becker added.  “If there’s ever a fight in a bar, you’d want Hewitt in your corner because he doesn’t back off.”

Hewitt did not take a liking to this comment either.  He retorted: “Well I wouldn’t ever want Boris Becker in my corner on a night out.  I don’t want to turn around for a second and find out he’s impregnated my wife in the broom closet.

“And besides, Bec is too busy to be impregnated by Becker.  She’s got a photo shoot with a woman’s mag every week for the next 10 years.  It’s our main source of income now that I’ve fallen out of the top 25.”

These negative comments did not faze Becker from continuing his admiration for the scrappy Aussie with the tremendous endurance.

“…tennis is not only a game of height and power,” Becker explained.  “It’s a matter of heart — and Lleyton’s got one of the biggest on the men’s tour.  He has the heart and mind of a lion.”

“Why would Becker say I have the heart and mind of a lion?” Hewitt replied angrily.  “I’m a fair dinkum human being.  Lions are stupid and lazy, except for Simba from the Lion King.  Is he saying that I’m stupid?”

Desperate to prove Becker wrong, Hewitt promptly went out and lost his next match to Novak Djokovic, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“That’ll be the last time someone compares me to an animal,” Hewitt said happily after the match.  “The size of my heart is equal to the size of Boris Becker’s pecker.”

When asked exactly how big that is, Hewitt responded:

[PS: None of this really happened.]

Federer massacres Hewitt (again) before Australia Day January 25, 2010

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Did anyone seriously expect a different result?

For the 15th consecutive time, Roger Federer has ripped the hearts out of the Australian public by annihilating Lleyton Hewitt –  6-2, 6-3, 6-4 – in the fourth round of the 2010 Australian Open.

On the same day Sam Stosur was handed a similar fate by Serena Williams (6-4, 6-2) on the women’s side.  A day before Australia Day.

You have to hand it to Hewitt though.  Despite not having beaten Federer since the 2003 Davis Cup, every single time he faces the man he talks it up as though he has a legitimate chance.  And the amazing thing is that every time, he has us believing it, even if it’s just for a split second.

There was a glimmer of hope in their latest match when Hewitt finally broke (back) Federer’s serve in the eighth game of the third set.  But Federer broke again immediately and sealed the match with ease.

The fact is – no matter how hard he fights, no matter how tough he is mentally – the physical gap between Hewitt and the top players of today is just too much.  He is still capable of cruising through the mid-tier players and beating the lower top-tier players.  Once in a blue moon, he could even beat a top top-tier player if mitigating circumstances are present (eg injury).  But in a grand slam event, Hewitt will need all the stars aligned to ever get close to winning again.

Nevertheless, even though he was just handed another drubbing, Hewitt is optimistic as he is returning to the top 20 in the ATP rankings.

“Obviously I’ve been able to work my ranking back up.  I feel good about that.  I don’t have a lot of points to defend really through to Wimbledon, the quarters there.  So I feel comfortable I can do some damage. The way I hit the ball tonight, I still think I could have taken a lot of other guys still left in the draw. That’s probably a little bit more frustrating.”

I think this is why, despite his less-than-ideal personality, Aussies still want to support him.  No matter how ridiculous his assertions sound (I mean, come on, does anyone think Hewitt can still beat the likes to Djokovic, Del Potro or Murray, let alone Federer and Nadal?), we want to believe Hewitt because he seems to honestly believe in himself.  And that’s an admirable trait.

Besides, who else are we going to support?  Bernard Tomic?

Aussie Tennis Scandal: Hewitt vs Tomic September 17, 2009

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The 'future' of Australian tennis: Bernard Tomic

The 'future' of Australian tennis: Bernard Tomic

I came across an interesting nugget of news today.  Lleyton Hewitt losing his cool is nothing new, but this time the subject of his fury is 16-year-old junior tennis sensation Bernard Tomic.  For those who don’t know who he is, look here, but in short, he is considered the real deal, the (only) future of Australian tennis.

Reports confirmed that at Wimbledon this year, Hewitt’s camp contacted the Tomic camp (who was playing in the Junior tournament) for a round of practice.  However, not only did the Tomic camp fail to respond, they flat out refused to hit with Hewitt the next day when Tomic showed up for practice.  Apparently, the Tomic camp believed Hewitt was ‘not good enough’ and said as much to their face. 

To make matters worse, when the Hewitt camp approached the camp of Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero, they were told that Tomic was shopping around for a practice partner and actually asked Ferrero if he could hit with Tomic.  In other words, Tomic needed a partner to play with and yet still turned down Hewitt’s invite.

Needless to say, a junior turning down the invite of a leading senior player on tour is a big no no in the tennis world.  It’s like running onto stage during someone’s award acceptance speech, stealing the microphone and pronouncing someone else a more worthy winner. 

The explanation from the Tomic camp wasn’t very convincing.  They denied the comment that Hewitt wasn’t ‘good enough’ and said that it was because Tomic’s upcoming opponent had a different style to Hewitt and it would not be beneficial to practise with him.  If that was the case, then why couldn’t they have just returned the call and told them that rather than ignore the invite and go around behind Hewitt’s back?  That’s just plain rude.  Like calling the President a ‘liar’.

hewitt

The 'past' of Australian tennis: Lleyton Hewitt

My theory, and it’s just a theory, is that Tomic’s father John simply doesn’t like Hewitt very much.  It was reported that he once said to Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald that he doesn’t think Hewitt has done enough for his son.  And perhaps he thinks Hewitt is a rude, loud, egotistical redneck who would be a terrible influence on his boy.

That said, Tomic is almost 17 and should have some balls of his own – and not let his father control his every move.  Tomic was actually suspended for a month in March this year for walking off the court in protest during a match.  But the decision to do so was not his – it was his father that ordered him to do so after complaints about the opponent’s continuous foot faults fell on deaf ears.  John Tomic also recently said that Tennis Australia needs to spend more money on Bernard now so he could be like Federer.

You would have thought that with an attitude like that, the two camps would have gotten on just fine.

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