Sunday, July 02, 2006

Middle Sunday Blues: No matches today, alas, but a moment to see off Andre. Razor put it well last week. The former Peck's bad boy of the tennis world became an elder statesman with surprising ease and grace, becoming especially popular here in London, a tournament he skipped early in his career.

I really though he still had the grass court moves to take Nadal, more so after Nadal had to fight five sets against a who-dat to get there. But no, the bones creak a bit too much. A young Andre would never have let a clay-court upstart dictate the match's pace like that, but dictate Nadal did. And Andre, despite being a spectacular baseliner and one of the real physical specimens of the game, looked small and slow against the buff Nadal.

Andy vs. Andy was the other big surprise, with Roddick bowing to Murray in straight sets. Famously resiliant British hopes rise once again.

Venus went out with a whimper, complaining that her opponent wasn't giving her enough time between points. Oh, boo-hoo. If tennis players take any more time between points, the game will begin to resemble major league baseball in its pace.

Now, other than Roger, who has a shot at the Mens' trophy? Well, Hewitt, technically. I'm delighted to see doubles specialist Max Mirnyi get this far. But in order to get into the quarters, this big Belorusse has to beat his partner, Jonas Bjorkman (who is nearly as old as Agassi). They may have already worked this out ahead of time. Both are long ahots to do any damage in singles, but they have a great chance to take another doubles title. What would you do? One of them might tank.

And hooray for Andy Murray and all that, but can he get Roddick and Hewitt to choke within days of each other? Well, stranger things have happened. If Hewitt is bringing his A-game, though, a baseline duel with Nadal would be a good match.

On the ladies' side, there seem to be too many seeds floating around Mauresmo's half for her to have a prayer. I've heard her birthday is this week. Maybe, as a birthday gift from the gods, the three Russians between her and the final will choke. Not likely.

Finally, keep an eye on Na Li, who hung on against Kusnetsova to get here. She's young, sharp, and came to the net well against the Kusnetsova.

Update: Tank, schmank -- Jonas and Max went five sets, nearly four hours. They will not be terribly fresh for their third-round doubles match tomorrow, I think.

Moreover, Na Li has now decisively beaten two top-ten players and is into the QF round. Her match against Big Kim will be a good one, I predict. Li (or is it Na?) is quick and powerful, with a strong and accurate serve. However, meeting Clijsters will test her against a real power player. I like her chances, though.

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