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Steve's Weblog

An incurable tennis addict, Steve Flink has been following the game since 1965, the year he first went to Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. Flink is a Senior Correspondent for Tennis Week Magazine, a publication he joined in 1992. From 1972-82, he put his photographic memory to use as a statistician for CBS, NBC and ABC. He has been a consultant and writer for the International Tennis Hall of Fame since 1994 and is a member of their Nominating Committee. Steve is the author of The Greatest Tennis Matches of the 20th Century. Flink's recall of match history is unsurpassed.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Australian Open Update

As for a potential Roddick-Fish collision, Roddick surely has a huge psychological edge. They did have a spectacular final round meeting at Cincinnati in 2003 when Roddick saved two match points in a tense encounter. Fish is playing his finest tennis since that time, is competing with renewed spirit, and has revamped his forehand admirably with the help of his coach Todd Martin. Still, every sign points to a Roddick four set win in that one.

Serena’s Comeback

How to explain the enigmatic Serena Williams? As she appears on television, she looks at least 20 pounds overweight. She played only one warm up tournament before the Australian after being out of action since the U.S. Open. And yet, she is covering the court surprisingly well, keeping herself in points by running down balls persistently, using her defensive skills to compliment what she does so well on offense. And her win over No. 5 seed Nadia Petrova--- her first triumph over a top ten player since she won her last tournament and last major at the Australian Open of 2005--- was a gritty piece of business.

Petrova should have been the victor. She crushed Serena from the baseline and made some timely advances to the forecourt in taking a 6-1 first set. Then the Russian rallied from 0-3 and break point down in the fourth game to sweep five consecutive games in the second set, establishing a 5-3 lead. At 5-4, Petrova served for the match and reached 15-15, standing three points away from victory. At that stage, Serena demonstrated that when her back is to the wall she almost inevitably plays her boldest and best tennis. She cracked a two-hander cleanly down the line for a winner to reach 15-30 and quickly broke back for 5-5. Petrova then helped her out considerably. At 5-5, she served two costly double faults including one at set point down.

On they went to the final set. After an early exchange of breaks, Williams took over, collecting four of the last five games to complete an uplifting 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 win. Although she had trouble holding during the first two sets of this meeting, she is serving quite well overall, using her slice serve wide in the deuce court skillfully, mixing up her delivery on both sides, and coming up with aces and service winners at crucial moments. I still expect her to lose her round of 16 match against the rapidly improving Jelena Jankovic but Jankovic will need to be concentrated and composed to get the win.

In any event, Williams has at least given herself a serious boost by virtue of beating a top of the line player like Petrova. If she keeps working hard and plays a full schedule in 2007, she could easily reclaim a place for herself among the top ten in the world and she might even crack the top five.


At January 25, 2007 1:52 PM, Anonymous Mitch A. , Chappaqua, NY said...

Steve: I tremendously enjoyed your predictions and pre-match analysis. It is now day #11 and Serena and Maria will be competing in the Finals. Clearly they have emerged as the toughest competitors mentally as they both have been nearly sent packing a few times during the fortnight.
Would you agree that Chakvetadze, Vaidisova, and Peer displayed awesome physical talents but had complete meltdowns?? Has Serena made a mockery of the women's game??
Lastly, I awakened at 6AM to catch Federer-Roddick via my TIVO but I wasn't sure if I was just dreaming. It looked like I was at the Federer Funhouse. I look forward to your breakdown of the match. After Roddick regained the break to get to 2-2 in the 1st set; it "appeared" he was playing good tennis. How do you explain this collapse?? or is it just that Federer has once again"found" his pursuit of perfect tennis??
I hope to see your "Finals" pre-match predictions. Thanks for a great web-site.

At January 31, 2007 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve - You provided a great wrap and commentary on the Australian Open!

I agree that Sharapova's serve deserted her as the tournament progressed. Provided the serve motion can be regained,I dont think she will dwell on the loss to Serena for too long. I dont understand it because towards the end of last year, Sharapova's serve was really on and she was winning a lot of free points off it. Her game is built around it. I too think that perhaps her coaches were trying to tinker with it.

Watch out for Serena,she'll win at least one other slam, I predict. I hope she loses the excess weight in order to take any stress of that bad knee. It was good to see her back on the scene.

Federer is an incredible big match player. I think he has improved even over the last 6 months, in that respect. And Nadal seems to be going in the opposite direction from Federer. He needs a good coach---someone like a Brad Gilbert who knows the game. Again, at the Australian, he was standing too far behind the baseline when things got tight. So he had to work awfully hard to win points. In the meantime, the other guys are on to his game---on hard courts at least.

Roddick never really changed his game, only his mindset, with Jimmy Connors at the helm. His so-called much improved volley, did not stand up to the Federer test and he was playing way too fast when panic set in during that semi.

Federer will win the French this year. I think he'll find a way to prevail.

Looking forward to your commentaries during the upcoming tennis season.

At June 26, 2007 4:33 AM, Anonymous Sports Equipment said...

I wanted to comment on the actual sport, and say that I am delighted to see the attendance of the sport is increasing substantially since 2004. Obviously, not tremendously, but substantially. This year the attendance was rated at 554,858. Not bad. And the TV interest means that the sport is growing in Australia. It was a fantastic Open this year and thoroughly enjoyed by all (at least as far as I'm concerned!) There were some interesting events – the brawl in Garden Square, which made me chuckle (even though I obviously am not a fan of hooliganism.) Anyone know the outcome on the Hawk-Eye system? It has added some of an extra dimension to the game, especially in the match between Amélie Mauresmo and Olga Poutchkova.

At May 14, 2008 3:20 AM, Anonymous oil painting from photo said...

It’s really awesome how you were able to give your analysis on how each of these famous women player did well in their game. But personally, regardless of the time and kind of game and how they played it, one thing is certain – they played their game and fought for it to the very last strength.


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