Friday, December 25, 2009

Bye bye Marat Safin and 2009 in review

It's time for the 2009 season review. The season has been over for a few weeks, but it's still too long and there will be a lot of lipservice paid to the slogans "we're going to shorten the season, blah, blah, blah", then again the ATP aren't capable to releasing and penalising top players when they fail drug tests.

Overall the season had some pleasant surprises with some predictable overreaction to these surprises. Where to start this off, yes I suppose it should be done chronologically, but not in this case. Roger Federer after being written off by many pundits and fans, especially after losing to Nadal in the final of the Aus Open. He was finished, not going to break Sampras's record of the most Grand Slam wins and his time at the top was over. So what ended up happening, he won a rare Roland Garros and Wimbledon double in the process passing Sampras's record and shutting up many people along the way. Yes, there are people who complained that Federer didn't defeat Nadal to win the Roland Garros crown, but the title for him was not an easy ride at all. Jose Acasuso had a chance to go 2 sets to 1 up on his serve, but dropped his bundle and Federer was able to take advantage, then Haas and del Potro pushed him very hard. The final wasn't the hardest match for him, it helped that he played an opponent who was in his first final and also the conditions were heavier which suited his game even more.

The French crowd weren't used to a winning speech on the mens final day delivered in French and he is very much a crowd favourite there. Then he was able to win at Wimbledon playing against his punching bag Roddick, who decided to punch back and had his chances to take a 2 sets to love lead, it was no surprise that Roddick choked on that backhand volley, as the most common way to see how well a technical weakness holds up is under pressure. The match had drama, but not of the highest quality, the longer it went the more likely Federer was to win it. He got the job done, it doesn't matter how he played, because it only goes down in the record books as a win. In the process creating history and this record should stand for some time, though the same was said about Sampras, but nothing at the moment is coming through unless Nadal wins 12 Roland Garros titles.

Nadal, well as usual he had an excellent start to the season with this great win in Melbourne after battling 5 hours with Verdasco in the semis, there were excuses already being made that he was going to be too tired for the final, but he showed this was not the case in taking out his first Aus Open. It was about the time that there was a 5 set final at the Aus Open, there hadn't been one since 1988 and that's too long. Yes, there was drama and the mentally stronger individual came through on the day, but the presentation ceremony where Federer turned on the waterworks did take away the focus from Nadal's great moment of winning the Slam. He handled the situation well considering the circumstances, and it should never have been about Federer's tears, but of course the media are going to focus on this.

Nadal was pushed by Djokovic on the clay, but as per usual he managed to win as he usually does on the clay. The big surprise of the year was that he lost at RG, not that he was going to remain undefeated on the surface, more the fact of who he lost to was what was the surprise factor. As usual the bitching about him being injured was thrown around as the reason he lost the match, though he made paella and sodomised Hewitt in the previous round. The fact Robin Söderling took him out in Paris, whereas a few weeks earlier Nadal thrashed the Toad badly in Rome and there is not a lot of love between them, which is good to see. Söderling played some excellent tennis in this match and the fact Magnus Norman is working with him now and a man who knew how to play on clay, they came up with a plan which suited his strengths and was able to execute it. This was the foundation for the excellent 6 months for Söderling which culminated at a semi final showing at the TMC.

del Potro and Davydenko were the guys in the second half of the season. Just as it was great for RG that Söderling defeated Nadal, because the only people enjoying the public executions that passed off as Roland Garros in recent years are Nadal fans. The same can be said for del Potro when he won the US Open in 5 sets against Federer. He has come a long way from the meek surrender at the Aus Open to the same opponent, then taking him to 5 sets at RG and then the Slam. del Potro has been hyped as the player to do well and win Slams, but he did it earlier than he and many others expected. His game isn't exactly scientific but very effective and his temperament has improved. It helps he has an outstanding coach in Franco Davin who has guided both weasel Coria and Gaudio, plus he likes to keep in the background and not interesting in pimping his own work unlike Brad Gilbert.

Davydenko had an excellent second half of the season, since he is such a rhythm player when he gets on a roll he can be very hard to stop with his aggressive ball striking that takes time away from the opponent. Can he win a Slam? I wouldn't mind to see it happening, but there are still some doubts that he can get it done at GS level, though it would be good to be proven wrong in this case. He dances to his own tune and his interviews are free of cliches which is something these days.

Onto the other stuff. The ATP changed the ranking points system for some reason and the rebranding of the tournaments, not much changed in that regard. Players still have to win matches and defend points, just because you put lipstick and a dress on a pig, does not mean it's not a pig. They have this thing with ISG events yay, there is TV coverage from the semi finals but nothing from the early days anywhere that makes perfect sense.

One last rant, the ATP allowing so many tournaments with byes in 2010. Do they seriously think that having all these byes is going to get the top players to play these IS events? The IS events players will play are either the ones in their home countries like Djokovic or places where they have long standing positive memories. It's a joke that a pro player can win a tournament just winning 4 matches. Why not just have 16 player only instead at the IS and ISG events make things easier.

Marat Safin has departed the scene and is now looking to join the Russian Olympic Committee. Safin was a well loved figure among the journalists, the fans especially the ladies and many guys thought he was cool. I mean if your girlfriend ran off with Safin, it would be like "yeah, that's ok", unlike say it was Hewitt for example. The man who shagged more women than he broke racquets, liked to have fun and was admired by most of his peers and that is the important thing. As a player winning 2 Slams some will say this isn't enough of a return for a guy of his abilities, but many talented players have not won a Slam. It was the right time for him to retire, in fact probably should have retired at the end of 2008, he was a step slower and that meant he was late on the ball and impacted on his game and mental state. Best of all Safin was not a clone and his press conferences were almost as good as bedroom antics. Hope he can succeed in his life away from tennis.

Last of all Lucho Horna and Calleri decided to retire from the game and I have not forgotten about the Lucho retirement entry and I have decided that this will be the last entry for 2009.


Choupi said...

Great read as usual. But I would have personally added one more name in the list of the good guys who retired....the Magician.

Cobalt60 said...

I enjoyed reading your blog as usual. Was there anyone match that totally stood out for you this year in terms of great play, heart palpitations and the outcome? I can only think of the Soderling vs Nadal one but only because of Soderling's play and the outcome ;) How about between 2 unheralded players?

Martine said...

Great report and it summarizes the year very well! Enjoyed reading it as always and looking forward very much to the Lucho article (maybe there will be one about Calleri too?) :-)


A. said...

Good summary but of course you had to bring up the unexistant Nadal excuses :ras:
His AO SF was awsome and the final something to behold forever :D
About RG, you have to find funny that it was Toad who beat him, karma really is a bitch :(
The W final was a boring serve fest, when Fed breaks Roddick once in a 5 sets match you know how big the tennis quality was :zzz: And Roddick is useless....
Was nice to see another player getting a GS and Kolya year end was thrilling :)
Marat will be missed, no-one left with his drool-inducing qualities :-(
Highlight of the year for me? Volandi-Dani K in Bucharest, a true clasic :lol:

Denys said...

Excellent review of the season. As the saying goes some things change and the more they stay the same.

Pavel, Santoro, Calleri and Horna all finishing up as for Pavel and Fabrice this is no surprise, but Horna and Calleri going at this point was a bit disappointing.

Söderling definitely kept up the level from RG and Nors has helped him so much.