Blame FSN! I refused to watch a live stream (yes, even the pirated one FSN’s own Justin Gimelstob twittered out, bless him) stubbornly waiting until 10:30 pm Los Angeles time to watch Clijsters vs. Henin on tape. As if tape delay wasn’t bad enough, I tuned in at the scheduled time and was subjected to a hockey post-game show (like watching TV in a strange, foreign land called Canada) and a short but not short enough feature on the UCLA baseball team. I’m surprised FSN didn’t try to squeeze in a curling preview for the 2014 Games.
Now it’s 3:00 am, and I feel about as tired as Kim and Justine must have felt at 3:00 am, Miami time. What a match! I almost turned it off when Clijsters was up 6-2, 3-0, but decided to be patient, seeing how I waited so long to watch it on the big screen. It was almost over. Yeah, right.
An attempt at analysis is futile for me at this point. Here are some random thoughts floating around my sleepy head:
1. That match was worth the same as an entire International-level tournament, in terms of building up Kim’s and Justine’s match-toughness.
2. I’m liking how Justine is getting close, but not quite close enough. It should be enough to fuel her to improve that serve and build more flexibility into her strategy.
3. I used to be a big Justine fan. Huge. I’m a sucker for a one-handed backhand and an all around “pretty” game. Especially when these attributes win a physically diminutive player so many majors. Then Justine retired in the Australian Open final vs. Mauresmo and I wrote her off for good. I eventually got over it and am ecstatic that she’s back. But now it’s Clijsters – a player I didn’t follow too much during her “first” career – that I love watching. She has a perfect balance of athleticism, power and strategy, no annoying tics or grunts and gets down to business on the court. And there’s something Platonic about her forehand. Love it. Anyone else find their Kim/JuJu allegiances shifting?
4. I’m glad Clijsters won because she’s physically fresher than Justine and should give Venus a more competitive final.
5. I’m really impressed by the level of Venus’s play since she won in Dubai in February and then everything else she entered. She was getting some tough “love” by American commentators during the Australian Open, so this must be sweet revenge on some level. I’m not surprised that this surge is coinciding with Serena’s injury layoff. I don’t mean this in a Richard Williams conspiracy theorist type of way, at all. But I do buy into the notion that Venus’s innate big sisterliness kicks in whenever her sister is playing the same tournament. Of course she wants to beat Serena, but thinking about doing it saps her energy in a slow, deadly leak.
I thought this quote from her latest post-match presser was kind of eerie:
“Serena Williams is an extremely tough competitor. We play so similar. In a way, it’s almost like playing against yourself. So that’s never easy, facing yourself.”
Do you think I’m crazy? At least we can all agree that it’s great to see V playing at the top of her hard court game. The last time she won Miami was in 2001 vs. Jennifer Capriati. She won it in 1999 (vs. Serena) and 1998 (vs. Kournikova), too. Yeah. Wow. Maybe someone else on the WTA tour is enjoying a second career.
6. Sorry, Verdasco, but I’m glad Berdych made good on his victory over Federer. Nothing’s more annoying that a big upset followed by a whimper.
7. Soderling is shockingly consistent now.
8. I know Roddick has a (small) chance against Nadal but I’m really excited by the prospect of either a Nadal vs. Berdych or a Nadal vs. Soderling final. Why? Because it lets me post this video for the umpteenth time!
(Yeah, yeah, been there, done that, water under the bridge, yada yada. . .but I think Rafa’d like to have a go at Soderling, no? YESSSS!)
9. I always love a reporter trying to stir up trouble:
Q. That was a nice impersonation of Bartoli’s footwork at the net after the match. Was that spur of the moment?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, no, I just bounce like that when I’m really excited.
Q. That looked like a new move.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Oh, I been bouncing like that since ’97. (Laughter.)
Q. I haven’t seen that one before.
VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, go back to those tapes.
Q. That wasn’t in honor of her?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, no, I just kind of bounce like that when I’m excited.
Q. Do you watch her do those nonstop bouncings [sic] and swings and kicks?
VENUS WILLIAMS: Not really. I mean, I see it, but I’m just not thinking about I’m thinking about my game.
It works for her. I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Q. Did you think Venus was impersonating you when you met at the net?
MARION BARTOLI: No, I think it’s more the pace of her shot that really tax on you. It’s just not the same pace that I am used to playing against. She’s really the same as Serena. It’s really the pace of her shot that it’s taking on you.
Q. No, she met you at the net after the match and she was kind of doing the bouncing. Did you notice that when you shook hands?
MARION BARTOLI: Yeah, she’s always doing that when she’s happy, so I guess she was happy.
Q. What was Serena wearing? (while watching Venus from the sidelines)
MARION BARTOLI: I think she had a red dress and some really, really, really high heel shoes. Maybe something like 14 inches of heels. It was pretty high.
Q. And she has a knee injury.
MARION BARTOLI: I think she can manage to walk pretty well. I think from wearing those kind of shoes you don’t feel that much pain in your knees. It’s just about the ankle.
10. Do you ever feel like tennis matches are stories? Not like scorelines, double faults and break points – I’m not talking about the stuff you can write down in a linear way. I’m talking about musical stories, the kind you feel and understand and experience but can’t really describe. Maybe the word I’m looking for is expression. Lately, I’ve been feeling the players expressing themselves with their tennis. Roger in that final set vs. Berdych. Or Kim and Justine on Thursday night. It’s like listening in on a secret conversation. Or trying to tune into a fuzzy station on the radio dial.
Okay, I think it’s getting late! Signing off.