Flushing Meadows, New York
August 27-Sep 9
2R: Bammer def Dementieva 6-1 6-2
2R: Dementieva def Cetkovska 6-3 6-2
1R: Dementieva def Cohen-Aloro 6-4 6-3
2R: Dementieva/Pennetta vs Raymond/Stosur
1R: Dementieva/Pennetta def Laine/Wozniacki 6-4 6-1
US Open Aug 27-Sep 9
1. Henin, Justine 
2. Sharapova, Maria 
3. Jankovic, Jelena 
4. Kuznetsova, Svetlana 
5. Ivanovic, Ana 
6. Chakvetadze, Anna 
7. Mauresmo, Amelie 
8. Petrova, Nadia 
9. Williams, Serena 
10. Bartoli, Marion
11. Hantuchova, Daniela
12. Schnyder, Patty 
13. Dementieva, Elena 
14. Williams, Venus
15. Vaidisova, Nicole 
16. Safina, Dinara 
17. Hingis, Martina 
18. Golovin, Tatiana 
19. Peer, Shahar
20. Bammer, Sybille 
|Sony Ericsson Race
1. Henin 3675
2. Jankovic 3475
3. Ivanovic 2707
4. Kuznetsova 2546
5. Sharapova 2340
6. Williams, S. 2141
7. Chakvetadze 2106
8. Williams, V. 1740
9. Petrova 1698
10. Hantuchova 1684
16. Dementieva 1357
New Haven, Connecticut
QF: Kuznetsova def Dementieva 4-6 6-3 3-0 ret. (nausea)
QF: Dementieva def Bartoli 6-4 6-2
2R: Dementieva def Harkleroad 6-1 7-6(6)
1R: Dementieva def Santangelo 6-2 3-6 6-0
| Wednesday, September 06, 2006
| Crash Club by Peter Bodo
Every player always feels "disappointed" in defeat, but tennis is a crazy game (stop the presses!), not least because just about everybody, every blessed week, spins out and hits the infield wall. They go up in a great big ball of fire and smoke and miraculously walk away - just like most of those NASCAR pilotas - helmet in hand, suffering nothing more serious than third-degree burns to psyche.
Ultimately, it's really just a matter of where you spin out, in Turn 1 (just ask Vince Spadea about that), or in Turn 4, during the gun lap, in which case you have the privilege of watching the likes of Justine Henin-Hardenne or Amelie Mauresmo roll by you to take the checkered flag while your eyelids are getting flash-fried to your eyeballs and you're already thinking acceptance speech: "Thank you, ballboys and ballgirls (calm down, Mats!)."
This explains why the great players all share one outstanding attribute: a short memory. And it also helps explain why losers tend to be rather philosophical in defeat. Can't win every week, you know, mate? Heck, 95 per cent of the pros don't win in any week. The gun goes off and only one player ultimately crosses the finish line, while the infield is lined with smoking wrecks and guys in haz-mat suits, foaming down the track.
And you're supposed to do this, week after week? There's only one bit of cold comfort for any of the players in all of this: they may have nothing in common with one man or woman (the winner), but a whole lot of that misery-loves-company type of camaraderie with (at a major) 126 others. Welcome to the Crash Club.
Still, now and then there's a situation where the philosophical approach is an inadequate buffer, and it means nothing that a steady parade of losers has preceded you in that long walk to the press room. Now and then, it really hurts, not with that, "Ouch! Hey I'm still in the doubles!" level of hurt, but a deeper hurt. Sometimes a player simply can't hide the disillusion behind glib sound bites in the presser. That's why I wanted to jump out of my seat during Elena Dementieva's press conference today (she was crushed by Jelena Jankovic, 6-2,6-1)and give her a big hug.
Of course, if I had done that I would have found myself asking, a short while later, "Elena. . . Are you, ah. . .going to press charges?"
So I just sat there studying the look of utter deflation on Elena's pleasant, equine face, thinking: "Wow. This one really hurt."
Consider the situation. Dementieva has established herself in a unique role as a Grand Slam bridesmaid; to the best I can figure (I'll have to check with the WTA on this one), she's the only former GS finalist in the field who hasn't gone on to win one. Such an attractive girl, and there she sits at the Big Dance, unasked. I can hear the chaperones talking amongst themselves . . . It's a pity. . . She has so much to offer. . .Such a nice girl. . .and, the inevitable. . . Ah, do you think there's something wrong with her?
At this point, you're all supposed to shout in unison, You Bet! She couldn't bust a sheet of paper with that serve, and that's assuming she could hit the danged thing.
To which I say, begone, naysayers! (Hey, I like that, I sound rather Shakespearian, no?)
Granted, Dementieva didn't hold serve once today; in fact, I'm not all that sure she's held serve since 2001. But what I love about this girl is that she's somehow found a way to buck the entire, subtle, finely-tuned athletic logic of three centuries worth of tennis and succeed without a serve. Think about it. This is like someone without feet making the national soccer team.
When Dementieva arrived at the USTABJKNTC this morning, she had to be feeling pretty good about her chances. For once, while she had the usual wrap on her left leg (something that the astute Charlie Bricker noted in her presser), it was largely a preventative measure; for once, she was getting a good but comparatively inexperienced opponent (this was Jankovic's first quarterfinal at a major); Dementieva had lost just 26 games and no sets en route to the quarters.
Serve? Ha! Who needs it?
In fact, wasn't it Jancovic herself who had gleefully admitted (after losing a tight, three-set final to Dementieva at Los Angeles, just a few weeks ago) that she had a lot of trouble with Dementieva's serve: "For me, I prefer, I can return easier Serena's serve than Dementieva's serve. I mean, in LA, Serena would hit a 125 mile (per hour) serve and I would it it even harder back, hit a winner back. But then I played Dementieva, who hits 80 mile serve, and I can't even make it over the net. I don't know what it was. But now I got used to it somehow."
And you just know it eventually must spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e for Dementieva when a rival makes it out that her serve is her ace-in-the-hole.
So today, Jankovic teed off on Dementieva's serve, but instead of firing back with her usual Rapid Response tactic (throwing in 38 double faults; gets 'em every time!), Dementieva hit just five. The real damage was done less by Dementieva double faults or service speed (did you notice that they dragged out a sundial to time it?), or Jankovic winners, than by the relentless pressure she applied by powdering those returns: Elena, you're playing soccer with no feet. Ha-ha-ha, Wham!
Elena, of course, could be forgiven for sloughing all this off with a shrug and telling the press, Hey, I got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open without a serve, and made more than any of you do in a year on the way. What am I supposed to be all bent out of shape about?
But that's not the Dementieva we know and love. Just an hour and two minutes after it started, it was all over. It came faster than the rain (which in New York these days is saying quite a bit), and it hurt more than hailstones. Another year has gone by without Dementieva winning a major and people once again muttering, This girl is good, but she's no Anastasia Myskina. . .
What you have to love about this girl, though, is that she really, truly, believed she could do it this year. She didn't exactly say that, but it was expressed in her disconsolate expression and lack of animation. She looked bitterly disappointed. How could a woman who got to the U.S. Open quarterfinals without the foundational stroke in the game feel so let down? She found a way. And she made a telling remark when she was asked if she was disappointed that she didn't get back to the semis or final, as she had on a few occasions in the past.
Yes, I am disappointed." She said. "I still have - I still feel like it was a good result, to be in the quarter. But, you know, I fell like I could do, you know, a little more, and I could go to the semifinals. Yeah, it is disappointing, you know. I'm getting older, and I haven't won a Grand Slam, so that's really what I'm thinking about all the time. I feel like I was in good shape here. That's why it's sad."
So that's really what I'm thinking about, all the time. . .
There you have it, as unvarnished as it comes.
I couldn't help ask her if there were a piece missing somewhere, mostly because I was vaguely hoping that she might say that she already had some overall game plan in place for next year, some new serving coach or fitness routine, perhaps a Voodoo priestess or sports psychologist (whoops, same thing). Heck, at this point even some long-haired, opportunistic Svengali who drives a red Ferrari and goes by just one name might do. But Elena just said:
I feel like I'm doing the right thing, you know. I can't play perfect every single day. It's impossible for anyone. So I'm just trying to work hard, and, youknow, trying to fight in the court, no matter what, you know, no matter how my serve is, no matter how I feel. You know, I try to fight because that's what it takes you to be champion, you know. Try to win, no matter how you feel today.
A little while later, she added:Actually, I feel disappointed because my leg feel so much better now. I had some problems in the beginning of the tournament, but today I was feeling physically great and I was like ready to run. I was ready to have a good match. It was over in an hour. I was very sad.
On paper, I guess, those quotes don't necessarily scream, "Put this girl on suicide watch!" But Dementieva was devastated; about that I have no doubt. And I hadn't realized how accustomed I'd grown to the oh-so-reasonable and dispassionate assessments players produce to explain losing. It's probably better that way because, in the long run, feeling so crushed by a loss would make anyone want to fling himself off the top rail of Arthur Ashe stadium (And I can only imagine how the players would feel!)
When you think about it, this sport is a lot more about losing than about winning. And we've all got to guard against letting that cat out of the bag.
|posted by mjgrace22 @ 10:25 AM