Thursday, September 08, 2005

Great Professional Tennis Blog

FYI for those looking for a good read on the pro players I recently found a great blog on professional tennis that I'd recommend if you're keen on keeping up on your favourite pro players goings on. It's called http://www.protennisfan.com/. It's got pretty detailed info on news and events related to a bunch of pro players, really up to date as well. Basically you've got blog articles based on player news and events broken down on a per player basis which I hadn't really seen before in my travels. I had a good read of the James Blake stuff regarding to his quarterfinal match with Agassi. Instead of combing all the tennis news sites for info on your favourite players this site probably wraps it up for you.

Blake Vs Agassi Vs The Imposters

Much could be said about the Blake Vs Agassi match from a technical/strategy standpoint but it really boiled down to guts like any entertaining match ultimately does. For me the main thing on my mind in the end for some reason was the unique experience Tennis and competitive sports in general can give people. The match was decided by a precious few shots in the fifth set tiebreak. Was either Blake or Agassi really the "winner" of that match? No one really dominated, it was so close the fact that someone would go on in the tournament almost seemed like a flip of a coin as much as a clear statement of who was the stronger player that day. Sure Blake was bummed and Agassi was on a high after winning but it brought to mind that cheesy phrase they put on the entrance to center court at Wimbledon, something like "To meet with victory and defeat and treat these two imposters as just the same" since there was so little that seemed to make the winner and loser here. For me the "take home" part was a statement made by Agassi right after the match on court when he said that matches like this one were the reason he kept playing since to paraphrase "How else could he get such an experience?". In my everday reach there is nothing that can quite duplicate the physical exertion, mental focus, drama and basic highs and lows that a competitive tennis match can provide and guess what, this is true for Andre Agassi too. A guy who has millions in the bank knows that the thrill of competition is something that he cannot purchase and you don't have to be playing the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open to get amped up about trying to serve out the match late in the third set. You can be in a dogfight with some dude with two forehands in the first round of the local Joe's Donut and Fried Fish Shop Open and barely be able to hold onto your racquet! This is really cool because it's a reminder that ultimately you, me and Andre Agassi are all playing competitive tennis for the same reasons. So somebody will win, somebody will lose, apparently they are both "imposters" and the the reason you play is for the unique experience that is only possible if you put it on the line in a tournament match.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ivo the Entertainer

After watching Ivo Karlovic take on Andre Agassi at the US Open I'm compelled to state that Ivo is the most entertaining player currently on the professional tennis circuit. The reason I find him so fun to watch is that every match you get an answer to the question "What would happen if I played (insert pro player here) but was given an unreturnable bomb of a serve". Every time I watch him play I feel as though I'm watching a decent club player's game attached to the world's most formidable service delivery. This makes for highly entertaining matchups like the other night where you have Agassi, a legend in the sport trying to figure out how to get his racquet on the ball often enough to put a set together against a guy he would otherwise kill from the baseline. You just know Ivo is holding his breath once that serve is returned and Agassi is like "phew ok, go fetch that topspin winner I'm now going to hit will you?". For Ivo, the problem with bringing a bazooka to a gun fight is that it takes longer to reload and once Agassi gets the serve back he can pepper the court with full-automatic gunfire until Ivo duffs one or just can't get there in time. But this is what makes it so fun! It's really interesting because even though people would say that this type of power serving is ruining the game there are some real strategic decisions going on. When Agassi is serving he has got to be careful not to just push the ball and wait for errors in case Ivo ends up busting a few lucky balls and gets the break. For Ivo he's got to make sure he doesn't duff too many sitters or other easy balls and cough up a break. Even though they are totally different in every respect they both have the same fundamental problem i.e. they cannot break serve. So the whole match is really tight and as usual goes down to a highwire act in the tiebreak. If you want more insight into this have a read of Professor Agassi's post match interview which you can find here . I happen to like tiebreaks because this means the match is close and both players are focussed on the task at hand instead of either thinking they've got it in the bag or are out of the set and waiting for the next, especially in a five setter. Anyway if you are a tennis fan and into the X's and O's of matches an Ivo match never fails to deliver the entertainment. I hope we see more of him in the latter rounds of the tournaments, it's boring watching Federer play nerf tennis with Roddick or Hewitt these days.