What To Do About Rafa?

I can only imagine those were the thoughts of Stan Wawrinka as he stood across the net from the 9 time French Open champ, Rafa Nadal. Nadal…who has played an absolute flawless clay court season this year, who was going for a record breaking 10th French Open title today. Rafa already broke his own records this year by winning his 10th title in Monte Carlo and his 10th title in Barcelona. His record on clay goes on and on.

And it’s not like Stan Wawrinka is some snuffleupagus. Even though he is often considered the under cat, he has won three majors, one of those being the French Open in 2015. He’s built like a brick house and has the best one handed backhand on tour. But he had no answers against Rafa today. It wouldn’t have mattered who Rafa played today, he would have made them look like a wobbly slinky, stuck in the mud with no one to give him a push down the stairs.

Stan won a mere 6 games out of the entire match. Final score: 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. The only thing we can do now is look ahead…next week starts the grass court season. What….you don’t know about tennis on grass? Stay tuned for next Sunday’s Slice! I might even be moved to write more poetry!

Til then, kitties and friends…

Torn Between Two Lovers

Remember that song from the 70’s “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor? You know…

Torn between two lovers

Feeling like a fool

Loving you both

Is breaking all the rules

Well, that’s how I felt watching the Rafa Nadal/Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem semi-final match today. You’ve got Rafa dominating this clay court season; clearly the favorite. Then you have Dominic Thiem, the underdog for sure. But he just beat the defending champ, Novak Djokovic, in the QF, and he’s the only player who has beaten Rafa this clay court season. So there is always a chance for an upset.

Alas my friends, it was not meant to be. As I settled in on the sofa next to my human, I was trying to be a dignified tennis cat. Sitting politely, grooming myself, paying attention, trying to enjoy the match. But next to me sat my human and all I could hear was a stream of “Oh noooo, Oh Lord, damn, Lordie be, oh for goodness sake.” And then it got quieter with a lot of non-verbals, murmurs of “uhhh”, some head shaking, and finally face palms.

And this is how my human sat and watched Dominic Thiem get slaughtered by the King of Clay, Rafa Nadal. 6-3, 6-4, 6-0

There is a song by Patty Griffin called “When It Don’t Come Easy.” This has got to be Thiem’s theme song when he plays Nadal.

When It Don’t Come Easy

Sorry Dominic, but today was just not your day, and even though I’m thrilled for Nadal, and I still really sad for you. See you on the grass courts…

Tennis Clinic by Dominic Thiem

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Don’t sneeze or snooze for a quick catnap or it will be over! I’m talking about the quarterfinal match today between Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem and defending champ, Novak Djokovic.

Three sets is all it took for the Thiem to win. 7-6, 6-3, 6-0. And let me tell you, it was a tennis clinic if I ever saw one. Dominic had a strategy and executed it perfectly. This was  a rematch from just weeks before where Djokovic won in three sets. Dominic came out and attacked the ball early, hit heavy forehands and backhands across the court, ran for every drop shot at the net. It was really a thing of beauty. And with his fantastic hair blowing in the wind…well it was picture perfect!

Here’s a quick tip for the casual tennis observer. When you watch a match, it really just looks like two guys standing on opposite sides of the net, hitting the ball back and forth. Next time you watch, pay attention to where the player is standing in relation to the baseline (the line in the back of the court). If they are standing inside, is their opponent standing far back from their baseline? If so, this typically means they are being more aggressive…taking the ball earlier, forcing their opponent to scoot back to return the ball. Who wins that point? Likely the player playing more aggressively.

Well, furry friends, Dominic Thiem gets to play Rafa Nadal in the semis. I’m sorry Sweep the Leg, but that’s just the luck of the draw. But don’t be too discouraged….Thiem is the ONLY player to beat Nadal during this year’s clay court season. And besides, I’m calling Dominic as the French Open dark horse!

Two Sides of the Same Coin

The 2017 French Open has really been shaping up to be two sides of the same coin. Maybe a little Jeckle and Hyde? Week one was full of emotional drama – tons of personal interest stories. Week two is getting down to the business of tennis.

Week one drama:

  1. We marveled at the comeback of Petra Kvitova who was stabbed during an attack during a home invasion just months earlier. The damage to her hand was so severe, the doctor didn’t know if she would be able to hold a racquet again, much less compete. Remarkably, she made it to the second round before being knocked out by US qualifier, Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
  2. We cheered, wept and openly grieved with Stevie Johnson, as he returns to competition after losing his father just weeks before the French Open. Surprisingly, he made it all the way through to round three before meeting up with Dominic “Sweep the Leg” Thiem. After an emotional second round match, he was spent, so I was not surprised that he had nothing left during the third round match.
  3. David Goffin, the 10th seed in the men’s draw, sprained his ankle while sliding on the clay to get a ball, getting his leg caught up in the folded tarp at the back of the court. He had to be carried off court by two guys because he couldn’t put any weight on his leg. I don’t know how this injury will effect the rest of his year. Certainly, he won’t be at Wimbledon, but hopefully back by the US Open?

Week two business:

  1. Will Rafa Nadal win his 10th French Open title? His game has been practically purrfect!
  2. Or will adding Andre Agassi to Novak Djokovic‘s coaching box help him defend his title?
  3. Who will win the women’s title? Every player left has never one a grand slam title.
  4. My dark horse pick in the men’s draw is Dominic Thiem! He has been so solid on the clay this year, I think he has a shot for the title!! Sweep the leg, Dominic!!
  5. My dark horse pick in the women’s draw is Karolina Pliskova. She’s currently ranks around 3-5, but as I predicted earlier this year, I see her as a top seed! #1 for Pliskova, please.

Week two, here we go! Let’s see what happens!

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Happy Birthday, Rafa!

Rafa Nadal turns 31 years old today! Feliz cumpleaños, my friend!

Yes, his birthday always aligns with the French Open! Purrfectly fitting since he has won 9 French Open titles already and is currently on track to win his 10th next week!

And even with guns like that, it was amusing to see him struggle with opening a gift from the Tennis Channel. Let me set the scene…

Rafa graciously agrees to come in to the TC’s Lacoste lounge to do an interview (on his birthday, no less, smh). They chat with him about his dominance during this French Open when he humbly says “I don’t know if I’m the favorite or not.” Umm, OK Rafa, whatever. Then the President of the TC comes over and hands him a box wrapped in bright blue paper tied up with thin curly ribbon. You know the kind of ribbon…the kind where when you pull it to try and break it, it only gets thinner and tighter and so you eventually just reach for the scissors and cut it loose. I saw this and I thought for sure Rafa is going to be able to snap that apart in one swift pull. Nope, Rafa is human! He couldn’t break it and simply slid it aside without breaking a sweat. Inside, a fancy fishing reel! He proclaims “I’m going to catch a big one and send a picture.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAFA! Enjoy your day off and good cat wishes to you for the rest of the tournament!

I Get So Emotional Baby

Friends, I’m hear to tell you tennis can be an emotional sport, and there’s nothing I like better than having a good cry during a tennis match.

To explain myself a little better, lets rewind to the 1995 Australian Open quarterfinal match between Pete Sampras (my all-time favorite player) and Jim Courier. Earlier that day, Pete’s coach, Tim Gullikson, was flown back to the US after suffering a stroke, which was later diagnosed as brain cancer and would ultimately claim his life. It was a tight match, Courier winning the first two sets 6-7, 6-7. Pete claims the third and fourth sets 6-3, and 6-4. At the beginning of the fifth set, a fan in the stand yells “Do it for your coach, Pete.” At this point, Pete loses his composure and breaks down in tears. Through his tears, he pounds out a couple of aces, and eventually wins the fifth set 6-3 and clinches the match. A classic moment in tennis history. For a quick summary of that match, here’s a nice video:

Sampras/Courier QF Aussie Open 1995

Fast forward to today…Steve Johnson is playing his second round match against a youngster, 20 year old, Borna Coric. Just weeks before the start of the French Open, Steve’s dad passed away in his sleep. At the urging of his family, Steve agreed to play at the French. His mom, sister and fiance are here as support. He battled to win this five set match, and after the last point, he dropped to his knees and burst into tears. Happy tears, exhausted tears, sad tears. We’ve all been there before…or at least I have. And the loss of  a parent can be so raw, right below the surface, and you don’t know when or what will be the trigger that causes you to breakdown. Anyway, he continued to cry, even through the post-match interview. The first thing he said in the interview was “I miss my dad.” When asked how he is doing physically, after playing a long, exhausting five set match, he replied, “Physically, I’m OK. Emotionally, I’m a mess.”  And with that, they wrapped up the interview and he left the court.

Meanwhile on the other side of the net, young and immature Borna Coric lost the match, and instead of paying respect to Steve while he eventually makes his way to the net to shake hands, he throws a tantrum and bangs his racquet into the red clay until it breaks. Even as he is walking towards the net to meet Steve, he hits his racquet into the ground and then swirls it over to his chair. Incredibly inappropriate, and just plain stupid. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in sport. Have some class and don’t throw a fit! I hope his coach uses this as a learning opportunity and tells Coric to have a little class on the court…OK?

Here is a nice story from Yahoo Sports on Steve’s win today:

Steve Johnson Emotional Round 2 Victory

Unfortunately for Steve Johnson, his third round opponent is Dominic Theim who has been unstoppable on the red clay this season. To you Stevie…good luck. My heart will be with you.

The Beginning of the End

Well tennis fans, it’s here…Day 1 of the French Open. The beginning of the end of clay court season, 2017. And just as the unpredictability of the bounce of the tennis ball and slide of the players on a court made of dirt, so does Day 1 begin.

As I write this morning, the tournament is a mere few hours old and we have already seen inevitable victory and defeat.

Defeat: Top seeded Angelique Kerber out in the first round. And it was quick. Don’t close your eyes for one single cat nap or you would miss it. Kerber is defeated 6-2, 6-2 by Ekaterina Makarova.

Victory: A HUGE victory, at that! Petra Kvitova wins her first round match after returning from injury. Back in December, she was stabbed during a home invasion, injuring her left hand (her playing hand). It was doubtful that she would even be able to play tennis again, but five months later, here she is. She does not have full use of her hand yet, but managed to win her first round match!

Her team was wearing the best shirts: Courage, Belief, P♥dj! Podj, you ask? It means “come on” in Czech.!  So…..Podj, Petra, and welcome back!

As with every Grand Slam tournament, there are story lines to follow, and this 2017 French Open is no different.

  • Will Rafa Nadal clinch his 10th win and the French Open? (likely)
  • Will Andre Agassi help Novak Djokovic’s slump? (probably not)
  • Will Djokovic’s new sponsor, Lacoste, help his slump? (probably not)
  • With Serena Williams out due to her pregnancy, which woman will rise to the top? (Simona Halep, maybe)
  • Will I ever learn how to convert kph to mph? (nope…doubtful)

Stay tuned, furry friends! I will keep you all up to date on the latest at the French Open…all from the comfort of my little corner of the sofa!

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