Life Imitates Art on The Ruthless Courts of Wimbledon

01/07/2011 at 5:28 am (Books, Current Affairs, Great Britain, History, Royalty, Russia, Tennis, The Ruthless Court, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The Ruthless Court is set at Wimbledon tennis and in Barbados, St Petersburg, wider London, Moscow and Madagascar. Read Chapter 1 free to see how our scene-setting matches up to this weekend at Wimbledon, with Djokovic, and a tall Russian woman in the Finals.

The Ruthless Court book cover

TITLE PAGE AND COPYRIGHT

The Ruthless Court

Autumn & Bonny St John

 This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters and their dialogue, incidents and locations either are used fictitiously or are created by the authors from their imaginations.  Any similarity to living or dead people and their current or past dialogue, events and locations is entirely coincidental.

 Copyright © 2011

All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without written permission from the authors, except for the inclusion of  brief quotations in a review.

Chapter 1

“Let’s go rumble with little Miss Womble, Your Majesty!”

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II involuntarily jerked her torso back as if avoiding an intended blow. She and the Lady Sophie Rycroft-Ross, Lady-in-Waiting, in startled unison exclaimed, “What!”

The Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, frowned at Sir Richard Littlehyusen, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. They were in the hallway of the ladies changing rooms of the famous club. Sir Richard had a look close to horror on his face. His expression was out of place in the genteel surroundings. For security reasons, no one else was allowed to be in the area of the changing rooms at the same time as the Queen. Sir Richard had agreed that with her close protection team. He would therefore have some difficult explaining to do.

The voice they’d heard was that of a New York American but they couldn’t see him. The Queen’s chief close protection officer started walking determinedly and briskly in the direction the voice had come from. He unbuttoned his jacket, and briefly rested his hand on something out of sight at his right hip. Sir Richard trotted along behind the lanky, grey-haired man.

At that moment Catherine Verkhovnova and her coach Jack Petrovich came into the hallway. Jack, always unflappable and confident, immediately realised what had happened.  And the players and coaches had been advised by the club on the etiquette of addressing Her Majesty, if the occasion arose when they had to do so. She had been briefed about the players and coaches.

Jack smiled and with more of a nod than a bow said “Oh, sorry, Your Majesty, I was talking to Catherine here, the one and only Empress of Tennis!”

In spite of the lapse in security and protocol, everyone laughed, except Catherine.

“I am surprised, Mr Petrovich, that you’ve heard of our imaginary little friends, the Wombles of Wimbledon Common.  Do you have children?” the Queen asked with a broad smile.

“No Ma’am, but in the dark, endless Winters of St Petersburg you’ll do anything to pass the time. Even allowing yourself to be persuaded to watch old tapes of the BBC’s Wombles stories,” Jack replied.

Laughter all round again, but Catherine stood unsmiling and as still as if she were rooted to the spot. Jack looked at her. She was trembling slightly. The nineteen year old seemed overwhelmed by coming face to face with the Queen. Her large, bright green eyes were fixed on the authoritative but kind face of this Queen Elizabeth.

Does she know that I am her cousin? Catherine thought. Has she, like me, been told the true story of her great uncle, my great, great, grandfather?

The Queen’s expression revealed nothing. Nothing but her mastery of the diplomatic skill of remaining poker-faced when one’s thoughts had to be kept secret at all cost. She abruptly turned to Sir Richard and nodded.

Guided by him, she and her entourage set off to complete her look round the modern facilities of the club. She had intended to do this two years ago, but had overrun her schedule by talking to players and officials much longer than expected.

Exceptionally, she had returned for the Gentlemen’s Singles Finals this year. During the past year, she had been coaxed and encouraged to do so by her young friends Lady Sophie and her brother, Lord Gervase Rycroft-Ross.

And either by monarchical magic or divine coincidence, Britain at last had a man playing in the Wimbledon singles final for the first time since Bunny Austin more than seven decades ago. In addition, to the nation’s joyful amazement, Georgie Gent had reached the Ladies’ Singles Final, with consummate spotlight sharing timing. And to crown it all for her, she was playing today, Sunday, in front of the Queen. As tradition dictated, the Ladies’ Final had been scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but, in the early morning, Catherine Verkhovnova, Georgie’s opponent, had complained of a debilitating stomach upset. The Championships referee, GJ Gillem, had insisted that the tournament’s official doctor should verify that the world’s number one female player was indeed incapable of taking to the court.

Once her illness was confirmed, the Wimbledon Committee pragmatically, if highly unusually, swapped the Ladies’ Final and the Mixed Doubles Final, bringing forward the latter to Saturday from Sunday. They soothed disappointed and increasingly unruly spectators by offering them a partial refund, before the hallowed name of Centre Court could be brought into disrepute.

But the Mixed Doubles players threatened, in McEnroesque style, not to play, annoyed by the sudden change. However, GJ Gillem used his diplomatic wiles and negotiating skills, honed during several ambassadorial appointments, including Washington, to talk them into playing. It helped as well that he and his wife, the fabulous jazz singer Ann-Nicole Bauer, had been Wimbledon Mixed Doubles champions, so he shared camaraderie with the current players.

The nation was agog with anticipation. The television audience in the UK was expected to be the largest ever to watch a sporting event.

And now on this glorious Sunday, thirty thousand people were flooding onto Henman Hill, Court One and all the “outside” courts to watch the two finals on large television screens. Centre Court, the place where history would actually be played out, was packed.

Inside, Jack took Catherine’s elbow and gently but firmly pushed her along. They headed to the players’ waiting room. When they got there, Georgie hadn’t arrived yet. Hers was not a name known to most of the public; and many tennis fans only knew her as Laura Robson’s sometime doubles partner. But she had shocked everyone by beating Caroline Wozniacki in their semi-final, lasting six hours and fifty-two minutes, the longest match in the history of women’s tennis. And Jack referred to her as Miss Womble only as a way of helping Catherine to relax. It was obvious that Georgie was a skilled competitor. But to write her name in Wimbledon’s brightest history she would somehow have to overcome Catherine, who was undefeated all year.

For her male counterpart, Andy Murray, to join her in tennis immortality, he would have to beat a rampant Novak Djokovic in their final. John Lloyd, the wise, former Great Britain Davis Cup team captain, was confident that Murray would win, as the Scot had demolished Rafael Nadal in three sets in their semi-final.

And so the Wimbledon Committee, unaware of all the coincidences which made it happen, was very pleased that the Queen was attending the two matches of great sporting historic importance for Britain. During the silver jubilee year of her accession, 1977, she had watched from the Royal Box as Virginia Wade won the ladies trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish. But, after so many, many years, for the two Britons to win on the same day, if they won, in front of her would surely be a great pleasure to her, the club’s patricians reasoned to themselves.

But just about then the long-reigning British monarch was thinking of 1959 and a lunch she had in Toronto, Canada, with the Grand Duchess Olga, who was her cousin and the younger sister of the late Tsar Nicholas II.

Olga, then seventy-seven years old, had told the young Queen an astonishing story about the latter’s great uncle, Prince Albert Victor. To all the world, he had died at Sandringham House, Norfolk, England, in 1892. But, in fact, he had lived long after that, mostly in Russia, where he had a deadly feud with Rasputin.

Like me, Olga would have instantly recognised that extraordinary girl as a descendant of Pyotr Asimov, the Queen thought. So she’s certainly part of the modern legacy of my great uncle, though I don’t know exactly how. Besides what I know, heaven knows what else Asimov got up to. And it was probably her and her advisers who wrote to me anonymously last year, the Queen surmised.  In any event, best for all if this particular past remains the past.

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 This book has now been published as an eBook on Kindle (there’s a note below about Kindle books). But you don’t need a Kindle device to download and read it. Here’s a link which will take you to the free Kindle app (software/system) for PCs, Macs, iPads, iPods, iPhones, etc, which you can download: http://amzn.to/iCTErl.

And here are links to the book on Kindle: http://amzn.to/mx2X6f  (UK),  http://amzn.to/lkN7F0 (Europe),  http://amzn.to/kC0X3f  (Rest of the World). These should take you direct to the book’s location. If they don’t, you can go to Amazon.co.uk, search for The Ruthless Court and it will pop up. Hope you’ll take a look. If you decide to read it,  hope you do enjoy it–and don’t forget to tell your friends about it as well!

And if you don’t already know:

You can move within a Kindle book as easily as you can in a paper copy. The “GO” button on the menu bar lets you move to, among other places, the Table of Contents and to Page or Location. In addition, when you reopen a Kindle book it will open at the last page you were reading. A paper copy doesn’t do that. You either have to remember where you were or bookmark it!  A Kindle book also allows you to choose from three different page backgrounds: white, off-white (sepia) and black.

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French Open 2011 in Pictures

16/06/2011 at 11:34 pm (Tennis) (, , , , , , , , )


The Philippe Chartier Court in all its glory.

 Roland Garros Centre Court

Isner’s big serving helped him into a 2-1 set lead against world no. 1 and defending champ Rafa Nadal.

John Isner

And the colour of the tall American’s cap…

John Isner Cap

…..matched Rafa’s…everything.Rafa blue

Whilst the boys meant business in blue, some of the girls looked pretty in pink. Like Daniela Hantuchova….

 Daniela Hantuchova

…Jelena Jankovic…

Jelena Jankovic

 …and Andrea Petkovic.

Andrea Petkovic

But Victoria Azarenka flew through the early rounds in a purple haze.

Vika Azarenka

 Andy Murray’s first match was somewhat of a walk on the clay.

Andrew MurrayMurray Prodon

He even had time to show off his footballing skills.

Murray football

Heather Watson pulled off a 1st round win with a gutsy performance.

 Hev Watson

World no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki came through her first few matches with relative ease.

Caroline Wozniacki

But it was Maria Sharapova who made an impression on the tournament by reaching the semi-finals.

Maria Sharapova

Speaking of the semi-finals, the battle between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer was the best semi of the tournament, across both the men’s and women’s draws.

Roger Federer Novak Djokovic

Na Li became the first Chinese player ever to win a Grand Slam singles title, when she defeated defending champion Francesca Schiavone in straight sets.

Na Li

The men’s final was a seesawing 4-set affair between Nadal and Federer….

Roger Federer Rafael NadalRoger Federer Rafael Nadal

….but in the end, victory tasted good to Rafa.

Na Li picture and last picture courtesy of the official Roland Garros website. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer picture courtesy of Frédéric de Villamil.

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French Open 2011 Week 1: Nice Work, Double Agent Andy Murray

31/05/2011 at 10:28 am (Current Affairs, Great Britain, Russia, Tennis) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Roland Garros in the sunSo the first week of the 2011 French Open was interesting. Here’s what we got from it.

Star Attractions

Reigning women’s champion Francesca Schiavone and No. 3 men’s seed Roger Federer sailed through week 1 with relative ease, both winning their first 3 matches in straight sets. Just for the sake of gloating, Schiavone’s 1st round encounter with Melanie Oudin was as predictable as we, well, predicted, with the Italian player rushing through the match 6-2 6-0. As tennis blogger Craig Hickman said on Twitter, “It wasn’t as close as the scoreline”.

However, some of the other top players weren’t so lucky.

Everyone was keen to see Captain of Clay, Ruler of Roland Garros and World #1 Rafael Nadal make his first appearance in this year’s French Open. In round 1 he was up against all 6’9” of big serving American John Isner. The reigning champ took the 1st set 6-4 and everything seemed to be business as usual. But it all got a little odd when Isner took the Spaniard to a 2nd set tie-break and then had the audacity to win it. OK, so it was 1 set all. Rafa dropping a set on French clay is rare, but him losing a Roland Garros match is even rarer, so surely it was only a matter of time before he prevailed here. Apparently no one told Isner this, because the World #39 then went on to take the 3rd set to a tie-break as well—and he won that too. John Isner was 2 sets to 1 up on the five-time French Open champion and no one could quite believe what was happening. Nadal had never been taken to five sets at this slam before, but he’d have to go 5 to win the match. And that he did. After not making one single error in the 4th set, Nadal took control again in the 5th, finally winning the match 6-4 6-7 6-7 6-2 6-4. “For moments in the tie-break, I didn’t play very well. I was probably too nervous “, laughed the King of Clay afterwards.

On Thursday, Rafa looked like he was going to have another wobble against compatriot Pablo Andujar. The World #1 had taken the first 2 sets, but was 5-2 down in the 3rd. He then had to save about a thousand set points. Well ok, 8. The third set went to a tie-break in which Andujar completely messed up a drop shot to give Nadal two match points. Rafa only needed one. The Spanish player’s 3rd round match was a lot more straightforward; he beat the Croatian qualifier Antonio Veic in straight sets, taking well under two hours to do the deed.

Maria Sharapova had a proper Thursday wobble. She was a set and 4-1 down against 17 year old French girl Caroline Garcia but then won 11 consecutive games to win the match 3-6 6-4 6-0. Strangely, Garcia’s incredible losing streak of 11 games started happening right after Andy Murray tweeted that the #188 youngster is a future #1. Nice work double agent Murray; your Russian comrades salute you.

 Kim Clijsters’ Thursday was more than a wobble. In her second round match against the Netherlands’ Arantxa Rus, she threw away a match point, at 5-2 up. Rus got it back on serve to 5-4. The Belgian No. 2 seed had another match point during the 10th game of the set, but she blew that too, sending a shot wide. So it was 5-5 and Rus broke Kim, before holding her serve—with the help of Kim sending a shot wide on the Dutch girl’s game point—to take it to a third set. Rus really started causing shockwaves in this final set, striding to a 4-1 lead as part of a streak that saw her win 10 out of 11 games. At 5-1 up, Rus then wasted a match point herself. On Rus’ 2nd match point, the 20 year old hit a cross court winner to take victory  3-6 7-5 6-3. It’s not even as if Kim didn’t have her fair share of luck during the match. One of the Belgian’s shots hit the net, hit the net post and then gently did a short lob back into her opponent’s side of the court for a winner.

The thrills, spills and upsets continued on Friday. Women’s 2010 runner up Sam Stosur had made it through to the 3rd round, only to be unceremoniously dumped out by the unseeded Argentine Gisela Dulko.  On the same day, world #1 Caroline Wozniacki’s 3rd round was also going badly. Her opponent Daniela Hantuchova hit down-the-line winner after down-the-line winner and Caro made error after error with the net result being that the Slovak player caused a major upset by beating the Danish 20 year old, not just comfortably, but spectacularly—6-1 6-3. As match commentator Andrew Castle said of Wozniacki’s error ridden match, “That was one of the most inept performances that I’ve ever seen from a top seed in a grand slam”.

With both Wozniacki and Clijsters going out so early, it’s the first time in the Open era that the top two women’s seeds have exited a tournament before the 4th round.

Novak Djokovic has looked scarily determined all week and extended his flabbergasting unbeaten run to six months by playing tennis that was as authoritative as it was impressive in his 1st and 2nd rounds. In the 3rd round came the much anticipated match-up with the resurgent former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro. In fact, we all had to anticipate it a little longer than expected, as for some reason the tournament schedulers put it as the last match of the day on Philippe Chartier court. Of course, the match before—Tsonga vs Wawrinka—went the full five sets, so Djoko vs Delpo was eventually moved to the Suzanne Lenglen court. Cue some big hitting and massive Del Potro forehands in the fading light. Djokovic took the first set, but then the big Argentine took the second. With no hope of completing a further 2 or 3 sets before the light ran out, the match was suspended until the following day, Saturday. The next day brought less drama, as the Serbian player saved 2 break points in the 3rd set and went on to break Del Potro, eventually taking the set 6-3. The next proved even easier for Djokovic. He won it 6-2, and so his winning run was extended.

Brits Abroad

Monday saw the great British-Russian showdown between Anne Keothavong and Vesna Dolonts. Out on the hinterlands of Court 7, there was little shade and nowhere to hide as Anne broke Dolonts in the 1st set, eventually winning the set 6-3. The Russian however, fought back in the 2nd set, breaking for 4-3, despite Anne having had 2 opportunities to take a 3-0 lead. But then Anne broke back to put the set back on serve. She sadly squandered a match point in this topsy-turvy set and was then broken again, with Volonts taking the 2nd set 7-5. In the decider,  Volonts broke Anne for a  3rd time and won the match 3-6 7-6 6-4. The match lasted a massive 3 hours and 20 minutes and proved to be battle more than worthy of both Britain and Russia.

Much later on the same day, Heather Watson’s opponent, experienced Frenchwoman Stephanie Foretz Gacon, broke her in the 1st set and was serving for the match at 5-4 but got tight and got broken back. However, she broke again for 6-5 and then once again failed to serve it out, leading to a tie-break, which gutsy Watson won 8-6 to take the 1st set 7-6. She’d saved 4 set points in total. After that,  Foretz Gacon just fell apart, as did her forehand. Here we were in the 2nd set with Heather leading 5-0. Was a British girl actually going to get a bagel at Roland Garros? Unfortunately not, as Heather failed to grab the match point on her serve and Steph won her 1st game of the set to take it to 5-1. Heather, however, didn’t waste any more time and broke the world #140 in the next game to win the match. Heather herself has moved into the top 100 on the back of that victory.

On Tuesday Elena Baltacha and Andy Murray played their 1st round matches. Andy Murray won 6-4 6-1 6-3 but was seemingly unhappy with the way he played. There were quite a few unforced errors and he did get broken twice during the course of the match. Andy loves a drop shot, but sometimes they don’t love him back. Baltacha beat American qualifier and Twitter addict Sloane Stephens 7-5 6-2.

In the 2nd round, Muzza, Bally and Watso all played on the same day. Playing against Simone Bolelli, Murray saved 5 break points in his 1st two service games, but the 6th break point–the 4th of his 2nd service game—was one too many and the Brit got broken. He broke back towards the end of the set. He got another break and had 2 set points at 6-5. Bolelli saved  them and it went to a tie-break. For the most part, Simone made error after error, leading to Murray winning the tie-break and the set with a beautiful passing shot. Murray won the 2nd set 6-4, but got broken once so had to break twice. Andy got broken yet again in the 3rd set and all of a sudden Bolelli was 5-3 up—like in the 1st set, he would serve for the set. But would he choke it away this time? Yes. Yes, he would again fail to serve it out. Murray was again out of jail and on the loose. He eventually won the match by taking the set 7-5. Andy really needs to improve his serve before the potential match-up with Rafa in the semi-finals.

Baltacha was broken in her 1st game against her opponent Vania King, but got it back on serve, broke Vania again and won the set 6-4. But then Vania won the 2nd set 6-1. Elena lost 6-4 in the final set. Heather was beaten by a respectable scoreline of 6-1 6-3 by #16 seed Kaia Kanepi, although it took the Estonian two match points to finish the Guernsey girl off.

So by the 3rd round, Murray was the last Brit standing. He played the German surprise package Michael Berrer. With the Brit winning the first set, things seemed to be going to plan until, 2-1 up in the 2nd set,  Murray turned his ankle and collapsed whilst hitting a forehand winner. After treatment, he was able to carry on and somehow won the match due to a combination of Berrer not quite knowing how to play an injured player and Murray himself knowing exactly what to do to win points quickly and get himself out of there.

Homeboys and Homegirls

And what of the home crowd’s French heroes and heroines?

As we also predicted,  the Aravane Rezai/Irina-Camelia Begu match was interesting—so interesting that the breakthrough Romanian did indeed defeat the French crowd’s struggling home favourite, 6-3 6-3.

Another home favourite looked to be in trouble later on the same day, as Gael Monfils, the world no. 9, lost his first set of the tournament to veteran German and world no #145 and Bjorn Phau. The Monf bit back in the 2nd set, taking it 6-3. The third set also went the Frenchman’s way, 7-5. By the 4th set, Monfils had had enough of this nonsense and bagelled his opponent to take the victory 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-0. Not content with one fourth-setter, Monfils then went on to drop a set in his 2nd round match as well, against compatriot Guillaume Rufin. Again the top ten player managed to pull off a victory, winning  6-3 1-6 6-1 6-3. Monfils’ 3rd round match was at last a straightforward one as he beat Belgian Steve Darcis in straight sets.

The surprise Frenchman of the Week Award goes to Stephane Robert. World no. 6 Tomas Berdych took a two sets lead against the home underdog, but then lost the 3rd set and lost the 4th as well. The long fifth and deciding set drew the match out to 3 hours and 23 minutes in total, with the marathon eventually being won by Robert 3-6 3-6 6-2 6-2 9-7. When the score was shown on Chartier,  a cheer of appreciation rippled around the home crowd like the delicate waves on the Seine. It was the 31year old world #140‘s greatest victory—his first on the clay of Roland Garros. He was promptly beaten in the next round by Italian Fabio Fognini, winning only 3 games in the entire match.

Any other business

It seemed like Thursday was the day of upsets, because as well as Kim losing to Rus and Nadal and Maria looking shaky, top 30 player Marcos Baghdatis was beaten by world no. 217 Leonardo Mayer and the 28th seed, the Russian Nikolay Davydenko, was beaten by the aforementioned Veic.

The still popular but still erratic Ana Ivanovic lost in the 1st round. It’s hard to remember she’s a former world no. 1 and the 2008 French Open Champion, as since injury in 2009 her results have been just short of woeful for long stretches at a time. The recurrence of a January abdominal injury during a Fed Cup match last month probably didn’t help the Serb’s preparation for this slam.

On Saturday, Swiss veteran Patty Schnyder retired from the sport. This was hardly surprising as every now and then, for the past 5 years, I’ll look at the draw for a women’s tournament, see her name and think, ‘Is she still playing??’  Never again will I have that experience. Never again.

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The Ruthless Court’s 2 Minute French Open Preview [Updated]

20/05/2011 at 5:45 pm (Great Britain, Russia, Tennis) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Update: That Great Britain vs Russia face-off, otherwise known as Anne Keothavong vs Vesna Dolonts, is going down 1st on Court 16 on Monday 23rd May.

With the two singles draws out and play due to start in less than two days’ time, The Ruthless Court’s two authors thought it was high time we previewed the 2nd Grand Slam of the year. Here’s our 2 minute preview of the 2011 French Open:

Iiiiinteresting 1st round match-ups

Aravane Rezai vs Irina-Camelia Begu: Rezai is having a tough season and not many had heard of Begu before she started getting a few notable results this year. She’s a dangerous unknown quantity–could she cause an upset in front of Aravane’s home crowd?

Roger Federer vs Feliciano Lopez: The 2nd round match between these two in the Madrid Open was a genuine fight, with Fed scraping it with a tie-break in the deciding. But this is a Grand Slam, so the Swiss master might be taking matters more seriously this time.

Clay courters against tall people is always fun

Rafael Nadal vs John Isner and Juan Martin Del Potro vs Ivo Karlovic are first round matches.

Getting ahead of ourselves

Potential match-ups later on in the draw:

Novak Djokovic vs Del Potro in the 3rd round
Maria Sharapova vs Kim Clijsters in the quarter-finals
Caroline Wozniacki vs Sam Stosur in the quarters
Andy Murray vs Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals

Run, baby, run

To extend his insane winning run, Djokovic will have to beat plucky Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker in the 1st round.

Look away now if you don’t want to know the result

Most predictable 1st round match:

Reigning champion Francesca Schiavone will beat the struggling Melanie Oudin.

Come on, Tim! I mean…

Brits in the draws:

ATP–Andy Murray

WTA–Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson

Davai, Davai Rassiya!

Russians in the draws:

ATP–Nikolay Davydenko, Dmitry Tursunov, Igor Kunitsyn, Mikhail Youzhny, Teymuraz Gabashvili

WTA–Maria Sharapova, Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina, Ekaterina Makarova, Evgeniya Rodina, Ksenia Pervak, Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova, Alisa Kleybanova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Vera Dushevina, Vesna Dolonts, Alla Kudryavtseva

Hmph. Just remember that it’s about quality, not quantity.

A Brit is playing a Russian! A Brit is playing a Russian!

Anne Keothavong (GBR) vs Vesna Dolonts (RUS) is a first-round match-up. Wow, it’s like the plot of The Ruthless Court is actually happening. Except with different players. And in a different round. At a different Grand Slam. And hopefully a different outcome (i.e. no one being taken hostage).

French Open Homepage

http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/index.html

The full draws

Les Hommes: http://bit.ly/kcNSKz
Les Femmes: http://bit.ly/lp9EsN

You want to know who we think will win? You first. Put your predictions in the comment box below! Once we have ten comments we’ll go along with the most popular predictions reveal our innermost thoughts to you.

Photo courtesy of Nawal_

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Disadvantage Point: Is the Home Court the Most Ruthless?

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Disadvantage Point: Is the Home Court the Most Ruthless?

15/05/2011 at 12:13 pm (Great Britain, Tennis, The Ruthless Court) (, , , , , , , )


In The Ruthless Court, Andy Murray and Laura Robson’s sometime doubles partner Georgie Gent both get to the Wimbledon singles finals. It’ll happen in real life too, of course. This year. And it’ll be for the first time since 1912. Hardly surprising, considering that either final is very rarely reached by a Brit, since nationalities other than Brits started entering the tournament, that is.

Ignoring the argument that the relative smallness of GB’s population, compared to say the USA or Germany, isn’t conducive to the production of masses of Championship-winning p layers, how about that other well-worn debate about home advantage actually being a pressure point? As Billie Jean King said, ‘pressure is a privilege’ but try telling that to some poor British soul who’s out there on Centre Court in a semi-final against a Sampras or a Nadal, or in a 1st round match against a Williams sister, with 15,000 supporters willing the plucky Brit to play the match of their life. And of course the supporters’ sole intention is to offer support. But is there a case to be made that sometimes the fervent support from a player’s compatriots—be they media or fans—can weigh heavy on the soul, especially if we’re talking about a country starved of tennis success?

We’re not just talking about Britain here. Novak “Nole” Djokovic hasn’t yet been beaten in 2011. That’s 36 matches, as of the night of Saturday 14th May. His winning run actually stretches back into last year, when he won the Davis Cup with Serbia, making that 38 unbeaten matches in total—and counting. This astounding streak includes his Australian Open final win over Murray. Nole is tipped to be World No.1 by the end of this year. He is certainly the best player on tour this year. Serbian tennis fans finally have something to boast about for the first time since Ana Ivanovic’s 2008 French Open win and the long gone days of Ivanovic’s and Jelena Jankovic’s reigns as World No. 1.

Yet in this year’s final of the Serbia Open (a tournament nicknamed the ‘Nole Open’, so powerful is his draw to home fans) Djokovic wasn’t performing as well as he did in, say, the aforementioned Aussie Open final, or his two American finals against Rafa Nadal in early spring.  For instance, he had quite a few problems with his serve. His opponent, Feliciano Lopez, played well, but one can’t help but feel that if Nole had been facing a Nadal or a Murray, his run could have ended there and then. The home crowd were undoubtedly and vocally warm towards their hero, but did this warmth turn the heat up on Djokovic? After all, following the final, it was back to business as usual as Nole upped his game to end Rafa’s 37 match winning run on clay in the final of the Madrid Open.

What do you think? Is the home crowd more an advantage or a burden?  I guess the theory will have to be tested in this year’s Wimbledon finals featuring Gent and Murray!! It doesn’t really get tested in The Ruthless Court, as the home crowd soon have more than tennis to worry about….

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