Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Eastbourne ladies semi finals

I went along on my annual outing to the Ladies semi's at Eastbourne. The weather was kind, hot and sunny with very little wind. Apparently it had been very windy earlier in the week with a few odd showers.

I saw the Belgium contest between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Justin won 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. The last set was much closer than the score suggests, it just got away from Kim but Justine's persistence and aggression on key points paid off. It was my first chance to see Justine in person, and I was impressed by the power this rather diminutive person is able to generate on both sides. Her footwork and speed just have to be seen to be appreciated. Constant glances towards her coach make you wonder what's going on there - insecurity or just part of the coach player bond?

I also saw the Russian match up between Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. I first saw Kuznetsova two years ago at Eastbourne which she eventually won. On this occasion she was favoured to win over the two Russians, but Myskina's groundstrokes were awesome. Flat and hard into both corners and Kuznetsova was just off the pace so Anastasia deserved her win 6-4 2-6 6-4.

Then it was the doubles.

First up was Raymond and Stosur v Navratilova and Huber. I'm a big fan of Lisa Raymond but sadly on this occasion she was unable to make up for the off day her partner Stosur was having, and they lost eventually in the tie breaker on both sets. There was a special presentation after the match to honour Lisa Raymond's win at the French Open this year which means she has now won doubles at all of the Grand Slams.

Next up was Kuznetsova and Mauresmo v Bartoli and Peer. I first saw Bartoli last year practising with her father coaching, and it was intense if not rather unorthodox too. She was small, very slim and lithe but this year she has grown and gained quite a bit of weight. Too much I would suggest unless there is a plan to convert that in the gym into muscle. Her style and technique is definitely unusual, but effective. She hits double handed off both wings, takes the ball very early, stands inside the baseline to receive serves and overall has very strong returns and groundstrokes. She plays with the Prince O3 Red that I was using for a while. Peer was also using a Prince O3 racket but I could not make out the model as it was painted black all over which I have not seen anywhere before. Maybe this is a hybrid under development or test? It was also my first time to see Mauresmo who I had not seen before in person. She is nowhere near as hunky as TV would suggest, but quite tall and slim, legs especially so and overall a nicely proportioned athlete. Then the last thing to get my attention was the racket Navratilova was using, presumably a custom build from Bosworth. Anyway Bartoli and Peer put up a good fight but lost to Kuznetsova and Mauresmo 6-3, 6-2.

Wondering around the ground I saw pieces of an exhibition mixed doubles that included Ian Hislop the editor of Private Eye and Trevor McDonald the TV presenter. I'm a subscriber and fan of Private Eye and Ian Hislop and although the tennis was good fun, it was also a bit cringeworthy.

Overall a good day out, but I do hope the building of Eastbourne's new Cultural Center does not spoil the rather pleasant and gentile feel of the tennis grounds.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Queens club and the Stella Artois

I had the pleasure of visting the Stella Artois championships at Queens Club this week. It was my first time. I saw several good matches including Henman v Agassi, and many players practising, including: Monfils, Mathieu, Davydenko, Philippoussis, Gonzalez, Mirnyi, Knowles, Nestor.

This week I am going on my regular annual visit to the Hastings Direct at Eastbourne.

The two tournaments contrast in many different ways.

The Stella of course is mens and was busy, busy, busy, and very cramped, whereas Eastbourne is far more pleasant and not just because it's ladies. Even so, the seat I had at the Stella on Centre Court was excellent as were most seats because the venue is so small. So the hectic and cramped environment is more than made up for by the proximity to the top men players. When I first arrived I resolved "never again" but by the end of the day and that was nearly six hours of play, I had changed my mind. If you're a tennis fan then Queens is OK. I suppose my main criticism is the limited access to watch players practising. Eastbourne wins hands down in this respect.