Backhands and Compliments – ATP Edition

Andy Murray once again raises British expectations

Murray’s title at Queen’s Club has his homeland all giddy. He gave Roddick a clinic in grass-court tennis in the semis and followed it with a three-set comeback win in the finals against a tough (and perpetually sprawling) Jo Tsonga. Now it’s on to the real prize, Wimbledon, where Murray has made the semis the past two years. Get ready for all the drama to play out (mercilessly) again this year. Poor guy. The British clearly want Murray to win, and clearly has the game to do it. Yet they seem to draw perverse pleasure from wallowing in his defeat. If you didn’t know better, the ivy-covered Centre Court could be mistaken for Wrigley and the spectators for Cubbies fans.

Is Tsonga a legit threat at SW19?

He would seem to be well-suited for the grass: big serve, aggressive, athletic, not afraid to move forward. The quicker points could also benefit Tsonga – a good competitor but one who doesn’t always appear to be in the best shape. He took out Nadal in the quarters of Queens, but that was not vintage Rafa. He was still on a Roland Garros honeymoon and probably welcomed the extra rest. Still, it’s a solid win for Tsonga, and it should give him added confidence heading to Wimbledon. It’s also fun watching him channel his inner Becker and collect grass stains. If he wins we’ll have to drop the “Ali” nickname and start calling him “The Gardener”.

No love for the French finalists

In the same week Nadal got taken to task in a Times (London) profile for being a dull, possibly asexual, overly managed oaf, Federer got ripped by tournament organizers for pulling out of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. According to tournament director, Ralf Weber, the private jet was fueled and the personal maid was on standby, but Rog’s groin wasn’t up to the trip after his loss to Nadal. Weber didn’t appreciate his headliner pulling a no-show and got testy in the press. Since Fed is generally a stand-up guy and just had his heart ripped out (again) by Nadal, the rebuke came over as pretty callous. Weber was forced into some fancy backpedaling; as did the writer of the Nadal piece who tweeted she was receiving vicious hate mail for her hatchet job. She compared being rude to Rafa with making offensive comments to the prophet Muhammad. Don’t mess with the Nation of Nadal.

Adam Helfant we hardly knew you

That was quick. Helfant’s was a Palin governorship over the ATP Tour. He wasn’t around long enough to enact any impactful initiatives and his limited presence at tournaments made him more of a nondescript observer. (Hell, I doubt I could pick him out of a lineup). The embodiment of a status quo guy. After the intrusive hands of predecessor Etienne de Villiers, perhaps that’s just what the players wanted. Helfant says he’s leaving the tour in better shape than he found it and wants to pursue other things. Translation: He’s bored. The ATP chief is largely a figurehead position, albeit one with a rather large salary. Nothing ever really changes in tennis. They’re the Amish of pro sports.

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