Tag Archives: Marin Cilic

Όχι, παίζουμε… The Big Croat sweeps away hyper-touted Japanese opponent

9 Sep

09MENS-1-master675-v5 Credit Barton Silverman/The New York Times

The media are so enamoured with young, come-out-of-nowhere under-dog narratives — and calling Djoković, 27, and Murray, 27, old — that they exaggerate things wildly.  Even — or especially — in today’s world of high-bio-tech training and conditioning, two years do not make or break a champion.  Like this Times story which will seem embarrassing in its prophetic pretensions just a few months from now; that’s my prediction: Tennis World Wobbles as Competitive Axis Begins to Shift“.

Čilić, 25, steamrolled supposed wonderboy Kei Nishikori, 24, in straight sets: an elegant 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.  That Djoković played an unpardonably childish and bad game against him in the semis Saturday did not automatically elevate Nishikori to the Hall of Legends.

Times coverage: Marin Cilic Defeats Kei Nishikori at U.S. Open for His First Grand Slam Title

And The Guardian live:  US Open Final: Marin Cilic beats Kei Nishikori – as it happened

US Open Tennis Photograph: JASON SZENES/EPA

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

And much respect for the Big Croat…

6 Sep

…who — I think it’s accurate to say — satisfyingly creamed the pretentiously heir-presumptuous Federer in straight sets.  (I love that his trainer has no last name.  He’s just “Goran” — another big bearded Croat.)

I would’ve given ANYTHING for a Djoković — Čilić Final, but I can make do with this.

Marin CilicMarin Čilić — “Well might he roar.” Photograph: Darron Cummings/AP

Guardian‘s live blog of both matches – whole day: US Open 2014: Marin Cilic beats Roger Federer – as it happened

Tennis Aegon Championships(click)

And some interesting side things you learn from the most unexpected places, like American TV tennis coverage: Čilić, it turns out, is from Medjugorje in Herzegovina, the Croatian Lourdes, capital of a Catholic-Virgin-apparition national cult, in the most virulently nationalist part of Croatian-held BH.*  (Not a reflection on Marin, of course, who’s actually best buds with Nole; one reason I wanted to see them go at it in the final would’ve been the pleasure of watching how quick “best buds” flies out the window when two Alphas are forced to go for the jugular.)  Always interesting how these cults always have an unerring way of appearing in just those regions, and just when you need them.  And a sad indication, also, of how we’ve written off Bosnia-Herzegovina as a viable entity: CBS’ US Open blurb-profile of Čilić listed his birthplace as “Medjugorje, Croatia.”

Medjugorje is famous as the site of some of the most vicious Ustaše massacres of Serbs during WWII and of subsequent vicious massacres of Franciscan monks and priests by Serbian partisans.  Of course, the Virgin only decided to appear at Medjugorje in 1981 — just one uncanny year after Tito‘s death — when Croatian nationalist sentiments and separatist grumblings had already gathered unstoppable speed and volume, and Yugoslavia was immediately — almost upon cue with Tito’s departure — starting to show signs of coming apart at the seams.

See whole Wiki page: Medjugorje




*Desperately poor traditionally, rocky, marginal Herzegovina, the barren plateau just a short steep inland climb from the idyllic, Italianate Dalmatian coast, is one part of the Balkans for which the Serbo-Croatian word vukojebina was coined — “wolf-fuck” — and is not just famous for producing rabid Croatian nationalists, but rabid Serbian and rabid Bosnian and — I think a tiny section that considers itself Montenegrin — rabid Montenegrin nationalists too.  These are not the Croats that Rebecca West could throw her hateful lawyer epithet at.  And don’t let the stunning beauty (below) of any part of ex-Yugoland fool you.

Hajdučka_Vrata“Hajdučka vrata” (the “Bandit’s Den” or “Κλέφτικο Λημέρι”) on Mt. Čvrsnica in Herzegovina (click)


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Djoković at his worst…

6 Sep

368d4e2a-509b-40a6-af0b-56c9241a6773-460x364Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Moody, distracted, irritable, unable to come back from even the tiniest initial set-back, seemingly pissed off that it’s hot — like it’s a personal conspiracy against him — pissed off that #11 seed can be winning against him; till he decides he’s just too exhausted to even try and throws it in like a little child who doesn’t want to play anymore.

I don’t know why so much tennis is played in the most vicious heat imaginable either — July in London, New York in September, Melbourne in January — but deal with it.  It’s not like the gods have set up an invisible parasol for your opponent.  And, he’s not that much younger than you.

Then you got the announcers: “Having to be away from pregnant wife Jelena must be taking its toll on Novak too…”  Spare me the heterosentimentality, please.  (Or maybe they’re right: cherchez la femme…she’ll drain you dry every time…)  I adore this dude, but when he just gives up, he just gives up and it’s a real let-down for fans.  You’re getting too old for this sh*t Nole; the pissy defeatism is unacceptable; it’s not cute anymore.

Now I’m in a position where I have to root for a Croat…

The Guardian — like I’ve said before, best coverage of anyone — hasn’t posted yet, but see their Twitter in the meantime.

Woops… here they go.

P.S. Decent, polite and humble at press conference after, though…

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Belgrade: Wimbledon 2014, rakia with M., and what’s with me and all the Djoković…

12 Jul

TENNIS-GBR-WIMBLEDONGetty Images (click)

“What’s with you and all the Djoković?”

This is M. in Belgrade, after the sixth or seventh rakia, giving me a hard time about my Nole cult. M. is an old Serbian student of mine from New York. He’s one of my favorites actually; out of the nearly ten years I taught English at CUNY, he’s one of those special ones that I can count on one hand. Funny, charismatic, super-smart – when he came to class – he was a real asset to have.

“I was your best student,” he says, a propos of nothing and with characteristic modesty.

“Yeah, when you came to class,” I say.

We live ten minutes from each other in New York but never see each other – bumped into each other at some bars a couple of times – except that every year at Orthodox Easter he comes to my house. But I haven’t been home for Easter for the past three years, so we didn’t see each other then either. Except for one night, two nights ago, the stars arranged for us to both be in Belgrade together and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some long-due drinking done.

So this is M. getting all up in my face Serbian style:

“If you’re such a fan, why are you here? Why aren’t you in Montenegro at his wedding trying to get a picture?”

I didn’t even know Djoković was getting married this weekend and M. knows I’m too old and probably knows enough else about me to know I’m not some idiot groupie:

“Like the other groupies…” he says nevertheless. “You could try to take a picture of him with the bride…one with the bride alone…one with…”

The thing is his teasing is so good humored it makes you wanna jump right into the ring with him and take him on, so it’s always fun and it only makes you like him more. I also came away from the evening feeling good because M. and I barely know each other actually, but a bunch of his friends showed up and it was obvious how loved he was by all of them and that was nice to see; I like when my instincts about a person are correct even when I don’t have much evidence to go by.  But he’s relentless…

“You could try to get a picture of the dog…”

Well for M. or anybody, if you still don’t know what my Djoković thing is about and how it relates to my Serb thing and how possessive and defensive I get about both, you haven’t been reading my blog very regularly. So let me try again. Back to Wimbledon…

I don’t think any real tennis aficionado could’ve asked for a better Wimbledon 2014 – unless you have the frankly hilarious misfortune of being a Nadal fan, in which case you deserve your fate and I’ll tell you when it’s ok to come out of your room and stop being embarrassed. For Djoković it was no easy climb. Great tennis all the way, but he wasn’t granted anything. With Čilić, with Raonić, with Dimitrov, there was practically not a single give-away. He had to wrestle every point from the hands of the universe.

Of course the finals match between him and Federer was a friggin’ dream. It was everything you want from good tennis, from good sport, competition, art, or a good war even: matched skill and guts, intelligent tactics, constant reversal and coming back from behind – and the masochistic pleasure or knowing that even if your guy loses, he’ll have lost to someone you respect. This was one of those matches that the phrase “toe-to-toe” was invented for. At no single point during the more than three hours did either man have enough of a numerical lead to allow his supporters to relax for a few minutes. Neither of them was ever more than just one step ahead of the other and that never lasted long enough for you to take even half a breath.

I watched the game in an empty Greek bar with a friend of mine and don’t think I actually sat back on my seat for a second. And I don’t know whether it was the emptiness of a bar in suburban Athens, perhaps, on a hot July, Sunday afternoon — the hours of high summer heat in Attica still turn the city into a desert — but this was the first time that Djoković’ loneliness on the court struck me so hard. Existentially.  How completely lonely he sometimes seems.  Of course, that day, Wimbledon had to do with it as well. For a variety of reasons we all know, Novak’s always been considered the kind of odd man out in the tennis world despite his stupendous capabilities as an athlete, and Wimbledon is clearly the most classist of all tennis venues where that would show up in its starkest form. I don’t know if it was the shots that the Greek network we were watching was being fed, but not once during the whole match, were the cameras able to get even a single shot of the crowd looking satisfied or anything but stressed whenever an exchange went well for Nole; except occasionally from Becker and his team; no one from his family even seemed to be there — getting ready for the wedding circus I can now presume, but didn’t know at the time. Unlike the always cool French, who’ll applaud you for your art no matter who you are or where you’re from, like the standing ovation they gave Djok for his battle against the Catalan that left him in tears at Roland Garros, here there was the unmistakable look of British and other jet-set spectators at a sporting event in the grip of pure class terror: that their suave Swiss aristocrat would lose to this Balkan nut-job…and at Wimbledon.

I remembered that shitty little article by Lauren Collins that The New Yorker had run last September — The Third Man — about Novak, which kept essentially asking whether he can learn how to act like a proper tennis player: “Can he make us like him?” Like you guys are the arbiters of what exactly and he needs your liking?  And all my pro-Serb and pro-Nole nerves got twisted into knots again, like when I had first read it. The whole article was just dripping with condescension and I thought to myself that if Collins had written an article like that about an athlete from a “country of color,” The New Yorker would have been faced with a howling riot of censoring anger and cries of racism. “Is Nole too ghetto for Wimbledon?” Collins had essentially wanted to know. She could’ve consulted me and I would’ve come up with at least twenty terms from half a dozen Balkan languages for “ghetto” that she could have used.

Then the fifth set started and it became clear that both men knew this was it, life or death, especially because it started to become clear that physical and – from the tightness of the game and competition – nervous exhaustion had started to set in. And Nole got that look he gets late in matches, where he alternates between a look of steely professionalism and hunger that’s ready to rip his opponent to shreds, and this strange watery-eyed look of almost spiritual exaltation, looking dreamily skyward, or gazing down at the ground blankly. And this latter look, though beautiful, is a little worrisome because it means he’s either going to start playing like a man possessed by some god and steamroll whoever he’s up against into the ground – or just start f*cking up and making a royal mess of everything.

It became clear that he was in a state of deity-possession almost as soon as the set started. And then he stopped looking lonely to me. Instead we was simply magnificently alone, the akritas fighting it out on the marble threshing-floor, the young kraljević single-handedly taking on the hostile hordes of pink frangoi in their sun-screen and appropriate hats.

NOLEUSE1404667649000-AFP-531415517Glyn Kirk, AFP/Getty Images (click)

And Federer hit the ball into the net and it was all over. And Nole cracked open; not up, open — like the cracks that Leonard Cohen says let the light get in, except the light here was not flooding in but out of him in this great luminous glow. I don’t know what mad idea of redemption or humility or gratitude was going through his crazed Slavic mind when he knelt and started eating the grass off the court, but in the back of my mind I could hear some Serbian Sonya Marmeladova crying:

“This is what you shall do! Go at once, this very moment to the crossroads and kiss the earth which you have defiled and bow down to the world and say: ‘I am grateful. I am humble. I am grateful. I am humble.’”

And then the tears of that gratitude and humility started flowing and I haven’t even wanted to watch any of the post-game interviews or read anything; I just want to be left with that image of him holding the cup and bawling. Weeping copiously.  Like a man.

wimbledon-men-novak-djokovic-wimbledon-trophy_3169070Getty images (click)

My sense here in Serbia is that there’s a little bit of a conflict between Djoković’ status as saintly national hero and the celebrity circus that’s constantly flowing around him, and that that’s what M.’s cynicism was about with the wedding and all. But a girl, I., who was in M.’s kompaniya that night: very smart and pretty, who speaks absolutely native-speaker American English and who is always running what’s apparently one of Serbia’s fastest-growing websites from from her IPad – which she was doing that night – while still managing to remain front and center of any conversation she happens to find herself in, says that’s the girlfriend and the media’s fault, not his, and that it really irks her.

“What does ‘irk’ mean, M.?” I decide to play professor with him, addressing him by his last name.

“It means like when something bother-… What do you mean what does it mean?!  I know what it means.  I was your best student!”

“Yeah. When you came to class.”

I. also talked some about some genuine darkness that was part of Nole’s childhood, the details of which are common knowledge here, but I’m not going to get into because it’s part of this blog’s journalistic policy not to go there with cheaply personal and especially hurtful personal issues, and especially not with someone I love and admire and who’s as much of a hero of mine as Djoković is. But let’s just say the redeeming, protecting hero archetype is a structurally core part of his psyche.

“He’s a beautiful man and he has a beautiful soul,” I. declared, definitively ending that conversation, as I imagine she must definitively end others when she wants to.

And I felt vindicated.

Do you have your answer now, M.?

Out of respect for this spectacular victory and the Djoković-and-tennis tolerance of my readers I promise there will be no Djoković or tennis at all until the U.S. Open.

But see you before then.


Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Note:  Speaking of “marble threshing-floors…”  The court at Wimbledon is in such shit state that it can only be called a grass court in the most ideally Platonic terms.  Really; cute British shabbiness has its limits.  Beer and probably piss-stained pub carpeting is one thing.  A court where most of the playing is done on parched, packed, rock-hard dirt, made that much more treacherous by the fine layer of sand it kicks up and coats itself with, is another.  It definitely put a cramp on both players’ styles at several moments during the match and there were times where it even looked like it could cause dangerous injury.  With Nole I didn’t know whether his super-human flexibility would protect him or if it would make his propensity for taking acrobatic risks that much more risky.  Either way, do something.  It’s one of those things that’s not charming about England anymore.

Why I love watching Rafael Nadal lose

3 Jul

“¡La envidia! Esta es la terrible plaga de nuestras sociedades; esta es la íntima gangrena del alma española.” — Miguel de Unamun0

‘Envy!  This is the terrible plague of our societies; it’s the intimate gangrene of the Spanish soul.” — Miguel de Unamuno

Nadal462026_Britain-Wimbledon-Tenni184Especially when he’s swept off the court like a bunch of dry leaves by an Australian teenager whose name we didn’t even know yesterday, a nineteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios — actually not swept: “bounced” as the Portland Press Herald put it, without having told Rafa that the ball’s supposed to do the bouncing, not him.

Of course, in NikoBakos dream world, it would’ve been a Djoković victory over Nadal, with Nole all done-up in Dmitriy Solunskiy-ish gear and the Catalan lanced and trampled underfoot like Kaloyan from icon representations, though that might have been granting Nadal a bit too much physical impressiveness.


Then there’s this kind of stuff at the interview, no grace, no concession of skill: ‘the-my-loss-was-a-fluke’ school of sportsmanship.  “I didn’t have my lucky wristband on.”  Read the interview from smh.com.au, complete with another charming photo:

Rafael Nadal on Nick Kyrgios defeat: ‘Everything is a little bit easier when you are arriving’

Linda Pearce July 02, 2014

Rafael Nadal at his post-match press conference.

Rafael Nadal at his post-match press conference. Photo: Getty Images

London: Rafael Nadal was reluctant to declare Nick Kyrgios the next big thing in tennis, even as John McEnroe was suggesting that the wildcard who had beaten the world No.1 was capable of going all the way to the Wimbledon winner’s circle as a 19-year-old on debut.

“For me is very easy to say he can be top 10. I think he can do. Is not an issue that I think he can not do it,’’ said Nadal. “But when we see a young player that arrives to the tour and plays a great match or plays a great tournament, people say he will be the next big star.

“Some things are right — sometimes arrive, sometimes not. So depends how the things improve over the next couple of months, years, for him. So if he is able to keep improving, he will be. If not, will be more difficult.’’

Quite a sober analysis, then, even if the Kyrgios performance was defiantly not. The audacious Canberran kept belting his serve, and thumping his groundstrokes, time after time, In the end, it was Nadal who played more tightly, having won the second set and believing himself to be superior player in the third, but admitting he was outplayed on either side.

Youth helps, admitted the winner of 14 grand slam titles, and in this case the fearless nature of it outweighed his own vast reserves of experience.

“The sport is a mental part a lot of times,” said Nadal. “He has things, positive things, to be able to be a good player. But at the end, everything is a little bit easier when you are arriving. Everything is new. Nothing to lose. Everything is good. Everything is positive. You can do whatever and will be positive, and everybody see just the good things on you.’’

Meanwhile, a very weird Wimbledon, generally.  Nole takes out Stepanek, Tsongas and, in a rougher bout with an admittedly fiercer than I’ve yet to ever see him Marin Čilić, takes him out too.  The Roland Garros loss seems to have not fucked with Nole’s head one bit….μπράβο, έτσι σε θέλω.  Poor Murray, who I was sure would be the man here, is taken out by Grigor Dimitrov, who goes up against Djoković Friday: again scary — Dimitirov good on grass.
But pretty sure it’ll be Nole and Federer in the end, though Federer over Raonić is not that easy a call to make.  Nice…  It’s great to have a man you want to win, but to respect them both enough to not begrudge either victory if he deserves it.
Do NOT miss The Guardian’s usual, biting, British vulture, peck-over of Nadal’s still not cold corpse.  Brilliant.  As in this vicious description of Nadal’s classic loser’s mug: “But this is where tennis gets tough, in the nuanced mind games, the time-wasting and grunts and glares and barely suppressed animosity that in some sports would incur censure. It is a beautiful game, but it can get ugly;his pettiness, his constant asking for the bathrooom pass.
Only thing is that Kyrgios seems such a pure and innocent kid that all the Catalan mal de ojo in the world just bounces right off him.
Australia's Nick Kyrgios celebrates winn
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios celebrates winning a game against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Even if he’s a Serb…

23 May

…is the subtext of this article from AP and Canadian Press about Djokovic donating his full check from the Rome Masters to relief aid for Serbia and Bosnia  A nice guy, even though…

Nolegb148-512-2013-162604-high-jpg(AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia — click)

Novak Djokovic unites old enemies for flood relief effort

Serbian brings together former Balkan wartime foes

After winning the Masters tournament in Rome on May 18, tennis player Novak Djokovic donated all the prize money, about $500,000 US, to the flood victims in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.

Novak Djokovic has served many match-winning aces on the tennis court, but now he has fired a major one in the flood-hit Balkans.

The world’s No. 2 tennis player has achieved what no politician has managed since the bloody Balkan wars in the 1990s: to at least temporarily reunite former bitter wartime foes as they jointly struggle against the region’s worst flooding in more than a century.

Djokovic has sparked worldwide financial and media support for victims of the massive river water surge that has killed at least 45 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.

The Serb has in the past triggered fury in the other former Yugoslav republics for what people considered nationalistic gestures, such as celebrating his victories with a three-finger victory sign that was used by Serb soldiers during their wartime campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.

‘My heart is breaking when I see that so many people were evacuated and endangered in Bosnia. … Help will come from the world.’– Tweet from Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic

What has set Djokovic’s flood salvage campaign apart is that he didn’t just seek international support for Serbia. He also did it for Bosnia and Croatia which were at war with Serbia. All three states are still harbouring a deep mutual hatred and distrust, 20 years after the wars ended and the former Yugoslavia split up into seven different countries.

“My heart is breaking when I see that so many people were evacuated and endangered in Bosnia! More than 950,000!!! Hold on brothers … help will come from the world,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter. “I also see that the east of Croatia is hit by floods … I sincerely hope that it will not hit you like Serbia and Bosnia. Keep safe.”

“Long live the people of former Yugoslavia. Let God be with you,” he wrote, adding a map of the former Yugoslavia with the flags of now different countries.

The floods have triggered unprecedented regional solidarity in the Balkans, with the former Yugoslav countries sending rescue teams and humanitarian aid to each other over their borders.

$500,000 US donation

After beating top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Masters tournament in Rome on Sunday, Djokovic donated all the prize money — about $500,000 — to the flood victims. His charity foundation collected another $600,000.

“There have not been floods like this in the existence of our people,” Djokovic said. “It is a total catastrophe of biblical proportions. I don’t really know how to describe it.”

Djokovic’s gestures triggered mostly positive public support in both Croatia and Bosnia.

“I’m not Djokovic’s supporter or like tennis,” said Davor Buric, a university student in Zagreb, Croatian capital. “It is nice that he mentioned not only Serbia, but also Croatia and Bosnia. Djokovic has nothing to do with the war, and I have never heard him saying anything against other nationalities.”

In Bosnia, national football team coach Safet Susic said Djokovic had won “the support of the whole of Bosnia” with his campaign, and promised to support him in the upcoming Grand Slam tournaments — the French Open and Wimbledon. Djokovic replied by saying he will support Bosnia at the World Cup in Brazil.

Such sentiments in Bosnia and Croatia have prompted some commentators to nickname him “Marshal Djokovic” after Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the post World War II Yugoslav communist leader who managed to keep Yugoslavia united with iron fist. With his death in 1980, the country started unraveling along ethnic lines.

“This water … has destroyed what we have been building for the past 20 years,” wrote prominent Croatian columnist and writer Vedrana Rudan in an ironic commentary on her web page.

“Djokovic has sketched the map of Yugoslavia, he greets both our and his people … the slaughter has separated us, the drowning has reunited us.”

© The Canadian Press, 2014


This is the three-finger gesture they’re talking about, along with a temporary tattoo Djokovic got at some point of the Serbian national crest (with “Born in Serbia and ‘something’ in Monaco” added), and generally looking a little bit like a Belgrade club bouncer:


But it’s not a nationalist victory gesture “used by Serb soldiers during their wartime campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.”  Those are the three fingers Orthodox Christians make the sign of the cross with and, according to my sources (granted, all Serbian), did not become a Serbian symbol or gesture of any kind until WWII, when members of the Nazi-collaborationist Ustaša regime of Croatia and those Bosnian Muslims who worked with them (for reasons I’ve never understood) made a habit of cutting those fingers off both corpses and the living.  It then became a symbol of resistance.  The Ustaša’s plan for the Serbs that fell under their control during the war was the “thirds” plan: kill one third, expel one third, convert the last third to Catholicism (good luck with that last one…)  See my post on genocide from last November.  Also yesterday’s After the Flood, Unity and Compasion…yeah.

You wanna casually throw some history around in lazy, half-informed North American style, at least look back a little further than twenty years.

Marin Čilić is never ‘the tennis player from the country that created one of the ugliest, most homicidal Fascist regimes of twentieth-century Europe,’ is he?  Or ‘from the country that committed as many if not more atrocities in Bosnia during the wars of the nineties, and ethnically cleansed larger parts of the areas under its control of both Muslims and Serbs, and more thoroughly as well’ is he?  Or that ‘still holds on to a huge part of occupied Bosnia where Muslims suffer worse than they do in the Serb-held parts,’ is he?  Or, ‘that blew up the famous Ottoman bridge of Mostar?’ is he?   Nor should he be…considered anything other than an exceptional tennis player and a great athlete.


Marin Čilić (click)

Yet Nole is constantly having to prove he’s not the “ugly Serb.”  Why can’t this just be the story of a deeply Christian kid, which is essentially what Novak is — and very genuinely so — who wants to help his neighbors?  Why is he held responsible for “fixing” damage he didn’t do?  And his people still responsible for a war they didn’t start?

He’s certainly far more  above all of it than I am, and God bless him.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com


 The Bridge of Mostar, now rebuilt (click)mostar


(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Djokovic Fells the Big Croat at Paribas…

13 Mar

He and Nadal cruise into quarter-finals — pairing always nice to see:

By REUTERSMARCH 13, 2014, 4:29 A.M. E.D.T.



(Reuters) – Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic cruised into the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on Wednesday after Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Australian Open winner Stanislas Wawrinka both fell in the fourth round.

In a tournament full of surprises, Federer and Djokovic struck a blow for the old world order with Federer beating Germany’s Tommy Haas 6-4 6-4 and Djokovic coming back to down Croatia’s Marin Cilic 1-6 6-2 6-3.

Federer and Djokovic are the only players ranked in the world’s top 10 to reach the quarter-finals after Wawrinka and Murray joined the big-name casualties when they both crashed to lower-ranked opponents on another day of upsets in the Californian desert.

Wawrinka suffered his first loss this year when his 13-match winning streak came to a shuddering halt as he was beaten 7-6(1) 4-6 6-1 by South African Kevin Anderson.

“It wasn’t really on my mind that he had won Australia,” said Anderson, whose next opponent is Federer.

“It feels great to beat somebody who obviously has just won a grand slam.”

Murray was blown away by Canada’s Milos Raonic, one of the biggest servers in men’s tennis.



Djokovic had won each of his previous seven encounters with Cilic but his perfect record was in danger after he lost the opening set to the towering Croatian, winning just three points on return.

But the Serbian quickly got his act together, and broke Cilic twice in the second set then once in the deciding third to safely advance to the last eight.”

[Listen to my man Nole, the soldier at his best: polite, respectful, ready-to-come-from-behind fighting spirit:]

“I was composed and mentally calm, regardless of the score line,” Djokovic said. “I just accepted the fact that he came out of the blocks better than I did.

“He was very aggressive, not missing at all, serving incredibly fast and accurate. I couldn’t do much really. I was forced to back up.

“I believed that I could come back. The second set was a whole new story. I reset myself and told myself it was the start of the match.

“I forgot about the first set and the second and third went really well. It was the intensity I want to have and I hope to keep it up.”

see whole piece: Federer, Djokovic Advance as Murray, Wawrinka Fall”   

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“Such a beautiful sense of his own body…”

5 Sep

…says former tennis champ and commentator Jim Courier today, in an unusually aesthete-minded observation of Nole’s physicality during his match with Swiss Stanislas Wawarinka, as he continues to breeze through the U.S. Open and advances to the quarterfinals.  I’m now ashamed I ever doubted him.

Roger got closed out of quarterfinals by Berdych, which kinda sucks because I wanted the world to see Nole beat Federer.  So no clue who it’ll be in the end.

The Los Angeles Times‘ Adam Weinberger has four reasons why Djokovic will successfully defend his Open title: “4 Reasons Why Djokovic Will Repeat as Champ,” though the condensing of the Open’s schedule into daily matches with no days off in between, due to the rain delays of typical New York summer swamp weather, has me a little worried about the physical toll it’ll take on the athletes.  Nole goes up against Juan Martin del Potro tomorrow and hopefully will get some satisyfing compensation for the humiliating loss of the Bronze to del Potro in London.  All in all looks good.

Meanwhile, fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who I never knew was was as highly ranked as no. 8 seed, isn’t doing so badly himself, also advancing today to the quarterfinals.  Though he goes up against Ferrer tomorrow, which is kind of scary.

Janko Tipsarevic

And an undated photo of the two paesani, below, that I love:

On another Balkan tennis front, Andy Murray turns around initial losses (“Andy Murray Asserts Himself After Poor Start“) and defeats Croat Marin Cilic (below).  Oh, well.  Them’s the breaks…

And then there was a hard-core, great match between Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli,  from which the Russian powerhouse emerged victorious, but not without being given a serious run for her money.


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