It was another productive grass season for Potito Starace. Two matches, two retirements, a total of 16 games played.
His reward? A mere €3,870 for his first round defeat to Flavio Cipolla in Rosmalen and then £14,500 for his retirement at 2-6 0-2 today against Ryan Sweeting.
Filippo Volandri won’t be telling the grandkids about his 2012 grass court swing either with his retirement loss against Jeremy Chardy today his lone outing.
Perhaps the Italians celebrated their penalty shoot-out victory over England together given that they went 1-5 in men’s singles today.
Overall, there were four retirements on the men’s side with Sergiy Stakhovsky and Paul-Henri Mathieu the other players to call it quits.
When you consider the five first round retirements at Roland Garros you have to wonder if this is the unwanted consequence of increased prize money for early losers.
For most players, the lure of a fat paycheque is going to outweigh any nebulous moral considerations of respect for the tournament or fairness to fellow pros.
The situation sparked some comments on twitter with a clearly annoyed Rajeev Ram questioning the lucky loser rule, while new ATP Board electee Sergiy Stakhovsky took exception to a tweet from former member Yves Allegro.
While injured players turning up to collect cheques leaves a sour taste, it’s difficult to see what the authorities can do to stop it.
Self-Flagellation with Michael Youzhny
It wasn’t anywhere near as spectacular as his head-smashing antics against Nicolas Almagro in Miami four years ago but it was pretty grimace-inducing nonetheless.
Trailing by a set and 3-1 to Donald Young, the endearingly batshit Russian once again attacked himself with his racquet, this time his sternum bearing the brunt the trauma.
Just as it did four years ago, it seemed to spark him into life. He reeled off six games in a row to take control of the match and never looked back.
The genius of it is that unlike say, smashing your racquet or kicking a line judge, this method of release remains ungoverned by the statute book.
Racquet abuse? Warning. Ball abuse? Warning.
Self-abuse? Pain and a possible future psychiatric evaluation, but seemingly no intervention from the umpire.
It can only be a matter of time before it becomes standard practice.
Timely reminders with Ernests Gulbis
Despite his win over Tomas Berdych today, I won’t be rejoining the Ernie bandwagon any time soon. I’ve completely given up hope that he’ll ever be a top ten player or even get close again.
Still, it was nice to be reminded of why people hyped him in the first place because watching him recently I’d begun to wonder if he was ever really that good or if he was just another streaky ballbasher hyped up beyond all recognition by those desperate to fill the Marat Safin-shaped void in their lives.
His performance against Berdych showed that much of the hype was justified and there is some supreme talent there, but ask me again when he loses to Jerzy Janowicz on court 46 on Wednesday.
The fallen mental giant
He may have lost six matches from match point up in 2011 but John Isner put himself firmly back in the mental giant category this year with his epic victory against David Nalbandian in Australia and Davis Cup heroics in Switzerland.
However the last two slams have seen a worrying decline. First there was the loss from two sets up to Paul-Henri Mathieu at Roland Garros where he fought gamely in a marathon fifth set but capitulated quite meekly at the end.
It was a similar story against Alejandro Falla today where he blew a match point in the fourth set tiebreak.
He looked second best for much of the fifth set but considering how hard he seemed to be fighting to stay in the match, the game he played when serving at *5-6 beggared belief.
He rolled first serves in, barely ran when those serves came back and if he did get to the ball he carelessly lashed at it, missing by metres.
He also rushed between points, looking like he wanted to get off the court as quickly as possible. It looked like a tank.
It was a relatively short match so his stamina shouldn’t have been an issue and afterwards he blamed his mental state.
“I’m my own worst enemy out there. It’s all mental for me, and it’s pretty poor on my part.”
For a player whose mental strength has generally been his defining characteristic, it’s something he’ll need to sort out in a hurry.