Sunday, December 31, 2006

How to Improve Tennis – Not

I wasn’t really going to post again until 2007 but I came across this little tidbit from Tennis Magazine. Seems they’ve been visiting some of those Argentine doctors—or Chucho’s friends—and they’ve come up with a little list of what should be done to improve tennis. After I picked myself up off the floor, I decided to share their wit and wisdom. Well, their wit and what I hope some of you will see as wisdom about their suggestions. Here goes:

  1. LIMIT INJURY TIMEOUTS – Player X, I’m sorry, but just because your leg is fractured in two places does not mean you can hold up this match. Yeah, I see the bones but you took an injury timeout when you puked your guts out in the first set. I’m sorry. Player Y wins in a walkover.

  2. MAKE DOUBLES MANDATORY – That will cut down on player fatigue guys! Way to go!

  3. END THE WAIT-AND-SEE POLICY FOR FANS – I’m at a total loss about what this means. I could speculate but children might read this post.

  4. CREATE A NEW INTERNATIONAL TEAM EVENT – Is Davis Cup going bye-bye?

  5. GO HI-DEF – Every tennis fan MUST buy a Hi-Def television or else. You hear that, Dolan family? Yet another reason not to offer The Tennis Channel to your subscribers. The philistines don’t have Hi-def television.

  6. ALLOW ON-COURT COACHING – No. The only one who would benefit is Pova. Most players know what it means when their coach yanks a booger out of his/her nose. Only Pova has to have a show and tell.

  7. OFFER EQUAL PRIZE MONEY AT WIMBLEDON – I’m so sick of this I could scream. Or work up a Black Sweat with Prince and then scream. Whatever. The women don’t play five sets. I’m a woman and I think they should play five sets to get equal money. Unless you’re playing a match like Linds and Vee played for the Wimby Final in 2005. Those two should’ve gotten paid what the men were paid for playing a match that is still talked about in “best of WTA” threads.

    “C’mon, Rog. Do you really believe you should earn more than me?”

  8. EMBRACE THE EXHIBITION - This isn’t a bad idea since tennisheads are now avidly following exo’s.

  9. RESTRICT THE TOWEL - All you clowns get buzz cuts. Male and female. Makes no diff. NO TOWELS!!!

  10. KEEP HOST CITIES IN TOURNAMENT NAMES - Tennisheads know the cities. Newbies will learn the jargon rather quickly. I have no idea what the official name of Cincy is.

  11. REGROW THE GRASS GAME – There is no grass season. There is a grass Grand Slam where everyone regardless of their complexion is forced to wear white. I understand His Fabulousness is lobbying for each player to have his/her choice of garment like everywhere else. This was after The Club politely voted down his idea that all the men wear toreador pants.

  12. ENHANCE THE LEAD-UP SERIES – How come those dirtballers got it right? The lead up to Roland Garros goes through Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg. It’s not a French Open Series but they could market it that way. Of course the creators of the US Open Series will accuse the French of biting but who cares? Money is green. Or whatever color the euro is.

  13. USE INSTANT REPLAY ON ALL SURFACES – A no brainer and a good idea. Obviously someone missed the dutchie...

  14. CREATE MORE DUAL-GENDER EVENTS – Is that track star from India now playing tennis? Oh, wait...

  15. END SUPER SATURDAY – I actually enjoyed Super Saturday at BJK this summer. Two potentially great men’s matches I had the pleasure of watching from the nosebleed section thanks to my USTA membership. Way to go guys!

And what should remain the same:

  1. Leave singles rules alone – Agreed

  2. Don’t shorten the season – It’s fish or cut-bait time for the smaller venues. Not a pretty world out there right now.

  3. Keep three-out-of-five sets at majors – Agreed. For both sexes.

  4. Keep single elimination tournament system – Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s just strong agreement. I was not staring at pics of my tennis husband.

  5. Don’t reduce the number of Masters Series events – Agreed. And still call them Masters Series events.

[Savannah’s World]

France Upsets US in Hopman Cup

Associated Press
PERTH, Australia - France upset the defending champion U.S. team and Australia beat top-seeded Russia on Saturday in the opening matches of the Hopman Cup mixed teams tournament.

Tatiana Golovin defeated Ashley Harkleroad 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 and 213th-ranked Jerome Haehnel beat Mardy Fish 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3) to give France an unbeatable lead before forfeiting the mixed doubles match.

Australia beat Russia 2-1 when Alicia Molik and Mark Philippoussis won their singles events.

Source: MSNBC
And speaking of MSNBC...

I don’t know how long it’s been there or how long it will remain, but the tennis editors over there lifted the lead paragraph of my Lindsay Davenport tribute and quoted it on the front page right in the middle of Bud Collins on Tennis. How fabulous. I’m honored and humbled.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Friday, December 29, 2006

ATP 2007 Preview

ATP tennis begins the 2007 season on Sunday in Adelaide, Chennai, and Doha. Round robin also makes its debut in Adelaide, but that’s a whole other story, and I ain’t going there right now. I will say that this off-season went by in a flash, and while I’m certainly eager to see more tennis, I’m not quite ready. But the calendar waits for no one.

The Players to Watch
Who to watch in the new year? These previews are generally reserved for up-and-coming youngsters who hinted at a breakout in 2006, but I’m going all over the map with my picks with a look at a some veterans, a few players in their prime, and a couple of relative newbies. In no particular order, he we go:

Guillermo Canas - Tempus fugit. Seems like yesterday that the Argentine was suspended for two years after testing positive for a banned substance. But he’s been playing (and winning) challengers, and this feisty workhorse with a forehand has been known to cause trouble at big events in the past (see TMS Canada, circa 2002). He enters the season ranked 143, but he’ll be back in the top 50 in no time flat. I have to ask, though: can he stay away from the illegal stuff?

Lleyton Hewitt - 2006 was a down year for him, as he sat out much of the hardcourt season with injuries. He also became a father and surely, family life took precedence over his tennis as he made the adjustment into fatherhood. Entering 2007 ranked at No. 20, I don’t know if Lleyton can get back into the top five as, say, Nadal has suggested, but I do expect him to take advantange of the faster Australian Open courts, and if his draw is kind (he has to avoid Federer in the early rounds), he should go far. He’s been training early and hard for his home Slam and he intends to play two tune ups for the first time in forever. He’s even planning to play doubles. Since he has suggested that no one need write his epitaph, the spotlight will be on him in every event he plays to see if he can put his money where his mouth is. And speaking of Nadal...

Rafael Nadal - Spain’s top player is on this list precisely because his 2006 was such a bust after falling to Federer in the Wimbledon final. No surprise then that he thinks Hewitt can get back to the top of the game given the similarities in their playing style. Rafa missed last year’s first Slam because of a foot injury. Many predicted that had he played, he would have fared well on the slow high bouncing surface. But the rebound ace courts for the 2007 Australian Open are playing faster and the bounce isn’t quite as high. How will Rafa fare in the faster conditions? Can he reclaim his mental advantage over Roger? Rafa recently said that Federer was “unbeatable.” Was this posturing or has he become Roger’s newest disciple? Time will tell. For now, enjoy this.

Mark Philippoussis - The 30-year-old Aussie has recently ended his engagement to focus more on tennis. He’s called upon Darren Cahill to get him back into the top of the game. And if that weren’t enough, he trained in Las Vegas where recently retired Andre Agassi has been helping out whenever he can. The tour has likely passed by the big man with the bum knee, but more power to him for re-committing to tennis full-time in the hopes of winning the one crown he says he’s certain he can win before retirement: Wimbledon. Ranked at 114, he’ll need a wildcard to get into his home Slam, but he’s likely to get it. He represents Australia alongside Alicia Molik, making comeback of her own, in Hopman Cup play which began earlier today.

Joachim Johansson - The Swede has learned many lessons from his time away from the tour. Sometimes called the Euro Roddick (I can't bring myself to type his other nickname), Joachim played his first ATP tournament since San Jose in Stockholm last fall where he defeated Rafael Nadal before falling in the semifinals to Jarkko Nieminen in a thriller. With his huge serve and massive forehand, he can threaten on anything except clay. But will that shoulder hold up? We’ll see. And speaking of huge serves...

Andy Roddick - Andy claims that he respects Federer as much as the next guy but is going to go after him a lot more in 2007. Sounds like Jimmy Connors, who has committed to traveling virtually full-time with his compatriot in the new season, is in Roddick’s head afterall. Connors has convinced Roddick to take advantage of the tour’s best serve and follow it to net, a strategy that worked so well, he earned 3 match points against Federer the last time they met. Safe to say, such an aggressive strategy will work against other plays as well. If the book on Andy became just block his serve back and you’ve got a shot, Roddick seems determined to write a new chapter. Or a whole new book. It will be interesting to see if the Jimmy and Andy show can prevail on a Slam Sunday in 2007. And speaking of Andy’s with high-profile coaches...

Andy Murray - What will Brad Gilbert do for the Scot in 2007? Will Andy the Younger be beefed up by Melbourne? Will he have a first serve that lands inside the service box more than half the time? Will he dispense with the drop shot? Will he defeat Federer again? Will he break into the top 10? The top 5? Will he win a Slam? I’d guess no, maybe, no, no, yes, no, and no. But my predictions are usually wrong. You’d be better off asking Pam Shriver.

Paul Capdeville - This 23-year-old Chilean is a tall player with a big game. He also likes to come to the net. He showed promise during the Davis Cup tie against the US on grass. Last February, he scored wins over Tommy Robredo and Ivo Karlovic before falling in three sets to Kristof Vliegen in Memphis indoors. His results fell off after that, but such is often the case after a few good wins build up expectations. If he can continue to improve, 2007 might be his breakout year as he moves from 149 into the top 100.

Juan Martin del Potro - Another player from south of the equator, the Argentine was the youngest player on the ATP to rank inside the top 100 in 2006. And he only played his first ATP match in February. Now ranked at 92 (he climbed as high as 82), he'll be looking to maintain the momentum he gained by advancing to the quarterfinals of Basel where he fell to Fernando Gonzalez in three tight sets. I’ve yet to see him play, but at 6'5" with a booming serve, this kid could rise in the rankings awfully fast. And speaking of tall teenagers...

Sam Querrey - The talented American teen has been supported by all the powers that be in US Tennis, as well as the top American players. Currently ranked at 130, Sam received a wildcard into the Australian Open where he will play for the first time. At this past summer’s US Open, his only other Slam event to date, he won a match and looked rather impressive against Gaston Gaudio in the 2nd round before succumbing to the occasion and bowing out in four sets. He can expect wildcards into the main draws of numerous US stops on the ATP tour so by year’s end, we’ll have a pretty good idea what this kid is made of.

Danai Udomchoke - Why would I include a player who turned pro in 1997, will turn 26 next year, and whose ranking hovered around 100 for all of 2006? Because I feel like it. But really, though. The Thai player recently won the gold medal at the Asian games with a straight-set win over Hyung Taik Lee, who is no slouch, mind you, and such an important win has to do something for Danai’s confidence. Ranked at 104, he should be able to get direct entry into the Slams and many other ATP events, so who knows? Maybe 2007 will see the would-be journeyman make a splash. And speaking of players who turn 26 in 2007...

Benjamin Becker - The German sits at a career-high ranking of No. 58 due largely to his runs to the US Open round of 16, where he fell to Roddick after ending Agassi’s career, and to the semifinals in Tokyo, where he lost to Federer. He also made the finals of a challenger at the end of the season in the Ukraine, where he lost to Dmitry Tursunov. No shame in any of those games. How will he fare in Melbourne? The faster courts will surely help his big game, and if he gets a decent draw, he should match his US Open result. But no matter how he fares at the first Slam, he is poised to climb higher in the rankings in 2007 and will be a danger in any draw.

Gustavo Kuerten - At last, Guga returns. Inexplicably denied a wildcard into the Australian Open after it had been announced that he’d likely receive one, the Brazilian star will make his 2007 debut at Viña del Mar. How will his hip hold up? How has he adjusted his game? How much longer will he play? These questions and many more will be answered in the new year. And speaking of returns...

Marcelo Rios - The retired star and No. 1 player on the senior circuit, will return to ATP play at his home tournament in Viña del Mar. He claims it’s a one-event-only return, but if I were a betting man and he performs well, I’d gamble a penny or two that we’ll see him play a few more claycourt events in 2007. Whatever the case, with both Guga and El Chino in the draw, the Movistar Open will be the event to watch next month. Pity it won’t be televised in the States.

The Story to Follow
Who will stop Roger Federer from winning another three Slams in 2007?

Roger has said that his three main goals are to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and, of course, maintain his No. 1 ranking. But if his dominance continues, who’s to say that he won’t win all four Slams? While a part of me would like to see a male player in my tennis fandom lifetime win four Slams in a row (calendar year or not), I also hope Roger is dethroned by someone other than Rafael Nadal at a Slam. Journalists are beginning to write about the unpredictability (read: boredeom) of FedBot’s reign. Matt Cronin wrote about it a few weeks ago, and just recently, Charles Bricker of the Sun-Sentinel was blasted by his readership for penning the same.

The Subplots
Will Nalbandian finally win a Slam? Will Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero and Guillermo Coria return to championship form? Will Marcos Baghdatis and Novak Djokovic and Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych and Mario Ancic and Dmitry Tursunov achieve consistently strong results or continue their streaky ways? Will James Blake and Tommy Robredo and Nikolay Davydenko and Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez remain fixtures in the top 10 or will they be overtaken by the aforementioned? Will a previously overlooked player unexpectedly steal a few scenes? Will Tim Henman have one last hurrah at Wimbledon? Will Pete Sampras?

This blogger provides a few answers.

What say you?

The Future of Tennis: Part 1

Where Do We Go From Here?

Tennisheads have been following the actions of England’s Lawn Tennis Association over the past few months with a mixture of amusement and concern. The Brits first got everyone’s attention over the summer when they went after emerging star Novak Djokovic to change his nationality and play for them. Needless to say, Novak’s parents, always concerned for the well being of their child, used the Brits offer to leverage a better deal from Serbian tennis officials and little Novak stayed put. That seems to have been the LTA’s only failure. Brad Gilbert, Peter Lundgren and others soon joined their stable and everyone is now wondering when they will once again put players on the world stage capable of making the top 10.

But the Brits aren’t the only ones who have been busy. Bulgarian teen Mariyana Levova will acquire an Irish passport and play Fed Cup for Ireland in 2007. Tennis Australia is in flux as well. Paul McNamee, long a fixture in tennis circles, was kicked to the curb and replaced. Roger Rasheed will now coach Davis Cup for Australia in 2007. Jason Stoltenberg has called the men who run Tennis Australia’s National High Performance Academy unprofessional saying they weren’t preparing the up-and-coming kids for the ATP tour but rather for college play. He quit the Academy in October. Not to be left out, Jamaica is looking to up the ante by setting up a structure that will have some of their players hit both the ATP and WTA. Its National Director, Douglas Burke, is working closely with officials from Canada but admits that Jamaican players are at a disadvantage on the world stage.

Jamaican players also face cultural challenges in terms of how they play their tennis, as according to Burke, while the locals are doing extra lessons preparing for their CXC exams, teens their age in the rest of the world are not focusing on school.

“They see tennis as we see school. We are up against professionals at 14, 15, 16 years of age. These kids are playing 40 hours a week and touring the world and school is not a focus.

“We need to get the financial support that is required to help our players make the transition to the professional level. It will cost between US$70,000 to US$100,000 a year,” Burke explained.

Meanwhile, the USTA seems to be taking a two-pronged approach:

For the men, the focus is on the home grown. Sam Querrey, Donald Young and several other young American men are being groomed for prime time.

For the women, blonde and Russian seem to be the preferred flavor. Tarpishev, Russia’s Fed and Davis Cup coach, recently admitted that Russia only develops a player up to a point and then sends him or her out to be “finished” in Spain or the United States. He pointed out that most of these players, mostly women, continue to play for Russia and never give up their Russian citizenship. We aren’t hearing about too many American women coming up behind Venus, Serena or Lindsay right now. Madison Brengle, one of the promising US juniors, recently got a wild card into the Oz Open draw, but I wonder if she’ll be thrown under the bus known as Maria Sharapova in an early round.

Why are small countries such as Jamaica, Serbia and Croatia fighting to develop their players and build their own systems while the so-called “major tennis powers” have to go outside of their borders to find youngsters and coaches who can help their admittedly ailing programs? Why is Tony Roche coaching Roger Federer instead of an Australian up-and-comer? Why is Brad Gilbert working with the Brits and not with some new US talent? Gilbert openly begged for a chance to work with Rafa Nadal earlier in the year but there was no way that was happening. United States tennis officials openly laughed at Spain a few years ago when Spain set itself on a course to develop top players for the ATP. No one is laughing now.

Part 2 will focus on the United States and the USTA

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Robby Ginepri Ready to Put 2006 Behind Him

By Bonnie DeSimone
Special to ESPN

Most tennis players yearn for a longer offseason. Late November and December evaporate quickly as players make the rounds of charity exhibitions and get buried in the same holiday crush as non-jocks. Next thing they know, the carousel starts moving again and it's time to leave for Australia.

Yet Robby Ginepri has been looking forward to that long flight.

"That's what I said to my new coach, Diego [Ayala]," Ginepri said earlier this month before playing his pal Mardy Fish at Pam Shriver's charity benefit in Baltimore.

After finishing No. 17 in the world in 2005, Robby Ginepri was 24-26 and dropped out of the top 50 in 2006."I told him I didn't even feel like taking three, four weeks off or whatever we usually do. He said, 'Yeah, sign of maturity.' I guess I'm getting a little older and smarter, which is always positive.

"I'm never too excited to start playing again. But now I'm moving on, moving forward and I'm really excited for next year. … I just want to take each week at a time and be ready and fresh."

Read More

More power to him. 2006 was truly a forgettable year for him. I wish him the best, but what's up with the 27-year-old coach?

James Blake: Tennis Week Interview - Good stuff.
Federer Repeats as Athlete of the Year - No surprise.
Qatar Open Insured for $5 million - Yowza.
Andy Murray Signs Water Deal - Andy “Pissy” Murray?
2007 Davis Cup Preview - Tough road for US.
Sharing A Laugh With Marat Safin - DVD Preview - Fun stuff.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

WTA 2007 Preview

It's no secret that the women's tour was not must-see throughout 2006. Why? See the top 3 below. Next year can't be any worse, can it? A who to watch for the WTA in 2007 would have to include everyone in the top 30 and two women who are not: Venus Williams and Serena Williams. If they come into 2007 relatively injury free and able to bring their "A" games while taking a page from Justine's book and playing a smart, point-enhancing season they'll be at least top 5.

The Queens

(1) Justine Henin-Hardenne (BEL) - The words liar and cheat usually follow praise for her game and temper any admiration many fans want to feel for her. Her team has worked very hard to overcome the bad taste left in fans mouths by her "no mas" in Melbourne when it was obvious she couldn't bring the goods against Mauresmo. By the US Open it was obvious the little Belgian was on a mission that wasn't so impossible. She finished the year at No. 1.

What does she need to do in 2007?

She can forget totally rehabbing her image. UNESCO posts aside she is a known entity. The only way she will cut down on the negative talk is to continue to play the kind of tennis she played in 2006. She managed her time well and there is no reason to think she'll do any differently next year. She is being marketed as the WTA's answer to Federer. Let's see if she can dominate in 2007 and justify that talk. I think she can barring injury and suspicious cases of gastric distress. I really don't think the Piranha cares what people think but if she wants to make money she's going to have to.

(2) Maria Sharapova (RUS) - It's hard to find a female tennis player so widely reviled by so many tennis fans. She was booed in Miami after her on court antics and despite her winning her second Slam the only real celebration seemed to be among her corporate sponsors. Bananagate and her nasty attitude towards reporters who asked her tough questions instead of groveling at her feet may have made her a very hard bed which no amount of cajoling by IMG will overcome. Her publicists want us to ignore her pulling out of Moscow and the poor attendance in Zurich and point to Madrid. Spain is tennis crazy right now and they came to see tennis—not her. One blogger screamed "enough" when talking about all the publicity she was getting. And we won't talk about the cell phone incident, will we?

This woman truly doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. She comes across as eat-your-babies mean and no amount of hips not lying (the commercial they aired ad nauseum where she's "dancing" to Shakira's hit song) or feeling pretty will change that impression with some fans. She desperately needed to win her second Slam and where else could she count on the luck of the draw but in old New York? Tennis fans are a savvy bunch and all they care about is the tennis. She is from the American school of hit hard and if that doesn't work hit harder. The shriek? Distracts her opponents and they can't hear the ball off the racquet and judge how fast it's coming at them. Yet she is 466 points behind a woman who is a much better tennis player than she is. She and Justine will be seeded on opposite sides of the draw in Oz so their only chance to meet will be in the Final. Unless the luck of the draw holds I don't see her winning another Slam although she will probably make the semis…and yes I did go there!

(3) Amelié Mauresmo (FRA) - I don't think anyone was quaking in her thongs when they had to play her. No one gets called a head case more often other than Marat Safin. Watching her try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this year was jaw dropping.

I would call her La Reine de Headcases but there are so many more in the top 10 she's just a lady in waiting. She finally fulfilled the promise she showed at 19 when she made it to the finals in Oz before her private life became more of an issue than her tennis. Yet I can't see anyone worried that they can't beat her since she so often beats herself. She got a taste of the top this year and since she is an athlete I think she'll want to stay there. I don't see her winning Oz but I think she can pull it off at Wimby unless the Dragon Queen gets a cup cake draw.

(4) Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - What can you say? When this woman wants to play she can beat anyone yet she often seems puzzled about why she's on the tennis court. This was a forgettable year for her despite her No. 4 ranking because she can play so much better than she did. Maybe now with the pressure off she can play the tennis that won her a Slam. Will she win one in 2007? No.

(5) Kim Clijsters (BEL) - The former Queen of the Cupcake draws has said this will be her last year. She suffered with injuries but still managed to finish the year in the top 5. Will she be interested in tennis in 2007 or will she be picking out cribs and layette sets? She seemed very "meh" in 2006. She may fight hard enough to stay in the top ten and make some quarter finals and maybe a semi or two but unless she changes her focus she'll go out as No. 9 or 10.

(6) Nadia Petrova (RUS) - To the players below her: "Incoming at twelve o'clock high." She'll be lucky to finish in the top 10. All the drama with her coaching situation (or in her head) is not helping her play her best. Yet here she is at No. 6 in the world. Go figure.

(7) Martina Hingis (SUI) - The Black Widow has to be pleased with her year. She came from nowhere and is ranked No. 7. She still has problems handling Big Babe tennis and it doesn't matter if you hit a beautiful shot with pin point placement when some Valkyrie sends it literally screaming back at you with some added KPH on it. It could also be a gremlin sending it back her way with a lot of deceptive action on the ball. Martina has worked on her fitness but she has not changed her game. I see her in a holding pattern next year.

(8) Elena Dementieva (RUS) - La Princesse or La Reine of the Headcases? With no serve she has managed to have a pretty good year. At No. 8 she's about where she belongs. Once she gets the ball in play she's hard to beat. If she plays like she did this year she, like The Black Widow, will end the year about where she is.

(9) Patty Schnyder (SUI) - I think she starts to wonder if her hubby is robbing people in the stands when she gets to a third set. I've been watching Patty for years now and I wonder why she's never kicked into that other gear which is inside of her. If she did she'd be top 5, top 3. As it stands she's another one right where she should be. If she wanted to use her other gear this was the year to do it.

(10) Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) - She had some great wins this year and her confidence has to be high. She can move up and I don't think she's afraid to tap into the talent hidden inside of her. She is from the hit-hard-and-then-harder school but if she wants it she can get to No. 5.

The Ladies in Waiting

I don't see much movement in the top 10 so these ladies are really in a bind. With the new WTA B-Tier championship strategy I see most of them battling it out for that right while the top 8 go to the YEC or Tier A championship. That topic deserves its own discussion so I'll just say here that if they ever wanted to make a tour consisting of the haves and have-nots they couldn't come up with a better idea. The only top 10 spots I see vulnerable are 6, 8 and 10.

(11) Dinara Safina (RUS) - After her destruction of Sharapova everyone figured her for the Final 8. Instead she exited stage left and ended the year at No. 11 not even eligible for an alternate at the big dance. And as she sank Sharapova rose. Maybe it's a family trait, I don't know. I see her right where she is, maybe No. 10 if she really wants it. Ironically if you finish No. 9 or 10 you can't go to the Tier B championships which start at the woman ranked No. 11 and end with the woman ranked No. 23. You can be an alternate at the Big Dance. I don't think she's ready for prime time yet.

(12) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) - The Queen of the B list players wants to move up into the top ten. If Petrova slips and falls The Black Widow will move up a notch to take Petrova's spot and maybe Kim's. I don't think Kim wants to go out as B List champ so she'll fight enough to stay in the Top Eight. JJ's managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at the US Open makes me think that while she has a chance to make it to No. 9 or 10 she may want to stay where she is and have a chance at the Tier B championships.

(13) Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) - Maybe she had a bad day at the Open but this girl just does not impress me. She looked like a deer in headlights during the match I saw her play. I'm stunned she's ranked ahead of Ivanovic. She may end the year right where she is.

(14) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) - Other than turning grown men into McCreamy's this girl has the stuff to move into the top ten. But again unless you crack the top 8 it doesn't mean jack. She wants it and wants it badly. But she's got to get past a few other women to get to No. 8.

(15) Francesca Schiavone (ITA) - May move up a few notches but will probably end the year just about where she is. A strong contender for B Tier champion.

(16) Anastasia Myskina - I'm surprised she's ranked this high. She must be content with where she is because every chance she had to move up she managed to lose. Note to Anastasia: you're not blonde. You're a smoldering brunette. You don't have to be blonde to win tennis matches you have to be good. Play to your potential and you don't have to fight Schiavone for Tier B queen.

(17) Marion Bartoli (FRA) - If Maid Marion would eat her veggies and fish and drop about 25 pounds she would put a scare into her peers when she reaches the top 8. She's got the game; she even looks like a young Monica. I'd love to see an in shape Bartoli against Sharapova. She could blow right past Martina and end the year in the top five I think she's that good. She is the Fat Dave of the WTA.

(18) Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) - Maybe Maid Marion should bequeath her crepe recipes to Daniela. Her stamina is her problem. Her lack of movement also hinders her. She's got the shots but she's almost stationary like Lindsay was before she got fit. I think the game has passed her by but she plays enough to keep her ranking in the top twenty. She ends 2007 where she is.

(19) Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER) - An underachiever. I don't know what distracts her. She's German so I can't say she's got that whole Russian thing the Safin family has going on. If she plays the way she did this year she may fall out of contention for the Tier B championship.

(20) Shahar Peer (ISR) - I don't see her moving into the top 8. She plays well and she plays just enough to keep her ranking. She may move into the high teens depending on how some of her peers do but that will be it in my opinion.

The Court in Exile

Lindsay's retirement makes this group interesting but I'm not sure if there will be much change here with few exceptions. This may be the group where Safina, Groenefeld and Hantuchova end 2007. Remember those ranked 20-23 are in the Tier B championships.

(21) Li, Na (CHN) - In China the last name goes first so I'm sticking with that convention for Ms Li. There is tremendous pressure on the Chinese women to move up in the rankings ahead of the 2008 Olympics. If she doesn't finish in the high teens the year will be considered a failure for her. She should be poised to enter the top ten in 2008 which is doable. She should set No. 15 as her goal for this year. Anything higher is gravy.

(22) Tatiana Golovin (FRA) - Another woman that sends men into a tizzy but has not capitalized on chances she's had to move up in the rankings in 2006. Everyone wants her to be top ten but until she wants it she won't be. I see her in the first 15 tops.

(23) Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) - Another B tier princess. I have to say I've never seen her play. With the women beneath her fighting for that No. 23 spot she may be in danger of losing it and falling towards No. 29 or so.

(24) Bepa Zvonereva (RUS) - Bepa is Vera in Cyrillic so I'm not disrespecting her. She gets major props in my book for showing her humanity when Mary Pierce went down with that severe knee injury. Bepa's an underachiever in my book. Maybe she needs a coach who will kick her in the butt and make her cry but by doing so stiffens her spine and pushes her up a couple of notches. The game may have passed her by and she may drop a place or two.

(25) Lindsay Davenport (USA) - With the birth of her child on the horizon Lindsay has more important things on her mind. If she had continued to play I'm not sure if she would've moved up much. I am sure she wouldn't want to be the Tier B queen either so as usual the universe converged and gave her a way to leave the game with dignity. I wonder if she'll be able to curb that tongue of hers and do some commentary in 2008?

(26) Sugiyama, Ai (JPN) - Again following Asian name conventions I put her last name first. I saw Ai play live at the Open. She still has game but as James Brown once said "money won't change you but time is taking you on." It may be time for Ai to call it a day.

(27) Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) - Never seen her play. With Lindsay gone and Sugiyama probably moving down in the rankings she has a chance to move up some. Not sure if she'll make No. 23 though.

(28) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) - Another underachiever. Every chance Flavia had to move up she blew in 2006 and it's a shame because Flavia has a nice game. When she plays with confidence she is a threat to anyone. Just ask Sharapova. Flavia should be No. 20 or so. Has a chance to move up from this ranking segment.

(29) Samantha Stosur (AUS) - Singles is an afterthought for her. May move up due to retirements or other random tennis events but I don't see her higher than No. 25 at the end of the year.

(30) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) - No more McCreamy remarks from me. This girl has the looks they wish Sharapova had. If only she had more of the Siberian woman's will. A good year for Maria K. would be finishing in the high 20's.

Breaking News: Martina Hingis Engaged!

Martina shows off her diamond engagement ring.

By Paul Malone

TRIPLE Australian Open tennis champion Martina Hingis has won her biggest love match, becoming engaged to Czech player Radek Stepanek.

A happy Hingis arrived in Queensland yesterday to launch her 2007 campaign as top seed of the Mondial Australian Women's Hardcourt championships, which start at the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Stepanek, 28, is ranked No. 19 in the world and seeded fourth for Adelaide's Next Generation International next week.

Hingis, who made a valiant comeback this year to reach a world ranking of seven after three full years off the world tour, remained silent yesterday.

But the 26-year-old Swiss miss wore a diamond ring while practising at Royal Pines yesterday and chatted happily to tour regulars about her engagement.

Hingis showed off the ring to countrywoman Emmanuelle Gagliardi with a beaming smile when they crossed paths on the practice court.

Hingis and Stepanek will be reunited next month at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Source: Herald Sun
Congratulations to the Swiss Miss and her Czech Prince

Guillermo Coria Aims for the Top


Guillermo Coria claims he is returning to form under new coach Hernan Gumy.

In November, Coria ended his season at a disappointing 116th place in the ATP rankings.

The former world number three told La Naciona newspaper: "I'm fine and I want to feel the adrenaline again."

After dispensing with Spanish coach Jose Higueras and Argentinian Horacio de la Pena, Coria believes Gumy is the right man.

"Hernan (Gumy) studies and analyses a lot," said Coria. "He has been watching a lot of videos of 2003, my best year.

"I want to get back to who I was in 2003 and then to do better than that. I'm feeling very comfortable, with a very different feeling to the one I had with other coaches."

Source: Sporting Life
I didn't realize GeeJay had fallen so far in the rankings. Tennis needs a few bad boys to stir the pot, and Coria always seemed primed for the role. I'd like to see Coria and Hewitt face off. And soon.

MV’s Year-End Blog

Posted by [Savannah]

It’s me, MV. Well since everyone and their freaking brother will be writing these end of year thingies I thought I’d write one too.

As you all know it’s been a banner year for the Captain. His end of year point total is just phenomenal and it will be a long time before anyone approaches his greatness. I am proud to have played a small part in helping him achieve his goals. We’re looking forward to the New Year starting in Kooyang in January.

The Captain has taken his UN ambassadorship seriously and here are some pictures of him in India.

We have seriously fallen in love with Asia and its many different cultures. Knowing the Captain I have to make sure I check myself in the mirror to make sure I don’t have any dot’s on my forehead from now on. My taste buds are finally back to normal thank you very much for asking. Needless to say wasabi is not a staple in our home.

I recently spoke with PY. He was bored silly in the Maldives or some place he was at the time. He said something about the little piranha not liking all the attention he gets but I’m not sure what fish would care that he’s got his own cult following. He said he’s been told no more blouses or body armour. He has to wear plain tees and jeans. He also said since they didn’t mention what color the tees have to be he’s stocked up on cyan, fuchsia, and lime greens as well as pastels. He’s favoring baby blues and pinks with deep vee necks. He’s been working out and he hopes his fans like what they see next year. He’s staying away from white. Too butch he said. Black is part of his new year wardrobe as well.

He’s also found some jeans that he’s sure his fans will like seeing on him. He mentioned something about the corrida but the phone line suddenly had a lot of static on it and I couldn’t understand it.

I have to admit that when I called him it was because I was just sooo upset. As you know PY and myself are the heads of the tennis WAG’s and as such we get to say who is in style and who is not. Imagine our surprise when Mother Russia sent e-mails out to the effect that she in now in the running for head WAG. Who nominated her sorry arse? The cue ball she married? Even the piranha has better hair sense.

I’m glad to report that PY agrees with me. He said he was appalled when he saw the get up Mother Russia wore to her wedding. I had to remind him that Mother Russia was the one in the ermine trim not the one in the suit that was at least two sizes too big. He then went on a ten minute rant about Mad Max and the yellow suit that was also two sizes too big. I gently guided him back to the subject at hand.

PY wanted to know if the cue ball was marrying his mother. I told him that was illegal in most countries and besides she was a young woman although it was hard to tell. HF PY had one word for her wedding dress – tackkk-ayyy. She looked like she should be selling potatoes from a stall at a market in a small village he said which made me spit out the Tandoori chicken I was eating at the time. I told him he should have respect for other people’s culture and that maybe her outfit had cultural significance. There was silence for a few seconds before HF PY managed to say “whatever”.

We did manage to get a few days shopping in and I totally enjoyed Paris. We visited “The Triangle d'Or” – The Golden Triangle the neighborhood consisting of Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V, and Rue Francois 1er near the Champs Elysées.

Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Lancôme, Givenchy, Cartier and Yves Saint Laurent all have flagship stores here. The big-name designers also dominate the shops on Avenue George V, whilst no lover of fashion should overlook the Galeries Lafayette and Au Printemps, two of the city's top department stores on the Right Bank of the Seine. For some reason Patricia wanted to hang out in H&M but we dragged her out. She was kicking and screaming because she wanted this skirt she saw for under twenty euros that who knows how many polyesters sacrificed their lives to create. We invited the Piranha but she wanted to hang out in the boys section for god only knows what reason. We lost her in H&M and headed with a reluctant Patricia to the Yves Saint Laurent shop.

We also visited a La Perla store. Funny, that same woman who looks like the ex American First Lady was there with her friend. She called her Mrs. Ford while she was trying to convince her to buy a pair of lacy pale blue crotch less unmentionables. PY bought two pair in every color. For the Piranha he said. Mrs. Ford went to H&M and ended up with a couple of boxes of cotton briefs. Seems she and the Piranha met each other in that section of the store since HF PY let it slip that the Piranha had bought several boxes of cotton briefs as well and that she had met Mrs. Ford who seemed to be a nice lady. He quickly went back to discussing Patricia when I asked about all those La Perla’s though.

HF PY (thanks to whomever gave him that honorific since it’s how he wants to be addressed now) and I were reliving moments spent shopping when the Piranha came in.

She needed HF PY to pose with her in a photo shoot showing how they were just the normal couple in love who have pillow fights and gaze into each others eyes. I was too polite to mention they’d done that already. Seems she’s annoyed that not too many people took her side in not showing up for her country’s sports award ceremony. HF PY told me that she felt she evened the score since they voted her fourth last year. I thought it was all about winning but he said that she feels this second chance thing is a bunch of crap. I politely refrained from comment.

I should mention that the Captain had the ceilings redone. I can’t for the life of me figure out why he did it but he seems perfectly happy with it. I guess I don’t get it because I sleep on my tummy while he tends to sleep on his back. One day I’m going to have to take a really good look at that ceiling.

Happy New Year to all of you, my fans, and The Captain’s as well. HF PY is talking about starting his own blog in 2007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Kwanzaa

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Linkmas Eve

Federer plays cricket with tsunami survivors - Roger is taking his UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadorship seriously. Kudos to him.
Tarpishev: Russia killing tennis in America - I applaud his strategic Davis Cup and Fed Cup team captaining, but his mouth is beginning to grate on my nerves.
Kim Clijsters bobblehead dolls to be distributed to fans - Article previews the 2007 Proximus Diamond Games.
Radek Stepanek retires from Czech Davis Cup team - He “despises Czech tennis, his teammates, officials and Czech tennis fans.” Tell us how you really feel, Radek.
Ana Ivanovic keen to play Fed Cup - With the 2008 Olympics on the horizon, many players who’ve had no desire to represent their country in the past will have a change of heart.
Mark Phillipoussis turns to Darren Cahill - Does the Scud have another big run left? I doubt it, but if anybody can get it out of him, it’s Killer Cahill.
Roddick, Blake, Nadal, Safin make Sports Illustrated’s best looking list - Makes sense.
Petrova says Oz Open courts are fast and low - Now let’s see if she can take advantage of them and advance to her first-ever Slam final.
Andy Murray slams ATP round-robin plan - Never liked the guy, but he wins points for this.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Best WTA Matches: Another Opinion

Ron over at Mad Professah Lectures has posted his best WTA matches of 2006. Yes, he agrees that Amélie’s victory over Justine at Wimbledon was the best, but then we part ways. My runner up doesn’t even make his list of honorable mentions.

Tennis matches are like paintings: we all see something different in them.

The Bethanie Mattek Interview

When Bethanie Mattek took Centre Court against defending champion Venus Williams at Wimbledon earlier this year, she drew a few gasps. Clad in attire that was part tennis, part basketball, and all gypsy, Bethanie made a statement: So what I'm playing the great Venus Williams, but you're going to pay attention to me too!

And that we did. How could we not? With those too tight b-ball shorts, tank, and knee-high socks from the days of Wilt Chamberlain, the huge dangling earrings and the headband, it took me a while to even notice that her serve was big and she could hit the ball hard and precise, as long as she didn't have to run to it.

I was hooked.

Tennis Week's Richard Pagliaro interviewed her recently.

Tennis Week: Bethanie, can you tell us a bit about your training in Indian Wells the past week or so? Specifically, what have you been working on and what areas of your game are you trying to target improve?

Bethanie Mattek: Actually, the initial goal was just being more efficient on court. I was breaking down in a lot of my matches, especially as I did better in a tournament and make the second or third round. My body would just break down. I wasn't moving properly and a lot of times I was late for balls. I had some issues and I had been talking to Jason since Indian Wells, just on the phone every once in a while. I was playing a tournament out here, lost first round and wasn't really ready to play. So I decided to shoot over and work with him based on our conversations on the phone. He has been trying to help my with some of the footwork. I've been watching a lot of video of players I would like to try to copy, players I thought were very good movers.

Read More

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Hanukkah

Lindsay Davenport Tribute: Part 2

Photos posted by hurricanejeanne over at TAT

By appearance alone, three-time Slam champion, Olympic Gold Medalist and four-time year-end No. 1 Lindsay Davenport never struck me as an athlete. If I didn’t know any better and I saw her in an airport and someone pointed her out as a world-class tennis champion, I’d say, “No way.” She arrived on the scene as a pudgy, clumsy girl who grew into a towering, fit woman.

But there was nothing clumsy about her shotmaking. Considered by many as the best ball striker to ever play the women’s game, I was always in awe of the sound of the ball off her racquet as she struck it. A pure, round pop of a sound that no other player could replicate. Her precision might have outshined even her ball striking. Lindsay would aim for the lines—and paint them, thank you very much—with an eyebrow-raising ability to create angles from anywhere on the court. Her lack of speed (she was often called Turtle, even by her fans) was only a liability against players who could hit as hard, as precise, and run much faster. But those were few and far between.

Lindsay’s greatest talent, though, lay in her ability to outsmart her opponents and exploit their weaknesses without relent. Martina Hingis is often credited with being the smartest player you could see, but I think Lindsay gave her a run for her money in the cerebral department. I’m sure Lindsay had great coaches, but she always seemed to have a game plan, and she would execute it to perfection. No real surprise then that Lindsay’s great strategic mind made her a formidable champion in doubles as well.

Her Achilles Heel? That would be her attitude. Hang-Dog Lindsay, as Pam Shriver was wont to call her, lost many a match she seemed certain to win. Late in her career, however, she dispensed with the bad attitude almost without exception. Unless she faced Serena or Justine, two of her greatest rivals along with Martina and Venus.

Ah, Venus. Lindsay and Venus. There was something about those two. Their matches were almost all instant classics. I posted a few YouTube clips in the first part of this tribute, and whether she won or lost, the Turtle played her best stuff against the Gazelle. Their historic 2005 Wimbledon final when Venus outlasted Lindsay 4-6, 7-6(4), 9-7 is certain to go down as one of the greatest women’s matches of the Open Era.

Off the court, Lindsay was a great spokesperson for women, a great representative for the players, and a great ambassador for the sport. Never one to mince words, she revealed the shenanigans of Larry Scott and the WTA’s inexcusable practice of making the top players commit to events that the players knew they couldn’t play all for turning a buck. But when the events made their eleventh-hour announcements of the players’ withdrawals, it was the players’ reputations that suffered. And the tour had the nerve to perpetrate the fraud that these withdrawals were hurting the tour.

Denied a wildcard to the 2006 Rogers Cup in Montreal, which had already been decimated by a slew of high-profile withdrawals, Lindsay was punished for speaking out. That the WTA executive would treat her with such blatant disregard in the twilight of her career remains unconscionable.

No matter. Lindsay will have the last laugh. She rides off into the California sunset with her husband and await the birth of their first child.

And the tour will be all the worse for the wear.

Raise a flute and toast this great champion on her incredible career.

Be blessed, Lindsay. Be blessed.

You’ve only just begun.

Click here for a comprehensive retrospective on Lindsay’s career.

Young Americans Receive Oz Open Wildcards

By Bob Larson

American teenagers Sam Querrey of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Madison Brengle of Dover, Del., were awarded wild card entries into the 2007 Australian Open men's and women’s singles main draw respectively as part of a reciprocal arrangement between the USTA and Tennis Australia.

Ranked No. 130 in the world, Querrey, 19, is the fast rising youngster who improved more than 600 spots in the world rankings during the same year he graduated from high school. This year he won three USTA Challengers (Yuba City, Calif.; Winnetka, Ill.; and Lubbock, Texas) and won six matches at the tour level, including his Grand Slam debut at the US Open. He also extended world No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 James Blake to a decisive third set.

Brengle, 16, earned her entry into the Australian Open by winning an 8-player event at the USTA Player Development Headquarters in Key Biscayne, Fla. She is currently ranked No. 498 in the world and won her first pro singles title at the $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Baltimore last year as a qualifier. Earlier this month, Brengle reached the Girls’ 18-and-under semifinals of the Orange Bowl International.

The USTA invited a group of eight American players, age 22 or younger, to compete for the women’s wild card last week. Brengle defeated Jessica Kirkland in the final. Other players who participated in the tournament were: Lauren Albanese, Julia Cohen, Mary Gambale, Carly Gullickson, Ahsha Rolle and Ashley Weinhold.

Source: Tennis News

Nice to see Sam get the wildcard. Now let’s hope he has a decent draw and can put it to good use.

I’ve never heard of the young Madison Brengle, but at least she received her WC by winning the USTA event. Impressive stuff at her age.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Williams Family Owes No Damages

Father of Venus, Serena Williams liable in lawsuit, but owes no damages - By Brian Skoloff, Associated Press Writer
December 21, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.—The father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams is liable but doesn't have to pay damages in a lawsuit that claimed he reneged on a deal for his daughters to play in an exhibition match.

A jury Thursday cleared Venus Williams of all allegations but said Serena Williams let her father act as an agent for her. Neither sister must pay damages.

The Williams sisters expressed relief at the verdict.

“Venus and I would really like to thank the jury again because they really were able to see the truth in this matter,” Serena Williams said.

Added Venus Williams: “We’re ready to start a new chapter in our lives.” Attorney for the Williams’ father also said they consider the verdict a victory.

Read More
Sometimes justice prevails. Let’s hope the sisters can truly move on and get back into top form. The WTA needs it.

Venus, Germany out of Hopman Cup

SYDNEY, Australia—The Hopman Cup mixed team event suffered a double blow Thursday when American Venus Williams and the German team pulled out of the tournament in Perth, Australia.

Williams, the former world No. 1 and highest-profile player due to take part in the event starting Dec. 30, and German Nicolas Kiefer both have wrist injuries.

The Germans, who were called up only last month in place of South Korea, were forced to drop out of the tournament. Germany's place will be taken by France.

“Kiefer and Williams have both had recurring problems with their wrists and after long rehabilitations were not able to perform well enough to make the trip to Perth,” Hopman Cup organizers said in a statement.

Teenager Tatiana Golovin, a U.S. Open quarter-finalist this year, and Jerome Haehnel will represent France, with Ashley Harkleroad replacing Williams alongside Mardy Fish in the American team.

France and the United States are in Group A along with Australia and Russia. Group B consists of India, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Spain.

Source: ESPN
I guess this means that Venus will likely miss the Australian Open, too. Bad.

Change is in the Air

Several changes volleyed around
Tom Tebbutt

It appears the spit has hit the can, so to speak, as the factions in tennis try to cough up solutions to their problems.

After years of relative peace among the principal players—the women's WTA Tour, the ATP men's tour and the world governing body and ally of the Grand Slam events, the International Tennis Federation—power struggles again abound.

The most serious is between the WTA Tour, which wants to shorten its schedule and restrict the lower-level events top players can enter to try to solve its injury crisis, and the United States Tennis Association, the custodian of the U.S. Open.

As part of its Roadmap 2010 plan, the WTA Tour may drop some American events and weaken others by limiting how many elite players can play in them.

USTA officials, happy with the way the first two years of their U.S. Open Series have succeeded—mostly in getting better television coverage—are not pleased by moves that could reduce the number and quality of events. They are playing hardball. It was reported last week that the USTA board approved a $10-million (U.S.) contingency fund for possibly starting its own women's circuit.

WTA Tour chief executive officer Larry Scott and president Stacey Allaster, formerly of Toronto, are caught between implementing reforms and the USTA's power play....

Read More

This could get mighty interesting.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

ESPN’s WTA Year in Review

Player of the Year: Amelié Mauresmo gets the nod in a call so close and admittedly subjective that even Hawk-Eye’s electronic wizardry might not help. Yes, Justine Henin-Hardenne went to all four Grand Slam finals, won the eight-player year-end championship and finished the year ranked No. 1, and we understand why many pundits put her first. But her accomplishments can’t be listed without asterisks for her controversial late-match withdrawals in the Australian Open and Fed Cup finals. Henin-Hardenne had four Slams under her belt coming into this year, whereas Mauresmo was fighting a nearly decadelong rap as a player who lacked the nerve to win them. When her breakthrough championship in Australia was clouded by Henin-Hardenne’s premature exit, Mauresmo handled it gracefully and went on to win the Wimbledon final against the same player. She occupied the No. 1 slot for 34 weeks, from March to the first week of November. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

Match of the year: The backstory between Mauresmo and Henin-Hardenne gave the Wimbledon final a sustained hold-your-breath quality. Mauresmo lost the first set in 31 minutes but reversed some history by collecting herself and going on to win the next two sets handily. Her victory was the first by a French woman in the grass court classic in 81 years, and a crucial line on Mauresmo’s résumé.

Yes, I did my own 2006 review a few weeks ago, but I’ll take any chance to feature Amelie's incredible year. There’s a reason why I adore Bonnie DeSimone’s tennis writing. And not just because I usually agree with her. Continue reading the WTA Year in Review.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nadal: ‘Treated Like Criminals’

Is Rafa the first top player on either tour to publicly criticize the sport’s anti-doping controls?

World number two Rafael Nadal says athletes are being treated “like criminals” over doping controls. The Spanish star said he underwent “16 or 17” tests this year, the last one at his home on Saturday.

“We are being treated like criminals, and this is something to take into account because I don't see politicians undergoing anti-doping controls or anything like it,” Nadal told DPA.

“I am simply one sportsman more. I accept the anti-doping controls but they seem to me to be exaggerated,” he said.

Nadal will travel to India on December 29 to prepare for the new season at the Chennai Open, ahead of the first major of the year, the Australian Open.

Source: EuroSport

And maybe I’m missing something here, but could someone clarify the sportsman/politician analogy for me, please?

tags: doping, Rafael Nadal, sports, tennis

Belgian Press Reams Justine

Justine Henin-Hardenne received the Belgian Sportswoman of the Year award. But she didn't show up to receive it, claiming that her training schedule in nearby Monaco kept her from making the trip.

The article is in French. My French sucks. So for those of you who want to read the original ream, click here.

Thanks to Oploskoffie, a global moderator over at TAT, here's a translation into English:

A champion with such pure talent and iron force will. A champion for whom the entire world envies us, and who, more than anyone, plainly deserves to claim the title of Sportswoman of the Year. To evoke the feats of JH, and especially the way she accomplished them should be therefore, in principle, a true pleasure.

Alas! Because of this tenacious grudge that persists under all circumstances and which prevents her from erasing bad memories which she judges to be injustices done to her, she condemns us, often, to talk about her in terms much less flattering than those which are usually mentioned with such accomplishments.

Her decision to pout yesterday, missing the gala affair to which the entire Belgian sporting world responded with smiles and pleasure, is an attitude completely without place. She reveals a lamentable small mind which goes poorly with the image that one usually associates with a champion.

And that Justine's not coming is because she claims she cannot be moved due to training. Nobody is fooled as to the real reasons that pushed her to want to humiliate those for whom she doesn't forgive her 4th place finish last year in the same vote. By reacting like she did yesterday, she showed herself to be even more stupid than those who, wrongly, hadn't voted for her.

If JH believes to have, thus, evened the score with such a grandiose snub of an organization for which she has so much hate, she is mistaken. But is this choice really hers? Is she negatively influenced by her entourage who, themselves more than her, think they must even the score? One certainty, her absence is nonetheless regrettable, and such a shame ...

Harsh? Well, there are at least two sides to every story. But Justine is well-known for being extremely selfish with her time. While some find selfishness a prerequisite for a champion with a healthy ego, especially in an individual sport, I often feel Justine crosses into narcissism.

Anyway, at least the US press isn't the only corps nasty to some of its champions.

Monday, December 18, 2006

US Tennis Coverage Sucks

Starting today at 8pm EST, The Tennis Channel will air the 10 best matches of the year. These are, of course, from the matches that TTC had the rights to broadcast throughout the year. Not a whole hell of a lot to chose from, but it beats nothing, which is just about all that ESPN air had to offer in 2006.

12/18: WTA Dubai Duty Free Final - Sharapova vs. Henin-Hardenne
12/19: Davis Cup Quarterfinals - Blake vs. Gonzalez
12/20: TCO Singles Final - Hewitt vs. Blake
12/21: Master Series Monte Carlo Final - Federer vs. Nadal
12/22: WTA Rome Semifinal - V. William vs. Hingis
12/23: Master Series Rome Final - Federer vs. Nadal
12/24: US Open September 4th Match - Hewitt vs. Gasquet
12/25: US Open Mixed Doubles Final
12/26: Davis Cup Semifinals - Roddick vs. Tursunov
12/27: WTA Zurich Final - Sharapova vs. Hantuchova

But at least all of the above matches were first aired live. Which is a perfect segue into the topic of this post: Overall, tennis coverage in the United States sucks in a major way.

When ESPN did manage to air a tennis match, it was tape-delayed and we already knew the result. This was extremely annoying throughout the year, and especially during Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai. A few of the weekend matches were being played in my time zone at the wee hours of the morning, but ESPN choose to air fly fishing instead. Thanks to ATP Masters Series TV, I was able to see matches live. And ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports (perhaps it's about time they change their tagline!), didn't even bother airing the WTA Season Ending Championships.

For all the fan criticism that TTC channel receives (too many reruns, not enough WTA coverage, not enough tournament coverage period), it provides virtual non-stop tennis programming for the tennis addict. Its special features and original series are not to be missed. You get in-depth interviews of players past and present on Center Court with Chris Myers. Open Access takes a monthly look at everything that takes place during the most anticipated events in professional tennis. No Strings spends a day in the life of today's tennis stars, getting an inside look at their lifestyles and loves when they're not on the court. Match Makers shines the spotlight on the people who work behind the scenes to create the multifaceted, worldwide tennis industry we know today. And my favorite Tennis Insiders is a unique monthly series that features a spirited discussion between today's leading tennis pundits on current issues affecting the game.

And then there are the specials, the Net Films, and the instructional programming that gives players at any level all sorts of tips to improve their games.

TTC's biggest problem, however, is that it has struggled to develop much traction and it was rumored to be about to file for bankruptcy. But the USTA recently announced it will invest millions of dollars in the network. This is good news and will perhaps increase the amount of coverage in the States. Perhaps TTC will even air US Open matches not slated for coverage on USA network. As it is, TTC will broadcast Roland Garros in 2007.

But their biggest challenge is marketing the product to cable companies. I'm lucky enough to live in a market that includes TTC as part of a not-so-premium programming package. But I had to call my local provider almost every day for nearly a year to get it. Perhaps the USTA's backing will enable other providers to include the network in its cable lineup in the near future.

We can only hope.