Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Notes on an Absence

To the several hundred of you who stop by each day to see what's going on in from my point of view in the tennis world, I want to say thank you.

I'll be unable to cover tennis and post as much over the next few weeks as I must focus on my family, which is going through a trying time right now. I'm not sure how long it will last, but when I get a chance to pay any attention to tennis and have the wireless access to post about it, I'll try my best to do so.

Meanwhile, Savannah and Mad Professah will be holding down the fort, so you are in good hands. It's likely that I'll be posting updates about the goings on in my life on my personal blog when and if I have a chance, so if any of you want to check in over there from time to time to see what's up, that's cool too.

I'll let you know when I'm settled again and back to my normal tennis routine.

Thanks again for stopping by and I'll see you soon!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Black History Month: Breaking the Color Barrier

Though severely hampered by the nation's acceptance of policies and practices that denied blacks access to most United States Lawn Tennis Association events (USLTA) during that time, several black leaders were determined to cultivate an appreciation for 'the gentlemen's game' among people of color. They overcame by forming their own tennis circuit. The ATA was born when representatives from more than a dozen black tennis clubs met in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, 1916, Thanksgiving Day. Dr. Harry S. McCard, Dr. William H. Wright, Dr. B.M. Rhetta, Ralph Cook, Henry Freeman and Tally Holmes were among the ATA's founding fathers. Holmes, of Washington, D.C., won the first two ATA men's singles titles.

Knowing that large groups of blacks would not be accommodated at most hotels, especially in the south, the early ATA National Championships were held at various black colleges, including Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), Morehouse College, Central State and Lincoln University. These black campuses provided tennis courts and sufficient housing space. The college administrators were delighted to have so many prosperous and potential donors, affiliated with their campuses. The ATA national soon became one of the most anticipated social events of the year in the black community. Formal dances, fashion shows and other activities were planned during the week of play. Today, similar social activities are planned at most ATA events.

First Interracial Match
The first interracial tennis match occurred in 1940 when Don Budge, who won the Grand Slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals in same calendar year) in 1938, met ATA champion Jimmie McDaniel in an exhibition at New York's Cosmopolitan Club before 2,000 fans. Budge defeated McDaniel 6-1, 6-2, and afterwards commended McDaniel on his skills despite his error-filled performance. "Jimmy is a very good player, I'd say he'd rank with the first 10 of our white players," Budge said.

But the most significant breakthrough occurred in 1950 when Althea Gibson, who won a record 10 consecutive ATA singles titles, stepped across the racial divide to become the first black to compete in the U.S. Nationals. Several years later, Gibson won the first of five Grand Slam titles, capturing the French Open in 1956. She also won Wimbledon (1957-58) and the U.S. Nationals (1957-58). In 1968, Arthur Ashe, a three-time ATA champion (1960-62) captured the inaugural U.S. Open title, becoming the first black male to win a Grand Slam title. Ashe also won the Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975). Dr. Robert Walter Johnson, Dr. Hubert Eaton and Bertram Baker were among the ATA officials who played key behind the scene roles in the success of Gibson and Ashe. Johnson, an ATA vice-president, organized and developed the first ATA Junior Development program. Eaton was a long-time ATA president and Baker was a long time ATA executive secretary. The Gibson-Ashe legacy continues through today's black pros, including Venus and Serena Williams, Chanda Rubin, James Blake, Angela Haynes, Jamea Jackson and Donald Young. The Williams sisters, who already have 13 Grand Slam singles titles, frequently have said that they were inspired by Gibson, Ashe, Garrison and other former players.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Serena Enters 2007 Family Circle Cup

Five World No. 1 Players to Compete in Star-Studded Charleston Event

Serena Williams, reigning Australian Open champion and winner of 27 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour titles including eight Grand Slam championships, has officially entered the 2007 Family Circle Cup. Currently ranked No. 15 in the world, she will be making her fourth appearance at the Tier I tournament in Charleston. As a former World No. 1 player, Serena is one of only 15 women since computer rankings started in 1973 to hold that top honor. She will join four other players (Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Amélie Mauresmo and Martina Hingis) in Charleston this year that have held that elite spot in women’s professional tennis. The Family Circle Cup scheduled for April 7th - 15th, 2007 at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, South Carolina now boasts five of the Top 6 players in the world.

“Serena’s performance at the Australian Open last month was remarkable and it showed us all how determined and focused she is on getting back to the top of her game,” noted Robin Reynolds, Family Circle Cup Tournament Director. “Serena has certainly been a crowd favorite here in Charleston over the years and we are delighted to have her back. If fans want to see the best in women’s tennis then Charleston is definitely the place to be this April.”

Since her arrival on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, Serena Williams has captured the world’s attention as a top player whose power and athleticism has elevated women’s tennis to a new level of competition. With over $1.25 million in earnings this year, Serena has returned to the top of her sport in stunning fashion with a convincing victory over six seeded players, including the tournament’s top seed and current World No. 1 player Maria Sharapova, at the 2007 Australian Open. With over 325 match victories, over $17 million in career earnings, and having spent nearly seven consecutive years as a Top 10 player, Serena is always a contender in each event she enters.

“I’m really looking forward to starting my clay court season at the Family Circle Cup,” commented Serena Williams. “Charleston is a great city to visit, and I’ve always enjoyed playing the tournament.”


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monaco Wins 1st Title; Youzhny Takes Rotterdam

Argentina's Juan Monaco, left, holds the "Rio de la Plata" Cup after beating Italy's Alessio di Mauro at a Telmex Cup final tennis match in Buenos Aires today. Monaco won 6-1, 6-2.

Mikhail Youzhny of Russia holds the trophy after defeating third-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in two sets 6-2, 6-4, in the final of the ABN Amro tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Tommy Haas wins Third Memphis Title

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Tommy Haas successfully defended his title in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, beating Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday.

The 28-year-old German won his sixth straight final and 11th title overall, becoming only the second three-time winner here. Combined with his 1999 title, he joins Jimmy Connors, currently Roddick's coach, who won consecutive titles in 1978-1979 and 1983-1984.

"Beating him, it's obviously a great win for me, so I'm really happy and pleased about it," Haas said. "I'm probably playing some of my best tennis. It's hard to compare to where I was four or five years ago when I had my highest ranking. But I'm playing good."

Haas never faced a break point in 47 games in this tournament, and Roddick, trying to win his second title here and 22nd overall, didn't come close to breaking him. Haas gave up only seven points off his serve in the final, and two of those were his own double-faults.

The German had a private plane to catch to fly to New York after the final, trying to make a late plane to the United Arab Emirates for his Tuesday match in Dubai. He beat Roddick in 61 minutes.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Venus Wins Title in Comeback Tournament

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Memphis, TN (AP) - Venus Williams capped her first tournament back from an injured left wrist in winning fashion Saturday night, beating top-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel 6-1, 6-1 in the Cellular South Cup.

This event is merely a Tier III tournament and far below her last victory at Wimbledon in 2005, her fifth Grand Slam. But her 34th career title came in her first tournament since losing in the second round at Luxembourg last October.

"I'm so excited," Williams said.

"I feel like I know I can play this kind of tennis. ... I didn't feel like I was in position to move my feet in any of the first four rounds. Today I knew I had to move. That commitment to really be in position to move, I think made a huge, huge difference."

The 26-year-old Williams had hoped to return to competitive tennis at the Australian Open last month, won by her sister, Serena. But she had to pull out of that event and last week's tournament in Belgium because of her wrist.

She came to Memphis where the winner's check is a mere $28,000 to start working the rust out of her game, knowing that matches that count mean much more than practice. She came in ranked 54th after a year in which she finished outside the Top 15 for the first time in nine years.

That doesn't mean she didn't come to win in a year she plans to be ranked in the top 16 by the French Open.

"Not to injure something in the first week back was the main goal," Williams said.

She had not played Peer before, but she watched her sister beat the 19-year-old Israeli in three sets in the Australian Open quarterfinals last month. She easily overpowered her with aces that reached as high as 125 mph and strong forehands and backhands.

Peer has won three titles and came in ranked 17th in the world. But this was only her 22nd event at this level or higher, and Williams' experience with five Grand Slam titles and six Tier I championships to her credit showed.

"I didn't see her playing like this the whole week," Peer said. "She just made so many winners, and I did a lot of unforced. It was going both ways. I wasn't playing not good, and she was playing good. That's why I lost so easy."

Andy Gets Revenge, Faces Haas in Final

Defending champion Tommy Haas advanced to the final of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis without facing a break point after defeating Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinal. The 2006 and 1999 Memphis champion fired 13 aces and dropped just five points on his first serve en route to his fourth consecutive straight-sets win of the tournament.

Haas will play top seed and 2002 champion Andy Roddick in the first 1 vs. 2 final at the Racquet Club of Memphis since 1987 when Stefan Edberg defeated Roddick's coach, Jimmy Connors. On Saturday Roddick defeated third seed Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6(4), avenging his loss to the 19-year-old Scot in last week's San Jose semifinals.

Haas seized the initiative at the outset of the match, breaking Fish in the second game. In the first game of the second set Fish double faulted to drop serve. In the following game Fish had 0/30 on the Haas serve but made a string of unforced errors.

Haas improved to 12-2 on the season and 25-6 career in Memphis. The 28-year-old German is attempting to become the second player to win three titles in Memphis. Jimmy Connors won four titles ('78, '79 '83 and '84). Haas has won the past five finals he has contested. His last loss in a final was against Andre Agassi in the 2002 ATP Masters Series Rome title match.

Todd Martin was the last player to win back-to-back Memphis titles in '94-'95.

Roddick opened his semifinal with more intensity that his younger opponent, whom he broke in the second game of the match. The 24-year-old American was not broken until late in the match, after taking the unusual decision to serve and volley on his second serve at 30/40. After making two solid volleys Roddick was passed by a Murray cross court forehand, which game the Scot a 5-3 lead. But three sloppy errors from Murray in the following game handed the break straight back to Roddick.

In the tie-break Roddick claimed a mini-break with a crushing cross court forehand winners off a Murray second serve to go up 5/4. He then closed out the match with consecutive aces.

Roddick improved to 21-4 in Memphis and 14-2 on the season. His is chasing his first title since ATP Masters Series Cincinnati in August 2006. His last final was the 2006 US Open.


Haas: "It’s a familiar place here for me and its a good feeling to be in the final. It’s been a while so it’s great and I’m really happy with the way I played today.

"Most of my first serves were in and even on my second serves I feel like I was not so much under pressure so I could try to dictate the play after I served. Any time I can do that and be in a rally I feel pretty comfortable."

Fish: "He’s got great ground strokes and when he’s serving like that he’s real tough to beat. That’s usually not the best part of his game and when he’s serving real well that just adds to the things he does exceptionally well. He returns real well and usually you can’t find too many guys who can serve great games and return great.

"I don’t think I played as well as in previous matches but again the quality of player across the net wasn’t as good I had a little more pressure of trying to put the ball in the corners instead of maybe just hitting it in... he can go for the line with any shot."

Roddick: "You don’t want to go out of tournaments two weeks in a row to the same guy. Bottom line you just don’t want to do that. That’s not much fun. I probably wouldn’t be much fun to be around tonight.

"I tried to switch up the strategy. He’s good at kinda baiting you. It’s weird because he almost invites you to come in. He’s one of the few players who will do that. He’ll hit that slice in the middle of the court without a whole lot on it and then he’ll pass. He does that really well so today I didn’t want to come in unless it was on my terms. That was a big difference today. In San Jose I came in on a lot of those and got passed a whole lot. I definitely kept the match more at the baseline today.

"It was very satisfying, especially after last weekend. It’s a good feeling. Coming into today I didn’t think I was hitting the ball that well and I wasn’t getting the depth that I wanted to. Today I thought I did a lot better and to feel like you’re doing that well against Andy is a good sign because you normally feel the other way. But it’s a good thing.

"He handles pace really well. He’s able to hit passing shots from deep in the court... a lot of times you feel like he’s making something out of nothing in a rally and he has a great talent for that."

Murray: "I wasn't frustrated really. The two things that are important to do against him, I didn't really do. I didn't serve particularly well and didn't return well. They're two things I've been doing pretty well all week and the last few times I have played against him.

" I didn't play a great match today, in fairness. I had my chance at 5-3 to win the set and played a horrible game to get broken. In the tiebreak, I missed one bad shot at 4-3, a forehand that hit the tape, and to be fair to him he came up with some big shots and big serves and deserved to win the match but I definitely didn't play my best today.

" I was maybe a little bit lethargic at the start of the match but once I'd warmed up at the start of the second set I was moving pretty well and started to get into more rallies. I really didn't start the match well, I returned badly and played a bad service game.

"I felt like I pretty much gave the first set away. I lost a few of his service games to love. In the second set I obviously started returning better, giving myself a chance of winning the set and didn't take it.”


Venus, Andy in Super Saturday at Racquet Club

Venus Williams will take on top seed Shahar Peer Saturday night in a blockbuster final of the Cellular South Cup at the Racquet Club of Memphis, hoping to win her 34th WTA Tour title in her first tournament since October last year. Shahar will get to play the other great in the Williams family early in the season. How will Israeli fare against the American eager to remind the WTA of her place in the game? Full WTA Semifinals Report

And the top four seeds - Andy Roddick, defending champion Tommy Haas, Andy Murray and Mardy Fish - will battle for a place in the men's final. Andy will play Andy for the second Saturday in a row, and Mardy will take on Tommy. Andy, Andy, Mardy, Tommy. Mark it on the calendar. We may never see another final four with (nick)names ending in y. Full ATP Report

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tennis: Only The Rich Need Apply?

Middle-class heroes can lift our game

A provocative speech has made social background a burning issue. Jon Henderson Reports

Sunday, December 10, 2006
The Observer

Far from mocking Tim Henman's middle-class pedigree, Britain should exploit the social group that is 'the greatest single asset we have in this sporting nation'.

Ian Wight, the long-time director of the Stella Artois championships, Britain's most successful tournament after Wimbledon, last week unexpectedly made the role of the gently nurtured a burning tennis issue. He unashamedly trumpeted the virtues of the middle classes in a trenchant and provocative speech whose subtext seemed to be to discomfort Roger Draper, the man installed earlier this year to revive the British game.

'We excel at middle-class sports in the UK and tennis is a middle-class sport. Let's exploit it,' said Wight. Draper's response was equally blunt. 'The problem is tennis is largely dominated by the middle classes,' he told Observer Sport, 'and we need to get more people involved from disadvantaged backgrounds.'

The least contentious of Wight's views was that tennis was more available to the middle classes because it was expensive. 'Balls, rackets, courts, clothing, shoes all cost money,' he said. 'Transport is another expense both in real cost and in time, the most precious commodity next to money a parent can offer.'

What made Wight's comments particularly provocative, quite apart from the basic theme, was including in the same passage the observation that tennis 'is also a complex game to learn'. This introduced the implication that the better-off tend to be better equipped mentally. 'An intelligent player will, over time, win out,' said Wight. 'So let's think about finding kids who are bright enough to excel at the technical and tactical aspects of the game. Let's put brains before brawn. The former is a god-given gift, the latter can be developed.

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A few weeks ago the tournament director of Stella Artois caused a stir when he said that demands for appearance fees had gotten out of hand. I thought the statement odd at the time since the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras had regularly demanded and been paid for showing up at events they would then tank. I thought that something more than altruism was behind the words but couldn’t prove it. Now that Wight’s statement has come to light (despite attempts to keep it away from the tennis public) I feel partially vindicated in my suspicions.

The first post about this did not appear on one of the big message boards (ESPN, MSNBC) but on one dedicated to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

It was posted by a fan alarmed by the assumptions underpinning the gentlemen’s premise.

I find it interesting that none of the tennis columnists or bloggers have mentioned this since the statements were made at an event attended by tennis editors and writers.

The question is why wouldn’t this elitist drivel be publicized and made part of the what’s-wrong-with-tennis discussion? Shouldn’t this attitude be debated alongside who is prettier, plays harder, or is not given their due? Or has it not been reported because this mindset permeates the upper echelons of tennis on this side of the pond as well?

It must be kept in mind that the British are clever with their words. You will hear the very rich say they go to public school. Public schools in England comprise some of the most exclusive schools in the world and bear no resemblance to what we mean by public schools in the United States.

The same clever play on words applies to the term “middle-class.” Wight isn’t talking about postal workers, teachers or government drones. He's talking about the class just below the aristocracy, a group we would simply call “rich” or “well off” here. In this context, Wight’s class bias becomes obvious.

During Fernando Gonzalez’ run at the Australian Open, one of the women commentators mentioned that he comes from a very wealthy family and “doesn’t have to do this,” by which she meant he doesn’t have to play tennis. I guess she thought that viewers in the States think everyone with a Spanish surname just snuck across the border into Texas last week. Tracy Austin has said that Eastern European players play so hard because they’ve escaped from the “hovels” they lived in and don't want to go back. Reminds me of comments about those forced to endure at the Houston Astrodome after Katrina.

I’m sure that there will be more headlines declaring “order restored” after all these pesky foreigners and lower-class people go back to their places and leave tennis to the people meant to play it, the middle classes of England and the rich of Australia and the Untied States.

This topic needs to be debated openly by those who report on tennis with cool heads and reason as opposed to fanaticism and bias. This bias for the “betters” of the world lies at the root of the problems facing not only British tennis but also American tennis. The fact that the tennis press has not reported this story can only mean that many pundits agree with what the speaker implies. Otherwise I think these comments would have received closer scrutiny from the always-looking-for-a-story press.

This is a subject I will return to especially as the what-is-wrong-with-tennis debate inevitably continues on this side of the pond.

Wimbledon Agrees To Offer Equal Prize Money

© AELTC/Professional Sport

by Mad Professah

The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon issued a press release Thursday announcing that they have agreed to offer equal prize money to men and women starting with the 2007 Championships.

Announcing the decision, Tim Phillips, Chairman of the All England Club, said: “Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time. We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognises the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon. We hope it will also encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option. In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon.”

Phillips continued: “When Wimbledon pioneered Open Tennis in 1968, the Men’s Singles Champion, Rod Laver, won £2,000, while Billie Jean King, the Ladies’ Singles Champion, won £750, only 37.5% of the men’s prize.

“Over the years, we have progressively increased the ladies’ prize money, so that last year Amélie Mauresmo, the Ladies’ Champion, received £625,000 – 95% of the money received by Roger Federer, the Men’s Champion.
The reaction from the players to the news of Wimbledon's decision to end explicit sex discrimination in prize money has been swift and uniformly positive. Venus Williams (Ladies' Champion 2000, 2001, 2005) said, "The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today. I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognises the value of women's tennis. The 2007 Championships will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players."

The decision leaves Roland Garros as the only Grand Slam tennis tournament which has not equalized prize money between the sexes (although the Men's and Women's Singles champions receive equal prize money). The French Open will be held May 27th to June 10th and the Championships at Wimbledon will be held June 25th to July 8th. The actual prize amounts at this year's Championships will not be announced until April.

Related Articles
Wimbledon Agrees to Even Out Its Prize Money
Staid Wimbledon ditches tradition: Women to get paid same as men
Wimbledon buries another old custom
Haas criticizes equal pay
More Reactions

Jed Leicester/Bloomberg News

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Federer Ties Connors for Consecutive Weeks at No. 1

Roger Federer, left, reacts during the men's singles final against Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia, in a Jan. 28, 2007 file photo. Tennis legend Jimmy Connors, right, gestures during a news conference at the Pacific Life Tennis Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in a March 9, 2006 file photo. Roger Federer tied Jimmy Connors' record of 160 consecutive weeks as the top-ranked player in men's tennis Monday Feb. 19, 2007.

From Yahoo Sports

Venus Advances to Memphis Quarters

MEMPHIS, TN, USA - Venus Williams was in fine form in her second match back Tuesday, dispatching Caroline Wozniacki, 64 64, to advance to the last eight of the $175,000 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & The Cellular South Cup. Shahar Peer was among the first round winners.

Williams made her return from a four-month left wrist injury lay-off on Monday night with a three set win over Japan's Akiko Morigami; on Tuesday she was more impressive but not without some early struggles, rallying back from a 4-2 first set deficit en route to the two set win over the Dutch teenager.

"I am starting to play the tighter points better now, and as I play more matches I can feel myself getting into better shape," said Williams, who converted on six of nine break point chances and served up seven aces to only two double faults. "The wrist is fine. I feel excited about my opportunity in the quarterfinals."

With her two wins so far this week, Williams is now 20-0 at the Tier III level. She has won all four of her prior Tier III starts, at 1998 Oklahoma City (5-0), 1999 Oklahoma City (5-0), 2002 Gold Coast (4-0) and lastly 2005 Istanbul (4-0). She hasn't been knocking down tin cans, either; she has had some solid wins en route to these titles, including beating a No.2-ranked Davenport in the 1998 Oklahoma City semifinals and a No.7-ranked Henin in the 2002 Gold Coast final match.

In the only other second round match contested Tuesday, Meilen Tu cruised past No.8 seed Jill Craybas, 63 61, in a battle between a pair of American veterans.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Black History Month: Honoring Yannick Noah


"I'm playing the way I love to play," popular tennis star Yannick Noah told the New York Times after a match the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. "I compete. I serve well. I just give everything I have." The winner of the French Open in 1983 as well as the Italian Open in 1985, Noah is renowned for his powerful serve, acrobatic net game, electrifying play, and flashy dreadlock hairstyle.

Often ranked among the Top Ten players of the game early in his career, Noah was discovered by tennis star Arthur Ashe. His considerable athletic gifts notwithstanding, Noah has been unable to recapture his initial glory. Toying with the idea of retirement from professional tennis in the 1990s, the colorful athlete was also pursuing a singing career.

Born on May 18, 1960, in Sedan, France, Yannick Simon Camille Noah is the oldest of three children. His father, Zacharie Noah, was a professional soccer player; his mother, Marie-Claire, was a teacher. When Noah was two years old, his father moved the family to his native Cameroon after an injury ended his soccer career. When the elder Noah took up tennis to keep in shape, he taught Yannick the game. The capital city of Yaounde, where the Noahs lived, had few courts, but Yannick practiced as much as he could using a wooden racket that he crafted himself. On the day he turned ten years old, Yannick celebrated by arranging a tennis tournament among his friends. He had each contestant pay a dollar to purchase the trophy he won himself.

A year later, Yannick was chosen to attend a clinic at a local tennis club where Arthur Ashe and other professionals were visiting on a tour of Africa. When he was given the chance to play with Ashe - a U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion - Yannick aced the pro once and matched him point for point across the net. Ashe soon contacted Philippe Chatrier, head of the French Tennis Federation, to invite Yannick to attend a special tennis academy in Nice, France. Noah spent the next five years at the academy while attending a local secondary school. Opting to leave secondary school one year short of graduation to focus on tennis, he moved to Paris and came under the instruction of the coach of the French national team, Patrice Hagelauer. The young Yannick went on to win the French junior title in 1977.

By 1980 Noah was ranked the Number One player in France after a series of Grand Prix titles and impressive showings in Grand Slam tournaments. Negative press regarding his confession of smoking hashish periodically - as well as his charge that other athletes used stronger drugs to improve their play - undermined his confidence.

He struggled the next year, but his form returned when he won the French Open in 1983, the first Black man and the last Frenchman to win Roland Garros. Suddenly a French celebrity, Noah moved to New York to avoid the harrowing publicity in France. He recuperated from injuries and the loss of his grandfather, a village chief who was murdered during a political coup in Cameroon, playing infrequently in 1984. Strengthened by his rest, Noah won the Italian Open in 1985. Although he reached the finals of many tournaments in the intervening years and was ranked fifth in the world in 1987, Noah failed to win the more prestigious titles, including another French Open.

Marital woes and injury plagued Noah during the late 1980s. Wed to Swedish model Cecilia Rodhe in 1984, Noah divorced her three years later after the births of his son, Joachim, and daughter, Tara. He suffered many defeats, including his loss to John McEnroe in the second round of the 1989 Davis Cup. Noah divulged about McEnroe in the New York Times, "He played very, very well. What can I say? It was very difficult. My knees were fine. I don't even have that excuse."

Despite his athletic prowess, Noah did not advance beyond the quarterfinals in Grand Slam tournaments throughout most of the 1980s. The New York Times stated in 1989, "Yannick Noah has always entertained tennis fans with his flamboyant style of play. His physical ability on sky-high overheads, diving volleys and thunderous serves has always made him stand out on the court. But he has been a bit of an enigma in his years on the circuit." In the U.S. Open that same year, Noah, ranked 23rd in the world, was defeated by Boris Becker in yet another quarterfinal.

"Yannick Noah is back in all his glory and threatening to crash a party that seemed reserved for the usual big names in tennis," crowed a New York Times correspondent in a review of his early play in the 1990 Australian Open. His comeback was short-lived, however, with his loss at the tournament. His malady of seesawing in and out of retirement at the end of the 1980s afflicted Noah into the 1990s. By August of 1990, Robin Finn of the New York Times dubbed the player "a dependable loser" at the U.S. Open. "I'm living one week after the other right now," Noah told Finn. "It's a difficult situation where I'm not playing very well and getting very frustrated." His coach, Dennis Rolston, predicted that if Noah did not improve his training regimen and confront his ambivalence toward the game, he would reach a crisis decision. Noah continued playing, though, capturing the title of captain of the French Davis Cup team the next year.

In his debut as captain of France's Davis Cup team, Noah startled the tennis world when he announced on November 28, 1991, that he would play only if another team member was injured. A defending champion who played in the Davis Cup final in Grenoble in 1982 and the Davis Cup quarterfinal in San Diego in 1989, Noah selected Guy Forget and Henri Leconte to lead the team. He explained in the New York Times, "The emotions are still there, but I don't feel like I'm the one who must hold the racquet. I believe the players we have are good enough to win." Under Noah's tutelage, Guy Forget spurred the team to take the Davis Cup on December 1, 1991, when he defeated Pete Sampras three sets to one. With great emotion, Noah joined the team on the courts of Lyon, France, when they celebrated their victory.

After viewing television reports of disturbances between security officers and antiapartheid demonstrators at the world doubles championships in Johannesburg, South Africa, Noah made news again in 1991 when he decided to boycott tennis matches in that country. Although South Africa had just been allowed re-entry into international sports at the beginning of the decade, Noah was quoted by Jet as saying, "Frankly, I can't see myself going there as a player or as captain of France's Davis Cup team. I would have the feeling of being used."

Ranked among the Top Six highest-paid male tennis stars, Noah has indicated that his devotion to tennis is waning. During the 1990s, he was investigating the possibility of a career as a vocalist. When Welcome Records released his debut album, Black and What, in 1991, an employee of a Parisian record store allowed, according to Sports Illustrated, "I suppose it's not too bad ... for someone who doesn't sing." France's loss to Switzerland in the 1992 Davis Cup competition convinced Noah to pursue another plan for his future. To the consternation of the French Tennis Federation, Noah resigned as captain of the 1992 French Davis Cup team. Guy Forget echoed the hope of French officials that Yannick Noah will be persuaded to reconsider his resignation. Although he was publicly criticized by Noah after the French loss to the Swiss team, Forget commented in Sports Illustrated about France's magnetic athlete, "Yannick is irreplaceable."

Winner of numerous tennis titles, including French junior title, 1977; French Open, 1983; Italian Open, 1985; and Benson & Hedges Indoor Championship, London, England, 1986. Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame, Class of 2005.

Further Reading
Jet - October 26, 1987; August 21, 1989; October 16, 1989; September 10, 1990; December 23, 1991.
New York Times - April 4, 1989; September 4, 1989; September 7, 1989; January 18, 1990; January 26, 1990; August 31, 1990; November 29, 1991.
Sports Illustrated - June 6, 1991; April 13, 1992.

Noah's son rises
Noah elected to Tennis Hall of Fame

Venus Wins First Match in Comeback

Rusty former World No. 1 Venus Williams said she was delighted to survive her opening-round match at the Cellular South Cup Monday night and believes the win will leave her in much better shape for Tuesday's second-round clash with 16-year-old Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

On Monday night in front of a capacity crowd of 5,200 at the Racquet Club of Memphis, Williams shrugged off an error-prone second set to defeat Japan's Akiko Morigami 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in her first match in more than four months.

"I didn't know if I'd be here this week and then I win a match... it's so exciting. It's awesome, so awesome," Williams said.

"In the second set it was definitely a mental thing. The errors started coming and I had a weird service game where I threw in lots of double faults. It was just a matter of getting my game flowing again."

Williams's win marked a great start for the American women, with five of her compatriots also advancing to the second round.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Black History Month - A Personal Meditation

by Savannah

Black History Month started out as Negro History Week. I remember wondering as a child why they even bothered since people who looked like me needed only a week to discuss our history while we spent all year studying England, France and the US War for Independence. Of course they never taught us that the original Declaration of Independence had strong statements against slavery and England's role in that horrid commerce which the Southern land owners had removed. My daughter has been taught about this little known fact.

For my generation this was not the case. As I got older it seemed that while the soon to be American citizens were fighting for their freedom from tyranny they had not for one second considered freeing the men, women and children held in chattel slavery on the very land they were fighting to claim as theirs. During Negro History Week we learned about Lincoln freeing the slaves. That was when our history was said to begin.

It was a long fight but that week became a month and black Americans began to take pride in coming from the continent of Africa. We could never know whether we were Ibo, Yoruba, Muslim or practicioners of traditional religions since our names and culture were deemed subversive after Toussaint L'ouverture and Henri Christophe threw the French off the island of Haiti. It took Alex Haley's drama, "Roots" to open the flood gates for African Americans to look back not with shame but pride to the men and women who survived the Middle Passage and fought to live in the face of daunting odds.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Diamonds Are Forever

Just in case you wanted to know what an 8lb, $1.3 million dollar diamond encrusted tennis racquet with 1,702 diamonds looks like. Check out the handle. Mauresmo defeated a teary Kim Clijsters in Kim's last match in Antwerp, 6-4, 7-6. Congratulations, Amelie!

Click images to enlarge.

Happy New Year

2007 Year of the Fire Boar

Savannah brings in the Chinese New Year by applying Chinese astrology to the top players on the ATP and WTA tours.

Fun stuff.

Take a look.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Roddick Advances in San Jose

Murray, Becker, Karlovic round out final four

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Top seed Andy Roddick advanced to the SAP Open semifinals for the fifth straight time, as he defeated eighth-seeded Vincent Spadea 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1 Friday night.

The two-hour match featured scintillating shot-making by both combatants, who had some harsh words for each other after the first set. They graciously shook hands at the end of the match.

Roddick, the 2004-05 champion, improved his career record to 20-3 in San Jose, and he will meet defending champion Andy Murray in the semifinals. The two met in last year's semifinals and Murray won 7-5, 7-5, en route to the title. Murray has a 2-1 career advantage but Roddick won the last time in Cincinnati.

Roddick fired 19 aces and converted four of 15 break point chances, while saving three of four break points on his own serve.

Continue reading

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Dubai Drama Continues: A Footnote

by Savannah

When I wrote my piece on Dubai yesterday highlighting the women who had dropped out, the top eight seeds by default included Anna-Lena Groenefeld, a woman who in the past had been on many people's player-to-watch lists but has shown up at her last few matches in a condition that would not be described as match fit. Many fans were quite vocal in expressing their horror of her being a top seed at this event.

When I woke up this morning I found out that Amélie Mauresmo, the woman who did not want to play Antwerp but has just advanced to the finals, will also play Dubai.

This was not an act of altruism on her part. If the right balance of top ten players is not provided to an event, the WTA must pay a fine - compensate the tournament for revenue lost. This is not the first time this has happened. Both Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati were drafted to play in the Kremlin Cup some years ago under similar circumstances.

I'm also sure Amelie was nicely compensated for her inconvenience by the tournament officials.

The official announcement of Mauresmo joining the field provided coverage of "glamour girl" Daniela Hantuchova. While many men consider her beautiful she has never before to my knowledge been used to sell seats to a tournament. One fan called the press release a sign that tournament officials were "desperate."

When the situation in women's tennis has reached the point where machinations normally kept out of public view are now discussed on fanboards I think Larry Scott, to quote Ricky Ricardo, has some "splainin' to do not only to his professional constituency but to women's tennis fans as well.

Black History Month: Honoring Arthur Ashe

ARTHUR ROBERT ASHE, JR (1943 - 1993)

“I don't want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments,” he once said. “That's no contribution to society. That [tennis] was purely selfish; that was for me.”

“I have tried to keep on with my striving because this is the only hope I have of ever achieving anything worthwhile and lasting.”

“We must reach out our hand in friendship and dignity both to those who would befriend us and those who would be our enemy.”

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As a tennis player, Arthur Ashe was one of the most prominent players of his time; an all-out competitor who rarely beat himself. His legacy, however, will be the positive changes he helped bring about and the causes he championed, both within tennis and in society as a whole. Always at his best he was for many the very definition of tennis, yet tennis never defined Arthur Ashe.

As a child growing up in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Arthur’s physical stature did little to indicate his future career as a professional athlete. "Skinny as a straw," Arthur derived countless hours of pleasure reading and listening to music with his mother, Mattie. He also showed a surprising flair for tennis from the first time he picked up a racquet. At the age of six, Mattie passed away suddenly. Though heartbroken, Arthur’s memory of his beloved mother was a source of inspiration throughout his life.

Upon graduation from high school, Arthur was good enough to earn a tennis scholarship to UCLA. It was at UCLA that Arthur earned recognition for his tennis abilities on a national level, culminating with an individual and team NCAA championship in 1965. He was also growing as a person as well, graduating in 1966 with a BA in Business Administration.

Ashe was selected in 1963 to represent the United States in Davis Cup play, an honor in which he took great pride. In doing so, he also became the first African-American to be selected to play for the United States team. In actuality, Arthur Ashe was a trailblazer for African-American males in tennis every time he succeeded on the court, in much the same fashion as Althea Gibson had for African-American females some 10 years earlier. The relevancy of these accomplishments was not lost on Ashe. His determination to succeed despite being an outcast in a historically white sport was put to an even greater test in 1969.

In a year (1969) when he was basking in the international fame he had gained the previous year after winning the US Open and playing a key role on the United States winning Davis Cup team, two separate issues came to the forefront and helped shape Arthur the activist, a role he never ran from throughout his life if he believed in the cause. At a time when tennis’ popularity was growing by leaps and bounds, the amount of prize money being offered to the players, the "drawing cards," was lagging disproportionately behind. Ashe and several other players formed in 1969, what later became known as the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). It is from this small and visionary beginning that today's top players enjoy the large sums of prize money for which they compete. Later that year, as the #1-ranked American and one of the best players in the world, Arthur applied for a visa to play in the South African Open, a prestigious event. His visa was denied because of the color of his skin. Though Arthur was well aware that this would probably be the case, he decided to take a bold stand. His call for expulsion from South Africa from the tennis tour and Davis Cup play was quickly supported by numerous prominent individuals and organizations, both in and out of the tennis world. In effect, he raised the world’s awareness to the oppressive form of government (apartheid) of South Africa. Buoyed by Arthur Ashe’s initial efforts, blacks in South Africa slowly but surely began to see change come about in their country.

By the mid-1970’s, people began to whisper that perhaps Arthur was spending too much time on his causes and not enough time on his game. It was from this realization that Arthur began to refocus on his game, determined to reach the level of play he once enjoyed. In 1975, at the age of 31, Arthur Ashe enjoyed one of his finest seasons ever and one of the shining moments of his career by winning Wimbledon. He also attained the ultimate ranking of #1 in the world.

Following his retirement in 1980, and unexpected heart surgeries in 1979 and 1983, Arthur began reaping awards and branching off into other professional areas, including journalism, the media and philanthropic endeavors. Included among those were positions as a commentator for HBO Sports and ABC Sports, as a columnist for The Washington Post and Tennis magazine, the publishing of Arthur’s 3-volume body of work, “A Hard Road To Glory,” a stint as captain of the US Davis Cup team, a well-deserved election to the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985, and the founding of numerous charitable organizations, including the National Junior Tennis League, the ABC Cities Tennis Program, the Athlete-Career Connection, and the Safe Passage Foundation.

Arthur looked to be making a smooth transition into the second-half of his life, even becoming a father in 1986, when his daughter Camera Elizabeth arrived. During a doctor’s exam in 1988, however, the Ashe’s lives were irrevocably changed.

While in the hospital for brain surgery, Arthur received the overwhelming news that he was HIV-Positive. He had contracted the virus through a tainted transfusion during his two heart surgeries, almost certainly the second in 1983. Wishing to maintain his and his family’s privacy, and well-aware of the prejudice and paranoia that was often associated with the disease during its first years of existence, the Ashe’s, with help from close friends and trusted medical advisors, were able to keep the startling information from the public’s awareness. At issue were Arthur and Jeanne’s desire to raise their daughter Camera in as normal an environment as possible, a desire that would have been made impossible with a public disclosure.

Because of pressure from a national newspaper that was indicating they had on good record that he had AIDS, Arthur, rather than let the rumors persist, elected to make his condition known to the world through a scheduled a press conference on the morning of April 8, 1992. The knowledge that his life and the lives of his family members would forever be altered was foremost on Arthur’s mind. After his admission to the world, an outpouring of compassion and support arrived, inspiring Arthur to begin AAFDA. This outpouring can only perhaps be compared to the day Lou Gehrig announced his retirement and contraction of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Arthur Ashe passed away on February 6, 1993, having raised awareness of AIDS to a level where paranoia was no longer the overriding emotion.

For Arthur Ashe, tennis was a means to an end. What began on the public recreation courts in Richmond, Virginia, ultimately became a lucrative, illustrious 10-year career. In between were many honors and awards, including three Grand Slam singles titles and over 800 career victories. But for Arthur, it was always more than personal glory and individual accolades. Rather, it was the knowledge that his status as an elite tennis player afforded him a unique and worldwide platform to speak out about inequities, both in the tennis world and society as a whole. That in and of itself was unique, but not outstanding. Arthur stood out when he chose to utilize his status to bring about change. That is what makes his legacy so unique and important.

Grand Slam Achievements
Austrailian Open Singles Finalist 1966
Austrailian Open Singles Finalist 1967
U.S. Open Singles Champion 1968
Austrailian Open Singles Champion 1970
French Open Doubles Finalist 1970
Austrailian Open Singles Finalist 1971
French Open Doubles Champion (Marty Riessen) 1971
Wimbledon Doubles Finalist 1971
U.S. Open Singles Finalist 1972
Wimbledon Singles Champion 1975
Austrailian Open Doubles Champion (Tony Roche) 1977

Other Tournament Wins
Wins South African Open doubles title with Tom Okker, 1973
U.S. Amateur Title, 1968
U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship, 1967
NCAA singles and doubles champion, 1965
U.S. intercollegiate championships, 1965
U.S. Men's Hard Court Championship, 1963
U.S. Davis Cup Tennis Team, member, beginning 1963
Wins the U.S. Men's Hardcourt championships, 1963
Played in numerous tennis championships, including National Indoor Junior Tennis Championship, 1960 & 1961
Wins the National Interscholastic's, 1960

Awards, Honors, Tributes
• National College Athletic Association (NCAA) All-American, 1963-1965

• Winner of 1964 Johnston Award, prestigious honor awarded annually to the American tennis player who contributes the most to the growth of the sport while exhibiting good sportsmanship and character.

• Named Player of the Year, Association of Tennis Profiles, 1975

• Laurel Wreath Award from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, 1986

• Inducted into UCLA Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Eastern Tennis Association Hall of Fame, and the U.S. Professional Tennis Association Hall of Fame

A Hard Road To Glory, Ashe’s three-volume history of the African-American athlete that chronicles progress made and obstacles overcome from the period 1619-1918, was published in 1988 and soon thereafter adapted for television, ultimately winning an EMMY Award.

• Received honorary doctorates from numerous higher institutions during his lifetime from Dartmouth College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Princeton University, Saint John’s University, Trinity University, Hartford College, and Virginia Union University.

• Named Sport Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1992.

• Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient (1993)

• A tennis club in Manayunk, Pennsylvania, has been named in Ashe's honor.

• Center named the Ashe Athletic Center in Richmond, Virginia.

• Statue erected on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, 1996.

• Stadium named in his honor in Flushing Meadows, New York, 1997 where the US Open is held.

(All photos and text from the Official Arthur Ashe Website)

Related Articles
New Web Site, Rare Legacy

Blake Served Out of SAP Open

No. 2 seed James Blake lost to Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (4), 6-7 (11), 4-6 in the second round of the SAP Open Thursday.

Dr. Ivo, ranked 103rd in the world, fired 29 aces in the match. He faced down Blake serving for the match and then fought off five match points in the second set breaker before taking it 13-11.

In the final set, the 6-foot-10 Gentle Giant hit 12 aces to frustrate James. Karlovic avenged his lost to Blake just over a year ago at The Tennis Channel Open. Karlovic will play fifth-seeded American Mardy Fish, who defeated Sam Warburg 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.

James, to his credit, takes responsiblity for letting this one slip away. "I was [serving for the match] up 5-3, 30-love, and I have no one to blame for that but myself. I made some errors and didn't make some first serve.

"His serve isn't something you're used to dealing with, especially the angle. You see a lot of big serves from Andy [Roddick], [Ivan] Ljubicic and [Mario] Ancic, but you don't see anyone coming from 6'10". It's difficult, but I got on it well enough to win the first set breaker and get that one break. I really had it on my racquet. It's my fault."

Often, Blake will say that he played well but his opponent just outplayed him, even if that's not how the match unfolded. Minor as it might seem, I see this admission as a step in the right direction and it could make a difference for Blake down the road.

Americans Andy Roddick and Vince Spadea also advanced to the last eight, along with Marat Safin, Andy Murray, Benjamin Becker, and Hyung-Taik Lee.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What's A Tournament Director To Do?

by Savannah

She made it official today. One forum featured rumors for almost a week that Maria Sharapova had withdrawn from Dubai. There was no official source for the rumor but it seemed better than the “who is sleeping with whom?” stuff where it doesn’t matter that the rumored liaisons are a publicist’s wet dream or the real thing. The forum posters speculated that Ms. Sharapova had been off the official entry list for some time but that her name was still being used to sell tickets.

When Maria made the official announcement on her web site within the last 24 hours it became okay to talk about her dropping out. I didn't except the second withdrawal – Serena Williams. Sharapova may put some butts in the seats but it was the other woman, #81, who would really bring home the beef. (I would have said bacon but Dubai is Muslim emirate.)

Maria cited the hamstring injury she apparently suffered at some point between Melbourne and Tokyo which caused her to retire during her match against Ana Ivanovic amid much cursing and bizarre behavior from her and her coach. Serena, who withdrew from Bangalore with the flu is still suffering the after effects and does not feel strong enough to play in Dubai.

I’m sure the TD was up nights having wet dreams about a final featuring Sharapova vs. Williams. After Sharapova withdrew, he dreamt of Henin vs. Williams. Instead he has a potential Henin vs. Hingis final. And Henin is rumored to withdraw, which would decimate this field if it proves to be true.

Dubai might become a Tier 1 event. The appearance fees paid out here, said to be $500,000 per top player, usually assure a stellar field. What is happening in tennis that would make the marquee players pull out despite the lucre offered by the event organizers? Are all of these withdrawals being caused by real injury or sickness or is everyone focusing on the Slams and Tier 1 events? There’s a story that John Roddick, when bidding Serena good bye in Melbourne, asked her if he wouldn’t see her until Roland Garros. I’m sure the tournament director at Dubai heard this story and scoffed. He’s got a pretty good field left and fans will be interested in seeing if Justine Henin can close the gap between her and Maria and take the No. 1 spot at some point during the winter hard court season in the States.

But Henin is not a woman who draws crowds to matches. Her less than stellar record when it comes to sportsmanship turns off many fans and despite the sympathy sent her way after the breakup of her marriage, people don’t pay to see a sympathetic figure. They want to see ball pounding, mind numbing Big Babe Tennis. By no stretch of the imagination is Henin a Big Babe. And other than Martina Hingis none of the other women will have fans hanging from the rafters in Dubai. Short of holding a gun to a player’s head in the form of heavy fines, what can the WTA, ITF and Tournament Directors do to ensure the best of the best appear at the events they’ve committed to? I am of the opinion that if players are injured they have to do what is best for them. If the player is suffering from brain fart-itis does that mean he/she should withdraw from events until they get themselves together?

Roadmap to 2010

The “roadkill” changes, as fans call them, aren’t even in effect yet. The WTA plans to initiate a two-tiered main tour. The big events - Miami, Indian Wells, The Four Slams, all of the Tier 1 events - stay in place. The smaller events, and as of now Dubai is a Tier 2, will suffer as the women at the top will play where they’ll get the most points and money. I put money second because apparently that isn’t enough to secure the top women’s appearance. Durban South Africa has a challenger event that is in the running to be upgraded to a Tier 1. Events such as Amelia Island are in danger.

What seems to be forgotten is that the average fan can’t afford to travel to Melbourne, London, Paris or New York to attend a Grand Slam. Fans report that Melbourne is the most fan friendly Slam with moderately priced food. At the US Open, I paid six bucks for a burger that resembled a hockey puck and three for a bottle of water. After shelling out big bucks for upgraded seats, I couldn’t afford to use my pass to the US Open Club where I’d have the luxury of paying bigger bucks for a steak or to eat at a buffet where most of the food is not part of my diet. Many fans save and go to local events where the Big Boys and Girls are likely to show up. Most people thought that the “roadkill” changes would be seen gradually. I think we’re seeing them already.

This is not to disparage any of the women who will play Dubai. They’ve all worked hard and some of them have been playing very good tennis lately. Jelena Jankovic has applied to play. She is a rising star but she’s not Serena or Maria. Jelena, Nicole Vaidisova and a lately resurgent Ana Ivanovic are the future. They’re not “stahs” yet.

So back to the poor guy in Dubai (poor being a relative term of course). His event went from “A” list to “B” list and there is nothing he can do about it. I think about that guy in England who bitched and moaned about paying appearance fees which he thought were nothing short of extortion. Here’s a guy in Dubai who is throwing money at the stars and they’re still not coming to his party. He’s got a woman who many feel is “the real number one” in Justine Henin, and another woman in Martina Hingis who went from legendary teenaged player to early retiree and is now moving towards the top of the sport again. If he can’t get the marquee names to show up, what happens to the man or woman running Amelia Island? Last year’s Canadian Open suffered the same fate as Dubai.

Please let me say again I do believe that if players are sick or injured they should not play. Do tennis authorities have to have one of their medics dispatched to a players home to make sure they’re really sick or to confirm an injury? I hope it doesn’t come to that but if the trend continues, the tournament directors, and the fans, will demand change.

Related Article:
Sharapova and Serena withdrawals highlight tour crisis

Flagship for American Tennis

Shortly after the Davis Cup ties last weekend, an Internet debate ensued about whether Andy Roddick deserves more credit than he's usually given and whether or not Roger Federer was the Diana Ross of tennis.

Often, Andy cannot be mentioned without someone bringing up Roger to show just how much of Roger's whipping boy Andy is, and as such, Andy deserves no credit. This argument, of course, also fails to mention that every player on the tour, outside of Nadal (and even he might be added to the list forthwith), is Roger's whipping boy.

In this case, however, Roddick was being praised for representing his country, yet again, in Davis Cup while Roger was resting on his laurels, playing golf, perhaps, while Switzerland hosted a tie in Geneva against Spain. Given that there are only two ATP tour events in Switzerland, of which Roger only typically plays one, Roger as Diva was being bandied about by a self-proclaimed fan on one of the Internet's most active forums.

James Beck, almost as though he was scanning the same forum, wrote this for the Post and Courier in his article entitled Roddick is the flagship for American tennis:

You've got to give Andy Roddick credit. Perhaps no other player in nearly two decades - or since John McEnroe - has carried American tennis more squarely on his shoulders than Roddick.

Mention Davis Cup, and Roddick already will have his hand up as a volunteer. If the Americans are playing, he'll be there. You don't have to worry about buying an advance ticket and the star not showing up. You can even feel safe in going to the expense of following the Americans abroad.

Roddick runs Davis Cup red, white and blue.

Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier all won more Grand Slam titles, but only Agassi among the trio had to contend with a fully mature Roger Federer.

Take Federer out of the mix, and Roddick's Grand Slam total might be as high as six. That kind of success would have put Roddick on the road to a quick entry into the Hall of Fame.

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While we don't know what kind of results Roddick would have without Roger Federer in the game, it is safe to say he'd own at least one more Slam title, provided someone else didn't step up as his nemesis and defeat him in three finals and two semfinals en route to winning 10 Slams.

Related Articles
Roddick, Blake, Murray win at SAP Open
Questions loom for Roddick - after Federer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

And Happy Birthday to my father. He turns 87 today!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Guga Pegs First Win in Comeback

Since returning to the ATP after nearly a year off recovering from injury, Gustavo Kuerten earned his first win since the 2005 US Open with a 6-3, 6-1 clinic against Italy's Filippo Volandri. It probably meant even more that this win would come in his native country in the first round of the Brasil Open in Costa do Sauipe.

Most impressive about the victory were Guga's service statistics. He served at seventy-nine percent, winning ninety-four percent of his first serves, and fired 13 aces without facing a break point. One of the most underrated parts of Guga's game seems to have shaken off the rust at last.

I look forward to seeing this great champion and international star grace the clay courts in Europe this spring.

Related Article:
Kuerten Breaks Drought on Home Soil

ATP Live Streams

Watch Marseille LIVE on the web:

Click on the first link where it says "broadcast will start on thusday 13th" (actually they meant TUESDAY) since I was able to watch parts of second match today...

You can also watch SAP matches LIVE this week but you gotta pay for it:

From Vlad over on TAT

Monday, February 12, 2007

Say It Again!

"There really is little point being critical of the way they choose to flit in and out of tennis, no matter how much it causes [Larry] Scott and the WTA to gnash their teeth and ponder roadmaps of the future with sinking stomachs. Whatever is proposed in the way of mandatory tournaments and minimum commitments, Venus and Serena will drive a coach and pair through it, just as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi always did on the men's tour. And Scott and his cohorts are powerless to prevent it because the Williams generate huge amounts of money and there are no other American women on the circuit worth a row of tennis balls."

-Steve Bierley, The Guardian

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Czech Mate

For the first time in 10 years, the United States has won a World Group Davis Cup tie away on clay. Andy Roddick clinched the tie for the team in a four-set victory over the Czech No. 1 Tomas Berdych. (Incidentally, his girlfriend Lucie Safarova lost her final in Paris today as well.)

It was far and away the best best-of-five claycourt match I've ever seen Andy play. He agreed. "As far as the weight of the situation goes," he said, "it definitely could be one of my best matches on clay."

"We saw today why Andy Roddick is the fourth best player in the world," Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil said.

Perhaps I better publish a few more fleeting thoughts.

His backhand down the line was working, as was his slice and even a few drop shots, all good strategies against a tall player who doesn't like to run or bend down to dig up shots. But I was most impressed with Andy's demeanor throughout the encounter. He was so focused and even-keeled, he hardly celebrating the victory. He looked as though he was ready to play another set. I so enjoy when American tennis players prove their naysayers wrong.

In the dead rubber, Bob Bryan subbed for James Blake and won the match 7-6(5), 6-4. Perhaps somebody heard me. Maybe Blake will prove me wrong in the near future.

The US will take on Spain, on the back of Fernando Verdasco's win, in the quarterfinals in April in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, most likely on indoor hard. We'll look to avenge the loss in the 2004 final in Spain on clay.

The best of the rest

In other action, Belgium overcame Australia in the deciding rubber. After Hewitt battled to five-set victory over Oliver Rochus, Kristof Vliegen's straight-set victory over Chris Guccione made him the host nation's hero. Belgium will host Germany who closed out Croatia when Tommy Haas dismissed Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets.

Teenager Juan Martin del Potro replaced Jose Acacuso and clenched the tie for Argentina in a star-making five-set thriller over homeboy Jurgen Melzer. (Incidentally, the WTA final today in Pattaya City featured an Austrian, Sybille Bammer, against an Argentinean, Gisela Dulko. The Austrian prevailed in three tights sets.) Argentina will next travel to Sweden who advanced to the quarterfinas when Robin Soderling outlasted Max Mirnyi in five sets in the fourth rubber, breaking the unbeaten winning streak of Belarus at home.

Richard Gasquet became the King of France when he clenched the tie for France with a straight-set victory over Romania's Andrei Pavel. France will face Russia in a rematch of last year's quarterfinal. Igor Andreev was the Russian hero once again as he closed out the tie in the fifth-rubber with a four-set victory over Nicolas Massu.

Savannah's Round 1 Photo Essay

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pesky Petrova to Face Ferocious Farova in Paris

(JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

I just watched the Nadia Petrova/Amélie Mauresmo semifinal on The Tennis Channel tape delay and while the quality of tennis wasn't consistently high, it featured more drama and momentum swings in any women's match I've seen in recent memory. The third set breaker was really good stuff and the fact that a literally dizzy Petrova could win on a clean return winner off an excellent serve up the T from Mauresmo, the defending champ and homegirl, showed that while her brain may often betray her, the Russian has a big heart.

As for the Justin Henin/Lucie Safarova semifinal: Lucie just outhit Henin, who was playing her first tournament since her divorce, from everywhere on the court. Even though she was down a break in both sets, it was more from her own doing than Henin's. Lucie hits flat and hard off both sides and goes for the corners, a la Lindsay Davenport. But she moves well enough to counter almost everything Henin threw at her and she clearly has the belief that she can and should be beating these top players.

Hot Shots

Davis Cup Day 2 Slideshow

For the first time in the 27 years of the Davis Cup World Group, all eight first round ties are still live going into the final day.

All five nations that went into Saturday's doubles rubbers with a 2-0 lead, suffered defeats meaning that all sixteen nations still have a chance of reaching the 2007 quarterfinals going into Sunday's reverse singles.

Text taken from

Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday's Fleeting Thought

Perhaps Andy Roddick might consider going to Chile to try to win a "real" claycourt event.

Roddick is often criticized for not knowing how to play on red clay. No, he hasn't performed well at Roland Garros, but I contend that that has more to do with the tournament than the surface. I know clay is no where near Andy's best surface and he doesn't produce his best tennis on it. But he can, in fact, play on it. His battles on the surface and in Paris seem to be more mental than technical. I'm not suggesting Roddick has no technical deficiencies on clay. But his mental deficiencies have cost him more. Twice Roddick has lost in the second round of Roland Garros up two sets to one and two sets to love in back-to-back years. His opponents, Olivier Mutis and Jose Acasuso, were beatable.

Some players just don't play well at certain tournaments, and Roland Garros is a place where Roddick falters. Still, he's managed to win a handful of claycourt titles in his career, on the green clay of Atlanta (now defunct), the red clay of Houston (three times in five finals, losing to Agassi and Haas, his claycourt nemesis) and the red clay of St. Poelten. He also made the semifinals of Rome in his first effort. I consider all of these real claycourt events, even though many don't.

In Roddick's career, he's posted clay-court wins over former Roland Garros runner-up Guillermo Coria, Roland Garros semifinalist Nikolay Davydenko, Roland Garros quarterfinalist Tommy Robredo, Fernando Gonzalez, and Jose Acasuso. Andy was also two points away from a 2-set-to-1 lead on Nadal in the 2004 Davis Cup final. In Spain. In front of 23,000 screaming Spaniards. Andy has also never lost a set on clay to Luis Horna, beating him twice as professionals and once way back in 2001 on the challenger circuit.

Court Philippe Chatrier, Stade Roland-Garros

This past Sunday, Luis Horna just won the second career title (his first came last year, also on clay) of his long and illustrious career on the red clay of Vina del Mar in straight sets over homeboy Nicolas Massu. Acasuso won the event over Massu last year. If these two players can win in Chile, so can Roddick. I know, I know. It's not as linear as I'm making it sound. Tennis is about matchups, environment, confidence, and so many other intangibles.

Still, Roddick has the game to contend at a "real" claycourt event, and I'd like to see him step out of his comfort zone and give it a try. Earlier today, he put on a very good showing against an inspired opponent in Ivo Minar, who proclaims clay his favorite surface, in front of the Czech's home crowd. Andy served 28 aces in four sets, made relatively few unforced errors, moved well, and employed several drop shots at the right moments.

When Andy was a youngster, Tarik Benhabiles, his first coach, tried hard to make Roddick, who had a propensity for grinding out matches back then, into an American comfortable on clay. Surely Tarik, who hails from France, wanted his young charge to be competitive in Paris. It makes sense, then, that under Tarik's tutelage, Roddick, in his 2002 debut, advanced the farthest he's ever been at Roland Garros, having to retire in the third round against Lleyton Hewitt when the match was tied at a set apiece and two games all. In the previous round, he blasted 30 aces, overcame cramps and won a thrilling five-setter against former champion Micheal Chang.

Perhaps Andy ought to consider a different spring schedule next year. If he does well against the "real" claycourters south of the border, perhaps he'll chip away at his mental blocks at Roland Garros.

I'm not predicting Roddick will ever make a deep run in Paris. Though Ivan Ljubicic ended up in the semifinals last year, and, well, Roddick has more claycourt titles on his resume than the Croatian. But I do think that Roddick has enough game, especially since he's shored up his backhand and return of serve, to advance past the third round.

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