Saturday, March 31, 2007

Comeback Queen

by Craig Hickman

Serena Williams celebrates her remarkable comeback victory over Justine Henin, rallying from a bagel set, to win the Sony Ericsson Open for the fourth time 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 in a dramatic match that is sure to go down as one of the best of the year.

And it's only March.

The year's two biggest tournaments, two victories for the "out-of-shape, overweight waste of talent" who defeated two different World No. 1's and ended the current's 13-match, two-title winning streak in the process.

Serena started nervously; Henin got nervous with the match on her racquet.

But when these two played well at the same time, there were some tremendous exchanges. Serena applauded Justine a few times; Justine's resigned body language showed her respect for some of Serena's stellar shots.

This was/is the rivalry in which I'm most interested and I'm glad this match delivered.

But for Serena to overcome a bagel, two match points, and 0-40 on her own serve when serving for the match, to come up with that deep, high-kicking second serve that skidded off the line on her first match point to close out the affair was truly remarkable.

ESPN's Bonnie DeSimone, as always, writes an excellent article about Serena solving Justine on her own, without resorting to on-court coaching. Serana, though against it, had used the WTA experiment throughout the event, but only when her opponent used it, seemingly to "level the playing field." In that spirit, Serena didn't call her father to the court after being comprehensively beaten in the first set because Justine, who's also against on-court coaching, didn't call upon her coach.

"I'm all about competing," Serena said in her post-match interview. "That's the beauty of the game, is to figure it out by yourself. You know, you're down 6-0, you're down two match points and you're able to come back. And I was able to do it on my own, not by calling out my coach.

"That's what tennis to me is all about. It's about you versus the other player, nothing else."


It better not be 4 years before these two warriors play again.

Nice job, women.

Related Article
Justine withdraws from Charleston

Random Thoughts

by Savannah

Thread title of the week goes to the WTA World poster J_Migoe who created the thread, “And Now The Stage Is Set. It's Serena vs. The Hand.”


Great to see what a gentleman Willy Cañas is. He speaks English well enough to understand and to be understood. He didn’t blink when Pam Shriver said something to his face about his suspension, making her look like an idiot for bringing it up on a day when news of the Court of Arbitration of Sport upholding his appeal was published in an Australian paper. I guess PMac and his crew didn’t want news of Cañas ' appeal having merit to cloud their view of him. How many times did PMac say “returning from a suspension” last night? Maybe he should read Bonnie De Simone’s excellent piece on ESPN. Here’s a link, Patrick, just in case you need something to read before tomorrow’s final.


Seems racist hecklers have no shame. After being pointed out by fellow fans, the dweeb had the nerve to say he didn’t use the “N” word before going on to use every coded word in the book to illustrate what he did say. Surprise was that some defended him. The incident did force some to re-evaluate the use of the word “lazy” which has been used by many so-called fans to describe both Williams sisters' approach to their sport. We Venuts [a nickname given to fans of Serena and Venus by an ESPN message board poster of old], of which I am one, are accused of being overly sensitive. Maybe it’s because we understand the intent of the word when used by certain individuals.


I’m ashamed to say it, but I refused to watch Andy Murray’s match yesterday. It’s on my DVR. I just won’t watch it. This young man has a very long way to go in the maturity department to say the least. I’m no fan of Brad Gilbert either, but if I’m Brad, I snatch the kid by his neck and body slam him. His behavior showed not only disrespect to his coach and paying fans but also to the sport of tennis as well. If anyone else had done what Murray did they’d be nailing his junk to the wall. Double standard much?


So Ljubo, head of the Player’s Council, is still calling Cañas a doper, huh? What happened to Willy Cañas can happen to any player. I take that back. Greg Rusedski was caught "doping" at the same time Cañas was, but he was never sanctioned or faced a suspension. Funny how all the guys who were “caught” come from one country in South America, isn’t it? Many may forget that Argentina was in the same position Spain is in right now at that time and the destruction of their players' reputations has gone far to diminish what they’ve accomplished. How many know Guillermo Coria successfully sued the company that made the tainted medication he took? Juan Ignacio Chela’s suspension was reduced. And now Guillermo Cañas is in the position, if things pan out, to name his price to the powers that be in the ATP, and anyone else involved in ruining his earning potential for the last 15 months. But I digress. Ljubo has been called a certain No. 1 player’s water boy. I suspect all this animosity to Willy is coming from neutral territory somewhere in central Europe and Ljubo, as usual, is just, well, carrying water.


Some fans are saying Maria Sharapova should skip the clay season and concentrate on Wimbledon and the U S Open series. Doesn’t that violate some provisions of Roadkill? Oh, my bad. I forget we’re talking about Sharapova. Yuri coaching from the stands? No problem. Change the rules. Brown bottles appearing mysteriously out of racquet bags? What brown bottle?

Rules? The Sharapov(a)s don’t follow the stinkin’ rules. Venus and Serena are violating the spirit of the rules by saying they will continue their boycott of Indian Wells. Come on guys, act like you know.


Just so you know, Justine has been suffering breathing problems in Miami. Allergies, they say.


The good people who run the Hamburg Masters Event are suing the ATP in the State of Delaware for running a cartel. Will the nice folks who run some of the tournaments the WTA is downgrading have the cojones to do the same to the WTA or is Richard Williams going to be forced to shoulder that weight alone on behalf of his daughters? If he’s successful watch for a lot of “me too” to break out among the tournament directors and sponsors. I think the RICO statutes are still on the books here. Hard to tell about these things in the States lately.


So Richard Williams knows something about tennis. Those Kodak/YouTube moments were brought to you by Yuri Sharapov.


The Oz Open is considering scraping rebound ace. Miami-type surface coming up Down Under?

The Shallow End of the Pool
You could tell how humid it was by watching Pam Shriver’s hair. I felt her pain.

PMac thinks Djokovic is the second coming.

Andre didn’t look good last night. Very stiff. Face very moon-like.

Marcelo looked like a bad stereotype with the Fu Manchu goatee going on. That lefty slice backhand is still a thing of beauty, though. Without him, where would Roger be since Roger totally pimped his game and on court demeanor? I wish Rios' back would allow him to play some main tour events so people could see where Roger got his game and style from.

Fernando Gonzalez was in the stands for the exhibition last night. I hope Pretty Eyes, clean-shaven or not, finds his early-season form.

Final Notes
The clay court season is starting. I’m happy. Rome has produced the best matches of 2005 and 2006 and seems to have survived the ATP version of Roadkill. I love clay court tennis. It rewards stamina, intelligence and patience. You can not ball bash on clay. You need to know how to slide. You can’t expect a 58 minute match.

It’s a shame the men running things have no idea about tennis. They are on course to ruin the sport. They are fixing things that weren’t broken all to make the sport hardcourt-based instead of clay-court-based. Hardcourts rule in the States. Clay rules every place else, yet the mandatory matches are heavily hardcourt-based. I guess if you can’t accuse everyone of doping you just eliminate the surface on which “they” play the best. Forget that hardcourt play shortens careers because of the stress on the body. Players are looking out for themselves these days and that means some events like the Rogers Cup in Canada host what they consider weak fields. Somehow telling a player where he or she has to play smacks of totalitarianism to me and takes away the very randomness that makes tennis what it is.

One of the announcers on The Tennis Channel asked why isn't the United States investing more in players like Kevin Kim, Micheal Russell, Amer Delic, and others who want to play, who sometimes do play above what is perceived to be their potential, who could make us more competitive as a whole? These guys may not win Grand Slams but who knows what they would do with better coaching and training options? The same is true on the women’s side. After Venus and Serena, who is the top American woman? No, not her, she plays for Russia.

There are two good singles matches this weekend. May the best woman and man win.

Sony Ericsson Open Women's Final Preview

Serena Williams (USA) [13] vsJustine Henin (BEL) [2]

The current No. 1 player in the world, Belgium's Justine Henin, easily dispatched Anna Chakvetadze on Thursday 6-2, 6-3 and (presumably) watched hopefully as Serena Williams battled to a 7-6(4), 6-1 over Israel's Shahar Peer in the evening semifinal.

Amazingly, the 5-time Grand Slam champion has only played the 8-time Grand Slam champion once since their controversial 2003 French Open semifinal almost four years ago. Serena leads their head-to-head rivalry 5 to 3 and has only ever lost to Justine on clay. In addition, Justine says she has never played well in the month of March because it is the anniversary of her mother's death; this is her first final in Miami, while it is Serena's 5th appearance (Champion 2002, 2003 and 2004; 1999 Finalist versus Venus). The tournament takes place a few hours drive from the house the two Williams sistesr own and share in Palm Beach Gardens. Venus has won the tournament three times also, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Justine is one of the most intense fighters on the WTA tour; I would put her right behind Maria Sharapova and just ahead of Serena (by a hair), so she will not go down in a final without a monumental struggle. Despite that, I still believe that if Serena is playing her best, no one on the WTA Tour can beat her.

Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 3 sets.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Serena vs. Justine: The Wait Is Over

aka Serena vs. The Hand

by Craig Hickman

As I wrote back in January, this is the rivarly I most want to see renewed. And now, nearly two months after I posted that and nearly four years after they last played, my wish has finally come to pass.

Serena Williams will face Justine Henin for the Sony Ericsson Open title on Saturday. This is Serena's fifth time to the final. She's won it three times before. Justine, who admits to not playing well in March as it is the anniversary of her mother's death (something I can certainly relate to, having just buried my father and three other close freinds in the month of March), appears in her first final in Miami.

Serena has the edge in their career head-to-head, winning 5 of their eight meetings. Justine's 3 wins all came on clay, giving Serena the edge on this surface as well. But if Serena plays the tentative brand of tennis she displayed in the second set against Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals, and in the first set of her semifinal against Shahar Peer, the resurgent Queen who has made fools of her detractors will have her hands full.

"It's a long time that we didn't play each other," Henin told reporters. "She looks like she's healthy now and very focused on tennis.

"I really wasn't surprised the way she came back in Australia. When she's healthy and really focused she's a great champion.

"We had a couple of good fights in the past.

"I know she has a lot of motivation but I also have a lot of motivation and the best will win."

"We've had some tough matches in the past," Williams said. "Hopefully we'll have a good, honest match."

After their now infamous 2003 Roland Garros semifinal, marred by Justine's blatant cheating when she held up her hand during one of Serena's first serves and denied it when the chair umpire, who hadn't seen it, inquired with Justine about it, Serena's curt statement reverberates loudly.

But now, as then, Serena exhibits graciousness as well.

"Justine has been playing some of the best tennis on the tour," Williams said. "She's doing awesome. She made the finals of all the Grand Slams last year. This will be a real test of my game."


Game. On.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sony Ericsson Open Women's Semifinal Preview

by Mad Professah

Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) [9] vs Justine Henin (BEL) [2]

Justine Henin-Hardenne does not usually play well at this "fifth Slam" in Miami; in fact, this the first time she has made it past the quarterfinals. She was very lucky to get through a very close match in the previous round versus 6th seeded Nadia Petrova 7-6(4) 7-6(4). Chakvetadze is the "forgotten Russian" who has been having some good results lately (2007 Australian Open quarters) but she hasn't had to play a Top 10 player to get to this stage of the tournament. Chakvetadze and Henin have only played once before in the third round of Wimbledon last year when Henin won. The diminutive Belgian has too much variety and forepower for the young Russian to handle. Henin has had a very nice draw at this year's tournament and should have no problem getting to the final and cementing her grip on the No. 1 spot before she goes off to Europe to defend all her clay court titles from last year.
Mad Professah's pick: Henin.

Serena Williams (USA) [13] vs Shahar Peer (ISR) [14]

Bizarrely, Serena is repeating her 2007 Australian Open draw at this tournament, only in reverse. There, in subsequent rounds she played Shahar Peer (who served for the match), Nicole Vaidisova and Maria Sharapova. Here, she has taken out Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in a stunning display of power and aggression, followed by her dismissal of Vaidisova and her last obstacle before the final is Henin (who skipped Melbourne because she was going through her divorce at the time). The Israeli player is a very good retriever of the ball and has great stamina but really has no weapon with which she can harm Serena. Serena's sister Venus demolished Peer on her way to winning a Tier III title in Memphis a little less than a month ago 6-1 6-1. If the current No. 18 ranked player in the world has already demolished the No. 2 and No. 8 ranked players, why would she have a problem with the No. 16? These results should indicate to the rest of the women's tour and the "tennis mafia" that winning her 8th grand slam title in January 2007 after a 2-year gap was not a fluke. It's possible that Serena Williams may be the best tennis competitor of all time.
Mad Professah's pick: Williams.

On Guillermo Cañas & Roger Federer

by Craig Hickman

I think Roger was match sharp enough to win this. He just really played a bad match, period. He displayed a clinic in the second set, and almost ran away with it in the early 3rd set, then just suddenly tuned out. No excuses. He played bad from game 4 onwards in the 3rd.

Cañas is a regular guy on the draw he faces week-in, week-out. Nothing special. The guy's only redeeming feature is he ran down everything Fed threw at him. In Indian Wells, he played a great match against Roger and then almost meekly submitted to Carlos Moya (6-3, 6-4).

The tour's motto these days is - even if I don't win anything this year at least I can say that, of Roger's only 3-4 losses this year I gave him one. (In his case, 2.)

Posted by edma1022, ESPN message board

edma, it's been a mighty long time. Good to see you.

Why did Roger "tune out" and "play bad" from game 4 onwards in the 3rd? Precisely because Cañas "ran down everything Federer threw at him" and sent much of it back with interest. Which wasn't all Cañas did, by the way. He served well when he needed to (including on match point), and went for his shots when the stakes were raised. Fending off those break points to fall behind two breaks in the third was crucial. I would argue that was Federer's penultimate undoing.

Add to that, Federer got tired. Having to change his game and attack the net in the second set and hit the ball harder than he did in the first tired him out. (Federer was actually bashing the ball in the second set which took time away from Cañas, disallowing him from running everything down.) Which is why Roger only comes forward when he has to or when he doesn't fear his opponent's passing shots. He rarely attacks the net on his own terms against Lleyton Hewitt because Hewitt is, in Federer's own words, "a passing shot artist." I've also noticed that against players such as Robin Soderling, who whack the ball at will, Federer plays first-strike tennis as well, hitting bigger returns and groundstrokes than usual.

But back to Cañas.

Cañas showed some artistry of his own in the passing shot department. Those well-struck topspin lobs that Federer couldn't handle were executed to perfection. That defensive lob Federer flubbed at 4-5 in the breaker which gave Cañas two match points had everything to do with Cañas, whom Federer could clearly see out of the corner of his eye, running for his life into the open court. That's why Roger didn't let the ball bounce, that's why Roger tried to angle the shot too short in the court, that's why the ball found the net.

Cañas is mentally tough. His head is his biggest weapon, to go along with his fight, his sneaky fast serve, his deceptive forehand, and his wheels. Twice, in two events, in less than two weeks, Cañas won the mental battle against the best player in the world. It certainly helped that Cañas believed he had the game to defeat Roger before each match that he played, even though he lost to him badly the last time they played, even though he's just returned to competitive play on the ATP after a controversial and rather unfair (as far as I'm concerned) suspension.

Cañas is, indeed, something special. So special, in fact, that he's on a very short list of players that have been able to dismiss Roger Federer in back-to-back events since he turned pro and only one of two who have done it since Roger ascended to No. 1.

I think it's a discredit to the sport, to Cañas, and to Roger himself to suggest that Roger lost simply because he "played bad" without giving credit to a player who had a whole lot to say about making Roger play that way.

But Roger hit a whopping 58 winners against 51 unforced (he dictated play, and you can't hit 58 winners against any opponent if you're not playing well) and won more total points than Canas. I say Roger played very well.

But Canas, who also played well, just played the biggest points better.

You insist Federer played worse "than usual." I say he played only slightly worse than he's usually allowed to play. No more; no less.

And this time, like last, he faced the (same) opponent who didn't let him get away with it.

Which is exactly why he stated before his round-of-16 opponent was decided that he would prefer to play Richard Gasquet.

Nuff said.

No Fluke: Serena Humiliates Maria Again

by Savannah

Williams vs. Sharapova: Game, Set, Overmatched

Published: March 28, 2007
New York Times

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla., March 27 — It was less a match than a memorandum of what Serena Williams is capable of when she puts her mind behind her might. Covering the court like a tarp, Williams suffocated top-seeded Maria Sharapova in 58 bloodless minutes Tuesday in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open.

The final score was 6-1, 6-1, and from high above Crandon Park’s Stadium Court, it looked more lopsided. Before the first point was tallied, Sharapova seemed to sense that she was in for a long afternoon. She kept hitting serves after the chair umpire called, “Time,” indicating the end of warm-ups. Whatever she was searching for, Sharapova did not find it, committing eight double faults.

On the other side of the court, the 13th-seeded Williams was hitting on all cylinders. Her ground strokes were so well grooved, Sharapova looked as if she was swatting at bugs. In the sixth game of the first set, Sharapova hit a running forehand for a winner (one of eight she had) and Williams was so surprised she reflexively applauded.

By the end of the afternoon, both No.1-seeded players were gone. Guillermo Cañas, a qualifier, sent the defending champion, Roger Federer, packing for the second consecutive tournament with a 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) victory. Cañas’s win came 16 days after he snapped Federer’s 41-match winning streak in a second-round match at the Masters Series event in Indian Wells, Calif. Federer, who had won both tournaments the previous two years, committed 51 unforced errors to Canas’s 15.

Continue Reading

There was a look on Serena's face during her postmatch interview after her victory over Lucie Safarova. As a black woman, I've seen the look many times. The first time I saw it was as a child when my mother had had enough and the four of us knew it was time to disappear. I've seen it as an adult when a woman, fed up, calls the locksmith prior to disposing of his belongings and him. It's a look of utter calm, of resolution. And it's something about the way we hold our mouths.

Nouf, on WTA World has been doing a great job of posting tennis videos. Her work can be found in the Video Vault on that site, an invaluable source for women's tennis on all levels. Here's a direct link to the video.

And still, the match was a jaw dropping beatdown. Maria was reduced to a spectator as her shots did nothing against the woman on the other side of the net who was firing them past her like bullets. When Cliff Drysdale uses the word beatdown to describe a match, no further comment is necessary.

Richard Williams, when asked by Pam Shriver how it was to watch his daughter play so well, mentioned that the fathers watch each other too. Pam didn't have time to follow up on that statement but I hope someone does. I don't know if Yuri hung around this time to support his daughter. I hope he did. Whatever is going on with her right now needs attention. Yuri has been with Maria during her rise. Someone mentioned Maria's name in the same breath as Anna Kournikova when describing her current struggles. I don't think Yuri and Maria sacrificed so much to end up in that particular movie.

We tennis fans should just keep in mind the expression on Serena's face during that interview. Venus wore it when she won Wimbledon in 2005. When you see it you know the hair has been braided, the vaseline applied, and that someone is in for a beatdown.

Serena, Cañas Deny Vengeful No. 1 Seeds

by Mad Professah

At the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami the much vaunted "Serenapova" showdown which pitted reigning Australian Open champion Serena Williams versus reigning US Open champion (and No. 1 seed) Maria Sharapova ended up with a repeat ending from their last match: Serena Williams in a blowout. This time the beatdown was even worse. In Melbourne, Sharapova managed to win 3 games; in Miami she only managed two: Serena finished the job 6-1, 6-1 in 58 minutes. Clearly Sharapova is suffering a case of the dreaded serving "yips." She had no aces and 8 double faults today. Although her service percentage was a high 67, the average speed was well below 100 mph. Serena's service percentage was only 58 and she had only 2 aces to one double fault (but she must have had at least a half-dozen service winners). Serena's average serve speed was a muscular 109.6 mph. Serena had 16 winners to 15 unforced errors (+1) compared to Maria's 8 winners to 16 unforced errors (-8). Serena improved to 4-2 against Sharapova and has now won the last 3 encounters against the Russian. After the match Serena raised one finger, (indicating she intends to be or she already considers herself to be?) the No. 1 player in the world. She will play Nicole Vaidisova in the quarterfinals tomorrow, a repeat of the Australian Open semifinal. Will history repeat itself again?

And this was not the biggest story of the day! World No. 1 Roger Federer played Guillermo Cañas for the second time in 10 days, and having lost in straight sets to the Argentine at the Pacific Life Open the Swiss player was clearly looking for revenge. However, history repeated itself! Federer lost the match 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-7(5) despite leading 3-1 in the final set and having a "gimme" overhead at 4-5 in the tiebreak. Instead of letting the high overhead bounce, Federer hit that overhead into the net, setting up two match points for Cañas who grabbed the second opportunity (and first on his serve) with a 125 mph service winner to seal his second consecutive defeat of the World No. 1 in under a fortnight. Federer had 58 winners to 51 unforced errors (+7) to his opponent's more modest 19 winners to 14 errors (+4). Cañas improved to a lifetime record of 3-1 against Federer as well as 2-0 for the year, while Federer is 14-0 against the rest of the ATP tour. And this is before the clay court season, widely regarded as the Argentine's best surface, which starts next month.

These two defeats have to put once unthinkable thoughts into the heads of Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal as they contemplate 2007's remaining Grand Slam tournaments in Paris, London, and New York.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Serena versus Maria Showdown Today

by Mad Professah

After dispatching hard-hitting but young Czech Lucia Safarova in a racial incident marred match yesterday 6-3, 6-4 reigning Australian Open champion Serena Williams will face reigning US Open champion Maria Sharapova today in a widely anticipated match some are calling "Serenapova."

Williams leads the Serenapova series 3-2 and has won the last two times she has played Sharapova, both at the Australian Open. In addition, Maria beat Serena's sister (and officially listed coach!) on Sunday in a very tense, close match 2-6, 6-2, 7-5.

It is very difficult for players to beat both Williams sisters in a single tournament (and win the tournament) and it is doubtful Maria who has been struggling with her serve lately will manage it against a resurgent Serena.

MadProfessah pick: Serena, in 2 sets.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Amer(ican) Delic Moves On

by Craig Hickman

For the first time in his professional career, American Amer Delic has won two consecutive matches at an ATP event. More impressively, the qualifier, who has won 5 matches in a row at Crandon Park in Miami, took out an in-form Julian Benneteau of France in the opening round of the main draw, only lost three games against No. 31 seed Jose Acasuso of Argentina in the second round, and saved four set points in the first set, including one on an overturned call, to dispatch of No. 4 seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia in the third round, his first win over a top-10 player.

Delic hasn't dropped a set through his three main draw matches. He'll next face another Argentine, Juan Ignacio Chela, who dismissed the Czech Tomas Berdych in straight sets earlier today, for a spot in his first Masters Series quarterfinal.

When I first saw Delic play some years ago, he was burning up the courts in an NCAA singles championship match. I can't remember his opponent, but I remember thinking that this big guy with a big serve and great instincts around the net could do some damage on the ATP tour if he ever turned pro. Which he did in 2003, but till this time, he hasn't been able to stay in matches mentally and has squandered many opportunities to make a name for himself as an up-and-coming American.

With is run to the last 16 in Miami, perhaps his time has come. Bonnie DeSimone, my favorite tennis writer, has penned a great article about the Bosnian refugee with the feel-good story. It goes something like this:

Amer Delic's improbable odyssey has hinged on a few serendipitous events.

When he and his family left war-scarred Bosnia in 1996, they could have been sent anywhere in the United States. It was simply good fortune that they already had a cousin in Jacksonville, Fla., where there were plenty of tennis courts and sunshine year-round.

"That's where you're going," they were told by their sponsoring agency, Lutheran Social Services.

Delic, his parents and older sister, Lejla, arrived in Florida with $1,000 in cash and four suitcases, managing to find room for a pair of tennis rackets that belonged to 13-year-old Amer. They moved in with their relatives, seven people sharing a two-bedroom apartment. Lejla, the only English-speaker, translated when their parents went on job interviews.

It was sheer luck that a guidance counselor asked the right question and steered Amer to the tennis coach at Wolfson High School.

"I did not know there was such a thing as high school tennis," he said with a barely perceptible accent. He eventually played his way into a scholarship slot at the University of Illinois, where he spent three years. A few months after he won the NCAA singles title in 2003, his long-standing application to become a U.S. citizen was approved.

Continue Reading

Indian Wells quarterfinalist Chela, who has been on a hot streak of his own the last few weeks, will certainly challenge Delic. But the young American has nothing to lose and in a tournament he might as well call his hometown event, he may continue to surprise. Here's hoping he can hold it together upstairs and execute his all-court game to another victory in Miami.

Venus Falters Against Sharapova

by Mad Professah

It's been more than 20 months since Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova met on a tennis court and today's match did not dissapoint. The No. 1 seed defeated the unseeded 3-time Miami champion in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open on Sunday 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in a 146-minute match plagued by errors from both players.

After leading 2-0 in the first set, Sharapova lost 6 games in a row and the set to Williams, but then broke Williams in the first game of the second set. Sharapova maintained her lead while continuing to hit many of her 13 double faults but evened the match. In the third set Williams raced off to a quick lead of 3-1 and held game point for 4-1 before being broken in two consecutive service games to go down 3-4. She then broke back and held to lead 4-5 on Sharapova's serve and was two points away from winning the match at deuce during that game.

In the crucial 11th game when Williams had opportunities to hold her serve she became tentative and let the Russian dictate play until the American commited a forehand error. Match point brought (another) Williams forehand error, this one sailing more than 10 feet past the baseline.

Venus Williams missed more than 50% of her first serves during the match (at one point she missed 4 serves in a row or two consecutive double faults in the third set and served only one ace after the first set) and committed a whopping 55 unforrced errors to 28 winners. Sharapova had only 22 winners and made 36 unforced errors, but her first service percentage was 54% compared to Williams' 49%. Both players combined for 25 double faults in this ugly affair.

The match (as usual) came down to who played the bigger points better and Sharapova converted 7 of 12 breakpoints while Williams converted one less at 6 of 12.

If Serena Williams wins her (rain-delayed) match against Lucie Safarova tomorrow then there will be a repeat of the 2007 Australian Open final on Tuesday: Maria versus Serena II: This Time It's Personal.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Power of Perception

by Savannah

Sam Querrey is touted as the next great American tennis star. At nineteen, he’s been taken under the wing of the best minds the American tennis establishment can offer. He has trained at Andy Roddick’s place in Austin with Jimmy Connors sometimes in attendance. He decided to turn pro instead of playing for Stanford. He’s been making noise and playing as well as can be expected at this stage of career.

Vania King is another young American who has opted for the tennis court instead of the concert hall. A fine singer, she would rather use her body than her vocal cords. She turned pro towards the end of last year and also has a bright future ahead of her.

Chan Yung-jan from Taipei is 17 and despite her age is now ranked at No. 93 in the world. She is a fierce competitor and there has been some buzz about her on the women’s circuit.

What do these young people have in common? Chan beat the Spaniard Nuria Llagostera Vives to move into the second round and a chance to play Maria Sharapova. Vania King beat Sun Tian-tian in the first round for a chance to meet Justine Henin. And Sam Querrey won his first round match for the chance to meet Roger Federer in the second round. Vania lost to Henin 4-6, 1-6. Chan lost to Sharapova 3-6, 2-6. And yes, Sam lost to Roger 4-6, 3-6. I didn’t see Vania King’s match against Henin. I saw parts of Chan vs. Sharapova and Querrey vs. Federer.

One of my guilty pleasures on television is the TLC show “Moving Up” which features people moving from smaller homes or apartments to larger ones or people leaving the nest for the first time and striking out on their own. Last night’s edition featured a couple who bought a home from an older couple who were moving out of the house where they'd raised their children. When the new owners started in on the kitchen, which had a sloped floor the previous owners claimed was a figment of their imagination, they found that there was a flaw their inspection hadn’t turned up. When they pulled up the floor they found that they’d been deceived and that at any time they, or one of their children, could fall through it to the crawlspace. Even worse, electrical wiring had been jury rigged and was not shielded, a fire hazard. It cost them twelve grand to get the hazards fixed. The previous owners swore up and down they had not known about the hazards. The contractor the couple had hired told them the wiring was jury rigged to put the dishwasher in and that if they noticed the cabinets were painted white so that the now visible water damage could be concealed. The wife of the previous owners swore she spent all of her time in the kitchen and had not noticed the sloped floor or that there was any water damage. They just happened to paint the cabinets white.

So what does this have to do with tennis? For some reason TTC is not showing the WTA matches during its regular schedule. This isn’t a column about that but I should mention that fans of the WTA are mad as hell and want to know why. After Fed’s match late last night suddenly a woman’s match appeared on TTC. Did we see the Kuznetsova match which ended after one in the morning with Sveta pulling out a gutsy win? Did we see Venus match against Maria Kirilenko one that had fans salivating? Did we see Serena’s match against up and comer Anastasia Rodionova? Nope. We saw Maria Sharapova vs. Chan Yung-Jan. This is an IMG sponsored event and it should come as no surprise that they’d go with the Sharapova match over any number of matches available, including a live one that had gone to a third set. I should mention in passing that I was watching Star Sports. My cable provider doesn’t provide TTC. I send begging emails every month or so but they’re busy doing other things. I can get Gol TV, the Golf Channel, and bass fishing but no Tennis Channel. But I digress.

It's the job of a tennis commentator to comment about the match in front of them. But the young young woman, I never got her name, who was one of the commentators for the Sharapova match did nothing but try and sell us on the product called Maria Sharapova. Maria works so hard. I played against her when we were younger and she would be out there all day hitting balls and playing harder than anyone else, she said. She’s dedicated to tennis. She’s really a champion. She’s worked hard to get everything. Even the male commentator jumped in to say that while Maria is truly beautiful she is also a great competitor. All of this while double faults were flying off of her racquet.

I didn’t hear any discussion of what was going on in the match. I have to say I didn’t hear it because I didn’t make it through 15 minutes of commentary before turning off the sound. Which meant I turned off the match since I was watching an Internet feed. If Sharapova had been playing someone such as Maria Kirilenko she would probably have been out of this event. Instead the young and still inexperienced Chan was thrown under a bus allowing the commentators to declare Maria Sharapova a world beater last night.

From what I heard of the Federer/Querrey match, the same form of commentary prevailed. No one who follows tennis thought that Querrey had a snowball's chance in hell of beating Roger. Instead of showing the much more exciting conclusion to the Guillermo Canas/Juan Carlos Ferrero, we got Roger beating up on Sam. But the broadcast wasn’t totally stupid on the men’s side. Once Roger’s match was over they switched to Canas/Ferrero and fans got to see Canas pull out a win over a determined Ferrero. Every tennis fan knows Canas kicked Roger to the curb at Indian Wells in Roger's first match at that event. Canas' next opponent is Richard Gasquet. I should mention that Roger’s new BFF (best friends forever - I have a teenager), Tiger Woods, and his wife were in the stands. There were lots of shots of Tiger and his Missus just in case you forgot these two are now BFF.

The commentators painted the cabinets white. IMG has every right to showcase its talent. What bothers me is that there are plenty of other stars in the tennis universe who are getting short shrift. As a fan, I wanted Juanqui to do well at this event even though I wanted Canas to win their match, if that makes sense. I wanted to see Sveta fight through fatigue to win her match. I wanted to see Venus, serving at 42% first serves in, win every one of them. I wanted to see Serena play because of the rumors floating around that she was going to withdraw. I want to see the Matteks, the Bondarenkos, the Larcher de Britos of the tennis world. Henin is the WTA No. 1. I’m not a fan of the woman but I like her tennis. Didn’t she deserve some air time? I want to see Marion Bartoli play because somehow she keeps winning. I want to know how long it’s going to take for the light bulb to go off in her head that if she gets fitter she can go deeper in events like this and maybe hit the top ten. I would love to have seen Schnyder go down to Kaia Kanepi in straights. What about Tommy Haas losing to Alejandro Falla? None of this made television except for Juanqui and Canas, likely because Canas managed to beat the ATP No. 1, the man some are declaring the greatest of all time.

There's talk that John McEnroe will become some kind of tennis commissioner, the Paul Tagliabue of tennis, I guess. In view of the moves the ATP and WTA are making which seem to favor American tennis over tennis played anywhere else I don’t think this would be a good idea. Tennis is an international sport, not an American one. Tennis fans keep world clocks to give the time in London, Paris, Barcelona, Melbourne, Tokyo, Dubai and Shanghai. Favorite players can come from any part of the globe and be of any nationality or ethnic group.

Personally, I'd love to see former New York City Mayor David Dinkins take on this role. He's a fan and has been known to move heaven and hell to give tennis its due. And after being mayor, I think he's ready to tackle some of the issues facing tennis with a much cooler head and fewer ties that bind than a former player would.

Let the tennis establishment keep painting the cabinets white. Sooner or later, someone will come along, pull up the floor and see the mess underneath. And that someone won't eat the cost of the repairs.

Sharapova vs. Williams - Again!

by Mad Professah

At the Sony Ericsson Open on Key Biscayne, Florida on Saturday, Maria Sharapova won her second round match against Yung-Jan Chan 6-3 6-2, setting up a third round clash with unseeded Venus Williams who dispatched Sharapova's best friend on the women's tour, No. 29 seed Maria Kirilenko, 6-3 6-3. Venus has won this tournament 3-times before (back when it was called the NASDAQ-100 Open) but lost to Sharapova at this same event two years ago in the semifinals, although the American beat the top Russian the last time they played (Wimbledon semifinals of 2005, one of the best women's matches of that year) for the first time in 3 career head-to-head meetings.

After her demolition by Venus' sister Serena Williams in the 2007 Australian Open final a little over 2 months ago, I'm sure Maria will treat this as more than your average third round match. Especially, if she does win, and Serena wins her third round match against Lucia Safarova, Sharapova would have to play Serena in the fourth round!

Barring a return of inclement weather, Sharapova should play Venus Williams late in the day on Sunday. Hopefully the Tennis Channel will see fit to interrupt a men's match and broadcast it live!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Serena: Second Coming

Serena Williams returns to action this week having stunned critics who said she was finished by winning the year's first grand slam. Jon Henderson investigates and says the world may have to accept she bears comparison with Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan

Sunday March 18, 2007
The Observer

Serena Williams posed an intriguing question when she won the Australian Open, the year's first grand slam, in January: was this one of the great sporting comebacks by a player who dropped out of the world's top 100 last year, or was it more a case of victory for a player who is just so good, better possibly than any woman who has ever played the game, that she can simply dip in to a major event while not in prime condition and win it?

Continue Reading

It Seemed Like A Good Idea...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

by Savannah

So the player’s meeting was last night. According to this link if Etienne de Villiers thought that getting rid of Round Robin play would make for an easy meeting it seems he was sorely mistaken.

Article Here

I don’t want to recap the entire article, it’s great reading for tennisheads, but here are the main points.

Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo led a contingent “waving” a petition in Etienne’s face signed by quite a few players . They were upset with the tentative plans of the ATP to eliminate Monte Carlo and Hamburg as TMS events.

Dozens of players walked out of the meeting. No names of course. That would be too juicy.

There is a split between the clay court players and the hard court specialists. The latter will have none of their TMS events removed from the schedule.

Roger decided it was easier to move to the back than to sit in his seat near the front.

The blogger seems to be toeing the ATP line but the post ends on this note:

Nothing was settled at the meeting, but de Villiers got a major earful. That's something he didn't need a couple weeks after fumbling the round robin problem in Las Vegas. One thing is clear. There's a deep split among the players and de Villiers, who is a strong "people person," has to find a way to bring Robredo and Nadal and their supporters into some kind of compromise with those who either don't care about Monte Carlo and Hamburg or who make their money essentially on the hardcourts.

Another meeting like this could drive a very deep wedge not only between the players and the ATP management, but between players themselves.

Someone posting as “Castafiore” on made the following observation:

At this point, Halle as an MS event is just a fantasy on tennis message boards.

As the plans are now:
1 on clay
nothing on grass
The rest on HC and carpet.
--> That's not even close to being balanced.

None of the real scheduling issues are really dealt with.
Hamburg comes too close after Rome and is too soon before RG. So getting rid of it makes sense, I guess.
However, if you use that argument, than why keep Cincy and Paris for example? Because of the money?

De Villiers has opened a Pandora’s box I’m not sure he knew existed. The European players already feel things are stacked against them. While I am a fan of the US Open series you can’t argue that Cincinnati coming right after Canada makes sense. It’s bad enough that Indian Wells and Miami are back to back hardcourt tournaments with Miami being dubbed the “Fifth Slam”.

I also feel that Hamburg, or the Paris Indoors at the end of the year can be eliminated.

But I think something else is happening here. I really think the powers that be want to institute a grass TMS event. There are enough “purists” in the upper echelons of the tennis establishment who want to see more of a grass season. There are many fans who feel the same way. I’m not sure if it’s still a rumor or if its fact that the TMC is moving to London in 2009. That gives London Wimbledon, The TMC and a still minor tune up now called “Artois”. The Brits are throwing money around like drunken sailors to upgrade their program and serious offers were make to Novak Djokovic to give up his Serbian passport for a British one. If “Artois” took the place of Hamburg it would make sense. Even I admit that. But who does this favor and why would clay courters react so violently to the proposal.

Before the ESPN fan board collapsed into chaos there had been lots of talk between serious posters about clay vs hard court play and whether one was superior to the other. I felt each required different skill sets from the players and that at that time, and still today, American tennis is not producing players who can play both surfaces well. Clay court play requires that the player know how to construct a point, think his or her way through a match that can last hours and be fit both mentally and physically to go the distance. It's no accident that the matches voted best in 2005 and 2006 both took place on clay in Rome.

Hard court play requires the player to be able to react to a ball coming at him or her at a high speed, to control it and then send it back over the net with accuracy of shot and placement. The points are shorter and don’t have to be worked on as hard. I enjoy both but I admit I like the clay better. It’s a matter of personal choice nothing more.

For some reason the United States stopped producing players who could play well on clay. Andre Agassi won the French Open. Michael Chang won the French Open. Pete Sampras hated the dirt and made almost no attempt to win Roland Garros let alone the “French Open” series events, Rome and Monte Carlo. The premier tennis academies in the United States were teaching a style of play inimical to clay court play. Those who played the red dirt well were called “dirtballers” or “clay court specialists” and were treated as some lesser species by those who played well on hard courts and the men and women who honed their skills. Wimbledon and the US hard courts were treated as the Mecca of the sport and some called openly for Roland Garros to be demoted from Grand Slam status because American’s couldn’t win there. Of course that wasn’t the stated reason but no one doubted the sentiment behind the requests.

It seems however that those “dirtballers” have been up to something. They’re in the top ten in the rankings. They’re stars of the sport. They’ve even reached finals on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon coming close to winning. Pete Sampras has found it necessary to weigh in on who should be making Wimbledon finals and who should not. Arrogance much Pete?

It makes perfect sense to get rid of Hamburg. It could make sense to upgrade Artois to a TMS event. It makes no sense to get rid of Monte Carlo. If it was left to me Indian Wells would go the way of the dinosaurs. Something has to be done about Cincy and Canada. But to do what the ATP seems to be doing, getting rid of clay events which favor European and South American players and emphasizing the hard courts which favor Americans and the British is not going to make Etienne de Villiers life easier. Instead, as the blogger posted, his moves threaten to destroy the tour so many sacrificed so much to build.

The excuse being used to get rid of Monte Carlo is that it’s not a “money maker”. I guess I imagined all those empty seats at Indian Wells. The stadiums at Monte Carlo are small. You can actually see and hear the players from any seat. I guess the horrid, cavernous Arthur Ashe stadium is what a tennis stadium should be. Not.

In response to the original article a fan posted the following:

Why the drive to eliminate BOTH Monte Carlo and Hamburg? It seems to me the clay-court players are rightfully upset about a move that will change the balance of the tour pretty drastically.

Right now, there are 5 Hardcourt MS, 3 Clay and 2 Carpet. (I'm counting the Master's Cup as Hard.) 33% of the tournaments are on Clay.

The proposed changes (including moving the MC to London and adding an Asian MS on hardcourt) mean 6 Hardcourt, 1 Clay, 2 Carpet. 11% would be on Clay.

That's an unfair change. Two clay Master's Series events should be the minimum. It is the standard playing surface of most of Europe and South America, after all.

Larry Scott’s moves against the WTA have already been labeled “Roadkill”. I don’t know what to call Etienne de Villiers moves against the ATP. By eliminating Monte Carlo and Hamburg the ATP seems to be telling non American players their skills are not wanted, that their surface of choice is somehow less than other surfaces. I'm not sure that's the message the ATP wants to send in 2007.

I'm sure this isn't over, that this is just the start of things. Let's hope the man some fans call Mr. Disney comes to his senses and listens to people across the pond where most of the players seem to come from these days.

And I do hope I don't have to post this picture again as a symbol of who is running the ATP.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Miami Juniors

While looking for information on the men's qualifying draw for Miami I found a reference on Men's Tennis Forums to the Luxilon Cup. Further checking led me to a wonderful site called Zoo Tennis run by one Ms. Colette Lewis. Please check out Colette's site. It provides lots of information on young players we would never know about until or unless they try their luck on the main tour.

When I went to see the Rafa vs. Fed exhibition in Manhattan last year I was struck by how many young people in the crowd were involved in tennis by playing in the public parks, country clubs or private clubs all around New York City. It was their chance to see the top men up close and in person. I think you all will like Zoo Tennis!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quel Dommage! Mauresmo Out For A Month

World No. 3 Amélie Mauresmo is going to be off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for a month after having surgery on Sunday to have her appendix removed, it was announced on her official website. She will miss "the fifth Grand Slam" officially known as the Sony Ericsson Open which starts Wednesday in Miami. She also did not play in Indian Wells at the Pacific Life Open and her website says that she will return to the tour during the European clay court season in late Spring.

Monday, March 19, 2007

WTA Miami - Gift Wrapped for Justine?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

by Savannah

The women's draw. Everyone but an ill Amelie Mauresmo is showing up. In the past I've accused the WTA/IMG Powers That Be of assuring their darling Maria Sharapova has an easy ride at least to the quarters while pitting anyone who could threaten her against each other along the way.

But things haven't been going the way TPTB have anticipated so far this year. Pam Shriver would say that Maria has the "yips". There's no need to rehash what happened in Melbourne. If Maria's serving woes haven't been cured she's in for a rough time.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

There is also no need to go over the inevitable appearance of Venus Williams and Serena Williams in the same part of the draw. Some are arguing that it's the lack of play and their ranking that has set this situation up yet again. I would call bullshit but I've done that so many times anything I would say sounds boring and repetitive.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

But this draw is funny. All of the power and finesse, all of the big babes, are in the top half of the draw.
Hingis. Ivanovic. Serena Williams. Venus Williams. Shahar Peer.Kuznetsova. Vaidisova. Schnyder.
Even the up and comers are in this part of the draw. Kirilenko. Bondarenko. Schiavone.
Garbin. Dulko. Bartoli (Yes, Bartoli gets a mention).

So who's in the bottom half with Justine, the new No. 1?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Let's see. There's Vania King, new to the tour and who's been thrown under the Henin steam roller before. Li, who had a good run at the Pacific Life Open but is in a quarter with Molik and Srebotnik. Golovin and Chakvetadze are primed to face each other. Clijsters would face Stosur and if Kim was more match fit I'd pick her easily. She's admitted she's focused on her wedding. I think she'll beat Stosur but it'll be a tough match. Petrova and Safina, the reigning Queens of the Headcases are here. Jelena is here as well and could face either Chakvetadze or Golovin. Henin could face either Hantuchova or Zvonareva. Also here are Pennetta, Morigami, and Poutchkova. For once I don't think Sharapova has an easy way through the draw. They may have used the seeding from March 5 but the draw looks like it's based on the current rankings.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Singles Main Draw - WTA

(1)Maria Sharapova (RUS) v BYE
Yung-Jan Chan (TPE) v Nuria Llagostera Vives (ESP)
Venus Williams (USA) v Yuliana Fedak (UKR)
(29)Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v BYE

Sharapova vs Venus - If her serving woes continue Venus will prevail

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(23)Lucie Safarova (CZE) v BYE
Emilie Loit (FRA) v Sybille Bammer (AUT)
Elena Likhovtseva (RUS) v Q
(13)Serena Williams (USA) v BYE

Safarova vs Serena - Serena

(11)Patty Schnyder (SUI) v BYE
Kaia Kanepi (EST) v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL)
Nicole Pratt (AUS) v Q
(21)Marion Bartoli (FRA) v BYE

Schnyder vs Bartoli - Schnyder

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(26)Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) v BYE
Eva Birnerova (CZE) v Viktoria Azarenka (BLR)
Michaella Krajicek (NED) v (wc)Anna Tatishvili (GEO)
(8)Nicole Vaidisova (CZE) v BYE

Tatishvili vs VaidisovaVaidisova who will come out of this section.
It won't matter who comes out of the other part.


(3)Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) v BYE
Aiko Nakamura (JPN) v Q
Jelena Kostanic Tosic (CRO) v Q
(28)Alona Bondarenko (UKR) v BYE

Kuznetsova may not have a lock here. She just played a final. I just don’t see anyone strong enough to beat her unless she beats herself. Pick ’em

(19)Francesca Schiavone (ITA) v BYE
Eleni Daniilidou (GRE) v Q
Catalina Castano (COL) v Q
(14)Shahar Peer (ISR) v BYE

Should be Peer vs Schiavone depending on who the qualifiers are. I like Peer but this is another pick ’em section.

(12)Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v BYE
(wc)Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) v Q
Ashley Harkleroad (USA) v (wc)Lauren Albanese (USA)
(24)Tathiana Garbin (ITA) v BYE

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Ivanovic has had a lot of hype and it’s time for her to put up or shut up. She should dominate this section, emphasis on should.

(27)Jie Zheng (CHN) v BYE
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) v Shenay Perry (USA)
Gisela Dulko (ARG) v Q
(5)Martina Hingis (SUI) v BYE

Hingis will take Dulko. Radwanska should take Perry and have a fight with Zheng. It won’t matter. Hingis should prevail.


(7)Jelena Jankovic (SRB) v BYE
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Shuai Peng (CHN)
Jill Craybas (USA) v Roberta Vinci (ITA)
(32)Mara Santangelo (ITA) v BYE

Jelena vs Peng
Craybas vs Santangelo

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


(17)Tatiana Golovin (FRA) v BYE
(wc)Iroda Tulyagonova (UZB) v Q
Vasilisa Bardina (RUS) v (wc)Sanja Ancic (CRO)
(9)Anna Chakvetadze (RUS) v BYE

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Very interesting part of the draw. I’ve been reading about Tulyagonova for awhile now and people think highly of her. I don’t think she’s played much recently. Golovin should win against her. It should be AnnaC vs Tatiana. Pick ’em

(15)Na Li (CHN) v BYE
Alicia Molik (AUS) v Q
Alina Jidkova (RUS) v (wc)Petra Martic (CRO)
(20)Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) v BYE

Pick ’em

(25)Samantha Stosur (AUS) v BYE
Olga Poutchkova (RUS) v Q
Akiko Morigami (JPN) v (wc)Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN)
(4)Kim Clijsters (BEL) v BYE

I’d like to see Poutchkova over Stosur but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Clijsters should have an easy time. Stosur vs Clijsters - Clijsters should win here.

(6)Nadia Petrova (RUS) v BYE
Camille Pin (FRA) v Nathalie Dechy (FRA)
Aravane Rezai (FRA) v Q
(30)Severine Bremond (FRA) v BYE

If Petrova shows up there’s no one in this section that can harm her.

(22)Ai Sugiyama (JPN) v BYE
Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) v Anastasia Yakimova (BLR)
Laura Granville (USA) v Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP)
(10)Dinara Safina (RUS) v BYE

Pick ’em

(16)Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) v BYE
Meghann Shaughnessy (USA) v (wc)Michelle Larcher De Brito (POR)
Meilen Tu (USA) v Romina Oprandi (ITA)
(18)Vera Zvonareva (RUS) v BYE

Hantuchova vs ZvonarevaPick ’em

(31)Martina Muller (GER) v BYE
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) v Virginie Razzano (FRA)
Vania King (USA) v Tiantian Sun (CHN)
(2)Justine Henin (BEL) v BYE

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Poor Vania. Even if she gets past Sun she’s got Henin waiting for her. Pennetta should be waiting for Henin. A well-rested Henin. Justine.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rafael Nadal: 2007 Pacific Life Open Men's Champion

(HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Congratulations, Rafa!

Daniela Hantuchova: 2007 Pacific Life Open Women's Champion

(HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Congratulations, Dani!

Pacific Life Open Men's Final Preview

by MadProfessah

[12]N Djokovic (SRB) vs[2]R Nadal (ESP)
The men's semifinals played Saturday were a bit of a let down after the previous round's thrillers (Andy Roddick d. Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(7), 7-6(8) and Andy Murray d. Tommy Haas 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(8)). World No. 2 Rafael Nadal made quite a statement by demolishing Roddick in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 by serving at nearly 90% percent and made 33 winners to a mere 12 unforced errors (and really some of those 12 were "attempted winners" that just missed), an astonishing +21 performance that rocked the American's confidence so that his serve was diminished in accuracy and impact (a mere 16 aces).

Novak Djokovic's career has neatly paralleled Andy Murray's: they were born one week apart (Murray was born 15th of May 1987 and Djokovic was born the 22nd of May 1987), are now one World ATP ranking position apart (#13 and #14) and have almost identical ATP Tour records. However, on Saturday's match between the two was not close: Djokovic won 6-3, 6-3.

Sunday's final will be an interesting showdown between two young guns showcasing the first of many important clashes in the future: 20-year-old Nadal versus 19-year-old Djokovic. They have only played once before, at last year's Roland Garros where the reigning King of Clay was leading the Serbian 6-4, 6-4 when Djokovic said "No Más!" and retired.

I doubt that Nadal will have it so easy in Sunday's final but if he plays anywhere near the level he displayed against Roddick it will be a very short day at the office. Djokovic should celebrate reaching his first ATP Master Series final, but he knows that it is possible for a 19-year old to win an ATP Master Series shield--his opponent in Sunday's final has won six of them as a teenager in 2005-2006.

Mad Professah's pick: Nadal.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pacific Life Open Women's Final Preview

by MadProfessah

[2]S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs[14]D Hantuchova (SVK)
And then there were two. As I predicted earlier, the last three letters of the name of the 2007 Pacific Life Open women's champion will be the same as the last three letters of the 2006 Pacific Life Open women's champion: O-V-A. Last year it was Russian Maria Sharapova but she went out to fellow Russian Vera Zvonareva with a severe case of the service yips (25 double faults in two rounds of tennis!) which seem to be getting worse, not better. This year a new champion will be crowned, and it will be one of the two women pictured above in their official Sony Ericsson WTA Tour photos.

Svetlana Kuznetsova has already won a Grand Slam tournament and been to the final of another and holds 8 WTA Tour titles. After a severe let down in 2005 following her 2004 US Open win she spent 2006 steadying her game and rebuilding her ranking to its current lofty height of No. 4 in the World, a career best to date. Daniela Hantuchova has been ranked in the Top 5 in the world before, but has never been past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. She has won exactly one WTA Tour title before, but happily for her, it is the one that she is competing for tomorrow: the Pacific Life Open.

On paper one would have to give this to the Russian in an easy two sets but something tells me that Hantuchova will come out with an intense desire to win. When she is on, she can hit the ball as hard and paint the lines as any of the best ball strikers out there, ever. Hantuchova has much more to prove but I just don't believe that deep in the third set that her confidence will remain strong enough to take her past the woman Martina Navratilova called "the most talented of the Russians."

Mad Professah's pick: Kuznetsova (in 3 sets).

Idle Chit Chat

Important News!

The Advance Sale of US Open tickets begins April 14. The seats suck but they get you in the joint. Once there, if you’ve saved your pennies, starting about Wednesday or so you can turn the crappy seats in for better ones. This is best done during the day sessions. I did end up with great seats last year for the Blake/Federer night match though. Let’s just say what I spent could have bought a steak at Whole Foods.

Tennis Week Magazine

It’s as bad as we thought.
GVGirl on TAT posted the cover of the new magazine landing in subscribers mail boxes starting this week. If I wanted to buy Vogue, Bazaar, InStyle, or any such magazine I would. I subscribe to a tennis magazine for…tennis. Would I bitch if the first cover was of Rafa? Not so much, but the principle is still the same. For you Povanuts, enjoy. Let’s just say her face, in that pose, on the cover of that magazine, is the beginning of the end of one of the better tennis publications.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

You should know that the hype machine has already started for the prepubescent cousin of Maria Sharapova, Daria. She's Yuri's brothers daughter. Don't say you weren't warned. They're already calling her Dasha.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In other non tennis news

Someone in Britney Spears publicity posse thought it would be a good idea for the Sinead wannabe to don a wig, a baseball cap and be photographed playing at playing tennis. I guess it never occurred to them that a proper tennis outfit might make their gushing praise of Britney’s newly acquired interest in sport. If there was any doubt that our beloved sport is not held in high esteem by others this is proof positive. I mean couldn’t they have chosen softball or shown her shooting a few hoops?
Why diss tennis?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Back to tennis…then again maybe not.

Why can’t I find ESPN’s tennis message board?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Andre Agassi is playing an exo on March 30 against Marcelo Rios in Chile. Supposedly the ticket prices are astronomical. The retired Agassi’s former coach Darren Cahill is saying Agassi is in the best shape ever and that he’s looking forward to the event. Rios it seems always played Andre tough and resented being called the left handed Agassi when he first started out feeling comparisons to other players were insulting his uniqueness. Sounds like this is going to be fun huh?

Sybille Bammer is the new fan fave on the women’s side. She’s a mom with an adorable daughter named Tina who is about to enter school. This adorable picture has been widely circulated.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

So have some not so adorable ones I won’t post here. Like Haruka said the Australian Open series and the Australian Open usually introduce us to the players we’ll be watching all year long. Anyone remember Marcos Baghdatis from last year?

Fernando Gonzalez looks to be struggling with expectations after his spectacular run in Oz. He played tentative tennis during his stay in Indian Wells and went out rather meekly to Tommy Haas who turned around and lost to Andy Murray. Murray should look at acting for a second career...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

On the subject of new talent, young Asia Muhammad, a product of Andre Agassi's work with kids in Las Vegas, has had some nice publicity lately and is playing a limited schedule on the pro tour.
I haven't seen her play yet but the buzz is good. The USTA site says she was born April 4, 1991 in Long Beach, California. She now lives in Las Vegas and plays right handed with a two handed back hand.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Jelena Jankovic, another fan favorite, has a feature out featuring a day in her life. Here’s the link.

Funny how tennis fans keep embracing female athletes who actually show they love the game and leave it all on the court. We don’t have to be told who to like do we?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Oh, and if you haven't heard, Federer's opening match in Miami is going to look like halftime at the Super Bowl complete with light show and a celebrity singing the American National Anthem. I don't think JoJo would attempt the Swiss National Anthem do you?
From the official site:

Two-time defending champion and world's No. 1 Roger Federer will make his first appearance at the 2007 Sony Ericsson Open on Saturday, March 24 at 8 p.m. on Stadium Court, highlighting a full night of entertainment at the Crandon Park Tennis Center that will include a fashion show, a "FIRE" performance and a special guest anthem singer, Tournament Director Adam Barrett announced Wednesday.

One of the most dominant athletes of any sport, the 10-time Grand Slam champion reached a new milestone Monday when he broke Jimmy Connors' 30-year-old mark with his 161st week at the top of the ATP rankings, a streak that began Feb. 2, 2004.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I’d like to end by giving a shout out to Venus Williams. While various and sundry people have taken pot shots at the older member of the Williams Sisters Venus has been quietly doing her thing. Both Wimbledon and now Roland Garros cite Venus stance on the equal pay issue in their decision to provide equal prize money for both the WTA and ATP players. Many people wanted Venus to be many things. In the end Venus chose to just be Venus. And that seems to be a very good thing for tennis.