Monday, December 31, 2007

Hopman Cup Day 3: USA d. Czech Republic

I finally got to watch some Hopman Cup action for myself early this morning via a tape-delayed broadcast on Russian WebTV.

Yes, Serena Williams outlasted Lucie Safarova, yes the US got a virtual walkover when Tomas Berdych had to retire due to illness, but would you have guessed that Serena looked physically better than she did back in 2002-2003?

You might think I'm exagerrating, but Tennis Channel aired the 2003 Australian Open final between her and Venus Williams so Serena's look back then was fresh in my mind when, a few hours later, my eyes almost popped out of my head when she showed up on court to play Lucie.

I'm not sure the pictures do what I saw on camera any justice, but if you take her warning to Justine Henin in this article seriously, and if you take Martina Navratilova's closeup sighting seriously, then the article's title of "Trim, taut, terrific: Serena shapes up" is on point.

Players To Watch In 2008

The off-season is simply not long enough. It seems like just yesterday I penned my 2007 review and it's already time to look ahead to the 2008 season.

Someone recently asked me if I do any overall predictions for the year. Not exactly. I guess you could say I do anti-predictions such as the no brainer that no one will win the Golden Slam on either tour in 2008. But that's about as far as I'll go. There are simply too many unknowns and variables to try with any solid reasoning to predict the winners of, say, the US Open. Roger Federer, of course, would be good money, but he's got to lose it sooner or later, no? And one would think that with the Olympics in the mix, he'd much rather take an Olympic Gold than his fifth US Open title, if he had to choose between the two, and with them being so close together, that's exactly what he might have to do. Which is all a long, drawn-out way of saying that my preview of next calendar's tennis will focus solely on a select list of players to watch. Without further ado:


Ernests Gulbis made noise at the US Open last summer with his straight-set demolition of Tommy Robredo in the third round. His smooth game, excellent court craft and pinpoint strokes off both sides would appear to make him someone who could compete on every surface. He's young, though, and his head isn't always screwed on. Let's see if he can continue to make waves after putting Latvia on the tennis map.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was my pick for Outstanding Newcomer on the ATP in 2007. Sure, he's in his early 20s already, but his young career has been halted by injuries. If he can remain healthy in 2008, I think he'll make a deep run at Wmbledon and/or the US Open.

Richard Gasquet seems to believe, finally, that he belongs in the top of men's tennis, thanks in large part to his epic come-from-behind win against Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year. But can his fragile constitution see him through to his first Slam semifinal in 2008? Stay tuned.

David Ferrer had one of the hottest streaks to end 2007. Simply put: can he keep it up? With the plexicushion playing even slower than Rebound Ace, he needs to carry his momentum straight into Melbourne and let the world know he's not satisfied with his new status in the Top 5.

Novak Djokovic could experience the most pressure of any Top 10 player next year. He has to defend a truckload of points, and since he still believes his own hype, the pressure to deliver on it will rise like the mercury Down Under. As it is, he's skipping his title defense in Adelaide to play Hopman Cup, and while the Next Generation International isn't a big enough event to lose him a ton of points, he won't have a tour title heading into Melbourne. On the other hand, he ought to be better rested to contend on the cushy stuff.

David Nalbandian didn't exactly come out of nowhere to end 2007 with his first two regular Masters Series shields, beating the top dogs to take them both. He's always played well in Australia, so if he continues his form, I expect his entire 2008 campaign include contending at all four Slams and maybe, just maybe, even winning his first.

Donald Young is the youngest player in the Top 100 and his all-court game has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 12 months. If he can believe in himself, as his coach and mother tell him he's gotta do, he can have a breakthrough year.

John Isner has been already dismissed as overhyped because of his lackluster performances on the challenger circuit. Lest we forget, however, he won several matches over the summer 7-6 in the third and won a tiebreak set against Raja at the US Open. Perhaps the challenger circuit just isn't high-stakes enough for America's answer to Ivo Karlovic. And he's six years younger. I say we give him a chance before writing him off as too much hype.

Nicolas Kiefer came back strong from injury to remind us why he was once ranked as high as No. 4 in the world. Another player who produces Down Under, the first quarter of 2008 will be crucial. If he stays healthy, I expect him to cause a surprise or two at Wimbledon.

Juan Monaco took Most Improved Gonads for 2007. A great athlete with a warrior attitude, the Argentine could start the year strong in Melbourne and follow that up with a deep run at Roland Garros.


Li Na was poised for a solid campaign to enter the Top 10 when she had to leave the tour with a rib injury. But she'll be back in January with a new lease on life. Always my favorite Chinese up-and-comer, probably because I find her story so fascinating, Li may take awhile to get back into the second week of a Slam, but her storyline will be worth watching.

Agnes Szavay has a fluid game, the heart of a champion, and a bad back. Which will prevail in 2008?

Tamira Paszek needs a better serve. If she found one during the off-season, she could win her first WTA title and make another second-week appearance in a Slam.

Amelie Mauresmo came back too soon from abdominal surgery last year. Has she fully recovered? Will she return to the winner's circle or regress to choker extraordinaire? Will she finally shake her demons in front of her home crowd?

Serena Williams couldn't get her body to stop betraying her will for the last three quarters of 2007. If she can run, she can beat all comers. Will she be able to run ragged her opponents in 2008 or will her flesh be weak?

Linday Davenport has committed to playing a full schedule through the US Open. Who knows, she may even play in Paris again. Wouldn't it be lovely to see a another mother win a Slam?

Monica Seles claims she'll play at the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne. Nuff said.

Anna Chakvetadze is either going to solidify her Top 10 status or crash and burn. How insightful, no? But for real, though. If she can avoid Maria Sharapova at big events, she should do well. Of course this assumes that she can put the trauma of being tied up in a home robbery behind her and get off to a solid start in Melbourne where she's a defending quarterfinalist.

Marion Bartoli is controversial, talented, and targeted. She would certainly prefer more tournaments on grass. After finishing the year in the Top 10 for the first time in her career, she'll have to recover from a year-end double bagel at the hands of the woman she shocked in the Wimbledon semifinals. I don't think she's going to fall off as much as many others, but that might just be because I like her.

Ahsha Rolle appearing on this list will probably make you raise an eyebrow. Or two. Simply put: I like the variety in the American's game, the fire in her eyes, the way she handled her business at the US Open this past summer. Nobody expected her to beat Tatiana Golovin in the first round. Perhaps 2008 will bring a few more surprises for this player under the radar.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Even though it's thirty years late, Evonne Goolagong Cawley can finally celebrate being the No. 1 player in the world. This could be the most bizarre story of the year. How do archivists lose a whole slew of ranking records? What prompted their finding? Check out Tennis Served Fresh (corned beef hash marks) for more details.

Serena Ready To Go In Australia

Serena Williams shrugged off a delayed arrival at the Hopman Cup on Sunday, blaming her tardiness on a stomach virus and insisting she's in position to win a second straight Australian Open. The eight-time Grand Slam champion had been unable to play in the opening tie for the four-time winner US, which beat Indian through Mardy Fish and one-off replacement Meghann Shaughnessy.

"I was so glad to hear they had won," said the American, who played one set against Russian Anna Chakvetadze at the season-ending championships in Madrid last month before retiring with a knee problem.

"I'm good," she said of her current fitness. "I wanted to come here and play, but being late was the only option.

"I'll be playing one match at a time. My ankle is fine and I'm focusing on the Open.

"I don't like to play the week before Slams, so this event is perfect timing. I have no pressure and I'm here to win the Open just like everyone else."

Williams will go into action on Monday against Lucie Safarova when the US face the Czech Republic.

Williams beat Safarova twice last season, the first time a year ago at a small event in Hobart, Tasmania. She stands 8-0 at the event, winning the 2003 title with partner James Blake.


Some said that her delay was due to a planned appearance at a New Year's party thrown by Jay-Z that didn't happen because the venue failed inspection.

If the party never happened, Serena won't be in any pictures, and I guess we'll never know if she was really sick and/or injured, or simply trying to have her cake and eat it too. Whatever the case, she's now in Australia and ready to compete.

ABC News Clip: Serena Interview and Highlights

Hopman Cup Day 2: France and Serbia Win

Session 4 - France 2 d Argentina 1
* Tatiana Golovin d Gisela Dulko 6-4, 6-3
* Arnaud Clement lost to Juan Ignacio Chela 3-6, 1-6
* Golovin/Clement d Dulko/Chela 6-3, 6-2

Fourth seeds France capitalised on the doubles skill of Arnaud Clement to win the mixed and claim victory over Argentina.

France won 6-3, 6-2 after Tatiana Golovin had downed Gisela Dulko and Juan Ignacio Chela levelled the match with victory over Clement.

The deciding doubles saw Clement at his classic best, covering enormous territory and smashing consistent winners.

The women’s singles resulted in Golovin beating Dulko 6-4, 6-3 in a match that lasted 78 minutes. It was a contest of service break opportunities, with Golovin making the most of the situation to convert four of her six chances, compared to Dulko, who had 10 break points, but only produced winning shots twice.

Each set saw two early breaks of service by each player and it was left to the end of each set for Golovin to gain the winning break.

“It’s the first match and really hard to get a rhythm,” said Golovin after her victory. “But we have two days to recover now so hopefully we’ll be ready for Jelena (Jankovic) and Novak (Djokovic) and then we’ll have another great match.”

The men’s singles was of a similar time-frame, with Chela needing 74 minutes to down Clement 6-3, 6-1, with the Frenchman coming in as a late replacement for the injured Gael Monofils.

Clement, who is better known as a doubles player, sharing the 2007 Wimbledon title with compatriot Michael Llodra, had difficulty breaking Chela’s service, gaining five break points, but was unable to clinch any. Conversely, Chela converted four of six break opportunities.

Unforced errors also hurt Clement, with a total of 35, compared to just 16.

“I’m really happy, I played a big match and I’m very happy with my first time here,” said Chela.

His partner will now have two days rest to overcome a leg ailment that slowed her movement. But she is confident of being in better shape for their Wednesday clash with Chinese Taipei.

Session 3 - Serbia 3 d Chinese Taipei 0
* Jelena Jankovic d Su-Wei Hsieh 6-4, 6-4
* Novak Djokovic d Yen-Hsun Lu 7-5, 2-6, 6-3
* Jankovic/Djokovic d Hsieh/Lu 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(10/8)

Despite Jelena Jankovic battling through two tight sets and Novak Djokovic three and a back injury, Serbia has made a winning start to its Hyundai Hopman Cup campaign against Chinese Taipei. Jankovic got the better of Su-Wei 6-4, 6-4 in two tight sets, while Djokovic struggled after hurting his back. The world No. 3 eventually got over the top of Lu in three sets, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. The Serbian pair were then victorious in the doubles, but it was again not easy and the win only came through a third set match tie-break. Jankovic made a slow start to her match with Su-Wei, dropping her opening service game and going down 2-0. The world No. 3 then broke straight back and won four straight games, which was enough to clinch the set 6-4. It was 2-2 in the second before Jankovic won three straight games to lead 5-2. Su-Wei then won two straight games, but Jankovic also clinched that set 6-4 to win on her Hyundai Hopman Cup debut. The men’s battle was far from what Djokovic would have hoped on his return to the Hyundai Hopman Cup. In the opening set, Djokovic broke Lu’s serve for a 4-2 advantage, but Lu just as quickly broke back. In the end, Djokovic claimed the first set 7-5 after a gruelling 75 minutes. Djokovic’s second set was one he will soon like to forget. Hampered by a back injury that he received treatment on, Djokovic was far from his buoyant self. In likely the best set victory of his career for the 110th ranked player, Lu raced to a 4-0 lead and won the set 6-2. Djokovic looked to be moving a little better to begin the third set as he raced to 3-0 lead. He maintained that advantage the rest of the set to win it 6-3 and take the match in three tough sets. In the doubles, the Chinese Taipei pair continued their impressive form from the Asian Hopman Cup in Bangkok by racing to a 4-1 lead in the opening set. They went on to win the set 6-3, but lost the second 2-6. The Serbian pair then won the match tie-break 10-8. The top seeds and world’s best ranked team found it a lot harder against the Asian Hopman Cup winners than they would have hoped, but a win is a win and the Serbians next face France on Wednesday. Chinese Taipei’s next opponents are Argentina on Wednesday night.


First match of the year for Djoke, first injury timeout, first tank of a set, first miraculous recovery to sideswipe his opponent and get the early lead in the third set.

The Serpent is back to slither all over the tour in 2008. He makes a mockery out of sport.

The men better open their eyes and watch their backs. This one continues to lack any integrity whatsoever.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hopman Cup Day 1: USA d. India

Session 2 - Australia 2 d Czech Republic 1
* Alicia Molik d Lucie Safarova 7-5, 6-2
* Peter Luczak lost to Tomas Berdych 6-7(7/9), 4-6
* Molik/Luczak d Safarova/Berdych 7-5, 6-3

Session 1 - USA 2 d India 1
* Meghann Shaughnessy d Sania Mirza 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
* Mardy Fish d Rohan Bopanna 6-2, 6-4
* Shaughnessy/Fish lost to Mirza/Bopanna 4-6, 4-6

Meghann Shaughnessy has proved the ideal one-day substitute for Serena Williams, helping the United States to its opening tie win over India at Hyundai Hopman Cup XX.

Both Shaughnessy and Mardy Fish had good wins over Indian pair Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna in the singles with Williams set to take her place against the Czech Republic on Monday.

Shaughnessy made a superb start dominating to take the first set and an early break in the second, before Mirza fought back to win the second and lead 3-1 in the third. Cramp then slowed Mirza to allow Shaughnessy to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

The American raced to a 4-0 lead before Mirza got on the board by breaking serve. Shaughnessy still maintained the advantage, though, and took the opening set 6-3.

Shaughnessy broke serve to begin the second set and go to a 2-0 lead, but then Mirza found form to win the next three games. The Indian then continued with the new found confidence to take out the second set 6-4 to force it into a third.

Mirza continued to capitalise on a high number of unforced errors from Shaughnessy in the third set to race out to a 3-1 lead.

She looked set to give India a winning start, but dropped five straight games to lose after suffering leg cramps.

Fish was rarely troubled by Bopanna in the men’s singles to win 6-2, 6-4 to secure the win for America to set up their Hyundai Hopman Cup week when Williams arrives.

The men’s match started with a 13-minute first game, after the eight-minute opening for the women, with Bopanna eventually holding serve after nine deuces.

Fish then took full toll of his better all round game to close out the first set 6-2. Fish capitalised on a break in Bopanna’s opening service game of the second set to win it 6-4.

After going undefeated in the doubles last year, the Indians again showed its prowess by claiming the first set 6-4 over the Americans.

It was the same score in the second set as the Indians remained undefeated in the doubles. The United Stated ended up winning the tie 2-1.

The USA continues its Hyundai Hopman Cup campaign on Monday against the Czech Republic, while India faces Australia on Tuesday.


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Powers Behind the Thrones

By Savannah

As the 2008 season gets under way it's time to look back at 2007. Every blogger has posted his or her "Best OF" list for the past year in tennis. Players have been ranked and rated and like kids at Christmas judged to be naughty or nice.

But very little attention is given to the men and women who sit on the sidelines, many times in the broiling sun, watching the players they've birthed, either literally or figuratively, soar with the eagles or crash and burn. These men and women do the dirty work of motivation and preparation both physically or mentally, dealing with the fragile egos of those who have the stones to fight their way to the upper echelon of the tennis world.

Powers Behind the Thrones

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I guess that would be me, folks. I can't get inspired to write much of anything except for this little post that tells you I can't get inspired to write much of anything.

Perhaps it's the holidays. The first season without my father. Perhaps I have writer's block. Perhaps I'm just lazy.

I wanted to do a 2008 Players To Watch before the New Year, but if that comes to pass, it will just have to wait.

I'll take this lull to tell all of my readers that I am grateful for your readership this past year, and I promise a return to normalcy in the foreseeable future.

Savannah, on the other hand, is blogging up a storm. Her latest Idle Chit Chat and Heard Around are, as always, informative.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Peace and blessings to all this holiday season.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Heard Around

by Savannah

As 2007 winds down and Hopman Cup play starts in a few days let's see what's going on around the world.

The head of the ATP, Etienne de Villiers, in his year end interview states the following:

I’d rather be in tennis than football, I’d rather be in tennis than cycling, I’d rather be in tennis than track and field [athletics], I’d rather be in tennis than baseball,” De Villiers, 57, said this weekend. “Of course there are issues, but the people in our sport, especially our players, are saying, ‘Let’s do the right thing here.’ We need to know where and how our information-gathering systems need resources because it is up-to-date information that drives everything.

  • He will not attend the Australian Open, opting to stay in London to put the finishing touches on the new Integrity Unit "that he intends will shape the sport’s response should further evidence of improper activity require action. He is canvassing as many as he trusts to make the proper appointments."(emphasis mine) He goes on to say that he has nothing new to say to the players in Australia and that being there just to be there is counterproductive.

  • DeVilliers states that the Olympics this year is what led to 56 man draws and best of three matches in the big events. This is so the players can "listen to their bodies and schedule their year with greater thought than before."

De Villiers is also fan focused. American fans are credited with being aware that tennis is an international sport and that they want to see it presented as such.
The ATP presents the following statistics for 2007:

  • 9 Masters Series tournaments played in 2007 by all four top players, the first time they have appeared in each event since 2001.

  • 27 Percentage of player withdrawals on the ATP Tour in 2007 – a six-year low.

  • 29 million The amount (in pounds) that the Italian federation has spent on upgrading the Foro Italico in Rome for the 2009 season.

  • 50 The number of €5 (about £3.60) bets that Daniele Bracciali was found to have placed on matches. The Italian was fined £14,300 and suspended for three months.

  • 100 million The money (in dollars) to be spent on facilities, promotions, prize-money and more in 2009 – the biggest investment in ATP history.

For the entire article please go here ATP 2007 Year in Review

As for the WTA this appeared online at Tennis X. It was written by Joel Drucker.

Sharapova had the bloody tar beaten out of her by Serena in Australia and Venus at Wimbledon. Struggling with an injury that impeded her serve all year, she was unable to dictate enough points. Only a fine effort to each the finals of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships in Madrid — where she lost the best women’s match of the year to Henin — gave her a sense of significant accomplishment in 2007. At the same time, while I deeply respect Sharapova’s tenacity and commitment, I fear she could well be a female Andy Roddick: a gritty fighter with limited hardware.

Here’s where we enter the news-you-can-use zone. Both the Williams sisters and Sharapova were exposed to tennis by zealous fathers. Sadly, the outcome of that model — rather than the process — has been taken as gospel by a great many tennis instructors. What I’m talking about here is the unwitting, co-dependent collaboration of a gung-ho father and hot-to-trot instructor mostly teaching young ladies how to rip the ball again and again. Yes, I know that repetition is a vital factor in mastering a technique. But it is only one factor.

The trouble occurs when repetition becomes less a means than an ends. The man who most ardently shaped Sharapova’s strokes, the great coach Robert Lansdorp, once asked me, “Who gives a blankety-blank about strategy? Just hit the ball.” With all due respect to a coach I think has a certain kind of genius, I would heartily disagree. Surely a baseball player is aided when he knows a pitcher can’t throw a good curveball. Ditto for a basketball player who knows the man he’s guarding prefers driving to his left. And so on.

John Newcombe Rips Guccione A New One

This quote is one I'm sure "Gooch" will make part of his tennis scrapbook.
"He can't move left and right," Newcombe said. "It was a bit embarrassing.

"Soon as he got in a rally that went over four or five shots...forget it."

Newcombe said he had approached Guccione and John Fitzgerald - Newcombe's successor as Davis Cup captain - about the issue of working on Guccione's fitness.

"But it's not happening," Newcombe said.

"So why would you support Chris if he's not giving it back?

"He's been in the Davis Cup squads. I look at him and I see a kid who's 6'5, 6'6 and boy you better be f***king fit and strong in the stomach muscles and leg muscles.

"Now, I know he had a couple of injuries, so I'm not speaking like I know the inside situation.

"(But) if I was in charge of Chris, I would take him off the circuit for two months and I'd get the best athletic trainer I could find and teach him how to run and move and to build his stomach muscles and his leg muscles up so that he's got lateral movement."

Tell us how you really feel John. For more of John's views on Chris and Tennis Australia in general go Here

Australian Open News

Dominik Hrbaty
will miss his first Grand Slam in eleven years due to shoulder surgery. He had surgery in September but he is still having problems.
Hrbaty To Miss Australian Open
Tennis fashionista's quietly rejoiced at the news...

Samantha Stosur has withdrawn from both the Gold Coast event and the Australian Open due lingering effects of viral meningits which she contracted over the summer. This, coupled with an unknown virus made Stosur unable to compete most of the second half of the season. Stosur, who has been back in training for the last three weeks says she is simply not ready for her home Slam.
Stosur Out of Oz Open

C'mon Lleyton

In the category of you've got to be shitting me is this story.

It’s official. Tennis star Lleyton Hewitt is trademarking his “C’mon” celebration and is going into business.

On the eve of his thrust at an elusive Australian Open title, Hewitt and his management have developed a logo representing the hand signal and traditional affirmation seen on the tennis courts of the world for the past decade, and expect to see it bob up on a clothing range before too long.

Hewitt’s Melbourne-based manager, David Drysdale, said yesterday the logo had been submitted for trademarking.

Hewitt told Australian Tennis magazine recently he had been considering the idea for a while. “It’s funny — I walk down the street and everybody says, ‘C’mon’,” he said.

“They copy me for doing my signal. I’m not quite sure how to describe that signal, there’s no real word for it. So we’ve trademarked ‘C’mon’. We’re going to try and push that as much as possible as my brand, and get it out there in the marketplace, make shirts for kids, golf shirts and different kinds of stuff like cargo shorts.”

Lleyton's Trademark

Random News
Sesil Karatantcheva, who was banned two years ago when she was fifteen after testing postitive for performance enhancing drugs (She blamed the positive test on a pregnancy which was aborted. This led to more speculation that she was subjected to a form of old school blood doping that was once practiced in the former Eastern Bloc countries but we won't get into all of that because it's just too icky) will soon be back on the tour. Her ban ends January 1, 2008. Now if those soft porn pics taken of her when she was still sixteen or so can go away maybe tennisheads will be able to judge her based on her tennis and not on male hormonal reaction...
A big shout out to James Blake, his brother Thomas Blake, and thier family for their continued support of the program that propelled the Blake brothers into the world of professional tennis. The Harlem Junior Tennis program run by Katrina Adams, has been in existence for 35 years. Originally aimed at youngsters from Harlem it now draws children from all over the tri state area. Their benefit was held this past weekend at the renovated Harlem Regiment Armory and was a well attended and enjoyable event. Please visit TAT for coverage of this event.

Also on TAT is a report on what tennis players are doing in the Peachtree State of Georgia to promote tennis. Present for the young fans were Andy Roddick,
Sam Querrey, John Isner, and Atlanta area natives Robby Ginepri, Scoville Jenkins, Ashley Harkleroad, and Melanie Oudin.

More Pics from 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is...

  • that David Nalbandian will continue taking names and not succumb to disinterest and injury
  • for Andy Roddick to win Wimbledon next year
  • more good health
  • the inspiration to finish another book
  • for Serena Williams to win an Olympic Gold in singles and another Roland Garros next year
  • gratitude
  • that Donald Young will have a breakthrough season

That's more than enough, don't you think? I'll be all caught up in Christmas festivities over the next few days, but I'll probably find the time to stop in and say hello. What do you want this holiday season?

Taylor Dent Plans Comeback

LOS ANGELES—Thirty days. If all goes well – and a lot still can go wrong – Taylor Dent will be back hitting tennis balls in a mere thirty days.

“I can’t wait,” Dent said, moments after completing his daily rehab routine. “I’m desperate to get back out there.”

Dent recently underwent his third back surgery since May 2006. Doctors are optimistic – so far, the back appears to be mending like it should, and Dent has been given the green light to begin his rehabilitation.

“The news from the doctor was good. Things are healing nicely. We’ve done a week of low-impact work and it’s going well,” said Dent, who now lives in Orange Country, Calif., with his wife, former pro Jenny Hopkins.

The American is more than ready for his second chance – like a race car, he’s revving his engines and waiting for the race to begin.

But he’s been there before, only to stall at the starting line. So while the 26-year-old wants to believe the nightmare is over, he’s still cautious.

Over the next couple of weeks, he’ll up the ante with more strenuous work – a bit of running, some light weights. If things continue to progress, Dent’s doctor will allow him back onto the tennis court, where he’s anxious to be.

“I can’t wait,” Dent repeated. “I’ve really missed it.”

Since his first, unsuccessful back surgery, Dent has tried to avoid reminders of the tour. Watching from the sidelines is painful. “Toughest time of the year for me is during the US Open. Especially this year, with the commentating that I did,” he said.

“I’d sit there and think, that should be me out there, competing, mixing it up. Watching up close the guys that I’d beaten, [seeing them] doing well… it was frustrating.”

Like many an injured player before him, he realized that the tour doesn’t slow down for the weak or invalid. Guys that Dent used to hang with – Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, the Bryan brothers – have all fallen out of touch. But Dent doesn’t reproach them.

“I was out there. I know how it is. You get a break and you want to just chill out. You reach the off-season and you want to hang with your family”

The one tour player Dent is still in close contact with is Jan-Michael Gambill, also suffering from his own chronic injury problems.

Read the Rest

Taylor has the kind of game the tour needs. Classic serve-and-volley with exquisite net instincts. I remember watching him and Lisa Raymond in Hopman Cup a few years back carve their opponents up in the forecourt. They won the title. With Tim Henman retired, Dent, who also possesses a cannon serve, can resurrect a style of play that has become extinct. His career could be characterized as one big Almost. Perhaps if he comes back, he can fulfill more of his potential.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Argentinean Players Tell All In New Book

Savannah has posted her latest Heard Around. It begins with a collection of compelling quotes from the new book La Legión habla which profiles twelve Argentinean players. Including Guillermo Coria. Whatever happened to him? Later in the entry, Savannah gives an update on the trials and tribuations of El Mago.

Living legend Guillermo Vilas penned the book's introduction. According to him "the book tries to show, from the mouth of the protagonists, that tennis isn't just prestige, fame and money. It is also egoism, extreme competition and almost constant loneliness."

If this excerpt is indicative of the book's content:

"What are the pros and cons of being a professional tennis player?"

"The main con is the falseness of your surroundings, not just from the players, but from everyone. In tennis, it's very normal to go from being the worst to the best and vice versa. In Argentina you're either God or you don't exist. When you're doing well, everyone surrounds you, and if you don't get the results, you're left all alone, or in other words, surrounded by the people who really care about you. That's why sometimes I may have been aloof or conceited because I never let anyone enter my circle of trust. You know how it goes and that there are heaps of people who latch on to you during the good times and then disappear."

then it sounds like a must-read for any fan who wants to know what life on the inside really looks like.

Read the Rest at Savannah's World

Venus In Vogue

Whether wearing the beads in her braids that popped like pearls at a party, the sleek Diane Von Furstenberg-designed dress she wore at the 2003 Wimbledon, the hoop earrings that orbit her ears like small satellites, the ever-present adhesive tape wrapping her wrists during matches, the bold black mini-skirt that’s part of her recently-launched EleVen By Venus line or the cap and gown she donned for the graduation ceremony while receiving her associate’s degree in Fashion Design from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale last week, Venus Williams has always had her own singular sense of style.

It’s not enough for Venus to play great tennis, she wants to look great playing it.

Now the woman has complemented her decorating firm, V Starr Interiors, with the August launch her new clothing line, EleVen, has cracked a very exclusive top 10: Venus is in Vogue.

The four-time Wimbledon winner and dress designer makes her mark as one of the world’s best-dressed women in Vogue Magazine’s Top 10 Best Dressed List for 2007.

Venus joins Kate Bosworth, Kathryn Neale, Astrid Munoz, Georgina Chapman, Kelly Wearstler, Amy Greenspon, Caroline Sieber, Huma Abedin and Agyness Deyn on Vogue’s elite list.

Read the Rest on Richard's Court

Venus has become synoymous with ubiquitous. She's in Miami, New York, Los Angeles showing off her new line, on-stage in Fort Lauderdale receiving her fashion degree, and now she's in a Vogue spread showing up Kate Bosworth. Venus' mere presence turns the scenery to full runway. I just have one thing to say: You. Better Work.

Friday, December 21, 2007

2007 Year In Pictures

Photo: David Callow/SI

Sports Illustrated has posted its 2007 Year in Pictures, which is a great look-see for any sports fan. My girl is the second shot in the 43-image gallery. Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer also make appearances. My favorite, though, is image 37. That one might make its way onto my desktop background.

‘Jingle Bells’, ATP Style

Such good sports, no? Bob and Mike Bryan are cool, Marcos Baghdatis is delightful, Jarkko Nieminen can't do "dashing", dare I say Ivo Karlovic is charming, and Tommy Robredo seems to like riding in a whore's open sleigh.

Mardy Fish, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer make cameo appearances.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Anastasia Myskina With Child?

This is not a Christmas myth. This seems to be fact. Unless, of course, my eyes deceive me. The Russian last quoted as moving "like a cow" appears to have a bun in the oven.

Olympic Hopefuls: A Tale of Two No. 1's

Exhibit A: Justine Henin, world No. 1, reigning Roland Garros and US Open champion, defending Olympic gold medalist in singles. About a month-and-a-half ago, she announced that she might not participate in the Olympics next year in Beijing because of her asthma. Air pollution being what it is there and her concern made some sense. Of course, there were many who speculated that there were other, more pertinent, reasons why she would skip the 2008 Olympic games.

But now she intends to participate, says her coach Carlos Rodriquez. Problem is, she doesn't intend to play Fed Cup and the ITF says that a player must be available to play Fed Cup in order to play the Olympics. So what does the Belgian tennis federation do for their top player? Apply a liberal interpretation of the rules to give Justine an exception. All she has to do, according to the deal, is make herself available for Fed Cup, she doesn't have to play, and her spot on the Olympic team is a foregone conclusion. "We called on the goodwill of the federation and the Olympic Committee so that Justine can play the Olympics in the best possible circumstances," Carlos said. Given Justine's up-and-down history with the Belgian federation, this represents a happy ending.

Exhibit B: Marion Bartoli, world No. 10, Wimbledon runner up, top Frenchwoman. The first Fed Cup tie France plays in 2008 will take place is none other than Beijing. Bartoli has no intention of traveling there in February, choosing to stay home and prepare for the winter European indoor swing. Just as Amélie Mauresmo also intends to do.

So what does the French tennis federation do for their top player? Publicly announce that if Bartoli doesn't play Fed Cup in Beijing, she won't play the Olympics either. "If Marion Bartoli was selected by the captain and she refused this selection she would exclude herself from participating in the Olympic Games," explained national technical director Patrice Dominguez.

Here's the thing: I have no idea if Bartoli even wants to play the Olympics since her camp has made no announcement of any kind. Safe to say, though, that she has probably made her intentions clear to someone in France, otherwise why a public announcement of the ultimatum by the federation?

I know Bartoli is unwelcome on the Fed Cup team because she wants her father around and the French federation does not. And while I certainly don't know Dr. Bartoli personally, I've never seen him do anything untoward in any of Marion's matches, nothing at all to suggest he would be a problem for her French teammates, in the same way that Yuri Sharapov might have been for his daughter's Russian teammates on the Fed Cup squad.

But at the end of the day, wouldn't France want to put itself in the best possible position to win Olympic medals in Beijing? Outside of Amélie, doesn't Marion stand as good a chance as anyone else the French would select to bring home some hardware?

There's always more to every story than meets the eye and a lot can happen between now and next August, but I find the French federation's public ultimatum tacky at best.

What say you?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winners to Errors, 1st Set

Mary Jo Fernandez has been named the Fed Cup captain beginning in 2009. Yahoo! Sports

And speaking of Fed Cup, Lindsay Davenport has been named to the team for the USA vs. Germany tie in La Jolla, California. Sporting Life

Andy Roddick Foundation is building a tennis center in Texas to give at-risk youth a chance to hone their tennis games. Austin Business Journal

Rowan, a tennis fan from Auckland, New Zealand, will be blogging from the ASB Classic and Heineken Open in his hometown. There's nothing like fan reports of tennis events. Yellowballin'

Anna Chakvetadze's family home was robbed by armed robbers who tied up her parents. The burglars got away with more than $200,000 of belongings. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. Russian News & Information Agency

For all his efforts to try to return to competitive tennis, even playing in the local wildcard play-off, Mark Philippoussis will miss yet another Australian Open to undergo another knee surgery. Safe to say, his career is now over. Herald Sun

We've heard of her pending nuptials with Greg Norman. But did you hear that Chris Evert's name may come off the children's hospital at Broward General Medical Center? The drama of it all. (I'm being sarcastic) South Florida Sun-Sentinal

Monday, December 17, 2007

Second Annual Gonad Awards

2007 will go down in history as the Year of Controversy. It all began with Nikolay Davydenko being fined by the ATP for maligning the Medibank International Tournament in Sydney. Bet you 50 grand you all forgot about that one. It ended, more or less, with Davydenko being fined for lack of effort in a tennis match, a fine the ATP later rescinded. But the Russian remains at the center of a betting scandal investigation. Then there were Golden Girl's joke of a draw at the US Open, allegations of poisoning, everybody and their cousin claiming they were approached by (anonymous) callers to fix matches, the fall of a smiling assassin for scoring an 8 ball, and the pending nuptials of a teenage would-be It Girl. The Biggest Controversy of them all, the one which affected tennis most directly from where I sit, was the AELTC's shyster scheduling of Wimbledon's men's matches, a controversy that was virtually ignored by the media.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, great and forgettable tennis was produced. In my second annual Gonad Awards, we'll take a look at the best and worst 2007 had to offer on and off the court.

Players of the Year: Roger Federer and Justine Henin

Both picks this year are easy, no? Despite losing nine matches to six different players and back-to-back matches for the first time in more than four years, Federer is still king. He's been No. 1 for more than 200 consecutive weeks, won his fourth Masters Cup title, and picked up another three Grand Slams. Now if only that pesky Spaniard could go missing sometime around the end of May...

The Diminutive One went through a divorce at season's beginning, then came back and made the WTA her own private shooting gallery. Winning another two Grand Slams to put her within one of the Great One and taking out the field in the Sony Ericsson Championships dropping a single set to defend her title, folks have been debating whether her year was better/more dominant than Raja's. Her stats for 2007 were quite impressive. Now if only she didn't have to face any hard hitting Big Babes on the lawns in London....

Greatest Performances: Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal

Serena's run in Melbourne inspired an ode, an "I told you so," and included a Best Match of the Year nod by Mad Professah. The only thing I'll add about it is this: Serena wins in Melbourne no matter who's in the draw, and that includes Justine. Anyone who watched Serena with open eyes would have seen that no one would've denied her that trophy. The motivation of an ancestral sister was too much to turn back. She moved almost as well in January as she moved in the years she dominated the tour, no matter how many pounds people think she needed to shed. She outgutted Nadia Petrova, outran Jelena Jankovic, outfought Shahar Pe'er, let Nicole Vaidisova know that NikkiV wasn't ready yet for her closeup, and made mincemeat out of Maria Sharapova in a championship Slam run for the ages.

Rafa had no business playing Hamburg, some will argue. But having come out in protest to Hamburg's downgraded status from a Masters event, he had to play. His claycourt streak on the line. Fatigued from three-peating in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, and Rome, with only a week before Paris, he showed up to play in the damp German town for the first time in his career. After fighting off an inspired challenge by Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals he suffered his first loss on clay in nearly three seasons to Raja who snapped his 81-match winning streak on the slow stuff. But Rafa rebounded three weeks later and exacted his revenge, hoisting the Roland Garros trophy for the third time in three tries, making his own piece of tennis history. All on a bum foot. He survived seven straight days of play in London to repeat as Wimbledon finalist and put himself one set away from achieving a dream he has claimed he would die trying to achieve. Much of it on bad knees. No one fights harder than Rafa. This year, no player deserves this award more.

Best ATP Match: Richard Gasquet d Andy Roddick, Wimbledon Quarterfinals

Runner up: Roger Federer d Rafael Nadal, Wimbedon Final

I think most of you know by now that Wimbledon is my favorite event on the calendar. It also features some of the best matches the sport has to offer. This year was no different, as both my picks for best match came on the lawns at SW19. I'm sure many of you are suprised that I didn't chose the epic final where Rafa had his knees wrapped late in the fourth set allowing Raja to recover from a meltdown to go on and win his fifth straight Wimbledon title 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2. Then again, maybe you aren't. For me, the best match of the event and the year goes to Richie's remarkable comeback from two sets and a break down against Andy 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3), 8-6 allowing the French hope to advance to his first career Slam semifinal.

It was grasscourt tennis of the highest order. Andy dominated Richie for two-and-a-half sets with scintillating all-court tennis that had Richie mentally checked out and seemingly preparing to pack his bags and head to the airport. But Andy got tight serving at 4-3 and a double fault set up two break points. A miffed forehand on an easy volley and the set was level. Richie took full advantage, getting more of Andy's serves in play, and opening up his shoulders to hit one devastating backhand winner after another. Roddick had a near perfect tiebreak record coming into this match—a record 18 in a row to be exact—but Gasquet ended Andy's streak and took two in a row, leaving Andy with a mere five points between them, to force a fifth set. And Richie got to serve first. Which proved critical as Andy wasn't able hold serve at 6-7. The crowd lived and died on every point as though it was match point throughout the final set to help make this the best match of the year.

Best WTA Match: Marion Bartoli d Justine Henin, Wimbledon semifinals

Runner up: Jelena Jankovic d Lucie Safarova, Wimbledon Third Round

Gritty. Gutsy. Gigantic. Make no mistake, Justine played well. She had to have to have won the first set so easily, to have secured and early break in the second. But Maid Marion refused to stay down and rallied to a 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory. Guess she didn't feel like losing to Justine twice in a row in as many weeks on her favorite surface. And then there was her claim that seeing Pierce Brosnan in the stands inspired her to play better. I can't remember how many breaks Marion recovered in the second set, but the tennis from both sides of the net was exactly what I love to see at Wimbledon. Lots of great exchanges at the net. After one exchange that Marion won with a stretch forehand volley that even Justine had to applaud, the crowd gasped. I didn't think they were going to stop clapping. Throughout the match, Marion just kept coming and she finally broke Justine's will. When she raced out to a 5-0 in the second set, Justine looked a bit like Maria in the Melbourne final. Justine was all out of answers for the deceptive game Marion brought to the table. Sure the Frenchwoman can crack the ball flat and hard with two hands off both sides a la Monica Seles. But who knew how effective her serve could be on grass? How deft her volleys? How crafty her strategy? Not only did she run Justine ragged, but she also outsmarted her on the biggest points. And she fought her with all her might, something few players find the mental strength to do in the face of the world No. 1 who likes to intimidate with her barks of "Allez!" on her opponent's unforced errors. Marion was having none of it. She barked right back. Even more loudly. How often does Justine hear her own battle cry belted right back at her in her mother tongue? Not often enough, I tell you. Not often enough. And the Diminutive One couldn't take it. Justine looked to Carlos for help. For the first time in forever, he sat on his hands. No signals to give. It was quite a sight. When it was all over, Marion received an ovation that seemed like it lasted forever. An ovation for her tennis, for her victory, but ultimately for her guts. There was a reason why she won Strongest Ovaries last year. No one, except perhaps Marion herself, expected her to stand up on Centre Court to the world No. 1 and play like it was her garden. It was quite a sight. Worthy of all the applause. And then some. Justine walked off Centre Court with her head down and her tail between her legs. She hasn't lost a match since.

Worst ATP Match: Novak Djokovic d Richard Gasquet, Estoril Open Final
Not sure what it is about these two, but when they play, it's downright ugly. Nothing was uglier than Djoke's bush-league tank of the second set, citing difficulty breathing, only to come back strong and take the third set and the title over a bamboozled Richie who never saw it coming.

Worst WTA Match: Svetlana Kuznetsova d Anna Chakvetadze, US Open Semifinals
For two years running, Sveta shows up in the worst match of the year, and for the second straight year, she defeated a fellow Russian to achieve such infamy. There's only one word needed to describe this encounter: unwatchable.

Biggest Performance Breakdown, ATP: Mardy Fish to Tommy Robredo, US Open Third Round
The less said about this match, the better.

Biggest Performance Breakdown, WTA: Patty Schnyder to Maria Sharapova, Roland Garros Fourth Round
See above.

Biggest Upset, ATP: Filippo Volandri d Roger Federer, Rome Third Round

It came out of nowhere. At least that "doper" had defeated Raja in another lifetime. But no one would've picked Pippo to dismiss a lethargic Federer, even on homesoil. Because Raja bounced back and went on to win Hamburg again, ending Rafa's claycourt streak in the process, many forgot about this upset. Not me. It was the most surprising loss of Raja's career since gaining the No. 1 ranking back in 2004.

Biggest Upset, WTA: Marion Bartoli d Justine Henin, Wimbledon Semifinal

Runner up: Agnieska Radwanska d Maria Sharapova, US Open Third Round

This was almost a dead heat. Radwanska sent the defending US Open champion packing by standing so far inside the baseline on Maria's faulty serves to draw numerous double faults. Still, this upset didn't have quite the sting of the award winner, despite John McEnroe's claim that if Sharapova couldn't make the final with the draw she received, she ought to be ashamed of herself. But with the world No. 1 just two games away from her third Wimbledon final, Bartoli's gutsy comeback-cum-steamroll remains the single biggest upset—on the biggest stage—of the year.

Biggest Disappointment, WTA Match: Svetlana Kuznetsova, US Open Final
It's not like it was her first time in a Slam final. Which is the only reason why Ana Ivanovic doesn't take this award for her Roland Garros final performance. No. It was Sveta's second. The first time was right here and she took it to Elena Dementieva with pinpoint first serves and ferocious forehands to win her first Slam at 19. The haint that appeared on Arthur Ashe stadium this time out to face Justine ought to have stayed in the locker room.

Biggest Disappointment, ATP Match: Andy Roddick, Australian Open Semifinal
Some will argue that Raja played so well, there was nothing Andy could do. I didn't see it that way. Yes, Raja played well, but after breaking back to level the first set at 4-4, Andy lost serve again and seemed to give up. I don't care how well Raja was striking the ball, Andy had no business eating a bagel in the middle set.

Biggest Overall Dispointments: Larry Scott and Etienne de Villiers
Need I say more?

Most Overblown Controversy: Match-Fixing

The betting scandals got on my nerves all year. If not for a Top 5 player being investigated, this entire story would've stayed exactly where it was for the last few years: off the front pages. Remember how quickly the story came and went last year when there was a strange betting pattern in the match between Carlos Berlocq and Richard Bloomfield on some outside court in the first round of Wimbledon? Do you even remember it?

Matches are fixed. And nothing can be done to stop it. Nothing whatsoever. Especially in a sport such as tennis. People who don't accept that have their heads in the sand.

It's not about disrupting a level playing field. How can my tanking a match be an unfair advantage for my opponent? If anything, it's a charitable act for that player and the rest of the draw if I'm expected to win the event as the top player.

It's all about control. Notions of the "integrity of the sport" and other variations of that sentiment are nothing but knickknacks on the mantle. Who has (wants to keep) the power to control the flow of money is primarily what this investigation and the brouhaha is all about. Had Davydenko, a top player with some impact on how the sport is perceived worldwide, not been involved in a match where all bets were voided, this would be but a sidebar, just as it was after Wimbledon last year, even though bets were paid out in that case.

The engine of capitalism cannot run without corruption. And only certain people have a "right" to benefit from it. Intruders need to be punished.


Most Surprising Runs: Fernando Gonzalez and Marion Bartoli

Some might say David Nalbandian winning back-to-back Masters shields in Madrid and Paris, beating Fed and Nadal in both, would take this cake. But Nalbandian's commitment to fitness, a new coach, and his overall European indoor record would suggest this wasn't really all that much of a surprise. Others might say David Ferrer's run in Shanghai would win this prize. But let's be real: nobody in his group was really going to trouble him, save Nadal, and Andy was a virtual no-show in the semifinals after another Raja beating and quick turnover from the night before. So even though the Spanish Dahveed played well, his run was no surprise.

Gonzalez, however, despite all his talent, has never been consistent enough to put together a great run over two weeks at a Slam. And his run to the Melbourne final came out of nowhere. But more than that, the tennis he produced to get there was nothing short of breathtaking. His winners to unforced errors throughout the forthnight was staggering. In his match against Tommy Haas, he commited only three errors! That he was able to produce this kind of tennis only once since January—and it came in a single solitary match all the way in November when he ended Raja's unbeaten record in Masters Cup round-robin play—made this run all the more surprising.

Despite Maid Marion's breakthrough at Roland Garros, reaching the second week of a Slam for the first time in her career, and despite grass being her favorite surface, the Frenchwoman's run in London was still a surprise to most onlookers, not just because of who she beat, but how she beat them. She outran Jelena in the fourth round and outserved Michaella Krajicek in the quarterfinals. But winning 7 straight games and racing to a 5-0 lead in the final set against Justine was the most surprising part of this most surprising run.

Most Improved Gonads: Juan Mónaco and Anna Chakvetadze

Honorable Mentions: Agnieszka Radwanska, Shahar Pe'er and Ivo Karlovic

Other than improving his ranking from 69 to 20, Mónaco won his first 3 career titles this year and made the second week at both Roland Garros and the US Open. He also notched victories over Nadal, Robredo, and Davydenko (3 top 10 wins!), took a set off Raja in Hamburg, and a set off Novak at the US Open. This is who he beat to win Kitzbuhel: Mariano Zabaleta, Phillip Kohlschreiber, Robredo, Fernando Verdasco, and Potito Starace. In Acapulco, he took out Carlos Moya, Starace, Luis Horna, Nicolas Almagro, and Alessio di Mauro. In Poertschach he beat Jurgen Melzer, Michael Russell, Davydenko, Horna, and Gael Monfils. Some decent scalps in there, no? The upside for him is that like others from South America he's adapted his game to hardcourts quite nicely which bodes well for more success on all seasons of the calendar.

For her part, AnnaC has put the game behind the glint in her eye. Last year's honorable mention in this category takes the award on the strength of her summer run on US hardcourts where she won back-to-back titles, defeated Venus, and even performed well in doubles. She made her first Slam semifinal at the US Open, and despite her ugly play in that match, she showed the world that when she's on and when she can keep her emotions in check, she can be a force to be reckoned with.

Outstanding Newcomers: Agnes Szavay and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Honorable Mentions: Ernests Gulbis and Tamira Paszek

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 22, returned from an injury-riddled 2006 season, to climb 169 spots from No. 212 to No. 43. Tsonga made the biggest jump of any player in the Top 50, highlighted by 14 ATP level match wins and his first ATP semifinal in Lyon. He also was a service game away from taking a two-set-to-love lead against Roddick at the Australian Open and he advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon and third round at the US Open. He needs to work on his stamina in best-of-five matches for 2008.

AggieS made her mark late in the year by making the New Haven final, the US Open quarterfinals, and winning the China Open against Jankovic, who served for the match in the second set. Here's hoping her recurrent back injuries don't make a nightmare out of her 2008 campaign.

Best Comebacks: Guillermo Cañas and Serena Williams

Honorable Mentions:
Lindsay Davenport and Nicolas Kiefer

Nothing more to say about Serena, but despite her injury-laden post-Miami year, her Melbourne run and Miami title clench this award for her. As for the "doper" (I put this word in quotations because it needs to be reiterated that Cañas was busted for a substance given him by an ATP trainer, the same substance Greg Rusedski tested positive for by the same means and who was encouraged to keep his results secret by Todd Martin and others but refused and after he told on himself, he was given nothing more than a slap on the wrist...), if this award was titled Most Welcome Comebacks, Cañas definitely wouldn't have made the cut. Not only did Cañas beat the invincible Raja not once but twice, back-to-back, in the spring Masters events, ending the World No. 1's hardcourt winning streak, but he also made the biggest jump into the Top 20, moving 128 positions from No. 143 to No. 15. The 30-year-old won his seventh career ATP title in Costa do Sauipe and was runner-up at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and Barcelona. All this after serving a 15-month suspension which began when he was No. 8 in the world and on a comeback from wrist surgery. Speaking of which, he's suffering yet again from wrist tendonitis and might not be able to return till April 2008. If it wasn't for bad luck, no luck at all...

Best Farewell: Tim Henman

He went out in front of his beloved fans on his favorite surface on homesoil behind a doubles win in a Davis Cup match that put Great Britain into the 2008 World Group. And his beautiful family got to experience it with him. It doesn't get any better than that.

Worst Farewell: Martina Hingis

"I did not have sex with that woman." Whoops. Wrong lie. "I have never done drugs. And by the way, I quit." I'm not one for shaming, but....

Martina, it was cocaine, not HGH. Two of your urine samples came back positive. Who are you kidding? Well, most of the tennis establishment and a whole host of fans who simply refuse to believe the "cerebral" you would snort coke, that's who. I know it's illegal, but it's cocaine. Athletes party. We all know it. Sometimes they do more than alcohol. And it's not like Martina isn't known in certain circles as a party girl.

There's a lot of (wishful) speculation about what happened here. But Martina told on herself in order to influence public opinion and protect her Hall of Fame induction. It appears to be working. I guess you could say the smiling assassin is a smart Chucky afterall.

I say she's a coward.

(Look at the ice on that finger. That was back in October. And some say Radek moved on too fast. Uh huh.)

Buh-bye, Martina. Good luck with your multi-millionaire mogul.

Best Tribute: USTA Honors Althea Gibson

One of the best shows in a long time. Too bad the sport's greatest ambassador, as some say, and a man who touts his own love of tennis history, had no idea who the show was for. Relive it right here.

Coach of the Year: Oracene Price

She doesn't get the credit she deserves. Against all odds, she coached each of her tennis star daughters to Slam titles in 2007, making it only the second time in history that siblings have won Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. The first time was in 2005. Same siblings; same Slam titles. And no one - and I mean no one - wrote a single word about the historic feat.

Biggest Country on the Rise: Serbia
Hard to overlook Ana, Jelena and Novak, no? Moose told us all about when he got hooked on the Serb and Volleys. I'm still waiting to see if any of them has what it takes to win big. Whatever the future holds, 2007 was a great year for a small—and brand new—country in the world of tennis.

Best Tournament Atmospheres: Montreal, Bercy and Shanghai
Crowds that cheer enthusiastically for both sides of the net, no matter what country they hail from, crowds that live and die on every point, no matter the score, bring out the best tennis has to offer. You may find these crowds in Montreal and Bercy for the Masters events and in Shanghai for the Cup.

Worst Tournament Atmosphere: Madrid
I have one word for the atmosphere in Madrid: yawn. The second court looks like a prison. And to think this is a venue where Ion Tiriac has enough clout to campaign loudly for an upgrade into a joint event, a Slam even. I'm so excited, I just can't hide it, I'm about to lose control...

Strongest Ovaries: Venus Williams

I wanted to give this to Serena who showed perhaps her greatest courage in her losing efforts this year, refusing when injured and/or unprepared to withdraw or retire on the sport's biggest stages, even in the face of her nemesis. But that would be overkill. So her sister, who is equally deserving, gets the nod instead.

Venus won her first tournament back in convincing fashion after being sidelined with a wrist injury for months. She got a monkey off her back by finally defeating Jankovic in a dramatic third-set tiebreak in the quarterfinals of the US Open. She was practically drafted to play the entire post-USO Asian swing when Raja pulled out of Tokyo to prepare for the Madrid/Paris double and collect his gargantuan $1.5 million bonus. She ran out of steam, due primarily to the anemia she battled since spring, withdrawing from the Season Ending Championships, but even that didn't stop her from showing up in Madrid to support the UNESCO women's leadership and gender equality ad campaign at city hall. She launched EleVen, her new sports fashion line at Steve & Barry's; graduated cum laude from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale to receive an associate's degree in fashion design; and, oh, yeah: she found time to fit in her fourth Wimbledon title, despite the kitchen sink being thrown at her, despite being on the brink of defeat twice—both times on the Graveyard of Champions—in the first three rounds. Venus did it her way this year. And that always takes courage.

Biggest Balls: James Blake

James graduates from Most Improved Gonads to Biggest Balls in a single season. Just like last year, the winner of this award got the nod on the strength of his effort in the Davis Cup final. Whatever mojo Andy and Patrick worked on James, it worked. No matter where he goes in 2008, his courageous performance in the second rubber, only his second live rubber Davis Cup victory in his comeback, was arguably the pivotal match of the final. No matter how you all voted.

Quote of the Year
"I'll probably wake up tomorrow with a better sense of perspective. I'm sitting here feeling pretty crappy right now. But I promise you I'm aware in the grand scheme of things I'm still pretty blessed and very lucky and very fortunate. That being said, you know, when you put your blood, sweat and tears, everything you have into something, and you can almost taste it, you envision something and it doesn't work out, it's not easy. But that's what makes you addicted to the competition, you know, is the feeling when you do win. That's what gets you back on the horse." - Andy Roddick after his Wimbledon loss

Photo of the Year

Click to Enlarge
Photo: Job Blom/CHTB

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Andy & Serena Show Out

This comes to you thanks to Savannah.

Roddick rocks the night

Stop everything, Andy Roddick said. Hold on.

He called the heckler, an 18 year old wearing a self-designed T-shirt that declared love for Roddick, down from the crowd. He walked to the microphone.

Did you all hear what he said, Roddick asked the crowd of about 6,000 at the Qwest Center: "He said, Andy, you wuss."

So, in the middle of Roddick's singles exhibition match, he invited the kid to grab a racquet. Take position opposite the net. Get ready.

Then Roddick hit a serve, 144 mph, directly at the kid, who ran for cover upon contact.

The crowd roared.

"That's about as tough as a tennis player can feel - ever," Roddick said.

In his first-ever professional performance in the town where he was born, Roddick mixed world-class tennis with the charisma that makes him not just a racquet master, but a celebrity.

He came out of the locker room wearing a Nebraska football helmet, much to the approval of Tom Osborne. He ran the option with Eric Crouch, assigning the Heisman winner the I-back role. He consistently bantered with the crowd and fired balls into the cheap seats. And, of course, he displayed overwhelming power and deft touch.

Roddick's the 2003 U.S. Open champion. He's the No. 6 player in the world. He led the U.S. to the Davis Cup title two weeks ago.

Sam Querrey, a rising professional star and co-star at the exhibition, found out why, falling to Roddick, 6-4, 6-4.

The singles portion of the event started with Serena Williams' win over Ashley Harkleroad 6-4, 6-2.

Three hours into the event, Roddick and Williams paired for one set of mixed doubles against Querrey and Harkleroad - the stars won 6-3.

Williams may be the bigger name around the world, but Roddick owned the show. His serves blistered Querrey's chances. He hit 147 and 149 mph on back-to-back aces in the second set. He topped out at 151 mph, four mph short of his ATP record.

The exhibition, Rock-n-Racquets, came to Omaha for the first time. Roddick started it in 2002 with Andre Agassi. Agassi has since retired, so Roddick called on Williams, owner of eight Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal.

The idea: develop tennis interest in places like Omaha that rarely see the sport up close, said Williams, who'd never been to Nebraska. The idea worked, mostly because of Roddick.

"He's been really entertaining," said Dena Noe, a tennis novice from Lincoln. "I didn't expect that. He's got a great personality - and a really odd serve. I think they're having a lot of fun together."

Roddick concluded the night with impersonations: Andre Agassi's walk, Maria Sharapova's grunt, Rafael Nadal tugging on his pants.

He was taking requests when someone shouted "Jimmy Connors!"

For a moment, Roddick considered imitating his legendary coach. Then he thought better of it, flipping a ball into the air and ripping another serve


I'm sure you know I wish I was in Omaha this past Friday night to see my favorite players entertain (and win!). But we catered and hosted an office Christmas party at the farm and had a great time of our own.