Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Savannah's Heard Around



by Savannah

The WTA
I was working on a commentary about the WTA and what is happening regarding Roadkill but this fan did such a good job I'll let her do the talking.

JennyS on the Tennis Forum's site.

This new book written by WTA Tour chief Larry Scott will soon hit the shelves. In the book he gives the following tips to aspiring tennis tour CEO's:

-Never, EVER attempt to promote the sport. Make the players do it themselves. Oh yeah, and have them wear stupid pink t-shirts to promote girl power.
-Make sure to keep entry lists HIDDEN from the public, so they might won't be frightened away from buying tickets to tournaments if a player they dislike is in the draw.
-If a player is not American or a tall blonde Russian, ignore her completely.
-Do NOTHING to address player injuries and blame everything on THEM!
-Try to get the top players to play as many tournaments a year as possible and don't give a shit about their longevity because quite frankly, you will not be CEO longer than 5 years, so who gives a damn?!
-Schedule 10 tournaments a year in Southern California and at least five in Los Angeles.
-Don't give a shit about TV ratings and focus more on making money by scheduling as many tournaments as you possibly can.
-If a player complains about the season being too long, tell them to shut up or retire.
-If a player pulls out of a tournament and does not have a valid medical report signed by a doctor, a nurse AND the tour medical advisor, fine them $100,000 and suspend them for two months.
-If a player plays fewer than 25 tournaments, they do not get any of the tour's bonus pool.
-Discourage players from participating in Fed Cup, Davis Cup and exhibitions so they can play as many tour events as possible

and finally
-Sit back in your office, make a ton of money and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and make a six figure salary a year!

That's a wrap no?

From The Mouth of Roger Federer



IT: A lot of No. 1 players distance themselves from getting involved in tennis policies and politics. Not you. You’ve spoken out and have pretty much been a traditionalist when it comes to the use of Hawk-Eye, a bunch of Wimbledon issues, the downscaling of the long-established Monte Carlo tournament or having tournaments experiment with the round-robin format. Why have you chosen to speak out?

RF: You have to remember that tennis has incredible roots. We haven’t been around just for five years so you can change everything and everybody’s open to changes. I grew up a certain way with tennis being in a certain way. I don’t want it to change, because I think it’s a great sport. The problem we have is that we should have more sponsors, bring more money in and get back on normal TV. That’s been the biggest problem for us. We had some bad deals with the ISL deal that went bankrupt [when tennis supposedly was going to land huge international marketing deals that never materialized.] That really hurt us a lot in terms of being on a normal TV network. They sold the broadcasting rights to private networks. That just killed the market for us in terms of sponsorship, and being on TV for the regular fan. The stadiums now are sold out, people are loving this sport. It’s a great live sport to attend. It’s a pity. But we’re on the way back, because we have a great package to sell. This is what we need to focus on and not little changes like that stupid round robin.

Source: Inside Tennis

They don't ask him and Roger doesn't mention it but Mercedes Benz which was a tour sponsor has signed an exclusive deal with Roger and will have him as it's spokesperson in Asia. This is a little different from the situation with Maria Sharapova and Sony Ericsson since SE is still a tour sponsor and Mercedes won't be anymore but as many fans have said can the ATP afford to lose such a big sponsor at this point? I said I wouldn't talk anymore about the debacle men's tennis has become. I also won't talk about how ET is favoring the American tournament directors at this point. We can bitch and moan about the loss of Hamburg to Madrid but Hamburg's suit is still pending. If they win then can we say ET's reign has been a disaster for the ATP? There is some serious discussion going on among tennisheads on this subject and believe it or not some American fans are able to see the big picture since we are tennis fans
first and will watch tennis no matter who is playing. Over on Mens Tennis Forums there is a thread that features serious discussion about the ATP situation. American fans like "Deboogle" and "Fee" are showing we're not all head in the sand don't care about the rest of the world of tennis fans. Keep up the good work.

This and That



Nishikori Kei of Japan has signed a three year deal with SONY
TOKYO, April 30, 2008—IMG today announced that professional tennis player Kei Nishikori has signed a three-year global sponsorship agreement with Sony Corporation.
Nishikori, 18, will endorse a wide range of Sony electronics products. In addition, the Japanese-born tennis player will wear a Sony logo on his right sleeve during official competition. Nishikori currently has worldwide endorsement agreements with Adidas and Wilson.


Anastasia Myskina gave birth to her first child, a son named Yevgeny on April 29, 2008. Mother and son are both fine. There is no news as to who the child's father is.

Monte Carlo


The shock waves seem to be subsiding a bit now. I don't think it's the end result that surprised people so much as the way it was achieved. Bloggers and columnists who were used to dealing with Rafael Nadal as an inconvenient truth were forced to deal with him as what he is, a great player, and not try to pigeonhole him into some preconceived idea of what he should be. The Monte Carlo men's final will go down as one of the greatest matches of the year and will be talked about for a very long time among fans and students of the sport.

But more happened that will be talked about. This fan has not been able to root for Novak Djokovic ever since Estoril in 2007 where he faked injury against Richard Gasquet before easily winning the third and deciding set. There are many of us who have pointed out his lack of sportsmanship, and class, in dealing with his peers and his sport. His walk out during his country's Davis Cup tie against Russia with an "illness" was glossed over by many who want to see him as the future of tennis. Monte Carlo was a whole 'nother ball game as we say here in the States. The eyes of the tennis world were fixed on this event with many predicting that the defending champion would not even make the final since he'd yet to win a title this year. Many pundits predicted a Novak vs Roger final, a match they said would pit the best two players against each other.

When Roger almost went down to Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo in the first round the sound of bodies hitting the floor was heard world wide. A loss in the first round was their worst nightmare. Roger was on a roll they figured conveniently forgetting that Roger was losing in Estoril when Nikolay Davydenko felt a twinge in his leg and capitulated the match to him. A win is a win even if it's gifted no?

But Roger overcame Ramirez-Hidalgo who had been up 5-1 in the third set before gagging away the match. With little hard opposition he found himself in a semi final match against Novak. I should mention that this is the first tournament where the seeding was done the way I always thought it should be, with Djokovic as number three in the top half of the draw. Djokovic, who had cake walked his way to the semi was the fresher of the two, or should have been.



The first set was a well fought one with Roger coming out on top. The second set started out where the first one ended, with good rallies and shot making. If you turned away for a second during the break at 3-2 Federer in the second set you missed Novak walking over to Roger and shaking his hand. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. In what was probably the most important match of his career Djokovic was punking out, retiring a la Justine Henin so that he deprived his opponent of a satisfying win. And no one could defend him. Tape soon surfaced on the net of Roger, normally the coolest of customers on the court, turning to Novak's parents and telling them to "be quiet". They were shrieking at the chair to overturn a call. Roger conceded the call was wrong and wiped out the mark. The parents had been kept under wraps most of this year after their horrible actions against fans of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Melbourne. Their reappearance shows that they feel no shame about their behavior. The reason for Novak's withdrawal? A sore throat. I guess they had to come up with something since it was obvious he was in no physical discomfort during the match.

Novak has his fans and like any fandom they are vocal and loyal in their support. They have attempted to defend their man and I give them credit for that. It's just that he's been declared the new king of tennis. The current King has never quit during a match no matter what. The Crown Prince played after his body told him no, at the US Open where I saw him physically collapse on court, and during the final at Chennai which I also saw, where he couldn't even move or go after balls. Talking heads love to talk about the final score at Chennai. They don't mention the marathon match the day before. Inconvenient fact.

Yes Rafa's coming back from 4-0 in the second set is amazing. But I think a lot of folks would rather concentrate on that than on the way Djokovic behaved. He showed no respect to his backers, his fans, or his sport with his behavior. That is the biggest story of Monte Carlo 2008 for me. How the tennis press covers Djokovic going forward will be very interesting. I can assure you that PMac and his posse will pretend it never happened unless Pam or Mary bring it up at which point a dismissive comment will be made about clay and moving on. I hope I'm wrong.

Note: The picture at the top is edited. By me. I like it better this way.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On Top of the Dirt

Rafa Wins Four in a Row



For the fourth consecutive year, Rafael Nadal takes the Monte-Carlo title with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over world No. 1 Roger Federer.

Four in a row. That's no small feat.

I didn't watch the match. The Rafa-Raja show has left me completely uninterested. We haven't seen it since China and I haven't missed it one bit.

Since I didn't see it, I'll turn you to my write-up of last year's final, which I thoroughly enjoyed, partly because it was best of five sets.

Enjoy this walk down memory lane.

Getty Images
(Getty Images - Click to enlarge)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Raja v. Rafa Final Set, Djoke Punks Out - Again



Yes, I saw both matches. But I have nothing good to say about either of them, so I'll say nothing at all.

I will, however, post these match results compiled by Scoobs over at MTF and delivered to me by Savannah:

2008 Monte Carlo SF Federer 3-6 2-3 RET
2008 DC RUS vs SRB Davydenko 6-4 6-3 4-6 RET
2007 Wimbledon SF Nadal 6-3 1-6 1-4 RET
2006 Umag F Wawrinka 6-6(1) RET
2006 Roland Garros QF Nadal 4-6 4-6 RET
2005 Roland Garros R64 Coria 4-6 2-6 2-3 RET

Talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stop the Presses: Querrey Upsets Gasquet!



Sam Querrey rallied to defeat Richard Gasquet 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Monte-Carlo. Third claycourt match of 2008, third upset for the tall, spindly American with the big serve and forehand.

But there's more.

The game Sam brought to Melbourne and Las Vegas earlier this year led me to believe he'd perform better on clay than one might expect.

That he's defeated Carlos Moya and Andreas Seppi and now Gasquet supports that belief.

He moves well, is patient, and moves the ball around with angle and slices. He can construct a point, throw in a dropshot and smack a return-of-serve winner. He can unload on a that vicious forehand when the opportunity presents itself.

I'm not saying he's going to win anything important on clay, but I'm impressed.

As for Richie Red Shoes, I called him a Class-A wimp for his Davis Cup shenanigans and I have nothing much to add today.

I'm looking forward to the quarterfinals now. We've got all-Russia, all-Spain, USA vs. Serbia, and Switzerland vs. Argentina.

I'll predict Russia, Spain, Serbia and Argentina in the final four.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Upset Special?

I just picked my jaw up from the floor.

American Sam Querrey beat Spaniard and former Roland Garros and Monte-Carlo champion Carlos Moyá today in Monte-Carlo? Is that a typo on my own scoreboard?

Just asking.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

She Did It



She wanted it so badly, she almost let it slip away. But Serena Williams recovered from her lapses and took her first Family Circle Cup title over Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a well-fought, high-quality battle.

For the Russian's part, her world-class ground strokes and superb court coverage put her right with Serena for the entire match. Had she controlled her nerves a bit better, either of the sets Serena won could've been much tighter.

But Serena was not to be denied a title she so coveted. Aside from the lapses that prompted two double faults on two break points in sets two and three, Serena played like a woman who sees herself holding up another Roland Garros trophy.

It was her third consecutive title (Bangalore, d. Patty Schnyder; Sony Ericsson Open, d. Jelena Jankovic), her second consecutive Tier 1 title, and her first title on clay in nearly six years.

Six years.

That's right. The last time she took home a championship on the slippery stuff was, well, Roland Garros 2002. We know what happened after that.

Times have changed. But Serena's game is looking as good as it did back then, if not better. A healthy Serena is a dangerous Serena. Always.

He Did It, Too



But he had it handed to him. Roger Federer won his first title of the year when the Man with the Magic Racquet retired in the second set.

Oh well. A win is a win. And I'm sure all his fans feel he was overdue.

He Almost Did It



But this isn't horseshoes. Or hand grenades. James Blake seemed poised to win his first claycourt title at the U.S. Men's Claycourt Championships at the new venue in River Oaks, Texas, but he faltered late in the match to hand the well-earned title to newbie Marcel Granollers-Pujol of Spain.

A win on clay would've given him some confidence on the slippery stuff to help increase our steep chances against Spain in the Davis Cup semifinals, but it wasn't meant to be.

Next time.



David Ferrer rallied from 2-5 down in the final set when two-time defending champion Nicolas Almagro choked (he served for it twice!) to claim the Valencia title.



Maria Kirilenko won the Estoril Open women's title with a straight-set victory over Iveta Benesova.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finally



It's the third week of April and Roger Federer rallied from a set down and two games from defeat to advance to his first final of the season on his worst surface: the red clay of Europe.

Who'd have thunk it?

If such irony continues, he'll win Roland Garros at the beginning of June.

Meantime, he'll want to beat the Russian with the new magic racquet in the Estoril Open final tomorrow.

Does Nikolay Davydenko have another first-time victory over an opponent in him?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Serena Overcomes Maria



First let me just say how nice it is to be watching tennis on ESPN again. Not because of the snarky, gossipy, silly and Maria-worshipping commentary by Pam Shriver, Cliff Drysdale, and Mary Jo Fernandez. But because if tennis is to ever regain any popularity in the United States, superstar rivalries such as the one between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova need to be broadcast widely.

It was a hard-fought match. Ultimately, the better and stronger player won, but it wasn't easy. These two had never played on clay before and you could tell. Maria won her first event on the slippery sutff last week; Serena was playing her first event of the season.

After giving away the first game of the match, Serena got down to business. She recovered the break, but then lost it and found Maria serving for the fest set at 5-4. Three games and two breaks later, Serena clenched the first set 7-5.

The second set was more of the same back-and-forth. Serena had early opportunities to break, but when Maria saved them, Serena became erratic, dropping serve in the next game. Maria served for the second set after securing another break at 5-2 and gagged. Serena held easily, but Maria served it out on her second try.

Between the second and third sets, just as it was between the first two, Michael Joyce came courtside to coach Maria. Forgetting for a moment that he was miked, he said, "You know you can beat that bi... girl." After a pause, he said, "I almost slipped up there." Maria smiled and nodded.

It was a priceless moment. We all know many players refer to each other as bitches when no one is watching, and sometimes even when they are, and it was hilarious to see a coach almost get caught.

In the final set, order was restored. Serena raced out to a 5-0 lead behind precise, powerful, and angled ground strokes, and closed out the match two games later.

Oh yeah. And she tied her sister's serve speed record with a 129 mph serve out wide in the deuce court.

Her semifinal foe will be Alize Cornet, who's making her debut in a Tier 1 semifinal after defeating Agnes Szavay in straight sets.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Serena Survives in Charleston



She's never won the Family Circle Cup. Runner-up to her nemesis in 2003, a mere weeks before that same player became infamous for The Hand in Paris.

Serena Willliams wants to win the green clay Tier 1 event and she wants to win it badly. After she'd fallen on the slippery stuff and dropped the first set, she got up and played some of her best tennis against an equally-matched-on-the-day opponent in Katerina Srebotnik and prevailed 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

It's the stuff from which champions are molded. Not playing her best, re-acclimating herself to the slippery stuff in her first clay event of the spring, the champion found a way to win.

Next, she'll face another champion in Maria Sharapova, a champion who won her first claycourt event in Amelia Island plantation last week, who's trying to pull of a rare southern American green clay double.

They've never played on clay. Serena has trounced the Australian Open champion in their last two encounters, losing a total of five games.

Serena ought to win and advance to the semifinals. Will she?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Davis Cup Photos



Instead of posting them all on the blog and making the page load slowly, you can see a photo album here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Davis Cup Postscript



First, thank you to Savannah for filling in yesterday. I had technical issues over the weekend. I did recover from my migraine, but it left me rather lethargic. I guess it was good there were no big celebrations on Saturday night. I wouldn't have had the energy to snoop them out.

You all already know what happened. And I don't have any great pictures to show you. That was one part of the technical difficulty.

Here are a few final thoughts from the weekend.

Andy Roddick played some of the best tennis I've ever seen him play. Clearly some weight has been lifted from his shoulders. He remains perfect in clenching ties. Ten wins. No losses. An American record. Bravo.

Paul-Henri Mathieu played some of the worst tennis I've ever seen him play.

James Blake continues to amaze me.

Richard Gasquet is a Class A wimp. He played the dead rubber with no tape on his blistered hand. Two days before, he sat out the live rubber against Andy. All that talent and no spine to go with it. I have no other words for Mr. Red Shoes.

Michael Llodra has the most effective serve in men's tennis. Period.

Despite the rankings, Llodra is currently the best doubles player in men's tennis

Bob and Mike Bryan have a mental block against Frenchmen. I didn't believe it until I saw it. They were tentative, anxious, and had weights on their ankles. Yes, they were outplayed. (Arnaud Clement isn't exactly a slouch. He and Llodra make a great team.) But even after winning the first set, the twins didn't play their game. Limited poaching. Poor communication. No stick on their volleys. Couldn't convert a break point and they had several opportunities when they were in control of the point. It was kind of painful. Not that they lost, mind you. But the how of it.

The Winston-Salem crowd is simply the best tennis crowd in the world.

I'll get my photos figured out and post them later this week.

Enjoy the claycourt season!

See You In September

by Savannah

The Davis Cup Semi Finalists 2008

Argentina


Russia


Spain

United States


In other news:

Maria Sharapova won the WTA tournament at Amelia Island


Doubles

Bethanie Mattek and Vladimira Uhlirova Doubles Champions Amelia Island 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blake's Heroics Put US in the Lead



James Blake is the hero yet again. His gutsy victory over Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6(3), 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 put the United States ahead of France 2-0 going into tomorrow's crucial doubles rubber. And his teammates were thrilled.

Despite a terrible migraine that caused me to leave the live action after the first set of second rubber, I followed the match on the Internet at the hotel.

Imagine that. Local television didn't even carry the tie and Versus wasn't available on the slate of channels in my room.

Too bad for the local tennis fans who couldn't be in the coliseum because it was some match. Great tennis. High drama. Amazing atmosphere. A few late-match collapses/comebacks that tested the nerves of the players and spectators alike. Two match points saved.

And Blake wins another five-setter to boot.

In the first rubber, Andy Roddick beat Michael Llodra in three highly competitive sets 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-6(5).

Team USA's leader got the crowd off their feet when he broke Michael's serve to take a 5-4 lead in the first set. With fierce returns, scrambling court coverage, and excellent passing shots, Andy was so hyped, he practically demanded that the crowd get up and stay up.

Too bad I couldn't stay for all the day's excitement.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Live From North Carolina



They clean up well, don't they? Bob Bryan (or is that Mike?), Andy Roddick, James Blake, Mike Bryan (or is that Bob?), and captain Patrick McEnroe will take another step to defend the Cup against France in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Winston-Salem this weekend. I was looking forward to the blockbuster match-ups Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but alas, both are out with injury. Andy will play Michael Llodra and James will take on Paul-Henri Mathieu in tomorrow's singles rubbers.

Still, I'm happy to be here and will be loudly cheering for our boys.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Venus Takes Indefinite Hiatus



Associated Press
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. Six-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will be sidelined indefinitely, though she did not say why she will be out of action.

"I've just been having some issues that I need to resolve, so I'm working on that at the moment and I'm hoping to be back playing as soon as possible," Williams said Tuesday at the Bausch & Lomb Championships. "I'm not going to get any further into it, but of course I love the sport."

Williams said last week she was dealing with a medical issue when she announced her withdrawal from the Bausch & Lomb tournament. She played last week in the Sony Ericsson Open, losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals.

Williams will not play for the United States in the Fed Cup semifinal against Russia on April 26-27, but did not rule out any other tournaments and said she still wants to play in the French Open beginning in late May.

"Of course I want to be there (in France)," Williams said. "I don't want to be at home watching on TV. Watching this week will be enough on TV, so hopefully not too many more weeks."

::

I don't know what to make of this. I hope she takes care of whatever is going on and gets ready to defend her title at Wimbledon.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Queen of Miami



She did it. For the first time since 2004, Serena Williams defended a title. With her fifth Sony Ericsson Championship, Serena ties Steffi Graf in all-time wins in Miami by a WTA player. Graf's husband, Andre Agassi, holds the all-time record with six championships.

It wasn't easy. Or it was. That would depend which part of the match you watched. Jelena Jankovic had no answers for Serena in the first half of the twisted affair. I've said it before and I mean it again, when Serena's return of serve is in peak position, she can break you at will and break your will on serve. In just over half an hour, Jelena found herself down 1-6 and two breaks at 0-3.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to victory. Serena was overcome by an anxiety that blew in like the southern Florida wind. She gifted away one of those breaks and struggled on serve the rest of the set. The woman who stepped up to serve for the match at 5-4 was not the same one who appeared to be cruising to a crushing victory. This woman lost the last three games of the set.

But Serena rebounded and opened the final set with a break. After which the Vitch full of silly exhibited her silliness. Jelena gets on my last nerve with her injury timeouts and her melodrama when her back is against the wall. I can't breathe, I can't serve, my head is about to explode, I'm coughing, I'm not going to be okay, I can't go on! And then the Vitch full of silly and the painted black fingernails rises from her histrionics and runs around the court like a hyena. She's a grifter. Angelica Huston had nothing on her in the film.

But her opponent was unaffected.

Serena the Great reemerged and ran the grifter around to earn a 5-0 lead. Serena's returns were once again precise, her forehand once again deadly. But the anxious one returned to serve for the championship on her second attempt. She fought off two break points, earned a match point, but couldn't close the deal. She squandered a few more match points on Jelena's serve and the Serbian fans, who had been rowdy all match, went crazy. Serena earned three more match points on her serve at 5-2, 40-0, but five consecutive errors later, she destroyed her racquet before the changeover.

I guess that outburst was all she needed. She broke Jelena at 15 on her seventh match point and let out a shout of defiant relief.

Defending a title isn't easy. The last title she defended was, well, right here in Miami in 2004 when she came back from knee surgery after an 8-month recovery. Matching a Steffi record isn't easy either. I can't imagine Serena's collapses had to do with anything else. Certainly nothing her opponent did. The mind is a terrible thing in a tennis match.

All's well that ends well.




Friday, April 04, 2008

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Politics. History. Justice. Equality. Civil rights. It's off topic, but it's important, today of all days, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. To honor him, I'm posting this YouTube video. The content speaks for itself.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Yes He Can!



Today, I buried my horse and my dog cried. Today, Serena Williams overcame herself and a valiant opponent in Svetlana Kuznetsova and won a brilliant and thrilling three-set match to put herself in a position to tie Steffi Graf's record of five Sony Ericsson Open titles. Today, Andy Roddick defeated world No. 1 and perennial monkey-on-his-back Roger Federer in a brilliant and thrilling three-set match to give himself a shot at two. He fucking did it. He beat Raja. And I saw him do it. It was a phenomenal effort. So now the newly engaged Andy has victories over the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 players in the world in a matter of weeks.

Love is a beautiful thing.

I'm verklempt.

More later.

Maybe.

Over The Moon



A thousand words.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Order Restored: Serena Slams Justine



It was a good old-fashioned mugging. Defending champion Serena Williams jumped world No. 1 and last year's runner-up Justine Henin and never let her get up. The champion surrendered a mere two games, ushered her nemesis out of the tournament with a hot steamy bagel, and held her arms aloft. It was the kind of performance that elicits applause from Serena's biggest fans and strongest critics alike.

I need to watch it again so I can see more clearly what happened. It was all a blur. More later after the day's play is complete.

UPDATE

So I watched the Serena/Justine quarterfinal again, but before I go there, can someone tell me how the hell tennis can regain any popularity in this country if the fifth Slam isn't televised? We've got Tennis Channel, but it has shown one live match so far. We've got Fox/Comcast sports, but it only shows a live match or two a day, if that. We've got ESPN, but it only shows tape delayed matches. If you can't afford to buy ATP Masters Series TV or don't have a bandwidth big enough to watch some of the matches on free Internet live feed, you don't get to see most of this event.

But anyway.

Serena won so comprehensively because her return of serve was lethal. In her previous three losses, for all sorts of reasons, she never got her return game going. But not yesterday. Justine's serve has always been overrated by my observation and most of her opponents refuse to camp out on the T and take Justine's favorite serve away from her. The thing is, Justine doesn't have anywhere else to go. When under pressure, she's simply too short to serve out wide with any consistency.

Serena must've watched a few tapes of her losses and realized that she had forgotten all of this. If Serena is in control of her return game, she's unbeatable. Quiet as it's kept, her game is more centered around her return than her serve. Sure her serve remains the best on the tour, but in her quarterfinal, she didn't go for aces unless she had to. She simply used her first serve to set up the point and beat Justine from all parts of the court. Anyone who continues to believe that Serena is all power and no variety didn't see her slices, angles, lobs, serve-and-volleys, opportunistic net rushes, and counterpunching.

Signature Serena. That's what we saw. And if she continues with this form, the rest of 2008 will be very good to her.

Andy Roddick To Marry Brooklyn Decker



It's official. Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker are engaged. I saw them together in Portland, Oregon, last December at the Davis Cup celebration and they seemed, well, quite into each other. And if the gargantuan rock she's wearing is any indication...

The happy couple met in New York City last year and have been dating since. Andy proposed earlier this month. With their hectic travel schedules, Andy and Brooklyn plan to enjoy their engagement and will wait to set a wedding date.

Congratulations and good luck.