Thursday, July 31, 2008

She's Not Ready



Ana Ivanovic can't stand the heat. Today, the world No. 1 was upset by Tamira Paszek in a lopsided third set.

Tamira, she who wasted so many match points in the first round of Melbourne against the other Serbian diva, I was pretty sure her career might be over before it started. She who has won so few matches since Melbourne, I was pretty sure she was going to make me a soothsayer.

I didn't see the match, so I can't say for sure what happened, but if Tamira played anything like she has of late and Ana played anything like she has played since winning Roland Garros and becoming No. 1, well, then, I can only conclude that Miss Ivanovic is buckling under the weight of pressure.

Seems to be an epidemic.

Federer Falls, No. 1 Ranking on the Precipice



Ivo Karlovic upset the defending champion 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-6(5) in Cincinnati today.

Hear from Roger Federer himself.

The official No. 1 ranking is now on Rafael Nadal's racquet.

Maria Sharapova Games the Sport



Miss Maria Sharapova is showing her nether regions again. You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

Discuss.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photos of the Day





James Blake has batting practice with the Cincinnati Reds this past Saturday. That's Ken Griffey, Jr. (Photos: Karen Thompson)

ATP vs Hamburg - Trial May Go Beyond Two Weeks

by Savannah



ATP Trial Could Last Beyond Scheduled Two Weeks

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Journal

Organizers of the Hamburg, Germany, tennis tournament and the ATP failed to settle their differences over the weekend as of 8:00pm ET yesterday, a source close to the talks said, and the case was headed to a second week of trial this morning. The Hamburg stop is suing the ATP under U.S. antitrust law for planning to demote the event. With a week under its belt, the trial threatens to go longer than its scheduled two weeks now, if it gets to the jury, because of delays last Thursday regarding a witness issue and break for settlement talks. Friday’s court session revealed that ATP board director Iggy Jovanovic had a contract while on the board to broker a sponsorship for Emirates Airline with Tennis Canada, owner of one of the elite ATP events. This appears to violate the ATP bylaws that player representatives on the board not work for a tournament member. He also worked for Abu Dhabi in trying to secure an ATP event. He was accused by the Hamburg tourney of using insider information to pass on to Abu Dhabi, especially as it related to Doha, Qatar, being available. The Qatari Tennis Federation owns 25% of the Hamburg event, and owns a tournament in Doha that applied for the second tier of the new ATP calendar but was turned down. Questioned if he had read the bylaws when he took his post in January '06, Jovanovic testified he could not recall. Jovanovic said he was an adviser to Abu Dhabi on a variety of matters, not just tennis, and that he was not hired by Tennis Canada to find sponsorships but was only assisting a friend to help Emirates. Nonetheless, he signed a contract with Tennis Canada, according to a trial exhibit, that entitles to him 10% of Emirates sponsorship fee, which is nearly $500,000.

Source

For previous trial updates please go to Savannah's World

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Top of the World



It's official. Rafael Nadal is the best player in the world. With his 6-3, 6-2 victory over Nicolas Kiefer in the Rogers Cup final, Rafa has won his 12th ATP Masters Series shield (his fourth on hardcourts), surpassing Pete Sampras with 11 (only Andre Agassi and Roger Federer have more), won his 30th title, finishing behind only Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg for that many titles won at the ripe old age of 22, extends his winning streak to 29 matches and 5 straight titles.


He has won seven of the last eight events entered.

But what's most impressive? Five events, five titles, three different surfaces. Two clay, two grass, one hard.

In that run, he's defeated Raja and Novak Djokovic three times each.

The rankings say he could become the World No. 1 soon if he keeps winning.

The results say he's the best player in the world.



::



Out at the East West Bank Classic, Dinara Safina continued her fine form with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Italy's Flavia Pennetta.

Rogers Cup Final - Open Thread



Rafael Nadal, our second finalist.

His Heaviness vs. His Famous Ass

If no one chokes, this one could go fast.

Who will come out on top?

I sense some flip-flopping and a closer match than the score will suggest.

Safina Stops Jankovic in Quest for No. 1



Fabulous. The last thing the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour needs is a world No. 1 who's never even contested a Slam final.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Murray vs. Nadal - Open Thread



Nicolas "His Heaviness" Kiefer, our first finalist.

Talk amongst yourselves during the marquee match.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rogers Cup Quarterfinals Preview



We've got some great matchups set for today in Toronto. In the wide open first quarter that included those two despairing top players we picked apart the last few days, Croatian teen Marin Cilic and summer surprise Gilles Simon face off. Simon has to be favored simply because he's on a winning streak.

Nicolas Kiefer will play James Blake, the highest seed remaining in the top half, in the second quarter. Can't trust James to pull this out, but if he keeps his head and plays his game, he really ought to. Kiefer enjoys the summer hardcourts and his game is well-suited to the blue stuff, but he's simply not mentally engaged in big matches anymore. We'll see if he can turn that around today.

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could be a barnburner. Or a demolition. And I'm not saying who will demolish whom.

And the match of the day ought to be Richard Gasquet against Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal. I've said it before and mean it again, but I believe Rafa's game on the summer hardcourts has suffered from his tough losses in Wimbledon finals over the past two seasons. Well, this year, that monkey is off his back and he's playing with confidence instead of despair. Richie has had success in Toronto and seems in good form after his beatdown of David Ferrer late last night.

Who do you think will make the final four?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Roger Federer is Crushed



Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, Roger Federer looks like Andy Roddick after the 2004 Wimbledon final.

Never thought I'd see it happen, but...

Serving was about the only thing the world No. 1 did well in his devastating 6-2, 5-7, 4-6 loss to Gilles Simon in the second round of the Rogers Cup.

I'm trying to remember the last time Raja lost two matches on the ATP tour in a row and I'm coming up blank.

Losing Wimbledon finals is crushing.

That's why Rafael Nadal's victory earns my utmost respect because my guy never recovered from his first Wimbledon final loss.

Never.

Tonight, Raja was pissy, cussing, annoyed, rattled, erratic. Insert another synonym here. And when the Frenchman, fresh off his surprise victory in Indianapolis, refused to submit in the third set after being broken twice, Raja became unglued.

Crushed.

For the first time in his career he has to deal with losing the final of the Slam that means the most.

It helps that he's won the thing five times, and like other Wimbledon champions who have lost subsequent finals, it's likely Raja will play on the final Sunday in London once more.

Or not.

I'm thinking of Bjorn Borg right now.

Whatever will be will be.

But Raja has some healing to do and while he's doing it, the quality of his tennis will be anybody's guess.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who's That Girl?



Her name is Aleksandra Wozniak. She's 20-years-old, hails from Canada where she's to top player, is ranked No. 85 in the world and won her first WTA in her first final as a qualifier at Bank of the West. Along the way, she notched wins over Francesca Schiavone, Sybille Bammer, Samantha Stosur, an injured Serena Williams, and Marion Bartoli.

She's the first Canadian to win a WTA title in 20 years, and only the fifth in history.

Raise your hand if you thought Wozniak would win a Tier II title before Nicole Vaidisova even made a Tier II final.



Gilles Simon battled his way to his first US hardcourt title in his first appearance at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships with a convincing straight-set dismissal of defending champ Dmitry Tursunov.

All the Frenchman wanted to do was play some matches in the grueling heat and humidity. And he takes the title. Fancy that.

It was supposed to be an All-American final. Or so the networks hoped. But James Blake has no confidence, and Sam Querrey still isn't ready to make his first.


Fernando Verdasco, Croatia Open Champion


Juan Martin del Potro, Austrian Open champion


Alberto Montanes, Dutch Open Champion

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Photos of the Day





Marion Bartoli visits Children's Hospital in Stanford earlier this week. Hat tip to rabbit.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Serena Rallies at Stanford



Sony Ericsson WTA Tour - Top seed Serena Williams played the feature night match and picked up right where she left off during her run to the final of Wimbledon, beating qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito, 46 63 62. The 15-year-old Larcher de Brito came out on fire, hitting her big groundstrokes to perfection in building a 64 20 lead; the more experienced Williams was far from finished in her career debut at the Bank of the West Classic, however, rallying to win in three sets under the lights.

"I never underestimate anyone, especially when they play me, because they'll always bring out their best game," Williams said. "In a way it was surprising, but you've just got to deal with it. I had a plan and I started playing better, and it's encouraging for me to bounce back after losing the first set."

"I started off really well; I slowed down a little bit, but overall I was playing well the whole match," Larcher de Brito said. "Obviously she played such a great game. She's Serena Williams. I didn't have anything to lose and I gave it my all.

"I was getting close to an upset, but now I have a lot of things to work on, and a lot of years ahead of me."

Although Serena Williams is playing the Bank of the West Classic for the first time, the Williams brand has done very well at the Tier II stop in the past. Venus made the final in six of seven trips to Stanford, winning the title twice, in 2000 (beating Lindsay Davenport in the final) and 2002 (beating Kim Clijsters).

"I've never been able to make it here," Williams added. "I'm happy that I'm here. There's a nice atmosphere and it feels good to play in Stanford."

::

I've heard noise about this young Portugese player, but to see she was up a set and a break against Serena means I need to start paying attention, no? A qualifier?

Anybody with the goods on the young lady, please post them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blake Back in Business



He crashed out of Wimbledon in the second round. But James Blake is looking to reclaim a title he held two summers ago at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, the first ATP event of the US Open Series.

The reporters are calling his performance rusty. He still managed to advance in straight sets of pesky Israeli Dudi Sela.

And a shoutout to Bobby Reynolds, the last American man standing at Wimbledon, who defeated last year's runner-up Frank Dancevic 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2. It's the American's second consecutive win over the Canadian, whom he also beat in the second round in London.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hangover



This will be short. Just wanted to say that the time just after Wimbledon leaves me hungover. Rome. Roland Garros. Wimbledon. Lots of intense tennis in a short span of time.

I think I need an aspirin and some sleep.

What the heck. Maybe I'll just watch the men's final again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

News Flash!



Astronomers have named an asteroid after Rafael Nadal!

The 22-year-old has had the asteroid - which is 4 kilometres in diameter - discovered in 2003 and previously known as 128036 named in his honour by the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca, from where Nadal hails.
Read more about it here .

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Heard Around

by Savannah



There is a great interview with Antoni Nadal in Sport.Scotsman
It was published on July 6, 2008. The quote that stands out for me is this:

But, for Toni, it has never been about the money. Seeing his nephew add the Wimbledon title to his French Open wins could not, he says, be bettered by a pay cheque, which he refuses to take for coaching family.

"If I earn money from him then he becomes my boss. For the player and for me it is much better that the player is not my boss. I think sometimes the problem with these guys is that they are the boss.

"When his father told me 'you must do this' I told him I didn't want anything, because I want to be able to say what I want."
A must read.

And from the opposite end of the spectrum here are Alexandra Stevenson's musings on her "meeting" a young Rafael Nadal. I will let her speak for herself.

(...) I remember all my old Wimbledons, and I even remember a young Rafael Nadal as a junior player, staring me down. It was 2002, and junior players are not allowed to practice at Aorangi, the practice site. Well, a young Nadal, who was playing juniors at Wimbledon, walked down to my practice court that year, which was in the back, and he pressed his face against the gate, watching me hit. It was in the day when I worried about who was around my court because of all the press and the father issues, so I asked my mom to go see who was at the gate. She did. She said to the young boy at the gate, "You are Nadal, the player who is supposed to be a great champion one day." I kid you not. She said that. She invited him in. He said, in broken English, "No, no, I watch her. Semifinals at Wimbledon." And he smiled. It seems he wanted to see the girl who had made history.

I thought that was cute back then -- and, looking back on it, it goes along with him and his champion's mentality -- he cared about history and wanted to see it up close. I want to see it up close again, too.

Source

For more, and to find out who thinks Rafa is unmarketable please go to Savannah's World

We Are the Champions


Juan Martin del Potro, Mercedes Cup champion


Victor Hanescu, Allianz Suisse Open champion


Tommy Robredo, Catella Swedish Open champion


Sara Eranni, Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo Champion


Fabrice Santoro, Newport Hall of Fame International Champion


Alize Cornet, Gaz de France Grand Prix Champion

Friday, July 11, 2008

Journey to Beijing

TENNIS CELEBRATES THE OLYMPICS



The International Tennis Federation has announced the release of a beautiful new book to promote the Beijing Olympics. According to the ITF,

The 140-page publication features a series of specially commissioned photographs of the game’s top names dressed as athletes from other summer or winter Olympic sports. These are accompanied by interviews with the players talking about their Olympic memories and hopes for Beijing.

The photographs were taken over a six-month period by some of the world’s leading tennis photographers, with photo shoots held in venues as varied as Barcelona, Beijing, Dubai, Indian Wells, Los Angeles, Miami, Melbourne, Moscow, Netherlands, Palm Beach, Santiago, Shanghai and Tel Aviv.

Here are some of my favorite images. Click on them to enlarge.



















You can see the entire book as e-zine here.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wimbledon 2008: The John Kieran Slam Awards

I started the John Kieran Grand Slam Awards back in February of last year after we covered our first Slam in Melbourne but never came back to them. Until now. Without further ado, the Kieran goes to... (Click on Getty images to enlarge.)

Performance by a female
Serena Williams against Bethanie Mattek, 4th Round



Sure, Serena lost fewer games in her blistering quarterfinal victory over former junior champ Agnieszka Radwanska, but it was her all-court performance against the unlikely American fourth rounder that stole the show.

Performance by a male
Rafael Nadal against Roger Federer, Final



Rafa showed out, and I mean showed out, all fortnight playing such exquisite tennis, revealing the heart of a warrior, and his recovery from choked sets and matchpoints to win the best decisive set in the best final played on the lawns of Wimbledon was nothing short of spellbinding.

Performance by a male player in a choking role
Novak Djokovic against Marat Safin



Sometimes a choke begins on the first ball. Such was the choke Djoke performed against Marat, his friend and mentor, in the second round. Sure, Marat played well, but Djoke couldn't find the court with his shots, so frozen by nerves. And the pressure of expectations.

Performance by a female player in a choking role
Ana Ivanovic against Nathalie Dechy, 1st Round



I know, I know. She won the match. Yeah, well, her erratic, childish performance against the crafty Frenchwoman foretold her demise in the very next round. She's clearly not ready for her closeup.

Grand Slam breakthrough performance
Zheng Jie, China



Just two years after Li Na became China's first Slam quarterfinalist right here at Wimbledon, Zheng become's the nation's first Slam semifinalist. She's winning another Kieran, so we'll come back to her.

Grand Slam comeback performance
Marat Safin, Russia



He used to be allergic to grass. Said, after an early exit, he'd never play Wimbledon again. But after struggling with injury and ennui, Marat is back and in devastating form. After handling the world No. 3 with no trouble, he put on an exquisite display of tennis in his third round victory over Andreas Seppi, one of the best matches of the fortnight. Two rounds later, he dismissed Feliciano Lopez, a player who gave him fits on every surface and whom he'd never beaten on grass, to become the first Russian man to make the Wimbledon semifinals in the Open Era.

Performance by a talking head - drama
Virginia Wade, Wimbledon Live
There's simply no one better.

Performance by a talking head - comedy
Pam Shriver, ESPN
Almost everything she says makes me laugh. Even when it's not funny.

Achievement in costume design
Sharapova's Tuxedo, Nike



It brought out the butch in her. It reminded me of the Greta Garbo-esque attire of Ellen Degeneres when she hosts big awards shows. And it stood in stark contrast to the femme get-ups she and her girlfriend Camille Belle wore at Paris Fashion Week days after she was humiliated in the second round.

Achievement in cinematography
Cameraperson, Nicolas Kiefer against Rafael Nadal, 3rd Round



The sexy German has the heaviest basket of any ATP player. When it flips and flops and flops and flips, it makes quite an impression. I especially loved all the slow-motion replays during the match.

Adapted screenplay
Sister, Sister by Serena and Venus Williams



The sisters returned to their heyday by facing off in their first Slam final since Wimbledon 2003. But this time, Venus wanted it more, adapted to her sister's play, and took the championship with grace and grit. Hours later, a triumphant Venus and a sulking Serena united to win their first doubles Slam title since Wimbledon 2002, the year Serena won her first Wimbledon singles title over Venus. Theirs is the story that truly inspires, that truly amazes, in tennis, in all of sport.

Original screenplay
Wild Card by Jheng Zie



After recently recovering from ankle surgery, Zheng's ranking couldn't get her into the main draw of a Slam. So she wrote a letter to the AELTC and urged the powers that be to grant her a wild card. They honored her request. Round after round, she angled her powerful backhand, past the new world No. 1, the biggest upset of the fortnight, past Agnes Szavay, past Nicole Vaidisova, right into the semifinals. In the wake of her historic performance, the new WTA Asia-Pacific headquarters have opened in Beijing. Just in time for the Olympics. That must've been some letter.

Best motion picture
As Good As It Gets by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer



The best match I've ever seen. Period. The scintillating shotmaking, the sound and fury of battle, the heartstopping drama, the chanting, dueling "Ra-JA!" (clap clap) "Ra-FA!"(clap clap) crowd, the spectacle of sportsmanship, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the weeping for both, the new king's historic walk right up to royalty, the trophy ceremony at dusk, the lights, the cameras, the action. It just don't get no better than that.