Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mexican Dream

Savannah is giddy about Venus Williams playing Acapulco next spring.

Face Of The Day


Getty Images

International tennis player US's Serena Williams addresses students after opening the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni, 161km east of Nairobi on November 14, 2008.

Despite an unfortunate stomach injury at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, world No.3 Serena Williams still had one huge milestone to look forward to in November, as she opened a school she has co-founded in Africa. Located in Matooni, in eastern Kenya, the school was built through a partnership with tech giant Hewlett Packard and the charity Build African Schools. Williams, accompanied by her mother and younger sister, officially opened the Serena Williams Secondary School on Friday, November 14.

After arriving in Africa, Williams took a 40-minute helicopter ride to Matooni, accompanied by Kenyan Education Minister Professor Sam Ongeri, where she was greeted by thousands of fans and supporters from nearby villages. After cutting the ribbon to open the solar powered school, she attended a play put on by area children and hosted a tennis clinic. "I feel so honored to be here. Thanks so much for receiving me for my first time in Kenya," said Williams at the opening. "Education is the only way out of poverty – that’s what my parents taught us – so obviously building this school is really near and dear to me," she added.

The school, which was opened in an area that has one of the highest dropout rates in Kenya, will be mixed gender. Williams promised that she would work with the government to bring electricity to the school and to improve educational standards. "This is my first of many schools I plan to open up in Kenya," said Williams. "It’s amazing how education has uplifted the lives of many people, and have empowered them to determine their own future… It is the best achievement that I have done in my life."

Quote For The Day

“People ask why I spent so long not playing but I had a pretty long career and I played for pretty much 14 years almost non-stop, because remember I was in seven Davis Cup finals in a row and they were always played in December. So I was quite tired of tennis and needed to get away from the tennis to do some other things and I really didn’t feel like coming back for some time. It’s only over the last year or two that the thought had come into my mind and obviously I have been asked so many times to play the veterans’ tour and every year I’ve said I’m not quite ready and probably won’t be ready. This year I’ve decided to give it a try.” -- Stefan Edberg on why he's finally returning to competitive tennis

Ungrateful

Steve spent Thanksgiving shooting turkeys.

Finding A Wizard

The search heats up to hire the new most powerful man in tennis.

The leading insider candidates are Brad Drewett, head of the international group, and Mark Young, head of the Americas, while a top external possibility is former French Open head Patrice Clerc, the article added.

(...)

"The intention now is for the board to progress the recruitment process with a short list of candidates over the next few weeks," spokesman Kris Dent said. "The board will announce further details in due course."

Who do you want?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Djokovic Open?

Belgrade is going to get an ATP event in the spring.

The talk of the town in sports circles in Belgrade is the news that Family Sport, [sic] company owned by Novak Djokovic’s family, has successfully ended their lobbying in Shanghai over the organization of an ATP tennis event in Serbia’s capital. The countdown to 4 May next year and the clay-court tournament that will be hosted in the Milan Gale Muskatirovic sports centre has already begun.

The ATP tournament that will be played in Belgrade, the licence for which has been taken over from the Dutch Open in Amersfoort, is scheduled for the week between the Rome and Madrid Masters events, while it will coincide with the tournaments in Munich and Estoril. The event’s officials will therefore face a formidable task of attracting the world’s best to Belgrade.

Friendly relationships between Serbia’s number one Novak Djokovic and the world’s tennis A-list could be useful in getting some of the top 10 players of the ATP rankings to appear in Belgrade. Given the fact it will be played on clay, it is expected that a number of Spanish players will be interested in registering. Maybe even Rafael Nadal himself could prepare in Belgrade for the Madrid Masters, but as things are, another Spanish clay-court specialist – Fernando Verdasco – wouldn’t mind spending some extra time in Belgrade.

(Thanks, Moose)

Face Of The Day



Dutch tennis player Raemon Sluiter anounces during a press conference in Rotterdam on November 26, 2008 that he will return to international tennis in 2009. Sluiter, who resigned in February of 2008, reached his highest world ranking of 46 in 2003. His black eye is due to an accident during a tennis clinic. AFP PHOTO/ANP/MARCO DE SWART

Arrested (Updated)

Jimmy Connors continues to promote his bad boy image.

UPDATE: Connors has released a statement via Bloomberg:

Connors, 56, issued a statement thorough his business manager Karen Scott Happer saying he was picking up tickets for the game with his son Brett when he was twice confronted by a man who made derogatory comments and physical contact.

An altercation ensued and when campus police arrived, they told Connors to leave the campus.

“Jimmy said he wanted to stay and wait for his son to watch the game, and as a result was taken into custody,” the statement said. “Police told Jimmy that he was being taken into custody for ‘being a non-student refusing to leave the campus.’ Jimmy is extremely disappointed and embarrassed about the way the situation was handled.”


UPDATE: Connors charged for altercation at basketball game.

Tennis great Jimmy Connors has been charged with a misdemeanor for an altercation last week before a basketball game between UC Santa Barbara and top-ranked North Carolina.

Connors, an eight-time Grand Slam champion, was charged Wednesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court with disrupting campus activities and refusing to leave a university facility.

His business manager, Karen Scott, says a man tried to pick a fight with Connors and his son before Friday night’s game and police asked him to leave. Scott says Connors was arrested after he said he wanted to wait for his son to finish watching the game.

She says he was “extremely disappointed and embarrassed” about the incident.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rafa And Raja To Play Qatar Open

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will open the 2009 ATP season by playing at the Qatar Open.

Qatar tennis federation president Nasser al-Kholiafi says Andy Murray and Andy Roddick will also take part in the hard-court tournament, which begins Jan. 5.

The tournament in Doha is one of three to start the 2009 tennis season, along with the Brisbane International in Australia, and the Chennai Open in India.


That's a mere five weeks away. I hope everybody is rested and healthy for 2009.

Captain Costa?

"I think he's my natural successor. He's very close to this group of players who are integrated into the nucleus of the team and he's demonstrated his qualities as a coach by leading Feliciano [Lopez], who has shown notable progression in the last while," -- Emilio Sanchez on Albert Costa's prospects for becoming Davis Cup captain.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Serena Williams, WTA Player Of The Year

by Savannah

Photobucket
Serena poses in Times Square with her third US Open trophy, September 8, 2008

Why Serena Wlliams and not someone else? Let's look at Serena's record for 2008.

Craig found this last week over at the Mailbag:

Since there has been a lot of chatter about who's really No. 1 in women's tennis, I took everyone who finished the year in the top 10 and divided their total number of points by the number of tournaments they played. Here are the results:

1. Serena Williams 297.38

2. Venus Williams 233.71

3. Maria Sharapova 228.63

4. Jelena Jankovic 214.09

5. Elena Dementieva 192.79

6. Ana Ivanovic 192.05

7. Dinara Safina 181.76

8. Svetlana Kuznetsova 143.47

9. Vera Zvonareva 118.08

0. Agnieszka Radwanska 95.25

If you were to ask tennis fans to rank the top 10 players of the year, I would bet that their lists would adhere more closely to this list than the official rankings. I'm not being pro Serena or anti Jelena, but these rankings seem to be a little more representative of quality rather than quantity. What are your thoughts?

Davydenko Uncut

‘I am a very spiritual person’

Nikolay Davydenko
, nicknamed the ‘Iron Man’, has made the most of the packed ATP schedule, performing consistently enough to claim the No. 3 spot (before Novak Djokovic took over). In an email interview with Nandita Sridhar, the Russian, who has confirmed his participation in the 2009 Chennai Open, speaks about the match-fixing controversy, his second visit to Chennai and his performances in 2008.

What are your expectations from the 2009 Chennai Open?
After eight years, I will be back in India and will keep my mind calm and focussed on the game. I hope to win matches and have a great start to the year. I am looking forward to the crowd support.

What was your previous Chennai Open experience like?

The Chennai Open has been a great tournament for me. I had started my first match in 2001 with the Chennai Open — the beginning of my career which has had ups and downs. I played against Byron Black and lost the match in three tough sets 4-6, 6-4, 3-6. After the Chennai Open, I participated in the first Grand Slam of my career at the Australian Open, where I made it to the second round before losing to the former World No. 1, Patrick Rafter, in four sets. This performance gave the public a chance to witness my talent and ability to play tennis.

How much did the match-fixing allegations and the controversies affect you and your game this year?
Yes, it was difficult but I am happy that I overcame the difficult period. However, this has made me mentally tough and stronger.

What were your immediate thoughts when you were cleared of the allegations? Did you feel wronged for having been put through so much, or was it relief?
Tennis is very close to my heart, and the almighty has been there for me always. I am a very spiritual person and my family knows that I won’t do anything wrong. They were always there with me and that gave me the strength to go on and be positive, and I knew that I would get justice in the end. Things have changed for the better now and I need to move on in life. I kept myself mentally strong and physically fit. Tennis kept me going.

What are your thoughts on the controversies that have tarnished an otherwise clean sport like tennis?

I wouldn’t like to comment on it.

What are the positives you would take from your performance in 2008?

This year has been great for me, right from the beginning of the season, when I reached the semifinal of Doha before losing to Andy Murray. I reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, before losing to Mikhail Youzhny, 6–7, 3–6, 1–6. I also made it to the semifinals of Dubai, losing to Feliciano López in three sets. The most important win for me was at the Miami Masters, where I defeated Rafael Nadal in the final, 6-4, 6-2 to claim my second ATP Masters Series title. I also won my 13th career title in Pöertschach. After a disappointing French Open, I won in Warsaw. The year has been good for me.


What are your goals for 2009?

To give my best in every match and to stay focussed during my match so that I can convert the close matches into victories.


What was it like being the third best player in the world behind Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal? What do you have to say about the rivalry?

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are both equally competent, and are great players. I won my Miami final over Rafael Nadal but lost to him at the Monte Carlo Masters. I played with Roger Federer at the 2006 Australian Open but lost the match to him. Both of them are excellent players and they keep complementing each other. Both are my favourites and I like playing with them.


Despite being a former World No. 3, do you feel like you do not receive your due from the media and the public?

No, media and public have always been there for me and I have always received appreciation from them on my good days and bad days. It’s the public that loves me so much and keeps me motivated throughout a match.


What are your Grand Slam-specific expectations from 2009?

As I said before, I would love to perform my best and win a Grand Slam tournament and that’s my target. This is only possible with focus and consistent performances.


You play more tournaments than most players. Does the current ATP schedule work for you, or do you agree it’s crowded?

I have been called the ‘Iron Man’ because I play in more tournaments per year than any other player. I am like a machine, fit for every match and I give my best for all my matches. I have a consistent style of play which is my major strength and keeps me going. I am fine with the current ATP schedule and love playing tennis, which keeps me going.


What is it about Russian tennis that it produces so many quality players?

Well, our country has had great players in its history. Tennis has become a huge craze in Russia. Many of the players are all top stars and it feels nice to have so many of them playing currently.


Grand Slam or Davis Cup?

Well, Grand Slam.


The greatest moment in your professional career so far?

Winning the Miami Masters 2008 by defeating Rafael Nadal in the final, to claim my second ATP Masters Series title.


What is Nikolay Davydenko like off the tennis court?

I love spending time with my family and besides that, in my free time, I love listening to music, going fishing, playing soccer and hockey and cycling.


(Thanks, Moose)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Face Of The Day


(Thanks, Savannah)

Quote For The Day

"If anyone had wanted to award us the toughest opponent in the hardest possible circumstances, it would have been Spain on their own turf. Nevertheless, we still cling to hope. … My decade-long experience assures me that this competition is unpredictable," -- Niki Pilic, Serbian captain, on drawing Spain in the opening round of Davis Cup 2009.

One MoMo Year

Amélie Mauresmo tells L'Equipe.fr that she plans to play one more year to see if she can win a big title. More power to her. I've always enjoyed her stylish all court game, if not her lack of mental tenacity.

Tuesday Tirade

I like Rafael Nadal. While I don't consider myself a bona fide fan, his rise to the top of tennis after an historic run at No. 2 has been awe inspiring. So close but yet so far for so long, another wannabe king propped up by hype and circumstance and talent threatened to swat the Mallorcan aside and overthrow the Great One. Demeaned as one-dimensional by a chorus of rivals, fans, and experts alike - as though the repetition of the descriptor would make it so - Rafa went about his business, improving his game, fighting for every point. And winning.

A lesser man would not have held up.

But hold up he did. A fourth Roland Garros trophy. That coveted Wimbledon trophy of trophies. An Olympic Gold. The year-end No. 1 ranking trophy. Not to mention three Masters shields. Some smartass on a tennis forum I frequent had the nerve to say that compared to the best season of this generation's other great champion, Rafa's year was "nothing special." As I type this, the ATP website is headlining this poll on its frontpage: Federer Backed By Fans To Regain No. 1 Ranking by the end of 2009. That the ATP would even ask fans such a question before, say, next summer strikes me as a huge insult to 2008's best player.

Visceral resistance to Rafa's reign is the prevailing sentiment in many circles. To them, he's a sand nigger not worthy of such eminence. In a June 2007 GQ feature, a writer practically called him one. He tried to hide behind thinly veiled euphemisms and code words, if you can even call them that, describing Rafa as greasy, impure, brutish, and barbaric. The writer took so much heat for his racist characterization he felt compelled to make a visit to a few fan forums to defend his rhetoric as a literary exercise in irony. I didn't buy it. You see, tennis pundits and well-read analysts and bloggers refer to Rafa as a savage beast without batting an eyelash. The GQ writer simply put meat on the bone and the editor served it raw to his erudite readers. It's not called Gentlemen's Quarterly for nothing.

Any solidification of Spain as a world tennis power, with Rafa as its leader, in the wake of its Davis Cup victory is more than welcome. An embarrassment of riches, really.

And a big old Fuck You to the circle-jerking purists. Pun intended.

But I wanted Argentina to triumph. I did. Not because I'm a fan of any particular player, though I have enjoyed the best tennis that David Nalbandian and José Acasuso and Guillermo Cañas and Juan Mónaco and Agustín Calleri have to offer. They just don't offer it much. Remember Guillermo Coria? And Juan Martín del Potro could become a force if he could put some meat on his bones.

I wanted Argentina to triumph because too many of its players have been viciously smeared as dopers, scapegoated, if you will, in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary, while the high-profile dopers from predominantly white nations get to hide behind slaps on wrists, leaves of absence, and abrupt retirements. Even when one of them is caught on tape, so to speak, she retires in denial and her legacy is defended tooth and nail by those who put their trust in her lying innocence.

I wanted Argentina to triumph because when I look at these faces...



...I want Argentina to rise. The nation has produced a living legend, but never a Davis Cup victory. What better for its tennis future, for the future of all those round, brown, beautiful faces, than to win the coveted cup on home soil? What better for the sport than to have a future tennis power below the equator that isn't Australia? Argentina needs a big win. A Grand Slam. A Davis Cup. Even Chile has a pair of Olympic Golds.

I want change. I'll settle for nothing less. I'm spoiled now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Face Of The Day

Prima Donna?

Yes, the Davis Cup postmortem for Argentina is juicy. Especially as it relates to David Nalbandian. Bodo writes:

Okay, Nalbandian is hurting today; there's no good reason to pile on any more than necessary. And let's remember that he played a terrific first match. But the backstory on Nalbandian here isn't real pretty. Numerous reports (including this one from our own correspondent in Mar del Plata) suggested that leading up to and during the tie, Nalbandian behaved less like a popular and inspirational captain (say, an Andy Roddick) than a prima donna who sometimes appeared to see this tie more as the vehicle for his personal glory and as a line-item in his legacy. If you're looking for a scapegoat, you've come to the right place.

True to form, Pete contradicts himself and, at his other gig, piles on anyway:

It was supposed to have been a coronation. Instead, as everyone who watched the Davis Cup final this weekend saw, it became a demolition. Those awful crashing and splintering sounds you heard? They were the sounds of David Nalbandian's legacy in Argentine tennis crashing all around him.

(...)

No matter how you cut it, inadequate leadership on the Argentina squad helped Spain forge this historic upset. There's only one person to blame for that -- David Nalbandian. It was his show all the way, although "debacle" might be the better noun.

Bowers concurs:

[W]hen the dust settles on this final, the story will be more a case of internecine warfare in an Argentina camp that had everything going for it, but ultimately succumbed to the ego trip of one man.

That man is David Nalbandian. For so long Argentina's talisman, he has devoted himself almost exclusively - and some would say excessively - to winning the Davis Cup, recognizing that this is the achievement that will cut most ice with his compatriots. But his interpretation of his role as team leader has gone badly wrong just at the time when his powers have begun to wane, and his abrasive personality unleashed a civil war within his team that ultimately undid a challenge supported so enthusiastically by his entire country.

Vainglory is killer.

Reportedly, Nalbandian didn't want Guillermo Cañas on the team and railed against Juan Martín del Potro for playing the Masters Cup instead of staying home and preparing for the Davis Cup. Politics and money ruled the day.

Nalbandian denies it all. He skipped the team presser yesterday, took a $5,000 fine, but made up for it today. Via BBC Sport:

David Nalbandian has denied claims that he rowed with team-mates as Argentina lost to Spain in the Davis Cup final.

He and Agustin Calleri lost the crucial doubles tie on Saturday and there were reports that the pair later squared up in the changing room.

"It really hurts the players when people say things that aren't true," Nalbandian, 26, told a news conference on Monday.

"I heard it throughout the media. Nobody saw anything. Nobody was in the locker room. Nobody knows what happened, and that's what bothers me."

"That without knowing what happened from the inside, or from outside, wherever it was, and to do harm to all involved.

"And afterwards we have to definitively come out and defend ourselves."

"It bothers me that people have questioned whether I'm continuing with the Davis Cup or not," he said.

"For me, representing my country is really an honour. I'm going to continue - like I've done until this point - defending Argentina's flag the best way possible."

"Understand the anguish and unease right now. Things went badly, but the terrible weekend is over."

"We made it to two finals in three years," he said. "Why aren't we going to continue having the possibility of reaching our goal?"

Captain Alberto Mancini has stepped down. None of the pundits said much about him at all. Seems to me the team captain is responsible for team cohesion. Or lack thereof. But what do I know?

Nalbandian and Calleri attended the Davis Cup dinner celebration, which you can see here.

Prima donna?

You be the judge.

Showing Her Ass

Literally. Coming to a Spanish GQ near you in December. (Thanks, Savannah.)







Click photos to enlarge.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Face Of The Day

Quote For The Day

“There was a lot of sadness in the locker room after the loss, and the fact that three of the four of us lost to Russia two years ago means that the pain was double.” -- José Acasuso

The Reign of Spain

Comes every four years. 2000, 2004, 2008. Fernando Verdasco shut up his critics and clinched the Davis Cup for Spain with a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 triumph over last-minute substitute José Acasuso.

But the day belonged to Verdasco and Spain. "It's the most exciting victory of my life," Verdasco said after the match. "Playing for my country, against the best players, it's a dream."

Indeed.



Without an injured Rafael Nadal and a disinterested Tommy Robredo, Spain was considered the underdog to win its third Davis Cup title. But David Nalbandian, the team's best player, lost his nerve serving for a two-set-to-one lead in the third-set tiebreak of the doubles rubber yesterday, and it was downhill from there.

Oh, yeah. The two Spanish lefties with the big serves and small minds grew huge gonads.

Acasuso, who tried once more to be the hero for Argentina as he tried two years ago in Russia, had to pinch hit for Juan Martín del Potro whose weary body finally succumbed to his long and eventful season. I can't even remember the last time Acasuso played a competitive match. Which showed deep in the fourth set when his body started to betray him.

Emilio Sánchez, most valuable player, took a risk by choosing Verdasco to play his first-ever live decisive rubber in David Ferrer's place. Verdasco, alongside Feliciano López, won the doubles. Sanchez hit pay dirt in singles.

While Acasuso labored, Verdasco held himself together and struck a forehand winner down the line to seal the deal. Jumped by his teammates.

Argentina's unbeaten record of 13 wins on home soil has come to an end.

To fans of Spanish tennis, raise a glass of sangria in celebration.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vilas!


Manolo Santana, Guillermo Vilas, Francesco Ricci Bitti, Pierre Darmon and Neale Fraser.
Photographer: Paul Zimmer

The legendary Argentinean player received the Davis Cup Award for Excellence today.

Presentation of the award was made on Saturday 22 November during the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final between Spain and Argentina in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Presenting this prestigious award to Vilas was ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, joined by past award recipients Neale Fraser (2001), Pierre Darmon (2002) and Manolo Santana (2004).

"The International Tennis Hall of Fame and the ITF have the great honor of presenting Guillermo Vilas with this year’s Davis Cup Award of Excellence," said Christopher Clouser, Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. "Guillermo is one of our great ambassadors of tennis and served Argentina in Davis Cup play for a record 14 years. He is responsible for the growth and popularity of tennis in Argentina, competing so successfully at the highest level of international competition during his career."

"Guillermo Vilas is synonymous with tennis in Argentina, particularly Davis Cup where he represented his country for 14 years," added ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. "He was instrumental in his country’s march to the final in 1981 and I know that he is very proud that he will be in Mar del Plata to see his Argentinean team attempt to win the title for the first time."

Vilas, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1991, holds the Argentinean Davis Cup records for most total wins (57), most singles wins (45), most doubles wins (12), most ties played (29), most years played (14) and best doubles team (with Jose-Luis Clerc). His overall career Davis Cup win-loss record stands at 57-24 (45-10 in singles and 12-14 in doubles). A true sportsman, a fiery competitor and all-around team player for his country, Vilas played in 29 ties over 14 years (1970-1973, 1975-1984) and led his country to their first-ever appearance in a Davis Cup final (1981).

Born in Mar del Plata in 1952, the left-handed Vilas became the Latin American sensation that popularised tennis in South America. In 1977 he captured the singles titles at both Roland Garros and the US Open. He went on to win back-to-back Australian Open singles titles in 1978 and 1979. Vilas also reached the Australian singles final in 1977, and three additional French singles finals (1975, 1978, and 1982). He was ranked in the world Top 10 for nine consecutive years (1974-82), reaching the world No. 2 ranking in 1977.

A clay court specialist, Vilas was just as strong from the back court as he was at the net, with a strategic game of tactical mastery to thwart his opponents. He captured 62 career singles titles along with 14 doubles titles. His Grand Slam singles career win-loss results are noteworthy: Australian Open, 23-3; Roland Garros, 56-17; Wimbledon, 15-11; and US Open, 43-14. He is credited with being the first Argentine to capture a Grand Slam event (1977 Roland Garros) and the first Argentine to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame (1991). Vilas was also the winner of the last US Open Championship Match played at Forest Hills in 1977.


Well-deserved. Congratulations, Mr Vilas.

Experience

That's what Pete Sampras believes in. (After the introductory ad.)

Men Of The Year



No, this isn't about Barack Obama. He just happens to be on the cover of the GQ that features Rafael Nadal. After that racist hit job GQ ran on Rafa last year, this is a nice comeback. Click on the spread to enlarge it. (Thanks, Tangy.)

Spain Leads



You can never walk away from a Davis Cup match secured by the score. The stakes are too high, the pressure palpable. Spain was leading in the third set by 5-1 and serving with two breaks when I became preoccupied with wood and fires.

Expecting to see the middle of the fourth set, I returned to witness the end of the third. Argentina came back and led 5-1 in the tiebreak. Then the crowd got rowdy, David Nalbandian double-faulted, and Spain won 6 points in a row to take the set.

The host team never recovered.

Tomorrow should be most interesting.

Text Message Dump

How would you feel if your fiancee dumped you via text message? Ask Boris Becker. He says his soul is trampled. Oh, well. He does like kind of pitiful, no?

Boris, Boris, Boris. Never one to be without a trophy on his arm, he'll find a new love around the poker table post haste.

Ambassador of Elegance



Longines, the famous Swiss watchmaker, has named the most accomplished singles player in history its new ambassador of elegance to promote the brand.

"Longines is proud that Stefanie Graf has joined her husband [Andre Agassi, who became an ambassador in 2007] in our family of ambassadors," Longines President Walter von Kanel said in a release issued on Thursday. "Her excellence, her courage and her commitment to serve others are values that we also respect and promote."

(...)

"Longines has a long reputation of quality and elegance," Graf said in the release. "We share many values and a strong commitment for children in need. I am looking forward to enter into a valuable partnership with Longines, which will also benefit my foundation, Children for Tomorrow."

Do your thing, lady.

Like A Head of State



That's how La Ensaladera, the Davis Cup trophy, was treated in Argentina this week. While being transported from the airport to the venue, the solid silver salad bowl commissioned by Dwight Davis and crafted more than 100 years ago by William B. Durgin was accompanied by a motorcade of armed police and a hovering helicopter. No kidding.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quote For The Day

“Many times you take decisions and do what you can but you don’t get a prize. The difference between the two players was very small but I thought Feliciano’s game would adapt better to this surface. Fernando was trying very hard to get his place but Feliciano was slightly better.” -- Emilio Sanchez, Spain's captain

Tied



David Nabandian destroyed David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 before Feliciano Lopez, after a poor start, served Juan Martin del Potro of the wounded body off the court 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-3, leaving Spain and Argentina tied at a rubber apiece after the first day of singles.

10,000 people watched.

Face Lift

The time for change had come. I'm sure I'll tweak a font or a color here or there. Maybe even change the header. But this is long overdue.

Face Of The Day



Tennis student Juan Moli plays with a ball during a gym class at a tennis club in Buenos Aires, Monday, Nov. 3, 2008. The recent success of Argentine tennis players is attracting young athletes to the sport in a country where soccer is king. Argentina will host the Davis Cup final against Spain on Nov. 21-23 in Mar del Plata.

Sportsman Of The Year?

Jon nominates Rafael Nadal for Sports Illustrated's prestigious honor.

For 2008 Sportsman of the Year, I hereby put forth the candidacy of Spanish swashbuckler, Rafael Nadal. First the cold, rational facts: In 2008 Nadal became the first man since Björn Borg to win on both the clay of the French Open and the grass of Wimbledon, an extraordinary feat of versatility. Nadal beat his rival Federer each of the four times they played this year -- including their positively spellbinding Wimbledon final -- wresting away the No. 1 ranking in the process. He won titles on every surface and clinched Spain's spot in this weekend's Davis Cup final by beating Andy Roddick of the defending champion U.S. squad in September. To date he has won 82 matches this year against just 11 defeats, a Federerian winning percentage of .822.

What's that you say? In 2008 a prerequisite for the Sportsman of the Year consideration ought to be an Olympic gold medal? We almost forgot: Nadal won one of those too, taking the men's tennis event in Beijing.

Now the subjective: Nadal, 22, singlehandedly shatters the tired perception of the tennis player as a pampered, elitist pinhead. With a body that belongs in an NFL backfield (if not a UFC Octagon) he is all muscle, both bulk and fast-twitch, and, accordingly, his game is a devastating mix of power and speed. He doesn't stroke the ball so much as he pummels it, unfurling a lefty game that simply has no precedent. Yet his real strength is the mental variety. Nadal is that rare athlete whose game moves in lockstep to the stakes. In the fifth set of that episodic Wimbledon final, as darkness enveloped the court, it was Nadal who hit the biggest shots. ¿Como se dice: refuse to lose?

It's a valid argument. And a tennis player hasn't received the award since 1992 when Arthur Ashe won for dying. Nadal would be the first non-native American to win in 10 years when Sam Sosa shared the award with Mark McGwire.

Rafa will be tennis' easy pick for Player of the Year, but something tells me Michael Phelps has no competition for the Sports Illustrated cover.

Tennis Meets The Alamo?



If Andy Roddick has his way, it will. Looks like San Antonio is back in the mix to host the first-round Davis Cup tie against Switzerland over the March 6-8 weekend. Roger Federer has committed to compete.

Choke Not

"I think Roddick has had an incredible career so far. I think he's an over-achiever. He won the US Open in 2003, reached No 1 in the world and has also won the Davis Cup. These are things some players only dream of, so I get a little disturbed whenever it is suggested that he's under-achieving and choking. People need to look at the guys he's faced throughout his career," -- Jim Courier, defending his compatriots in Dubai this week.

Bushed

Martina Navratilova does British reality TV in the Australian jungle.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roddick's New Coach

Like Savannah said elsewhere, I never saw this coming.

Team Roddick is thrilled to announce that Larry Stefanki will be joining Andy on the road as his head coach.

An Illinois native, Stefanki played on the ATP tour for nine years reaching a career high ranking of 35. He has trained an impressive roster of players including John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Tim Henman and most recently Fernando Gonzalez. Under his guidance both Rios and Kafelnikov reached the No. 1 ranking.

The timing of this exciting new partnership provides the duo the majority of the off season to prepare for 2009.

I wasn't even aware Stefanki and Fernando Gonzalez had broken up. Here's hoping this is a good fit.

Carole Caldwell Graebner, 1943 - 2008



In this Aug. 30, 1965 file photo, Carole Caldwell Graebner hits a return during her doubles match with Nancy Richey, in the National Doubles Tennis Championships against Karen Hantze Susman and Bille Jean Moffitt in Brookline, Mass. Graebner, who won doubles titles at the U.S. and Australian Championships in the 1960s, died Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2008, in New York City following a brief battle with cancer, said her daughter, Cameron Graebner Mark. She was 65.

Tennis Week has published a tribute.

And The Winner Is?



Ravi Ubha predicts Argentina will clean Spain's clock in the Davis Cup final this weekend.

Depends on which David Nalbandian shows up. With Rafael Nadal out with injury, I bet they wish they'd have chosen clay after all. And given that Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro like fast courts, I'm not exactly sure why they're slowing down the hard court they did choose. Who will have the last laugh indeed?

It's The Schedule, Stupid

Steve berates the long tennis season for the umpteenth time.


What does it say about a sport when its two most important names, the two names and bodies that have been asked to resurrect tennis with their rivalry, are physically broken by the end of a single season? Like Roddick says, the punishing nature of the schedule, its length, and its travel requirements are eternal topics of discussion. But its excessiveness has never been displayed as plainly as it was in Shanghai. Federer is participating in a doubles exhibition this coming week, but for the most part he and Nadal limited themselves to the ATP’s lineup of mandatory tournaments in 2008. That includes the final two post-U.S. Open Masters events, in Madrid and Paris. Fairly or not, these remain the culprits in this story: Nadal and Federer injured themselves while trying to stay in shape to play them. Not to win them—I doubt they cared much about that—just to play them. Some relief may come to the schedule in 2009, but Roddick, who reiterated his thoughts about it last week, remains correct: The season will still end in November, and it will still include two mandatory post-Open Masters events (this time in Paris and China), as well as the Masters Cup. And it will, in all likelihood, continue to hurt the sport’s most valuable property, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer.

When will the powers that be get it? The worldwide financial crisis will likely affect tournament sponsorships for 2009. Will that spearhead the beginning of serious talks for a shorter, not just a reorganized, calendar?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Face Of The Day



Argentine tennis player Juan Martin del Potro puts out his bleeding tongue during a training session at Islas Malvinas stadium in Mar del Plata, province of Buenos Aires, on November 19, 2008. Argentina and Spain will play the final of the Davis Cup on November 21-23 in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata. JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images

The End Of The Year-End?

Jon deconstructs the lackluster event the Season Ending Championships has become:

It seems to me the WTA had a choice several years ago. They could either put the year-end championships in a major media market, invest in the marketing/promotion and use it as a platform for women's tennis and the top players. (New York was ideal. Madrid seemed to be working well.) Or the WTA could simply go to sell themselves out -- literally -- to the highest bidder.

Regrettably, the executives chose Door No. 2. The result? The tour is making many millions from the good folks in Dubai and Istanbul, no small consideration, particularly in these austere times. Yet the year-end event, which should be a real showcase event, exists in a virtual vacuum and a literal desert. Buzz and media coverage is non-existent here in the U.S. and, judging from a lot of you, in Europe and Asia as well. The ESPN coverage is long gone. From what I saw, the attendance was dreadful. Sharapova and Henin were MIA, and two other top stars, Serena Williams and Ivanovic, couldn't even get through their matches.

I wasn't compelled to stay tuned to a single match. Not a single match. Not even Serena vs. Venus, which was a regression in quality I just didn't need to see. Sure I was knee-deep in electoral politics, but still. When my favorite sport makes me roll my eyes and switch the channel, well, then....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quote For The Day

“I’m going to sleep well for a month. He (Djokovic) is not going to pass me anytime soon. For me, honestly, ranking two, three, four, five, 25, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot, you know. For me it is either number one or being in the main draw.” -- Roger Federer

Exhibitionists



John McEnroe of USA and Bjorn Borg (R) congratulate each other after an exhibition match against Bjorn Borg in Kuala Lumpur on November 18, 2008. John McEnroe won the battle of the old timers when he beat former arch-rival Bjorn Borg 7-6. SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images

Monday, November 17, 2008

Face Of The Day



Spain's team captain Emilio Sanchez Vicario gives the thumb up during a training session at Islas Malvinas stadium in Mar del Plata, Buenos Aires on November 17, 2008. Argentina and Spain will play the final of the Davis Cup on November 21-23 in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata. JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Battle of the N.D.'s



Wasn't that much of a battle really. The younger N.D. beat the elder N.D. and finished the year as he began it. Good for him. Good for his fans. I remain uninspired.



Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia and Daniel Nestor of Canada beat Bob and Mike Bryan to win the doubles title and finish the year atop the rankings, stopping the American twins from four top finishes in a row.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Force of Will



In between yelps of "What the hell if Roger Federer doing?" and "What the hell is Andy Murray doing??!!" I found myself on the edge of my seat for a match featuring two players I simply can't make myself like all that much.

But what's not to like about scintillating tennis between two players, one struggling physically, the other struggling mentally, who make remarkable plays by sheer force of will even when one of them doesn't have to win?

Hat's off to both of them.

And I noticed the tennis talkaratti have kicked Novak Djokovic to the curb. Now Andy Murray is the heir apparent to the top spot.

Who knew?

And Gilles Simon has advanced to the semifinals, also on his first try. Nice work if you can get it.

A Tale of Two Matches

by Savannah



Novak Djokovic played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in another rematch of the Australian Open final to close out play in the Gold Group. On the line for Djokovic if he won was the possibility of taking the Number 2 ranking away from Roger Federer. He came out strong and easily won the first set over an overwhelmed Tsonga. Tsonga revived himself and pulled out the second set 7-5 setting up what should have been a very interesting third set. Instead in one of the most remarkable for its arrogance and disrespect to my eyes Djokovic tanked the third set. He did enough to avoid the bagel but handed the set to Jo 6-1. I'm saying that to my eyes Novak tanked the set.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum was the match between Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

Savannah's World

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Djokovic and Davydenko Into Semis



No surprises. This time, experience trumped youth.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From the Horses Mouth - An Interview with Larry Scott

by Savannah

Q. We've kind of heard rumors that players were still talking about the road map, and wondered if there had been any last moment tweaking or changings or alterations in the road map?

LARRY SCOTT: Most of the elements of the road map have been set for the last 18 months, but as we're getting closer to 2009, we've been detailing how the rules are going to work, schedules, et cetera.

There were several concerns expressed by our top players over the last few weeks as we started sitting down with them doing their individual schedules. Their concerns related to two issues, primarily. One, a concern that there wasn't enough break between some of our big tournaments, which were back‑to‑back, primarily players playing in Rome right up against Madrid next year.

Rome is a 56‑draw tournament followed by Madrid which is a 64‑draw tournament on Saturday. Similarly in the fall, Tokyo is a 56‑draw tournament followed by Beijing, which is a 64‑draw tournament. Those tournaments overlapped very closely. Players were concerned it was too many matches in too few days.

Savannah's World

Monday, November 10, 2008

Youth Over Experience



Sounds like the US presidential election. Gilles Simon proved his win against Roger Federer earlier this year was on fluke, rallying again from a set down, and Andy Roddick is going to have to start paying mortgage to Andy Murray who improves his winning record over the American. Both matches featured some great tennis and the best players on the day won.

Wounded Knee

Rafael Nadal: "The knee said no."

Rafal Nadal gave a press conference in Barcelona, Spain a short time ago to announce his withdrawal from the Davis Cup final.

From the AP:
Rafael Nadal will miss Spain’s Davis Cup final against Argentina because of a knee injury.

The top-ranked Nadal said Monday he was still struggling with tendinitis in his right knee following a week of treatment.

“The knee said no,” the 22-year-old said.

Spain team doctor Angel Ruiz-Cotorro said Nadal would need three to six weeks to recover from the injury.

“These are very difficult moments, but I have done all that I could to be ready for the final,” he said. “It was a huge objective, and I’m used to playing with pain, but this is a distinct, new pain that I couldn’t control.”

Nadal’s absence deals a big blow to Spain’s bid for a third Davis Cup title since 2000. Spain captain Emilio Sanchez Vicario has until Tuesday to name his team.

Spain plays Argentina on indoor hard court at Mar del Plata from Nov. 21-23.

You know the season's too long when the world number one player has to pull out of a much-anticipated Davis Cup final. A final that was so important to him he actually pulled out of Paris AMS in order to better prepare.

Argentina couldn't have asked for a better gift.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Let's Hear It For The Boys





Play is underway. Who will win?

Ready For Her Closeup


It was a long time coming. But Venus Williams finally scores a season ending title with a 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-2 victory over Vera Zvonareva in Doha. Go head, sistergirl. Go head.

WTA match recap

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Last Shall Be First



Venus Williams and Vera Zvonerava, the last to qualify for the season ending championships, will face off for final title of 2008.

Who woulda thunk it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Elite Women



So, now that the election is over, I can pay attention to tennis again. (And keep my sidebars updated in a much more timely fashion!)

But I need to be briefed first. Who's injured? Who's exhausted? Who's playing well? Who do you expect to win the Season Ending Championships?

I see the sisters go at it later today, so I'll be watching that one for sure.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Connections

One of our family of readers questioned why she would come to this blog and see an entry about the American presidential election.

Tennis is a global sport on the verge of some major change. Our nation's historic election is a global event ushering in major change. Look what I said about Tsonga's victory in France last Sunday. Look what I said about that race car driver. You think these things are unrelated?

They are not.

The more black and brown and red and yellow people believe that they can become anything they dream, anything at all, the better we will all be. Future world No. 1's in forgotten parts of the globe can envision winning Wimbledon. Do you think Barack Obama could exist without Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe?

The top WTA women, including two black daughters of the ghetto, are duking it out in Doha, a Middle Eastern center of the oil industry and host of the largest Asian Games in history.

These things are not unrelated.

We'll be back to our regularly scheduled program in a minute.

In the meantime, I rejoice in what this nation has achieved. The American Civil War has ended. Finally. I look forward to doing my part to reconstruct her glory.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day



Here's a comment from our northern neighbors from a tennis fanatic:

My last comment from Canada before your election. Believe or not, many Canadians are waiting as anxiously as you are for the results and I'm sure many from countries around the world are as well.

This election will determine a lot about the world at large, not just the U.S. I never recall being so tense about an American election.

I had a conversation on Hallowe'en night with my neighbors over a few beers in the backyard after all the kids were in bed. We all felt the same. We don't even want to hope for fear of jinxing what is looking like a positive result. We're all so nervous.

I can't overemphasize to you what a devastating effect George W. Bush has had on the world outside the U.S. Canada recently voted in a Conservative government so we're not a exactly bunch of socialists up here but the U.S. reputation in the world is very tarnished. I saw Chris Rock on HBO and I agree with him that Bush is not just the worst U.S. President ever, he's the worst President of anything including the U.S., a company, the PTA, the chess club etc.

It's time to fix your relationships, reclaim your place as a strong leader and not just a bully and be a force for good again.

6 months ago, I preferred McCain to Bush by a large amount but the way this so called maverick who has always claimed the high road sunk to Rove like tactics was disgusting. I now see no difference between the McCain team and the Bush team. McCain is smarter and that's about it.

A leader wouldn't have chosen Palin as his running mate under extreme pressure from the right wing of his party. Who the hell else were the right wingers going to vote for if he chose Lieberman as his running mate. McCain's reputation is significantly diminished by this campaign. He's shown that he'll be manipulated by party pressures and he's not the man I thought he was.

On the other hand, it's easy to take the high road when you're leading. Roger Federer was a lot more gracious winning 3 slams a year than he became in 2008. Obama has had the luxury of being able to be Federerlike. Nice if you can do it.

A friend quoted a stat the other day that I haven't researched. He claimed that 80% of people outside the U.S. would vote for Obama if they were Americans. This feels about right to me.

From Canada and speaking for the world.

Vote Obama. Please.

Amen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Rafael Withdraws From TMC Shanghai


by Savannah

Right choice as far as I'm concerned. There are people who look for any excuse to tear this man down and I'm sure they'll do so. What they should not forget is that this was an Olympic Year and most of the top players played one extra event. It won't make any difference to them but it is what it is.

And for those who think he's faking I have one word for you: Chennai. Try to watch it sometime. This man doesn't quit unless he has to.
Savannah's World

Sunday, November 02, 2008

New Master



He did it. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became the first Frenchman in seven years to win the BNP Paribas Masters, became the first black player ever to win the men's Paris Indoors, became the new No. 1 French player, and has qualified for the Masters Cup.

"I'm going to go there (Shanghai) really to represent France and all my family and my friends," said Tsonga. "That's it. I'm going to represent everyone and I'm going to give my best. I think the Masters will be a very important moment for me. Maybe another great victory could maybe replace this one."

The son of an African man and a white woman makes history today.

A foreshadowing?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

At The Net



That's where Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat James Blake today. Quite a display of all-court prowess. Can he be the first Frenchman to win in Bercy since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001 and qualify for Shanghai in the process? He'll have to topple David Nalbandian, the defending champ, who had a rough time against that pesky Nikolay Davydenko in the other semifinal.

Who you got for the title?